Google Analytics

Amazon Contextual Product Ads

Sunday, November 8, 2009

EDITORIAL 07.11.09


media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya




month november 07, edition 000344, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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


























































With each passing day fetching further shocking details of the massive corruption that, it now transpires, was the main occupation of the Jharkhand Government headed by Mr Madhu Koda, there is bound to be further erosion of faith in politicians and a matching increase in cynicism towards a 'system' that allows dishonest individuals to steal without any let or hindrance. That Mr Koda and his Ministers were up to no good was common knowledge. But that did not stop the Congress, the RJD and the JMM from propping him up, ostensibly to keep the BJP out of power. Was that the only intention behind ensuring the survival of a Government headed by an 'Independent' MLA and comprising others like Mr Koda? Or were there others who benefited so long as Mr Koda was Chief Minister? The Income Tax Department and the Enforcement Directorate have till now revealed only those details that, prima facie, implicate Mr Koda and two of his 'business associates'. While it is entirely possible that, consumed by greed, the three together stacked up anything between Rs 2,000 crore and Rs 4,000 crore in slush money, it does appear a trifle impossible that, given their background, they could have thought of ingenious methods of 'investing' their ill-gotten wealth in businesses across nine cities and several countries, including Singapore, Liberia and South Africa. If officials of the Income Tax Department and Enforcement Directorate are to be believed, nearly Rs 1,000 crore was sent to Dubai via the hawala route — this is by no means an insignificant amount. Mr Koda's associates were once detained at Mumbai airport with a huge amount of cash but were mysteriously released without any questions being asked. Were instructions issued not to proceed any further in the matter? We have been informed that Mr Koda maintained a diary in which names and other details were entered by him. Those names could perhaps provide a clue to whether others, too, were involved in the elaborate racket that was run from the Chief Minister's office in Ranchi. Of course, the mention of names and telephone numbers in a diary do not necessarily add up to evidence of wrong-doing, but they cannot be ignored either.

The enthusiasm with which the Income Tax Department and the Enforcement Directorate are working to unravel the 'Koda scam' is praiseworthy. But in the past we have seen such enthusiasm flagging after a while and cases being brushed under the carpet or allowed to drag on interminably. Few would recall today the details of the 'fodder scam' that rocked India in the 1990s although, technically, the cases related to that massive loot of the public exchequer have not been closed. That, however, has not served as a dampener for politicians like Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav who have virtually got away without being brought to book. There are many such instances of corrupt politicians with assets disproportionate to their known sources of income who continue to adorn our legislatures and occupy high constitutional office. Prosecution of the accused has more often than not been subverted by political expediency. A new standard could be set by making an example of Mr Koda and his associates: Let the investigations be conducted expeditiously and the trial held by a fast-track court so that retribution for the crimes they are alleged to have committed can be swift. That could help restore faith in the 'system'.





If reports are to be believed, the Government is trying to play down the coming visit of the Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh by restricting permission to foreign journalists wanting to cover the event. The Tibetan spiritual leader's visit to the north-eastern State has unleashed a political storm between India and China, with the latter vehemently registering its protest. Beijing's objection stems from its territorial claim on Arunachal Pradesh which it considers a part of the continuous geographical entity of Tibet. In fact, it is on the basis of the monastery town of Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, which the Dalai Lama will be visiting on his trip, that Beijing considers the State to be a part of Tibet and, therefore, a part of China. The Chinese argument is underpinned by the logic that because the sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso, is said to have been born in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh is actually 'South Tibet'. Nothing could be a more fallacious — and laughable — argument. The fact of the matter is that China sees India as a rival that could upset its position in Asia as well as in the comity of nations. By antagonising India time and again on border issues and reiterating its claims on Indian territories, China hopes to assert its dominance.

The Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh has particularly ruffled feathers in Beijing. The Tibetan leader is the only significant symbol of resistance that remains to forcible Chinese occupation of Tibet. Understandably, Beijing views his visit to Arunachal Pradesh as a direct challenge to its diplomatic clout. So far India has maintained that the Dalai Lama has the right to travel to any part of the country. It is an admirable stand that should be applauded. If anything New Delhi should be highlighting the Dalai Lama's visit with as much gusto as possible. Hence, it is surprising that the Government is trying to limit the amount of publicity that the event will generate. The only possible explanation is that during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of an ASEAN summit in Thailand last month, the two sides agreed to an 'arrangement' to dial down the rising temperature in India-China bilateral relations. On that occasion, Mr Singh had emphasised on 'strengthening the shared strategic relationship'. If this is truly the case and the Government has consented to some secret understanding with the Chinese on Arunachal Pradesh, it is unfortunate. For, there is no reason for India to back down from its stated position on Arunachal Pradesh or on the Dalai Lama. Moreover, New Delhi should make this clear to Beijing. Otherwise, we might end up giving the Chinese more ammunition to hit back with.



            THE PIONEER




One can understand US President Barack Obama's difficulties in hammering out a new military policy for Afghanistan. On the one hand, Gen Stanley A McChrystal, the commander of American forces in the country, wants at least 40,000 troops more to shore up counter-insurgency operations, and Adm Mike Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, more funds — the figure going round in Washington is $ 50 billion — for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to a report by Elizabeth Bumiller in The New York Times of November 4, this would be on top of the $ 130 billion the Congress has authorised for the period from October 1, 2009 to September 30, 2010. On the other, the liberal Left in the Democratic Party and Vice-President Joseph Biden oppose both demands. In Afghanistan, he has to do business with President Hamid Karzai whom he and his advisers like Mr Biden and Mr Richard Holbrooke, his pointsman for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Mr Peter Galbraith have criticised openly and sharply.

While his desire not to blunder into a course of action which would be disastrous for the US makes sense, he will do well to remember that the delay in finalising a policy and the manner in which the conflicting viewpoints are being aired, gives the impression of a divided American political establishment and a vacillating President. The result is a growing feeling that the US may either choose a self-defeating soft option or, even if it goes for the right course, will leave when the going gets tough and the body bags coming home become more numerous.

This will enable the Taliban and Al Qaeda to resist more tenaciously in the hope of victory tomorrow. It will also encourage Islamabad, which is now supposed to be in the midst of a fierce offensive against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, commonly referred to as Pakistani Taliban, not to extend the same against the Afghan Taliban waxing under the leadership of men like Sirajuddin Haqqani holed up in North Waziristan. Pakistan would continue considering them as strategic instruments with which to re-establish its dominance over Afghanistan after the US and Nato forces leave, much in the same way after its Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate and the US Central Intelligence Agency had helped create the Taliban in 1994.

This aspect has been discussed endlessly, particularly in the context of the known Pakistani design to gain ascendancy over Afghanistan in quest of strategic depth against India. Even those in that country who consider the idea hare-brained and support to the Taliban and Al Qaeda dangerous, will be inclined not to act against them for fear of retribution when they take over. Nor should the US be surprised if Mr Karzai seeks to protect his back in the event of an American withdrawal leaving him to deal with a resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda, by striking alliances the US disapproves of. Significantly, Ahmed Rashid writes in Descent into Chaos: How the war against Islamic extremism is being lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia that "the US attack on Iraq was critical to convincing Musharraf that the United States was not serious about stabilising the region, and that it was safer for Pakistan to preserve its own national interest by clandestinely giving the Taliban refuge". In the present instance, read delay in policy formulation in place of the Iraq war.

To a large extent, Mr Karzai's dependence on men like Gen Abdul Rashid Dostum and Marshal Mohammad Fahim Khan, is a result of the failure of the US under President George W Bush and the West generally to provide adequate funds for war-ravaged Afghanistan's reconstruction and enough troops and equipment to prevent a Taliban revival. In fact, the planning, money and troops that should have gone to stabilising Afghanistan and helping President Karzai to consolidate his position went to Iraq. It would be grossly unfair to blame him now for the mess that his country is getting to become.

Unfortunately, the US and its allies have been doing precisely this, ignoring not only the severe shortcomings in their own efforts but also the fact that one cannot radically transform the character of a country's Government and root out historically entrenched corruption by waving a magic wand. Which country in the world is free from corruption? Would the economic crisis currently afflicting the world have occurred without gargantuan corruption and inefficiency in the world of American big finance? Did the US Government not contribute to it by relaxing controls during the incumbency of President Bill Clinton? And what about the massive expenses scam by British MPs and Ministers? And what about corruption in Pakistan which would now be a recipient of fresh and massive doses of US financial and military aid? Besides, can Mr Karzai or anyone else wish away Gen Dostum and Marshal Fahim Khan, the latter a former Defence Minister of Afghanistan?

Unfortunately, neither Mr Obama nor Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain seems to realise all this or the fact that their efforts to compel him to do their bidding can only undermine his position. Two examples would illustrate this point. The manner in which they arm-twisted him into accepting a run-off in the recent presidential election and his submission clearly indicated that he was bending unwillingly to pressure, which in turn could only have severely eroded his standing with Afghans who value defiant courage and independence above everything else in men, and look down upon those who stoop. Equally damaging was Mr Obama's congratulatory message after Mr Karzai was finally declared elected President, admonishing him for failing to take on corruption and the drug trade, which he did not do during his first term, and his public commitment to do so, which followed.

One wonders whether Mr Obama's attitude towards Mr Karzai stems from the fact that his advisers on Afghanistan include people known to be close to Pakistan which makes no secret of its hostility towards the Afghan head of state. Whatever it is, he will now have to deal with Mr Karzai and the sooner he finds a way of doing it without the former's position the better it will be for both the US and Afghanistan. And he should announce his policy for Afghanistan and Pakistan before the military situation on the ground deteriorates further.






We all do acts with our body and mind. These acts bring fruits or karmaphala. The fruition period of these acts varies ie some acts bear fruits soon while others take long. While some fruits are pleasant like success in exams after sustained studying, some fruits are painful like falling sick due to excessive eating. For fruits which are still to come, we have expectations. For good results, we are hopeful, and for negative fallouts we are fearful.

How about the quantum of these results? If one receives what one should have gotten one should be satisfied. However, very few accept what they receive since we all have inflated expectations about what we deserve. Similarly, we feel that we do not deserve the punishment that we get for our wrong acts. No wonder, most of us are dissatisfied and afraid.

What should one do to avoid these weaknesses? The first thing to do is to understand the theory of karmaphala. Unseen by us, higher forces determine what one deserves and when. Several factors, many unknown to us, are taken into consideration. There is no flaw in this system; it is very scientific; one must have strong faith in it.

Once we accept this premise, we benefit in many ways. For fruits already received, one is satisfied. And if one feels that one needs more, one needs to make additional efforts, which would contribute to progress. For future fruits, especially the bad ones one needs to trust god, since all punishments are meant for reformation only, and that is for our own good. Setbacks are our own karmaphalas only; there is no mistake in this. And these benefit us if one learns from them. If one looks back one would realise that whatever bad happened was for one's good only, which is hard to see when suffering hits. A wise person knows that god loves us, that's why he punishes. All future setbacks shall be likewise useful also. Why fear them then? It is not a question of sour grapes; one can see the connection if one looks carefully. One must have faith in god and befriend him; only then one can be peaceful and happy (Bhagavad Gita 2.66). Setbacks help in another way also, that is when one turns to god for help; continued success is likely to make one proud.

However, satisfaction should never mean that one sits on one's laurels since the human life is meant for making progress. A truly satisfied person is focused and not distracted by the inevitable joys and sorrows of life.







After nine suicide attacks in just eleven days that killed 160 people, including many from the security forces, the Pakistani Army has finally started its long-awaited offensive in South Waziristan where the Pakistan Taliban are based. The success of the offensive, against the backdrop of a serious civil-military division in Pakistan and unresolved debate in Washington, could be critical for the fate of Pakistan, which is financially broke and politically paralysed.

The Army and the civilian government are once more at odds over policy towards the US and India, the insurgency in Baluchistan, and how to deal with militant Punjabi groups who are linked to the Taliban. Moreover, still unresolved and now an issue of growing international concern, is the sanctuary being given to the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan.

Dozens of soldiers and police officers have been killed in suicide attacks from October 5 to 15 that included an embarrassing 22-hour siege of the Army headquarters in Rawalpindi and the death of eight soldiers and three simultaneous attacks on police training camps and intelligence offices in Lahore. The spate of attacks could have been designed to prevent or delay the expected Army offensive on its stronghold, but they also aimed to topple the government, impose an Islamic state, and, if possible, get hold of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

The recent attacks have proved more deadly than those in the past because they took place in three of the country's four provinces, involving not just Taliban tribesmen from the Pashtun ethnic group, but extremist Punjabi and Kashmiri factions who were until recently trained by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to fight Indian forces in Indian Kashmir.

Moreover, several within the militant leadership had direct connections to the Army or the ISI. So-called Dr Usman, the leader of the nine-man group that attacked the Army's general headquarters on October 10, was himself a member of the Army's medical corps. Police officials say that the Rawalpindi and Lahore attacks had help from inside because the terrorists were able to bypass the stringent security measures in place and had the knowledge of the layout of the complexes.

While the armed forces are unwilling to admit what many Pakistanis now believe — that there is some degree of penetration by extremist sympathisers within its ranks — the civilian government refuses to admit that the largest province of Punjab, especially its poverty-hit southern part, has become the major new recruiting ground for militants.

The Punjab provincial government is run by Shabaz Sharif, the brother of Nawaz Sharif and leader of the Opposition in the country. The Sharif brothers, who ruled the country twice in the 1990s are known to have close ties with the leaders of several militant groups, including Hafez Saeed, the leader of the Lashkar-e-Taiba whose militants carried out the massacre in Mumbai India last year.

Saeed, wanted by India and Interpol, has been freed twice from jail in Punjab on account of lack of evidence to hold him. The Sharifs have refused repeated requests by Americans, British, Indians and the federal government to crack down on militancy in south Punjab, where it is strong and providing recruits for the Taliban.

Meanwhile, the federal government has suffered increasingly fraught relations with the Army. Last week, at the height of the suicide attacks, the Army chief, General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani, chose that moment to blast the civilian government for agreeing to a $ 7.5 billion five-year aid package from the US for civilian and developmental purposes.

The Army was furious that the government had agreed to US-imposed conditions, which only insisted that there be civilian control of the Army, democracy be maintained and the fight against extremism continued. The Army, with its deep tentacles in the Pakistani media and among Opposition politicians, whipped up a storm of public opinions against the deal, with some commentators accusing the government of President Asif Ali Zardari of treason.

Neither the Army nor the politicians seemed to notice that the country is nearly bankrupt, barely subsisting on life-support loans from International Monetary Fund worth a total of $11.3 billion. Pakistan has been holding out a begging bowl for the past year, while factories, farms and schools are shutting down because of a chronic shortage of electric power, which is off in major cities for up to 10 hours a day. The civilian government has also tried repeatedly to end the long- running separatist insurgency in Baluchistan province by declaring ceasefire and the promise to hold talks with insurgent leaders.

However Baluch leaders accuse the Army of sabotaging any such political reconciliation by continuing to assassinate or carry out forced disappearances of Baluch activists. Meanwhile, as the policy review over Afghanistan and Pakistan continues in the White House, both the Army and the government are being directly accused by US officials of continuing to harbour the Afghan Taliban leadership and allowing them to pump in recruits, logistics and other supplies into Afghanistan.

As long as only British and Canadian troops in Helmand and Kandahar faced the effects of the Taliban's safe sanctuaries in Pakistan's Baluchistan province, the former Bush administration was quiet. But now that there are over 10,000 US marines in Helmand and Kandahar who are taking casualties, the Obama administration has made the sanctuary issue a major plank in its future relations with Pakistan. But the dithering in Washington over the future of US policy towards Afghanistan is leading to greater justification by Pakistan and other neighbours of Afghanistan to hedge their bets for the future in case the Americans withdraw or reduce their commitment, by backing once again their favorite Afghan proxies just as they did during the 1990s civil war.

Pakistan has been saving the Afghan Taliban leadership for just such an eventuality. But now Iran, Russia, India and the central Asian states are all looking at their future in the country in the light of a US lack of resolve to stay the course in Afghanistan. The US relations with Pakistan's military remain troubled — everyone knows that it is still the Army and not the civilian government that calls the shots when it comes to policy towards India and Afghanistan.

However, it is the worsening relations between the civilians and the military over domestic issues that are causing growing consternation at home. It is unlikely that General Kayani would like to overthrow the civilian government, but the Army is resisting any attempt by the civilians to change the broad ambit of foreign or domestic policy.

Zardari is known to want peace and trade with India, an end to interference in Afghanistan, improved ties with Iran and better relations and more aid from the West to strengthen the economy and the democracy.

However, Zardari's attempts to build up public support for these logical civil demands have been stymied because of public disillusionment with the civilian government, which is considered to be corrupt, ineffective, incompetent and unwilling to rebuild moribund institutions of governance. The key to future stability is to bring the Army, the civilian government and the Opposition onto one page with a common agenda to fight extremism, while amicably resolving other internal disputes, but so far that looks extremely unlikely.

Ahmed Rashid is author of several authoritative books on terrorism; this article has been reprinted with permission from Yale Global








Hillary Clinton's recent Pakistan trip was awaited, followed and analysed on a scale reminiscent of the early years of the post-9/11 era, or even the age of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan when a US Secretary of State could change the course of history by a visit. Her intention was to deliver a hard punch, but somehow the many political messages that went with it softened its impact.

According to some observers, the political background to her trip was dominated by the first anniversary of the Obama's victory and its significance wrestle for supremacy with the foreground — next year's election to the US House of Representatives. With his approval ratings falling rapidly (the latest sign of which was a poll setback in two states), President Obama is under pressure to perform. Over the next few days, two important developments are expected: the UN-controlled runoff election on November 7 for the Presidency of Afghanistan (which has become a cakewalk for Hamid Karzai thanks to Abdullah Abdullah's stepback) and the possible unravelling of a new AfPak doctrine by Obama in response to General Stanley McChrystal's request for additional troops.

Former Vice-President Cheney has accused Obama of 'dithering' on this issue, while others have supported him for taking his time and refusing to be swayed by the prevailing uncertainties in the political situation. Latest media reports, however, indicate that Obama would announce his decision sometime between November 7, when the runoff presidential election would be held, and November 11, when he is due to leave for Tokyo. Whether these dates hold or not, it is clear that the announcement cannot be delayed much longer.

Hillary was also hit hard on her arrival in Pakistan by news of a grand terrorist strike at Pakistan's Army headquarters which led to hostage taking and much mayhem. Yet, she didn't lose focus and displayed her whiplash tongue when confronted with pricked questions in a meeting with elite Pakistanis. She said with considerable bitterness, almost half undiplomatically: "I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to." The reference, of course, was to senior al-Qaeda leaders believed to be holed up in Pakistani safe havens whose location may not be unknown to the ISI.

That generated so much furore — Pakistanis are great in the game of projecting themselves as the victim — that subsequent days saw a more subdued Hillary. She reverted to the role of a smooth diplomat, 'underscoring', 'reiterating' and 'assuring' her Pakistani interlocuters of their importance to the US' grand design and pledged continued material support.

The State Department summarised Hillary's three-day visit as an effort to soothe the tempers of the people who took exception to her remarks. When she expressed doubts about Pakistan's security institutions and articulated her scepticism, it did not appear that she was contributing to expanding and deepening US-Pakistan official and people-to-people relations. In Pakistan, there are analysts who say that Osama bin Laden is dead, and the US and its allies are trying to keep him 'alive' only to make Pakistan a whipping boy and a scapegoat for their failures in Afghanistan.

Next year being an election year when 435 members of House of Representatives are to be elected along with one-third of the Senate and about 35 Governors, President Obama is under pressure to sweeten what is easily the biggest blow to American self esteem since the fall of Saigon. The war in Afghanistan is not winnable. That is why he is against sending more troops to Afghanistan.

In a week of momentous developments, India threw a strange kind of hat into the ring. In a message timed to coincide with Hillary's visit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced that New Delhi was willing to resume talks with Pakistan 'without preconditions.'

Winding up a two-day trip to Jammu & Kashmir, Singh said: "There is no precondition for talks with Pakistan, but the practical aspect is that there will be no headway until Islamabad brings terrorists under effective control."

The Obama administration may spend a long time decoding this message. Can Washington expect India to 'help' reduce the Pakistani threat perception which holds that India is about to gobble up their poor little nation? That could lead to the release of more Pakistani troops for AfPak duty and therefore allow the American President to breathe a little easy.

However, India believes that this assumption is flawed because even if a million soldiers are at Pakistan's disposal in the anti-Taliban theatre, the ISI could not be relied upon to play its old deception game. And the ISI's vice-like grip over Pakistan wouldcontinue.

So, at the end of the day, Hillary Clinton failed to convince the Pakistanis on any of the issues that agitate their minds. At this point in time, nothing is more important to the Pakistanis than the problems in their own backyard. The government is more concerned with preventing the daily bombings in public places. In the bloodiest month yet, October, more than 300 people were killed. They also want to ensure that the South Wazirstan operation registered success.

The so-called Rah-e-Nijat drive, launched on October 17, was proceeding according a strategy fashioned after months of careful deliberation and meticulous preparation. It is the largest and most ambitious counter-insurgency (COIN) campaign in the country's history, involving 60,000 troops, of which 45,000 are deployed in combat role and 15,000 in a support one. The aim is to strike at the strategic centre of gravity of terror, seize control of the area from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and deny space in what has long been its stronghold. It also marks the first systematic assault to severe the "facilitation" connection that has emerged among the Pakistan Taliban, al-Qaeda and assorted splinters of other militant organisations.

It is precisely because the operation's core objective is to eliminate these bases and dismantle its infrastructure of terror that the various tentacles of the militants have sprung up for retaliatory actions. This has produced mayhem, but it also exposed sleeper cells and networks in different cities that have revealed valuable new information to the authorities.

According to former Pakistani diplomat Maleeha Lodhi, the ferocious backlash to the South Waziristan operation was a grim reminder of the imposing challenges that lie ahead in the country's struggle against militancy. Both the resurgence of violence prior to the launch of a ground offensive in South Waziristan and the retaliatory bombings currently underway were widely anticipated.

But the scale, spread and intensity of this wave of violence exceeded a similar sequence of attacks that preceded the Swat operation in April. The aim in both cases has been to shake the official resolve, raise the costs of the military operation and erode public support for actions against the militants.


The writer is Associate Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University







October 2009 was the bloodiest month in the history of Pakistan. More than 300 people were slaughtered on the streets of Pakistani cities by suicide and other forms of terrorist bombers. What received relatively less publicity was the blast in the Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchistan on October 18. It was a suicide attack sponsored by Pakistan in the territory of a neighbour who was not considered an enemy. It was carried out by another ISI- sponsored terrorist group, Jundullah, and killed 60 people. This caused the Pakistani leadership deep embarrassment, but to the world at large it reopened the debate which Saturday Special has been raising with considerable frequency over the past few years, namely, Is terror the mainstay of the Pakistani State?

The Iranians, not famous for patience with Pakistan, a nation they always treated with contempt, sought the extradition of the Jundullah chief, Abdul Malek Rigi. Teheran also made it clear that unless the Pakistani authorities complied its Revolutionary Guards would be deployed in Pakistani territory to selectively hit Jundullah leaders. Clearly, tempers were spilling over in Iran because of those killed, 15 were Revolutionary Guards, including the deputy head of the Guards' ground forces, General Nourali Shoushtan, and its commander in Sistan-Baluchistan, General Rajabali Mohammadzadeh.

Jundullah, which means the 'Army of Allah, started five years ago as an anti-Iran, Sunni movement focused on Sistan- Balochistan from Pakistan. The October 18 attack was the worst of all. Jundullah does not operate from Pakistan alone: it exists in Iran, too, where it is known as the People's Resistance Movement of Iran. Since Sistan-Balochistan borders both Pakistan and Afghanistan, it operates from the latter, too. According to Pakistan, Jundullah chief Abdul Malek Rigi has slipped into Afghanistan after the October 18 suicide attack.

Jundullah has about 1,000 fighters, most of whom are the products of Pakistani Sunni madrassas. They are easily motivated in the name of support to their persecuted Iranian Sunni brethren. Abdul Malek Rigi describes Jundullah as an Islamic awakening movement and justifies violence against the Iranian Government to defend Sunni Muslims in Sistan-Balochistan where he says, they suffer economic injustice and ethnic discrimination. Their propaganda had it that Sunnis were living in miserable conditions in Shia-majority Iran.

During the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, Shia-Sunni differences sharpened in West Asia and destroyed sectarian harmony in Pakistan. Money and weapons flowed from Iran and Arab countries and turned Pakistan into a bloody battleground for Shias and Sunnis. In the mid-1980s, Zia-ul-Haq blessed the formation of an anti-Shia organisation called the Sipah-e-Sahaba. This group claimed that Iran had 40 per cent Sunnis, but they had no political and economic rights. On the other hand, it said, Shias in Pakistan accounted for only 15 per cent of the population but they enjoyed equal rights with the Sunni majority.

Sipah-e-Sahaba started violent activities against Shias and demanded that Pakistan be declared a Sunni State and Shias be thrown out of the pail of Islam. In their public statements they described Shias as an immoral sect. They generated anti-Shia passions throughout the country and killed Director of Iranian Culture Centre Sadiq Ganji in Lahore in 1990.

As reaction to Sipah-e-Sahaba's activities, the Shia community launched Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqah Jaafria (TNFJ) to retaliate Sunni attacks on Shia mosques and leaders. Sipah-e-Sahaba, its later off-shoot Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and other anti-Shia outfits enjoyed the support of the Army, the ISI and some Arab countries, notably Saudi Arabia.

The Arabs were alarmed that Iran may export Shiaism in areas under them. They began to fund sectarian terrorism through Pakistan. General Zia's Islamisation programme suited the Arabs as they found in him a willing tool. Sunni writers in Pakistan argued that the Sunni hostility towards Shias was in reaction to what they called 'Shia militancy' that they showed after the 1979 revolution. According to them, the anti-Shia organisations were formed only after that. They received huge financial support from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and even Iraq to counter pro-Iran Shias in Pakistan. Jundullah's formation took place when the Shia-Sunni, or rather Iran-Arab hostilities, persisted. In the past three decades there was no serious attempt by individual countries or by the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) to mitigate this divide.

In 2007, then Iranian Parliamentary Speaker Gholamali Haddadalal had alleged that Jundullah was part of pressure tactics used by the US to subdue Iran. Last year, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh wrote that US Congressional leaders had secretly agreed to former President George W Bush's $ 400 million funding request, which gave the US a freehand in arming and funding terrorist groups such as Jundullah.

What is the relevance of all this for us Indians? We cannot dismiss Iran's complaints because we are ourselves victims of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Going by the past history, it is unlikely that Pakistan will hand over the culprits of the Iran blast to Teheran. It is also unlikely that he would even be arrested. Pakistan's policy of not punishing criminals who commit cross- border acts of terrorism is boomeranging on it in a big way. Patronising terrorism has become a way of living for a growing number of people in Pakistan. This is bound to affect the security of ordinary Indians.

The writer is Director, Institute for Media Studies, YMCA








THE government's latest attempt to push the plank of divesting from public sector enterprises might stand a better chance of meeting with tangible success on the ground, where any number of previous such essays have failed. A combination of economic circumstances, as well as some clever political packaging by the ruling Congress party, might ensure the success of the move this time around.


The government's stated target has been of generating anything from Rs 10,000 crore to Rs 25,000 crore per year through sale of its holdings in PSUs. This number has been dutifully incorporated in Budget after Budget, but not even a fraction of that amount has ever been realised in actual practice. But this time around, by applying an ' aam aadmi' sugar coating, the government has made it a sweeter pill for even its political opponents to swallow.


We only wish that it hadn't taken a financial crisis and a yawning Budget deficit to force some pragmatism into the debate over whether the government should disinvest from PSUs. While the global financial crisis has led to the revival of nationalisation in some countries, in India's case, the situation was reversed. Even as PSU banks saved the day for the system, the potential wealth that could have been unlocked by disinvestment — both for the government, and for individuals who would get a chance to invest in governmentowned businesses — had mostly been sacrificed at the altar of political tokenism.


We can only hope that this would now change. It is time to wind up the debate over the role of government in business — experience has shown that it is regulation, not ownership, which holds the key — and focus on ways in which the money so generated can be productively invested. By mandating that all PSUs will henceforth be listed, the government has also brought in welcome transparency and market discipline to PSU functioning.







LOKSabha Speaker Meira Kumar deserves praise for taking up her predecessor Somnath Chatterjee's idea to allow the media access to proceedings of the parliamentary standing committees. There is no doubt that this would have aided the cause of accountability and transparency. Just as people get to see the proceedings of Parliament, they have a right to know what goes on in these august panels that take up vital aspects of legislative work.


But, keeping in mind the experience of how our Parliament functions, the government has been prudently correct in nixing the proposal.


Session after session, we have seen that the floor of Parliament has become a theatre where action is symbolic, rather than deliberative, and it often takes the form of unseemly protest and barracking. Most people will agree that the presence of TV cameras has played a major role in impelling our parliamentarians to play to the gallery, rather than deal with the issues on hand.


In fact, ever since the cameras entered the houses of Parliament, the working of the committees has become crucial to keep the work of Parliament going. Away from the glare of scrutiny, the same parliamentarians who are wont to play to the gallery, become serious, hard- working legislators. A glance at the reports of the parliamentary committees will make that obvious. And that is the way it should be.







SACHIN Tendulkar's brilliant performance in the Hyderabad one- dayer is evidence that age has not withered his genius and that he is good enough to serve the Indian cricket team for a couple of years, if not more. At one level, it is unfortunate that this needs to be stressed given the master blaster's spectacular record. At another it is essential because there is a tendency to question Sachin's future whenever he fails in two or three matches on the trot.


Many things have been written about India's greatest batsman ever but it is not often that tributes are paid to his genius of perseverance. Not many sportsmen, no matter what the sport, can maintain their form for two decades. Posterity will remember Sachin not just for his records but his single- minded dedication and child- like love for the game, the ability to not let adulation, wealth and criticism come in the way of his free- flowing willow.










TWENTY days from now we will observe the first anniversary of one of the most diabolic acts of terrorism in the world — the seaborne assault on Mumbai by jehadis who were recruited, trained and directed by state and non-state actors in Pakistan. Just last month, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested American-Pakistani Daoud Gilani aka David Coleman Headley and Canadian-Pakistani Mohammed Tahawwur Rana for plotting with North Waziristanbased Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami leader, Ilyas Kashmiri and two unnamed Lashkar-e-Tayyeba leaders to attack the National Defence College and two residential schools in Uttarakhand.


What this development reveals is that despite the whole-hearted efforts of law enforcement authorities in India and the US, and some half-hearted ones in Pakistan, the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba is still in business. As a result of the Mumbai attack and international pressure, Pakistan had been compelled to arrest Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, and some other planners of the Mumbai carnage, but the leader of the LeT, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, has remained free.



Coincidentally, it is also just about a year now that a group that called itself the Indian Mujahideen was neutralised. The story began in July 2006, when a radical faction of the Students Islamic Movement of India, organised in secret cells calling themselves the Indian Mujahideen ( IM) struck, with seven bombs ripping through Mumbai's suburban trains, killing 187 people and injuring 700.


The subsequent arrests and chargesheet filed by the Mumbai police's antiterrorism squad ( ATS) noted that of the 30 accused, 18 were from India and 12 from Pakistan.


However after the Delhi blasts in September 2008, the police found out that the 12 were not Pakistani, but people who belonged to the then undeclared and secret militant group called the Indian Mujahideen. They had, in an intriguing and ingenious manner, passed themselves off as Pakistanis for the benefit of the other conspirators.


It was only in the wake of the November 2007, nearsimultaneous bomb blasts at court premises in Varanasi, Faizabad and Lucknow, that the Indian Mujahideen outed itself and claimed responsibility for the blasts through an email message, but the IB discounted this and said that the claim was an effort by existing organisations like the HUJI and the banned SIMI to mislead the police.


Then between May and September 2008 came rapidfire serial bomb blasts in Jaipur ( May 13), Bangalore ( July 25), Ahmedabad ( July 26), and Delhi ( September 23) killing some 150 people and wounding several times that number.


You do not have to accept all the police claims with regard to this group to believe that its emergence ought to set alarm bells ringing. Indeed, it is because of shoddy police work — which includes the extra- judicial execution of two suspects in the Batla House in New Delhi — that we have not been able to gauge the true nature and import of this most serious development.


The Indian Mujahideen was the first home- grown group of Indian Muslim radicals who carried out acts of terrorism without visible direction from Pakistan.


In some ways their emergence represented the success of the Pakistani project run by the ISI and the jehadis to set up self- sustaining and autonomous groups of Indian Muslim extremists to carry out acts of terrorism in India.


The radicalisation seems to have afflicted not the stereotypical madarsah student or cleric, but educated young men, some with university degrees and others proficient in the use of computers and electronics.


Most of those involved in the blasts were " normal" young men who did not dress in the traditional Muslim style or wear beards. On the surface, they led normal " secular" lives and pursued educational courses or occupations which pointed towards a desire to seek upward social and economic mobility.


According to Paul R. Brass, in the 7,000- odd communal incidents between 1954 and 1982, some five hundred Hindus were killed, but the number of Muslims killed was three times that. Another major watershed was the destruction of the Babri Masjid. Indeed, in his latest book, The Production of Hindu- Muslim Violence in Contemporary India , Brass has argued that " the whole political order in post- Independence north India and many, if not most of its leading as well as local actors… have become implicated in the persistence of Hindu- Muslim riots." A snapshot of the situation today can be seen from the response to an RTI query which revealed that in the period April 2004 to 2009, the state of Maharashtra witnessed 96 riots indicating that, on an average, there was one communal riot in about 20 days in the state.



A special committee headed by retired Justice Rajinder Sachar looked into the issue of the status of Muslims in India in 2006.


Among the other things that the committee found was that though Muslims constitute some 13 per cent of the national population, their presence in the top government services is abysmal. Only 3 per cent of the core IAS officials are Muslim, 1.8 per cent in the Foreign Service and 4 per cent in the central Indian Police Service.


Likewise the number of Muslims in the Army, banks, universities is much lower than their proportion in the population. In no state does the representation of Muslims in the government departments match their population share. Their share in police constables is only 6 per cent, in health services 4.4 per cent.


Clearly, what pushes young Indian Muslims towards violent religious extremism is the fact that they are second class citizens in India, people who are discriminated against when it comes to jobs and housing, and the frequent bouts of violence that their community faces.


But what transforms an angry young man into a terrorist is the activity of a small group of motivators — jihadists or agents provocateurs . Many of these latter people have links with Pakistan — its official agencies — as well as its extremist religious organisations.


The assistance they provide comes in the form of funds, training, arms and direction. The goals of Pakistani official covert agencies is to keep India off balance and check its perceived advance in world affairs. The jihadi goal is much more grandiose — it seeks to convert India into a part of the global Islamic emirate.


Extremism The issue of violent religious extremism gripping the Indian Muslim community is truly at a crossroads.


On one hand, the period 2006- 2008 provides clear evidence that young Indian Muslims — who were not found in Afghanistan or Guantanamo — have taken to terrorism.


On the other hand, it is surprising, given the enormous burden of riot and murder that the Indian Muslim community has faced, we have seen only one unambiguously Indian Muslim terrorist group — the Indian Mujahideen — emerge so far. Even in its case we are not sure as to the extent to which the young men involved were pushed into the path they have taken because of urging and motivation from external actors. Its key leaders like Riyaz Bhatkal, Amir Raza and Abdul Shubhan Qureshi remain at large and we do not yet know the full extent of its organisation.


Last year, India confronted two sets of terror attacks. There has been a flurry of activity on the part of the government to prevent another terrorist attack from abroad.


But they continue to disregard the domestic dimension of the problem.


The reason for this is the " cut off my nose to spite my face" attitude of the Sangh Parivar and the pusillanimity of the ruling Congress party which prevents the country from addressing genuine Muslim grievances. We can continue to ignore the problem at our own peril.








WHEN Fortune magazine named Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs as its ' CEO of the Decade' on Friday, it was hard to argue with the decision.


There are very few captains of industry that have done better than Mr Jobs in transforming not just businesses, but the very way we live. It is for this alone that he deserves the title.


This is not to say that there was no competition. In terms of lifetransforming businesses, Google could rank high up there in terms of global impact. But the difference between Google's trio of Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt, and Mr Jobs is this: Google perfected already- existing technologies or bought other companies — search, email ( Gmail), messenger ( Gtalk), image management ( Picasa), video broadcasting and sharing ( YouTube), mapping ( Google Maps and Google Earth), etc.


On the other hand, Mr Jobs did almost the impossible — launched two products on his own in the space of less than a decade and changed everything about technology, and the business of technology.


The Apple iPod and the Apple iPhone were game changers. In 2002- 03, no one knew what a media player could do, until Mr Jobs and his team members showed us what the iPod was capable of, and with groundbreaking design. The same story repeated in 2007 when Apple launched the iPhone — a smartphone with an iPod inside.


But more than a product story, as Fortune magazine notes, Jobs' is a human story. For Apple fans, he is a demigod. For designers and businessmen, he perhaps is god.


Says Adam Lashinsky, editor at large, Fortune : " How's this for a gripping corporate story line: Youthful founder gets booted from his company in the 1980s, returns in the 1990s, and in the following decade survives two brushes with death, one securities- law scandal, an also- ran product lineup, and his own often unpleasant demeanour to become the dominant personality in four distinct industries, a billionaire many times over, and CEO of the most valuable company in Silicon Valley." He adds: " Superlatives have attached themselves to Jobs since he was a young man. Now that he's 54, merely listing his achievements is sufficient explanation of why he's Fortune's CEO of the Decade ( though the superlatives continue). In the past 10 years alone he has radically and lucratively reordered three markets — music, movies, and mobile telephones — and his impact on his original industry, computing, has only grown.


" Remaking any one business is a career- defining achievement; four is unheard- of. Think about that for a moment. Henry Ford altered the course of the nascent auto industry. PanAm's Juan Trippe invented the global airline.


Conrad Hilton internationalised American hospitality." It has not been all roses for Jobs. As Lashinsky points out, he was ousted from the company he founded, then brought back to bring it back on track and then, he changed everything about everything. It takes a rare individual with the courage of a Mr Jobs to not break down in the face of these odds. Not to mention two life- threatening diseases and one liver transplantation.


He is now 54; still alive, and still trying to change the world.

His next project is the Apple Tablet PC, with which, if the rumour blogs are to be believed, he just might change the way we use computers and perhaps even the way we communicate online.


It is supposedly called Slate, but knowing Jobs, we won't know until the last moment.


As The Apple Blog, run by Om Malik, the Indian American technology columnist and web entrepreneur, says: " Apple's fabled tablet is expected to ship with some flavour of the iPhone OS and feature a full colour capacitive touch screen. But more importantly, it's expected to make full use of the iTunes store and all that it makes available to its millions of active users. So add music, TV shows, movies, podcasts, games and apps to the yet- to- be- launched e- book category.


That's content that works across all your computers and your phone, too. None of the other e- readers on the market even come close to competing with that sort of functionality... I'm holding out for next year when the Tablet is released because I know that not only will I be able to fill it up with books, all my other content from iTunes will work on it, too. And when that happens, I might just start buying comic books again."




THERE was a time when the so- called " generation gap" was about 20- 25 years. Which is why, once you became a teenager, you never could relate to your parents. But that phenomenon itself was a " generation gap" ago.


Now, what was cool a few years ago is no longer the " geek factor" in your life. Take Facebook. It has more than 250 million users and is the toast of almost everybody's online life. Yet, if the latest USbased Pew Internet Review report is to be believed, Facebook is no longer the " youngest" site in the world.


Surprisingly, it's not even Twitter. It's MySpace.


The median age of a Facebook user is 33; with Twitter it is 31 and with MySpace it is 26. LinkedIn, the popular business networking site, has a median age of 40.


According to ReadWriteWeb, " When looking at specific younger demographic segments, and not just Gen Y, you can see strong Twitter uptake over the past year. For example, 37 per cent of those 18- 24 now use Twitter when only 19 per cent did back in December 2008. And in the slightly older 25- 34 bracket, a portion of which could still be considered Gen Y, 31 per cent are now using the service compared to only 20 per cent in December of last year. Combined, these two groups account for more than half of Twitter's network." The report also explains why the newer generation is flocking to Twitter rather than share space with parents, uncles, and other seniors on Facebook: " Some 19 per cent of internet users now say they use Twitter or another service to share updates about themselves, or to see updates about others.


This represents a significant increase over previous surveys in December 2008 and April 2009, when 11 per cent of internet users said they use a statusupdate service.


" Three groups of internet users are mainly responsible for driving the growth of this activity: social network website users, those who connect to the internet via mobile devices, and younger internet users — those under age 44.


" In addition, the more devices someone owns, the more likely they are to use Twitter or another service to update their status. Fully 39 per cent of internet users with four or more internetconnected devices ( such as a laptop, cell phone, game console, or Kindle) use Twitter, compared to 28 per cent of internet users with three devices, 19 per cent of internet users with two devices, and 10 per cent of internet users with one device." Clearly, Twitter is giving Facebook a hard time.




WHEN IBM sold its computer division to Chinese giant Lenovo a few years ago to concentrate on hardware and software services, more than just a few eyebrows were raised. But guess what? The move paid off so well that both Lenovo and IBM are now reaping the benefits.


Microsoft, too, is doing something pioneering in India. The world's largest software firm now has a new target — India's commercial market for online services. As the world of small business embraces technology to the fullest, it is becoming clearer to both hardware and software firms that it is services that will deliver them the goods apart from just off- the- shelf software boxes.


Soon after Google launched the SMB productivity suite a few weeks ago, Microsoft launched its on Friday. Starting Saturday, the company says, " the Microsoft Online Services product family will offer Exchange Online ( for e- mail) and Office SharePoint Online ( portals and collaboration) separately or as a suite together with Office Live Meeting ( for conferencing), Microsoft Exchange Hosted Services and Microsoft Office Communications Online ( for instant messaging and presence)." Exciting times ahead for Microsoft and Google, then.




NO, that's not for the entire range, but for just one model. As incredible as it may sound, Samsung claims that it has sold 1 crore units of its entry- level touchscreen phone, the Star S5230, in just six months of its launch in India.


Surprisingly, half of the sales happened in September and October. Until August, 50 lakh units were sold, Samsung said. It is priced at around Rs 7000, so the sales itself need not be surprising, considering that five other Samsung models have crossed the 1 crore sales figure.







THIS is with reference to the steep increase in bus fares announced by the Delhi government, after which the Blue Line bus contractors too increased their fares. Let us not forget that buses are used by low- income & middleincome groups, and any increase in fares only adds to the existing budgetary burdens of these groups.


Instead of an across the board steep increase, the state government would have done well to increase fares by only Rs 2- 3 per category. For instance, the Rs 3 ticket should have been Rs 5; the Rs 5 should have been Rs 7; the Rs 7 one should have been Rs 10 and the Rs 10 ticket should have been Rs 12.


This rational expansion would not have much affected commuters belonging to the lowincome group who use this mode of transport. Alternately, based on the distance, the government should have fixed the fares as follows: 0- 5 km: Rs 5; 5- 10 km: Rs 7; 10- 15 km: Rs 10; and beyond 15 km: Rs 15, so as to average it around Re 1 per km.


Moreover, keeping in view the quality of service being provided by Blue Line buses, one fails to understand the logic by which they have increased the fare. Now since the common fare is Rs 10, they halt and wait for passengers at each and every stop to fill the bus beyond its capacity, thereby increasing the hardship of the commuters as well as endangering their lives. This is problem especially for women travellers as well as senior citizens.


Ashok Bhatia via email




THIS refers to the news report ' 47,000 places to get dengue in the Capital' ( November 6). It is ridiculous to note that it is the MCD and the NDMC that are sending the notices to residences and offices after noticing the spread of the dreaded dengue larvae. Instead they should have campaigned in the area for the removal of breeding spots by collaborating with the local Resident Welfare Associations, social organisations and NGOs. The whole campaign should have been launched on a war footing knowing that there is a dengue outbreak in the Capital.


Garbage collection centres throughout Delhi and New Delhi, besides the drains of residential colonies, are ideal breeding havens for dengue- carrying mosquitoes. Garbage removal should be done at least once in two days, if not daily. Ragpickers should not be allowed to tamper with garbage bins for collection of plastic bags and other saleable material, resulting in throwing open garbage across, and in front of, the bin collection centres.


Health care and sanitation requires active cooperation from residents, shopkeepers, offices and hospitals ( both public and private). Despite warnings being issued through advertisements, notices, and media advertisements, residents across the city expect a magic wand from health authorities without following basic precautions and guidelines to keep their own surrounding free of stagnant water or refuse.


Unless basic hygiene and good sanitary habits are practised by all, epidemics and disease outbreaks will continue to dominate the city and adjacent towns.

And if that remains the case, soon, New Delhi will have to renamed " Dengue Delhi".

N. R. Narayanan via email







Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the most Maoist of them all? Bengal's Marxists hold up the mirror to Mamata, urban legend in newly donned robes of agrarian socialist. She plays footsie with the ultras, they allege. It's part of her warplan to storm Writers' Buildings, the ruling Left's Kolkata HQ (or is it dormitory?) for over 30 long years. Only the Maoists, they argue, could have propelled her Great Leap Forward in the countryside. Plus, she's cosy with Maoist sympathisers in assorted sticks-and-stones brigades that made CPM musclemen take flight in Lalgarh. Holding up a train, didn't the Maoists and their cohorts demand 'talks' with the Union rail mantri? Surely she'd not ask armed guerrillas to seek an "appointment" had she not tamed them. Even the Union home ministry wouldn't be so bold, now that trigger-happy Maoists have clarified that a rebel without a gun is more "absurd" than a rebel without a cause.

Hmm...the reds do seem to have a case for painting Mamata redder. Except that the loyal Bengal tigress has roared the lid off a Marxist-Maoist "joint venture". The two Ms, says M-Didi, "eat and sleep together". Ergo, Buddha, "pickpocket of democracy", has two faces: M&M. The commies, she adds, are even in-sourcing "Maoists from Nepal" to fatten homegrown extremism. Proof: Nepal's ultras are job-hunting ever since Chairman Prachanda blew the prime ministership. Finally, Bengal's Marxists had their own hostage crisis to milk. Only, the cop freed from Maoist detention became a bigger TV star than his saviours. Could anyone indebted to Mamata's munificence have hogged star billing? Fat chance.

Consider, though, the Mao of dialectics (or aesthetics?). Bengal's intellectuals were once Marx brothers fans. Increasingly applauding Maoist exploits, they seem to have flocked to Trinamul. These worthies doubtless await a Mamata-led Cultural Revolution: open air melodrama "jatra" in Bengal stealing away audiences from highbrow plays once penned by CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Villagers in Sonachura, Nandigram, are already hooked to tear-jerkers stirringly titled "Maa Maatir Lorai" (Battle for Mother and Land). And mother of all clinchers! isn't Trinamul's slogan "Maa, Maati, Maanush" (mother, land, humanity) an obvious code for "Mao, Mamata, Mukhya-Mantri"?

Years ago, Buddha wrote a play called 'Bad Times'. Little did he know then that the Left's real bad times would come with a firebrand learning every trick in their gimme red book. Worse, some tricks would be performed better. Take bandh calling, street fighting, rebel-rousing or saying Tata bye bye to fleeing industry. Bengal's bad times political and administrative paralysis, industrial stagnation, lack of opportunities didn't start yesterday. Nor will they end soon. Who cares, so long as Bengal has its 'jatra': Mamata's and the Marxists' mutually assured distraction. The latest episode's all about class struggle being outclassed by mass struggle. The spectacle's called "Tu-Tu, Mao Mao". And everyone's invited.







Trade today reminds me of the story about the man who asks God whether his virtuous life has guaranteed that he will go to heaven. God replies: "I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that you are indeed going to heaven. The bad news is that you are going there tomorrow." As we contemplate the future of world trade, which was devastated in the immediate aftermath of the twin crises on Wall Street and on Main Street, we have good and bad news concerning the prospects for a robust, open world economy.

There was much concern because trade volume had collapsed faster than world income. Did this imply that protectionism was breaking out? Were we backing into the 1930s with their spread of protectionism that accentuated the devastation caused by the Great Crash of 1929?

Not really. The main proximate reason was instead that world trade had been growing faster than world income in the previous quarter of a century. So, if we went into reverse, trade would fall faster than income.

But why was trade growing faster than income? The principal reason was that production was getting internationalised, with multinationals often shipping products in different stages of assembly around the world. This was a trend facilitated by the progressive dismantling of trade barriers, of course. But it also meant that the measured value of trade to GNP would rise immensely because of the fact that trade is measured by sales, i.e. by gross value, whereas GNP is the measure of "value added".

Thus, a "basic" unfinished car would be exported from France to Portugal to add a bumper and then exported in turn to Spain to put on leather seats and then to Germany for instalment of electronic guidance systems. Each time, four times in this example, the basic car value would be counted as part of trade volumes whereas the GNP of the countries together would be going up only by the one-time value of the basic car in France and by the value of the additions made to it in the other three countries.

The internationalisation of production creates also a genuine expansion of trade through sourcing of components worldwide. What may have been produced in a vertically integrated production facility is now increasingly in-sourced from foreign suppliers; even though the GNP overall is affected marginally, trade expands far more.

So, as the world economy revives, world trade will return to its trend of growing faster than world GNP. Remember also that trade needs working capital. So, if finance dried up owing to the crisis on Wall Street, that would additionally cause trade to fall. My distinguished colleague at Columbia, Professor David Weinstein, and co-author Mary Amiti of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, have examined Japanese export experience carefully and found that the decline in bank capital can explain as much as one-third of the remarkable decline in Japanese exports in 2008. The good news therefore is that, as the financial sector revives, trade flows will no longer be choked off by unavailability of finance for working capital.

But do we not then need to worry that protectionism may still cripple the growth of world trade? It is true that, as the WTO has documented, all the G-20 resolutions not to succumb to protectionism have been followed by some protectionist measures in many of the G-20 countries.

Nonetheless, the actual damage to trade is still within bounds, though we must remember that a tsunami starts with a slow surge of the waves. But why has protectionism been contained? I believe that the answer lies in the interdependence today in the world economy as production and world trade have become globalised. There are far too many firms today that depend on world markets. General Electric, Boeing, Caterpillar are among the hundreds of US firms that have actively lobbied to contain US protectionism: they fear that retaliation by other nations will hurt them.

But liberalising trade, i.e. moving forward, is a hard slog. Rarely have democratic nations successfully liberalised during recessions. But we now have an added problem: the virtuous statements on finally closing the Doha Round carry little salience when the biggest rottweiler on the block, the US, is paralysed on trade.

The Democrats in the US Congress, after the last election, are heavily indebted to the labour unions that fear trade. In turn, they straitjacket the president, an eloquent man whose silence on Doha is eloquent instead. Progress on Doha without the US playing a key role to close the deal is impossible. So, the news on Doha is bad.

By contrast, the last Indian election, by freeing the government from reliance on the communists who are generally hostile to liberal reforms - which are often described as "neoliberal" reforms by their critics as that sounds more sinister including trade liberalisation, has made India a potential leader in the fight for Doha. Will the prime minister take the lead and ask his host to join in that great task when he goes to Washington for his state visit later this month?

The writer is professor of economics and law at Columbia University, US.







The row over the Dalai Lama's impending visit to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh refuses to go away. Just when India and China smoothened ruffled feathers on either side after a protracted war of words there's a new twist in the tale. India has decided to bar foreign journalists from visiting Arunachal Pradesh and covering the Dalai Lama's visit. Four journalists who had received permits were grounded in Guwahati and New Delhi has decided not to issue any fresh permits. For the record, foreign journalists have to get the Restricted Areas Permit to visit the hill state even under ordinary circumstance. But this sort of blanket ban is pointless.

Just because foreign journalists are not allowed to cover the Dalai's visit, it does not necessarily follow that the international press will not report the event. In the age of the internet, it is well-nigh impossible to censor what the world will read or see. Foreign media is bound to take and use news and picture feeds from Indian news agencies. If anything, banning foreign media from the region during this controversial trip by the Dalai Lama will only heighten their interest in getting hold of and headlining news related to the event. So if New Delhi is hoping to play down the visit, this step is the one it should not have taken.

Evidently, New Delhi does not want to rankle Beijing and has therefore resorted to this measure. Some argue that India should play it smart and protect its own diplomatic and strategic interests vis-`-vis China. But just how are national interests being served by keeping out a few foreign journalists? One could flip that argument to say that since we are an open society with little to hide, it would enhance our soft power if we abolished restrictions and allowed foreign journalists freedom to report. After all, freedom of speech and expression is among those democratic values that we cherish in India. Let's not be so defensive and insecure, whether vis-a-vis China or western journalists.







There is no need to get upset over the Centre's refusal to allow foreign media to cover the Dalai Lama's visit to Tawang. This is not an issue of press freedom since there are no curbs on Indian media to report the tour. The world media, if interested, can borrow material print and video from their Indian counterparts. Matters of press freedom would have become relevant to the debate if the government had forced a blackout of the visit. Clearly, that's not the case.

Some amount of diplomatic caution has to be exercised in this case because it concerns the Dalai Lama and Tawang. It is in the national interest that New Delhi factors in Chinese concerns on both the Dalai Lama and Tawang. Earlier this week, Beijing had blamed the Dalai Lama for the uneven relations between India and China. New Delhi need not agree with the view but we ought to recognise that the Dalai Lama is seen as an irritant presence by Beijing. It is even more irked by the fact that he is a darling of the western media. His visit to Tawang, even though as a spiritual leader, has political overtones. Coverage of the high profile visit is bound to reflect that.

That the visit is to Tawang complicates the picture. It's one of the spiritual centres of Tibetan Buddhism which China lays claim to. The Dalai's visit to what China considers its own territory is likely to generate exceptional interest in the international media. It's understandable that the Centre wants to be cautious about the Dalai's visit so that it doesn't adversely impact bilateral relations with China.

Both countries are trying hard to play down controversial issues and focus more on matters where they both agree to make the best of a complicated relationship. That, surely, is the way forward. The government's attempt has been to find a balance between the sensitivities of an important neighbour and India's own political and diplomatic interests. Too much, therefore, should not be read into a diplomatic gesture, especially since the gesture in no way compromises the respect accorded to the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader.







WASHINGTON: Learning French once offered clear advantages to anyone aspiring to an international career. Besides, speaking French with a Parisian accent generated oohs and aahs in sophisticated company. If required to do an additional language in school, most American kids till recently would choose French. No longer, though.

Today, the additional language of choice for an increasing number of schoolchildren here is Spanish. It's not just because America's Hispanic population has become the largest ethnic minority and continues to grow; Spanish is spoken by more people in the world now than any language barring Mandarin and English and, at entry points for international jobs, knowing Spanish helps embellish your resume.

Tomorrow, the story will be different. The horse coming in at a rapid clip from behind in the language race is Mandarin. A growing number of schools here now offer Chinese classes. As China's global influence expands with gathering speed, knowledge of Chinese language and culture is seen as increasingly indispensable.

The mandarins in Beijing understand the phenomenon well. To secure their present, they are promoting at home an extraordinary spread of English language teaching. Today, we Indians can boast of our intellects and skills being globally tradable because of the ability of a good number of us to speak and write in English. The Chinese are not standing still; they seem determined to catch up before long.


Abroad, they are equally determined to push their soft power. In America, for instance, the Chinese government has begun to set up offices of the Confucius Institute, which offers tuition in Chinese language and culture. According to The Economist magazine, 60 offices of the institute have come up in university campuses around the US in the last five years. Friends who teach in schools and colleges here tell me they have been approached by Chinese embassy officials offering grants for students to study in China or for starting Chinese language courses.

For those of us who grew up in the 60s, China was symbolised by a little red book. The thoughts of Chairman Mao contained in that book impressed radical students and intellectuals alike. The late French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, never one to miss a popular beat, became a fan of Mao and famed scholars extolled the virtues of a new China being built under the guidance of the Great Helmsman. Today, Maoism is alive in Nepal and Chhattisgarh. In Beijing, Confucius is back.

Mao trashed Confucius as the symbol of a backward China. Today's Chinese leaders push their nation's growing soft power by brandishing the fame of Confucius. They say they want to promote the image of a peaceful China, just as the ancient sage advocated civility and harmony in the 6th century BCE. Writing in The Washington Post last week, the chief of the China-US Exchange Foundation, C H Tung, asserted: "China's tradition of yiheweigui, peace and harmony above all, will ensure that its development objective is for its interest and in the interest of the world."

The Indian government is a little soft in the matter of pushing India's potential soft power. It has a Nehru Centre, in London, where it promotes Indian culture. Sure, the British need to know a lot about India since they have been away so long. But what about the rest of the world? Why not take a leaf out of China's book and look at the possibility of explaining India better to folks abroad?

One day, China's brand of harmony, based on authoritarian order and obedient discipline, will seriously challenge current ideas of governance and development like democracy and freedom in which we are more experienced than other emerging powers. Despite shortcomings, and persisting though shrinking poverty, we have grown in economic strength while making democracy thrive through free elections, a free press and an independent judiciary. We have a better story to tell.

If we don't, China's tale will capture the world's imagination in the not-so-distant future. Democracy and liberty then will become dispensable ideas. Confucius says: "If a man takes no thought about what is distant, he will find sorrow near at hand."








The Centre seems to be blowing hot and cold on the Kashmir issue. No sooner than the Prime Minister offered fresh talks with Kashmiri separatists who have nothing to do with violence, a crackdown came on the use of pre-paid SIM cards in Jammu and Kashmir. This means that 3.8 million users will be put out of commission with the outside world and another 20,000 people will become jobless. It is significant that not only Chief Minister Omar Abdullah but also the opposition has expressed displeasure over this move.


The problem with Kashmir and the rest of India has been very much one of trust. It has also been one of the problems of unemployment, thanks to the security issue. The pre-paid SIM card business brought in as much as

Rs 10,000 a month for owners. Now that this has been taken away, there could be further unrest on the streets. This goes against the grain of the PM's reconciliatory moves. This will also be a handle for the militants to question New Delhi's intentions about a lasting resolution to the Kashmir problem. In addition, Pakistan, which has had nothing much to do in recent times, will get a fillip, perhaps to detract from its own internal situation. The Kashmir imbroglio can be resolved in a reasonable manner. The credentials of users can be verified and all cards can be security checked at the point of issue. This seemingly hostile move towards Kashmiris could set off a round of hostility at a time when a certain degree of calm had prevailed.


This has been a recurrent problem in New Delhi's approach to Kashmir. This is a time when a dynamic and progressive CM, and one who has a degree of respectability among the people, is in charge. Such moves only make things more difficult for him. The Centre does not need to undertake such sweeping measures, ostensibly to reconcile security, as the Home Minister has put it. The interest of the country, as he so rightly said, lies in all its people feeling secure and having the right to livelihood. To start off another conflagration in Kashmir would be ruinous at a time when the government has to tackle numerous other security issues across the country. Better statesmanship at this time would have set the peace process in Kashmir on the way. Sadly, that has been set back once again.









So he made us eat our words. And didn't we love the taste.


There we were, as India came out to bat against Australia on Thursday evening, the chaps who have spent more hours of our lives than we can bear to count watching him bat and atomising his each innings, there we were, shaking our heads and looking at the TV screens and mumbling into our coffees and saying: "No, he shouldn't have opened the innings."


No, Sachin Tendulkar should have left it to Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, we'd thought. He should have come in at No. 4. What were they all up to? Did they not remember the number of balls from which he had not scored in just the previous innings? Chasing a score we had never chased down, did we not want to make best use of the first ten overs?


Fans will be fans. They will always ask questions. They will tend to be unforgiving. They will ask more from their heroes than their heroes can give them. So we'll still say that had there not been so many dot balls in Tendulkar's innings in the game before this one, we would not have been behind in the current one-day series. Oh, well. It's in the nature of fandom. Not much you can do about it.


So when Tendulkar began his assault, as murderous in his intent as savage in his execution, we rubbed our eyes, blinked again and again, and asked each other and ourselves: "Oh, so why does he not do this more often? Where had all this gone?"


It hadn't gone anywhere, really, we now think in the clear light of the day after. It had been largely subsumed into the gatherer that one of the greatest batsmen in the history of the game has become from being the audacious hunter of his teens and 20s.


But the hunter and his arsenal were unveiled in their pomp again on Thursday. We got it all: an 81-ball hundred, the fastest by an Indian against Australia; the impudent straight hits that disappeared into the stands; the textbook cover drives that split the field; the canny improvisations that yielded runs behind the wicket; the flicks off his legs backward of square; and the hoicks in the arc between mid on and mid wicket that were destined to be boundaries no sooner than they left his bat.


It all happened so swiftly, and with such unabated fury, that it seemed as though we were watching the highlights of an innings rather than the innings itself in real time. It was giddying; it was delirium-inducing.


In a way, though, we were watching the highlights. We were watching the highlights of what Tendulkar has offered us over the past two decades. Remember Sharjah? Remember Centurion? Remember Perth? It was like a photo album — as much homage as delighted remembrance.


We crib too much about not winning, about letting a victory slip, but we seem to lose sight of the fact that two decades ago, when Tendulkar began his career, we were rather too used to losing. Winning was more of an aberration.


Indian cricket fans who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s would celebrate valiant innings in losing causes (because winning causes were too few and far between). Tendulkar is one of the reasons why we have acquired our winning ways, why India becoming the best cricket team in the world is not merely a boy's-own fantasy.


All those present in the stadium on Thursday night (and there was not a seat vacant, there has not been a seat vacant in the stadiums all through this series) and all the hundreds of thousands who watched on TV will know that Tendulkar's 175 is a perfect advertisement for the game we adore. Too much cricket? Well, not between two top teams. One-day cricket dying? Rubbish. If this is how the game can be celebrated, I dare anyone to not watch.


In the end, however heartbreaking, it was appropriate that India lost. Because it allows some of us, after all this, to wonder. Thirty-two of Tendulkar's 45 ODI hundreds have led to India winning. Why, oh, why, could this not be the 33rd? Why did he leave the last three batsmen to get 19 runs off 17 balls? He does so much, but will anything he ever does be enough for us?


If Tendulkar knows the answer, he won't tell. But for cricket fans shambling towards middle age, he represents a tricky paradox. He was the first hero I had who was younger than I was. With the unfettered, nerveless boldness of his batting, he made us revisit and redefine our notion of hero worship. Now, 20 years on, Tendulkar is caught in a trap of his own making. We still want him to be like the boy we grew so devoted to. And when he can't be (because things have changed, and he, with them) we grow wistful and nostalgic. Stuck in a moment, as Bono said, and you can't get out of it.


Thursday night fulfilled that yearning for the past. But it also showed us that the pleasure of watching Tendulkar bat need not always be nostalgia on the rocks.


Soumya Bhattacharya's new book on how cricket defines India, All That You Can't Leave Behind, will be out in bookstores next month.








Manmohan Singh may be the man of the moment, but he isn't the flavour of the season. Last year, he had identified the Maoists as our biggest security threat. This week, at a meet on the Forest Rights Act, he publicly accepted the truth that has been obvious for decades — that Maoism will keep growing unless tribals get their due. An important meeting, given that Maoist attacks in the tribal areas are dominating the headlines, it was nevertheless ignored by the chief ministers of all the Maoist-affected states, with the sole exception of Naveen Patnaik. So is Singh the man of the moment or too far ahead of his time?


The day before this meet, the death of a man a 100 years old was announced in Paris. A man so far ahead of his time that he had broken with the past. Claude Levi-Strauss, who worked on 'primitive' societies, was relatively unknown outside intellectual circles. His name reminded ordinary people of a jeans manufacturer in San Francisco. But he casts a long shadow over the social sciences.


Levi-Strauss shifted the focus of inquiry from what institutions like marriage, a clan or an IIT are for, to the intriguing question of what they are made of. His structuralist analysis of myth, the oldest form of human knowledge, shared across peoples, made a radical break with the ethnocentrism which had marked the study of humankind since the rise of Europe. The identification of racial differences was popular well into the 20th century because it served the colonial project. But by the 1950s, when Levi-Strauss began to receive attention, the illogical link between race and culture just had to be broken. Why is it illogical? Simply because there are many more cultures than there are races.


But in our forest areas, we are still applying another colonial idea — terra nullius, which was used to beggar indigenous populations in the Americas and Australia. It posited that anyone could occupy lands over which no one claimed ownership. Or were perceived not to have the right to claim ownership, the pretext for the annexation of Oudh and Jhansi in India. Occupied lands were there to be exploited, the welfare of local people being secondary. Exactly as we have exploited the lands, minerals and forest resources of the tribal areas, with almost no regard for local populations.


They were squeezed between the Indian Forests Act and the Wildlife Protection Act, through which the government took away forest land and denied access to the commons without making proper reparation. More land was taken away for development projects and, in recent years, for special economic zones for land-hungry business. The Forest Rights Act of 2006 was supposed to right historical wrongs, but the tribals still seem to have a raw deal.


There was ample warning of trouble ahead. For example, the 1980s saw a militant phase of the Jharkhand movement in which, incidentally, the Naxals were involved. Now a lesser breed of Maoists with a tenuous interest in ideology, complete disinterest in the democratic process and a disgusting eagerness to commit murder has assumed control over tribal communities. Perhaps the Prime Minister is not ahead of his time. Maybe the rest of the country is running on Indian Standard Time.


Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine.


The views expressed by the author are personal.








The cabinet clearance of government divestment from some state-owned companies, announced following a cabinet meeting on Thursday, is a good start to what will hopefully be a winter in which UPA-II will finally start flying reformist colours. Any fears that had begun to grow when the government did little that was concrete to reduce its holdings in the public sector were misplaced; there were, in fact, repeated indications from both the prime minister and the finance minister that this government was serious about disinvestment. Given the fiscal squeeze facing the government and its ambitious spending programme, there was never any chance that UPA-II would not follow through on this basic element of any reform agenda.


The way it has gone about it is interesting: it has simply brought public-sector corporations that are both profitable and listed under the umbrella of regulations applicable to other listed companies — that at least 10 per cent of their holding be floated in the stockmarket. Automatically, that means that 12 big public-sector units in which public ownership exceeds 90 per cent will have to have government holding diluted. The commitment to list all profitable state-owned companies — presumably those of the appropriate size — has also been reiterated.


Further, the low-impact manner in which the disinvestment has been framed and will be implemented — as simply those companies being subject to what is considered normal for other comparable companies in their position — reflects a clever balance that should be carried forward into other aspects of reform. Reform such as disinvestment continues to be a political process as much as an economic one, and the manner in which the political arguments are made will be as essential to its success as the quality of the economic thinking behind the moves made. The other political twist is that the money has not been earmarked for the National Investment Fund, the method that has for some time now been used to ensure that proceeds from the sale of government capital get put back into capital formation, and aren't wasted on current expenditure — such as deficit financing. Instead, the idea is that it will go on "capital expenditure in social sector schemes". An interesting tightrope walk is between meeting the government's political commitments and the reformist policy golden rule, of not running down capital assets to finance a deficit. If this reform is to work properly, the government must come out and demarcate a clear boundary between what is capital expenditure in, for example, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan or the NREGA, and what is not. The additional scrutiny on the sustainability of those schemes is a welcome byproduct.







Listen again to Sachin Tendulkar, just after his 175 at Hyderabad: "It was one of my best innings... but in the end it was very disappointing." In that summation of an exceptional innings, he could be seen to be recalling an entire career in the service of Indian cricket. Twenty years ago, Tendulkar debuted for India and it did not take long for him to understand that he would bear a larger responsibility than should have needed to be his as a 16-year old. At Sialkot, in the last Test of that debut series against Pakistan, he was injured, but he refused to retire hurt. He'd later recall: "It didn't feel nice, what with blood flowing from my nose, but I couldn't leave, for the side was not doing well."


That, then, is the burden Tendulkar has borne: he has not been judged on his performance alone but on whether he managed to take his team to victory. It's fair. In team sports, great players must be judged by how they remake their squad. For vast stretches of his career, that is how it was with Tendulkar. An emblematic moment in his Test career, therefore, is seen to be the Chennai Test of January 1999. Set a target of 271 by Pakistan to win, an ailing Tendulkar was out on 136, leaving his mates alone to get the remaining 17 runs with three wickets in hand. They did not. The acute consciousness of not seeing his team through was written on Tendulkar's face on Thursday night. But to see his innings through this narrative would be mistaken.


Because what he did this week was exceptional in and of itself, never mind whether India won or didn't. And this is not about the 17,000 ODI runs milestone. What Tendulkar did, by playing as if time had not taken a toll, was invert the old narrative. All that mattered that magical night was his batting, not because the scoreline does not matter — but because he swung the argument for his sport. Cricket, post-T20, has been struggling to shrug away anxiety that the longer versions of the game are history. This is what he reminded us: as long as there are players who rise to the potential of cricket, cricket will do fine.







What is 1.3 billion divided by 289? That's the number of Indians per medical college, a number so high it is almost criminal. In fact, government regulation over higher education is so stifling, the red tape so constricting, that the low number of medical colleges is only symptomatic of a larger malaise. Which is why Union Human Resource Minister Kapil Sibal's novel attempts to inject autonomy and funds into our universities are so welcome; his attempts to simplify red tape will breathe life and private energy into a sector crying out for reform. Medical colleges, run by the Medical Council of


India, report to the health ministry, not to Sibal. But their recent moves to relax norms for setting up medical show that they are not isolated from the buzz in higher education.


Reducing the land requirement for medical colleges from 25 acres to 20 (and in some cases from 20 to 10) may sound innocuous. But in our crammed cities and towns such a measure will make it easier to set up colleges. The move will also help land-starved areas like in parts of the Northeast, where medical colleges are conspicuously absent. The third way in which this seemingly simple change has larger repercussions is in checking corruption. As emerging details of of corruption in the AICTE show, approvals for educational institutes have become a money spinner. Cutting down red tape will cut down the kickbacks.


Of course, the relaxation of some norms must not reduce the MCI's oversight role. While the new rules must make it easier for entrepreneurs to set up colleges, it mustn't lead to a relaxation of standards. That is the balancing act the MCI must perform.








If it is reasonable to think that a Supreme Court justice can be bought so cheap, the nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined." The recent recusal by Justice Raveendran from the RIL-RNRL case reminds one of the stirring words of Justice Antonin Scalia. He refused to recuse himself in a case where the former Vice-President Dick Cheney's actions were being questioned, although he had earlier gone on a duck-hunting trip with a group which included Cheney.


There has been a spate of recusals from the Indian Supreme Court. What is puzzling is that Justice Raveendran, whose judgements reflect a rare combination of depth and simplicity, has in the same case and within few days offered two different standards for recusal of a judge. At the beginning of the RIL-RNRL dispute, Raveendran offered to recuse himself since he held shares in RIL and RNRL and counsel did not object to his presence. Within a few days after the hearing commenced, Raveendran recused himself because his daughter was working in a law firm which was advising (as opposed to the daughter herself) RIL in a global acquisition completely unrelated to the dispute before the court. And to add to the confusion, Justice Kapadia offered to recuse himself on account of holding shares in Sterlite when a case related to that company came up before him, while Justice Katju recused himself since his wife held shares in RIL when the RIL-NTPC dispute came up before him.


When faced with a conflict of interest what standard should judges across the country follow? Should judges recuse, or should they offer to recuse?  The Supreme Court precedent and past history offer a clear guide.


The Supreme Court from its inception has consistently made a distinction between pecuniary and non-pecuniary interest. In case of a pecuniary interest, the judge has to automatically recuse himself and no further inquiry is required; once a judge has an interest in the outcome of the case, he is no longer an independent adjudicator. But in case of a non-pecuniary interest, the judge should recuse if there is a reasonable ground to believe that he will be biased on account of it. (Manak Lal v. Prem Chand, AIR 1957 SC 425)


Raveendran's recusals are indeed ironical; he has offered to recuse when he ought to have recused on account of

his pecuniary interest and actually recused himself when the


non-pecuniary interest did not create any reasonable basis to attribute bias.


The Court's history offers a useful guide. In 1964, Chief Justice P.B. Gajendragadkar was presiding over a bench examining the validity of the quantum of compensation paid for a land acquisition. Purushottam Trikamdas, the lion of the Bar, speaking for the landowners, asserted that Chief Justice Gajendragadkar should not hear the case since he had a pecuniary interest in the subject-matter, because he was a member of a co-operative society for which the land was being acquired. The Chief Justice asked the Attorney General C.K. Daptary whether he should recuse, and Daftary told the Chief Justice that he should. The Chief Justice reconstituted the Bench headed by Justice Subba Rao which declared the actions of the government unconstitutional.


The Supreme Court's 1997 resolution titled "Restatement of Values of Judicial Life" — mandating a judge to disclose his shareholding interest and proceed with hearing the case only if there is no objection from the parties — does not accurately restate the legal position and should be revised for several reasons.


First, it is inconsistent with the law laid down by the Supreme Court. Holding shares in a company is a clear case of pecuniary interest, and the SC itself right from 1952 has affirmed that a pecuniary interest, however small, automatically disqualifies the judge. Even if a judge has a majority or a significant shareholding in a company, the 1997 Resolution allows the judge to proceed if counsel does not have any objection.  The law declared by the SC is binding and prevails over a resolution.


Second, the resolution relies upon waiver by the counsel to shield the judge from any imputation of bias. When discretionary powers of judges have tremendously increased over the years, trusting counsel who routinely appear before the same judges in several cases day in and day out to object to their participation in one case is not exactly an ideal mechanism.


Raveendran's final recusal from the bench raises a larger question. Should a judge recuse merely because a party before the Court is a client of the law firm which employs a relative, irrespective of whether the relative is actually involved in advising the client? By this standard, any judge who has a relative working in a leading law firm would be barred from hearing any case of that firm. While Raveendran's offer of recusal diluted the recusal standard in case of pecuniary interest, Raveendran's recusal has over-extended the standard in case of non-pecuniary interest.


The writer practices in the AP High Court ( )








The China Factor has staged a dramatic comeback in our minds, hearts, in public debate and, regrettably, as a negative one. Did it have to be like that? Post 1971, as we felt progressively more secure externally, we had been liberating ourselves from the fear of China. Rajiv Gandhi's visit to Beijing became a happy turning point, followed by many other significant, though small steps in reconciliation. All this while the Dalai Lama was in India, continuing with his activities, spiritual and temporal, and getting into spats with China. Never before have the Chinese ratcheted up the protests to the level we see now, as he sets off to Tawang — and never before have we reacted with so much alarm.


So what is different now? You can analyse the Chinese motivations for ever. In fact, analysing "why is China behaving this way" is a flourishing global industry and we can further swell its ranks while, probably, coming to the same conclusion after our exertions that everybody does, about the inscrutability of the Chinese. Why don't we, therefore, examine for a change "why are we behaving this way". Or rather, reacting/responding this way?


There's been a lot of provocative talk in Beijing, but we have seen no evidence of any military movement. In fact the one thing you can say with confidence — and since it is a well-known fact we are not betraying any secrets by saying so — that our satellites are good enough now to detect anything really unusual or significant in that area. Yet, some of the talk on our side is curious: upgradation of airbases along the borders, stationing of Sukhois, raising two more mountain divisions, sanction of funds and, lo and behold, quick environmental clearance of road-building projects in the border region. What do we expect? That, if the Chinese really intend to invade us, will they give us five years to get ready? Or, for heaven's sake, if they did indeed invade us, will they just walk in, and annex Tawang or whatever else? Neither of the two is an inevitability or even likely. Our armed forces are good enough today to defend their territory and, while capability upgradations are needed, the flurry of activity today is not much preparation of some future invasion, but to make up for lost years in our military modernisation.


Then why did we react with such alarm? Go back to 1987, when a real border stand-off took place with China (starting with Sumdurong Chu, ahead of Tawang) and both armies did indeed build up eyeball to eyeball. None of the alarm that seized us over the past few weeks was evident then. There was, in fact, a feeling of stoic confidence. Today, as a nation, economy, and military power, we are much stronger. Why, then, did we get more worried?


Could it be that this came from a much larger number of our people having much greater exposure to how rapidly China had progressed? Or in fact how much faster than us they had progressed? Until a decade ago, it was merely a talking point for the aam admi in India. Today, he sees images of the flawless grandeur of the Beijing Olympics while we make an embarrassing spectacle of our waffling with a mere Commonwealth Games. He sees Chinese goods swarm his daily life, from chappals to rakhis to TV sets to Ganesha idols while reading of how much of our exports to China are colonial-era raw materials like iron ore. Then he reads all the stories of the fears we have of high-tech Chinese goods and equipment, in vital areas like telecom and power, and of Chinese contractors in road and pipeline building. Could it just be that all this is now creating a deep-set inferiority complex, a feeling that we have been left behind, that we have lost that competition that we thought so enhanced our global stature? India-China was one hyphenated equation we so loved as the rest of the world used it in terms of our rising economic strength, and global power. I know it is an audacious — and risky — point to make, but could it be that the realisation of just how large the gap between us and China has become, and how fast it is increasing, has panicked us into believing that we have lost the competition even before we could join it, much like the war in 1962? Or that the Chinese, powering along at double-digit growth still, have peeled away like a champion marathoner over the also-rans in the last lap, in this case taking that hyphen away with them?


An analysis of our own minds may show that the answer to our fears does not just lie in modernising more air bases or checking out the fortification of our forward defences and the quality of our bunkers. That we should do — and should have been doing — anyway. Good fences, as they say, make for good neighbours. The answer lies in getting our act together as a nation, a system of governance and society to be at least a worthy near-equal to China. We have to defeat internal threats like the Naxals with a sense of purpose, rather than lose time in vacuous debate; multiply, three times over, the pace of infrastructure-building — not just in Arunachal and Ladakh, but all over India; liberate ourselves from the fear of double-digit growth; and show much greater national focus than we do.


The real threat today lies in our heads, collectively. Our country has somehow found smug peace with the idea of growing on the basis of "China minus four", that is, if China grows at 10 per cent, aren't we so happy to grow at six. Then we celebrate so proudly the fact of being the "second fastest growing economy in the world". We forget that the Chinese grow that much from an economic base four times bigger than ours. And that if this differential continues, they will soon go so far ahead that we could be reduced to being to China what Mexico is to America. Will that leave us with more secure borders, even if we double our armies?


The fact is, our armies are now good enough to defend our territory, and will continue to be so. In fact, they will be stronger each passing year. But national power and pride are no longer determined merely in terms of territorial size or integrity. Cuba can protect its territory, but can it stop lakhs of its people from escaping to Florida? An electric fence built by the Americans cannot stop thousands of Mexicans from streaming in, and they will not stop even if Mexico were to use its entire army to keep its own people "within". In today's world, it is not rival armies, but your own people who can defy your borders and render them irrelevant. If the current differential in our economic growth and China's continues for another decade, many of our border populations will start asking us, and themselves, some hard questions. Are we prepared for that?


If we want to, we will have learn to look at China through a new prism, as an opportunity, rather than as a threat or enemy. Opportunity, because you can use the Chinese example to push for faster decision-making, decisive governance, economic reform to at least slow down the pace by which we are falling behind. If you merely focus on the military, you will be trapped forever in the "threat" syndrome and losing the real battle before you even joined it.







It is with great sadness that I write in memory of Prabhash Joshi, a steadfast friend and valued colleague of many years. I had been trying to reach him for some days but he was away. And then just yesterday he called to say he was back from his wanderings and that we must meet soon as there was much to discuss. For the past many months, indeed years, he had been travelling incessantly, lecturing, speaking, and participating in a variety of media and other activities even while keeping up his heavy writing schedule. He remarked that he was tired after all this hectic journeying and needed a few days rest after which he would be in touch and we should meet.


That day was not to come. He has departed and left the country's journalistic fraternity the poorer. He reported from the field, mixing with high and low, and wrote a regular column in Jansatta and occasionally elsewhere, telling it as it is, focussing on values, principles and the lives and wellbeing of ordinary people.


Over the past many months he had been greatly exercised over the grievous fall in ethical standards, even among some of the best known brands in the Indian media. He was particularly concerned about the graded "packages" being sold by media houses for electoral coverage with different price tags to favour a candidate or damn his or her opponent. He took me with him to Indore, his home town, some time back to attend and address a seminar and public meeting called to discuss this matter by the Madhya Pradesh Union of Journalists. He had done his homework and was armed with clippings and other hard evidence of such malpractice. Returning to Delhi, he got me to join him in filing a complaint with the Press Council of India, which is currently seized of the matter. One of his last public assignments in Delhi was a seminar to discuss and denounce this most undemocratic practice.


I first met Prabhash in Delhi at the time of the JP movement. He was with the Gandhi Peace Foundation and edited the Hindi version of Everyman's, a journal devoted to advocating Jayaprakash's views and sponsored by Ramnath Goenka. This journal campaigned for JP's movement for purity in public life. RNG, a man of strong likes and dislikes, took to Prabhash and brought him to The Indian Express, charging him with the task of conceptualising and launching Jansatta, the Hindi paper he had long wished to establish in Delhi. Jansatta gained a devoted readership and considerable prestige under Joshi's editorship.


Prior to that we had been colleagues in The Express and Prabhash served in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad as also in Delhi and remained a confidante of RNG. He was passionate about cricket and wrote about it with panache. Sadly, He was taken ill at home after watching the India-Australia match last night and was rushed to hospital.


Though he gave up editorship of Jansatta after some years, he continued to write for it and was something of a guru, not merely among his devoted colleagues but for the larger media fraternity. Immaculately dressed in a starched dhoti and kurta, he had a wide and varied circle of friends and professional contacts with whom he kept in touch, often inviting them home for a splendid vegetarian meal cooked by his wife, Usha, with his children around. It was a happy and close knit family.


Prabhash Joshi will be missed — and remembered — for his friendship, his values and his perseverance in ploughing a furrow that not too many have followed.

The writer was editor of 'The Indian Express'








Only a few months ago Gopi (everyone called him by that endearing verbal shorthand) and I were lunching at the India International Centre. He looked frail, but intellectually he was as sharp as ever. I am deeply distressed at his passing away. Mourning is for his family and closest associates. I prefer remembering him.


He was a remarkable civil servant — endowed with subtlety of intellect and openness of character, an analytical and organised mind. He was a man who measured his words and phrases. He had a vision which few civil servants have. In his younger days he was a Marxist. Later, he became Nehruite — a non-doctrinaire socialist.


We had worked in Rajiv Gandhi's government. He as a civil servant attached to the Prime Minister's Office, I as minister of state. He helped me unreservedly in planning Rajiv Gandhi's China visit in 1988. A strong and influential lobby in government was against the PM's embarking on his Passage to China.


He was entirely responsible for Rajiv Gandhi sending the late P.N. Haksar on a secret trip to China to have talks with the Chinese prime minister. Haksar on his return told the PM that the Chinese government wished him to pay an official visit to the People's Republic. Had it not been for Gopi, an entirely unsuitable, light-weight individual would have been sent originally. The visit from Rajiv Gandhi to China that followed was a trail-blazer.


Gopi had a well-defined, rooted point of view on grave matters of politics and diplomacy. He was intellectually far ahead of most of us. He had a sense of humour, but he was never flippant. He had gravitas. He loathed logorrhea, incoherent talkativeness.


One of his endearing traits was that his attire made no concessions to fashion or style. He considered such obsessions trivial — levitas, he used to say.


Let me go back to our lunch. Inevitably we discussed the India-Sri Lanka Agreement signed by Rajiv Gandhi and J.R. Jayewardene, then president of Sri Lanka, on 29 June 1987. Why things went so wrong, and how half-a-dozen agencies were functioning at cross-purposes. Confusion prevailed. Boy scouts had almost taken over our Sri Lanka policy — or lack of it. For their folly Rajiv Gandhi paid with his life.


On our recent relations with the US, we spent much time. Gopi knew Washington well, and was never hostile to Uncle Sam. At the same time we agreed that the UPA government had invested too much in the neo-conservative clique that had surrounded and advised President Bush. A new diplomatic vocabulary had been invented: regime change, benevolent hegemony, democracy promotion, pre-emptive war. What words!


Gopi made a deeply perceptive remark on the disintegration of the USSR. I remember his exact words: "Natwar, an alternative point of view has disappeared. That is very serious matter." Here you have brevity and wisdom combined.


I have purposely not gone into the details of his service record — brilliant though it was — nor into the various and very senior posts he occupied. Suffice it to say that his career was untarnished. He served his country with ability, competence, dedication, efficiency, prudence and measured judgement. Was he perfect? No. Had he been, he would be of little interest to someone like me.


I shared his weltanschauung and his passion to see India take its rightful place in the community of nations.


I still have a book he lent me years ago: the first volume of Main Currents of Marxism, by the recently-deceased Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowaski. I lent him The Greatest Speeches of All Time. Kolakowaski's book is a legacy from Gopi which I shall cherish.


The writer is a former foreign minister







Patriotism is an abstract concept and no one can measure it. However there is a crisp way to define it: anyone who puts the country's interest before one's own is a patriot. By this yardstick, Dr Homi Jehangir Bhabha was a perfect fit for the title.


Bhabha was at Cambridge during the 1930s. After obtaining a degree in engineering and a mathematics tripose and then the doctorate, he worked with very famous physicists of the time like Dirac, Bohr and Pauli. This association polished Bhabha's scientific work to an international level. Some of his theories in cosmic ray physics are text book topics even now. He visited India in 1939 at this level of recognition, but could not travel back as the war broke out. To bide away his time, he continued work on cosmic rays at the Indian Institute of Science, headed by Prof C.V. Raman.


Anyone else with the stature that he enjoyed would have taken a journey back to Britain after the war. He knew the difference between the scientific infrastructure at European labs and here. Having worked with Nobel laureates all along he also knew the importance of the prize, which he could have won by a longer exposure to European or American facilities. He was already a Fellow of Royal Society, at the young age of 31. But he stayed back. This itself was a momentous decision; but there was more to it. He stayed back because he had a dream for India. Here's what he wrote to the trustees of the Sir Dorab Tata Trust in 1944, asking for a financial grant to establish a school of physics. "....When nuclear energy has been successfully applied for, in say a couple of decades from now, India will not have to look abroad for its experts but will find them ready at hand". When he wrote this, no one knew about the nuclear bomb or even about the nuclear chain reaction established by Enrico Fermi in USA. When exciting stories about the developments in science came out in the open after the war, it was time to join the "mainstream". The same year his "school of physics", which he wanted to be "comparable to the best anywhere", opened in June '45. He built this Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), only with the idea of creating research facilities in India, the likes of which he had seen abroad. His example inspired more scholars to return to India and work at TIFR and at the Atomic Energy Establishment Trombay ( now called Bhabha Atomic Research Centre).


The relationship between Nehru and Bhabha was extremely special. Perhaps he was impressed by Bhabha's patriotic decision to stay back in India in spite of better career opportunities abroad. Nehru was a progressive leader and wanted to be seen as such. He agreed to constitute the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) to scout for the atomic minerals useful for atomic energy, way back in 1948. This small activity quickly blossomed into a full fledged nuclear programme. Bhabha ruled over the programme single handed, with a tight grip. And why not? The programme was born out of his initiative and relationships alone.


He remained as head of BARC and chairman of the AEC for 18 years and achieved phenomenal progress. When he died in 1966, there were three research reactors at Trombay and three pairs of power reactors were ordered. Fuel for the Trombay reactors was made in the country and the plan was to make that for the power reactors too. That was no mean feat then. Though he was not around, nuclear power stations at Tarapur and Rajasthan came up as scheduled, but the Madras Atomic Power Project got inordinately delayed because of the nuclear test at Pokharan in 1974, which was carried out without adequate impact assessment regarding foreign relations.


His own take on nuclear weapons was quite measured and in sync with the needs of the hour. As Nehru was a genuine votary of peace, there was no question of even a scientific curiosity about the Bomb till his death. Bhabha would never breach Nehru's trust. But things changed suddenly on October 16, 1964. China tested their first atom bomb. Nehru was no more and Bhabha promptly went on All India radio on October 24 and discussed the science and economics of nuclear weapons! The occasion, the United Nations day, was not only unconnected but patently unsuitable for a discussion on this subject! He said: " The explosion of a nuclear device by China is a signal that there is no time to be lost. Neither the United Nations nor the great powers have yet succeeded in creating a climate favourable to countries which have the capability of making atomic weapons, but have voluntarily refrained from doing so". Later he earmarked Dr Raja Ramanna for studying the physics of the device, sans any other mandate. That came later from Dr Sarabhai around '68 by way of sanctioning the project to build the PURNIMA reactor, which would help understand the phenomenon of pulsed criticality.


Bhabha's legacy extended outside the atomic energy establishments. He started the space programme and gave its charge to Sarabhai. After Sarabhai's death, ISRO separated from the Department of Atomic Energy. As Bhabha was the main contributor to the Science Policy resolution of 1958, his legacy is bound to be living in the entire scientific spectrum of activity pursued by various government departments in India. Witnessing the success of the Trombay model, where the scientists had a say in scientific administration and freedom of working, other scientific institutions have gradually changed their structres.


He died at the early age of 56 in a tragic aircrash in the Alps on January 24, '66, while on the way to IAEA, Vienna. Tributes from all over did not fail to mention his multi-faceted personality, having equal elan in music, painting, architecture apart from science and engineering. We in India must acknowledge that our internationally competitive, mammoth nuclear programme is an outcome of a unique relationship between Nehru and Bhabha.


The writer used to work at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre








There was uproar in Pakistan's political and media circles this week over the intended tabling of the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) in Parliament on Monday. The NRO is a legacy of former President Pervez Musharraf which intended to provide legal cover to the late Benazir Bhutto and husband Asif Zardari from corruption cases against them and allow Bhutto to return to Pakistan. Dawn, on November 2 did a recap: "NRO is bound to provoke fiery debates — mainly on grounds of morality — with the PPP-led coalition government seeking approval of an amended form of the decree that helped its creation and an opposition dominated by one-time followers of the two previous military rulers vowing to block it. The decree, which must come before the house in the form of a Bill, is one of 37 ordinances issued by Musharraf in the twilight of his power and which must receive parliamentary approval by November 28 or they will die under a Supreme Court ruling. In a ruling on July 31, the court nullified that emergency proclamation, but gave the government 120 days to decide the fate of the 37 ordinances after they lost protection given by the extra-constitutional move. An opposition outcry over the approval of a Bill to legitimise the NRO by the ruling coalition's majority indicated there will be no smooth sailing for the draft in the house."


Buckling under pressure from the Opposition, PPP decided against presenting the Bill, Daily Times reported on November 3: "The government decided against tabling the controversial NRO in Parliament for approval... Sources said the allied parties asked PPP to withdraw it and tap other 'legal and constitutional' means to deal with the situation emanating from the withdrawal..."


The Opposition knew exactly when and how to up the pressure on the government. The News reported on November 3: "PML-N has decided if the Bill is brought for voting in Parliament, instead of abstaining it will oppose the NRO tooth and nail, Nawaz Sharif said." DailyTimes quoted another opponent, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, former PM and PML-Q chief on November 3: "PML-Q calls the NRO 'financial


terrorism'".. Another PML-Q member added: "PML-Q had no role in its promulgation and Musharraf's stubbornness had resulted in the NRO"


Blame game

Daily Times on November 3 reported: "The government has found concrete evidence of New Delhi's involvement in the militancy in South Waziristan and has decided to discuss the matter with the Indian government, information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira and Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Athar Abbas jointly said. Kaira said Islamabad would still not deviate from the peace process aimed at resolving lingering disputes between the two countries. Abbas said large quantities of Indian arms and ammunition, literature, medical equipment and medicines had been recovered from Sherwangi near Kaniguram..." Dawn added: " It was the first time in recent times that Pakistan had pointed fingers at India from a forum having representation of political and military leadership..." The News stated: "It merits mentioning here that it is for the first time that Pakistan has categorically talked about India's hand behind militancy in South Waziristan."


Women's rights

The News on November 6 reported: "The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, passed unanimously by the National Assembly, amends existing legislation to impose a jail sentence for up to three years and a fine of up to Rs 500,000 for sexual harassment. Previously, the crime was rather loosely defined and provided for a sentence of up to a year. The law is the second within three months which seeks to improve the situation for women victims of violence. In August, a Bill on domestic abuse was adopted by both houses of Parliament. Another Bill, seeking penalties for harassment in the work place, is also likely to be tabled within weeks."








It seems the stress of fiscal profligacy has finally pushed the UPA into unveiling an ambitious plan for divesting government stakes in PSUs. The thus-far muted voices of allies like DMK and Trinamool suggests that there may not be that much resistance to offloading stakes. As we have argued in these columns, it is politically easier for the government to offload stakes gradually via the stock market route as opposed to strategic sales, which usually attract more controversy. The roadmap for divestment seems well thought out. First, all listed PSUs are required to put at least 10% of their shares on the bourses. A significant number of profitable and listed PSUs still have government stakes in excess of 90%. Overall, this is low-hanging fruit, which should not attract much controversy. A second step requires all profitable PSUs that are not listed at all to initiate the process of getting listed on the stock markets. This may take time, but is a step in the right direction nonetheless. Divestment will help PSUs improve their corporate governance structures, will free them from some amount of government control, and will enable them to better compete in India and even abroad. There is, therefore, no ambiguity in stating that divestment is always good for PSUs.


Where more questions need to be asked is on the use of divestment-obtained funds by the government. The government has sensibly dispensed with the National Investment Fund—a creation of UPA-I under pressure from the Left parties. This limited the use of divested funds—the government could only use interest accruing to the fund for capital expenditure purposes alone. Now, the government has more flexibility to use what will be a significant sum of money. However, the government must consider carefully whether it wants to use the money to bridge its fiscal deficit on a one-off basis, or whether it wants to spend it on its numerous social sector schemes? Ideally, money from disinvestment proceeds should be used to retire public debt. That ensures that the gains that accrue to the government are not one off. Interest payments on debt constitute a significant part of government expenditure. And as government borrowing grows, there is a constantly increasing cost. Now's the perfect time to use the proceeds from PSU stake sales to reduce the government's debt burden. At any rate, this is a very welcome reform measure from UPA-II, which had been going slow on reform thus far. It will give an important boost not just to markets, but also to investor sentiment in general.






As of now, foreign airlines are barred from holding direct or indirect stakes in domestic carriers. On November 17, however, a committee of secretaries—set up to consider FDI in sensitive sectors—will discuss a proposal to allow foreign airlines to take up to 49% equity in Indian carriers. Such a decision could breathe life into the loss-ridden aviation industry. It could supply not only much-needed funds to a starving sector, but also necessary expertise for better running a business that's turning tougher by the day. Some private carriers like Jet—India's largest private airline—have been stiffly opposing such a move, saying the current environment isn't particularly good for getting good valuations. Indeed, Jet, Kingfisher and Spicejet—the three major listed players—have just ended another quarter seeing red. And, in time, the latest liberalising move may indeed spell doom for some domestic players. But, why should a government that's finally moving more public sector babies into the glare of the stock market sun keep shielding the private sector? But also think: such a position smacks of hypocrisy as long as Air India keeps getting one quasi bailout after another, with nary an improvement in efficiency, accountability or corporate governance. So, another meeting that we will be paying close attention to is the Pranab Mukherjee-headed GoM that will review the aviation ministry's request to infuse funds into Air India.


In an accomplishment announced with much fanfare, AI was invited to join the prestigious Star Alliance around a couple of years ago. As of US carrier Continental Airlines joining it late last month, the alliance now operates more than 19,500 flights every day from as many as 1,071 airports in 171 countries. It makes available to customers the best of product offerings, and gives to participating carriers both access to new markets and enhanced revenues. But for want of meeting the alliance's minimum standards—both technological and otherwise—Air India's formal induction into the alliance has been pushed back. Any organisation that wastes such opportunities in such an irresponsible fashion needs harsh hauling up. If private carriers are expected to compete globally, so should the government-backed carrier. Today, the aviation sector is suffering globally. If the Indian industry is projected to lose $1.5 billion this year (42% of Asian carriers' losses), the global industry will probably end up $11 billion in the red. But policymaking has to prepare for the turnaround that lies ahead, where the fittest will endure the best. It has to be fair.








On Thursday night, in front of a sell-out crowd, the Indian cricket team ran the Australian team quite close to very nearly pulling off a great win. On the same night, quite by happenstance, the Indian government pulled off a very tough victory. The government has managed to get a Cabinet nod for the largest ever disinvestment programme of public sector units. More than that it has articulated a policy on disinvestment that it can quote every time a company is presented on the bourses. Most importantly, it won a gamble in its budget making that was getting quite close for comfort.


Of these the last one is possibly the best reason why the programme got the nod. It concerned the economic stability of the country's economy. In Budget 2009-10, the government had played a mammoth gamble with its finances. In the face of rapidly declining tax revenues and the need to run the printing press full time to finance a huge rise in expenditure, the finance ministry took a bet on the telecom sector. It wrote into its revenues a sum of Rs 35,000 crore as possible realisation from the auction of the 3G spectrum.


From the time it was made, this was an uncertain bet. The government had just eight months to get the highly fractious sector to agree to a time table for the auction and ensure it went through. Included in this schedule was the hope of getting ministries like defence to vacate the spectrum space. Matters, however, have got complicated thanks to the shenanigans of the telecom minister and the simultaneous debilitating price war let loose among the telecom service companies. The pay per second tariff regime has hit the bottomline of each one of them. And the companies are extremely reluctant to see the auctions coming up soon.


The implication for the government of the postponement, which is now almost certain, is therefore huge. The bond market is already reeling from the massive rise in the issue of government paper to finance the fiscal deficit. To keep the yields on government paper from rising further and eroding their value, the finance ministry has gone on record saying it will not exceed the target of borrowing set for this fiscal. If these tough conditions are to be met, the only available option that is available to the government is to find an alternative source of revenue.


The disinvestment programme announced on Thursday night has to be examined in this context. While dressing up each company to approach the share market takes time too, at least the initiative will now lie in the government's hands.


This is also the reason why Manmohan Singh's cabinet has taken the risk of jettisoning the National Investment Fund. That fund was set up at the insistence of the left parties that were the make or break partners of the UPA-I government. The way the fund was sequestered from the government treasury, the Consolidated Fund of India meant no FM would ever find the enthusiasm to undertake the disinvestment plan. The left parties were of course cynically aware of this and hence forced through the measure. There is no doubt that the PM will stick to his decision of directing the funds for capital expenditure.


But the welcome pragmatism in the new decision will ensure there will be no need to keep an arms length separation from the government's other moneys. This is the correct course to pursue. It is a common myth around the Indian budget making process that government spending is strictly demarcated between investment and consumption expenditure.


For instance, very few people know that while the funds to build a government school usually comes as plan, that is, capital expenditure, the payment of salary to the teachers is also part of that fund. Five years later, if the school adds a new classroom that expenditure will be classified as non-plan or supposedly revenue expenditure. Across every department in India, salary of each government employees is classified as plan and non-plan. The classification appears perfectly comprehensible to the staff but has been the basis of useless policies of which the national investment fund is a prime example.


To take another example, the salary arrears the government has paid out under the sixth Pay Commission award to its employees has acted as one of the stimulus measure for the economy. But the entire sum is a non-plan and therefore non-capital expenditure as per the government accounting system.


But if one were to hazard to guess if the disinvestment programme will be able to make good the difference from the non-realisation of the 3G spectrum auction, the answer would have to be negative. There are two reasons for this. Bringing in unlisted companies to the market will take time and should not be bunched together. The government would have a better chance with the listed companies, whose public float is less than 10% to offload more shares of those. Yet even here, the programme has to be sequenced. Raising even Rs 25,000 crore within March will be tough.







When the Berlin Wall fell, 20 years back, Eastern Europe began a project of economic development akin to what we in India have been engaged in. There were a few important differences when compared with what we have done.


The first was the attitude towards capitalism and freedom. Eastern Europe had chafed in misery for decades under a totalitarian regime, based on central planning and a welfare state. They knew how bad that was, and were single-mindedly focused on the task of achieving freedom and capitalism. As an example, in Warsaw, the posh building that housed the communist party was given over to the new stock exchange. In India, we have never had this level of clarity on the goal.


The second big difference was the tangible dimensions of this goal. Capitalism and freedom are big words—how are they to be achieved at an operational level? In Eastern Europe, there are two tangible goals: to join the European Union, and to join NATO. All economic policy decisions are viewed from the perspective of getting into the EU, and all international relations questions are viewed from the perspective of getting into NATO.


This matters a lot. In India, it is not hard for an expert to look at the international experience, identify best practices, and offer blueprints. For example, nothing prevents India from learning how the VAT works in the EU, and rapidly implementing the GST. But political support for change is generally hard to find. In Eastern Europe, specific questions about law, regulation and the role and function of government agencies were and are answered through reference to the EU. Politicians are willing to undertake difficult reform because EU admission is the tangible proof of having graduated to capitalism and freedom.


The project of achieving freedom and capitalism on the Western model saved a lot of time in domestic debates. As an example, in Eastern Europe, there is no policy discussion about capital account convertibility. All the countries adopted capital account convertibility because this was a basic element of the package deal of being European.


Similarly, all countries in Eastern Europe wisely understood that setting up a banking system is hard, and the market share of foreign banks ranges from 40 to 100%. This has worked pretty well, including in the crisis of 2008-09. Having such a big role for foreign banks, with full convertibility, has led to problems. But there are few alternatives for a developing country, given the difficulties of setting up a strong banking system from a scratch. As an example, India is a failure story where foreign banks were shunned, and the resulting banking system has largely avoided getting involved with the project of India's economic growth. East Europeans picked a better path compared to us: they have a genuine banking system while we do not.


Upon looking back, two statements are simultaneously true. First, a lot of progress was made, and lives of people in Eastern Europe are undoubtedly better. Second, setting up institutions that make possible the synchronised dance of capitalism and freedom has proved to be much harder than expected, even given the existence of the EU as a clear recipe to emulate.


On the positive side, the change is hard to exaggerate. A visitor to Warsaw or Prague today sees a modern and sophisticated city. Of the countries of Eastern Europe, 10 have joined EU and 12 have joined NATO. These are massive changes.


But there are many problems. Eastern Europe has had and will continue to have good growth. But rising up to Western European levels will take a while. By and large, the politics has proved to be more difficult than expected. In many countries, multi-party democracy with freedom of speech and fair elections have not yet fallen into place. The lack of these has hindered the emergence of a competitive market economy: too often, politicians have hijacked parts of the economy for private benefit.


One dimension of this problem is just the generational change, which is inevitably hard. For people who grew up with communism, it is inherently hard to cope with political and economic freedom. Angela Merkel was 35 when the Berlin Wall came down, and she has clearly reinvented herself. But she is a PhD in physics, and is the exception that proves the rule. Most people found it very hard to shift their ways of thinking even though they were keen to reinvent themselves.


The children born free in 1989 are now 20 years old . The coming 25 years will see this generation dominate society, and this will be a much better period for East Europe. A similar demographic transition will take place in India in the coming 20 years: the generation that rises to prominence will be free from the blinkers of autarky and socialism.


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







The news that the government will shortly consider a proposal to allow foreign airlines to pick up nearly 49% equity stake in Indian carriers will certainly improve the mood in India's aviation sector. First, this will help the sector that is projected to post losses of Rs 10,000 crore in FY10 to find ways to gradually transform its loss-making entities into profitable ventures. Second, this will help to fund fleet acquisition plans of various airlines.


The presence of foreign carriers—in the event of their picking up stakes in Indian peers— will also bring to the Indian skies the concept of feeder routes. For instance, if British Airways or the Germany-based Lufthansa pick up stakes in any of our full-service carriers or low-cost airlines, the passengers will enjoy an enhanced experience, travelling seamlessly across the length and breadth of the globe. Since the entire route will be controlled by one airline.


Jet Airways has been thinking about starting cargo services and even entertaining grand plans of opening training academies of global standards—all of these can come true with financial assistance from international counterpart interested in picking up a stake in the carrier. Anyway, in media interactions, Jet chairman Naresh Goyal has repeatedly mentioned plans for offloading a 5% stake to help raise capital.


In recent times, we have seen only one global private equity player execute interest in the sector—Wilbur Ross invested Rs 345 crore in SpiceJet in July 2008. As for carriers like GoAir that have been looking for strategic partners to offload 26% stake, their plans haven't seen the light of the day due to restrictions on foreign carriers being allowed to invest in Indian carriers.


On the flip side, even if Air India wanted a foreign carrier to run it partially, there would be a strong opposition from more than a dozen of its unions. Hence, the airlines will not take the risk of proclaiming the fact that it's open to restructuring. However, it might seek subtle ways of dealing with the unions, to coax them into accepting the reality.






This paper* has attempted to comprehend the nexus between migration and urban poverty in India:


Decision to migrate is mostly a choice—except in compelling circumstances—and, therefore, needs to be examined in terms of its economic outcomes. This paper deals with migration decisions to urban areas that are backed by economic rationale and attempts to understand gains accruing to individuals from migration, in terms of poverty outcomes. The analysis is based on the 55th round survey data on Employment-Unemployment Survey 1999-2000 provided by the National Sample Survey Organisation. We undertake a broad socio-economic profiling of the migrant households in urban India and explore the dynamics of poverty among inter-state as well as intra-state migrants to urban destinations. The analysis reveals that migrants disadvantaged in terms of caste, education and residence earn poorer returns to migration. While returns to migration have proved to be positive with increased duration at the destination, the characteristic endowment like education and social group identity seem to make a further difference. From our empirical analysis it is evident that low-income states were major senders of inter-state migrants and high-income states were major receivers. These low-income states are characterised by low levels of intra-state migration indicating that migration is linked with disparity in regional development.


William Joe, Priyajit Samaiyar, US Mishra; Migration and Urban Poverty in India, Some Preliminary Observations, Working Paper 414, September 2009, Centre for Development Studies








In political, as in most forms of bargaining, the party with the higher stakes will blink first. With each day that was added to the delay in government formation in Maharashtra, the Congress began to realise it was losing much and gaining little by prolonging the discussions over sharing ministerial berths with its partner, the Nationalist Congress Party. Thus two weeks after the Assembly election results were announced, the senior partner concluded an agreement without being able to wrest any of the major portfolios from the NCP, which was clearly in no hurry to end the stalemate. The accord came after a lot of pressure from the main Opposition, the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party, and some prodding from Governor S.C. Jamir. For his part, NCP legislature party leader Chhagan Bhujbal talked of lending "outside support" to the new government, a ploy often used by junior partners in a coalition. External support without participation in the government is, after all, uncertain support, and the statement was clearly intended as a threat. Pressured and nudged from different sides, the Congress had no real choice but to give in. Any further delay could have created constitutional awkwardness, quite apart from political embarrassment.


This is not the first time these allies have tested each other's time and patience before reaching an agreement. In 1999, when they first came together, they took two weeks to decide the shape and size of government. In 2004, when the NCP won more seats than the Congress, 12 days were spent in hard bargaining. In 2009, although the Congress, with 82 seats, won 20 seats more than the NCP, it was not able to leverage this in the bargaining for ministries. The NCP negotiators had a clever argument. The Congress contested 174 of the 288 seats but won fewer than half that number. The NCP, bagging 62 from the 114 seats it contested, had a better strike rate (54.4 per cent) than the senior partner (47.1 per cent). The Congress was allowed to field candidates in a larger number of constituencies on the strength of its good showing in the Lok Sabha election. By contrast, the NCP, which did not fare all that well in the 15th general election, recovered some of the lost ground in the Assembly election. Now that the political negotiations are over, the Congress and the NCP must get to work seriously on the tasks of governance. The 2009 mandate is not an unqualified endorsement of what they did over the last ten years and the coalition regime must set its mind on doing much better. As a first priority, it must deal with the agrarian crisis in all its aspects — drought, power cuts, and farm suicides.







Heritage conservation practices improved worldwide after the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (Iccrom) was established with Unesco's assistance in 1959. The inter-governmental organisation with 126 member states has done a commendable job by training more than 4,000 professionals, providing practice standards, and sharing technical expertise. In this golden jubilee year, as we acknowledge its key role in global conservation, an assessment of international practices would be meaningful to the Indian conservation movement. Consistent investment, rigorous attention, and dedicated research and dissemination are some of the positive lessons to imbibe. Countries such as Italy have demonstrated that prioritising heritage with significant budget provision pays. On the other hand, India, which is no less endowed in terms of cultural capital, has a long way to go. Surveys indicate that in addition to the 6,600 protected monuments, there are over 60,000 equally valuable heritage structures that await attention. Besides the small group in the service of Archaeological Survey of India, there are only about 150 trained conservation professionals. In order to overcome this severe shortage, the emphasis has been on setting up dedicated labs and training institutions. It would make much better sense for conservation to be made part of mainstream research and engineering institutes, as has been done in Europe.


Increasing funding and building institutions are the relatively easy part. The real challenge is to redefine international approaches to address local contexts. Conservation cannot limit itself to enhancing the art-historical value of the heritage structures, which international charters perhaps overemphasise. The effort has to be broad-based: it must also serve as a means to improving the quality of life in the area where the heritage structures are located. The first task therefore is to integrate conservation efforts with sound development plans that take care of people living in the heritage vicinity. Unlike in western countries, many traditional building crafts survive in India, and conservation practices offer an avenue to support them. This has been acknowledged by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage charter for conservation but is yet to receive substantial state support. More strength for heritage conservation can be mobilised by aligning it with the green building movement. Heritage structures are essentially eco-friendly and conservation could become a vital part of the sustainable building practices campaign in future.









And so we have a government in Maharashtra, almost, the loaves and fishes having been evenly shared among a swollen cabal of crorepatis. Choosing the Chief Minister was the easy part. The Congress method of picking a Chief Minister is more transparent and effective than we give it credit for. Essentially, the high command hands the elected legislators a menu and says they are free to choose any flavour so long as it is vanilla. If the going flavour at the Centre changes to strawberry, well then, it's "See? Pink vanilla!"


Government formation has proved more complex. The Nationalist Congress Party held out for more than a slice of the cake. It sought half ownership of the bakery and seems to have got it. It has the vital jagirs of Finance, Home, Power and Rural Development. And has managed an almost equal number of portfolios as the Congress despite that party having won 20 seats more. What accounts for this? This time round, there was a marked lack of gusto among some of the Congress seniors who were most aggressive towards the NCP earlier. After all, each one of them had hoped to be Chief Minister. That didn't happen. And so, in their view, if life gets a little tough for Ashok Chavan, so be it.


Vilasrao Deshmukh is among the saddened. He had worked hard for his party's win and for Chief Ministership. Ever since Mr. Deshmukh became a Union Minister, it was almost as if the Indian Union had only one State in it: Maharashtra. So frequent were his visits there. Mr. Deshmukh did fairly well during his tenure as Chief Minister, even if his State did not. His assets — going by the affidavits he filed in the 2004 State elections and in 2009 (for the Rajya Sabha) — went up by over Rs. 27 million. That is, while Chief Minister, his worth increased by around Rs.5.5 million a year. Or by not much less than half-a-million a month on average.


But a Chief Minister's duties are onerous. Which could explain why his gains were dwarfed by the re-elected MLAs in Maharashtra. Their average asset growth, according to National Election Watch (NEW), was over Rs.35 million. Even here, re-elected crorepatis fared better, says NEW. Their assets grew by well over Rs.45 million, on average, these past five years. So Mr. Deshmukh's prosperity, or his affidavit, is quite modest by these high standards. On the surface, the MLAs in Haryana appear to have outclassed those in Maharashtra. However, they started on a much lower base. In Maharashtra for instance, MLA Suresh Jain saw his assets rise by a trifling 200 per cent. Haryana MLAs averaged 600 per cent. But Mr. Jain was already worth over Rs.260 million in 2004. That became Rs.790 million by 2009. Which means his assets grew by well over Rs.8 million a month on average in that period. Still, there is no scoffing at Haryana's entrepreneurial spirit. Its re-elected crorepatis clocked an increase of over Rs.93 million between 2004 and 2009.


A sweet share of this money power directs itself at the media. Unless the Election Commission of India studies at least one State in depth, it will be hard to gauge the extent to which large sections of the media have sold both space and soul. "Know your candidate" was a feature quite often seen in newspapers during the Maharashtra poll campaign. On the surface, this seemed to be a service by a newspaper for its readers. In truth, it was really a hit job for rich candidates, dressing their paid-for propaganda and advertisements as "news."


Well, thanks in part to NEW, you do know your candidate better than you might otherwise have known. Maybe it's time to know your media. Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh would be good States for a solid study on how newspapers and TV channels made millions misleading their audiences. As the Vice President points out: "The Press Council has noted that paid news could cause double jeopardy to Indian democracy through a damaging influence on press functioning as well as on the free and fair election process." The Council's guidelines also state that "the press shall not accept any kind of inducement, financial or otherwise, to project a candidate/party." But too many in the media did exactly that.


A great pity. Elections have often been the one part of India's democracy to be proud of. That is fast eroding. Money power is well ahead of muscle power (though the latter is often merely a function of the former). It starts at elections to the students unions in colleges and universities, and gains full scale at the State and national level.


Oddly, in this grim landscape, one oasis that could be a model — and not just for universities — has had no elections for over a year now. Elections to the Students' Union of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNUSU) have been stayed by the Supreme Court. The reason: perceived non-compliance with the recommendations of the Lyngdoh Committee. Yet that Committee's report acknowledges the strengths of what could well be the most unique student union elections anywhere. (Disclosure: this writer was a student at JNU nearly three decades ago. And is a member of the University's Executive Council now. And a reporter who has covered most general elections since 1984 and a large number of State polls since 1982).


For almost four decades, the students of JNU have held their elections without a trace of money or muscle power. The students set up an election commission to conduct the polls. The university authorities have no role in this. No one can remember a whisper of rigging or malpractice. Poll violence has been unknown. The worst that candidates in this campus can do is talk you to death. Seriously, though, these are polls to be proud of. More so in a society which is firmly headed in the reverse direction. Here is autonomy at work, democratic participation at its best. A live tradition that sparkles in contrast to the thuggishness of elections on so many campuses. The campaigns still run mostly on meetings, handmade posters and pamphlets.


About two-thirds of Central universities have seen no elections at all. Even though the Lyngdoh Committee called for them. That is, even though students of those age groups there can vote in the national election. Can belong to political parties or even hold a seat in Parliament. In JNU, the elections are held with great zest and vibrant debate. School and university-level general body meetings ensure that those voted in are held to account for their actions. These GBMs can last hours with packed attendance. Something that hits you when you see the Lok Sabha deserted even as Bills involving life and death issues for millions come up for discussion.


It would be a travesty if the example the students of JNU have set for the rest of us is gutted on the ground that their polls do not comply with the minutiae of a Commission's report. (A report that, in fact, sees the JNU model as suitable for smaller universities.) It would be a thumbs down for diversity, pluralism and autonomy. (All in short supply in the public sphere today.)


But back to money power, the media and the moguls of politics. Public response to the exposure of "paid news" and coverage packages has been huge. There is anger and anguish over what the media have done and persist in doing. (There will be more on that subject. Watch this space.) Also heartening is that so many working within the media that have embraced such practices are hurt and appalled by it. But in some vital sectors, silence rules. "Convergence" has a political meaning too, when it comes to the cosy integration of the government, the media and the corporate world.


Many forget that "India Shining" was not just a stupid slogan. It was a campaign on which the then government spent thousands of millions of rupees of public money. The great gainer from this being the corporate media. New links to this chain are forged each day. You can see that in every sphere from politics to hyper-commercialised sport. You could see it in the unease of the media as a whole Parliament session focussed on almost nothing but the battles between two corporate behemoths. You can view it in the Union government, the BCCI, IPL and sections of the media that gain directly from these links and the revenues involved. That's just a couple of instances. The chains are complex, and their links increase daily. This has a distinct meaning for the content of media.


Decades ago, columnist Murray Kempton described editorial writers as those who come down from the hills after the battle is over — and shoot the wounded. In the Maharashtra elections, they served as the Praetorian Guard of the moneyed and the mighty.









Seventy-four-year-old Chewang Norphel strides briskly across a mass of boulders in the steep and rough terrain below what was once the Stakmo glacier, explaining his latest project. The man who pioneered the artificial glacier in Ladakh does not let age deter his enthusiasm to bring water to the people of his region. Funded by the Indian Army's Sadbhavna project Mr. Norphel plans to build three artificial glaciers, a kilometre away from Stakmo village near Leh, which will store two million cubic feet of ice which will start forming mid-November. The snow melt in the upper reaches of the mountains in the distance trickles down to the three-tiered series of stone embankments that have been built to arrest the water flow in the shady side of the hillside.


This ice will melt by mid April, in time for the sowing of crops. With 700-odd residents, Stakmo is one of the eleven villages in Ladakh district to have this artificial glacier, which is a simple water harvesting and conservation system. Mr. Norphel, a retired government civil engineer, recalls that there was a natural glacier here till about 30 years ago. While drinking water is piped to the village, it is for summer crops that water is needed. Stakmo has three hamlets with 120 hectares of land, split into small holdings. People grow wheat, potatoes, peas, barley and vegetables.


The enormity of climate change and its impact is on everyone's lips in this cold desert where over 80 per cent of the farmers depend on the snow melt for their needs. Water is almost a luxury now. There is no authoritative study done so far to estimate the impact of receding glaciers in Ladakh, points out Ms Nisa Khatoon, project officer, of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Leh. Scarcity of water has led to people digging bore wells in Leh, which is likely to have an impact on the underwater springs. Ms Khatoon also notes a reduction in pasture lands affecting the migration routes of the Changpas, a nomadic tribe that lives near the lakes in the upper reaches of Ladakh.


Like Mr. Norphel, 92-year-old Phuntchok Namgyal from Stakmo does not need scientists to tell him about global warming. The lack of studies on Ladakh's retreating glaciers is no dampener. I am the scientific data, quips Norphel. Namgyal's village faced a serious water crisis due to the poor snow melt. Outside a large house in the village, 78-year-old Yamjor Tashi uses the traditional loom to weave woollen cloth. His younger brother Phuntchok recalls the glacier which used to provide them with plenty of water. In the last five years, the problem has become acute, he says. Most people grow their food and weave wool here. Their self sufficiency is one of the casualties of global warming. For years, Ladakhis have used everything that was locally made, all that is changing now.


The artificial glacier was pioneered by Ice Man Mr. Norphel in 1987 in Phuktse Phu village. Citing the benefits of water conservation, he says it increases production and income. Sometimes people can harvest two crops and use the water for tree plantation. It increases ground water recharge and rejuvenates spring water. Due to the high altitudes at which these embankments have to be built, the costs go upto Rs. 11 lakhs. The idea is easy to replicate and the Leh Nutrition Project (LNCP) formed by Mr. Norphel has used this technique in other states too.



Since 1993 farmers have observed a decline in plant biodiversity and Ladakh has over the years, witnessed warmer temperatures, less snow on the mountain tops, unusual heavy spells of rain and reducing natural streams. A baseline survey conducted by GERES India, an NGO in Ladakh, indicates a rising trend of mean temperatures by 1{+0}C degree for winter and 5{+0}C for summer between 1973 and 2008. Ms Tundup Angmo of GERES says, for the same period, rainfall and snowfall show a clear declining trend with the exception of January 2008. The glaciers in Khardung and Stok Kangri have retreated and new pests, for instance the coddling moth, are appearing in all parts of Ladakh. As a result of the retreating glaciers, the water discharge into the Indus, the river which flows in Ladakh, is reduced. Apple cultivation is moved to the upper reaches of the region at heights of 12,000 feet.


As Kunzes Dolma, vice-president of the Women's Alliance of Ladakh puts it, the worry is for the next generation. While Ladakhis fight their own battles, the world squabbles over emission cuts.









A global treaty to fight climate change will be postponed by at least six months and possibly a year or more, senior negotiators and politicians conceded on Thursday.


In a day of gloomy statements, the world's key industrialised nations said they had abandoned hope of a legally binding treaty at the Copenhagen summit next month and had begun to plan only for a meeting of world leaders. The stark statements follow weeks of pessimism and represent a significant downgrading of the summit's goal.


In London, Ed Miliband, the U.K. climate change secretary, became the first British politician to acknowledge publicly that Copenhagen would produce no legal climate change treaty.


Speaking in the House of Commons, he said: "The U.N. negotiations are moving too slowly and not going well." He went on to describe a "history of mistrust" between developed and developing nations with negotiators "stuck in entrenched positions," an impasse that prompted African nations to stage a walkout at the negotiations this week.


In Barcelona, where last-ditch negotiations are taking place, it became clear the best hope for Copenhagen is a "politically binding" agreement, which rich countries hope will have all the key elements of the final deal, including specific targets and timetables for greenhouse gas emissions cuts and money for poor countries to cope with climate change.


A British government official said: "It would be substantive. It would set timelines, and provide the figures by which rich countries would reduce emissions, as well as the money that would be made available to developing countries to adapt to climate change."



But, she said, a legally binding agreement "could take six months, up to a year, but we would want it to be [signed] as soon as possible." Sources said a meeting in Mexico in December 2010 would be more likely to see the legal treaty sealed.


The news of the delay was met with resignation by developing countries and NGOs. "Politically binding agreements are worth very little," said Lumumba Di-Aping, chair of the G77 group of developing countries. "Tell me of any politician who delivers a politically binding agreement."


The delay was said to be caused by a combination of time running out in the increasingly rancorous U.N. negotiations and the inability of the U.S. — the world's biggest cumulative emitter — to commit to specific targets and timetables by passing a domestic law.


The Obama administration made clear on Wednesday it thought a legal treaty was impossible in Copenhagen. On Thursday it further inflamed opposition to its Senate bill when Barbara Boxer, chairman of the environment committee, defied a Republican boycott to vote through a sweeping plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20 per cemt over 2005 levels by 2020.



The U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, said on Tuesday a delay of a year would be too long, while developing countries were dismayed that they had not been formally told of the delay. "We cannot afford delaying tactics in any way. It's a matter of life and death," said Makase Nyaphisi, the Lesothan ambassador speaking on behalf of the U.N.'s least developed group of 49 countries.


Speaking in Barcelona, Artur Runge-Metzger, the European commission's chief negotiator, said: "It is a Catch-22 situation. People are waiting for each other so it is difficult to blame anyone. [But] the U.S. position is significant. Clearly the U.S. has been slowing things down."


Both Mr. Miliband and the U.K. Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, are to attend Copenhagen, with Mr. Brown calling it the last chance to prevent "catastrophic" climate change.


Mr. Brown, President Lula of Brazil, President Sarkozy of France and other heads of state have already said they will go.


It is now more likely that President Obama will go because he will not be forced to sign a legally binding agreement which the US Senate could reject.


Mr. Miliband's comments were the first public reappraisal of the British position since officials began to shift the line following downbeat comments last week from the Copenhagen host, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen.


Government sources said it had become increasingly obvious amid slow negotiations that a legally binding treaty in December was unlikely. But one insisted that political commitments would move to legal ones, pointing out that the Kyoto protocol followed the same course from political to legal agreement. "I don't think we are downbeat about this," said one. They also said pledges made at Copenhagen would be as difficult to escape as if they were legally binding, because nations would have made their commitments at the very public forum of a U.N. meeting.


 © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009








The refusal to allow foreign journalists to cover the Dalai Lama's visit to the Galden Namgyal Lhatse monastery in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh is a peculiar decision taken by the ministry of home affairs.

While it is true that the Dalai Lama is a sensitive subject mainly because of the objections raised by China, there seems to be some confused thinking at work here. The Indian government is keen to establish that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India.


New Delhi may be keen to play down any news about Chinese incursions into Indian territory via that border state, but has also made it clear that the Dalai Lama was free to move around the country freely. So why this coyness about getting his visit covered byforeign journalists?


Could it be an effort to not further upset the Chinese? China may fear foreign, especially western journalists who might play up the Dalai Lama's visit. Beijing's antipathy towards the spiritual leader of the Tibetans is well known. They call him a "splittist" and pour scorn on him regularly. On the other hand, he is revered by Tibetans and admired and respected around the world. A visit by him to Tawang is news; in the current climate and given the somewhat tense Sino-Indian relationship the news value of the visit further goes up.


If New Delhi indeed wants to protect Chinese sensitivities, it is a dangerously timorous mindset. It also undemocratic, which is ironical considering we project our democracy as an advantage when compared to autocratic China. But it also shows a poor understanding of how the media operates.


In today's interconnected world, little remains secret. The foreign news media can and will pick up the story from the Indian media so this travel ban applied to four foreign journalists is hardly likely to work. Instead, it just shows an India nervous about offending China instead of standing up to it or simply going about its normal business. No one wants to be needlessly provocative, especially to a generally friendly country, but no wants to be seen as bending backwards to please.


Besides there might be propaganda advantage here -- a large contingent of foreign journalists in Arunachal could further buttress the point about it being not only a part of India but also a state where elections were held recently with resounding success. A strong message would have gone out to the world.


Indeed, the Indian government should have jumped at the chance of foreign journalists visiting Arunachal so soon after the elections and perhaps exploited the Dalai Lama's visit. Instead New Delhi has taken the easy way out. It is a poor call which can and should be reversed.








The images of underclad, impoverished tribals flaunting their power do not trigger the same revulsion as those of armed religious fanatics at a hate fest. The reaction to tribal excesses in the forested nooks of the country thus remains muted, reflecting to some extent our own moral dilemma about the existential issues at ground zero.


The images tug at our sense of fairness and justice, unlike religion which draws out raw and irrational passion. What is more important, they appeal to our own sense of powerlessness. It's a sticky situation out there. People trusted to be innocent and unobtrusive are waging a war against their own government. And politicians, as usual, are taking the flak.


Maoists are around to add fuel to the fire. But are we missing a deeper malaise here? Have we studied the culpability of the role played by the bureaucracy in this well enough? Admitted, it is cumbersome to see politicians separated from the bureaucracy, but when Maoist-backed tribals abduct and eliminate policemen, attack police stations and flaunt primitive weapons in a show of strength, it is not the policeman per se that is the target. It is what he represents: the bureaucracy and its overwhelming power, not exactly the politicians.


The role of the bureaucracy behind the tribal alienation in post-Independence India has been consistently underestimated. Manned by educated people, and with incredible reach and resources, it could have been catalytic in changing India. But it has not. Blame it on the lack of drive and enough good intention, but what it has turned out to be is a behemoth inspiring awe and fear rather than an engine driving progress.


Think of the sense of helplessness as you walk into an office. When the indifferent babu keeps you waiting, makes you cower and dismisses you like a fly on his tea cup, it is the system you end up cursing. A smattering of English and some name-dropping does help here, but it leaves your self-esteem seriously dented. Imagine being a tribal with little knowledge of the required officialese and walking into an office anywhere in India.


It's the arrogance that is galling. If you put into this perspective India's land reform records and failure of the delivery mechanism in all forms in hilly areas and throw in the industry obsession of governments and the consequent land acquisition threats, the resultant anger should not be difficult to understand.


In the bureaucratic pantheon, even the smallest deities wield incredible power. The peon -- let us call him the god of the gateway -- for instance controls your access to the officer. The clerk is easily the deity of the files and the master of the red tape and this is just the bottom of the hierarchy.


Add up all the powers of all the deities in the pantheon and put in the immunities they enjoy. Then compare it with the aggregate of powers that ordinary individuals have. What you have is a proverbial David versus Goliath situation, where Goliath calls all the shots.


In this Kafkaesque scenario, few barring the rich and otherwise powerful, come out unscathed. Indeed, this has been going on for so long that the present fightback should not look unexpected. It should not be surprising too if the rural India erupts someday. Call it the revenge of the fringe -- fringe as defined by the relative distance from power. And what if the struggle moves from the edges to the Centre, to the state and national capitals?


As non-participant observers, we will still be in a moral bind, caught in the fairness-justice debate. Is the situation inevitable? Given that the same constants -- bureaucratic apathy, arrogance and power -- are still in play, the answer is yes.


In the 'us versus them' matrix in the hinterland, Maoists are incidental. Till the power equations remain unchanged, people will always turn to outfits professing to be sympathetic to them. This scenario makes the efficacy of any harsh and punitive action against the tribals highly suspect.


Is there a way out? Yes. De-power the bureaucracy or at least redistribute power to make people less respectful to it. This entails dismantling of the pantheon and doing away with the small gods. It is necessary because it is alienating the very people it is supposed to serve, creating enemies everywhere. Transferring political power to people is useful but limited in impact; it still does not diminish the power of the bureaucracy.


The current exigency calls for introspection. Poverty is something people can live with, but not indignity.








Growing up as a probashi or a non-resident Bangali, visiting Kolkata or the erstwhile Calcutta, was an annual goromer chooti (summer holiday) affair. Suitcases were brought out, dusted and bhalo jama kapor (best clothes) packed. At the station or airport, relatives (in my case, a mama) showed up to haggle with the coolie, then the cabbie and then whichever political party was taking out a mecheel(demonstration) that day.


But that was Calcutta. Kolkata, today, has a pre-paid taxi service at the airport and the railway station. And if you miss that, rest assured, like the rest of the world, the city, too has introduced a taxi fare system.


In the years it took me to get an education, land a job and make a living; my homeland too has changed. It has gone from old-world charm to modernity; from laid-back to waking up; from dreamy-eyed to practical -- from being Calcutta to being Kolkata.


No longer do people suffer, suffocate and snore inside a moshari (mosquito net). All through my childhood I dreaded sleeping in one, made worse by the Calcutta summer. I also had to learn the etiquettes of using a moshari -- how to tie one (not too high and not too low), how to tuck it, (small openings can have disastrous consequences, I was warned); how never to sleep close to the moshari -- all this knowledge, I thought, I can use now, only to be told that in the last few decades the Calcutta Municipality has successfully dealt with the mosquito problem and many Calcuttans no longer perform the, 'let us put up the moshari' nightly routine.


Among the routines that have disappeared in erstwhile Calcutta, is the street-side tea stall addas. The state hobby of day-long conversations on Buddhadeb, Jyotibabu, Pablo (both Picasso and Neruda), Monet (Claude), Mamata, local boy Poltu and so on has been replaced with a chat over coffee at the nearby mall. The conversation, too, has shifted to -- shopping, films, hot chicks and career.


The upstaging of career matters is further evident at the city's office para. Like most office areas; here, too, I saw corporate dressing, company tags and the surety of gait towards the bus/train/metro one sees in other cosmopolitan societies. I also noticed a larger number of women returning home from work. And forgive me for being snobbish here, but in Calcutta only women from South Calcutta with an "elite" upbringing wore western clothes. However, in Kolkata women from everywhere -- north, south, and inner cities are wearing all things trendy. I also saw fancy salons, with Kolkata girls getting their hair done, prompting my sister to exclaim, "they look and dress like us".


That's not all, Calcutta's posh localities, too, seemed to have changed. As a kid, I visited my family's upmarket Ballygunge flat and joined in the wisecracks about my father's then newly-acquired property in Salt Lake and my grandparents' second home in Haltu. Both of which were upcoming townships, which occasionally witnessed human life.


Wild undergrowth, specked with tea stalls is how I remember those visits. But then again that was Calcutta. In Kolkata, Salt Lake is a 'tony' township, with sprawling bungalows, malls, international brands, eating joints and a new metro line. For those who might draw parallels with Navi Mumbai or Vashi, the area's quiet and snootiness can only be compared to Mumbai's JVPD Scheme with Jyoti Basu taking Big B's place.


In Haltu, too, I saw shocking changes -- real tar roads; multi-storey apartment complexes and a Delhi Public School branch. However, not all changes were heart-warming. The inexpensive life of Calcutta is fast being replaced by competitive pricing.


The world's most brilliant deal of five puchkas (pani puris) for a rupee is now one puchka for one rupee and shopping at Garihat is no longer a steal. The Calcutta, of my childhood has smartened up, leaving me with not just fond memories but a pride that the city has at last gone higher in my popularity rating.







One of my favourite breakfast preparations is scrambled eggs, even higher on the scale of delicacy, is the akuri, a much underrated dish. Akuri means egg curry in its most basic sense.It is like dhansak and patra ni machi,considered to be a pan-Indian favourite.


The Parsis have a love affair with eggs. You have the Parsi pora or omelette and, of course, the various versions of whipped eggs covering myriad vegetables such as tarkari per eda and sali per eda (sali: shoe string chips), of which The Ripon Club (a club restricted to Parsis) in Mumbai's Fort area does a particularly greasy, though sinfully delectable, version.


There is even eda per eda, egg on egg which is a bit of a joke. This is something perhaps which the Parsis derive from their Persian roots. Persian cuisine offers much in terms of egg preparation, particularly the kuku, an interesting variety of omelette similar to the Italian frittata and the Arab eggah.


Akuri holds a special place in this pantheon of egg-based preparations. In fact, the daddy of them all, the Bharuchi akuri uses an obscene amount of cream, dry fruits, fried onions and dollops of ginger and garlic and is occasionally served at Parsi wedding bhonu. Such is the esteem akuri is held in.


The principle using vegetables in scrambled eggs is not uncommon.In China the Cantonese do these extraordinary stir fried eggs, soft almost set, a rather ingenious halfway house between scrambled eggs and an omelette, a common addition are spring onions and chives. The Spanish have their oye rancheros, which is almost the same as akuri without the chilies and coriander.


Even English scrambled eggs can be inventive; there is a marvellous recipe by Jane Grigson using asparagus spears in scrambled eggs, although there is a tendency to use good cheeses like Emmanthal or Gruyere. You have the magnificent Basque preparation,piperade -- capsicum, onion, tomato in scrambled eggs, the distinctive feature being the attractive contribution of the red and green capsicums to add a whiff of Mediterranean colour and magic. What piperade lacks though is spice and that is where akuri scores.


I recently got the opportunity to discuss akuri with a delightful Parsi lady, Nilofer Ichapuria King (now based in the US), who has written an uncommonly good cook book, My Bombay Kitchen (University of California Press 2007), receiving accolades from the legendary Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, no less, who has even written the foreword to it.
All akuri recipes I have come across including Katy Dalal's (Jamva Chalo) have the usual suspects in the ingredients including tomato. Nilofer consciously excludes this, she believes that it adds a wateriness which is unnecessary and spoils the flavour and texture of akuri.


A Parsi connoisseur uses tomato paste which he claims eliminates the wateriness. Having done a little research into akuri recipes, I note with some satisfaction that Niloufer is supported by none other than the akuri recipe in the Time and Talents Recipe Book(the bible for all authentic Parsi cuisine, given the eminence of some of the contributors), a recipe by Gool Shavaksha.


The recipe uses 6 eggs, 1 onion which is crisply fried, seasoning, 1/4 cup milk, 2 teaspoons of ghee, 5 green chillies and a small bunch of coriander.Simplicity at its best.





Any MLA while being sworn in should take oath in local language only ('All MLAs should take oath in Marathi, warns Raj', DNA, November 3). But there is a provision that one can take the oath in any of the 15 recognised languages prescribed in the Constitution. Thus if any minister insists on taking the oath in other language he can, as the Constitution allows him to do so. We have also seen that many MPs in Parliament don't take oath in Hindi in spite of Hindi being our national language.

Bhavesh Chandrakant Jani, Mumbai



Arati Jerath has done a comprehensive analysis of the current situation in Karnataka. ('Karnataka government crisis is a proxy for BJP-RSS war', DNA, November 6) BS Yeddyurappa is a strong political force in Karnataka and if today BJP is able to form a government in Karnataka, it is because of him. It will indeed be a sad day if the current BJP leaders in Delhi let him down. In politics you cannot sacrifice long term interests for short term gains. For the UPA government too, the Reddy factor is an issue which they will have to counter very soon. The BJP should not do political hara-kiri by not supporting Yeddyurappa.

S Subramanyan, Navi Mumbai



Apropos 'Ayodhya saints slam Chidambaram, Baba Ramdev', (DNA, November 6), the Ayodhya conclave of saints needn't raise the issue again because senior Congress leader and Union minority minister Salman Khursheed has criticised the fatwa against singing Vande Mataram. He has clarified that the issue was resolved over 50 years ago by agreeing to sing only two stanzas of the national song. Indians of all religions have faith in the song that been an inspiration for India's freedom.

Achyut Railkar, Mumbai



The heartwrenching fifth ODI between Australia and India at Hyderabad was a real tearjerker and one could almost feel the anguish on Sachin Tendulkar's face after he was caught out ('Oh! no, Sachin', DNA, November 6). The sad part was that except for Suresh Raina not a single batsman supported Tendulkar. It was galling to see MS Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh play so carelessly. All players can learn a lesson or two from the little master for the way he single-handedly carried the match. We are sorry that we lost the match, but we take pride in the fact that only Tendulkar could have achieved this astonishing feat of scoring 17000 runs in cricket.

Vijayalakshmi, via email


Ayaz Memon quite rightly asks "Has there been a better One-day innings by an Indian?" in 'Aus put through Sach Ka Saamna ' (DNA, November 6). The sceptics had indeed written Tendulkar off after the first two ODIs in which he failed to score anything of consequence but he picked up in the third and fourth matches just to show that there was a lot fire still left in him and he topped it all with a vengeance in this fifth encounter by leading the charge so authoritatively that his surpassing 17,000 runs was totally eclipsed.As Memon says "India may have lost, yet cricket was still the winner" thanks to the Little Master. Team India would have made it if only the tail end had played a shade better.

V Subramanyan, Thane



It is really disappointing that despite the virtual majority mandate bagged by Congress-NCPcombine at the recent assembly elections on OCT 22, still the government is not in place ('Under pressure, Chavan promises govt in 48 hrs', DNA, November 5). Both the Congress and NCP should immediately shed their differences in the interest of people. Both the Congress and NCP should realise time is money and should not be wasted any longer.

Jitendra Kothari, via email








India's defeat by three runs on Thursday was one which not many talked much about. After all, Sachin Tendulkar had given them 175 other reasons to celebrate. What an innings he played on a day when Australia had hammered India every which way it could. A knock of 175 in a one-dayer is a wonder on any given day. It was particularly so under these trying circumstances. India's run machine not only crossed the 1,7000-run barrier, but also posted his 45th one day international hundred. The Bradman of the modern era now stands so tall that it is a privilege to have watched him play. And it need not be by going to a stadium. Even those who watch him on the TV can feel some of the greatness rub on to them. They will surely be telling their grandchildren some day what an adrenalin-rush a chubby youth used to give them in their time.


The country loves him so much that it expects him to score a century every time he goes out to bat. But that level of expectations can be scary, but expected of those who have achieved greatness. In the previous matches of the present series, the master blaster was faltering badly. Ironically, whenever he goes through such a patch, there are always sniggers that he is past his prime. After all, we not only like to deify our cricketers, but are also over eager to pull them down from the pedestal. But once again, Sachin has silenced all his critics with this immaculate, but measured and thoughtful audacity.


Sooner or later, even he will tire out and call it a day. He would love if someone — particularly from this own country — could break his sterling records some day. But his exploits are already the stuff legends are made of. His name will always be in the house of fame. Not only that, he has taken it upon himself to encourage and hone new talent. So, even when he is not there on the pitch, the boys who have looked upto him as a role model will carry his torch forward. Right now, he is very much there. It is time to stand up and cheer. Lustily!








Farmers' dissatisfaction with the hike of Rs 20 a quintal in the minimum support price of wheat is understandable. Since paddy did not give them the desired returns, they had expected to profit from wheat. But they need to understand that global wheat production is quite higher than demand and prices are low and will stay so if the Indian crop is normal. The country has 11 million tonnes more wheat than the buffer stock requirements. For want of adequate storage space, foodgrain stocks are stored in the open and exposed to rain and pest damage. At times of plenty, the government too plays like the average trader.


Despite comfortable stocks, the wheat prices have soared in the past one month. Media reports indicate wheat shortage with traders in the region forced to buy the grians from Delhi and UP. Consumers have been unnecessarily made to pay a steep price for wheat floor too. They are already facing the heat from potatoes, onions, sugar, eggs, pulses and oilseeds. The government recently sold some wheat in the open at Rs 1,300 a quintal, which has contributed to the price rise. Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar's unwarranted statement that high food prices will continue until the arrival of fresh produce may encourage speculators and traders to keep up the prices. Why more wheat is not released in the market to soften the prices remains a mystery.


By keeping the wheat MSP hike to the minimum possible, the government has annoyed the farmers. By letting the current market prices of wheat and wheat floor to rise, it has fuelled the housewives' ire. Despite Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia not accepting it, the ground reality is the middlemen are taking advantage of the situation. One could accept if price rise benefits were flowing to farmers. They do need such boost occasionally. But why the government is letting traders, hoarders and speculators to fatten at the cost of growers and consumers is beyond comprehension.








It is a matter of relief that the Congress and NCP have finally struck a deal which clears the way for government formation in Maharashtra. That they dragged their feet for two weeks after Mr Ashok Chavan was re-appointed chief minister did little credit to the two parties and to the political milieu in which they function. It has become a pattern in states for work in the government to come to a virtual standstill in the run-up to the elections. Now, with political wrangling taking up so much time even after the elections, as it happened in Maharashtra and Haryana, that period of governmental inertia has got further extended. Vital decisions are put off for days together with damaging consequences for the state.


Clearly, the bone of contention in Maharashtra was the sharing of ministerial berths and the division of portfolios between the Congress and the NCP. With the Congress having won 82 seats and the NCP 62, mercifully, there was no dispute over the council of ministers being headed by a Congressman. The pressure tactics by the NCP centred around retaining the major portfolios of Home, Finance, Power and Rural Development as was the case after the elections in 1999 when the two parties first shared power and then in 2004. The Congress, on its part wanted a new power-sharing formula in which some of the key portfolios would come to it. That the NCP has finally succeeded in forcing the Congress to stick to the 1999 pattern is a measure of the intense jockeying done by NCP leaders. At one stage, senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal even held out the threat that his party may decide not to join the government but to lend outside support.


Now that a deal has finally been struck, one can only hope that the new government would get down to the business of governance in right earnest. The Congress and the NCP have much to do to justify the trust that the electorate has reposed in them by returning them to power for the third time in a row.









It is a pity that even after three years, the state governments have not implemented the Supreme Court's guidelines on police reforms. Even the legislations enacted in 12 out of 28 states so far do not address the issue adequately because they are a highly watered down version of the directives.


The Centre cannot be blamed for the tardy implementation of police reforms. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram have done their best in impressing upon the states the imperative need for reforms. Moreover, the Centre has its limitations because police is a state subject and it is primarily the state governments' responsibility to usher in reforms at their level.


Yet, it goes to the credit of Mr Chidambaram that ever since he took charge following 26/11, he has been working hard to tie up loose ends at various levels in his Ministry, strengthen the police administration and motivate the policemen. This was very important because the Union Home Ministry was virtually in a limbo during his predecessor, Mr Shivraj Patil's dispensation. Mr Patil miserably failed to lead the team and inspire confidence in the policemen who were badly in need of some adrenalin to face the challenge of internal security in the context of the terrorist and Naxalite violence and march forward.


This largely explains the Centre's delayed response to the apex court's guidelines as far as police reforms in the Central Police Organisations and Union Territories are concerned. On September 1, 2009, Mr Chidambaram announced that police officials, above the rank of inspector, in New Delhi and all other Union Territories will get two-year fixed tenures.


In tune with the apex court's guidelines, the Centre has also directed setting up of Police Establishment Boards in each Union Territory to decide transfers, postings, promotions and all other service-related matters as well as a Police Complaints Authority to address public complaints. While the Centre has made a good beginning, belatedly though, the state governments are reluctant to push reforms for the simple reason that the Chief Ministers do not want to lose their hold over the police. The powers that be have been using the police as a tool to harass their political opponents and serve vested interests. This is true in the case of every state irrespective of the party in power.


Sadly, no state is willing to usher in the reforms as all political parties are only interested in manipulating the police. It is widely believed that if an SHO, SP or DGP is corrupt and inefficient, he/she should be changed after duly recording the reasons in the file. But politicians have no right to interfere in departmental matters and in the investigation of crimes.


At the Chief Ministers' Conference in August 2009, Mr Chidambaram deplored the manner in which the Directors General of Police were kicked around like football in the states — a reference to their frequent transfers amid political interference. In Uttar Pradesh, the average tenure of police officers above the rank of DSPs is just four months. Punjab and Tamil Nadu also have a very poor track record. Fixed tenure is a must for police officers on operational duties to promote efficiency and provide stability to the system.


In a communiqué to the Chief Secretaries, Mr Chidambaram has told them to give more powers to the DGPs. Unfortunately, though the DGP is the principal head of the police set-up in the state, he hardly enjoys any powers to improve and streamline the system. As he doesn't have operational and financial autonomy, he is unable to have a say in administrative matters. The states would do well to follow his directive and strengthen the system.


Though some states have followed the apex court directives, they have resorted to shortcuts and left many loopholes in their legislations — a great disservice to the police and the people. According to a study by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi, no state has passed legislation that encapsulates all the Supreme Court guidelines in letter and spirit.


Only 12 states have set up State Security Commissions through legislation or government orders. These are Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Kerala, Goa, Sikkim and Tripura. But then, these states have undermined the directive regarding the State Security Commissions which, according to the CHRI, suffer from a "skewed composition, limited mandate and curtailed powers".


Interestingly, some states have put forth strange arguments to justify their non-compliance. Andhra Pradesh says that the establishment of Police Complaints Authority would "demoralise" the state police. Uttar Pradesh contends that the creation of State Security Commissions would "undermine" the power of the elected government.


True, 15 states have set up Police Complaints Authorities so far. These are Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Orissa, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Kerala, Sikkim and Tripura. But it is doubtful how these can function as effective oversight and accountability mechanisms. Kerala has appointed serving police officers and Gujarat sitting MLAs as members of the district authorities. How would these authorities serve the intended purpose if MLAs and police officers call the shots?


Similarly, despite the Supreme Court directive that the Police Complaints Authority's recommendation against a delinquent police officer shall be binding on the authority concerned, many states have flouted this in their legislations. Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Assam and Goa are the only exceptions. Haryana has refused to give mandatory powers to the State Police Complaints Authority. As most states have diluted the guideline, doubts have been justifiably raised about the efficacy of these "toothless" authorities.


In May 2008, the Supreme Court appointed a three-member Monitoring Committee headed by Justice K.T. Thomas, a former Supreme Court judge, to look into the issue of compliance on police reforms by the states and Union Territories. It reviews the compliance level in three states in each sitting. However, civil society organisations and human rights bodies are concerned over the lack of communication about the committee's sittings which are not publicised in advance and can be obtained only from the apex court.


The Monitoring Committee has a two-year term and one does not know its track record so far. Is it able to persuade states to implement reforms? Civil society organisations wonder why the apex court has followed the committee route even though it has untrammeled powers to make states comply with its directives. There is a general impression that if the apex court does not crack the whip and pursue an aggressive posture as it had done earlier, the recalcitrant states will scuttle the whole move and refuse to fall in line.


The crux of the problem is that the police image has taken a severe beating today because of the states' resistance to reform. The common man finds it difficult to file even a first information report because of the police inspector's reluctance to help. Obviously, the inspector cannot afford to displease his political bosses and bureaucrats by showing a higher incidence of crime rate in his jurisdiction. In the process, the police has more enemies than friends and is also dubbed a criminal.


There are no shortcuts to reforms. The states need to implement the Supreme Court guidelines in toto, improve the police image and restore the people's faith and confidence in the police. Along with governmental efforts, there is a need to enlist the support of the people, the media and the civil society for better policing. Experience suggests that good people-police relations always help check the crime rate in any area.


Community policing should also receive the attention it deserves. The successful experiment of Mohalla Committees in Mumbai launched during the 1993 riots by public-spirited individuals and dedicated officers like Mr J.F. Rebeiro, Mr B.G. Deshmukh and Mr Satish Sahani should be emulated by all towns and cities in the country for promoting communal and religious harmony, peace and understanding.







Mr A.N.Ray (of course that's not really his name) entered the Indian Administrative Service with enviable academic credentials. His Oxford degree set him apart as did his dignified demeanour and scholarly stoop.


His most famous idiosyncrasy was his obsession with correct spelling. He would twitch his lips in distaste at the

drafts 'put up' to him by his subordinates and pretend to be very angry at the "shoddy work" he was forced to edit each day. But he endeared himself to all by using a collection of colour pens to add missing commas, delete unnecessary apostrophes and correct offensive spelling errors with painstaking zeal.


During the course of his 36-year-long career, he converted 'roasters' into 'rosters', transformed 'qwerries' into 'queries' and made 'proformas' out of  'performas' with dreary regularity. He clucked his tongue over 'seperate', 'eloborate' and even, good heavens, 'hallucidate' ! Words like 'Secretariat', 'utilisation' or 'acquisition' were the usual suspects, till Spellcheck on the 'Computor' became a typist's favourite accessory.


Nothing fazed Mr Ray though his PA once narrated with relish how the boss stoically ploughed through a note marked 'Disposal of Condommed Vehicles' — the proposal of a conscientious office that intended to 'condemn' its unserviceable jeeps through official procedure.


It was difficult for most people to understand why he did not accept the occasional – ocasional — occassional (well, whatever !) mistake in letters and notes sent up to him by earnest subordinates. After all, how did a few glitches matter as long as the text was understood by both sender and recipient! Such letters were written by busy people to other busy people who did not share Mr Ray's enthusiasm for impeccable prose.


But for him, it was a labour of love and he believed in perfection even when faced with tight deadlines. The corrected texts were also works of art and could easily have fetched considerable sums at auction a few decades hence when spelling would have become as rare as the Himalayan glaciers – considering v r so mch in2 sms n jst lv d frdm fm splng n othr rstrctns! Alas, the drafts were destroyed immediately by sheepish juniors who thought it prudent not to expose their own ignorance to critical evaluation by posterity.


At Mr Ray's retirement party, his brother officers extolled his virtues and delivered praise-laden speeches as is customary. One particularly sincere disciple recited a piece of poetry composed in the retiree's honour:


"Sir, you have mastery of written idiom / it caused you so much tedium / You corrected our drafts / that brought you pain-shafts! / You edited our notes, / which were like sinking boats…." The rest was thankfully drowned in thunderous applause even as solicitous friends thumped a choking Mr Ray on the back and sang, "For he's a jolly good eff-ee-ell-ell-oh-double u !"








Never before has the legal fraternity been so agitated as in the wake of charges of corruption and land-grabbing against Karnataka High Court Chief Justice PD Dinakaran, and rightly so. No one can find fault with it since at stake is the reputation of the highest court of the country and, above all, the people's faith in the judiciary.


"If I were in his position, I will first resign and then commit suicide," is the extreme view of former Law Minister Ram Jethmalani. The sentiments of eminent jurist Fali S Nariman are no different. "I think it would be shameful to appoint him" (Dinakaran) as a Judge of the Supreme Court even if he was exonerated of the charges in the final analysis, he said.


Another apex court lawyer Prashant Bhushan holds a far more radical view. It is not sufficient to stall Justice Dinakaran's proposed elevation to the apex court or initiate impeachment proceedings in Parliament to remove him as the CJ of the Karnataka HC. What is needed is to make him face criminal proceedings like any other citizen of the country.


The views of these legal experts somewhat sum up the mood of the nation in general and those in the profession in particular. Participating in a show, hosted by Karan Thapar for CNBC-TV18's India Tonight programme, they expressed near unanimous views on several aspects of the Dinakaran episode, be it on the somewhat belated and unsatisfactory moves taken by Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan or the five-Judge Collegium headed by him.


All of them are of the view that there is no point in conducting another round of inquiry, this time through an in-house procedure by appointing a committee of three Judges. "In a matter of this kind, it is not necessary to find proof of corruption beyond reasonable doubt. If there is a doubt about a Judge and his integrity that is sufficient enough to disqualify him even if the doubt is not substantiated," Jethmalani averred.


Even if the reputation of being corrupt is unjustified, the Judge concerned must stand disqualified for the "simple reason that every litigant who loses his case will always carry the impression that there has been something hanky-panky going on." Therefore, in the interest of justice in general and the institution of administration of justice in particular, it is necessary to appoint Judges with "impeccable reputation and integrity," he felt.


Nariman is of the view that the Collegium should have dropped Justice Dinakaran "long ago" following "substantial rumours" about him. Disagreeing with Jethmalani's suggestion that there was nothing wrong in the Collegium going through its "motions," he said he did not find any cause for natural justice in this. "The moment there is doubt" over the integrity of a Judge, "just drop him. There are 500 Judges of various High Courts in this country" who could be considered for elevation to the SC.


Asked about the ineffective handling of the issue by the SC Collegium, Nariman said, "It is much more. It is reducing the image of the apex court and I am concerned about the image. I feel very, very distressed that this image is going lower and lower."


Nariman felt that dropping Justice Dinakaran's name from the list of HC CJs proposed to be elevated to the apex court and pushing for his removal as CJ were two different things. "Of course, he cannot" be elevated even if he was finally absolved "if you want the image of the Supreme Court to remain what it is and has been."


Jethmalani said any person having some self-respect should resign on his own, without having to be told by the CJI as the only option available for the removal of a HC or SC Judge was impeachment.


Endorsing it, Nariman said: "I think he missed the bus. At the very early stage, he should have told the CJI, 'please withdraw my name.' And there would have been no controversy, no investigation." In the alternative, the CJI as the head of the judicial family could have told him to step down.


Notwithstanding all this, "I personally think, such a person cannot possibly enter the portals of the Supreme Court and if he does, the Supreme Court is not going to be the same," he added.


Asked how the Collegium and the CJI had emerged from the crisis that has been raging for two months now, Nariman said "very badly." The other two on the panel nodded in approval.


"Yes, I agree. They have looked very bad," Bhushan said, while Jethmalani concurred, "There are many things which prima facie do not look good."


Bhushan said the enforcement of the law that provided for prosecution of the accused could not be thwarted, citing a Supreme Court judgment in the Veerasamy case. The court had ruled that no criminal investigation could be launched against a sitting HC or SC Judge without the permission of the CJI.


Meanwhile, the Advocates Association of Bangalore has sought to mount pressure on Justice Dinkaran by calling for a boycott of courts on November 9.


The jurists, however, made it clear that they were not ready to give up hope. "Let us wait for the Collegium to take further steps and then we will draw our conclusions. We are quite sure that the Collegium will act right," they said.


So are the three crore litigants and their family members, estimated at more than 12 crore, and other concerned citizens who have been watching the developments in dismay.








When Russian businessman Yevgeny Ostrovsky decided to name his kebab joint Anti-Soviet Shashlik, he thought of it as black humor.


It was a little tongue in cheek, a little retro, a little nod to the old-timers who still remembered when the meat grill, across the street from the famed Sovietsky hotel, was known by just that nickname.


But it was also, in that ambiguous, extrajudicial way so common in today's Russia, a little bit illegal.


Three applications for an "anti-Soviet" sign were rejected by the city without explanation. And when Ostrovsky went ahead and hoisted one without a permit, a local politician warned him that he was insulting the veterans of the Great Patriotic War, as World War II is known here.


Then came the coup de grace: a crane and work crew, accompanied by police escorts. With a groan and a clatter, the government of Moscow erased all evidence of lingering dissidence against the bygone Soviet Union.


Ostrovsky hadn't banked on the burgeoning admiration and nostalgia for all things Soviet – a sentimentality tangled up with pride that has come about as the government of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin seeks to restore Russian patriotism and reawaken imperial self-regard.


"The authorities are just taking advantage of Soviet symbols and values to secure their own personal interests," Ostrovsky griped.


But the visceral attachment to the icons is also the consequence of a country that never quite shook off the

shadow of the Soviet system. The world may regard Russia as a place distinct from the Soviet Union, but here in Russia, where government buildings are still festooned with hammers and sickles, there is an abiding sense of continuum.


"The same doctors, teachers, builders and steelworkers continue to live and work in the same country, and everything in our midst was built by the hands of people in the Soviet Union," Russian author Mikhail Veller said. "The state changes, but the country remains the same." The kebab house quarrel was one small battleground in a swelling war over identity. The unresolved question of how modern-day Russia ought to relate to its Soviet past continues to rattle through society, one culture clash at a time.


On Friday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev took to his blog to decry the millions of Soviet citizens who died "as a result of terror and false accusations" – and to lament the revisionism that seems to blanket contemporary Russia's remembrance of its past.


"It is still possible to hear that these many victims were justified by some higher state goal," Medvedev said.


The president cited with dismay a poll in which 90 percent of young Russians were unable to name a victim of Soviet purges and prison camps. Russia must remember its tragedies, he said.


It was a striking departure from the general drift of the country, which takes a complicated, if not positive, view of longtime Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. But Medvedev, who often has provided a rhetorical softening to the ruling elite's hard-line stances, is regarded as politically weaker than Putin – and thus far, his more liberal statements have done little to change the Russian status quo.


Last month, a Moscow court heard a libel suit filed by Stalin's grandson. The descendant claimed that a lawyer had besmirched Stalin's "honor and dignity" in newspaper columns that referred to him as a "bloodthirsty cannibal."


In the end, the court ruled against the Stalin family. But the finding was cold comfort to many in Russia, who were appalled that the case had made it to trial at all.


The defendant, Anatoly Yablokov, said that even a decade ago, he couldn't have imagined being summoned to court for having written pejoratively about Stalin. Today, however, he wasn't particularly surprised.


There's no question that Stalin is undergoing a sort of renaissance in today's Russia. Despite the many millions

killed or sent to labor camps during his reign, many Russians view his rule with a sort of hazy nostalgia. True, they say euphemistically, he made difficult decisions, but it was a time that called for tough measures. And at least in those days, they often add, Russia was powerful.


Others go further.


"The personality of Stalin is covered with lies and slander. There is tremendous injustice done to this person," said Leonid Zhura, a former government bureaucrat who spearheaded the lawsuit against Yablokov.


"The cynical position of the Stalinphobes is that only innocent people were kept in the gulag," he said.


"Criminals who violated the law were kept in the gulag. And let the Western reader ask himself, should criminals be kept in spas or resort hotels?"


Meanwhile, Stalin's image and name, systematically bleached out as the waning Soviet empire began to grapple with its bloody past, are creeping back into Russian life. His name was restored recently to a Moscow metro station. His unmistakable mustached face beams from the wall of Soviet Meatpies, a kitschy diner downtown.


"This place is popular among those who are driven by nostalgia," said the diner's manager, Sergei Mogilo, 39. "And, of course, Soviet times were better."


And yet the trend is wider. Even as Stalin's image is burnished, many Russians are reconsidering cultural icons who were shunned by the Soviets.


Anti-Bolshevik White forces commander Aleksandr Kolchak, for example, is the subject of a popular Russian biopic being serialized during prime time on state television. Kolchak was reviled by the Soviet government, and attempts to rehabilitate him posthumously had been rebuffed repeatedly by Russia.


This autumn, excerpts from "The Gulag Archipelago" were introduced into the curriculum of Russian schools. The masterwork by dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn had been banned during Soviet times, the author himself hounded out of the country. The book remains among the most scathing depictions of Soviet prison camps.


By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post







Recently, 5000m Beijing Olympic champ Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia called on the international athletics body (IAAF) to blood test the leading lights of the athletic world keeping in view the fact that several high-profile athletes like Javier Sotomayar and Merlene Ottey failed dope tests in the not too distant past.


In blood doping, fast catching up with Indian athletes, blood is withdrawn from an athlete, stored for a period of time and then reinfused. Following the initial withdrawal of blood, the body compensates by increasing the production of blood cells until a normal level is established.


Then when the athlete's stored blood is reinfused, a higher than normal level of red blood cells is established and the ability of the blood to transport oxygen is significantly enhanced.


Sports medicine experts opine that the "blood-doping" technique may be "elegant" in its simplicity but in the long run is "sinister" in its implications.


In this endless war against doping, where do the Indian athletes stand? The Sports Authority of India (SAI) lab in New Delhi is not accredited with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and hence has no legal sanctity.


By and large, the Indian mode and manner of testing is just a deterrent rather than a foolproof method to test and enforce sanctions.


Moreover, the rumour that certain National Sports Federations (NSFs) are allegedly hand in glove with the SAI laboratory mandarins simply refuses to fade away.


The Indian Weightlifting Federation is a body perennially in trouble because of the fact that top lifters, both in men and women's sections, are regularly being caught on dope by both the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) and the National Anti Doping Agency (NADA).


Moreover, fearing that they will have egg on their face, the top brass of the Federation very conveniently tries to sweep such scandals under the carpet. Nothing concrete is ever done and when a scandal does surface, a blame game starts in right earnest.


Some years ago the Indian athletics officialdom was caught napping when some junior athletes tested positive after a random checking. Instead of acting promptly, the AAFI thought it prudent to turn a blind eye.


This case can be compared to a situation in which a harmless looking tumour was slowly growing, was noted, but then ignored only to burst forth with an unanticipated intensity and malignancy.


The dope crisis in sport is just like the population explosion. It happened yesterday but everyone says it will not happen tomorrow. Some hard decisions have to be taken.


Do we continue to turn a blind eye to the clear violations of the rules? Or do we seek to exercise our ethical sensibilities and begin to end a situation – which some would say make them winners – but ultimately make us all losers. It is a challenge we must not sidestep.








Elitist segments are incongruities within a democratic set up. The concept of democracy is based on the assumption that everyone is equal and endowed with equal rights, though stark reality may prove otherwise. Politicians might strut about on the national stage bloated with a sense of their own importance, but democratic principles dictate that they be considered to be at par with the ordinary man of the street. The executive might erect a network whereby it becomes a part of a privileged coterie, outside the purview of rules applicable to the common man. The corporate sector might buy its way into privileges not enjoyed by everyone. Yet, in theory, each individual in the democratic State has the same weight upon the scale of importance, none being more equal than others. Thus the members of the judiciary, when considered within such a Utopian context, are ordinary citizens and cannot be invested with fundamental privileges not accorded to others. Yet in India attempts are being made to accord a special status to our judges, although they are a breed apart and need not conform to requirements of a democratic tradition. The Supreme Court itself had reportedly opposed the application of the Rights to Information Act on the judiciary, a contention thrown open to judicial scrutiny by the judgement of the Delhi High Court holding that the office of the CJI falls under the RTI Act.

Even the Government appeared uncertain when it had tried to bring in a bill regarding disclosure of assets by judges. It had sought to make mandatory such disclosure, but added the proviso that the information would be kept secret from the general public, thereby reaffirming the special status of the judiciary within the democratic framework. That bill had been rejected by Parliament, but the Delhi High Court's judgement is awaiting a verdict on being challenged in the Apex Court. It is within such a context that the decision of the Chief Justice of India, K. G. Balakrishnan and twenty of his colleagues in the Supreme Court Bench to voluntarily disclose their assets is so laudable. Of the three wings of the democratic structure, the faith of the citizen nowadays vests solely with the judiciary, the common perception regarding the other two being that they are incorrigibly corrupted. Unfortunately cases of corruption exposed in various courts in different parts of the nation, especially in the lower courts, threaten to lower the dignity of the judicial institution as a whole. The voluntary disclosures by the judges in the apex court of the land, therefore, will send the right message to the others and help restore faith in judicial integrity. However, the gesture must be taken to its logical conclusion and asset disclosure by judges should be made mandatory in the future through appropriate legal enactments.







In the aftermath of drought situation of the current year, the food sector of the State warrants a new direction to ensure not only increased production but also a strengthened public distribution system. To increase production of food grains, it needs a change in crop-composition as between rice varieties and a shift of cultivation from autumn rice variety to winter rice since productivity per hectare from the former is not much encouraging. It is good that the State has given more emphasis on the use of autumn rice land to grow summer rice and vegetables as they are found to be more procuctive in terms of economic benefit. On the basis of inter-year comparison, it is found that while the general rate of productivity per hectare of land is 896 kg for autumn rice, it is 1482 kg for winter rice and 1995 kg for summer rice in recent years. Such shift of emphasis is attributable to the efforts of National Food Security Mission. However, since the Mission's efforts are presently confined to only 13 districts of the State and that, too, on rice production alone, the benefit will only partially be achieved. What is urgently necessary is that the remaining 14 districts be soon brought under the same measure.

The deficiency of rainfall has already affected the Sali-rice cultivation and, due to the same factor, the high-yielding varieties cannot be transplanted and have to be substituted by only local varieties. As a result, the current fiscal will not achieve the targeted rice production. Yet another problem is that the State's crop area due to recurring flood and erosion has gone down in the current decade by around 1.25 lakh hactares. Since the State is agricultural, its growth squarely depends on development of agro-sector. Anti-erosion and flood control measures together with a quantum jump in irrigation have no substitute in the State's economy. Water bodies in rural Assam are very large though harnessing irrigation water from nearby water bodies through investment of required resources is beyond the capacity of poor farmers. Hence, a part of the huge infrastructure expenditure directed to mostly useless power-driven pump sets and deep tube wells could be profitably diverted to small scale irrigation from canalised water bodies by the State. The necessity of short-term solution for food security problem through strengthened public distribution is uppermost. The PDS scandals relating to thousands of crores of rupees in Assam in recent years through diversion of grains to open market should not at any rate be repeated in future. The famous agricultural scientist MS Swaminathan has rightly warned that the present form of India's food security bill will not help the country achieve food security unless a holistic approach is taken to improve public distribution system and is supported by a national grid of ultra-modern grain-storage facilities capable of holding million tonnes of food grains at a time.








The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the Indian government has cleared the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) brinjal (eggplant, aubergine or baingan, known variously as vanga, vangi and begun). Brinjal, which originated in India, is popular worldwide. In India, it accounts for half a million hectares of land and an output of 8.4 million tonnes. This is the first time a GM food crop has been approved by the GEAC, an ad hoc 30-member committee comprised mainly of bureaucrats and scientists from state institutions, which substitutes itself for a proper regulatory agency.

This momentous decision potentially opens the door to other GM food crops, including rice, maize, soyabean and sorghum (jowar, or the Great Millet) besides directly introducing a genetically engineered vegetable into India's food chain. Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh–who publicly opposed GM foods only months ago–ays he'll will study the GEAC's report in depth before taking a final decision.

Ramesh would do well to look into the charge by the biologist, Prof PM Bhargava–the GEAC's only independent expert, appointed by the Supreme Court—that a majority of the necessary biosafety tests were skipped before the clearance was given. That's itself a strong reason for refusing to approve Bt brinjal.

The transgenic brinjal was developed by Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company) in collaboration with the US-based transnational, Monsanto. It involves the insertion of a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into the DNA or genetic code of the vegetable to produce pesticidal toxins in every cell. Theoretically, Bt brinjal cultivation should lead to reduced pesticide use and vegetable wastage, officially claimed at 50 percent-plus, lost to pests such as fruit and shoot borers. But as we see, theory is one thing and GM's reality another. Indeed, the theory is itself open to scientific doubt.

Rational opposition to Bt brinjal doesn't arise from a knee-jerk rejection of genetic engineering, but is based on good science. Sound, established science tells us that we don't know enough about the effects of insertion of alien genes on the recipient organism, about the risk of transfer of those genes to human organ systems or viruses—and hence about the impact on human and animal health and the environment.

Therefore, we must not allow GM foods to be cultivated commercially. As Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin puts it: "We have such a miserably poor understanding of how the organism develops from the DNA that I would be surprised if we don't get one rude shock after another." Prudence demands that we at least don't create conditions for rude shocks. A host of studies show that GM crops have adverse effects on animals and humans. Consider some. In 1996, the UK launched more than 50 long-term safety studies on GM foods. A team under Arpad Pusztai of the prestigious Rowett Institute tested GM potatoes engineered to produce an insecticide called GNA lectin by feeding them to rats. The feed adversely affected virtually every organ of young rats, including the brain, liver and testicles. There were signs of "immune system damage". Rats fed non-GM potatoes spiked with the lectin were relatively unaffected even when fed 700 times the amount of the lectin the GM potato produced. The team concluded that the damage was caused by "the genetic modification process itself".

Similarly, in another study, rats fed with GM tomatoes developed bleeding stomachs. "Of the 20 rats, 7 developed stomach lesions; another 7 of 40 died within two weeks Again, rats fed with Monsanto's GM maize exhibited "significant changes in their blood cells, livers and 'Kidneys". Monanto challenged the finding with its own "company study". But according to expert Gilles-Eric Seralini, "Monsanto contradicts itself. The first time around, their studies 4 explain... that there are 'significant effects without a pathological significance', and the second time around, [they] say that the effects observed are no longer significant."

Worse, there's strong evidence that GM crops affect human beings and animals. In Madhya Pradesh, agricultural labourers handling Bt cotton complained of allergic reactions, such as "mild to severe itching". "In severe cases, the eyes also become red, swollen", with excessive tears, nasal discharge, and sneezing. All 23 subjects experienced itching. Twenty had lesions on their face and hands. Some also appeared on the feet, back, neck, and abdomen. Nineteen showed redness of skin and 13 facial swelling. Eleven had eye symptoms. Nine had nasal discharge and/or excessive sneezing.

Allergies, and more, have been reported from other Bt cotton-growing states too. In Andhra Pradesh, studies by the respected NGO, Deccan Development Society, found that Bt cotton cultivators continued to use pesticides on a large scale, which belies the claim that Bt cotton would reduce pesticide use. The crops produced "hitherto unseen diseases" in soils. In 2003, nearly 2,500 sheep died after grazing in Bt cotton fields. DDS instituted another sheep study. Two groups were fed two varieties of Bt cotton and the third non-Bt cotton. Sheep from the first two died within six weeks. The non-Bt cotton-fed sheep remained healthy.

Adverse effects have been reported from the Philippines, the US and Germany from GM maize, cotton and soyabeans, including allergies in humans and permanent damage in pigs, cows and chickens. In the US, a GM food supplement called L-Tryptophan killed about 100 people and produced swelling, coughs, rashes, pneumonia, mouth ulcers, nausea, muscle spasms, difficulty in concentration and paralysis among 1,000 people.

This is only one set of problems with GM. There are others too. Studies suggest that gene insertion may disrupt the seed DNA, the protein inserted by the Bt gene may cause problems, and the foreign protein may be different than that intended. Besides, genes may get transferred to human systems. GM crops are likely to increase environmental and food-chain toxins. These are unaffordable risks.

Given this evidence, GM foods certainly cannot be certified as safe. Yet, they are being promoted for profit by corporations which control intellectual property rights to GM seeds and can manipulate their sales. Five giant corporations–Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow–comprise the bulk of the global GM seeds market. Monsanto alone accounts for 84 percent.

The global commercial GM foods market comprises four crops–soyabeans, corn, canola and cotton. But now GM companies are getting into fruits and vegetables like papaya, zucchini and spinach. GM potatoes and tomatoes were introduced but taken off the market. The companies work on only two traits: pesticides tolerance, or ability to withstand excessive pesticide use–which they themselves make and sell–, and built-in pesticidal properties. About 68 percent of the crops are engineered to resist a herbicide, about 19 percent produce their own pesticide, and 13 percent do both.

GM food crops are not the technology of the future. There are only 6 countries in which GM crop production is Significant: the US (54 per cent of world total), Argentina Brizil. Canada. India and China. Most European countries don't allow GM food to be produced or sold.

The future of Indian agriculture and food security doesn't lie in GM foods. They are unsafe, deliver no real benefits, and are bad for the environment and human health. Our real future lies in low-intensity, low-energy, low water-use agriculture based on and drought-resistant crops like millets (jowar, bajra, maize, ragi) and pulses, and sturdy indigenous seed varieties. That's where our research priorities must be directed. 








Agriculture accounts for more than 52 per cent of employment in the country, but, ironically it contributes only about 18 per cent of the GDP. Agriculture sector contributes about 13 per cent of the national exports, provides raw materials to industry, and finally it is a potential source of domestic demand. Despite the tremendous importance of agriculture, this sector is facing severe crisis today on account of the ongoing "globalization" and liberalization process. The decelerating growth rate of agriculture from over 3.5 per cent per year during 1981-82 and 1996-97 to only around 2 per cent during1997-98 and 2004-05, is a major concern to the nation. Further, slowdown in growth is compounded with volatility of commodity prices in the global market, widening disparities of productivity between irrigated and rain fed areas, inefficient use of available technology and inputs, lack of adequate incentives and appropriate institutions, degradation of natural resource base, and increased nonagricultural demand for land and water. All these problems have resulted in food insecurity and low level of farmers' income leading to aggravation in social distress. The incidence of farmers' suicide keeps on increasing. Hunger. food insecurity and malnutrition still remain unanswered even after eighteen years of economic reform process, and sixty years of planning efforts. This is a very serious issue for the nation in the wake of ongoing economic slowdown.

Prior to economic reforms in 1991. Indian agriculture was plagued by high level of regulations both domestic and external markets. High level of investment and research, and the 'green revolution' process, which was started by the mid sixties had made the Indian economy self sufficient in food-grains. But unfortunately, the so called 'green revolution' technologies had put more emphasis on the production of cereal crops (rice and wheat), neglecting production of pulses. oilseeds, and other high value crops like fruits, vegetables, livestock and fisheries. Besides, dry land farming and farming in the marginal areas were neglected. It is widely known that 'green revolution' technology was confined only to a few states like Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh etc. Hence, the 'green revolution' could not bring economic prosperity to majority of the farming community mostly in the eastern and north-eastern part of the country.

The Uruguary Round of Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) in 1994, resulted in several policy changes which include the rationalization of input subsidies, reforming commodity price policies, increasing investments in agricultural research and development, extension of rural infrastructure and services, plant variety protection, streamlining public sector institutions, dismantling of trade barriers in respect of import and export of agricultural commodities, adoption of new export and import policy in 2001, and protection of farmers right. Besides these, over 3000 tariff lines covering raw-materials, intermediate and capital foods were freed from import licensing requirements, thus the whole process of globalisation in Indian agriculture was started after 1994.

Now the question arises: what is the cost of globalization? How are the Indian peasants benefited by the so called globalization? If we look at macro level scenario we find, that the terms of trade which was moving in favour of agriculture, suddenly turned against agriculture from 1999-2000 to 2004-05. Profitability of farming has declined quite sharply due to increased prices of agricultural inputs and high wage rate of agricultural labourers. Diversification of agriculture remains slow. because the poor fanners prefer to cultivate cereal crops only. without taking risks by producing high value crops. Further, the size of the farmers' land-holding is becoming smaller and smaller over time due to increasing pressure of population on land and diversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural purposes. Public investment in agriculture still remains low and technology generation becomes negligible. According to the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) 59th round (2003) only 27 per cent of the total numbers of cultivator have access to institutional credit, while 22 per cent received credit from informal sources. The remaining households, comprising small and marginal farmers, had no credit outstanding. As a result, farm debt has increased considerably. Farmers are now exposed to greater risk due to variability of commodity prices in the world market. Recently, a survey conducted by the NSSO survey, reveals that 40 per cent of the Indian farmers are ready to leave their farming occupation, if they are provided alternative occupations in non-farming sector. This is the ground reality of Indian agriculture. The globalization of markets has brought unhealthy competitions to Indian agriculture: farmers in India do not have direct access to the global market. The process of integration of markets has led to the unhealthy competition between the local retailers and corporate retailers.

Thus it seems that the poor farmers have to bear the cost of globalization. However, one has to admit that the agriculture sector has an impressive long-term record of taking the country out of serious food shortages despite rapid population increase. Food production in the country increased from 51 million tones in 1950-51 to 217 million tones in 2006-07. Productions of oil seeds, sugarcane, and cotton have also increased more that four-fold over the period. Similarly, the export of agricultural commodities keeps on increasing.

In the light of the present crisis, India needs to take certain urgent measures for sustaining productivity of agriculture and enhancing competitiveness of agriculture in the global market. The following measures can be adopted to mitigate the present crisis in Indian agriculture:

(a) Generation of need-based viable technologies using the holistic farming system may be considered by the government. (b) Research on agriculture and rural development should be pro-nature and farmers' oriented. (c) Public investment in agriculture and allied sector needs to be increased so as to develop rural infrastructure including irrigation and water managementrural roads, marketing, public health, sanitation and education and extension services etc. (d) The United States and the European Union have been offering high subsidy to their farmers ignoring the WTO regulations. So, India also may provide input subsidies to its farmers at a higher rate to facilitate farmers for more production.

(The writer teaches Economics in Gauhati University).








The government's decision to ensure at least 10% of the equity of all listed central public sector enterprises is directly owned by the public and to list all profit-making enterprises is welcome. This is good for the stock market (increases depth, absorbs more capital with less asset price inflation); good for public enterprises (make their accounts more transparent and available to the public at large rather than only to Parliament as at present); and for the spread of shareholding culture among Indians.


Stock prices of public enterprises where the free float is less than 5% have, on many occasions, been manipulated. More importantly, listing of public enterprises will subject these enterprises to market discipline on disclosure of accounts. Over time, the government must reduce its holding in public enterprises to 75%, in line with the guidelines being implemented for all listed companies to improve liquidity, and then 51%, if privatisation is not an option. Ideally, the government should not own non-strategic enterprise.

Strategic, here, should be understood as providing long-term competitive advantage to the economy, apart from being vital for national security, but not coming forth except for investment by the government, which can take risks that purely commercial calculations cannot. Which sector is strategic would change over time, depending on circumstance and the economy's degree of maturity. Steel was strategic once, but no longer. Satellites, however, continue to be.

The decision to use divestment proceeds for capital expenditure, rather than to accumulate in the so-called National Investment Fund is welcome, although there is no valid reason to restrict such investment to the social sectors.

The goal of increasing shareholding among citizens would be better served if the government allots a large proportion of public enterprises public offerings to retail investors, perhaps at a discount to the price at which the shares are offered to foreign investors, whose taxes have not gone to create the public enterprises in the first place. The government must now not lose time on starting the process. The climate is right — credit offtake is low and mopping up of resources at this juncture would not put pressure on liquidity or interest rates.







The Centre's move to rationalise bidding norms for highway projects is sensible, forward-looking and expressly welcome. The fact is that investment in central road projects under the public-private partnership mode have virtually screeched to a halt, thanks to a series of new conditions in bidding documents.


Note that contracts for 12,000 km of highway projects, with an investment requirement of almost Rs 1,00,000 crore, are awaiting bidder selection. The additional clauses — pertaining, for instance, to work experience, eligibility and cross-holding between bidders — were added by the Planning Commission presumably to streamline the whole process. But it is apparent that potential investors find the conditionalities rather onerous.

Hence the lack of investor interest. Thankfully, a new Yojana Bhavan panel has given the go ahead to the highways ministry to change bidding guidelines to expedite matters and coagulate funds. Thus far, the norms could only be changed with Cabinet approval, which, what with inter-ministerial differences, has not been forthcoming.

Yet, it cannot be gainsaid that it makes no sense to stall and put on the back-burner vital infrastructure projects simply due to unrealistic conditions. The requirement that a party bidding for a given project needs to have implemented projects worth double the cost seems much too impractical in the Indian context. It is true that the PPP projects in the pipeline here are by far the largest anywhere, involving tens of thousands of crore.

But we have been implementing such large-scale projects for barely a decade or so and it is plain unrealistic in policy terms to mandate steep previous project experience. Similarly, reasonable levels of cross-holding of different parties in multiple bids also seems desirable to boost bidder interest. Road transport minister Kamal Nath wants 7,000 km of highways built annually — or 20 km per day. It would surely be transformative pan-India, after much policy pussy-footing. The way ahead is to proactively remove glitches in bid procedures and purposefully follow through.






A new software claims to have deciphered why babies bawl by correlating the sounds associated with various types of crying to five primary emotional triggers: hunger, irritation, tiredness, stress and boredom. That is hardly a revelation for mothers, regardless of species. However, while most mothers rely on their instincts to figure out why their offspring cry and do the needful , now humans are being offered a software solution that can be added to iPhones.


Going by this five-point cause list, the application apparently figures out why a baby is crying within 10 seconds, and its makers even helpfully offer advice on how to quell the outburst. While parents and babysitters may rejoice at a software solution to their baby problem, the basic premise of the application's Spanish inventors that crying (like music) is a universal language, and hence can be deciphered across geographies, may not be that easily accepted.

A recent scientific study in Germany has found, for instance, that the crying of newborns has the same intonation as their parents' speech, pushing back the theory of when babies begin to understand language and linguistic differences to even before they are born. Earlier, it was believed babies could recognise and imitate sounds like their mother's voices from the age of around three months. But after observing the crying patterns of an equal number of French and German newborns, scientists detected clear differences in their "cry melodies", which seemed to mimic their parents' native tongues even though they were but three days old.

The French infants' crying began low and ended in a crescendo with the Germans doing exactly the opposite, in keeping with general intonations of their parents' respective languages. Given this evidence that even crying has a language, it would certainly be safer for parents to hone individual instincts about their children instead even if it sounds old-fashioned and tedious. Some applications — like parenting — are best developed without shortcuts.







When the government expressed its concern about the progress of the monsoon on July 21, the sensex tanked up by 1.5% and urad traders in the market made a killing what with a 35% price increase the very next day. Similarly, the forecast of weak rains in the next five days on August 6, 2009, combined with the estimates of low reservoir levels led to sensex's load shedding by 354 points (-2.3%) and a price peaking in rice markets by Rs 37.5/Qtl (3.5%) within a couple of working days in these markets. In the monthly (Aug) release of the finance ministry, the government asserted that the monsoon season (June–Sept, 2009) rainfall from June 1 to September 2 was normal/excess in 33% of meteorological sub-divisions.


Now the latest IMD report on September 17 says that monsoon has improved from the middle of August when there was overall deficiency of -29% to as of date when the deficiency level is in tune of -21% leading to a greater degree of instability in commodity prices. Such an erratic scenario of monsoon triggers a huge price instability which has always remained a major concern for producers as well as consumers.

Too much or too little of anything is harmful to many and this is true in this imbroglio too. In case of natural events, it is difficult to control the occurrences towards optimality. Apart from the business cycles, environmental factors such as rainfall, temperature and humidity also affect performance of the trade-business along with farming. The fact that the level of occurrence of each of these events creates risks of differing monetary values, both on the negative and positive side, provides an opportunity to create a market place where these can be shared to provide the entire set of stakeholders of a given economy a win-win situation. Rainfall is one among these environmental factors.

A cumulative rainfall index — intelligently compiled, representative of a region which has diversified stakeholders involved in various businesses including the farmers — can be a very useful product to buy and sell in an effort to enable them share risks arising out of monsoon failure and floods as well.

With even the stock markets taking a cue on rainfall and its effect on the economic performance of the country, its importance to the country's agricultural performance and hence the effect on the economic stakeholders is well known, though the contribution of agriculture to the entire GDP has been on the decline in line with the growth path of the economy. While the direct risk of agricultural performance lies in the cost of raw materials for the agro-processing sector, to the other businesses it indirectly means high cost of labour and other charges, and the sagging demand arising out of reduced rural incomes from agriculture. There is no doubt that risks to agricultural production have a widespread and multiplier effect on the economic stakeholders, which if identified properly can be shared amongst multiple actors. It also provides a risk-sharing mechanism for those who do not participate, with future signals helping them to take efficient decision for improving their economic prospects.

What exactly makes this risk sharing possible? Out of any event that could occur in future including that of rainfall, one set of stakeholders would be affected in a way that would be opposite of the other set of stakeholders. To cite an example, in the case of rainfall, an air-conditioner manufacturing firm or a cold beverage manufacturer would be affected in a different way as opposed to a farmer; while better rainfall may be good for the farmer as it brings down temperatures, it decreases the sales of cold beverages and air-conditioners.


It is exactly this opposite nature of effects of a future event to different stakeholders that makes it possible for them to come together on a platform to lock in their incomes taking position opposite (buy vs sell) to each other by trading on a contract that would deliver the future cumulative value of rainfall as determined by an effectively designed rainfall index representing their area of operation. They are helped by several other participants who try to take advantage of the best possible information that they possess in terms of rainfall expectations to cover the impact on their economic existence. This creates an ecosystem which understands this instrument like any other tangible commodity-based futures contract thereby helping the economy ward off the evil effects of occurrence of extreme events.

While it allows the stakeholders to share their risks, it also enables participants to discover the extent of movement in the index — which tracks rainfall of the underlying areas and hence its possible overall impact. This would also help policymakers at the central, state and even the local governments to put in mitigatory efforts much in advance as the market starts sending efficient early signals to them, indirectly empowering the economic stakeholders from the extreme events. In addition, efficient private and public efforts would start sprouting in the ecosystem purely on a commercial basis in an effort to deliver the best possible rainfall forecast information to market participants.

In short, it will effectively enable the policymakers to put in mitigatory measures much in advance rather than to wait for the progress of the rainfall as it is being done usually. Insurance companies can develop OTC rainfall products based on the exchange-traded rainfall index derivatives or mitigate their risks in the existing rainfall insurance products by streamlining it to better manage their risks and offer a cost effective product to the farmers.

Thus an exchange-traded product on events such as rainfall creates a win-win for all the stakeholders, helping them manage such even-related risks in a better way and improves their competency in a world where competition is being slowly taken to the global stage on various products and services.

One cannot deny that with vibrant rainfall derivatives, prediction of rainfall quantum and pattern through private and public efforts could be better than the existing forecasting efforts leading to an overall effective planning and risk mitigation even outside the market mechanism that has been created for the same purpose. It will, in fact, help in better decision-making for businesses including farming and better policy-making on the part of the government, helping it effectively utilise its natural resources in a better way and ensure that contingency mechanisms work in tandem with the need as warranted.

(The author is senior scientist, International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). Views are personal.)









The recent financial crisis and global meltdown that followed has led to a sharp downward correction in prices of commodity-based raw materials. China, a large commodity consuming country, is making use of this price correction to build up its stockpiles of commodity reserves.


The average base metal inventory in China has doubled during 2009 while copper inventory alone has gone up four times. China is also aggressively acquiring metal and energy assets in Africa, Latin America, Australia and other parts of the world both as a measure of diversifying its large forex reserves of over $2.3 trillion and for building raw material security for future.

However, this buildup of stocks by China of copper, aluminium, iron ore, crude oil and other commodities during the past one year or so appears to have continued beyond a reasonable level and does not justify consumption-based stocking even during normal times, let alone in the current scenario of the worst-ever economic crisis since the 1930s.

There are possibly more reasons than just ensuring raw material security behind this inventory buildup. China is, probably, diversifying investments from US treasuries to more stable commodity assets. While central banks of many countries, including China are increasing investment in gold, China appears to be using its foreign currency reserves for acquiring a basket of high consumption commodities also, both as a hedge against inflation and also as a hedge against possible raw material scarcity in future.

China's economy, which is highly dependent on export of manufactured goods, has not been able to consume its large stock of raw materials in post-crisis consumption scenario, either through an increased domestic demand or through increased exports of manufactured goods to traditional consumers like the US and Europe. This can be seen from a disappointing consumer spending and GDP growth rate data from the UK and other countries of Europe, and a modest consumer confidence and GDP growth rate data from the US.

Though the US economy during July-September'09 quarter has shown a dramatic rebound with a growth rate of 3.5%, its sustainability is questionable because much of it is from one-time factors such as "cash for clinkers" subsidy programme for increased automobile sales that is unlikely to continue indefinitely. Paul Krugman, the Nobel prize winning economist, speaking at a recent steel conference in Latin America cautioned against sustainable recovery of world economy before 2010, citing historical evidence that recessions are usually followed by "slow troubled recoveries", and also that employment in the US would take about five years to revive from December 2007, when it first started contracting, i.e., not before 2012.

The currencies of these advanced economies are likely to remain relatively weak because a large liquidity has been injected into the system as a result of stimulus packages of $787 billion (5% of GDP) by the US, $586 billion (13.3% of GDP) by China, $154 billion (3.1% of GDP) by Japan, $110 billion (3.25% of GDP) by Germany, $29 billion (1% of GDP) by the UK and others. Also, the government and the central banks of many countries are consciously permitting a gradual weakening of their currencies to levels where it would make sense to revive their manufacturing industries.

The possibility of further stimulus packages till the economies of these countries recover, may also put at risk the growth in Asian economies operating on US dollar standard. There is also an increased demand from China, Russia, Japan, France and the Gulf countries to shift pricing of oil from US dollar to a basket of currencies, which in turn will reduce demand for dollar and its consequent weakening. Thus there is a risk of loss in value if the national foreign currency reserves are kept in US treasury securities or spent for accumulating dollar assets.

Although the recovery of metal and energy prices during the last few months is likely to bring short-term benefits to China with an inventory stocked at a price that is 10-20% lower than prevailing prices, its judiciousness in improving macroeconomic competitiveness is doubtful since there is a speculative element in such an approach, and is not a recommended long-term strategy of state policy. Besides, this has a potential to redefine some established principles of production economics such as just-in-time inventory strategy (JIT).

Ever since Henry Ford initiated "dock to floor" concept backed by an efficient freight management system, which was later adapted by Toyota Motor Corporation to overcome the problem of warehousing in land-starved Japan, JIT has been extensively used by manufacturing firms across the globe to have right material, at right time, at right place, and in exact amount, with an aim of boosting return on investments of businesses by reducing in-process inventory and its associated carrying costs.

Unless the large commodity purchases are converted into manufactured goods for domestic consumption or export, this inventory buildup has a potential to generate another bubble, which can have even serious consequences for global economy that has just started showing signs of recovery.

(The author is Fellow, IIFT, New Delhi. Views are personal.)








Images flickering on the screen: police searching the property of a convicted rapist in Ohio with backhoes, jackhammers and wall saws. Horror follows. Dutifully blurred shots of corpses being unearthed: four are in the backyard; six others are exhumed elsewhere. A skull wrapped in a paper bag in a bucket could be an eleventh victim.

As the benumbed viewer struggles to make sense of the crime, there's footage of an official droning on: "It appears the accused had an insatiable appetite he needed to fill." Sensitive souls are well advised to switch off from such corrupting discourse. How does one account for a crime that sickens and soils the imagination? Can the perpetrator be regarded as someone belonging to the Family of Man, someone entitled to the full range of human rights automatically accorded to other 'normal' defendants?

The problem usually comes up in cases of mass murders and communal carnages, where the very 'fact' of existence of evil leads to all sorts of unsettling questions and conundrums. If, for instance, there is someone up there, why does She let such bad things happen to good people?

David Hume, the 18th century neo-sceptic philosopher, famously summed up the conundrum by saying, "Epicurus's old questions are still unanswered: Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent? Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent? Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?"

Even if one were to set aside the question of existence of God, the problem of evil remains. There could hardly be a more fundamental and perplexing question.

One way out is to make a distinction between 'ordinary' evil of human nature and what the noted theologian of the Holocaust Emil Fackenheim called the 'radical evil' of Adolf Hitler and Pol Pot's crimes. To Fackenheim however even the best explanations of the monstrous crimes (and there have been quite a few) were doomed to failure.

In the end, "only God can account for such radical evil, and he's not talking," he lamented: "Radical evil is so off the scale and lay so far beyond rational attempts to understand it that no amount of biographical and psychological data about a difficult childhood, a dysfunctional family, no concatenation of trauma and deformation, no combination of bad character and evil ideology, could add up to explain the magnitude of the crimes."

It's the paradox of pure evil.








EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner discusses a range of issues, from the Af-Pak situation and enhanced counter terrorism cooperation to climate change, dealt upon at the 10th India-EU summit, with ET . Excerpts:


What kind of role does EU see for itself in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the security situation seems to be deteriorating?
We have a new programme on strengthened EU action to raise level of engagement in the region . We want to stabilise Afghanistan and Pakistan politically and economically and, therefore, we propose to raise again substantially the amount of funding for civilian assistance. What we want to see in Afghanistan is an administration that is competent. There needs to be a commitment against corruption otherwise all work of international community will be in vain.

India has been saying that there can be no good and bad Taliban. What is the EU view? And how can Pakistan be stabilised?

I think those moderate Taliban that don't go against the Constitution as such, with those one has to have a dialogue. In any case you have to find a way to appease the country, on the other hand we have Pakistan a country where it is very important to stabilise.

It is very important to work with Pakistanis because they have a democratic government we have to do everything to support this government . We had a summit and we are working strongly on regional issues. It is also important that all regional powers including India fall into some sort of regional cooperation...

Does EU's 'regional cooperation' , include India resuming talks with Pakistan?

We would hope to see India and Pakistan go back to the composite dialogue process and also to work on pragmatic way on regional issues. There are border issue, trade and development issue of opening up roads. Both population would benefit.

What kind of discussions took place on climate change at the summit?

We do hear Indians are also committed to emission reduction. India already has some very interesting ideas but it is important that you translate these national ideas to be visible at the international level. Copenhagen is just around the corner and climate change issue was of course on forefront of our mind. We have outlined our position, we have made a commitment for legally binding commitments. We are ready to go for cuts by 2020, 20%cut in order to stay maximum at 2 degrees centigrade.

India has said that it is not ready for carbon emission targets. China and the US are also on different pages on the issue. Where does that leave climate change talks?

One thing is quite clear.. We can't do this on our own, everyone has to do it as a global issue.. it's an existential issue of all of us. We are very pleased to being able to work with all our partners We have just come from the US where we have talked to president Obama who is much more open to go forward. Now we have summit in India . We will work with China at the summit. In Copenhagen, I hope we can have a framework agreement that sets out a goal.

What was the outcome of the summit?

This was very important EU India summit that marked a decade of closer ties with India. Over the years, trade in goods has more then doubled, and India is the tenth most important trading partner. We have also very strong scientific and technological links. What we did today as a concrete deliverable signed agreement fusion energy research which will promote the cooperation on fusion research outside of ITER.









Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA), a Dutch government agency, helps companies establish their business in the Netherlands. Robert V Schipper, executive director of NFIA India tells ET that he hopes the NFIA will be a key player in boosting the business ties between India and the Netherlands. NFIA also facilitates Indian companies to reach out to the European market. Excerpts:


What are the opportunities for Indian companies in the Netherlands?

The Dutch tax environment for international companies is attractive. The corporate tax structure of the Netherlands creates an extremely business-friendly climate. We have a wide tax treaty network that avoids instances of double taxation and reduces withholding taxes on dividends. Cash dividends, dividends-in-kind, bonus shares and all other benefits coming from a qualifying shareholding are exempt from tax which is referred to as the Participation Exemption. Outgoing interest and royalty payments do not attract withholding tax.

The Dutch business environment is a combination of a business-friendly tax system and a regulatory framework. Over 7,000 multinational companies have chosen to set up the hub of their European operations in the country.


How does NFIA help Indian companies set up business operations in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe?

NFIA plays an important role in helping and consulting Indian companies who want to set up their business establishment. It provides access to customers, partners or knowledge and also conducts study for the companies with setting up their business operations in the Netherlands and make the country as their hub to do so. The Netherlands offers Indian and other foreign companies unique and multiple advantages — international business friendly atmosphere, favourable fiscal environment, multilingual workforce and world class infrastructure. NFIA helps the companies in making the implementation of their European plans in the smoothest possible manner.

Can you share instances of Indian companies that NFIA assisted?

There are more than 80 Indian companies in the Netherlands including small enterprises. Just like the US and Japan earlier, it is now the Indian companies which are venturing into the European market. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), was one of the early movers, having established its first presence in the Netherlands in 1992. In 2005, the office was upgraded as European headquarters, employing around 1,000 people in the Netherlands. Some of the other companies are Wipro, Dishman Pharma, 01 Synergy, Nucleus and Polaris.

What are the key sectors in India that NFIA targets?

NFIA primarily targets the Indian IT sector, they can set up base in the Netherlands and make most of the cost-efficient and business-friendly climate and then do business in the rest of Europe. The other active sectors are pharmaceuticals and automobiles. In pharmaceuticals, Indian and Dutch companies can collaborate due to research synergies. There are a lot of European companies that are generic drug producers.

How is Netherlands a 'bridge-head to Europe' for companies looking for a foothold in the European markets?

The Netherlands has a major role to play for companies who want to establish themselves in Europe. There is no nation that has a longer tradition or more experience in selling goods and services, not only those produced in the Netherlands itself, but from all around the globe, to our fellow Europeans.

We are already, for many centuries, the trade and transport hub of Europe, facilitating as a bridge between Europe and the rest of the world. Our diverse and open society, large population of Indian origin on the continent, and the fact that nearly everyone in the Netherlands speaks English and very often a few more languages as well, should make our country a likely choice for the Indian companies expanding into Europe. Geographically, the country is within a 400-mile radius of half of Europe's major markets and the country's transport infrastructure has a big role to play.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The government's decision to go in for a two-pronged disinvestment programme will surely add quality and depth to India's stockmarkets. The Union Cabinet has decided that in already-listed PSUs the government will bring down its shareholding to 90 per cent where it exceeds that figure, and unlisted PSUs that have been  making profits for the past three years will have to get listed and in which the government will unload 10 per cent of its stake. The government hopes to net around Rs 60,000 crores from the entire exercise, and when all these PSU shares come to the market the Bombay Stock Exchange's market capitalisation could increase by over Rs 3 lakh crores. This is indeed a boon for investors as the free float of good companies in the market is scarce. It will be another few years till all the companies listed on the exchanges bring their public shareholding to the government-mandated level of 25 per cent. Many of the PSUs are quality companies that have been registering profits for investors during the economic slowdown. This move will be doubly beneficial for the PSUs' efficiency: in addition to being accountable to Parliament, as they are now, they will also come under the scrutiny of the market and of investors. Having said this, there are two issues to be discussed. One: disappointment that proceeds of this disinvestment will be routed to social sector spending through the National Investment Fund, but with a difference. The entire amount will be used to fund social objectives like schools, hospitals and roads; and not just the income that NIF would have earned from this amount. This may ease the pressure on the government's burgeoning fiscal deficit, but if debt is not retired with the sale of an asset, then it would essentially mean eating up an asset. The route the government has adopted to fund its social objectives is the easy one — it does not have to do any work, and merely transfers public wealth to some public schemes, of which there is unlikely to be any accounting. The other important point is that Union home minister P. Chidambaram said very emphatically that disinvestment was being done so that the public gets a shareholding in PSUs. So who is this public? If by public Mr Chidambaram means the aam aadmi, then he will have to think twice. These PSU will have to come out with initial public offers, or follow on offers, and in the whole process of an IPO the retail investor or aam aadmi gets a raw deal. This is specially so in pricing and allotment. It's a cosy club of people that decides on pricing, which they use to their advantage on listing day to flip and make money. It's imperative that the government looks into this whole process of IPOs and sees how the process has been hijacked by merchant bankers in collusion with  promoters and certain high net worth individuals. There is no democracy in the whole process. Why should there be multiple classes of shareholders. Why not sell these shares through the exchanges as is done in the secondary market? This would eliminate costs and middlemen, or expensive intermediaries, as the merchant bankers are called. It would also eliminate a lot of mischief that goes on during the IPO process. Sebi has done a lot of good work in eliminating some of the mischief, but a lot remains. So if the government really wants the people of India to be shareholders, it should consider this as an opportunity to set a democratic trend in IPOs. Sebi chief C.B. Bhave, for whom the investor always comes first, could help the government in this process. The government's IPOs need to be democratic in design and action.








 "If centipedes wore shoes,

Shoe-makers would be rich".

From The Proverbs of



"My name is Farrukh and I am a ganjeri!" — er... not really, but that's the way one would introduce oneself if, on the lines of Alcoholics Anonymous, there was a parallel organisation called Ganjaheads Guiltridden, Stoners Unstoned or Charsis Incognito. There doesn't happen to be such an organisation and with the state of the law as it is, neither can there be. If I turn up at an AA meeting and confess to my addiction, I haven't put myself outside the law. Similarly, if I go to a Give-up-smoking-tobacco clinic to get nicotinised by therapy or whatever else, I am legal. But anyone who signs up to a group such as the above invented ones is liable to end up on a police list of "charsis charged with drug abuse".


It would be tantamount to admitting that you are the user of a drug which is today in Britain classified in the "C category". There is a proposal from the government and the home secretary, Alan Johnson, to reclassify cannabis as a more dangerous drug, up there with Ecstasy, LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), cocaine and heroin. Before he presents such an amendment of the drug act to Parliament, however, Mr Johnson has appointed a committee of scientists to supply justification for the move.


Unfortunately for him, Professor David Nutt, the scientist he appointed to head the commission of enquiry into cannabis and its use, came to the opposite conclusion from the one Mr Johnson thought was politically expedient. The good professor concluded that cannabis was less harmful in very many ways than cigarettes and had, head for head, less bad effects on users than alcohol. He also came to the conclusion that the drug Ecstasy, used by the young as a spirit booster on evenings-out, was as dangerous as taking a ride on a horse — yes, some people would fall off and break their necks, but by and large the riders would return home whole.


Professor Nutt made these views public just when Mr Johnson was about to announce to the nation that he was going to reclassify cannabis as a dangerous drug and make the penalties for its use, which the police and the courts hardly ever resort to, compulsory, widespread and more severe. Mr Johnson's political calculation is that most people don't use cannabis in any form — ganja, charas or bhang (respectively grass, hash and "fresh leaf of cannabis sativa crushed and incorporated into a milk drink only in India") and the majority of these would be in favour of getting more censorious about other people's pleasures. The votes from users are small in number if indeed the stoners can get themselves up on election day and be bothered enough to go to the polling booths.


Prof Nutt's considered and publicly-expressed scientific opinion got him sacked. Mr Johnson dismissed him. This a bit like sacking your doctor if you don't like the diagnosis. Or, perhaps, it's more like changing from palmistry to astrology to get a more pleasing prediction for the coming week because there are respectable scientists and doctors who disagree with Prof Nutt on scientific and statistical grounds and think the home secretary is acting in a socially responsible way.


The sacking of Prof Nutt has caused other members of the government's advisory board on the use of drugs to resign. They may or may not agree with the nutty analysis of cannabis, but that's not their point in resigning.


They contend that the government either appoints scientists to put a considered point of view and takes heed of the advice or it doesn't deserve the benefit of it.


In a more and more complex world, the information that scientists provide has huge political and financial impact. No government can make environmental policy without the advice of the various branches of science involved. The birth of nuclear armaments and power plants quintessentially required co-operation between politicians during the World War II and physicists. Politicians couldn't say that "e" was equal to "mc (cubed)" if that was what would yield more votes.


The most blatant example of politicians playing fast and loose with science was President Tabo Mbeki of South Africa refusing to acknowledge that the HIV virus was responsible for AIDS.


One wonders also about Indian politicians consulting astrologers for auspicious days on which to hold elections or launch nuclear tests, though a little thought would establish that meteorologists' predictions might be more useful in both contexts and astrologers' divinations in this respect would be perfectly neutral — the fact that Mars is in Pisces won't make a difference to the electoral or scientific outcome. Not so with Mr Mbeki and those dying of AIDS in South Africa.


With cannabis in the UK the matter is still in contention. In Sweden, which has strict laws against cannabis use, eight per cent of teenagers admit to using the drug. In Holland, which has legalised the use of cannabis, 28 per cent use the drug. In Britain the percentage of 16-year-olds using cannabis is 37. The figures indicate that the legalisation or otherwise of the drug is not the dominant factor in its appeal. The sub-cultures of the country dictate the attraction, availability and peer-respect for users.


As a student in British universities, I found both ganja and charas easily available, though they were at the time listed as "Class B substances". As a political agitator in and around black and Asian groups in Britain, one found it even more readily available. (I am not saying whether I ever inhaled!) As a TV executive, I found that the world around me persisted in substance abuse, only the substance seemed to be white rather than black, brown or green in colour.


I can say very candidly that the change in the law of cannabis use/abuse won't affect me or anyone I know. My vices have moved on and consist largely of the fermented juice of the Sauvignon Blanc grape which the French, the New Zealanders and even our own Sula vineyards bottle and sell.








Remember those Republican boasts that they would turn healthcare into US President Barack Obama's Waterloo? Well, exit polls suggest that to the extent that healthcare was an issue in Tuesday's elections, it worked in Democrats' favour. But while healthcare won't be Mr Obama's Waterloo, economic policy is starting to look like his Anzio.


True, the elections weren't a referendum on Mr Obama. Most voters focused on local issues — and those who did focus on national issues tended, if anything, to go Democratic. In New Jersey, voters who considered healthcare the top issue went for governor Jon Corzine by a 4-to-1 margin; Chris Christie won voters who were concerned about property taxes and corruption.


Yet there was a national element to the election. Voters across America are in a bad mood, largely because of the still-grim economic situation. And when voters are feeling bad, they turn on whomever currently holds office. Even Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, saw his supposedly easy re-election turn into a tight race.


And challengers did well even if they had no coherent alternative to offer. Mr Christie never explained how he can reduce property taxes given New Jersey's dire fiscal straits — but voters were nonetheless willing to take a flier.


This bodes ill for the Democrats in the mid-term elections next year — not because voters will reject their agenda, but because all indications are that a year from now unemployment will still be painfully high. And Republicans may well benefit, despite having become the party of no ideas.


Which brings me to the Anzio analogy.


The World War II battle of Anzio was a classic example of the perils of being too cautious. Allied forces landed far behind enemy lines, catching their opponents by surprise. Instead of following up on this advantage, however, the American commander hunkered down in his beachhead — and soon found himself penned in by German forces on the surrounding hills, suffering heavy casualties.


The parallel with current economic policy runs as follows: early this year, Mr Obama came into office with a strong mandate and proclaimed the need to take bold action on the economy. His actual actions, however, were cautious rather than bold.


They were enough to pull the economy back from the brink, but not enough to bring unemployment down.


Thus the stimulus bill fell far short of what many economists — including some in the administration itself — considered appropriate. According to the New Yorker, Christina Romer, the chairwoman of the US President's Council of Economic Advisers, estimated that a package of more than $1.2 trillion was justified.


Meanwhile, the administration balked at proposals to put large amounts of additional capital into banks, which would probably have required temporary nationalisation of the weakest institutions. Instead, it turned to a strategy of benign neglect — basically, hoping that the banks could earn their way back to financial health.


Administration officials would presumably argue that they were constrained by political realities, that a bolder policy couldn't have passed Congress. But they never tested that assumption, and they also never gave any public indication that they were doing less than they wanted. The official line was that policy was just right, making it hard to explain now why more is needed.


And more is needed. Yes, the economy grew fairly fast in the third quarter — but not fast enough to make

significant progress on jobs. And there's little reason to expect things to look better going forward. The stimulus has already had its maximum effect on growth. Even Timothy Geithner, the US Treasury secretary, admits that banks remain reluctant to lend. Many economists predict that the economy's growth, such as it is, will fade out over the course of next year.


The problem is that it's not clear what Mr Obama can do about this prospect. Conventional wisdom in Washington seems to have congealed around the view that budget deficits preclude any further fiscal stimulus — a view that's all wrong on the economics, but that doesn't seem to matter.


Meanwhile, the Democratic base, so energised last year, has lost much of its passion, at least partly because the

administration's soft-touch approach to Wall Street has seemed to many like a betrayal of their ideals.


The President, then, having failed to exploit his early opportunities, is pinned down in his too-small beachhead.


If the Democrats lose badly in the mid-terms, the talking heads will say that Mr Obama tried to do too much, this is a Centre-right nation, and so on. But the truth is that Mr Obama put his agenda at risk by doing too little.


The fateful decision, early this year, to go for economic half-measures may haunt Democrats for years to come.








I plead guilty. Thirty odd years ago, I was encouraged by my then bossman, Nari Hira, to conceptualise another popular magazine, after having launched and run the path-breaking Stardust for a decade. This is how Society was born. It was perhaps India's first honest-to-goodness celeb mag that chronicled all that was good, bad and ugly about the belle monde of that era. Like Stardust, the new arrival was an instant hit in urban India… and is still around in its original avatar.


Having tasted success with these two "products", I foolishly imagined I could launch one of my own. That's how I started Celebrity which struggled to survive for three years before shutting down. I lost money. I felt terrible. It was a terrific magazine. But I was a lousy businesswoman.


Today, the scenario has changed so dramatically when it comes to celeb journalism, I am constantly awestruck by the brazenness of it all. Anybody who has ever made it to Page 3 (even paid big bucks to get there) is deemed an "official" celebrity. Once that tag is attached to an individual, a free market situation does the rest. There is a business opportunity in every celeb sneeze and squeeze. Media-made celebs have realised the potential and swiftly moved to monetise what they see as their "worth".


Let's take two-three recent examples, starting with a starlet called Sameera Reddy. Lovely girl, by the way. The original "Sexy Sam". According to reports in tabloids, she threw a royal fit at Mumbai airport recently when she was denied entry into the VIP lounge, which is reserved for — yup —VIPs! Obviously, the officer in charge of the lounge did not put this Bollywood starlet into the same category as, say, a P. Chidambaram. Or, more realistically speaking, a Shah Rukh Khan. In their case, there would definitely be security issues to deal with in case of a delayed flight. But that is not the case with a Sameera. How many people even know who she is? Yet, in her own eyes, she equates herself with bonafide VIPs. How did this end? She was politely and firmly escorted to a business class lounge, which is what her business class ticket entitled her to. The mobs she said she feared, left her alone, except for a few pesky kids who were brushed off by Sulking Sam. Clearly a case of delusional behaviour. But at least it was a cashless transaction — the Lord be praised.


Take a look at the upside. Our lissome and smart Shilpa Shetty is soon to marry. The entire world has been given the minutest details of her romance with a certain Raj Kunder — jab they met and what followed. Shilpa is a charming and an extremely well-liked individual. But her standing in Bollywood is still where it was before she shot to fame as the late Jade Goody's bete noire in Britain's much-watched reality show, Big Brother. After that win, Shilpa positioned herself as a brand worth investing in. And she found a besotted investor-suitor in the much-married Raj. Realising the commercial potential of their new-found togetherness, both of them decided to hire a publicist to feed choice tidbits of the growing pyaar-vyaar to a hungry tabloid press. No problem. That's how celeb journalism works in the West (think Posh Beckham, Madonna et al).


Today, on the threshold of becoming man and wife, the blissed out couple is going for the kill (think Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas). Their wedding is up for grabs. Going, going, gone to the highest bidder. To kick off the bidding process, Mr Kunder has offered a bouquet of photo-ops as "exclusives" to a high-end publication. In an email to editors, he provided precise details about the engagement ring (£2.5 million, if I remember right), and offered access to the magical moment itself — the proposal! All this, for a big fat fee, of course.


Wake up, India. We have arrived!

There is money to be made in dem celebs. Gone is the coy era of demanding privacy. Now is the time to demand money. Nobody is blinking. Scoops, scandals, affairs, weddings, funerals, births… everything is for sale. Just like in the West. What's more, everyone is cool with it — readers, viewers, consumers of assorted media platforms. It works great for all the players. It just needed a Raj Kunder to show amateurs how to play the celeb game professionally. If his strategy works, it would mean that technically, the wedding comes for free, so does the ring and everything else. A few eyebrows will be raised. Well… forget them. Kunder is not holding a gun to anybody's head. If a media house is ready to pay serious money to cover the wedding (honeymoon, too? Or is that a separate deal?), it's perfectly kosher. If the couple pulls off the coup, trust me, all the rest will follow.


Nothing is sacred in these times of ferocious media wars. Look at Michael Jackson's father blandly stating that his son is worth much more dead than alive! And demanding free rooms in posh hotels by boasting his presence there would generate great publicity for the property!


Bollywood is still taking baby steps. Cash and carry is here to stay. Deal with it, guys.


Readers can send feedback to [1]








At the recently-concluded London Film Festival, two outstanding films celebrated the lives of two young men which had astonishing similarities, though they lived more than 100 years apart. One, Bright Star, was based on the life of John Milton Keats and the other, Nowhere Boy, on the young John Lennon. Both "Johns" died young — tragic but avoidable deaths. Keats, succumbed to tuberculosis at 25 in Rome, in 1821. John Lennon was shot by an assassin in 1980, just 40-years-old. Both the "Johns" grew up without a father and with a mother who was absent for more than a decade of their early lives. Yet, both men were able to transcend their emotionally-unstable childhood to leave a lasting impact on literature and music. And both are very British icons.


The more contemporary Nowhere Boy was, particularly, an excellent choice to be premiered on the closing night of the London Film Festival: it was a warm dip in nostalgia as well as a film with many messages. It worked on each member of the audience in a seminal fashion, leaving most of us teary eyed — because we all carry special memories of the eternal band of four, the Beatles. They deeply influenced and shaped the hoping-to-be-hip adolescence of the now middle-aged generation all over the world. In the 60s and 70s, their long hair, their psychedelic bell-bottoms, their cool attitude — and, of course, their "goroo" Maharishi Mahesh Yogi gave us a look and a voice and even a movement. In many ways they even put India on the rock'n'roll map — and made fusion music acceptable to an international audience that suddenly discovered itself grooving to Pandit Ravi Shankar.


Even today listening to A Hard Days Night, Yesterday or Imagine transports that generation to a world when we were all young and beautiful and none of us had ever heard of global warming. A time when idealistically we could fight (and win) any just cause — because, in the words of Imagine, we were all dreamers, but we were not the only ones.


The four tousle-haired boys created a musical cult which remains unmatched — and since each one of them was a character, they are part of us. Who can forget the "Love In" staged by John and Yoko Ono or the Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band? Their sheer inventiveness was remarkable.


There was nothing staid about the Beatles and yet they were mainstream and acceptable. Unlike the Rolling Stones or Mick Jagger — the eternal rebel — the Beatles were boys you could bring home to meet your parents.


That is why the story of John Lennon's childhood comes as a surprise. The film is set in 1955, Liverpool. John, played by the talented Aaron Johnson, is a lost, bright, 15-year-old schoolboy being brought up his aunt Mimi. Kristin Scott Thomas plays Aunt Mimi, a conservative and strict woman given to reading and listening to classical music, frustrated by a boisterous John Lennon who is perpetually being thrown out of class or rusticated. John is particularly upset after the death of his Uncle George, as he has had no contact with his own parents: George and Mimi are the ones who have stepped in to raise him.


Noticing a mysterious stranger at his Uncle's funeral, John eventually discovers that his mother, Julia Lennon, is alive and lives not very far from his home. He meets her, at first surreptitiously, but then more and more openly as she introduces him to a world of music and fun.


Rejecting Aunt Mimi's admonishments he continues to visit Julia with the relationship almost bordering on the Oedipal, though the director Sam Taylor Wood is careful never to cross the line.


Flirtatious, lively Julia is the proverbial "bad girl" of the family who has been disowned because she has had far too many lovers. Now she has settled down and has a husband and children — but as she and John explore their passion for rock'n'roll music, it brings them ever closer.


She teaches him how to play the banjo and indulges his fantasy of becoming a rock star, inspired by the music of the reigning icons, such as Elvis Presley. John seizes the thought and teams up with a beautifully gentle teenager Paul McCartney (acted by the baby-faced Thomas Brodie Sangster) who has never forgotten the death of his own mother through cancer.


He can well understand John's anger and rejection over the indisputable fact that his vivacious mother Julia had abandoned him as a child. And he also empathises with the fact that John still yearns for a relationship with his mother despite the "rejection". The sudden death of Julia, who is played marvellously by Anne-Marie Duff, is a brutal resolution of his dilemma — but it also pushes John into learning to be more independent. He leaves Liverpool — and the rest is history.


The film focuses firmly on John before he becomes a global star — and that is its greatest strength because we realise that he was, quite truly, a Nowhere Boy.


John is portrayed as a troubled school drop out — who manages, through sheer determination, to groom himself out of mediocrity. It is only a series of random events which propel him into discovering his talent and his self-belief. In that sense, it is a film full of hope — that fame and fortune are within your grasp, you only have to reach out for it.


The film does not explore the later years or John Lennon's death — and so, in fact, ends on a positive note.


In some ways, this is also the story of the gritty woman behind the film, Sam Taylor-Wood. She is an artist who has survived breast and colon cancer. And now, at the age of 42, has turned filmmaker. Not only that, she has somewhat taken the central theme of the film — Lennon's love for an older woman — rather more seriously. Taylor-Wood has separated from her husband and is now to wed the 19-year-old actor Aaron Johnson who plays the lead in Nowhere Boy.


So both in the film, and in reality, there is a surprising, but happy, ending!


The writer can be contacted at [1]








In his last month as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei finds himself at the explosive crux of the world's nuclear politics, ferrying messages between the Obama administration and Tehran. "They are talking through me", he says.


Talking is something, even through a mediator, given all the poisonous US-Iranian history, but time is short. US President Obama's Iran outreach is on the line in the days before ElBaradei departs on November 30. It's critical that Obama succeed or a futile confrontation-sanctions scenario will be locked in.


Protesters, Iran's brave campaigners for a freer and more open country, are chanting, "Obama, Obama — either you're with them or you're with us". The window is narrowing for the President to show that outreach can normalise the psychotic US-Iranian relationship where confrontation only comforts it.


So Obama is right to persist, right to favour the head over the heart. But he needs an interlocutor. And right now he's got a foreign-policy vacuum in Tehran.


Last month, it seemed there was a deal: Iran ships out most of its known low-enriched uranium — about 1,200 kilograms — and eventually gets fuel rods for a reactor producing medical isotopes. The agreement buys time. It slows the noisy, fast-ticking Israeli clocks by removing the stuff Iran could use to make a bomb.


But, as ElBaradei told me in an interview, "there's total distrust on the part of Iran". Iran has not balked by demanding that its uranium be sent out in phases — as some reports suggested — but by seeking cast-iron assurances that the fuel will come back.


Compromise ideas are being explored. ElBaradei has talked to Obama, who is driving Iran policy, several times. He has talked to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who, weakened by the disputed June 12 election, has emerged as a proponent of what would be an immensely popular opening to America.


"There are a lot of ideas", ElBaradei told me. "One is to send the material" — Iran's uranium — "to a third country, which could be a friendly country to Iran, and it stays there. Park it in another state, then later bring in the fuel. The issue is to get it out, and so create the time and space to start building trust".


It's essential to secure "something like a year" between the uranium's exit and the fuel's arrival. ElBaradei's message to Tehran: "This is an opportunity I have not seen before and it will not happen again". His message to Washington: "Be patient".


The problem is the disarray in Tehran. It is payback time for Ahmadinejad. Everyone he's slighted — like Ali Larijani, the powerful speaker of the Majlis — is gunning for him. The supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, went along with the outline of the Geneva deal but has begun to equivocate.


The Islamic Republic needs to move on. It needs to put an end to the paralysing behind-the-scenes fight over who would claim credit for any rapprochement with the US. It must recognise, as ElBaradei put it, that "Obama is really sticking his neck out". Diplomacy is most useful between enemies. ElBaradei said: "Sanctions are an expression of frustration", adding that "in the long run they will not resolve the issue". That's right.


A stick exists. It is the volatile state of post-June-12 Iranian society. Protest was not quashed but went underground. Every now and then it flares; that will not stop. Obama's outreach has unsettled Iran, produced this new fluidity.


Now it's overwhelmingly in Iran's interest, and America's, to do the deal. For Iran, it's a way out of debilitating isolation; for Washington it's a first step in Obama's bold quest for a new West Asian order. "I hope Iran will not miss this opportunity and will take a very small risk for peace. Otherwise everybody will lose". ElBaradei said.
Bunkers or breakthrough? A Nobel laureate who has the trust of both sides will be gone in a few weeks. Use him or lose.








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.








A short, plucky, and notoriously choleric Frenchman, who celebrates all things French and fiercely protects his country from foreign invaders. Who does that bring to mind? Napoleon Bonaparte? Nicolas Sarkozy? Now imagine a tiny dog and a burly Frenchman next to this hero, and even before this sentence has ended, many would be thinking of Tintin. (Never mind there was no mention of a weird quiff, or that Tintin was Belgian, not quite French.) However, neither the great dictator nor the photogenic president (and certainly not the intrepid young journalist) was fond of swearing by Toutatis. If that name rings a bell, then the subject of this longish preamble may finally be clear to fans and followers — the fearless Gallic warrior Asterix, who was created by the popular writer-illustrator duo, René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, fifty years ago.


At a glance, Napoleon, Sarkozy and Tintin could not have been farther from the pastoral idyll where Asterix lives with his peevish pet, Dogmatix, his gigantic and ever-hungry friend, Obelix, and the quick-witted Druid, Getafix. But come to think of it, a bit of all three characters can be discerned in him. Like Napoleon, Asterix is invincible; his nationalist sentiments are as fervent as those of the present French president (it is another matter that Asterix is never seen in the company of beautiful ladies); and though not a reporter, Asterix, like Tintin, has the talent for getting himself into the weirdest of adventures. When the Asterix comic strip first appeared in the pages of the Pilote magazine in 1959, it was this heady mix of political humour and social satire that quickly captivated the imagination of a post-war generation in France. Readers old and young were coming to terms with a past scarred by Nazi occupation, the Resistance, and a wounded national pride. An equally bleak and pessimistic future lay ahead of them, as their beloved nation lost its colonies in rapid succession, and went through a long phase of social turmoil in the Sixties. All that was unique to the French way of life — from its smoky cafés to great art, from gourmet cuisine to trendy couture — had to make space for the different, the culturally alien.


Asterix and his compatriots may well have a merry laugh over the fusty, tea-drinking British (who speak like the ancient spinster aunts in P.G. Wodehouse novels), mock the Swiss obsession with fondue and cuckoo clocks, and poke fun at beer-guzzling Belgians, but the age of risky humour is gone. It is highly unfashionable these days to be amused by national stereotypes, however silly or funny they might be. Think of the furore over the allegedly racist flavour of Tintin in Congo. Yet, it may not be all that unreasonable sometimes to be a bit prickly about things that did not bother people in another time. Many in Mr Sarkozy's France may not feel very pleased about being bullied for wearing a burqa — even if the jibe came from a comic-book character.









In a recent lecture, delivered in Mumbai in memory of Nani Palkhivala, the home minister, P. Chidambaram, attacked "left-leaning intellectuals" and "human rights groups", who, in his view, "plead the naxalite cause ignoring the violence unleashed by the naxalites on innocent men, women and children". "Why are the human rights groups silent?" asked the home minister.


The short answer is that they aren't, and haven't been, silent. There are very many intellectuals and rights activists who have regularly condemned — in newspapers as well as in specialist journals — Maoist methods such as the recruitment of juveniles as militants, the indiscriminate use of landmines, the killings of alleged informers, and the murders of forest guards and police constables who cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be dubbed 'class enemies'.


It may just be that Chidambaram is new to the job, and that in his previous assignments his reading chiefly consisted of business magazines and stock market reports. It seems that he has been ill served by his assistants, who are paid precisely to avoid their ministers making such obvious factual mistakes in public.


If this assumption is correct, then the deficiencies can be remedied easily enough by the home minister being asked to read the writings of an intellectual who died the very week of his Palkhivala lecture. His name was K. Balagopal. Balagopal was described (by a younger friend) as "the conscience of the collective self known as Andhra society" — with reason, as for 30 years and more his chief focus of work and writing had been the politics and culture of his home state.


However, he was revered outside Andhra Pradesh too — in Kashmir, which he once referred to as the "only foreign country I have visited"; in Chhattisgarh, where he was among the first to document the excesses of the vigilante movement that goes under the name of Salwa Judum; in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and other cities, where his work for human rights was admired by those who sought to emulate him while knowing that they could never match his intellectual originality or his physical and moral courage.


Indians active in human rights usually come from a humanistic background — they are most often lawyers, social scientists, or journalists. Among the exceptions are the man who founded the first human rights organization in independent India — the engineer, Kapil Bhattacharya — and Balagopal. After taking a PhD in mathematics from Warangal, Balagopal taught for several years at Kakatiya University. Then, in the mid-1980s, he was forced to quit his job, and turned to working fulltime on civil liberties. In the late 1990s he acquired a law degree; now, his vocation complemented his activism, for the cases he fought in court were usually on behalf of subaltern groups victimized or harassed by the State.


In person, Balagopal could appear forbiddingly austere. Small talk and invocation of common friends got one nowhere — as I discovered when we were once placed on a panel together. But it was enough to hear him speak, and more so, to read him in print. His fellow Andhras read him in Telugu; the rest of us, in the Economic and Political Weekly, where he wrote regularly from the early 1980s until his death. His English prose was direct and economical — as befitting a mathematician, although I am told that in his own language he would allow himself an occasional flourish, as befitting the grandson of a major Telugu poet.


Like some others of his generation, Balagopal was powerfully shaped by the Emergency, against whose authoritarian excesses it was then automatic to juxtapose the youthful idealism of the Naxalites. And it was undeniably the case that in his native Andhra only the Naxalites worked among the very poor — such as the sharecroppers and landless labourers of Telengana, and the poor and often destitute tribals of the Agency areas.


Over the years, Balagopal arrived at a less romantic view of the Naxalites. He deplored their cult of violence in articles in English and, perhaps more effectively, in articles in Telugu that were directed at and read by the objects of his criticism. In the late 1990s, he wrote a brilliant essay that anatomized the means, foul and often brutal, used by Maoists to enhance their power and dominance over recalcitrant individuals and groups. (In what follows, I rely on a translation by the historian Rajagopal Vakulabharanam.) Here Balagopal dealt in detail with various cases of harassment, intimidation and murder practised by Maoist groups in Andhra Pradesh. He wrote that "we should publicly interrogate those who claim for themselves the right to kill for the sake of 'progress' and the wisdom to define what is progress. We need not hesitate to critique those who do not hesitate to usurp the rights of others, including their right to live, for the sake of revolution". "[If] Naxalites had any respect for the humanistic values or the sentiments of those close to whom they kill," he remarked, "they will not kill them by smashing their faces in such a way that they are virtually unrecognizable."


To be sure, Balagopal also wrote often (and perhaps more often) of crimes and errors on the other side, of how the police and paramilitary brutalized innocent citizens in the name of Law and Order, of how politicians and industrialists seized the land of poor peasants in the name of promoting 'Development' while in fact lining their own pockets. In his last years, he was particularly active in opposing the acquistion of farmland for special economic zones in Andhra Pradesh. In sum, Balagopal refused to accept, from either State or Maoist, the justification of "a culture and mentality which celebrates power and use of force in society".


Balagopal was that altogether rare animal, a genuinely independent Indian intellectual, whose moral clarity and commitment to the truth meant that he could not resort to special pleading for any party or interest. The flawed institutions of our imperfect democracy were all subject to his rigorous scanner — the police, the judiciary, the bureaucracy, and not least, corrupt and authoritarian politicians. When Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy was first elected chief minister, Balagopal wrote that while a pliant media sought to clothe him with "the image of a good doctor who has turned to politics to cure society", in truth YSR was "anything but a vendor of humane visages. His rise to power has been accompanied by more bloodshed than that of any other politician in this state". As it happens, he was also among the first to see through YSR's predecessor, pointing out that "Chandrababu [Naidu] is merely an ambitious political schemer who has managed to con quite a lot of intelligent people because he knows their hunger for the image he has put on — a third world politician in the mould of a corporate executive spewing IT jargon and the verbiage of the World Bank's development policy prejudices — is too acute for the normal functioning of their other senses".


Those concerned with the security of the State often criticize human rights workers for living in an ivory tower, for not knowing the law, and for making excuses for the Naxalites. When (or if) made against Balagopal, none of these charges held any water. He knew rural India intimately: a tireless fieldworker, he had explored, on foot or in crowded buses, almost every district of Andhra as well as many districts in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, and Kashmir. He was extremely well acquainted with the Indian Penal Code as well as the Constitution, and hence could pinpoint how, and in what measure, the State had violated its own laws. And no one could accuse him of being a Maoist apologist.


His friends and readers shall mourn Balagopal's death, at the comparatively young age of fifty-seven. On the other hand, the ideologues and leaders of the Maoist movement are probably quite relieved at his passing. That caveat 'probably' can be dispensed with when it comes to the Andhra police, Andhra politicians, and the Union home ministry. For the most credible critic of their crimes and impunities has unexpectedly been removed from their midst.








The purchase of 200 tonnes of gold by the Reserve Bank of India from the International Monetary Fund for $6.7 billion provides a golden contrast to the dire situation in 1991 when the country, with an empty foreign reserves kitty, had to pledge 67 tonnes of gold with the Bank of England to tide over a severe balance-of-payments crisis. With $285 billion in foreign exchange reserves the country is now strong enough to weather serious trade and currency problems and insure itself against major fluctuations. The gold purchase will help the RBI to diversify its reserves. At present most of the reserves are held in foreign currency, mainly the dollar, and the IMF's Special Drawing Rights. The percentage of gold reserves will go up from 3.6 to 6 per cent and will provide a more stable cushion, though even now the RBI's holding is much less than that of many other central banks.

The sale is important for the IMF also which has to raise funds for lending to poor countries in accordance with the G20 crisis management programme. Another 200 tonnes are up for sale which will probably be bought by China. It is the active purchase of gold by many countries in the international market that pushed gold prices up recently. One message from the heightened activity in the gold market and the IMF-India transaction is that central banks are looking for alternatives to the dollar as a reserve currency. The position of the dollar may not be threatened in the immediate future but the weakening of the currency as a result of the huge US fiscal deficit has introduced a note of caution. Gold prices rose against the weakening dollar and though it has somewhat stabilised now the trend is likely to resume. Therefore gold is looked upon as the best store of value, though the world has moved away from the gold standard since long.

The gold reserves will also help the RBI internally in the fight against inflation. After ruling negative for a few  months, inflation is poised to rise in the coming months. Along with interest rates and other fiscal tools, the gold at the RBI's disposal can also be deployed to check inflation. It  can be sold in the domestic market to absorb money. So the purchase is not only a testimony to the gains of the economy since 1991 but an investment in future too.







The Dalai Lama's visit to Tawang begins on Sunday. The run-up to this trip has been marked by much drama, suspicion and accusations. It has raised hackles in China. Visits of Indian leaders to Arunachal Pradesh have routinely prompted Chinese objections as these are viewed as Indian assertion of sovereignty over territory that China claims as its own. But the Dalai Lama's visit to Tawang has raised Chinese ire to a level not seen in recent years. This is because the visit represents two hot-button issues for China — Tibet and Tawang. It brings together two thorns in China's flesh: the Dalai Lama, who Beijing accuses of being 'splittest' and fomenting unrest in Tibet, and Tawang, which is the main bone of contention in the Sino-Indian territorial dispute. Not surprisingly, China has let loose a verbal fusillade on Delhi and the Dalai Lama in recent weeks. It has accused the Tibetan leader of 'sabotaging' Sino-Indian ties. But India has clarified that the Dalai Lama's visit to Tawang is religious and not political. The Dalai Lama too has said that he is going to the Tawang monastery to teach.


India, which has buckled to Chinese pressure in the past, has done well to allow the Dalai Lama to visit Tawang. In doing so it has sent out a strong signal that it is no pushover. That message sent, India and the Dalai Lama should ensure that the Tawang visit does not provoke a new downturn in Sino-Indian relations. Mindful of Indian sensitivities, the Dalai Lama and his followers have refrained from political activity on Indian soil for the last 60 years. There is no reason to believe that he will shift from that position during his Tawang visit. Still India and the Tibetan exile community must take utmost care to ensure that vested interests keen to see India and China squabbling do not stir trouble.

Although India has recognised Tibet as an autonomous region of China, Beijing remains suspicious of Delhi and the Dalai Lama. The latter's visit to Tawang, if handled with care, could allay China's apprehensions. It could go some way in convincing China that its paranoia vis-a-vis India and the Dalai Lama is rather excessive. The Tawang visit has the potential to usher in a new phase in Sino-Indian relations.









Financial media is now highly optimistic about the prospect of the end of the recession. However for the jobless and the homeless there is no sign of the end of their nightmare. A survey among the professional economists by the 'Wall Street Journal' shows that most are highly pessimistic and expect the unemployment rate, which is now higher than anything the industrialised world has seen over the last 34 years will get even worse next year.

The task in front of the G20 leaders was to produce a framework to solve the world economic crisis by thinking out of the box. Instead, they want another round of 'stimulus.' The massive debt-driven stimulus spending plans being unveiled by the political leaders of the G20 economies may only accelerate insolvency of the central banks in most countries.

Much of these stimulus plans are empty promises or reallocation of already budgeted expenditure. IMF will get a new $250 billion worth of Special Drawing Rights or the artificial currency composed of averages of major currencies to help the countries with severe foreign exchange crisis. Otherwise, the plan calls for budget deficits of about $5,000 billion for the G20 countries.

European banks may be holding as much as $24 trillion in terms of derivatives, mortgage backed securities, options, and bonds of already bankrupt banks and major companies, commonly called as 'toxic assets'. This is at least $6 trillion more than the combined GDP of the entire European Union. Japan is so far the primary purchaser of US government debt. Now as the American consumers purchase fewer goods from Japan, it is no position to provide loan to USA.

China has accumulated a huge surplus in her balance of payments, and this cash pool was used to loan money to the United States, its major customer. Now that consumer demand in the US is contracting, China will likely need to shift its accumulated savings to solve its own problem of at least 20 million newly unemployed workers and possible recession.


Contraction in China will be devastating to the economies on her periphery. The Gulf Arab states, another financier of USA, are also being affected by the crisis, as the reduction of oil prices has created severe budgetary constraints in the previously abundant treasuries of the OPEC countries.

The UN Economic Commission has suggested some restrictions on global trade on derivatives and future market and gradual replacement of dollar as the international reserve currency by the SDR (Special Drawing Rights), the artificial money created by the IMF back in 1978 but could not get off the ground. These solutions are not only standard but also unrealistic.

G20 also has allocated about 250 billion US dollars to promote SDR through IMF but in reality USA does not want SDR to replace dollar, as the dollar is only a 'fiat' currency backed up by nothing but the reputation and power of USA. If SDR replaces dollar, value of dollar will go down to a very low level and the USA will be unable to pay for its imports and to project its power all over the world.

The problem can be solved if there is a will to solve it, but that was lacking among the leaders of the G20 those who had gathered in London. To restore normalcy, it is essential to eliminate financial derivatives, the toxic features of the world financial market.

Most speculative activity can be eliminated by banning all trading of derivatives, options, future contracts, and secondary market for shares. IMF can be turned into a massive central bank of the world, the bank of last resort for all national central banks, what Keynes had suggested in 1945. However, to solve the massive unemployment and destruction of exports of most countries of the world, public investment planning, with managed trade regime, is required.

Instead of free trade with flexible exchange rates and the resultant speculation in the foreign currency market, there is a need to have the fixed exchange rate regimes as it used to be before 1972 to create stability in the financial market. Speculation in the foreign exchange market and the market for the derivatives or forecasts of future movements of the foreign currencies are the main causes of several bank failures in recent years.

During the last depression of 1930s, at least a million people were starved to slow death in the richest country USA alone, as described by John Steinbeck in his novels. During the current depression, there will be many millions of deaths due to deprivations and starvations caused by mass unemployment all over the world.

In the USA that gave birth to the global financial crisis and credit crunch, the government's finances have been driven to the brink of bankruptcy by vastly excessive military expenditures. The national debt of the US of nearly $10 trillion even before the onset of the global financial crisis is a reflection of that fiscal reality. There was no proposal before the G20 meeting for reductions in these wasteful American military expenditures.

Although American military might is needed to protect Asia from the expanding military power of China, if USA accepts a multi-polar world, reductions of tensions in other parts of the world would certainly provide USA more resources to contain both China and the jihadi terrorists.

(The writer is a professor in international economics, Nagasaki University, Japan)








What does the 'aam admi' in Pakistan think of the murder and mayhem committed, by 10 of his countrymen in Mumbai last year on November 26? The question is of vital importance if you really mean to understand the Pakistan government's evasive tactics when, presented with convincing evidence that the entire operation was planned by Pakistani nationals on Pakistani soil and executed by Pakistanis.

No government which pretends to represent the people of its country can afford to ignore public opinion.
To begin with, there was blank denial of any Pakistani being involved in the crime. It was tinged with apprehension that India may retaliate by carrying out similar operations in Pakistan and trigger off yet another mutually destructive Indo-Pak War.

When that fear proved baseless, it was replied by a sense of achievement, a feeling of pride that their countrymen could plan  and execute such a daring exploit with such finesse. Kasab's voluntary confession that he was involved in the crime and how it was carried out should have silenced all doubts about the identities of the perpetrators and their motives.

It did not. Even the fact that among the innocent victims over 40 were Muslims was brushed aside. The sense of false pride in performing a foul deed still persists.

Hafiz Mohammad Saeed is a later discovery. Our official spokesman refers to him as the "brains behind the conspiracy". I checked the allegation with a few Pakistani friends who have no anti-India bias and were in Delhi over Dasara. Though general opinion was that if there is one thing Hafiz Mohammad Saeed does not have are brains.  "He is a rabble-rouser," said one. "At the most he could, be a    fund-raiser, motivator or instigator, but not a planner."

There can be no doubt that there were many others in the conspiracy. However, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed has been accorded the status of a celebrity.   

There can be no other explanation of his present whereabouts. One day we are told he has been arrested, the next day that he is only under house arrest, the third day his lawyer professes over TV, radio and at a press conference that he is a free man.

What are we to believe? Whatever evidence we produce is discounted as 'half-baked'. In this atmosphere of mutual mistrust the prospects of an Indo-Pak dialogue ending in an agreement to punish criminals still at large in Pakistan and elsewhere appear to be dismal.

What I knew about Arunachal Pradesh could have written behind the proverbial postage stamp. I knew it is the easternmost part of India sharing a border with China which has never ceased coveting it. That is why our ex-C-in-C General J J Singh was appointed governor based in Itanagar. Its inhabitants were tribals of Mongloid origin who spoke different dialects. And some were Buddhists, some Christians some animists. That was all.

Now I know a lot more. And all due to a beautifully produced coffee-tabler by a beautiful Arunachali lady journalist Mamang Dai entitled 'Arunachal Pradesh: The Hidden Land' (Penguin). It is a kind of primer for those who want to discover the hidden land of densely afforested mountains, rivers, lakes teeming with a variety of birds, butterflies, animals and humans — a veritable museum in which you will find something you knew nothing about.

Maps, pictures and paintings help to imprint the information in one's mind. We owe it to ourselves to know more about a people we call our countrymen. Start with this book.


Indians number one

Three contractors are bidding to fix a broken fence at the White House, in Washington, DC — one from Bangladesh, another from China and the third one from India. They go with a White House official to examine the fence.

The Bangladesh contractor takes out a tape measure and does some measuring, then works some figures with a pencil. "Well," he says, "I figure the job will run about $900 — $400 for material, $400 for my team and $100 profit for me."

The Chinese contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then says, "I can do this job for $700 — $300 for material, $300 for my team and $100 profit for me."

The Indian contractor doesn't measure or figure, but leans over to the White House official and whispers, "$2,700." The official, incredulous, says, "You didn't even measure like the other guys! How did you come up with such a high figure?" The Indian contractor whispers back, "$1000 for me, $1000 for you, and we hire the guy from China to fix the fence."

"Done!" replies the White House official.

(Courtesy: Vipin Buckshey, New Delhi)









A catamaran ride is perhaps the closest you can get to the sea when you don't trust your swimming skills but are not content just standing on the beach. No protective depth of a regular boat in this 5th century invention. With just planks of wood tied together and a hollow interior, the next big wave threatens to toss you right into the sea.

At Kovalam beach, Nagappan assures us that he is a good swimmer, that his rubber wood Catamaran can safely carry six of us and points reassuringly to the life jackets. With the afternoon sun beating down on us we sail into the vast Arabian Sea. The silence is broken only by the rhythmic sound of rowing.

About 20 minutes into the ride we spot a fisherman diving to catch fish with bare hands. Some fishermen have caught fish as big as 20 kilos. Our enterprising guide manages to get a couple of 'mollusks' from the diver. Breaking the mollusks' shell against the catamaran's frame, he sprinkles the white eggs into water. A school of fish immediately appears from nowhere to gobble them up.

Even as we watch fascinated, Nagappan points out to tiny fish darting out for food in the distance. The water is still and clear enough to afford a view of the plant and animal life underneath. We spot some corals that are neither bright nor beautiful. The view of darting orange coloured fish, some as big as kitten, is marvellous though.

The catamaran now is steered away from the coast and we are in deep waters. The fishermen have stopped rowing and I wonder whether the catamaran has a mind of its own taking us where it wants to go. As it swings gently in the waters, we spot a motorboat and several fishing boats in the distance. This is one picture perfect moment, I think, even as I gently lower a leg each on either side of the catamaran and into the waters. I am at least 800 metres from the shores and I can still touch the Arabian Sea!

It is nearly 45 minutes since we started and we begin to row back. We see foreigners sunbathing and local boys racing each other and throwing themselves against the tides. As we reach the shores I ask Nagappan which is the best time for a catamaran ride. Learning that it is early morning, I promise myself a morning ride next time.









After working for a vending machine company for more than 20 years, James O'Connor was replaced with someone younger. He sued. He testified that his boss had disparaged older workers, including saying — two weeks before he was fired — "O'Connor, you are too damn old for this kind of work." A federal court was unmoved, ruling in 1995 that he had not connected the bigoted comments to his firing.


When two older supervisors at a light bulb company were fired and sued, their claim of age discrimination was denied. A federal appeals court ruled in 1994 that the statement by the company's vice president that "there comes a time when we have to make way for younger people" was "irrelevant." It was simply a "fact of life," the court said, with "no disparaging undertones."


Age discrimination is illegal. But when compared with discrimination against racial minorities and women, it is a second-class civil rights issue. The Supreme Court drove its inferiority home again in June of this year, ruling that older workers must show that age was the decisive factor in their firing — not merely a contributing factor, which can be enough for a race or sex claim.


Congress is considering overturning the ruling. It should do so. It is particularly important in the current downturn, with age discrimination complaints soaring. But the problem is larger than any one legal standard.


The nation has always treated age discrimination skeptically. In the early 1960s, many employers had policies against hiring workers over a certain age and mandatory retirement rules. Yet when Congress drafted the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it was reluctant to include age as a protected category. Instead, it directed the labor secretary to study the matter.


President Lyndon Johnson's labor secretary, Willard Wirtz, reported that there was substantial discrimination against older workers and that the nation was needlessly denying older people "opportunity for that useful activity which constitutes much of life's meaning."


Bolstered by Wirtz's report, in 1967 Congress passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. It used parallel language to the 1964 act, which should have guaranteed older Americans comparable rights to other groups. It has not worked out that way.


The courts have repeatedly thrown up barriers to age discrimination suits, long before the Supreme Court's June decision. In 1993, in one of its most damaging rulings, the court decided that if employers fire workers whose pension costs or salaries are high, they are not discriminating — even if the overwhelming number of people fired are older workers.


There are several possible reasons that age discrimination is not taken as seriously as other biases. Older workers are generally not victims of animosity, but rather of unfair stereotypes — that they work more slowly or do not adapt well to change.


Many people also seem to agree with the appeals court in the light bulb case: that unlike racism, which is inherently wrong, there is something natural about the old making way for the young. Never mind that with the Social Security retirement age rising, and pensions disappearing, many older Americans have no choice but to work.


As flawed as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act is, older people have fared even worse in constitutional law. The Supreme Court in 1976 rejected an equal protection challenge to Massachusetts's mandatory retirement age of 50 for state police officers.


The sole dissenter was Justice Thurgood Marshall, who had been a legendary litigator for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Older people, Justice Marshall said, are not in the same category as blacks when it comes to discrimination. They are not "isolated in society," he noted, and there are even laws according them special benefits.


Nevertheless, he said, older people are "undoubtedly discriminated against," and when a law "denies them an important benefit" — employment — there must be a better reason for it than Massachusetts was able to offer.


Justice Marshall was right.


To be rejected on account of old age may or may not feel the same as being rejected on the basis of race or sex. But it is clearly unjust and dehumanizing, and the law should take it more seriously than it does.







The Obama administration has worked hard, if somewhat episodically, to try to resolve the political crisis in Honduras. Last week, it looked as if the administration had pulled it off. The deal is now unraveling because of the obstinacy of Honduras's ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, and the man who ousted him, Roberto Micheletti. But we fear Washington also miscalculated that obstinacy.


The agreement was brokered by Costa Rica's president, Óscar Arias, with some strong last-minute arm-twisting from Washington. It was a good one. Mr. Zelaya would be allowed to finish out his term, which ends in January. But he would do nothing to try to hang on to power. He and the coup plotters would be granted amnesty for any previous misdeeds.


That would have been good for Honduras. And it would have sent a clear message to all of Latin America that coups are no longer tolerated. But when it came time to implement the deal, it began to fall apart.


The rival leaders were supposed to establish an interim unity government this week. When they could not agree on who would lead the cabinet, Mr. Zelaya refused to appoint any members and Mr. Micheletti formed a new government without the ousted president. The two men also had agreed that the Honduran Congress would be given the final decision about whether to reinstate Mr. Zelaya. But there was no deadline, allowing his opponents to delay a vote.


Mr. Micheletti always wanted to play out the string to get through presidential elections, scheduled for Nov. 29. The situation wasn't helped by the Republican members of the United States Congress who traveled earlier to Tegucigalpa to cheer on the coup makers. (They appear far more concerned about Mr. Zelaya's cozy relations with Venezuela's Hugo Chávez than democracy.)


We fear the Obama administration made things even worse by suggesting that it would recognize the results of the election even if the Honduran Congress decided against returning Mr. Zelaya, briefly, to office. We appreciate the administration's desire to encourage a Honduran solution. But that erased the most effective American leverage on the de facto government.


On Friday, the State Department sounded as if it had figured that out, warning that "failure to implement the accord could jeopardize recognition of the election by the international community." It needs to leave no doubt. It needs to send its negotiator, Thomas Shannon, an assistant secretary of state, back to Honduras to get the deal back on track. An election run by the coup plotters won't be credible to Hondurans — and it shouldn't be to anyone else.







Things turned Orwellian in the House Financial Services Committee this week when members — with the backing of the White House — passed an investor protection bill that would make it all too easy for thousands of publicly traded companies to cook their books.


While the bill offers investors important protections — including imposing a fiduciary duty on brokers who give investment advice — an amendment was added to permanently exempt smaller public companies (worth less than $75 million) from a post-Enron auditing requirement. It passed with votes from 28 of the committee's 29 Republicans (one was absent) and 9 Democrats. All clearly were more interested in pleasing corporate constituents than protecting investors who, last time we checked, are also constituents.


The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed after the Enron debacle, requires public companies to have independent auditors attest to the effectiveness of their internal controls against financial fraud. During the Bush years, the regulation-averse S.E.C. routinely exempted small public companies from the audit requirement, saying it was unduly burdensome. But research shows that the law has succeeded in reducing errors and fraud — a big plus for investors. And changes made in 2007 have made the audits less onerous for business.


For those reasons, the S.E.C.'s new chairwoman, Mary Schapiro, announced in September that the exemption would end in June. Unfortunately, the White House also appears to be more attuned to the concerns of corporate constituents than to the sensible S.E.C. chief, even though Mr. Obama chose her to run the agency. When the legislation comes up for a full vote in the House, members should strip it of this destructive amendment that only entrenches an antiregulatory policy of the Bush years.


We fear the problem — in Congress and with the White House — doesn't end with this one bill.


While President Obama and Democratic leaders say they are committed to more transparency and regulation over derivatives — the complex instruments that were at the heart of the financial crisis — they are supporting a dangerous exemption for big businesses in the derivative reform bill pending in the House. Another House bill to protect consumers of financial products has concessions for big and small banks alike. It appears that the administration will support those concessions, too.


Mr. Obama and his aides have said repeatedly that they are committed to closing the regulatory gaps that allowed the financial system to spin so dangerously out of control. They need to do a lot more.







It is always a shock — and a cause for deep sadness — when a gunman fires malevolently at crowds of innocent people. We have seen it far too often: at Columbine High School in Colorado a decade ago; on the campus of Virginia Tech two years ago; at a center for immigrants in upstate New York in April; and in downtown Orlando, Fla., where a gunman shot and killed one person and wounded five others on Friday.


Still, this week's rampage at the sprawling Fort Hood Army base in central Texas seems especially shocking.


On Thursday, an Army psychiatrist, clad in a military uniform, allegedly sprayed bullets inside a medical building, killing 13 people and wounding at least 30. The suspected gunman, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, has counseled scores of soldiers suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. His victims on Thursday were men and women who were preparing to deploy to the battle zones or had returned from there.


Even more shocking, they were attacked on a heavily guarded military installation within the United States where they surely must have felt secure.


In the aftermath of this unforgivable attack, it will be important to avoid drawing prejudicial conclusions from the fact that Major Hasan is an American Muslim whose parents came from the Middle East.


President Obama was right when he told Americans, "we don't know all the answers yet" and cautioned everyone against "jumping to conclusions."


Unverified reports, some from his family members, suggest that Major Hasan complained of harassment by fellow soldiers for being a Muslim, that he hoped to get out of a deployment to Afghanistan, that he sought a discharge from the Army and that he opposed the American military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. There were reports that some soldiers said they had heard him shout "God is Great" in Arabic before he started firing. But until investigations are complete, no one can begin to imagine what could possibly have motivated this latest appalling rampage.


There may never be an explanation. And, certainly, there can never be a justification.


For now, all that can be said is that our hearts go out to the families of the 12 soldiers and one civilian killed. And we are hoping for the fast recovery of all those who were wounded, including Kimberly Munley, a civilian police officer stationed at the base, who shot Major Hasan and ended the killing.


In a place of courage, she showed extraordinary courage.








What a difference a year makes.


In October 2008, the candidate Barack Obama delivered a major economic speech in Toledo, Ohio. In it he said: "Right now, we face an immediate economic emergency, and that requires urgent action. We can't wait to help workers and families and communities who are struggling right now — who don't know if their job or their retirement will be there tomorrow; who don't know if next week's paycheck will cover this month's bills. ... We need to pass an economic rescue plan for the middle-class, and we need to do it not five years from now, not next year, we need to do it right now.


"So today I'm proposing a number of steps that we should take immediately to stabilize our financial system, provide relief to families and communities and help struggling homeowners. It's a plan that begins with one word that's on everybody's mind, and it's easy to spell: J-O-B-S."


"Right now," "immediate economic emergency," "requires urgent action," "can't wait." Wow! He gave the impression that job creation would be his top priority, that action would be swift and effective, that his solutions would not only stanch the hemorrhaging, but reverse the trend.


Fast forward. On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released unemployment figures for October 2009. The official rate was 10.2 percent, up more than 50 percent from the time Obama gave that speech. Oops, nevermind.


(By the way, the underemployment rate, which includes part-time workers who want to work full time and those who've given up searching, is a staggering 17.5 percent.)


Job creation has dropped from top priority to one of many, and President Obama has been remanded to pandering for patience and offering excuses. On the one hand, he argues the tortured rationale that there is good news in the awful numbers: Things are still getting worse but at a slower pace. On the other, he incessantly reminds us that he inherited the crisis. The implication: Don't blame me, blame Bush.


But this president can't keep deflecting to the last one. Pain is presently felt. The crisis that took form on Bush's watch is being experienced on Obama's. Fair or not, finger-pointing is not effective policy.


This is now Obama's crisis, and it carries political consequences. During Tuesday's gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia, nearly 9 in 10 voters said that they were worried about the direction of the nation's economy in the next year. And the majority of those who held that view voted for the Republican candidates. This could portend a flashback to 1994.


It isn't President Obama's fault that he inherited this mess, but it is his to fix, and he must make haste. To paraphrase his Toledo prelection: you need to do it not five years from now, not next year, you need to do it right now. J-O-B-S.








The authorities will deal with Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who is accused of bringing the nightmare of mass murder into the sanctuary of a military base on American soil. But the rest of us need to look very closely at the stress beyond belief that is being endured by so many other men and women in the armed forces — men and women who are serving gallantly and with dignity, who have not taken out their frustrations on one another, and who deserve better from the broader society.


Simply stated, we cannot continue sending service members into combat for three tours, four tours, five tours and more without paying a horrendous price in terms of the psychological well-being of the troops and their families, and the overall readiness of the armed forces to protect the nation.


The breakdowns are already occurring and will only get worse as the months and years pass and we remain engaged in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. None of this is the military's fault. There have not been nearly enough people willing to serve in the all-volunteer armed forces to properly staff two wars that have already gone on for the better part of a decade.


I spent some time on the West Coast recently interviewing doctors and researchers studying the enormous problem of troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with some form of mental health disorder, most commonly depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, or P.T.S.D. The caseloads are off the charts, and very often the P.T.S.D. or depression (or both) are accompanied by substance abuse, problems with anger management, domestic violence and family breakdown.


These are not weak men and women we are talking about. This is the toll that the horror of combat, especially repeated doses of it, takes on people — even those who are young, physically fit and mentally sound.


"These invisible wounds of war are profound and relatively common," said Dr. Charles Marmar, a psychiatrist and one of the nation's leading experts on stress-related disorders. "Pound for pound, they may be more disabling than physical wounds. People often don't seek treatment for P.T.S.D. or depression or psychosis, and they are very disabling without proper treatment."


At the time I interviewed Dr. Marmar a few weeks ago, he was the chief of psychiatry at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in San Francisco and vice chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. He is to become chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at New York University on Dec. 1.


Both Dr. Marmar and a colleague at the medical center, Dr. Karen Seal, noted the link between multiple deployments and an increased risk of mental health problems. "We know there is a statistically significant association between having more than one deployment and P.T.S.D.," said Dr. Seal.


Dr. Marmar added, "The Department of Defense is losing people right now — war fighters are being disabled by P.T.S.D. every day."


The military has been trying to cope, but the challenge is enormous and there are significant institutional obstacles to overcome. Just last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke publicly about the widespread fear among military personnel that they will be stigmatized if they seek help for psychological problems. And he criticized the military and government bureaucracy for often complicating the efforts of individuals who are trying to get help.


The fallout from the mental health challenges facing America's fighting men and women is vast, and it descends most immediately on close relatives. We have laid an unconscionably heavy burden on the volunteers and their families. The wives, husbands, children and parents bleed emotionally right along with those who are sent into the war zones.


This small sliver of the overall U.S. population has carried the burden of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, mostly without complaint, for years. It's time to reassess what we're doing to them.


By the end of last summer, the Army was reporting the highest tallies of soldier suicides since accurate record-keeping began. We're getting saturation media coverage of Thursday's outburst of horror at Fort Hood, but we haven't heard a lot about the scores of suicides at that same base — the highest of any U.S. military installation — since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.


If we're going to fight wars as a nation, then we need to draw our warriors from a wider swath of the population and give them the full and complete support that they need and deserve. We'll no doubt be analyzing the twisted psychological state of Nidal Malik Hasan every which way from sundown. But we'll continue to give short shrift to the daily struggles and frequent horrors of the honorable men and women who have taken on the thankless task of fighting our wars.


This is not just shameful, it's unsustainable.








"EVERY day I was in Vietnam, I thought about home. And, every day I've been home, I've thought about Vietnam." So said one of the millions of soldiers who fought there as I did. Change the name of the battlefield and it could have been said by one of the American servicemen coming home from Iraq or Afghanistan today. Wars are not over when the shooting stops. They live on in the lives of those who fight them. That is the curse of the soldier. He never forgets.


While the authorities say they cannot yet tell us why an Army psychiatrist would go on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas, we do know the sorts of stories he had been dealing with as he tried to help those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan readjust to life outside the war zone. A soldier's mind can be just as dangerous to himself, and to those around him, as wars fought on traditional battlefields.


War is haunting. Death. Pain. Blood. Dismemberment. A buddy dying in your arms. Imagine trying to get over the memory of a bomb splitting a Humvee apart beneath your feet and taking your leg with it. The first time I saw the stilled bodies of American soldiers dead on the battlefield is as stark and brutal a memory as the one of the grenade that ripped off my right arm and both legs.


No, the soldier never forgets. But neither should the rest of us.


Veterans returning today represent the first real influx of combat-wounded soldiers in a generation. They are returning to a nation unprepared for what war does to the soul. Those new veterans will need all of our help. After America's wars, the used-up fighters are too often left to fend for themselves. Many of the hoboes in the Depression were veterans of World War I. When they came home, they were labeled shell-shocked and discharged from the Army too broken to make it during the economic cataclysm.


So it is again, with too many stories about veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan ending up unemployed and homeless. Figures from the Department of Veterans Affairs show that 131,000 of the nation's 24 million veterans are homeless each night, and about twice that many will spend part of this year homeless.


We know of the recent failures at Walter Reed Medical Center, where soldiers were stranded in substandard barracks infested with rats while awaiting treatment. I was in Walter Reed myself at that time seeking counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder, which, ignited by a barrage of Iraq headlines and the loss of my United States Senate seat, had simply consumed me.


I never saw it coming. Forty years after I had left the battlefield, my memories of death and wounding were suddenly as fresh and present as they had been in 1968. I thought I was past that. I learned that none of us are ever past it. Were it not for the surgeons and nurses at Walter Reed, I never would have survived those first months back from Vietnam. Were it not for the counselors there today, I do not think I would have survived what I've come to call my second Vietnam, the one that played out entirely in my mind.


When I was wounded, post-traumatic stress disorder did not officially exist. It was recognized as a legitimate illness only in 1978, during my tenure as head of the Veterans Administration under President Jimmy Carter. Today, it is not only recognized, but the Army and the V.A. know how to treat it. I can offer no better testament than my own recovery.


Weeks before the troubles at Walter Reed became public in 2007, my counselor put it to me simply. "We are drowning in war," she said. The problems at Walter Reed had nothing to do with the dedicated doctors and nurses there. The problems had to do with the White House and Congress and the Department of Defense. The problems had to do with money.


When we are at war, America spends billions on missiles, tanks, attack helicopters and such. But the wounded warriors who will never fight again tend to be put on the back burner.


This is inexcusable, and it comes with frightening moral costs. There are estimates that 35 percent of the soldiers who fought in Iraq will suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. I'm sure the numbers for Afghanistan are similar. Researchers have found that nearly half of those returning with the disorder have suicidal thoughts. Suicide among active-duty soldiers is on pace to hit a record total this year. More than 1.7 million soldiers have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Imagine that some 600,000 of them will have crippling memories, trapped in a vivid and horrible past from which they can't seem to escape.


We have a family Army today, unlike the Army seen in any generation before. We have fought these wars with the Reserves and the National Guard. Fathers, mothers, soccer coaches and teachers are the soldiers coming home. Whether they like it or not, they will bring their war experiences home to their families and communities.


In his poem "The Dead Young Soldiers," Archibald MacLeish, whose younger brother died in World War I, has the soldiers in the poem tell us:"We leave you our deaths. Give them their meaning." Until we help our returning soldiers get their lives back when they come home, the promise of restoring that meaning will go unfulfilled.


Max Cleland, the secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission, was a Democratic senator from Georgia from 1997 to 2003. He is the author, with Ben Raines, of "Heart of a Patriot: How I Found the Courage to Survive Vietnam, Walter Reed and Karl Rove."








Here we are at the big Health Care Bill Weekend! The House of Representatives is actually getting ready to vote on legislation. How long has this been in the works, anyway? Was "Mad Men" on TV when the debate started? Had TV been invented?


On the eve of the big vote, leaders admitted that things could stretch into next week. But no later than Tuesday. Unless something else happens. Rome wasn't built in a day.


Anyhow, we concerned citizens need to decide exactly what we're rooting for. Public option? Which one? How much would you care if there were none at all? For some people, a health care bill without a public option is like a car without an engine. For others — including some members of the Obama administration — it's more like a car without a hood ornament.


Everything was thrown into an uproar by this week's elections, when people in Virginia and New Jersey voted down a deeply unpopular Democratic governor and a deeply incompetent Democratic would-be governor. This has been interpreted as a sign that the much-beloved independent voter thinks Obama is not doing enough, and also too much.


Congress is panicking! This happens quite a bit, but right now they're behaving like a herd of overly caffeinated cattle that missed the last train connection.


Meanwhile, there's nothing but confidence and serenity among the right-wing tea-party types. They cannot get over the triumph in upstate New York, where thanks to their really extraordinary efforts, a completely safe Republican seat went to the Democrats. Think how far their movement has come! Only a few months ago, they barely had the power to disrupt a town meeting. And soon they will be able to destroy anything in their path, including their own party, like conservative locusts.


The tea-party folk were back in Washington at the end of the week for a rally against the health care bill called by Representative Michele Bachmann, Washington's newest Famous Strange Person. Their extreme enthusiasm and cheer was truly awesome.


Representative Todd Akin of Missouri led the rally in the Pledge of Allegiance — noting that the part about "one nation under God" always "drives the liberals crazy." Then he promptly forgot the rest of the words. In most hyperpatriotic groups, the inability of a Congressman to remember that this is one nation indivisible might be a downer. But the crowd responded like a troop of pumped-up motivational speakers.


"Great job!" someone cried without the least trace of cynicism.


"That was awesome, Todd!" yelled someone else.


You cannot totally dislike a group with that kind of team spirit, so I hope those were not the exact same people carrying the sign that equated the health care bill with the Holocaust.


There was something sort of touching, in an eerie, slightly disturbing way, when John Ratzenberger — the guy who once played the mailman on "Cheers" — told the crowd that the health care bill advocates were "Woodstock Democrats" like Abbie Hoffman and Wavy Gravy. The crowd seemed on the old side, but is it really possible that any of them are still worrying about Abbie Hoffman? That any of them knew who Wavy Gravy is? Wasn't his main claim to fame giving out free granola? Is this a problem we need to deal with at the present moment?


But I digress, sort of. If the health care vote happens this weekend, perhaps you will want to flip back and forth between the football games. Try to picture Minority Leader John Boehner as an overage cheerleader with a strange-colored tan.


A while back, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was promising that the House bill would have a "robust" public option that would have offered real competition to the insurance companies, thus driving costs down. But then Pelosi was faced with a mini-rebellion from red state Democrats who were terrified by the news of Republican victories in races having nothing whatsoever to do with Barack Obama, Congress or health care, and she modified the plan.


Now it's a nonrobust option, sort of like decaf instant coffee. And even if it passes, the bill will go to the Senate where everybody is embroiled in an argument over whether the public option should involve a trigger, as Olympia Snowe urges, or an opt-out, which Majority Leader Harry Reid is peddling, or be eliminated altogether so the red state Democrats are pacified and Joe Lieberman does not go through with his threat to filibuster.


Although Lieberman is no longer a Democrat and backed John McCain in the last election, his former party did let him hang around and keep his important committee chairmanship. Supporting an attempt to kill the Democrats' most important piece of legislation through a parliamentary procedure would be a tad churlish. But there we are.


The health care bill has a lot to recommend it anyway, but if you're a public option fan, where do you draw the line?


Personally, in these moments of crisis, I generally recommend looking to see where Joe Lieberman is going.

Then head the other way.








Suddenly the PPP whose prime minister was elected unanimously by parliament just over 19 months ago finds itself desperately short of friends. In a move that may deliver the PPP a very big blow, the MQM has warned that it could reconsider remaining a part of the setup. The party's leader, in a typically fiery address to a rally in Skardu, has stressed that for him principle is more important than the NRO. It is not quite clear when this turnaround came about, given that initially the MQM had not seemed too concerned over the moral dilemmas the law posed, but the stance taken now puts President Zardari in what is an extremely tight spot indeed. It is this that has compelled him to take rather desperate measures and find some way of retaining the NRO and the protection it offers. For all the government's brave words about revealing the full list of NRO beneficiaries and the denial by several politicians that they are among these, Mr Zardari and his aides are obviously acutely concerned about what an environment stripped of the NRO could bring. Legal opinion varies, but many experts agree that at least some cases against the president and others could be reopened. The idea of the ball being thrown to the courts may not go down with the presidency either.

It is possibly for these reasons that some kind of last ditch effort seems to be on to find friends. The meeting between the president and side-lined PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan is just one manifestation of this. Mr Ahsan has reportedly been offered the post of attorney general or Punjab governor. Perhaps by bringing a respected leader of the lawyers' movement back to the PPP fold, Mr Zardari hopes to regain goodwill and end the state of isolation he finds himself in, with many members of his own party increasingly disgruntled. But the going will not be easy. The chorus of voices demanding the repeal of the 17th Amendment and the undoing of Article 58(2)(B) is rising. The president will almost inevitably find himself a toothless figure, even if he can retain his place at the presidency. The MQM will of course play a key role in this. It is one the party of Altaf Hussain is not unfamiliar with. One question is if its showdown with the president is prompted by other, behind-the-scene players who may be playing a part in the political soap opera that we now see unfolding before our eyes.







In less than a month, the third attack on a senior military officer has taken place in Islamabad. A brigadier and his driver were injured when their vehicle was fired upon. We all know why military personnel are being targeted. Militants, possibly in an act of desperation, are quite obviously eager to seek revenge for the operation in South Waziristan. The audacious assault on the GHQ at the end of October showed how far they are willing to go for this. The fact that they see such attacks as a way of making their point indicates too that they now see this as the only way of striking back. Perhaps they know they cannot hang on to their citadels in the north much longer.

But there are also other points to consider. Each of the attacks has apparently been backed by rock solid intelligence. The gunmen seemed to know precisely when and along what route their victims would travel. This also holds true of some attempts to strike down ministers or other key figures. One wonders where the information comes from, or why the militants seem to have such ready access to it. There have over the past weeks been whispers of insiders within the security setup who may have militant sympathies. Schools have been warned about attempts at entry by persons in police uniform – either genuine or fake. Others suggest the Taliban may be receiving tipoffs from people in key places. The nexus which has existed in the past between these elements and segments in the establishment builds suspicion and makes this more likely. These allegations need to be investigated in detail and measures taken against anyone suspected of aiding persons out to destroy the state of Pakistan. There should also be a review of security for senior military men. Some have been accompanied by gunmen, but this has not always been enough to save them. The training, preparedness and motivation of security men must urgently be reviewed. Expert help may be needed to upgrade it and enhance skills. The situation we live in now is of course quite different to that which has existed at any time in our past. We have already made adjustments to it. But perhaps more needs to be done to protect those who have become the new targets and by doing so further neutralize the militants who are already on the run in South Waziristan and other territories.







Another academic, a professor at the University of Balochistan, has fallen to the bullets of nationalist gunmen. There is as yet no clear picture as to why he was targeted, but with the shadowy Balochistan Liberation Army taking responsibility, it is possible that as in the past the motive was ethnic. The tragic killing of course once more draws attention to the issues of Balochistan. The ethnic fires that burn within its cities and towns are fierce. They have the potential to cause a far bigger blaze and result in a still greater disaster. The province houses a large population of Pashtuns, of Hazaras and also of settlers from other areas who have lived in Balochistan for generations. Friction between them would bring violence that may prove impossible to control. It has indeed been building up for some time.

To be fair to the government, there have been some recent efforts to address the issues of Balochistan. The building of cantonments has been stopped and gas loadshedding to be put in place elsewhere in the country is not to be extended to the gas-producing areas of the province. These are good steps. But they are tiny, tentative ones. Far more wide-ranging measures are needed to make any genuine headway in the country's largest province and prevent the growing violence we see within it from spiralling out of control.







Hillary Clinton's recently concluded visit to Pakistan, her first as secretary of state, has been hailed as a charm offensive. But behind the façade of the sweet talk the iron fist of US imperial might was plainly obvious. The astute politician that she is, Ms Clinton charmed her hosts and impressed her audiences with her candour while remaining strictly on message. In sharp contrast to Mr Zardari and Mian Nawaz Sahrif, who prefer to remain ensconced in their respective ivory towers in the name of security, she shamed her hosts by visiting and meeting all sections of Pakistani society which matter for the US.

Virtually all issues under the ambit of Pakistan-US relations came under discussion during her three-day visit, which took place at a time when the Pakistani state is seriously threatened from within by the worst kind of terrorism in its history. Wherever she went, members of Pakistan's civil society, whether journalists, TV anchorpersons or students, did not shy away from being candid and frank in their discourse. Ms Clinton tried to calm down the resentment in some quarters about the contentious language used in the Kerry Lugar Bill by admitting that better language could have been used.

She made it plain, at the same time, that if the people of Pakistan did not wish to receive $7.5 billion in the next five years as purely development assistance, it was entirely their call. However, Ms Clinton defended the contents of the Bill which purports supporting democratic institutions by espousing the principle of civilian control over the armed forces and placing restrictions on Islamabad's nuclear programme, despite the stated reservations of the Army.

It is another matter whether merely words of support for democracy by the US can save a fragile democratic system or not. It could not when Mian Shahbaz Sharif, in the twilight of the Nawaz Sharif government in 1999, managed to extract from the Clinton administration a supportive statement for democracy and against extra-constitutional change. Within the next two months, Musharraf ousted Nawaz.

This does not mean that the present government is under an imminent threat from the Army, or that its chief, Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, is planning something against the government a la Musharraf. But by all accounts, relations between Mr Zardari and the military top brass, if not actually strained, are not running smooth. The ISPR press release expressing reservations of the corps commanders on the Kerry Lugar Bill was only one manifestation of that.

The military and the ISI's reservations about our ambassador in Washington, Mr Hussain Haqqani, are no secret. He is credited or discredited for the unusually cosy relations between the US administration and Mr Zardari. Even the controversial clauses of the Kerry Lugar Bill are on his watch. The ISI is not happy with him, as it perceives that he orchestrated the negative campaign against the agency in the US media.

Whatever the truth behind allegations against the maverick Haqqani, he seems to be a successful ambassador who is serving his boss well. And Mr Zardari is not quite about to sack him, despite rumours to the contrary.

In this context battle lines in Islamabad are quite clearly drawn and that made the timing of Ms Clinton's visit even more ominous. It is quite obvious that the ruling PPP led coalition has put all its eggs in the US basket. The body language and the effusive speeches made at the head-of-state-level banquet by President Zardari for the US secretary of state said it all.

Ms Clinton called on the Sharif brothers as well, but stopped short of visiting them at their Raiwind estate. Nawaz Sharif has had a good rapport with the Clintons since he dashed to Washington on July 4, 1999, and met President Bill Clinton to provide a fig leaf to the Pakistani Army to withdraw from the Kargil heights. Later on Clinton, intervened with Musharraf to spare Nawaz Sharif's life, by persuading the strongman to send him to exile in Saudi Arabia.

Despite some of the reports in the media, Nawaz seemed quite amenable with the US goals in the meeting. Leader of the opposition Chaudhry Nisar's subdued praise for Ms Clinton in the meeting with parliamentarians the next day further buttressed this impression.

Nevertheless, the PML-N by all accounts is perceived by the US as tilting towards the Islamist parties, and hence not trustworthy. Although Mian Nawaz Sharif's views on relations with India and civilian control over the armed forces in essence do not differ from those of the present PPP lot, he sees his vote bank closer to the more conservative sections of the society, most of them, although not necessarily pro-Taliban, certainly against the US. This stance of hunting with the hounds and running with the hares seem to be working for the PML-N, as is evident from a recent IRI poll which gives Nawaz and his policies a clear edge over Mr Zardari.

The much-hyped meeting between Mr Zardari and Mian Nawaz Sharif just a few days before Ms Clinton arrived in Islamabad was the subject of much speculation in the media. According to one account it was the recent luncheon meeting with Mian Nawaz and Shahbaz in which the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen John Kerry, persuaded the PML-N supremo to accept Mr Zardari's invitation.

Although nothing was decided at the meeting, it did convey a strong message. Despite their obvious differences on most issues and the trust deficit between the two, thanks to Mr Zardari's reneging on his commitments, Mian Nawaz Sharif is not going to lend his support to rocking the system. After his uneasy relations with virtually all Army chiefs, Mian Sahib has worked with as prime minister, he seems to be firm in his belief that the Army should be kept strictly off limits from playing politics, to the extent of publicly snubbing his brother Shahbaz and leader of the opposition Chaudhry Nisar for their meeting Gen Kayani.

The most interesting leg of Ms Clinton's visit was her three-hour meeting with Gen Kayani and ISI chief Gen Shuja Pasha. While patting the brass on the back for its current operation in South Waziristan and the successfully completed Swat operation, it is stating the obvious that Ms Clinton repeated the US mantra to the Pakistan Army to "do more."

According to the Army's own account, the operation in South Waziristan should be successfully over in the next ten days. But the US wants the Army to take the operation beyond into North Waziristan to nab Al Qaeda's real leaders. Ms Clinton did not mince words that the Al Qaeda leadership was in Pakistan, and, in her meeting with journalists, clearly hinted that the military was not serious in pursuing Al Qaeda. She also underscored the oft-stated US policy that Pakistan should mend its relations with India. According to her, an India-Pakistan detente will bring phenomenal economic dividends for Pakistan.

The US wants Islamabad to revise its strategic paradigm by shifting the emphasis from its eastern borders to the western, and to no longer consider India as its enemy. The Army perceives the Taliban and Al Qaeda as a short-term problem for the US, and sees it leaving the mess behind once its strategic goals are met. Despite fighting the Taliban, at a heavy cost, it is reluctant to do the US bidding. Nor is it willing to abandon the distinction between the so-called good and bad Taliban.

Ms Clinton refused to be drawn into the subject of the US playing a mediatory role between India and Pakistan. Nor did she take note of Islamabad's perception that New Delhi is actively fomenting trouble in Balochistan. Similarly, the abetting of terrorism by the Indian intelligence apparatus on the Pakistani-Afghan border through Indian consulates and front companies did not cut much ice with her. She merely promised quiet diplomacy with India, rather than the US playing an upfront role.

The writer is a former newspaper editor. Email:







Mr Zardari believed, when no one else did, that he could stop the restoration of the chief justice, and that he could have the NRO passed and live to tell the tale. Mr Zardari seems to have forgotten that though he inherited Benazir's party and supporters, he did not inherit their love for her. The fact is that Mr Zardari was never a serious political figure. Nor could he become one on borrowed laurels. The PPP under him may not be politically dead, but it is brain dead.

It is said that Mr Zardari, a fighter, will not quit. That may be true. However, he would be well advised to do so. Popularity can be reclaimed, but respect, never. In Mr Zardari's case, the point of no return was crossed earlier this week when the move to table the NRO floundered.

There are many reasons why Mr Zardari should depart voluntarily. To begin with, it would enable the PPP to elect another leader, even if his job will be to keep the seat warm for Bilawal who, one suspects, would prefer to be elected rather than inherit his post. An elected leader would carry far more respect within the party.

More importantly, Pakistan would be spared the political crisis that now seems inevitable. The impending turmoil not only threatens to divert public and army attention from the task at hand, but it also destroy prospects of a united stand which is the need of the hour as Pakistan confronts perhaps the most grievous challenge to its existence.

With the prospect of yet another Sindhi leader forced out of office prematurely, provincialism, never far below the surface in our society, may raise its ugly head. The courts too may find themselves pitted against a segment of the people. Equally, the administration of the state, shoddy and incompetent as it is, will become more so as the bureaucracy senses that there is no firm hand at the helm. And the armed forces, keen to remain formally outside the fray, will likely be involved, to a far more visible extent than they are already, if the crisis were to take a turn for the worse, or become violent.

Externally, too, the fragile nature of the present dispensation is a cause for concern and the likelihood that instability will increase, as the chorus for Mr Zardari's departure grows, will make it infinitely more so. It is no secret that donor countries and the Friends of Pakistan have reservations about the ability of the present setup to use assistance productively and responsibly. The fact is that pledges made are not forthcoming; nor has the IMF given the all-clear as yet. On the other hand, Mr Zardari's departure may well be regarded as a positive development leading to better governance. Anyway, how could it be worse?

However cooperative and pliable Mr Zardari has been, Washington cannot afford to be associated with leaders in both Islamabad and Kabul whose unpopularity among their own people has reached iconic dimensions. The Americans have been trying desperately to dispel the impression that Mr Zardari, as much as Mr Karzai, owes his job to America. Hence, any interference by Washington to ensure that they retain their posts will undermine these efforts. Noticeably, the Americans have gone out of their way to ensure that they remain on good terms with the likely successors of Messrs Zardari and Karzai. Traipsing off to Raiwind every so often for visiting Americans did have a purpose, after all.

It has been said that India too wishes to have a stronger partner than Mr Zardari before it will re-engage. However, in view of Indian machinations to keep the pot of insurgency boiling by pouring in arms and funds, such a claim can be discounted. Few believe any longer that India ever had such an intention, and that the departure or presence of Mr Zardari makes a difference.

Defenders of the status quo, which mostly means those who want to hang on to their jobs, aver that the government should be allowed to complete its term; and, of course, it should, unless there is a constitutional method by which it is cut short. Mr Zardari, for example, may discover that his party's government does not have the votes to win a vote of confidence in parliament. But because that would enable him to stay on while Mr Gilani takes the rap for his miscalculations, it won't work. Moreover, Mr Gilani, who fancies himself and his own prospects, is willing to be neither a scapegoat nor a martyr. Anyway, how would his departure help the PPP to remain in power?

Fate or destiny, whatever one may wish to call it, has taken Mr Zardari far. About him, more than anyone else in Pakistan's political life, it can be said that he was a man who believed that in life there is no security, only opportunity, which he grasped with both hands. Once again he has an opportunity, this time to let go the office that he had earlier seized so cleverly, and earn the grudging respect of his nation by ensuring that "Pakistan khappe." As Mr Zardari reflects on his choices one can suggest to him the thoughts of a great Roman emperor (Marcus Aurelius) who said: "Everything that happens, happens as it should; and if you observe carefully, you will find this to be so."

The writer is a former ambassador. Email:







The emotional turmoil, which the nation was going through over the fate of ethical standards in accountability norms and the threat of the widening gulf between justice and law, appear to be easing with indications by the government that it will not seek validation of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) through parliament. With this decision, the NRO will stand repealed on the expiry of a period of four months from July 31, 2009 -- the date of the short order of the Supreme Court (SC) in which the November 3, 2007 proclamation of emergency and related PCO was declared void ab initio. The decision will be a positive step indeed and can help in fostering a positive environment for the establishment of an accountability framework within the country. It must be recognised, however, that although necessary, this is not a sufficient step to overcome the myriad of challenges that stand in the way of developing a legal, policy, and institutional framework for mainstreaming accountability in governance.

Before these challenges and the opportunities are discussed, two things about the NRO must be appreciated. First, the decision of parliament is, in a way, irrelevant with respect to the individuals who were eligible to derive benefit from the NRO, as benefits acquired, accrued, or incurred under the ordinance during the first four months of is validity have already been derived. The repeal of a law does not, according to the Constitution's Article 264 "affect any right, privilege, obligation or liability acquired, accrued or incurred under the law." Secondly, it is also apparent that by not declaring "the NRO void ab initio for being ultra vires of the Constitution," as explained by a legal expert in these columns on October 26, and by referring the matter to parliament, the Supreme Court -- the two pending petitions notwithstanding -- has refrained from ruling on its legal validity. If the SC had held that the law was invalid, the outcomes would have been different altogether. What's done is done. It is time to chart the way forward.

In the aftermath of the NRO, therefore, it is critical that we look beyond the highly charged personalised discussions to draw lessons from a systemic controversy and use insights to develop an accountability framework -- one in which safeguards are built against the chances of exploitation in the future. This is also an opportune time to do so. The accountability statute is currently under review by the Parliamentary Committee on Law and Justice. Although the government has not heeded to its earlier recommendations, a case can still be made for modifying the bill.

The new bill titled Holders of Public Offices Act 2009 (HOPA) would, if enacted, repeal the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) and replace the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) with an Accountability Commission (AC).

It is critical that we take stock of the weaknesses of the envisaged legal and institutional framework to be established under HOPA. In this regard a careful analysis of the characteristics of the NRO beneficiaries, the pattern and specifics of cases that were withdrawn, and nature of penalties bypassed can be instructive as the new law must bring these within its purview. A review of covenants in the bill conversely indicates that this hasn't been the case so far.

A range of public functionaries and members of private financial institutions and not just holders of political office benefited from the NRO. But paradoxically, the definition of holder of public office in the Bill has been restricted to holders of political office. For the latter category, the definition of corruption has been made more restrictive by excluding "owning unaccounted for property disproportionate to ones means, misuse of authority, and the granting of concessions for one's own benefit." While it is recognised that these areas can be easily exploited for political victimisation, it is also precisely in these areas where corruption and misuse of public office becomes pervasive.

The prerogatives of the new AC are also being curtailed in the same vein. It will have limited investigative powers with a limitation period upon prosecution as opposed to NAB, which is more comprehensively empowered. Limitations imposed on the AC relate in particular to its powers to seek information during an investigation both in Pakistan and abroad, its powers to freeze and seize assets during investigations and its powers to arrest. Penalties have also been reduced -- the disqualification period in relation to public office has been reduced from 21 years to five years and an avenue is being created for those that return misappropriated assets, as they will deem automatically acquitted under the new law. HOPA also absolves banks of their responsibility to report suspicious transactions. There are inherent difficulties with regard to conviction for graft, given that corruption does not leave a paper trail. With limited scope, restricted prerogatives and milder penalties under the new framework, it will be even more difficult to do so in the future.

Rather than using the NRO insights to strengthen the accountability framework, it appears that flexibilities are being introduced into the legal framework. The natural assumption is that this is being done to facilitate collusive behaviour. However, there may also be other reasons. For one, the long-term negative impact of the legal framework on accountability as a governance norm may not be fully appreciated. If that is the case, the importance of analyses being offered on the subject must be heeded to in all earnestness. The other reason could relate to the fear of political victimisation. After all, most instruments and institutions of accountability, which could offer potential, have been sacrificed at the altar of personal vendettas and political exploitation in the past. The many criticisms targeted at NAB, for instance, were not a result of inherent structural weaknesses in the design of the institution that couldn't be remedied, but due to systematic manoeuvring for achieving political objectives. The answer to this problem is not in cutting back on prerogatives, but in structuring impartial oversight, independence in governance and openness in disclosure. Unfortunately, the AC's current design doesn't draw on the strengths of these attributes.

The prerogatives of the chairman are illustrative in this regard. Under the new AC, an inquiry can only proceed with a go-ahead with the chairman and/or his designate --clearly a few individuals can fall prey to capture by Pakistan elite-dominated political dispensation. The opportunity to foster participatory governance has been missed in the new statue and needs to mainstream.

The bill in its present form, will not only restrict the scope and remit of accountability, it will also alter its current institutional configuration. NAB represented the model of a single multi-purpose independent agency. A model which has proved to be successful in many Asian countries where the attributes of governance referred to earlier have cascaded in institutional designs. In the model of accountability governance being instituted through HOPA, accountability and responsibility for corruption will be assigned to various agencies -- FIA, police, AC and session courts and criminal laws set out in the PPC will serve as the legal framework for cases of corruption, which fall outside of the jurisdiction of HOPA. Clearly, reform of a single agency is a lot more feasible than systemic changes in many crumbling institutions.

Accountability as a core attribute of governance is dependent critically on the governance of an accountability framework. We must not lose the opportunity to structure that in a robust design.

The writer is founding-president of Heartfile. Email:







The points that Ayaz Wazir (Oct 30) raised in response to my article (Oct 26) endorsed some of the arguments that I have been making in these pages -- i.e., the previous military operations in Waziristan were not targeted and the leadership of the Taliban terrorists was tacitly given safe passages to escape. The operations ended with suspicious "peace deals" with the terrorists in complete disregard to the people of Waziristan, who wished complete elimination of the Taliban. All this has been stage-managed in pursuit of foreign-policy goals in Afghanistan.

I have a comment on Ayaz Wazir's article, and an explanation. The comment is about the questions he raised. Who was responsible for the collapse of the three institutions around which the tribal system revolved? Was it done by the tribesmen themselves? Was it done by a foreign power or non-state actors within the country? Who elevated Nek Mohammad overnight to heights of popularity by entering into a deal with him? Who was threatening Waziristan's Yargulkhail tribe of dire consequences? It certainly was not the tribesmen to be blamed for the collapse of the system.

The time to pose these questions is gone. I would request the educated people of Waziristan to name those who engineered creation of the Taliban and imposed them on Waziristan. Privately, the people of Waziristan (and Pakhtuns in general) hold state elements responsible for that. Publicly, they do not speak out.

Coming to the explanation regarding my comparison between the educated people of Swat and Waziristan, the latter may not be as integrated in the state structure of Pakistan as Swat, but most educated people of Waziristan are just as integrated in the state and society of Pakistan as those of Swat. It is unlikely that lack of integration of Waziristan might have prevented them from doing what the educated people of Swat did: use of modern technological tools and interaction with the media to highlight the brutal Taliban occupation of Swat.

When the crisis started in Swat, many Swatis created blogs and constantly informed the world about Taliban atrocities in their area. Many composed poetry and songs about the human sufferings there, and put them on YouTube. Countless Swatis were in constant contact with media people and op-ed writers, including myself. They sent us information which they wished to be presented in the media. They were complete strangers. I often cross-checked their information with my sources in Swat and mostly, their information was correct. This is something that I have not seen coming from the educated people of Waziristan.

The Swatis made a world impact in a shorter time than Waziristanis: many people around the world came to know that the people of Swat were suffering Taliban atrocities. Many Swatis worked with fake names and identities, since there was no need to show bravado, given the security situation.

Because the educated people of Waziristan are silent, people around the world and in Pakistan have provided their own answers to questions like those raised by Ayaz Wazir. The answers are not only baseless but also ridiculous. Bizarre ideas have been attributed to the people of Waziristan by writers in western countries, who, in the words of a cynical Pakhtun, are engaged in "Google scholarship" to understand Waziristan. This means they Google Waziristan and write a whole book or research papers on the area. They hardly care to crosscheck their Google knowledge with the ground realities of Waziristan, an area not accessible for independent scholarly and journalistic investigation due to the security situation. The "Google scholars" hardly pay any attention to research ethics when attributing notions to people and culture of Waziristan. They could never assign such bizarre ideas to people in western countries with the same ease with which they do in the case of the people of Waziristan, because in the west research ethics applies to researchers. Who cares about research ethics when it comes to the people and culture of Waziristan.


The other group of people who spread lies about Waziristan are armchair analysts, and pro-establishment and right-wing journalists and writers in Pakistan. The lies and the Google-scholarly notions are: the tribes of Waziristan back the Taliban, actually the tribes are the Taliban, the tribes have given refuge to Al Qaeda terrorists under the tribal code of Pakhtunwali, Talibanisation in Waziristan is a reaction to US drone attacks in the area, the Taliban are Pakhtun nationalists, Talibanisation is an indigenous movement for social justice, the people of Waziristan are attacking Pakistan because the state is seen as siding with the US, the people of Waziristan are fiercely autonomous and abhor integration in a modern state structure, etc. Most books, research and news reports about Waziristan perpetuate such hilarious and baseless nations about the people and culture there.

Both Google scholars in the western countries and pro-establishment right-wingers of Pakistan have misinformed and misled the public about Waziristan in Pakistan and abroad. They both promote their careers by writing such literature and attending conferences about Waziristan and thus make money out of the sufferings of the people of this tortured land. Whose responsibility is it challenge this all? I have not seen educated people of Waziristan questioning this situation with facts of history and the current realities of the area.

The educated people of Waziristan should give a strong rebuttal to such writers in the west and in Pakistan. I wish to remind them that freedom is never given for free. One has to fight for it. They too have to fight for the freedom of their native land from not just the Taliban but also from the Google scholars and Pakistani right-wingers.

The writer is a research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Research, University of Oslo, and a member of Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy. Email: bergen34@







The federal and provincial governments in Pakistan refuse to evolve a policy on whether the schools should remain open or closed in face of savage acts of terrorism. This refusal amounts to dereliction of duty because it springs not merely from incompetence or the inability to address a menacing threat but a considered resolve of leaders holding the tillers of our state to relinquish responsibility for the security of citizens.

Amidst the severest security crisis afflicting this country our government is electing to disavow the conceptual foundation upon which the social contract between the citizen and the state is structured. Even before the concept of the modern nation-state evolved, the relationship between the sovereign and his subjects was rooted in the understanding that the subjects will submit to the authority of the sovereign and pay taxes in return for being provided safety and security.

The Constitution of Pakistan states that the right to life and liberty is a fundamental right of all citizens and protecting it is the paramount obligation of the state. Yet, after the suicide attack at the International Islamic University, our look-busy-do-nothing security czar Rehman Malik audaciously declared that the university was responsible for the attack, as its security lapse had made the bombing possible.

The chief minister of Punjab reportedly stated recently that private schools earn enough through fees to be able to cater for their own security. Does Shahbaz Sharif not understand that the right to security and the state's obligation to provide it is not contingent on whether the citizen is indigent or wealthy? Has he conceived an amended concept of the right to security whereby the state will not attempt to protect those who have the financial muscle to fend for themselves?

And what amount of security will be enough? Schools have been asked to raise their boundary walls, place barriers in front of gates, install closed-circuit TV cameras, form bunkers in front of their buildings, multiply the number of armed guards, acquire metal friskers and also install pass-through metal gates for students and staff.

The need for some of these measures, such as pass-through gates, defies logic. The threat, after all, is not from students or staff smuggling in weapons or bombs, but terrorists breaking into the school with use of force, taking students hostage or blowing themselves up. But the more disconcerting fact is not the thoughtless demand for an indiscriminate assortment of security measures, but that the government is neither taking responsibility for security of schools once its instructions have been complied with, nor taking such measures in public schools itself.

The issue of closure of schools highlights three related issues: our lopsided priorities and the government's crass indifferences to its legal obligations; our failure to contrive a national strategy to fight this war now raging in Waziristan and our cities alike; and the failure of our leaders to inject hope and courage in this nation stunned by terror.

Is it not shocking that despite the threat to educational institutions and the intelligence available in this regard, we do not have a federal or provincial policy on how to secure our schools? The government has essentially left it to the schools to decide whether to keep shut or open up at their own risk and cost. The security challenge confronting the state and this nation is indeed acute. It is understandable that even with the best precautionary measures in place a grave tragedy might still afflict an educational establishment. The government can thus not force parents to send their children to schools.

But by taking responsibility and coming up with a sensible security policy for schools, the government can ensure that those who have the resolve to continue to live a normal life in these extraordinary times have the ability to do so.

How does a father explain to his eight-year-old that there is a war underway that requires kids to be shut down in the house while life goes on as usual for the adults? Why is protecting continuity of education together with the spirit, morale and future of our next generation not our topmost priority? If this is a war that is likely to linger for a while, how long can we keep our children huddled? Could there be a more effective way for the terrorists to ensure that fear touches the lives and spirit of each and every house in Pakistan? Only if our political and thought leaders had the ability and prudence to give this nation direction, we have no dearth of courage and resolve to weather the kind of tempest erupting in our midst.

But such direction can only result from a sense of purpose braced by a sense of urgency. No one is proposing juvenile recklessness in face of genuine security threats. But how does a nation prepare itself to fight a protracted battle against human bombs programmed to attack the softest civilian targets as a strategy to push their extremist agenda? We cannot undo history and the mistakes that Pakistan has made as a state to come to this sorry pass. And inevitably many valuable and innocent lives will be lost before we are able to control this menace. But, meanwhile, are we going to cripple our lives voluntarily and instruct our impressionable youth that timidity is the best response to aggression and bullying?

In the aftermath of the GHQ attack, our government functionaries have found another perennial excuse: the state is helpless against terrorists. This cannot be acceptable. Where is the grand plan to secure our cities, towns and citizens? There has been a mushrooming of private security agencies (which creates problems of its own, especially in a country like ours with no effective legal and regulatory structure to control and manage mercenaries).

But why have we not heard of a comprehensive plan to rejuvenate, raise, equip and train an effective police force to provide security and maintain law and order? There are traffic barriers all across Islamabad, but no closed-circuit televisions or scanners installed or other available technologies being utilised to enable the government to gather more information to curb future attacks. No one is trying to think up simple solutions such as creating community watch-and-ward teams to familiarise themselves with residents of their urban neighbourhoods and ensure that terrorists are unable to abuse the anonymity offered by city life by renting homes temporarily.

As the story goes, the goat was weeping bitterly along a mud path when the monkey inquired about her ordeal. She was distressed because the wolf had threatened to eat her kids. The monkey reassured her that he would take measures to address the threat. He then proceeded to climb a few trees, shook some branches and made strange sounds. The next day the monkey passed by again and found the goat crying even more desperately. He was told that the wolf visited again and threatened to eat her kids soon. The monkey comforted her that he would not let that happen. And after giving the goat a purposeful look, he ran off to the highest tree, shook its branches even more vigorously and made louder noises than the day before. The next day he found the goat, grievously mum, lying on the same path. On inquiry she responded with difficulty that the wolf ate up her kids that morning. The monkey responded in a poignant tone that it must be Nature's will, because "you saw yourself I made some hectic efforts."

This is time for no monkey business. We need to rid ourselves of our Rehman Maliks and instead empower capable professionals, who understand the state's obligations, value human life and have the expertise and the ability to conceive and implement practical solutions to bolster our security in these tough times.






"All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand," cried Lady Macbeth after killing Duncan, king of Scotland, in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Fast-forward four centuries. We know that all the laws in the world, not even the NRO, can wash clean the corruption of our leaders, both in the government and the opposition. The media, like Macbeth's three witches, brews up toxicants while dancing around a cauldron boiling over with 100 corruption cases of the president and his cronies. Chanting "Fair is foul and foul is fair," the witches (read: the media) are foreshadowing events to come, predicting the evil that will cloud the president's judgment in pursuing the passing of the NRO by Parliament.

The president blocked the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry till the end. He feared the chief justice would never give him and his friends a free pass for their alleged corruption. Today, a nation of 180 million is crying out for justice. Our only hope is the Supreme Court. My Lords, dispense swift justice in dispatching the NRO and make sure the beneficiaries receive exemplary punishment.

The pots meanwhile have started calling the kettles black. "All parties benefited from the National Reconciliation Ordinance; it also helped people (the Sharif brothers) who had been exiled for 10 years to return to Pakistan under a deal," Sindh chief minister Qaim Ali Shah is reported as saying. "These NRO beneficiaries are now playing politics," Shah said, referring to Nawaz Sharif's rejection of the NRO.

If the system has to be cleaned, let there be accountability across the board. It's not only the PPP godfathers who stole from a beaten nation, but leaders of all political parties, civil and military scofflaws. Go get them all.

Among those whose past must be made transparent is the prime minister's wife, our First Lady. The media is airbrushing Gilani as the next in succession to Zardari. But there are skeletons rattling in his cupboard. One of them is the stuffing of undeserving people in the National Assembly Secretariat. An NAB official dealing with the case gave me glaring examples of how Yusuf Raza Gilani had "reprehensibly" misused his position as Speaker. The official has all the records, but they are worthless because his bosses at the grandly called National Accountability Bureau have unashamedly caved in to the prime minister and withdrawn two bank-default cases against Mrs Fauzia Gilani and five others. They settled "out of court," we're told.

According to recent media reports, the NAB withdrew two cases against Fauzia Gilani and others who received Rs71.480 million from the Agricultural Development Bank of Pakistan in 1987. Two years later, the same tola milked the same bank for another Rs100.200 million. After grabbing Rs171.680 million in a span of 24 months, Mrs Gilani (actually, could it be Mr Gilani?) and her five business partners scooted--I mean, defaulted. The timing for defaulting was ideal – it was the reign of Benazir Bhutto and Gilani was in her cabinet.

Today, fate again favours Gilani making him our prime minister and the NAB favours him by forgiving his wife the default.

"Surely these loans, including the principal amount as well as the accumulated mark-up for the past many years, must have been repaid," writes Brig (retd) Farooq Hameed Khan, a former NAB consultant in Lahore. "If this has really happened, it is unbelievable in a country like Pakistan where the rich and powerful do not normally return bank loans. This 'mother of all settlements' should be made public for all others to follow this historic and rare gesture by the country's top elite," he says.

We have a right to ask about the reported "out-of-court settlement" between the First Lady and the NAB.

The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting. Email: &








THE Government, which is apparently on the retreat on different issues these days in the face of severe criticism of some of its policies, agreed on Thursday to provide Parliament the list of all beneficiaries of the much-maligned National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) as well as of big loan write-offs in the past. Both Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan assured the National Assembly that the Government was ready to consolidate and present such lists in the House.

The issues of loans write-off and benefits under NRO remain hotly debated subjects in the country and there is a dire need to satisfy the taxpayer as to whom these undue reliefs were extended and on what grounds. Bad loans are always written off by banks and financial institutions everywhere in the world but purely on technical and legitimate grounds. Unfortunately, here in Pakistan loans are seldom obtained and used for the intended plans and projects and are secured only to be devoured as such. Influential people get loans on different pretexts and get them written off subsequently using their connections in the corridors of power. As the Prime Minister has pointed out, it is a general perception that only politicians are guilty of this white-collared crime whereas the fact remains that there are thousands of others who have benefited hugely from this condemnable practice of loans write-off. Though on different occasions in the past the governments in power had been preparing and presenting lists of the beneficiaries in Parliament yet their scope has been limited. There is, therefore, a need for compilation of a comprehensive list of all those who got their loans written off since 1985 when the trend for seeking write-off on political and other grounds began in the country. Similarly, the information should be completed in all respects so that people should know who obtained the loan for what purpose and on what ground got it written off. It is tragic that the country spreads its hands before donor countries and institutions every now and then but the national wealth is allowed to be plundered in this way. The case of NRO beneficiary is all the more regrettable as the ordinance amounts to patronising corruption at the State-level. So the nation has the right to know the names of beneficiaries and the nature of cases against them. We hope the Government would not take refuge behind this or that excuse and come out with comprehensive lists of all beneficiaries at the earliest and make them public through media.










THERE were two media-related positive developments on Thursday. Top news managers from the country's eight television channels evolved a voluntary framework to standardize professional guidelines governing coverage of terrorism. And Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani gave assurance in the National Assembly that the Government had no intention of muzzling media.

These are welcome developments that augur well for healthy growth of media and Government-media relationship. The Prime Minister, it seemed, meant business as he announced practical measures to allay apprehensions of media persons about recommendations of the NA Standing Committee that were being viewed as an attempt to impose curbs on freedom of media. He asked the Committee to review the recommendations and also withdrew Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill, which was on the agenda of the House, referring it back to the Committee for revision. The Government leaders had been asking the media to come out with its own voluntary code of ethics and it is satisfying that the eight channels have agreed on a consensus framework governing coverage of terrorism. There were indeed some concerns that the media was indirectly glorifying terrorism and that the live coverage of terrorist incidents was having negative impact on the minds of the people. By framing a voluntary framework, television channels have demonstrated a sense of national responsibility and we hope the print media would follow the suit.







AMERICANS are shocked and President Obama is unable to digest what happened at Fort Hood Army post on Thursday where an Army psychiatrist set to be sent to Afghanistan opened fire killing 12 people and leaving 31 wounded in the worst mass shooting ever at a military base in the United States. According to reports, Major Nidal, 30, was hoping that Obama would pull troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq and got into frequent arguments with others in the military who supported the wars.

Though the American President is expressing surprise over the incident yet this is not something unusual if one analyses the mood of the troops and the growing awareness in the United States about legitimacy of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. American media highlights only violent incidents like that of Fort Hood but there are scores of reports where the US soldiers refused to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan over legitimacy issues. Only in May this year, another soldier (Spc Victor Agosto, 24) who refused deployment to Afghanistan over his beliefs that the war violates international law, was sentenced to a month in jail. He described American occupation of Afghanistan as unjust and immoral. Not only the marines are finding it hard to accept the logic of fighting a war without cause, the US public opinion is also against the prolonged involvement in Afghanistan. And according to a recent CNN/Opinion Research poll, 57 per cent of those asked opposed the US war in Afghanistan, reportedly the highest level of opposition since the war began in 2001. The US has entered its ninth year of occupation of Afghanistan — equal to the time the United States was involved in World War-I, World War-II and the Korean War combined. But it seems the American administration has yet not learnt the lesson despite huge losses in recent months and the destruction this war is causing both to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Obama campaigned on his opposition to the war in Iraq, but pledged at the same time to escalate the war in Afghanistan which shows his inability to read the writing on the wall in the case of Afghanistan. American war against terrorism has produced more terror and killed more innocent people than terrorists. It is time that this mad war is brought to an end and the best way to do this would be to hand over Afghanistan to the UN for sometime before allowing Afghans to decide their own fate through free and fair elections.







Eight years of war in Afghanistan and still no victory in sight. Many predict that US will suffer the same fate as Alexander the Great, the British, and the Soviet Union. Perhaps Washington needs to reassess its strategy for winning this war. Like they say, an error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to correct it. This war is not yet Vietnam but could easily become so if blunders are not rectified. The Western powers must not overlook the fact that Afghanistan has contributed to fanning not only fundamentalism, terrorism and instability in the region but also opium cultivation and drug trafficking largely due to Karazi's weak government performance and corruption. Karzai's brother, head of Kandahar's provincial council is proven drug trafficker facilitating the transportation of heroin from Kandahar eastward through Helmand and out across the Iranian border. Howler number one was to turn Afghanistan into a bastion of not only anti Pakistan activities but also a hub of corruption, widespread criminal activity and into a drug smuggler's paradise. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai at a news conference said, "all, drug production and trafficking goes hand in hand with terrorism, the money that's created from drugs feeds terrorism in Afghanistan and the rest of the world". Afghanistan is leading opium production in the world today but after the invasion of US in 2002 Afghanistan is also attributed to have largest heroin production in the world as well.

The Taliban are said to be raking in about $470 million a year from the heroin trade in Afghanistan that is estimated to be about 7 to 8 thousand tons of opium a year. The insurgent militant group gets the massive amount from direct drug trafficking and exacting 10% tax from Afghan poppy farmers. The money that is generated by drug smuggling is being used to purchase weapons and ammunition and also serves to finance separatist regimes. All this is happening under the control of champion of human rights US and its intelligence setup mainly CIA. Profit gained by these drugs was main driving force behind all this trade and with heroin it was much more than what it was with cocaine. Ironically U.S. and Europe became biggest markets of heroin prepared and produced in Afghanistan. With money pouring left right and center would the drug-trafficking groups making millions and financing corruption and terrorism ever want the War on Terror to end? Therefore it's extremely important to put the jinni of drug growing, processing and trafficking back into the bottle.

Second the sensitivities of Pakistan's views on the presence of India in Kabul and its perceived fear of increasing Indian regional influence needs to be addressed. It's central to alter Islamabad's sensitivity that Afghanistan will not be used against Pakistan and India's presence in Kabul will not be to destabilize Pakistan. It's pertinent to remember that Pakistan had already remained a direct victim of the Indo-Soviet strategic alliance, which helped dismember Pakistan in December 1971. Pakistanis are convinced that the plan of RAW is to keep internal instability flaring up mainly to keep the ISI preoccupied so that Pakistan can lend no worthwhile resistance to Indian designs in the region. India has been using the Afghan card as early as 1962 Sino-Indian conflict; India urged the then Afghan government to deploy its forces along the Durrand line to dissuade Pakistan from any adventurism against India. Afghanistan sided with India during the 1965 and 1971 wars. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, India aided the Soviet secret service KGB and Afghan spy agency Khad to attempt to destabilize Pakistan through sabotage, subversion and acts of terrorism. The Taliban Rule in Afghanistan constrained India to use Afghan soil to destabilize Pakistan. After the fall of the Taliban in 2001 India moved quickly to regain its strategic depth in Afghanistan. 9/11 provided an opportunity for India to subvert Pakistan. A quarter century of LTTE-led militancy and terrorism in Sri Lanka came to an end in May 2009. It's significant to note that peace returned in Sri Lanka only after India stopped interfering in Sri Lanka's politics and economy. Furthermore, it's no secret that Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has played games using India against Pakistan. During his presidential campaign, President Obama publicly stated that peace in South Asia and Afghanistan would need to incorporate some kind of resolution on the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. The New York Times' Mark Landler reported Jan 7, 2009 that Holbrooke would likely be named "a special envoy to Pakistan and India." President Obama intent was to appoint Richard Holbrooke as a Special South Asia envoy and bring the Kashmir issue under his purview, integrated with the Pakistan-Afghanistan imbroglio.

At an off-the-record Aspen Strategy Group meeting held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C. in December 2008, a high-level delegation from India told American foreign policy experts including three officials who were part of Obama transition team that India might preemptively make Richard Holbrooke persona non grata if his South Asia envoy mandate officially included India or Kashmir. The powerful Indian lobby prevailed and Richard Holbrook was appointed only a Pakistan-Afghanistan envoy. When Richard Holbrooke, coined the term Af-Pak he explained the motivation behind the term, "We often call the problem Af-Pak, as in Afghanistan Pakistan. This is not just an effort to save eight syllables. It's an attempt to indicate and imprint in our DNA the fact that there is one theater of war, straddling an ill-defined border, the Durand Line, and that on the western side of that border, NATO and other forces are able to operate. On the eastern side, it's the sovereign territory of Pakistan. But it's on the eastern side of this ill-defined border that the international terrorist movement is located." This demeaning expression not only puts Pakistan on the same level as Afghanistan on the brink of total collapse but recognizes Pakistan as part of the Af-Pak problem. This only implies that the US wants to use Pakistan for its own interests rather than build a genuine partnership with the people of Pakistan.

The U.S. Congress on October 1, 2008, gave final approval to an agreement facilitating nuclear cooperation between the United States and India. It provides U.S. assistance to India's civilian nuclear energy program, and expands U.S.-India cooperation in energy and satellite technology. When Pakistan demanded that it be offered a similar nuclear deal the USA offered India, the US refused. Obviously Washington is not keen to maintain "balance" in the region. The third blunder is to malign Pakistani's Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence ISI the very organization that was instrumental in driving the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Intensive efforts are being made by US think tanks, lobbyists and media that the ISI and the armed forces of Pakistan should be seen as the forces behind the Afghanistan mess. Washington cant' be oblivious of ISI and Pakistan Army's successes in capturing nearly 700 Al Qaeda operatives including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and their capture of Qaeda sanctuaries in the Waziristan area bordering Afghanistan. ISI is a professional organization, entrusted with the delicate task of securing Pakistan's safety.

ISI is one of the strongest and patriotic institutions guarding national interests. Being the eyes and ears of Pakistan they are performing the same tasks as CIA, Mossad, RAW and RAAM, (Afghanistan's intelligence agency established with the help of Indian RAW.) It's now an established fact that RAW and RAAM are actively involved in fuelling unrest in Pakistan's tribal areas. Pakistanis are convinced that tarnishing the image of ISI purposely with a view to weaken Pakistan means that that CIA is altogether working on some different agenda.







Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) established by Baitullah Mehsud in December 2007 with the help of his foreign mentors spread its tentacles in whole of FATA and some settled parts of NWFP including Fazlullah led TNSM and also gained access in South Punjab . Swat Taliban lost public support when they refused to de-weaponise and abide by Swat agreement signed in February 2009 and let Nizam-e-Adl get introduced. Occupation of Lower Dir and Shangla led to launch of Operation Rah-e-Rast on 28 April. Successful Swat operation and return of over 2 million displaced persons to their homes turned the tide and forced the militants to run in panic. Establishment of linkage of militants with foreign powers and ongoing spate of acts of terror brought Taliban in bad books of public and demand for uprooting their main base in South Waziristan Agency (SWA) grew louder. The public as well as all political parties less Jamaat-e-Islami, JUI and Tehrik-e-Insaf stood behind the army.

Additional troops had started to move into Waziristan from July onwards in anticipation to a decisive battle in SWA. USA had been exerting extreme pressure on our government to commence operation in Waziristan in conjunction with Swat operation. Army disfavored opening of two fronts simultaneously particularly when troops were engaged in Swat, Lower and Upper Dir , Buner, Shangla, Bajaur, Mohmand Agency, Khyber Agency and Darra Adam Khel. It would have amounted to dilution and dispersion of resources thereby losing concentration of effort in all sectors. It took its time to allow consolidation of gains made on Swat front. Period from July to mid October was judiciously utilized for gaining intelligence to formulate plans, getting to know strength and weaknesses of militants, acclimatization of troops and familiarization of area of operations, completing its operational deficiencies, tying up nuts and bolts and streamlining drills how to confront challenges of IEDs, militants adept in guerrilla warfare and rugged terrain. For the first time, the army was not launched in haste and given adequate preparation time and moral support. During preparatory maneuver, troops continued with their creeping forward policy to isolate and encircle targeted area from multiple sides. This tactic curtailed liberty of action of Hakimullah led militants and gave psychological ascendancy to the military. At the same time, both Maulvi Nazir in SWA and Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan were kept under tight control and no deal was made to keep them friendly. Once the go ahead was given by Federal and NWFP governments, operation Rah-e-Nijat was unfolded from three directions on 17 October.

One prong moved from north to south along axis Razmak-Makeen, the second from southeast to northwest along axis Jandola-Kotkai-Srarogha, the third from south to north along axis Shakai-Shrawangai-Ladha. Balanced force was employed on each axis of advance and movement made on broad front to overcome opposition with speed and to home on to vital complex of Ladha-Makeen. The three pronged maneuver aimed at outmaneuvering and encircling the adversary and blocking all avenues of escape or reinforcement from elsewhere. Soldiers climbed the rugged mountains like mountain leopards and rolled down to rupture the positions occupied by militants on hilltops. Within fortnight, considerable progress has been made on all axes causing disarray among militants. Wireless intercepts indicated signs of chaos among them. Many among them have shaved their beards and trimmed their beards and are running for life. Troops on Razmak pincer have secured Kot Azam and Cheena and are fast moving towards critical position of Makeen. On Jandola axis, troops have captured important places of Spinkai Roghzai, Kotkai which is hometown of Hakimullah and Qari Hussain and have now over run the pivotal position of Srarogha and succeeded in occupying important hilltops around the town which is facilitating their mopping up operation. This axis is now poised to move towards Makeen. On Shakai-Shrawangai axis, Shrawangai, Khaisura, Torwam Bridge and key town Kunigram have been captured. Troops on this axis attacked vital target of Ladha, 8 km ahead of Kunigram on night of 3/4 November where after intense fighting in the streets, the town was captured on 5 November, much ahead of scheduled 7 November.

Although the militants put up stiff resistance at each point, however the resolve and determination of assaulting troops led by officers was so strong that they had to give in. Rapid successes made by the brave-hearts have shattered centuries-old myth of invincibility of tribesmen of this region. Terrorists are failing and will fail because they are fighting for a wrong cause and at the behest of foreign powers. Huge caches of arms, ammunition, explosives, suicide jackets and material required for suicide jackets have been seized; chemical factories making IEDs taken over. Five truckloads of Indian origin arms, ammunition, medical equipment and literature have been apprehended from Shrawangai. One laptop of 1000 GB with external drive containing all sorts of data, training lessons, and videos of criminal activities of so-called Taliban recovered. Tunnels laden with armaments in hundreds have been discovered in captured areas. One of the tunnels in Kotkai is 500 meters long. These tunnels were in use for treating injured, for rest and refitting, for training and hiding suicide bombers and for making escape good. Although border security check posts along Afghan-Pakistan border have been deviously vacated by US-Nato troops with sinister objectives at a crucial time when operation had just begun, no RAW-RAAM agent would like to jump into boiling cauldron of SWA. If they come they are sure to die a horrible death. Afghan Taliban have categorically stated that they would abide by their policy of not confronting Pak Army. Terrorists from other militant groups linked with TTP outside the battle zone are now in no position to come to the aid of beleaguered Taliban. They would otherwise not like to get sucked into killing area and get killed. Ongoing suicide attacks are being undertaken by those who had been already launched from SWA in September, or by other banned groups linked with TTP, or by RAW-RAAM trained suicide bombers and terrorists. Several RAW agents have been caught in last few days. Possibility of involvement of Blackwater elements in terrorist activities in major cities of Punjab , NWFP and Islamabad cannot be ruled out.

Successful completion of Rah-e-Nijat would certainly help in curbing terrorism to a great extent but as long as six foreign agencies in Kabul busy hatching conspiracies and launching covert operations against Pakistan do not wind up their offices and return to their respective homes, terrorism would not get eliminated. Likewise, as long as our rulers follow US friendly and anti-people policies and do not address root causes, terrorists would keep multiplying. Now that Indian role in destabilizing Pakistan has been thoroughly exposed, it is to be seen whether US Administration would continue to play a double game by defending India and pressing Pakistan to continue doing more and more. New battlegrounds will be created to keep the army bogged down.







US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has returned home seemingly with a bitter and better understanding of Pakistanis' perception about Washington 's policies pertaining to the South Asian region in general and Islamabad in particular. She interacted with a cross section of people including students, journalists, TV anchor persons, parliamentarians, female members of the civil society, Tribal elders, politicians and officials to have a real feel of the Pakistani nation's sentiments of distrust and mistrust about the United States across Pakistan . At her interactions, she was questioned about Washington 's partisan and discriminatory tendencies towards Pakistan in the regional context.

Students and media men, however, proved torch bearers of the national interests. They grilled her on the Kerry-Lugar bill, 'do more syndrome', drone attacks, discrimination in the Indian context and non-recognition of Pakistan 's contribution in the anti-terror war in real terms. She was told that the US presence in Afghanistan is the real cause of trouble in the region. 'It's your war that Pakistan is fighting…you had one 9/11, we are having 9/11s in Pakistan on daily basis' she was bluntly told by Tribal elders. Hillary Clinton, the highest ranking Obama administration official, visited Pakistan with an agenda to dissipate the "trust deficit" that persists in the US-Pakistani relations. By "reaching out" to a broad section of Pakistanis, she tried to focus the difference between the current US administration and that of George W. Bush, which to the dismay of ordinary Pakistanis supported dictator General Pervez Musharraf. As part of her "charm offensive," Hillary made a few proforma concessions about "mistakes" and oversights and repeatedly proclaimed that the US has the interests of the Pakistani people in focus. She also decried what she called distortions of the intent and meaning of a recent US law, the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, commonly known as the Kerry-Lugar bill, under which US will provide $1.5 billion per year in economic assistance to Pakistan for the next five years, if Pakistan fulfils Washington objectives in respect of the anti-terror war and nuclear non-proliferation.

The secretary of state asserted that the legislation doesn't in any way interfers in Pakistan 's internal affairs or erodes its sovereignty. The reality, however, is that the Pakistani-US partnership has for decades been a conspiracy against the Pakistani people, in which Washington has used the Pakistani political and military leadership as linchpin of America's strategic designs in the Middle East, Central and South Asia. In the case of the Pakistani elite, there resentments and concerns that the US drive to subjugate Afghanistan has destabilized Pakistan state, increased the already yawning gulf between the people and the ruling class and is undercutting Pakistan in its rivalry with India. The latter fear is compounded by the US 's courting of India , as epitomized by the Indo-US nuclear accord, as a strategic counterweight to a rising economic and military power of the Peoples Republic of China . For most of the first two days of her visit, Clinton stuck to her brief of trying to charm Pakistanis by making a show of listening to them. She, however, couldn't swallow everything and rang out her anger, telling a group of journalists, 'I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where the Al Qaeda leadership is, and couldn't get to them if they really wanted to.' She also publicly called for extension of the current counter-insurgency offensive beyond South Waziristan . With the initial campaign in Swat and now in South Waziristan finished, Hillary told a town hall like meeting of Pakistani professional women: 'I think the Pakistani military would have to go on to root out other terrorist groups or else they could come back to threaten Pakistan.' She also responded to unending criticism of the Kerry-Lugar bill as erosion of Pakistan 's sovereignty bitterly though smilingly that the US has no desire to impose this financial assistance on Pakistan . It's up to Pakistan to accept it or not.

While she did make several economic assistance announcements, she rejected two long-standing demands of the Pakistani elite: that the US remove tariffs on textiles, the country's most important export, and that it prod India to enter into meaningful and result oriented dialogue with Pakistan to resolve the outstanding issues including the long standing Kashmir dispute. During his campaign for the presidency, Obama suggested a possible quid pro quo in which the US would assist Pakistan in arriving at a settlement with India over Kashmir in return for Pakistan doing the US 's bidding in the Afghan war. He, however, backed off in the face of Indian resistance to US effort to mediate between Islamabad and New Delhi to address the Kashmir issue.

Clinton said of the Indo-Pakistani dispute: 'it's clearly not for us to dictate solutions.' She conceded that the US support to the dictators in the past was a 'mistake' and held out an assurance to the women parliamentarians that in future relations will not be established with individuals but will be done with the state and people of Pakistan. The statement made by Hillary Clinton that the US has found no proof of Indian interference in Balochistan and Tribal areas through supply of funds and weapons to the renegades and militants has, however, exposed the myth of US 'strategic partnership' with Pakistan. It has rather once again proven that it will not hesitate to once again dump Pakistan once its tactical designs are realized in the ongoing anti-terror war through consolidation of its occupation of Afghanistan . To the people of Pakistan , it's a brazen display of hypocrisy.

Pakistan has persistently focused the Indian mischief and kept the world community especially the United States fully on board about the issue. Former President Pervez Musharraf had presented the documentary evidence of Indian supply of weapons and funds to the renegades in Balochistan to the former US President George W. Bush. It's proven up to the hilt that the Indian consulates established in the Afghan cities and towns along the Pak-Afghan border are RAW dens of interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan .

Most of these 'consulates' are, in fact, training centres for the miscreants from Balochistan. Prime Minister Yusuf Reza Gilani had also handed over the dossier pertaining to the documentary evidence of Indian financial and weapons support to the miscreants in Balochistan. And the latest proof of Indian support to the militants and terrorists has been captured in the militants' heartland in South Waziristan by the Pakistani troops currently engaged in military operations against terrorists and militants. Yet ironically, the US Secretary of State is totally 'unaware' of the Indian interference. The truth is that US is pursuing a double standard policy in the region apparently for the sake of its international agenda. Washington must, however, not ignore the universal truth that you cannot deceive all the people for all the time. It's a matter of record that US has never been sincere to Pakistan . India has always remained its preference. Its relations with Pakistan are, in fact, motivated by its vested interests.







Political statements coming from the office of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are not very encouraging. Analysts have started a renewed debate on the future of Jammu & Kashmir state and seriously ponder if Kashmir is not an issue at all and mere related to Kashmiris' grievance regarding governance and development. In fact India wants to stick to its stubborn position that any talks had to be within the Constitution. If we recall, Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee took a historic bus ride to Minar-e-Pakistan in 1999 but that was sabotaged by powerful pressure group because they knew that India is not going to change its position.

Then there was Kargil conflict which ended in sheer wastage of time and energies. The year 2002 witnessed Indian Parliament attacks followed by mobilization of Indian troops along Indo-Pak border by Vajpayee. Finally there were Mumbai attacks of November 2008, which parallelized the talks on Kashmir issue between the two countries. One wonders, what is the real motive behind the so called talks between the two countries? Governments in India and Pakistan had been fooling their nationals, the Kashmiris as well as world at large. For so many years India had been bluffing the world that they are serious in holding discussions with Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir. All of a sudden India came up with a new idea that breakthroughs in United Nations Security Council (UNSC) platform in the shape of Resolutions on Kashmir have lost their significance after Simla Agreement between Pakistan and India, claiming that onwards all issues will be solved bilaterally. In this way over two and a half decades were wasted. On the Pakistani side, General (Retired) Pervez Musharraf made some "out-of-the-box" proposals which indicated his willingness to accept the permanence of the Line of Control, with slight readjustments. Pervez Musharraf also proposed to withdraw the dispute from the UN Security Council. All these development had neither any support by masses nor the Pakistani Foreign Office. The elected government in Pakistan which came into power in September 2008 followed the line of action of military General and addressed Kashmiri militants as "terrorists" which is unprecedented in history of Pakistan. Last year, a new issue of Mumbai attacks erupted, which is seriously hindering discussion on Kashmir. The Indian Premier has categorically refused to discuss Kashmir issue with Pakistan till the Mumbai attacks perpetrators were brought to justice and also all the terrorist camps along LoC (Line of Control) are dismantled with a view to halt all terrorism coming across from the Pak borders. On international forum, US President Barack Obama, before he was elected as US President, showed eagerness to resolve Pakistan's dispute with India but on the contrary, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during her recent visit to Pakistan, reiterated US policy without disturbing India. Thus the Kashmir issue is at the same place where it was on the day of partition of India and creation of Pakistan. It is a bitter truth that since independence, Jammu & Kashmir is being indirectly ruled by Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB) which was later joined by Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). Indian government in the fog of disinformation and lies by its intelligence and so called foreign intelligence experts, made some unrealistic and undiplomatic decision that ultimately led to popular Kashmiri armed struggle against Indian brutal occupation in 1989. Indian Intelligence had been bluffing authorities at New Delhi by concealing the popular slogans on the tongue of all the Kashmiris including Kashmiri Pandits that Kashmiris do not consider themselves Indians. Side by side the government and people of India were also misguided that Kashmir is India's 'Atoot Ang." Today it is exactly 20 years that Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee the Valley in 1989 but they are not allowed to return. It is an open secret that as a state policy India is not allowing Kashmiri Pandits to return to their homes in order to prove the international community that Hindus and Muslims cannot live together, thus leading to another division of Subcontinent, this time a 'Muslim Kashmir' and 'Hindu Kashmir'. If this had not been the case than why despite presence of bulk of Indian Army, Security forces and Civil administration Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri refugees living in Pakistan could not return to their houses in Indian side of occupied Jammu & Kashmir sate. The plight of Kashmiris living on both sides of LoC often makes me weep. The average life span in India and Pakistan is 63 years, which means that complete generation of Kashmiris have died without enjoying their right of self-determination. Ironically, the United Nations Security Council passed resolutions for granting right of self-determination to Kashmiris in the shape of plebiscite on the very first year of Kashmir dispute in 1948 but no one has time to get them implemented. It is so cruel on the part of India, Pakistan and the world community that they failed to organize even a onetime plebiscites in Jammu and Kashmir state. The members of the International bodies including, United Nations, Human Rights organizations and so called Super Powers, have no right to move around in expensive brand new vehicles and lodge in five star hotels to give a patience hearing on Kashmiri issue. One feels very perturbed over the aggression and tyrant brutalities committed by Indian state forces in disputed Jammu and Kashmir. India is continuously refusing to obey the resolutions of UNSC on Kashmir issue but considers its rights to contest for non-permanent seat in UNSC. One wonders, if the countries which are backing India to get Non-permanent seat in the UNSC in 2011 and later a permanent seat in the same world body, would ever be able to justify their lobbying with such horrifying record of India. US President Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples; isn't it now his obligation to get United Nations resolutions on Kashmir dispute implemented so that Kashmiris can get their right of self-determination and lasting peace is restored in the region.

Despite dark past record of US administration in solving issues like Kashmir and Palestine, the people of Jammu and Kashmir state are still hopeful that the President Obama is going to take personal pain in providing an opportunity to Kashmiris to express their right of self determination on the basis of UNSC Resolutions. It is the responsibility of world community to pressurize New Delhi to abide by UNSC Resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir state before any thought is given to the question of India's inclusion in UNSC. Won't it be a big joke that UNSC's own non-permanent member is not ready to obey its UN's resolutions?








Remember those Republican boasts that they would turn health care into President Obama's Waterloo? Well, exit polls suggest that to the extent that health care was an issue in Tuesday's elections, it worked in Democrats' favor. But while health care won't be Mr. Obama's Waterloo, economic policy is starting to look like his Anzio.

True, the elections weren't a referendum on Mr. Obama. Most voters focused on local issues — and those who did focus on national issues tended, if anything, to go Democratic. In New Jersey, voters who considered health care the top issue went for Gov. Jon Corzine by a 4-to-1 margin; Chris Christie won voters who were concerned about property taxes and corruption. Yet there was a national element to the election. Voters across America are in a bad mood, largely because of the still-grim economic situation. And when voters are feeling bad, they turn on whomever currently holds office. Even Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, saw his supposedly easy reelection turn into a tight race. And challengers did well even if they had no coherent alternative to offer. Mr. Christie never explained how he can reduce property taxes given New Jersey's dire fiscal straits — but voters were nonetheless willing to take a flier.

This bodes ill for the Democrats in the midterm elections next year — not because voters will reject their agenda, but because all indications are that a year from now unemployment will still be painfully high. And Republicans may well benefit, despite having become the party of no ideas. Which brings me to the Anzio analogy. The World War II battle of Anzio was a classic example of the perils of being too cautious. Allied forces landed far behind enemy lines, catching their opponents by surprise. Instead of following up on this advantage, however, the American commander hunkered down in his beachhead — and soon found himself penned in by German forces on the surrounding hills, suffering heavy casualties. The parallel with current economic policy runs as follows: early this year, President Obama came into office with a strong mandate and proclaimed the need to take bold action on the economy. His actual actions, however, were cautious rather than bold. They were enough to pull the economy back from the brink, but not enough to bring unemployment down. Thus the stimulus bill fell far short of what many economists — including some in the administration itself — considered appropriate.

According to The New Yorker, Christina Romer, the chairwoman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, estimated that a package of more than $1.2 trillion was justified. Meanwhile, the administration balked at proposals to put large amounts of additional capital into banks, which would probably have required temporary nationalization of the weakest institutions. Instead, it turned to a strategy of benign neglect — basically, hoping that the banks could earn their way back to financial health. Administration officials would presumably argue that they were constrained by political realities, that a bolder policy couldn't have passed Congress. But they never tested that assumption, and they also never gave any public indication that they were doing less than they wanted. The official line was that policy was just right, making it hard to explain now why more is needed. And more is needed. Yes, the economy grew fairly fast in the third quarter — but not fast enough to make significant progress on jobs. And there's little reason to expect things to look better going forward. The stimulus has already had its maximum effect on growth. Even Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary, admits that banks remain reluctant to lend. Many economists predict that the economy's growth, such as it is, will fade out over the course of next year. The problem is that it's not clear what Mr. Obama can do about this prospect. Conventional wisdom in Washington seems to have congealed around the view that budget deficits preclude any further fiscal stimulus — a view that's all wrong on the economics, but that doesn't seem to matter. Meanwhile, the Democratic base, so energized last year, has lost much of its passion, at least partly because the administration's soft-touch approach to Wall Street has seemed to many like a betrayal of their ideals.

The president, then, having failed to exploit his early opportunities, is pinned down in his too-small beachhead. If the Democrats lose badly in the midterms, the talking heads will say that Mr. Obama tried to do too much, this is a center-right nation, and so on. But the truth is that Mr. Obama put his agenda at risk by doing too little. The fateful decision, early this year, to go for economic half-measures may haunt Democrats for years to come. —The New York Times








A bomb blast on a city road between the Awami League central office and Peer Yemani market only confirms the apprehension that some quarters are out to create social anarchy. A breakdown in law and order can be used as an excuse for challenging the authority of the government and hindering the process of democracy. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has asked her cabinet colleagues to be extra-cautious on security issues. Before that, however, the intelligence agencies had done their homework and intensified vigilance over sensitive areas as well as the diplomatic enclaves. Even one of the intelligence agencies reportedly forewarned about the recent bomb attack on lawmaker Fazle Nur Tapash.

Clearly there are forces, one component of which is militants, growing increasingly desperate to carry out their destructive missions in the hope that these will deter the government from taking stern actions against them. The hearing of the Bangabandhu murder case and a number of arrests made recently in connection with the August 21, 2004 grenade attack at Bangabandhu Avenue are becoming ever more indicative of those who masterminded the two most heinous political crimes at the national level. This is certainly not to the liking of these criminal plotters. So it is only expected that the plotters will do all they can to frustrate the activities leading to their exposure and the law taking its course.

Considered against this background, possibilities of more attacks like the failed one on Tapash and the other on two visiting Bagerhat AL leaders in Dhaka cannot be ruled out. It is good to know that the law enforcement agencies have beefed up vigilance in the sensitive areas but a lot remains to be done. The timely arrest of a woman AL leader with an AK-47 rifle in Kushtia is an eye opener to the fact that areas other than the high security zones also need to be brought under regular screening. Attention has to be given to bust the hideouts of criminal and militant gangs and the sources of their money and arms need to be plugged once for all. Only then will people get the benefit of a sense of security.     







No amount of whitewash was sufficient for Zimbabwe to cover their poor performance during the first match between them and Bangladesh, though their lavish praise for the Bangladesh team and its spin bowlers was good to hear. However good that maybe, it did not hide the fact that it was poor play that cooked Zimbabwe's goose. That the tourists did not blame the wicket was perhaps surprising, instead Zimbabwe's coach and former skipper reckoned it was Bangladesh's left arm spinners that put their country on top. Yet Heath Streak had said after the practice session of the Zimbabwe team at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium that it was tough bowling on pitches here. But the talent is there and they should make the most of overseas tours.

Like Streak, Zimbabwe's wicket keeper cum batsman, Tatenda Taibu, also complimented Bangladeshi spinners by saying, "I think we batted poorly but I have been in situations like this before where we have been bowled out for a very low score. But we bounced back to beat the West Indies in the next match..." He added, "At the end of the day cricket has to be played. And played well as an international team should play. Whether the wicket is good, bad or poor you have to play good cricket."

And that both teams did on the last day of the Grameenphone Cup series with an enthralling performance by Brendon Taylor that helped the tourists recover their loss of face and put up a respectable 221 for nine. No need for any whitewash. However, just as they were basking in their fold pass. Naeem's innings sealed their fate at a time when his team had almost lost all hope of winning the match. Cricket, as Tatenda Taibu had said, has to be played, and played well.








"..For Rs 1,800, you can take a 26/11 guided tour of Mumbai…" — Indian Express, Nov 5th
"Terror Tour! Terror Tour! Terror Tour! Sir, madam you want a terror tour? Only one thousand eight hundred rupees!" Tourist, "The whole terror tour?"

Guide, "Yes sir! We will show you Badhwar Park, where the ten terrorists landed, Café Leopold where they shot guests dining, Taj Mahal Hotel, Nariman House, Trident Hotel!"

Tourist, "That's all?" Guide, "Okay sir, okay, we will also show you Cama Hospital and VT Station!" Tourist, "That's all? I thought you would show me all of Mumbai's terror?" Guide, "What else do you want to see, sir?"

Tourist, "Mumbai's terror man Mumbai's terror! Dadar where the taxi drivers from North India where beaten up just for being North Indian!"

Guide, "Sir..." Tourist, "Those schools where good dedicated principals had their faces blackened because they did not give admission to the sons or daughters of local goons or politicians!"

Guide, "Sir, but…" Tourist," I would like to see the hall where aspirants for railway jobs were thrashed and bashed up for writing an exam some political party wanted reserved only for locals!" Tourist, "Sir but…"

"I would like to see those shops which were smashed for having English boards larger than the local language ones!"
Guide, "But..." Tourist, "And please take me to Panvel and Vasai!" Guide, "Panvel and Vasai?" Tourist, "Where innocent churchgoers worshipping God were bashed up by communal forces in the ridiculous name of forcible conversion!"

Guide, "But sir..." Tourist, "And finally take me to the building where these elected representatives meet…"

Guide, "The Mantralaya?"

Tourist, "Yes, so I can look with disgust at these men and women who are supposed to guard us from terror attacks and tell them what a terrible job they've been doing!"

 "Sir, sir!"

Tourist, "Yes?" Guide, "What about Kasab? Those ten terrorists? Don't you want to see how they came in?


What they did?"

Tourist, "They're caught or dead, my friend! These are still free, alive and planning their next attack, and in all probability we may witness them in action!"

"Live terror tour! Live terror tour!" shouted the happy guide to the tourists, "Come, be part of a terror attack…!"








The trauma of traffic system causes excruciating tribulation in our everyday life. I reiterate that the implied root cause is the blasé attitude of the responsible elements of the concerned ministries and agencies. Every time I wish to bring up any national issue it persistently disturbs me to find we are living in a society that is plunged and predisposed towards corruption - the major hindrance to our advancement and well-being. The existing traffic system is smothering our life in a quagmire of traffic jams and chaos that is repeatedly bringing the city to a literal standstill. To the commuters' plight and peril, the hassles and hazards of traffic system are chronic. What always looms large at the forefront include: unplanned urbanisation, inadequate and unplanned road networks. There is acute need to tackle various other essential details such as the excess rickshaws, many with fake registration and untrained drivers of all kinds of vehicles, inadequate and unplanned intersections, roundabouts, lack of and inconvenient parking spaces, transport terminals in wrong places, lack of friendly walkways, etcetera. To top it all there is frequent change of policies and little sign of serious commitment and confidence in implementation of policies and plans like Strategic Transport Plan (STP)-2008 and Dhaka Transport Plan (DTP).

The host of hazards on urban streets that one can very tangibly observe are: all types of slow moving vehicles, especially rickshaws, massive movement of pedestrians, irrational and unauthorised parking of vehicles, illegal occupation of the roadside spaces by public transport vehicles jumbling around. In addition city traffic is bedevilled by pedestrian trespassing, that is, their indiscriminate crossing of streets, encroachment of roads by road side constructions, unscrupulous and endemic digging of roads by different utility services, irrationally located waste dumping sites and weird disposal of waste outside the designated points.

In many places of the city there is lack of essential dividers as well as obscure or no visible marking of lanes and speed limits on the highways, lack of practical understanding of traffic rules and reluctance to follow the speed limits, reckless and impatient driving, speeding and overtaking. More alarmingly is the prevalence of outrageous conditions that are confronted by the violation of traffic rules in all its dimensions and denominations. Thus the conditions of blatant breaches of the rules and cynical disregard to safety are attributive to accidents and chaos in city thoroughfares.

The tumultuous operating environment is escalating everyday. According to recent statistics about eight million people move in 142 square kilometres of Dhaka City Corporation! One wonders as to what percentage of roads are made to cover the total metropolitan area in terms of the International "Travel Demand Management" standard - 25 per cent or as low as seven to 10 per cent? Consider the high rate of population in Dhaka city alone, according to a UNHCS (United Nations Centre for Human Settlement) forecast Dhaka will be the sixth most populous city of the world by 2010 and the second largest by 2015. Think about the unbearable population surge in Dhaka itself, as each year about four lakh people migrate to mostly end up in Dhaka city. About 15 lakh garment workers are working in Dhaka city and about four lakh rickshaws are operating with another 10 lakh family members or dependants. Calculate the converging pressure on the city and other towns, the current spree of unscrupulous converting of residential areas into multi-purpose residential cum commercial areas, and the mushrooming of schools and clinics in residential areas causing huge concentration of people and transport in every area of the capital city.

The high rate of increasing vehicles in Bangladesh, about 1800 vehicles get registered each month adding 20,000 vehicles or more a year and the current estimate will be far more than the statistics. Chittagong port is in shambles unable to manage the overflow of vehicles (5,000) exceeding its current capacity of 4,000 cars; while car carriers await in the outer anchorage counting demurrage to deliver a few more thousands and according to current estimates last year about 31,000 cars were imported which is expected to be exceeded substantially this year.

Think about the meagre arteries that pass through the heart of Dhaka, about two lakh vehicles including three-wheelers and other types which operate in 250 km long arteries of Dhaka's 2200 kilometres of roads. Those living in the vicinity of the level crossings and passing through have to face the danger to crossing traffic and contribution to traffic jams and accidents. There are 30 rail crossings in the capital through which trains pass 84 times a day and it is little wonder these spots are concentrations of chronic scenes of jams and accidents. Think about the current situation in which 60 per cent of the total population in Dhaka is not using any mode of transport but moving on foot, which is apparently easing the roads but could make problems worse whenever all these people use vehicles. As the accident monitoring cell of BRTA (Bangladesh Road Transport Authority) and DMP (Dhaka Metropolitan Police) claim, 377 people died in 620 accidents in Dhaka Metropolitan area in 2008 of whom 283 were pedestrians and 79 people were seriously injured. In reality, the current estimates will be exceeding the preceding statistics to reveal a situation that is more anxious and alarming!

Should not the concerned authorities take a serious note of the conditions of our roads that poses substantial threats to our life at any time? What makes these streets become so bad so frequently despite the endless repair we encounter on the roads throughout the year?

This phenomenon of unplanned activities is another obnoxious cause of frequent gridlocks in our highways. What are all the policymakers, expert planners, consultants, advisers, technicians and engineers suggesting at the planning and evaluation phase of each work? What control is exerted by the administration to ensure the scope and specifications of the construction and repair of roads? In this context I would assert that if the responsible people would act responsibly we would be able to maintain the existing roads in much better condition and the infrastructural and environmental enhancement would rather help observance of the traffic rules to an extent that would lessen the current undisciplined situation to a half.

And similarly if the service organisations were not doing great disservice to the nation, we would get at least 90 per cent of the work in return of the spending on our roads, which would, consequently, not get into a broken up mess so frequently. Therefore, one can imagine as to what percentage of work is done in reality! It is quite understandable that for the solution to the gridlock of traffic system; the government has to think of short, medium and long term good grid of roads and highways; infrastructural development that requires an immediate attention for a comprehensive urbanisation and countrywide infrastructural plans for the roads and their implementation in phases in prompt and pragmatic perspective. This process could be started with no loss of time as it will take a substantial amount of time to complete. However, foremost is the fact that in immediate terms the government can still afford to do a lot to solve the chaos in the traffic system.


(The writer is a former Major, Bangladesh Army and can be reached at









BT brinjal is a step away from becoming India's first genetically modified food crop. Whether it will enter Indian kitchens, now depends on the Union environment ministry.


On October 14, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC, the clearinghouse for all genetically modified crops in India) gave it environmental clearance. The final decision from the environment ministry is expected in February 2010.

The reports that paved the way for the environmental clearance have been put up on the ministry's website, and would be open to public comment till December 31, 2009. Consultations with scientists, farmers, consumers and non-profits will follow the comments.

In fact, GEAC could have cleared Bt brinjal when it met in January this year. GEAC had in its agenda test results submitted by seed company Mahyco, which has developed the crop.

But two independent scientists' reports showed inconsistencies in Mahyco's interpretation of the test results, which found their way to the January meeting. This held up approval of the Bt crop.

The GEAC constituted an expert committee in May to look into the findings of the two scientists. Groups opposing GM food sought an independent review when they got the company's test results through a Right to Information petition and forwarded them to the scientists.

The government-appointed expert committee did not find any discrepancy with Mahyco's tests, brushed aside concerns raised by the scientists and said further tests were not required to establish the safety of GM food. Bt brinjal contains a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium which produces a toxin that kills the pest when it feeds on the crop. Studies across the world on rats and mice suggest Bt crops increase allergies, antibiotic resistance and internal organ damage. But GM researchers claim Bt would reduce use of pesticide and control infestation of the fruit and shoot borer disease, which affects brinjals.

"The benefits of Bt brinjal developed by Mahyco far outweigh the perceived and projected risks," read the report, which the committee submitted to the GEAC. There is no reason Indian farmers should be deprived of biotechnology any longer, said Arjula R Reddy who chaired the expert committee. "But the decision is one of the biggest disasters in independent India," said P M Bhargava, Supreme Court appointee to the GEAC. Also the former director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, Bhargava was present at the October 14 meeting that gave the crop the clearance. His, and other scientists' primary complaint was the Mahyco's tests were not enough. Bhargava said he had suggested the committee summon the two scientists and Mahyco to present their facts. The face-to-face never happened, and the committee analysed the same data Mahyco had given, while rebutting the scientists.'

"Mahyco did not take into account significant differences in clinical signs and biochemistry parameters in the blood of animals who were fed Bt brinjal and those that were not, during the clinical trials for three months," said Gilles-Eric Seralini of the Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering in France.

He and Judy Carmen of the Institute of Health and Environmental Research in Australia were the independent scientists who reviewed Mahyco's test results. Mahyco's tests were not adequate, added G V Ramanjaneyulu of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, a non-profit in Hyderabad. "Similar tests on Bt cotton could not capture the problem which led to sheep deaths. Three months is too short a period to assess the safety of a food product. Long-term chronic toxicity tests should have been done," he said. But the expert committee was of the opinion that the 90-day tests by Mahyco showed there were no significant differences between Bt brinjal and non-Bt brinjal. Bhargava said that of the 22 tests recommended, Mahyco carried out two. "Even these were done by companies and not independent research bodies," he said. P Balasubramanian of Tamil Nadu Agriculture University refuted this: "The tests were conducted by independent bodies and met international standards."


Mahyco partnered with the university to develop Bt brinjal. According to Ramanjaneyulu, it is not just about international standards; it is about how independent and comprehensive a study is. Mahyco should have factored in local ways of growing and consuming crops. "In the US, machines work in cotton fields. In India, farmers do, so, you cannot ignore allergenicity tests among workers."

But the expert committee does not seem to be in a mood to accept these suggestions. In its report, the committee said Bhargava's "call to raise the regulatory bar detrimental for research and development in the area of agricultural biotechnology, especially for public sector institutions."

This debate would be taken up in Parliament, said Prasenjit Bose, convenor, CPI (M) research cell. "We oppose the manner in which the trials have been done. They were neither transparent, nor democratic. However, the larger issue is of proper biosafety tests and an unknown outcome of genetic modification."
The CPI (M), through its farmers' wing - All India Kisan Sabha - is planning a meeting to garner support of farmer organisations in the country to arrive at a joint statement. They would post the statement as comment on the environment ministry's website.

In case Bt brinjal gets approval from the Centre, it will depend on states to decide whether or not they will allow cultivation of GM crops within their boundary. It seems they are in no mood to wait for the final decision. Kerala is exploring options of a law to make the state a GM-free zone. Orissa and Andhra Pradesh have also opposed the clearance. The Andhra Pradesh government has formed a committee comprising members of state agriculture and horticulture universities for their opinion on the studies carried out. Non-profits in Rajasthan have issued a joint statement demanding a high-level review of the clearance. Their stand is GM food would lead to pollution and contamination of other varieties.

States are also concerned because consumers would have no way to find out if the brinjal they eat is transgenic. Non-labelling makes Bt brinjal more unviable. Activists said the Centre should not clear the GM crop till strict provisions on labelling were in place. "But," said Bose, "labelling will work on processed, packaged food. How do you label fruits and vegetables in mandis?"

February might reveal the answers.

Jairam Ramesh, minister of state for environment and forests, at a public meeting in June had said: "GM food is not okay." If he overrules GEAC's decision, nothing much changes. If he does not, it might raise hopes for 56 other GM crops, including okra, rice, mustard, cauliflower, tomato, which are in various stages of trial in India.

[CSE/Down To Earth Feature Service]








Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism, the world is facing another stark choice between two fundamentally different forms of organisation: international capitalism and state capitalism. The former, represented by the United States, has broken down, and the latter, represented by China, is on the rise. Following the path of least resistance will lead to the gradual disintegration of the international financial system. A new multilateral system based on sounder principles must be invented.

While international cooperation on regulatory reform is difficult to achieve on a piecemeal basis, it may be attainable in a grand bargain that rearranges the entire financial order. A new Bretton Woods conference, like the one that established the post-WWII international financial architecture, is needed to establish new international rules, including treatment of financial institutions that are too big to fail and the role of capital controls. It would also have to reconstitute the International Monetary Fund to reflect better the prevailing pecking order among states and to revise its methods of operation. 
In addition, a new Bretton Woods would have to reform the currency system. The post-war order, which made the US more equal than others, produced dangerous imbalances. The dollar no longer enjoys the trust and confidence that it once did, yet no other currency can take its place.

The US ought not to shy away from wider use of IMF Special Drawing Rights. Because SDRs are denominated in several national currencies, no single currency would enjoy an unfair advantage. The range of currencies included in the SDRs would have to be widened, and some of the newly added currencies, including the renminbi, may not be fully convertible. This would, however, allow the international community to press China to abandon its exchange-rate peg to the dollar and would be the best way to reduce international imbalances.


And the dollar could still remain the preferred reserve currency, provided it is prudently managed.

One great advantage of SDRs is that they permit the international creation of money, which is particularly useful at times like the present. The money could be directed to where it is most needed, unlike what is happening currently. A mechanism that allows rich countries that does not need additional reserves to transfer their allocations to those that do is readily available, using the IMF's gold reserves.

Reorganising the world order will need to extend beyond the financial system and involve the United Nations, especially membership of the Security Council. That process needs to be initiated by the US, but China and other developing countries ought to participate as equals. They are reluctant members of the Bretton Woods institutions, which are dominated by countries that are no longer dominant. The rising powers must be present at the creation of this new system in order to ensure that they will be active supporters.

The system cannot survive in its present form, and the US has more to lose by not being in the forefront of reforming it. The US is still in a position to lead the world, but, without far-sighted leadership, its relative position is likely to continue to erode. It can no longer impose its will on others, as George W. Bush's administration sought to do, but it could lead a cooperative effort to involve both the developed and the developing world, thereby reestablishing US leadership in an acceptable form. The alternative is frightening, because a declining superpower losing both political and economic dominance but still preserving military supremacy is a dangerous mix. We used to be reassured by the generalisation that democratic countries seek peace. After the Bush presidency, that rule no longer holds, if it ever did.

In fact, democracy is in deep trouble in USA. The financial crisis has inflicted hardship on a population that does not like to face harsh reality. President Barack Obama has deployed the "confidence multiplier" and claims to have contained the recession. But if there is a "double dip" recession, Americans will become susceptible to all kinds of fear mongering and populist demagogy. If Obama fails, the next administration will be sorely tempted to create some diversion from troubles at home - at great peril to the world. Obama has the right vision.


He believes in international cooperation, rather than the might-is-right philosophy of the Bush-Cheney era. The emergence of the G-20 as the primary forum of international cooperation and the peer-review process agreed in Pittsburgh are steps in the right direction.

What is lacking, however, is a general recognition that the system is broken and needs to be reinvented. After all, the financial system did not collapse altogether, and the Obama administration made a conscious decision to revive banks with hidden subsidies rather than to recapitalise them on a compulsory basis. Those institutions that survived will hold a stronger market position than ever, and they will resist a systematic overhaul. Obama is preoccupied by many pressing problems, and reinventing the international financial system is unlikely to receive his full attention.

China's leadership needs to be even more far-sighted than Obama is. China is replacing the US consumer as the motor of the world economy.  Since it is a smaller motor, the world economy will grow slower, but China's influence will rise very fast. For the time being, the Chinese public is willing to subordinate its individual freedom to political stability and economic advancement. But that may not continue indefinitely - and the rest of the world will never subordinate its freedom to the prosperity of the Chinese state. As China becomes a world leader, it must transform itself into a more open society that the rest of the world is willing to accept as a world leader.  Military power relations being what they are, China has no alternative to peaceful, harmonious development. Indeed, the future of the world depends on it.


(The writer is Chairman, Soros Fund Management and Open Society Institute,   recent book: The Crash of 2008.) Project Syndicate, 2009.








TEN years after the defeat of the referendum on the subject, the Australian republic has come to resemble spelling reform. A good idea, many will agree - but oh! just too hard. Relying on a foreign royal family, domiciled half a world away, to provide this country's constitutional figurehead may be odd, but the effort required to change it is so great that no one is willing to undertake it. We are all so busy right now. How much more comfortable it is to do nothing.


The way forward is the process promoted by Kim Beazley when he was Labor leader, and which is the current Labor policy.


First, a plebiscite on a single question: should Australia become a republic? If the answer is yes, as polling suggests it would be, a prolonged debate would follow, most likely formalised in a constitutional convention, to establish which model is best for Australia. This obviously will have to bear in mind the fate of the 1999 referendum, which failed to take into account the popular preference for a directly elected head of state.


While both sides of politics are led by republicans, and republicans form a significant group across the political spectrum, neither side is willing to press forward at present. Elite opinion - if last year's 2020 ideas summit is taken as a gauge - is solidly behind a republic, but the Government will not press the issue. True, it has had far more urgent matters to deal with. Until recently the global financial crisis occupied most of its attention. Next month there is the Copenhagen climate summit. Although hopes are fading for a conclusive outcome there, the likely stalemate will only increase the work required. A lot of political capital will have to be expended, in the face of stiff opposition from entrenched interest groups, to set up a carbon pollution reduction scheme.


Asked about the Government's attitude to the republic, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, told the ABC on Thursday: ''The first priority … is to manage the [economic] crisis and manage Australia's longer-term recovery. Then there are a whole range of other priorities.''


It sounds as if any old priority will do as long as it postpones thinking about a republic.


When might it be the right time? According to Malcolm Turnbull, who led the ''Yes'' campaign for the 1999 referendum, it will be when the reign of Queen Elizabeth II ends. He too - republican and all - will be dreading the prospect of further dividing his supporters by pressing the issue. But though the Turnbull timetable suits both sides, it leaves things too late. It assumes that Australians will take one look at the incoming King Charles III (or possibly George VII) and will turn off the idea of monarchy altogether. That is drawing a long bow. As the head of the Australian Republican Movement, Michael Keating, told the Herald: "A lot of people think this will happen on a Tuesday and we'll wake up on a Wednesday and be a republic. Well, that isn't the case." He believes it would take three years from the start of the new reign for Australia to become a republic. In that time the new monarch, unpopular though he may be now, may well have won his subjects over and undermined the strategy.


In fact, there is no reason to wait until the end of the Queen's reign. Australian republicanism is not an act of disloyalty to the monarch, though many clearly see it that way. The Queen and her successors will still be head of the Commonwealth, of which Australia is a member.


Nor should a referendum or plebiscite be a popularity context by proxy for her or others in the royal family. Whether Charles is an able head of state - as he may well be - is a matter for Britain, not Australia. For Australians, the question is - as it has always been - should an Australian be Australia's head of state? The answer, clearly, is yes.


It is time to end the present anomaly of a foreign head of state, and the enforced national immaturity it symbolises. It is time to start on the groundwork towards a republic. The Greens' proposal for a plebiscite on the issue at the next federal election deserves support.







ON THE website of SANE, an organisation seeking to dispel myths about mental illness, is a page titled ''StigmaWatch''. It is a reminder that the continuing fear of mental illness is the biggest impediment to it being accepted and understood by the wider community in the way that physical ailments are. Nearly 50 per cent of the population will suffer a mental disorder at some stage in their lives, but mental illness conjures up primal fears that are too easily manipulated by the ignorant, the malicious, and, sometimes, by news media in search of a headline that sells or attracts online hits. And so it happened in Melbourne this week, after two patients died in Thomas Embling Hospital, a forensic mental health institution.


Peko Lakovski, a patient in Jardine, a community reintegration unit that has the lowest security of the seven units at Thomas Embling, has been charged with murdering two fellow patients, Raymond Splatt and Paul Notas. The matter will be dealt with by the courts according to the usual judicial process, and Mental Health Minister Lisa Neville has instructed chief psychiatrist Ruth Vine to investigate the incident. Dr Vine's brief includes inquiring into the reasons the men were placed in Jardine, out of the view of security cameras and with access to knives. In the case of other violent crimes, only these basic facts would be reported once a person has been charged, apart from what is subsequently said in open court. The deaths of the Thomas Embling patients, however, has spawned a very different response. The specifics of the incident may not have been pursued in detail, for the usual legal reasons, but the hospital's treatment regime itself has become a target. ''This is Madness'' says one headline, atop a story announcing that ''Sick killers, rapists and the criminally insane are among patients wandering our streets on day trips despite fears they might pose a threat to the public … on any day more than a dozen inmates are walking the streets.''


Yes, more than a dozen. And yes, one of them could be the person seated next to you on the train or tram, behind you at the cinema, or at the table next to you in a cafe. You'd probably never know, any more than you would if that person has diabetes or heart disease. Because people with mental illness - including the 3 per cent of Australians who at some stage of their lives will be afflicted with a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia or bipolar mood disorder - are, most of the time, just like anyone else. And, just like people with diabetes and heart disease, if they are diagnosed and properly treated most will eventually recover and be able to lead fulfilling lives.


The stigma that SANE and mental health workers worry about arises because people have a very different image of the mentally ill. It is an image that lingers from the era when the mentally ill were confined in asylums, frequently in harsh and degrading conditions that, to many visitors, evoked some nightmarish mansion from a 19th-century Gothic novel rather than a place of healing. Such institutions may have soothed the anxieties of those who wanted the mentally ill to be hidden away, but they were therapeutic failures because seclusion in them sometimes made patients' conditions worse, or even triggered a mental illness in those who did not have one.


In Australia, official attitudes began to change in 1992, with the adoption of the national mental health strategy in the wake of the Burdekin inquiry. The assumption since has been that wherever possible the mentally ill should live in the community, having their illness treated as attentively as any other illness. It has not always worked, either because treatment is not always available to those who need it, or because there are insufficient places for those who do need institutional care. But the institutions have changed. Thomas Embling Hospital, for instance, seeks to rehabilitate people who have committed acts of violence as a result of mental illness, so that they can eventually be released into the community. This is a slow process, subject to constant review, and overseen by an independent body, the Forensic Leave Panel, which includes a Supreme Court judge, a psychiatrist, the chief psychiatrist and a community representative.


In the asylum era, the release of patients from such institutions was essentially a political decision - a dangerous state of affairs in itself. Those who respond to tragic events such as last week's deaths at Thomas Embling by summoning up the prejudices of the past will do nothing to protect the public. But they are keeping old, and harmful, myths about mental illness alive.


Source: The Age








Tony Blair's critics once dared to hope Gordon Brown had a plan to stop the slide towards the privatisation of public services. When he declared "the town square is more than a marketplace", it was imagined he had closely scrutinised all questions concerning the proper boundary between the public and the private realm, questions such as how far state hospitals should move towards receiving private patients. Yet late on Thursday – more than two years into the Brown premiership – an open-ended review touching on this very matter was slipped out on the Department for Health website. Its conclusions stand no chance of being legislated before the election, potentially leaving a Conservative government with a free hand – and political cover – to rewrite the rules as it likes.


The issue is the cap on private patients, which the Labour benches imposed on foundation hospitals as a condition of voting them through. Just as with city academies, they feared newly autonomous service providers would otherwise put the affluent few ahead of everybody else. The principle was sound, but it was crude – rigidly based on each hospital's volume of non-NHS work in 2002-03, and reliant on a fuzzy definition of private income, which is being challenged in court again this week. Some hospitals claim they are barred from joining academic partnerships or rehabilitating benefit claimants because, while publicly funded, such activities are not strictly NHS. Arbitrary differences in the way different hospitals are affected provides the official basis for the review, although with budgets set to tighten, the potential to raise up to £1bn extra through expanded private work is also surely a factor.


The extra money is welcome, but the difficulty is tapping it without compromising the NHS focus of the top hospitals, as would happen if private patients took a free ride on the service's training budget and other fixed costs. Hospitals lack clear accounts to prevent this happening, so rather than raising or scrapping the cap, ministers should require them to put their books in order, and allow private work only if it makes a demonstrably positive net contribution to NHS funds. And they should be clear that while this would give some hospitals more leeway, others would be required to do less private work than they do now.


If that principle is defined and defended ahead of the election, then perhaps the opposition will also feel obliged to commit to it. If it is not, the demand generated by NHS budgets would remain as the chief guarantor against foundation trusts going too far down the private route. But in the current fiscal climate, healthy budgets are not a guarantor in which one would want to place much faith.







It must happen every day of the working week, in Beijing, Buenos Aires and Bolton: a furious email is fired off – to the instant regret of both reader and writer. Or that dull circular from HR inspires a wicked in-joke – which gets blitzed around the office with an inadvertent use of the "reply all" button. Many stories begin with an email sent too soon – and they end with embarrassment or worse. Yet one simple tweak could avoid much of this: introduce a minute's delay between pressing the send button on an email and its final disappearance into the ether. This would be a cooling-off period in which the writer could reconsider, and possibly retract, their missive. Such an amendment would not require much elbow grease from the IT engineers – just rather more human empathy. Indeed, Google already has a delay on its email programme, but it is an impossibly short 10 seconds. The impatient will argue that mailers should exercise greater restraint before they hit that all-important send button – and they would be right. But discipline and careful drafting are rare virtues in the age of the Blackberry and the rapid response. No bard ever sat with parchment and quill and produced a letter that simple read: "Tks". When James Tobin came up with a tax on financial transactions to slow down the flow of hot money in and out of markets, he pitched it as throwing sand in the wheels of finance. It is time to throw some silicon in the wheels of technology, and reduce the traffic of regrettable email.







It has been another bad week in Afghanistan. Seven British soldiers have died, as well as uncounted civilians, some unintended casualties of the Nato effort. Support for the war has fallen from just under half in September to a third. Gordon Brown's attempt yesterday to shore up support by laying out a renewed set of objectives by which success could be measured were undermined even as he spoke by the former chief of the defence staff Lord Guthrie, who criticised his conduct of the war. An observer from another planet might suppose tomorrow's Remembrance Day ceremonies would at the least be tinged with anger, and might provoke bitter protest.


They will not, of course, despite the growing protests of some soldiers' families. That is no thanks to the dubious new interpretation of remembrance that is evident in the stridency with which poppy-wearing by celebrities and newsreaders and X-factor judges is policed, and by campaigns in some newspapers to make leading football clubs wear embroidered poppies on their shirts. The appetite for public emotion is threatening to turn the act of remembrance into a symbol of conformity, a kind of alternative national flag. The obvious argument against this is that conformity robs it of its real meaning. But it is also a corruption of the original intention of those who commissioned the first, temporary, Cenotaph and put it in the heart of Whitehall.


Their ambitious purpose was to impose on the very centre of imperial power the memory of the millions who had died in order to end war. It was to be a daily warning to the politicians who sent them to fight of the awful cost of war, an ambition whose futility was exposed in 1939. Instead, the dead were recast as soldiers in a just war, defenders of a free world. At the same time, however, the fallen became distanced from the politics that brought war about. Perhaps that is why the last survivor of the first world war, Harry Patch, dismissed Remembrance Sunday as "just show business", a charge uncomfortably supported by its very success. This year's poppy appeal is on course to break last year's record take of £30m. There are queues around poppy sellers, and already more have been distributed than in the whole of last year's campaign. One recent poll found that four-fifths of the population think the two-minute silence is "relevant to them". It is a huge, largely volunteer, locally organised effort.


And yet 40 years ago, Remembrance Day was almost abandoned. First world war survivors were dying, second world war veterans were ageing, and the increase in proceeds of the poppy appeal barely kept pace with inflation. The British Legion might have imagined itself ageing with it. Instead, war came back.


In 1968, no British soldier died on active service. But that turned out to be not just the first but the only year since 1945 when the claim could be made. The uncomfortable question is whether our way of remembering war, or at least war's casualties, has contributed to making that possible. The pacifist White Poppy movement, and some Christian thinkers, would argue that it has, that there is a hypocrisy about it that is reflected in the way the dead are honoured while the last military hospital is shut and those who survive with physical or mental damage have to fight for adequate care. They detect a whiff of militarism in the way civilian dead are ignored, and jingoism in the refusal to recognise that many of the enemy died believing they were fighting for freedom too. But above all, they are offended by the sight of politicians who have embroiled us in war laying wreathes at the Cenotaph in memory of the young men and women who have died fighting it. This is the final corruption of the original intention of remembrance: it has not prevented war happening again. Worse, it can be seen as a balm to the consciences of all of us who have failed to stop it.







AFTER years of seeking to sweep it under the carpet, Gordon Brown has finally addressed the issue of the corruption of Hamid Karzai's Afghan regime head-on.


The Prime Minister correctly labelled Karzai's administration "a byword for corruption" and said he would not put British troops "in harm's way" for such a government.

He even told Karzai that "cronies and warlords should have no place in the future of Afghanistan". These are all noble sentiments and their expression is long overdue. But the Prime Minister also insisted that Britain and other Western powers "cannot, must not and will not" walk away from Afghanistan.

The fact is that there is not the slightest chance of Karzai or any alternative Afghan leader running a regime shorn of cronies and without the support of warlords.

That benighted land has been run on such a basis since time immemorial. So while Mr Brown was more frank about Karzai's shortcomings yesterday than ever before, he was still not presenting the British people with an honest assessment.

The real choice facing Britain is whether to continue sacrificing its troops in support of an irredeemably corrupt figure and his chronically dysfunctional country or whether to bring them home.

More and more public figures are now voicing the view that this newspaper has been advancing for years: the lives of our gallant service personnel should not be wasted in a war without end.    







The X Factor is usually at its most watchable during the early auditions.


Our jaws drop at the sheer hopelessness of most of the wannabes and at the breathtaking talent of the tiny few.

But this year the advanced stages are absolutely gripping in their own right. I am not sure why.

Perhaps it is because there are plenty of singers with the potential to win, as opposed to two or three possibles surrounded by makeweights.

From the start my money has been on Olly, the essex boy with the big voice and star quality to match. Richard thinks that Lucie from Wales will win and it's true that lovely Lucie hasn't missed a note yet.

Big-hearted, big-haired rocker Jamie is my second choice. And I can't believe I'm writing this but my husband thinks Irish twins John and edward – Jedward to everyone now – could  swing it.

They can't sing and can't dance but even Cheryl Cole (known as The Goddess in our house) calls Jedward her "guilty pleasure".

I suppose it all depends on whether X Factor is a talent show or a personality competition. either way, I'll be watching to the bitter end.








Twenty-three multinational companies, hospitals, clinics and pharmacies were caught illegally distributing Tamiflu, an antiviral medication that is used to treat the H1N1 virus.


The Korea Food and Drug Administration's investigation into 3,853 hospitals, clinics and pharmacies that handled large volumes of Tamiflu between May and October found that enough Tamiflu to treat 7,287 people had been illegally distributed. More than 80 percent of the illegally distributed Tamiflu had gone to HSBC Korea and Novartis Korea.


Hoarding and illegal distribution of Tamiflu had been expected, especially because of a shortage of one of the few medications that can treat the H1N1 flu. However, the fact that large multinational companies were at the forefront of such illicit activity comes as a shock. HSBC said that it had obtained Tamiflu for its employees. No one can chide a company for being concerned about the welfare of its employees. But laws should not be broken for the sake of guaranteeing its employees' welfare, especially when such acts threaten the welfare of the greater public.


What is even more deplorable is that Roche Korea, part of the Roche group, which manufactures Tamiflu, offered tips on how to obtain Tamiflu illicitly to some 10 multinational corporations. The company allegedly illegally distributed 27,000 capsules of Tamiflu. It did so by obtaining fake prescriptions from its client medical institutions.


It is unconscionable that while the government was grappling with how best to administer the limited supply of Tamiflu and maintain strict guidelines for prescribing the medication, companies were holding caches of Tamiflu. It is only within the last few weeks that the health authorities have given doctors the green light to prescribe Tamiflu without testing for the H1N1 virus. The government has also distributed Tamiflu to all pharmacies nationwide. These measures were taken to eliminate any unnecessary delay in the treatment of H1N1 flu patients and to relieve the patient overload at the large hospitals that were initially designated to treat H1N1 patients.


These measures, however, also make it easy for people who are not sick to get Tamiflu. At the moment, the government in effect rations Tamiflu because of the scarcity of the antiviral medication. Some people, although not sick now, may try to get Tamiflu before the supply is depleted as a precautionary measure. Worse yet, unscrupulous individuals might attempt to stockpile Tamiflu for profiteering.


With the spread of the H1N1 flu expected to peak in the next four weeks, maintaining an adequate stock of Tamiflu is essential. The government must work to obtain a sufficient inventory of Tamiflu and at the same time conduct campaigns against illegally amassing Tamiflu.


The authorities should deal strictly with those companies that were caught distributing the medication illegally as well as those who obtained them illicitly. The law calls for criminal prosecution of those who obtain medication with forged prescriptions. The companies that were caught should be punished to the fullest extent of the law to prevent the possible recurrence of such incidents.







Foreigners who purchase property in Korea may be eligible to receive permanent residency starting early next year.


A revision in the law will allow foreigners who buy real estate in Korea exceeding a specified amount to obtain a D-8 visa. Property holders who stay in Korea for more than five years will be given permanent residency. Currently, D-8 visas are issued only to foreign direct investors.


Initially, the new D-8 visa program will apply to the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province. The aim is to attract retirees from abroad to the southern island. The Justice Ministry said that while the details have yet to be confirmed, D-8 visas will be granted to people who invest more than $500,000 in condominiums and resorts in areas such as Jeju that are attractive to retirees.


Such international residency programs are hardly new in other parts of the world. For example, Malaysia's "Malaysia My Second Home" scheme aims to attract foreign retirees to the country by giving long-stay visas up to 10 years and various other incentives to foreigners who make real-estate investments. Hong Kong, Canada and the United States also give long-term visas or permanent resident status to property investors.


While the pilot international residency program will be limited to the Jeju for now, the government is expected to expand the program to other parts of the country. By directing foreign investment to areas that have been traditionally off the map for investors from abroad, the government seeks to stimulate the local economies. One caveat here is that such areas may not be attractive to foreign investors, despite the incentives.


Making visas more easily obtainable for qualified foreign talent is another government attempt to secure a large pool of high-quality foreign manpower. An online visa issuance system, dubbed HuNet Korea, is designed to make it easier for Korean companies to hire global talent.


A database of qualified workers from abroad recommended by designated experts combined with online visa application and issuance for the people on the database are expected to facilitate the hiring of high-quality manpower from around the world.


The new system will cut down the visa processing time from the current one month to less than a week. For businesses, it will also lower expenses involved in seeking foreign employees.


In the effort to promote globalization, it should be remembered that attracting talent to the country is only half the job. What is perhaps more important is creating inclusive social and business environments for them and their capital. The government should work on the details of the new schemes and promote them actively so that they become more than mere window dressing to the country's efforts to globalize.







There is currently a raging controversy over gambling in South Korea. Some people contend that the number of gambling addicts in the country has reached the staggering figure of 3.6 million. This means that one out of every 10 is a gambling addict. If one were to also consider the number of South Koreans who are addicted to alcohol and the internet, as well as the number of those who are suffering from depression, panic disorder, and other mental disorders, it would look like not a single healthy adult could be found in the country nowadays.


Is this really the case?


According to an estimate, gambling addicts account for roughly 3 percent of the Korean people. This figure is higher than those in the United States, Canada, or Europe but is similar to, or lower than, those in other Asian countries and cities, such as Singapore (4.1 percent), Macao (4.3 percent), and Hong Kong (5.3 percent).


The problem is that these figures are usually inaccurate or exaggerated estimations of policymakers in the government and of so-called experts. This notwithstanding, the people who may happen to hear the news that there are 3.6 million gambling addicts in South Korea may come to think that South Korea is a den of gambling addicts.


As such, the government should crack down on all forms of gambling in the country. This is the same as saying that our society should first secure moral justification and exercise self-control to address a serious problem, and to do this, the government seems to maintain the childish belief that estimated figures should be exaggerated, and promote the disgrace of a gambling republic internationally and to the citizens without feeling ashamed.


What, then, must be done?


Although moral justification is important, the government should also secure procedural justification. Moral superiority does not always justify the methods to be implemented. Morality without the proper procedures is very dangerous. As in Europe in the Middle Ages, where mental patients, handicapped people, and vagrants were burned at the stake, having been regarded as witches, we too may find ourselves engaging in "witch hunting" if we resort only to moral justification.


The National Gaming Control Commission, acting on behalf of the government, should investigate and respect the objective and fair estimated figures regarding the number of gambling addicts in the country, should present such data to all interested parties and to the citizens, and should communicate with them regarding the matter.


The government should accommodate the parties concerned in the gaming industry. It should not treat such parties with the attitude of an occupation army but should seek to understand them and to do all that it can to make itself understood by them. The government should also try to understand why many gambling addicts do not receive medical treatment, and should provide them with an environment in which they can receive medical treatment safely and freely.


To do this, the government should seriously ponder the kinds of prevention and promotion activities it should engage in, and the kinds of services it should provide. What is needed by most gambling addicts and their families is rehabilitation. Most of these people are actually those who have fallen into poverty or have become credit delinquents and who have come to feel that they cannot redeem themselves except by striking a fortune with one stroke, through gambling.


What has caused all these? According to a recent news report, the Ministry of Finance and the National Intelligence Service estimated the size of the country's illegal gambling market in 2006 to have been 64 and 88 trillion won, respectively, four to five times larger than the legitimate speculation industry. As such, the government's current policies focusing on the control of the legitimate gaming industry can be said to be on the wrong track. The government should instead focus on carrying out research and drafting policy that will allow the country to address its illegal gambling market.


As for the legitimate speculation industry, the government should induce people to seek sound forms of enjoyment. The government should bear in mind that its clumsy control of the legitimate speculation industry could result in the further expansion of the country's illegal gambling market.


As for the gambling addicts who have fallen into poverty, the government should help them once again become

productive members of the society. These people were not without skills from the beginning; they just lost their resources when they became addicted to gambling. There exist counseling and treatment organizations operated by the speculation industry.


Among these organizations, there are good ones equipped with a nationwide network that can provide free counseling and medication, and that offer to shoulder the pertinent hospital charges, but rehabilitation is beyond the scope of what these organizations can do. Thus, the government should secure its own moral and procedural justification, work towards mutual recognition and communication, construct a nationwide and systematic rehabilitation network (including occupational and housing facilities), help gambling addicts and their families restore their lost resources and once again become sound members of the society, and share the heavy burden borne by the gambling addicts' spouses, children, and other family members, rather than generate or perpetrate wasteful controversies and assume the stance of an occupation army.


Lee Heung -pyo is a professor at Daegu Cyber University. -- Ed.


By Lee Heung-pyo