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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

EDITORIAL 10.11.09

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

Editorial

month november 10, edition 000346, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

http://editorialsamarth.blogspot.com

 

THE PIONEER

  1. DALAI LAMA IN ARUNACHAL
  2. AFTER THE TRUCE IN BJP
  3. SMOG SMOTHERS SCAMS IN DELHI - SANDHYA JAIN
  4. IT'S A CASE OF SUDDEN JIHAD - DANIEL PIPES
  5. MAOIST OFFER WORTH REFUSING - RAMAVTAR YADAV AND SUSHANT K SINGH
  6. TWISTING FACT INTO FICTION - BARRY RUBIN
  7. MULLAHS DEMEAN WOMEN - PRAFULL GORADIA

MAIL TODAY

  1. MURDERED ONCE AND NOW BETRAYED
  2. METRO FAILURE
  3. PREPARING THE GROUND FOR MODI - BY JYOTIRMAYA SHARMA
  4. CM'S WAR CRYMET WITH MORE BLOODSHED - ALOKE BANERJEE
  5. BY- POLLS RESULTS CRITICAL FOR LEFT'S FUTURE
  6. EVERY ACHIEVEMENT A STEPPING STONE
  7. PAK'S WAR ON TERROR IS A COMPLETE SHAM

TIMES OF INDIA

  1. STOP THE HOOLIGANS
  2. PRICE OF ONIONS
  3. FROM BERLIN TO BENGAL -
  4. MATH CANNOT MODEL ART
  5. DON'T UNDERESTIMATE SCIENCE -
  6. PERCEPTION VS REALITY -
  7. KEYS TO ROMANCE -

 HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. NO LONGER TONGUE-TIED
  2. A TIBETAN LET LOOSE
  3. OUT IN THE COLD
  4. MAOISM'S OTHER SIDE - DILIP SIMEON
  5. ATTITUDINAL GAIN - PARAMBIR KAUR
  6. Plugging holes - Why poor need Unique ID

INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. AN ARGUMENT WON
  2. PRESENT TENSE
  3. VILLAGE VOICE
  4. FATWA FOR NOBODY - AIJAZ ILMI
  5. TIME FOR A SPLIT - COOMI KAPOOR
  6. GRIN AND BEAR IT - SHAILAJA BAJPAI
  7. THE BERLIN WALL: IN HISTORY, IN MEMORY
  8. NORTH OF ADEN - ALIA ALLANA
  9. THE SAD BALLAD OF AN INDIAN JAIL - CURRUN SINGH

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. BROADER THAN BORDER
  2. CARRY BOTH ALANG
  3. WHY SHOULD ASIA BAIL OUT AMERICA? - AVINASH D PERSAUD
  4. FINALLY, A PRAGMATIC SELL OFF - MADAN SABNAVIS
  5. THE STATE OF FINANCIAL EXCLUSION - JOSEPH VACKAYIL

 THE HINDU

  1. A REVENUE RAISING EXERCISE
  2. THE HEISEI REFORMATION
  3. TRIAL REVEALS DEPTH OF CHINA'S CORRUPTION - ANANTH KRISHNAN
  4. IP RIGHTS CREATE A SECURE ENVIRONMENT FOR INVESTMENT IN INNOVATION - FRANCIS GURRY
  5. THE WALL: HYPE AND REALITY - VAIJU NARAVANE
  6. IN TWILIGHT AT 91, MANDELA ENDURES AS SOUTH AFRICA'S IDEAL - CELIA W. DUGGER

 THE ASIAN AGE

  1. DAY OF SHAME IN MAHARASHTRA
  2. E FOR ELECTRONIC, W FOR WASTE - JAYATI GHOSH
  3. HUMAN RIGHTS IN ASEAN - SHANKARI SUNDARARAMAN
  4. A CLOUDY ANNIVERSARY AT THE WHITE HOUSE - GOVIND TALWALKAR

 DNA

  1. TASKS CUT OUT
  2. NEEDLESS DEATHS
  3. RSS CONTROL
  4. COLLECTIVE FAILURE
  5. COVER UP OPERATION - SULTAN SHAHIN 
  6. MAHARASHTRA'S ISSUES COME HOME TO ROOST - RANJONA BANERJI
  7. REACHING OUT TO GOD

THE TRIBUNE

  1. FAST FORWARD WITH REFORMS
  2. A RUDDERLESS BJP
  3. ARMS FROM CHINA?
  4. ACCUSATIONS OF BIAS AGAINST JUDGES - BY P.P. RAO
  5. OF LESSONS TAUGHT AND REMEMBERED - BY SIMRITA SARAO DHIR
  6. JUDGES' ASSETS - BY J. L. GUPTA
  7. WHEN BERLIN WALL FELL - BY RAJENDRA PRABHU
  8. DELHI DURBAR

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

  1. MORAL TURPITUDE
  2. GUWAHATI ODI
  3. LENGTHS OF PRECIOUS FABRIC - D N BEZBORUAH
  4. RBI STAND ON MONETARY POLICY - DR BK MUKHOPADHYAY

 THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. ANOTHER ATTACK ON THE IDEA OF INDIA
  2. NPS & EPFO SHOULD SHARE INFRASTRUCTURE
  3. CONGRESS KA HAATH
  4. THROUGH THE THIRD EYE
  5. THE HIDDEN VARIABLES IN NATURE - MUKUL SHARMA
  6. R&D OFFSHORING COMES OF AGE - JAIDEEP MISHRA
  7. FINANCIAL, INDUSTRIAL STOCKS WILL DO A LOT BETTER: RIDHAM DESAI, ORGAN STANLEY - ANDY MUKHERJEE
  8. 'I DON'T SEE TOO MANY SIGNS OF RECOVERY' - SHAILI CHOPRA
  9. INDIA CAN LEAD WORLD OUT OF SLUMP - DURBA GHOSH & PARAMITA CHATTERJEE
  10. SUSTAINABILITY CAN LEAD TO INNOVATION: CK PRAHALAD - R SRIDHARAN
  11. INDIA'S PER CAPITA INCOME WILL OVERTAKE US, UK BY JULY '48: HANS ROSLING - PANKAJ MISHRA

 DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. DAY OF SHAME IN MAHARASHTRA
  2. A CLOUDY ANNIVERSARY AT THE WHITE HOUSE  - BY GOVIND TALWALKAR
  3. PARANOIA ABOUT US' FUTURE: RIGHT OR WRONG? - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  4. E FOR ELECTRONIC, W FOR WASTE - BY JAYATI GHOSH
  5. HUMAN RIGHTS IN ASEAN - BY SHANKARI SUNDARARAMAN
  6. LIFE AFTER THE END OF HISTORY  - BY ROSS DOUTHAT

 THE TELEGRAPH

  1. NOT QUITE NEW
  2. WALLS WITHIN
  3. VIEWS FROM AFAR  - ANDRÉ BÉTEILLE
  4. IN THE VICIOUS CIRCLE  - MALVIKA SINGH
  5. THE PRESIDENT IN HIS LABYRINTH
  6. PULL DOWN THE HOUSE OF DISORDER

 DECCAN HERALD

  1. TAWANG'S HIGHPRIEST
  2. JUST WRONG
  3. SURVIVAL IMPERATIVE - BY BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA
  4. SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL, TOO BIG IS UGLY - BY HAZEL HENDERSON
  5. A CALL FOR HUMANITY - BY LEELA RAMASWAMY

 THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. HOLDING JEWS TOGETHER
  2. NO HOLDS BARRED: THE BRITISH DETERMINE WHO IS A JEW?! - SHMULEY BOTEACH
  3. ENCOUNTERING PEACE: NEGOTIATING ABOUT NEGOTIATIONS - GERSHON BASKIN
  4. TERRA INCOGNITA: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY - SETH FRANTZMAN
  5. FROM SETTLEMENT FREEZE TO BABY STEPS - YOSSI ALPHER

 HAARETZ

  1. THIS, TOO, IS VIOLENCE
  2. CAN OSLO TAKE BACK OBAMA'S NOBEL?  - BY YOEL MARCUS
  3. THE WAY THE WIND BLOWS - BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER
  4. WHEN THERE WAS A LEADER HERE - BY ELDAD YANIV
  5. TO KEEP THE BOND STRONG  - BY ALEXANDER YAKOBSON

 THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. THE BAN ON ABORTION COVERAGE
  2. COUNTING FORWARD
  3. YOU DON'T WANT TO BE DOWNWIND
  4. PROMISES ON OPEN SPACE
  5. THE RUSH TO THERAPY - BY DAVID BROOKS
  6. A WORD, MR. PRESIDENT - BY BOB HERBERT
  7. THE SHORT LIFE OF A DIAGNOSIS - BY SIMON BARON-COHEN

I.THE NEWS

  1. NUKES – AGAIN
  2. WARDING OFF DEATH
  3. A ROSY PICTURE
  4. KARZAI AFTER RE-ELECTION - RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI
  5. INSTABILITY AND THE ECONOMY - DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN
  6. REJECTING HYPER-NATIONALISTS - MOSHARRAF ZAIDI
  7. SAVE ISLAMABAD, PLEASE - TASNEEM NOORANI
  8. TESTING TIMES FOR PAKISTAN-US RELATIONS
  9. DEMOCRACY IN DANGER - MIR JAMILUR RAHMAN

 PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. PRODUCTION OF INDIGENOUS N-POWER PLANTS
  2. INDIA ACCUSES CHINA-FRIVOLOUSLY
  3. EXPLOITING IQBAL FOR POLITICAL ENDS
  4. WITHER INDUS WATERS DREAM? - KHALID SALEEM
  5. WHY WAR ENVELOPS US HOMELAND? - SAJJAD SHAUKAT
  6. HILLARY'S VIEWS, GERMAN & FRENCH CONCERTS - SALAHUDDIN HAIDER
  7. TAKE A STAND - SHAIMA SUMAYA
  8. A DEATH STORY..!  - ROBERT CLEMENTS

 THE INDEPENDENT

  1. NAVIGATIONAL STRIKE
  2. WINTER DISEASES
  3. DON'T WE ALL...!
  4. MOONLIGHTING BY PUBLIC UNIVERSITY TEACHERS - M. SERAJUL ISLAM
  5. BANGLADESH-MYANMAR RELATIONSHIP - KAWSER AHMED
  6. EUROCENTRIC BIASES? - M SHAHID ALAM

 THE HIMALAYAN 

  1. BELITTLING REASON
  2. HELL OF A WAY
  3. CONSTITUTIONAL DISCOURSE EMPHASISE LOCAL GOVERNMENT - MUKTI RIJAL
  4. DIVORCE AND CHILDREN - NAMITA NEPAL
  5. FACTION-RIDDEN POLITY FACES CREDIBILITY CRISIS - PRAKASH ACHARYA

 THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. COMPARATIVELY, LET'S PLAY TO OUR ADVANTAGE
  2. LEAVE GOD ALONE

 THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. A HEALTHY CHANGE
  2. DISCORD IMPERILS THE LIBERALS
  3. A NIGHT THAT CHANGED BERLIN, AND ALMOST THE WORLD
  4. STATE MAKES THE RIGHT CALL ON MAINTAINING ROAD SAFETY

 THE GURDIAN

  1. IN PRAISE OF… FOOTBALL REFEREES
  2. ENERGY POLICY: ATOMIC DREAMS
  3. FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL: THE LOST DECADES

 DAILY EXPRESS

  1. STASI TACTICS IN HARROW
  2. THE LEFT HAS NEVER WANTED A DEBATE ON IMMIGRATION
  3. PERFECT PARENTING IS NOT ALWAYS BEST - BY VANESSA FELTZ
  4. FERGIE RANTS FOUL UP GAME
  5. I'LL PAVE THE WAY TO A GOLDEN ERA I'LL TO
  6. SWANN IS LIFTED BY FLYING START - BY COLIN BATEMAN

 THE KOREA HERALD

  1. ACCUSING THE DEAD
  2. LAUNCH OF RIVER WORK
  3. STRADDLE BETWEEN CONTINENT AND OCEAN?  - PARK SANG-SEEK
  4. 'WHAT IF' GAME AND ENDLESS INDIVIDUAL CHOICES  - MICHAEL MEYER

 THE JAKARTA POST

  1. THE HERO AND THE CROOK
  2. WE SPEAK THE LANGUAGE OF HUMANS, NOT OF CROCODILES - AL MAKIN
  3. BRINGING THE SERVICE INDUSTRY BACK TO RI - JAMES RAJASA
  4. THE EDUCATION SECTOR ROLE IN HIV PREVENTION - IRWANTO
  5. BERLIN WALL AND SEPARATIST MOVEMENT IN RI - IMANUDDIN RAZAK

 CHINA DAILY

  1. REGIONAL DESIGN IN ASIA-PACIFIC
  2. WHY SUCH FUSS ON REFORM?
  3. DALAI LAMA SUSPENDED TALKS BUT DOOR STILL OPEN
  4. DRINKING LESSONS

 THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. THE BEST WAY TO DEAL WITH NATIONALISTS  - BY LEONID GOZMAN
  2. MORE WALLS NEED TO FALL  - BY MIKHAIL GORBACHEV

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

DALAI LAMA IN ARUNACHAL

CHINA MUST REALISE THAT 2009 ISN'T 1962


The Dalai Lama's statement expressing surprise over China's territorial claim on Arunachal Pradesh and categorically asserting that the State was, is and shall always be an integral part of the Union of India deserves to be lauded. The comments from the Tibetan spiritual leader — he also said "It's usual for China to oppose my visit... Wherever I go, I have two objectives: To promote human values and promote harmony" — came during his ongoing visit to Arunachal Pradesh, where he has expectedly received a tumultuous welcome, against which China has vigorously protested, trotting out the usual bunkum bordering on hysteria. But no matter what spin it tries to put on the Dalai Lama's visit, China's claim on Arunachal Pradesh is untenable and based on nothing more than fiction. Over the years, the people of Arunachal Pradesh have repeatedly and conclusively demonstrated their loyalty to India; not a single person has even remotely suggested that China may have a case. The people of this State have been regularly sending elected representatives to Parliament and participating in Assembly elections; their oneness with the Indian mainstream is highlighted by the fact that Hindi is the lingua franca of the State. In every which way, Arunachalis share a common identity and destiny with their fellow Indians. All this and more firmly exposes the Chinese myth that Arunachal Pradesh is actually 'South Tibet'. And, since it is an Indian State, the people of this country and its leaders have the right to visit Arunachal Pradesh whenever they please. Thus, for China to throw a fit every time an Indian leader visits the State is pointless. It is time Beijing got used to it.


As far as the Dalai Lama is concerned, being an honoured guest of India, he is welcome to visit any part of the country. The Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader of Buddhists and is revered by Tibetans and non-Tibetans alike; indeed, non-Buddhists seek inspiration from his teachings too. To fulfil that role it is understandable that he needs to travel in order to meet his disciples and followers. There is absolutely no good reason whatsoever to deny the Dalai Lama that right. It is in this context that the Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh needs to be seen. For, the Chinese have been insisting, and absurdly so, that New Delhi has intentionally prodded the Tibetan leader to visit the State in the backdrop of the recent war of words on India-China border issues. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Indian position on both the Dalai Lama and Arunachal Pradesh is clear. Hence, there is no need for New Delhi to try and draw political mileage from the spiritual leader's visit. It is unfortunate that every time Arunachal Pradesh makes headlines the Chinese whip up their belligerent rhetoric. Beijing is quick to remind all of what happened in 1962. But the truth is what happens in Arunachal Pradesh is none of China's concern. Whether it is a guest of the Government visiting the State or a proposed development project that is to be implemented there, these decisions are solely to be taken by New Delhi. Meanwhile, China, so fond of bluster, would be well-advised to realise that 2009 is not 1962.

 

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THE PIONEER

AFTER THE TRUCE IN BJP

KARNATAKA EXPECTS RESPONSIVE GOVERNANCE


LK Advani's 83rd birthday turned out to be a doubly joyous occasion for the BJP as the crisis in Karnataka ended and both factions in the party there turned up at the saffron patriarch's house to seek his blessings. Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa and his arch-rival and Cabinet colleague, Tourism Minister Janardhana Reddy, agreed to a peace formula and to working together for the State, where tens of thousands are suffering the aftermath of a calamitous flood. The resolution of the protracted crisis has not been without its drama and its political innovations, in particular the device of the coordination committee that will now oversee governance and BJP affairs in Karnataka and be the first such mechanism for a BJP Government anywhere in the country. While it remains to be seen how this experiment works and to what degree it can calm the troubled waters within the ruling party in Bangalore, the BJP will have to strive to make up for the long-drawn civil war of the past few weeks. The sight of the Chief Minister rushing to Delhi to save his Government and of dissident MLAs being packed off to a resort in Hyderabad even while their support was being auctioned has not served the BJP and its Government. Yet, all is not lost. There is time to make amends. The next election is more than three years away and mid-term polls are not really an option. No MLA wants to go back to the people so early in the life of the Assembly. An election is an expensive and exhausting process and Karnataka's politicians cannot afford one so soon. That aside, even if the Congress and the BJP dissidents were to come together — and that possibility is purely hypothetical, with the former dissidents firmly in the BJP fold once again — it would be a precarious arrangement.


Mr Yeddyurappa and his Government need to make the most of this breathing space and resort to purposeful administration. The Congress will no doubt believe it has an opportunity in Karnataka and try and exploit perceived weaknesses of the BJP. It is for the Chief Minister to show decisive leadership and restore the morale of his party. In 2008, the people of the State rewarded him with a clear mandate because they were desperate for a stable Government, disheartened after years of blackmail by political middlemen and operators such as members of the Deve Gowda clan. If the BJP shows itself as unequal to the task of staving off similar challenges it will not just dishearten its supporters, it will also endanger the long-term viability of its first State Government in southern India. Whatever the delay and media-created hype, the BJP national leadership acted with extraordinary firmness and resolve in refusing to accede to the removal of Mr Yeddyurappa and showing solidarity with him. This was morally correct, as one of the elements of the BJP victory in 2008 was Mr Yeddyurappa's leadership. Strengthened by the high command's unstinting support, the Lingayat veteran must get down to the business of running his State.

 

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            THE PIONEER

COLUMN

SMOG SMOTHERS SCAMS IN DELHI

SANDHYA JAIN


After the Sheila Dikshit 'sarkar' offered consumers 'relief' with a promise that electricity bills will rise 100 per cent every three years (I will explain), I was alerted to check the increase over the past three years, taking my household as indicative of the true story of privatisation. The exercise was a lesson in how blindly we trust (are forced to trust) those in charge of vital aspects of our lives.


The BSES Rajdhani bill for February 2006 was Rs 870 for 329 units consumed. In June 2006, it jumped to Rs 2,320 for 754 units. In February 2008 it was Rs 1,160 for 425 units; and in June 2008 it became Rs 5,580 for 1,553 units! This was when Delhi Government was supposedly subsidising the company.


Bills rose algebraically thereafter, in terms of units consumed (how can a two-person family increase consumption?) and total charged; it climaxed to a handsome Rs 16,588 for 3,639 units in October, when public patience exploded at this outright thuggery.


Suffering citizens will be familiar with the way BSES Rajdhani abandons complaint centres during power breakdowns; how it harasses in lodging a complaint. I never lodged a complaint because I didn't have the physical stamina to pursue a criminally obdurate system.


Readers can see something is seriously amiss. A just solution seems likely to evade us because the Supreme Court deemed electronic metres worthy of installation. Things will improve only when free electricity to Ministers, MPs and babus stops, and everyone pays the same amount for the same consumption. In an era when Government is plugging privatisation, what is the justification for this socialist-era freebie?


We need an honest investigation into who is gaining in the electricity scam. When an inept politician like former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda can amass several thousand crores in a few months, we can envisage the assets of more adept practitioners of politics. The gravy train must be derailed. Only then will politicians realise that a company that cannot ensure voltage stabilisation is not fit to operate in the city. The BJP has woken up to political loot of natural resources in Orissa; it must do its homework for the capital's suffering citizenry as well.


If Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seriously hopes India will become at least a respectable regional power, he must realise that electricity is a 'must have' in modern life, and not a luxury that can be disconnected for non-payment of rapacious bills. He must end the farce and ask the Delhi Government to resume charge of electricity supply without delay. Infrastructure can be improved by charging consumers a separate cess for modernisation, on area-wise basis where infrastructure is actually upgraded. These occasional payments work with the Delhi Jal Board.


To conclude with Ms Dikshit's idea of relief from inflated bills, the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission permitted BSES to charge consumers a hefty 30 per cent extra for the period June to August, over the corresponding period last year. This means the company can bill us 90 to 100 per cent extra every three years! Do incomes rise in this proportion in any economy, let alone this era of recession when jobs are lost daily, and no one cares? What about the over-billing of the past three years — where did the loot go?


The promise of post and pre-audit checks in the case of increase of over 50 per cent for the same period in the previous year is misleading. New software will keep glitches below 50 per cent, say 45 per cent, and anyway, the Delhi Government has not explained why it allowed electronic meters to be forcefully changed twice. As of now, the new fast running meters and the defective software continue unmolested; citizens cannot protest every bill cycle, so the scam will flourish.


To add insult to injury, Ms Dikshit callously asserts that if you want power, pay; if you want water, pay; if you want to eat, pay; if you want to sit in my fancy bus, pay… The Chief Minister is so indifferent to public anguish that she chose to hike bus fares at the precise moment when food prices went through the roof and even the brazen regime had to admit 13.39 per cent inflation in food items (market reality is much higher).


Since the bus fare hike, like the cost of milk and kitchen necessities, daily pinches the common man, may we ask why fancy buses with unbearable maintenance costs have been purchased in the first place, and through which private company? Did the carrying capacity of these buses justify the purchases? All that was needed in the old buses — which were converted to CNG at great cost under pressure from the Supreme Court and at great inconvenience to the public when many routes virtually vanished for months — was to arrest drivers who gleefully ran over members of the public, and the owners who made them speed for higher profits! Clearly there is no profit in common sense.


Food prices are simply a scandal. A regime that does not bat an eyelid when potatoes sell at Rs 35 a kg and a coin-sized lemon for Rs 5, holds the common man in obvious contempt. Even experts agree that the food price rise has more to do with Government policy than the ground situation. Media exposure made the Delhi Government promise to lower property tax in the NDMC area; but why is this different from MCD slabs in the first place?


Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh has pointed out that Yamuna remains a cesspool. There is no explanation how the Rs 10,000 crore of Japanese aid received during Ms Dikshit's last tenure was utilised. Opposition parties should get cracking on this, because if schoolchildren accompanying Ms Dikshit with hand-nets at weekends can really clean the river, there would be no need for even Government allocation of funds, let alone foreign aid. Every Delhi colony could take turns to send residents to fish out the muck on weekends — free.


Nearly 75 per cent of forest cover that exists on paper is actually degraded land; hence last Saturday's eye-burning smog. And now some private (crony) company will bilk the taxpayer for mapping Delhi's carbon footprints. Money will also be reaped in installing gas-based power plants in the capital.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

IT'S A CASE OF SUDDEN JIHAD

DANIEL PIPES


When a Muslim in the West for no apparent reason violently attacks non-Muslims, a predictable argument ensues about motives. The establishment — law enforcement, politicians, the media, and the academy — stands on one side of this debate, insisting that some kind of oppression caused Maj Nidal Malik Hasan to kill 13 and wound 38 at Fort Hood on November 5. It disagrees on the specifics, however, presenting Maj Hasan as the victim alternatively of "racism", "harassment he had received as a Muslim", a "sense of not belonging", "pre-traumatic stress disorder", "mental problems", "emotional problems", "an inordinate amount of stress", or being deployed to Afghanistan as his "worst nightmare". Accordingly, a typical newspaper headline reads, "Mindset of Rogue Major a Mystery."


As a charter member of the jihad school of interpretation, I reject these explanations as weak, obfuscatory, and apologetic. The jihadi school, still in the minority, perceives Maj Hasan's attack as one of many Muslim efforts to vanquish infidels and impose Islamic law. We recall a prior episode of sudden jihad syndrome in the US military, as well as the numerous cases of non-lethal Pentagon jihadi plots and the history of Muslim violence on American soil.


Far from being mystified by Maj Hasan, we see overwhelming evidence of his jihadi intentions. He handed out Qurans to neighbours just before going on his rampage and yelled "Allah-O-Akbar," the jihadi's cry, as he fired off over 100 rounds from two pistols. His superiors reportedly put him on probation for inappropriately proselytising about Islam.


We note what former associates say about him: One quotes Maj Hasan saying, "I'm a Muslim first and an American second" and recalls him justifying suicide terrorism; another recalls that Maj Hasan "claimed Muslims had the right to rise up and attack Americans"; the third, a psychiatrist, described him as "almost belligerent about being Muslim".


Finally, the jihad school of thought attributes importance to the Islamic authorities' urging American Muslim soldiers to refuse to fight their co-religionists, thereby providing a basis for sudden jihad. In 2001, for example, responding to the US attack on the Taliban, the Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gum'a, issued a fatwa stating that "The Muslim soldier in the American Army must refrain (from participating) in this war." Maj Hasan, echoing that message, advised a young Muslim disciple not to join the US Army because "Muslims shouldn't kill Muslims."

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

MAOIST OFFER WORTH REFUSING

GOVERNMENT'S TACTICS OF WIDELY PUBLICISING 'OPERATION GREEN HUNT' HAS PROMPTED THE MAOISTS TO EXTEND THE OLIVE BRANCH. CERTAIN SECTIONS WILL BE TEMPTED TO START A DIALOGUE WITH THE MAOISTS. HOWEVER, GOVERNMENT MUST NOT VENTURE INTO TALKS WITHOUT REFLECTING UPON THE TIMING AND SINCERITY OF THE OFFER MADE BY MAOISTS, WRITE RAMAVTAR YADAV AND SUSHANT K SINGH


The CPI(Maoist), in a formal statement issued in the name of their Central Committee member Azad early last week, has offered ceasefire if the Centre gave up its "irrational, illogical and absurd stand that Maoists should abjure violence". On the face of it, it appears that Government's tactics of widely publicising 'Operation Green Hunt' is prompting the Maoists — afraid of suffering serious losses in the coming security offensive — to extend the olive branch. Certain sections of the Government will be tempted — their belief reinforced by public calls from the myriad Leftist intellectuals — to start a dialogue with the Maoists, notwithstanding the current precondition of Maoists abjuring violence before the talks.


India being a vibrant democracy, talks will have to be inevitably held with the Maoists at some stage. However, the Government must not venture into talks without reflecting upon the timing, and sincerity of the offer made by the Maoists.


Here it is instructive to revisit the two rounds of talks held between the Maoists, then going under the moniker of People's War Group, and the Andhra Pradesh Government. In February 2002, the State Home Minister held several rounds of talks with a representative of the PWG. However, the PWG withdrew from those talks in June 2002 following a police encounter. The PWG had earlier refused to lay down arms and later blamed the police for sabotaging the talks. This thread was taken up by certain political parties, who were also joined by some intellectuals in blaming the Government for lacking sincerity.


In 2004, the Andhra Pradesh Government lifted its ban of the PWG, agreed to a three-month-long cease-fire — even placing the PWG's 'non-negotiable' refusal to surrender arms on the back-burner — and again initiated talks with the PWG leadership. The State Government sincerely tried to work out solutions within the constitutional framework to resolve the socio-economic issues raised by the PWG. To meet the PWG demand of giving "land to the tiller", the State Government announced the constitution of a high-powered body to identify land for re-distribution among the poor. It promised to do a detailed land inventory, along with a new proposal to rein in land sharks, and a time-bound programme to implement Regulation 1/70 which prohibits non-tribal people from occupying tribal lands. It also implemented a liberal policy on the release of political prisoners, moved in to scrap the rewards on the heads of Maoist leaders and referred all the Prevention of Terrorism Act cases to a review committee. The Government, on its part, had responded to the socio-political dimensions of the problem, whereby controverting all charges of treating Maoism as a mere law and order problem.

However, the cease-fire led to many disturbing developments. Armed cadre of the PWG moved into the villages to re-establish their hold as the police had withdrawn from those areas. These cadre, for the first time, moved into many non-rural areas of the State. The PWG even held a meeting in the heart of Hyderabad which was attended by more than five lakh people; there was a public display of weapons and the State capital was drowned in a sea of red with PWG flags. The State Government had unwittingly allowed the PWG to spread its terror to urban areas.


The free movement of armed cadre extorting money and threatening people forced the Government to recommence police patrolling in those areas to maintain law and order. The ceasefire agreement was not renewed. The Maoists upped the ante by blasting a landmine injuring four policemen.


The PWG leaders at the end of first round of talks picked up their automatic weapons at Chinna Arutla village, 10 km from Srisailam. While taking possession of his weapon, their leader Ramakrishna tellingly proclaimed: "Holding talks is just a part of our strategy. The ultimate goal is armed struggle".


In hindsight, the Maoist groups wrested the publicity initiative after the first round of talks. They unleashed high-decibel propaganda during the four-day talks which received huge coverage in the mass media. The media not only found nothing wrong in armed Maoist cadre displaying weapons and threatening people blindly, but it also accepted the claim that armed struggle is integral to the Maoist movement. In contrast, the Government emerged from these negotiations in a very poor light. It was singularly blamed by the media for the failure of these talks.


It is worth remembering that on both the occasions when talks were held, the Maoists were losing ground and were on the run. The talks provided a breather to them; they regrouped and emerged stronger thereafter. Talks are thus nothing but tactical pauses for the Maoists in their long-drawn battle to seize political power by military force. They, and their overground workers, will accept or make an offer for talks only when they are down. It is a ploy to buy time, to rebuild their strength, to garner fresh publicity, and to recalibrate their strategy.


Having cleverly employed the ruse of talks earlier, the Maoists have again offered to talk to distract the Government from going ahead with 'Operation Green Hunt'. In this strategy, they will be actively aided by their overground workers, the so called liberal intellectuals. There will be concerted emotional appeals to the Government: Why not talk? Why shed blood?


If the Government succumbs to this pressure, the Maoists — as witnessed earlier — will have protracted dramatised facade of talks and utilise the time and opportunity to recruit and strengthen their cadres. The talks will invariably fail as their objective is to seize political power by overthrowing the state and nothing short of their stated goal will be acceptable to them.


The Government has to remember these lessons from the past. It cannot allow any digressive offers to derail its plans of exterminating this sore of violent extremism debilitating the nation.


Ramavtar Yadav is a retired Director-General of Police from Andhra Pradesh and Sushant K Singh is the contributing editor of Pragati — The Indian National Interest Review.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

TWISTING FACT INTO FICTION

MEDIA STRANGELY JUSTIFIES THE CRIMES OF KILLERS

BARRY RUBIN


When John Wilkes Booth opened fire on President Abraham Lincoln in Ford's Theatre in April 1865, the media was puzzled. "True, the actor was outspoken in his Confederate sympathies and viewed himself as a Southerner," said someone who knew him, "but that was no reason he might want Lincoln to be dead." The day before he went on his shooting spree, Booth hoisted a big Confederate flag outside his hotel room. After he leaped onto the stage he shouted, "Thus ever to tyrants!"— the motto of the rebel state of Virginia.


The New York Times reported that Booth was psychologically unstable and was frightened of the Civil War coming to an end and having to face a peacetime actors' surplus. "His political views had nothing to do with the motives for this tragic act," it said, quoting experts.


After Fritz Reichmark opened fire on fellow soldiers at Fort Dix in January 1942 the media was puzzled. "True, he used to go to German-American Bund meetings," said one fellow soldier, "but he only wore the swastika armband in his off-hours." Reichmark would regale other soldiers with diatribes against the Jews, Winston Churchill, and Communists. The day before he went on his shooting spree, Reichmark gave out copies of Mein Kampf to neighbours. Soldiers who survived reported he was shouting "Heil Hitler!" while firing at them.


The New York Times reported that Reichmark was psychologically unstable and was frightened of being shipped out to North Africa because he was a coward, though this doesn't explain his making a suicide attack when his job wouldn't have required him to go into combat. "His German ancestry and political views had nothing to do with the motives for this tragic act," it said, quoting experts. The newspaper urged that the main lesson coming out of this event was to fight more firmly against Germanophobia.


When Padraic O'Brian bombed a restaurant in London with massive loss of life, the media was puzzled. "True, he used to go to IRA rallies," said a cousin, "and he would rant for hours about how the British invaders should be wiped out" but the media reported that this had nothing to do with this attack which was caused by his psychological problems. As he fired at pursuing police, O'Brian yelled: "Up the Republic!"


The Guardian reported: "His Irish identity and political views had nothing to do with the motives for this tragic act." The newspaper urged that the main lesson coming out of this event was the need to fight more firmly to ensure that Northern Ireland was handed over to the Irish Republic and that Israel be wiped off the map.

When a group of 19 terrorists flew two planes into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon and the fourth crashed on the way to the White House, the media was puzzled. "True, they wrote letters to Osama bin Ladin and expressed radical views but their act of violence must have been connected to their extreme poverty back in Saudi Arabia," one expert was quoted as saying. When informed the young men all came from well-off families, he responded, "Oh!"


The New York Times reported that they were all psychologically unstable and had difficult times in forming stable relationships with women. "The fact that they were Arabs and Muslims or their political views had nothing to do with the motives for this tragic act," it explained. The newspaper urged that the main lesson coming out of the attack was the need to fight against Islamophobia and Arabophobia as well as for the United States to make more concessions in West Asia and to impeach President George W Bush.


The point of the above exercise is to make the following points:

  Individuals who commit terrorist acts often have psychological problems but the thing that justified, organised, and ensured that violence would be committed were political ideas.

 

  Whenever an individual who belongs to any group commits a crime, it is possible that some will stigmatise the entire group. Most Americans or Westerners today, however, will not do so. The most important issue is to identify why the terrorist act happened and what to look for (including which type of individuals) to prevent future attacks.

 

  When there is clear evidence that danger signs were ignored because people were afraid of being stigmatised for doing their job of protecting their fellows, that is a dangerous mistake that must be corrected.

 

  Someone who is 'afraid' of being sent into a war zone is not likely to handle that cowardice by standing up with a gun in a suicide attack and shooting people until he falls to the ground with about four bullet wounds.

 

  The media can often be stupid but when it censors reporting for political or social engineering reasons, freedom is jeopardised. The correct phrase is: The public's right to know. It is not: The public has to be guided into drawing the proper conclusions by slanting and limiting information even if the conclusions being pressed on them are lies and nonsense.


The writer is director of the GLORIA Centre, Tel Aviv, and editor of the MERIA Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader, The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East, and The Truth About Syria.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

MULLAHS DEMEAN WOMEN

THE RESOLUTIONS ADOPTED BY JAMIAT ULAMA-I-HIND REFLECT THE CONTEMPT WITH WHICH THE ULEMA TREATS WOMEN. IT'S NOT SURPRISING THEY SHOULD REFUSE TO SING VANDE MATARAM

PRAFULL GORADIA


Union Home Minister P Chidambaram's visit to Darul Uloom, Deoband, indicates that he needs updating of his understanding of fundamentalism. Most clerics are fundamentalist because they are primarily guided by faith. Logically, protecting minorities amounts to mollycoddling the clerics who are vocal on their behalf.


In Amherst, Massachusetts, US, Prof Salman Hameed last month convened a conference of Islamic scholars at Hampshire College. The object apparently was to find a compromise or an adjustment between Charles Darwin and Quran on how the Earth came into being. The theory of evolution does not fit with the Islamic conviction that life is the creation of god, all done in the course of six days.


The word 'fundamentalism' was innovated in the US during the post-World War I years after a furious controversy, the Darwinists called the conservatives fundamentalists. The contention of the former was that the latter had no argument or reasoning to disprove Darwin and hence escaped by quoting the Holy Book or the fundamentals of Christianity. Take what Bible says as the absolute truth; forget science. Faith is superior to science.

A pillar of Islam's success is the primacy of the man at the cost of the woman whose function was two-fold : The pleasure of the husband and the procreation of children. One of the resolutions passed by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind at Deoband described women's status in society as secondary and subdued. Besides resolved was that reservation for women was unnecessary and unacceptable. Yet another resolution wanted reservation for Muslims.

Consistent with this view, the ulema have objected to the singing of Vande Mataram because the mention of mother or mataram or women is not acceptable. In any case a woman's inferiority is supported by the fact that her evidence is half of that of a man; a woman is half a person. How can the ulema allow her to be glorified in the National Song?


When it was contended by the ulema in 1937 that the song militates against the monotheism so indispensable in Islam, the Congress Working Committee, for official singing, excluded the latter three stanzas of the total five. The word vande means to praise or to adore and there is no religious connotation. The objection clearly was to the word mataram which explains why no Muslim is ever reported to have objected to the singing of God Save The King either before or after 1937. Both god and king are male and hence presumably they are acceptable.

Another decisive example is the popularity of Tarana-e-Hind by Poet Mohammed Iqbal, namely, Sare Jahan Se Achcha Hindostan Hamara. Which implies that praise of one's watan is alright if sung by a Muslim eminence like Iqbal but rejected when it is adored by a Hindu like Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay.


In his work, Outlines of Muhammadan Law, Prof Asaf A A Fyzee wrote: "The law of divorce was so interpreted that it had become a one-sided engine of oppression in the hands of the husband." The law is, however, not inconsistent with the spirit of Islam.


The consequence was as recorded sometime ago by a Turkish radical, Namik Kemal, who had protested in an article in the journal Tasvir-i-Efkar: "Our women are now seen as serving no useful purpose to mankind other than having children; they are considered simply as serving for pleasure, like musical instruments or jewels. They constitute half our species. Our national society is stricken like a human body that is paralysed on one side." This was quoted by Bernard Lewis in his book What Went Wrong? Prof. Lewis, an outstanding scholar of Islam, was exasperated enough to write: "The slave could be freed by his master; the unbeliever could at any time become a believer by his own choice, and thus end his inferiority. Only the woman was doomed forever to remain what she was."


In the light of this reality, how can the ulema endorse adoration or equality for woman as conveyed by Vande Mataram?

 

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MAIL TODAY

 COMMENT

MURDERED ONCE AND NOW BETRAYED

 

DELHI chief minister Sheila Dikshit and the Capital's lieutenant governor Tejender Khanna have a lot of explaining to do on the parole being given to Manu Sharma, the millionaire brat convicted of killing model Jessica Lal in 1999.

 

The parole to Mr Sharma was given on two grounds — one so that he could take care of his ailing mother and two, that he could support the flagging family business.

 

Both have turned out to be flimsy, if not fictitious. His ' ailing' mother, Shakti Rani Sharma, was busy addressing a Women's Cricket Association of India press conference at her family- owned Piccadilly Hotel in Chandigarh last Saturday.

 

Considering that his father, Venod Sharma, a prominent Congress politician from Haryana with extensive business interests, campaigned extensively during the recent state assembly elections, there are no reasons to believe that the family business needed the services of a convicted murderer. The junior Mr Sharma also has a brother who otherwise runs the business.

 

Clearly, then, the parole seems to be politically motivated, having little or no legal merit. The police also seem to have played a sinister role in an episode when the paroled Manu Sharma allegedly visited a nightclub in the Capital. Frequenting a nightclub is not an offence even if you are on parole. So why did 50- plus policemen reach the nightclub to allegedly apprehend Mr Sharma? The CCTV footage was also confiscated claiming that there was a brawl in the nightclub, something that the owners and eyewitnesses deny. Why? But that is not the only unanswered question that arises out of this murky affair: Was there any due diligence done on the claims made by Manu Sharma in his parole application? Because, he was clearly lying about his mother's ailment.

 

Also, does the law allow a convicted killer to be set free for two months while serving his sentence? Mrs Dikshit defended her decision on Monday, saying " all the rules were followed" in approving the parole application.

 

Ms Dikshit and Mr Khanna are supposed to protect the people from the likes of Mr Sharma. Instead, they let him loose on a flimsy pretext. The state was supposed to protect Jessica; it did not. After her death, it should have protected her interests by ensuring her killer pays for his crime. Instead the Chief Minister and the Lieutenant Governor have betrayed an innocent person who was cut down at the prime of her life.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

METRO FAILURE

 

SUNDAY's chaos on the Delhi Metro reinforces the perception that the capital's only world class institution is slipping on the standards it had set for itself at the time of its inception. It is difficult to resist concluding that the chain of events set into motion after a newly acquired train came to a halt in the underground portion of the Rajiv Chowk- Dwarka line could have been handled a lot better. First, the lights and airconditioners in the train should not have gone off after it came to a halt. Surely, the Metro trains are expected to have a power back- up for such purposes.

 

It won't do for the Metro authorities to say that the rescue efforts initiated by them were hampered because people broke open the doors and jumped into the underground tunnel. When train compartments that are packed with close to a 1000 people are submerged in suffocating pitch darkness inside a tunnel and the crying and shrieking takes over, it is not easy for passengers to keep a stiff upper lip. It is for the Metro authorities to have a concrete contingency plan in place for such situations.

 

The rescue efforts initiated by the Metro authorities and the near- stampede like situation that prevailed at Rajiv Chowk suggest that this was not the case. The rescue train that was sent after the stranded train took too long in coming.

 

It had not anticipated the scenario at the site, with the result that most of the stranded passengers walked their way in the underground tunnel to Rajiv Chowk.

 

The Metro provides us clean and swift urban transportation service, for which we are grateful. But the managers of the system must plan for all eventualities. Their emergency drill should be known to their passengers and, ideally, drilled occasionally.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

PREPARING THE GROUND FOR MODI

BY JYOTIRMAYA SHARMA

 

IF only the media could turn its attention away from the socalled crisis within the government and the party in BJPruled Karnataka, it would be able to see a very interesting, but also darkly diabolical, set of plans being laid out within the RSS and the BJP. One has to be extremely gullible to suggest that only now has the RSS come out in the open to play a more active role within the BJP. The RSS has never distanced itself from politics, whatever its rhetoric might be, and continues to hope that it will guide the destiny of all its 'inspired' organisations.

 

What is new regarding the public posture of the RSS is its desperation to survive as an organisation through the help of the BJP, but also drawing upon individuals within all other parties who could be closet Hindutva sympathisers and fellow-travelers in the dream of making India an aggressive and threatening superpower. Even in the instance of Karnataka, the attitude of the BJP and the Sangh was to save the government rather than the party, knowing full well that sooner or later the inherent contradictions within the BJP's Karnataka unit would resurface and wreck the temporary truce.

 

Remember the time when the BJP was the very picture of a badly organised circus during its meeting in Shimla? Jaswant Singh was camping in Shimla, and was expelled from the BJP for writing a book. Allegations and counter-allegations were flying around and much dirty linen was being paraded, though not always being washed, in public.

 

GADKARI

There was the bizarre spectacle of epic loss of memory on the part of L. K. Advani, as also the overnight growth of spine on part of the likes of Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Jaswant Singh. While this theatre of the absurd was being played out, the RSS fed a select group of journalists with the ' information' that Manohar Parikkar of Goa was the Sangh's favoured candidate for assuming the leadership of the BJP after completion of Rajnath Singh's term.

 

The reasons for this sudden affection for Parikkar were simple. He was relatively young, he was an IIT alumnus, and he would represent the modern, forward- looking, younger face of the BJP. It would be his job to train and prepare a still younger generation of the Party to eventually take over the business of running the BJP. Many who heard this asked the predictable question, wondering who Manohar Parikkar was, and what political base he could have within the Party to be able to contend with keeping together, however tenuously, a party of differences.

 

In the meantime, the BJP lost two other elections, in Maharashtra and in Haryana, postponed holding its national executive, got away by the skin of its teeth in temporarily solving the Vasundhara Raje question, and managed to make Yeddyurappa and the Reddy brothers stuff laddus in each other's mouth, a sure indication that things will sour between them sooner than later. But while this crisis was hitting the headlines, the RSS was sending out a message to select individuals that Manohar Parikkar was no longer the favoured candidate to assume the president's post within the BJP. The Sangh was now in favour of Nitin Gadkari. After all, had not Mohan Bhagwat said that the future leader of the party ought to come from the states and not from Delhi? Once again, the politically innocent among us asked the inevitable question, " Gadkari who?" and were told that he was the man who led his party in the recently concluded Maharashtra elections and under his leadership, the BJP stood fourth in the list of seats won. I have met and spoken to Gadkari. He is from Nagpur, was not very happy with Sudarshan's RSS, and seems happier with Bhagwat's RSS, but more significantly, he has had a significant charm bypass. He is utterly uncharismatic, inarticulate and betrays no claims to possessing a vision of any sort. The question that remains unanswered is why his name is being mentioned as Rajnath Singh's successor despite having miserably lost a major election in an important state.

 

CALCULATIONS

The RSS wants the press and the people at large to be misled regarding its true intentions. It ideally wants Narendra Modi to succeed Rajnath Singh and eventually be Advani's successor as well. Any public disclosure of these plans would lead to a debate regarding Modi's suitability, raise questions regarding his role in the riots of 2002, but also bring into sharp relief a number of issues related to his authoritarian style and megalomaniacal personality.

 

At the same time, the RSS as well as the BJP are reconciled to living with Modi and looking up to him as saviour and redeemer. If one goes by the strict canons of Sangh orthodoxy, Modi's individualistic streak and his relish of political power are obvious disqualifications. But there are few left within the BJP who have either the popular support or the charisma to make any difference to the dwindling fortunes of the Party as well as the RSS than Modi. The Sangh feels that any adverse publicity against Modi would scare potential and existing allies and make the transition for him difficult.

 

DISINFORMATION

Hence, the strategy seems to be to throw up names like Parikkar and Gadkari, who at best would be stalking horses for Modi, and if, for reasons beyond control, the strategy were to fail, they could step in as a temporary arrangement before Modi's spin doctors could get back to the drawing board and fabricate a new strategy to repackage him for a national role.

 

The perils of this strategy are as obvious. Even if the BJP falls for this model of succession of the RSS, there is no guarantee that Modi will eventually listen to the voice and word of Nagpur. There is no way for the RSS to ascertain that once in a position of leadership at the national level, Modi will endorse hare- brained ideas such as Bhagwat's continued support of the Akhand Bharat- Hindu Rashtra dream. If he does so, it will only be temporary and would be in order to achieve a practical end.

 

Neither does the BJP have any inkling as to the direction in which Modi will lead the party, especially so when the only ideology and the only organisation that he understands is himself. In many ways, Modi is the Sanjay Gandhi of the BJP. While the Congress and the country were spared of his leadership through a tragic set of events, the BJP and the RSS seem to be saddled with him for better or worse.

 

One can only speculate as to when this inevitable transition within the Sangh Parivar and the BJP would take place. But till such time that it does, it is safe to ignore the misinformation that emerges from the RSS regarding the leadership question within the BJP.

 

The writer teaches politics at the University of Hyderabad

 

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MAIL TODAY

HOWRAH EXPRESS

CM'S WAR CRYMET WITH MORE BLOODSHED

ALOKE BANERJEE

 

CHIEF minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's war cry against the Maoists is sounding hollow.

 

Barely two hours after the chief minister roared at a public meeting in West Midnapore on Sunday that the Maoists would soon be chased out of the Left- ruled state with the help of the central forces and the people, the rebels shot dead four EFR jawans and walked away with their rifles with consummate ease.

 

Neither the locals nor the other EFR jawans, stationed less than 150 metres from the spot, offered any resistance.

 

It is clear now that the Maoists are operating freely in the Lalgarh- Belpahari region of West Midnapore as well as in Purulia and Bankura. The deployment of a large number of paramilitary units may be costing the government exchequer a lot but it has been totally ineffective in tackling the Naxals.

 

The style of operation of the forces clearly shows a lack of determination as well as specific intelligence on the whereabouts of the rebels. The CRPF, EFR and BSF only patrol the roads.

 

If they enter the villages at all, they make so much noise — deliberately or otherwise — that the Maoist squads are alerted and escape. On their part, the state police routinely damage villagers' houses, destroy even household utensils and beat up anybody they can lay their hands on. This further isolates the villagers. Only on Sunday, the chief minister asked senior police officials to ensure that innocent villagers are not harassed. It is yet to be seen whether the police follow his instruction.

 

The CPI( M)' s strategy was to raise its own armed force and take on the Maoists at a time the joint forces give the rebels a hard chase. At least 15 camps have been set up by the CPI( M) in the Enayatpur- Goaltore- Garbeta region. But the number of fighters is coming down and their morale is rapidly sinking.

 

In 2001 CPI( M)' s armed squads had effectively neutralised heavily armed Trinamool activists in this same area. This time, the strategy is not working against the Naxals.

 

The Maoists are obviously enjoying the support of the local people. This was candidly admitted even by the state home secretary. The government's repeated promises that it was determined to bring the fruits of development to these areas raises questions over why there has been no development for the last six decades. If Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee really wants development, why is he sending in the police who have occupied the schools and are beating up innocent people, women of Lakshmanpur in Lalgarh asked this scribe during a recent visit.

 

It is significant that the local leadership of the Maoists now comes from the local tribals. A large number of women are not only a part of guerilla squads but are even leading them. The recent attack on Sankrail police station was led by two women.

 

Sunday's attack on the EFR was also led by a woman. The involvement of women in a violent struggle exposes a deep and long existing social malaise, which the government has conveneniently ignored all this while.

 

Govt to make it harder for its staff

EIGHT years after his " Do it now" slogan backfired, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has embarked upon another novel plan to improve the work culture in the state.

 

His government will soon start a 100- mark evaluation system for its employees.

 

Promotions and salary hikes will depend on these bi- yearly assessments.

 

Finance minister Ashim Dasgupta is likely to announce the new policy next week.

 

The CPM- led state coordination committee leaders admit that even in the state secretariat where the chief minister and 28 ministers have their offices, about 60 per cent of the employees come in late and 50 per cent leave before time. This happens even though Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee coined his " do it now" slogan way back in 2001, urging government employees to speed up work.

 

The work culture of government employees in the state has never been something to be proud of. " Who will work? The chairs and tables?" former chief minister Jyoti Basu had once fumed, though even he had largely failed to inculcate discipline among state employees.

 

Several ministers have expressed doubt whether the new scheme would yield results. After repeated electoral debacles it would be hard for the Left government to crack the whip on its employees before the 2011 assembly polls, they felt.

 

 

BY- POLLS RESULTS CRITICAL FOR LEFT'S FUTURE

 

AFTER stunning defeats in the panchayat and Lok Sabha elections, the Left Front is facing yet another challenge. The results of 10 assembly by- elections will be declared on Tuesday and promise to become a major indicator of the Left's future in this state. Last time, three of the 10 seats belonged to the Left Front, five to the Trinamool Congress and two to the Congress.

 

Left Front leaders look unsure whether they will be able to retain the three seats.

 

A 8- 2 tally will be most satisfying, they say but add that given the anti- Left wave sweeping over the state, the possibility of a 9- 1 or even 10- 0 rout cannot be ruled out.

 

What will happen if the Left's tally goes below the present three seats? The Congress and the Trinamool Congress, fighting the polls jointly, will immediately demand that since the Left is losing every poll, it must step down and seek a fresh mandate from the people. If the Left is able to retain its position, the morale of its cadres, which has now reached its nadir, will surely get a welcome boost.

 

Whether the Left retains its position or not, an increasing number of senior Left leaders now feel that it would have been best to step down and seek the people's mandate by projecting somebody other than Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee as the chief minister immediately after the humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha polls. This would have created a sympathy wave in favour of the Left. The situation is likely to worsen with time and defeat is certain in 2011 when the next assembly polls are slated, these leaders feel.

 

Aloke.Banerjee@.mailtoday.in

 

They have long served their sentence and yet continue to languish behind bars. The reason: those empowered to recommend their release do not even have the time to look into the matter.

 

Ramu Mahato of Hazaribagh was lodged in jail 28 years ago for killing a woman he worked for.

 

Mahato is still in jail. As many as 65 prisoners lodged in various correctional homes in the state have remained behind bars for over 20 years.

 

According to the law, prisoners can resume normal life after serving a sentence of 14 years. But for this, their release has to be recommended by the State Sentence Review Board. The Board's recommendations are sent to the chief minister and the governor, who give the final approval.

 

The State Sentence Review Board, however, has found time to meet only once this year though the National Human Rights Commission's guidelines clearly state that such boards must meet at least thrice a year.

 

The Board finally met last week — for the first time this year. They went through the case histories of 30 prisoners who have been in jail for more than 14 years but recommended the release of only two.

 

RAILWAY minister Mamata Banerjee performed a unique feat on Sunday. She laid the foundation stone for the same bridge for the second time.

Eight years ago, as Railway Minister, she had laid the foundation stone for Bankim Setu in Naihati.

 

On Sunday, she merely changed the name of the bridge to Sampriti Setu and laid its foundation stone again. " You can't work if you don't have brains. We have golden brains," she said during her speech.

 

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MAIL TODAY

INTERACTIVE

EVERY ACHIEVEMENT A STEPPING STONE

 

SACHIN Tendulkar's magnificent 175 runs of just 141balls with 19 fours and four sixes in the Hyderabad One- Day International helped India give a heroic chase to the Australian score of 350. In the event, Tendulkar crossed 17,000 runs in ODIs and thus became — once again — the top- scorer in international cricket.

 

The amazing thing about Tendulkar — even if India does not turn in a consistent performance against Australia as was evident in Guwahati — is that he has turned every milestone into a stepping stone to reach the pinnacle of cricket glory.

 

For all his greatness and popularity, Tendulkar has often been the target of unnecessary criticism. Despite the pressure and despite the negativity, he has proved time and time again that he is god for Indian cricket fans.

 

Ever since he began his career at 16 years of age, he has never looked back at any point in time. Scores of players and captains came and went, but Tendulkar stands tall by raising the bar with every inning that he plays. He has lasted longer than any other player in the history of Indian cricket, and by the time he retires, he would have proved his commitment and stamina many more times over. It is as if he finds new strength as he grows older, instead of showing signs of fatigue.

 

It takes a talent and personality as rare as Tendulkar's to achieve a career average of close to 45 in ODIs and close to 55 in Tests even after playing for 20 years.

 

However, the greatest aspect of his personality is his humility.

 

He is still grounded despite earning hundreds of crores and owning just about every batting world record there is — except the highest individual scores in Test s and ODIs.

 

At the rate at which he is going, scoring 20,000 ODI runs is not impossible. If he also helps India win its second World Cup title in 2011- 12, it will be the final feather in his overflowing cap

Kiran Sabharwal via email

 

PAK'S WAR ON TERROR IS A COMPLETE SHAM

NEARLY a year after the terror attack on Mumbai last November, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has arrested two Lashkar- e- Tayyeba operatives – David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana for plotting 26/ 11- type terror strikes in India, including at the prestigious National Defence College in New Delhi.

 

These arrests have exposed the already- known fact that Pakistan's war on terror is a sham. The FBI has nabbed these terrorists only a few days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's offer for talks with Pakistan. Shockingly, Pakistan did not share any information with India even though it knew of the plots. The FBI has also revealed that the Consul General at the Pakistani Consulate in Canada was aware of Rana's terror activities.

 

After 26/ 11, Pakistan, under some international pressure, had admitted that the Mumbai attack was executed by some Pakistan- based non- state actors. Unfortunately, Pakistan has not punished even these so- called non- state actors despite India presenting a mountain of evidence against them, including Jamaat- ud- Dawa chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed.

Manoj Parashar via email

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

STOP THE HOOLIGANS

 

Indian Parliament and state assemblies have seen some awful behaviour over the years, including MPs waving wads of cash inside the House and MLAs hurling chairs at each other. On Monday, yet another chapter was added to this shameful history when Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) legislators roughed up Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Azmi for taking his oath of office in Hindi. Their reasoning, as explained by MNS spokesperson Shirish Parkar, was that Azmi by speaking in Hindi had offended the Marathi manoos.


Actually it's the other way around. It's the MNS that has offended the Indian Constitution and subverted all norms of parliamentary functioning. They shouldn't be allowed to get away with it. The MNS and its chief Raj Thackeray have been saying all sorts of incendiary things over the past year or so. One of the primary planks of the MNS agenda is regional chauvinism. If it had its way outsiders wouldn't be allowed to live and work in Maharashtra. This is patently against the Indian Constitution and the right of an Indian citizen to move freely and work in any part of the country. But by expressing his nativist agenda in a violent way inside the Maharashtra assembly, Thackeray and his party members have breached all constitutional norms. There is absolutely nothing that prevents a legislator from taking his oath of office in Hindi, English or any of the regional languages.


That the hooliganism inside the House was premeditated is evident from the warning that Thackeray issued last week when he asked all the newly-elected MLAs in the Maharashtra assembly to take their oaths in Marathi or else face the "MNS music". The MNS kept its promise on Monday when it attacked Azmi under the full glare of television cameras. Such acts cannot be allowed to go unpunished. Democracy does not sanction a "might is right" principle.

 

Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan has asked the assembly Speaker to take action against the MNS legislators. The assembly responded by suspending four MNS legislators for four years. This is heartening since the Maharashtra government has often turned a blind eye to threats issued by the MNS and acts of violence perpetrated by it. The MNS's argument that Hindi is not used in Maharashtra stretches the limits of credulity. Not only is Mumbai the country's commercial capital but also the headquarters of the Hindi film industry. By letting loose the law of the jungle inside the assembly the MNS has struck at the very roots of India's constitutional democracy. It would set an extremely dangerous precedent unless tackled right away.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

PRICE OF ONIONS

 

Despite overall inflation at a non-threatening 1.5 per cent, food prices have risen 13.4 per cent in the past one year. If a dry statistic has no power to pinch, the same can't be said of actual prices of potatoes, onions and pulses. These have zoomed north, with prices of onions and potatoes spiking by 50-100 per cent, and pulses by over 23 per cent on average. Worse, it seems there'll be no immediate let-up. The agriculture minister admits prices could remain high till the rabi crop's harvesting. End-2009 is the Planning Commission's more hopeful timeframe for relief.


The capricious monsoon drought preceding floods has hit kharif production, which could end up over 21 million tonnes short. Output of rice and coarse cereals is expected to sag. What hope is the government holding out? One, due to late rains, larger areas cultivated for wheat, rice, pulses, oilseeds and sugarcane should boost the rabi yield, compensating for the kharif shortfall. Two, there's enough foodgrain stocks to keep the PDS ticking, and enough foreign exchange reserves for foodgrain and oilseed imports if required. To be fair, the UPA's okay to rice imports and scrapping of import duty on rice were forward-looking policy decisions.


However, there's no insulating the rural and urban poor or the middle class from spiralling vegetable prices. It's in such situations that our ramshackle storage and transport system for perishables stands exposed. That huge quantities of fruits, vegetables and grains go waste every year is especially galling given today's soaring prices. Also, despite healthy foodgrain stocks, there are official concerns about a demand-supply mismatch. This gap can worsen unless the PDS's notorious leakages are plugged. More, foodgrain should be released into the open market to dampen inflation.


This year's lesson highlights the issue of monsoon preparedness through improved forecasting and specific strategies for demarcated agro-climatic zones. But even beyond that, agriculture isn't growing according to potential. It suffers structural anomalies impinging on food production, not least because only 40 per cent of arable land is irrigated. Not only must irrigation cover increase, it must be more innovative from the point of view of water conservation. Efficient capital deployment and use of technology require average farm size to increase. On the distribution side, we need boosted investment in warehousing and integrated cold chains, removal of middlemen in transactions and greater marketing opportunities for farmers through liberalised retail. Finally, reform is in order of archaic rules governing inter-state movement and marketing of farm products.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

FROM BERLIN TO BENGAL

 

Cristian Mungiu's film, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, set in the dark days of dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu's reign, takes a look at how two university girls arrange for an abortion which was illegal in communist Romania. The film won the prestigious Palme d'Or prize at the Cannes film festival in 2007. Otilia and Gabriela, two university students, became metaphors for a regime that controlled all aspects of social, political and economic life. Otilia managed to get an abortion but, for that, the two girls were forced to have sex with the man who terminated the pregnancy.


Ceaucescu's reign of terror is conveyed in a single sentence by German author Herta Mueller, who won the Nobel prize for literature this year. "I know what it is to be afraid every morning that by the evening you won't exist any more..."


Romania, like the other Soviet-backed regimes in Europe, belonged to a system that saw oppression as a means of control. Any discontent that took the form of popular rebellion against puppet regimes was crushed with Soviet tanks rolling into the country in question.


Twenty years ago, on the night of November 9, there was jubilation in Europe when the seemingly impregnable Berlin Wall came down and hundreds gathered to celebrate the unification of the two Germanys. People picked up pieces of concrete to preserve as mementos of an era which was finally put to rest. Others rushed across the border to embrace friends and relatives separated by a wall for decades.


Images of that midnight euphoria in 1989 beamed across the world are still fresh in the mind. What a moment of triumph it was for Berliners and those who believed that communism as a system of governance had outlived its utility. It's a different issue how much post-communist Europe has benefited, socially or economically. But communism's grip for decades with an absolute command over all state apparatuses, including art and culture, was suffocating to say the least. The sheer insensitivity of that iron control had its fallout. Decades of suppression gave birth to a violent rebellion that helped redefine history.


The East European experience finds a part-reflection in the Left experiments in West Bengal. Left rule started off on a promising note, on the plank of grassroots support, as a government of the people (read poor), and then somewhere along the way during 32 years of uninterrupted rule, it lost direction. The Left made the colossal error of delinking itself from the people of the soil, on whose support and trust it had first tasted power.

Dictatorship is one thing, betrayal quite another. A popularly elected government not being able to fulfil the fundamental needs of the people can be calamitous. Growing popular disenchantment and angst in Bengal had been searching for vents and Nandigram, Singur and Lalgarh happened to be, in varying degrees, some of the outlets that turned the region into a battle zone.


In a recent interview to a television channel, Mikhail Gorbachev - the architect of social and economic reforms in the Soviet Union which ultimately led to the end of the Cold War and paved the way for the fall of communism in Europe - felt parties should not be in power for too long. In a reference to Vladimir Putin's statement that his party would come back to power for a second term, Gorbachev hinted that he would be very unhappy if that were to happen.


Concentration of power in the hands of one party for too long can actually be ruinous for any country. It not only breeds corruption but also blunts the government's efficacy. The winds of change that swept through Europe in the late 1980s not only rescripted history, but impacted the world with the disintegration of the once-formidable Soviet Union. The iron curtain lifted and the people breathed free.


West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee himself admits a wind of change is blowing in his state. "A political change has come to West Bengal. We have realised this from the results of the panchayat elections, Lok Sabha (election) and a string of bypolls," Bhattacharjee said recently.


Communism as an ideology has always been subject to redefinitions. As long as the stress was on a grassroots government, it was well entrenched in Bengal. But the moment the Left turned right in a bid to customise and compromise with its core principles, there was protest. Perhaps it would have continued to be in full control had it not been so ruthless with the agrarian community. To a peasant, nothing is more precious than his land. And when that land was made a selling point to lure industry, the angst that surfaced was disastrous.


Too many years in power can be damaging. Over a long passage of time, it can erode the initial good work of any government as well as the goodwill enjoyed by it. When that happens, change is always welcome.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

MATH CANNOT MODEL ART

 

Numbers and theories and equations are all well enough. They have their uses, but those uses can extend only so far. That is something a team at Cass Business School, London, seems to have ignored in its attempt to come up with a formula that can tell moviemakers if the sequel to any film will be a success or not. It is a hugely overambitious attempt, destined to fail.


Certainly, logic and reason can take one up to a certain point. But beyond that, the final effort is more often than not a leap of intuition, particularly when it comes to matters of art. Even when scientific or mathematical boundaries are being pushed, for that matter, it is often the same. The story of Isaac Newton and apple is known well enough. Many people have seen apples falling from trees, but it was Newton who made the leap which related the force pulling the apple down to that which keeps the moon in orbit. Or take Srinivasa Ramanujan, India's greatest mathematical talent. Entirely self-taught, he relied far more on intuitive leaps than process, often unable to explain his own approach.



What's true for science is even more true for art, even at the best of times an extremely subjective endeavour. One man's Picasso may well be another man's graffiti. As for predicting box-office success, one has only to look at past box-office results. Hugely hyped, well-funded movies have sunk without a trace while small, unheralded productions made on a shoestring budget have raked in hundreds of millions of dollars.


No formula can account for such workings of the mind. It cannot predict the shape that a director will give his artistic vision or the manner in which others will perceive it. The head of the team that devised the formula has said that the movie industry is one of dreams and illusions. He is correct. Whether a movie will catch on with a mass audience cannot be captured by cold numbers and mathematical formulae, as these cannot encompass the subjective.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

DON'T UNDERESTIMATE SCIENCE

 

The Cass Business School theory is an interesting one. If it succeeds, the benefits are obvious for the entire movie industry. It will take the risk out of the entire process and turn what is right now a patchwork of informed guesswork and gambling into a structured business. Billions of dollars could be saved. Even if it fails, a theory will still have been introduced that can be refined until it is workable. And that attempt to do so to make it workable must be made. There's no reason to rule it out of court.


There have been reams written about the subjectivity of art, about the vagaries of perception. There is some truth to all of it of course, but the mistake is in elevating the workings of the mind to the realms of the mysterious and unknowable. Artistic vision, intuition, leaps of logic that seem more like leaps of faith these are not unfathomable phenomena. They are merely a result of synapses in the brain firing in a certain pattern, of decisions taken on the basis of knowledge that one may possess without quite realising. It is all biology and chemistry in the end. And that is the purpose of scientific endeavours, to explore and explain what remains unknown.

 

Steps have already been taken in this direction. For instance, there has been more than one explanation of music in such terms, evaluating notes, scales and pitch in terms of mathematical progression. Software has been written to compose music based on such principles. These are crude attempts still, but progress has been made. Eventual success is all but inevitable.


The distinction between art and science is a false one. Human endeavour is not meant to be segregated in meaningless compartments. As the boundaries of human knowledge are pushed and pushed yet again, we see an increasing synthesis of disparate elements and disciplinary streams to create new insights. The natural sciences are so far removed in scope from what they once were that a practitioner from a century ago would scarcely recognise them. With increasing progress in artificial intelligence, we can't be far off from the day when a machine will produce art to which human beings will respond.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

SUBVERSE

PERCEPTION VS REALITY

 

Prior to my first live interaction with George W Bush, I thought of him as an amiable, laidback guy with little in the top storey and the typical Texan's broad brush approach to life with a disdain for detail. I had always rated Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, in that order, as the most cerebral US presidents in a long time and Bush came way down in that pecking order. With no intellectual pretensions and the hate legacy of Iraq, there was pretty little to like about Bush. Except that, from a purely selfish Indian perspective, no US president had reached out and done so much for our country.


I reckon that a majority of Indians if they ever thought of Bush thought the same way. Recently we were all proved wrong. For one hour, he held a large audience in Delhi spellbound, cheering him wildly, eating out of his hands and giving him a standing ovation. Not a word by Bush was out of place, not a joke humourless, not a sentiment out of sync. And this was no ordinary audience it was articulate, sceptical, knowledgeable and ready to tear apart any icon.


Bush came across as extremely well-informed, competent, persuasive, a great orator, a man who spoke from the heart, with a wry, self-deprecatory outlook on life, and full of visible love for India and Indians.

The first thing this tells you about public life is the power of perception. With all the education, information technology and power of analytical scrutiny available to us, it is time democracies and the masses who form their backbone start thinking and reacting more rationally than on mere perception. The first i fault on this front is myself.


Second, it tells you the power of speaking from the heart more than the head. Whenever one heard Bill Clinton he is one of the most consummate orators in English globally one is dazzled by his brilliance but always left with a lurking doubt about his sincerity. Bush comes across as someone honourable, speaking honestly from the heart and even on issues where one may violently disagree with him, one goes away with the feeling that he is genuine about his convictions.


Third, while India and Indians have showered unconditional love upon Clinton and Obama, the man who really loves India and all things Indian is Bush. Forget the civil nuclear agreement, though that by itself exceeds what any single previous US president has done for India. But Bush was the first to meaningfully and in real terms de-hyphenate the Indo-Pak relationship. He was the first to realise that US relations with each country stand on independent and distinct foundations and that a country of the size, diversity and depth of India can hardly be clubbed with Pakistan as far as US foreign policy is concerned.


Additionally, it was the Bush administration, more than any other, which sent a clear and unequivocal signal to China that the US was prepared to reach out and support a countervailing power of the size and potential comparable to China, in China's own backyard.


His sincere support to women's causes is self-evident and explodes the myth about him being anti-Muslim. Apart from his telling repartee regarding the four women in his life, it is clear that girl child education and in particular that of the Muslim girl child is a theme very dear to Bush's heart. His educational initiatives in his own country are female-focused and include a comprehensive project devoted to female education in the Middle East, which will be physically located in that region.

The one abiding image of the Bush administration in my own mind was that of lack of compassion and empathy, an absence of a human touch. Having heard Bush, I can see how wrong i was. Perhaps it is the company Bush kept especially that of Dick Cheney, his former vice-president that was responsible for part of that buccaneering, unemotional and heartless persona we saw. Beware of perceptional politics.


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

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

MODERN TIMES

KEYS TO ROMANCE

 

Let me tell you a story: the story of someone who ran into an antiquated and neglected typewriter well over 20 years ago. The alphabets on the keys had become blurred. The body was covered by a cloak of dust. The machine was, as T S Eliot might have said, "an old man in a dry month...waiting for rain..." Disturbed by the sight, the teenaged explorer picked up the machine and placed it on an old table that grunted with obvious discomfort. After giving the machine a proper wash and pasting tiny pieces of paper with handwritten alphabets on the keys, the boy started to experiment. What did he write? Two decades later, those memories can be retrieved no longer. What he does remember, though, is that the keys tic-tac-toed with sublime grace. A word, then space, followed by another word, wrote themselves beautifully on a sparkling sheet of paper. The sight of sentences coming alive without using a pen cast a spell on the youngster. Slowly, surely, the young man's life changed. He found himself caught between two fires.


Years flew by. A few years of freelance writing was followed by a decent media job. The computer had invaded the workplaces by then. Unlike the typewriter, the comp had a brain that could guide as well as misguide. It could point out spelling errors, and also compel one to make grammatical follies if one followed its suggestions blindly. Its attempts at friendliness seemed like a well-orchestrated conspiracy. After all, it was trying to make the writers dependent on it: unlike the typewriter, a loving but silent companion. One needn't have been a Salman Rushdie to know correct spelling and grammar. But, a couple of years after the computer had jettisoned the typewriter, the now-not-so-young guy observed that some really talented people could not finish an article without conducting a spell check. Not just that, he also realised that he needed a spell check 'fix' before sending an article. The signs of addiction were palpable; only, they didn't harm as long as one applied common sense while making the changes.


Today, the typewriter is dead. The computer has hijacked all workplaces. Now, is that good or bad? There is no point in trying to key in an answer, except to say that you could fall in love with the typewriter. With the comp, one is not very sure.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

NO LONGER TONGUE-TIED

 

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray is to the Marathi language what the Spanish Inquisition was to the Catholic faith: its worst advertisement. Acting on behalf of their führer, MNS legislators on Monday rushed to the floor of the Maharashtra assembly to stop Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Asim Azmi from taking his oath in Hindi, a language that Mr Thackeray and their logocentric goons consider to be an affront to Marathi. This was followed by MNS Ram Kadam slapping Mr Azmi in full view of a stunned gathering. Apart from taking immediate action against the MNS, the fact that the people of Maharashtra can speak in any of the constitutionally-mandated official languages of India should be driven home forcefully once and for all. It is one thing for Mr Thackeray and his band of louts to proselytise the virtues of Marathi. It's quite another to force it down their throats.

 

The nation has seen its share of language riots in the past. During the 60s, a rage against the 'imposition' of Hindi led to popular protests that turned violent in many parts of South India. But as the southern states gained economic and social confidence, this manufactured discontent also receded. As even Mr Thackeray can vouch for, states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala have not, in the process, been overrun by the preponderance of Hindi-speakers; for these states, genuine success stories have gobbled up this silly red herring of an issue. The MNS credo of 'Marathi manoos', that proactively excludes other identities of Indianness, signifies a regression that is downright infantile. Who else but an infant will start bawling if he isn't given what it wants ('or else...')?

 

But these are big boys looking for their proverbial 15 minutes of infamy — and, by extension, atavistic support. We suggest that the authorities look into Section 332 of the Indian Penal Code that charges someone "causing hurt to deter a public servant from discharging his duty". If they do not take action fearing a backlash despite the shameful action in the assembly, we suggest they stop any show of protesting against fascistic behaviour and quickly make Marathi the only mandatory language by law in the future oligarchy of Maharashtra.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

A TIBETAN LET LOOSE

 

As far as atmospherics go, the Dalai Lama's visit to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh had it all. The picture of one of the world's most famous spiritual leaders standing just 40 km from the McMahon Line that divides India and Tibet, an exile from his homeland was poignant. But in an hard-hitting speech, he minced no words about the territorial dispute between India and China over the state, saying there was no doubt that Arunachal Pradesh was an integral part of India. The visit will once again focus attention on India's 'Tibet card'.

 

That the Dalai Lama made the statements he did with the Centre looking the other way suggests that New Delhi was subtly signaling to China that there would be a bit more clarity on the issue from now on. We have always had the 'Tibet card' to buttress Beijing's belligerence. But this card has not always been used to good effect with New Delhi accepting Tibetan 'autonomy' with no reciprocal measure from Beijing. China, on the other hand, has kept India off balance by raising the Arunachal issue whenever it feels it needs to store things up a bit.

 

Though the Dalai Lama's visit and its attendant publicity will give India a fillip, the whole thing could have been managed to maximise our advantage. For a start, the international media should have been allowed to cover the visit. This was not done ostensibly to keep a lid on Tibetan dissidents and to mollify China. This is not to suggest that India adopts an aggressive stand vis-à-vis China. Rolling over is hardly the synonym for engagement. But, it is high time that India made clear the primacy of internal affairs, something China has not always respected. The point has now been made that India continues to provide sanctuary to the Dalai Lama. What New Delhi needs to do now is to shrug our shoulders 'helplessly' if Beijing complains about the Tibetan leader's statements. And perhaps tell China with a soothing voice that it's making much ado about nothing.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

OUT IN THE COLD

 

With assembly elections scheduled for next year in Bihar, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Tariq Anwar has begun to nurse ambitions of a possible re-entry into the Congress. He has even held a series of meetings with senior Congress leaders, including Ahmed Patel and Digvijay Singh, recently. But he hasn't made any headway with Jagdish Tytler — party general secretary incharge of Bihar. Incumbent state party chief Anil Sharma — known as a Tytler protégé — is said to be hell-bent on blocking Anwar's re-entry into the party.

 

TAKE IT AS RED

The Left parties may be struggling to retain their eroding base in West Bengal and Kerala. But global issues continue to be high on the agenda. The CPI(M) and the CPI are for the first time jointly hosting a world communist conference in the capital from November 20-22. It is expected to be attended by over 100 communist parties from 87 countries.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

 

MAOISM'S OTHER SIDE

THERE ARE CRIMES OF PASSION AND CRIMES OF LOGIC.ALBERT CAMUS

DILIP SIMEON

 

Spokesmen of Maoist extremism have recently expressed regret for beheading a police officer and explained their actions as a defence of the oppressed. Their comrades' brutality, they say, is an aberration. They cite instances of state violence to justify actions they claim are undertaken in self-defence. There is more to this than meets the eye. Maoist theory holds that India is a semi-colonial polity with a bogus constitution that must be overthrown by armed force. The comrades view all their actions as part of a revolutionary war. Their foundational documents declare armed struggle to be "the highest and main form of struggle" and the "people's army" its main organisation. In war, morality is suspended and limits cast aside. War also results in something the Pentagon calls "collateral damage". Is it true that Naxalite brutality is only an aberration?

 

On August 15, 2004, the Maoists killed nine persons in Andhra Pradesh, including a legislator, a driver and a municipal worker. On August 14, 2005, Saleema, 52, a cook in a mid-day kitchen in Karimnagar was beaten to death by Maoists for being a "police informer." This was the second woman killed by them in a fortnight. A former Naxalite, Bhukya Padma, 18, was hacked to death in Marimadla village on July 30. On September 12, 2005, they slit the throats of 17 villagers in Belwadari village in Giridih. Landmine blasts in February 2006 killed 26 tribals and injured 50 in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh. The victims were returning from religious festivals, and some from anti-Naxalite rallies. Another blast on March 25 killed 13 persons.

 

Some of these killings may be incorrectly reported, some carried out by local cadre on their own. But the comrades clearly believe in political assassination. Moreover, the decisions to kill are taken in a shadowy realm wherein the fault of the victim is decided by whim. Truth and falsehood are dispensed with because the Party Is Always Right. Their targets have no chance of appealing for mercy, and no one will be punished for collateral damage. And all this is justified because the Maoists are at war — a circular argument, because whether or not we are at war is another whim.

 

But there is an elephant in India's drawing room. Maoists openly defy the Constitution, which they say is a mask for a brutal order. Are not our mainstream parties equally contemptuous of the law? Why did the NDA regime try and do away with Schedule 5 of the Constitution that protects tribal lands from encroachment? Why is it still being violated? Is there not prima-facie evidence of politicians' involvement in massacres in Delhi and Gujarat in 1984 and 2002? Why haven't they been brought to justice? In 1987, 40 Muslims of Meerut were killed in custody. Why did the case take 18 years to come to court? The BJP and the Congress both supported the private army named Salwa Judum with disastrous consequences for Chhattisgarh's population. Even the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court criticised the States' recklessness. In 2007 the West Bengal government despatched an illegal armed force to crush its opponents in Nandigram. India's rulers regularly protect criminals, and part of the public is complicit in this. Policemen in dereliction of duty get promoted. Mass murderers are hailed as heroes. Why are we addicted to double-standard?

 

Those who believe in virtuous murder are today calling upon the democratic conscience. Does democracy include the right to kill? Our left-extremists have changed the world for the worse. Along with right-wing radicals, they ground their arguments on passionate rhetoric and a claim to superior knowledge. Fighters for justice have become judge and executioner rolled into one — in a word, pure tyrants. Every killing launches yet another cycle of trauma and revenge. Will Francis Induvar's son ever dream of becoming a socialist? Should not socialists hold themselves to a higher standard than the system they oppose?

 

Symbolism counts for a lot in Indian politics. If the Maoist party is interested in negotiations, I suggest a demand that will expose the hypocritical nature of our polity: ask the government to remove the portrait of

 

VD Savarkar from the Central Hall of Parliament, placed there in 2003. If it cannot do that, ask it to place Charu Mazumdar's portrait alongside. Why not? Both were extreme patriots. Both believed in political assassination, both hated Gandhi and both insisted that the end justifies the means.

 

My suggestion will meet with indignation. But the deep link between these two currents of extremism is the unutterable truth of Indian history. Hindutva is the Maoism of the elite. In 1969, an ultra-leftist Hindi writer penned a diatribe titled Gandhi Benakaab that praised Godse as a true son of India. In 42 years of activity, Naxalites hardly ever confronted the communalists; although to be fair, one ultra-left group in Punjab did combat the Khalistanis. The assassination of a VHP Swami in Kandhamal in August 2008 is the only example. The Maoists owned the crime, but the Sangh parivar vented its wrath upon Christian villagers. Thousands were displaced and over 30 were killed. The comrades were unwilling or unable to prevent the carnage.

 

Savarkar's acolyte Nathuram Godse murdered Mahatma Gandhi. In 1969, the Justice Kapur Commission concluded that the conspiracy was hatched by Savarkar and his group. Sardar Patel said as much to Nehru in February 1948. If Savarkar deserves to be honoured by the Nation, so does Charu. Since the government is unlikely to accept either option, we may finally come to a debate about why one kind of political murder is anti-national, while the other is patriotic virtue.

 

Dilip Simeon is a Delhi-based historian (The views expressed by the author are personal)

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

ATTITUDINAL GAIN

PARAMBIR KAUR

 

If we think seriously, it comes out clear that a human being's basic needs are very few. And one realises the futility of giving undue importance to worldly goods. One also realises the importance of the truth behind William Shakespeare's observation: "How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, / Seem to me all the uses of this world."

 

Limitless aspirations and  their non-fulfilment is the root-cause of most of our worries. And when we are able to realise some of our dreams, we desire  for more. Entrapped in this vicious circle, we fail to value and enjoy the bounties, which  we have been endowed with.

 

In spite of there being many favourable conditions at our disposal, we are forever complaining. We even go to the extent of apprehending nonexistent problems.

 

We just do not take notice of those who are worse off than us but still are enjoying life to the hilt. They have limited needs and even take pleasure  in helping the needy. They understand that real happiness lies in giving and not in receiving.

 

It is all a matter of attitude. We are so wrapped up in ourselves that we are absolutely indifferent to other people's requirements and limitations.  And to become really blissful, one has basically to forget oneself and limit one's needs. The more we clutter our lives with worldly goods, the farther we go from contentment. A good part of life goes waste in chasing these nonessentials.

 

A kind and sensitive disposition are prerequisites for a blissful existence. Nature has blessed us lavishly, with such bountiful treasures free of cost but we tend to take them for granted.

 

We just have to count our blessings. We can ask ourselves, "Do I really deserve what God has given?" and, "What if I were deprived of all these favours?"

 

A sense of gratitude is sure to follow these thoughts. One might become more humane. The lower the limit of requirements, the higher the level of happiness. And that will surely result in a better life.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

BIG PICTURE

Plugging holes - Why poor need Unique ID

GOVERNMENT PROGRAMMES are open to misuse by people who run them. The unique identity card project can fix the problem if it is backed by political will A STUDY BY THE PLANNING COMMISSION CONCLUDES THERE ARE 23 MILLION MORE RATION CARDS THAN HOUSEHOLDS. THE STUDY ALSO EMPHASISES MIS-TARGETING

 

Abhijit Banerjee and Sriram Raghavan letters@hindustantimes.com

 

One of the biggest challenges India faces today is that of delivering more effectively to the poor. For the last many years, the below poverty line (BPL) card has been the primary basis of all redistributive programmes in India.
The trouble is that the cards often seem to end up in the wrong hands.

 

A study conducted by the Planning Commission concludes there are 23 million more ration cards than households, and their guess is that most of these are BPL cards. The study also emphasises mis-targeting. It estimates that in all the major states save four, more than 40 per cent of households have the wrong kind of card [BPL households with above poverty line (APL) cards and the other way round].

 

Moreover it is clear that a substantial part of these "errors" are deliberate: A detailed study of 173 villages in Raichur district in Karnataka by Atanassova, Bertrand and Mullainathan, finds that about onethird of the eligible households, based on the official criteria, don't have a BPL card, while about half of the ineligible households do. More worryingly, when they use income as a proxy for wealth, the poorest among all ineligible households are not the ones who have the card, which is what one would expect if this was an innocent mistake.

 

Being socially connected to village officials turned out to be an excellent predictor of where these mistakes were concentrated.


WRECKING PROGRAMMES In addition to faking and mis-targeting of cards, the Planning Commission report suggests that there is a lot of capture -- BPL cards issued to a BPL family that end up in the hands of someone who is not BPL; grains that are supposed to have been sold to a BPL family that are actually sold on the open market, etc. The result of all these problems, the report concludes, is that in the case of the targeted Public Distribution System only 42 per cent of the grains intended for the poor actually reach them. Similarly, a recent study of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) by Niehaus and Sukhantkar from Harvard University, based on data they collected from about 1,500 households in Orissa, suggests massive capture -- when the official NREGS wage goes up to Rs 70 a day, workers continued to be paid Rs 55 (moreover, only 40 per cent of the reported workdays seemed to be real).

 

This sort of malfeasance in government programmes, of course, goes beyond anti-poverty programmes.
There are news reports of thousands of fake employees in government departments. A recent survey revealed that nurses in the government health system in Udaipur district show up for work less than 40 per cent of the time.


BENEFITS OF UID The net result of all this is that the effectiveness of public expenditures is very low, and the poor who depend most on public assistance are the ones who pay for it directly. It also undermines political support for public expenditures, which can rebound on the ability of the government to sustain its antipoverty efforts. A unique ID (UID), interpreted as a data-base that matches each person's biometric identifiers with a name and a number, and a system by which it is possible to check that a person who claims to be identified with a particular number is indeed that person, will help in a number of ways. On the issue of fake identities, the advantage is obvious: ghosts do not leave finger-prints.


If you can pay only people who have a UID, you can pay only real people, and since the identity is unique the same person cannot be paid twice.

 

A second, perhaps less obvious, benefit is with respect to mis-targeting.


Since all systems will use the same UID, it would be easy to link up various databases. One would not need special surveys to tell us that someone who has a BPL card also got a loan of Rs 10 lakh from a government bank -- the right command given to computer will instantly list such people who could then be automatically removed from the BPL list.


MAKING DELIVERY EFFECTIVE A third potential benefit is with respect to capture. The owner of the fair-price shop, who sells the grains on the open market, will at least need to have the co-operation of the person against whose UID the grains are being issued, as long as it is required that the identity is established before the grains are handed over.

 

Finally, the ability to identify the presence of a specific individual makes it much easier to centrally monitor delinquency among government servants.


In principle, this could be used to make sure that people actually come to work.Of course, all of this will require political will and other, more institutional, changes. Technology can only enable -- it cannot make anything happen.


But it is clear that this has the potential to shift the conversation about delivering more effectively to the poor.

 

(Banerjee is Professor of Economics, MIT; Raghavan is chief executive offi cer, Comat Technologies Private Ltd) TOMORROW: THE TRUE

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

AN ARGUMENT WON

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's speech to the World Economic Forum's India meeting was remarkable for its clarity. He laid out the priority in this time of global recession: "a return to high growth". But, as he went on to point out, India cannot rely on world demand recovering on a convenient schedule. So "our strategy therefore must aim at sustaining a high rate of growth on the strength of strong domestic demand." In 2005, at the same meeting, he had said that India was held back by the intellectual heirs of socialist-era protection — "the sceptics, the worriers and the critics", who continue to be "prisoners of the past". Any remaining barriers to a resurgent India, Singh pointed out then, exist within. That remains true today as India attempts to use domestic demand to get itself out of the crisis. Because the biggest stumbling-block to domestic demand and saving being mobilised in the degree required is the lack of financial sector reform.

 

That same cadre of professional sceptics continues exist, and has attempted to stunt the natural growth of the financial sector in India. But the arguments that they make for this grow weaker with every fresh piece of evidence. The recession, for example, which some might claim — since it originated in irresponsibility in the financial sector — is an argument against further reform, is actually an argument for it. It has clearly shown that India is, in particular, reliant on internal resources. But those resources will need channels so that they can be used properly. The wasteful financial infrastructure that we have so far simply will not cut it. Fortunately, the intellectual heavy lifting on deepening and widening the channels has been done: the Percy Mistry and Raghuram Rajan reports lay out the steps that need to be taken.

 

A properly deep financial sector is an idea whose time has come. And nothing on earth can stop those, as Singh famously said in his budget speech in 1991, and as he repeated on Sunday (crediting the line's original author, Victor Hugo). Yes, it will need legislation; yes, that means a political case will have to be made. But this is a battle the government can win. It must start fighting it now.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

PRESENT TENSE

 

It was the unlikeliest of developments to be passed off as a birthday present. The truce between Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and the Reddy brothers was ribbon-wrapped as a show of unity, what Yeddyurappa called a "birthday gift" for the BJP's L.K. Advani, who turned 82 on Sunday. There was even the spectacle of solidarity: a smiling Karnataka chief minister holding raised hands with both the Reddys in New Delhi. The bonhomie would have fooled nobody, least of all the protagonists. Reports suggest that the dissident camp is still baying for the chief minister's blood. And the most powerful man in Karnataka? He was reduced to shedding tears on prime time television. The compromise formula — a minister exiting, officials replaced — may have bought the Karnataka wing of the BJP time. But the clock is ticking, and another round of bickering cannot be said to be averted.

 

The sordid drama was regrettable on many counts. For one, it exposed the unsavoury interface between business and politics. Then there are too many questions left hanging. Can partisan interests hold a government hostage? Can bureaucrats and district officials become pawns in chess games that their political masters play? For the steel frame to be so blatantly twisted speaks of its complete subordination to the political process. But the most disquieting aspect of the drama was its pettiness. Whatever the validity of the Reddy brothers' grouses, they seemed centred on their ability to control the mine-rich Bellary district. Absent through this long-drawn-out political crisis was even the pretence of larger ideas and principles. This, when floods in Karnataka have left 192 dead and thousands homeless. Just when the state government needed to be most visible, it was held hostage by petty powerplays.

 

The BJP managers may have averted regime change in Bangalore for now. But the clumsy compromise, that too played out in public, has highlighted the absence of a strong central leadership that can exert its will. There is nothing in the sudden show of brotherhood between Yeddyurappa and the Reddy siblings to provide confidence that the compromise has been anything but expedient.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

VILLAGE VOICE

 

From the stick to the carrot. Instead of making a rural stint mandatory for doctors, the health ministry has now outlined a plan to incentivise them to work in villages. It is dangling a hefty quota in postgraduate diplomas after a three-year stint in a rural area. The Medical Council of India, which regulates medical education, claims this will address the rural-urban skew and would give those from rural areas an edge in postgraduate admissions. The other interesting plan is to introduce an MBBS (rural), for medical students in rural areas. These aspiring doctors will learn as they practice in a primary health centre and get a chance to immerse themselves in the particular needs of that village community. This is obviously an unqualified good, and the question of doctors' willingness to work in rural areas is a serious one.

 

But these measures are unlikely to transform the state of rural healthcare because rethinking marks and resizing quotas doesn't address the obvious problem — the fact that we are drastically short of doctors, and aren't doing anything about producing more by creating new medical colleges. MCI has failed in a fundamental way — by not facilitating the creation of new training institutions. In 1946, the Bhore Committee adopted a three-tier healthcare model, meant to provide different levels of care across the country. But those goals have been long abandoned as the medical profession became increasingly urban-centric — 262 of our medical colleges are situated in urban or semi-urban areas. Seventy per cent of these medical colleges are located in the four southern states, and the regulatory clutch on these institutions has ensured that India is shamefully underserved, with a ratio of one doctor for more than 1700 people. The figures on nurses and paramedics are even worse.

 

The Union health ministry and various states have experimented with ways to get medical professionals into rural areas, but failed to address the real distortion in the system — the slow trickle of medical professionals themselves.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

FATWA FOR NOBODY

AIJAZ ILMI

 

The Supreme Court had managed to put a firm lid on the Vande Mataram issue, but, true to form, the religious clergy cannot desist from their desire to keep the communal cauldron boiling. When there is no compulsion, what is the need for any resolution or fatwa? Meanwhile, the reaffirmation of an earlier resolution of the Darul Uloom condemning terror is good news — but at the same time we must name the LeT, Jaish and others and send a strong message.

 

The home minister should be careful about the bouquets, as the brickbats can be as swift. As citizens of a secular democratic country with a vibrant judiciary, fatwas have little meaning in present-day India. Salman Khursheed's timely rejoinder about the futility of a fatwa about non-issues and the need for addressing the real, burning issues — education and employability of Indian Muslims, for example — are laudable. I wish resolutions at Deoband had addressed the following questions: Why do Indian Muslims have the highest levels of illiteracy, both male and female, in the country? Why do we have the highest number of school drop-outs? Why do we have the lowest representation in both the public and the private sector? What steps are we taking to stop pernicious recruiters who lure young impressionable minds towards terror ideologies?

 

A failure to tackle the rapid socio-economic slide will push the faithful instead towards being the last amongst the least. With the Shiv Sena and the VHP joining in, the zealots will raise this needless debate to a crescendo overshadowing real issues.

 

The legal implications of the fatwa even in Islamic countries are often overruled by the ruling dispensation. There is a binding rule that saves the fatwa pronouncements from creating judicial havoc, even in a country like Saudi Arabia. It is unanimously agreed that a fatwa is only binding on its author. One example widely cited that emphasises this is the statement of Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Al-Obeikan, then vice-minister of Justice of Saudi Arabia, in an 2006 interview with an Arabic daily: "Even the fatwas of the official authority (official Saudi fatwa institute) is binding on no one, whether individuals or the state." Al-Obeikan was promoted recently, as an advisor to the royal court. The tendency to nevertheless sometimes present a fatwa as mandatory — even by leading religious authorities — should be fought.

 

The Sheikh of al-Azhar in Cairo, Muhammad Sayid Tantawy, who is the leading religious authority in the Sunni establishment in Egypt (alongside the Mufti of Egypt) said the following about fatwas issued by himself: They "are not binding, but they are not just whistling in the wind either; individuals are free to accept them, but Islam recognises that extenuating circumstances may prevent it." According to the traditional principles of jurisprudence, the fatwa must be adequate with the needs of the contemporary world in order to be valid.

 

Over 50 Muslim-majority countries have over the last fifty years managed to modernise and alter personal laws in tune with changing societal norms. Egypt has announced 12 per cent reservation for women in Parliament, Saudi Arabia is opening coeducation universities for science and technology, many Islamic countries have banned the "triple talaq" at one go and women are being educated — and incentivised to work in all sectors. Every madrasa or school outside the subcontinent follows a government-approved curriculum which includes modern life sciences. All these reforms have come from within the religious systems, as they have a larger chance of success. But our religious clergy is reluctant to move on such contemporary issues.

 

This politics of isolation is ill-fated in a multi-plural democracy like India. In the last sixty years the community has consistently slipped to the lowest rung of the knowledge and economic ladder, caught in a vicious trap the helps nobody but self-serving political and religious leaderships. A growing revulsion against such leadership is beginning to be apparent — especially in the present generation of young, educated Muslims whose sole aim is to be competitive and employed gainfully.

 

The writer is chairman of the editorial board at the Kanpur-based Urdu newspaper 'Daily Siyasat Jadid'

 

express@expressindia.com

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

TIME FOR A SPLIT

COOMI KAPOOR

 

In the not so distant past, the RSS sarsanghchalak rarely interacted with the media. On Vijaya Dashami day, he delivered a special address which was reported in two paragraphs by the Nagpur press. The messages were usually diffuse and discreet. Even when Balasaheb Deoras once took a veiled dig at Indira Gandhi, his remarks were in a general context and not personalised. In 1979 when Morarji Desai's government fell on the issue of dual membership of former Jana Sangh members in the Janata Party, the Sangh itself kept mum over the whole controversy. Keeping a distance from the media helped create an aura of mystique around the RSS boss and indicated a disinterest in temporal affairs. It was expected that by the time an individual was elevated to the role of sarsanghchalak, he did not even involve himself in the day to day affairs of the RSS. The hands-on organisational work was the responsibility of the sangh's general secretary.

 

But the RSS's new chief, Mohan Bhagwat, and his predecessor K. Sudarshan, to a lesser extent, are the exceptions. Bhagwat appears to love the media spotlight and the sound of his own voice. His candid comments, his constant advice to the BJP and to the country as a whole, along with occasional retractions, suggest the makings of an immature politician.

 

Apart from such startling pronouncements as globalisation is responsible for the unrest in the world, Bhagwat keeps making the point that he knows best what is good for the BJP. His gratuitous advice for the ailing BJP includes hints as to who should be the next BJP president — that he should be between the age of 50 and 55 and from outside Delhi — and that L.K. Advani should retire soon. But surprisingly, while Bhagwat has solutions to fix the country and the BJP, no one has been impertinent enough to question why he has not been able to revive his own flagging organisation, which, in fact, is in far poorer health than the BJP.

 

The BJP may be declining rapidly, thanks to a vacuum in leadership, but it still has a lot going for it. It has governments in six major states and is an alliance partner in two others. The BJP remains the main opposition party in the country with 116 Lok Sabha MPs. Whatever its current travails, the party has had an impressive growth rate. The BJP won just two seats in Parliament in 1984, but it succeeded in capturing power at the Centre twice in less than two decades.

 

The RSS, on the other hand, no matter what statistics it may trot out about increased membership, has remained fairly stagnant. The sense of idealism, social service and spiritualism which the RSS inculcated among its followers half a century ago is largely missing today. Many of the new recruits to the RSS are opportunists who sniff a chance to exert influence on governments in states where the BJP is in power. The RSS has failed to reinvent itself to remain relevant in the 21st century. It is still stuck in its post-Partition mindset, nursing a pathological suspicion of minorities and dreaming of what it calls "Akhand Bharat". It has tarnished its image with its protective stance towards madcap Hindu terrorist groups.

 

The RSS has failed to focus on issues which concern today's youth. In a country obsessed with cricket, it still relies on kabaddi and lazeem exercises. In the age of blue jeans and kurtas, it still insists on a uniform of baggy khaki shorts which would make even a country hick squirm. It is hardly surprising that few sons of old RSS loyalists are inspired to join the organisation. Early morning shakhas are no longer a familiar sight in north India. Television-savvy Hindu evangelists like Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar have been far more successful in connecting with India's new spiritually conscious generation than the RSS.

 

The RSS as a referee and final arbiter for the BJP is a terrible concept, since the truth is that the BJP has long outgrown its parent body. True, the RSS has contributed much to the BJP's success in terms of manpower, organisation and ideology. But does this give the RSS the right to call the shots for ever? If the BJP matured and evolved to become a national alternative to the Congress, it was because leaders like Vajpayee and Advani fought hard to ensure that the party could emerge as a more broad-based entity with a charter far more liberal and inclusive than what the closed-minded RSS ever envisaged. Sadly, many party leaders have themselves encouraged the concept of RSS interference in the BJP for their own personal advancement.

 

Party President Rajnath Singh, for instance, got the job thanks to the RSS and continues to pander to factions of the RSS to further his own interests. He was quick to take action against Jaswant Singh and Vasundhara Raje because he knew that this would please the RSS. He discreetly looked the other way when Arun Shourie waved a red rag at him because he was aware that Shourie had been smart enough to keep the RSS on his side. One of the few BJP leaders powerful enough to defy the RSS writ and get way with it is Narendra Modi, since he had big electoral victories.

 

A split in the undivided Hindu joint family, known as the Sangh Parivar, would benefit both organisations. Cutting the umbilical cord with the RSS would allow the BJP to remain relevant in the 21st century. It would be equally advantageous to the RSS which could focus on the work for which it was set up, instead of its meddling in power politics. If Bhagwat is determined to micro-manage the BJP, he should simply take over the reins of the party himself. His constant backseat driving is bound to land the party in an even bigger mess than the one it finds itself in at present.

 

coomi.kapoor@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

GRIN AND BEAR IT

SHAILAJA BAJPAI

 

Those of you who could tear yourselves away from Sachin TV on the evening Tendulkar's 175 occupied total screen space on the news and Neo Sports, may be interested to learn that God is coming. Aaj Tak said so. Unfortunately, it didn't know the exact time of arrival. Aaj Tak and at least one other Hindi news channel, had sighted UFOs over Moscow, too. Perhaps it was God?

 

Aishwarya Rai appeared like a goddess on a special CNN-IBN programme to celebrate her birthday. Rajeev Masand didn't kneel before her but he did gaze at her with worshipful eyes as he asked her questions on behalf of viewers who had written in. Aishwarya answered all the questions with cool condescension even when she didn't. Answer.Would she make a film with SRK? "I don't have an answer". The questions were pretty silly and baffling: had she ever been told that she was not beautiful (not really); could she control her giggle (not really); would she consider joining politics (not really). Surprisingly, there was just one question about her husband, that too rather childish: who is more mature, you or Abhishek? We take turns, she said, as if marriage was a game of Ludo, and went onto to explain that the two of them were child-woman and child-man. Wonder, do they call each other 'Baby'?

 

Maybe we'll send that question for the next birthday bash which ended with a cake-cutting ceremony and a friendly but distant wave of the hand. Here's the thing with Aishwarya: although she appears friendly and forthcoming, you always feel she is someone you don't really know even remotely.

 

Priyanka Chopra visited the sets of the reality show, Big Switch (Bindass) and seemed much more approachable. She was there to introduce the underprivileged children to the privileged ones; the two will be living together to make what they can of each other. The well-heeled kids are at a distinct disadvantage: it's easier to get used to sleeping in a room with an AC than it is to a room with mosquitoes. Chopra came bearing gifts for the poor kids: a guitar, mobile phone, linen, jeans. Rather condescending, don't you think?

 

So far the rich brats have been bearing up rather well in the company of Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Tu star Genelia. They are likable and freely admitted their shortcomings when confronted with a situation they had never imagined, let alone lived. If you have always sat on a throne it is not easy to squat — so think of their distress when confronted with an Indian-style toilet!

 

Meanwhile, Bharti, the better half of Bhaskar, was stunned for find herself confronting not one but two prospective bridegrooms (Bhaskar Bharti, Sony). Choosing truth over marriage, she finds nobody willing to believe her when she reveals that she is a man who rejected a woman and paid for it by becoming a woman in order to experience what it is like to be female. This is all very well; what is positively disastrous is that a show, which started out as a comedy, has become a soap. Bharti's begun to weep like a monsoon shower, the camera to swirl around her like a twister and the music to boom like a 21-gun salute¿ Question: Why can't a comedy remain a comedy? Answer: because Pappu can't laugh saala, at jokes. Spring tears and see him and the rest of us smile as broadly as Aishwarya during her interview.

 

Don't believe it? Peek into the Bigg Boss (Colors) house and judge for yourself. When the inmates stop criticising whoever is beyond earshot, they either cry (the women) or abuse (the men), in particular Vindoo Dara Singh whose every second utterance has to be deleted because it's objectionable... Poor old Raju Srivastava lives off the laughter of others and is straining to amuse the contestants, to get them to see the lighter side of their predicament. That he doesn't always succeed is because since 2000 and the K bahus, TV entertainment has been reduced to tears.

 

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

 

THE BERLIN WALL: IN HISTORY, IN MEMORY

 

Paris — There was nothing through most of that grey, chilly Thursday to suggest that it would come to symbolise one of the great transitions of the 20th century. Even when the delirious crowds surged through the Berlin Wall shortly before midnight on Nov. 9, 1989, it was not because of any momentous decision or heroic feat; it was because of a bad translation, a confused border guard and a natural longing for a better life.

 

That is not to say that the event history has declared as the moment when the Cold War ended came out of the blue. From the time Gorbachev came to power in 1985 proclaiming change, the Soviet bloc had been in turmoil. The pace quickened dramatically in the summer of 1989: Hungary ceased enforcing its stretch of the Iron Curtain, opening a fissure through which East Germans began to head west in droves. Pressures mounted daily on the Communist old guard in East Berlin. East Germans were marching in ever greater numbers through the streets, and their battle cry had changed from "Wir sind das Volk" — "we are the people," a demand for reform — to "Wir sind Ein Volk" — "we are one people," a demand for reunification.

 

But there was nothing on that Thursday morning that said, "This is the day." I was in East Berlin that grey November day, and the tension was palpable as embattled East German leaders struggled for survival, desperately trying to stem the exodus to the West and the clamour for change. We were told that they would announce a major loosening of travel restrictions. Their calculation was that if East Germans did not feel so imprisoned in the East, they would not be so desperate to flee to the West. Günter Schabowski, a member of the Politburo, was designated to announce the new regulations at a news conference in the late afternoon. I had no way of filing to the paper from East Berlin, so even before he finished I rushed back to get through Checkpoint Charlie ahead of the mob of newsmen. As midnight approached, I was writing away in my room at the Kempinski Hotel in West Berlin when there came a knock on the door. It was Victor Homola, my translator from East Berlin.

 

"I'm busy, Victor," I snapped.

 

"But, Serge..."

 

"Not now! Not now..."

 

Wait! Victor was an East German. He was not allowed to cross into the West! He'd never been to the West! And it was midnight. "Victor, what on earth are you doing here?"

 

"That's what I'm trying to tell you, Serge. The wall is open!"

 

It was so fine a moment,and one that two decades later occupies so sacred a place in the history of a tragic century, that it takes an effort today to recall how spontaneous and unexpected the breach really was.

 

We in the West have since devised various narratives of the "Fall of the Berlin Wall," most claiming a great victory for the West, or at least for a Western-oriented "civil society" in the East. Certainly, our freedoms and prosperity became so incomparably more attractive than the Big Brother and drabness of the Soviet bloc that Communist leaders simply could no longer sustain the myth of socialist superiority. Yet the changes were led more by enlightened (or ambitious) Communists than by dissidents. And the fatal impulse came from within — in fact from Moscow — when Gorbachev and his allies recognised that their system simply could not go on as it was.

 

But let's be honest: On Nov. 9, 1989, none of the experts imagined that the mighty Communist edifice, with its great armies, its vast networks of secret police and informers, its elaborate controls on information and its privileged castes, would fall anytime soon. The dissidents of East Berlin spoke only of socialism with a human face, of freer travel, of a touch more economic freedom. Reunification was in the air, to be sure, but not today, not tomorrow, not for a decade or so.

 

Let's be more honest still: Many of us in the West found a degree of comfort in the wall. It allowed us to feel superior, it divided our world into manageable blocs. Many Americans would like to think that President Ronald Reagan precipitated the fall of the Wall with his celebrated plea, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." But that was two years before it happened, and Mr. Gorbachev had already introduced his fateful reforms. The uncomfortable fact is that many Europeans, Margaret Thatcher and François Mitterrand among them, opposed the reunification to the last minute.

 

So perhaps it is the very spontaneity of the breach of the Berlin Wall that makes it so apt a symbol for the collapse of Communist rule. The wall burst open simply because there was nothing left to prop it up — the Moscow Centre had ceased to hold, the entire edifice of fear and lies was exhausted, the police were no longer prepared to shoot. All it needed was a nudge, which Schabowski inadvertently provided. He also provided the delicious irony that the Wall finally came down for the same reason it had gone up 28 years earlier: to dissuade East Germans from fleeing.

 

It took two more years before the Cold War came completely to an end, when the great Union of Soviet Socialist Republics itself fizzled out. I was back in Russia by then; it was Dec. 25, 1991, our Christmas, and Gorbachev had resigned that morning. My wife and children went off to Red Square. Suddenly my wife called from a phone booth: The red Soviet flag with its gold hammer-and-sickle was being lowered over the Kremlin, and at 7:32 p.m. the white-blue-and-red flag of old Russia rose in its place. There was no party, I wrote that evening in my obituary for the Soviet state, "only the tolling of chimes from the Spassky Tower, cheers from a handful of surprised foreigners, and an angry tirade from a lonely war veteran." The party was already long ended.

 

Yet when I look back on that other night 20 years ago, when I rushed from my hotel to the wall with Victor Homola and the big woman driving the taxi yelled at the celebrating throng to make way, I still feel an incomparable exhilaration. I still sense the extraordinary and elementary spirit of liberation that we witnessed across East Europe in those years — in the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk, Poland; on Wenceslas Square in Prague; in Budapest; in Timisoara, Romania; at the barricades outside Moscow's "White House," and in so many other places.

 

To have been at these places, to have been at the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989, is to have known a moment when all the calculations of power and politics are overwhelmed by a single-minded quest.

 

Call it freedom.

 

The New York Times

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

NORTH OF ADEN

ALIA ALLANA

 

Intense air raids by Saudi Arabian forces coupled with a Yemeni onslaught against Yemeni Houthi rebels, have brought attention to the poorest nation in the Middle East. As the conflict continues, Alia Allana brings you the background:

 

Where is the fighting centred?

The North of Yemen has seen intense fighting. Saudi Arabia and Yemen share a 1,500 kilometre border. Saudi Arabia alleges that the Houthi rebels clashed with border guards in an attempt to infiltrate Saudi territory. The Saudis have claimed that their offensive is merely to secure and seal their border, rather than interfere in Yemeni domestic matters. However, the Houthis claim that Saudi ground forces have crossed into Yemeni territory. The dispute is centred over the Jebel-al-Dukhan region. The Houthi's maintain that air raids have targeted the villages of Shida and Hassama which lie 7 km inside Yemeni territory.

 

How is Saudi Arabia involved?

Though Saudi Arabia has traditionally stayed away from using its armed forces it has become increasingly difficult for Saudi Arabia to ignore the growing Houthi threat. The conflict pits the Yemeni government against the rebels. Besides securing its border, Saudi Arabia wants to ensure that the fighting does not spill over into the oil rich country. The Houthis maintain that Saudi Arabia is supporting the Yemeni armed forces fighting the rebels by allowing them access to the country in order to launch attacks. The Saudis fear the possibility of increased violence on its border dragging it into a battle between the Houthis and the Yemen government.

 

What are Yemen 's fears?

Primary is the possibility of a renewed conflict, akin to the 1962 coup which sparked an eight year civil war. The Houthis are both separatists — as they demand authority over the regions of Saada and Amran — and sectarian. The Houthis are Shiites, while the region is predominantly Sunni. They took up armed conflict in 2004; the Yemeni army was successful in squashing their assault then, yet the conflict has continued. A new offensive was launched in 2009. Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh has vowed that there will no dialogue between the leadership and the rebels. Ali Abdullah Saleh is no longer as powerful. 1978 saw him strike deals and alliances with powerful tribes and factions but dwindling oil revenues have brought the country to its knees, weakening alliances. Yemen is currently battling both the northern Houthi insurgency and southern separatists. Currently the state has control over the urban centres.

 

What are the international ramifications?

Increasingly the Houthi rebellion has become a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Houthis allege that the Yemeni government is being funded by Saudi aid whereas the Yemeni government maintains that the Houthis are being supplied by Iran. Yemen has been used in the past as an al-Qaeda base; the uncertain political atmosphere can foster al-Qaeda's ambitions. There is also the fear of drug-trafficking and human trafficking.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE SAD BALLAD OF AN INDIAN JAIL

CURRUN SINGH

 

The recently released movie Jail is a fictional account of an ordinary man caught in the crossfire of a crime, arrested and jailed. In the face of a lethargic criminal justice system, he never gets his day in court. Bhandarkar, famous for hard-hitting displays of social realities in films like Chandni Bar and Page 3, strips away misconceptions of what happens inside India's 1276 prisons and lays bare the lives of our 3.76 lakh prisoners.

 

Truth really is stranger than fiction, and it does not take a Bollywood eye or budget to realize that injustice is endemic to India's jails. Take for example an issue that has drawn the attention in recent weeks: the 2.5 lakh prisoners languishing in jails without trial or conviction.

 

The government's response to this issue has been implementing catchy but risky shortcuts to justice like video-conferencing and jail adalats. There is no such silver bullet. The target must be twofold: the simple and swift disposal of cases and obeying the 2005 amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure to make bail the rule and jail the exception.

 

For those undertrial prisoners charged with crimes not punishable by death, hope arrived with Section 436A of the CrPC, introduced in the CrPC Amendment Act 2005. This made release on personal bond or bail possible for those accused persons who have been in prison for one half of the maximum term of sentence they could serve if convicted. This was accompanied by Section 436(1) that allowed for the release on personal bond of those individuals charged with bailable crimes but unable to arrange for surety. The home ministry estimated these amendments could lead to the release of 40,000 to 50,000 undertrials, dramatically reducing the plight of overcrowding in India's jails, but they have been slowly implemented, if at all. I and my team have had to point out the law — which can barely be called "new" these days — in our copies of the CrPC to too many prison administrators ignorant to these provisions.

 

In the three years since Section 436's implementation, the most notable instance of its use has been the release of nearly 13,000 undertrial prisoners on personal bond in Uttar Pradesh. This was possible because the Prison Department asked jail superintendents to gather the names of all undertrials eligible for release and coordinated with the district administration and public prosecutors to submit applications to the court on their behalf.

 

As in UP, it is up to inspector generals of prison departments to demand the relevant data from superintendents and facilitate legal aid to process resultant bail applications. Forget empathy, that among these undertrials are those without charge and those who have been imprisoned even beyond the maximum sentence for their charge; for jail officials, fewer prisoners means fewer mouths to feed, fewer illnesses to heal, fewer fists throwing punches — essentially, a smaller staff and less expense.

 

The prison departments are not the only stakeholders in justice dispensation. Former Union minister Ashwani Kumar persuaded the PM to ask the law ministry to examine the issue of undertrials. So what may we expect them to recommend? Though the labour of clearing 2.5 lakh undertrial cases is Herculean, it is doable if the courts begin by assuming the cases of the 2000 undertrials across the country who have been imprisoned for over five years without conviction.

 

At the same time, Section 436 must be smoothly integrated into prison databases, such that release on bail is effectively automatic for the undertrials who qualify. Goa's Prison Management System (PRISMS) was awarded a national e-governance award for its ability to calculate the probable date of release of convicts and details of remission earned, but it falls short of flagging undertrial cases eligible for bail under Section 436A and Section 436(1). The 47 lakh system is a step in the right direction, but Goa might as well get its money's worth by functionalising it to accord with bail provisions.

 

Another promising strategy to disincentivise unnecessary detention is to compel the courts to compensate those acquitted of their crimes for the time they spent in jail beyond a reasonable length for their trial. A right to such compensation is guaranteed under Article 9(5) of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but is severely limited in India.

 

So when you head to the cinema to catch Jail, enjoy the show. But when you exit the cinema hall and your eyes readjust to the light, remember that lakhs of prisoners have little choice but to grow accustomed to the darkness.

 

The writer is an assistant programme officer of the Prison Reforms Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

BROADER THAN BORDER

 

Any relationship between neighbouring countries is likely to be thorny in parts—there are usually issues of shared borders, resources, migration and the like. When the two neighbours are giant countries with over a billion people living on either side and both tipped for superpower status this century, the problems are magnified. Unfortunately, much of the India-China discourse all too often veers around to hostility and sometimes near-hysteria. It is important, however, to look at the long-term relationship between India and China as a positive one. This doesn't, in any way, mean caving in to Chinese pressure on a host of issues. In fact India acted out of admirable conviction by allowing the Dalai Lama to visit Arunachal Pradesh despite the Chinese establishment frowning at the prospect. After all, India has always maintained that the Dalai Lama is free to travel anywhere in India and we are utterly confident in our position that Arunachal Pradesh is very much a part of India. In doing so, the Indian establishment showed greater courage than the liberal Barack Obama—who refused to meet the Dalai Lama—choosing to appease the Chinese ahead of his visit to that country. Doing the right thing by allowing the Dalai Lama to visit Tawang is by no means an act of aggression towards the Chinese. The Dalai Lama himself trod a thin line in what he said in Tawang, but it's safe to say that he did not provoke the Chinese establishment beyond his usual political standpoint. The bilateral relationship with China that involves 'unresolved disputes' will always be tricky. The point is whether both countries can work around and beyond that—there's good evidence that's possible.

 

Our trade with China is already massive, more than our trade with the US. That must continue to be enhanced. There is much room for cooperation at international forums, particularly in the negotiations on climate change. There is, of course, much to learn from the Chinese experience of three decades of 10%-plus growth. We have consistently lagged China on this count. And if we have anything to fear, it is this continuous gap in the pace of growth between China and India. As competitors, we must endeavour to catch up. China doesn't consider India's democracy to be an advantage. But it is. Because India went from 3.5% growth to 9% while being a 'chaotic democracy'. As everyone says, we need to improve infrastructure and unleash a new generation of reforms. Many doubt this will ever be done. But it is more a question of when, not if. When India does make a next set of big changes in policy architecture, India's growth profile will change. We should use China as a reason to speed up that change, not as a bogey.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

CARRY BOTH ALANG

 

Alang is an Indian success story. In 1983, the first vessel was beached here for breaking. In the intervening period, business volumes have not only overtaken the Mumbai and Kolkata ports where shipbuilding used to be concentrated in India, but Alang has actually emerged as a leading shipbreaking yard in the world. In Alang, we can see the environment vs growth dynamic playing out at its intense best. At the same time, this Gujarat region also shows us the way forward, for thinking beyond binary choices to making the best of both green and gain options. Take what's happening with the Platinum II right now. Activists—both from environmental and labour camps, both national and international—have decried Alang's cheap labour costs and lax safety standards, which are allegedly responsible for seducing shipbreaking activities away from advanced countries. But who has confirmed problems with Platinum II? The environment and forests ministry, based on technical committees' reports, has found both that the ship contains hundreds of tonnes of hazardous material and further that the ship's registry is fraudulent. As of now, the Centre has asked its breaking to be put on hold. Better safe than sorry isn't such a bad mantra, but what can Platinum II expect as further investigations unfold?

 

Precedents suggest that the story could go either way. In the case of the Blue Lady, a prolonged debate ended with the Supreme Court allowing the ship to be scrapped at Alang provided strict guidelines were followed to ensure worker safety, including decontamination before dismantling and proper disposal of toxic waste. On the other hand, at the end of a similar process, the Clemenceau had to leave Indian waters, when its environmental risks were discovered to be too perilous. Ironically, it ended up in Hartlepool this year, a former shipbuilding town on the North Sea coast that celebrated the jobs breaking up the Clemenceau would create. In any case, the bottomline is that although low costs are what have won Alang its shipbreaking business over the last two decades, environmental consciousness is now increasing. This is a good thing. A proper evaluation of risks alongside high-quality technology will only make Alang a better shipbreaking destination, even while better preparing it to withstand partisan eco-lobbying. Actually, the global economic meltdown hasn't been bad for this business. The financial year to April was one of the best ever for Alang. Ships were being scrapped faster as trade slowed down and freight rates also dropped low. Going forward, better coordination with ILO and the International Maritime Organisation for standardised management of hazardous materials, as well as consistent domestic controls, will only lend Alang growing credibility. It could grow and grow greener. The best of both worlds is a real option.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHY SHOULD ASIA BAIL OUT AMERICA?

AVINASH D PERSAUD


The IMF semi-annual review is out and Oliver Blanchard, the IMF Chief Economist is quoted saying: "A decrease in China's current account surplus would help increase demand and sustain the US recovery. That would result in more US imports, which would sustain world recovery."

 

This is economic gobbledygook from someone who knows better. China represents 5% of global GDP. If it had a massive fiscal boost of 10% of its GDP and was lucky to achieve 10% growth in demand, and generously let 50% of that growth leak abroad by pushing up its exchange rate, the resulting growth in global demand would be just 0.2%. This is tiny enough to be lost in a statistician's revision. To boost global demand by a more noticeable 1%, China would have to let 20 percentage points of its GDP leak abroad, and for this not to lead to a recession in a country that is growing rapidly but is still relatively poor, it would mean an unheard of fiscal boost in the order of 30%-plus, with the majority of it being encouraged to leak abroad through an exchange rate that would eviscerate the export sector and the coastal cities.

 

Is this sensible for the Chinese to do? Of course not. It is insane to think that a country that represents one-twentieth of the world economy could save it, and odd to think that it should spend its poor tax payers' money to bail out the rich economies from their own folly, which they committed while lecturing everybody else about their own superior economic and cultural position. This is the problem with a decade of champagne-popping overconsumption; it is followed by a painful decade of saving. US commentators blamed Asia for financing their consumption orgy and now they're blaming Asia for not bailing them out.

 

During the boom a British columnist waxed lyrical about how the protestant work ethic was the key to economic growth. What should we now think about the role of the protestant work ethic in allowing an overpaid, socially less than useful financial sector in the US, the UK and Europe, poorly regulated, to bring down the global economy?

 

The story of the Chinese surpluses is like an Agatha Christie murder story, where the murder has taken place in a locked room with 12 people and they are all blaming the butler downstairs. The recent trends in current accounts continue to belie the American fantasy that the cause of US overconsumption, as evidenced by a US current account deficit, was Asian saving, evidenced by an Asian current account surplus. Over the past year the US current account deficit has shrunk by a staggering $436 bn, but this was not caused by Asia saving less; indeed, Asian savings have only shrunk by $45 bn. The big change has occurred in the surpluses of commodity exporters, whose savings were a direct result of consumption of their commodities. The Middle-East surplus has fallen by $300 bn in this last year.

 

This is entirely consistent with the traditional story that many US economists dismiss because it blames America. Easy money and loose fiscal policy supported overconsumption in the US that led to the big current account deficit and rising commodity prices. This was sustained because the US dollar is the world reserve currency and the current account surpluses that are the flip side of the US deficit are recycled into the US financial markets, allowing US consumers and government to borrow easily to support their excess consumption. US consumption fell back as the crisis hit, US deficits shrunk and global surpluses fell.

 

This has nothing to do with the Chinese exchange rate. How could it when China's cumulative surpluses in the ten years to 2006 when the boom was fuelled were less than 10% of America's cumulative deficits? But the US National Association of Manufacturers would like you to think so. This is reasonable—that a trade association should oversell its case. But we all know that Detroit is not bust because of the value of the renminbi. What is unreasonable is that this story should be adopted by the IMF of all places.

 

You would think that by now the IMF would have learned that by illegitimately focusing on the narrow interests of a shrinking part of the world economy will make it increasingly irrelevant. The Europeans do not like the way that European power has been eclipsed by Asia and they do not like the possibility that the US recovery will be built off exports that compete with European exports. And so they want Asia to bear the brunt of the US's beggar-thy-neighbour policy of a weak exchange rate. They want Asia to bail out the world by reducing their GDP through massive exchange rate appreciations, too big to be offset by any reasonably sized fiscal stimulus and they think they can kid us into thinking this is the right thing to do for Asia—the conceited arrogance of it all. India is keeping quiet, but it should vocally object to this crass economics because one day it too will fall foul of the logic that whatever happens to America, it is Asia's fault.

 

The author is chairman of Intelligence Capital Ltd, chairman of the Warwick Commission, and member of the UN Commission of Experts on Financial Reform

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

FINALLY, A PRAGMATIC SELL OFF

MADAN SABNAVIS


Disinvestment has been a glowing controversy ever since we first spoke about it several years ago. It came in the form of privatisation to begin with, which raised the hackles of the left parties as anything 'private' was looked upon with suspicion. Coincidently, anything 'private' was looked at by the policymakers as being progressive.

 

Privatisation through disinvestment did not quite make the capitalist ideal, as the question raised was that the same outcomes could have been effected by changing the work ethics rather than the ownership. Further, the fact that only profit-making enterprises were targeted made the concept opportunistic, as it suited both the parties. The government was happy because it would get money, which the loss-making firms—which probably required private ownership more—would not achieve. Private sector would not have touched a loss-making unit anyway and profit-making firms were attractive propositions for them. It was a win-win situation, but the critics slammed it, saying that we were selling the family silver. Some big companies were partly divested, then the pace slowed down and, amidst controversy, went into a recess.

 

The issue of disinvestment to take care of the budgetary requirements came up as a compelling economic argument for the same. Protagonists said that such proceeds should not be used for financing the revenue deficit, but for lowering public debt. It was argued that public debt could be repaid through these proceeds, which, in turn, would lower interest payments and hence the fiscal deficit would come down in course of time. While this argument looked okay, there was a counter-argument here. If these funds were not used for financing the fiscal deficit but used to lower public debt, then fiscal deficit would increase proportionately, as borrowings were needed to finance the budget and the size of the debt would not really change. Therefore, this argument, too, was not strong enough, as it would simply be an exercise in financial accounting. The budget then stopped putting these numbers in the final accounts.

 

Now, there is a new look being taken by the government. It wants to have the unlisted ones listed and get the listed ones to have at least 10% of their shares held by the public. The funds so mobilised—something of the order of Rs 50,000 crore or above—would go into the National Investment Fund (NIF). The initial thoughts on the NIF were that the interest on the fund would be used for social purposes, but now it appears that the capital amount will directly be deployed for social capital, and hence, will be of much larger amount. Is this thought process okay?

 

In a way it is, because we are at least clear that we want to use this money for investment projects in the social sector, which if deployed judiciously, cannot be argued against. We are not bringing in the private ethic, which has failed in the West, or the fiscal deficit or public debt argument, which is somewhat contradictory as argued earlier. Therefore, the result can be only positive. The policy appears to be pragmatic in this context by choosing only profit-making firms, as the loss-making ones would not command similar valuation in the market.

 

But, can this be a policy? This is the broader issue because if the government keeps on doing this, there will be a point when a critical decision will have to be taken as to whether or not the unit will remain in the private sector. And a logical corollary is that this will not be a bottomless moneybag from where funds can be drawn. But, nevertheless this money can be used for investment in social infrastructure.

 

A curious issue will be that in case these funds are earmarked for capital projects, then will there be less pressure on the government to incur such expenditures within the confines of the traditional budget? Therefore,

 

if we exclude these disinvestments, it should not be the case that the government concentrates only on the revenue side and not the capital side. The other possibility is that the disinvestment finances incremental capital formation, in which case the fiscal deficit is not affected and remains at the usual level, which will then be beneficial.

 

What about the capital market? This move is good news as there will be more equity issues in the pipeline and the market is looking for such issues. Investors can cheer, as they will have more options and there will be a lot of money to be made with the overall market capitalisation of Indian firms increasing substantially.

 

Therefore, we can on the whole feel good about this move at disinvestment if we keep in mind the fact that we are not particular about selling our silver. As we reach the 49% mark, a hard decision will have to be taken. Till then it may just be right to say, hallelujah.

 

The author is chief economist, NCDEX Ltd. These are his personal views

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE STATE OF FINANCIAL EXCLUSION

JOSEPH VACKAYIL


More than 40 years after bank nationalisation and the establishment of regional rural banks in 1975, over 120 million households in the country are outside the purview of the formal financial sector. Most of them remain untouched even by the microfinance institutions (MFIs), which began operating in the 1990s. Now may be the time to think harder about how to make microfinance more effective.

 

The most important models of MFIs are the self-help group model and the joint liability group model, with weekly or fortnightly repayment schedules. It is estimated that there are over 3,000 MFIs and microfinance-linked NGOs in the country. According to Crisil, MFI's outstanding loans reached Rs 114 billion by March-end 2009, from Rs 60 billion the previous year.

 

Most of the microfinance credits are used for taking up an economic activity, paying for additional and unexpected family consumption expenditure, mitigating the vulnerability and income shocks after an illness in the family or natural calamity or crop failure. For the poor, MFIs are safer and more affordable than the local money lender.

 

But when compared to the availability of money to those who have access to the formal banking system, the poor have to pay a lot for little money. Though it is said that MFIs lend under joint liability method at 12% to 18% and under the SHG system 18% to 24%, the poor will not get any loan for less than 25% while their better-off can get it even as low as 7% to 4% from banks. Any government intervention to put a ceiling on the MFI rate may boomerang on the poor. The MFIs say 25% is the minimum viable rate for them. They get the money from banks and other soft lending institutions like Sidbi only at 14-15%. Administrative and transaction costs and a subsistence-level margin together will range from 8% to 10% at the lowest. This would necessarily make the lending rate 25%. The only viable proposition to reach the poor is to make funds available to the MFIs at concessional rates like agricultural loans with a mandate to regulate costs attached to disbursal and collection.

 

joseph.vackayil@expressindia.com

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

REPORT CARD

 

THIS PAPER* ATTEMPTS TO ANALYSE WHETHER CEOS ARE UTILITY MAXIMISERS:

 

Are individuals expected utility maximisers? This question represents much more than academic curiosity. In a normative sense, at stake are the fundamental underpinnings of the bulk of the last half-century's models of choice under uncertainty. From a positive perspective, the ubiquitous use of benefit-cost analysis across government agencies renders the expected utility maximisation paradigm literally the only game in town. In this study, we advance the literature by exploring CEO's preferences over small probability, high loss lotteries. Using undergraduate students as our experimental control group, we find that both our CEO and student subject pools exhibit frequent and large departures from expected utility theory. In addition, as the extreme payoffs become more likely, CEOs exhibit greater aversion to risk. Our results suggest that the use of expected utility paradigm in decision-making substantially underestimates society's willingness to pay to reduce risk in small probability, high loss events.

 

John List, Charles Mason; Are CEOs Expected Utility Maximisers?, Working Paper 15,453, October 2009, National Bureau of Economic Research

 

USING FIRM-LEVEL DATA, THIS PAPER* ANALYSES THE TRANSFORMATION OF INDIA'S ECONOMIC STRUCTURE FOLLOWING THE IMPLEMENTATION OF ECONOMIC REFORMS:

 

Between 1986 and 2005, Indian growth put to rest the concern that there was something about the 'nature of India' that made rapid growth difficult. Following broad-ranging reforms in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, the state deregulated entry, both domestic and foreign, in many industries and also hugely reduced barriers to trade. While liberalisations are believed to transform economies through competition and removal of distortions, the effects of liberalisation may not be uniform. Some industries may be better equipped for change while others are not. Within industries, new entrants may gain market share, while incumbents go bankrupt. The focus of the study is on publicly-listed and unlisted firms in manufacturing and services industries. We analyse firm characteristics shown by industry before and after liberalisation and investigate how industrial concentration, number, and size of firms evolved between 1988 and 2005. We find great dynamism displayed by foreign and private firms as reflected in their growth. Yet, closer scrutiny reveals no dramatic transformation in the wake of liberalisation. The story rather is one of an economy still dominated by the incumbents (state-owned firms) and to a lesser extent, traditional private firms (firms incorporated before 1985).

 

 Laura Alfaro, Anusha Chari; India Transformed? Insights from the Firm Level 1988-2005, Working Paper 15448, October 2009, National Bureau of Economic Research

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

A REVENUE RAISING EXERCISE

 

The government's decision to ask all profit-making public sector units to list their shares in the stock exchanges to the extent of 10 per cent is to be seen largely as a revenue raising measure. Apart from providing resources, it will subject the PSUs to the discipline, including the push to maintain profits, that listing in the market would entail but will not fundamentally alter the way they function. In his budget speech, the Finance Minister emphasised the importance of disinvestment more from the viewpoint of ushering in widespread shareholder participation and less from the revenue angle. The budgetary target was just Rs.1,120 crore. The latest decision paves the way for a substantially larger mobilisation of resources through the sale of a small portion of its equity stake in select undertakings. Each undertaking will have to offer at least 10 per cent of its paid up capital to comply with the current stock exchange listing norms. Only 48 of the estimated 248 central government enterprises are listed on the stock exchanges. Since profitable companies can collect substantial sums by way of premium on the shares offered, the government can expect a sizable mop up. To make the disinvestment process more acceptable, the government has undertaken to deploy the proceeds in approved social sector schemes, possibly including flagship programmes such as the Bharat Nirman and the NREGS.

 

A successful disinvestment exercise of the magnitude contemplated will help in reining in the fiscal deficit, now estimated at around 6.8 per cent of the GDP. It might allow the government a greater leeway in continuing the stimulus packages that have so far delivered good results. Yet it is both early and unwise to bet on the outcomes of such a major policy decision. The disinvestment programme has always been controversial. Apart from building a political consensus, the government should preferably co-opt the employees of the undertakings listing the shares. Besides the government, several others will benefit from the exercise. The retail investors stand to gain by way of access to quality stocks. Individual undertakings will benefit through wider exposure that a listing confers. They will also be subject to the accountability norms enforced by public shareholders. Ahead of the public offer, certain critical steps — notably the "corporatisation" of the PSUs recommended by the erstwhile disinvestment commission — will help in achieving a higher market capitalisation. Finally, the programme contemplated ought not to be evaluated over the short-term. Lessons from the recent past reinforce the view that the process of disinvestment is as important as any particular transaction.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

THE HEISEI REFORMATION

 

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's first speech to a plenary session of both houses of the Diet delivered recently was a clear statement of bold intentions. He noted that decades of cronyism, corruption, and secretive policy-making have created widespread distrust of politics in Japan. In response, he announced plans for greater transparency, with ministerial decision-making under collective cabinet responsibility as well as the involvement of citizens in making policy proposals. A new and more equal relationship between central and regional governments is to be created, and senior civil servants will be banned from taking post-retirement posts in private sector bodies with which they have had official dealings. In economic policy, the Prime Minister intends to legislate against lenders' practice of denying or foreclosing loans to small and medium-sized businesses, which he called the real strength of the Japanese economy. He has also pledged Japan to reaching a 25 per cent cut in its 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

 

Above all, his speech signalled a desire for the Japanese state to reconnect with voters and for the Japanese people to reconnect with one another. The government will provide indirect support to the growing number of local voluntary bodies and non-profit organisations to enhance community building. It will end age discrimination in health care for the elderly. There will be additional state benefits for single-mother households, and a child allowance. Public high school education will be free of charge. And gender equality is to be promoted actively. Much, of course, will depend on the state of the economy. Mr. Hatoyama argues that his policies will provide stable growth led by domestic demand. Inevitably, criticism has focussed on the costs of the social aims and the lack of specifics on economic policy. Unsurprisingly, the opposition Liberal Democratic Party called Mr. Hatoyama's speech "sentimental," presumably for his espousal of yuai or fraternity. On the foreign policy front, the new government will face tough challenges. Mr. Hatoyama wants to end Japan's post-war subservience to the United States, and the U.S. military presence on Okinawa is a sensitive issue. Nevertheless, given the widespread public disillusionment with the old ways, he has a fine opportunity to transform Japanese politics. If he achieves the Heisei Reformation (which he mentioned in his speech, referring to the era of the current Emperor), Prime Minister Hatoyama will be seen as one of the defining figures of modern Japan.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

TRIAL REVEALS DEPTH OF CHINA'S CORRUPTION

IN THE CRIME-RIDDEN CITY OF CHONGQING, BEIJING HAS TAKEN AN IMPORTANT FIRST STEP IN ADDRESSING THE NEXUS BETWEEN POLITICIANS, BUSINESS INTERESTS AND THE MAFIA THAT HAS SPREAD UNCHECKED IN PROVINCIAL CHINA IN THE DECADES SINCE MARKET REFORMS.

ANANTH KRISHNAN

 

Li Qiang was, up until July 21, one of the most influential political figures in Chongqing, one of China's fastest growing cities and its biggest municipality. A high-ranking official in the ruling Communist Party, Li was also the head of a business conglomerate and a billionaire. He controlled vast swathes of the city's real estate, owned dozens of casinos and even ran the public transportation system. So unchallenged was Li's influence on this city that on his command, the entire public transportation system came to a grinding halt on one day, when he ordered 8,000 taxis to stay off the roads and stopped the buses from running. In Chongqing, Li's word, ably enforced by his notorious network of thugs and gangsters, was the law.

 

His words tore apart Huang Gobi's life. She watched in horror one evening as a group of thugs wielding machetes entered her home, sliced up her husband in front of her eyes, and assaulted her. Her crime: resisting the Chongqing real estate mafia's attempt to take her land. Her troubles didn't end there. When Huang approached the police, and then the courts, she discovered her attackers' accomplices ruled at every level of officialdom. The police turned her away, and threatened to send back the thugs. The courts wouldn't hear her case.

 

Li's and Huang's stories are by no means unique in China. Stories of local officials abusing their power are rife across China's provinces, where central laws and the judicial system are often rendered impotent in what are effectively fiefdoms run by influential local politicians like Li. But while many Chinese continue to suffer in silence, Huang's voice has now, against all odds, been heard across the country, and given others hope of a promise of change.

 

In an unprecedented crackdown on Chongqing's mafia launched on July 21, Li was among hundreds of influential government officials, businessmen, judges, and police officers who were arrested. The crackdown was initiated by the city's charismatic new party secretary Bo Xilai, with Beijing's backing. Thirty one suspects, including Li, are now standing trial, charged with crimes ranging from running mafia-style gangs, prostitution rackets, and illegal gambling outlets to bribery, tax evasion, and killings. Among those who face corruption and criminal charges are 1,500 public servants, several influential judges, 70 gang leaders, three billionaires, and 250 police officers.

 

Huang had her day in court last week. The sad testimonies the Chongqing People's court heard last week from

her and others have laid bare the nexus between the political elite, business interests, and the mafia that holds sway in many of China's cities. The trial in Chongqing has revealed how deep the rot lies in China's system, and how far it has spread across different branches of government from the judiciary and the police force to the highest levels of the Communist Party.

 

Many scholars here trace the origins of the problem to the blurring of political and business interests, which began when market reforms were launched three decades ago. Even as money poured into an economy dominated by state-owned enterprises, regulations and laws remained outdated and opaque. Chongqing, in China's west, is in many ways a microcosm of the larger changes that market reforms brought to China's political economy, and also the challenges posed to the country's institutions.

 

The city was the centrepiece of Beijing's 'Go West' industrial development drive launched in 2000 to bring infrastructure to western China, which has lagged behind the industrialised and prosperous east. The drive succeeded in rapidly transforming a once-backward city. Shiny skyscrapers, sprawling industrial parks, and impressive economic zones stretch across the municipality, which is home to 31 million people. The development was made possible by a massive $ 1 trillion yuan (around $ 150 billion) investment.

 

But it wasn't just infrastructure that this money financed. It also funded the emergence of figures like Li. Pu Yongjian, a professor at Chongqing University, says there is a clear correlation between the emergence of the city's powerful mafia in the past decade and the pumping in of money. The lines separating business and politics blurred, some say it even dissolved. Pu points to policies such as admitting successful businessmen like Li to high positions within the government — Li served as a deputy to the Chongqing Municipal People's Congress and on the transportation administration. People like him used their positions within their government to expand, unchecked, both their business interests and political control.

 

The "godfather" of the Chongqing fiefdom who encouraged the rise of figures like Li was Wen Qiang, a former police commissioner and head of Chongqing's judicial bureau. Wen, who also stood trial last week, was accused of giving umbrella protection to dozens of gangs who ran the real estate mafia, brothels, and casinos. Among the gang-lords is Xie Caiping, known as the city's "godmother" and Wen's sister-in-law. So brazen was Xie, a former official in the taxation bureau, that she ran a casino and brothel on the city's main street — it stood right opposite the Chongqing People's Court. The lurid details of Xie's life have been splashed across the front pages of local newspapers. She operated 80 illegal casinos, brothels, and drug-running outlets. When arrested, she told a local paper: "My brother is God and he is the law. What do I need to fear about?"

 

Part of the reason the trial has transfixed China is the sordid nature of the Chongqing underworld that has been

exposed and the impunity with which political figures seemed to operate. Those wronged like Huang Gobi simply had no recourse to justice in a broken political system, a common frustration that resonates with many in China's provinces. "This kind of behaviour wouldn't have been tolerated even under the Qing Dynasty," was how Bo Xilai, who started the crackdown, put it. He said "black power" was not just expanding to economic sectors, but also "infiltrating into politics, damaging the image of the party and the country."

 

Chongqing's ills are but an extreme manifestation of a disease that is widespread in China. The past three decades since the reforms of 1978 have seen central regulation, and central influence, retreat. This has paved the way for local officials to expand their power, so much so that in Chongqing, it became difficult "to differentiate between criminals and government officials," said Professor Pu. So deep is the corruption rot that scholars have argued in recent years it has become the single biggest threat to the ruling Communist Party's legitimacy.

 

Beijing is beginning to listen. The party's Central Committee, its highest decision making body, in a September plenary session acknowledged in the clearest terms yet the size of the corruption problem, accepting that it was "severely harming and weakening" the party's rule. The committee also declared it would "explore the arduous and complicated nature of the combat against corruption." Many view the Chongqing crackdown as a first step, as a warning shot Beijing has fired to provincial mandarins.

 

If anything, the Chongqing case has illustrated how difficult a challenge Beijing faces in tackling corruption. The problem for Beijing is fighting corruption has itself become highly politicised. Launching a corruption drive involves reaching a consensus among competing factions at the highest levels of the Communist Party. The targets, like Wen Qiang, often have connections at the highest levels of government. It is understood that it took no less than the intervention of President Hu Jintao for Bo Xilai to finally get the green light to take Wen on. The crackdown has also brought Bo many detractors in Beijing, who say he is now overextending his reach and using the trials to push himself up the party hierarchy.

 

But politics aside, the crackdown is a welcome and long overdue first step, and a strong message for provincial governments in China. The problem for Beijing is that across the length and breadth of the country, there are hundreds of influential Wen Qiangs still ruling with impunity, and tens of thousands of Huang Gobis still waiting for their day in court.

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

IP RIGHTS CREATE A SECURE ENVIRONMENT FOR INVESTMENT IN INNOVATION

THE CURRENT CONTRACTION IN GLOBAL ECONOMIC GROWTH OFFERS AN OPPORTUNITY TO RE-ASSESS WHAT WILL FOSTER ECONOMIC RESURGENCE.

FRANCIS GURRY

 

  1. The sustained growth of India's IT sector is a further example of what can be achieved through strategic use of IP
  2. A strong commitment to strengthening its IP capacity will help India unleash the full potential of its people

 

The Indian government has declared a decade of innovation, emphasising the importance of innovation to India's well-being. I share the confidence that investment in India's enormous human capital, coupled with a focus on innovation, will bear healthy dividends for many years to come.

 

The current contraction in global economic growth offers an opportunity to re-assess what will foster economic resurgence. The importance of innovation and technological progress as a means of creating jobs and boosting growth and competitiveness is well established. While the annual global expenditure devoted to research and development now exceeds $1 trillion, knowledge creation alone is not a sufficient stimulus for growth. It is also necessary to create the conditions for its commercialisation.

 

Intellectual property (IP) is one of the indispensable mechanisms for translating knowledge into commercial assets. IP rights create a secure environment for investment in innovation and provide a legal framework for trading in intellectual assets. An investment in knowledge creation, and the maintenance of a robust IP system that strikes an appropriate balance between the interests of innovators, investors and society, should feature prominently in any strategy to ensure sustainable economic growth.

 

Indian commentators are familiar with the need to ensure that the IP system balances the interests of all IP stakeholders — including developing countries — and that it continues to serve the public good. Indeed, this is a constant challenge for WIPO and its constituents. The international IP system must be able to deliver tangible benefit to all countries, irrespective of where they fall on the spectrum of technological or economic development. The reality for a global organisation like WIPO, with 184 Member States, is that it must be fully able to serve all of them.

 

It is important to bear in mind that the IP system is a mechanism for stimulating and disseminating innovation and creativity, for countering unfair competition and for contributing to market order. The debates and discussions at WIPO are ultimately about how the system can best serve these underlying principles, from which all countries stand to benefit.

 

A member of WIPO since May 1975, India continues to make an important and positive contribution to the ongoing process of exploring how to further improve different aspects of the international IP system and to influence the future evolution of the IP landscape.

 

India is no stranger to the economic advantages of IP. Consider Bollywood, the world's largest film industry, producing over 1,000 feature films a year. Nor, alas, is it a stranger to the enormous challenges confronting the entertainment business under threat from piracy and a growing lack of respect for their IP rights. A recent study estimated that the Indian entertainment industry loses some 820,000 jobs and around $4 billion each year to piracy. Imagine what this dynamic, high-growth industry which already generates over $11 billion annually could further achieve if piracy rates were checked. India is not alone in confronting the global challenge of piracy and collectively, we need to reflect on the fundamentally important question of how we are to finance culture in the future — the future evolution of the copyright system, is of course central to this debate.

 

The sustained growth of India's IT sector is a further example of what can be achieved through strategic use of IP. The country's high-tech prowess is evident in a growing range of fields such as information technology, nuclear power, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. Companies such as Infosys Technologies, Wipro, and Ranbaxy have become household names around the globe.

 

The country's wealth of ancient traditional knowledge and its rich biodiversity are additional platforms on which to build economic strength. India is in the forefront in developing practical solutions to defend against the misappropriation of traditional knowledge, genetic resources and traditional cultural expressions. The "Indian Systems of Medicine" initiative, the Health Heritage Database and the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) initiative — which alone already contains some 36,000 formulations in patent search compatible formats in various languages — all attest to India's leadership in these areas.

 

India also plays a key role in WIPO's Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC). The IGC, which received its strongest mandate yet from Member States last month, is about to embark on international negotiations to ensure the effective protection of Traditional Knowledge (TK), Genetic Resources (GR) and Traditional Cultural Expression (TCE) through the development of an international legal instrument. The historic decision is significant in that it recognises TK, GRs and TCE as part of a more universal knowledge base upon which the IP system rests, and could potentially lead to a major normative shift in the IP system.

 

The return of many Indians who have studied and worked abroad has further energised the country's technological research capabilities, its entrepreneurial drive, and the ability to finance new business ventures. Ten years ago, Rajeev Samant, a Stanford University graduate and former finance manager at Oracle, recognised that the climate in the Nasik region north of Mumbai is similar to that of California's Napa Valley. Today, India is host to a burgeoning wine industry.

 

There are innumerable stories that illustrate the potential of India's rich endowment of inventive and entrepreneurial talent. This, together with a large domestic market that can support substantial investments in research and development, and a renewed commitment to innovation, means the prospects are good for one of the world's fastest growing economies. It is good news as well for a global economy in search of new sources of growth. Continued investment and a strong commitment to strengthening the country's IP capacity will not only reinforce India's position as an emerging economic power, it will help it unleash the full potential of its people. — Courtesy: U.N. Information Centre, New Delhi

 

(Francis Gurry is Director-General of the World Intellectual Property Organisation.)

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

THE WALL: HYPE AND REALITY

TWO DECADES AFTER THE HISTORIC FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL, GERMANY REMAINS A DIVIDED NATION, UNITED ONLY IN NAME.

VAIJU NARAVANE

 

For the past fortnight a single, all-consuming subject had wolfed down every scrap of available space on radio waves, television screens, book stores and newspapers — the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

"This has been such a massive case of overkill that I have the Wall haunting my dreams and whirring through my thoughts even as I work. I am sick and tired of it — the same old faces with the same banal analysis. The same images repeated ad nauseum. Today [Monday, November 9] absolutely took the cake with every single TV and radio station broadcasting live from Berlin and this evening it will be worse when all the leaders gather at the Brandenburg Gate or Checkpoint Charlie to hold hands and show off," said Moustapha Mourad, a young management graduate of Moroccan origin.

 

MANY WANT THE WALL RE-ERECTED

While most people have watched the countless documentaries, films and programmes devoted to the subject with varying degrees of interest, the sustained blanket coverage is beginning to pall. "This astounding amount media blitz underlines the West's obsession with itself. There are so many other walls — the one between Israel and Palestine, between the two Koreas, in Cyprus and elsewhere but nobody talks about that! And then what about the invisible Wall that remains in peoples' heads, hearts and minds? East Germans earn a third of what West Germans do. A recent study shows that 34 per cent of the population would like to see the wall re-erected," said banker Christophe Pinson.

 

The debate in France of course has been over whether or not President Francois Mitterrand was opposed to the reunification of Germany. Many in France claim that the French President, terrified of the economic, demographic and possible future military might of a reunified Germany fought the move tooth and nail, relenting at the last minute under pressure from then German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. This thesis, first insinuated by Mr. Mitterrand's own former adviser Jacques Attali, is furiously contested by researchers like Frederic Bozo, professor of history and international relations at the Sorbonne University and author of Mitterrand, la fin de la guerre froide et l'unification allemande (Mitterrand, the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany). He claims that though Mr. Mitterrand had personal fears about the consequences of German reunification, he did not oppose it as much as try to manage it. But several specialists continue to maintain that Mr. Mitterrand's hesitations, his refusal to stand before the breached wall hand in hand with Mr. Kohl dealt a sever blow to the post-War Franco-German bond which has been instrumental in shaping the European Union.

 

Two decades after the historic fall of the Wall, Germany remains a divided nation, united only in name. The initial euphoria prevented politicians and planners from correctly appreciating the real cost of reunification. According to the Institute for Economic Research (IWF), more than $1.5 trillion have been transferred from West to East since 1989.

 

Germans continue to pay a solidarity tax or 'solitax' — a 5.5 per cent surcharge on every taxpayer first introduced by Helmut Kohl. Initially the tax was to be in force just a few years but Germans are still paying. Today, the tax brings in between $15 billion and $19 billion a year and is widely criticised by politicians, economists and the general population. There is palpable and growing resentment against "paying for the East."

 

On the other side, many East Germans now experience reunification as plain and simple annexation where they have been given a raw deal. They see themselves as second class citizens and display an unbridled nostalgia for the old times where housing and health care were free and jobs and holidays guaranteed.

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

IN TWILIGHT AT 91, MANDELA ENDURES AS SOUTH AFRICA'S IDEAL

CELIA W. DUGGER

 

The icon is a very old man now. His hair is white, his body frail. Visitors say Nelson Mandela leans heavily on a cane when he walks into his study. He slips off his shoes, lowers himself into a stiff-backed chair and lifts each leg onto a cushioned stool. His wife, Graca Machel, adjusts his feet "so they're symmetrical, and gives him a peck," says George Bizos, his old friend and lawyer.

 

To Mandela's left is a small table piled with newspapers in English and Afrikaans, the language of the whites who imprisoned him for 27 years. Family and old comrades sit to his right, where his hearing is better. His memory has weakened, but he still loves to reminisce, bringing out oft-told stories "like polished stones," as one visitor put it.

 

"There's a quietness about him," said Barbara Masekela, his chief of staff after his release from prison in 1990. "I find myself trying to amuse him, and I feel joyous when he breaks out in laughter."

 

Mandela, perhaps the world's most beloved statesman and a natural showman, has repeatedly announced his retirement from public life only to appear at a pop concert in his honour or a political rally. But recently, as he cancelled engagements, rumours that he was gravely ill swirled so persistently that his foundation released a statement saying he was "as well as anyone can expect of someone who is 91 years old." Yet even as Mandela fades from view, he retains a vital place in the public consciousness. To many, he is still the ideal of a leader — warm, magnanimous, willing to own up to his failings — against which his political successors are measured and often found wanting. He is the founding father whose values continue to shape the nation. "It's the idea of Nelson Mandela that remains the glue that binds South Africa together," said Mondli Makhanya, editor in chief of The Sunday Times. "The older he grows, the more fragile he becomes, the closer the inevitable becomes, we all fear that moment. There's the love of the man, but there's also the question: Who will bind us?"

 

There is a yearning for the exhilarating days when South Africa peacefully ended white racist rule, and a desire to understand the imperfect, bighearted man who embodied that moment. Because of this, various historians and journalists at work on a new round of books about Mandela.

 

The Nelson Mandela Foundation agreed last month to sell the rights to a book, Conversations With Myself, to publishers in some 20 countries, based on material from Mandela's personal papers — jottings on envelopes, journals, desk calendars, drafts of intimate letters to relatives written in prison and documents from his years as South Africa's first democratically chosen black president.

 

His oldest friends, stalwarts of the anti-apartheid struggle, still visit. Bizos, who went to law school with Mandela in the 1940s, said Machel worried that Mandela would be alone when she was out of town, and eat too little without company. So from time to time, Bizos gets a call from their housekeeper to come for lunch.

 

Mandela sits at the head of a large table, with Bizos to his right. They relish their favourite dish — oxtail in a rich sauce — and talk about old times. Mandela tells how he walked into a law school class and sat next to a white fellow with big ears, who promptly changed seats to avoid sitting next to a black man. Mandela had wanted to invite the man to their 50th reunion at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1999, but the man had already died.

 

"He repeats it from time to time," Bizos said. "He regrets he did not have the opportunity to meet him. He would have said to him, `Do you remember what happened? But please don't worry. I forgive you.'"

 

Mandela's wish is to be buried alongside his ancestors in Qunu, on the eastern Cape, where he spent the happiest years of his boyhood. In his autobiography, he describes it as a place of small, beehive-shaped huts with grass roofs. — © 2009 The New York Times News Service

 

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  THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

DAY OF SHAME IN MAHARASHTRA

 

The shameful episode of the physical beating of Samajwadi Party member Abu Azmi on the floor of the Maharashtra Assembly by four MLAs belonging to Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena should give every Indian pause. The logical extension of the sorry Monday happening can only point to the road to fascism. India is fortunately too large and too deep to be swallowed by the dynamics of the MNS' methods, but the time has come to ponder steps that a tolerant society and a democratic republic should consciously consider to put an end to such outrageous conduct by a political party that swears allegiance to our gloriously pluralistic Constitution but persists in abusing the freedoms it makes available. Not doing so now, and allowing the situation to drift for reasons of pusillanimity or political convenience, is likely to threaten the democratic template itself.

 

Mr Azmi was sought to be made an example of because he chose to defy the MNS goons' diktat that every MLA must take the oath as a legislator only in Marathi, and not in any other language of the country, although the Constitution imposes no such bar. The SP leader opted for Hindi, the national language. Some have chosen to comment only on this aspect of the matter. But that appears off the mark. The result is likely to have been no different if the SP leader had chosen any other language. Indeed, language is not the fundamental question here, although the MNS has chosen to justify — indeed glorify — the thuggish action of its MLAs in the name of protecting the honour of Marathi, the state language. But the apparently militant espousal of Marathi is nothing more than a mobilising trick being resorted to by the MNS to expand its political base at the expense of its mother party. Marathi is a thriving language of ancient provenance. It has a glorious literary and cultural tradition. It is in absolutely no need of such protection as the MNS' praetorian guards offer. The real reasons for the MNS' "action" lie elsewhere. The party wants everyone on notice that there will be a violent price to pay if any section of society chooses to defy its diktats. The only way to meet such a challenge is for all segments of the polity to unite. Reports of mob violence in reaction to developments in the Assembly have begun to come in from Mumbai and other areas. These too must be firmly checked by the authorities.

 

The MNS MLAs committed planned and wilful violence against the decorum and procedures of the Assembly. For this they have been duly suspended for four years. But they have also done violence to the Constitution of India and to the person of a sitting MLA. These are punishable crimes. The instigation for the physical assault on Mr Azmi is traceable to the inflammatory words of MNS chief Raj Thackeray. The state government will be in breach of the confidence reposed in it in the recent election if it did not uphold the law of the land. Chief minister Ashok Chavan has condemned the "goonda" conduct of the offending MLAs. This was necessary, but does not go far enough. The Congress and NCP, as parties, have yet to come out politically against the planned assault on democracy. The Shiv Sena and the BJP, the other key players in the state, also cannot afford to sit idly by. Leaders from the Hindi-speaking states have narrowly commented only on the insult to the national language aspect of Monday's shameful incident. Every party is called on to take a broader view of the frightening excess committed by the MNS and its elected representatives.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

E FOR ELECTRONIC, W FOR WASTE

JAYATI GHOSH

 

In one section of the university building where I teach, there is an enormous and motley collection of discarded computer-related items, stacked and piled in an unwieldy mess. This has been lying around for a while now, nearly a year, not only because of the prolonged bureaucratic procedures involved in getting material "written off", but also because no one knows what to do with the stuff once it has actually been written off!

 

It is a sight that is increasingly getting only too common in urban India, and now even in some more prosperous rural areas of the country: ramshackle piles of dismembered pieces of discarded electronic equipment such as computers, CD players, televisions and cellphones lying around in the odd corners of offices and homes. Or else simply dumped in the open in garbage heaps, and then being painstakingly searched through by rag-pickers of all ages, who look for any elements that can be resold.

 

In developing countries such as ours, where recycling occurs as a matter of course because of the widespread poverty and sharp inequality that mark our consumption patterns, this may seem as something quite obvious and hardly worthy of comment. Some may even see this as evidence of our greater ability to use and reuse material items more effectively than the wasteful West. Yet this cavalier attitude to electronic waste is already emerging as one of the major hazards to the health of both the environment and our people, and we ignore the crucial issue of electronic waste management at our own peril.

 

This is particularly so because India, like many other developing countries, has to deal with e-waste that is far in excess of what is generated by production and consumption within the country, as we are net importers of e-waste that is cynically dumped on us by the developed world. The global trade in e-waste is huge and growing, and is only partly illegal even though there have been attempts to regulate it.

 

In fact, e-waste is the fastest growing component of municipal waste across the world. Some estimates say that more than 50 million tonnes of it is generated every year. A major reason for this is the very short lifespan of most electronic goods, especially in the West, where such goods are routinely replaced at least every two years, and then either simply discarded or exported to developing countries where there is still a demand for such second-hand goods. Because of the high rate of obsolescence, very large quantities of e-waste are generated.

 

But why exactly is such e-waste more of a problem than all the other waste that is regularly generated by industrial societies? The problems arise from the very significant health and environmental hazards associated with e-waste. Most electronic goods contain significant quantities of toxic metals and chemicals. If these are left untreated to lie around in landfills or dumps, they leach into the surrounding soil, water and the atmosphere, thereby generating obvious adverse effects for human health and ecology. Many elements of the waste are hazardous, as the circuit boards, cathode ray tubes, connectors and other elements that are essential for most such goods almost always contain poisonous substances such as lead, tin, mercury, cadmium and barium.

 

Therefore, the health impact of e-waste is evident. It has been linked to the growing incidence of several lethal or severely debilitating health conditions, including cancer, neurological and respiratory disorders, and birth defects. As usual, this impact is worse in developing countries where people often live in close proximity to dumps or landfills of untreated e-waste.

 

There are basically four ways in which e-waste can be dealt with, and none of them is really very satisfactory. The most common one, especially in the developing world, is simply to store it in landfills, but this has all the dangers described above. For this reason it has already been banned in the European Union (EU) and some other developed countries which instead tend to export this waste to poorer countries. Another way is to burn the goods concerned, but this too is problematic because it releases heavy metals like lead, cadmium and mercury into the atmosphere.

 

Reusing and recycling are obviously preferable because they increase the lifespan of the products and therefore imply less waste over time. The reuse of second-hand electronic goods in the developing world falls in this category, although it still eventually generates waste that ends up located in these countries. But recycling needs to be done in particular ways that protect the workers concerned, who would otherwise be exposed to all the health hazards mentioned above. In most developing countries, this is a real problem because recycling is dominantly done in scrap yards by hand, without any protection for the unskilled workers involved in such activity.

 

These difficulties in dealing with e-waste probably explain why the global trade in e-waste has expanded so rapidly, as developed countries find this an easy way to simply transfer the problem to poorer countries whose governments are either not aware of all the risks involved, or feel that they are accessing cheaper second-hand versions of electronic goods.

 

Some international attempt at regulation has occurred, such as the Basel Convention of 1992 that suggests policies and enforcement mechanisms to control hazardous waste from its production to its storage, transport, reuse, recycling, and final disposal.

 

Typically, the United States, which signed the treaty, has not yet ratified it, and it is still seen the greatest dumper, accounting for nearly 80 per cent of hazardous waste export to developing nations. The EU has a ban on the export of e-waste, but it is generally ineffective, as illegal trade in e-waste continues to flourish with exports going to China, India and Africa.

 

In fact, India is one of the important destinations for this global hazardous trash, although there are few estimates of how large the problem actually is since so much of the trade is extra-legal. Poor regulations and absence of any clear policy of the Indian government or state governments for dealing with electronic waste generated within the country add to the problems and potential for disaster. Indeed, it is surprising that this issue is still not sharply on the policy antennae and that there have been no calls for urgent action.

 

Some of this may be due to the more general and deplorable tendency for so many of our policies, including those relating to the environment, to come to us dictated by the current concerns and fashions of the West. So now, since "global warming" is the flavour of the month, all other environmental concerns, including the more severe and immediate problems of pollution and degradation that affect our people directly, are being given relatively short shrift.

 

Yet this is an issue that clearly must be addressed immediately. Strategies must be evolved to reduce the generation of e-waste, to prevent the legal or illegal import of such waste, and to develop feasible and safe ways of dealing with it within our own context and requirements. Otherwise the unregulated accumulation of electronic waste may well lead to a public health disaster in the near future.

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

HUMAN RIGHTS IN ASEAN

SHANKARI SUNDARARAMAN

 

With inter-state relations getting increasingly focused on integration, the impetus for summits and meetings has been on the increase. However, there is also the resounding feeling that these are becoming more rhetorical than real. Almost every month we hear of a summit or a meeting of states, but the actual progress towards resolution of issues and problems in inter-state relations has been less effective and focused. This was clearly evident in the recently-concluded Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit, from October 23 to 25, 2009. The 15th Asean summit took place at Cha-am, Hua Hin in Thailand where Thailand passed on the one-year chairmanship to Vietnam. This summit was important as it was the first meeting to be held after the Asean charter was endorsed in February 2009 also in Hua Hin. Apart from endorsing the Asean charter among the member countries, the February meeting also heralded a shift in Asean functioning — from an informal association of regional states to a more formal structure.

 

Asean, since its inception in 1967, has had an informal approach where decision-making on key issues of regional concern has been based on a mechanism of collective decision-making. This approach combined the two pillars of "mufakat" and "musyawarah", which mean consensus and consultation respectively. This approach was distinct from other regional or inter-state organisations most of whom have a legal approach to decision-making. Another aspect of this informal approach of the Asean was that it precluded internal domestic affairs from being discussed among the states. As a result, the manner in which the organisation dealt with domestic politics issues remained ambiguous.

 

Issues relating to human rights were especially considered sensitive. In fact, under the guise of a regionally-distinct approach these were pushed aside as being different for various countries, and claims of an "Asean way" were effectively used to deal with any criticism on matters relating to human rights within the region. The Asean, therefore, pushed forward the logic that human rights was not a universal principal but distinct for different countries based on their political development and systems. The Asean region, which comprised few liberal democracies, found resonance in the "Asean way" and used this to deflect critical views on issues of democracy and human rights.

 

Often the countries that did not follow policies of good governance to achieve domestic stability and nation building where not brought to censure. This was particularly evident in the case of Burma where the ruling military junta has not been held accountable. Both in the case of the monk's rebellion of September 2007 and the subsequent referendum during the aftermath of cyclone Nargis, the junta's excesses, apart from a perfunctory rhetorical mention have been overlooked by the Asean.

 

This approach using informal consensus as a decision-making tool underwent a shift with the 2003 Bali Concord II and the subsequent Vientienne Action Plan which was to construct an Asean similar to the European Union with a more legal framework for managing inter-state relations founded on a rational rule-based formula. This looked towards building three pillars — the Asean security community, the Asean economic community and the Asean socio-cultural community. Integral to this was the Asean Charter in which the rules of engagement would be clearly articulated. One of the pivots of this approach was to focus on issues of democracy and human rights, a clear departure from the manner in which Asean functioned for the first 40 years.

 

The latest summit in Cha-am, Hua Hin, has come under flak for its inability to give more grit to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), which was to be a huge step forward for the Asean. This was to give the charter the much needed legal framework and finalise a set of principles by which Asean member states would be held accountable for human rights violations. While critics of the Asean human rights approach claim that the provisions lack the ability to deal with these issues, Asean defenders state that this still falls within the purview of the "Asean way". In fact, both the Asean Charter and the terms of reference that bind the AICHR are very vague in their description of human rights violations. They merely talks about non-discrimination, the rights of migrant workers and issues relating to human trafficking. The current status of the terms of reference does not reflect any clear-cut process by which the commission will monitor violations in individual Asean countries. Neither does it have provisions to actually take up individual cases of citizens who may have been victims of human rights excesses. It also remains vague on the appointment of commissioners and what is expected in their selection. In fact, one of the loopholes in the appointments is that it consists of government level appointees. This itself causes a degree of complicity in the functioning of the commission. Many human rights groups have wondered if the commission can behave in a non-partisan manner.

 

As is evident in the Asian context, there are several ethnic communities and religious minorities that make up the nation state within state boundaries. In an era when there is a growing need for recognition and accommodation within national norms and institutions, the Asean approach to human rights is bound to cause fissures within multilateral institutions such as the East Asia Summit and the Asean Regional Forum. There is a likelihood that one will see a conflict between distinct versions of norms of approach followed within multilateral institutions. China and Asean are likely to follow a more external oriented approach, where the focus will remain on issues of sovereignty and that domestic matters are above the purview of inter-state relations.

 

On the other hand, the western members are likely to bring a greater emphasis on issues of governance and human rights too. This contradiction in approaches among the members will highlight more clearly the contradiction of norms that are considered universal in principal, rather than being diverse for individual countries. In fact, by endorsing such a weak policy towards human rights, Asean states are once again sending a signal that it remains merely a notional understanding, rather than an effective measure, to counter states which are guilty of human rights violations.

 

Dr Shankari Sundararaman is an associate professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the School of International Studies, JNU

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

COLUMN

A CLOUDY ANNIVERSARY AT THE WHITE HOUSE

GOVIND TALWALKAR

 

Last year, on November 4, Barack Obama won the presidential race by an overwhelming majority. But on the first anniversary itself he has received a setback. Charles Krauthammer, a conservative columnist, recently said that though last year he did not vote for Mr Obama, he was happy at his victory. November 4, 2008, according to him, was the day of redemption for white Americans.

 

But in the last one year, a number of Americans have had second thoughts about their President — the job market hasn't recovered and there is uncertainty about the prospects of the war on terror. Though Mr Obama's popular rating are high, these factors are taking the shine off him.

 

This was evident on November 3, 2009, when the fate of the two gubernatorial races — Virginia and New Jersey— and to the House of Representatives was decided. Virginia is traditionally a Republican state while New Jersey is Democratic. Mr Obama scored in both the states, last. Voters said they love him but can't love his candidates. In upstate New York, the ultra-conservatives could not bring victory to the candidate of their choice. Thus voters showed that the country is neither totally to the Left nor to the Right; it is in the middle.

 

In Virginia and New Jersey, the Republican candidates got 60 per cent of independent votes and 67 per cent of white male votes. The turnout of the blacks as well as young people was low. This means that the much talked about demographical change in America has no solid foundation. There is no doubt that in the next presidential election Mr Obama would not be forsaken by the "independents", the whites and the blacks, but their number might not be as large as before.

 

The Opposition and the disillusionment of the "independents" is serious. And if this trend continues, next year's mid-term election to the House of Representatives might reduce the strength of the Democratic Party, if not reduce it to a minority.

 

Since Me Obama inherited an economic meltdown and is facing other extraordinary challenges, he should have concentrated on reviving the market and creating jobs. Instead, he and other leading Democrats were obsessed with healthcare reforms. This infuriated the Republicans who did not do anything to solve the problems when in power, but instead indulged in scare mongering.

 

But even the moderate Democrats are opposed to bringing in a government-run institution to manage healthcare. And, moreover, the administration made the confusion worse by not giving the exact cost of the new bill.

 

The stimulus plan helped the banks, who did not help create jobs but made huge profits themselves. Hence, the American people are rightly worried about their future and apprehend tax increase.

 

Candidate Obama was all the while hammering the established political culture which, he said, was divisive. But today one finds there is much more bickering and bitterness. In his campaign Mr Obama enjoyed rousing the masses and encouraging their expectations. Even after assuming power he has not come out of the campaign mode. In a democracy, when a party is elected, the Prime Minister/President and the Cabinet have to be responsive towards people, but they have to govern as well.

 

Rabble-rousing can be practiced by all and the Republicans have shown that they can play this game very well.

Mr Obama thinks otherwise, and that is why he is always on the move. His constant appearances on international platforms and before the camera have lost relevance. He has taken initiatives in so many fields at the same time that it has resulted in stagnation. Mr Obama claimed that the stimulus plan would create millions of jobs. Now he has realised that job creation must be a priority. It is true that the economy has turned the corner and even manufacturing is on the rise; but this is happening the world over. America is not special, or alone.

 

Mr Obama has changed the tone of America's foreign policy quite distinctly. But he believes too much in the power of his own rhetoric and charisma. In domestic as well as foreign affairs one has to go into details and at times there's need to be specific. But in his political life, Mr Obama has never bothered to go into details. As soon as he entered the Illinois Senate, he aspired to go to Washington. After being elected to the Senate he started preparing for the presidential race. He had no substantial legislative achievements to his credit or administrative experience.

 

Therefore, most of the world's statesmen are not sure as to where he stands. He thought that a few speeches would bring changes in West Asia and his personality would put an end to the hostile attitude of the Muslim world. To bring West Asia and Pakistan-Afghanistan under his direct supervision, Mr Obama appointed special envoys. This was also done to undercut Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state. But both the envoys failed. Iran is not persuaded and North Korea is giving mixed signals. Ultimately, Ms Clinton had to take the initiative and assert herself.

 

Time and again Mr Obama has said that while the Iraq war was by choice, Afghanistan was a war of necessity. But his strategy is unclear. General Stanley McChrystal has asked for 40,000 more troops in Afghanistan but the administration is yet to come up with an alternative. Mr Obama, of course, would not know which of the two is more dubious — Afghan President Hamid Karzai or former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

 

Pakistan is always a doubtful factor, especially since its civil and military authorities are suspicious of each other. The recent demonstrations against the Kerry-Lugar Bill were inspired by the Army and Inter-Services Intelligence as the bill demanded civil control. In addition, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) chief Nawaz Sharif and his brother are reported to have supported the recalcitrant elements.

 

Writer, columnist Ahmed Rashid has doubts about the will of the Pakistani Army to wage a fight to the finish. He thinks that the Army might be fighting the Taliban in South Wazaristan, but might not to do so in the north. So many suicide bombings in the cantonment areas and even at the Army training schools would not have happened without accomplices inside.

 

Americans are obviously worried. That is why the Democrats lost their traditional stronghold New Jersey and Mr Obama had to celebrate a cloudy anniversary.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

TASKS CUT OUT

 

For the people of Maharashtra, Saturday night was the "thank god it's done" moment. After all the grandstanding and negotiating and lobbying of the last three weeks, the state has a government at last. Both sides claim victory in getting what they wanted from the negotiations but that is hardly the point. There are no winners or losers, only the undeniable fact that the coalition partners frittered away good two weeks haggling over the number of ministries and portfolios each one would get. That is not an auspicious beginning to the third government of the Congress-NCP combine.

 

The two parties have tried to incorporate legislators from all areas of the state, although western Maharashtra appears to have an advantage. Narayan Rane, even a hopeful chief minister in waiting, has been thwarted for now and even his supporters have not made it. The new arrivals in the legislature from the Congress party have presumably been told to follow the Rahul Gandhi principle of learning the ropes first and aspiring for posts later.
This government has a lot of work to do. First and foremost, we are staring at the first anniversary of the November 26, 2008 attacks on Mumbai. While the trial of Ajmal Kasab, the one terrorist caught alive, has been progressing at a reasonably satisfactory pace, where are we on increasing security, bolstering the police force with new weaponry, securing the coastline, getting the commandoes settled and improving disaster management?

 

And the record here is hardly edifying. Sadly, compensation has not been paid to all the victims of the attacks, in spite of the spotlight being on the authorities at all times. Doubts about the apparently faulty communication lines within the police and between the police and the intelligence agencies remain. And with new threats being mentioned by the intelligence agencies and the central government, can we in Mumbai honestly say we feel safe and secure? What the government says on this in the next few days will set the tone for its performance on the crucial question of security. There are other state-level issues too, from the agrarian crisis to power and infrastructure. Chaven has promised to get on with the job, but the first few months will show if this is going to be a qualitatively different government than during the past 10 years. The two parties have to take care that this mandate is not frittered away.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

NEEDLESS DEATHS

 

The idea of suicide has been explored in literature and films and has been studied closely by psychologists, sociologists and counsellors for a long time. Still the question continues to intrigue: why would someone want to take their own life? Despair, hopelessness, guilt, shame; all are cited as plausible reasons but there is no real answer. A million people commit suicide every year in the world and it is a leading cause of death among teenagers and those under 35. Many more try and fail.

 

India is said to account for 10 per cent of the world's suicides and the rate has been increasing steadily. A wide cross section, from teenagers to now farmers is among those who die this way. Students are known to kill themselves because of failure in exams.


The incident in which an 18-year old boy from IIT Bombay Siddharth Singh Charan killed himself at his home in Jodhpur with his father's gun is fairly typical. He was doing poorly in his studies in a high pressure academic environment though his cousin's death had also depressed him. Indeed, the IITs have seen many suicides in the past three years or so, more often than not because of the victim's inability to cope with the academic course.
Studies could not have been the reason why a young Mumbai businessman Dinesh Jain allegedly killed himself after killing his wife and small daughters in the wee hours of Friday last. Jain comes from a well off background and lived in a joint family. The 10-member family reportedly were all residents of a one-bedroom apartment in a city suburb.

 

Interestingly, in both cases, friends and relatives have claimed that neither was visibly upset or in a depressed mood.

 

The race for success can be brutal and the expectation levels of peers, friends and family can create an intense environment. Experts have long pointed out how the existing social order in India is dissolving and the certitudes of yore -- family support systems, traditional values -- have disappeared. Regrettably, we have not yet put together a system where professional help is easily available by way of counsellors and psychiatrists. With no one to turn to, taking one's own life may be the easiest and quickest way out.

 

Every life lost this way is a life wasted. But when the victim is in the prime of their life, it is a double shame. Our policy makers, societal experts and educationists need to think of ways to create systems which can help troubled people cope and prevent their suicides.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

RSS CONTROL

 

The Rashitrya Swayamsewak Sangh is the holding company and all the parivar organisations are its subsidiaries, Manmohan Singh had once said. Though the RSS always denies it has a hold over the BJP, proof that Singh's observation has merit can be seen in recent developments. Rarely has an RSS chief been so vocal about what ails the BJP as Mohan Bhagwat, the current one and now a Sangh spokesman, has virtually set out the agenda for leadership change in the political party.

 

Ram Madhav has clearly stated that LK Advani, the BJP's leader in the Lok Sabha, will step down from the post in late January. His statement came in response to a question about speculation that Advani would go on his 83rd birthday on Sunday. Advani had initially offered to resign after the party's poor performance in the elections in May but had been persuaded to stay on. This was interpreted as the lack of an internal consensus on who would replace him as the leader of the opposition in the lower house.

 

But the RSS saw it as a temporary move. Enough hints have been dropped that the party needs younger faces to rejuvenate it which implies that Advani and others of his generation are past their prime and should make way for the next cohort of leaders.

 

This set off conjecture on who might replace him and more important, who would be the next president once the term of the current incumbent Rajnath Singh ended in December. Here too the RSS has let it be known that the new president would not be from Delhi, which effectively rules out the four next generation leaders Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Ananth Kumar and Venkaiah Naidu. Several names have cropped up as possible candidates, but what is noteworthy is the fact that the RSS has such a clear view on this issue.

 

Bhagwat has repeatedly said that the RSS does not "interfere" in the BJP's affairs but only "advises" whenever asked. That is a moot point. At a time when the party is in crisis mode, the RSS is obviously concerned. It feels the party's problems are systemic and it needs surgery not cosmetic changes. Hence, it has decided to take matters in hand.

 

Though this will undermine the BJP's independence as a political party, which is not a happy augury in a democracy, there is no guarantee it will revive the party's fortunes. Will the RSS then run the BJP on a day to day basis? It is a dilemma both organisations must address.

 

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DNA

COLLECTIVE FAILURE

 

The Indian cricket fan is a wretched creature, fluctuating from extreme joy to abject misery in the course of the same series. Take the ongoing series with Australia. There was a fleeting moment this year when India become the top cricket team in the world, which only served to raise hopes and expectations. Philosophers know that expectation and desire lead to disappointment but a fan must operate on more optimistic principles.

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A man's reach must exceed his grasp or what's a heaven for, asked the British Victorian poet Robert Browning. Even so, our cricketers make too many demands on their loyal supporters.

 

What should one make of this cricket team's performance? Two matches were closely fought and lost -- by four and three runs and one with a magnificent knock of 175 runs by the legendary Sachin Tendulkar. Chasing 350 runs was never going to be easy, but the Indian team did try. And then in the very next match a spectacular defeat, where India could barely make 170 runs and the team, it appeared, had collapsed like the folds of an accordion.

 

It is accepted wisdom that one indication of greatness is consistency. For a sportsperson or a sports team, winning has to be a habit. Spurts of victory are great when they happen, but they remain flash in the pan efforts if the performance is patchy.

 

The Indian cricket team, unfortunately for its legion of fans, has never been able to cross that one hurdle despite some terrific victories and great individual and team performances.

 

Cricket dominates our national consciousness and every win or loss is agonisingly analysed. But the final conclusion is usually the same -- India has an enormously talented bunch of cricketers who just cannot manage to consistently meld together as a team.

 

It is possible to take Tendulkar's latest run fest as an example -- he set the tone and put together a magical, Herculean effort. But his team members were unable to capitalise on the positional strength that he had given them.

 

Many theories have been put forward -- that we lack the killer instinct, that money power has led our best players astray, that the need for instant success has diluted the basics of the game, that we do not have a competitive edge. All these theories may be true in part but they are not the definitive answer.

 

Clearly, we need more rigour, more scientific analysis and more professionalism rather than personalisation, if we are to succeed on a regular basis. Performances, not just icons. Please do spare a thought for us fans, boys.

 

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DNA

COVER UP OPERATION

SULTAN SHAHIN 

 

The Jamiat-ul-Ulema's regressive agenda has shocked the nation. Of late the Jamiat had acquired a rather positive image owing to its sustained anti-terrorism campaign, even though it did not go far enough and hence was not very effective.


But in its recent Deoband convention organised by the Maulana Mahmood Madani faction, it has practically served notice on Muslims, particularly women, to stay within the boundaries set by 8th century ulema who had endorsed the so-called ahadees (sayings of Prophet Mohammad) concocted two to three centuries after the demise of the prophet.


These ahadees contravene the progressive, even feminist teachings of the Koran specifically to degrade and humiliate women and uphold the pre-Islamic practices.


The Jamiat has asked Muslim men to ensure "sisters, wives and mothers wear burkha", and do not bring "disrepute to the community". Endorsing Jamiat's archaic thinking, a number of ulema told the large Muslim gathering that a woman's status in society should be "secondary and subdued". They should abstain from watching cinema or television or going to co-ed schools; restrictive Sharia practices would apply to them after the age of 10.


The Jamiat also reiterated its opposition to the government's efforts to provide millions of bonded madrasa students an option to join the mainstream of society by acquiring knowledge and skills other than that of becoming a muezzin or an Imam of a mosque. It also repeated, completely unnecessarily, its earlier fatwa against Muslims singing Vande Mataram, half a century after the issue was settled.


Clearly Jamiat's burkha is slipping and the veneer of broadmindedness is wearing off.  Composite nationalism calls for adjustment on the part of all communities. Unity in diversity and not uniformity of the Sangh Parivar world-view is definitely the idea best suited for India.


But any one community cannot insist on maintaining a completely separate identity, emphasise the character of a medieval community in its dress code, education, treatment of women and children, contempt for other religions, virulent sectarianism, and politics of victimhood. Jamiat cannot declare majority of Muslims apostate for going to shrines of Sufi saints revered by people of all faiths and at the same time present itself as part of the national mainstream.


It is natural for many to feel that the latest pronouncements from Deoband will push women further inside their dark holes. It will take the community back five centuries. But rather than arousing such fears, the panicky ranting of maulanas gives me hope. It would appear that they have heard the news. Muslim women are on the move. They are revolting even in the tiniest of towns.


Making use of the Islamic provision of choice given to them in the Koran, an increasing number of Muslim girls are refusing to marry boys of their parents' choice. They are even contemplating and a few succeeding, with sometimes fatal consequences, in eloping with boys of their choice. In many cases parents and the society at large has to accept their choices. In some cases the girls are even contemplating elopement with boys of other faiths.

Normally this should have been no big deal. On the advice of the ulema in his time, Mohammad bin Qasim had treated Hindus as Ahl-e-Kitab (People of the Book, that is, followers of one of the 1,24,000 prophets who came prior to Prophet Mohammad, but later Indian ulema have invented for them a new and post-Islamic category of "semi-ahl-e-kitab", whatever that means. Muslims are asked to have close social interaction including marital ties with Ahl-e-Kitab.


I asked one girl who was planning to elope with a Hindu boy, if she was aware that, being a Hindu her friend was ahl-e-Kitab, and she could marry him even under the provisions of Islamic Sharia. This girl of a UP town of just 2 lakh was knowledgeable enough to tell me that was not the case. Only Muslim boys can marry ahl-e-Kitab girls under the Islamic provision.


I told her that this provision had been made at a time when girls couldn't stand on their own; but now you are an earning professional and will be able to fight for your right to follow the religion of your choice, so how would that Islamic provision apply to you today. She said she had never heard such "rational nonsense" and that the only way out for her was to elope and hope that she or her husband doesn't get killed by their relatives.

In her view even a loving invitation for reception to celebrate their marriage could prove fatal, so she won't fall for it. The ulemas are clearly rattled. This couldn't be happening. But it is.


The writer is editor, NewAgeIslam.com

 

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DNA

MAHARASHTRA'S ISSUES COME HOME TO ROOST

RANJONA BANERJI

 

Two issues stand before the newly formed Maharashtra government for immediate resolution. One is the appalling behaviour of the newly elected legislators of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena in Vidhan Bhavan. To attack Abu Asim Azmi of the Samajwadi Party because he took his oath in Hindi carries language chauvinism too far.


Hindi, after all, is the prime national language and no can be stopped from speaking it. Nor was Azmi — or anyone else for that matter — bound to follow Raj Thackeray's diktat that all oaths had to be taken in Marathi.

The behaviour of the MNS legislators — four of whom have been suspended — ironically was no better than those of those much-maligned legislators from Uttar Pradesh who are infamous for their ruckus-causing skills in the assembly. This behaviour should lead voters to ask whether the MNS is ready for the responsibility put on it by them.


The spotlight however is on the new home minister, RR Patil. There was an underlying feeling during Patil's last stint that he was soft on the MNS when it went on its violence-against-Uttar Bharatiyas spree. Since Patil had to relinquish his post in haste and ignominy after the November 26, 2008 terror attacks, he has a double stain to clear from his name.


But apart from the shenanigans of the MNS,    which must realise that rule of law has to prevail, the litmus test is the first anniversary of the terror attacks. This government has to give a full account of what has been done to change the ground situation since then. We do understand that we have had two elections and two swathes of time when the code of conduct was in place. But that is a limited excuse.


It has taken a year to find space for the NSG commandos to set up base in Mumbai. Finally, they were allotted some part of Aarey milk colony and even that is under dispute.


This would be funny if it wasn't so painful. Is this how a government fast tracks its response to a terror attack? The Mumbai police's coastal patrol abilities have only just augmented and even then the first boats were so high-tech that several policemen had expressed apprehension about using them! We already saw the fiasco with bullet proof vests and firearms during the attacks.


Then there are usual complaints — victims have not got compensation, the rescuers have not got their rewards, those who helped have been forgotten and so on. In many of these cases, it is the bureaucratic stranglehold which has got them in its grip. Once they are out of public sight, they fall into that grey area of red tape and clause XI subsection C of the Chief Obfuscation Operations of the Government of India.


These are only some of the problems which this new state government has to tackle as it gets down to work. It has already wasted enough time organising itself and sorting out its petty political manoeuvre and machinations. In the ultimate analysis, we the people are marginally interested in which politician owes what to whom and expects whatever else as a reward. The key issue remains work and results. Will the first anniversary of the terror attacks give us some answers?


The future looks troubling. At the ground level, there are still operational problems to be worked out. The Mumbai police, for instance, remain in the mess of infighting that it has been for the past few years. Various factions gain ascendancy, try to vanquish their internal rivals, then some change happens and some other faction comes to power.


The senior-most police officials in Maharashtra have been fighting each other in court to get promoted. This is not a scenario which inspires confidence. If the police force itself is so divided, can we expect it to come together in case of — god forbid - another attack? People get the government they deserve, or so the pundits keep telling us. When it comes to this government, we clearly have to raise the standard.

 

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DNA

REACHING OUT TO GOD

 

In the beginning, there was sound, the word, and the sound was with God. You know, amongst different manifestations, the manifestation of sound is the subtlest and that is why the the ear is considered as the subtlest organ.

Now, these acoustic expressions are of two kinds: one is the divine, or spiritual acoustic expression and the other is the physical acoustic expression. The sound you hear is physical acoustic expression and the divine is not perceived by the ordinary human ears.


But there is the vaster spiritual acoustic expression in the divine realm. But in the case of Nirguna Brahma, there is no expression, because Nirguna means "without quality or expression." But even in the case of Saguna Brahma, the Attributional Entity and even starting from Purusottama, the nucleus human consciousness, there is expression, manifestation. And that expression, till it reaches the physical sphere, is spiritual acoustic expression not amenable to human ears.


Whenever you think, you create a mental sound. What is thinking? Thinking is mental speech. The sound of silence. And it is what is known as omkara in Sanskrit. When those inner senses develop, then in the first phase sadhakas can hear that that divine sound. In the first phase it is like the sound of crickets.


Then in the next phase, as if somebody is dancing with ghunghur (ankle bells). Next you will hear the sound of flutes. Then the sound of the ocean, you know? A particular sound is created by the sea. And then, in the fifth phase, the sound of bells.


And finally, the sound is just like oonnn — the omkara in pure form. And after that there is no sound, because after that there ends the realm of Saguna. After that there is the scope of Nirguna. In the realm of Nirguna there cannot be any sound, because there cannot be any manifestation. Not even divine expression, not even supra-psychic expression.


Shrii Shrii Anandamurti

 

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DNA

NEED FOR COUNSELLORS

Your edit 'Needless deaths', (DNA, November 9) was very topical. The act is an escape route from facing the challenges that one is faced with. In all this turmoil, the person's family undergoes a hellish time because they have to face several ticklish and sensitive questions and situations. A 'crisis intervention programme' is highly essential. Parents and elderly family members have a very important role to play. I endorse your views that our policy makers, societal experts and educationists need to think of ways to create systems to help troubled people cope and prevent suicides. 

Prem K Menon, Mumbai


REBUILD THE STATE

The Maharashtra government will have an opportunity to rule the state for next five years without any political threat ('Chavan has his way in the end', DNA, November 8). The chief minister and his team would be well advised to start on a clean slate. The government should now honestly begin dealing with major problems in a systematic manner. Power supply, clean drinking water, irrigation and a vigilant police force are the topmost priorities for Maharashtra today. The need of the hour is to rebuild Maharashtra. Chief minister Ashok Chavan and colleagues must rise to the occasion.

Ashok R Shinde, Mumbai


AFFORDABLE HOUSING

It is an undisputed fact that a very large percentage of our people live in slums because they cannot afford to own suitable 'housing" and 'Meet to discuss low-cost housing', (DNA.Sunday, November 8) merely confirms this. To get a house on ownership basis is financially beyond the reach of those living in 'slums', but they can afford to live in suitable rented accommodation if these are made available. The conference must discuss the idea of making available rented accomodation as distinct from providing housing on ownership basis, since the latter will be beyond their means. But the authorities must ensure that electricity, water, sanitation and other common infrastructure facilities are available, otherwise we will be just providing 'authorised slums'.
LJ PRASAD, MUMBAI


LOST OPPORTUNITY

With reference to 'Needless nerves', (DNA, November 7), India has to play straight. There is no need to be gloomy about China's designs. This was a good opportunity to show China and the world what Tawang and Arunachal Pradesh meant for India. As pointed out, the foreign journalists one way or the other are bound to report on Dalai Lama's visit. However, India has lost out on the golden opportunity.

Ganapathi Bhat, Akola

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

FAST FORWARD WITH REFORMS

INDIA SHOULD OPEN UP MORE TO FDI

 

The Prime Minister has rightly sent a message to foreign investors across the world that India is committed to pursuing reforms and integrating with the global economy. He specifically mentioned two sectors to attract foreign direct investment (FDI): insurance and pension. Both have immense scope for expansion, given the country's expanding market and one billion-plus population. More and more Indians need affordable insurance and pension schemes with a strong financial regulatory mechanism to keep off the fly-by-night operators. Dr Manmohan Singh chose the Indian Economic Summit, organised by the World Economic Forum and the CII in Delhi on Sunday, to express these views

 

Bills to carry out legislative amendments in this regard will be introduced in Parliament's winter session. Those expecting a similar opening up of other sectors of the economy like banking, aviation and retail may have to wait. To encourage and accommodate more foreign investment, India needs to have stronger debt, bond and futures markets. The Prime Minister has emphasised their early expansion. This requires swift and efficient spade work so that the government can cash in on opportunities thrown up by recession in much of the developed world. As global capital looks for fresh avenues of investment, India can emerge as a key destination, given the high rate of growth, next only to China. Policy and administrative bottlenecks should not come in the way of FDI heading for India.

 

Since the Leftists are out of reckoning after their recent electoral debacle and the BJP is a weakened opposition, but willing to play along, although grudgingly, there should not be much opposition to the reforms. What is important for the government is to coordinate policy announcements by the various economic ministries as well as the RBI and decide whether the focus has to be on promoting growth and continuing stimulus or fighting inflation and controlling the fiscal deficit. Conflicting policy statements at the highest level may create confusion, send a wrong signal and delay private investment. The fiscal stimulus will have to continue until consumer demand picks up sufficiently to sustain the economic recovery. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

A RUDDERLESS BJP

HURTLING FROM CRISIS TO CRISIS

 

The BJP has no reason to gloat over the manner in which it has saved the Yeddyurappa government from collapse after days of intense infighting within the party in Karnataka. Clearly, the deal that has been struck at the party high command's instance between Chief Minister Yeddyurappa and his Cabinet colleagues, mining barons Karunakar Reddy and Janardhan Reddy, who spearheaded the massive revolt against him, amounts to a virtual capitulation to blackmail by the Reddy brothers. Some of the transfers of convenient officials in Bellary district which the Reddy brothers were piqued over, have been rolled back, Rural Development Minister Shobha Karandlaje has been sacked at their instance and the proposal of a tax per truckload of iron ore or other minerals has been abandoned. What is more, the Chief Minister's authority has been severely compromised by the decision to set up a core committee headed by BJP central leader Sushma Swaraj with the Chief Minister and the elder of the Reddy brothers as members to decide on tangled issues. The message is loud and clear that the mining duo can go about their business with no holds barred and no real checks.

 

It is indeed astonishing how the BJP is hurtling from one crisis to another and emerging from each one sullied and shattered as a unit. The next flashpoint would predictably be Bihar where its Deputy Chief Minister, Sushil Kumar Modi, is up against an array of dissidents. Both Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani and party president Rajnath Singh have proved woefully unequal to the task of reviving a tottering party that seems rudderless despite being caught in choppy waters. With a new party president likely to take over before year-end, and Mr Advani expected to bow out finally a little later, all eyes are on whether the new leadership would make a difference, but the portents are grim indeed.

 

It is unfortunate that the country's main Opposition party is in such utter disarray. But for this it has no one to blame but itself — its old, discredited and unimaginative leadership and its ideological myopia.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

ARMS FROM CHINA?

MAOIST MENACE RUNS DEEP

 

Not only various security agencies but even Home Minister P Chidambaram has said in the past that Maoists are getting arms through Bangladesh, Myanmar and possibly Nepal. Union Home Secretary G K Pillai has now made a shocking revelation that small arms could be coming from China. This is perhaps the first time that a senior official of the government has claimed that Maoist guerillas were acquiring weapons from China. He would not have brought this to public notice unless there was a solid base for it. That makes it a matter of deep concern because the sympathies of the Maoists for the Chinese ideology are well known. Mr Pillai had earlier spoken about the links of Indian leftist insurgents with the Maoists in Nepal but had maintained that there was no clear evidence about the Nepali Maoists assisting or providing arms to their Indian counterparts. But regarding the Chinese, he has said that he is "sure" that they are providing small arms to Maoist guerillas.

 

It is not clear whether arms are coming from Chinese arms smugglers or from undercover official agencies, but in either case, it is an extremely serious matter. Even otherwise, in this dirty international arms bazaar, many smugglers are linked to official agencies. We have the instance of the ISI before us in this regard.

 

The Chinese can be depended on to deny the allegation, and rather vociferously. More than pinning it down or entering a war of words with it, what is necessary is to keep a check on arms traffic along the trail, and also keep our own powder dry. Chinese smugglers manage to send in the small arms only because of the poros border. Far greater vigil is the need of the hour.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

ACCUSATIONS OF BIAS AGAINST JUDGES

MEDIA MUST PLAY ITS ROLE RESPONSIBLY

BY P.P. RAO

 

The judiciary and the media are two strong pillars of democracy. They are easily accessible to the people and enjoy popular support, the media as the watchdog and the judiciary as the dispenser of justice. They play a vital role in upholding the rule of law. According to the Press Council of India, before publishing a news item about court proceedings, it will be appropriate for the correspondent and the editor to ascertain its genuineness, correctness and authenticity from the records. Misleading allegations of bias against a judge tend to undermine the credibility of the judiciary and interfere with the administration of justice.

 

Three news items have appeared recently; first in a newsmagazine of September 05, targeting Justice S.H. Kapadia, the senior-most judge, then in a national daily dated October 13 continuing the attack and thereafter in the same paper dated October 21. This last report, with the headline "Judge has equal RIL, RNRL shares — but he continues on Bench as parties have no objection", names Justice R.V. Raveendran in addition. The news items give the wrong impression that the judges are guilty of a serious lapse.

 

In all fairness to Justice Kapadia, the magazine ought to have mentioned the crucial fact that he had made it clear at the very outset that he had shares in the company, which is a party before him and if anyone had objection, he would not hear the matter. A few illustrations would show that this has been the practice.

 

In the bank nationalisation case (R.C. Cooper vs. UOI), as soon as the Bench of 11 judges assembled, Justice J.C. Shah announced in the open court that some of them had shares in the nationalised banks and if anyone had any objection, they would recuse themselves from the case. Waiving their right to object, all the counsel requested the court to proceed. Nobody questioned the verdict of the Bench as vitiated by bias.

 

The government was required to give a hearing to a person before blacklisting him, i.e. disqualifying him from entering into any contract with the government in future. Justice K.K. Mathew, one of the judges on the Bench, had earlier decided this very question as a judge of the Kerala High Court. As the case was called out, he mentioned this fact and gave a chance to object. All of us representing the parties said, we had no objection to the judge hearing the matter. Traditionally, while hearing a case, judges have an open mind. They are conscious of their solemn oath to act without fear or favour, affection or ill will. If a judge is impressed with an argument advanced before him, which was not put forward earlier, he would change his mind.

 

There are instances where the same judge took a different view in a subsequent case in the same court. Justice N.H Bhagwati, who was a member of the Constitution Bench in State of Bombay vs. United Motors, interpreted Article 286 (2) of the Constitution dealing with the levy of tax on the sale or purchase of goods which takes place in the course of inter-state trade or commerce. Subsequently, in Bengal Immunity Company vs. State of Bihar, he over-ruled his decision in the United Motors case, giving reasons for interpreting the same provision differently.

 

Apprehension of bias could be for any reason. Haryana terminated the services of a judicial officer accepting the unanimous recommendation of the Chief Justice and all the judges of the High Court. When he tried to challenge the order in the Supreme Court directly, apprehending bias on the part of High Court judges, he was asked to move the High Court first. It was because when the judges sit on the judicial side, they are not bound by their own view taken on the administrative side earlier. Hearing the case in the open court, they are free to take and do take an independent decision on the basis of the record and arguments advanced by counsel. There have been several instances where the judges sitting on the judicial side have set aside resolutions of the Full Court to which they were parties on the administrative side. There is no question of reasonable likelihood of bias in such cases.

 

In Roopa Ashok Hurra's case, the Supreme Court permitted a person aggrieved by a judgement of the court to file a curative petition, after the dismissal of his review petition, on two grounds. One of them is that the judge who decided the case had failed to disclose his connection with the subject matter or the parties, giving scope for an apprehension of bias. The basic principle is that justice should not only be done, but be seen to be done. Hence the requirement that a judge should disclose his connection with the subject matter or the parties to the case. It is open to any party to object and have the case transferred to another judge.

 

As Frank, a judge, pointed out, "if 'bias' and 'partiality' be defined to mean the total absence of preconceptions in the mind of the judge, then no one has ever had a fair trial, and no one ever will. The human mind, even at infancy, is no blank piece of paper." Because of their training and tradition, judges rise above their predilections and take decisions objectively. This is the basis on which power of review is conferred on judges to correct their own judgements and orders pronounced in open court on the ground that they suffer from errors apparent on the face of the record.

 

In England, Field, a judge, held that a magistrate who subscribed to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was not thereby disabled from trying a charge brought by that body of cruelty to a horse, observing that a mere general interest in the general object to be pursued would not disqualify. There must be some direct connection with the litigation. Likewise, being a shareholder of the company without any other direct interest in the subject matter of the dispute before the court, does not disqualify a judge from deciding the case. However, law insists that he ought to disclose this fact. The test is whether there is substantial possibility of bias animating the mind of the judge against the aggrieved party.

 

In the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, the son of a judge who is an advocate could appear before his father if he was sitting with another judge or judges on the Bench, but not when he was sitting alone. In the Supreme Court, judges always sit in Division Benches with one or more brother judges. A judge with a closed mind is a contradiction in terms.

 

It is well settled that the plea of bias can be waived. Normally, when a judge discloses his interest in the case, the lawyers would not object because of their faith in the honesty of the judge. Two out of three judges of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana who heard Inderpreet Singh Kalhon's case had been members of an administrative committee which found that the selection of the petitioners was tainted and recommended cancellation of their appointments as judicial officers. When they mentioned this fact, nobody objected.

 

In the Supreme Court, Justice S.B. Sinha felt that the judges should have recused themselves from hearing the matter, but Dalveer Bhandari, a judge, rightly disagreed with this view. He held that the judges having disclosed the fact that they were members of the committee, in the absence of any objection from the petitioners, there was no illegality in their hearing the matter. As the law stands today, it is unfair to allege bias on the part of judges who had fairly and voluntarily disclosed their share holding in the company and heard the case in the absence of any objection.

 

Freedom of speech is the birthright of the media. But freedom does not mean licence to denigrate the judiciary and erode the confidence of the people in the institution.Rule of law needs a credible judiciary and a responsible media.

 

The writer is a senior advocate of the Supreme Court of India.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

OF LESSONS TAUGHT AND REMEMBERED

BY SIMRITA SARAO DHIR

 

I can close my eyes and travel back 17 years to that high-school history class where we talked about Adolf Hitler and Mussolini, Japanese aggression and the attack on Pearl Harbour, FDR and the victory of the allies, the Cold War and the subsequent disintegration of the USSR.

 

 Sitting in that class, I would take flight and imagine those far-away places and those defining moments in world history.  And as every student knows, a class is only as good as the teacher teaching it.  Well, we all knew that Mr SPS Brar was every bit the kind of teacher to be teaching that World History class.

 

Mr Brar was among the few people at YPS Patiala who had travelled across Europe, and lived abroad.  He could speak a foreign language and, most important of all, he had seen Richard Burton perform live on stage in London!  He always came in handy to comment on best-selling books and the latest Hollywood flicks. But of course, his real love was history and all his lessons were replete with steady references to the presentation of history in fiction and films.

 

Besides going over the history lessons, Mr Brar worked immensely hard on our writing. We would be sure that he would go over every single line of our history essays and diligently punctuate, correct and re-write our compositions.  And while preparing for inter-school debates, he helped greatly with diction and pronunciation. It would suffice to say that he was the quintessential public-school master who worked on the complete development of the students.

 

Today he is best remembered by students for his incredible one-liners.  Like the time when a few boys from another public school joined YPS and on finding them out of their element one afternoon, Mr Brar commented, "We have enough clowns of our own; I don't know why we have to go about importing more from other places!" 

 

Yet another time, when the class had nothing to contribute to his thoughts on the Anglo French Policy of Appeasement during World War –II, he lamented, "You are as blank as the wall next to you." Not being one to bear with indiscipline, he was also often heard declaring, "I don't suffer fools."

 

My husband, also as old student, loves to relate his favourite Brar wise-crack. It came when he commented to Mr Brar that he was planning on preparing for the exams.  To that, Mr Brar retorted, "I hope it is not a five-year plan!"

 

The repartees aside, on a personal level, Mr Brar was warm and friendly and watched over the students like a parent.  He enjoyed talking about his four children, who lived abroad and a favourite niece.  

 

My unforgettable memory of Mr Brar is when he drove me and a classmate to YPS Mohali for an inter-school event and when even though, he was rushed to return back, he took time to treat us both to ice-cream! With time, as everything seems to fade, a few good memories are all that remain. That trip to the ice-cream parlour on that summer's day definitely makes for one.

 

Mr Brar retired from teaching soon after I completed high-school. The last time I saw him was about a decade ago.  However, he was with me in spirit when visiting the Palace of Versailles, where the momentous treaty was signed in 1919. He also ran across my mind when strolling through the Pearl Harbour museum that features World War- II memorabilia and pictures of the historic attack.

 

Yesterday, my mother called to say that she heard from a friend that Mr Brar had passed away.  And while a frog leaped from somewhere and settled in my throat, I knew at once that a good teacher never really goes away. Like the exemplary Mr Chips, an exceptional teacher continues to teach and inspire long after the lesson is done and over with.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

JUDGES' ASSETS

INTELLECTUAL ATTAINMENTS OR MATERIAL POSSESSIONS?

BY J. L. GUPTA

 

Finally, SC judges declare assets' is the headline. Have the people gained? Will it improve the quality of justice? I think not. In fact, the whole controversy regarding the declaration of assets by the members of the higher judiciary is unfortunate. The fact that fuel has been added to the fire by some who were once a part of the judicial system makes it worse.

 

It is true that those who sit in judgement over their fellow human beings should be men of character, intellect and integrity. They must inspire confidence in the minds of people.

 

But can we stretch it to mean that every person who dons the judge's robes must live in a glass house? Or that a lawyer who sacrifices his lucrative practice to accept elevation must expose himself to the prying eyes of the public? And can the declaration ensure integrity?

 

If yes, this would necessarily mean that the judge and his family must not only declare the area of land, houses, money (in bank and hand) but also the number of bags and bangles, beds and bed covers, crockery, cutlery etc.

 

In other words, the judge must place a list of all the movable and immovable assets on the web site. Would it not enable an unscrupulous litigant to pick holes in the declaration and raise unsavoury controversies everyday? Will it not be a licence to throw stones at the judge knowing that he cannot answer back? Would the whole exercise be not wholly counter-productive?

 

It is known that members of the higher judiciary come from the Bar and the Judicial Service. The lawyers considered for elevation furnish copies of their income and wealth tax returns to the Chief Justice. After appointment, they have to continue to comply with the tax laws. Similar is the position with regard to the members of the Judicial Service who are picked up for appointment to the High Court. In addition, their annual property returns are invariably with the High Court. Thus, the complete details are always available with the government and the High Courts. Why is that not enough?

 

Secondly, society needs to understand the onerous nature of the judge's job. Every litigant believes that his case is good and the cause just. The person who wins is always certain that justice has been done. He has only got his due. However, the side that loses invariably believes that a serious wrong has occurred. Resultantly, with every case that a judge decides, he earns a critic.

 

The litigant makes all kinds of baseless allegations. It is to protect the judge from such elements that the framers of the Constitution had provided protection to the members of the judiciary. We can violate it only at our own peril.

 

And then, what are a judge's real assets? The brain or the bank balance? Fortune or fortitude? Intellectual attainments or material acquisitions? The extent of possessions or the absence of wants?

 

An ass can carry gold but eats only grass. The man in robes is not very different. Usually, he works like a horse and lives like a hermit. And yet, we complain.

 

Today, the civil society faces a crisis of character. There is a devaluation of values. Most of us, who talk of values, actually love valuables. In the morning, we pray. Then we spend the whole day looking for a prey. And all of us are a product of the society that we live in.

 

When the wood is crooked, the furniture cannot be straight. In today's environment, despite checks, a black sheep can enter the system. However, such situations have always been effectively dealt with. Invariably, the unwanted weeds have been weeded out.

 

Still more, let us not forget that we are a democracy. Freedom of speech is a guaranteed right. Thus, it is no surprise that almost everyone assumes a right to criticise.

 

Some of us live only to find faults. They continuously hunt for blemishes. It is a miserable mission. It can be totally destructive. We need to remember that it is difficult to build an institution. Any fool can destroy it.

 

In India, the judiciary is one institution that has served society well. It has functioned without fear or favour. Let us not ruin it by raising avoidable controversies. As it is, good lawyers are no longer keen aspirants.

 

If we persist, I suspect that we shall spoil things beyond repair. We need to protect it against malicious vilification.

 

Truly, no system can be perfect. But we know that the judges work in open court rooms. Under the constant gaze of the parties and their counsel.

 

Nothing escapes the eagle's eye. And then their judgements are public property. Open to critical scrutiny by one and all. That is a good check.

 

Lastly, there is an old saying — 'Believe less than you hear of a man's fortune and more than you hear of his fame.' It is apt in the present context.

 

Today, we know as to how rich or poor each judge of the apex court is. It makes no difference. A judge's worth has to be judged on the basis of his work. Tales about his wealth may never be true.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

WHEN BERLIN WALL FELL

BY RAJENDRA PRABHU

 

The tearing down of the Wall by the very East German people, whom the communist system was seeking to protect from the contamination of Western capitalism, was the greatest denouncement of the system that once inspired thousands of intellectuals, students and activists to dream of a workers' utopia on this earth.

 

Instead of a utopia, the East Germans found themselves trapped in a horrible, poverty-stricken, inefficient system where every citizen had to distrust the other. The way the Wall functioned and the East Berlin people's anger at being trapped in this promised utopia gone wrong, need to be recalled on this 20th anniversary of the end of the structure.

 

When the Wall was there the sight of this huge structure as we land at the Brandenburg Gate, the only entry into East Berlin from the western part of the ancient German capital, was forbidding.

 

Apart from the steel and concrete structure the eastern side of the Wall was mined to prevent any East Berliner from trying to jump across the Wall to freedom on the western side of Berlin. Watch towers all along the Wall with armed sentries keeping vigil 24 hours and strong lights scanning every nook and corner were supposed to prevent anyone from trying to escape.

 

But on the western side of the Wall we found several spots where someone or the other sought to escape from the communist utopia and were shot down. These spots were marked by flowers and burning cables put up by West Berliners to commemorate the courage of man against all odds to escape to freedom.

 

What happened on November 9, 1989, was a tremendous celebration of the human spirit.

 

Historians remember President Reagan standing near the Wall in 1987 and challenging the then Soviet leader with these historic words: "Mr Gorbachev, tear down this Wall." As the surge of the East Berliners into the West continued and the border guards stood stunned, the end of the Wall had already been written in the heart of the people.

 

Considering the forbidding nature of the Wall, the courage of the people to break through it, irrespective of consequences, was a celebration of the spirit of freedom. Gorbachev could not have stopped them without causing a terrible human tragedy.

 

When Chancellor Kohl offered unification of the two Germanys after the collapse of the East German communist regime, he was generous almost to a fault. Later in East Berlin two years after the reunification the initial enthusiasm of the East Berliners had ebbed and a certain dissatisfaction was brewing.

 

Chancellor Kohl and his advisers apparently had miscalculated the economic gap between the two Germanys. Though East Germany was the most technologically advanced among the East European nations behind the Iron Curtain, the technological gap was huge. "We expected East German industry to be ten years behind ours" said a West German official to me two years after the reunification, "but it really turned out to be 25 years behind".

 

The result was that the East Germans soon found themselves at a disadvantage in their standard of living compared to their Western counterparts. To improve their standard of living, Kohl had offered to bring their real wages on a par with the Western part step by step in three years.

In 1993 I found that while the East Germans began to grumble at their plight even after reunification, West Germans were unhappy that their standard of living was affected as huge subsidies had to be given to the eastern part of the country to bring the former communist subjects up to the West German living standards.

But the greater problem was what to do with the industrial units in East Germany which simply had to close down as they could not compete with the more technologically advanced West German industry. The unified German government still functioning from Bonn constituted a special department to sell these closed units for a song to anyone who was willing to invest in them and turn them round without cutting down jobs.

 

At the time I went to former East Berlin I met some Indian entrepreneurs in Germany who were enthusiastic to take over these closed units but later I came to know that they found the job trying. Many European and American investors also suffered losses in taking over these units.

 

The East Germans found it somewhat difficult to cope up with the fast pace of the Western part of their country. They had now to pay market rent for the flats that earlier they occupied for a government-determined small rent.

 

Each and every citizen was forced to lie about his close relations and colleagues in order to convince the secret police that he or she was loyal to the communist regime. Every one lied against everyone else, parents against children, husbands against wives, students against teachers, executives against one another and so on.

 

Within months the entire population of former communist regime had come under a trauma after some of them who read these files revealed the content. The reaction was so severe the authorities were forced to close the files virtually to save the people from "going mad" as the media then put it.

 

That exposure of the truth about the communist regime explained the surge of people that finally defeated the Wall and also the communist regime itself. Satellite TV had made it impossible for the communist regimes in Eastern Europe to continue to convince their people that it was all starvation of workers in the Western part. The psychological pressure to lie to survive 24-hour surveillance by the secret police began to tell on them.

 

Like a Tsunami, the wave for freedom impacted the whole of Eastern Europe when the truth about living standards in the capitalist West came to be known and one by one the communist regimes fell.

 

East German dictator Honecker was arrested and tried and so were the communist rulers in Hungary, Poland, Rumania, Czechoslovakia and finally Albania, which had the most oppressive, almost Orwellian regime.

 

The satellite pictures of people crossing over in droves to Western Europe shook the people under the communist regimes elsewhere and by 1991 the Russians under the then mayor of Moscow Yeltsin defied the Soviet tanks that led to the collapse of 75 years of communist rule in Russia.

 

The succession of these events had confirmed the one great lesson of history of mankind: that the spirit of freedom cannot be walled in for long. For me, as a journalist, it was a huge satisfaction to see the spirit of freedom peeping through the oppressive communist regime in Soviet Union in 1984 when I was in Moscow at the peak of Soviet power and then breathe the free air of the same Russia in 1993 after the fall of the communist regime there.

 

The collapse of communism in Europe that the tearing down of the Berlin Wall foretold was the most significant, earth-shaking event of the latter half of the last century.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

DELHI DURBAR

LONDON BANQUET MISMANAGED

 

India may be touting itself as a great emerging world power, out to make a mark in the world, but it needs to learn many more lessons before it can aspire to stand alongside the developed Western world. And one of them is service and hospitality.

 

A contrast was so apparent during President Pratibha Patil's recent state visit to the UK and Cyprus. The sit-in dinners thrown in her honour both in London and Nicosia by the Indian High Commission were a spectacle of disorder and mismanagement, a complete disaster, even as the two High Commissions made much song and dance about seating arrangements.

 

A lot of it had to do with lack of manpower. As against hundreds of young men and women ready to serve at the official banquets hosted by the British authorities in London, the Indian one had barely 15 or 20 to serve more than 500 guests on nearly 50 tables. Imagine India being beaten, of all the things, on service and hospitality!

 

SOCIAL JUSTICE CAN WAIT

Ever since he took charge of the Union Social Justice Ministry, Mukul Wasnik has barely managed to spend time on ministry affairs. Time and again, he has been called in to double up as a political manager for the Congress, which first placed him in his home state of Maharashtra to take care of the assembly polls in Nagpur, and has now put him in charge of another poll-bound state.

 

Just when one thought the minister would surface from his political engagements to attend to the urgent ministry tasks, he has been saddled with the responsibility of victory in Jharkhand, where the electoral deal with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha has just been sealed. With Wasnik so indispensable to Congress politicking, one wonders what would happen to the social justice ministry's challenging tasks.

 

WORKAHOLIC LAW MINISTER

Law Minister M Veerappa Moily vowed to make his tenure an era of judicial reforms that will result in the disposal of cases within three years against 15 years at present. This forced him to work in his office from 10 a.m. to almost 9 p.m. most of the days.

 

But all this has not affected a wee bit his passion for writing, be it mythology and its relevance for the present times or new roadmaps for critical sectors of the economy to spur growth. He is working on a book that will compare Draupadi with Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, Margaret Thatcher, Cleopatra et al.

 

He is also writing several books under the "Unleashing India" series. A roadmap for agrarian wealth creation was released recently. The subsequent volumes will focus on the power sector, human resource and knowledge. How does he find time for all this?

 

Contributed by Faraz Ahmad, Aditi Tandon and R Sedhuraman

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUME

EDITORIAL

MORAL TURPITUDE

 

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Nowhere does this axiom prove its veracity as in contemporary India. There had been a time during the immediate post-freedom phase when political leadership invested with power by the people had sought to use it towards amelioration of the masses. Bureaucrats had always put service before self and for some years the Indian Civil Service had remained the epitome of rectitude. The police and investigating agencies had performed their assigned duties and assiduously cultivated their image of probity. But, alas, no longer! Democracy possesses its inbuilt contradictions, enabling as it does elements with less degree of honesty and conscience to rise to the fore, and this is what had precisely happened to the Indian political system. In fact, the canker of corruption has seeped into each and every national and regional institution. Even those responsible for combating it have become tainted. Politicians, of course, are at the top of the corruption scale, as illustrated by the case of Madhu Koda, the first Independent MLA to become a Chief Minister, and currently a sitting member of the Lok Sabha. He has also the dubious distinction to be the first MP to be prosecuted under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. As the former Chief Minister of Jharkhand supported by the Congress, JMM and RJD, Koda has been accused of amassing a huge amount of wealth, not merely on behalf of himself and his family, but also the political parties supporting him.


The mind staggering extent of Koda's misdeeds is testified to by the fact that intelligence agencies have had to conduct nationwide raids on no less than 60 premises belonging to him and his fronts. Even more amazing is that he had acquired his fortune within the mere two years he was the Chief Minister. It is disheartening indeed that, when the existence of widespread corruption is common knowledge, the Koda case is the maiden foray of our investigative agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate or the Central Bureau of Investigation against a sitting MP. With this case hitting headlines of the moment, not surprisingly there is a growing clamour for similar investigations into the assets of all Chief Ministers and their colleagues. But this is sure to die down in the days to come, for not only is public memory very short, but also the common perception is that corruption has become a way of life and one must learn to live with it. Thus neither indignation nor astonishment is expressed at the reality, least of all by our intelligentsia and media, that as many as 330 members of our Parliament are crorepatis! Public apathy is the most potent ally of moral turpitude amongst our leadership, and unless resistance comes from the people, the fight against corruption will be a lost cause.


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THE ASSAM TRIBUME

EDITORIAL

GUWAHATI ODI

 

Disastrous, spineless, abject surrender. Take your pick to condemn India's display in Guwahati, which gifted the series to Australia on a platter – the series that the hosts had promised to clinch after winning the second and third one-dayers. In what was expected to be a keenly-fought battle, with India in a do-or-die situation to level the series, India's much-vaunted top order dished out such a batting display that the match outcome was clear in the first half-hour itself. India were five down for just 27 in no time and the writing was immediately on the wall. Dhoni decided to bat first despite knowing that the morning dew was going to be the key. However, more than the dew, it was the must-win situation which should have ideally prompted the skipper to opt for batting second, especially after the gallant chase in Hyderabad that created doubts in Ponting's men. Nonetheless, once they were in, the vastly experienced batsmen could have applied themselves as they are well aware that it's typical of the Guwahati track to help seamers early on before turning spinner-friendly as the match progresses. Had the top order seen through the initial overs, the complexion of the game would have probably been different. Apart from Yuvraj who had a freak dismissal, and Dhoni who was done in by a poor decision, none of the top stars showed gumption to survive the critical early phase. The late surge by Ravindra Jadeja and Praveen Kumar amply demonstrated that there was no devil in the pitch. Credit must however be given to Australian bowlers as well, especially Bollinger and Johnson, who exploited the conditions beautifully and sealed India's fate.

This meek surrender has infuriated millions of Indian fans, great many of whom had come from outside Assam and waited in long queues outside the stadium since dawn expecting to see a good game of cricket. No one had the slightest idea, despite being aware of the uncertainties and the Australian might, that the match would virtually be over by the tenth over itself. This has obviously come as a rude shock to them. The previous game, in which Tendulkar struck an unforgettable century and crossed the 17,000-run mark, had also raised the expectations sky high. India were close to being No.1 in ODIs during the course of the series, but the fact is that India's pretensions are not backed by qualities of a champion team. Australia may have lost their aura, but they are the real No.1 because they have the attributes required to be there. In fact, they managed to beat India in their backyard despite the absence of four regulars due to injuries, and their youngsters also rose to the occasion admirably. India should take a leaf out of the Australian book so that they don't have to depend on mere statistical aid to pip the Aussies. It is time Team India rectified its weak areas quickly enough to overcome the challenges lying ahead.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUME

EDITORIAL

LENGTHS OF PRECIOUS FABRIC

D N BEZBORUAH

 

Some months ago, there was quite a bit of excitement over some very rare drapes of the 17th century that had been woven in Assam and had found their way to the British Museum in London and other museums in Paris from Tibet some time in 1904. Not being part of the cognoscenti in such matters, I failed to understand why the hoo-ha over the fabric known as Vrindavani Vastra from Assam should have erupted more than a century after its dispatch to the British Museum and elsewhere from Tibet. However, what was very clearly understood was that politicians of the State were trying to make political capital out of the artifact. There was a clamour that the Vrindavani Vastra should be brought from the British Museum to Assam and kept here. I couldn't overcome my amusement for quite some time. I shall come to the reasons a little later. The proper sequence is to get down to the Vastra first.


By some strange coincidence, the word for cloth and what is made out of cloth is the same in several languages. In Sanskrit, vastra means cloth as well as dress or garment or any drape or artifact made of cloth. There is also the adjectival form with the root vastra that could indicate how one was dressed, and bivastra would mean one who was without clothes or one who was being denuded as the Kauravas were trying to do to poor Draupadi until Krishna intervened. In Bengali too vastra means the cloth as well as the garment or dress made out of it. Ditto for Assamese. In Assamese, even the word kaapor means both the cloth and garments made out of it. In English, cloth means the fabric and clothes the dresses or garments made of cloth. Then we have clothed and unclothed that could function both as verb and adjective. A little more research into words in other languages that mean both fabric and garment could yield interesting results. But it is time to cut the cackle and get down to the discourse of the day.


On March 25, 2004, the world famous auctioneers, Christie's, had an auction of artifacts in New York city where they put on offer an item of ancient silk from Assam with woven illustrations. The minimum price fixed for it was US $120,000 or about Rs 50 lakh in Indian currency at that time. It was not known who sold the silk drape and who bought it. It has always been a policy of Christie's to keep such matters secret. This incident should suffice to tell everyone how advanced the skill of weaving was in Assam at one time. There are no specimens of such weaving any more in Assam. But at one time cloth woven in Assam was of such superior quality and design that such woven drapes were exported even to places like distant Tibet. Today, there are drapes of this kind in several museums all over the world, and in most cases such drapes have been collected from Tibet. The distinguishing feature of such drapes is that most of them carry illustrations of the deeds of Krishna as a child as described in the Bhaagavata and in some cases illustrations of stories from the Ramayana. They also had Assamese words and sentences woven in threads of different colours. These cloths were most probably used to cover the wooden thrones of our naamghars or community prayer halls. Even today we have the practice of having decorative drapes for the wooden throne in our naamghars. Such drapes are called gõsair kaapor or a drape for God. These drapes are usually made of red cloth with floral designs embroidered with white thread. Sometimes these cotton drapes also have a few words embroidered on them. The very purpose for which the cloth is woven justifies the use of the word drape in referring to them. The cloth that is the subject of today's column is also generally red in colour with the pictures woven in threads of yellow, blue, black, green and white. And like the gõsair kaapor there are letters and words on these drapes as well. We learn from the Jeewan Charit of Sankardeva that he had got such a bolt of cloth woven at Barpeta at the request of Chilarai. It took six months to get sixty cubits of such cloth woven for Chilarai. According to Kathaaguru Chorit, the woven cloth depicted the dalliance of Krishna in Vrindavan. It is also mentioned that the writings on the woven fabric were easily readable. This cloth was identified later on as Vrindavani Vastra.

Thereafter, a curator of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Rosemary Crill, published an article in a research journal known as HALI entitled "Vrindavani Vastra: Figured Silk of Assam" thereby drawing public attention to this special kind of woven silk. A few years later, the commemorative souvenir of the inauguration of the Sankardeva Kalakshetra reproduced the artcle of Krill, though all the illustrations published with the article in HALI were not published in the souvenir.


On October 27, 2009, Richard Blurton, a senior curator of the British Museum, who has had many years of experience working in Karnataka as well as in Arunachal Pradesh, was in Guwahati. He made an impressive Power Point presentation on the Vrindavani Vastra that is now in the British Museum at the seminar room of Cotton College. There is a reason why the British Museum does not generally refer to Vrindavani Vastra (regardless of which museum has them) by that name. Since the British Museum exhibit was received from Tibet in 1904, it is still referred to as a cloth exhibit received from Tibet. The present exhibit in the British Museum which is nine-and-a-half metres long, is made up of several pieces of cloth joined together. It is surmised that the pieces were joined together in a Buddhist monastery in Tibet, an inference underscored by the fact that at least one end piece of the length of drape is totally different in character from the rest of the roll. That piece has the dragon motifs typically associated with Tibetan weaving. But the rest of the roll is unmistakably Assamese with even a song from Sankardeva's Kaaliyadaman woven on it. The British Museum exhibit of the Vrindavani Vastra is reckoned to have been woven in the 17th century. Blurton also made a statement in passing that is very reassuring for everyone concerned with the rapid disappearance of Indian artifacts and their appearance in other countries. He assured the distinguished gathering that the British Museum was very particular about acquiring its artifacts only through legitimate sources and in a legally approved manner.

I began the column by talking about my amusement at the clamour in certain circles to bring the Vrindavani Vastra from the British Museum to Assam. This sense of amusement stems from two facts. First, in India, there is nothing that we cannot politicize. We have politicized education, health care, sports and even the recruitment of members to our most hallowed institutions like the public service commissions. In fact, whatever the politician has touched, he has left sullied and degraded. What do politicians know about how to handle 17th century fabric without damaging it permanently? Let the Vridavani Vastra in the British Museum be returned to Assam and I shall bet my last shirt on the certainty that it will be put on a truck and taken from district headquarter to district headquarter and handled by unclean hands all through the process until the vastra becomes quite unrecognizable. In fact, I would not be surprised if seams are removed to retain a few pieces of the vastra for the drawing rooms of VIPs. The second fact stems from the first one. Preservation of delicate and fragile artifacts is not achieved through good intentions and prayers alone. Preservation of 17th century fabric that has survived through the best part of four centuries calls for very high levels of technology. It is not as simple a matter as preserving World War II weapons or metal armour. And the kind of air conditioning needed for preserving such artifacts (that call for different humidity levels constantly monitored and air conditioners that run 24 hours a day year after year) is not the same as what is needed by human beings for bedrooms and offices. I am, therefore, far more concerned that the Vrindavani Vastra that still exists elsewhere in the world should be allowed to remain in much better preserved conditions rather than be ruined by being brought to Assam where we have neither the expertise nor the dedication nor the pride in our heritage to undertake such preservation. I worked every Saturday for three months in the British Museum reading room in 1966 when the British Museum library and the museum had not been separated. The library was one of the best managed libraries I have ever worked in. But I also got to see how well all artifacts – from Egyptian mummies to rare manuscripts to the Elgin Marbles – were cared for and preserved. We may acquire bits and pieces of stray technology but we have no right to presume that we have also the dedication to preserve very precious elements of our heritage as they should be preserved for posterity. It is much better to ensure that some priceless facets of Assam's heritage are left where they are likely to be preserved well for a few more centuries for the whole world to see and enjoy.

Being an ignoramus of what I felt impelled to write on, I am grateful for all the help I have had from Samiran Boruah of the State Museum both through discussions and in terms of his generous permission to refer to his writings.
  

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THE ASSAM TRIBUME

EDITORIAL

RBI STAND ON MONETARY POLICY

DR BK MUKHOPADHYAY

 

Are we going to depend heavily on monetary policy to stimulate growth? It is pertinent to note what has been the official statement in the recent past in the ongoing global-economic-context: the Government has been concerned about the impact of the global financial crisis on the Indian economy and a number of steps have been taken to deal with this problem.


In its document 'Macroeconomic and Monetary Developments: Second Quarter Review 2009-10', which serves as a background to the second Quarter Review of Monetary Policy 2009-10 announced on October 27, 2009, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has nicely scanned the ongoing global economic conditions and outlook for India's economy duly highlighting difference areas like –output, aggregate demand, external economy, monetary conditions, financial markets, inflation situation and finally the growth and inflation outlook. Accordingly, the growth projection for 2009-10 has been pegged at 6 per cent (same as earlier one) assuming a modest decline in agricultural production and a faster recovery in industrial production. While the bank rate has been left unchanged at 6 per cent, along with unchanged repurchase rate – bank borrowing from RBI in exchange of government bonds (4.75 per cent), reverse reporate - at which the apex bank accepts deposits from banks (3.25 per cent) and cash reserve ratio – the portion of cash banks park with the RBI (5 per cent) the statutory liquidity ratio (the deposits that commercial banks are to park in government securities) has been hiked to 25 per cent firom the earlier 24 per cent.


But the questions that remain to be answered are whether the stimulus is enough to spur growth and to what extent one can rely mainly on effectiveness of the monetary policy via the rate change process. While monetary policy is definitely a tool used by the central banking authority to manage money supply in the economy in order to achieve a desirable growth and money supply is controlled by changing the cost of money (the rate of interest), yet to what extent such measures alone could yield the desired result is subject to great doubts in developing countries like India as the change resistors always block the growth efforts, among others.

It is good to note that monetary measures that have been taken by the RBI are being supplemented by fiscal measures designed to stimulate the economy and in recognition of the need for a fiscal stimulus. The government had consciously allowed the fiscal deficit to expand beyond the originally targeted level. Still, adequate watch over the trends of market movements is that what is required at this very juncture. It has rightly been viewed that the global recession is more serious than being just the trough of a normal business cycle and disregarding the message being received from the market is patently unwise. Since we have entered into the tunnel the immediate task is to find out ways and means to come out of the same. And course sooner the better.


Duvvuri Subbarao, the RBI Governor, has very correctly observed that lower borrowing costs need to be augmented with fiscal steps to spur consumer demand. The spending limit, as per reality, is limited by the size of the -government's public debt which makes up around 77 per cent of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). On comparative basis, for example, in China this stands at 22 per cent only!


Again, in China domestic consumption accounts for around 37 per cent of GDP, compared to India's 60 per cent. This factor – domestic consumption in India –again, has been buffeted by the global recession as the integration with the global economy has been on the rise. As per RBI, statistics furnished on this score, trade volume jumped to around 35 per cent of GDP from the 21 per cent level witnessed in 1997-98 when the Asian financial crisis cropped up.

There is no doubt that lower interest rate regime gives an opportunity to the corporate world to turn to the banks for funding rather than rely on lenders in the US and Europe, where credit virtually dried up for many borrowers as per ongoing situation. Government owned banks, which still control half of the assets of India's banking sector, lowered their PLRs (Prime Lending Rates) following the cuts in RBI rates since October,2008. It needs to be seen whether the non-state-lenders also follow the same in a bigger way. Private banks also started deposits rate cuts.


No doubt, investment spending, the main driver of economic growth in the recent years, has been hit in a big wayespecially because of the rout in the stock markets and the liquidity squeeze appeared overseas. It is clear that the stimulus already announced (may be more in the pipeline) and the rate cuts unveiled may not be enough to boost up the economic growth that slowed to the weakest place in seven years! The point that emerges here is that the ongoing situation has been one of the toughest and no country could escape the impact of global turmoil. In our case also the exports have started falling since last one year (more specifically from October, 2008). A quick result expectation is better avoided so far as the global economy is concerned.


Making the environment growth-friendly is definitely a welcome move, but it alone cannot lead the economy to greater heights if the implementation procedures remain poor as has been the case for decades.


No doubt, from the very standpoint of monetary policy, anchoring inflation expectations in the face of sustained high inflation in essential commodities would definitely be a key challenge to effectively counter.

 

(The writer is a faculty member, Indian Institute of Bank Management, Guwahati)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER ATTACK ON THE IDEA OF INDIA

 

Members of the Maharashtra legislature who roughed up Mr Abu Azmi for taking his oath as a member of the assembly in Hindi attacked not just the Samajwadi Party leader but also the idea of India. India is a composite nation of multiple, overlapping group identities — based on religion, language, caste, region, ethnic origin. People do not become Indian by shedding these identities, but retaining them and through them.


Some sections of the metropolitan elite tend to venerate as the secular Indian a deracinated Ram Robert Rehman who celebrates the festivals of all religions but has contempt for spirituality and for all Indian 'dialects' and the cultures encoded in them. They represent loss of cultural roots, not sense on Indianness. Unity in diversity is India's guiding principle and that does not mean shedding diversity and all of India subsiding into a monochrome homogeneity.


Rather, it means celebrating all hues — in their independent glory, together as part of a rainbow or all combined, suffusing one another, as white light, depending on the level of transcendence of difference required in a given context. All chauvinisms attack this idea of India embodied in the Constitution. And yet India's political landscape is littered with parties that thrive on chauvinism and its corollary, hatred of 'the other', some small, like the Shiv Sena and its rebel offshoot, some large, like the BJP.


And even parties that are not programmatically committed to politics of exclusion find it cynically expedient to manipulate group insecurities: the Congress is in power in Maharashtra, thanks to its deliberate failure to nip the anti-north-Indian platform of the MNS in the bud, and the Left thought it could pass off its communal wooing of Muslims as anti-imperialism, during its campaign against the Indo-US nuclear deal.


The BJP faces double jeopardy. It shares Hindu chauvinism with its ally, the Shiv Sena. But it cannot share its ally's objection to India's most widely spoken national language, both on counts of ideology and its north Indian support base. Its only way out is to renounce all chauvinism. Chauvinism breeds chauvinism, in reaction, in alliance and, finally, in self-defeat. Another attack on the idea of India


Members of the Maharashtra legislature who roughed up Mr Abu Azmi for taking his oath as a member of the assembly in Hindi attacked not just the Samajwadi Party leader but also the idea of India. India is a composite nation of multiple, overlapping group identities — based on religion, language, caste, region, ethnic origin. People do not become Indian by shedding these identities, but retaining them and through them.


Some sections of the metropolitan elite tend to venerate as the secular Indian a deracinated Ram Robert Rehman who celebrates the festivals of all religions but has contempt for spirituality and for all Indian 'dialects' and the cultures encoded in them. They represent loss of cultural roots, not sense on Indianness. Unity in diversity is India's guiding principle and that does not mean shedding diversity and all of India subsiding into a monochrome homogeneity.


Rather, it means celebrating all hues — in their independent glory, together as part of a rainbow or all combined, suffusing one another, as white light, depending on the level of transcendence of difference required in a given context. All chauvinisms attack this idea of India embodied in the Constitution. And yet India's political landscape is littered with parties that thrive on chauvinism and its corollary, hatred of 'the other', some small, like the Shiv Sena and its rebel offshoot, some large, like the BJP.

And even parties that are not programmatically committed to politics of exclusion find it cynically expedient to manipulate group insecurities: the Congress is in power in Maharashtra, thanks to its deliberate failure to nip the anti-north-Indian platform of the MNS in the bud, and the Left thought it could pass off its communal wooing of Muslims as anti-imperialism, during its campaign against the Indo-US nuclear deal.


The BJP faces double jeopardy. It shares Hindu chauvinism with its ally, the Shiv Sena. But it cannot share its ally's objection to India's most widely spoken national language, both on counts of ideology and its north Indian support base. Its only way out is to renounce all chauvinism. Chauvinism breeds chauvinism, in reaction, in alliance and, finally, in self-defeat.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

NPS & EPFO SHOULD SHARE INFRASTRUCTURE

 

The government must mandate the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation, which is trying to computerise its operations, to not duplicate effort and waste resources, and, instead, adopt the Central Record-keeping Agency (CRA) of the National Securities Depository Ltd (NSDL) that services the New Pension System (NPS). This will benefit both the EPFO and the NPS.


The CRA maintains electronic accounts like a share depository. Different brokers can access the same depository account, to buy and sell shares on the depository holder's behalf; companies can credit bonus shares or split shares into them, without affecting the integrity of the account. The CRA account is similarly versatile and offers many attractions. Chief among them are the low cost of maintaining an account (inversely related to the number of accounts), portability of savings (the account number of a saver will remain unchanged across geographies and jobs) and flexibility to change the investment manager as well as investment pattern.


However, at present, the cost of maintaining an NPS account with the CRA is high for a voluntary contributor, because of the virtually fixed overhead costs are spread over a small number of subscribers. The annual service charge for maintaining an account would fall, says an estimate, from the current Rs 350 to Rs 250 when the number of accounts maintained by CRA rises to 30 lakh. Likewise, the transaction fee will decline to Rs 4 per account from Rs 10 at present.


And if the four crore EPFO members use the CRA platform, the charge per account would diminish to next to nothing. The EPFO would gain, too. Its administrative costs, anything from 1% to 4% of the annual contributions, would disappear. Individual EPFO subscribers would no longer have to go through the long-drawn process of opening a new account with every change in job and undergo the hassle of transferring his savings from an old account to a new account.


Migrant workers normally end up losing their savings in the PF, thanks to lack of portability. And EPFO can retain its own fund managers and fund allocation patterns. Using the CRA infrastructure would not impose any obligation to follow the NPS rules in any manner.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

 

CONGRESS KA HAATH

 

Massachusetts governor Dukakis lost the 1988 US presidential race because the Republicans went to town on the fact that a convicted murderer in his state had raped someone while on a weekend furlough out of jail. The Massachusetts legislature had voted to disallow furlough for those convicted of murder but the state governor Dukakis had vetoed the bill. Manu Sharma has not committed any crime while currently on parole.


However, eyebrows are being raised over the fact that Manu has managed to get parole for two months within a few years of being convicted of murdering the model Jessica Lall. There were allegations that it had been difficult to prosecute Manu for the crime because his father was a senior Haryana Congress minister. It was only in the wake of an uproar after a lower court released Manu that the hearing of the case before the Delhi High Court was expedited and he was sentenced to life-imprisonment in 2006.


Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit has been quoted as saying that the rules for granting parole were followed. The parole was given on the grounds that Manu had to look after his mother who was seriously ill and tend to the family business. However, Manu's mother recently addressed a televised press-conference about a women's cricket tournament. Manu has been spotted at night in a pub while on parole. It was on an April night in 1999 that Jessica was shot while refusing to serve drinks after the bar was closed.


Last year, the Supreme Court had rejected a petition where Manu had sought bail on similar grounds as his parole. Inmates of Tihar Jail, where Manu is serving his sentence, have filed a petition with the Delhi High Court, alleging that parole is being given only to the influential and seeking transparency in the process. The Delhi government could remember that it was voted to power on the mandate that Congress ka haath aaam aadmi ke saath and not khaas criminal ke saath!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

THROUGH THE THIRD EYE

 

Sour grapes

The RSS decision to bring down the curtains on the lingering 'party president' hopes of some Delhi-based BJP leaders has not come as a surprise to the informed lot in Sangh Parivar circles. Neither were they surprised by the subsequent lament from the camp followers of the affected lot that the RSS was forcing itself into the role of the BJP's decision-maker. But the big guns of the Parivar aren't bothered at all.


After all, it's plain fact that the BJP has been, and will continue to be, remote-controlled by the residing deities of the Nagpur-Jhandewalan HQ. Some among the rejected lot might like to project themselves as victims of "RSS intervention", but other BJP leaders aver the president-hopefuls were, till the very last, sparing no effort to please the Sangh bosses to get their candidature through. And what does one say when these same leaders, who get a fever whenever the RSS brass catches a cold, suddenly start complaining about the latter's intervention? Sour grapes?


Dark horses

After Mohan Bhagwat's statement that the next BJP president will be from outside Delhi, the party HQ is busy scanning the CV of every state-based party leader of any consequence. Conventional wisdom puts Maharashtra leader Nitin Gadkari and Goan player Manohar Parikkar ahead in the race. But then, the RSS is also reportedly toying with the idea of getting a non-upper caste leader to head the BJP this time as part of a wider social engineering mission.


Parivar sources discern a strong urge within a section of the Sangh — which has been making all-out efforts to expand its influence among the tribals — to select a leader from that community. There are guarded whispers about Jual Oram, tribal leader from Orissa and ex-Union minister, presently the national vice-president of the party, emerging as a contender. So, do keep an eye on the dark horses.


In-house tormentor

For Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, getting Kiran Chodhury, who was tourism minister in his previous government, out of the new cabinet was a matter of prestige. After all Kiran, who had deftly used her skills to cultivate powerful mentors in Delhi, has been like an unguided missile for some time. But Hooda, who had lost out to Kiran in earlier bouts, has managed to keep her out of the first batch of ministers who took oath.

But, insiders say the real blow to Kiran was the decision of her estranged brother-in-law Ranbir Singh Mahendra (former BCCI chief ) to move the court of Sonia Gandhi. Mahendra, ex-Congress MLA, met Ms Gandhi last week and gave a blow-by-blow account of how the Kiran camp sabotaged his election this time.


Though Mahendra is a low-profile leader, he commands a lot of goodwill in top party circles for standing by the Congress even after his late father Bansi Lal broke away to form his own outfit. Mahendra, who humbled none other than Sharad Pawar to win the BCCI poll once, is proving to be an in-house tormentor for Kiran. And she might not reconcile to life without being a minister. This bout isn't over yet.


Tailpiece
Given our tangled web of political interests and patronage, any bold initiative always runs the risk of rubbing someone the wrong way. At a meet yesterday, Unique Identification Authority of India chairman, admitted as much, though in jest.


Speaking about the need to integrate UID with financial transactions to ensure traceability of payments, NREGA or others, Nilekani was asked whether such move wouldn't face opposition from within political circles. "Well, if I lose my job, you'll know why ...' he quipped back. Quite.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE HIDDEN VARIABLES IN NATURE

MUKUL SHARMA

 

What do philosophers William James and Henri Bergson, astronomer Camille Flammarion, zoologist Sir Alister Hardy, quantum physicist David Bohm, psychologist William McDougall, mathematician Sir Oliver Lodge, anthropologist Margaret Mead, discoverer of cathode rays Sir William Crookes, inventor of Xerox Chester Carlson, Freud, Jung, J J Thomson who discovered the electron and the Nobel laureate neurologist Sir john Eccles have in common?


They have all been presidents, members or affiliates of the Society for Psychical Research which was founded more than a century ago to study events and processes overlooked or not understood by mainstream science. The Society still exists.


Its raison d'ê·tre was illuminated by William James, the author of The Varieties of Religious Experience. "Tunnel vision" he called it, saying it was a kind of perception of external reality where we tend to look at the "out there" through a formal funnel of self-imposed ignorance that only undermines whatever the thrust of consciousness tries to develop in us.


And that it then becomes increasingly easy to criticise investigations into anything other than the known — thanks to an overriding materialist scientific approach — so that a lot of us automatically assume that a sense of healthy derision is an axiomatic function of what normal thought processes should be.


Moreover, it is so casually assumed these days that science is merely nano-seconds away from unravelling the mysteries of the cosmos that most of us begin to spend our whiles — leisure time or academically — in trying very hard to believe that we believe this.


True, the Society still exists today but, ironically, and in fact from about the same period as its inception, it
didn't need to. For that was when two of the greatest upheavals in science — relativity and quantum mechanics — revolutionised our cosy classical concepts of normalcy. Today, we know that we know only about 4% of what exists in our universe because the rest, comprising some 96% of whatever it is that remains "out there" is made up of something called dark matter and dark energy of which we have no idea yet.


As the Cambridge philosopher, professor C D Broad was often fond of saying: the problem with any theory is not with what it covers but with what it doesn't. This penumbral residuum is what ultimately catches up with our complacence.

           

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE HIDDEN VARIABLES IN NATURE

MUKUL SHARMA

 

What do philosophers William James and Henri Bergson, astronomer Camille Flammarion, zoologist Sir Alister Hardy, quantum physicist David Bohmpsychologist William McDougall, mathematician Sir Oliver Lodge, anthropologist Margaret Mead, discoverer of cathode rays Sir William Crookes, inventor of Xerox Chester Carlson, Freud, Jung, J J Thomson who discovered the electron and the Nobel laureate neurologist Sir john Eccles have in common?


They have all been presidents, members or affiliates of the Society for Psychical Research which was founded more than a century ago to study events and processes overlooked or not understood by mainstream science. The Society still exists.


Its raison d'ê·tre was illuminated by William James, the author of The Varieties of Religious Experience. "Tunnel vision" he called it, saying it was a kind of perception of external reality where we tend to look at the "out there" through a formal funnel of self-imposed ignorance that only undermines whatever the thrust of consciousness tries to develop in us.


And that it then becomes increasingly easy to criticise investigations into anything other than the known — thanks to an overriding materialist scientific approach — so that a lot of us automatically assume that a sense of healthy derision is an axiomatic function of what normal thought processes should be.


Moreover, it is so casually assumed these days that science is merely nano-seconds away from unravelling the mysteries of the cosmos that most of us begin to spend our whiles — leisure time or academically — in trying very hard to believe that we believe this.


True, the Society still exists today but, ironically, and in fact from about the same period as its inception, it
didn't need to. For that was when two of the greatest upheavals in science — relativity and quantum mechanics — revolutionised our cosy classical concepts of normalcy. Today, we know that we know only about 4% of what exists in our universe because the rest, comprising some 96% of whatever it is that remains "out there" is made up of something called dark matter and dark energy of which we have no idea yet.


As the Cambridge philosopher, professor C D Broad was often fond of saying: the problem with any theory is not with what it covers but with what it doesn't. This penumbral residuum is what ultimately catches up with our complacence.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

R&D OFFSHORING COMES OF AGE

JAIDEEP MISHRA

 

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, noted the futurist who envisaged space odyssey. That was then, when investment in research and development (R&D) was essentially domestic, with little cross-border activity by large multinational corporations. Fastforward to the here and now, and a recent working paper at the Centre for India & Global Business in the UK suggests quite otherwise. The study finds that R&D facilities of MNCs are now much more globally diffused. And India attracts more inbound R&D activity by US multinationals in the Fortune 500 list 'than any other nation'.


Overall, the paper finds that mature economies like the US, Germany, Japan and the UK with 502, 153, 151 and 109 R&D facilities, respectively, continue to host most large MNCs' R&D activity. But what's notable is that China and India already rank 5th and 7th with 98 and 63 R&D facilities, respectively. The authors find the results 'surprising' because China with 24 and India with 6 corporates, headquarter 'only a fraction' of the 500 largest MNCs.


Now innovation is deemed essential to boost living standards, rev up growth and productivity for corporates, and add to the wealth of nations. Hence the need to invest in R&D centres. Yet in recent years observers and analysts have 'raised concerns'. What's implied is that R&D offshoring can verily mean loss of intellectual capital and other beneficial spillovers in the mature markets. The paper does mention that current data on offshoring of R&D activity by MNCs is rather 'scarce'.


It's stated that data pertaining to where MNCs locate their R&D centres, which economies have the most such facilities and which have the highest net gains (inbound less outbound) in terms of R&D offshoring is not readily available. Prior research on the topic has relied heavily on survey response—which can suffer from poor response rates and not be very reliable.


The extant study uses archival sources to research patterns in global R&D investment. It goes against the normative logic that MNCs locate R&D activity in their countries of origin, to maintain secrecy and leverage knowledge. What's revealed is that US multinationals tend to offshore a smaller proportion of their R&D facilities than Japanese or European MNCs. Besides, the US attracts by far the largest number of R&D centres from foreign MNCs (227). Also, China, the UK and Germany each account for about one-third the number of such R&D centres as the US.


However, the US is also the biggest source of R&D facilities to other economies, and so posts a negative net gain when it comes to global R&D offshoring. Further, India attracts more inbound R&D activity from the largest MNCs than say Japan, France and Brazil. In tandem, China, India and Brazil have had the largest net gains in terms of such centres.


As for sectors, network/communications equipment and electronics are the industries where there's maximum
offshoring of MNCs' R&D. Close behind are other sectors like computers/software, pharmaceuticals and automobiles. But in contrast, personal-care products, aerospace/defence and telecom show amongst the highest R&D concentrations in MNC 'home' countries. What explains the decision to locate R&D activity abroad? The study suggests that inbound R&D is 'primarily driven' by the number of available science and engineering PhDs.

It adds that country economic performance, growth or the intellectual property rights regime 'did not significantly influence R&D activity.' The effects of such offshoring on overall innovativeness in emerging markets remain to be tracked; anecdotal evidence would suggest gains in terms of informal networks and skill diffusion. It's dynamic change, for sure.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

FINANCIAL, INDUSTRIAL STOCKS WILL DO A LOT BETTER: RIDHAM DESAI, MORGAN STANLEY
ANDY MUKHERJEE

 

Ridham Desai, the chief India equity strategist at Morgan Stanley, says stocks will be volatile in the near term and that — after the spectacular run-up this year — further gains will be muted in 2010. In an exclusive interview with ET NOW, Desai identifies financial and industrial stocks as his top picks. He says that equity investors need to carefully watch crude oil prices, IPOs, progress in infrastructure spending, and of course, the speed of monetary tightening. Excerpts:


Aren't you more optimistic on corporate earnings this fiscal than the rest of the Street?

Yeah, the next two quarters could be very strong, and that is where the Street may be missing a point. We are running into a favourable base effect. So, if you look at the run rate in this quarter, I am just extending it to the next two quarters, too. This will give you a broad-market earnings growth of around 25%.


Recently, you wrote that investors were becoming a little complacent about volatility. And suddenly, volatility is back with a vengeance...

It looks like it's going to be volatile near term. Central banks are going to decide the exit policy, which may generate volatility. But fundamentally, when you plot returns versus expected growth, it appears that the market has already priced in the growth that we are expecting for the next six months. There are two outcomes now: either the economy and the company deliver the expected growth and markets go nowhere, or they exceed the growth forecast and then markets adjust. If they don't, then we are getting into choppy waters.


The quality of US growth does appear to be rather weak. What is your view on the kind of risk the anaemic US consumer poses to Indian markets?

We don't think that the US Fed, for example, is going to be in a hurry to pull out the stimulus, because I don't think there is enough evidence to suggest that growth is back and will stay in the US. Now, we aren't in the double-dip camp. But many in America believe that we are heading for a double dip in 2010. Our view is that we will get some moderate growth and then we will get some exit from the Fed. India, on the other hand, is experiencing a better quality in growth than it did in the previous cycle.


This time around, the economy is on a very strong footing. I am impressed with the way the government has managed the fiscal policy, which is why we have come out of this quite quickly. And now, we are looking at a potential growth rate of 7-7.5% in the next 12-15 months. Of course, since the US is stuck in a range-bound growth, it will affect India's growth.


What are some of the key factors that we need to watch out for in predicting the direction of markets?

Generally speaking, the market believes that whenever crude oil goes up, it is bad for India; and if that was the case, then the Indian equity market should not have done well over the past 3-4 months. But the Indian market has done well and the reason is that crude oil is not a problem when capital flows are strong. Also, crude oil becomes a problem if you get a very sharp spike in a very short time.


RBI is taking away the punch bowl of low interest rates. Is it going to be a problem?

Well, it already has. It's one of the few central banks to have already moved. The central bank's track record is very good. RBI has conducted itself very well in the past. In 2006, when RBI chose to tighten and ring-fence banking from real estate, there was criticism that it was stamping out growth and that this was not good for India. But in hindsight, it's a good thing to do, because it prevented banks from any problem when the property bubble collapsed. RBI is doing something similar right now. So far, RBI has conducted itself extremely well.

What about the risk that all the infrastructure spending that we are hearing about does not really

materialise?
We have made tremendous progress in rural infrastructure. We have added about 1.5 lakh kilometres of roads, at a run rate of 100 km a day. It's a fantastic achievement that has happened. We have managed to get electricity into rural areas. So, NREGA has done some good work and the rural infrastructure is clearly on the upswing. Now, we need to also fix urban infrastructure. Our base case is that we will get enough spending in roads and electricity.


Is more than $20 billion of equity issuances in a year a problem for the market in terms of its absorption capacity?
That's a moving target really, because it is all a function of where we are in terms of liquidity, what happens to global growth, where we get to on exit policy by the Fed and by ECB. So, the India market can absorb around $20-25 billion in the next 12-15 months.


What makes you overweight on consumer-discretionary stocks such as auto?

We are still at the early stages of a growth cycle where consumer discretionary tends to do well. If I have to put a pecking order on the sectors, it will be probably financials, industrials, energy and then consumer-discretionary. We are still overweight on all the four sectors, but the pecking order will shift because of the fact that we have already seen a lot of performance from autos and the cycle is now taking off. So, when the cycle is about to start, consumer-discretionary is usually the best sector, financials follow next.


In the next 12 months, you will see financials and industrials do a lot better; industrials have done well, largely because of hopes of infrastructure spending. In financials, we will go through an expansion in net interest margins. The worst of the non-performing loan (NPL) cycle is behind us and loan growth will recover quite sharply in 2010. The earnings environment for financials will be good, and in terms of valuations, some of the industrial stocks do look rich.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'I DON'T SEE TOO MANY SIGNS OF RECOVERY'

SHAILI CHOPRA

 

Global economies are on the road to recovery, but as the finance ministers of G20 nations suggested, caution is still the buzzword for the new financial order. Klaus Schwab, the chairman of the World Economic Forum, is concerned that global corporate citizens haven't quite learned the lessons from the recession. He spoke to ET Now in an exclusive interview. Excerpts:


Is the world too euphoric about the turnaround?

I feel we should be optimistic. The facts on the ground show caution is still the right approach. We don't know yet whether the world economies are self-sustaining.


In actions, are global economies a tad overconfident about this?

In the real economies, I don't see too many signs of recovery.


Are financial markets and real econo-mies disconnected?

The financial system is ahead of the real economy. In the financial system, $3 trillion was lost and only half of it is reconstituted. We still don't know what is happening in US banks, we are not quite out of the woods. G20 governments have recognised that we can't go further just like this. We have to ask when the economies will sustain. I think it will be in second half of 2010 or perhaps in 2011.


Do you think that this is the right time for nations to exit stimulus measures, including India?
India may be one of the first few to move out of trouble. The governments should be careful about exiting stimulus plans. I would say India should move in tandem with the rest of the world. There are two ways to look at an exit strategy, one is when to stop the stimulus and the other is how to exit from the enormous debt which we [economies] have now.


The world hasn't quite learnt its lessons from this recession?

No, I am very concerned about this. Lessons from this crisis should be that we should not move in any direction that we have in the past. Many of our systems are unsustainable. We have to think in terms of how better can we cooperate with the world, what values we want to have, what's the future of the capitalist world and how we want to integrate those who have not profited from the last wave.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

INDIA CAN LEAD WORLD OUT OF SLUMP

DURBA GHOSH & PARAMITA CHATTERJEE

 

Jim Quigley, global CEO of auditing and consulting giant Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, says India has the capability to lead the global economy out of recession. Speaking to ET, he appears gung ho about the India growth story and disclosed plans to spruce up Deloitte's headcount in the country by as much as 30% over the next three years. Excerpts:


What is your view on the current economic scenario—have we come out of the downturn?

The global economic slowdown was absolutely unprecedented and it did cast its spell on the West. In my view, countries such as India, China and Brazil were better off and were not impacted to that extent. In other words, technically they did not go through recession at all. With regard to India, I would say it is enjoying a superior GDP growth at a time when many countries are still struggling and it definitely has the potential to lead the global economy out of recession.


Have you reviewed Deloitte's expansion plans in the country?

India is a very attractive market and Deloitte has a strong presence here. We already have 11,500 people and want to raise the number to 15,000 by the end of 2013. We have a powerful business model, based on strong local roots and global connections, united by a common culture. It is a winning model and has resulted in substantial growth worldwide in audit, tax, financial advisory services, consulting and merger & acquisition services. In line with India's economic expansion, our firm is providing services not only to Indian companies doing business in the rest of the world, but also to foreign companies operating in India.


According to you, what are the hurdles that India needs to overcome to tap its full potential?

India should liberalise the FDI regulations further, especially in sectors such as retail and insurance. Financial reforms are imperative for any nation to succeed. Plus, we must remember one thumb rule, capital goes where capital is welcome.


In light of the recent Satyam fraud, is there any need for special belt-tightening in terms of accounting and auditing practices in India?

One incident like this cannot affect our business practice. We have the right people, the right talent and the right client base in India, so there is hardly any chance of faltering. Plus, we adhere to a very stringent quality control and carry out an annual inspection exercise to ensure there are no loopholes anywhere, be it accounting, auditing or any other practice areas.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SUSTAINABILITY CAN LEAD TO INNOVATION: CK PRAHALAD

R SRIDHARAN

 

He's going green. After core competence and the bottom of the pyramid, the world's best-known management guru of Indian origin, CK Prahalad, is talking sustainable development. Why? Because, as he argued in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, "Sustainability is the mother lode of innovations that yield both bottomline and topline returns". In an exclusive interview to ET Now , the Paul and Ruth McCracken professor of strategy at Stephen M Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, talks about sustainable development, the bottom of the pyramid, and his own intellectual journey. Excerpts:


You say that for companies there's no alternative to sustainable development. That's a sweeping statement to make.

I am just recognising the inevitable. If you look at the water shortage, high commodity prices and certainly global warming, then the need for sustainable development is obvious. So, my starting point is, don't deny the obvious, get on with it and innovate.


But most companies today are fighting for wafer-thin margins. So, what's the incentive for them to invest precious capital in sustainable technologies or processes?

 

If you deeply understand sustainability, then it's just like the quality movement some 30 years ago.

If you recall, there was a lot of debate about whether quality will increase cost. What did we find? That if you deeply understand quality and you put methodology in place, costs automatically come down. I believe sustainability can be the next quality challenge. It's going to drastically reduce costs and increase consumer acceptance. Don't look at sustainability as compliance and regulation, but as an opportunity for breakthrough innovation.

India can argue that it's not a big polluter compared to developed countries, so the companies here don't really need to start thinking of sustainable development. What would you tell such companies?


In India, you don't have to start (on sustainable development) because you are a big polluter. You can start because there's a shortage of resources. If I look at a washing machine that recognises when electricity was cut off and starts the wash cycle from there and not the beginning, then it saves energy, it saves water and it is acceptable in India because it is sustainable development and it's good business. The beauty of this is, if you innovate here, you can take those innovations back to the US.


You also talk about consumers at the bottom of the pyramid. But the irony is, if we create consumers out of millions of poor people, we are putting greater stress on the environment. How does this marry with your argument on sustainable development?


That's an important question. As you start including additional 4 billion people into the process of globalisation, you are going to put a lot more pressure on sustainable growth. Therefore, inclusive growth and sustainability are joined at the hips. In fact, what inclusive growth and sustainability force us to do is to recognize how to do more for more people with less. And this is the organizing principle I am proposing.


Finally, what's next from CK Prahalad?


If you look at my work, they are centered around four areas: globalization, role of connectivity, inclusive growth and sustainability. Nobody has looked at all four of them and said what are the linkages. So it's this intersection of the four that's going to create the next big opportunities for management, the next big opportunities for humanity in general.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

INDIA'S PER CAPITA INCOME WILL OVERTAKE US, UK BY JULY '48: HANS ROSLING

PANKAJ MISHRA

 

Hans Rosling, 61-year old professor of global health at Sweden's Karolinska Institute, is known to dispel myths about the developing world with his compelling arguments, and forecast the new world order by presenting data through moving bubbles and other objects that bring some of the most complex and boring trends to life. Mr Rosling, who presented his latest findings about how income per person in India and China will overtake that of the US and UK by July 2048 at TED conference, told ET that his one month stint as a student in Bangalore's St John's Medical College helped him realise the potential of India. Excerpts:


What is the basis for this forecast? And what according to you will be the new world order?

I realised during my early days as a student in Bangalore's St John's Medical College that the developed world will not continue to dominate for ever. In fact, I think that India and China will overtake US and UK in terms of income per person by July 2048.


The West and in particular the US has three fundamental problems which are far bigger than they appear — the first of which is the Trade Unbalance — more imports than exports something which has not changed for a while The Federal Reserve Balance sheet which has only been going down over the last decade or so and a Clear Oil Addiction. The west consumes far too much power for its own good. They are three primary factors in India's favour — Rich Human Resource Capital and Inequalities which unlike China and some other countries are favourable. In China, in order to develop rural China — money and goods have to travel over a 1000 km. In India though, the disparity lies only within a state and hence a smaller distance has to be traversed geographically. This is India's advantage.

How confident are you about this prediction?

Well of course, it's been done by drawing these lines with the help of software, but you cannot be really confident about it. There is a need to realise that it is about to happen and it is something that can happen in our lifetime. That is why I illustrated it by saying that it will happen on July 27 to be precise.


What do you think of trade barriers, as emerging economies become bigger?

What I am most worried about is the reaction of the western world when they see India and China become bigger, what really worries me is a possible war. I also see new, subtle trade barriers emerge. For instance, they are calling products manufactured by India and China as contaminated, and are getting experts and researchers to prove that. These trade barriers are very subtle.


What challenges do you see for India and China to become bigger, global powers?

There are three reasons why 2048 prediction may go wrong. The first of which is Trade Barriers — if the west becomes vary of India and China's success one thing to certainly watch out for is the imparting of high duties on Indian and Chinese goods as a counter measure. They could also show Indian and Chinese manufacturers in poor light — showing them as unsafe, unhygienic options for consumption products.


The second is Climate - if both India and China have climate which is not congenial to the the produce of agricultural goods. Lastly, the probability of War and the probability of how India and China's rise might make the West envious of its success could be a challenge.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

DAY OF SHAME IN MAHARASHTRA

 

The shameful episode of the physical beating of the Samajwadi Party member, Mr Abu Azmi, on the floor of the Maharashtra Assembly by four MLAs belonging to Mr Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena should give every Indian pause. The logical extension of the sorry Monday happening can only point to the road to fascism. India is fortunately too large and too deep to be swallowed by the dynamics of the MNS' methods, but the time has come to ponder steps that a tolerant society and a democratic republic should consciously consider to put an end to such outrageous conduct by a political party that swears allegiance to our gloriously pluralistic Constitution but persists in abusing the freedoms it makes available. Not doing so now, and allowing the situation to drift for reasons of pusillanimity or political convenience, is likely to threaten the democratic template itself. Mr Azmi was sought to be made an example of because he chose to defy the MNS goons' diktat that every MLA must take the oath as a legislator only in Marathi, and not in any other language of the country, although the Constitution imposes no such bar. The SP leader opted for Hindi, the national language. Some have chosen to comment only on this aspect of the matter. But that appears off the mark. The result is likely to have been no different if the SP leader had chosen any other language. Indeed, language is not the fundamental question here, although the MNS has chosen to justify — indeed glorify — the thuggish action of its MLAs in the name of protecting the honour of Marathi, the state language. But the apparently militant espousal of Marathi is nothing more than a mobilising trick being resorted to by the MNS to expand its political base at the expense of its mother party. Marathi is a thriving language of ancient provenance. It has a glorious literary and cultural tradition. It is in absolutely no need of such protection as the MNS' praetorian guards offer. The real reasons for the MNS' "action" lie elsewhere. The party wants everyone on notice that there will be a violent price to pay if any section of society chooses to defy its diktats. The only way to meet such a challenge is for all segments of the polity to unite. Reports of mob violence in reaction to developments in the Assembly have begun to come in from Mumbai and other areas. These too must be firmly checked by the authorities. The MNS MLAs committed planned and wilful violence against the decorum and procedures of the Assembly. For this they have been duly suspended for four years. But they have also done violence to the Constitution of India and to the person of a sitting MLA. These are punishable crimes. The instigation for the physical assault on Mr Azmi is traceable to the inflammatory words of the MNS chief, Mr Raj Thackeray. The state government will be in breach of the confidence reposed in it in the recent election if it did not uphold the law of the land. The Chief Minister, Mr Ashok Chavan, has condemned the "goonda" conduct of the offending MLAs. This was necessary, but does not go far enough. The Congress and NCP, as parties, have yet to come out politically against the planned assault on democracy. The Shiv Sena and the BJP, the other key players in the state, also cannot afford to sit idly by. Leaders from the Hindi-speaking states have narrowly commented only on the insult to the national language aspect of Monday's shameful incident. Every party is called on to take a broader view of the frightening excess committed by the MNS and its elected representatives.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A CLOUDY ANNIVERSARY AT THE WHITE HOUSE

BY GOVIND TALWALKAR

 

Last year, on November 4, Mr Barack Obama won the presidential race by an overwhelming majority. But on the first anniversary itself he has received a setback. Mr Charles Krauthammer, a conservative columnist, recently said that last year though he did not vote for Mr Obama, he was happy at his victory. That, according to him, was the day of redemption for white Americans.

 

In the last one year, a number of Americans have had second thoughts about their President, as the job market hasn't recovered and there is uncertainty about the prospects of the war on terror. Though Mr Obama's popular rating is high, these factors are taking the shine off him.

 

This was evident on November 3, when the fate of the two gubernatorial races — Virginia and New Jersey, and one to the House of Representatives — was decided. Virginia is traditionally a Republican state while New Jersey is Democratic. Mr Obama has scored in both the states, last. Voters said they love him but can't love his candidates.

 

In upstate New York, the ultra-conservatives who managed to dislodge the moderate candidate could not bring victory to the candidate of their choice. This way the far-Left of the Democratic Party and the far-Right of the Republican Party were defeated by the voters. They showed that the country is not totally to the Left or to the Right; it is in the middle.

 

In Virginia and New Jersey, the Republican candidates got 60 per cent of independent votes and 67 per cent of

white male votes. The turnout of the blacks as well as young people was low. This means that the much talked about demographical change in America has no solid foundation. There is no doubt that in the next presidential election Mr Obama would not be forsaken by the independents, the whites and the blacks, but their number might not be as large as before.

 

The Opposition or the disillusionment of the independents is much more serious and if this trend continues then next year's mid-term election to the House of Representatives might reduce the strength of the Democratic Party, if not reduce it to minority.

 

As he inherited an economic meltdown and is facing extraordinary challenges, Mr Obama should have concentrated on reviving the market and creating jobs. Instead, he and the leading Democrats were obsessed with health reform measures.

 

This infuriated the Republicans who did not do anything to solve the problems when in power, but instead indulged in scare mongering. But the moderate Democrats are opposed to bringing in a government-run institution to manage healthcare. Moreover, the administration made confusion worse by not giving the exact cost of the new bill.

 

The stimulus plan helped the banks, which did not help create jobs but made huge profits. Hence, the people are rightly worried about their future and apprehend tax increase.

 

Candidate Obama was all the while hammering the established political culture which, he said, was divisive. But today one finds there is much more bickering and bitterness. In his campaign Mr Obama enjoyed rousing the masses and encouraging their expectations. Even after assuming power he has not come out of the campaign mode. In a democracy, when the party is elected the Prime Minister or President, his Cabinet has to be responsive towards people, but they have to govern as well.

 

Rabble-rousing can be practiced by both the parties and the Republicans showed that they can play the same game.

 

Mr Obama thinks otherwise, and that is why he is always on the move. His constant appearances on platform and before the camera have lost relevance. He takes initiatives in so many fields at the same time, which has resulted in stagnation. He claimed that the stimulus plan would create millions of jobs. Now Mr Obama has realised that job creation must have a priority. It is true that the economy has turned the corner and even manufacturing is on the rise; but this is happening the world over. America is not special, or alone.

 

Mr Obama has changed the tone of the foreign policy, distinctly. But he believes too much in the power of his rhetoric and charisma. In domestic as well as foreign affairs one has to go into details and at times must be specific. The fact of the matter is, Mr Obama, had never in his political life bothered to go into details. As soon as he entered the Illinois Senate, he aspired to go to Washington. After being elected to the Senate he started preparing for the presidential race. He had no substantial legislative achievements to his credit or administrative experience.
Therefore, most of the world's statesmen are not sure as to where he stands. He thought that few speeches would bring changes in West Asia and his personality would put an end to the hostile attitude of the Muslim world. To bring West Asia and the Pakistan-Afghanistan issues under his direct supervision he appointed special envoys. This was also done to undercut Ms Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state. But both the envoys have totally failed. Iran is not persuaded and North Korea is giving mixed signals. Ultimately, Ms Clinton has taken the initiative and asserted herself.


Time and again Mr Obama has said that while Iraq war was by choice, Afghanistan was a war of necessity. But even now his strategy is unclear. General Stanley McChrystal has asked for 40,000 more troops in Afghanistan but the administration is yet to come up with an alternative. Mr Obama, of course, would not know whether the Afghan President, Mr Hamid Karzai, is more dubious than the former Pakistani President, Mr Pervez Musharraf, or vice versa.


Pakistan is always a doubtful factor. There, the civil and military authorities are suspicious of each other. The recent demonstrations against the Kerry-Lugar Bill were inspired by the Army and Inter-Services Intelligence as the Bill demanded civil control. In addition, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) chief Mr Nawaz Sharif and his brother are reported to have supported the recalcitrant elements.


The writer, columnist, Mr Ahmed Rashid, has doubts about the will of the Pakistani Army to wage a fight to the finish. He thinks that the Army might be fighting the Taliban in South Wazaristan, but might not to do so in the North. Several suicide bomb incidents in the cantonment areas and even at the Army training schools could not have happened without some inside accomplices.


Americans are obviously worried. That is why the Democrats lost their traditional stronghold New Jersey and Mr Obama had to celebrate a cloudy anniversary.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

PARANOIA ABOUT US' FUTURE: RIGHT OR WRONG?

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

 

Last Thursday there was a rally outside the US Capitol to protest pending healthcare legislation, featuring the kinds of things we've grown accustomed to, including large signs showing piles of bodies at Dachau with the caption "National Socialist Healthcare". It was grotesque — and it was also ominous. For what we may be seeing is America starting to be Californiafied.

 

The key thing to understand about that rally is that it wasn't a fringe event. It was sponsored by the House Republican leadership — in fact, it was officially billed as a GOP press conference. Senior lawmakers were in attendance, and apparently had no problem with the tone of the proceedings.

 

True, Mr Eric Cantor, the second-ranking House Republican, offered some mild criticism after the fact. But the operative word is "mild". The signs were "inappropriate", said his spokesman, and the use of Hitler comparisons by such people as Rush Limbaugh, said Mr Cantor, "conjures up images that frankly are not, I think, very helpful".

 

What all this shows is that the GOP has been taken over by the people it used to exploit.

 

The state of mind visible at recent Right-wing demonstrations is nothing new. Back in 1964 the historian Richard Hofstadter published an essay titled, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, which reads as if it were based on today's headlines: Americans on the far right, he wrote, feel that "America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion". Sound familiar?

 

But while the paranoid style isn't new, its role within the GOP is.

 

When Hofstadter wrote, the Right-wing felt dispossessed because it was rejected by both major parties. That changed with the rise of Ronald Reagan: Republican politicians began to win elections in part by catering to the passions of the angry right.

 

Until recently, however, that catering mostly took the form of empty symbolism. Once elections were won, the issues that fired up the base almost always took a back seat to the economic concerns of the elite. Thus in 2004 George W. Bush ran on anti-terrorism and "values", only to announce, as soon as the election was behind him, that his first priority was changing Social Security.

 

But something snapped last year. Conservatives had long believed that history was on their side, so the GOP establishment could, in effect, urge hard-right activists to wait just a little longer: once the party consolidated its hold on power, they'd get what they wanted. After the Democratic sweep, however, extremists could no longer be fobbed off with promises of future glory.
Furthermore, the loss of both Congress and the White House left a power vacuum in a party accustomed to top-down management. At this point Newt Gingrich is what passes for a sober, reasonable elder statesman of the GOP. And he has no authority: Republican voters ignored his call to support a relatively moderate, electable candidate in New York's special Congressional election.
Real power in the party rests, instead, with the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin (who at this point is more a media figure than a conventional politician). Because these people aren't interested in actually governing, they feed the base's frenzy instead of trying to curb or channel it. So all the old restraints are gone.
In the short run, this may help Democrats, as it did in that New York race. But maybe not: elections aren't necessarily won by the candidate with the most rational argument. They're often determined, instead, by events and economic conditions.


In fact, the party of Limbaugh and Beck could well make major gains in the mid-term elections. The Obama administration's job-creation efforts have fallen short, so that unemployment is likely to stay disastrously high through next year and beyond. The banker-friendly bailout of Wall Street has angered voters, and might even let Republicans claim the mantle of economic populism. Conservatives may not have better ideas, but voters might support them out of sheer frustration.


And if Tea Party Republicans do win big next year, what has already happened in California could happen at the national level. In California, the GOP has essentially shrunk down to a rump party with no interest in actually governing — but that rump remains big enough to prevent anyone else from dealing with the state's fiscal crisis. If this happens to America as a whole, as it all too easily could, the country could become effectively ungovernable in the midst of an ongoing economic disaster.


The point is that the takeover of the Republican Party by the irrational Right is no laughing matter. Something unprecedented is happening here — and it's very bad for America.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

E FOR ELECTRONIC, W FOR WASTE

BY JAYATI GHOSH

 

In one section of the university building where I teach, there is an enormous and motley collection of discarded computer-related items, stacked and piled in an unwieldy mess. This has been lying around for a while now, nearly a year, not only because of the prolonged bureaucratic procedures involved in getting material "written off", but also because no one knows what to do with the stuff once it has actually been written off!

 

It is a sight that is increasingly getting only too common in urban India, and now even in some more prosperous rural areas of the country: ramshackle piles of dismembered pieces of discarded electronic equipment such as computers, CD players, televisions and cellphones lying around in the odd corners of offices and homes. Or else simply dumped in the open in garbage heaps, and then being painstakingly searched through by rag-pickers of all ages, who look for any elements that can be resold.

 

In developing countries such as ours, where recycling occurs as a matter of course because of the widespread poverty and sharp inequality that mark our consumption patterns, this may seem as something quite obvious and hardly worthy of comment. Some may even see this as evidence of our greater ability to use and reuse material items more effectively than the wasteful West. Yet this cavalier attitude to electronic waste is already emerging as one of the major hazards to the health of both the environment and our people, and we ignore the crucial issue of electronic waste management at our own peril.

 

This is particularly so because India, like many other developing countries, has to deal with e-waste that is far in excess of what is generated by production and consumption within the country, as we are net importers of e-waste that is cynically dumped on us by the developed world. The global trade in e-waste is huge and growing, and is only partly illegal even though there have been attempts to regulate it.

 

In fact, e-waste is the fastest growing component of municipal waste across the world. Some estimates say that more than 50 million tonnes of it is generated every year. A major reason for this is the very short lifespan of most electronic goods, especially in the West, where such goods are routinely replaced at least every two years, and then either simply discarded or exported to developing countries where there is still a demand for such second-hand goods. Because of the high rate of obsolescence, very large quantities of e-waste are generated.

 

But why exactly is such e-waste more of a problem than all the other waste that is regularly generated by industrial societies? The problems arise from the very significant health and environmental hazards associated with e-waste. Most electronic goods contain significant quantities of toxic metals and chemicals. If these are left untreated to lie around in landfills or dumps, they leach into the surrounding soil, water and the atmosphere, thereby generating obvious adverse effects for human health and ecology. Many elements of the waste are hazardous, as the circuit boards, cathode ray tubes, connectors and other elements that are essential for most such goods almost always contain poisonous substances such as lead, tin, mercury, cadmium and barium.

 

Therefore, the health impact of e-waste is evident. It has been linked to the growing incidence of several lethal or severely debilitating health conditions, including cancer, neurological and respiratory disorders, and birth defects. As usual, this impact is worse in developing countries where people often live in close proximity to dumps or landfills of untreated e-waste.

 

There are basically four ways in which e-waste can be dealt with, and none of them is really very satisfactory. The most common one, especially in the developing world, is simply to store it in landfills, but this has all the dangers described above. For this reason it has already been banned in the European Union (EU) and some other developed countries which instead tend to export this waste to poorer countries. Another way is to burn the goods concerned, but this too is problematic because it releases heavy metals like lead, cadmium and mercury into the atmosphere.

 

Reusing and recycling are obviously preferable because they increase the lifespan of the products and therefore imply less waste over time. The reuse of second-hand electronic goods in the developing world falls in this category, although it still eventually generates waste that ends up located in these countries. But recycling needs to be done in particular ways that protect the workers concerned, who would otherwise be exposed to all the health hazards mentioned above. In most developing countries, this is a real problem because recycling is dominantly done in scrap yards by hand, without any protection for the unskilled workers involved in such activity.

 

These difficulties in dealing with e-waste probably explain why the global trade in e-waste has expanded so rapidly, as developed countries find this an easy way to simply transfer the problem to poorer countries whose governments are either not aware of all the risks involved, or feel that they are accessing cheaper second-hand versions of electronic goods.

 

Some international attempt at regulation has occurred, such as the Basel Convention of 1992 that suggests policies and enforcement mechanisms to control hazardous waste from its production to its storage, transport, reuse, recycling, and final disposal.

 

Typically, the United States, which signed the treaty, has not yet ratified it, and it is still seen the greatest dumper, accounting for nearly 80 per cent of hazardous waste export to developing nations. The EU has a ban on the export of e-waste, but it is generally ineffective, as illegal trade in e-waste continues to flourish with exports going to China, India and Africa.

 

In fact, India is one of the important destinations for this global hazardous trash, although there are few estimates of how large the problem actually is since so much of the trade is extra-legal. Poor regulations and absence of any clear policy of the Indian government or state governments for dealing with electronic waste generated within the country add to the problems and potential for disaster. Indeed, it is surprising that this issue is still not sharply on the policy antennae and that there have been no calls for urgent action.

 

Some of this may be due to the more general and deplorable tendency for so many of our policies, including those relating to the environment, to come to us dictated by the current concerns and fashions of the West. So now, since "global warming" is the flavour of the month, all other environmental concerns, including the more severe and immediate problems of pollution and degradation that affect our people directly, are being given relatively short shrift.

 

Yet this is an issue that clearly must be addressed immediately. Strategies must be evolved to reduce the generation of e-waste, to prevent the legal or illegal import of such waste, and to develop feasible and safe ways of dealing with it within our own context and requirements. Otherwise the unregulated accumulation of electronic waste may well lead to a public health disaster in the near future.

 

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HUMAN RIGHTS IN ASEAN

BY SHANKARI SUNDARARAMAN

 

With inter-state relations getting increasingly focused on integration, the impetus for summits and meetings has been on the increase.

 

However, there is also the resounding feeling that these are becoming more rhetorical than real. Almost every month we hear of a summit or a meeting of states, but the actual progress towards resolution of issues and problems in inter-state relations has been less effective and focused. This was clearly evident in the recently-concluded Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit, from October 23 to 25, 2009.

 

The 15th Asean summit took place at Cha-am, Hua Hin in Thailand where Thailand passed on the one-year chairmanship to Vietnam. This summit was important as it was the first meeting to be held after the Asean charter was endorsed in February 2009 also in Hua Hin. Apart from endorsing the Asean charter among the member countries, the February meeting also heralded a shift in Asean functioning — from an informal association of regional states to a more formal structure.

 

Asean, since its inception in 1967, has had an informal approach where decision-making on key issues of regional concern has been based on a mechanism of collective decision-making. This approach combined the two pillars of "mufakat" and "musyawarah", which mean consensus and consultation respectively. This approach was distinct from other regional or inter-state organisations most of whom have a legal approach to decision-making. Another aspect of this informal approach of the Asean was that it precluded internal domestic affairs from being discussed among the states. As a result, the manner in which the organisation dealt with domestic politics issues remained ambiguous.

 

Issues relating to human rights were especially considered sensitive. In fact, under the guise of a regionally-distinct approach these were pushed aside as being different for various countries, and claims of an "Asean way" were effectively used to deal with any criticism on matters relating to human rights within the region.

 

The Asean, therefore, pushed forward the logic that human rights was not a universal principal but distinct for different countries based on their political development and systems. The Asean region, which comprised few liberal democracies, found resonance in the "Asean way" and used this to deflect critical views on issues of democracy and human rights.

 

Often the countries that did not follow policies of good governance to achieve domestic stability and nation building where not brought to censure. This was particularly evident in the case of Burma where the ruling military junta has not been held accountable. Both in the case of the monk's rebellion of September 2007 and the subsequent referendum during the aftermath of cyclone Nargis, the junta's excesses, apart from a perfunctory rhetorical mention have been overlooked by the Asean.

 

This approach using informal consensus as a decision-making tool underwent a shift with the 2003 Bali Concord II and the subsequent Vientienne Action Plan which was to construct an Asean similar to the European Union with a more legal framework for managing inter-state relations founded on a rational rule-based formula. This looked towards building three pillars — the Asean security community, the Asean economic community and the Asean socio-cultural community. Integral to this was the Asean Charter in which the rules of engagement would be clearly articulated. One of the pivots of this approach was to focus on issues of democracy and human rights, a clear departure from the manner in which Asean functioned for the first 40 years.

 

The latest summit in Cha-am, Hua Hin, has come under flak for its inability to give more grit to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), which was to be a huge step forward for the Asean. This was to give the charter the much needed legal framework and finalise a set of principles by which Asean member states would be held accountable for human rights violations.

 

While critics of the Asean human rights approach claim that the provisions lack the ability to deal with these issues, Asean defenders state that this still falls within the purview of the "Asean way". In fact, both the Asean Charter and the terms of reference that bind the AICHR are very vague in their description of human rights violations. They merely talks about non-discrimination, the rights of migrant workers and issues relating to human trafficking. The current status of the terms of reference does not reflect any clear-cut process by which the commission will monitor violations in individual Asean countries. Neither does it have provisions to actually take up individual cases of citizens who may have been victims of human rights excesses. It also remains vague on the appointment of commissioners and what is expected in their selection. In fact, one of the loopholes in the appointments is that it consists of government level appointees. This itself causes a degree of complicity in the functioning of the commission. Many human rights groups have wondered if the commission can behave in a non-partisan manner.

 

As is evident in the Asian context, there are several ethnic communities and religious minorities that make up the nation state within state boundaries. In an era when there is a growing need for recognition and accommodation within national norms and institutions, the Asean approach to human rights is bound to cause fissures within multilateral institutions such as the East Asia Summit and the Asean Regional Forum. There is a likelihood that one will see a conflict between distinct versions of norms of approach followed within multilateral institutions. China and Asean are likely to follow a more external oriented approach, where the focus will remain on issues of sovereignty and that domestic matters are above the purview of inter-state relations.

 

On the other hand, the western members are likely to bring a greater emphasis on issues of governance and human rights too. This contradiction in approaches among the members will highlight more clearly the contradiction of norms that are considered universal in principal, rather than being diverse for individual countries. In fact, by endorsing such a weak policy towards human rights, Asean states are once again sending a signal that it remains merely a notional understanding, rather than an effective measure, to counter states which are guilty of human rights violations.

 

Dr Shankari Sundararaman is anassociate professor ofSoutheast Asian Studiesat the School of International Studies, JNU

 

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LIFE AFTER THE END OF HISTORY

BY ROSS DOUTHAT

 

For most of the last century, the West faced real enemies: totalitarian, aggressive, armed to the teeth. Between 1918 and 1989, it was possible to believe that liberal democracy was a parenthesis in history, destined to be undone by revolution, ground under by jackboots, or burned like chaff in the fire of the atom bomb.

 

Twenty years ago on November 9, this threat disappeared. An East German functionary named Günther Schabowski threw open his country's border crossings, and by nightfall the youth of Germany were dancing atop the Berlin Wall, taking hammers to its graffiti-scarred facade. It was November 9, 1989. The Cold War was finished.

 

There were speeches and celebrations to mark this anniversary, but not as many as the day deserves. (US President Barack Obama couldn't even fit a visit to Berlin into his schedule.) By rights, the 9th of November should be a holiday across the Western world, celebrated with the kind of pomp and spectacle reserved for our own Independence Day.

 

Never has liberation come to so many people all at once — to Eastern Europe's millions, released from decades of bondage; to the world, freed from the shadow of nuclear Armageddon; and to the democratic West, victorious after a century of ideological struggle.

 

Twenty years later, we still haven't come to terms with the scope of our deliverance. Francis Fukuyama famously described the post-Communist era as "the end of history". By this, he didn't mean the end of events — wars and famines, financial panics and terrorist bombings. He meant the disappearance of any enduring, existential threat to liberal democracy and free-market capitalism.

 

This thesis has been much contested, but it holds up remarkably well. Even 9/11 didn't undo the work of '89. Osama bin Laden is no Hitler, and Islamism isn't in the same league as the last century's totalitarianisms. Marxism and fascism seduced the West's elite; Islamic radicalism seduces men like the Fort Hood shooter. Our enemies resort to terrorism because they're weak, and because we're so astonishingly strong.Yet nobody seems quite willing to believe it. Instead, we keep returning to the idea that liberal society is just as vulnerable as it was before the Berlin Wall came down. Meanwhile, our domestic politics are shot through with anti-totalitarian obsessions, even as real totalitarianism recedes in history's rear-view mirror. Plenty of liberals were convinced that a vote for George W. Bush was a vote for theocracy or fascism. Too many conservatives are persuaded that Barack Obama's liberalism is a step removed from Leninism.

 

These paranoias suggest a civilisation that's afraid to reckon with its own apparent permanence. The end of history has its share of discontents — anomie, corruption, The Real Housewives of New Jersey. And it may be that the only thing more frightening than the possibility of annihilation is the possibility that our society could coast on forever as it is — like a Rome without an Attila to sack its palaces, or a Nineveh without Yahweh to pass judgment on its crimes. Humankind fears judgment, of course. But we depend on it as well. The possibility of dissolution lends a moral shape to history: we want our empires to fall as well as rise, and we expect decadence to be rewarded with destruction.Not that we want to experience this destruction ourselves. But we want it to be at least a possibility — as a spur to virtue, and as a punishment for sin.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

NOT QUITE NEW

 

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The 'new' disinvestment policy announced on November 5 looks suspiciously like the one that went before it: the criteria for public sector undertakings have not changed, and managing fiscal constraints is still the overriding rationale for disinvestment. The change is in the use of the monies realized: a special dispensation will allow the government to use proceeds for capital expenditures related to social programmes and objectives — mainly education and healthcare — instead of being sequestered in the National Investment Fund set up for the purpose. Some observers have suggested that part of the proceeds could also be used to fund the government's share of infrastructure projects implemented on a private-public partnership basis.

 

The history of disinvestment efforts since 1991 is sobering: in only one or two years of the past 18 have the monetary targets of disinvestment been met. Cumulatively, less than 50 per cent of the proposed disinvestment funds have actually been realized. Political challenges — mainly from the Left — have delayed and interfered with the process. But the three year rolling plan — suggested by the special dispensation — opens up two possibilities that could result in a better rate of success. First, by making it clear that a total amount of Rs 75,000 crore will be raised over three years, it readies investors — both institutional and retail — in planning portfolio and absorption capacity. Second, planning an initial public offering or a strategic stake sale takes about six months. There are 159 companies that meet the criteria and are potential candidates. But disinvestment could still come a cropper for a number of reasons.

 

While market appetite for PSU equity may be high at this time, much of that demand is based on current liquidity conditions. As central banks start unwinding the easy monetary conditions around the world, tighter money could end up being very discriminating. PSUs could end up competing against large private sector companies for a share of the same investor rupee, though most market observers consider it unlikely that PSU IPOs will crowd out private sector IPOs. The biggest problem, however, is one of process. The roughly 200 plus PSUs are spread across 32 Central ministries. A committee of secretaries has been set up to oversee the process, but that does not lessen the coordination issues associated with such a large spectrum of officialdom. It poses a classic 'collective action' problem. Rather than appoint advisors and investment bankers for each issue, the government should think of appointing advisors and consultants for the whole process — and that is a test of political courage.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

WALLS WITHIN

 

It is significant that as Europe celebrates the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, another long-standing plan for unification has finally come into force. The Treaty of Lisbon that was signed in 2007 to restructure the workings of the European Union has been ratified by all the member-states after prolonged, and often stormy, negotiations. It had been hoped that a treaty like this would not only make the EU more democratic but also make its inner workings more transparent. Noble as the intention sounds, it was notoriously difficult to get all parties to agree to it. It is a rather adventurous dream to bring all of Europe under a common umbrella. The age-old tension of bigger, and more prosperous, nations becoming supremacist and dominating the smaller states survives in this day and age. Debates over the legitimacy of including culturally disparate nations like Turkey in the EU have revealed deep-seated racial apprehensions. Add to this the skewed ideological axis of Europe, and a politically coherent EU appears to be wishful thinking.

 

It is not surprising therefore that the passing of the Treaty of Lisbon has put a fresh challenge before its architects. The immediate task now is to choose the president of the European Council and a representative for foreign policy, who would preferably be someone with a lot of experience and clout. Tony Blair has been suggested as the ideal candidate for the first position, while David Miliband is a favourite for the second one. The matter, thus put, looks simple and obvious. However, that is not to be so. Mr Blair's role in the Iraq war and his Labour origins have disqualified him. There is a strong hint that the foreign policy expert should be chosen from one of the less hegemonic nations. So, beyond the question of capabilities, political affiliation and nationality have become all important in determining the choice. Ironically, this all-out squabbling goes on to emphasize the tenuousness of the idea of a united Europe. Treaties do look good in theory but can be notoriously difficult to execute.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

VIEWS FROM AFAR

LÉVI-STRAUSS'S GREAT GIFT WAS THE GIFT OF IMAGINATION

ANDRÉ BÉTEILLE

 

The passing of Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009) marks the end of an era in the study of human culture. He was in his time the most renowned anthropologist in the world, and perhaps more renowned than any other anthropologist at any time or in any place. But he was much more than that. He was a pioneer of a whole intellectual movement that came to be known as 'structuralism', and his thought influenced scholars and writers in many different fields. My sense is that his standing as a man of letters in France will outlive his technical innovations as an anthropologist.

 

Lévi-Strauss's first major contribution to anthropology was a work on kinship published originally in 1949. That work, entitled The Elementary Structures of Kinship, took time to secure worldwide attention since an English translation did not appear until twenty years later. To the English-speaking anthropologists who read it in the original, the arguments of the book appeared strange and unfamiliar, and its theoretical claims too sweeping. But it did secure a commanding position in course of time, and came to be much admired even by those who had little knowledge of the literature on kinship.

 

The Elementary Structures propounded a new approach to the study of kinship that came to be known as 'alliance theory' as against the 'descent theory' favoured by the British anthropologists who had dominated the field until then. Descent theory focuses on the transmission of rights and obligations across the generations, whereas alliance theory dwells on the chains of relations established by matrimonial exchange between bride-givers and bride-takers. An early proponent of alliance theory in the study of Indian kinship was Louis Dumont, the author of a magisterial work on caste.

 

Like other anthropologists before him, Lévi-Strauss assigned great significance to the incest rule, but gave a new twist to the interpretation of that rule. He argued that it should not be viewed only negatively, but also positively; not just as a prohibition, but, above all, as a prescription. A man is not told simply that he must not marry his own sister, he is asked to give his sister in marriage to another man and, in turn, to receive someone else's sister as his wife. In his own words, "the prohibition of incest is a rule of reciprocity". Exchange and reciprocity, which constitute the core of social life, follow directly from the incest rule, hence its great social significance. Lévi-Strauss would go so far as to say that it was that rule that provided the first foundation of social life among human beings.

 

Lévi-Strauss's great gift was the gift of imagination, and he was a master of the art of interpreting symbols. As such, his best work was not his work on kinship, but his work on mythology. It was through a series of studies of the myths of primitive people that he gave free rein to his talent for demonstrating unsuspected, not to say startling, connections among symbols, and established his position as a structuralist. He was a rationalist who took a lofty, not to say disdainful, view of the empiricist bias in most of Anglo-American anthropology. If such a distinction is permissible, he always chose ideas over facts, and symbolic, as against utilitarian, interpretations.

 

Shortly before he launched on his massive enterprise on the study of myths, he published a brief study of

totemism, which had been a favourite subject among anthropologists since the end of the 19th century. Earlier anthropologists, particularly in Britain, had been inclined to argue that among primitive people totemism fulfilled the function of ensuring the maintenance and reproduction of plant and animal species. Lévi-Strauss insisted that its primary significance was to provide symbolic markers for the differentiation of human groups through the differentiation of the natural world.

 

Lévi-Strauss saw himself not just as a rationalist but also as an explorer in far-away places among little-known people. Not long after his work on kinship, he published a book called Tristes tropiques in French and A World on the Wane in English. It is a fascinating and tantalizing book, part travelogue, part ethnography and part philosophical speculation. Because that book was translated into English before the book on kinship, and because of its richly evocative literary style, it received more attention than The Elementary Structures of Kinship. Lévi-Strauss's many admirers in India should know that he has not always been well served by his English translators.

 

If his studies of kinship and myth bring out the rationalist in Lévi-Strauss, Tristes tropiques brings out the romantic in him. In it, he gives us glimpses into the lives of some of the forest-dwelling communities of the Amazon basin: the Bororo, the Caduveo, the Nambikwara and others. Their technological equipment might not be much to boast of, but their tattoos, their folk tales and their mythology show a richness and variety that is almost inexhaustible. Lévi-Strauss has done more than any other anthropologist to show that the poverty of material technology need not be an impediment to the proliferation of an exuberant symbolic life.

 

The standard method of fieldwork established by Malinowski and his followers came to be known as the method of 'participant-observation'. It is respected, though not always faithfully followed, by anthropologist in most countries, including India. Lévi-Strauss has insisted on the maintenance of distance between the observer and the observed as an essential part of the work of the anthropologist. There is little place in this scheme of things for the anthropologist to go native. Perhaps this was his way of showing respect for the communities about which he wrote. On the other hand, the British anthropologists of his generation whom I knew, such as Meyer Fortes and Max Gluckman, had little praise for the quality and reliability of his empirical material.

 

The relationship between anthropology and sociology has been a subject of debate and discussion among students of society and culture throughout the world, and particularly in India. Few scholars have expressed themselves more clearly and consistently on the subject than Lévi-Strauss. For him, sociology is the study of one's own society, in his case French (or European) society, whereas anthropology is the study of other cultures. As he sees it, what is distinctive of anthropology as a discipline is not any peculiarity of the communities it studies but the relationship of the investigator to the object of his investigation. In his own striking words, "The anthropologist is the astronomer of the social sciences."

 

The natural tendency among students of society and culture in India has been to stress not the separation between sociology and anthropology, but their unity. This is as true of G.S. Ghurye as of M.N. Srinivas or S.C. Dube. N.K. Bose began his career by studying a small tribe of shifting cultivators in Orissa, and later made a masterful study of the social structure of his own city, Calcutta. For him, the unity of sociology and social anthropology followed directly from the belief in the unity of India. This presents a paradox to the Indian followers of Lévi-Strauss who have sometimes adopted the subterfuge of being sociologists at home and anthropologists abroad, where the study of Indian society, no matter by whom, is a part of anthropology, not sociology.

 

The author is Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, and National Research Professor

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

IN THE VICIOUS CIRCLE

MALVIKA SINGH

 

It is clear to the law-abiding, ordinary citizens of India that the corruption and abject degradation of the law and order authority in the country has become a way of life, something horrendous and nightmarish that people are forced to contend with. In areas where our tribal communities and other less privileged castes traditionally live, exploitation has been rampant for decades, conducted by an inept and increasingly rapacious police force and bureaucracy that are hand-in-gloves with those business people desperate to take over lands, rich in both mineral and timber resources, that do not belong to them. Mandated to ensure that the laws of the land and other vital mechanisms of civil society function and operate fairly for all, this class of professionals has, in fact, abused those people they were meant to protect.

 

Tackling the problem will require radical thinking that ensures the rights of an exploited people as well as the protection of the State from militancy and assault. The authority has to be cleansed with determined force and all allegiances it has with the business mafias will have to be brutally severed. The corrosion is so deeply embedded that even series of chemotherapy will not suffice. Governments have turned a blind eye to the corruption and rape of the natural wealth of India, with ministers and senior bureaucrats referring to this 'movement' against the State as a law and order problem. The negligence has now come home to roost. The monster that was created and then used for profit, has begun to swallow its creators. High-handed tactics are not the answer. The government at the helm today cannot afford to assault its own citizens.

 

Like a plague

 

What we are witnessing is the direct result of failed governance over the decades. A faulty and corrupt administration that rules the far-flung rural districts across this land, a police force in cahoots with those who break the law, and the destructive nexus of the State, politicians and businessmen, sometimes the mafias, have to be restructured immediately. Officers need to be made accountable for their deeds. Simultaneously, the local administrator needs to be ordered to deliver the goods and services to the people. As the process of dignified, honest and transparent governance kicks in, the affected people will wean themselves away from their militant leaders. Strangely, what more often than not starts as a protest movement for righting the wrongs, becomes a wrong over time, and the vicious circle haunts society and spreads like the plague.

 

This Maoist movement is the product of decades of corrupt governance, and is, in fact, a social uprising of millions of Indians who have been subjected to neglect and exploitation for decades. The State paid them no attention till they picked up arms to make themselves heard. Military action will not diffuse the tension. Honest delivery of goods and services will subdue it, and gradually isolate the violence. Nothing else can work. Will this government alter the course, be practical, compassionate and accept the fact that the violent protests stemmed from decades of faulty administration?

 

The saga unfolding in Karnataka clearly illustrates how money can exploit with ruthless persistence and how the political class finally succumbs to that illegitimate clout. A weeping chief minister is seen smiling 24 hours later, raising his hand entwined with that of his arch opponent, with the smiling woman victor from Bellary looking on. Sushma Swaraj won 'unopposed' from Bellary and brokered the 'peace'. Rural development was sacrificed for 'peace' and for a possible change of land-use. It is that kind of reality that triggers what we call a Maoist upsurge. Nothing has stopped. It continues in full public view, endorsed by the State.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

 

THE PRESIDENT IN HIS LABYRINTH

 

Hamid Karzai's devious return to power has pushed Barack Obama to the brink of some hard decisions, writes Somak Ghoshal

 

It was after Birnam Wood started moving towards Dunsinane that Macbeth finally became unhinged by fear. Until then, his self-assurance, in spite of the dire prophecies of the witches and his own fits of panic, had somehow held through. It may not be entirely facetious to think of Hamid Karzai and Barack Obama as kindred spirits with Macbeth. All three of them had a splendid start to their political career. They were turned into larger-than-life figures early on, with an aura of heroism trailing them, till a series of miscalculations pushed them into a corner. All three failed to read the signs at the crucial moments. But while Macbeth managed to sustain his delusions of invincibility, thanks to the cryptic riddles of the hags, neither Karzai nor Obama are likely to be beneficiaries of supernatural confidence-boosting. On the contrary, they have been swamped by loud warnings of imminent disaster.

 

Both Karzai and Obama are happy pretending that Afghanistan is on its way to stability. The incumbent government has returned to power, and with it America's man in Kabul, Hamid Karzai. What more could the 'international community' (read, the United States of America) or the Afghans want? Forget the fact that Karzai was allowed to stay on in the job for months after his term had expired, never mind the disputed August 20 elections and its abysmal turnout. Or Karzai's failure to secure at least 50 per cent of the vote as stipulated by the Afghan constitution. As for the November 7 run-off that never happened, the opposition leader, Abdullah Abdullah, had opted out of the race voluntarily.

 

Hillary Clinton pointed out emphatically that the decision to quit was Abdullah's "personal choice" and would not undermine the "legitimacy" of the second round of polling. She seemed to have forgotten that the first round of voting had been so massively rigged that Karzai had to be arm-twisted into assenting to the run-off. That the next round was to be conducted, yet again, by the Independent Election Commission, lorded by Karzai loyalists, was a perfectly legitimate arrangement for Karzai but not for Abdullah. So, with Abdullah quitting, a re-poll had become redundant. Finally, the US secretary of state conveniently avoided the stipulation of the Afghan constitution that requires the president-elect to secure at least 50 per cent of the vote to be eligible to form the government. In case the constitution failed to resolve the crisis, a loya jirga or meeting of elders should have been convened, as is traditionally done in Afghanistan. So much for legitimacy.

 

Documents like the Afghan constitution have never been taken seriously by the US. Parliamentary democracy, being an American import to Afghanistan, is best left in the able hands of the US president, to be manipulated expediently. Exceptional times demand exceptional measures — all presidents, black or white, Republican or Democrat, Texan or Hawaiian, obey this golden rule of US politics.

 

It is easy to get away with such liberties in a country where around 70 per cent of the population is illiterate. In

any case, credibility was never an issue for the US in Afghanistan. In the post-Taliban era, Bush had foisted Hamid Karzai on the nation. A Pashtun prince and former mujahideen whose father had been murdered by the Taliban, Karzai was tailor-made to be the poster-boy for the 'war on terror', even though the Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks were generally displeased with the selection. Ordinary Afghans had little choice: the Taliban had been just ousted by the US and Karzai co-opted through promises of nation-building; people fell in line with this arrangement for their own good.

 

Somewhere along the way, things went from bad to worse. Karzai became embroiled in corruption. He reshuffled his cabinet at whim, promoted close aides and dropped others like the foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, even though the latter had been one of the original supporters of Karzai's nomination to the presidency. In the meantime, thanks to a belligerent, home-grown and Pakistani Taliban, US military efforts in Afghanistan escalated.

 

Since Barack Obama's arrival on the scene, things have worsened. The Taliban is gaining ground and disrupting the democratic process. The Western allies of the US are disgruntled, reluctant to send more troops into the country. As Obama debates the prospect of deploying more soldiers in Afghanistan, reneging on his earlier promise of withdrawing them, the focus of credibility is shifting onto a different plane: it is no longer the future of the Afghan people that is at stake, but the survival of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as the West's leading military alliance that is being threatened.

 

How would the Nato justify its existence if it is unable to wipe out the Taliban, let alone catch Osama bin Laden, dead or alive? Why should trillion-dollar budgets be squandered on funding a narco-economy and a seemingly unwinnable war, when the US economy has depreciated so starkly? And hasn't Afghanistan already resisted occupation by two no-less-powerful nations, Britain and the Soviet Union, in the past? Why should America's chances of victory be any better?

 

If the November 7 polls had taken place, and ordinary Afghans had braved the freezing cold and the deadly Taliban to reach the booths, their verdict would have determined not only the fate of their own incumbent president but also that of the newly-elected US president. Had they chosen Karzai in free and fair elections, they would have indirectly endorsed America's faith in Obama's statesmanship. But the reinstatement of a corrupt leader, that too by a fluke, has not done any good either to Obama's approval ratings or to the Democrat image in the US. Not only has the president's popularity diminished starkly over the last few months, his party has also got a drubbing in the recent state elections, losing key gubernatorial posts to the Republicans.

 

Although the Republicans are excited by the resurgence of their party within a year of Obama's presidency, it is perhaps premature to celebrate just yet. Exit polls in the US showed that Democrat supporters had not voted in enough numbers this time, and those who did, preferred to put their money on the Republicans. It isn't useful to have a president who revels in tall but vacuous oratory and delivers precious little on the ground. While in power, the Republicans may have made a terrible blunder trying to tidy up the mess, but at least they did try something. So far, Obama has merely given out his blueprint for a perfect world, photoshopped and airbrushed by brilliant speechwriters, invoked by him like a conjuror's trick at public lectures.

 

Recently, opinion polls conducted by the media and independent agencies revealed that as Obama's personal ratings are falling, a public consensus on the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan is growing. Around 56 per cent of the people want Obama to pull out troops from Afghanistan as soon as is feasible, or even sooner. But politicians continue to be clueless. In a recent episode of the NBC's Meet the Press featuring figures from across the political divide, a Democratic senator clarified that "no one's talking about removing forces". "No one", in this case, refers to 56 per cent of the population.

 

For Obama, the most honourable exit out of Afghanistan lies through a few tough decisions — even if that entails sacrificing the post-ideological, non-partisan character that the liberal press has crowned him with. Like Bill Clinton, who dreaded being in the bad book of the media, Obama has so far cherry-picked his way through a host of knotty foreign policies. Now he has to act for the greatest common good by withdrawing troops, by making his administration an impersonal stakeholder in the business of nation-building, and by respecting the sovereignty of Afghanistan. Even admitting defeat can sometimes be a bigger victory than winning a war.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

 

PULL DOWN THE HOUSE OF DISORDER

FIRST CAUSE

 

Insurgent problems are a direct result of the corruption eating into the Indian civil services

 

The statement by the helpless home secretary of West Bengal, in the aftermath of the quid pro quo 'deal' between the Marxist institution and the Maoist insurgents, that India is a "soft state", contains all the ingredients of a high-voltage incendiary comment, which might lead to a reprimand, if not to an ouster. The statement has already opened a Pandora's box, coming as it does from the very civil servant who represents the face of the West Bengal government. But it would be sad if the home secretary comes to be slaughtered at the altar of a complex socio-political issue afflicting the demography as well as the democracy of India.

 

Let us understand the fundamental issue which seems to be ignored by all those who matter in the governance of a vast, diverse and complicated Indian system. In the years just preceding Independence, an entry into India's civil service gave officials thereof a status and prestige akin to those of the high-caste Brahmins of yesteryear. It also gave them the absolute right to rule, regardless of their professionalism and efficiency. To make matters worse, the political class too discovered its inherent right to lord over the civil servants. The relationship between the two groups became a matter of mutual benefit.

 

Post-1947, the IAS, IPS and IFS stipulated that officers serve their allotted states till they are "selected on merit" for deputation to the Central government or some other place of their choice. Unfortunately, not all allotted states were to the liking of the all-India services officers. Thus officials joining the Central government would carry on in the indigenous El Dorado destinations such as Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Goa, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Ahmedabad, thereby developing deep roots in the culture of comfort. Some IAS and IPS officers also developed a propensity to eschew the 'difficult' postings in a 'hostile' and 'turbulent' Northeast. Slowly, the tendency to avoid states with 'unfriendly' polity and 'turbulent society' spread to the Indian mainland, thereby creating a situation which became more complicated as time passed.

 

Rampant corruption at the delivery and distribution end in the countrysides slowly and steadily built up a huge reservoir of disillusioned, disgruntled and dejected people. It did not take long for collective disappointment to turn into mass desperation.

 

The recent developments in the Maoist-infested states would clearly show how demoralized the IPS officer cadre and its subordinate rank and file are, and how desperate they are to leave the difficult areas for greener pastures. Delhi undoubtedly is the magnet of the country. It is the best room of the 'house of disorder' where all the goodies of life are easily available. For some of the Central government personnel, any posting east of Mughalsarai is considered 'punishment posting'. So much so, that Calcutta for them is a "nightmare", Patna a "war zone", Bhubaneshwar "remote", Guwahati a "jungle", and Shillong, "where is it"?

 

The edifice of civil service appears to be weakening by the day. It is time to take drastic corrective measures. In times of turmoil in a diverse demography, in areas affected by violent forces, it is the probity and professionalism of police officers which come into play. The recent utterances of the home secretary of a turbulent Bengal that India is a "soft state" can be criticized, but cannot be castigated and condemned owing to the all-round degeneration of the system, and the conspicuous politicization of the police and State machinery across the country. Rather, the statement calls for a strategic review and planning for curing a malaise that runs silently and deeply in all spectrums of the lives of 1.14 billion people. It is time for action. It is time for political restraint and reconciliation to revive the economy and to bring about inclusive growth and prosperity.

 

ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

TAWANG'S HIGHPRIEST

''THE VISIT CAN USHER IN A NEW PHASE IN THE RELATIONS.''

 

 

The run-up to the Dalai Lama's visit to Tawang, which began last Sunday, 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 the 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 months. It has accused the Tibetan leader of 'sabotaging' Sino-Indian ties. Both India and the Tibetan government-in-exile have sought to smooth China's ruffled feathers. 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. The message sent, India and the Dalai Lama should ensure that the Tawang sojourn 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 squabble do not stir trouble.


Although India has recognised Tibet as an autonomous Chinese region, 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. It is for India to tap it.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

JUST WRONG

''THE CJI CAN ADVISE DINAKARAN TO STOP WORK.''

 

 

It is strange that Karnataka High Court Chief Justice P D Dinakaran, against whom serious charges of encroachment and illegal occupation of public land, acquisition of wealth beyond known means and abuse of office have been levelled, still continues to discharge his judicial duties. The mere existence of charges against a person is no reason to take action against him or her. But in Justice Dinakaran's case, at least one major charge has been found correct by an authorised government official. The Thiruvallur district collector has confirmed that 'poromboke' land in Kaverirajapuram in the district has been encroached upon by Justice Dinakaran. It was also reported that the district's revenue officials were threatened and there was an attempt to remove evidence of encroachment. The judge's explanations about the charges do not seem convincing.


His elevation to the Supreme Court has been held in abeyance on the basis of the preliminary enquiry. But the Chief Justice of India has ordered an assessment by the Survey of India to verify the veracity of the collector's view. This is also strange. When a responsible government official has submitted a report after due consideration of facts, why should a second opinion be sought on the matter? Even if other charges against the judge are found baseless, the charge of encroachment of land makes his elevation to the Supreme Court unacceptable. And if he is not fit for the Supreme Court, he cannot continue as high court chief justice.


The credibility and prestige of the judiciary depend on the conduct and image of the judges. They have to be completely above suspicion. It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court's collegium of judges, which recommends the selection of judges, dillydallied in Justice Dinakaran's case. It had, in the first place, either failed to investigate the charges against him or glossed over them. And now even in the face of credible evidence against him, it has not conclusively rejected his candidature. Justice Dinakaran himself should have voluntarily kept himself away from judicial duties when the charges came into the open. He should have had enough respect for his position to do that. The CJI can advise him to stop attending to judicial work. It is also necessary to take recourse to action, prescribed by the constitution, against an errant judge, and other appropriate actions to penalise him for violations of the law.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

SURVIVAL IMPERATIVE

WE SHOULD TAKE STEPS TO STRENGTHEN OUR NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT SO AS TO BETTER FACE THE GLOBAL FALLOUT.

BY BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA

 

We can compete with China only if we produce cheap goods. Large amount of electricity is consumed in the production of steel, cement and paper. High cost of electricity increases the cost of these goods and that spreads into the whole economy, but we are unable to face competition from Chinese products made with cheap electricity. The cost of commercial electricity in India is about Rs 6 per unit against about half that price in China. The government is trying to increase production and bring down the cost of electricity to meet this global challenge.


The three main sources of electricity are nuclear, thermal and hydro. There are limits to increase in production from all three. The radioactive waste generated by nuclear power plants poses threat of radioactivity. We also become dependent on imports of uranium fuel which hits at our economic sovereignty. Carbon dioxide gas is generated in large quantities from thermal power plants. This is contributing to global warming in a big way. Hydropower dams are preventing flow of sediments to the sea. The sediment-hungry sea is eating our coasts. We cannot, therefore, make unending increases in production of electricity from any of these sources.


But we need to increase production for bringing down the price and facing the global challenge of cheap goods. The government does not collect the price of environmental damage from electricity plants in order to secure this objective. Consider this: the direct cost of producing electricity from a thermal plant is Rs 3 per unit. The cost of re-absorbing carbon dioxide is Rs 2 per unit. The true cost of production is Rs 5 per unit. Yet the plant can happily sell power at Rs 4 per unit and make a healthy profit because the cost of reabsorbing carbon dioxide is surreptitiously passed on to society. The low price of power leads to increase in demand and we extend yet more invitation to environmental problems.


Recall our ancestors of the Indus Valley civilisation. They cut their forests to burn bricks, secured huge economic growth and made the grand cities of Mohenjodaro and Harappa. They made beads and wines and exported them. But they failed to take into account the negative impacts of deforestation. Soon huge amounts of soil flowed into the Indus river, the water level rose and flooded those grand cities. That was the end of that civilisation. We must take a lesson and not ignore the environmental costs of various sources of electricity. We have to find a way that protects our environment and also enables us to compete in the global marketplace.

There are two dimensions of the environment. One is the global dimension. The extensive use of electricity and oil by the developed countries is leading to emission of carbon dioxide and warming our planet. We have no alternative but to bear this. There is only small progress in global talks to cut emissions levels. But we can make efforts to strengthen our national environment so as to better face the global fallout. For example, if we adapt our agriculture to low use of ground water, if we save our rivers and forests, reduce consumption of electricity in air-conditioned malls, impose high taxes on large cars that consume huge amounts of petrol, make smaller satellite cities that require less transportation, we will then be in a stronger position to bear the consequences of global warming.



Environment tax

We need to proactively reduce consumption of electricity and impose taxes on environmental damage perpetrated by electricity plants.

We will have to impose high taxes on industries that cause environment damage. For example, nuclear power stations can be required to buy insurance against leakage of radioactive material. Thermal plants can be required to implement new technologies that reduce carbon emissions. Hydro plants can be tasked to allow 75 per cent of the water to flow freely. Farmers can be asked to plant trees along their farmlands. But this will lead to high domestic price of electricity and we will fall behind in global competition.


The solution to this dilemma is to impose an additional 'environment tax' on all imports. Say, the cost of cloth made by a power loom in the country increases from Rs 20 per metre to Rs 25 due to the imposition of the above mentioned environmental taxes. Other countries allow their environment to be destroyed and continue to produce cloth at Rs 20 per meter. Their cloth will enter our markets and our industries will collapse as they are burdened with higher taxes. The solution is to impose an 'environment import tax' on imported cloth. A tax equal to the amount of tax imposed on domestic manufacturers for preserving the environment may be imposed on imported cloth. The price of imported cloth in the domestic market will then increase to Rs 25 and our industries will be able to face the competition.

 

Similarly, we will have to pay an export subsidy to our manufacturers. The price of cloth in the international market will be Rs 20 since many countries are allowing their environment to be destroyed and not charging for environmental damage. The cost of cloth produced by our manufactures will, however, be Rs 25 because they have to pay an environment tax of Rs 5. Our companies will not be able to export their goods. This problem can be solved by providing an export subsidy of Rs 5 per meter equal to the environment tax imposed on domestic manufacturers. The cloth produced in India at Rs 25 per meter will be sold in the global marketplace at Rs 20 and we shall survive while also protecting our environment.


It must be accepted that we will not be able to gain the full economic benefits of globalisation in this approach. Our citizens will have to buy cloth for Rs 25 a meter while those of other countries will buy at Rs 20. The cost of living in India will increase. The domestic production and consumption will be less at Rs 25 per metre in comparison to Rs 20 per meter. I believe we must forego these small gains from globalisation and focus first on saving our civilisation from environmental collapse. We should not put our long term survival at stake for reaping the short term economic gains from globalisation.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL, TOO BIG IS UGLY

TRADING WITH MONEY ENJOYS AN EXALTED STATUS IN TEXTBOOKS, GOVT POLICIES AND CORPORATE MANAGEMENT.

BY HAZEL HENDERSON

 

Trading is arguably the core activity in all market economies. Free trade is the mantra of all economists — left, right and centre. Trading is considered indispensible and more trade is always seen as better. The financial crisis caused a closer look at trade and financial traders to see if these conventional beliefs are still valid and whether stock markets have spun out of control.


E F Schumacher, author of 'Small is Beautiful' (1973), drew our attention to issues of size and scale ignored by most economists, pointing out how huge organisations lost sight of reality in abstract statistics and models. The conventional view was that more was better: more GDP-measured economic growth, more goods, more money, more investments, more dividends, more jobs, all seen as driven by more trade.


Trading with money enjoys an exalted status in economic textbooks, government policies and corporate management. The much larger volume of daily transactions and exchanging between people in the unpaid Love Economy (as caring for the young, old and sick) is ignored in Gross Domestic Product. Yet, more money-based GDP-growth is not always better. It may also be jobless growth or damage our environment and quality of life. More world trade often harms local communities, cultures and causes social disruption and job losses.

VICTIMISATION
Trading for profit and for trading's sake became excessive on Wall Street and drove speculation in oil prices and volatility in currencies. Some $3 trillion of currencies are traded every day on exchanges around the world — over 90 per cent of this is speculation. When traders attack a currency in a 'bear raid' to drive its price down so as to buy it back cheaper, they harm the citizens of that currency's country.  When trade rules and prices do not take into account of social and environmental costs 'externalised' to others, as in the case of WTO rules, then weaker countries and smaller players suffer from such trade.


Today, financial trading ballooned into major economic sectors of the US, Britain and other countries, making traders far wealthier than workers in the production of goods and services.


Trading, like finance, produces nothing. Financial 'services' simply take money saved by producers in the real economy and using their networks of connections, serve as 'intermediaries' facilitating bringing savers and investors together with new business ventures and other borrowers and households.


Since the financial crises of 2008-2009, many experts have called for the downsizing of these bloated financial sectors and curbing their trading activities and ever-more mysterious financial 'products' such as credit default swaps (CDSs), collateralised debt obligations (CDOs) whose totals soared to $658 trillion of these bets between traders in the few biggest banks in the world. We now know that CDSs, CDOs and all the alphabet soup of such 'financial products' were really bets that should be relegated to betting parlors and regulated by gaming commissions.

MEANS TO AN END

Why did real production take second place to trading which became such an exalted and highly-paid activity? Financial trading became conflated with normal transacting and exchanging information, a key activity in human relationships and evolution. Humans have always bartered, traded and shared information with each other, since early tribal societies. But trading is a means to an end: to increase the utility or wellbeing of the trading parties, and only a part of the much larger free exchange of information and mutual aid in societies.

Recently, trading itself expanded as a means to enrich traders and financial players. Recent financial bubbles: the dot.coms, housing and oil followed earlier bubbles: the tulip mania in Holland and Britain's South Sea Bubble. The newest bubble Wall Street is salivating over is carbon trading, which they see as a new 'asset class' to trade and a new profit centre. Like earlier bubbles, carbon trading has not removed any real carbon from the Earth's atmosphere and is unlikely to do more than make another group of traders wealthy.


Trading, like money and finance inflated, metastasised and de-coupled from the real world of production and physical assets. Psychologists who study traders see excessive trading as an obsessive compulsive addiction, like gambling or over-eating. Recent researchers took cheek swabs of traders on the stock exchanges in London and found elevated testosterone levels. Addiction to risky trading is now a consumer pastime as millions of 'day traders' sit at home trading stocks on their computers — hoping to make their fortunes.


IPS

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

A CALL FOR HUMANITY

EVEN OUR LANGUAGE REFLECTS THE DISREGARD WE RESERVE FOR OTHER CREATURES.

BY LEELA RAMASWAMY


My domestic help, Sushila, came in this morning all in a flutter. The lady of the other house she worked for was far too exacting. No sooner did Sushila mop the floor than children dirtied it again. She was then expected to clean it all over again. "Am I a human being or an animal?" she fumed. While I sympathised with her, my attention was drawn to something else implicit in the question. Why do we assume that animals can be subjected to all kinds of ill-treatment?


For a country that upholds the tenet of 'ahimsa', we are a cruel people indeed. I have seen at least eight people moving a cement mixer with only the greatest of exertion; yet when a bullock was yoked to do the same job, it was beaten mercilessly to move faster. Chicken are strung together by their legs, transported upside down and flung carelessly about in poultry shops. I am told that in abattoirs animals brought in for slaughter are killed in full view of the others standing in line. It is believed that fear makes these unfortunate creatures release harmful toxins, but this does not stop the practice.

 

Even our language reflects the disregard and contempt that we reserve for the so-called lower creatures. "Cunning as a fox", "Proud as a peacock" and "Stubborn as a mule" are some of the comparisons that come to mind. The fact that these are largely human attributes does not seem to take away from their validity.


To me, animals come across as more humane than humans. We have several examples of dogs, cats and even camels showing extreme devotion. They do not hesitate to give up their own lives for their masters. During the filming of 'Blue', Akshay Kumar hit his head against an iron frame and began to bleed. It was a time of panic and terror for the entire crew as he was surrounded by several sharks for whom the smell of blood is a sure invitation to available prey. But surprisingly none of them broke what may be called 'animal rules' and he was left unharmed.

 

The phrase 'cattle class' made the rounds recently and captured our attention. There was a great outcry at people being called 'cattle' and treated like them. Scarcely anyone though thought of pleading on behalf of the unfortunate animals subjected to human cruelty. Undoubtedly people should not be treated like animals, but how about treating animals with a little more humanity?

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

HOLDING JEWS TOGETHER

 

This week's mega-Jewish conference in Washington - the GA - brings together lay leaders and professionals from most of America's alphabet soup of Jewish organizations. They're rubbing shoulders with politicos, networking and strategizing. And they're having several opportunities to participate in forums devoted to Jewish peoplehood.

 

In a sense, peoplehood leapfrogs the tiresome "Who is a Jew" issue and poses a different set of questions, starting with: What, if anything, holds 21st century Jews together? Is being Jewish a matter of synagogue attendance or theological faith? Is it nationalism, ethnicity, culture?

 

For the rigorously Orthodox, such questions have little resonance - a Jew is someone who, foremost, meets halachic criteria for being Jewish, and if a convert, leads a strictly Orthodox lifestyle. But for the bulk of the world's 13 million Jews, the subject of what being Jewish means ought to be highly relevant.

 

It is no less germane in Israel, where the largest Jewish community of 5.5 million is concentrated. A young person can graduate the public school system here, yet be scandalously unfamiliar with the Jewish canon, the basics of Jewish ritual, even how to navigate the standard prayer book. Haredi schools are rich in Jewish literacy, but favor parochialism over peoplehood. Perhaps 20 percent of our students attend Zionist-oriented religious schools that emphasize Judaism along with secular studies and presumably promote peoplehood in some fashion.

 

IN THEIR paper "A Framework for Strategic Thinking about Jewish Peoplehood," Ezra Kopelowitz and Ari Engelberg write that while the "Jewish people" is an ancient idea, the concept of Jewish "peoplehood" is new.

 

For some, peoplehood connotes the Jews' shared mission, while for others it can be as vacuous as saving the South American didelphid opossum.

 

Put another way: The goal of peoplehood should be to foster mutual responsibility, collaboration and continuity. It is inherently not about universalism, though it can spotlight uniquely Jewish approaches to solving problems facing humanity.

 

Diaspora young people in Western countries today choose whether to be Jewish, whereas their great-grandparents simply were. Likewise, young Israelis have to opt to make being Jewish a meaningful part of their lives rather than an accident of birth and geography.

 

Embracing Jewish civilization may be one attractive way to keep today's youth, here and abroad, connected to their people. However, such efforts are necessarily hindered because Israel's essentially ultra-Orthodox "church" monopolizes official Judaism in this country while complicating interdenominational relations with Jews abroad.

 

But is this discussion already coming too late? Historian David Vital, in The Future of the Jews, sees Jewish unity as an obsolete myth, arguing that nothing much holds Jews together anymore. We hope he's wrong.

 

In his new book, Future Tense, Lord Sacks, Britain's chief rabbi, argues that Judaism is not ethnicity or culture but faith, "and the people who are in a state of denial about this are Jews." Yet Sacks goes on to write that "in calling Judaism a faith, I do not mean to exclude secular Judaism's or interpretations of faith other than my own. In the widest sense, Judaism is the ongoing conversation of the Jewish people with itself, with heaven and with the world."

 

We'd also like to think the Jewish peoplehood concept could serve as a way of bridging gaps, a sort of work-around to obviate Vital's gloomy assessment of where we are. Peoplehood figures prominently in Sacks's vision of the future; it is a focus of Leonid Nevzlin's philanthropy, of the research conducted by The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, and, of course, it is high on the agenda at the GA.

 

PLAINLY, IDENTIFYING what it takes to create a sense of peoplehood is vitally important to the Zionist enterprise. In this regard, we're grateful that birthright has been bringing tens of thousands of Diaspora students to Israel, though most American Jews have never visited.

 

A connection to Israel also has the potential to stem the rate of "outmarriage" - as would more creative thinking on how to transform demographic hemorrhaging into an opportunity to expand the pool of new Jews.

 

From a Zionist perspective, peoplehood demands substance and sacrifice. It needs to combine a common historical memory, a sense of shared fate and a feeling of collective destiny.

 

No less important, peoplehood means appreciating the dialectic between Diaspora and homeland.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

NO HOLDS BARRED: THE BRITISH DETERMINE WHO IS A JEW?!

SHMULEY BOTEACH

 

Every once in a while a story comes along so jolting that it is scarcely believable. One such story appeared in The New York Times this past Sunday, about how the Jewish Free School in London has been ordered to admit a child whose mother had a non-Orthodox conversion after the child's parents sued. I will not enter into the bitter divide in England between Orthodox and Progressive Jews. It was a battle I witnessed and worked hard to mend through countless essays and public forums over the 11 years that I lived in the UK.

 

Less so will I address the very pressing questions of Jewish status as determined by conversion. I am a passionately Orthodox Jew who is equally passionate about Jewish unity. Our divisions must indeed be addressed and healed, but this shocking story raises something of equal concern to Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike.

 

What is mind-boggling is how a British court of appeals, which ruled against the school, said the Jewish community's ancient tradition of deciding Jewishness is ethnically-based, discriminatory and therefore unlawful.

 

"The requirement that if a pupil is to qualify for admission his mother must be Jewish, whether by descent or conversion, is a test of ethnicity which contravenes the Race Relations Act," the court said. Whether the reasons were "benign or malignant, theological or supremacist makes it no less and no more unlawful."

 

In an astonishing ruling, the court said that if the child practices Judaism, then he is Jewish. But to base it on his parents was an unlawful emphasis on ethnicity rather than on faith. One can immediately understand the implications for Jews who are not at all observant. Presumably the British government would not consider them Jews.

 

NOW, LET'S put aside for a moment the government's unbelievable infringement in the affairs of a religion and focus instead on the court's rationale. In you are living in Britain, you become a citizen automatically if your parents are British. Even if you don't behave in a particularly British manner, or hate the country of your birth, the UK cannot take away your passport. And if you're an American living abroad, your children automatically acquire American citizenship. I should know because six of my nine children were born in Britain. And even though only one of their parents was American, and living in Europe to boot, they automatically became Americans. Even if you never celebrated the Fourth of July or ever heard of Abraham Lincoln, you and your children are as American as George Washington himself.

 

So is it really that difficult for British judges to understand that peoplehood is conveyed through a parent?

 

The Jews are first and foremost a people and only secondarily a faith. We were the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob before we received the Torah at Mount Sinai and began practicing Judaism's tenets. Peoplehood comes first, and is completely independent of any kind of religious affirmation. Jewishness is not something that can be lost, and not something that can be renounced.

 

In this sense Judaism is radically different from Christianity, which is a conscious act of affirmation. While there cannot be atheist Christians, there are plenty of atheist Jews.

 

I am gobsmacked that a British court is challenging this. In my 11 years in Britain I never heard anything so outrageous. This ruling constitutes a legal assault on the very integrity of the Jewish religion as practiced in Britain, and is a watershed moment in modern Jewish history. And with all the recent stories of British academics seeking to bar Israeli counterparts from conferences and the rise of anti-Semitic incidents in the British isles, it will only further cement world opinion that Britain is a country becoming hostile to Jews.

 

Being a people does not make us a homogeneous ethic group. There are black Jews and white Jews, European Jews and Asian Jews. Converts of every ethnicity can of course join us at any time. But in so doing they are not adopting a faith but a people. They do not become merely practitioners of the Jewish faith but part of the Jewish family. A convert is transformed from an outsider into a Jewish brother or sister. But the process must of course have standards. To be a British citizen is not an arbitrary act. It takes approximately 10 years of residency. Likewise, my Australian wife's naturalization as an American citizen took many years of residency, and she had to pass a test of American knowledge.

 

Now just imagine how absurd it would be if the US told Britain to alter its residency requirements, or vice versa, and you can begin to understand the chutzpa of British judges trying to alter the identity requirements of a 3,500-year-old faith that is the precursor of Christianity.

 

NEXT WEEK my organization, This World: The Values Network, will sponsor the first conference on Jewish values. It will feature some of the world's leading Jewish personalities, including Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, Yeshiva University president Richard Joel, Alan Dershowitz, Dennis Prager, Michael Steinhardt, AIPAC president David Victor and Marianne Williamson.

 

One of our religion's principal values is community and peoplehood. For thousands of years, dispersed throughout the world, Jews have always looked out for each other. You could turn up in any city and, regardless of level of observance, you would be invited to someone's home for the Sabbath and feel like family. In light of this outrageous British legal challenge to this time-honored principle of Jewish peoplehood we will be adding an entire plenary devoted to explicating the special Jewish value of identity and peoplehood, and hope that it will assist British Jewry in knowing that they are not alone in this critical battle.

 

The writer is founder of This World: The Values Network. To register for The Jewish Values Conference, taking place in New York on November 17 and 18, go to www.thisworld.us.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

ENCOUNTERING PEACE: NEGOTIATING ABOUT NEGOTIATIONS

GERSHON BASKIN

 

For the past two weeks I have traveled cross-country in the US speaking in synagogues, churches, mosques and universities. My message to my audiences has been one of hope. I have met Jewish communities in deep division. I have found communities (Jews and non-Jews) in deep conflict between those who define themselves as "pro-Israeli" and those who are "pro-Palestinian." Some of the organizers who brought me to speak used my presence to enable these two groups to speak to each other, because the divide over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has removed civility from their ability to communicate.

 

In my talks I have said something that has shocked many, as it seems so remote from the current comprehension of events in our region. "Peace," I said, "could actually be closer than ever before!"

 

I say this because never before has it been clearer what the parameters of Israeli-Palestinian peace are, and never before has the global consensus on those parameters been so overwhelming.

 

Binyamin Netanyahu's recognition of the need to make peace within the two- states-for-two-peoples framework has propelled the possibility for this to become reality. Netanyahu's reservations must be addressed. The threats are real, and therefore real solutions to them must be developed to enable Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and from the Palestinian parts of Jerusalem.

 

The answer to the potential security threats of the Palestinian state is not the continuation of the occupation. It is time for us to all recall that the Jewish liberation movement, Zionism, was not about conquering Arab land and imposing our occupation on another people. It was about liberating the Jewish people from the shackles of dispersion and liberating their creative spirit to create a society and a state based on the Prophetic values of justice and common good.

 

MAHMOUD ABBAS has declared that he will not run in the next Palestinian elections. I personally sent him my best wishes and hope that he changes his mind. We have not heard if he also intends to resign from the other positions that he holds, most importantly as chairman of the executive committee of the PLO. It is in that capacity that he negotiates with the State of Israel. As a member of the generation that founded the PLO, it is more than symbolically important that he lead the movement of Palestinian liberation toward the final struggle of achieving real statehood and peace with Israel.

 

Both sides have once again conveniently fallen into the trap (that they themselves create) of negotiating about negotiations. Perhaps the overenthusiasm of the Obama administration, which so much wants to achieve progress here, has, without being fully conscious of those dynamics, placed the trap itself. President Barack Obama has had more urgent and pressing matters on his narrow shoulders which directly concern the welfare of the US than almost any president before him. Obama and his administration have to deal with the global financial crisis, health care reform, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, threats regarding the future of Pakistan and Iran, and only after that comes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But it is time for Obama to make some real time for confronting his strategy on this conflict.

 

Obama said in Cairo that resolving the Israeli-Arab conflict is a US national strategic interest. It is in fact an international strategic interest. As such, it cannot be left to the veto of the Israelis and the Palestinians any longer. There is no chance that the Israelis and the Palestinians will reach any bilateral negotiated agreement, therefore it is not only a waste of time and precious energy on negotiating the negotiations, it is a waste of time to make efforts to bring the two parties to the table right now. They have serious homework to do before coming to the table, as do the leaders of the Quartet.

 

THE QUARTET, led by the US should:

 

1. Give the parties six months to present their own versions of a peace treaty taking into account all of the issues, needs, interests, threat perceptions and means for dealing with them.

 

2. Spend three months integrating the two treaties into the Quartet parameters. If there is no plan from one or both parties, the Quartet will still draw up its own plan.

 

3. An additional six months will be spent negotiating on the means to implement the plan. Differences between the parties will be resolved through bridging proposals put on the table by the Quartet.

 

4. The Quartet will make preparations for the creation of an international force led by the US (without US troops) containing a military, a policing and a civilian monitoring force (under the command of a US general) and with a US administration, with the participation of EU troops, Russians and others. The force will be stationed in the Palestinian state and will facilitate the Israeli withdrawal from Palestine and provide security guarantees for both states. Security can no longer be entrusted to bilateral arrangements as it was in the past. The security discourse must be advanced from the idea that Palestinians are providing security to Israel. This is rejected by both sides. The new discourse must be one of mutual security. There will be no security unless both sides feel secure from the threats of the other.

 

5. Even after Israeli withdrawal, there is a possibility that there will remain a law- abiding Jewish minority in the Palestinian state and this is a good development. The rights and treatment of the national minorities in each state should be linked to each other.

 

6. A UN Security Council resolution detailing the parameters of peace, of Palestinian and Israeli statehood and full Palestinian membership in the UN comes in at this stage.

 

7. The next Palestinian elections are held for the government of the state of Palestine and not for the Palestinian Authority.

 

8. The West Bank-Gaza link (tunnel, bridge, sunken road or a combination) will be constructed at this stage - as

soon as possible and brought to about one kilometer of Gaza until there is a change in the political situation in Gaza. In any event, the peace treaty is based on the West Bank and Gaza, and will apply to Gaza as soon as possible.

 

9. The economic siege on Gaza must end because it is empowering Hamas and weakening the allies of peace.

 

There are many more details which must be included, but the space for this article is far too limited for that.

 

The writer is the Co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (www.ipcri.org) and a member of the leadership of the Green Movement Party in Israel.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

TERRA INCOGNITA: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY

SETH FRANTZMAN

 

Exploring Israel can be one of the most rewarding experiences. For those used to a large canvass, like in the United States or South Africa, Israel presents a decidedly minuscule area to discover. But despite this, it is packed full of diversity. The National Parks Authority has done an excellent job of designating the most important sites, creating a myriad of unique locations to tour. However these well-publicized sites, such as the Crusader forts or ancient synagogues, present only the tip of an iceberg. There are layers of history that are left unexplored and yet are majestic and rich in both beauty and history.

 

The key to exploring the historical-geographical landscape is to view it in layers. With each layer of history there is a corresponding number of surviving sites that can be seen. Some periods have a large number of well-preserved sites that are easily accessible to the public. The most remarkable period from this perspective is that of the Crusaders, with their dozen major sites such as Apollonia, Belvoir, Montfort, Antripatris, the Castel, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Ein Hemed and Caesarea.

 

But for the intrepid explorer, serious hiker, amateur archeological enthusiast or any student of history, the real joy in exploring the land of Israel is in finding the places that are "off the beaten track." Unfortunately, no guide book gives the reader an adequate introduction to walking the land. The Holy Land: An Oxford Archeological Guide, on sale at any bookstore, attempts a very rough introduction but is severely lacking.

 

I WILL attempt a very quick introduction of where one can look for great gems of history that lurk throughout the country. One story begins in 1937, at the height of the Arab Revolt that claimed hundreds of Jewish, British and Arab lives. In December 1937 the 56-year-old Charles Augustus Tegart arrived in Palestine. A veteran of fighting Bengali terrorism in India, he was tasked by the British Mandatory government with studying the Palestine Police and suggesting reforms.

 

After encouraging such innovative measures as a security fence along the Lebanese border and collective punishment of Arab villages, he suggested that the British build a series of concrete police forts. In total, 56 of them were constructed at strategic intersections and in major Arab towns such as Rafah and Shfaram.

 

All of the Tegart forts exist to this day, and they are marked by being squat ugly buildings. Since all of them exist either in the center of large towns or at intersections, they are easy to locate and visit.

 

Many of them became sites of major battles in the 1948 War of Independence, and are thus adorned with explanatory plaques for the visitor. Latrun on the road to Jerusalem, Nebi Yusha overlooking the Huleh Valley and Gesher near Beit She'an stand out as the easiest to visit.

 

Another fascinating feature of the landscape are the numerous khans or caravanserais. Most were built between the 13th and 16th centuries during the period of Mamluk and Ottoman rule. The classical khan was a large square building with an open central area. They were there to protect travelers, particularly merchants, and thus theoretically were no more than a day's ride from one another. Eliahu Stern's Caravanserais: Roads and Inns in Israel (Hebrew) identified the remains of 67 of them. Some of the best-preserved ones, such as Khan Yunis (from which the Gaza town takes its name), cannot be visited.

 

However, a visit can be made to Khan Jubb Yosef, next to Kibbutz Amiad, which is perched above the Sea of Galilee. Khan Yarda, which later became the mansion of a wealthy Arab in the 1890s, is located next to Mishmar Hayarden. Khan al-Tujjar is easily visible on the road from Afula, just before the Golani junction.

 

The most overlooked feature of the landscape is the presence of numerous "sheikh's tombs" that dot the countryside. They were once part of local pilgrimages, festivals and traditions. The most prominent of these are Nebi Yusha, where local Muslims once believed Joshua was buried, and Nebi Reuben, where they believed Reuben was buried. Nebi Yusha is easily accessible from the road and is located across from the Tegart fort of the same name which overlooks the Huleh Valley. Nebi Reuben is harder to get to and requires a hike from Palmahim beach into the dunes.

 

No author has ever attempted to create a comprehensive list of the shrines in the country. Tewfik Canaan in 1927 published a partial one in Mohammedan Saints and Sanctuaries in Palestine. A list compiled by the Mandatory government shows 20 famous tombs with the name Sheikh Muhammad, not to mention hundreds of others associated with other sheikhs, rabbis, saints and prophets.

 

An explorer on foot or by car, armed with a good map and a few books of reference, will be presented with a rewarding experience and will see the Land of Israel in a new way. The layers of landscape are present at most major sites. Consider Beit Guvrin, site of a Crusader church, a Tegart fort, Roman, Jewish, pagan ruins and a khan.

 

Now you, the traveler, will recognize and search for two elements that most who visit the famous site never even bother to look for.

 

The writer is researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

FROM SETTLEMENT FREEZE TO BABY STEPS

YOSSI ALPHER

 

The Obama administration tried to jump start the Israeli-Arab peace process and inject new energy into additional areas of US activity in the Middle East by instituting a settlement freeze in the West Bank. Regardless of the words President Barack Obama's people have chosen to soften the impact, this initiative has failed. The immediate fallout is the apparent resignation of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and an inability to get final-status negotiations moving again.

 

This drama is unraveling against a complicated backdrop of variable factors that makes it difficult to assess not only where we might be going, but even where we are. Most of the question marks are on the Palestinian side.

 

We don't know whether Palestinian elections will really be held on January 24. If they are, we don't know who will run. If they aren't, Abbas may remain Palestinian president indefinitely. We don't know whether Hamas will yield to the January 24 ultimatum and sign on to Egypt's proposed Palestinian unity framework, thereby postponing elections (and leaving Abbas in office) until June - if indeed Fatah and Hamas can successfully negotiate the modalities of the unity framework by then. We don't know whether and under what leadership the Palestinians might, as indicated by various press leaks, seek to obtain international recognition of their statehood aspirations and create a dramatic new fait accompli.

 

In stark contrast, we cannot be certain that Abbas's departure, coupled with the absence of final-status negotiations, won't lead to the outbreak of a new intifada that radically reduces the likelihood of any political process. Nor do we know whether Hamas will, failing a unity agreement, sit quietly by or fall back on violence of its own to sabotage West Bank elections, the selection of a new Palestinian leader or, for that matter, renewed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

 

ON THE Israeli side, there are two significant unknowns. We don't know whether Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has embraced the two-state solution merely to deflate American pressure, or has truly understood the vital need to create a viable Palestinian state in order for Israel to survive as a Jewish state. In other words, we don't know whether he would take a peace process, if and when we get there, seriously. And we don't know how heavily Abbas's threat of departure weighs on Netanyahu; my guess is that Netanyahu himself, who lives politically from day to day, doesn't really know either.

 

Then there is the American side. Did the Obama administration really think that "engagement" would be sufficient to generate a settlement freeze? Did it really believe a settlement freeze would be sufficient to create a successful peace process? Having failed, will it now radically revise its approach? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's announcement (after the embarrassment of welcoming Netanyahu's settlement freeze feints as "unprecedented") that "baby steps" would now be invoked does indeed look like a radical revision - a kind of bottom-up approach that seemingly dovetails nicely with both Netanyahu's "economic peace" and PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad's "two-year state-building" program. But this is hardly sufficient to satisfy Palestinian and other Arab political aspirations, and is not likely to persuade Abbas to remain in office.

 

If Washington now has something more dramatic in mind, such as a move to create a Palestinian state unilaterally within the 1967 borders, we may soon find out. If such a new initiative is handled as ineptly as the settlement freeze, Netanyahu has a lot less to worry about than Abbas.

 

This brings us to the crux of the interaction among Washington, Jerusalem and Ramallah over the settlement freeze. Netanyahu's success in deflating the settlement freeze demand and Abbas's threat to resign over it reflect a far more astute understanding of the Washington scene and how to manipulate it by Netanyahu than by the Ramallah leadership.

 

This is hardly the first time the Palestinians have been outfoxed by Israel in Washington. Yet they still don't get it. They still don't understand that in an era of Arab disarray and impotence, and particularly when confronted by a less-than-coherent new American policy departure, their smartest strategists should be traveling to Washington, not (with all due respect) to Cairo, Amman or Riyadh.

 

The real lesson of the settlement freeze fiasco concerns who understands Washington better, Netanyahu or Abbas.

 

The writer is co-editor of the bitterlemons.org family of Internet publications. He is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. This article originally appeared in www.bitterlemons.org and is reprinted with permission.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THIS, TOO, IS VIOLENCE

 

A common sight at construction sites throughout the country is luxury properties with seductive advertising signs, and piles of construction waste next to them that no one seems to be in a hurry to remove. Instead of trees and green spaces, the new tenants get an empty lot littered with debris that all too often is toxic.


The piles of construction waste reflect disregard for the law. The extent of the phenomenon is manifest in separate studies on the enforcement of environmental legislation that were published recently by the Jerusalem Institute of Israel Studies, Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University. Judging by the findings of the researchers, those who dump construction waste and pollute the country's air and its water sources have little to worry about.


The studies show that the offenders are rarely caught - only 1 out of 1,000 environmental scofflaws is apprehended - and when they are, the punishments meted out are laughable. They are most commonly given small fines, which many offenders don't bother to pay. In the absence of sufficient trained personnel and adequate pollution-monitoring equipments, the worst polluters often escape unpunished.

 

The Environmental Protection Ministry doesn't have the human resources and the budget to effectively enforce the law, and the enforcement powers given to local authorities are inadequate. This must be changed, but important as heightening enforcement might be it is not enough. Israeli society needs a more profound change, one that will bring about general acknowledgment that damaging the environment is an act of violence against the public and against Israel's landscape and nature in Israel. These deserve protection in their own right, quite apart from their importance to humanity.


Recognition of the gravity of environmental crime must come from the courts, which, according to the studies, rarely sentence offenders to prison and levy fines that are minuscule relative to the range provided by legislation. The lenient sentences are handed out by judges who wax poetic on the importance of the environment and the need to protect the land. It is time to pair these fine speeches with punishments that are sufficiently heavy to serve as a deterrent - so that Israel can indeed be a country that is fit for human habitation.  

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

CAN OSLO TAKE BACK OBAMA'S NOBEL?

BY YOEL MARCUS

 

David Ben-Gurion was not invited to the White House until the end of his term, and needed various excuses to meet with the presidents in hotels. In Benjamin Netanyahu's case, the fear of not meeting with Barack Obama made him sweat.


On the eve of his trip to the Jewish Federations' General Assembly in Washington, D.C., Netanyahu faced unflattering headlines saying it was not certain whether President Obama would meet him.


There are two likely reasons for the move. One is that Bibi was all-too-confident that the moment his feet hit American soil, the White House doors would open before him - as they did with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The second possibility is that Netanyahu's excessive confidence angered Obama, who thought he was taking the meeting with him for granted. And so his aides advised him to let Netanyahu sweat.

 

And sweat he did. The fact that he didn't take his wife Sara with him indicates that the president's advisers didn't want the meeting to look too intimate and informal. In his previous term as prime minister, Netanyahu brought not only his wife but two of his children to Clinton's office. To the embarrassment of those present, the kids started throwing cushions at each other in the Oval Office.


In reality, there is no major difference in the relations between the two states. The Americans have not stopped the aid or the modern weapons supply to Israel. The only thing that can be said is that Bibi and Obama have not developed a personal, intimate relationship.


The White House and whoever is stirring things up over there has reduced the familiarity level to that of humiliation. For example, they released a photograph of Obama speaking on the phone with Netanyahu with his feet on the desk. This was their way of hinting that Obama is not Bush and does not see the prime minister as the king of Israel.


Just when the polls in Israel are showing that most of the public supports Bibi - who aspires to reach an agreement with the Palestinians - it's unclear why Obama had to kick-start the peace in Cairo with a reconciliation call to Islam. The result has been one big disappointment. Obama has not received from the Muslim world as much as a gesture to advance the Israeli-Palestinian arrangement, while Netanyahu has announced that Israel supports negotiations on the principle of two states for two peoples without any preconditions.

Instead of seizing the bull by the horns and setting about to open the negotiations immediately, Obama hesitated. Then Mahmoud Abbas brought up all kinds of conditions - starting with the demand to stop all the construction in the territories immediately. Olmert and Tzipi Livni held talks with Abbas for two years; not once did he raise the demand that Israel must first stop the construction in the West Bank for natural growth.


It is not clear how one can set about to hold negotiations "without preconditions" when the Palestinians are demanding the cessation of construction in the territories. Israel will have to concede in this area anyway, while conducting a complicated struggle - perhaps even an internecine war - to achieve peace.


Netanyahu has still made it clear that he is willing to negotiate an agreement with no preconditions. He says the same about a possible agreement with Syria. Once he used those slogans to avoid the issue. Now, in his second term, Netanyahu wants to succeed and he has the parliamentary majority to do so.


But Obama is in trouble at home. Democrats were recently defeated in both Virginia and New Jersey, where Republicans were elected. The defeat does not bode well for the congressional elections due next November. Meanwhile, Obama's great promise, on the issue of health insurance, is moving along slowly.


Apart from his rhetorical skills, Obama has failed to keep a single promise or solve one major problem during his time in office. In this situation he cannot afford to lose the support of the Jews, who are behind 40 percent of the contributions to the Democrats' elections. Meanwhile, the cold shoulder Obama is giving us and the hazing he's put Bibi through have achieved nothing but Abbas' announcement that he would not be running for the next Palestinian Authority elections. Perhaps he will and perhaps he won't.


While Israel is seriously talking about the peace process, Obama has problems at home. His list of disappointments now includes his failure to create a mechanism to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Obama received the Nobel Peace prize too early. I wonder if they have a mechanism in Oslo to take it back.

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE WAY THE WIND BLOWS

BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER

 

There are many kinds of leadership. There's visionary leadership. There's leadership by personal example. There's leadership characterized by change and courage. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has developed his own unique style - leadership by the licked finger.


It seems that every morning he opens the window in his office, licks his finger and sticks it outside. That's how he checks which way the wind is blowing. From the moment the direction is clear, he acts accordingly. It doesn't matter what he himself had decided the day before or what the reasons were. Today is a new day and the direction of the wind is always changing.


And in addition to his finger, Netanyahu has a more sophisticated way of gauging the prevailing winds: opinion polls, which he constantly commissions on every possible subject, and based on which he then makes his decisions. That's how his decision to freeze the drought tax came about, despite the fact that he supported it just four months ago when the bill passed the Knesset as part of the Economic Arrangements Bill, which supplements the budget. New polls show the prime minister that the public doesn't like the tax (because who likes taxes?) - but he wants so much for the public to like him, right this very minute.

 

Netanyahu is not capable of withstanding the pressure and Knesset members know that. Over the past two weeks they initiated a well-orchestrated campaign against the drought tax. Some called for outright defiance of the provision, while others proposed rescinding it. All of them reveled in the broad populist campaign - yet there was not a single Knesset member who would say that the emperor has no clothes.


Of course it is known that the Water Authority didn't impose the tax on a whim. And the forlorn state of the coastal and mountain aquifers is well known, while the level of Lake Kinneret approaches the critical "black line." We are in the midst of a five-year drought without an end in sight. True, there were several rainy days recently, but they in no way alter the general shortfall of water.


Netanyahu knows the drought tax works; it saved 80 million cubic meters of water. But facts make no impression on him. Only populism speaks to him. The same thing happened regarding the proposal to impose value-added tax on fruits and vegetables. Netanyahu correctly decided to broaden VAT provisions to include fruits and vegetables, because there is no difference between a tomato (on which VAT is not paid) and bread and milk and a computer for a child (on which it is paid). But there was an outcry from Knesset members, special interests fomented a rebellion, the public didn't like the tax and Netanyahu commissioned a poll. The prime minister then responded to "the public's murmurings" and canceled the VAT provision.


When swine flu became a major focus of public attention, Netanyahu wouldn't permit the Health Ministry to solve the problem alone. Instead, he contacted the media with the dramatic declaration that he'd personally decided to buy enough vaccinations for the entire population - whatever the expense - because he is the father of us all, who is taking care of us, so we should like him.


We have received a very different Netanyahu than the one who was finance minister in 2003. Back then he had principles. He was ready to confront public opinion and to do battle with his cabinet colleagues. Back then he showed real leadership. Now, however, he has betrayed all of his principles and shown an impressive ability to capitulate. He gave in to Shas and agreed to raise the child allowances that he himself had cut. He formed a bloated cabinet with 30 ministers and nine deputy ministers, because he understood that this was how he could win the hearts of the politicians. (During his first term as prime minister, by contrast, he formed a lean cabinet with 18 ministers.) This time around he also added funding for yeshivas and yeshiva students to the basic state budget, a move that every previous prime minister had opposed. In addition, he has no intention to cut the yeshiva budget by NIS 314 million, despite a cabinet decision to that effect.


Netanyahu caved in to Ehud Barak and increased the defense budget by NIS 1.5 billion, despite knowing that the fat must be trimmed from the budget. He also gave veto power to Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini, which will make it impossible to enact important reforms regarding electricity and water production as well as port administration. This is how he has broken the tablets of the commandments that he himself had written.

Leadership involves the ability to make difficult and unpopular decisions that will lead the people forward over the long term. A leader is not supposed to look for the median point of public sentiment. He should instead pave a new path forward and convince the public to take his route toward a better future. That, however, is the opposite of Netanyahu's licked-finger method.

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

WHEN THERE WAS A LEADER HERE

BY ELDAD YANIV

 

December 31, 2005, a Saturday, was a pleasant winter day. The shortlist of candidates for Kadima's party slate in the upcoming 17th Knesset election came and went at Ariel Sharon's Sycamore Ranch like would-be reality show participants. Who even thought about the catheterization to repair a "heart defect" he was scheduled to undergo the following Thursday?


The whole world was behind us then. No one had heard of Richard Goldstone, and Sharon's son Omri joked with the security guards that if one of the hopefuls were to step out of the line and charge in the direction of his father, armed with a chair, they should refrain from opening fire and understand that it is heated and tense because everyone wants to make the ticket.


And Sharon? "Thanks for taking the trouble to come," he told each of the visitors, "and have a bite to eat on the way out, OK?" And to those who were not too shy to ask the eternal prime minister what he still wished for, he said that as someone who joined the pre-state Haganah underground army at age 17 and fought in the War of Independence, he is allowed to want to come full circle - to win this battle and finally declare Israel's permanent borders. Then we'll take care of education and personal security "so it will be possible to continue to live here. Right?"

 

The following Wednesday Sharon sold the state's interest in Bank Leumi in the afternoon and returned to the ranch in the evening, where he collapsed. During the ascent to Jerusalem and the hospital, he sank into a coma. And then Ehud Olmert came along, who turned a private joke into a matter of national security and appointed Amir Peretz defense minister. The Second Lebanon War began and the Israeli ship of state lost its bearings. Instead of being victorious, Israel returned to endless negotiations with the Palestinians.


So what does it matter if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is right? Despite his efforts, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to extend his hand in peace. So what else is new? Did Abbas really extend his hand to Olmert and close a peace deal? And what about Yasser Arafat vis-a-vis Ehud Barak when the latter was prime minister.

For a few months there were rumors. Here MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List) let slip a half hint to journalist Nahum Barnea; there Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat threw a crumb to news agencies, saying that the Palestinians are abandoning the two-state solution. Perhaps that's because there never was anyone to talk to there, and maybe because suddenly the penny dropped and they realized it was better to wait - in less than 10 years there will be a solid Palestinian majority between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and they can say goodbye to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.


If that's the case, what are we waiting for? Until it's clear that Shaul Mofaz's plan also has no partner? Until Netanyahu falls and Tzipi Livni takes his place to again hold talks with Abbas or his successors, and then we will again discover that there is no one to talk to?


The task of our generation is to complete the job of establishing the state that David Ben-Gurion began at 4 P.M. on a Friday. Yitzhak Rabin advanced the process at Oslo, and Sharon almost completed it. The three of them understood that Israel within the borders of the British Mandate had to be partitioned, if possible with the consent of the Palestinians and if not then with the consent of the world.

And when we carry out the partition, will there still be Qassam rockets? It is reasonable to assume that there will be - and from Lebanon as well, from where Katyushas are fired from time to time. But Israel will be saved as a Jewish and democratic state for generations to come and the Israeli army will deal with the rockets from our recognized borders. The world will no longer be dealing with the Palestinian issue and we will be freed to deal with education and with personal security and with saving the Negev and the Galilee, and to address the problems of the towns in the periphery and with establishing an exemplary society.


Those who do not believe in fate can imagine what might have happened to Israel had physicians Dr. Shlomo Segev and Dr. Boleslaw Goldman scheduled Sharon's catheterization for Tuesday. Perhaps Barack Obama would not have won the Nobel Peace Prize, but Israel would definitely have been on the right path. Because Sharon would still be with us.

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

TO KEEP THE BOND STRONG

BY ALEXANDER YAKOBSON

 

The Anti-Defamation League recently published a comprehensive survey on American attitudes toward Israel. It turns out that support for Israel is still strong, and has even grown in recent years.


The 2009 Survey of American Attitudes toward Israel, the Palestinians and Prospects for Peace in the Middle East found that 67% of Americans see Israel as a country to be counted on as a strong, loyal U.S. ally, compared to 63% who thought so in 2003. According to the poll, 64% of Americans continue to believe that Israel is serious about reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians. By a 3:1 ratio, the American people express more sympathy with Israel than with the Palestinians: 45% to 15%. This support for Israel has risen 5% since 2003.


A majority of those surveyed, 64%, do believe that support for Israel makes the United States more likely to be targeted for terrorist attacks. However, 61% also maintain that the United States should continue to support Israel in spite of this risk.

 

There are very few precedents for this in international relations. True, we should not idealize any country, including the United States, but American foreign policy has an idealistic basis and it works in favor of Israel, to the surprise of quite a few people. It would be a mistake to think that such support comes only from evangelical Christians or is the result of pressure from the Jewish lobby. Backing Israel is in fact one of the issues with the broadest support in American foreign policy.


These numbers provide a large part of the answer to the question that pops up quite often in right-wing circles: What has Israel gained, in terms of international support, from its concessions since the Oslo Accords? The answer is it has gained a huge amount. The support of a majority of Americans is still a much more important factor than all the attacks on Israel and the calls for a boycott. The American people would never have awarded such support to a country they viewed as not pursuing peace.


The Oslo Accords, the Camp David Accords, the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech agreeing to a Palestinian state are all part of the reason why 64% of Americans believe Israel is serious about seeking peace.


This is an asset of enormous importance, and it should not be wasted on a dispute with the Obama administration over the expansion of the settlements. The settlements are the main cause for questioning Israel's desire for peace and its willingness for a two-state solution. Even among our best friends in the United States and elsewhere, the great majority disagrees with Israel over this issue. They remain friends and supporters nevertheless, but for other reasons: sympathy for the Jewish people and Israeli democracy, an understanding of Israel's position in the region and doubts as to the Palestinians willingness to accept Israel - as the survey points out.

There is no real gap between the Obama administration's positions on the settlements and those of the Bush administration. The only difference is that Obama has decided to focus public and diplomatic attention on this issue. From the moment this happened it became clear - beyond any ideological or political dispute - that it is an essential Israeli interest to find a way to reach an agreement with the Americans on a formula for a settlement freeze.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent statements reflect progress toward such a formulation, but the public disagreement, in which the Americans state that Israel is not keeping its commitments as set out in the road map, is not over.


Such a prolonged and public dispute with the United States over the settlements harms Israel. It is a battle where even victory would be a serious defeat. Netanyahu understands America well enough to know that. The question is whether such a critical national interest is a good enough reason in his eyes to confront the extremists within his coalition and party.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

THE BAN ON ABORTION COVERAGE

 

When the House narrowly passed the health care reform bill on Saturday night, it came with a steep price for women's reproductive rights. Under pressure from anti-abortion Democrats and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, lawmakers added language that would prevent millions of Americans from buying insurance that covers abortions — even if they use their own money.

 

The restrictions would fall on women eligible to buy coverage on new health insurance exchanges. They are a sharp departure from current practice, an infringement of a woman's right to get a legal medical procedure and an unjustified intrusion by Congress into decisions best made by patients and doctors.

 

The anti-abortion Democrats behind this coup insisted that they were simply adhering to the so-called Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal dollars to pay for almost all abortions in a number of government programs. In fact, they reached far beyond Hyde and made it largely impossible to use a policyholder's own dollars to pay for abortion coverage.

 

The bill brought to the floor already included a careful compromise that should have satisfied reasonable legislators on both sides of the abortion issue. The vast majority of people expected to buy policies on the new exchanges would pay part of the premium and receive government tax credits to pay for the rest. The compromise would have prohibited the use of the tax subsidies to pay for almost all abortions, but it would have allowed the segregation and use of premium contributions and co-payments to pay for such coverage. A similar approach allows 17 state Medicaid programs to cover abortions using only state funds, not federal matching funds.

 

Yet neither the Roman Catholic bishops nor anti-abortion Democrats were willing to accept this compromise. They insisted on language that would ban the use of federal subsidies to pay for "any part" of a policy that includes abortion coverage.

 

If insurers want to attract subsidized customers, who will be the great majority on the exchange, they will have to offer them plans that don't cover abortions. It is theoretically possible that insurers could offer plans aimed only at nonsubsidized customers, but it is highly uncertain that they will find it worthwhile to do so.

 

In that case, some women who have coverage for abortion services through policies bought by small employers could actually lose that coverage if their employer decides to transfer its workers to the exchange. Ultimately, if larger employers are permitted to make use of the exchange, ever larger numbers of women might lose abortion coverage that they now have.

 

The restrictive language allows people to buy "riders" that would cover abortions. But nobody plans to have an unplanned pregnancy, so this concession is meaningless. It is not clear that insurers would even offer the riders since few people would buy them.

 

The highly restrictive language was easily approved by a 240-to-194 vote and incorporated into the overall bill, which squeaked through by a tally of 220 to 215. It was depressing evidence of the power of anti-abortion forces to override a reasonable compromise. They were willing to scuttle the bill if they didn't get their way. Outraged legislators who support abortion rights could also have killed the bill but sensibly chose to keep the reform process moving ahead.

The fight will resume in the Senate, where the Finance Committee has approved a bill that incorporates the compromise just rejected by the House. We urge the Senate to stand strong behind a compromise that would preserve a woman's right to abortion services.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

COUNTING FORWARD

 

More than three weeks after the official deadline, Iraq's Parliament has approved an election law. That is very good news. It will allow Iraqis to hold parliamentary elections in January. And it should make it easier for President Obama to meet his pledge to withdraw all combat troops by the end of August.

 

Iraqi politicians were wrangling over how to handle voting in the contested city of Kirkuk and whether candidates would run on "open" or "closed" lists.

 

We understand why some American officials (including the ambassador in Baghdad, Christopher Hill) wanted to let Iraqis work things out for themselves. But the paralysis went on too long. It was only resolved after a sharp push from Mr. Hill; Gen. Ray Odierno, the American commander in Iraq; and Vice President Joseph Biden, who made phone calls to Kurdish leaders with whom he has special clout.

 

As The Times reported on Monday, Mr. Hill spent all day Sunday shuttling between the offices of various political parties and was even heard goading two lawmakers to "go upstairs and vote!" The United Nations also played an important role.

 

The new law allows Iraqi voters to choose among candidates on an open list, rather than just among political parties. That closed list system, used in the 2005 election, gave the ethnic-based parties too much power and encouraged the virulent sectarianism that has already done far too much damage to Iraq.

 

On Kirkuk, the issue was who is a legitimate resident. Saddam Hussein drove tens of thousands of Kurds out of the city and replaced them with Arabs. In recent years, many thousands of Kurds have moved back. The Kurds wanted to use the 2009 voter lists, while Arabs and Turkmens wanted to use older voter lists.

 

The 2009 list will be used, and Turkmens and Arabs will each get one extra parliamentary seat. A committee overseen by the United Nations will be formed to vet the list over the next year and determine if changes should be made for future elections. We are sure that no matter what happens there will be challenges. And we hope American and United Nations officials made clear to the Kurdish leadership that any efforts to artificially boost Kirkuk's population — to sway this election or a possible referendum on Kirkuk's future — won't be tolerated.

 

It is a relief to see Iraq's political leaders willing to compromise and move ahead. But no one should be complacent. The election law merely punts the dispute over Kirkuk and other power-sharing issues down the road. These will have to be addressed once the new government is elected. And Washington will have to keep nudging the Iraqis (sometimes gently, sometimes more firmly) toward solutions.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

YOU DON'T WANT TO BE DOWNWIND

 

More than eight years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the House of Representatives has passed a bill to shore up security at this country's chemical plants. The requirements are reasonable, vital and long overdue. If terrorists were to attack a chemical plant near an American city or large town, they could unleash a toxic cloud that could endanger the lives of hundreds of thousands.

 

Environmental groups, most notably Greenpeace, and organized labor have been pushing Congress to enact tough chemical plant security legislation, but the chemical industry — concerned about the cost — has long resisted.

 

The House bill is a carefully written compromise that is more than accommodating to the concerns of industry. It focuses only on the highest-risk plants, and it would make them use safer chemicals or processes only when the Department of Homeland Security determines that they are feasible and cost-effective.

 

Now the Senate needs to act. Senators will be under considerable pressure from industry to pass a watered-down version. Industry lobbyists are arguing that it should be their decision, not the government's, whether it is feasible or cost-effective to replace unsafe chemicals. The Senate should pass a bill that parallels the House version, and President Obama should sign it.

 

While the House was considering the issue, the Clorox Company announced earlier this month that it was choosing to convert all of its factories that use chlorine gas — a lethal substance — to safer chemical processes. Greenpeace estimates that that will eliminate the risk to the more than 13 million Americans who live in range of Clorox's facilities. The switch will also greatly reduce the threat to many more Americans who live near the rail lines used to transport the chlorine to Clorox's plants — another point of high vulnerability to terrorist attack or accident.

 

Clorox deserves credit for its decision. But many more companies are continuing to put the public at risk on a daily basis. On a life-or-death issue like this, voluntary actions are not enough. There needs to be a strong safety law, with the enforcement power of the federal government behind it.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

PROMISES ON OPEN SPACE

 

In 1965, Congress came up with an elegant idea: Use some of the royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling to buy and conserve open space threatened by development. The dollars raised from depleting one natural resource would be used to protect another. Since then, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has invested more than $13 billion and added more than five million acres to the national parks, wildlife refuges and national forests.

 

Beginning in 1977, Congress annually authorized a spending level of $900 million (from a much larger royalty pool, which now totals $12 billion). But because Congress routinely diverted much of the money to the Treasury for deficit reduction, actual appropriations have been far less. In President George W. Bush's last year, only $155 million was appropriated for the fund.

 

President Obama promised more than $400 million this year and the full $900 million in 2015. Senators Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Max Baucus of Montana have a better idea. Last week, they introduced a bill that would guarantee financing of $900 million every year, beginning with the next fiscal year, and would insulate the fund from future raids. Representative Nick Rahall of West Virginia is promoting the same idea in the House.

 

There is plenty of evidence that, even in the midst of a recession, Americans are willing to spend money to protect open space. According to a tally by the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, a conservation group, voters approved two out of three open space bond issues across 11 states last week, including a $400 million "Green Acres" measure in New Jersey.

 

More federal dollars are needed to help complete long-pending acquisitions from Hawaii to Yellowstone National Park to the Everglades. The money would also help hard-pressed states, like New York, whose own land conservation program has been severely squeezed by huge budget shortfalls.

 

A guaranteed source of revenue for land and water conservation is something the original architects of the fund had in mind. It's past time for Congress to honor their wish.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE RUSH TO THERAPY

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

We're all born late. We're born into history that is well under way. We're born into cultures, nations and languages that we didn't choose. On top of that, we're born with certain brain chemicals and genetic predispositions that we can't control. We're thrust into social conditions that we detest. Often, we react in ways we regret even while we're doing them.

 

But unlike the other animals, people do have a drive to seek coherence and meaning. We have a need to tell ourselves stories that explain it all. We use these stories to supply the metaphysics, without which life seems pointless and empty.

 

Among all the things we don't control, we do have some control over our stories. We do have a conscious say in selecting the narrative we will use to make sense of the world. Individual responsibility is contained in the act of selecting and constantly revising the master narrative we tell about ourselves.

 

The stories we select help us, in turn, to interpret the world. They guide us to pay attention to certain things and ignore other things. They lead us to see certain things as sacred and other things as disgusting. They are the frameworks that shape our desires and goals. So while story selection may seem vague and intellectual, it's actually very powerful. The most important power we have is the power to help select the lens through which we see reality.

 

Most people select stories that lead toward cooperation and goodness. But over the past few decades a malevolent narrative has emerged.

 

That narrative has emerged on the fringes of the Muslim world. It is a narrative that sees human history as a war between Islam on the one side and Christianity and Judaism on the other. This narrative causes its adherents to shrink their circle of concern. They don't see others as fully human. They come to believe others can be blamelessly murdered and that, in fact, it is admirable to do so.

 

This narrative is embraced by a small minority. But it has caused incredible amounts of suffering within the Muslim world, in Israel, in the U.S. and elsewhere. With their suicide bombings and terrorist acts, adherents to this narrative have made themselves central to global politics. They are the ones who go into crowded rooms, shout "Allahu akbar," or "God is great," and then start murdering.

 

When Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan did that in Fort Hood, Tex., last week, many Americans had an understandable and, in some ways, admirable reaction. They didn't want the horror to become a pretext for anti-Muslim bigotry.

 

So immediately the coverage took on a certain cast. The possibility of Islamic extremism was immediately played down. This was an isolated personal breakdown, not an ideological assault, many people emphasized.

 

Major Hasan was portrayed as a disturbed individual who was under a lot of stress. We learned about pre-traumatic stress syndrome, and secondary stress disorder, which one gets from hearing about other people's stress. We heard the theory (unlikely in retrospect) that Hasan was so traumatized by the thought of going into a combat zone that he decided to take a gun and create one of his own.

 

A shroud of political correctness settled over the conversation. Hasan was portrayed as a victim of society, a poor soul who was pushed over the edge by prejudice and unhappiness.

 

There was a national rush to therapy. Hasan was a loner who had trouble finding a wife and socializing with his neighbors.

 

This response was understandable. It's important to tamp down vengeful hatreds in moments of passion. But it was also patronizing. Public commentators assumed the air of kindergarten teachers who had to protect their children from thinking certain impermissible and intolerant thoughts. If public commentary wasn't carefully policed, the assumption seemed to be, then the great mass of unwashed yahoos in Middle America would go off on a racist rampage.

 

Worse, it absolved Hasan — before the real evidence was in — of his responsibility. He didn't have the choice to be lonely or unhappy. But he did have a choice over what story to build out of those circumstances. And evidence is now mounting to suggest he chose the extremist War on Islam narrative that so often leads to murderous results.

 

The conversation in the first few days after the massacre was well intentioned, but it suggested a willful flight from reality. It ignored the fact that the war narrative of the struggle against Islam is the central feature of American foreign policy. It ignored the fact that this narrative can be embraced by a self-radicalizing individual in the U.S. as much as by groups in Tehran, Gaza or Kandahar.

 

It denied, before the evidence was in, the possibility of evil. It sought to reduce a heinous act to social maladjustment. It wasn't the reaction of a morally or politically serious nation.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

A WORD, MR. PRESIDENT

BY BOB HERBERT

 

If I were a close adviser of President Obama's, I would say to him, "Mr. President, you have two urgent and overwhelming tasks in front of you: to put Americans trapped in this terrible employment crisis back to work and to put the brakes on your potentially disastrous plan to escalate the war in Afghanistan."

 

Reforming the chaotic and unfair health care system in the U.S. is an important issue. But in terms of pressing national priorities, the most important are the need to find solutions to a catastrophic employment environment that is devastating American families and to end the folly of an 8-year-old war that is both extremely debilitating and ultimately unwinnable.

 

We have spent the better part of a year locked in a tedious and unenlightening debate over health care while the jobless rate has steadily surged. It's now at 10.2 percent. Families struggling with job losses, home foreclosures and personal bankruptcies are falling out of the middle class like fruit through the bottom of a rotten basket. The jobless rate for men 16 years old and over is 11.4 percent. For blacks, it's a back-breaking 15.7 percent.

 

We need to readjust our focus. We're worried about Kabul when Detroit has gone down for the count.

 

I would tell the president that more and more Americans are questioning his priorities, including millions who went to the mat for him in last year's election. The biggest issue by far for most Americans is employment. The lack of jobs is fueling the nervousness, anxiety and full-blown anger that are becoming increasingly evident in the public at large.

 

Last Friday, a huge crowd of fans marched in a ticker-tape parade in downtown Manhattan to celebrate the Yankees' World Series championship. More than once, as the fans passed through the financial district, the crowd erupted in rhythmic, echoing chants of "Wall Street sucks! Wall Street sucks!"

 

I would tell the president that the feeling is widespread that his administration went too far with its bailouts of the financial industry, sending not just a badly needed lifeline but also unwarranted windfalls to the miscreants who nearly wrecked the entire economy. The government got very little in return. The perception now is that Wall Street is doing just fine while working people, whose taxes financed the bailouts, are walking the plank to economic oblivion.

 

I would also tell him that rebuilding the economy in a way that allows working Americans to flourish will require a sustained monumental effort, not just bits and pieces of legislation here and there. But such an effort will never get off the ground, will never have any chance of reaching critical mass and actually succeeding, as long as we insist on feeding young, healthy American men and women and endless American dollars into the relentless meat grinders of Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

We learned in the 1960s, when Lyndon Johnson's Great Society was trumped by Vietnam, that nation-building here at home is incompatible with the demands of war. We've managed to keep the worst of the carnage — and the staggering costs — of Iraq and Afghanistan well out of the sight of most Americans, so the full extent of the terrible price we are paying is not widely understood.

 

The ultimate financial costs will be counted in the trillions. If you were to take a walk around one of the many military medical centers, like Landstuhl in Germany or Walter Reed in Washington, your heart would break at the sight of the heroic young men and women who have lost limbs (frequently more than one) or who are blind or paralyzed or horribly burned. Hundreds of thousands have suffered psychological wounds. Many have contemplated or tried suicide, and far too many have succeeded.

 

"Mr. President," I would say, "we'll never be right as a nation as long as we allow this to continue."

 

The possibility of more troops for the war in Afghanistan was discussed Sunday on "Meet the Press." Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania noted candidly that "our troops are tired and worn out." More than 85 percent of the men and women in the Pennsylvania National Guard have already served in Iraq or Afghanistan. "Many of them have gone three or four times and they're wasted," said Mr. Rendell.

 

More troops? "Where are we going to find these troops?" the governor asked. "That's what I want somebody to tell me."

 

While we're preparing to pour more resources into Afghanistan, the Economic Policy Institute is telling us that one in five American children is living in poverty, that nearly 35 percent of African-American children are living in poverty, and that the unemployment crisis is pushing us toward a point in the coming years where more than half of all black children in this country will be poor.

 

"Mr. President," I would say, "we need your help."

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE SHORT LIFE OF A DIAGNOSIS

BY SIMON BARON-COHEN

 

Cambridge, England

THE Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, is the bible of diagnosis in psychiatry, and is used not just by doctors around the world but also by health insurers.

 

Changing any such central document is complicated. It should therefore come as no surprise that a committee of experts charged with revising the manual has caused consternation by considering removing Asperger syndrome from the next edition, scheduled to appear in 2012. The committee argues that the syndrome should be deleted because there is no clear separation between it and its close neighbor, autism.

 

The experts propose that both conditions should be subsumed under the term "autism spectrum disorder," with individuals differentiated by levels of severity. It may be true that there is no hard and fast separation between Asperger syndrome and classic autism, since they are currently differentiated only by intelligence and onset of language. Both classic autism and Asperger syndrome involve difficulties with social interaction and communication, alongside unusually narrow interests and a strong desire for repetition, but in Asperger syndrome, the person has good intelligence and language acquisition.

 

The question of whether Asperger syndrome should be included or excluded is the latest example of dramatic changes in history of the diagnostic manual. The first manual, published in 1952, listed 106 "mental disorders." The second (1968), listed 182, and famously removed homosexuality as a disorder in a later printing. The third (1980) listed 265 disorders, taking out "neurosis." The revised third version (1987) listed 292 disorders, while the current fourth version cut the list of disorders back to 283.

 

This history reminds us that psychiatric diagnoses are not set in stone. They are "manmade," and different generations of doctors sit around the committee table and change how we think about "mental disorders."

 

This in turn reminds us to set aside any assumption that the diagnostic manual is a taxonomic system. Maybe one day it will achieve this scientific value, but a classification system that can be changed so freely and so frequently can't be close to following Plato's recommendation of "carving nature at its joints."

 

Part of the reason the diagnostic manual can move the boundaries and add or remove "mental disorders" so easily is that it focuses on surface appearances or behavior (symptoms) and is silent about causes. Symptoms can be arranged into groups in many ways, and there is no single right way to cluster them. Psychiatry is not at the stage of other branches of medicine, where a diagnostic category depends on a known biological mechanism. An example of where this does occur is Down syndrome, where surface appearances are irrelevant. Instead the cause — an extra copy of Chromosome 21 — is the sole determinant to obtain a diagnosis. Psychiatry, in contrast, does not yet have any diagnostic blood tests with which to reveal a biological mechanism.

 

So what should we do about Asperger syndrome? Although originally described in German in 1944, the first article about it in English was published in 1981, and Asperger syndrome made it only into the fourth version of the manual, in 1994. That is, the international medical community took 50 years to acknowledge it. In the last decade thousands of people have been given the diagnosis. Seen through this historical lens, it seems a very short time frame to be considering removing Asperger syndrome from the manual.

We also need to be aware of the consequences of removing it. First, what happens to those people and their families who waited so long for a diagnostic label that does a good job of describing their profile? Will they have to go back to the clinics to get their diagnoses changed? The likelihood of causing them confusion and upset seems high.

 

Second, science hasn't had a proper chance to test if there is a biological difference between Asperger syndrome and classic autism. My colleagues and I recently published the first candidate gene study of Asperger syndrome, which identified 14 genes associated with the condition.

 

We don't yet know if Asperger syndrome is genetically identical or distinct from classic autism, but surely it makes scientific sense to wait until these two subgroups have been thoroughly tested before lumping them together in the diagnostic manual. I am the first to agree with the concept of an autistic spectrum, but there may be important differences between subgroups that the psychiatric association should not blur too hastily.

 

Simon Baron-Cohen, the director of the Autism Research Center at Cambridge University, is the author of "The Essential Difference."

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

NUKES – AGAIN

 

The safety or otherwise of our nuclear weapons, and specifically the threat to their security by the Taliban or other extremist elements, has once again reared its head. In an attempt to bring a modicum of sanity to the debate let us make clear that our nuclear assets are indeed secure – they are well guarded, kept at dispersed locations and triggers and warheads are miles apart. How can we be so confident in saying that? Simply because it makes no sense for us to keep our nuclear weaponry insecure. Having gone through the trouble and expense of acquiring nuclear capacity, we guard it closely. Why guard it? For the same reasons you put money in the bank rather than under the mattress, you don't want it stolen. So is there a threat to our nuclear weapons? Yes, there is. There is a threat to the nuclear weapons of every nation which has them which is why they guard them as closely and as secretively as do we. And the threat comes from? People who want to steal them or disable them – which in our case are the Taliban and/or Al Qaeda and their sympathisers. Or perhaps India. So what do we do about that? We screen out those applying to work in our nuclear manufactories who might present a threat to them. But what if the terrorists, whoever they are or wherever they are from, try to make an assault on the nuclear arsenal? They would fail because they would be cut to pieces trying and anyway they would need to make a frontal assault on the place where both the triggers and the warheads are kept – and even allowing for the increased sophistication of our adversaries the likelihood of either event being successful is vanishingly small.

The threat is not that our weapons are about to be stolen – it is different and twofold. There is a real and ongoing threat that extremists are seeking the material to make a 'dirty bomb'. This is a conventional weapon within which is contained radioactive material which will have been purchased on the black market. It explodes and contaminates a wide area. There is no 'nuclear explosion', but it is an effective and relatively cheap and simple way of, for instance, disabling the entire centre of London or any other big city. Secondly, there is the threat emanating from the radicalization of students of nuclear science and technology who may – despite the screening and checks and balances – eventually worm their way into the workforce. Once there they would seek to either smuggle out fissile material or provide valuable insider knowledge to those seeking to obtain it. We guard our nuclear technology and weapons for precisely those reasons. Doing anything less would be foolhardy in the extreme. As a responsible nuclear power we owe a duty to the rest of the world, and part of that duty is the protection of our assets for the safety of all. Talk of their 'insecurity' is at variance with ground reality and perhaps made with mischief in mind – and perhaps not a million miles from the 'insecurity' in the minds of others attendant upon a Muslim nation being nuclear-armed.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

WARDING OFF DEATH

 

The shock and anger caused by the suicide bombing at Matani near Peshawar on Sunday had not yet subsided when the beast struck again, this time at Peshawar's Ring Road, killing three including a police constable. Meanwhile, one of these fanatics was shot dead by police in Islamabad before he could blow himself up at the check post he was approaching. The Matani bombing claimed at least 12 victims, including a union council nazim. The nazim has paid with his life for attempting to act against militants in the area and so have many others.

The state must fight the terrorists with the whole nation standing by it, with the conviction that we cannot let this country sink further into the darkness of obscurantism. Sacrifices made by people in this war must not go in vain, and for this we need strategies that make sure that people's resolve is strengthened each time the terrorists act to break it. The tactic of raising lashkars to combat militants has been put into effect in several areas of our north, but it is obvious that curbing terrorism lies beyond the capacity of the civilian security apparatus. Rather than specific bodies, larger groups of citizens need to be involved. In each neighbourhood we need watch and ward committees, whose role should be to report any suspicious activity to authorities. People are angered by the ruthless actions of terrorists. The government must use their services to help counter them. This force must be harnessed and used so it can have maximum impact, preventing other suicide bombers from wreaking havoc and claiming yet more lives.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

 A ROSY PICTURE

 

In his speech at Pattoki, where he inaugurated a power plant, the prime minister painted an incredibly rosy picture of the political situation. He said the NRO was now a part of history, that in the presence of an independent judiciary Article 58(2)(B) posed no threat and that there was no rift between the PPP and its allies. It is hard to know who exactly the PM is trying to fool. The president has been badly wounded by the NRO debacle. While the impeachment threat that has now begun to hover following new charges of corruption could finally persuade the president to call it a day, for the moment he seems determined to cling on. It seems that by distancing himself from the presidency and continuing his efforts to court the PML-N, Mr Gilani hopes to survive even if the presidential ship sinks.


What Mr Gilani should be thinking about is why his party is in such a mess. There is little the PPP can place under a list of credits. Notwithstanding the inauguration of the new 200MW power plant, the fact is that we are as citizens short of almost everything we need to live a civilized life. This includes electricity, gas and sugar. The economy flounders, inflation soars and the law and order situation is worse than ever. It is also obvious that there are deepening rifts within the PPP. Their impact may be fully felt over the coming months. The exit of the president, still some kind of unifying force within the PPP, could result in a period of turmoil within the party. Things then are not quite so rosy after all. Pretending that they are will only add to the sense of drift we face.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

KARZAI AFTER RE-ELECTION

RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI


President Hamid Karzai's recent re-election should have been a reaffirmation of Afghanistan's journey on the path of democracy. Instead it raised questions on the credibility of the electoral process. It also intensified the blame game due to the failure of President Karzai and the western powers that brought him to power in December 2001 to deliver on their promises to the Afghan people.


There were hardly any celebrations, and the manner of his win caused embarrassment to him and his supporters. The 54.6 percent votes (3.1 million out of the 5.7 million valid votes) that President Karzai had won according to an announcement by the Afghan Independent Election Commission, were cut down to 49.6 percent following a recount of the disputed votes by the UN-backed Election Complaints Commission. Another 0.5 percent votes would have raised Mr Karzai's percentage to more than 50 percent and given him a first-round win. But this didn't happen and thus a run-off election was necessitated between Mr Karzai and the runner-up, Dr Abdullah, who received 27 percent of the vote.


But the latter (whose real name is only Abdullah, not Abdullah Abdullah that the Western media uses owing to its reluctance to accept that a person couldn't have a single name) boycotted the second round. However, the fact that the run-off election didn't take place triggered a debate and prompted Dr Abdullah to describe Mr Karzai's election as illegal and unconstitutional.


The head of the Independent Election Commission Azizullah Lodin, an appointee of president Karzai, justified the decision to declare Mr Karzai re-elected under Article 61 of Afghanistan's constitution following Dr Abdullah's boycott. Mr Lodin's plea was that the run-off election could only take place if there were two candidates in the field. Besides, he cited the heavy expenditure required for a second round of polling and the expected security risks as reasons for calling off the run-off election.


It wasn't without reason that Dr Abdullah had demanded Mr Lodin's removal and revamping of the US-funded election commission, which couldn't really be "independent" in a country occupied by foreign forces and run by a government made up of warlords. He had also made his participation in the run-off conditional on the sacking of at least three government ministers and certain electoral reforms.


The president rejected his demands on the ground that these would be a violation of Afghanistan's laws and constitution. This was a weak argument considering the fact that ensuring democratic and credible elections was vital to raise the trust of the Afghan people in the electoral process and Afghanistan's nascent democracy. The fact that the turnout in the 2009 presidential poll dropped to 38.7 percent—that too despite the fraudulent figures and multiple voting, from the high of 70 percent in the 2004 election—should have been a cause for alarm as it showed the disenchantment of the Afghan people with the system of governance and justice. It also highlighted their alienation with the country's ruling elite, almost all dependent on the US and NATO power for their survival and on international assistance for their riches.


It won't be fair to blame only President Karzai for the fraudulent election. He obviously had more power and resources as Afghanistan's president for the last eight years to rig the poll. His men holding the reins of power in Pakhtun-populated southern and eastern Afghanistan, and in the northern and central provinces dominated by warlords Abdur Rasheed Dostum and Karim Khalili, left no stone unturned to arm-twist, buy-off and charm voters in favour of candidate Karzai.

But powerful supporters of Dr Abdullah, the man who had been President Karzai's foreign minister for sometime and benefited from western largesse, were not to be left behind as they hunted for votes for the half-Tajik, half-Pakhtun candidate from Panjshir Valley. One such supporter was Ata Mohammad Noor, governor of the northern Balkh province, who vigorously campaigned for Dr Abdullah and even threatened not to accept Mr Karzai as a legitimate president owing to the fraud in the election.


That anyone with the gun and the resources played a role in rigging Afghanistan's presidential election is evident from the European Union's report that a third of the disputed 1.5 million votes were fraudulent, and that this included one million polled for Mr Karzai and 300,000 for Dr Abdullah. Despite his victory, the electoral fraud will haunt President Karzai during his next five-year term in office. In fact, he has emerged bruised and weaker from the election. His Western backers, who not long ago were charmed by his English-speaking ability, his traditional Afghan robes and his relatively clean past compared to the other Afghans in power, are now determined to make him accountable for his actions. From President Barack Obama to Prime Minister Gordon Brown and from UN special representative in Afghanistan Kai Eide to the leaders of all Western nations with troops in the country, the message to President Karzai is loud and clear: rid your government of warlords and drug-runners and clean up corruption if you want out continued support.


It seems the criterion for backing the beleaguered Afghan president has become tougher and now he must meet certain stringent conditions to qualify for Western support in the form of troops and resources to battle the resurgent Taliban, sustain him in power, pay for the expenses of his cash-strapped government and its feeble institutions and also rebuild the war-wracked country.


It is strange that an Afghan president dependent on NATO forces and western money for survival is being tasked to do things beyond his power. It is the western powers which brought back to power the Afghan warlords who had been defeated by the Taliban and discredited due to their corrupt practices and their excesses against the Afghan people. But now they want the weak Afghan president to ditch these powerful men holding positions as governors, corps commanders, ministers and advisers.


The US and its allies with 103,000 troosps in Afghanistan are also primarily responsible for the record rise in opium-poppy production and drug-trafficking and for their failure to take action against drug barons mostly part of the Afghan government out of fear of making more enemies. But their wrath is directed against Mr Karzai, who on his own cannot do much to curtail the power of the drug-runners and warlords.


Like all rulers in countries with weak desmocracies, he had to make alliances with powerful warlords and moneyed people to win election and survive in power. It isn't something proper and much-needed reforms, mostly written into Afghan law but not implemented, must take place in Afghanistan to give its people hope and a better life. However, expecting President Karzai to accomplish on his own the wish-list drawn for him by his western sponsors amounts to wishful thinking.


At a time when President Karzai's government and its impatient western supporters bicker among themselves as to what needs to be done to right the wrongs in an increasingly unstable Afghanistan, the Taliban appear to be enjoying the spectacle. They were able to partially disrupt the presidential election and ensure a low turnout. The electoral fraud and the crucial western role in resolving the issue of the disputed vote validated the Taliban's argument that the poll was a tool of foreigners aimed at installing a subservient government in Kabul. The misgivings about each other's intentions between the Afghan government and the NATO member-states taking part in the fighting in Afghanistan will further help the Taliban cause.


Making President Karzai a scapegoat for the collective western failure in Afghanistan may help influence public opinion in western countries, but it cannot win them a decisive military victory against the Taliban. That will require acceptance of the ground realities in Afghanistan as deployment of extra western forces in the country will provoke resentment among most Afghans and give a fillip to the Taliban resistance.


The 103,000 foreign soldiers in Afghanistan and the over 150,000 Afghan National Army soldiers and the Afghan National Police should be more than enough to tackle the less than 20,000 Taliban if the Afghan people were convinced that the west and its partner in Kabul, President Karzai, could be trusted to put their homeland on the path of progress and prosperity. Until that happens, neither any increase in resources and troops nor the holding of elections will be able defeat the Taliban and stabilise Afghanistan.


The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar. Email: rahimyusufzai @yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

INSTABILITY AND THE ECONOMY

DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN


Political instability and economic performance are inversely related. Unstable political environment reduces investment, slows economic growth and gives rise to unemployment and poverty. Poor economic performance, meanwhile, can lead to political unrest and government collapse. Unfortunately, Pakistan is currently witnessing political uncertainty of the highest order and its adverse consequences for the economy are quite visible.


Despite a peaceful election and smooth transfer of power last year, the present government failed to find its feet and continues to lurch from one crisis to another. In the beginning, the incoming government faced a serious setback when its major coalition partner left the government. It found itself clueless in addressing economic problems, external shocks in particular. For a protracted period thereafter, Pakistan had no ministers of finance, commerce, petroleum and natural resources and health. The government gave the impression of having little sense of direction and purpose.


The crisis of confidence intensified as investors and development partners started to walk away; the stock market nosedived, flight of capital set in, foreign exchange reserves plummeted and the rupee slumped in value by a third. Pakistan had no option but to return to the IMF for a bailout package in the eighth month of the government's existence. The return to the IMF was the first casualty of political instability.


The political instability continued to intensify. The agitation for restoration of the judges added to the political tension. The judges were finally restored by the government in March, in the twelfth month of its existence. Then came the Kerry-Lugar Bill and the government had to face widespread criticism in almost every walk of life. The criticism was not against the $1.5 billion per annum aid package but against the insulting language and the conditionalities attached to the Bill. The Kerry-Lugar Bill certainly weakened the government further and added to political instability, with adverse consequences for the economy.


The National Reconciliation Ordinance added more fuel to the fire. The government faced real embarrassment when almost all its coalition partners decided not to support the government in the Parliament on the issue of the NRO. In the process, the government appears to have been further weakened and the print and electronic media are speculating about the exit of the president and some key ministers. Such speculations are poisonous to the economy.


The government itself is responsible for creating the political instability. Why political instability is bad for the economy? Because it weakens governance as the government continues to strive for its survival with the economy remaining out of the radar screen. Poor governance erodes investors' confidence and results in lower investment, slower economic growth, rise in unemployment and poverty, which, in turn, further fuel political instability.

Slower economic growth leads to lower collection of taxes, which undermines the ability of the government to invest on people and infrastructure. Under-investment on people, along with a rise in unemployment and poverty, increase frustration and trigger political instability. It also encourages the politically weak government, constantly under the threat of losing office, to borrow extensively to undertake unnecessarily large expenditures to please pressure groups. Such policies lead to the accumulation of debt, with adverse consequences for future generations. Political instability creates uncertainty about the policies as the government hesitates to take tough economic decisions and postpones much-needed structural reforms.

Economic governance is the victim of political instability. For women and children to die in stampedes for a few kilograms of wheat, in a country which produces more wheat than its own requirements, is nothing but lack of governance. The persistence of the sugar crisis is yet another example of that. The sugar crisis is the result of the government not taking the right decisions at the right time, and of its mishandling of the supply-demand issue, on the other hand.


The nation has already paid a heavy price of political uncertainty during the last 20 months. Economic growth slowed to two percent in 2008-09 and is not likely to improve in the current fiscal year as the political instability continues to keep the economy out of focus. Unemployment and poverty are certainly on the rise. Revenue collection will once again be a victim of the political instability and the likely shortfall will be Rs100 billion in the current fiscal year. Should the ministry of finance be blamed for this shortfall? The answer is emphatically no. It is the responsibility of the government and the political leadership to create a relatively stable environment in which economic activity flourishes and tax authorities collect revenues and the government undertakes reforms in the tax system and tax administration. In the midst of the political instability, can the present government introduce value-added tax in Budget 2010-11?


While political instability affects revenue collection, it also encourages government to borrow extensively. Accordingly, the government has added $12 billion in external debt thus far and is likely to add another $7 billion by end-June 2010. External debt servicing has increased from $2.87 billion in end-June 2007 to $4.52 billion in end-June 2009. This amount is likely to increase to $6 billion in the current fiscal year. Foreign direct investment, which stood at over $8 billion in 2006-07, has plunged to $3.7 billion in 2008-09 and is likely to decline further in the current fiscal year.


We must remember that economic stability and political stability are deeply interconnected. No amount of foreign assistance will propel growth unless conditions like a stable and honest government, market-oriented and outward-looking policies, and a willingness to undertake reforms are in place. Aid that goes into poor policy environment does not work. Instead, it contributes to debt and restrains future growth.


The writer is dean and professor at NUST Business School, Islamabad. Email: ahkhan@nims.edu.pk

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

REJECTING HYPER-NATIONALISTS

MOSHARRAF ZAIDI


The voice of Pakistan's emerging middle class will not always be amplified in ways that serve Pakistanis' collective interests. The overwhelming majority of the Pakistani middle class takes great pains to conduct and promote an honest and open debate about the issues. Part of taking those pains includes introspection. There is an increasingly important deviant strain of hyper-nationalism mixing itself in with the voice of the Pakistani middle class. Pakistanis need to tackle it with the same integrity and purposefulness that has enabled the establishment of this middle class voice in the first place.


While it remains true that the majority of critique of the Pakistani media is malicious and motivated by attempts to delegitimise the country's fragile middle class voice, it is also true that the low quality of research, fact-checking and integrity among Pakistani hyper-nationalists makes their work dangerously counter-productive, and hardly strengthens the case of Pakistan. Hyper-nationalist pundits always find America and India as the root of all evil. Hyper-nationalist newspapers seem to have all th