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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

EDITORIAL 11.11.09

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

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

 

month november 11, edition 000347, 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. A KILLER GOES PARTYING
  2. GOONDA RAJ IN MUMBAI
  3. A YEAR AFTER 26/11, STILL VULNERABLE - ASHOK K MEHTA
  4. SYMBOL OF HINDU RENAISSANCE - PRIYADARSI DUTTA
  5. LEFT TROUNCED AGAIN - SHIKHA MUKERJEE
  6. CHINESE FOCUS ON OBAMA - B RAMAN
  7. FISHING IN TROUBLED WATERS - KHIMI THAPA
  8. THAW UNLIKELY AT COPENHAGEN CLIMATE TALKS - ANDREI FEDYASHIN

MAIL TODAY

  1. SUSPENSION TOO MILD FOR ROWDY MLAS
  2. SC'S VARYING STAND
  3. DINAKARAN MUST GO
  4. INTELLECTUALS HAVE FAILED TO UNDERSTAND TERRORISM - BY SAIF SHAHIN
  5. CONG FEELS THE HEAT IN LOCAL BODY POLLS - A SRINIVASA RAO
  6. LAWYERS' PROTEST NOT A HEALTHY SIGN - PAPER'S A LEADER IN WATCHDOG JOURNALISM

TIMES OF INDIA

  1. ADVANTAGE UPA
  2. MORE INTENSITY
  3. THE MORAL DEFENCE RESTS -
  4. 'GLOBAL COOPERATION IS VITAL TO ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE' -
  5. GOAN FOREIGN - JUG SURAIYA 
  6. NEW GREEN THUMBS -

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. OURTAKE - SHORT ARM OF THE LAW
  2. THEPUNDIT - HAMMERED, SICKLED
  3. TO NOT TO BE - SAGARIKA GHOSE
  4. VANDE INDEED! - FIROZ BAKHT AHMED
  5. SO UNCLEAR ON THE NUCLEAR FRONT - K SANTHANAM & ASHOK PARTHASARATHI.

INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. IN DENIAL
  2. OUT OF CONTENTION
  3. BENDING THE ARC OF CRISIS - C. RAJA MOHAN
  4. THE ROADS TO REVOLUTION - MIHIR S SHARMA
  5. TIGHTENING AN OBVIOUS TIE - RORY MEDCALF
  6. DON'T MIND YOUR LANGUAGE - ABHINAV CHANDRACHUD
  7. VIEW FROM THE LEFT - MANOJ C G
  8. SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL - OBAIDULLAH NASIR

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. MARATHI PRIDE & ECONOMIC DOWNFALL
  2. NO QUALIFICATIONS NECESSARY
  3. WHAT TED DIDN'T GET ABOUT INDIA - MANJEET KRIPALANI
  4. PAKISTAN & ITS CRONY CAPITALISTS - KAMAL A MUNIR
  5. HAS COMMUNISM REALLY GONE FROM CUBULCUT? - ALEXANDRA RICE
  6. REPORT CARD

THE HINDU

  1. MAINSTREAMING CHAUVINISM
  2. MILITANT SANCTUARIES
  3. THE MEDIA AND THE FARM SECTOR - M.S. SWAMINATHAN
  4. CLIMATE: RICH AND POOR MUST WORK TOGETHER - DOUGLAS ALEXANDER AND MOHAMED NASHEED
  5. THE POLITICS OF STREETFIGHTING - MEENA MENON
  6. FOR TALIBAN FIGHTERS, A FADING MEMORIAL - DEXTER FILKINS
  7. WHY WAS THE AFGHAN JOURNALIST LEFT TO DIE? - HASAN SUROOR
  8. RECESSION IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION - RICHARD WRAY

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. RATTLED BEIJING NEEDS WATCHING
  2. OZ SEEKS AN ASIAN FRIEND - BY ASHOK MALIK
  3. TAWANG AND THE GHOSTS OF 1962 - BY MAURA MOYNIHAN
  4. HE IS VERY DEPENDABLE - MEERA KATHIRAVAN
  5. A BAD BEGINNING IN MAHARASHTRA - BY INDER MALHOTRA

DNA

  1. LAWLESS BUNCH
  2. GET ROCKIN' - SUMAA TEKUR
  3. OUT OF FOCUS -NANDINI RAMNATH
  4. BEFORE HIS ASIA TRIP OBAMA SHOULD SEE 2012 - VENKATESAN VEMBU
  5. LAWLESS BUNCH
  6. OUR TRUE HOME
  7. NOT ACCEPTABLE
  8. HORN (NOT) OK PLEASE - HARISH BIJOOR

THE TRIBUNE

  1. GOONDA RAJ
  2. SETBACK FOR SP IN UP
  3. DINAKARAN MUST QUIT
  4. BHABHA'S DREAM COMES ALIVE - BY O.P. SABHERWAL
  5. COINCIDENCES - BY HARISH DHILLON
  6. GREEN SIGNAL TO BT BRINJAL - BY S.S. CHAHAL
  7. FIVE MYTHS ABOUT ELECTIONS - BY PAUL COLLIER
  8. WHEN HUNGARY LED THE WAY - BY MITCHELL KOSS

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

  1. THE TAWANG TRIP
  2. TRAFFIC SOLUTIONS
  3. ENERGY SECURITY– CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES - PABITRA CHAUDHURI
  4. CLASS-X PUBLIC EXAMINATION – A BURDEN OR BOON? - HARINARAYAN DAS

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. WISHFUL THINKING
  2. SEBI MOVES WELCOME
  3. MIND THE GAP
  4. NREGA: AN EXCHANGE WITH JEAN DREZE
  5. SWAMINATHAN S ANKLESARIA AIYA
  6. FOCUSING ON CORE ISSUES OF GST - VIVEK MISHRA
  7. HAIL TIME AND NOT HITLER! - VITHAL C NADKARNI
  8. GST: GET STATES ON BOARD, TIE UP LOOSE ENDS - TK ARUN
  9. 'WE ARE JUST CUSTODIANS OF ROLEX BRAND' - RAKHI MAZUMDAR
  10. 'WE WILL MAKE INDIA OUR R&D HUB' -  SANJEEV SINHA
  11. 'FINAL DATE FOR GST ROLLOUT ONLY IN DECEMBER'

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. RATTLED BEIJING NEEDS WATCHING
  2. A BAD BEGINNING IN MAHARASHTRA  - BY INDER MALHOTRA
  3. POOLING RISK WON'T MAKE AMERICA SOCIALIST - BY ROGER COHEN
  4. OZ SEEKS AN ASIAN FRIEND  - BY ASHOK MALIK
  5. TAWANG AND THE GHOSTS OF 1962  - BY MAURA MOYNIHAN
  6. E FOR ELECTRONIC, W FOR WASTE  -  BY JAYATI GHOSH

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. BRUTE POWER
  2. FREE RUN
  3. THE BEST AND THE WORST - K.P. NAYAR
  4. START AGAIN  - STEPHEN HUGH-JONES

the statesman

  1. IMAGE REINFORCED
  2. MARXIST DILEMMA
  3. NO LONGER SPECIAL
  4. IMMUNE MEMORY LAPSE 'REVEALED'
  5. VOLATILE VALLEY - BY AMIT KUSHARI

DECCAN HERALD

  1. ADVOCATING VIOLENCE
  2. WALLS ABOUND
  3. FUSING FAITHS - BY FIROZ BAKHT AHMED
  4. A LAY OF EUROPE FOR ALL FAITHS - BY EMMA BONINO, IPS
  5. THE FLIGHT OF THE SPARROW - BY VINITA KRISHNAMURTHY

THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. ISOLATED INCIDENTS...
  2. CENTER FIELD: DELEGITIMIZING THE DELEGITIMIZERS - GIL TROY
  3. LION'S DEN: SUDDEN JIHAD, OR INORDINATE STRESS AT FORT HOOD? - DANIEL PIPES
  4. GRAPEVINE: THE GOOD WORD ABOUT ISRAEL - GREER FAY CASHMAN
  5. REVOLUTIONS ARE A SERIOUS BUSINESS - NIR BOMS AND SHAYAN ARYA
  6. IS SWEDEN HEADED BACK TO THE PAST? - TOMAS SANDELL
  7. IN GERMANY, THE EAST-WEST DIVIDE IS STILL ALIVE AND KICKING - ANETTA KAHANE

HAARETZ

  1. WITH MOFAZ AS BEILIN
  2. LOOK AROUND YOU  - BY AVIRAMA GOLAN
  3. OBAMA'S GOOD INTENTIONS LEAD NOWHERE  - BY SHLOMO AVINERI
  4. IS THERE REALLY NO PARTNER? - BY MOSHE ARENS
  5. IMMIGRANTS, DISEASE AND THE ZIONIST ETHOS - BY RHONA SEIDELMAN-PINCU

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. A NATIONAL DISGRACE
  2. THE TROUBLE WITH 'ZERO TOLERANCE'
  3. CRUEL, POINTLESS GAMES
  4. HOMELESS ON VETERANS DAY
  5. VIRTUOUS BANKERS? REALLY!?! - BY MAUREEN DOWD
  6. TRUCKS, TRAINS AND TREES - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  7. REVOLUTIONARY ROAD - BY KARRIE JACOBS

I.THE NEWS

  1. GILGIT VOTES
  2. POT AND KETTLE
  3. POLARITIES
  4. IN THE NAME OF GOD, GO - ROEDAD KHAN
  5. KUDOS TO THE MEDIA - TALAT FAROOQ
  6. TIMBUKTU – CITY IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE - DR A Q KHAN
  7. A CONSOLIDATED NATIONAL POLICY - MASOOD SHARIF KHAN KHATTAK
  8. 'THE NAME TELLS US A LOT' - ANJUM NIAZ
  9. $1 BILLION A MONTH - TAYYAB SIDDIQUI

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. GEN TARIQ TALKS OF REDLINES ONCE AGAIN
  2. CASES OF ALL NRO BENEFICIARIES SHOULD BE REOPENED
  3. STRIKE OF CNG STATIONS
  4. PUPPET TO CONTINUE THE DANCE - M ASHRAF MIRZA
  5. HILLARY VISIT: BEGINNING OF SOFT-POWER DIPLOMACY? - SHAMAILA FAROOQ
  6. THE EAGLE CAME! - AYESHA ZEE KHAN
  7. AMERICAN MUSLIMS GRIEVED, FEAR BACKLASH  - ABDUS SATTAR GHAZALI
  8. DON'T WE ALL..! - ROBERT CLEMENTS

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. CLIMATE CHANGE
  2. FALL OF BERLIN WALL
  3. STRENGTH FROM THE HILLS...!
  4. DISARRAYED POLITICAL ECONOMY - ABDUL KHALEQUE
  5. CLIMATE FINANCE HITS SNAG BEFORE UN'S KEY COPENHAGEN SUMMIT - TAREQUL ISLAM MUNNA
  6. CLEARING FORESTS FOR COAL IN MAHARASHTRA - APARNA PALLAVI

THE HIMALAYAN

  1. THAW OF SORTS
  2. ON THE FAST LANE
  3. MAOISTS' TRUE INTENT POWER THROUGH THE BACK-DOOR - AJIT N.S THAPA
  4. THE COARSE DEAL OF INSENSITIVITY - PRAKASH SPARSHA
  5. DIVERGENT VIEWS ON CAUSE OF DIARRHOEA DEATHS - LAXMI MAHARJAN
  6. CREDOS;CREATE A WINNING ATTITUDE — II - ROBERT KNOWLTON

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. OPERATION OUTSOURCE
  2. MALCOLM TURNBULL AND BARNABY JOYCE ARE MAKING THE SAME MISTAKE
  3. THE REAL REVOLUTION

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. REGULATING THE NET IN THE DARK
  2. ANOTHER KIND OF WALL

THE GURDIAN

  1. GORDON BROWN AND AFGHANISTAN: THE HARDEST CALL OF ALL
  2. DAVID CAMERON'S HUGO YOUNG LECTURE: FOLLOW THE MONEY
  3. IN PRAISE OF… YVO DE BOER

DAILY EXPRESS

  1. DIGNIFIED HOMECOMINGS CAN DO WITHOUT THE BNP
  2. LEAVE CHILD-REARING TO PARENTS, NOT THE STATE - BY ANN WIDDECOMBE
  3. BROWN IS A FAILURE BUT EVEN HE DOES NOT DESERVE THIS - BY PATRICK O'FLYNN

THE KOREA HERALD

  1. NOISE AS A CRIME
  2. NAVAL SKIRMISH
  3. BANISHING THE HUMANITIES FROM COLLEGE - KIM SEONG-KON
  4. MORE WALLS HAVE YET TO FALL - MIKHAIL GORBACHEV

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. PROBLEMATIC 'PLUTHERMAL' ERA
  2. JAPAN AND THE MEKONG REGION
  3. YET ANOTHER 'BATTLE OF OKINAWA' - BY GAVAN MCCORMACK
  4. A GOOD TIME TO REMEMBER THE ANZUS ALLIANCE'S FATE - BY RALPH A. COSSA AND BRAD GLOSSERMAN

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. WHAT THE FACTS SAY
  2. NO SILVER BULLET TO CLIMATE CHANGE, WE NEED THEM ALL - DARWIN SILALAHI

CHINA DAILY

  1. CHINA'S HELP TO AFRICA IS SINCERE AND WELCOMED BY AFRICAN PEOPLE
  2. WELCOME INITIATIVE
  3. HIGH RATE MUST GIVE WAY TO QUALITY GROWTH
  4. AIR FORCE: SIXTY YEARS OF FLYING WITH FLYING COLORS

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. CUTTING-EDGE INCOMPETENCE - BY YULIA LATYNINA
  2. CENTRAL BANK FOCUSING ON THE WRONG RATE - BY MARTIN GILMAN

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

A KILLER GOES PARTYING

WHO APPROVED PAROLE FOR MANU SHARMA?


It is shocking, to say the least, that a convicted killer should have been released on parole from Delhi's Tihar Jail to visit his 'ailing' mother not for a couple of days but two months. As if that were not bad enough, the killer, Manu Sharma, who has been sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering a young model, Jessica Lall, in 1999, has been found pub-crawling in Delhi while his allegedly 'ailing' mother has been busy addressing Press conferences at a hotel in Chandigarh to promote women's cricket. The details of the parole scandal involving Manu Sharma are by now well-known and do not merit reiteration. But it would be in order to raise certain questions that must be answered by the Government of Delhi, more so by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. First, why was such leniency shown to Manu Sharma when parole petitions submitted by those convicted for lesser crimes are routinely turned down or kept 'pending'? A possible answer could be found in the fact that Manu Sharma is the son of powerful Congress leader and Haryana MLA Vinod Sharma. It would, therefore, not be necessarily incorrect to suggest that Manu Sharma was favoured by the Congress Government in Delhi because he has a power daddy with the right political credentials and connections. Second, who is responsible for this mockery of the law? Manu Sharma, given his track record, could not be expected to behave in any different manner. But who decided to let him out? Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit says the decision to grant him parole was taken by a committee comprising the Jail Superintendent, Home Secretary, Delhi Government, the police and the Lieutenant-Governor. If what she claims is correct, then each one of them is guilty of gross dereliction of duty and pandering to politically powerful individuals, and must be held accountable. But that does not answer the question as to why did Ms Dikshit agree to sign the relevant papers. Her brazen attempt to justify the ill-deserved and manipulated parole only serves to underscore her own complicit role in the scandal: She clearly stands diminished in the popular perception. Third, how come the police failed to monitor Manu Sharma's movements? He was seen campaigning with his father during the recent Haryana Assembly election and spotted partying at various watering holes in Delhi where power-brokers gather every night. Did it require a pub brawl to alert the police that Manu Sharma wasn't tending to his 'ailing' mother in Chandigarh?


The answers to these and related questions are obvious to all. But that does not mean corrective action will be taken or measures initiated to ensure that Manu Sharma and his ilk are not pampered by a state whose moral quotient has hit an all time low. Which, in a sense, is the real though tragic message of the scandal. Meanwhile, perhaps the Government of India would like to find out how come night clubs located in Government-owned hotels remain open well past their closing time — unless some night clubs are more privileged than others because they are owned and patronised by the Capital's power elite. Strangely, the watering holes where Manu Sharma was partying on Sunday night are a short distance from the Prime Minister's residence, which only demonstrates that the law of the land means nothing, not even in high security zones!

 

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THE PIONEER

GOONDA RAJ IN MUMBAI

HOUSE FRACAS SHOWS TRUE FACE OF MNS


The shocking incident in the Maharashtra Assembly wherein Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Azmi was physically assaulted by MNS MLAs for taking his oath as member of the House in Hindi needs to be condemned in the harshest of terms. Such display of hooliganism cannot be tolerated in any civil society, let alone on the floor of a legislative. The MNS MLAs surely deserve to be punished for their unruly behaviour. Four out of the 13 of them in the Assembly have been suspended for a period of four years. There is no doubt that the entire incident was planned in advance. It was no secret that Mr Azmi was going to take his oath in Hindi — something which he is constitutionally entitled to do. The MNS legislators had even come prepared with posters and banners to protest against anyone taking the oath in any language other than Marathi. In fact, MNS chief Raj Thackeray had written a three-page letter to all elected MLAs of the State, urging them to protect 'Marathi pride'. The letter was distributed before and during the first day of the new Assembly. Hence, not only was the incident premeditated but also carefully orchestrated to derive maximum political mileage. After all, apart from the 'Marathi manoos' agenda there is not much that the MNS can claim to represent. Thus, the MNS legislators saw a golden opportunity to make a big impact on their Assembly debut in targeting Mr Azmi.


Though the MNS has been rightfully criticised for the incident by parties across the political spectrum, the nature of the punishment that has been meted out to the four erring MLAs — Shishir Shinde, Ramesh Vanjale, Ram Kadam and Vasant Gite — does merit a relook. There is no denying that the four of them have brought disrepute to the position they hold and deserve every bit of contempt behind the suspension ruling. However, at the same time, suspension would mean that they will technically continue to remain the representatives of their respective constituencies but yet not be able to effectively represent the people who elected them to the State Assembly. This is surely harsh on the people of these constituencies. They deserve to be effectively represented, for, political representation is an inalienable right of every Indian citizen and the bedrock of our democracy. Therefore, it makes little sense to throw the baby out with the bath water. It would be more prudent to disqualify the four MNS MLAs and bar them from subsequent by-elections to their constituencies. One thing that is for sure is that a strong message needs to be sent out by the political establishment that the MNS' strong-arm tactics will not be tolerated. For this it must be impressed upon the MNS that their brand of goondaism will not be without consequences.

 

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            THE PIONEER

COLUMN

A YEAR AFTER 26/11, STILL VULNERABLE

ASHOK K MEHTA


Fifteen days from now, India will be commemorating the carnage of 26/11 and pledging never to let it happen again. If past record is any indicator, it is virtually impossible to see this pledge through though preventing a terrorist strike for one year is quite an achievement. Although a great deal of noise was made post-26/11 about upgrading internal security structures, both at the Centre and in the States, little worthwhile has been done to insulate the country from external terrorism except creating a National Investigating Agency, increasing number of police posts and personnel and purchasing sundry hi-tech gadgetry and weapons. But there is no all-weather mechanism in place to prevent, pre-empt and as a last resort, punish the source and sponsors of terrorism.


Ponder why there has been no attack for one year when the average interval between terrorist assaults has been around 4.8 months for the last eight years. Credit for this lies more outside than inside India. While two major alerts were sounded, no attack materialised. The second alarm was set off last month when the Pakistan Navy was conducting a routine exercise off the Western coast. A 26/11-type Lashkar-e-Tayyeba attack was expected in four cities: Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata and Ahmedabad. It turned out to be a false alarm, doubly surprising since according to the Military CBM Agreement with Pakistan, both sides are to notify each other about military exercises. That LeT has been planning strikes against India has never been in doubt. What is relevant is tip-offs.

The David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana multiple-target plan against India, still months from fruition, was recently busted by the FBI in the US. It was masterminded in the US by Headley in coordination with other LeT operatives in America and Pakistan. The FBI dossier suggests HuJI commander Ilyas Kashmiri was also involved in the planning. It seems LeT was torn between attacking the offices of the Danish newspaper which printed cartoons of Prophet Mohammed in 2005 and angered Muslims worldwide, and going for the National Defence College and other targets in India. Incidentally, the LeT has never carried out a terrorist attack inside Pakistan, which is one of the reasons why it is a strategic asset and the Pakistani establishment so deferential to it.


The key lesson of 26/11 is that the US is keeping a hawk-eyed surveillance over LeT and pressurising Pakistan to keep it on a leash, especially when the culprits of Mumbai, notably LeT supremo Hafiz Saeed, have not been booked. When there is the political will, there is the way to muzzle the LeT. The Americans, after enormous effort and investment, have goaded the Pakistani Army to launch an offensive in South Waziristan and the last thing they want is a repeat of 26/11 to provoke India into delivering what Home Minister P Chidambaram initially called "a swift and decisive response", later abbreviated into a "sledgehammer" and most recently refined to warning that "the attack will be defended and retaliated very strongly".


The Americans are familiar with more dire threats and warnings given by Delhi after the LeT attack on Parliament in December 2001 when US troops were fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and a substantial portion of the Pakistani Army was deployed in the west. The Americans also realise that a second strike against India could attract a swift and decisive military response unlike in May 2002 when the second attack at Kaluchak, Jammu, created war hysteria but was contained through crisis management and a personal assurance by Gen Pervez Musharraf.


US Assistant Undersecretary of State Richard Armitage had conveyed that Pakistan would stop all terrorist attacks permanently, visibly, irreversibly and to the satisfaction of India. That landmark commitment held for nearly 18 months and led to the revival of the peace process. A terrorist strike against India would give the Pakistani Army just the excuse to pull out from the offensive in South Waziristan and switch to the eastern front.

By way of action some tinkering with institutional mechanisms has been done but there is no national counter-terrorism strategy as part of homeland security in place. Mr Chidambaram has made several confessions on institutional failures of the past and made stirring speeches on meeting the challenges, promising "till my last drop of blood, I will not allow armed revolution (Maoism) or terrorism and violence to overwhelm India".


The Home Minister's warning was reinforced by Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor who issued a rare public rebuke about the country's hollow zero-tolerance policy on terrorism. He cited the example of "the US which has not allowed a second 9/11 to happen. It's time for all of us to say 'no more'." He called for smarter intelligence and security responses. At the same meeting, Minister of State for Defence, MM Pallam Raju, called for appointing a national Intelligence Coordinator.


One year after 26/11, eight years after 13/12 and suffering several acts of terrorism later, India is still battling with the basics. India cannot defend itself from within its own borders. After 9/11, the US and the West are fighting terrorism at source in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. India has two options: To fight terrorism in Afghanistan and help Pakistan in combating the multiple threats it faces from within; or sit back and be continuously struck at home as it has been these last two decades, exhibiting an exceptional limit of tolerance.


New Delhi should provide Islamabad, at the highest level, the assurance that it will not militarily misuse the voids Pakistan would create by thinning out forces from the east in order to fight its war against terrorism. India must also create overwhelming military superiority to discourage the ISI from unleashing the LeT.


Mr Chidambaram, who has infused a new spirit in internal security, must be capable of implementing the threat of the 'sledgehammer' as part of his swift and decisive response. Western military experts believe that India has a low-yield military which is not put to use to establish either dominance or deterrence, which is why the LeT may be tempted to call Mr Chidambaram's bluff.


The links between the establishment in Pakistan and 'good' terrorists has to be broken and a modicum of civilian control on the military re-established. Mr Chidambaram should follow Gen Patton's advice to his soldiers: "Make sure you bleed the enemy without shedding a drop yourself."

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

SYMBOL OF HINDU RENAISSANCE

PRIYADARSI DUTTA


A line in the Egyptian national anthem Bilady, Bilady, Bilady (my country, my country, my country) refers to Egypt as the mother of all lands, Misr ya umm al-bilad. And the anthem of Bangladesh, Amar Sonar Bangla ami tomay bhalobasi (My golden Bengal I love thee) describes the land as mother more than once. High adulation for one's homeland comes down from the peaks of poetic inspiration in not just a few anthems of Islamic countries. These, however, may not interest the Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind who recently invoked an old fatwa against Muslims singing Vande Mataram.


The hornet's nest has been stirred again. Hindu nationalists are fuming over this apparent treasonous decree. The practitioners of wooly secularism are arguing that a song cannot be the litmus test of patriotism. Vande Mataram was a stirring mantra of our freedom struggle. It was not only the revolutionaries of Bengal and Maharashtra but Mahatma Gandhi too who adored our National Song and signed off many letters with 'Vande Mataram, Mohandas'.


However, Muslim contention against Vande Mataram is two-fold — first, that it transforms motherland into a Hindu goddess and, second, the song is part of an anti-Muslim literature viz Anandamutt.


Vande Mataram weaves Sanskrit with Bangla. Yet, it received overwhelming support from Hindus of all provinces. This is testimony to the fact that Hindus share a 'thought world' different from Muslims. Vande Mataram might have inspired our freedom fighters. But the freedom movement itself was almost wholly a Hindu affair. It was Hindus who melted their bones in the dungeons of Andaman and went to the gallows smiling. The Hindus alone considered India to be their motherland.


The philosophy and euphony of Vande Mataram had appealed to maestros like Tagore, Pt Vishnu Digambar Pulaskar, Master Krishnarao Fulambrikar, VD Ambhaikar, Dilipkumar Roy and MS Subbalaxmi. Milind Sabnis of Pune has collected almost every collectable on Vande Mataram — records, CDs, books and pictures. It is no coincidence that all of them are Hindu creations. No Muslim ustad — despite their dominant presence in the music world — espoused this beautiful song.


The letter and spirit of Vande Mataram — in no parochial sense — is Hindu. It's hard to imagine a bearded mullah appreciating Kalidas' Malvika Agnimitram. It is the same with Sankritised Vande Mataram. Let it be an ennobling song of Hindu renaissance.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

LEFT TROUNCED AGAIN

THE RESULTS OF THE ASSEMBLY BY-ELECTIONS IN WEST BENGAL HAVE ONCE AGAIN DEMONSTRATED THAT THE CPI(M)-LED LEFT FRONT IS RAPIDLY LOSING POPULAR SUPPORT. THE TRINAMOOL CONGRESS-CONGRESS ALLIANCE LED BY MAMATA BANERJEE CONTINUES TO GRAB TERRITORY TILL NOW HELD BY THE LEFT

SHIKHA MUKERJEE


Change is in, continuity is out and the CPI(M)'s claim that it represents stability has been rejected. The entirely expected results of the by-elections to 10 Assembly seats in West Bengal are a clear signal that the Trinamool Congress, like a juggernaut, continues to roll on and occupy the Left's turf.


Never before in any election in West Bengal has the CPI(M) drawn a blank. Never before in any election has the Opposition won nine out of 10 seats. The Forward Bloc has made a brave stand, winning the Goalpokhor seat.

The Trinamool Congress contested seven seats out of the 10 that went to the polls on November 7; it won all seven. The message from the voters is, therefore, clear: The Trinamool Congress is the preferred choice.

It was argued till this result was declared that the Trinamool Congress was winning on a strongly negative sentiment against the 32 year old regime led by the CPI(M). Pundits indicated that a particularly virulent strain of anti-incumbency had been at work which produced the series of CPI(M) losses, from the panchayat elections in 2008 to the Lok Sabha elections in 2009 and other municipal and by-elections in between.


It would be difficult to sustain that argument now. This round of by-elections was different to begin with. Nine of the 10 constituencies where elections were held, were seats vacated by winners who had moved up from the State Assembly to the Lok Sabha. Of the seven seats that the Trinamool Congress contested, five were already in its possession before the by-elections. It has won the prestigious Belgachia East seat in addition, defeating the ghost (including his trade mark white panama hat used as a sentimental reminder in the campaign) of late State Sports Minister Subhas Chakraborty.


It could be argued that the loss of the Goalpokhor seat for the Congress, vacated by current Member of Parliament Deepa Das Munshi after her election, is a serious loss of face for the feisty critic of the Trinamool Congress. However, Ms Deepa Das Munshi's loss is not a gain for the Left Front, even though the Forward Bloc has registered an unexpected win. The Forward Bloc's gain is reward for its sustained hard labour over the past three years to distance itself from the CPI(M) on critical issues such as land acquisition, industrialisation, Special Economic Zones, security operations against the Maoists; it is confirmation that the party's efforts at distancing itself from its larger partner have paid off.


These by-elections are, therefore, a land mark. Before November 10, it was anti-incumbency that could be produced as a reason for the CPI(M)'s sustained losses from the panchayat elections onwards. After November 10, any election that the Trinamool Congress wins could be considered a positive endorsement for the party or rather its leader Mamata Banerjee.


Since the CPI(M) must have anticipated that it would not win any seat, not even the Belgachia East seat in this election, it is a pity that it persuaded the veteran Jyoti Basu to deliver a last minute appeal to all right thinking voters. It may have been wiser to use his appeal post the defeat, when his message may have struck a chord in some voters' minds.

For, the Duronto Express is, it appears, unstoppably, on the move. To ensure Ms Banerjee's victories in the future and its role as the lead party in West Bengal, all that the CPI(M) has to do is to participate in every turf war that the Trinamool Congress launches or wages in any part of West Bengal. The violence in Khanakul, Nanur and Arambagh on the eve of the election with both sides engaged in armed attacks did not hurt the Trinamool Congress. It certainly hurt the CPI(M). It allowed the Trinamool Congress to reaffirm its image as the victim of the CPI(M)'s brutality, which by extension and a leap of the imagination became linked to voters' lived experience of the routine oppression of the ruling party. The Trinamool Congress became identified with the underdog while the CPI(M) became the aggressor.


Now that the Trinamool Congress has emerged triumphant and is the dominant party in West Bengal, it has to continue winning. It has to work at continuing to win the sympathy of ordinary voters. It has to continue to provoke the CPI(M) to violence and then counter that violence.


The next phase in West Bengal politics will be bleak and bloody, as the two rivals slug it out. Since violence has become a proxy for politics and it seems to deliver wins for the Trinamool Congress, any expectation that peace, stability and 'development' will return to the State in the near future is laughable. West Bengal's famously politically conscious voters, who once dissected complex issues of 'class struggle' under Marxist tutelage are now busy working out the exact degree of proximity of neighbours and voters to the CPI(M) or to the Trinamool Congress. The great divide is no longer political issues; it is allegiance to the CPI(M).

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THE PIONEER

OPED

CHINESE FOCUS ON OBAMA

MAN OF 'PRETTY WORDS' NOT MATCHED BY ACTION

B RAMAN


US President Barack Obama is undertaking a four-nation Asia trip from November 12 to 19. He will be in Japan on November 12-13. From there, he will fly to Singapore to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and then visit China and South Korea before returning to the US.


As his visit to China approaches, the Chinese media has been carrying an increasing number of articles on his personality, his policies, developing Sino-US relations and China's relations with the rest of the world.

 

A perusal of the writings would show that India is not the only country where there are lots of nostalgic memories of his predecessor Mr George W Bush. Even in China, there are analysts who are more positive on Mr Bush in retrospect than on Mr Obama. They view Mr Obama essentially as a man of "pretty words" not matched by appropriate action. They still remember with gratitude how Mr Bush firmly opposed calls for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics since he felt that it would humiliate the Chinese people.


Attention has been drawn to the fact that no other US President has undertaken so many foreign visits in his first year in office as Mr Obama has and delivered so many beautiful orations. Have these visits and orations contributed to a better perception and understanding of the US? The Chinese analysts are not sure of this.


The growing scepticism about Mr Obama is reflected in an article titled "Obama needs deeds, not just pretty words" written in the Global Times of November 8 by Tian Wei, a Chinese TV anchor, who was posted in Washington, DC, during the first term of Mr Bush and who now hosts the Chinese TV talk show, "Dialogue" .


She writes: "Obviously, Mr Obama is not coming to Asia to show off American strength this time, as the US's weaknesses are currently much more apparent. Rather he seems to believe it is essential to restore American leadership and solve the problems by involving others in the process as well. With this trip to Asia, Mr Obama will have visited 20 countries in his first year in office, the most by any US President in history… But what is more important is not just his sincerity but also his credibility."


According to her, "Many believe that the nature of relations between Beijing and Washington has been changing over the years, and has now reached a truly global level over issues like climate change and the financial crisis. As the nature of the relationship evolves, it is especially crucial for the Obama Administration to show its credibility if it wants the Chinese or others in Asia to step up."


Another interesting discussion in sections of the media has been on the continuing distrust of China in the civil societies of many countries. China's relations with Russia have been described as one of "hot governmental relations" and "cold non-governmental relations". However much the two Governments might have strengthened state-to-state relations, distrust at the people-to-people level due to historic reasons continues to persist. China has not been able to remove this distrust.

 

Though the Russian and Chinese people's perceptions of each other have been cited as an example of negative people-to-people relations, this applies with equal validity to China's relations with India, the US and many South-East and East Asian countries. Persisting distrust of China in large sections of the Indian civil society stands in the way of any substantial improvement in bilateral relations despite the keenness of the two Governments to strengthen strategic ties.

In an article titled "Balance of Powers in Asia Inevitable", written by Ding Gang, who has been described as a senior editor with the People's Daily, the concerns and suspicions aroused in Asia by China's rise as a major power have been sought to be analysed in an objective manner. These suspicions and concerns are behind the desire of many countries, including Singapore, that the US should continue to play an active role in Asia.


The article says: "It is an open secret that many Asian countries want to restrict China's rise with the help of the US. In a recent speech by Singapore's founder and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew on the Charlie Rose show in the US, he warned that the US risks losing global leadership as China rises militarily and economically. This made some Chinese netizens very unhappy… However, given the current status of the Asia-Pacific region, it is easy to understand Lee's concern."


There is thus an interesting debate going on between the advocates of a 'China first' policy who insist on a firm assertion of what they look upon as China's core interests even at the risk of driving some Asian countries into the arms of the US and those who recognise the continuing reality of a distrust of China and want that China should take note of this distrust and address the causes for it.


They look upon the attempts of some countries to strengthen their relations with the US as not the reflection of an anti-China conspiracy, but as the natural outcome of the distrust of China.


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

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

FISHING IN TROUBLED WATERS

INDIAN AND PAKISTANI FISHERMEN REGULARLY FALL PREY TO HOSTILITY BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTRIES. GREATER COORDINATION AND COOPERATION IS NEEDED TO PREVENT HARASSMENT OF FISHERMEN

KHIMI THAPA


The recent detention of 1,000 fishermen and 155 trawlers from Porbandar, Mangrol and Veraval for allegedly crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line warrants the attention of both Indian and Pakistani Governments. Focus needs to be given to the plight of fishermen from both sides who for several reasons — economic and technical — trespass into the neighbouring country's territorial waters.


In the wake of alerts that terrorists are plotting an attack via the sea route on India, akin to the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, detaining fishermen and trawlers is a feasible precautionary security measure. However, it is not a permanent solution. Therefore, the two countries must work towards a long-term solution that prevents unwarranted arrests of fishermen.


It is unfortunate that India and Pakistan, due to the less-than-warm relations they share, try to outdo each other when it comes to detaining fishermen. According to the National Fishing Forum, almost 570 Indian fishermen and 421 boats are in Pakistani custody after they were arrested by the Pakistan Marine Security Agency over the last three years for straying into Pakistani territorial waters. The number of Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails is higher than that of Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails, according to the authorities, including the Customs and Fisheries departments.


Although 26/11 has changed the equation of India-Pakistan relations, the two should not shy away from seeking a meaningful solution to this issue, similar to the one India has worked out with Sri Lanka which facilitates speedy release of trespassers. It must be realised that in majority of the cases the fishermen cross the maritime boundary either in search of a good catch or due to the absence of any physical boundary and the lack of navigational tools to determine their location. A typical fisherman, who is usually the sole breadwinner of his family, usually leaves his home with nothing more than a nylon net and a small fishing boat, which too is often rented, to earn his livelihood. He is neither tech-savvy nor can afford a GPRS tool. Hence, he is extremely vulnerable to trespassing territorial waters.


Unfortunately, the ordeal doesn't end with the arrest of the fisherman. Rather it is only the beginning as what follows is a long-winded legal battle. Owing to hostile relations between India and Pakistan, fishermen who are sentenced for six months are sometimes detained for up to two years. In some cases they don't get to see home in their lifetime. They are treated like infiltrators by the respective Governments.


This in no way implies that trespassers should not be dealt with firmly. But the issue needs to be handled much more tactfully. Communication and co-ordination between Indian and Pakistani Governments and their respective agencies — the Coast Guards of India and the Maritime Security Agency of Pakistan — need to be strengthened and can bring forward many acceptable solutions.


Joint patrolling is one of the most feasible measures the two countries can adopt. However, they would first need to understand its essence. Joint patrolling means mutual inter-dependence without botching each other's national considerations. And as part of joint patrolling, fishermen from either side should be shooed away if they are on the verge of transgression. If they are caught and their boats impounded, then they must be repatriated after thorough verification with their home country. However, this calls for co-ordination and institutionalised meetings between the marine agencies of the two countries.

The creation of a buffer zone 5 km to 10 km wide, an idea being pondered over since long, could help ensure that any fisherman on the verge of trespassing is sent back to his home country without being apprehended.

Further, patrolling boats with GPRS can be employed to not only prevent transgressions but also to rescue sinking vessels, etc.


These measures, if implemented, will guarantee greater engagement of both the marine agencies in preventing inadvertent straying of fishermen.


The disproportionate amount of time, energy and resources spent on dialogues by India and Pakistan would be meaningless if fishermen from either side continue to be at the receiving end of the hostile relations between the two.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

THAW UNLIKELY AT COPENHAGEN CLIMATE TALKS

CONSENSUS ON POST-KYOTO PROTOCOL REGIME REMAINS ELUSIVE, WRITES ANDREI FEDYASHIN


The UN conference on climate change, to be held in Copenhagen from December 7 to 18, is unlikely to result in anything more than routine pledges to address the problem of global warming.


The United States has broadly hinted that it is not ready for the conference. China has made public its dissatisfaction with the current principles of sharing responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions. African countries have boycotted UN climate talks in Barcelona to demonstrate their protest against the Western attitude to the problem.


The conference in Copenhagen was expected to discuss instruments, medicines, their doses and diets for cleansing Earth of the baneful results of human activity. The process is to start in 2020 and the Copenhagen conference was to become the most important, mandatory stage toward its beginning. It is like a decision-making point, when you must either start doing something or prepare for big problems.


Mr Todd Stern, US President Barack Obama's top climate negotiator and envoy to next month's international climate summit in Copenhagen, said the US was unlikely to complete the legal procedure for determining emission cuts in time for the Copenhagen conference. He said a climate deal was not possible sooner than in 2010, which could give some countries more time to consider the challenging issue.


"What we need to have happen is for China and India and Brazil and South Africa and others to be willing to take what they're doing, boost it up some, and then be willing to put it in to an international agreement," Mr Stern said.


The 15th climate change conference in Copenhagen planned to agree a new global climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.


Although it was signed in 1997, the protocol has not been overly effective. For example, the US signed the protocol but refused to honour it. China and India have not promised to cut the emission of CO2, methane or other greenhouse gases.


The Kyoto Protocol cannot be described as an effective global mechanism controlling greenhouse emissions, even though European countries are honouring it. Russia signed the protocol and ratified it in 2005, but has not enforced it.


The agreement to be reached in Copenhagen should determine the ceiling of the global warming and ways to ensure compliance with it. The 124 countries that signed the Kyoto Protocol and adhered to its provisions have agreed that the ceiling should not exceed two degrees by 2050.


Americans claim that they have made unprecedented commitments under the climate Bill that has not been adopted yet. They have pledged to cut greenhouse gas emission by 20 per cent by 2020, and the European Union has made a similar commitment. The trouble is that the US set the 2005 level as the reference mark, while Europe's mark is 1990, which means that the US will cut its emissions only by seven per cent compared to Europe.

One more headache of the Copenhagen conference will be compensations to developing countries. The EU, the US and Japan are prepared to allocate up to $ 100 billion annually to them to develop new energy saving technology, build environmentally friendly power plants, cut their dependence on coal and fuel oil, and the like.


However, independent analysts have calculated that Asia, Africa and Latin America need as much as $ 400 billion for stable development.


Most scientists say that since CO2, CH4 and other emissions tend to accumulate in the atmosphere, we are reaping a harvest of 'dirt' that was sown 10 to 15 years ago. If the world's nations postpone signing a binding agreement in Copenhagen, we will only continue to accumulate such 'dirt'.


 The writer is a Moscow-based commentator on current affairs.

 

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MAIL TODAY

 COMMENT

SUSPENSION TOO MILD FOR ROWDY MLAS

 

AFTER the shameful violent drama that took place inside the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly on Monday the issue is not whether Samajwadi Party leader Abu Asim Azmi should have taken his oath in Hindi or Marathi, but whether or not the Speaker should permanently disenfranchise the four Maharashtra Navnirman Sena legislators involved in the assault on the SP leader.

 

The time to overlook Raj Thackeray and his politics of language chauvinism is long gone. While Mr Thackeray has a definite plan to be most visible to the nation at critical points in time, the state must not remain a passive observer.

 

At the very least, the Legislative Assembly Speaker must take suo motu action against the perpetrators and disqualify them for the remainder of their five- year term. Instead, what we see on the streets of Mumbai is that these very people are garlanded by MNS activists. It is a mockery of democracy and all those values that we hold dear in this secular republic.

 

With his made- for- the- media antics Mr Thackeray, if not checked now, will assume the arrogance of a man who knows that everything he does is condonable. With the state showing no inclination to act against him ( as it did with Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray after the Mumbai riots of 1993), the only message that is reaching the MNS chief is this: " Your brand of politics is winning." Clearly, a weak state government in Mumbai — despite its majority — would only lead to political anarchy, if not a systemic disintegration.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

SC'S VARYING STAND

 

QUESTIONS are bound to be raised about the manner in which Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's Lucknow jail demolition proposal has passed the Supreme Court's muster. Last Friday, the SC passed on ex parte order in the government's favour after the petitioner had failed to appear during two consecutive court hearings. However, as the M AIL T ODAY has revealed, the court's registry did not give him the correct information about the date of hearing — for which he has documentary proof.

 

That this needs to be probed is evident in the backdrop of the Supreme Court's conflicting stances regarding Mayawati's grandiose scheme for construction of memorials for Dalit icons, including herself.

 

In May 2008, the Supreme Court had lifted the stay imposed by the Allahabad High Court on demolition of structures for the Lucknow projects. However, a different bench imposed it afresh in February 2009.

 

While this bench took objection to the public money being squandered on the projects, stopping construction work earlier this year, a forest bench headed by the Chief Justice of India refused to stay work at the Noida memorial — going against the recommendations of the apex court's empowered committee.

 

Then the same bench went on to halt the Noida project last month. This came at a time when work on the project was nearly complete and hundreds of crores of taxpayers' money had been spent, depriving the order of any relevance.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

 

DINAKARAN MUST GO

 

THE action of the Advocates Association of Bangalore in creating a ruckus and locking up two judges as part of their protest against Justice P. D. Dinakaran cannot be condoned. While the right of protest is a must in a democracy, the use of force and rowdyism is not acceptable, especially since the lawyers said they were acting to preserve the dignity of the court.

 

That said, there is also need to point out that there are times when one can understand why a peaceful protest gets out of hand. By now it should be clear that Justice Dinakaran has no place in any bench of any court in the country. He is facing serious land- grab charges in Tamil Nadu and the fact that his name was struck off a panel short- listed for elevation to the Supreme Court is testimony to the gravity of the charges he faces.

 

It would have been appropriate for Justice Dinakaran to put in his papers voluntarily.

 

But he has not done so and has instead sought the protection of the police to continue to attend court. The situation cannot be allowed to continue. The sooner Mr Dinakaran goes, the better.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

INTELLECTUALS HAVE FAILED TO UNDERSTAND TERRORISM

BY SAIF SHAHIN

 

Violence does not necessarily stem from poverty or conservative orthodoxy

 

THE APPROACHING anniversary of 26/ 11 brings with it a terror of its own: the bald and bespectacled babble of homespun ' terrorism experts'. Our cuttlefish commentariat spews inexorable amounts of ink on the subject all times of the year; the news peg is sure to send them into overdrive.

 

Apart from roasting Pakistan, their well- meaning offerings generally revolve around three central tenets: terrorism springs from the well of poverty into which Indian Muslims have been pushed, the bulk of Indian Muslims are not terrorists, and ' modernised' Muslims will have to stand up against the Deobandi ulema if we are to defeat the scourge.

 

Unfortunately, not only is much of this not backed by empirical data, but it is also replete with some obvious contradictions. If terrorism springs from poverty, and most Indian Muslims are poor, then why aren't more and more of them answering the call to arms? And if modernisation is the antithesis of terrorism, then why is it the Deobandis who repeatedly denounce such violence as unIslamic while modernised Muslims — engineers, doctors, scientists — sit on their haunches or, worse, join the terrorist ranks themselves? Mansoor Asghar Peerbhoy went to the best English schools, graduating to a top job with a Yahoo! India subsidiary and a salary running into lakhs. One of his brothers is an architect, another is a chest specialist in the UK. His wife is a homoeopathic doctor. He could have been the perfect example of a modern, sociallyintegrated Muslim — only he went on to head the media cell of the Indian Mujahideen ( IM), the only known home- grown Muslim terror outfit. He was the guy who used to send diabolical emails to media houses before terror attacks.

 

Tauqir Bilal alias Abdus Subhan, who is seen as the link between IM and activists of the outlawed Students' Islamic Movement of India, is a techie from Mumbai. Qayamuddin Kapadia is the computer graphic artist from Vadodara who allegedly planned many IM attacks. Another arrested IM operative, Mobin Qadir Sheikh alias Salman, has a BSc in computers. And Riaz, the younger of the Bhatkal brothers who are on the country's ' most wanted' list of terrorists, has a degree in civil engineering.

 

They give the lie to the contention that poverty and obscurantism are the primary forces behind terrorism.

Indeed, the reverse seems to be the case — both in India and globally.

Marc Sageman, a former CIA case officer in Afghanistan and now a counter- terrorism consultant to the US government, has studied the lives of nearly 500 foreign Islamist terrorists who arrived to target America.

His findings, published in Understanding Terror Networks and Leaderless Jihad , should leave our experts in shock.

 

" Most people," Sageman writes, " think that terrorism comes from poverty, broken families, ignorance, immaturity, lack of family or occupational responsibilities… Three- quarters of my sample came from the upper or middle class. The vast majority — 90 per cent — came from caring, intact families. Sixty- three percent had gone to college, as compared with the 5- 6 per cent that's usual for the third world. These are the best and brightest of their societies in many ways." Three out of every four of Sageman's terrorists were professionals or semi- professionals. Many were engineers, architects and scientists.

 

Osama bin Laden is himself a civil engineer, his second- in- command Ayman al Zawahiri is a physician.

Mohammed Atta, the 9/ 11 mastermind, was an architect.

But this is Sageman's real discovery: very few terrorists hail from a strong religious background. Just one out of eight from his sample was madrassa- trained. Indeed, most were hardly religious at the time they became terrorists — although they became so after joining the movement.

 

The resolutions passed earlier this month by the Jamiat Ulama- i- Hind, one of India's leading Islamic bodies, have come under fire for their orthodoxy.

 

Our experts have pronounced the clauses dissociating Islam and jihad from terrorism as " lip- service", while the decree against Muslims singing Vande Mataram has been panned as " anti- national". The overall tenor of the criticism has been that the resolutions promote a regressive society and serve as a shot in the arm for Lashkar headhunters.

 

But some of these very fundamentalist resolutions are actually anti- terrorist in nature. One of them reads: " People should be urged to avoid watching cinema, television and other moral- killing things ( read Internet)." However, Islamist terrorists thrive on delivering their message of hatred through these very means.

 

REGRESSIVE

Another resolution notes that the women's reservation bill, seeking 33 per cent reservation for women in legislatures, is " uncalled for" as " bringing women into the mainstream will create social problems and issues including their security". However, terrorist outfits already have a virtual reservation for women without the slightest concern for ' social problems'. The Jamiat appears worried about women's security, but terror groups worldwide routinely use women as suicide bombers.

 

Of course, none of this is to justify the preachings of the Jamiat. Its ideas are regressive and do lead Muslims backward. But the point is that they don't necessarily spawn terrorism; indeed, if implemented, some of them may actually come in handy in the fight against violent Islam.

 

While our experts draw a line between the ' Muslim majority' and a ' handful of fundamentalists/ terrorists', the need is to draw another line — between the fundamentalists and the violence mongers. A number of social scientists worldwide are doing that already.

 

LAZINESS

Indeed, they are going a step further to claim that Islamist terrorism has actually been spawned by the wave of ' Westernisation' that has swept across the globe over the past two decades. The terrorists profess an irreconcilable hostility towards the West, but they are in truth the byproducts of the atomisation of society wrought by ' Western values' worldwide.

 

Islamist terrorism, writes the British Indian scientist and social commentator Kenan Malik, " far from being an expression of ancient theological beliefs, is really a reaction to new political and social changes: the loss of a sense of belonging in a fragmented society, the blurring of traditional moral lines, the growing erosion of the distinction between our private lives and our public lives". Malik's From Fatwa to Jihad traces the path of Islamism over the past 20 years. The fall of Communism and the universalisation of Western liberal values have created a cultural churning in which many young minds are losing their orientation, he says.

 

They are ending up turning to an absolutist faith that promises an answer to everything. The Indian struggle with Islamist violence, which goes back to the Mumbai blasts of 1993, appears very much a part of the same global phenomenon.

 

To tackle terrorism, we must first reassess our ideas of who terrorists are and why they fall prey to the ways of violence, instead of relying on failed stereotypes. Our intelligentsia blames the government for its indolence towards terrorism, but it is no less guilty of intellectual laziness.

 

It is fine — indeed necessary— to argue against fundamentalist forces, but that won't resolve the terror threat. Similarly, the government should be urged to economically uplift Muslims — but that should happen because it is the right thing to do, not because we fear that poverty- stricken Muslims would otherwise bomb us into oblivion.

 

saif. shahin@ mailtoday. in

 

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MAIL TODAY

DECCAN BUZZ

CONG FEELS THE HEAT IN LOCAL BODY POLLS

A SRINIVASA RAO

 

ELECTION fever has gripped political parties in Andhra Pradesh once again. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation ( GHMC), the biggest local body in the state, is going to polls on November 23, heating up the political atmosphere in the state capital.

 

The elections assume significance, because they are the first being held after the general elections in April last and also the first elections to the GHMC, which came into being in April 2007, with the merger of 11 municipalities and several gram panchayats into the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad ( MCH). Geographically, Greater Hyderabad is the biggest urban conglomeration in the entire country with 150 divisions.

 

In a way, the GHMC elections are considered " mini- general elections," thereby making it prestigious for all major political parties.

 

For the Congress, the GHMC elections are the first test of popularity in the absence of its star campaigner — former Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, who died in a helicopter crash on September 2. In the last general elections which were held along with the state assembly polls, YSR's charisma had single- handedly led the party to victory.

 

The party had won 14 assembly seats and two Lok Sabha seats within the Greater Hyderabad limits, which has given it an edge in the present elections.

 

However, the Congress is in a chaotic state now. Though YSR's son Jaganmohan Reddy made a desperate attempt to fill the void created by his father's death by projecting himself as the only hope of the party in the State, the Congress high command cut him to size and asked senior leader K Rosaiah to continue as the chief minister and lead the party in the GHMC polls. This has forced Jagan to withdraw into his shell and he has not evinced any interest in campaigning for the party.

 

In the meantime, the " cash- forticket" scandal hit the Congress party, with several aspirants alleging that top leaders like PCC president D Srinivas, Greater Hyderabad Congress Committee president Danam Nagender and in- charge minister Sabita Indra Reddy were selling tickets for Rs 30 lakh each. Peeved at the allegations against him, Nagender resigned from the GHCC post. Because of the bungling in ticket distribution, the Congress party now faces a threat from rebels in as many as 100 divisions. C OMPARED to the Congress, the Telugu Desam Party is placed in a better position, though it is also facing rebel threat in some divisions. The TDP has an alliance with the Communist parties, but they are not happy with the seat sharing pact. The decision of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi not to contest the GHMC elections and that of Praja Rajyam Party to restrict itself to only 51 seats has come as a blessing in disguise for the TDP. Party president N Chandrababu Naidu is hoping to cash in on the absence of YSR and his extensive campaigning is highlighting the good work done by the erstwhile TDP government to develop Hyderabad.

 

Another party which is in the reckoning in the GHMC polls is the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has considerable presence among urban voters. In the 2002 MCH elections, BJP had an alliance with the TDP and won a good number of seats, besides having its candidate as the Deputy Mayor.

 

This time, too, it hopes to win at least 20 seats.

The new entrant into politics, Lok Satta, headed by ex- bureacrat Jayaprakash Narayan, is giving the major political parties a run for their money. Though it might not win many seats, it is expected to play spoilsport with the prospects of the candidates of major parties in several divisions.

 

Its innovative campaign " Seeti bajao, City bachao ( Blow the Whistle and Save the City)" — its election symbol is a whistle — has caught on well with youth and women in Hyderabad.

 

The Majlis- e- Ittehadul Muslimeen is confined to the Muslim- dominated areas of the Old City and surrounding areas.

 

Because of its tacit understanding with the Congress and polarisation of Muslim votes, it hopes to win at least 50 seats and stake claim for the post of Mayor or deputy Mayor.

 

AMIDST WAR CRIES, A GANDHIAN MISSION

 

THE Operation Green Hunt being launched by the Indian security forces to fight the Maoists in the forests of Chattisgarh has drawn a lot of flak from intellectuals and rights activists across the country, as it is resulting in hounding out of Adivasis from forests. But there are certain people working in these tribal areas, who are not only fighting for the rehabilitation of such displaced tribals, but also propagating a Gandhian way of tackling the problem.

 

One such person is V B Chandrasekharan, who runs an NGO called People's Peace and Prosperity Mission in Chintur block in Khammam and G K Veedhi block in Visakhapatnam districts, both heavily influenced by Maoists. While making efforts to rehabilitate the tribals migrating from neighbouring Chattisgarh and Orissa, Chandrasekharan is extensively campaigning in these areas to put an end to the violent war between the police forces and the Maoists, which has disturbed the normal life of tribals. He has been writing letters to both the sides, requesting them to end the violence and find a peaceful solution to the problem.

 

" We need people of the moral stature of Jayaprakash Narayan who brought peace with bandits.

We need a ' Dandi' march into the forests to save innocent tribals. Our objective is to see that adivasis continue to lead a normal life in forests and armed Maoists or the police have no right to disturb them," Chandrasekharan said.

 

NO POTBELLY, COPS TOLD

MORE THAN one- fourth of Andhra Pradesh policemen are overweight. This was revealed in a survey conducted by the AP police department on 8,000 policemen recently. It was found that more than 2,000 cops were obese and a majority of them failed a running test conducted as part of the survey.

 

Alarmed over the poor fitness levels among the field staff, the police brass have now decided to impart special training in this connection. The cops would be asked to shed their extra weight within six months, failing which they would face departmental action. A special orientation programme would be held for constables, head constables and assistant sub- inspectors across the state next month, department sources said.

 

Hereafter, the department will regularly monitor the physical fitness levels and personality development of the cops. It was proposed to install weighing machines at all police stations to enable policemen keep a watch on their weight.

Good idea!

 

PRAJA Rajyam Party president Chiranjeevi has realised that the chances of PRP emerging as a powerful alternative to the Congress and the TDP are very bleak and it is very difficult to sustain the party till 2014 elections as one leader after another deserts the party to safeguard their political future. The party has just 18 MLAs in the assembly and already, half of them are looking at the Congress.

This has left Chiranjeevi with little choice but to consider aligning himself with the Congress.

 

This was the reason why Chiranjeevi was more than willing to accept the offer from Pradesh Congress Committee president D Srinivas to forge an alliance with the Congress in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections.

 

Both the sides were about to finalise the seat sharing agreement, when the Jaganmohan Reddy camp opposed the alliance, claiming that it was a conspiracy to sideline the Kadapa MP. Under pressure from the Jaganmohan camp, the Congress had to withdraw from the alliance with the PRP. It was nothing short of humiliation for Chiranjeevi, but he waited for a last minute call from the Congress to revive the pact. At one stage, he even decided against contesting the GHMC polls. But under pressure from the party workers, he fielded candidates in 51 seats.

 

Now, the Congress has given him another option — to merge the PRP with the party.

 

More so since Kapus, which the PRP represents, were part of the traditional vote bank of the Congress. However, he is hesitating to accept the proposal, fearing that it might dent his popular image. " It may not happen immediately, but he has no choice but to merge with the Congress if he has to remain in politics in the future," sources said.

 

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MAIL TODAY

INTERACTIVE

LAWYERS' PROTEST NOT A HEALTHY SIGN

 

THE vociferous agitation by the Advocates Association of Bangalore ( AAB) to force the chief justice P. D. Dinakaran to abandon courtroom hearing is amazing. There is little doubt that the sordid saga that has been played out with Justice Dinakaran over the past several weeks has further tarnished the sagging image of the judiciary.

 

While general public opinion may support the reason behind the protest by the advocates' group, its disruptive demeanour would shock most ordinary people. Public trust in the legal system has sharply declined in the recent years with reports of judicial corruption appearing in the headlines at regular intervals. The present tussle between the lawyers' groups and Collegiums responsible for selection of judges almost on a daily basis has made the judiciary a target for ridicule.

 

Justice Dinakaran has allegedly encroached vast amount of illegal land using his influence during his tenure as a judge. Apart from different legal groups, many eminent jurists have also raised strong objection to his selection to the Apex Court. Under pressure from the legal community, the Supreme Court Collegiums have recently backtracked and put his elevation on hold.

 

While one is innocent till proven guilty is the belief inside courtrooms, it may not be the ideal yardstick for selecting judges. If there is absolutely no evidence against Justice Dinakaran playing a devious role for accumulating excessive land, the Chief Justice of India ( CJI) should come strongly against the protesting advocates and install Justice Dinakaran to the Supreme Court without delay. On the other hand, Justice Dinakaran should be totally removed from any list for contention in the Apex Court if there is an iota of evidence that he might have acted in a disreputable manner in the past.

 

Also, it is the bounden duty of journalists to expose clear evidence of corruption or prejudices in the justice system without any fear of retaliation.

 

Healthy criticism of the legal community can only help in eliminating the systemic drawbacks in the justice delivery system.

Kunal Saha via email

 

PAPER'S A LEADER IN WATCHDOG JOURNALISM

 

MAIL TODAY has become a leader in watchdog- journalism by exposing the misuse of parole by Manu Sharma, held guilty by the courts for the murder of model Jessica Lal. It is shameful that Delhi chief minister Sheila Dixit is not repenting her approval of parole to the son of a bigmoney tycoon who is also a member of her party.

 

What other reason could there be for her to pass an instant order to parole Manu Sharma based on reasons that never existed? The actions of spoilt sons of the rich and the influential can and should be effectively checked by immediate cancellation of parole of Manu Sharma, and by filing a case against him for violating parole norms. How eerily similar was the scene to the murder scene at Tamarind Court in 1999.

 

Subhash Chandra Agrawal via email

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

ADVANTAGE UPA

 

There is reason for the Congress-led UPA to feel happy about the bypoll results declared on Tuesday. The alliance has done well in West Bengal and Kerala and has wrested the important Firozabad Lok Sabha seat in UP from the Samajwadi Party. Its performance in other states is a mixed bag. But the Congress and its allies can take satisfaction that the BJP hasn't made any notable progress even in its strongholds like Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh.


A standout feature of the current round of elections is the decimation of the Left Front in the two states where it holds office. The LF has lost all but one of the 13 constituencies in West Bengal and Kerala that went to polls last week. Most of these seats previously had Congress or Trinamul Congress MLAs and, hence, the front may claim that the results don't reflect a trend. Nevertheless, the LF has not been able to get its act together since the humiliating loss in the 2009 Parliament elections. The UPA almost swept both states then and has since maintained the trend. What must hurt the Left most is the defeat in Kannur in Kerala and Belgachia East in West Bengal. Trinamul won Belgachia East, the pocketborough of late CPM stalwart Subash Chakraborty, defeating his widow Ramola. In Kannur, a former CPM MP Abdullakutty defeated CPM heavyweight M V Jayarajan. Abdullakutty, who won the Kannur Lok Sabha seat for the CPM twice, was expelled from the party ahead of the Parliament elections in May and had joined the Congress. Though the Kannur assembly seat is a Congress stronghold, his success is likely to impact political undercurrents in this volatile region. Left leaders, however, were reconciled to a possible rout in Bengal and ran a low-key campaign. Clearly, the signs are ominous for the LF as the two states are set to face assembly polls in 2011.


A contrast to the Left's predicament is the remarkable performance of the BSP in UP. The party fared badly in the 2009 Parliament elections, but has recovered well to justify its success in the 2007 assembly elections. It has bucked anti-incumbency and the Congress's attempt to rebuild its base and has won a majority of the byelections since the Lok Sabha polls in May. The Congress may have re-emerged as an option in a Lok Sabha election, but seems to lack organisational network and grassroots leaders to take on regional players like the BSP and the SP in assembly contests.


The BJP's stock has slipped further in UP. Not only has it failed to put up a fight in the bypolls, the party even lost its sitting Lucknow West seat to the Congress. With the state unit in disarray and the central leadership clueless about the way forward, the BJP has a lot to worry about. Its predicament is remarkably similar to that of the CPM.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

MORE INTENSITY

 

Ricky Ponting has put the ODI series win against India up there with Australia's World Cup and Champions Trophy victories. While the Australian captain might be indulging in a bit of hyperbole, he has every right to be very pleased. The series was a match-up between the two top teams in the world, and Australia emerged victor handily. The remarkable thing was that Australia did so with their second string, so badly was the team hit by injuries. Many of the frontline players, such as Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin and Brett Lee, were either missing for the India tour or had to leave midway. But in spite of the injuries, the Aussies put it across an Indian team that was full strength, barring a player or two.


This once again confirms the number one position of the Australian team, though they might not be invincible any more. After losing a close Test series against England earlier this year, the Australians blanked out England in the ODI games, won the Champions Trophy and have now beaten India at home. This is clear evidence of Australia's supremacy in the 50-over format. But what it demonstrates tellingly is the bench strength of the Aussies, and how well their domestic cricketing structure serves their national team. It is difficult to imagine India doing well in the circumstances that Australia faced.


The Indian team has been left with plenty to ponder about. Except for the match at Guwahati, all the games were close. Indeed, Ponting has admitted that India probably had the edge in three of the four games that they lost. But in what is an old failing the Indians failed to hold their nerve to win the close matches. This was spectacularly shown up in the Hyderabad game where Sachin Tendulkar had set up what would have been an incredible victory chasing a massive target of 350 runs. But the Indian team stuttered at the end. The other factor in Australia's favour was their tigerish fielding which can often be the deciding element in close finishes. The Indian team still cannot match the fielding intensity of teams like Australia.


As the Indians get ready to face Sri Lanka in a potentially tough Test and ODI series, they would do well to regain the consistency and the winning mentality that have been the hallmark of M S Dhoni's captaincy.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

THE MORAL DEFENCE RESTS

 

When Manmohan Singh clearly and courageously said last month that there was no question of his government cancelling the Dalai Lama's Arunachal Pradesh visit, i was proud. As refugees in India, it is painful for us Tibetans to witness Beijing bureaucrats laying down the law to our host government in arrogant, bullying terms. This visit's historic importance is that it swings back focus on the McMahon Line and therefore Tibet. That's why China was so impatient to shoot it down. The result of this pivotal visit will be a realisation that, without reinstating Tibet as a buffer zone, India will forever be subjected to pressures: militarily, politically, environmentally and, now, over water.


Many Indians do not realise the pressure that Beijing is exerting on New Delhi. They portray the visit as yet another China-Dalai Lama showdown. The fundamental problem China has is with Indian borders. It did not need a Dalai Lama to add to its rants. Dealing with China is tricky; a capitalist nation, ruled by a Communist-style party in the name of socialism, is aggressive and hugely defensive. One cannot lose a point; concede one point and you become subordinate. That is why Barack Obama has armed himself for his first Beijing visit as US president with Dalai Lama power, prepared to punch home points with Chinese President Hu Jintao. After facing Hu, he will still get to meet the Dalai Lama.


A unique bond with the Monpas of Buddhist Tawang has led to the 14th Dalai Lama's fifth visit to India's ''Land of Dawn-lit mountains''. The programme at Tawang monastery is solely to impart Buddhist teachings. It is at a most appropriate time, when the Indian government needs to assert its territorial rights in Arunachal Pradesh. In the face of China's strident claims over Arunachal, the Tibetan leader's spiritual visit to his followers legitimises India's stance in the most significant yet entirely non-verbal manner.


Historically, Tawang was Tibetan territory until early last century. Even today many families in the region retain ancestral tax papers for making payments to the government of Tibet. During the Chinese invasion of Tibet, India unilaterally declared the McMahon Line as the border and swiftly evicted the remaining Tibetan officials from the local administration in 1950. Arunachal Pradesh as a state was formed in 1987; till then it was part of the North East Frontier Agency.


The 6th Dalai Lama by virtue of his birth in Tawang in 1683 made sacred this 2,000 sq km region. The Great 13th Dalai Lama ceded the region to British India in 1914 by signing the bilateral McMahon Treaty in Delhi. The 14th incarnation is today symbolically and silently gifting it again to India. The Dalai Lama and his government-in-exile in Dharamsala have repeatedly confirmed that they honour the 13th Dalai Lama's decision. For the Tibetan populace, within and outside Tibet, Arunachal Pradesh is a part of India.


In 2004, Sun Yuxi, then Chinese ambassador to India, made that ill-phrased claim over Arunachal not just Tawang, he said, but ''the whole of it''. Former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee rescued Sikkim from China's ambitions by surrendering India's remaining authority to speak on Tibet and, recently, a Chinese map portrayed Kashmir as an independent country.


China is not going to stop there since Beijing refuses to recognise the 1914 McMahon Line and the Simla Agreement also. It is most likely to question the territorial integrity of the remainder of the 890 km McMahon Line, the Demchok region in eastern Ladakh and the Sumdho area of the eastern Himachal Pradesh border. Having one of its vital military installations at Sumdho (Tibet: trisection) between Tibet and Himachal's Lahaul-Spiti, India is expected to counter any attempts on Sumdho with armed might.

As schoolboys in a Tibetan refugee camp, we used to be marched out once in a while for Free Tibet protest rallies. We shouted slogans in Tibetan and English but never understood this phrase in Hindi: ''Tibbat ki azadi, Bharat ki suraksha'' (Tibet's independence is India's security). It never made sense to me until later, when i realised how India had accepted Tibetan refugees fleeing Chinese persecution, nurtured us and reinforced us not with guns but with education.


The Tibetan armed resistance, based in Mustang, western Nepal, and disbanded in 1974, was later reconstituted into a Tibetan battalion in the Indian army known as Establishment No 22, a classified paramilitary force deployed in important operations like the Kargil war. Today, 7,000 Tibetan soldiers under the ministry of home affairs - man the most difficult and dangerous borders in India's mountainous terrain.


For India to keep Arunachal, based on the McMahon Line, the only choice is to recognise Tibet's independence. It cannot legitimise the McMahon Line border otherwise. Faced with this political reality, India may not be able to summon the courage to support the movement for Tibetan independence overtly, but it is important that it stands firm on its position.

 

The writer is a Tibetan activist.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

'GLOBAL COOPERATION IS VITAL TO ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE'

 

Wang Guangtao is chairman, China's National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee on Environment and Resources Protection. At a GLOBE International meeting of legislators in Copenhagen, the former minister of construction tells Narayani Ganesh that climate change is a big challenge and even more so is the challenge of sustainable development:


What is the biggest challenge China faces in dealing with environmental and social issues in the context of climate change?

The biggest challenge is how to achieve sustainable development without compromising economic growth. And how to deal with the issue of climate change. The challenge is in finding ways of sourcing clean energy and adopting conservation techniques as well as getting ahead with great political will. As legislators, we need to fulfil our responsibilities and accomplish our goals on addressing climate change through domestic action and so make success possible in intergovernmental negotiations.


India and China signed an MOU recently with reference to climate change. Is it only about negotiating together at global meets or is it also about sharing of experience and technology?

I cannot say anything about this right now as i was not present in that meeting.

 

On the domestic front, what has China done to overcome the problems of climate change?

China's NPC has recently adopted a resolution to address the issue of climate change. The issue presents a major opportunity for, as well as challenge to, China's economic and social development. The resolution also says that what China needs is a scientific outlook on development and concrete measures would need to be adopted to address the issue of climate change. For this, the rule of law has to be strengthened. Public awareness plays an important role as it will lead to conscious effort to increase our capacity to address climate change. International cooperation is necessary, too. Good regulation and supervision need to be supported by respect for law. We propose to implement earnestly the energy conservation law, the renewable energy promotion law, the law of circular economy, laws that promote cleaner production, and laws pertaining to forests and grassland.

China's 11th five-year plan on national economic and social development sets targets for energy conservation and pollution reduction. Regulatory teams that are engaged in supervision and regulation to aid implementation of the law report some measure of success. China, on the basis of such reports, has recently shut down many small-scale highly-polluting enterprises. For example, many small-scale coal-fired power plants have been shut down since 2006, when the outline of the 11th five-year plan was approved. China is investing in the promotion of wind, solar and hydropower and has achieved good progress in use of wind and solar power.

What does China think of the US Bill on climate change that's awaiting Senate approval?

The biggest change can be seen in the US approach to climate change with President Barack Obama's positive attitude. We will have to wait and see if the Bill is passed and what it means in practice.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

SUBVERSE

GOAN FOREIGN

JUG SURAIYA 

 

'Dogs and Indians not allowed', was said to be a common sign in the India of the British raj. Over 60 years after independence, you might expect to see a sign in today's Goa: Dogs welcome, Indians not allowed. Forty-eight years after it was liberated from Portuguese rule and incorporated into the Indian republic, many parts of Goa have become virtual foreign enclaves which are out of bounds for Indians. Lured by the sun-and-fun image of Goa popularised in the West, a large number of foreigners have taken up permanent or semi-permanent residence in the 'sosegade' state, which in the late 1960s became a haven for hippies.

 

But today's foreign residents in Goa are an altogether different breed from the gentle flower children of the hippie era. Mainly from Russia and Israel, many of them have exploited loopholes in the Portuguese property laws which still obtain in Goa to acquire houses and land holdings which have been turned into cafes and resorts which enforce a 'whites only' policy and discourage Indian customers.

 

Following a number of complaints from Indian tourists who have either been barred admission to such establishments, or been denied service by the Goan staff, the state government has added an 'anti-racism' clause to its policy regarding the granting of licences to beach shacks which are located on government-owned land. Shack Owners' Welfare Society president Cruz Cardozo has reportedly criticised the legislation as it could be misused by business rivals to harm competitors.

 

But there could be other, more basic objections as well, pertaining to the democratic right to the freedom of association. What this means is that, in a democracy, you are - or ought to be - free to associate with whom you like, or feel comfortable with, and are equally free not to associate with those whom you find distasteful or who make you feel uncomfortable in any way.

 

Regrettably, all too many Indians of the travelling classes are known for their loud and generally inappropriate behaviour, particularly when foreign women are present. In recognition of this lamentable reality, the railway ministry is seriously considering a proposal to provide reserved coaches for foreigners on tourist routes. Is foreign rule going to make a re-entry into India through the back door of a railway coach, held open in welcome by none less than railway minister Mamata Banerjee, renowned for her fiery pro-poor and pro-people rhetoric?

 

Why not? We in India have long been enjoined by the sarkar to treat the foreign visitor as an honoured guest. And what better honour can one confer on favoured guests than to allow them to enjoy the myriad attractions of Incredible India made even more incredibly attractive by the absence of potentially boorish Indians? Racist? Not at all. Mamatadi is only trying to make foreigners feel more at home while travelling in India, in keeping with the time-honoured tradition of Indian hospitality. And with the norms of democracy and the right to associate or disassociate with whomsoever one chooses.

 

For example, in its heyday the city then known as Calcutta revealed its truly cosmopolitan character by playing host to a number of social clubs and similar institutions which were meant for one or another of the many communities that made up the city's colourful social mosaic. So there was the Judah Club for Jews, the Armenian Club for Armenians, the Dalhousie Institute and the Grail Club for Anglo-Indians, and so on.

 

Far from being exclusionary, such institutions demonstrated the inclusionary ability of Calcutta - and of India at large - to accommodate different cultures and creeds in its eclectic and pluralist fold.

 

Bearing this in mind, the Goan authorities might like to rethink the anti-racism clause in their licensing policy. If Russians want to meet only other Russians in Goa, let them, and more power to their vodka-tippling elbows. And the same for Israelis, and anyone else.

 

Indeed, the signs in Goa - and elsewhere in India - should read: All welcome - including dogs and racists.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

CYBER FARMING

NEW GREEN THUMBS

 

Look right, look left, look yonder. There are green shoots everywhere. But before you jump up in joy and imagine a fat wallet thanks to an economy that's on the comeback curve, here's a caveat: this green valley is all about cyber-farming on a social networking site. I stood up in office to call out to an acquaintance, and there were rows of workstations turning into an instant farmstead as far as eyes could see, with busy colleagues buying seeds and exchanging animal gifts in a rare gesture of camaraderie. What started off as a quaint, under-wraps activity in a deep, dank corner of the office to kill time is now threatening to turn the floor into a green slice of Bhatinda or Ooty. Unlike real farmers, who sweat it out in the sun praying for a good spell of rain and a happy price for their produce, these green warriors harvest an enviable, assured yield sometimes within hours of sowing drought or no drought. Is this just a fun-filled, addictive cyber game or a serious pursuit for people who dream of tilling the fields but can't do so for various reasons? Given half a chance, would these cyber-farmers be dirtying their feet in the soggy ground? Oh, hoe.


Even if a small percentage of these online activists got off their keyboards and helped the tech-starved farmers struggling in the outbacks of India, maybe they'd be doing their green fingers proud. Watching these on-screen farms, my mind jogs back to when my mother would toil in the small patch of land around our house all by herself. With time weighing heavy on hand and head abuzz with ideas, Amma was growing a rich variety of flowers, fruits and some vegetables, too. She would roam the streets of the town, or sometimes go to neighbouring villages to wangle a twig of a rose plant or an exotic variety of cactus. All this, without any introduction to farming. After a killing early-morning grind that would include preparing food and packing off four kids to school, she would sit and tend to her other children plants grown with love. My brother, notorious for his pranks, would often mercilessly squeeze out plants that had just taken roots. Amma would come charging to thwack him and replant the sapling with renewed hope. I showed Amma the online farming my wife was busy doing the other day and she laughed it off without a word. The germ of a new green revolution? Hah!

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

OURTAKE - SHORT ARM OF THE LAW

 MANU SHARMA'S PAROLE SHOULD MAKE US UNCOMFORTABLE ABOUT HOW THE LAW WORKS

 

There's a standard rule pertaining to criminal deterrence: break the law, go to jail. But that seems to be just one side of this rule of law, considering that there's a corollary: be rich and well-connected if you break the law; even prison can't hold you then. After a public outcry -- a necessary gesture, it seems, these days if you want criminals to pay in this country -- Manu Sharma was convicted in 2006 to life imprisonment for shooting dead Jessica Lal in April 1999. We all know the story; we also know the much more predictable story that followed until closure was finally reached. A decade is a long time and murder is a serious crime by most people's reckoning. So when justice was finally meted out three years ago -- after a retrial that followed an astounding acquittal in 2003 -- we were comforted that the law was not two different entities for the wellheeled and for the less well-shod. For the last few days, however, we were shocked to discover that `babalog justice' wasn't only alive and kicking but was also laughing at the face of all of us who thought that once the law has spoken, the rules can't be bent out of shape.

 

Well, Sharma was back in Tihar jail on Thursday after reportedly `violating parole conditions'. But a very distasteful aftertaste from the thankfully brief episode lingers. How do our authorities decide on providing parole to convicted criminals? Is there a hidden rule-of-the-thumb that finds it easier to provide judicially sanctioned solace to some and deny it to others based on who the criminal is and what connections and `background' that person may have?


We are not making a knee-jerk argument against Sharma getting parole. But considering the fact that the Delhi government was quick to give their sanction to Sharma's onemonth-extended-to-two parole, ostensibly because his mother was unwell (who seemed well enough to make a public appearance in Chandigarh last Saturday) and he had to "attend to business matters" it wouldn't be too prying of us to ask how this parole works.

 

Last month, the Delhi High Court asked the government to formulate new guidelines so that parole pleas of convicts could be heard early. The court was reacting to a plea of 28 Tihar jail inmates (none of whom was Manu Sharma) who had complained about the delay in hearing their parole pleas. Perhaps, the problem lies in the fact that Delhi is the only state where the Lieutenant Governor's approval, rather than that of the Director General of Police (Prisons), determines who gets parole and who doesn't. By relatively cocooning parole decisions from governmental authorities, perhaps the parole system won't seem so biased in favour of some and biased against all others. It will also send out the message to criminals who think that they or their `ailing' families can pull strings to make the law their latest plaything.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THEPUNDIT - HAMMERED, SICKLED

THE LEFT'S DEFEAT COMES NOT AS A SURPRISE BUT AS CONFIRMATION OF AN EXISTENTIAL CRISIS

 

In the face of an aggressive Trinamool Congress and the Congress, the red citadel continues to crumble in both Kerala and West Bengal. The bypoll results, however, have been on expected lines. In a way, the poll results come as further confirmation of the Left's current standing both in state and national politics.

 

For Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister's chair has come that much closer. The Left's dilemma is everything it touches turns to dross. This time it has only itself to blame. In Kerala, CPI(M) chief Pinarayi Vijayan brazenly disregarded the wishes of the rank and file and tried to promote his own protégés while undermining the CM. All this with the tacit support of Delhi's AKG Bhawan.


In West Bengal, the leadership's handling of several crises led to an erosion of confidence. Thanks to the muzzling tactics of those at the top, no viable second-rung leadership seems to be on the horizon.

 

The Left has nothing to offer and this vacuum of ideas is now showing. These by-polls show that it no longer seems to have the will to hold on to its territories. The crushing defeat should knock some sense into the Left to try and make itself relevant once again.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

TO NOT TO BE

SAGARIKA GHOSE

 

Defeat sometimes begins at the moment of victory. In 2006, the ruling Left Front had thundered back to power in West Bengal, winning for the seventh consecutive time with a resounding three-fourths majority. Today, just three years later, the same invincible Left Front has just suffered yet another electoral disaster in last weekend's bypolls. Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of communism, it looks as if it's the end of communism in West Bengal too.

 

Most piquant of all is perhaps the Shakespearean tragedy of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who this week begins his tenth year as chief minister of West Bengal: the man of destiny who suddenly finds himself consigned to redundancy. Once he was the nationally hailed 'Brand Buddha', Azeem Premji called him the best chief minster in India. He was a friend of Manmohan Singh; he was the playwright-communist whose destiny seemed to be to become the Deng Xiaoping of the Indian Left who would transform communism into a new mantra of progress and positive thinking. The mandate of 2006 was a mandate for Buddhadeb. It was he who was singlehandedly responsible for large sections of the urban business vote and middle-class vote that came to the Left. But within a year of his victory, hit by the twin blows of the Singur agitation and the killings in Nandigram, Buddhadeb, the successful brand, became Buddhadeb the Market Failure.

 

Now with Maoists rampaging in Midnapore, even pulling off an audacious train hijack under the government's nose, the gigantic mandate of 2006 has become a distant memory. Instead, short-term history is dominated by the almost shocking triumph of the Trinamool in the general elections this year, a victory that has thrown out the doughty satraps of the Left from seats they had held for decades. Compared to the storm against the Left building in Bengal's rural areas — a storm Mamata Banerjee looks all set to harness to her cause — Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's brave words of a twin-pronged strategy of force and development to fight the Maoists sound hopelessly futile.

 

Perhaps Buddhadeb became a victim of the same politics and society that the Left has created over its 32-year-old rule in West Bengal. It has created a society where institutions are brazenly politicised, where violence has been legitimised, where the Bengali (with honourable exceptions) has been reduced to a narrow-visioned, envy-filled individual whose dominant mindset is reverence of dead heroes and contempt for all contemporary success. The constantly sneering contemptuous Bengali is a far cry from noble spirited nation-building ancestors like Rabindranath Tagore and Rammohun Roy, and is a result of the fact that the Left failed to encourage a true meritocracy in West Bengal. Instead of generating talent, it encouraged only an envy of talent. No wonder the opportunity-seeking Bengali youth fled, thriving in institutions where their native intelligence was not seen as 'anti-Party'.

 

Change is bound to be regarded with suspicion in a society that has fallen into stasis. A personal popularity cult like Buddha's was bound to  breed jealousy and factionalism within a party unaccustomed to genuine charisma. With all his advantages, Buddhadeb sadly failed to build the political support needed for reform, relying on his communist cadres who had become accustomed to imposing their writ by force. He failed to unite the party to the cause of reform or initiate a massive outreach programme between party and people that would have built new bridges between leaders and people. Buddhadeb tried to create a development-friendly government but failed to realise that it was his own government that was creating a development-unfriendly society.

 

Two decades of an anti-English language policy had brought to a halt the fluency in a language Bengal once spoke better than any Indian state. The lack of political competition had meant that there was no incentive to deliver governance and human development, unlike Kerala where a two-party system and a welfarist ruling tradition have created an impetus to provide primary education and healthcare. Today in the so-called 'intellectual' state of India, the school drop-out rate is 78.03 per cent. Only Bihar, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Sikkim fare worse. The flooding of educational institutions by party faithful has meant that generations have been consigned to mediocre teachers. There has been no entrepreneurial movement in Bengal since the 1960s. The destruction of Bengal's intellectual capital, the culture of negativism, the numbing inertia of its government machinery meant that Bengal's society was simply not ready for Buddhadeb's new industrial policy and the radical changes that it entailed. And sadly, the CM lacked the political and administrative shrewdness to push his policies in a hostile environment.

 

A Kolkata newspaper recently held a debate where the motion was 'The Resurgence of Bengal is an impossible dream'. Mamata Banerjee made an impassioned speech against the motion and won the audience vote. Come 2011 when assembly polls are held again in Bengal she may well win the chief minister's chair while  Buddhadeb goes back to writing plays. But a mere regime change will mean nothing if one set of party faithfuls replaces another set of party faithfuls, and one violent cadre is replaced by another violent cadre.

 

Bengal doesn't just need a new government. A brain-dead Bengal needs severe shock treatment. A decaying society needs to be kicked awake in every sector, in education, administration and business. Bhattacharjee went far, but he could not go far enough and succumbed to the social forces his own party had created. Mamata Banerjee has given no signs so far that she can administer the shock treatment needed. Caught between a dejected Buddha and an unfocused Mamata, Bengal must await its messiah.

 

Sagarika Ghose is Senior Editor, CNN-IBN(The views expressed by the author are personal)

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

 

VANDE INDEED!

FIROZ BAKHT AHMED

 

I am a devout Indian Muslim who loves singing 'Vande Mataram'. The obsolete controversy over the song has been resurrected by a fatwa from the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind at its annual conference in Deoband that forbade Muslims from singing it.

 

I remember as I child how we used to sing 'Vande Mataram' with gusto. If I had not sung it, would I have been a better Muslim? The song is, frankly, a non-issue with Muslims. Only a few myopic rabble-rousing clerics who misguide the media into believing that they represent the Muslim community are bothered. The truth is that these clerics have no say within the community.

 

India's Muslims must follow the example of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. He saw in 'Vande Mataram' the fusion of  a Vedantic vision of many parts of truth with the Islamic doctrines of Wahdat-e-Deen (unity of religion) and Sulah-e-Kul (universal peace). While listening to a rendition of 'Vande Mataram' in 1952 by the singer Krishna Kumar in Delhi, Azad spoke of how graceful and inspiring the song was.

 

Muslims should not get carried away by a few lines of the song as nobody is asking them to forfeit their faith in Allah. Here again, they must learn from Azad. At a function, Azad's forehead was smeared with a tilak. This led the Pakistani daily, Dawn, to suggest that he had changed his religion to Hinduism. Azad responded by saying that by participating in such an event, his faith in Islam was actually strengthened.

 

By the same logic, a patriotic Muslim who loves his nation can't be declared 'anti-national' if he chooses not to sing 'Vande Mataram.' What is unfortunate is that the Jamiat clerics  give Hindutva forces a handle to beat Muslims with. As for the media, they are guilty of providing these clerics, who are no more than bigots, the publicity that they crave for.

 

Do non-Christian children in convent schools who sing 'The Lord's Prayer' come back home losing their faith?

 

Then how on earth can singing 'Vande Mataram' be un-Islamic?

 

Firoz Bakht Ahmed is a Delhi-based writerThe views expressed by the author are personal

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

 

SO UNCLEAR ON THE NUCLEAR FRONT

K SANTHANAM & ASHOK PARTHASARATHI.

 

G Balachandran's article 'Splitting atoms, not hairs' (Sept 23) on the yield of Pokhran II's thermonuclear (TN) device (hydrogen bomb) tested on May 11, 1998, requires several corrections and detailed comments. Balachandran wrote that there was "no confusion about the design/planned yield of 1998-TN test: it was 45 kilotons". This is not in dispute. What is in dispute if whether the TN device actually recorded the designed yield.

 

The US National Security Agency and US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) weapons laboratories placed the yield at 20-25 KiloTonnes, not 45 KT (1 KT is the energy release equal to 1,000 tonnes of TNT). Balachandran is totally unaware that apart from yield measurements made by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) team led by Santhanam, comprehensive experimental data was collected by the Aviation Research Centre (ARC), a highly specialised science and technology agency of the government. The ARC used its state-of-the-art seismic array, tailor-made for detecting and measuring the yield of nuclear tests. Independent of both the DRDO and the Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (Barc), the ARC unambiguously established in its classified report to the government the following: 1) the yield of the TN device was substantially lower than 45 KT; 2) An atom bomb, also separately tested and the first-stage 'trigger' of the TN device, had a yield of 20-25 KT. Thus, the TN device yield would, at best, be 20 KT only.

 

APJ Abdul Kalam and R Chidambaram officially designated the DRDO to be solely responsible for all-site instrumentation for yield measurement of the Pokhran II tests. The DRDO's instrumentation fully met international standards. Barc was fully satisfied with its performance. On no occasion did Barc express any doubts. Barc also gave the DRDO its expected ground acceleration and movement figures from the TN test to measure against. Unfortunately, measurements conclusively proved that the TN yield was substantially lower than Barc-projected pre-test figures. So Balachandran's statement that Barc questioned the sensitivity of the DRDO instrumentation is baseless. This came up only after Santhanam questioned the yield of the TN device as an afterthought to defend the indefensible.

 

The DRDO's site instrumentation included its own CORRTEX system, accelerometers, ground motion sensors and high-speed imaging systems. Recording and processing of readings from this comprehensive instrumentation package was undertaken by special DRDO computers. The CORRTEX system also gave a far lower TN yield than the Barc-claimed figure of 45 KT.

 

As for Balachandran's Barc–fed contention of radiochemical (RC) method-based analysis being the most accurate method of estimating the yield of a device, the considered view of nuclear experts is that any estimation of yield made by the mass spectrometry (MS) method is far superior to the RC method. Raja Ramanna insisted that MS be used in the 1974 Pokhran I test yield analysis. The head of the RC Division in Barc gave a detailed report to Ramanna personally showing that the Pokhran I yield was lower than  claimed by Barc. Ramanna had accepted the report's scientific results — but not its politics. He admitted this to Parthasarathi in 1994. Thus, the report was quickly and quietly buried.

 

Why was the MS method not used by Barc in Pokhran II? Or was it used and its results again suppressed — this time by Chidambaram because they were 'inconvenient'? Balachandran says the DRDO used only the seismic method in its yield measurements. We conclusively rebut this. He also states that "the DAE had used all six methods of nuclear yield estimation, whereas the DRDO used only one." The methods used by Barc were 1) two seismic methods for ground acceleration and ground movement 2) CORRTEX 3) Radiochemical. That's four methods. What about the other two? The truth is that no other methods were used. Santhanam's team saw no Barc-CORRTEX system anywhere at the site.

 

The DRDO used two seismic methods, plus CORRTEX and FORRTEX. This also adds up to four methods, not six. Further, both alleged Barc seismic methods were undertaken using a 30-year-old seismic array at Gauribidanur in Karnataka, over 1,500 miles away from Pokhran. Both the DRDO's seismic methods involved 'close-in-field' (right close up to the TN device-containing shaft). Balachandran then says that no critic presented any scientific argument in support of their case. This is false. As early as end-1998, Santhanam's DRDO  team presented a detailed, classified report to the government, including a telling comparative table of Barc-predicted ground acceleration and movement numbers against actually measured ones.

 

The NDA government and its successor the UPA blindly endorsed — and continue to endorse — the Barc claim. This  attitude has seriously compromised our national security. Balachandran also conveniently 'forgot' to mention that Barc used data from DRDO's instrumentation for its estimate of yield of the atom bomb. However, when the same instrumentation showed the yield of the TN device was far lower than Barc readings, he chooses to claim that the instrumentation was faulty! Barc speaks with a forked tongue.

 

K Santhanam was Chief Adviser (Technology), DRDO and Programme Director, Pokhran IIAshok Parthasarathi was Science and Technology Adviser to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi

The views expressed by the authors are personal

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

IN DENIAL

 

Last month, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena graduated from an angry mob to a sizeable elected force in the state's politics. And how did Raj Thackeray's MNS, newly-minted representative of the people, uphold its responsibilities on its first day? By punching out in all directions. Four MNS members assaulted Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Azmi for having taken his oath in Hindi, and were suspended for "extremely shameful conduct never witnessed before in the legislative history of Maharashtra or any other elected House in the country".

 

Language wars have riven India for decades, and surfaced on similar occasions (over the use of Urdu, for instance). But what stemmed from a genuine sense of cultural anxiety in Tamil Nadu, perhaps, is simply a stand-in for animosity against "outsiders" in Maharashtra. It is a legislator's constitutionally established prerogative to take the oath in Hindi in the state. And now, the MNS is trying to force a change with fisticuffs. This is of a piece with their shrunken, poisonous politics — one which is increasingly becoming a middle-of-the-road view in Maharashtra, because of their political competitors' inability to challenge and reset the frame. While north Indian politicians have been vocal in their condemnation, voices from the Maharashtra political establishment have been curiously evasive. What is most appalling to those watching is the lack of any meaningful political opposition to the idea within the state. MNS hooliganism is only the visible demonstration of a deeply dangerous idea that no other political party effectively countered in Maharashtra. If the politics of Maratha insecurity has now ballooned to these disturbing dimensions, it is only because of the liberal flopdown when faced with it.

 

When did this mad-eyed insistence from Marathi-speakers on utter assimilation become a normative good for everyone else? When a Congress freshman like Rajendra Shekhawat, who bears the additional symbolic baggage of being the president's son, expresses tacit support of the idea that migrants should assimilate (even as he condemns the violence), and even the chief minister's indictment of the deed contains no robust reference to the MNS's twisted worldview, the state's political drift towards loony-land seems unstoppable.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

OUT OF CONTENTION

 

Even by the Samajwadi Party's recent standards of personalised politics, the campaign for the Firozabad bypoll was remarkable. The seat had been vacated by Akhilesh Yadav, party chief Mulayam Singh's son, after he won from two constituencies in the Lok Sabha elections. Akhilesh's wife, Dimple Yadav, was then put up in the bye-election in a fray made up of former SP acolytes. That the party had made the contest a point of family prestige was evident from its leaders' outrage that the Congress had actually fielded a candidate against the Yadav daughter-in-law — a reference to the SP decision not to contest in Amethi and Rai Bareli in the Lok Sabha elections. Nevertheless the Firozabad demographic was seen to render it a safe seat for the SP. So the fact that the Congress has wrested it by a huge margin (more than 85,000) is bound to be perceived as setback for the SP for more than its symbolism. That impression is reinforced by the BSP's impressive takeaway in the Uttar Pradesh assembly bypolls by encroaching into SP strongholds like Etawah.

 

The results encapsulate the peculiar dilemma of the SP. Given the state's political fragmentation, candidates construct social coalitions by being seeing to be in contention. With the Congress making significant inroads since the Lok Sabha elections this summer with its go-it-alone strategy and with the BSP holding its own, the SP is being relegated to an also-ran. In UP that's the way to irrelevance. The SP's peculiar anxiety about being pinched out by the emerging BSP-Congress binary was seen soon after the Lok Sabha results when at a party meet Mulayam struggled to define its relation to the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre.

 

Can the SP regain the political initiative? This week's reversals, and those of the Lok Sabha elections when the party flaunted its tolerance of trivialities with the Sanjay Dutt drama in Lucknow, show the limits of personality politics as a substitute for a constructive agenda. Before the general elections the SP had made a disastrous attempt at a political programme by affecting anxiety about English-language education and computers. In the months since, it has failed to resolve its identity crisis in a clearly post-Mandal politics.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

BENDING THE ARC OF CRISIS

C. RAJA MOHAN

 

As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh heads to Washington later this month, the deepening regional crisis in Afghanistan, Pakistan and beyond is thrusting itself on to the very top of the bilateral agenda.

 

The gathering tension — internal, bilateral and regional — across the western and north-western flanks of the subcontinent must begin to over-ride four widespread perceptions or misperceptions about his visit to Washington.

 

The first is that the prime minister is likely to duck the most important national security debate in Washington today — on the future of America's role in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The second, India may have little to offer the United States on Afghanistan and even less on Pakistan. The third is that after departure of George W. Bush from the White House, Washington is drawn towards the CCP in Beijing on global issues and to the GHQ in Rawalpindi on regional security questions, leaving the relationship with India in a limbo. The fourth is that both sides are thinking too small about the meeting between Dr Singh and Obama. Instead of using the visit to unveil a transformative agenda, the fears are that Delhi and Washington may be settling for a long list of minor deliverables.

 

Sceptics have argued that by giving Dr Singh the much sought-after privilege of the first state visit in the Obama White House, the administration might be absolving itself of the responsibility to do anything significant with India. Put simply the cynical view of the prime minister's visit to Washington is that it will be long on rhetoric but short on substance. But the unfolding developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan are too consequential for the national security of both India and the United States for their leaders to waste the opportunity for thinking at the highest levels about political cooperation on stabilising the north-western parts of the Subcontinent.

 

Meanwhile, Obama's Af-Pak strategy, announced with such fanfare less than nine months ago, is in danger of being aborted. All its initial assumptions are now under intensive, and seemingly interminable, review in Washington. Whatever Obama's much-anticipated decisions on Afghanistan might be, Delhi should be aware that reactive improvisation, rather than a pre-set strategy, will drive the administration's policy towards the Af-Pak region from now on.

 

Consider the events of the last few weeks. October was a bad month for the US in the Af-Pak region. The 56 deaths in October have been the highest in any month since the US ousted the Taliban in Afghanistan at the end of 2001. The rising toll of casualties in Afghanistan has compelled Obama to underline the dangers of sending a larger number of American troops into the north-western subcontinent without a clear perspective on objectives and means.

 

Meanwhile, Washington's mishandling of the Afghan presidential elections has widened the cracks between the Obama administration and the Hamid Karzai government in Kabul. As US policies helped divide its friends in Afghanistan, the Taliban and their mentors in Pakistan have begun to gloat that it was a matter of time before the American forces are pushed out of Afghanistan.

 

Although the Obama administration has welcomed and supported the Pakistan army's latest operations in Waziristan, Washington is concerned that Islamabad might never be willing to take on the Afghan Taliban. Somewhat unexpectedly New Delhi and Washington find themselves in the same boat: the Pakistan army may fight the militant groups that have dared to contest its territorial control but has no desire to curb let alone destroy those extremist groups that want to harm the United States and India.

 

Meanwhile the US legislation — the Kerry-Lugar Act — offering $7.5 billion of assistance to the civilian sector in Pakistan over the next five years has resulted in a storm of public protest. Angered at the act's vague suggestion that there should be greater civilian control over the military, the Pakistan army promoted a vicious campaign against the Kerry-Lugar Act, which enveloped US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Pakistan last week and exposed the profound trust deficit between Washington and Islamabad.

 

The negative consequences of the Taliban's triumph will not be limited to the subcontinent, but envelop the Gulf, sharpen the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, accentuate sectarian tension between Shi'as and Sunnis, and destabilise the Central Asian republics.

 

Dr Singh and Obama, then, must reassure each other about an enduring respect for mutual interests in this arc of crisis, mandate their security establishments to intensify exchanges, and agree on specific joint steps to stabilise Afghanistan and Pakistan.

 

In extending a hand of friendship to Pakistan and reviving the peace initiative in Jammu and Kashmir during his visit to Srinagar last week, Dr Singh has reinforced his own reputation as a man of peace, and as someone who is willing to persist in engaging Pakistan against great odds and extraordinary provocation. He has also underlined India's responsibility as a rising power in pacifying its own neighbourhood and working with great powers like the United States to promote regional security.

 

It is now Obama's turn to put down unambiguously the temptations in his bureaucracy to inject the US into a mediatory role in Jammu and Kashmir, and end Washington's traditional inhibitions in talking with India about Pakistan's future.

Once they figure a way to work together in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it should be lot easier for

 

Dr. Singh and Obama to set a solid bilateral agenda for the next three years — from liberalising trade in advanced technologies to deepening the defence partnership, combating the proliferation of nuclear weapons to the mitigation of global warming, and from reordering the international financial system to managing the global commons.

 

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

 

express@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE ROADS TO REVOLUTION

MIHIR S SHARMA

 

I was 11 when the Wall fell. In school in Bombay, we played Russian versus American. (The Russian planes invariably lost, developing horrific internal flaws, until some unhealthily-obsessed prodigy pointed out that the Indian air force flew them, and the Pakistanis flew American planes. The introduction of the nuances of Cold War alliances did put a bit of a crimp in simple childhood games.) In Delhi, we learned German from teachers from the GDR — stranded and confused after the Wall fell, like a consular representative from a Latin American country in which someone has pulled off a successful coup. And in Calcutta, surrounded by the imagery of Stalinism, reminded regularly that Lenin once — perhaps — said "the road to world revolution lies through Peking, Shanghai and Calcutta," a ten-year old could slip into an easy internationalism, a sympathy with the plucky underdog Eastern bloc — something that has coloured Bengali thinking since, but more on that later.

 

And perhaps kids understood non-alignment best: if one parent was mean to you, there was always another.

 

The funny thing was, of course, that 1980s India shared something of the socialist shabbiness of the Eastern bloc. And that so often the spots of colour that relieved that drabness were actually provided by the Russians: ballet, bears on bicycles, and, of course, books. Cheap, colourful, hardbound books from Raduga and Progress, children's stories and classics translated amateurishly from the Russian, shaped thousands of bookish childhoods. The Wall fell, and the Soviet Union soon thereafter, and now you see none, not even any in second-hand shops, because nobody wants to sell the ones they have. (They live on in at least one way: Indians born in the 1970s and 1980s can startle Russians anywhere by knowing the names of their favourite children's authors.)

 

So the fall of the Wall and the end of the Cold War — which followed incredibly, surprisingly quickly, as the more honest reminiscences of that period now admit — was a shift so pervasive that even 11-year olds far from the frontlines felt a little nonplussed. Something about the world had changed, we could sense, even if we knew nothing about the forty years of oppression so swiftly ending.

 

But, for a long while, nothing seemed to change at home. Even the Russian books were still coming, even if it was just remainders that were now on sale at your neighbourhood Vostok. There's a movie called Goodbye Lenin, one of a set of fall-of-Wall movies that are, according to one tired German, shown every year in what "has become as predictable an annual tradition as the airing of tired Christmas specials." In Goodbye Lenin, a faithful Communist comes out of a coma in 1990; to save her system from the shock of learning the East Germany she loves is gone, her son creates an ersatz GDR for her. What was tragic-comic fantasy in Potsdam became dreary reality here. For the children of Bengal, the Wall never fell.

 

Worldwide, Communist parties realised their worldview couldn't survive without some fairly major theoretical modification. The strongest Communist party in a liberal democracy aside from ours, the Italian party, renamed and reinvented itself quite effectively, if painfully. But in India, like the children of Bengal, but with considerably less excuse, the Parties weren't quite certain what had changed; like the fragile mother in Goodbye Lenin, they were happy to fool themselves eating new, Western processed food out of shabby old Eastern bloc tins.

 

The temptation to just ignore the theoretical contradictions the death of "actually existing Socialism" laid bare was, of course, enormous. Why bother when you already controlled the levers of government and the means of (intellectual) production? But there is little doubt that the theoretical weaknesses that weren't addressed then are causing the Party left enormous amounts of trouble now, as it loses its political base to other forces that represent the dispossessed constituency it once claimed as it own, and its intellectual base to the neo-anarchist non-Party left.

 

The last issue of Economic and Political Weekly contains the text of a lecture from one of those few associated with the CPM who has at least recognised that there's a theoretical gap to be filled. The economist Prabhat Patnaik, a senior member of the Kerala government's planning board, has located the problem facing the Left parties as the presence of an apparent "binary choice" between "subservient" development and an attempt to overthrow the system. Till 1989, the Left could tell itself that its presence in parliamentary democracy could go alongside the work of subverting capitalism, in the name of the alternative systems that clearly existed. That belief, like the faiths animating the Eastern bloc states, became increasingly difficult to sustain after 1989 and 1991. It is now near-impossible, as Patnaik recognises.

 

Patnaik doesn't lay out an answer. But, as the world's last unreconstructed Communists with power face the prospect of losing it, the time for their Wall to fall has come. For the children of 1989, the end of the Wall is all mixed up with the end of statism in India; the new world order and liberalisation are muddled concepts for us. But we 11-year olds never claimed to think scientifically about politics. The thinkers of the Left did. It's time they lived up to that.

 

mihir.sharma@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

TIGHTENING AN OBVIOUS TIE

RORY MEDCALF

 

The headlines in relations between Australia and India have been grim. Controversies over uranium and the welfare of Indian students, along with misperceptions about a purported Australian tilt to China, have upset what should have been a rapid upward trajectory in ties between these two Indian Ocean democracies.

 

Yet when Kevin Rudd arrives in India today, he and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh will find that they have an unusual opportunity to rescue the relationship from drift, and to put it on a truly strategic footing in which each country can help the other increase its resilience and influence in the international system.

 

For the furore over student welfare has at least focussed high-level attention in both countries on the challenges and benefits of dealing closely with the very different democracy on the other side of the water. And both countries' rocky relations with China in recent times should remind them of this fundamental challenge they have in common.

 

The question will be whether the leaders have the vision and the political courage to seize this moment and take the necessary steps to a strategic partnership that goes beyond rhetoric.

 

Why should Australia and India bother to make the effort? Canberra already knows that India matters. The Rudd government talks the talk. It is aware of the great benefits that close ties with India offer Australia in the long run. India is on course to be one of the three big global economies. This underpins its potential as a rising great power, with corresponding military strength and diplomatic influence.

 

But the benefits are not all one way. Many in New Delhi still have not realised that Australia is more than just another middle power lining up for a piece of India's future. For a start, Australian resources, including energy, could play a key, and in time indispensible, role as India modernises and lifts hundreds of millions out of poverty.

 

More than that, Australia's hybrid character offers India a singular combination of qualities as a strategic collaborator. It has massive natural resources yet a developed economy. It is Western yet increasingly Asian. It has a strong alliance with the United States yet well-established independent diplomatic, military and intelligence capacity. It combines proximity as an Indian Ocean neighbour with a deep enmeshment with other parts of the globe. It boasts political stability alongside major population growth and the absorption of an extraordinary mix of cultures.

 

Australia is a fundamentally secure nation yet worries about many of the same security uncertainties that plague India's strategic community: terrorism, Pakistan, Afghanistan, nuclear proliferation, the impacts of climate change and, perhaps above all, the uncertainties about how China's rise will affect Asian strategic stability.

 

Despite all their other connections, Australian and India are lonely powers in the global system: neither belongs to a natural bloc, and both sustain stable, democratic systems in an environment that is often less than sympathetic to their interests.

 

Which is why the misunderstandings and missed opportunities of recent times amount to such a needless disappointment.

 

True, growth in trade and investment has been impressive. India is now Australia's fourth largest export market, and a proposed Free Trade Agreement would improve prospects for both countries. The first long-term deal to export Australian liquid natural gas to India was concluded recently: a 20-year contract worth Aus$25 billion. And high-level dialogue, including in the military, is improving.

 

Yet what is proving elusive is a relationship of genuine collaboration and candour in addressing these issues: a strategic partnership. Australian uranium sales to India may have been a magic bullet to take the relationship to a new level. Rudd cannot easily deliver on this, because he genuinely faces strong resistance within the more ideologically anti-nuclear wing of his party. But it should not be impossible for him to confront them, at least after the next election in 2010.

 

In the meantime, Canberra and New Delhi have to demonstrate strategic fidelity in other ways. That is why the leaders this week should announce the shared aim of a strategic partnership, preferably with a formal security declaration. This would be a landmark document along the lines of those agreed in recent years between Australia and Japan, Japan and India, and Australia and South Korea. Such declarations serve in part to build an informal web of confidence and cooperation in Asia, among regional powers that have previously mediated their security ties through the United States. The Australia-India connection is an obvious missing link.

 

This last point is crucial. Leaders could underscore the great potential Australia has in helping meet the spectrum of India's vast energy needs. This could give Rudd scope to offer a hint of future flexibility about revisiting the uranium supply issue. Even though coal and gas will supply much more of India's energy needs than will nuclear for the foreseeable future, India will not consider Australia a genuine friend until uranium supply can be countenanced.

 

This week Mr Rudd and Mr Singh have a real opportunity. But it has a downside. Several times before, Australian leaders have voiced grand aspirations about revolutionising relations with India. The point has arrived when more such big talk, without major commitments to follow, would confirm misgivings in New Delhi about whether Australia matters or can be relied upon.

 

The writer is a programme director at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, a former diplomat to India, and Australian coordinator of the second track Australia-India Roundtable

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

DON'T MIND YOUR LANGUAGE

ABHINAV CHANDRACHUD

 

The uncouth and un-Marathi display of hooliganism at the recent swearing-in ceremony in Maharashtra, where members of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) manhandled Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Azmi, for taking his oath of office in Hindi as opposed to Marathi, betrayed a stark cultural disconnect with the aspirations of the average Marathi-speaking individual.

 

Four duly elected members of the state legislative assembly, all belonging to the MNS, viz. Shishir Shinde, Ram Kadam, Ramesh Vanjale and Vasant Geete, were thereafter suspended by the House for having breached its highest traditions.

 

The fact that popularly elected representatives would abandon their chance at five years of articulating the aspirations of their constituents through debate and discussion on the floor of the house, for a few shameful minutes of petty assault and battery, perhaps speaks volumes about intellectually bereft political posturing.

 

Remarkably, the Indian Constitution mandates a penalty of five hundred rupees for each day that a duly elected representative assumes office without subscribing to the oath prescribed by the Third Schedule to the Constitution. The rare sight of a textually prescribed monetary penalty within the Indian Constitution underscores the sanctity of the oath of public office.

 

Significantly, the oath prescribed by the Third Schedule for members of state legislative assemblies was amended by the Constitution (Sixteenth amendment) Act, 1963 to include a promise to "uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India".

 

By insisting that the oath of office should only be taken in Marathi, MNS chief Raj Thackeray ironically defeated the very 'integrity' of the country that the oath seeks to enshrine, for national integrity knows no linguistic chauvinism.

 

An oath of office is unique to public life. Unlike the typical "horizontal" employer-employee relationship where terms of employment are governed by contract, the Indian legislator, on account of the momentous nature of his duties, is granted security of tenure for a period of five years, with equal and correlative fiduciary obligations.

 

Corporate directors, despite owing fiduciary duties to their corporations, seldom recite an 'oath of office', but those charged with the duty of managing India Inc, in which every Indian citizen is a stakeholder, are necessarily entrusted with graver obligations. Courts may not question the business judgment of corporate directors, but Indian courts often enter the political thicket to question the judgment of legislators.

 

The oath serves both as an occasion for introspection during its recital, and as a frame of reference thereafter, to ensure that the high ideals demanded of public office are met. So serious is the oath of office that Chief Justice Roberts of the American Supreme Court was compelled to re-administer Barack Obama's oath last year, on account of a mistake during the official ceremony. There is good reason, therefore, to ensure that the oath assumed by every politician meaningfully transcends the otherwise rigid barriers of the political conscience.

 

The oath of office is also a deeply personal utterance, taken before a strikingly public audience — like a marriage ceremony of sorts. The Indian Constitution permits its public officials: presidents, vice presidents, parliamentarians, governors, legislators and judges, to choose the form of their oath: to take the oath either in the name of "God" or the Constitution alone.

 

Accordingly, every legislator is accorded a remarkably private freedom of conscience in choosing the form of the oath. In a similar sense, couching the oath of office in the language of one's personal choice may make the words of the oath more meaningful.

 

Besides the obvious problems associated with petty regionalism, one cannot help but question the effectiveness of the methods adopted by Maharashtra's linguistic chauvinists. After all, what if the average Marathi-speaking migrant, one who moves to a different state or country hoping to retain his own cultural and linguistic identity, meets with the same fate as "north Indians" do at the hands of the MNS?

 

The Indian legislative edifice is a remarkable pocket of unparalleled liberty — no member can be liable for anything said or any vote given within its walls, yet its proceedings are not confined to legislative walls alone.

 

Legislative sessions are made public by way of broadcast to innumerable television sets across the nation, a privilege of unadulterated free speech that few Indian citizens can boast of.

 

The unruly behaviour at the recent swearing-in ceremony in Maharashtra was an affront to this legislative privilege, even though it may not exactly have been an isolated incident in the history of democratic India.

 

It was allegedly contended by some MNS members that by refusing to take his oath in Marathi, Abu Azmi disrespected the average Marathi-speaking inhabitant of Maharashtra. One wonders if the converse is not true: that by resorting to hooliganism and childish rough-housing, the self-appointed guardians of Marathi have disrespected the fine traditions of Marathi culture.

 

The writer is a California-based lawyer

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

VIEW FROM THE LEFT

MANOJ C G

 

PRICING IS EVERYTHING

As expected, the Left parties opposed the government's decision to divest up to 10 per cent of its stake in profit-making PSUs. But despite all the protests and calls for reversal of the move, an article in the latest edition of CPI's weekly mouthpiece New Age surprisingly suggests some steps to make the disinvestment process a success.

 

It accepts that the government is serious about making a part sale of its stocks in select PSUs and points out that the criterion for pricing these stocks or fixation of their price bands will hold the key to the success of the disinvestment programme. The stocks of the PSUs are "grossly undervalued" compared to their private sector counterparts, it notes.

 

So, while the Left is busy chalking out an agitation against the disinvestment move, the article asks the government to undertake an equity restructuring exercise in some of the PSUs before putting its shares on the block.

 

Besides, the PSUs should be allowed to convert a substantial portion of their subscribed equity capital into either zero interest or very low interest long-term bonds to keep the equity capital low and given permission to either buy back shares from the market or acquire shares through a special rights' issue for the purpose.

 

The reasoning — capital restructuring will allow the government to realise the true value of its shares from the phased disinvestment exercise now and in future. It will also allow PSUs to hold some shares in their respective companies alongside the government.

 

In fact, the article says the disinvestment in PSUs "should help professionalise their corporate management and not indirectly help ignite the ambition and passion of a few monopolies run by business families to cheaply grab high-value public enterprises."

 

AMERICA'S OIL AMBITIONS

The lead editorial in CPM organ People's Democracy talks about the vulnerability of America's Af-Pak policy in the context of the increasing attacks in Pakistan.

 

It says no solution to the Afghan imbroglio is possible unless the US abandons the pursuit of its oil and gas interests in that country through military means. The article argues that Afghanistan occupies a central position in the US strategy for the economic control of the oil and gas resources in West Asia and cites the US government's nine-year-old energy information fact sheet on Afghanistan to back its argument.

 

"Afghanistan's significance from an energy standpoint stems from its geographic position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea," it quotes from the document.

 

THE WAY FORWARD

At a time when the CPM and the Left in India are facing serious electoral reverses and their quest for anchoring an alternative has failed, the comrades will join Communist and Workers' parties from across the country to do some serious soul-searching about the relevance of Marxism-Leninism.

 

The occasion would be the 11th International meeting of the Communist and Workers' Parties to be held in Delhi later this month. For the CPM and CPI, which is jointly hosting the conference, it is undoubtedly a big event. An article in People's Democracy says representatives from 87 countries are expected to take part.

 

The global economic meltdown is going to be the key topic for discussion. In the run up to the conference, People's Democracy claims that the meeting would bring peoples' issues to the forefront and offer a real alternative solution to the crisis.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL

OBAIDULLAH NASIR

 

In her recent outburst against Darul Uloom Deoband(Indian Express, Nov 8), Tavleen Singh has criticised this highly revered institution, conveniently forgetting the history, and the sacrifices made by it.

 

Ms. Singh should know that after the unsuccessful attempt to drive the British out of India in 1857, it was the Maulvis who took on the fight. Maulana Shah Waliullah established one of the first Islamic madarasas with the explicit purpose of keeping the war against colonial power alive.

 

These Maulanas took Hindu landlords, talluqedars and the people with them and kept the flame burning. The British, in accordance with their divide-and-rule policies, blamed such Muslims for trying to establish Islamic rule in India, a theory later espoused by the RSS and one that I am sure Ms Singh endorses.

 

Darul Uloom at Deoband was established by Maulana Qasim Nanautvi, to bring all such freedom fighters under one umbrella. The organisation of these Maulvis, called Jamiatul Ulema Hind (Organisation of Indian Ulema) under the leadership of Mahmood Husain Madani, played a leading role during the freedom movement.

 

It was Jamiat which made a readymade platform available to Gandhiji for all his movements. The Jamiat was dead opposed to the two nation theory and the division of India on religious grounds, until the very last. One cannot deny the fact that it was Maulana Azad and these Maulvis who opposed Partition even when Bapu (let alone Nehru and Patel), acquiesced.

 

As far as Tavleen Singh's visit to Darul Uloom and the grand Maulana's refusal to meet her is concerned, Singh should realize that Maulana Mustafa Raza Khan of Barreilly has, in the past, also refused to meet Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on similar grounds, even though she released a commemorative stamp in honour of great scholar and his great-grandfather, Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan Sahib.

 

If a pious Muslim refuses to meet a woman who is namehram (marriageable) as per the teachings of Islam, (unfashionable and unpopular as the practice now is for many), who is Tavleen Singh to abuse him?

 

As far as her disclosure that students refused to talk to her except in Arabic — first of all, it is unbelievable. Secondly, don't our English- medium schools compel their pupils to speak only English or face fining and punishment?

 

The Deoband school of theology is strictly monotheistic. Of course they are influenced by the Wahhabi movement, and Barelvis are opposed to them — but these are internal Muslim matters. A Muslim is free to follow any school, and his Muslim identity is not under question.

 

Anti-Muslim forces are playing these intellectual differences for their petty gains. Adhering to the Wahhabi school doesn't make one a traitor or terrorist.

 

Certainly, the clerics have erred in stirring a hornet's nest, by issuing an unnecessary fatwa against the singing of Vande Mataram. But Hindu extremists are making a mountain out of molehill. If a Muslim recites Vande Mataram he or she will not instantly become a kafir(infidel) — and if he or she does not recite it, that doesn't not automatically make him or her a traitor either.

 

This controversy is sheer nonsense, and thankfully, the eminent jurist Soli Sorabjee pointed this out on the same page as Tavleen Singh. Each and every point that Singh has made in this article can be countered by any common Muslim, but that is unlikely to change her views.

 

The writer is editor of the Urdu daily 'Qaumi Khabrein'.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MARATHI PRIDE & ECONOMIC DOWNFALL

 

Even by its own extraordinary standards of rowdiness, the MNS has hit a new low in Maharashtra. Protesting SP leader Abu Asim Azmi taking his oath in Hindi, MNS legislators manhandled him. But to anyone who has followed MNS chief Raj Thackeray's rise to power on the back of an anti-immigration rant shouldn't be surprised. To anyone whose historical sense further factors in how Raj's precursor rose to power by ranting against south Indians and Gujaratis living in Mumbai, the sense of déjà vu should be even stronger. Actually, the only surprising thing is how, in the face of all the facts proving the economic benefits of migration, 'sons of soil' politics still rules the roost in India's financial capital. Take this year's Human Development Report, for example. It underlines a substantial fall in poverty rates for households that have at least one member who has moved elsewhere within the country. In Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, poverty rates in households with one migrant fell by about half between 2001-02 and 2006-07. None of this is likely to impress Raj, who couldn't care less about how source communities may be benefiting from migration. He couldn't care less that Mumbai's trademark cosmopolitanism is the result of this migratory mix. But, if he cares about Mumbai, shouldn't he at least be attending to how the city's lungs would choke for want of migratory oxygen? As The Indian Express reported yesterday, whether it's the construction business in big cities like Mumbai or the likes of Pune vineyards, all kinds of Maharashtra enterprises rely on labour from Bihar and elsewhere. Conflicting Raj's claims, these disparate business owners would surely have been employing local labour if it was available or was cost-effective. Plus, the evidence suggests that rather than crowding out locals from the job market, migrants boost economic output and help improve rates of investment in new businesses.

 

Even those who tried to protect Azmi from the MNS assault were subjected to unconscionable battery on the floor of the House. As a consequence, four MNS MLAs were suspended following an Assembly resolution, calling their actions extremely shameful. What we must underline is that rival parties haven't responded in admirable fashion. There is the Shiv Sena, which the MNS has been giving a real good run for grubby money, whose chief Bal Thackeray has tried to recover Marathi manoos ground by saying that his partymen would have gone much further, skinning Azmi and making a tandoori out of him. The President's son and first-time Congress MLA, Rajendra Shekhawat, has said it's necessary for migrants to integrate with local language and customs. Those who stay in Maharashtra must know Marathi, he said. They win votes, but such demands fly in the face of all logic—liberal, economic or plain commonsensical.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

NO QUALIFICATIONS NECESSARY


Among the changes introduced by the Securities & Exchange Board of India on Monday night, the most significant is the plan to mandate half-yearly disclosure of balance sheets by the Indian corporate sector. To understand the implications of the development, this is a departure from the current practice of listed companies, which only reveal their earnings every quarter. The regulator has now made it compulsory for all of them to disclose their cash flows every six months, too. This means investors will not have to wait for a full financial year to get a health check on the companies. As shareholders of erstwhile Satyam realised, the earnings figures at times can be manipulated, but the cash flow is a more difficult animal to tame. As Sebi has rightly pointed out, most significant markets insist on such disclosure, which means the best managed Indian companies listed there do provide such details every half year. So, extending a good practice to the rest of the listed companies is what virtuous regulation is all about. Read with another set of rules that now mandate companies to release their audited results within 45 days of the end of the quarter, instead of the current divergent practices, these are just what were needed. As we are in any case quite close to the International Financial Regulation Standards that will begin from 2011 and include all these guidelines, the rule changes rung in by Sebi will only help listed companies make the switchover easier.

 

One expects the same sense of direction in the case of rule changes introduced by Sebi for companies to raise funds through the equity route approved in the same board meeting. There is little to quibble about the changes, like allowing the pure auction method in the book-building route for institutional investors, in any issue. The current rules were biased towards the investment banker for an issue, who could set a band, only within which other companies could bid. The new system is more democratic and is willing to run the risk of letting a few institutions corner the shares. But the same logic should also apply to retail investors. The quota system has run for too long in the primary issues market, without any tangible result. It is time Sebi set a long-term goalpost in accordance with the best practices abroad and set about implementing them in this respect.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHAT TED DIDN'T GET ABOUT INDIA

MANJEET KRIPALANI

 

At the recently concluded TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference in Mysore, our junior foreign minister, Shashi Tharoor, spoke about how India would dominate through soft power. "For soft power, you need to be connected. India has become astonishingly connected through 15 million cellphones a month. It's the empowerment of the underclass," said Tharoor. He continued with India's diversity, its food, and with Bollywood's popularity in Dakar and Afghanistan. "India," he added, loading on the Tharoorisms, "is the nationalism of an idea, the history of an ever-ever land, the idea that endures differences and still rallies around a consensus." While it cannot be "super-poor and a super-power," he concluded, the country has embarked on a "great adventure of conquering those challenges."

 

It is unlikely that the vast number of Indians who are chronically worried about their daily bread will find their struggle a romantic 'great adventure' the way Tharoor does. It was also strange for Tharoor to offer 'soft power' as India's only contribution to the future. Particularly when the venue of the talk was a demonstration of how hard our soft power has become.

 

TED India took place in Mysore, at the 377-acre software training centre of Infosys Technologies. It is the world's largest training centre, with accommodation for 14,000 employees, classrooms placed within giant Corinthian columns, and a multi-media centre that rivals the Epcot Centre in Disneyworld. The roads and gardens on the campus are even better maintained than in Singapore. Software built this hardware.

 

If Tharoor did not notice it, nor, it seems, did the attendees at TED. Of the 1,000 global VIPs who descended on

Mysore, the majority were westerners and non-resident Indians. Many had come to India for the first time, and the experience in Mysore was painless. This was the first TED in India, and the fourth held internationally. The title was promising: "TEDIndia: the Future Beckons". On the Mysore campus, India's future had already arrived.

 

It did not reflect in the programming of TEDIndia. The idea of TED is unique. Brilliant new minds who expound their futuristic ideas in 18 minutes to a sophisticated celebrity audience, interspersed with entertainment, music and some socially responsible talk. This TED conference was more "Bono Saves the World" than either Technology or Entertainment or Design. No soft or hard power, but powerlessness.

 

The only tech brilliance on show was the 'augmented reality' process of MIT grad student Pranav Mistry and his 'Sixth Sense' programme, and a local genius—the rest all came from the West—who used similar technology to recreate virtual tourism for Hampi. In abundance were those who had created charter schools in India, those who sheltered and rehabilitated the wretched and trafficked in society, those who recently discovered that cheap cellphones married to corporate social responsibility was the new cool.

 

It is noble, but it is not TED. For those fed on TEDs past, it was a let down. "There is an incoherence with TED this time," says a veteran TEDster. "It was supposed to showcase India and what the world can learn from India." There's plenty to learn from India in technology alone. For example, India has the world's largest conglomeration of software engineers, and therefore is one of the most powerful software testing centres in the globe. That has spawned entrepreneurs of its own. We also have the world's fastest growing cellular phone market, as Tharoor reminded us. New technologies that cater to this market are blossoming, and those entrepreneurs are leading the global pack. None of them, however, were on display. From the audience reaction it was clear what people had learned: that India is still a poor country, and that their charity was welcome. Funds were emotionally raised for education and for helping to rehabilitate girls who are trafficked and abused in India. Many in the audience were bewildered, but many said it was part of the TED experience.

 

After 15 years of software revolution, of being at the frontier of globalisation through outsourcing, of making the most of virtual infrastructure, of cellphone egalitarianism, inventing the Nano and fighting for overseas market share with one hand tied behind our backs, is this, then, still the image of India that the West—and NRIs—continue to cherish and feel comfortable with?

 

The valuable take-aways from TED India were buried deep inside something called the TED University Sessions, held in side classrooms early in the mornings. At a session held on Thursday, November 5, at 8.30 am and run by Reuben Abraham, an associate professor at the Indian School of Business, a group of people discussed the commercial potential of opportunities just above the bottom of the pyramid business model. The new discovery: that those who are still technically poor, have stepped beyond the bottom of the pyramid into its centre. There's a new market being created here for high quality, low-cost products and public services.

 

In 2010, TED will move on to another country, and mantra. And India? It's an open bet whether the country will be embracing a future visible on the Mysore campus, or still be in the same place, sadly conquering its challenges, as Tharoor says.

 

The author, former India bureau chief for BusinessWeek, is executive director, Gateway House: the Indian Council on Global Relations

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

PAKISTAN & ITS CRONY CAPITALISTS

KAMAL A MUNIR

 

Before 2005, few in Pakistan knew what 'suo motu' meant. That the entire country has become intimately familiar with this term since then is entirely down to one man and his crusade against corruption in Pakistan's politics as well as economy. Before Iftikhar Chaudhry was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2005, the country's apex court had a reputation for obliging military dictators by providing legal cover to their otherwise unconstitutional actions. Chaudhry, however, started a new tradition of judicial activism. In a short span of 4 years, he has managed to become a thorn in the side of all governments, military or not.

 

He has earned their ire because of his firm stance towards their suspect political as well as economic policies. Both the legislative and executive branches of government in Pakistan have traditionally had a cosy relationship with business in Pakistan, and the judiciary has never thought it wise to play spoilsport. With Chaudhry, however, things have changed. Without any warning, he started asking awkward questions about privatisation deals as well as artificially inflated prices.

 

In 2006, Chaudhry's first proper year as Chief Justice, Gen Musharraf's government privatised the Pakistan Steel Mill to a consortium of Russia's Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel Works Open JSC, Saudi Arabia-based Al-Tuwairqi Group of Companies and a local firm Arif Habib Securities. In response to widespread public outcry, the Chief Justice took suo motu notice of this deal and eventually annulled the Share Purchase Agreement and the Letter of Acceptance of the deal, essentially reversing the sale. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, an ex-Citi Banker, was left fuming, thoroughly embarrassed in front of his erstwhile colleagues at Citi Bank who were advisors on the deal.

 

Musharraf struck back at the first opportunity he got. In 2006, the general's war on terror was in full swing. The judiciary tried to take him on missing persons. And the government suspended the Chief Justice on trumped up charges. Musharraf and Chaudhry had another run in when the Chief Justice refused to ratify Musharraf's state of emergency in 2008. Musharraf removed him (and others) from the court. Eventually, of course, Chaudhry was restored once Musharraf was forced out of office. But President Zardari wasn't very keen on reinstating him. After Chaudhry's restoration, the Supreme Court has become a real quandary for Zardari's government. On one hand, they need to push a privatisation agenda, but on the other they want to use privatisation to help their cronies make a fast buck. The Court is unlikely to allow this crony capitalism.

 

But privatisation isn't half as controversial an issue as sugar prices. Since August, the country has seen rapidly escalating sugar prices pushing the price of sugar far above what most Pakistanis can afford. When the situation turned into a crisis, the Supreme Court responded by fixing the price at Rs 40/kilo. The Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) cried foul over the court's complete disregard for free markets. Determination of prices, they argued, must be left to markets and the court had no business interfering in such matters. The government sided with the PSMA, arguing that it was their responsibility to regulate the market, not the Court's.

 

In this case, the Court's decision is justifiable because there isn't a genuine free market operating in sugar in any case. The high sugar prices are a result of artificially-created shortages, and reflect either unjustifiably high margins (in the case of efficient mills) or gross inefficiencies (in the case of inefficient ones). The fact is that a vast majority of the 80 or so operating sugar mills in the country have strong political connections. This is why they were able to force the government to scuttle an order to import sugar earlier in the year. This is also why they are able to exploit growers year after year and force consumers to pay for their inefficiencies.

 

Every consumer knows this, but what they also know is that the federal government is too compromised to do anything about it. So they look to the Supreme Court. The question, however, is how many enemies can the Supreme Court make among powerful interest groups? Today they have taken on the sugar lobby, tomorrow they may take on banking or the automobile industry. Given the close relationship between the government and business in Pakistan, in every instance, the Court will face more hostility from both. But until the state comes around to realising that its job is to protect public interest rather than the interest of powerful groups, the Supreme Court will probably continue performing this high wire act. And for that, it appears for now, the Pakistani public is grateful to Iftikhar Chaudhry.

 

The author teaches strategy and policy at the University of Cambridge & Lahore University of Management Sciences

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

HAS COMMUNISM REALLY GONE FROM CUBULCUT?

ALEXANDRA RICE

 

"I can't believe you're talking about Europe!" My friend's exclamation followed descriptions of my experience this summer in Cubulcut, a small village in northwest Romania, where I had spent half of a six-week stint volunteering as an English teacher. Her remark is particularly relevant to this week's most prominent anniversary. As the West commemorates 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the question of communism's legacy and the westernisation of former Soviet satellite states, such as Romania, returns to the forefront.

 

In many regards, Romania would appear to be narrowing the gap that separates it from Western European countries. The country joined the European Union in 2007, and adoption of the euro, however distant, is in discussion. Yet some corners of Romania remain virtually untouched by the country's efforts to westernise. Only the EU flag in front of the primary school showed that the rest of Europe had not entirely forgotten this isolated village.

 

Life in Cubulcut differed radically from that of the dozen other European countries in which I have lived or travelled. The standard of living eerily resembled—or even predated—my father's childhood in rural America 60 years ago. Many toilet facilities were outhouses where recycled newspapers replaced toilet paper. In my host's home, bathing was a weekly affair consisting of a large bowl of water heated on the stove. Some homes had no running water, and most had pigs or chickens running about in the yard.

 

Although common in other parts of the world, such sights are shocking in Europe. As the rest of the continent debates fuel-efficient cars and hybrid vehicles, the majority of Cubulcut's inhabitants move about by foot or horse-drawn cart. While the English language grows in importance across the continent, the local English teacher confessed she cannot speak the language.

 

As Cubulcut shows, some corners of Eastern Europe may appear at first glance, with their EU flags, to be European, yet a closer look reveals that two decades of post-communism have been insufficient to bring these isolated communities into the European fold.

 

feedit@expressindia.com

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

REPORT CARD

 

This paper* to attempts to compare the competitiveness of India and China over the last decade:

 

China's GDP was three times that of India in 2007. China's share of GDP to the world was 10.8%, which was double that of India. The average annual growth of per capita GDP of China was just double that of India in 2007. There was current account surplus for China (9.4% of GDP) against current account deficit for India (-1.1% of GDP). Adult literacy rate was 61% for India against 91% for China during 1995-2005. India and China both had followed centralised planning but China adopted an approach of communism to implement policies, whereas India's approach was to implement policies in a democratic system. China carried forward the reform process aggressively in 1980s and 1990s, whereas India initiated reform process in 1991 and carried forward moderately. The structure of output in India has moved in favour of services sector from 42.1% of GDP in 1991 to 52% GDP in 2007, whereas in China it has moved in favour of industry from 42.1% of GDP to 48.6% of GDP during the same period. China strictly followed the traditional development model, but India tried to jump from agriculture to services sector resulting in a relatively low manufacturing growth. Manufacturing value-added growth for India was just 6% during 1993-2003, whereas it was 12% for China during 1990-2005. The low manufacturing growth of India resulted in low overall growth of the country.

 

PR Bhatt; Competitiveness of India and China: A Comparison; Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, IIMK/WPS/54/STR/2009/10

 

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

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

MAINSTREAMING CHAUVINISM

 

In the three years it has been in existence, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena led by Raj Thackeray has demonstrated that it is in no way inferior to the parent party, the Shiv Sena, in mainstreaming 'rada' or the streetfighting culture in the name of Maratha pride. On Monday, the MNS raised the stakes by taking its trademark violence inside the Maharashtra Assembly. The assault on Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Azmi for taking his oath in Hindi in defiance of Raj Thackeray's diktat to all members to take their oath only in Marathi was by no means the most violent in the long list of outrageous acts perpetrated by the MNS since its formation. But the choice of venue and actors this time was significant. The occasion was a solemn constitutional ceremony, the swearing in of newly elected legislators, not a selection test for recruitment to the railways or public sector enterprises. And the assailants were MLAs, not hooded hooligans wielding hockey sticks and clubs. Clearly, the MNS sees political advantage in escalating its challenge to the Constitution and the rule of law and winning massive publicity for it. The great pity is that this provocative act of linguistic chauvinism seems to have won the approval of significant sections of the Marathi-speaking population, especially young people, across the State.

 

The assault on Mr. Azmi was the result not of any wounded Maratha pride but of the MNS's single-minded determination to cannibalise the base of the Shiv Sena. Rediscovering the Sena's original raison d'etre is, after all, its own raison d'etre. At a time when the parent party is pursuing hardcore Hindutva in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party and apparently diluting its 'sons-of-the-soil' policy, the MNS sees socio-political space opening up for it to muscle into. Unfortunately, instead of seeing the long-term danger in this, the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance seems to have adopted a benevolent attitude towards the enemy's enemy. If the MNS has felt emboldened by every act of thuggishness and defiance of the law, it is essentially because the State administration has handled it with kid gloves. That Raj Thackeray's cadres are capable of going ballistic the moment he or other senior leaders are arrested is well-known. But this cannot be a justification for tolerating their methods. The real danger from such opportunistic short-sightedness is that this experiment in mainstreaming linguistic chauvinism may succeed. The four-year suspension from the Assembly imposed on the four MNS MLAs who attacked Mr. Azmi is fully merited. But the government must go further and initiate criminal proceedings against them, and against the leader who put them up to it.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

MILITANT SANCTUARIES

 

Militancy with trans-border linkages has been the bane of northeastern India. Bangladesh's seemingly assertive moves against the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), whose operatives have been using its soil as safe havens and bases for their depredations in Assam, is a welcome step. This may well mark a decisive turn in the fight against the region's separatists, akin to the military operation that Bhutan carried out in 2003 to flush out militant groups from its territory. Ever since the Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League government came into being in December 2008, there have been expectations of quick steps to cut the trans-border lifelines of these outfits. Things, however, moved rather slowly. Hopefully, the tough line will be more in evidence at least from now on. Raids over the past few days have resulted in the flushing out of several important leaders of ULFA. Two were arrested from the Tripura border by the Border Security Force — evidently, with some aid from Dhaka. Yet, ULFA's general secretary Anup Chetia, who was arrested in 1997 in Dhaka and released in 2005, is yet to be handed over to India. The whereabouts of ULFA chairman Arabindo Rajkhowa, "commander-in-chief" Paresh Barua, and his deputy Raju Barua, who were known to be in the country, remain unclear.

 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to New Delhi next month has the potential to be a bilateral watershed. There is much to be done. In the absence of an extradition treaty between India and Bangladesh, handing over each other's wanted criminals has been a challenge. A mutual legal assistance treaty on criminal matters, a legal framework for seeking deportation on a case-by-case basis, and an agreement on transfer of convicts are among the proposals that found favour with the two countries during Foreign Minister Dipu Moni's visit to New Delhi four months ago. It is to be hoped that these agreements will be concluded soon. Dhaka should also crack down on the bases and leaders of the other militant groups — the NDFB, the NLFT, and the ATTF — who are known to be ensconced in Bangladesh. For India, equally important will be to get Myanmar stop providing sustenance to the several militant groups operating along the 1,630-km eastern border. India and Myanmar agreed in 2007 to launch coordinated operations against militants along the border, but that agreement remains on paper. Back on the Bangladesh border, the ongoing fencing work needs to be completed and the system of border patrolling and security should be stepped up.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

THE MEDIA AND THE FARM SECTOR

THE MEDIA WILL HAVE TO SERVE AS SOURCES OF EARLY WARNING IN RELATION TO THE EMERGING FOOD CRISIS.

M.S. SWAMINATHAN

 

A major trigger for the Green Revolution, which was a term coined by Dr. William Gaud of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1968 to mark a significant increase in crop production through yield advance, was the enormous enthusiasm generated among farm families by the print media and All India Radio on the opportunity created by semi-dwarf varieties of wheat and rice to enhance yield and income very substantially. The revolution resulted from a symphony approach with four major components – technology, which is the prime mover of change; services, which can take the technology to all farmers whether small or large; public policies relating to the price of inputs and output, and above all, farmers' enthusiasm promoted by the mass media. When in 1963 we started large-scale research and testing with semi-dwarf varieties of wheat obtained from Mexico through Norman Borlaug, the new plant types attracted media attention immediately. Several enthusiastic reports appeared in Indian newspapers as well as in foreign journals like The Economist of London on the new opportunities opened up by scientists to achieve a quantum jump in yield. Such reports were based on the visits of experienced correspondents to the experimental fields of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi, and the Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana.

 

The media reports led to widespread demand for the seeds of the new strains. To meet this demand, 18,000 tonnes of seeds of a few good varieties were imported in 1966 from Mexico, as a part of the purchase of time operation we had then designed. From 1964 to 1967, the country had the good fortune of having C. Subramaniam as Union Minister for Agriculture and Food. This facilitated timely public policy decisions.

 

In addition to the original Mexican material, we had selected from the segregating populations sent by Dr. Borlaug amber grain wheat varieties such as Kalyan Sona and Sonalika. Farmers in the interior areas of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh used to refer to the new varieties as "radio varieties" since they had heard about them only through All India Radio. The media thus helped to convert a small government programme titled "High Yielding Varieties Programme" into a mass movement. This is why the progress witnessed was revolutionary and not merely evolutionary. India's print media came to the rescue of the country at a time when the global media and experts had written off India from the point of view of its ability to feed itself. Experts like Paul and William Paddock had even applied the triage analysis methodology and concluded that India cannot be saved from mass starvation and death caused by hunger. It is in this background that the Green Revolution took place and converted India from the position of carrying a begging bowl to becoming a bread basket. The print media and the radio thus served as bright affirming flames in the midst of a sea of despair, and helped generate a new confidence in our agricultural capability.

 

It is now over 40 years since the onset of the Green Revolution. There is talk about the need for a second Green Revolution. However, such a revolution is nowhere in sight. The media faithfully report the Prime Minister's desire for a second Green Revolution, but have no time or space to discuss why this is not happening. To the financial media, in particular, what matters is GDP growth rate, as well as the state of the economy as measured by the situation in the share market. Even this year's widespread drought and the consequent suffering caused to millions of children, women and men were dismissed as unimportant to the economic growth rate, since agriculture contributes less than 18 per cent to GDP. Since we have enough foreign exchange reserves to resort to large-scale food imports, the media's attitude in general seems to be: "why bother about farmers and farming?" The fact that nearly two-thirds of India's population live in villages and that agriculture constitutes the backbone of their livelihood and survival, is put under the carpet since it constitutes an "inconvenient truth." No wonder over 40 per cent of the farmers interviewed by the National Sample Survey Organisation have expressed a desire to quit farming, if there is another option available.

 

The extensive prevalence of child and adult malnutrition and India's anticipated failure to halve the number of the hungry by 2015 as per the first of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, receive only a passing mention in the media. The social and economic consequences of pervasive hunger and destitution are hardly highlighted. Even during the Green Revolution days of the 1960s and 1970s, Indira Gandhi stressed in her address at the U.N. Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972, that the health of the environment will depend on the attention we pay to the basic needs of the poor in relation to food, shelter and work. Only mega-calamities such as severe flood, drought and tsunami, and farmers' suicides attract media attention. Journalists like P Sainath, who has been analysing such issues in depth in the columns of The Hindu, are rare.

 

It is now two years since a National Policy for Farmers based on a draft provided by the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) was placed in Parliament by Union Agriculture and Food Minister Sharad Pawar. This is the first time either in colonial or independent India that a comprehensive policy for farmers has been developed. All the earlier policies were for agriculture and not for the men and women who toil in the sun and the rain to feed the country. The National Policy for Farmers calls for a paradigm shift from measuring agricultural progress merely in terms of growth rates, to measuring it in terms of the growth in the real income of farm families. The policy stresses the need for an income orientation to farming, both to overcome poverty in rural India and to attract and retain youth in farming.

 

The famine of jobs is one of the primary causes of food insecurity in the country. Recent reports that over 5,000 persons apply for each clerical job available in the railways and banks is evidence of the growing frustration among educated youth. Agriculture can trigger job-led economic growth, provided it becomes intellectually satisfying and economically rewarding. This will involve the technological upgradation of small-farm agriculture and giving small farmers the power and economies of scale through appropriate group management innovations. This will also call for strengthening the services sector relevant to small-scale farming, such as agri-clinic, agri-business centre, and Small Farmers' Agri-business Consortium.

 

Nearly 60 per cent of India's cultivated area is rain-fed, with the result that Indian agriculture continues to remain a gamble in the monsoon. There are, however, new technologies which can help enhance the yield of dryland crops like pulses and oilseeds by 200 to 300 per cent. The country's imports of pulses are increasing, while there is great scope to produce in the rainfed areas the pulses and oilseeds we need. In the 1960s, media correspondents visited experimental stations and conveyed to readers the excitement of the new genetics. Such visits and reports are rare now.

 

Because of the proximity of the Copenhagen Summit, there is currently considerable discussion on common and differentiated responsibilities with reference to the containment of greenhouse gas emissions. However, there is very little discussion on the potential impact of a rise in the mean temperature by 2 degrees C, as agreed at L'Aquilla by the G-20 nations. Such a rise in mean temperature will diminish the production of wheat, rice and other crops significantly. Food production will also be affected globally and the price of the basic staples will go up. We cannot therefore depend on imports to meet the food needs of a growing population. Also, global warming will affect rural women more, since they are traditionally involved in the selection of feed and fodder, the care of animals and the fetching of water. The gender dimensions of the impact of climate change are receiving scant attention.

 

We currently produce about 220 million tonnes of cereals to meet the needs of a population of 1.15 billion. While calculating food requirements, we often overlook the needs of farm animals. We have nearly a billion farm animals including poultry that need feed and water. We have to double cereal production by 2050 in order to meet the needs of the expected human population of nearly 1.8 billion, in addition to meeting the needs of livestock and poultry. Globally also the human population is expected to reach nine billion by 2050 and global food production will have to go up by at least 70 per cent to meet the needs. Two years ago when petroleum prices went up, food prices also went up and there were food riots in many countries. The saying "where hunger rules, peace cannot prevail" is not just a cliché. The media will have to serve as sources of early warning in relation to the emerging food crisis.

 

Finally, farmers get inadequate and uncertain prices for their commodities. This is why the NCF recommended that the minimum support price for rice, wheat and other commodities should be C2, that is, the total cost of production plus 50 per cent. Fortunately, the Commission on Cost and Prices adopted this formula while recommending a support price of Rs.1,080 a quintal for wheat last year. I hope this year's announcement of Rs.1,100 a quintal of wheat will be suitably adjusted at the time of procurement, taking into account the meteorological conditions and the price of inputs.

 

Unless the media assume a pro-small farmer approach in their reporting, food production will either stagnate or go down. This will obviously affect the country's social stability adversely. It is time the media resumed their active participation in revitalising our agriculture and in safeguarding our food sovereignty.

 

(Professor Swaminathan is a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha. This article is based on a presentation he made on November 6 at a workshop on the theme 'Parliament and the Media' organised by the Rajya Sabha in New Delhi.)

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

CLIMATE: RICH AND POOR MUST WORK TOGETHER

WE TAKE INSPIRATION FROM UNDERWATER POLITICS.

DOUGLAS ALEXANDER AND MOHAMED NASHEED

 

Be in no doubt. Climate change is not tomorrow's future menace. It is today's growing catastrophe. In Copenhagen next month a meaningful deal must be secured if we are to have any hope of avoiding catastrophe.

 

This very human crisis is already being felt in parts of the world. This year, entire communities in Bangladesh are being forced to leave their homes due to rising sea levels; women in drought-ridden parts of Ethiopia have to walk five miles a day to collect water; and natural disasters are occurring with increasing frequency and ever more devastating results.

 

Climate change threatens us all. If we fail to bring it under control in the next decade we may move past the point of no return. This is a defining political test of our generation. Less than one degree of global warming since the industrial revolution has caused dangerous changes to our world.

 

Last month (October), the government of the Maldives held a cabinet meeting underwater to illustrate the stark reality facing the nation. The meeting caused a media sensation internationally. It was a lighthearted event with a deadly serious message: if climate change is not addressed, these beautiful islands will slowly slip into the Indian Ocean.

 

This week (Nov. 13, 14), the Maldives is hosting a conference of climate-vulnerable developing countries. The conference aims to thrash out a common position among the most vulnerable nations ahead of the Copenhagen meeting in December.

 

Britain stands shoulder to shoulder with the Maldives and all vulnerable countries. The U.K. government are working to ensure the voices of the people who will be hit first and hardest by climate change are heard around the negotiating table. Copenhagen must secure a deal that sees rich countries shouldering their fair share of the burden of controlling climate change. This means tough targets on their own emissions but also an agreement on funding to help developing countries pursue green growth and cope with the impacts of climate change.

 

This will mean helping to end the deforestation that sees 8m trees lost every day; governments working with the private sector to secure large investments in green industries; and a commitment to renewable energy, to make renewables cheaper than fossil fuel.

 

A fair deal at Copenhagen also means that climate change funding is not plundered from existing aid budgets but should be new, additional finance.

It is vital that the developing world has a strong, coherent voice at the table. The rich world must take the lead in cutting emissions and providing sufficient funds for developing countries. They, however, also have responsibilities. Developing nations need to grow, but their economic growth must be green.

 

To that end, the Maldives has signed an agreement to build a 75MW wind farm which will power the capital, Male, the international airport, and 24 luxury tourist resorts. This project will cut CO{-2} emissions by 25 per cent. It is due to be operational in 20 months. If a small developing country can make this rapid shift to renewables, there can be little excuse for richer nations to drag their feet.

 

Copenhagen is a moment of necessity. We must agree a credible, long-term deal that is fair and equitable. One that merely protects the interests of the rich will tell the world that the leaders of 2009 lacked the political will and moral conviction to help those whose lives will be blighted by climate change.

 

We need to use these last 28 days before Copenhagen to ensure that all parties are in a position to work towards a deal that will stand alongside the Geneva conventions and the U.N. charter as a defining document for humanity. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

 

(Douglas Alexander is the U.K.'s International Development Secretary; Mohamed Nasheed is the President of the Maldives.)

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

THE POLITICS OF STREETFIGHTING

THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT MARATHI MUST BE RESPECTED, BUT NO ONE CAN ENFORCE A BLATANT DISRESPECT FOR OTHER LANGUAGES OR PEOPLE.

MEENA MENON

 

In a state riddled with farm suicides, child malnutrition, poverty, price rise, rural indebtedness and other grave issues, what grabs the headlines? The podium being snatched away from an MLA as he takes his oath in Hindi in the august confines of the Assembly hall. Nothing is sacred or serious anymore in Maharashtra except Marathi. Or so Mr. Raj Thackeray, president of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) would have us think. The only qualification to be an MLA is brute s trength and the ability to remove solid wooden podiums with one hand.

 

The MNS won 13 seats in the Assembly elections and helped the Congress and its ally the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) come to power by decimating the saffron Opposition. The ruling alliance has been benevolent towards the MNS, hoping it will finish off the Shiv Sena. Before the first Assembly session, Mr. Raj Thackeray had already warned all newly elected legislators to take the oath in Marathi or face action. Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Asim Azmi, by no means a heroic figure, decided to take up the challenge. He could barely utter one word in Hindi before all hell broke loose. The rest is sordid history.

 

Television channels had a field day. Reactions poured in from all over the State and surprise, surprise, everyone was full of praise for Mr. Raj Thackeray. In fact many of the people interviewed, mostly youngsters, advocated stronger action against Mr. Azmi. Marathi was the State language and people who have lived here should also take their oath in that language. That was the firm conviction of most of those interviewed. Few condemned the MNS for its violence, which included papers being thrown at the intrepid Meenakshi Patil, the only woman MLA who dared to intervene in the scuffle. Television footage of Mr. Azmi being shoved around and slapped by Ram Kadam of the MNS was played throughout the day. But the aam admi was unhappy, it wanted more, it wanted Azmi to be beaten soundly, going by some of the bytes.

 

DISASTROUS STATE OF AFFAIRS

This is a disastrous state of affairs to say the least. Maharashtra is known for its progressive qualities, its great leaders like Shivaji Maharaj, and social reformists like Babasaheb Ambedkar, Jyotiba Phule, Savitribai Phule, Shahu Maharaj and others who advocated freedom, tolerance and social equality. Left leaders like S.A. Dange, B.T. Ranadive and socialists like S.M. Joshi shaped the future of the State with their commitment to an egalitarian society. Maharashtra will be celebrating the 50th year of its formation as a state in 2010. The blood of its martyrs must not go in vain.

 

The MNS and the Raj Thackeray phenomenon are not new to the state. The Shiv Sena pioneered the way in playing up Marathi as the central issue to the progress of the State and its people. The Sena's anger was against South Indians, which it felt was taking away jobs from the Marathi people. Today Raj Thackeray opposes Hindi and North Indians. The Sena has learnt a lesson from its political focus on the "Marathi manoos." Over the years, it has become more inclusive and has retreated from its earlier aggressive stand, while keeping Hindutva as its mainstay. The space for violence, which somehow seems integral to politics in Maharashtra, has been grabbed with great glee by the MNS.

 

What endeared the common person to the Shiv Sena was its politics of aggression, its ability to shoot first and ask questions later. That was its popular culture of streetfighting or "rada" (fight in colloquial Marathi). Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray minced no words against "outsiders" or Muslims and spoke in a language that people understood. Now that unflattering mantle has been donned by Raj, who thinks nothing of violence even in the Assembly. Raj takes the rada or streetfighting culture seriously. His speeches are open threats and his actions mostly follow his words. Going by his popularity, this is what his followers love in him. Raj Thackeray's violence has put the Shiv Sena on the backfoot. Sena leader Subhash Desai while upholding the Marathi cause, said he deplored the violence. It is quite new for the Sena to take this constitutional stand but it has done so creditably, even if it is to dampen its chief rival, the MNS.

 

Even sections of the media are questioning the Shiv Sena's love for the Marathi manoos, tacitly siding with Raj Thackeray. What needs to be understood is that nothing can be above the rule of law in this country. The Congress instead of indulging the MNS must take the mandate it has got for the third time, to advocate the rule of law and tolerance. There is no doubt that Marathi must be respected, but no one can enforce a blatant disrespect for other languages or people and that too with such an open display of defiance and remorselessness.

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

FOR TALIBAN FIGHTERS, A FADING MEMORIAL

DEXTER FILKINS

 

The locals call the place "The Taliban Cemetery," a weed-clotted memorial to the men who died for the movement during its fiercest campaigns in the years before 9/11.

 

The graveyard, next to Tarakhel, a tiny village north of Kabul, sits a few miles from what was once the front line against the rebels who fought the Taliban after the group captured Kabul in 1996. Those rebels, then known as the Northern Alliance, fin ally overran the Taliban and captured Kabul — with American help — in November 2001.

 

Eight years after the last fighter was buried here, the cemetery has fallen into decrepitude. Many of the gravestones are broken and smashed — the vandalism, the villagers say, of a marauding anti-Taliban militia. Weeds and rocks and tattered prayer flags obscure much of what is left. The villagers of Tarakhel, though Taliban enthusiasts, have given up trying to care for the place.

 

But with a little digging and scraping, the Taliban cemetery reveals itself, and the time that it preserved. Together, the surviving graves offer a history of the Taliban's early years, and of the tumultuous era when young jihadists from around the world travelled to Afghanistan to train and fight. There are perhaps 200 men buried here, not just Afghans but Arabs, Chechens, Indians and Pakistanis. There is even the body of a young man from Britain.

 

"The Arabs are buried over there," said Mohammed Zahir, sweeping his finger toward a swath of broken earth at the rear of the cemetery. Zahir, who lives in Tarakhel, wandered over when he spotted a foreigner walking among the tombs.

 

The Arab fighters, Zahir said, were killed in the first American bombardment in October 2001. A U.N. truck brought their bodies here and dumped them. The villagers of Tarakhel gave the dead hurried burials, in unmarked graves; they feared the gunmen of the Northern Alliance would dig up and desecrate the corpses if they discovered them. As it was, they came and smashed many of the tombstones.

 

"They were animals that day," Zahir said. Yet many of the gravestones are intact, preserving the stories of the men underground: their names, the places they were born, the days when they died. Each of the dead here, over the years, got his own granite tombstone, a gift from the Taliban warlords who ran the country then.

 

Toward the front of the cemetery lies the grave of an Afghan Talib — the word means "student" in Pashto — who died from wounds suffered in a battle against the Northern Alliance in Kunduz in 1997. The Afghan dead appear to be a minority in the Taliban cemetery; it's possible that even Talibs are, too. Most of those buried in Tarakhel appear to be foreigners, either volunteers with the Taliban or regulars with one of the many armed groups that flocked here in the 1990s.

 

A couple of tombs away from Ahmed's is that of a man named Sher Khan Kashmiri. The white gravestone says he was born in "Occupied Kashmir." Kashmiri, the gravestone says, was a member of Harkat-ul-Ansar, a Pakistan-based militant group fighting in Kashmir. In the 1990s, the group also fought alongside the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. It was a Harkat-ul-Ansar training camp in eastern Afghanistan where the United States, in August 1998, fired a volley of cruise missiles to kill Osama bin Laden. He was not there.

 

Kashmiri, the gravestone says, was "martyred" in Pul-i-Kumri, in northern Afghanistan, on June 7, 1997.

 

Other militant groups are represented in the Taliban Cemetery, including Muhammad's Army, another Pakistani militant group and an offshoot of Harkat-ul-Ansar. Members of Mohammad's Army were implicated in the death of Daniel Pearl, the American reporter who was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan in 2002. They, too, fought alongside the Taliban.

 

"The Martyr Lives Forever," a Muhammad's Army gravestone says, above the name of Hafez Mohammed Wazir of Mansera, Pakistan. He was killed on June 26, 2001.

 

Perhaps the most startling of all the relics here is the grave that contains the man named Mohammed Usman. His tombstone says he was from Britain, and was killed in Kunduz in December 1998. The words on Usman's white granite gravestone are written in Urdu. A bit of poetry is carved into the stone:

 

"A person who goes through life unfamiliar with the meaning of justice will vanish from the minds of men."

 

As the scattered dates indicate, the Taliban cemetery started small and filled up over the years, with many of the dead coming from battles on the northern steppes, where the Taliban conquest finally stalled. The first tomb dates from 1996, when Taliban fighters captured the Afghan capital. The last are from the autumn of 2001, after the start of the American war. Along with those dead Arab fighters brought here in 2001 were many living ones, the villagers of Tarakhel said. Dozens of them survived the American onslaught in October and November of 2001, and fled through Tarakhel to fight another day.

 

"We took the Arabs to the border and helped them escape," said Ayahuddin, an elderly villager in Tarakhel. "We were with them then."

 

And they are with them now. The Taliban cemetery may have fallen into disrepair, but the villagers say the Taliban are fighting the good fight, just as they were in bygone days. "They'll be back, you know," Zahir said. — © 2009 The New York Times News Service

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

WHY WAS THE AFGHAN JOURNALIST LEFT TO DIE?

MORE THAN TWO MONTHS AFTER THE INCIDENT, THE CONTROVERSY OVER THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF SULTAN MUNADI'S DEATH REFUSES TO GO AWAY.

HASAN SUROOR

 

Local stringers and interpreters who work for international news organisations in Iraq and Afghanistan are the unsung heroes behind many of the big stories that appear under the byline of high-profile foreign correspondents. Graham Greene's novel, The Quiet American, in which The Times fictional Saigon correspondent gets his best stories thanks to his Vietnamese factotum who does everything from running his office to giving him n ews tips and tracking down news sources for him is an accurate portrayal of those who are often rather dismissively referred to as "local hire."

 

Because of their local contacts and knowledge of their region's affairs stringers are indispensable to international reporters operating in an alien and hostile environment and, quite often, risk their lives to oblige their bosses. Yet, their efforts are poorly acknowledged and when, in trouble, they are abandoned to their fate. Or at least that's the perception.

 

The recent case involving The New York Times Kabul correspondent Stephen Farrell and his Afghan interpreter Sultan Munadi appears to have reinforced this impression. They were kidnapped by Taliban militants on September 5 in Kunduz where they had gone to report on the aftermath of a NATO air strike that killed many civilians fuelling widespread anger against foreign forces. Four days later, in a controversial move British commandos mounted a dramatic raid to free them ignoring the advice of intermediaries who were said to be close to a deal with the kidnappers and feared that any hasty military intervention could lead to loss of lives.

 

While the commandos managed to rescue Mr. Farrell, a British-Irish national, Munadi was killed after being shot. It is not clear whether the fatal shot was fired by a militant or a commando who did not recognise him as a hostage. Mr. Farrell was rushed to safety after he identified himself as a "British hostage" leaving Munadi's body behind even though, according to Mr. Farrell, he kept telling the troops that his colleague had been shot.

 

"I twisted around and pointed to where Sultan was lying 5-10 yards away — in clear sight even at night — slumped over the mud ridge of the ditch inside which I had taken shelter," Mr. Farrell recalled in a detailed e-mail to U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

 

According to him, though the troops told him they had a photograph of Munadi he "never saw if they acted on the information I gave them, as they were already pushing my head down close to the ground because of the gunfire in or beyond the trees around us. I was very quickly rushed away from the scene, and did not see Sultan again."

 

The British government may have genuinely intended to save both the hostages but, judging from independent accounts of the incident and Mr. Farrell's own version, it is clear that the soldiers' priority was rescuing the "British hostage." Mr. Farrell's emails reinforce previous reports that despite his repeated pleas, they were totally indifferent to what happened to Mr. Munadi. They were simply not interested in him and made no attempt even to find out whether he was still alive.

 

More than two months after the incident, the controversy over the circumstances of Munadi's death — suggesting that the British forces lost interest in him once they had Mr. Farrell out safely — refuses to go away and, last week, the CPJ intervened to demand an independent investigation by British authorities.

 

In a strongly-worded letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, it said that as an organisation dedicated to the defence of press freedom it was concerned about the incident. Such an investigation was necessary in order to clear up the "many unanswered questions" raised by CPJ's own "two-month long effort" to document events that led to Munadi's death.

 

The questions that the CPJ wants answered include: Was the recovery of both Mr. Farrell and Munadi an explicit objective of the military operation? What were the circumstances of Munadi's death? Is there any evidence Munadi was shot accidentally by British forces who did not recognise him as a hostage? After Mr. Farrell pointed out Munadi to British forces, did anyone check for vital signs? Why were Munadi's remains left at the scene of the firefight?

 

The CPJ believes that a "thorough" and "transparent" investigation would help western forces in their stated aim of winning the hearts and minds of the people of Afghanistan whose trust, it stresses, is essential to their military success. Equally importantly, it would assure Afghan journalists "without whom international reporters could not operate independently on the ground that they can report with the same degree of safety as their western colleagues when encountering British and other foreign troops."

 

The CPJ's letter confirms previous reports that The New York Times had strong reservations about the wisdom of launching a rescue mission without first exhausting all other means.

 

Meanwhile, Mr. Farrell, who formerly worked for The Times, London, and was briefly captured in Iraq five years ago, has been criticised for his gung-ho style. The problem is not Mr. Farrell's style but the ruthlessly competitive nature of western journalism because of which correspondents on foreign assignments — especially in conflict zones — are under tremendous pressure to produce "exclusives" forcing them to take avoidable risks — often with disastrous consequences as the Farrell-Munadi incident shows.

 

Postscript: Mr. Farrell's first foreign posting was in India. Any memories, anyone?

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS

RECESSION IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION

RICHARD WRAY

 

Necessity is the mother of invention, at least when it comes to the conception of technology companies. Many of America's biggest names in the technology world were born or rose to prominence in downturns, from Cisco and Hewlett-Packard to Apple and Google.

 

The harsh economic winds that blew in the 1930s, 1970s and 1980s — and the disappearance of capital after the dotcom crash at the turn of this century - blew away many old ways of doing business, clearing spaces for new companies to spring up.

 

Finding themselves laid-off, many experienced workers decided to set up shop on their own, often bringing to fruition projects they had been working on within large organisations. At the same time, the next generation of bright young things discovered that the traditional job market was closed to them and struck out on their own.

 

Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, for instance, emerged from Stanford University in 1935. Either man could have found themselves within traditional American business had it not been for the Great Depression but instead they set up business in a Palo Alto garage.

 

A garage just to the north, in Menlo Park, meanwhile, played host to another pair of Stanford graduates, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Their company, Google, was up and running in 1998 and got its only major round of funding in 1999 when the dotcom boom was still in full swing. But its rise to global web domination came between 2001 and its $23bn flotation in 2004 when its potential rivals were scaling back or disappearing in the dotcom crash.

 

The aftermath of that crash also saw the creation of Facebook and LinkedIn.

 

But taking advantage of the so-called creative destruction of a recession requires not just innovative minds with good ideas, but investors with vision.

 

One name that often appears in the U.S. when it comes to injecting cash in a downturn is Sequoia Capital. The venture capital firm put $2.5m into a telecoms start-up called Cisco just a few months after the 1987 stock market crash. Thirteen years later the dotcom boom would take the company's stock market valuation to half a trillion dollars.

 

As the recession of the 1970s was cutting a swath through middle America, California's Silicon Valley experienced rapid growth with companies such as Atari and Apple appearing on the scene and helping to create entirely new markets. The 1970s also saw the creation of Oracle, which received its first major cash injection from Sequoia in 1984. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

 

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  THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

RATTLED BEIJING NEEDS WATCHING

 

Given the crude Chinese reaction to it, the Dalai Lama's visit to Tawang — which began last Sunday and is scheduled to last a week — will be recalled as making diplomatic history. The high priest of Tibetan Buddhism was also Tibet's temporal ruler until the Chinese occupied his land militarily in 1951, forcing him to flee to India eight years later. Those were the early years of Communist China's expansionism, on the altar of which even Communist Vietnam has suffered. The Tawang monastery had been the spiritual leader's first stop once he was out of the Tibet area during his flight to safety. And yet, among the important messages that stood out when the Tibetan guru spoke to the media in the vicinity of the same historic monastery in Arunachal Pradesh last Sunday was his reassertion that he was not a "separatist", and had no plans to "split" China, as Beijing likes to allege. Precisely because the Tibetan pontiff defines himself as not being a "separatist", he is not in political favour with the Tibetan Youth Congress, comprising the Young Turks, most of whom were born in India and have never known their homeland. Purposively unmindful of this, Beijing insists on treating the Dalai Lama as a criminal on the run who must be given no place to hide, and who must be handed over to it by anyone who may find him. To Beijing, the Dalai Lama is a "separatist" and a "splittist" because he chose to take refuge in a foreign land rather than surrender himself to the tender mercies of the occupiers of his homeland. Before you shoot the dog, you must give it a bad name. That's what the Chinese appear bent on doing with the Dala Lama. There is a parable in this for India as well.

 

Beijng knows full well that its so-called claim to Arunachal Pradesh is rubbish. Indeed, the absurd claim is less likely to have been made if India had not given the Dalai Lama shelter. But because it did so, it had to be taught a lesson in the shape of the 1962 attack. Aware of what's playing in the Chinese mind, the Dalai Lama was unequivocal when he repudiated Beijng's claim from Tawang, reminding China that after the attack it had declared unilateral ceasefire and withdrawn its forces to their present position (on the Tibetan side of the McMahon Line), clearly suggesting Tawang was not "southern Tibet", as Beijing likes to describe. In an instantaneous reaction, People's Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, warned India, quoting an "anonymous" scholar: "India may have forgotten the lesson of 1962, when its repeated provocation resulted in military clashes. India is on this wrong track again." The reason for the warning? That India permitted the Dalai Lama to enter a "disputed region". Leaving aside the bully language and tone, the military warning to India is clear enough here. Whether China can carry out its threat will naturally depend on a host of factors, but India can ill afford to leave itself unprepared.

 

For decades, Beijing had relied on Islamabad to keep India discomfited, using the terrorist route and the threat of the nuclear weapon assembled with Chinese assistance. Beijing's actions vis-à-vis India bear careful watching when Pakistan is at risk of capsizing, in part on account of pressures from jihadists, who may also be interested in Chinese Xinjiang. However, what's important is the map-making of the mind that Beijing indulges in. If Arunachal Pradesh is a "disputed" region for China, what's occupied Tibet to the Tibetans? If the politburo can work this out, perhaps it will be ready to enter the era of civilised diplomatic discourse in the light of realities of the present.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

OZ SEEKS AN ASIAN FRIEND

BY ASHOK MALIK

 

Indian foreign policy wonks have traditionally looked at Australia through the prism of the United States. Yet, as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd arrives in New Delhi, it may be Canberra that offers a window to Washington, DC. As Indians worry about the proximity of America and China, President Barack Obama's tilt towards Beijing and a world run by Group of Two, it would be useful to map Australia's recent relationship with China.

 

Mr Rudd came to power in 2007. Like Mr Obama, he was seen as a liberal who didn't obviously see democratic India as a counterweight to China's controlled polity. Mr Rudd's knowledge of Mandarin also elevated him to some sort of China expert. Given his country's dependence on the Chinese market for commodity exports, it was widely perceived he would move Australia into the Middle Kingdom's orbit.

 

Two years on, Australia-China ties have suffered multiple blows. Mr Rudd comes to India looking for a breakthrough with the other Asian giant, almost to make up for the setback with the Chinese. What happened? A series of unrelated events combined to leave an impact greater than the sum of their parts.

 

First, Mr Rudd visited China in April 2008 for a four-day visit that sections of his hosts anticipated would be a pilgrimage. On the first day, he delivered a speech in Mandarin at Peking University where he referred to the human rights situation in Tibet. The Chinese were livid.

 

Second, in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics, Tibetan protesters came out on the streets in many countries. In Australia, there was an organised counter-mobilisation of the Chinese community — both Chinese citizens working and studying in Australia and Australian citizens of Chinese origin. In one infamous case, 10,000 people turned up in Canberra for an anti-Tibet demonstration.

 

The gathering was noticed. It was unusually large for tiny Canberra, a sleepy city of 3,00,000 people. Many of the Chinese demonstrators had come in from Sydney and Melbourne. Somebody had paid for their travel and mobilised them for this propaganda show. It was later found officials of the Chinese embassy had played a role. This led to concern about foreign diplomats influencing and interfering in a domestic debate.

 

Third, repeated attempts by state-owned Chinese companies to acquire Australian natural-resource businesses have been thwarted. Earlier this year, a Chinese company tried to buy a copper mine in south Australia but was blocked because the location was close to a defence facility. When a Chinese state-owned company sought to make a substantial investment in Rio Tinto, the Australian iron ore and commodities giant, Canberra delayed permission till such time as an alternative offer came along.

 

In retaliation, Beijing arrested Rio Tinto executives, including an Australian citizen of Chinese origin who is still in prison. He was accused of spying, a charge later diluted to corruption and bribery.

 

Fourth, Australia's Defence White Paper, released in May this year, made clear allusions to the Chinese maritime threat, and the need for Australia to ramp up its Navy. Just weeks later, Australia's defence minister resigned following a spate of personal scandals. About the most high-profile of these involved his friendship with an Australian-Chinese businesswoman with supposed People's Liberation Army links.

 

In isolation, not one of these incidents was big. Yet, seen together, and having occurred in such a narrow time-frame, they ended up conveying the impression of a Cold War. Today, Mr Rudd's confidants argue both the Chinese and his critics misunderstood his knowledge of China for approval of the Chinese system. A nuanced version would suggest that the more outsiders get to know China the more difficult they find it to reconcile themselves to its political economy.

 

Despite Mr Rudd's efforts, deep-seated scepticism and suspicion about China within Australia's defence establishment and strategic community, its media and civil society could not be held back. As Rory Medcalf, former Australian diplomat and programme director for international security at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute, Australia's leading foreign policy think tank, points out: "Opinion polling by the Lowy Institute shows that Australian public attitudes have steadily cooled towards China over the past two years".

 

The China encounter of Mr Rudd's Australia can as easily be replicated in Obama's America. There are limits to which Western societies and political leaderships can go in accommodating China. Disquiet about its treatment of internal dissent and the strategic aims of its business investments — where these are seen as driven by an expansionist foreign policy rather than plain commerce — will not go away in a hurry.

 

What does this mean for New Delhi? The benefits are obvious but not inevitable. Just because Australia (or any other country) experiences turbulence with China does not mean it will automatically embrace India. However, equally, it does not mean China's economic prowess will inexorably draw Western nations into its sphere of influence and cause them to ignore India, much less gang-up against it.

 

Opportunities will also present themselves. Having singed his fingers with China, Mr Rudd comes to India eager for a good, meaningful summit. India can exploit this moment and it would be a shame to limit the visit to raising the violence against Indian students in Australia. Important as that issue is, it cannot be the entirety of the India-Australia equation.

 

The problem is there is no one game-changing phenomenon that can redefine Indo-Australian relations, the equivalent of George W. Bush's nuclear deal. However, bilateral trade is growing. Australia is an emerging military partner for India, in terms of a naval partnership that can straddle the Indian Ocean and, potentially, joint training by Special Forces.

 

Canberra can help New Delhi's quest for energy security, extending from coal and natural gas to — the big one — uranium. Uranium exports are a hot button in Australian domestic politics. To sell yellowcake to India, Mr Rudd will have to fight strong opposition within his own Labour Party and will probably postpone a decision till after the general election of 2010.

 

Whatever the eventual outcome, the upshot is an Australian leader who began his term reaching out to China needs to pull a rabbit out of the hat to, instead, make the India relationship his legacy. That should be a calming lesson for Indian strategic affairs pundits.

 

Ashok Malik can be contacted at malikashok@gmail.com

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

TAWANG AND THE GHOSTS OF 1962

BY MAURA MOYNIHAN

 

This week the Dalai Lama is in Arunachal Pradesh, where he was delivered to Indian custody by Tibetan resistance fighters a half century ago. As Beijing's cadres ramp up attacks on the exiled Tibetan leader and lay claim to swaths of Indian territory along the Tibet border, it is gratifying to see India backing up the Dalai Lama and asserting its sovereignty in Arunachal Pradesh, a Tibetan Buddhist cultural zone lacerated in the 1962 War.

 

The 1962 India-China War was brief and casualties were few; fighting began on October 10, 1962, and came to an end on November 21. The death toll for soldiers was an estimated 1,460 Chinese, 3,128 for India. Yet the consequences of this anxious month of skirmishes in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh are still reverberating through South Asia. The War handed Mao Zedong a stunning victory, destroyed Jawaharlal Nehru's vision of pan-Asian unity in a post-war world, drove India and China into warring camps and greatly advanced China's hegemonic ambitions across the continent. It may have been a short war, but it was not a minor one.

 

China's triumph in '62 had a deleterious effect on the Himalayan belt, where the old trade routes and pilgrim trails that linked Tibet to Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and India were sealed by People's Liberation Army troops. When Nepal's King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah violated the Delhi compromise in 1960, tossed the Congress Party leaders into jail and restored absolute monarchy, Nehru prepared to intervene to restore democracy. After the 1962 War, with Chairman Mao armed and bellicose at Nepal and India's northern border, confronting King Mahendra's power-grab was out of the question. And today, 47 years hence, the dominant political force in Nepal are the Maoists, not the Congress Party.

 

The Himalayan Belt, eroded by the '62 War, is again at risk. China's perverse obsession with the Dalai Lama exposes the totalitarian mindset that defines their Tibet policy, which is why they seek to possess and smother the Buddhist cultures along the Tibetan border. In 1995, China implemented the "Strike Hard Campaign", wherein Buddhism is officially labelled "a disease to be eradicated" and owning a portrait of the Dalai Lama is a punishable offence. Monasteries across Tibet have been drained of students and teachers. Many take flight to India and Nepal to join Tibetan Buddhist sanghas, and to tell of religious persecution inside Tibet, the ugly truths that Beijing's cadres do not want the world to hear.

 

The international community would be well advised to examine China's subjugation of Tibet to understand the Communist Party's record of violating agreements, treaties and international norms of conduct. The Tibet question is generally perceived as a human rights debate, not an issue of strategic or legal concern. Yet Tibet is primarily a strategic and economic issue for China. The elemental facts, such as Tibet's size, its wealth of resources and strategic advantages, the full extent of the genocide wrought by the Chinese invasion, are not well known, and when people hear the details they fully understand why the People's Republic of China wishes to control the dialogue on the Tibet question.

 

Chinese propaganda has been highly effective; Sinologists throughout Western universities for years taught that Tibet was a "backward serfdom" now enjoying a new and welcome prosperity under China's "peaceful liberation of Tibet". Many academics and policymakers, out of ignorance or cognitive dissonance, continue to accept China's agitprop. Beijing's latest spin, which finds alarmingly wide acceptance, is that the excesses of the Mao era have been rectified by modernisations, that highways and television stations compensate for genocide, torture and the suspension of all civil and cultural rights.

 

The '62 War bequeathed another tragic legacy to the peoples of Asia, locking India and China in a costly and dangerous arms race. India spends two-thirds of its defence budget on the northern border, yet still lags behind China's potent military infrastructure all across Tibet. "I remember when we escaped from Tibet in 1959", recalls Lhasang Tsering, the legendary Tibetan poet and freedom fighter, "we were met by unarmed Indian constables in baggy shorts. I admit they needed warmer trousers, but not nuclear missiles. The world ignores the great risks of having the world's two most populous nations armed for combat along this 2,200-km border".

 

Ambassador Ranjit Gupta, a distinguished scholar and Tibet watcher, states: "Had the world taken action when China invaded Tibet in 1951, Tibet would surely have been saved… China was recovering from a disastrous civil war and did not have the resources to handle two conflicts: Korea in the east, Tibet in the west… India paid for that mistake when China secured its control over Tibet in 1959 and then invaded India in 1962".

 

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

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

HE IS VERY DEPENDABLE

MEERA KATHIRAVAN

 

 I believe in the existence of a supernatural power which is above all of us. However, I feel that spirituality begins where religion ends. A timely help, a comforting touch when it is most needed — many such occasions in life remind me of God's existence. It is through certain vibrations in the atmosphere — and not through any form — that I realise God. I don't see Him in institutionalised religions as most institutions are commercial enterprises.

 

As a film director, I want to everybody to enjoy this life through whatever films I can make during my lifetime. My guru A.K. Lohithadas (legendary Malayalam film director) used to tell me that we have to keep our minds clean like a shining kuthuvilakku (traditional lamp) which is washed with ash.

I can unload all my burdens on God, he is very dependable. I feel the God within me when I see human suffering. I think it is a gift from God for creative artists like me that we can experience the pain of fellow humans.

 

It is in such emotional moments of empathy, love and care that we see God. It is by imitating the compassion of God that I get closer to my fellow humans — be it family, friends, co-workers or any anonymous man on the road. I beg to God that all human beings have a mind devoid of hatred, jealousy and betrayal.

 

(As told to Peer Mohamed) Meera Kathiravan is a Tamil film director

 

 


THE ASIAN AGE

COLUMN

A BAD BEGINNING IN MAHARASHTRA

BY INDER MALHOTRA

 

TIME was when today's Maharashtra, then the multi-lingual state of Bombay, was one of the two best-administrated states, the other being the state of Madras, now called Tamil Nadu. Let us leave the southern state out of this discussion. But sadly, Maharashtra today is one of the worst administered, often rivalling Bihar, with which it has a special relationship of total hostility.

 

In all fairness it must be said that things in the state whose capital is also the nation's "financial hub" have been degenerating for a long time, but never so precipitately as of late. The Congress split of 1969, the Emergency followed by Indira Gandhi's defeat in the 1977 general election, and the birth of the Shiv Sena in the late 60s took their toll, as did the burgeoning building boom in a metropolis desperately short of land. This laid the foundations of the nexus between rapacious builders, politicians in power and their bureaucratic henchmen that has now assumed frightening dimensions.

 

The watershed was reached when, after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, there were the 1993 "Bombay blasts". The Karachi-based Dawood Ibrahim was able to land one-and-a-half tons of RDX on the Maharashtra coast with the full cooperation of senior customs officers who believed that he was bringing in his usual contraband of gold!

 

It was in 1995 that, for the first time in Maharashtra's history, a coalition of the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a combination of rabid Marathi chauvinism and strident communalism, came to power. I distinctly remember the then Pakistani high commissioner's comment: "The key to India's tijori (cash box) has passed to the Hindutva forces".

 

However, the Maratha strongman, Sharad Pawar, always retained his strong power base in western Maharashtra and great influence in the Congress power structure in New Delhi. In 1991, after Rajiv Gandhi's assassination and Sonia Gandhi's firm refusal to be his successor, Mr Pawar was a candidate for the top job. But the prize went to P.V. Naraimha Rao. Before the 1996 general election — in which the Congress lost power for the next eight years and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance ruled for six of these eight years — Mr Pawar threw his bombshell, raised the issue of Mrs Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin, and under the slogan Raj kare ga Hindustani, formed the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). For all his fulmination against the "foreigners", however, he had no compunction in becoming the Congress' junior partner — in Maharashtra in 1999 and in New Delhi five years later.

 

The main point about all this is that the Congress-NCP alliance has always been uneasy, to put it no more strongly than that. Working at cross-purposes and motivated primarily by greed, the two coalition partners have brought governance in Maharashtra to a very low depth indeed. Towards the end of their second tenure, especially after the horrific terrorist attacks on 26/11, there was a glimmer of hope. Congress leaders started admitting that things had been allowed to get out of hand, and if the electorate gave them a third chance they would make a fresh beginning and make up for the past, giving the state a bright future.

 

It is already crystal clear that these promises were not only insincere but downright false. In the first place, the new Maharashtra government is really old wine in old bottles. Secondly, the beginning it has made, after celebrating elaborately its "hat-trick", is shocking beyond words. In saying this I do refer to the infamy inside the state legislature on the first day of its session when followers of Raj Thackeray, entering the Assembly for the first time, assaulted a member, Abu Asim Azmi of the Samajwadi Party, for his temerity to take his oath in Hindi when under Mr Raj Thackeray's dictate, Marathi is the only language to use, and hell with the Constitution that gives every citizen the right to speak and take oath in any of the recognised national languages. All this is abominable, especially in view of the culprits' declaration that they would mete out the same treatment to anyone "who insults Maharashtra", whatever that might mean.

 

By my reckoning the worse act of the Congress-NCP leaders is to have brought back NCP's R.R. Patil as the state's home minister. In the midst of the 26/11 traumatic events this worthy had the audacity of making the buffoonish statement that "such minor incidents do take place in big cities". He was rightly asked to resign. Now he has been appointed to the same crucial job despite widespread public protests.

 

Mr Pawar, whose single-point agenda is to transfer the NCP leadership to his daughter Supriya Sule, must have had compulsions. But what made the Congress president and the Prime Minister succumb to his pressure?

 

Union home minister P. Chidambaram has said repeatedly that another terrorist attack from Pakistani soil can take place though this country is better prepared to deal with it. Can Mr Patil be depended upon to deal with such a situation, especially after the government to which he belongs has willfully suppressed portions of Ram Pradhan's inquiry report on 26/11 and not done enough to act on its recommendations?

 

The most chilling implication of the unending outrages — on the day after the hooliganism within the Assembly chamber, the Shiv Sena gheraoed Mr Azmi (whose own political record won't bear scrutiny) outside the legislature — is different.

 

Mr Raj Thackeray is politically very useful to the Congress-NCP combine. One and all admitted after the Assembly election that he made a material contribution to the defeat of Shiv Sena-BJP coalition, largely because of his feud with his uncle Bal Thackeray and cousin Uddhav Thackeray. It is no secret that the Congress got 13 additional seats because of him.

 

In the past, irrespective of what his goons did under his unpardonable instructions he was treated with kid gloves. At a time when he should have been behind bars, he was feted by, of all people, Mumbai's police chief. A show arrest of him was made but it was allowed to fizzle out. Today he is virtually above the law because for the Congress-NCP government political expediency seems to take precedence over national interest.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

LAWLESS BUNCH

 

Middle class India comforts itself with the thought that if the whole country was educated, it would be more civilised and better run. The fallacy of this logic is proved to us several times, not least by the incidents in the Karnataka High Court and the Maharashtra legislature on Monday.


Lawyers created a ruckus in the Karnataka High Court forcing chief justice P Dinakaran to suspend proceedings. They were objecting to his continuing as chief justice in spite of the allegations of land-grabbing which has stalled his elevation to the Supreme Court.


The road which their objections took was not just contemptible but unacceptable. They swarmed into the hall, shouted slogans, prevented other lawyers from appearing in court, manhandled judges and media persons, locked two judges who were unaware of what was going on into their rooms and then cut off the power supply. On all counts, this is hardly what is expected of "educated" upholders of the law.


Sadly, in recent times lawyers have been at the forefront of unruly behaviour, across the country from Uttar Pradesh to Delhi to Tamil Nadu and now Karnataka. Ostensibly, they are advocates of the law and of jurisprudence. But often they are happy to forget the responsibility that comes with it and act in a reprehensible manner.

The question here is not about the suitability of Justice Dinakaran's continuing as chief justice of the Karnataka High Court after corruption charges were raised against him. It is of the disruption created in court by lawyers. Much as the legislature is the temple for elected representatives, the courtroom is the sacred place for lawyers.

The least that is expected of them is that they do not desecrate it. The lawyers could have sued other forums available to them to launch their campaign against the judge. Instead, by their conduct, they have diminished the force and focus of their argument and shifted it away from Dinakaran to themselves.


Does it reflect or shed uncomfortable light on our national character when the more progress we make, the less we respect civilised norms? Some lawyers of Karnataka have tarnished the reputation of the entire bar in that state by their actions. Stern action is called for against the lawyers and the association to which they belong. They cannot take refuge under the excuse that their cause — Dinakaran's supposed corruption — — is just, when their own actions are not.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

GET ROCKIN'

SUMAA TEKUR

 

Dude, Bill Gates rocks. "You'll think I'm joking, but it's encouraged for management in Microsoft to imitate this rocking behaviour -- it's supposed to aid thinking. I'd never be able to keep a straight face at a meeting."

 

This was the first in a series of reactions to an online video that shows a meeting at Microsoft chaired by Bill Gates. Gates is seen silently rocking back and forth in his chair for a few minutes before the start of the meeting. He is known to do this with the purpose of getting everyone in the room to the same rhythm -- the staffers are expected to use that time to slow people down if they have been rushing around getting too many things done, or to speed up their rhythm to match his.

 

I first read about Bill Gates' 'rocking' habit in Stephan Rechtschaffen's Time Shifting: Creating More Time to Enjoy Your Life. Rechtschaffen, founder of the Omega Institute for Holisitic Studies in Rhinebeck, New York, suggests that we learn to slow down from the high-paced lifestyle of work and society by consciously making a change in our rhythm of functioning. This inspiring book shows how important it is to maintain a steady, firm and sure rhythm of life.

 

Working 12-hour days may be a status symbol to some, given that they get immense pride from their "investment" in work. But at the cost of personal time, it is but, says Rechtschaffen, a strong indicator of stress. Working in short gasps with intense energy may bring impressive short-term results, but will ultimately lead to your health failing you, he points out.

 

It's like a frog in a large pan of water set on low heat. By the time the water gets to boiling point, it's too late to get out of the pan. According to Rechtschaffen, the only way to deal with this is to deliberately slow down from the "hyper-productivity rhythm" and to carve out personal time. Catch hold of those "personal time robbers" and show them right out the door.

 

I read this book with much interest and here, I admit, that it must have been an uncomfortable sense of guilt that kept me engaged through the book. I'm guilty of being on the hyper-productivity rhythm and not spending time with myself. I'm also guilty of finding comfort in a wicked feeling that there are tons out there like me. But continue to break the shackles, I must. And keep trying, I will.

 

-Sumaa Tekur is an editor with DNA. Views expressed are personal.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

OUT OF FOCUS

NANDINI RAMNATH

 

A strange ritual preceded every movie that was screened at last fortnight's Mumbai Film Festival (MFF). A young person came onto the stage, put on his or her best call centre accent, and narrated the synopsis of the movie that was to be screened within the next few minutes.

 

The comperes merely read out what every delegate who was entitled to a festival brochure already knew. Sometimes, they got the gender of the filmmaker wrong. Often, they mispronounced the names of such awards as "Prix Du Jour" (they called it pricks du jew-r).

 

Seasoned cinephiles laughed resignedly. Newly-minted festival pass holders didn't notice. As it turned out, mispronunciation and gender-bending were the mildest of crimes committed at this year's MFF, which was organised by the Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image.

 

Around 200 films from India and abroad were shown at the festival -- several of them out of focus. Be it an old master or an upcoming filmmaker, nobody was spared. You may have been Andrzej Wajda from Poland and have made over 30 films, several of which have been feted across the globe. You may have been Umesh Kulkarni from India, sharing the first print of only your second film with the world. It didn't matter.

 

Surely it isn't too much to expect a festival to get right its most basic function, which is screening films? The MFF had so much going for it this year. Some lovely films were shown, and the organisers took care to organise sidebar events for the edification of those attending the festival.

 

Yet, the organisers inexplicably allowed their hard work to be undermined by abysmal projection. The staff at the main festival venue (the Fun Republic multiplex in Mumbai's Andheri suburb) seemed untrained to screen films made in different formats. They were also unprepared to handle the wrath of the audiences.

 

One of the comperes, a pretty-looking boy with RJ-like diction, warned viewers against "entering the projectionist cabin and manhandling the projectionist". Whatever else the MFF achieved this year, it never lacked in unplanned entertainment.

 

No such sloppiness was noticed during the opening and the closing ceremonies -- perhaps because of the Bollywood heavies who attended the functions. Not too long ago, a film festival used to be the place that you headed to after turning your back on Bollywood. A "festival film" was considered box-office poison. Not anymore.

 

Increasingly, the people who control Bollywood want to grace festivals for the prestige this brings. The film festival gives Bollywood the platform it desires to globally broadcast its aspirations. Thankfully, Bollywood's cannibalising tendencies were restricted to taking over the opening and closing ceremonies at the MFF. Hopefully, the day when we're treated to sycophantic retrospectives of leading lights at the box-office will never dawn.

 

India's most pre-eminent filmmaking city has only one film festival worth the name. The MFF, which has been organised by the Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image for the past 11 years, isn't as prestigious as the festivals in Kerala or Goa. However, the MFF gives Mumbai the best possible opportunity to watch new and classicinternational films.

 

The festival started off as a small affair organised by professionals from the Hindi film industry and it has grown steadily over the years. This year, the event expanded considerably in scope and ambition after it got a large corporate sponsor. The prize money in various filmmaking categories was vastly increased.

 

Selectors had more funds to import some of the big-ticket films doing the rounds of the world's most important festivals, such as Lars V Trier's deeply controversial Antichrist, Andrea MacDonald's Fish Tank, Peter Strickland's Katalin Varga, Giorgos Lanthimos's Dogtooth and Paulo Sorrentino's Il Divo. Yet, for all its putative hugeness, what MFF lacked was attention to detail.

 

Paradoxically, the MFF's role has only increased in importance even as more world cinema becomes available for consumption. We now have at least two television channels dedicated to screening foreign films and several Indian home entertainment distributors are rushing to acquire foreign titles.

 

Yet, what you see on television and in the privacy of your homes is subjected to censorship. The film festival remains the only place where you can watch the movie the way its director meant you to see it. One of the festival's most commendable decisions was to screen Von Trier's Antichrist, a controversial film that has at least two deeply disturbing scenes of mutilation and several moments of sheer psychological agony.

 

Antichrist is the kind of movie that can be appreciated only at a festival. It generated vast debateand gave agitated filmgoers something to talk about apart from the out-of-focus projection.

 

The writer is film editor, Time Out, Mumbai

 

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DNA

BEFORE HIS ASIA TRIP OBAMA SHOULD SEE 2012

VENKATESAN VEMBU

 

As US president Barack Obama prepares for his maiden visit to Asia this week, his policy advisers are sure to thrust position papers, talking point memos and speeches into his hands. He should put them aside for a couple of hours and instead go watch a movie.

 

Not just any film, but the disaster flick 2012, which opens internationally this week.


In the movie, a black US president (ahem!) faces down an apocalyptic end-of-the-world scenario in 2012 owing to changes on the surface of the sun.

But the cutting-edge scientific research that can save the world is being carried out not in the US but in India, by

 

Indian physicists; the mass-transportation vehicles that can ferry humans to safety are manufactured and stockpiled in China. And in the search for ideas to deal with the prophesied catastrophe, the Obama-in-reel-life actively seeks opinions from political leaders around the world.

 

For all its pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo and thrilling special effects, the central storyline strand of 2012 is the global power shift (and knowledge-shift) away from the US, which is happening in the real world.

 

And since no empirical fact enters human consciousness until it has seeped through into popular culture and has been caricatured by Hollywood, 2012 is perhaps the most engaging and timely executive summary about Asia's rise that Obama can get as he packs his bag and heads east.

 

Dramatic changes are sweeping across Asia, particularly east and Southeast Asia (where Obama's upcoming travel is centred). But over the past decade, the US has been "missing in action" in this part of the world, given its preoccupations with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, more recently, the Wall Street crisis. Even given the gravity of the terrorist threats it faced, the military and economic distractions of the 'sole remaining superpower' meant that it was blind to the shifting of Asian tectonic plates, which have come at the cost of American influence.

 

China's rise and its emergence as the engine of economic growth in east Asia over the same period have starkly accentuated the US's absence. The region as a whole is riding China's growth, and collectively Asia is reinventing itself to be less dependent on exports to Western economies and become more of a powerhouse driven by domestic demand.

 

Even at a strategic level, staunch US allies like Japan have hinted that they cannot sit around and wait eternally for the US to show up when big things are happening closer home. But in equal measure, there is a growing trepidation within the region about the negative implications of the unchecked rise of China.

 

Even those who used to hector the US about its "power projection" in Asia now realise that the one thing worse than US 'hegemony' is a power vacuum in Asia that leaves the field open for China's 'hegemony'.

 

Last fortnight, Singapore leader Lee Kuan Yew, otherwise a card-carrying member of the China Fan Club, travelled to the US and, in many speeches and meetings, including with Obama, called on America to remain engaged in Asia as a "counter-balance" to China.

 

(For his exertions, Lee has been branded by inflamed fellow-ethnic Chinese opinion in China as a "race traitor".) Others like the Chinese-speaking Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd are batting for continuing US influence in the Asia-Pacific region, citing China's "nationalist ambitions".

 

As Obama will learn first-hand during his upcoming travels, there's a renewed yearning in large parts of Asia for the US to return to being the stabilising power influence in the region.

 

Despite his political troubles at home, Obama remains enormously popular abroad; and as the most switched-on US president in a while, he is best placed to signal that the US is back in Asia. Not only because Asia wants it, but because it's in America's interest to remain engaged with Asia -- and not just to avert 2012-like catastrophes.

 

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DNA

LAWLESS BUNCH

 

Middle class India comforts itself with the thought that if the whole country was educated, it would be more civilised and better run. The fallacy of this logic is proved to us several times, not least by the incidents in the Karnataka High Court and the Maharashtra legislature on Monday.

Lawyers created a ruckus in the Karnataka High Court forcing chief justice P Dinakaran to suspend proceedings. They were objecting to his continuing as chief justice in spite of the allegations of land-grabbing which has stalled his elevation to the Supreme Court.

 

The road which their objections took was not just contemptible but unacceptable. They swarmed into the hall, shouted slogans, prevented other lawyers from appearing in court, manhandled judges and media persons, locked two judges who were unaware of what was going on into their rooms and then cut off the power supply. On all counts, this is hardly what is expected of "educated" upholders of the law.

 

Sadly, in recent times lawyers have been at the forefront of unruly behaviour, across the country from Uttar Pradesh to Delhi to Tamil Nadu and now Karnataka. Ostensibly, they are advocates of the law and of jurisprudence. But often they are happy to forget the responsibility that comes with it and act in a reprehensible manner.

 

The question here is not about the suitability of Justice Dinakaran's continuing as chief justice of the Karnataka High Court after corruption charges were raised against him. It is of the disruption created in court by lawyers. Much as the legislature is the temple for elected representatives, the courtroom is the sacred place for lawyers.

The least that is expected of them is that they do not desecrate it. The lawyers could have sued other forums available to them to launch their campaign against the judge. Instead, by their conduct, they have diminished the force and focus of their argument and shifted it away from Dinakaran to themselves.

 

Does it reflect or shed uncomfortable light on our national character when the more progress we make, the less we respect civilised norms? Some lawyers of Karnataka have tarnished the reputation of the entire bar in that state by their actions. Stern action is called for against the lawyers and the association to which they belong. They cannot take refuge under the excuse that their cause -- Dinakaran's supposed corruption -- -- is just, when their own actions are not.

 

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DNA

OUR TRUE HOME

 

When you practice the bell of mindfulness, you breathe in, and you listen deeply to the sound of the bell, and you say, "Listen, listen." Then you breathe out and you say, "This wonderful sound brings me back to my true home. Our true home is something we all want to go back to. Some of us feel we don't have a home.

What is the meaning of "true home"? When we are mindful, fully living each moment of our daily lives, we may realise that everyone and everything around us is our home.


Isn't it true that the air we breathe is our home, that the blue sky, the rivers, the mountains, the people around us, the trees, and the animals are our home?

 

When you practice walking meditation, walk in such a way that you recognise your home, in the here and the now. See the trees as your home, the air as your home, the blue sky as your home, and the earth that you tread as your home. This can only be done in the here and the now.

 

Sometimes we have a feeling of alienation. We feel as if we are cut off from everything. We have been a wanderer and have tried hard but have never been able to reach our true home. However, we all have a home, and this is our practice of going home.

 

When we say, "Home sweet home," where is it? When we practice looking deeply, we realise that our home is everywhere. We have to be able to see that the trees are our home and the blue sky is our home. It looks like a difficult practice, but it's really easy.

 

You only need to stop being a wanderer in order to be at home. "Listen, listen. This wonderful sound brings me back to my true home." The voice of the Buddha, the sound of the bell, the sunshine, everything is calling us back to our true home. Once you are back in your true home, you'll feel the peace and the joy you deserve.

From Going Home by Thich Nhat Hanh

 

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DNA

NOT ACCEPTABLE

 

The assault on Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Azmi by MNS MLAs in the State Assembly for having taken the oath in Hindi was outrageous and deserves condemnation ('Raj's MLAs assault Azmi for taking oath in Hindi', DNA, November 10). They could have voiced their protest in a sober non-violent form. The Constitution allows any MLA to take the oath in any of the languages so prescribed. It is a clear case of personal vendetta because when some other MLAs took the oath in Hindi or English, the MNS didn't do anything.

Deepak Chikramane, via email

 

II
The incident at the swearing-in ceremony should be an eye opener to the government and the people of India. It clearly indicates the state of thing s to come in the near future. The MNS have openly challenged the Constitution. They are only concentrating on petty issues when there are larger and more important issues to tend to. Why is the government turning a blind eye towards the MNS's activities? The chief minister still wants to check the videotape for the wrong-doings on the floor and then take action. Such actions deter the investors and ultimately affect the common man in the form of unemployment which doesn't seem to bother the politicians.

Sundeep K Mohnot, Mumbai

 

Need for reforms

I endorse Anil Dharker's view ('For Muslims, the enemy lies within', DNA, November 9) that Islam's worst enemies are Muslims themselves. Most Muslims interpret Islam to suit their ideology. In doing so, knowingly or unknowingly they cause a great harm the very tenets of the sublime faith. Scholars say Islam preaches tolerance and peace whereas the terrorists through their gory acts say that intolerance is the very essence of Islam. The cause of the present sordid state of Islam is that it has remained static and dogmatic and failed to keep pace with the changing time. Unfortunately the Dawat-e-Islam convention recently held in Mumbai miserably failed to address the unabated growth of terrorism in the name of Islam world over.

--Sayyad Sharief Naqvi, Mumbai

 

Unpredictable team

The words 'inconsistency' and 'non dependability' have become synonymous with Team India after the two consecutive losses. The big giants of our team just could not save the matches; losing by a margin of below 10 runs. Unfortunately, Sachin Tendulkar's achievements were lost in Australia's great win. It's high time we stop glorifying our players beyond their capacity.

SA Madhan, Pune

 

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DNA

HORN (NOT) OK PLEASE

HARISH BIJOOR

 

Are our cities getting angrier and angrier? I do believe they are. For every case of road-rage that results in death, I am sure there are hundreds of others that lead to injury. And for every road-rage event that leads to an injury, I am sure there are thousands that injure the psyche of the individual at the receiving and giving end alike.

Our cities are getting angry. The people who live in our cities, big and small (a total of 781 in India at last count, if you include the big eight metros and the Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities), are emerging to be entities with a very short fuse. A fuse that is just about waiting to be lit. A fuse that wants to explode as if all this is part of the self-fulfillingprophesy of big city living that we write for ourselves.

 

It starts subliminally. It moves on to rustic and robust behaviour. It morphs into the ugly avatar of impatience with all else around, and then morphs into an uglier form of rage. Rage that is vented at one and all. Rage that is destructive and rage that is completely irrational and unreasonably calibrated in venom-terms at times.

The subliminal start in many ways shows up in our behaviour on the streets. As we drive along, have you ever wondered why you honk so much? Is it just to get the road cleared?


Is it just to warn everyone else that there is a car or a scooter behind? Or is it just to vent your fury?

 

The way we honk on the streets is very indicative of how we are moving on in the trajectory of rage altogether. Do an audit of the number of times you honk tomorrow. Just examine the gross number. Divide that number into those essential honks that were meant to warn others to make way. Segment those honks that were there, just out of sheer want to move ahead. Segment more honks as just honks out of frustration. Segment more into those that were out of anger. Those that actually substituted the four-letter word you wanted to hurl. And you hurled a honk instead.

 

The anger quotient in today's young cities is on the morph. We are getting more and more impatient with people on the street, with beggars who come by, with those that occupy the rest of the road with us. With everyone around us as well.

 

A city's anger quotient is particularly high just around lunchtime. Just around dinnertime as well. When we are hungry, I do believe we are more likely to honk and expletive alike. We are particularly angry at the end of a long working day as well. Many on the streets cascade their frustrations of the day onto the street with a honk and more.

 

Time to sit back and think I guess. Do we want to be as angry as we are today? Do we want to be less angry then? Must we bring in some degree of restraint and streamline the anger quotient that seems to govern big city living?

 

City life at large is filled with the tense this and the tenser-still that. As we grapple with all of this, must we add on more in terms of anger on the streets? Must we then sit back and think of the way we want to appear to the rest of the city? Should we set examples that speak of a more sober and less intense on-street experience for all those that use them?


Somehow, in all the years that I have been on the streets driving in and out, I have noticed that there is no distinction between the behaviour of those who are educated and those who are not, both sets behave alike when on the street. Education in many ways is really inversely proportional to traffic sense. Education is equally inversely proportional to road-rage that big cities witness. The auto rickshaw driver on the street behaves just as robustly when on the streets as does the chartered accountant with an MBA degree to boot.

 

I think we need to sit up. Sit up and smell the stink. The stink that our road-rage behaviour raises. Time to make our cities quieter, with less of noise and less of rage.

 

Let's start today then, with a program that first of all limits the number of honks we will sound on the streets today.

 

The writer is a brand-expert and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. Views expressed are personal.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

GOONDA RAJ

MNS MUST NOT GET AWAY WITH SACRILEGE

 

MNS roughnecks had been terrorising non-Marathis on the streets of Mumbai for long. On Monday, they took their thuggery into the State Assembly also, slapping and insulting Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Azmi for taking the oath in Hindi instead of Marathi. What they did was as unpardonable as why they did it. India has seen some horrifying melees in assemblies, what with Uttar Pradesh MLAs throwing chairs and mikes, but what Raj Thackeray's goons did was absolutely the pits. They proved that although they claim to be elected representatives, they do not subscribe to democratic norms at all. They owe allegiance only to the "might is right" ideology. This fascist tendency has no place whatsoever in a democracy like India. Nor does it conform to basic tenets of civilised behaviour.

 

And what was Mr Azmi's fault? Taking oath in Hindi. It is a national language and he had every right to do so. In fact, a Muslim doing so should have been feted for the nationalism that it symbolised. But Raj Thackeray's goons know only two languages: Marathi and violence. They used both to sabotage all that India stands for. And yet, they had the cheek to say that not taking oath in Marathi was an insult to Maharashtrians. There cannot be a more ridiculous argument.

 

The four MLAs who indulged in fracas have been suspended. But they are only foot soldiers. It is the party which deserves to be banned for fully sponsoring this illegal act. Raj himself had declared from a public platform recently that anybody who dared to take the oath in any language other than Marathi would face the "MNS music". He and his cadre have dared to do all this because they got away lightly with their earlier excesses. The country should rise as one against such fascist tendencies by not only condemning them but also putting a ban on the party so that such acts are not repeated. Men like Raj Thackeray and suspended legislators Shishir Shinde, Ramesh Wanjale, Ram Kadam and Vasant Gite deserve to be behind bars, not in a house of representatives.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SETBACK FOR SP IN UP

BSP, CONGRESS THE GAINERS

 

The Samajwadi Party of Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav has suffered a major setback in the November 7 byelections for UP's 11 Assembly seats and Firozabad Lok Sabha seat as the results show. The BSP and the Congress are the real gainers. The voters, perhaps, realised that favouring a party in the Opposition may not be in their larger interest. Hence their resort to tactical voting, expressing their choice for the BSP in most of the constituencies. There may be some other factors, too, that worked against the SP. But the results are surprising as most of these constituencies were known to be Samajwadi Party pocket-boroughs. It is with great effort that the Lucknow West seat has gone to the Congress.

 

Interestingly, Ms Mayawati herself could spare little time for the constituencies which went to the polls. However, she had deputed as many as 40 ministers to ensure the victory of her party in the byelections. These ministers were told very clearly that they would lose their position in the government in case the BSP failed to capture at least 50 per cent of the seats it was fighting. The BSP poll managers evidently used all the resources at their command for their party candidates' victory. The SP has alleged that BSP leaders indulged in booth-capturing in the Rari and Isauli constituencies but these claims are unsubstantiated.

 

The SP concentrated more on the Firozabad Lok Sabha seat than on the assembly constituencies, as the party had fielded Mr Mulayam Singh's daughter-in-law Dimple Yadav to try her luck there. Though fighting an election for the first time, she had the advantage of contesting for a seat vacated by her husband Akhilesh Yadav, who had won it along with another seat in the April-May Lok Sabha polls. The SP used its "star" power, too, against the Congress party's Raj Babbar, considered the most formidable candidate. But nothing worked against Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi's rising appeal among the voters, particularly the youngsters.

 

The prestigious Firozabad seat ultimately went to the Congress, giving hope to the ruling party at the Centre that it can do much better in the 2012 Assembly polls if it continues to concentrate on UP in the manner it has been doing so far.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

DINAKARAN MUST QUIT

LAWYERS SHOULD RESPECT THE MAJESTY OF LAW

 

Even as Justice P.D. Dinakaran's continuance as the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court has become untenable following charges of land grabbing, acquisition of wealth beyond known means and abuse of office levelled against him, the advocates' conduct in the High Court premises in Bangalore on Monday was highly deplorable. They not only forced Justice Dinakaran to abandon a hearing but also locked in two judges who continued to sit in their courtrooms. Later, they allegedly assaulted a television crew member. Clearly, the advocates have no right to take the law into their own hands and disrupt the court proceedings. If lawyers behave like this, they can hardly be expected to uphold the dignity and decorum of the court and help ensure smooth dispensation of justice.

 

Be that as it may, Justice Dinakaran should have learnt a lesson or two from the episode by now and resigned gracefully from his post. Significantly, the District Collector of Thiruvallur has, in a report to the Tamil Nadu government which was duly forwarded to the Supreme Court collegium for its consideration, confirmed that Justice Dinakaran has indeed encroached upon the land at Kaverirajapuram.

 

Though the Chief Justice of India has sought comments from the Survey of India regarding the charges of encroachment against Justice Dinakaran, the latter has lost the moral authority to continue as the Chief Justice of the High Court. Even if he delivers very worthy judgements, these will lack sanctity because he is under a cloud and in the eyes of the people he is a tainted judge. In the circumstances, the CJI would do well to advise him to quit office forthwith as it is a question of protecting the image and reputation of the judiciary and the majesty of law. Eminent jurists Fali S. Nariman and Ram Jethmalani have also spoken identically, maintaining that Justice Dinakaran should not be elevated to the Supreme Court even if the collegium exonerates him of the charges.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

BHABHA'S DREAM COMES ALIVE

BRIGHT INDIAN VISTA OF N-ENERGY UNFOLDS

BY O.P. SABHERWAL

 

The year 2009, Dr Homi Bhabha's centenary year, marks India's emergence as an advanced nuclear capability nation. If Dr Bhabha was alive today, he would be enthralled to see his nuclear dreams fructifying in full measure.

 

A new phase of the Indian nuclear programme has commenced. Following the ratification of the Safeguards Agreement between the IAEA and the Indian nuclear establishment by the government, decks have finally been cleared for India to take-off on an ambitious nuclear power programme, which for the first time includes advanced light water reactor imports, augmentation of India's scarce uranium resources from abroad, and nuclear interaction and commerce with advanced as well as developing countries.

 

The target for nuclear power installed capacity by 2020 has been pushed up to 50,000 MW — a big jump on its original target of 20,000 MW. The Integrated Energy Policy envisages increasing the nuclear power capacity to 63,000 MW by 2032 from the present 4,120 MW: This large quantum of nuclear power would be over 40 per cent of India's present total electricity generation.

 

How is this big leap to be realised? A major component of the hiked nuclear the power target for 2020 is the proposed import of 30,000 MW capacity advanced light water reactors from France, the US and Russia during the decade ahead. This would be additional to Indian indigenous PHWR design reactor construction, which will be enhanced, thanks to the augmentation of the country's scarce uranium resources by uranium imports.

 

Negotiations with France, Russia and the US for the import of advanced light water reactors "are already in progress", Dr Anil Kakodkar, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and head of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), said in an authoritative interview.

 

Areva, the French nuclear technology leader, has offered its top of the line 1600 MW nuclear reactor — European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR). Considered to be one of the most advanced and largest capacity reactor worldwide, with the lowest recurring cost, EPR is being offered at Euro 3.5 billion a piece. A site at Jaitapur in Maharashtra has been selected where the French are to build a nuclear park capable of locating nuclear reactors generating upto 10,000 MW of power. To begin with, negotiations are in progress with Areva for the construction of two EPR reactors with an installed capacity of 3200 MW.

 

The Russians are already constructing two reactors of VVER design of an installed capacity of 2,000 MW at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu. The first of these reactors is expected to go critical by December this year, while the second reactor will commence operations by March 2010. The Russian nuclear operator AtomExport has offered to construct eight more VVER design reactors — the most advanced light water reactor with the Russians. Negotiations with the Russians for constructing two more VVER reactors of a 1,000 MW capacity each at Kudankulam itself are in an advanced stage, it is learnt.

 

A site at Haripur in West Bengal is to be allocated to the Russians for further nuclear reactors, while sites have been selected in Gujarat and Andhra for American and Japanese companies for nuclear reactors.

 

Westinghouse is presently negotiating the construction of two reactors of an installed capacity of 1,200 MW each. GE-Hitachi has offered to construct its advanced 1,400 MW installed capacity boiling water design, light water reactors. GE contends that enriched uranium fuel for its reactors will be the cheapest in the world because of the latest enrichment technology that it has developed. Japanese companies have a major share in both these leading nuclear companies.

 

Another major push to the Indian nuclear programme is large-scale uranium imports which will ensure adequate fuel for the country's indigenous reactor construction of PHWR design. Negotiations for these imports have been on shortly after the Nuclear Supplier Group's Vienna conclave gave clearance for India's international civil nuclear trade. France and Russia have already delivered 500 tonnes and 2000 tonnes natural uranium, respectively, to ensure capacity utilisation of the 17 operating Indian reactors. Large-scale natural uranium import deals have been concluded with Kazakhstan, Namibia, Mongolia and Argentina to back up accelerating indigenous nuclear construction.

 

Having mastered PHWR reactor design of a 220 MW installed capacity, the Indian nuclear establishment is pushing with building PHW reactors of large installed capacity. Tarapur 3 and 4 reactors of 540 MW have been a big success and are working at 92 per cent installed capacity. The NPCIL has commenced pre-construction work on four 700 MW capacity PHWRs, cleared by the Union government. The 500 MW prototype fast breeder construction at Kalpakkam is making satisfactory progress and is expected to be ready by 2011. Two more 500 MW fast breeders based on sodium metal fuel are to follow.

 

As Bhabha visualised, nuclear power's share of India's total electricity generation is set to enlarge in a big way as the availability of fossil fuels — coal, petroleum and gas — decline. Indian nuclear scientists have fulfilled Bhabha's mission by developing nuclear capability along the entire nuclear fuel cycle, building a chain of R&D centres matching those of the advanced countries, and opening the last stage of Bhabha's three-phased route to nuclear capability. Yet, the chapter that commences now will present even bigger challenges — in technology development, expanding scientific human resources and, above all, in developing nuclear industry, a large part of which needs to be built in the private sector.

 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's impending visit to the United States will be watched for the expected clearance for American reprocessing technology transfer to India in order to build the dedicated reprocessing plant to handle imported nuclear reactor spent fuel. Light water reactor spent fuel reprocessing incorporates a special technology since the fuel used in these reactors is enriched uranium, while Indian design reactors use natural uranium. To fulfil this aspect of the Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation deal, the US is morally bound to provide the advanced reprocessing technology to India.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

COINCIDENCES
BY HARISH DHILLON

 

SOMEONE has rightly said that life is stranger than fiction. In the past I have dismissed many stories and novels for being based on improbable coincidences. But I have now discovered that life itself often throws up coincidences which defy all probability.

 

I was on a flying visit to Calcutta and as the train drew into Howrah station, I thought of the senior Bala who had come to see me a few months earlier. He had insisted that I spend time with him on my next visit to Calcutta and I had promised to do so. But this visit to Calcutta was to be so short that I couldn't possibly meet him. As a result I had not informed him he need never know. I stepped off the Rajdhani and much to my embarrassment, came face to face with him – he had come to receive a relative.

 

It was my first year as Headmaster and I was on my way to attend the Headmasters' Conference at Gangtok. I was delighted to find that my colleague RD, the head of the sister school in Mohali, was a co-passenger. While we were waiting to get out of the airport, RD teased me:

 

"What kind of a Sird are you ?  Any other Sird would have found a relative who lived in the neighbourhood and got  a limousine  to drive us to Gangtok".

 

I caught sight of a placard with my name on it. I had an uncle who ran a service station in Benaguri.  He had heard of my trip from my mother and sent his driver to meet me with the message that I should take the car to Gangtok and tell the driver when he should come and pick me up after the conference. So, in a way, RD's wish came true.

 

One winter my friend Khurshid decided to go to Kufri to try his hand at  skiing.  On his way back he spent a few days with me in Sanawar. It snowed that evening and after the snow the temperature fell sharply. We were grateful for the warmth of the fireplace around which we huddled. The liquor, quite appropriately, was rum with hot water. While on his third drink Khurshid exclaimed:

 

"All that is missing are some prawns". Just then Jeet Bahadur walked in with a dish of crisp, golden, fried prawns. An old student had gone into the sea food business and was supplying sea food to all the fancy hotels and restaurants in Delhi. That morning he had sent up a member of his staff with an icebox with two dozen king prawns in it.  Fortunately for Khurshid, they had arrived at a time when they could fulfil what would otherwise have been an impossible wish.


With these three experiences behind me I have become a little more tolerant with seemingly improbable coincidences in fiction. After all, if I was to build a story around any these my readers would dismiss it as being ridiculously improbable.n

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

GREEN SIGNAL TO BT BRINJAL

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE SECOND GM CROP

BY S.S. CHAHAL

 

ON the recommendation of an expert committee, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the statutory body for biosafety regulation, accorded clearance to the cultivation of Bt brinjal on October 14. Though its immediate introduction has been delayed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests for want of public comments, yet it is a welcome step which will dispel fears and apprehensions propagated in public mind by certain quarters that are either not aware of the scientific basis or simply interested in making their presence felt.

 

The minister has rightly said that "his objective is to arrive at a careful, considered decision in the public and national interest".

 

Genetic modification of plants involves the copying and transfer of genes from one organism to another because of universal construction of the all-important genetic code since the DNA of all organism is made up of building blocks which are similar and encoded in completely the similar fashion.

 

This is accomplished through an artificial transfer of genes or fragments of genes from one organism to another producing new desirable traits in the recipient organism. This is commonly called as "genetic engineering" or "recombinant DNA technology," which is now well established.

 

Genetically modified plants grown through this technology are called GM crops, transgenic crops or biotech crops. The first such modification was done in the laboratory in 1971. However the large-scale cultivation of GM crops began in 1976 with the approval of herbicide-resistant soyabean and insect-resistant Bt cotton and Bt corn.

 

The USA, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China and Australia are among the world leaders in the cultivation of GM crops. Within just 12 years of commercial cultivation of these biotic crops, the global area under these crops has registered a consistent and steep increase from a mere 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to more than 125 million hectares in 2008, showing a spectacular 74-fold increase.

 

Now more than 25 countries are growing biotic crops with more than one-third of the global GM crop area in developing countries. A noticeable increase in the adoption rate by five developing countries like China, India, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa is clearly an indicator of the worldwide acceptance of crops evolved through genetic engineering technology.

 

Brinjal is one of the most affordable vegetables in India. It is low in calories and high in nutrition. India with one quarter of its global production is the second largest producer after China.

 

The crop is highly susceptible to attacks from insect pests and diseases; the most destructive and serious of all is the fruit and shoot borer (FSB) widely prevalent in all brinjal-growing areas. The larvae of FSB (Leucinodes orbonalis) with very high reproductive potential bore into tender shoots and fruits causing as high as 95 per cent losses of up to 70 per cent in commercial planting, thus making the produce highly unfit for human consumption.

 

The FSB larvae remain concealed within shoots and fruits, escape insecticide sprays prompting farmers to repeated sprays of insecticides because of a subjective assessment of the visual presence of the pest. As a result, it adds to the financial cost due to an indiscriminate insecticides application, environmental pollution as well as high pesticide residues posing a serious risk to the health and safety of consumers.

 

Bt brinjal is developed in India through private and public sector partnership. A leading seed and biotech company Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company) donated this technology to Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore and University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Dharwad.

 

The GEAC's green signal to Bt brinjal is based on enormous data generated through strenuous scientific tests pertaining to toxicity, allergencity and nutritional studies on mammals and animals, confirming that biotech brinjal is as safe as the conventional brinjal. The experiments have revealed nil effect of Bt brinjal on beneficial insects such as aphids, lady beetles, leafhoppers and spiders.

 

The objection by certain environmentalists that a large-scale cultivation of Bt brinjal would lead to gene pollution by contaminating other varieties is only a hypothesis and lacks scientific evidence. It involves the principle of incompatibility. Results of biosafety studies on pollen escape, effects on plant growth promoting rhizosphere and soil microflora and non-target organisms, invasiveness and Bt protein degradation etc. have been duly considered. These results reveal no merit in these objections.

 

It is a proven fact that with best efforts not more than 30 per cent mortality (control) of FSB is achieved that too compromising with ill-effects related to the over use of insecticides. However, there is 98 per cent FSB mortality in shoots and 100 per cent in fruits in biotech brinjal. There is far less requirement of insecticides for control of other pests in Bt brinjal than the conventional brinjal varieties.

 

On an average as high as 120 per cent increase in marketable fruits has been reported through multi-location trials in biotech brinjal over non-biotech hybrids of the crop. There is, however, genuine fear of high cost which poor farmers may have to pay for getting seeds which may require government subsidy for promoting such crops looking into advantages expected out of the cultivation of Bt brinjal.

 

Such joint contribution of the private and public sectors is of immense importance for achieving national food security. The example of the first biotech crop, Bt cotton, is before us. Its commercial cultivation has rejuvenated the crop in the country.

 

Though Punjab was late by two years to reap the benefit by its delayed introduction, yet it has instilled confidence in farmers of the cotton-growing areas of the state who previously had faced repeated failures of the crop adding to their miseries. Looking at the advantages, there is every likelihood of the clearance of commercial cultivation of biotech brinjal by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and Punjab must not lag behind in harvesting the benefit this time.

 

The second push after the Green Revolution in agriculture lies less in further enhancing production of cereals but in increasing the production of fruits, vegetables, oilseeds, pulses and cash crops. New technologies are here, farmers are responsive; however, the urgent need is for the policy-makers to be proactive and safeguard the interest of poor farmers who become easy targets of many malpractices like spurious seeds whenever such technologies are put to practice.

 

The writer is the Vice-Chancellor, Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture and Technology, Udaipur.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

FIVE MYTHS ABOUT ELECTIONS

BY PAUL COLLIER

 

The US has invested heavily in promoting free elections around the world, with the expectation that they in turn will promote legitimate governments and democratic ideals. It hasn't always worked out that way - not in Iraq, not in the Palestinian territories and not, most recently, in Afghanistan. Dispelling some common myths about what elections can and cannot do in emerging democracies will help us face more realistically the difference between a ballot box and a magic bullet.

 

1. Elections usually produce legitimate governments.

 

After the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, elections became an emblem of modernisation: Dictators everywhere agreed to hold them. A few, such as President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, were ousted in honest elections, having believed their own propaganda about their popularity. But many realised it was possible to adhere to form without substance.

 

When my colleague Anke Hoeffler and I studied data on 786 elections in 155 countries from 1974 to 2004, we found that fraud may have affected the results in 41 per cent of them. Incumbent politicians who cheat to get reelected stay in office 2.5 times longer than they would have playing it fair and square. These sham elections do not fool the citizens, who view the resulting governments as illegitimate and do not hold the "elected" officials accountable.

 

2. The democratic process promotes peace.

 

Unfortunately, the effect of democracy on the risk of political violence depends on a country's income. Above $2,700 per capita, democracies are less prone to violence than are autocracies. But in countries where income is far below that threshold, democracy is associated with a greater risk of bloodshed.

 

In recent years, elections have served as a de facto exit strategy for peacekeepers after a conflict has ended. The theory has evidently been that by establishing a legitimate and accountable government, a democratic election reduces the likelihood of continuing turmoil. But my research found that, although the risk of violence falls in the year before an election, it rises in the year after.

 

This makes sense, because in the run-up to balloting, efforts to gain power are diverted into politics; after a vote, the winner no longer feels pressure to govern inclusively and the loser regards the outcome as fraudulent.

 

3. Fair elections can happen everywhere.

 

The apparent success of democratisation in post-Soviet Eastern Europe helped persuade the international community that elections would work anywhere if only the dictators were toppled. But evidence of stolen elections among the new democracies challenged that assumption.

 

Eastern Europe didn't fit this picture because its population was already in the middle-income range, it was not resource-rich, and it had the advantage of prior democratic experience.

 

Most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, however, have all the characteristics that undermine elections, giving them a mere 3 per cent chance of an honest vote, according to my calculations.

 

By this measure, electoral misconduct in Afghanistan was almost inevitable.

 

4. Elections compel new democratic governments to overspend, worsening economic policies and performance.

 

In investigating elections' effect on economic policy in newly democratic countries, I found that populist

pressure does cause policies to deteriorate somewhat in the year before an election, as in Ghana in 2008. But governments that face frequent elections have significantly better economic policies when they are averaged over the political cycle, and governments that become subject to elections improve their policies.

 

Unfortunately, there is a caveat: Elections in which there is misconduct have, at best, no effect on economic policy because governments are off the hook of accountability. For example, President Robert Mugabe chose to wreck the Zimbabwean economy precisely when he was facing contested elections. His policies were not even populist; he simply relied on fraud and intimidation to establish policies that benefited only a tiny political elite.

 

5. We can't do anything about electoral misconduct.

 

If 41 per cent of elections aren't conducted fairly, disconnecting governments from true accountability, there is a problem. But the international community can help solve it. Incumbents often steal elections through patronage financed by looting the public purse, as President Daniel arap Moi did in Kenya. So countries, such as the United States, that finance democratic elections should make their aid conditional upon the government's being both transparent and accountable to its citizens in its budget processes.

 

Supporting governments can provide high-powered incentives for incumbents to keep elections honest. What incumbents fear most is not losing an election but being overthrown by their own military. When the international community can protect a government from such a threat, it should do so, conditional upon the election being properly conducted.

 

 By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

WHEN HUNGARY LED THE WAY

BY MITCHELL KOSS

 

The breaching of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago this month has become the symbol of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and, ultimately, the triumph of democracy. But sometimes I wonder if we actually know yet what we were witnessing.

 

I didn't see the wall come down, but I was in Hungary eight months earlier for what was in retrospect the beginning of the end of the Soviet system. At the time, we didn't know what we were seeing, but on March 15, 1989, I was part of a team filming a crowd of demonstrators estimated at 100,000 who had flooded into the square that housed Magyar Televizio, Hungarian state television in Budapest. The people were carrying Hungarian flags and were there to deliver a petition demanding democratic rights.

 

It was a far cry from the Budapest I'd reported on just two years earlier, when it seemed as if the Soviet presence in Eastern Europe would last for a thousand years. The U.S. Embassy was then one of the most heavily bugged structures in Budapest, so when we went there to interview embassy personnel, we talked about the weather, carrying on our actual communication by passing notes.

 

When we interviewed dissidents on that trip, they took great pains to keep the meetings secret. Among the few people who dared to say anything mildly challenging against the regime were a group of university students who spread a blanket on the lawn of their school and talked on camera about having read George Orwell's anti-authoritarian novel, "1984."

 

By 1989, when I returned, everything had changed. When I visited that same embassy the first week of March, a U.S. official talked openly to us – and presumably to the KGB eavesdroppers – about how, as the impending March 15 demonstration seemed to get bigger, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was not responding to pleas for instruction from Hungary's communist rulers. "We don't know what to make of it," he said.

 

On March 15, as we videotaped from the steps of Magyar Televizio, some people carried a list of demands for democracy up out of the crowd. The door of the television station opened, and the list was accepted. That evening, it was read on the news. Tens of thousands of people marched peacefully through the city. The world was changing as we watched, but we didn't report that the Iron Curtain had torn open, because we had no idea that it had. It all began to come into clearer focus two months later, when Hungary removed the barbed-wire fence along its border with Austria and told guards not to shoot those who wanted to cross. Months after that, the Berlin Wall fell, and two years later the Soviet Union dissolved, albeit with fewer memorable images. Before the decade was out, Viktor Orban, one of the mildly rebellious students whom we'd interviewed in 1986, had become prime minister of Hungary.

 

In retrospect, some things that seemed puzzling at the time now seem so clear. The embassy wondered why Gorbachev was ignoring the Hungarian leaders' plea for assistance.

 

But as it turned out, his not responding was central to all that happened next. Months later, he also didn't take the calls from panicky East Germans seeking guidance for how to react when the wall was breached. He had decided to disengage, and that made all the difference.

 By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUME

EDITORIAL

THE TAWANG TRIP

 

There is no denying the contradictory aspects of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's trip to Arunachal Pradesh, in particular Tawang, with the spiritual clashing resoundingly against the political. Within the scenic ambience of the remote, mountainous region, his call for compassion and peace in the present world before thousands of devotees and admirers mingled aptly with the serene atmosphere. As the head of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism, he called upon adherents to pursue rightful conduct, to reflect and undertake introspection. He exhorted them to remove superstitious elements from Buddhism so that they could all "be Buddhists of the 21st century." He decried passive spiritualism as meaningless and wished that his followers should act as "harbingers of positive change" at the individual and communal level. He reiterated that the twin mantras of Buddhism, proper action and proper conduct, "should not benefit the doer alone but others as well, including all living things." In a befitting gesture he blessed thousands of saplings before these were distributed to the people, a positive act to inculcate ecological conservation consciousness amongst the local people. That the saplings had been blessed by His Holiness would be enough to ensure that not only will they be planted but also protected throughout by those who had received them.


All this against a backdrop of potentially explosive political shadow-boxing between China and India, the former having chosen the trip as an excuse to reiterate its claim that Arunachal Pradesh is disputed territory. The visit is two bitter pills to be swallowed simultaneously by China — not only has it laid claims on Arunachal. but the person scheduled to visit the State has been for long the most painful thorn in their flesh! No wonder it has upped the ante this time, accusing India of pressurising the Lama to visit Tawang, a charge that India has denied by pointing out that in this secular country religious leaders go about freely wherever they want to preach. The Tibetan leader has also strongly backed India, calling China's opposition to his visit "totally baseless" and that Arunachal was "an integral part of India." These and other comments made by him show that though purportedly on a religion related trip, the Dalai Lama was not averse to score political points despite being aware of the sensitive nature of the visit. How China would react to the Tawang trip and what might happen in its aftermath is not certain, given the unpredictability of Chinese leaders. There may be fallouts and it is hoped that our diplomats will be adroit enough to tackle them. Most political pundits are of the opinion that the new, economic growth oriented China will not take recourse to military adventurism of the 1962 kind. But then our pundits have been known to have been wrong before as far as China is concerned!


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THE ASSAM TRIBUME

EDITORIAL

TRAFFIC SOLUTIONS

 

The city's mounting traffic woes warrant urgent intervention by the government authorities. The problem is unlikely to ease unless there is long-term planning taking into account a host of factors. As things stand today, covering a short distance of five-six kilometres may take as long as an hour during peak traffic hours. With the addition of thousands of cars every year, the situation stands to worsen in the coming days. The foremost need for the Guwahatians is to have a reliable mode of rapid transport. Introducing circular train services could be an ideal step that can lessen the traffic burden on the roads to a great extent. The feasibility of running underground metro trains also merits consideration. The possibility of widening of roads should be explored. Another practical step could be to facilitate cycle paths. Had there been a safe passage for cyclists, many people would have preferred this simple and non-polluting mode of transport for covering short distances within the city. Rather than pursuing stereotype notions, we ought to be futuristic in our approach and devise solutions keeping in mind the city's rapid growth. A sky way from Noonmati to Bharalumukh could be an answer to the ever-increasing traffic on that route. The drawbacks in the busiest points that account for maximum traffic congestion should be identified and dealt with accordingly. The existing public transport is in urgent need of an overhaul, as it is not just inadequate to cater to the needs of an expanding metropolis but, more importantly, the modes are unreliable and often dangerous – something that operates as per whims of the operators. Often, the undisciplined manner of functioning of public transport contributes largely to traffic congestion. It is time those running the city's public transport are made to comply with the norms of traffic management.


Along with measures aimed at mitigating traffic congestion and facilitating unhindered movement of vehicles, some related matters also call for urgent attention of the authorities. Ensuring proper maintenance of footpaths and providing subways and footbridges at busy crossings is a dire need. Crossing busy roads is a nightmare for pedestrians and this should be addressed at the earliest. Then, construction of parking lots at different localities is another imperative need. In the absence of sufficient parking space, people invariably keep their vehicles by the roadside, seriously impeding smooth flow of traffic. That the Government is not paying adequate attention to the fast deteriorating traffic situation is evident from the absence of any long-term planning over the years. Guwahati apart, many other expanding towns will face similar problems in the days ahead unless these issues are taken care of in time.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUME

EDITORIAL

ENERGY SECURITY– CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

PABITRA CHAUDHURI

 

With the surging demand of energy and the spiralling of crude oil prices in the world, the crying need today is energy security, particularly with the rapid development of the economic power-houses like India and China - there has grown a great demand of energy. Being a regimented society, China is fast moving in the world buying producing fields and entering into exploration fields globally. Indian oil giants are also doing the same but not with the same speed for obvious governmental regulations and financial propriety. However both ONGC and OIL have been scouting all over the world to enter into consortiums to explore and produce oil and with the tremendous and unprecedented success of OIL in floating recently their IP0, OIL has further jumped into action making serious expeditions to buy over producing fields. They have to be careful with the stability of the countries before they embark on buying producing properties. Time constraint is also there with the backdrop of quick pace of rise in crude oil prices. Apart from ONGC and OIL, down-stream companies like IOC, BPCL, GAIL, HPCL have entered into various consortiums to explore for oil and natural gas. Exploration areas in Libya, Gabbon. Nigeria and Sudan are understood to be in their immediate cards but the fact remains that gestation period is long and producing oil/gas from such blocks abroad will take quite some time. Within the country, various on-shore and off shore blocs have been offered in the likely places of oil/gas availability and the large natural gas find m Krishna-Godavari has been quite a boost. Similarly in Rajasthan oil find by Cain Engineering has opened a new vista of hope and has placed Rajasthan in a big way in the oil map of India joining the pantheon of Assam, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. Oil is a wasting asset and as we go on drawing, the field gets depleted and new fields have to be discovered. For the existing fields secondary recovery methods have to be used – for enhanced oil recovery modern methods of horizontal drilling, J Bend, MEOR (Microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery) are being used. There are some marginal abandoned fields both with ONGC and OIL, efforts should be made to drill in these areas and also to rejuvenate the oil wells. In this situation OIL with its experience and skill of finding oil, one well being the deepest so far in India, as opened up a new vista for further production and adding new accretion. ONGC has also embarked upon a programme for enhanced oil recovery in the sagging Assam fields.


India is poised at the threshold of reaching higher and sustainable growth path and has become a substantial economic power house. To maintain growth, energy security is a crying need. Assam being the first homeland of the petroleum industry (first oil-well was drilled in 1889, 10 years after the first well in the world popularly known as "Drake's well was drilled in the USA) has to play a key role and ONGC and OIL have to achieve better results. As reports go, OIL has been able to croes the barrier of "three million tonnes-a year and during the last year reportedly their production was the highest so far and thereby has found its place as a successful exploration and production company and their own assessment is focused to double its production in the next 5 years.

By all accounts, sedimentary rock formation in Assam – Arakan basin has natural gas potential. Gas production in upper Assam, Cachar, Tripura and likely deposits in Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland, the enormous gas find in Arakan basin have opened up a new vista, Although we had missed out on the gas pipeline to India from Myanmar, we have a good potential in the North East which if we actively pursue could be a good economic boost in the North-East. Today the resource, which has surfaced to the top of this energy pile, is natural gas now regarded as cheaper, more efficient and plentiful than the fast depleting oil and also more cost - effective. One can visualize, in due course of time, a gas pipeline moving from Tripura, Mizoram and Cachar across the heart of Assam. Meanwhile a gas pipeline connecting households at Guwahati are understood to be on the active card of oil India.

1n the scenario of crude oil find and development, the Assam State Hydro Carbon Company with a tie up with OIL is slated as joint partner in the NELP near Amguri. The tie up should yield good results but it needs to be more vigorous, vibrant and result-oriented. It must set up a road – map for its growth into a synergic force – more than 25 years ago, the Gujarat government conceived the formation of the Petroleum Company, which has today turned into a large energy organization covering a wide range of hydro-carbon, and has today become a Pan-Indian company even breaking into the global scene. If a State government corporation of Gujarat can do it, why not Assam, with its experience of more than a century with trained manpower dotted all over Assam. Endeavour must be made to put it on the right rails.


With the scenario being as it is, with the shortage of fossil oil and the cost and uncertainty of discovering a good find it is necessary to look into alternative sources of energy. Sometime back bio-fuel has taken the front seat in USA and South America, particularly in Brazil. It may be noted that when Rendolf Diesel introduced the diesel engine for the first time in the world, the engine ran on pea-nut oil. In India and in Assam also we have a Jatropha mission but it has not taken off in a big way and now there is a school of thought that Jetropha cultivation for producing bio-diesel may not be cost cost-effective, gestation period is too long and the soil may get adversely affected.


Global warming as a result of green-house emission is a real problem staring in the face of our planet and in this background alternative sources of energy will mitigate some portions of global warming. After Kyoto Protocal, Copenhagen meet will be a very significant conference where the nations will meet and have to grapple with the menace. As the U.S. President has said "harness the sun and the wind and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories".

Solar energy is taking a front seat in all the developed countries and in India also it is very much in the goventment scanner and the Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy has been taking dynamic steps in the field of solar and wind energy, bio-mass, conversion of municipal waste to energy etc. The Prime Minister is well seized with its importance and while releasing the National Plan on Energy last year stated that the solar power has a great potential in India along with wind energy and other alternative sources. Another project which can be seriously thought of is the conversion of sugar cane into Ethanol (already a certain percentage of power alcohol is used in petrol):


India's peak production so far of 350 million tonnes of cane can be processed entirely into 26 billion litres of ethanol or conversely the same quantity of sugar cane can be processed into 18 million tonnes of sugar and 15 billion litres of ethanol. However an area of concern is if somehow indigenous production of ethanol gets affected by vagaries of climate etc and in such an eventuality it will be necessary to firm up supplies from abroad Naturally a question may be asked whether normal petrol engine can take a total ethanol fuel, Flexible fuel engine will need to be introduced which can burn petrol or ethanol or combinations of both. This technology once used will cost about 100 dollars, per vehicle; which is nothing much, which can be further reduced with the increasingly big volume of vehicles in India.


Coal liquefaction is another route for energy security. Although it is costly project yet it could be cost-effective in the background of burgeoning price of crude oil. Production of synthetic fuel from coal is a strategic option to be properly studied. Oil India has carried out various experiments. - it is understood that OIL in partnership with Engineers India Ltd has decided to set up a small pilot plant before going an a full scale commercial plant. Another route for alternative source could be coal-bed methane (CBM), which now is well up in the cards in USA. Methane is associated with coal as a by-product of the coal formation process, and coal bed methane could be a significant potential source of energy.


Another process is underground coal gasification. This is primarily to exploit coal resources which are either uneconomic to work by conventional under-ground coal extraction or inaccessible due to depth or other geological considerations. UCG is a method of converting unworked coal, deep underground, into combustible gas, which can be, used for industrial heating, power generation or the manufacture of hydrogen synthetic natural gas and other chemicals.


(Published on the occasion of National Conference on Energy being held at Guwahati)  

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUME

EDITORIAL

CLASS-X PUBLIC EXAMINATION – A BURDEN OR BOON?

HARINARAYAN DAS

 

In our formal education system secondary education plays a vital role in shaping the character and developing the personality of the teenagers. At primary stage the students are still in their childhood. As they proceed to secondary stage they enter their teenage (adolescence). Adolescence is a period of turmoil and rapid physical, mental, intellectual, emotional, social and moral development. They become more and more active, more and more energetic, more and more imaginative, more and more creative and more and more potential. Secondary education is supposed to channelise, their great potential. Proper channelling of their potential is very important as they are the future citizens of our country.


At the end of secondary stage the Class-X public examination has been conducted in our country since the pre-independence days by different universities/education boards/councils at the State and national levels. In Assam this Class-X public examination was known by different names like – Entrance Examination (conducted by Calcutta University till 1947), Matriculation Examination (conducted by Gauhati University from 1948 to 1963), and High School Leaving Certificate Examination (conducted by Board of Secondary Education, Assam since 1964). Board of Secondary Education, Assam has also been conducting the Assam High Madrassa Examination for the students of Class-X studying at High Madrassas. Though Class-X public examination in Assam has been named High School Leaving Certificate Examination (HSLC) since 1964, even to-day it is popularly known as 'matric' which is supposed to mean Matriculation Examination or HSLC Examination. Even an illiterate villager knows what 'matric' is. It is interesting that there are still thousands of villagers in Assam who do not know what HSLC Examination is. In reality matriculates of the past (till 1960's or so) could easily get jobs and they enjoyed a special status in the society and commanded love and respect. So, 'matric' was not a mere public examination, it meant a host of things.


'Matric' is the target of thousands of guardians for their children, particularly in rural Assam. To them matriculation is a higher academic qualification to make a person educated, to get a job, to get a good bride/groom and what not. So 'matric'has psychological and social implications.


A time was there before and after independence (till 1960's or so) when a good number of people travelled a long distance to have a look at the student (particularly in rural Assam) who passed the Matriculation Examination. This was because of the fact that passing the examination was not an easy task. Moreover, the number of students who passed this examination could be counted on finger tips and the pass percentage was very low. Even today common people have high opinion about 'matric'.


No doubt, examination often causes stress, anxiety and fear in the tender minds and even in the mature/adult minds. So many educationists are in favour of abolition of public examination up to secondary level. They think that examination is a burden on the young students. Of late, there had been discussions at the national level to make Class-X public examination optional and to hold first public examination at the end of Class-XII. Surprisingly the Central Government has decided to make Class-X public examination optional from 2011. The Government of India has already taken a decision to universalise secondary education under Rastriya Madhyamic Siksha Abhijan, which is now being implemented throughout India. This has lowered the status and importance of Class-X public examination.


The universalisation will mean promoting all students of Class X to the next higher class without considering their performance or achievement level. Students will be at liberty to sit the Class-X public examination or not. Again teachers may have a choice to complete the course or not. So, students will be divided into two classes-one group having certification from a State or national level organisation, the other having certification from their respective schools. There will be great differences in the learning/efficiency levels of the students coming from different institutions/regions. The new situation will necessitate the holding of entrance examinations to be conducted by individual institutions for admission into class-XI or other courses. These entrance examinations can not always be expected to be fair and free from all malpractices. It will definitely create chaos in the academic sphere.


When passing examination is guaranteed, majority of the students will not be motivated to learn properly and they won't study hard to perform better. Seriousness and sincerity of the students will be affected. Students of provincialised/government schools will be more affected.


It is true that examination is a necessary evil and all are more or less affected by this evil. Students study because they have to sit and pass examination to go for further studies or to get a job or to settle in life.


A nation-wide debate should have been held before making Class-X public examination optional. The decision taken hurriedly will have far reaching effects in the educational and social spheres of the nation. As the States of India have equal rights in the matters of education, the Central government cannot compel the State governments to implement all central decisions in educational matters. So uniformity in education throughout the nation will be a cry in wilderness. There will be further chaos in the educational sphere of the country. We can not expect that all the State Boards of education will make Class-X public examination optional or abolish the same.


It is a fact that majority of the guardians are in favour of continuing the present Class-X public examination. In the changed situation we may think of bringing about some practical reforms in Mass-X public examination to retain the same and to maintain quality in education as well. This examination may be made flexible and students may be allowed to take their own time to write the answers. We may even think of examination with textbooks. The present practice of dividing the students as successful (passed) and unsuccessful (failed) may be done away with. All may be given opportunity for betterment of their performance. Allowing students to sit at the examination at their respective schools may reduce the stress caused by additional travel and unfamiliar environment.

Age bar may be removed. Some reforms may be effected in question patterns. Steps may be taken to minimise the subjectivity in evaluating the answers. These and some other reforms are expected to go a long way in retaining the glory of this examination and maintaining qualitative growth of education.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

WISHFUL THINKING

 

The suggestion that the government must try to secure a collective commitment among emerging markets not to intervene in currency markets is excellent. And wholly unrealistic! We need to debate the feasibility, instead, of a tax on capital inflows, a la Brazil. The last time countries cooperated with success on currencies was for the Louvre accord of 1987 to check the decline of the dollar kicked off by the Plaza Accord of 1985. As Japan's subsequent experience shows, it took a heavy toll of the Japanese economy. Yes, it is true that if some countries intervene (as China has been, to keep the yuan artificially cheap vis-a-vis the dollar) while others do not, it would hurt the interests of the latter, making their exports less competitive compared to the former.


However, intervention in currency markets by the central bank also comes at a cost: directly, a cost in terms of earning a lower return on the dollar assets bought vis-à-vis that paid out on the domestic currency borrowing needed to fund the purchase of these assets, and indirectly, a trade-off between higher inflation and higher interest rates. For India, inflation rules out unsterilised intervention (where the RBI does not attempt to mop up the rupees released in exchange for dollars). Selling bonds to mop up the rupees and large government borrowings push up interest rates. There is, in addition, the less obvious cost of creating a bias towards exports at the cost of domestic sales.


At the global level, currency intervention has other repercussions. It creates and perpetuates global imbalances through currency misalignments. The under-valuation of the yuan vis-à-vis the dollar (along with loose US monetary policy) was a reason for the huge, unsustainable US current account deficit before the financial crisis. And though the the deficit has shrunk now thanks to recession in the US, the underlying imbalance continues. But currency misalignments are not easy to correct. The resultant upheaval in real economic activity (depending on the scale of intervention) makes all countries wary of any commitment that could hurt sovereign interests. And when push comes to shove, it will always be each nation for itself.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SEBI MOVES WELCOME

 

Markets regulator SEBI has decided to allow companies to auction their shares in a follow-on public offer (FPO) to qualified institutional buyers at differential prices above the floor, while retail investors will get shares at the floor price. This is welcome, to the extent it is a precursor to allowing such auctions to discover price in an initial public offer (IPO). After all, for a listed company, there already is a market price whose sanctity is called into question by any other price discovery mechanism.

 

In an IPO, such an auction would prove an efficient way to allocate shares and get the issuer the best average price for its offering and also do away with the mess of over-subscriptions. The trigger for the present guidelines would appear to be the government's need to get the best possible price for its proposed disinvestment in a number of listed companies. The SEBI decision also brings some order to the discount companies can offer to employees.


The regulator's move to create a separate trading platform for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and relax some eligibility norms to help them list is also welcome, as it will help them raise risk capital cheaper than from private equity. However, a minimum IPO application size of Rs 1 lakh and a minimum trading lot of the same size for SMEs make little sense. Had such restrictions been in place, would Infosys have been able to get its IPO through? And would that company have turned millionaires out of so many small investors who had the sense to invest in its initial offering?


True, small investors might lose their money, making uninformed choices on SMEs. But to protect them against their own poor sense, SEBI is also depriving them of the opportunity to make profitable investments in SMEs on which they have done diligent research. Small investors have the right to make big money from small investments in small companies. SEBI should not deprive them of that right. Even if that right comes paired with the right to lose their money on unwise bets on the stock market.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

 

MIND THE GAP

 

Perfect pearly whites have never looked so passé as they do now. Thanks to the magic of dentists, '32-intact' smiles have become much too common. No wonder the ever-restless beauty business has decided to cash in on a counter-trend that has paid handsome dividends to its adherents: gap-toothed glam. Think about it, that space between the incisors has set the likes of David Letterman, Eddie Murphy, Elton John, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mike Tyson and Elijah Wood on the path to success in their fields.

 

Admittedly, none of them have made their mark on the beauty business and all of them are men, but there are gap-toothed women in the same league too: Condoleezza Rice, Madonna and Amy Winehouse, to name a few. Again, none of them exactly list beauty as their USP, but they all do stand out. Dentists probably have never seen the widening gap in perceptions of beauty as a threat to one major revenue stream of their profession, but that may change as the cosmetics and fashion industry is going back to the Brigitte Bardot-Lauren Hutton look.

Haute fashion label Chanel now has Vanessa Paradis as the face (or rather, moue) of a new lipstick line and Georgia May Jagger has filled the gap left by the exit of Kate Moss from Rimmel. Two more Bardot clones, Oscar-winning former child actress Anna Paquin and Dutch supermodel Lara Stone are also the hottest picks for the fashion circuit photo-ops right. All these indicate at least western view of gap-toothed people has changed considerably from the mad, mad world of Terry Thomas and Alfred E Newman. Nor is it a coincidence. In certain parts of the world — notably France and Egypt — the diastema between the incisors is seen as a sign of good luck, so it is not unlikely that the recession-hit fashion world is testing that belief.


In India, where Bollywood is the beacon for fashion and beauty trends, gap-toothed appeal has been markedly absent after the exeunt of Nargis and Mehmood, with most actors resorting to cosmetic dentistry as a prerequisite; the modelling world is equally close-set in its notions. Perhaps they will realise that there's a new and lucrative gap opening up.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

NREGA: AN EXCHANGE WITH JEAN DREZE

SWAMINATHAN S ANKLESARIA AIYA

 

Dear Jean, I was deeply impressed by your earlier work on Maharashtra vs the Sahel in the 1970s. This showed that food availability per capita in Maharashtra was half that in the Sahel, yet thanks to rural employment schemes, there was no starvation in Maharashtra and much starvation in the Sahel. But I became disillusioned with Maharashtra's EGS (Employment Guarantee Scheme) in 1996 when I compared poverty declines in various states and found that Maharashtra's poverty decline was no better than the national average, and even below that of Madhya Pradesh.

 

EGS was well implemented, so its failure to dent poverty could not be ascribed to corruption and leakages.

Dreze: You have a point, but EGS was perhaps not big enough to have a measurable impact on standard poverty indicators, which depend on so many other things. It's hard to tell. NREGA is much bigger, and in states like Rajasthan, the impact is evident.


I was enthusiastic when Manmohan Singh expanded rural works to create the Employment Assurance Scheme in 1994-96. But the sharp increase in person-days worked did not enthuse voters, and Congress was thrashed in the 1996 election. Chastened, I subsequently took the position that rural works are extremely important in a drought, but only a palliative in other years. I now champion capital-intensive poverty alleviation — through mechanised high-quality rural roads, electricity and telecom. When these arrive in villages, jobs get created automatically. Good rural infrastructure in Tamil Nadu has turned villages into towns, making it India's most urbanised state.


Dreze: I am all for rural infrastructure and also impressed with the TN model. But why not both? What you call a palliative can be very important for people who live on the margin. In TN itself, I have been really impressed with what NREGA does for rural women (80% of the NREGA work force there).


I am not a gung-ho advocate of cash transfers: I have doubts too. The big advantage of EGS, in theory if not fully in practice, was that it was self-targeting and self-liquidating. Cash transfers can suffer from errors of inclusion and exclusion. They can quickly become never-ending doles plagued by corruption. Nobody will admit rising above the poverty line for fear of losing benefits. Whether these flaws will make cash transfers as bad as corrupt rural employment schemes remains unclear.


Dreze: I am not sure what targeting system you have in mind for cash transfers. I would have no objection to universal cash transfers if they provide the same income support to the poor as NREGA — but that's unlikely to pass muster with the finance minister.


NREGA has some merit, warts and all. One problem is payment of wages at or above market rates. This could mean job diversion instead of job creation. That implies negative value added, as labour is diverted from more productive to less productive uses. Some states have doubled the minimum wage because the Centre foots the bill. Normally, this would had caused serious job diversion, but this has apparently been avoided because the world boom in agricultural prices has lifted Indian prices too, so higher wages do not create production disincentives. China's huge commodity demand has probably rescued NREGA from serious job diversion.

Dreze: The opportunity cost of NREGA labour is an interesting and much-neglected question. Much would depend on the structure of the labour market. If NREGA absorbs people who are otherwise unemployed, the opportunity cost would be small, even if the NREGA wage is much above the market wage. My sense is that a lot of NREGA work is like that, but it's far from obvious, especially when it affects migration and all that. I wish economists had done some serious work on this instead of using superficial arguments to trash NREGA.

I favour cash transfers as an emergency measure in this drought to get cash quickly to people. It should be possible to get some cash to job-card holders — maybe the equivalent of 30-50 days work. Cash transfers can be a substantial, temporary supplement to actual work done. Payment for this work could be based on daily wages and not measurement of work, as you suggest.


Dreze: Again, I am not clear about the targeting mechanism. Job cards are dubious: anyone is entitled to apply for and get a card within 15 days. Some states like Madhya Pradesh have distributed cards proactively to all households. This is okay, since job cards, unlike ration cards, provide benefits only after actual work.

Lack of durable assets created by rural employment seems a serious shortcoming. I expected the Maharashtra EGS to provide all the rural works needed by the state within two decades, but rural Maharashtra is still in indifferent shape, despite occasional successes.


The Centre has had a 'million wells' programme for over two decades, and the target is still one million wells — those built quickly run dry. Mud roads disappear after every monsoon. Contractors say only earthworks can be done using 60% labour. Even a simple wall, they say, entails only 30-40% labour cost — the 60% NREGA requirement leads to corruption.


Dreze: I think that there is a serious lack of evidence here. Many much-derided 'mud works' are or can be fairly productive. But the technical standards are certainly inadequate as things stand. About building walls and all that, you have a point, but new labour-intensive technologies (like compressed mud bricks) can be developed. State governments now have an incentive to maximise labour intensity, because the government of India pays for all the wages, but only part of the material costs. And climate change may increase the value of labour-intensive environmental protection works. So, there may be lots of hidden possibilities here.


NREGA must be creating some durable assets. But I remain convinced that poverty will best be removed through mechanised, capital-intensive rural infrastructure. NREGA looks to me a palliative, not the key to rural prosperity.

Dreze: I am for both, the Tamil Nadu model!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

FOCUSING ON CORE ISSUES OF GST

VIVEK MISHRA

 

The much-awaited discussion paper on goods and services tax (GST) in India has been released by the empowered committee of state finance ministers. The proposed GST will have the following key features:

 

* A dual GST model with two separate components: central GST (CGST) and state GST (SGST).


* Both Centre and state to levy GST concurrently on all goods and services other than a small exempted list.


* Cross-utilisation of input tax credit between CGST and SGST would not be allowed except in case of inter-state transactions (IGST).


* GST to have a two-rate structure: a lower rate for necessary items and standard rate for general goods.


The release of the discussion paper is the first concrete step towards GST and provides guidance on various aspects of GST. These aspects have been extensively reported in the media in recent months. The white paper is the first comprehensive document providing clarity on various aspects of proposed GST.


One significant innovation that has been introduced in the white paper is the concept of IGST. This effectively means that for a supply chain for either goods or services or both that crosses a state boundary, the purchaser would get a credit for taxes paid in the producing state. This is a welcome step to effectively creating a seamless GST that operates on an all-India basis.


However, the white paper has not covered many aspects. For instance, there is no indication on the rate of GST, and the 'place of supply' rules for services. Thus, it emerges that these aspects have not been decided and are still being debated by the policy makers.


To elaborate on place of supply rules: this aspect refers to rules that allocate the right to tax services between states. The white paper states that the importing dealer would get a credit for goods and services supplied from another state. What is not clear is which state would have the right to tax different services.


Let us consider the airline industry. A passenger purchasing a ticket from Gurgaon may take a flight from Delhi to travel to Mumbai, involving three states in the transaction. There would have to be detailed rules formulated to govern which state would have the right to tax the revenue from these transactions.


At first glance, this does not seem difficult. The state where the air ticket is purchased can tax the transaction. However, this could lead to tax competition between states resulting in some states lowering the tax rate on air tickets by a partial exemption. This would result in many people buying air tickets in that state even if they live somewhere else.

 

Another example would be where a person purchases a ticket booklet for six or eight flights in one state and uses these tickets between a number of destinations, including the state where the tickets are purchased. Therefore, the place of supply rules need to be extremely robust, extremely comprehensive and very practical.


Other examples abound. There are transactions where a company has leased telephone lines that carry voice and data between 5-6 offices of a company, which are located in various states. These services are typically procured at a single price for the entire network for a given company. As one can appreciate, there is no logic that can apportion the right to tax these services. Therefore, the requirement of a detailed set of place of supply rules for services.


Then there is the question of timing of implementation. What would be the timeframe required to carry out the constitutional amendments required that are mentioned in the white paper? During that time, the CGST and SGST Acts have to be drafted and released by the empowered committee. It seems fair to assume that these are significant steps that would require considerable debate and deliberation, and cannot be pushed through in a matter of a few months.


Further, in case GST is proposed to be levied on transactions such as rail travel, legal services etc, which are currently not subject to any indirect tax, significant opposition to such a levy may be expected. It would be interesting to see the approach that the government adopts to overcome such opposition.


In summary, the release of the paper is the first visible and concrete step towards implementing this historic tax reform. Significantly, the paper has been released as the 'first' discussion paper indicating that perhaps additional white papers will be released covering the points discussed above. That's when things will start to get interesting!

(The author is tax partner and national leader at Ernst & Young, India)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

HAIL TIME AND NOT HITLER!

VITHAL C NADKARNI

 

The bronze chariot of the Goddess of Victory still towered over Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. But the blighted wall flanking it had been torn down. In the vast concourse lit by a weak December sun, a grizzled Russian war veteran, one among several seemingly maverick vendors plying bratwurst and German gewgaws, hawked Soviet medals and artefacts from World War II from a wooden stray slung around his thick-set neck. An alert, very young and very blonde German policeman hovered around.

 

 "He's here not to watch us but to make sure that the vendor doesn't sit down or squat," the Wessi (West German) geek reassured your columnist. The two of us were on a free-wheeling rubber-necking carathon that would have been unimaginable just one year earlier. But after the electrifying but chaotic events of November 9, everything revolutionary was already beginning to seem stodgily inevitable in the 12 months that followed.

To be sure, lots of people were still reeling from the effects of the recent reunification. For one thing, that peculiar knot of maladies and anxieties known as Mauerkrankheit (wall sickness) seemed to be too deeply rooted in the collective German psyche. Three generations of Berliners had lived with the Wall and they could not be expected to stumble out of its menacing shadow so quickly. For another, writers and artists we met spoke eloquently about the Mauer im Kopf (Wall in the head) in the schizophrenic city, which the novelist Peter Schneider just a few years earlier had said, "Would take more than any wrecking company and far longer to tear down."

The negation or denial of the divide seemed much stronger on the western side. Signs of architectural history furiously being re-written were everywhere: the vast Palast der Republic, which hardly had any visitors on that December afternoon, was eventually slated to be demolished, only to be replaced by a replica of a castle that had stood on the spot until 1950.


Our German cicerone also spoke about a death notice for Comrade Fear that a café had put up (Similar to the 'death of democracy' lamented during Emergency in Times of India's classified ads). Then he pointedly drew our attention to one 'sly survivor' that had escaped upheavals in Berlin: the reddish concrete roads built under the Nazis. He was more circumspect of the anniversary of November 9, which coincided with Kristalnacht.

Hail Time, not Hitler!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

GST: GET STATES ON BOARD, TIE UP LOOSE ENDS

TK ARUN

 

It is welcome that the first formal document to herald an efficient system of indirect taxes harmonising the interests of producers, consumers and the government, both at the Centre and in the states, has finally been released. It is, however, the first such document, indicating that more might follow. The White Paper comes just five months before the proposed deadline for commencement of GST: April 1, 2010. The constitutional amendment and changes to tax laws that are required to implement the tax are unlikely to be completed before that deadline.

 

Further, as an article on the edit page in this edition points out, huge gaps remain in the White Paper, particularly on the taxation of services whose provision span several states.


It is important that all loose ends be tied up, to mobilise the wholehearted support of the states to the project. It is welcome that the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers has released the White Paper, and not the Centre. This gives the states greater ownership of the proposed tax. Without their cooperation, the proposed changes cannot take place.


Major gaps in the tax chain have been created to win over their support: neither petroleum fuels nor liquor will come under GST and thus bear a low rate of tax. Both kinds of goods will continue to be taxed as they are at present. GST can boost indirect tax revenues, with its in-built incentives to stop avoidance, obviously enough. It can also boost direct tax revenues, provided the direct and indirect tax authorities share their databases. If a company pays so much of central GST, it cannot show a disproportionate level of income. As taxation brings larger and larger areas of value creation in the economy under its scope, the rate of tax can be lowered, both when the common tax base of GDP is taxed, whether as income or as goods and services consumed.


So, ideally, no exemptions should be allowed. If the cause of simplicity of implementation calls for exemption of activity below a threshold, that threshold should be kept low. This would raise some compliance costs for small operators, producers as well as traders. Governments should help them with these costs, rather than make them an excuse for widening the scope of exemption.


Implementing GST would call for considerable political will. Transporters, for example, have routinely resisted all attempts to tax their services. Partisan one-upmanship might persuade Opposition parties to champion such resistance. The government and its leaders should call all-party meetings and build consensus among them on GST. And to help parties make up their mind, the government should educate the public and appeal for their support, to help modernise the economy's system of taxation and speed up economic growth.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'WE ARE JUST CUSTODIANS OF ROLEX BRAND'

RAKHI MAZUMDAR

 

In a world busy chasing numbers, this one is a rare model, a limited edition if you like. A brand managed by a foundation -controlled with trustees board of directors, it would rather not sell unless it is absolutely sure of providing a service back up. And yet, the century-old label is perhaps one of the single largest luxury brands in the world. How else do you explain a 8-year waitlist for a Rolex Daytona Steel in boutiques across the world? M H Khan Rolex' country head (sales and development) in India talks about their plans in India and gave a ET a peek into the mystic of Brand Rolex. Excerpts:

 

Where does the brand Rolex stand in India today?

We set up a subsidiary in July 2008. We now have three boutique outlets in Bangalore, Mumbai and Kolkata. We also have a presence in some 10-12 point of sale outlets. We are in no hurry to notch up sales. We enjoy endearing trust and that is how we are slotted in the consumer's mind space. We believe actual sales and market share are incidental. We will be opening boutique outlets in Delhi and Chennai where we are not present at the moment. Also, our POS presence is likely to go up to around 15 by the next few months and to about 20 by next year. Profit is not the only motive.


Rolex has a fair degree of brand salience in India. Beyond that, do you find it's sales in line with expectations?
As I said, we are not looking at numbers, per se. In percentage terms, we have been growing at about 30%. Significantly, in the last one year our stocks with dealers have doubled too. We have maintained growth even in a slowdown in which luxury brands have suffered worldwide. It is beyond our expectations. I can tell you we could easily be doing five times the present numbers without making much of an effort, simply because Rolex is such a trusted brand. From Jalandhar to Siliguri, we know there are people waiting to experience the brand, but we choose to be rather cautious and careful before we reach out far and wide. Our thrust is on service, just in case the watch needs to be attended. We realise a Rolex is a cherished possession. We will do all we can to keep it ticking. This way we will also build up on the trust we enjoy among old and new customers.


What are you doing to develop a service network?

We have been quietly at work for the past year or so. Rolex has set up a watch-making school in India. We want to promote the art of watch making in India to make use of innovative skills and workmanship that abound here. This school will cater to the requirement of the entire Middle East and South Asia market for Rolex. The students learn the skills of watch repairing at our factories and are trained by our staff. At the end of the course they take an exam and are certified as authorised Rolex watch makers. This school has just churned out its first set of six graduates. We kept the batch size small to maintain quality. Of these graduates, the only in India is based out of Kolkata. We will step up on that figure in coming years.


Who is a typical Rolex customer in India?

Our target customer is not really defined. A Rolex buyer may be 22 or 65 in age, but he is a mature consumer. He does not buy a Rolex on a whim. He knows his mind and will not settle for anything else. As custodians of the brand, our job is to keep that trust alive and ticking.

 

In which price range does Rolex operate in India?

We sell in the Rs 2 lakh to over Rs 1 crore range. In India, average price of a luxury watch is around Rs 4 lakh. The luxury watches market is estimated to be over Rs 800 crore.

 

What is the role of dealers in nurturing the Rolex brand?

As a company we see ourselves as the custodian of the Rolex brand, not its owners. Our dealers are thus a very important part of that chain. For the consumer, they represent the face of Rolex in India. We choose them very, very carefully. For instance, Exclusive Lines, our dealer in Kolkata, had been waiting to do business with us for ten years, before we finally told him last year, we were ready. We need to be sure they share the same values and the same passion for the brand's heritage and history. We are now exhibiting some 20 special edition time pieces like Oyster Perpetual-GMT Master II, Cosmograph Daytona and Oyster Perpetual Datejust from the Rolex collection in our boutiques in India.


How does Rolex remain timeless yet contemporary? Does it feel the need to change in a fast changing environment like India, for instance?

The brand is very secure in its positioning. So our main job is to maintain the brand ethos. But yes, we do keep our ears close to the ground. We are, what you may call, a listening brand. We collect and study consumer and dealer feedback meticulously, but refuse to get swayed by short-lived fashion trends. Take for instance, the trend towards larger dial women's watches. Our classic Day Date lady's watch had always had a 36 mm dial face. When we noticed a definitive shift in women's preference towards larger dial watches, we responded by enlarging the dial to 41 mm. The new watch managed to incorporate the present style and still retained a classic Rolex look!


What has been Rolex's learnings from India?

We have realised that the Indian consumer is an extremely aware buyer. Pride of ownership plays a significant role here, so we want to pamper our customers. Also, weather changes and factors like humidity and temperature can have a huge impact on watches.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'WE WILL MAKE INDIA OUR R&D HUB'

 SANJEEV SINHA

 

The Belgium-headquartered $1-billion Barco NV, a global leader in digital imaging solutions and with presence in more than 90 countries, designs and develops display and large-screen visualisation solutions for a slew of professional markets, ranging from medical imaging to media and entertainment, and from infrastructure and utilities to defence and security. Barco's newly-appointed president and CEO Eric Van Zele, who was in India recently, talked to ET about the company's global growth plans and its strategy for the Indian market. Excerpts:

How has the financial meltdown impacted the imaging solutions market in general and Barco in particular?
Like any other player in the industry, Barco is exposed to reduced spending in advertising and promotion activities. This impacts our traditional media and entertainment sector. However, as a pure B2B solutions provider, Barco is not affected in the way other B2B/B2C hybrid companies are. The good news is that we have been strengthening our position in the digital cinema market, a bright spot in media and entertainment. We have also received some large orders in digital cinema this year.


Has the company felt a need to change its focus areas or shift focus to some in the wake of the economic crisis?
Barco is a leader in professional markets and our solutions are the most optimum for these markets as we focus on innovation and global scale. We fine-tune our focus between markets and divisions in such a way that we are able to maximise it where we are performing well. For example, today, digital cinema and security and monitoring are receiving more attention internally because of the increased potential these areas are showing. We believe that globally about 1,50,000 screens will go digital in 3-5 years. It is happening on a large scale in orth America and Europe, and even in India, it is just a matter of time.

 

Meanwhile, we also look for ways to grow into markets like medical imaging, in which Barco is a world leader, and video and lighting integration. We also keep putting a lot of focus on R&D to remain a cutting-edge technology company that can offer solutions to the requirements of its markets.


What is Barco's future strategy to further excel in its core areas?

Barco is a top brand and has a global presence in high-end technical markets. We are increasingly doing adaptations according to the needs of the local markets. Barco's future strategy is to make products that can cater to the requirements at the intersection of geographical and technical market requirements.

 

Where does India figure in Barco's business strategies and growth plans?

Barco has been committed to the Indian market since 1996, and we are focusing on more R&D projects to build Barco's Indian centre of competence. Barco sees a huge growth potential in India and, hence, we are increasing our investment continually in the country's market. In addition to selling our systems in India, we have a factory that produces world-class subsystems and modules for the global security and monitoring markets.


What are the growth drivers for Barco in India? Has Barco felt the need to localise its offerings for the Indian market?

We have high hopes on the growing investments in infrastructure, mainly in energy and security sectors in India. India has sustained several years of high growth, with a gross fixed investment as a percentage of GDP at 39% — a very large number, when you consider that the GDP is $3.7 trillion. It is investing in its infrastructure to become a strong and sustainable country, and we are bullish on its growth potential. We are focusing on customising our offerings to the local needs with the help of our R&D centre.


Is there any plan to make India Barco's R&D hub for global operations?

We are increasingly looking at India as an R&D hub for our global software development. Barco India already has a sizeable R&D and manufacturing base in Noida, serving the global market of control room technology today and potentially other markets in future.


What is the future of display and visualisation products? Where do you see Barco, say, a decade from now?
In our opinion, 3D display systems, network-centric visualisation as well as digitised and interactive cinema will become more important in future. And we see ourselves as leaders in each of these categories.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'FINAL DATE FOR GST ROLLOUT ONLY IN DECEMBER'

 

Keeping aside differences over the details of the proposed goods & services tax (GST), the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers has finally came out with its first discussion paper on the new tax that seeks to completely reform the indirect taxes regime in India. West Bengal finance minister and chairman of the committee, Asim Dasgupta, acknowledges the differences that have to be sorted out but seems encouraged by the first step. He is now focussing his energies on the work that needs to be done for implementation of the new tax system. Excerpts:

 

Can we expect the GST to roll out on April 1, 2010, as scheduled?

We will be in the right position to answer this only after we finish work on the draft on constitutional amendments and the draft for legislation and rules required for implementing the central GST and state GST. We expect to finish this by the end of November (2009). The IT infrastructure required for smooth implementation of the GST will be made operational by the middle of January.


Are you saying that the April 1, 2010, deadline cannot be met? Will the central GST and state GST be rolled out at the same time?

What I am saying is that we need a little more time to say when exactly we will be able to implement the new tax structure. The moment we start working on the drafts, progress will be rapid. We will be able to give a date probably sometime in December.


Some state governments have problems with the proposed GST model. What is being done to bring them on board?

There are some differences among states. Each state has its own local problem. We have to recognise these problems. We are trying hard to understand each other's position. The GST paper shows that states have come somewhere.

If there are a couple of states that refuse to come on board, will it be possible to implement the GST structure without their participation?

At the moment, we are talking to all state governments to resolve the contentious issues.


What kind of compensation package can the state governments expect to in lieu of the revenue loss from GST?

It was decided by the GST panel that the 13th Finance Commission would take a call on the compensation that would be handed out to the states over a period of five years.


What are the products that will be kept out of the ambit of GST?

I cannot share the specifics of the negative list at the moment. However, alcohol, crude oil, petrol and diesel products would be kept out of the GST's ambit. A decision on natural gas will be taken later.


How will food articles be taxed under the GST regime?

This question again brings us to the subject of the negative list. The decision on the negative list and the rate structure will come later.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

RATTLED BEIJING NEEDS WATCHING

 

Given the crude Chinese reaction to it, the Dalai Lama's visit to Tawang — which began last Sunday and is scheduled to last a week — will be recalled as making diplomatic history. The high priest of Tibetan Buddhism was also Tibet's temporal ruler until the Chinese occupied his land militarily in 1951, forcing him to flee to India eight years later. Those were the early years of Communist China's expansionism, on the altar of which even Communist Vietnam has suffered. The Tawang monastery had been the spiritual leader's first stop once he was out of the Tibet area during his flight to safety. And yet, among the important messages that stood out when the Tibetan guru spoke to the media in the vicinity of the same historic monastery in Arunachal Pradesh last Sunday was his reassertion that he was not a "separatist", and had no plans to "split" China, as Beijing likes to allege. Precisely because the Tibetan pontiff defines himself as not being a "separatist", he is not in political favour with the Tibetan Youth Congress, comprising the Young Turks, most of whom were born in India and have never known their homeland. Purposively unmindful of this, Beijing insists on treating the Dalai Lama as a criminal on the run who must be given no place to hide, and who must be handed over to it by anyone who may find him. To Beijing, the Dalai Lama is a "separatist" and a "splittist" because he chose to take refuge in a foreign land rather than surrender himself to the tender mercies of the occupiers of his homeland. Before you shoot the dog, you must give it a bad name. That's what the Chinese appear bent on doing with the Dala Lama. There is a parable in this for India as well. Beijng knows full well that its so-called claim to Arunachal Pradesh is rubbish. Indeed, the absurd claim is less likely to have been made if India had not given the Dalai Lama shelter. But because it did so, it had to be taught a lesson in the shape of the 1962 attack. Aware of what's playing in the Chinese mind, the Dalai Lama was unequivocal when he repudiated Beijng's claim from Tawang, reminding China that after the attack it had declared unilateral ceasefire and withdrawn its forces to their present position (on the Tibetan side of the McMahon Line), clearly suggesting Tawang was not "southern Tibet", as Beijing likes to describe. In an instantaneous reaction, People's Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, warned India, quoting an "anonymous" scholar: "India may have forgotten the lesson of 1962, when its repeated provocation resulted in military clashes. India is on this wrong track again." The reason for the warning? That India permitted the Dalai Lama to enter a "disputed region". Leaving aside the bully language and tone, the military warning to India is clear enough here. Whether China can carry out its threat will naturally depend on a host of factors, but India can ill afford to leave itself unprepared. For decades, Beijing had relied on Islamabad to keep India discomfited, using the terrorist route and the threat of the nuclear weapon assembled with Chinese assistance. Beijing's actions vis-à-vis India bear careful watching when Pakistan is at risk of capsizing, in part on account of pressures from jihadists, who may also be interested in Chinese Xinjiang. However, what's important is the map-making of the mind that Beijing indulges in. If Arunachal Pradesh is a "disputed" region for China, what's occupied Tibet to the Tibetans? If the politburo can work this out, perhaps it will be ready to enter the era of civilised diplomatic discourse in the light of realities of the present.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A BAD BEGINNING IN MAHARASHTRA

BY INDER MALHOTRA

 

TIME was when today's Maharashtra, then the multi-lingual state of Bombay, was one of the two best-administrated states, the other being the state of Madras, now called Tamil Nadu. Let us leave the southern state out of this discussion. But sadly, Maharashtra today is one of the worst administered, often rivaling Bihar, with which it has a special relationship of total hostility.


In all fairness it must be said that things in the state whose capital is also the nation's "financial hub" have been degenerating for a long time, but never so precipitately as of late. The Congress split of 1969, the Emergency followed by Indira Gandhi's defeat in the 1977 general election, and the birth of the Shiv Sena in the late 60s took their toll, as did the burgeoning building boom in a metropolis desperately short of land. This laid the foundations of the nexus between rapacious builders, politicians in power and their bureaucratic henchmen that has now assumed frightening dimensions.


The watershed was reached when, after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, there were the 1993 "Bombay blasts". The Karachi-based Dawood Ibrahim was able to land one-and-a-half tons of RDX on the Maharashtra coast with the full cooperation of senior customs officers who believed that he was bringing in his usual contraband of gold!


It was in 1995 that, for the first time in Maharashtra's history, a coalition of the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a combination of rabid Marathi chauvinism and strident communalism, came to power. I distinctly remember the then Pakistani high commissioner's comment: "The key to India's tijori (cash box) has passed to the Hindutva forces".


However, the Maratha strongman, Mr Sharad Pawar, always retained his strong power base in western Maharashtra and great influence in the Congress power structure in New Delhi. In 1991, after Rajiv Gandhi's assassination and Mrs Sonia Gandhi's firm refusal to be his successor, Mr Pawar was a candidate for the top job. But the prize went to P.V. Naraimha Rao. Before the 1996 general election — in which the Congress lost power for the next eight years and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance ruled for six of these eight years — Mr Pawar threw his bombshell, raised the issue of Mrs Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin, and under the slogan Raj kare ga Hindustani, formed the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). For all his fulmination against the "foreigners", however, he had no compunction in becoming the Congress' junior partner — in Maharashtra in 1999 and in New Delhi five years later.


The main point about all this is that the Congress-NCP alliance has always been uneasy, to put it no more strongly than that. Working at cross-purposes and motivated primarily by greed, the two coalition partners have brought governance in Maharashtra to a very low depth indeed. Towards the end of their second tenure, especially after the horrific terrorist attacks on 26/11, there was a glimmer of hope. Congress leaders started admitting that things had been allowed to get out of hand, and if the electorate gave them a third chance they would make a fresh beginning and make up for the past, giving the state a bright future.


It is already crystal clear that these promises were not only insincere but downright false. In the first place, the new Maharashtra government is really old wine in old bottles. Secondly, the beginning it has made, after celebrating elaborately its "hat-trick", is shocking beyond words. In saying this I do refer to the infamy inside the state legislature on the first day of its session when followers of Mr Raj Thackeray, entering the Assembly for the first time, assaulted a member, Mr Abu Asim Azmi of the Samajwadi Party, for his temerity to take his oath in Hindi when under Mr Raj Thackeray's dictate, Marathi is the only language to use, and hell with the Constitution that gives every citizen the right to speak and take oath in any of the recognised national languages. All this is abominable, especially in view of the culprits' declaration that they would mete out the same treatment to anyone "who insults Maharashtra", whatever that might mean.


By my reckoning the worse act of the Congress-NCP leaders is to have brought back NCP's Mr R.R. Patil as the state's home minister. In the midst of the 26/11 traumatic events this worthy had the audacity of making the buffoonish statement that "such minor incidents do take place in big cities". He was rightly asked to resign.

 

Now he has been appointed to the same crucial job despite widespread public protests.


Mr Pawar, whose single-point agenda is to transfer the NCP leadership to his daughter Ms Supriya Sule, must have had compulsions. But what made the Congress president and the Prime Minister succumb to his pressure?
The Union home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, has said repeatedly that another terrorist attack from Pakistani soil can take place though this country is better prepared to deal with it. Can Mr Patil be depended upon to deal with such a situation, especially after the government to which he belongs has willfully suppressed portions of Mr Ram Pradhan's inquiry report on 26/11 and not done enough to act on its recommendations?


The most chilling implication of the unending outrages — on the day after the hooliganism within the Assembly chamber, the Shiv Sena gheraoed Mr Azmi (whose own political record won't bear scrutiny) outside the legislature — is different.


Mr Raj Thackeray is politically very useful to the Congress-NCP combine. One and all admitted after the Assembly election that he made a material contribution to the defeat of Shiv Sena-BJP coalition, largely because of his feud with his uncle Mr Bal Thackeray and cousin Mr Uddhav Thackeray. It is no secret that the Congress got 13 additional seats because of him.


In the past, irrespective of what his goons did under his unpardonable instructions he was treated with kid gloves. At a time when he should have been behind bars, he was feted by, of all people, Mumbai's police chief. A show arrest of him was made but it was allowed to fizzle out.


Today he is virtually above the law because for the Congress-NCP government political expediency seems to take precedence over national interest.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

POOLING RISK WON'T MAKE AMERICA SOCIALIST

BY ROGER COHEN

 

New York, United States

When two Northwest Airlines pilots get so into their laptops that they overshoot their destination by 150 miles, breezing past Minneapolis like they'd never heard of the place, American self-absorption has clearly reached new heights. No longer just bowling alone, Americans are flying alone.


I couldn't believe that story. Nobody could when they heard that the Cheney-Cole pilot-first-officer team had swept eastward toward Milwaukee last month. How, even with a name like Cheney, can you forget that you've got 144 people on board and are supposed to land a plane?


But the more I thought about it — and thought of the repeated Earth-to-Mars experience of trying to get through to my kids when they're on their laptops, and thought of how often people thumb-typing on their BlackBerries bump blindly into me on New York sidewalks, and thought about how technology now trumps community in the United States (even when that community is 39,000 feet up) — the more I felt those Northwest pilots were symbolic enough.


After 9/11, half of America went to war and the rest went shopping. Wall Street coined newfangled financial instruments to leverage the universe and Main Street fell for them. Division grew, fellowship withered. Everyone knew money could not really rain from the sky in the American dream factory but they went on playing their own versions of online solitaire.


The Obama victory was a reaction to all this. His message was that we are all Americans in this together. The country at war and the country in the mall are one. American possibility is alive but depends on American responsibility. That kicks in when you look up from your laptop to see this beautiful, battered land (or, as the case may be, the runway).


Nine months into his administration, President Obama has had a hard time delivering. Washington politics are still ugly. The taxpayer-funded economic recovery, such as it is, has accentuated rather than eased inequalities. Wall Street and Main Street are more estranged than ever. Guys with families and no jobs (most of the eight million job losses have been male) see bankers back on the fat-bonus gravy train.


David Hale, a Chicago-based economist, told me that US employment had declined at a much faster rate than national output (6 per cent versus 3.8 per cent) since the Great Recession began, whereas in Germany and Japan the job losses have been just a fraction of the falls in output.


In other words, US corporate management has used the crisis to slash jobs well beyond what economic decline strictly demanded — ruthless prudence, they would argue. Elsewhere on earth, job preservation has been a priority.
Hale called the resultant rise in American productivity "stunning". US businesses are more competitive than ever, which could eventually bring jobs. But for now, the newly jobless ask, "What recovery? What justice?"
"If managements are raising profits by cutting jobs, and that gives them a stock market gain of 55 per cent, in the end you're magnifying inequality", Hale said. Yep, you can't oblige businesses to use their profits to hire.

 

That's the American way.

But impunity is not the American way. After the savings and loan crisis of the late 1980s, more than 3,000 bankers went to jail. Well, this global crisis stemmed from dishonest bankers writing bad loans, and selling and securitising them in the knowledge they were fraudulent, while ratings agencies collected big fees for giving triple-A ratings to garbage. And who's gone to jail? Just about nobody.


None of this has reinforced the republic or the commonwealth nor given the sense the same rules apply to everybody. That's hurt Obama. He's appeared powerless at best, complicit at worst.


In any context, I would argue, health reform was important for America, but in this fractured one, the healthcare reform bill that just passed the House is critical. It's critical because, although not perfect, it does involve the acknowledgment that, when it comes to health, we are indeed all in this together rather than zoned out on our individual screens. Pooling the risk between everybody is, as the rest of the developed world knows, the most efficient way to forge a healthier society.


US healthcare has been grossly inefficient — spending has ballooned even through the recession — and a proposed new government insurance plan and national insurance exchange will help force waste out the system. A surtax on the wealthy will help pay for it. There's going to be some sacrifice in the name of the general good. That's an important idea right now. The Senate should quickly approve the legislation. It won't "socialise" America but will solidify it by at last framing basic healthcare as a moral obligation rather than financial opportunity.


As Archibald MacLeish once wrote: "If we had not held these truths to be self-evident, if we had not believed that all men are created equal, if we had not believed that they are endowed, all of them, with certain unalienable rights, we would never have become America, whatever else we might have become".

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

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OZ SEEKS AN ASIAN FRIEND

BY ASHOK MALIK

 

Indian foreign policy wonks have traditionally looked at Australia through the prism of the United States. Yet, as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd arrives in New Delhi, it may be Canberra that offers a window to Washington, DC. As Indians worry about the proximity of America and China, President Barack Obama's tilt towards Beijing and a world run by Group of Two, it would be useful to map Australia's recent relationship with China.
Mr Rudd came to power in 2007. Like Mr Obama, he was seen as a liberal who didn't obviously see democratic India as a counterweight to China's controlled polity. Mr Rudd's knowledge of Mandarin also elevated him to some sort of China expert. Given his country's dependence on the Chinese market for commodity exports, it was widely perceived he would move Australia into the Middle Kingdom's orbit.


Two years on, Australia-China ties have suffered multiple blows. Mr Rudd comes to India looking for a breakthrough with the other Asian giant, almost to make up for the setback with the Chinese. What happened? A series of unrelated events combined to leave an impact greater than the sum of their parts.
First, Mr Rudd visited China in April 2008 for a four-day visit that sections of his hosts anticipated would be a pilgrimage. On the first day, he delivered a speech in Mandarin at Peking University where he referred to the human rights situation in Tibet. The Chinese were livid.


Second, in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics, Tibetan protesters came out on the streets in many countries. In Australia, there was an organised counter-mobilisation of the Chinese community — both Chinese citizens working and studying in Australia and Australian citizens of Chinese origin. In one infamous case, 10,000 people turned up in Canberra for an anti-Tibet demonstration.


The gathering was noticed. It was unusually large for tiny Canberra, a sleepy city of 3,00,000 people. Many of the Chinese demonstrators had come in from Sydney and Melbourne. Somebody had paid for their travel and mobilised them for this propaganda show. It was later found officials of the Chinese embassy had played a role. This led to concern about foreign diplomats influencing and interfering in a domestic debate.


Third, repeated attempts by state-owned Chinese companies to acquire Australian natural-resource businesses have been thwarted. Earlier this year, a Chinese company tried to buy a copper mine in south Australia but was blocked because the location was close to a defence facility. When a Chinese state-owned company sought to make a substantial investment in Rio Tinto, the Australian iron ore and commodities giant, Canberra delayed permission till such time as an alternative offer came along.


In retaliation, Beijing arrested Rio Tinto executives, including an Australian citizen of Chinese origin who is still in prison. He was accused of spying, a charge later diluted to corruption and bribery.


Fourth, Australia's Defence White Paper, released in May this year, made clear allusions to the Chinese maritime threat, and the need for Australia to ramp up its Navy. Just weeks later, Australia's defence minister resigned following a spate of personal scandals. About the most high-profile of these involved his friendship with an Australian-Chinese businesswoman with supposed People's Liberation Army links.


In isolation, not one of these incidents was big. Yet, seen together, and having occurred in such a narrow time-frame, they ended up conveying the impression of a Cold War. Today, Mr Rudd's confidants argue both the Chinese and his critics misunderstood his knowledge of China for approval of the Chinese system. A nuanced version would suggest that the more outsiders get to know China the more difficult they find it to reconcile themselves to its political economy.


Despite Mr Rudd's efforts, deep-seated scepticism and suspicion about China within Australia's defence establishment and strategic community, its media and civil society could not be held back. As Rory Medcalf, former Australian diplomat and programme director for international security at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute, Australia's leading foreign policy think tank, points out: "Opinion polling by the Lowy Institute shows that Australian public attitudes have steadily cooled towards China over the past two years".


The China encounter of Mr Rudd's Australia can as easily be replicated in Obama's America. There are limits to which Western societies and political leaderships can go in accommodating China. Disquiet about its treatment of internal dissent and the strategic aims of its business investments — where these are seen as driven by an expansionist foreign policy rather than plain commerce — will not go away in a hurry.


What does this mean for New Delhi? The benefits are obvious but not inevitable. Just because Australia (or any other country) experiences turbulence with China does not mean it will automatically embrace India. However, equally, it does not mean China's economic prowess will inexorably draw Western nations into its sphere of influence and cause them to ignore India, much less gang-up against it.


Opportunities will also present themselves. Having singed his fingers with China, Mr Rudd comes to India eager for a good, meaningful summit. India can exploit this moment and it would be a shame to limit the visit to raising the violence against Indian students in Australia. Important as that issue is, it cannot be the entirety of the India-Australia equation.


The problem is there is no one game-changing phenomenon that can redefine Indo-Australian relations, the equivalent of George W. Bush's nuclear deal. However, bilateral trade is growing. Australia is an emerging military partner for India, in terms of a naval partnership that can straddle the Indian Ocean and, potentially, joint training by Special Forces.


Canberra can help New Delhi's quest for energy security, extending from coal and natural gas to — the big one — uranium. Uranium exports are a hot button in Australian domestic politics. To sell yellowcake to India, Mr Rudd will have to fight strong opposition within his own Labour Party and will probably postpone a decision till after the general election of 2010.


Whatever the eventual outcome, the upshot is an Australian leader who began his term reaching out to China needs to pull a rabbit out of the hat to, instead, make the India relationship his legacy. That should be a calming lesson for Indian strategic affairs pundits.

 

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

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

TAWANG AND THE GHOSTS OF 1962

BY MAURA MOYNIHAN

 

This week the Dalai Lama is in Arunachal Pradesh, where he was delivered to Indian custody by Tibetan resistance fighters a half century ago. As Beijing's cadres ramp up attacks on the exiled Tibetan leader and lay claim to swaths of Indian territory along the Tibet border, it is gratifying to see India backing up the Dalai Lama and asserting its sovereignty in Arunachal Pradesh, a Tibetan Buddhist cultural zone lacerated in the 1962 War.
The 1962 India-China War was brief and casualties were few; fighting began on October 10, 1962, and came to an end on November 21. The death toll for soldiers was an estimated 1,460 Chinese, 3,128 for India. Yet the consequences of this anxious month of skirmishes in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh are still reverberating through South Asia. The War handed Mao Zedong a stunning victory, destroyed Jawaharlal Nehru's vision of pan-Asian unity in a post-war world, drove India and China into warring camps and greatly advanced China's hegemonic ambitions across the continent. It may have been a short war, but it was not a minor one.


China's triumph in '62 had a deleterious effect on the Himalayan belt, where the old trade routes and pilgrim trails that linked Tibet to Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and India were sealed by People's Liberation Army troops. When Nepal's King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah violated the Delhi compromise in 1960, tossed the Congress Party leaders into jail and restored absolute monarchy, Nehru prepared to intervene to restore democracy. After the 1962 War, with Chairman Mao armed and bellicose at Nepal and India's northern border, confronting King Mahendra's power-grab was out of the question. And today, 47 years hence, the dominant political force in Nepal are the Maoists, not the Congress Party.


The Himalayan Belt, eroded by the '62 War, is again at risk. China's perverse obsession with the Dalai Lama exposes the totalitarian mindset that defines their Tibet policy, which is why they seek to possess and smother the Buddhist cultures along the Tibetan border. In 1995, China implemented the "Strike Hard Campaign", wherein Buddhism is officially labelled "a disease to be eradicated" and owning a portrait of the Dalai Lama is a punishable offence. Monasteries across Tibet have been drained of students and teachers. Many take flight to India and Nepal to join Tibetan Buddhist sanghas, and to tell of religious persecution inside Tibet, the ugly truths that Beijing's cadres do not want the world to hear.


The international community would be well advised to examine China's subjugation of Tibet to understand the Communist Party's record of violating agreements, treaties and international norms of conduct. The Tibet question is generally perceived as a human rights debate, not an issue of strategic or legal concern.


Yet Tibet is primarily a strategic and economic issue for China. The elemental facts, such as Tibet's size, its wealth of resources and strategic advantages, the full extent of the genocide wrought by the Chinese invasion, are not well known, and when people hear the details they fully understand why the People's Republic of China wishes to control the dialogue on the Tibet question.


Chinese propaganda has been highly effective; Sinologists throughout Western universities for years taught that Tibet was a "backward serfdom" now enjoying a new and welcome prosperity under China's "peaceful liberation of Tibet". Many academics and policymakers, out of ignorance or cognitive dissonance, continue to accept China's agitprop. Beijing's latest spin, which finds alarmingly wide acceptance, is that the excesses of the Mao era have been rectified by modernisations, that highways and television stations compensate for genocide, torture and the suspension of all civil and cultural rights.


The '62 War bequeathed another tragic legacy to the peoples of Asia, locking India and China in a costly and dangerous arms race. India spends two-thirds of its defence budget on the northern border, yet still lags behind China's potent military infrastructure all across Tibet.


"I remember when we escaped from Tibet in 1959," recalls Lhasang Tsering, the legendary Tibetan poet and freedom fighter, "We were met by unarmed Indian constables in baggy shorts. I admit they needed warmer trousers, but not nuclear missiles. The world ignores the great risks of having the world's two most populous nations armed for combat along this 2,200-km border."


Ambassador Ranjit Gupta, a distinguished scholar and Tibet watcher, states: "Had the world taken action when China invaded Tibet in 1951, Tibet would surely have been saved… China was recovering from a disastrous civil war and did not have the resources to handle two conflicts: Korea in the east, Tibet in the west… India paid for that mistake when China secured its control over Tibet in 1959 and then invaded India in 1962."

 

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

 

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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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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

IMAGE REINFORCED

SOME DO GET AWAY WITH MURDER


SHEILA Dikshit alone may not be responsible (culpable?) for the killer of Jessica Lall being granted parole, and then extending it, but in declaring that everything had been done "within the purview of the law" she has reinforced the public perception that those with clout do get away with murder. From the day of the incident Manu Sharma has been shamelessly cashing-in on his father's political influence to make a mockery of the legal system, and it is now apparent that even conviction by the Supreme Court has made not a whit of difference. Not only were the grounds on which his parole was permitted highly suspect, he flouted them with the same brand of impunity that had earlier made most right-thinking people wonder if the rule of law prevailed. Particularly in and around the Capital where political power is the only currency that counts: that it flows in tandem with unaccounted money is no coincidence. The rising political and public resentment over the super-special treatment accorded to Sharma ~ the equivalent of Z+security cover ~ may have pressured an early end to the parole that was scheduled to end on 22 November, but the damage is irreparable. While the parole pleas of hundreds of other prisoners are cynically ignored, that of a very spoilt, very moneyed brat receives favourable treatment. Tells you something doesn't it?


This continuing story of arrogant defiance of the law as the average citizen understands it must not be permitted to end when Sharma returns to prison. Since the home ministry plays a direct role in Delhi affairs P Chidambaram must direct a thorough probe into the matter, take exemplary/deterrent corrective measures, for there is no dearth of folk around who conduct themselves with similar disregard of "the system". While the ministry is empowered to "discipline" the LG, the Congress High Command (read "Madam") must also intervene. Rapping Sheila on the knuckles will not be good enough, for a little reading between the lines of the Congress' party spokesman's comments makes it apparent that criminal elements remain welcome in the electoral fold. Is there a case for judicial action? In aam aadmi's reading of reality this is brazen contempt of court.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

MARXIST DILEMMA

THE HARD ROAD TO HONEST INTROSPECTION


THE organisational structure which had been the CPI-M's biggest asset has now been reduced to a battered fortress that has little idea of how to protect itself in the changed climate. While the last central committee meeting in Delhi had talked about corrective measures prior to the 2011 assembly election, there is no way in which the party bosses can rein in some of its prominent leaders. Their excesses over the past few days have served as the worst examples for young cadres who are now expected to go back to classrooms to imbibe the best of Marxist doctrines. Fortunately, the notorious Benoy Konar has chosen to hold his tongue and, after his unforgettable threat to make "life hell'' for the protesting villagers of Nandigram, promises to examine the reasons for the Marxists' present plight in a cooler frame of mind. But those, including party bosses at Alimuddin Street, who imagine that reform programmes can proceed more smoothly with Konar receding to the background have to contend with the likes of Anil Basu. The former CPI-M member of Parliament has given to himself the role of raising the morale of cadres in East Midnapore where the red bastion has experienced a drubbing after the disasters of Singur and Nandigram. His instrument is a colourful choice of words against political adversaries much like the assaults from Konar's exclusive dictionary. Alimuddin Street has discovered how counter-productive such noises can be. But old warhorses can only confess that it is too late for them to change.


In trying to contain Trinamul, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Biman Bose have also suffered from lapses in concentration and have invariably sought to make amends. Not so with a veteran who finds his base crumbling in Hooghly and virtually orders the police to do exactly what he says. The chief minister and Left Front chairman have also spoken of Trinamul's alleged links with the underground as one explanation for the futile operations of the joint action force when the Trinamul chief herself has another story to tell about Marxists and Maoists. But the confusion of Maoist links assumes the most colourful dimension in the former MP's crude vocabulary. Arrogance of power has cost the party dearly. The question now is how the correctional schools will be run in the time available with so few teachers around. The veterans have raised more questions about themselves than ever before and the younger leaders have run out of ideas. The larger, and more crucial, question is whether they at all believe in honest introspection.


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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

NO LONGER SPECIAL

TIME FOR HARD DECISION ON VISVA-BHARATI 

 

THE Prime Minister's assurance of an inquiry into the affairs of Visva-Bharati may have served to end the stalemate caused by the prolonged agitation by staff and students. The larger question is whether the university can survive under perpetual threats to its identity. For far too long have the evils of indiscipline, vested interests, unionised agitations and rampant irregularities reflected the pathetic state of the education system elsewhere. To this must be added the need to introduce new courses and increase the network of affiliations in order to reach out to larger numbers but which were never an integral part of the original concept. Tagore's idea of education in communion with nature had a unique significance at the time the university was set up and the fact that it drew some of the best minds had served to make it an outstanding example of individual commitments that no longer exist. After nearly eight decades, educationists, thinkers, social leaders and the university itself would acknowledge that it is difficult to protect the ideas that set it apart.


In Visva-Bharati's case, the tensions have received special attention for two reasons. First, the university takes pride in its Tagorean connections though it has done everything to pollute its past. Second, it is a central university and enjoys all the privileges of a special status without trying to live up to its identity. It happens to have had some names as alumni that still matter and for which reason the Prime Minister remains the permanent Acharya though many of those who have held that position have not bothered to fulfil their basic obligations. In the circumstances, the inquiry that Dr Manmohan Singh has promised the staff who have withdrawn their agitation for a limited period would at best sort out isolated issues such as regularisation of appointments and security for museum pieces which have been a major headache. But, by all accounts, it would leave the larger issue of the relevance of its special status untouched. That, apparently, is a hard decision to take. The time has come to give it serious thought.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

IMMUNE MEMORY LAPSE 'REVEALED'

 

Washington, 10 NOV: Scientists have discovered a critical "memory" circuit in the immune system which if faulty can result in repeated infections, a breakthrough they claim could pave for improved treatments of diseases like cancer. An international team has identified the "memory" circuit which involves a gene and protein called DOCK8, that helps white blood cells to form synapses ~ tiny points of cell contact ~ that resemble the synapse connections responsible for laying down memory in the brain.


"Immunity normally lasts for years after we are immunised or infected because our immune system remembers the shape and 'fingerprints' of an infecting microbe and keeps making antibodies against them.
"When immunological memory wanes we become susceptible to infection again, and need a reminder in the form of a booster immunisation.


"For some vaccines like the tetanus vaccine this occurs after several years, and for many experimental vaccines their memory has so far proved just too short to be useful," lead scientist Dr Katrina Randall of the Australian National University said.


According to the scientists, while the gene circuits that allow our immune system to lay down long-term memory are still largely a mystery, an increased understanding of these would not only lead to enhanced vaccines but also improve the treatment of cancer, transplant rejection and allergy. Lapses of immunological memory also explain the reactivation of infections responsible for cold sores, shingles, yeast infections, and possibly some forms of cancer. "Vaccines that provoke long-lasting immunity are among the greatest advances delivered by health research, but the circuits that determine whether they work or not have been among the most difficult to decipher," said Professor Goodnow from The John Curtin School of Medical Research and co-leader of the research team. PTI

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

VOLATILE VALLEY

CASE FOR AN AUTONOMOUS REGION OF KASHMIR

BY AMIT KUSHARI


IN spite of sincere efforts by the Centre as well as the J&K government, conditions in the state are not fully normal. The government has taken several bold steps to win over the hearts of Kashmiris, but perhaps far greater efforts are required to bring about peace in the state. By only taking a railway line to Kashmir, the Kashmiris are not likely to be won over.


The situation could be quite bad even now; otherwise the government would not have taken such an unprecedented step like cutting off connections of 36 lakh mobile phone-users who have prepaid connections. Such a discriminatory treatment of Kashmiris vis-a-vis other Indians could push the Kashmiri hearts further away from India.


We need to show far greater magnanimity for drawing them closer to us. Only granting a measure of autonomy under Article 370 of the Constitution may not satisfy the Muslims of J&K as they crave for something much more than that. Sixty per cent of J&K's population is Muslim. In Kashmir, 99 per cent of the people are Muslims. Therefore, a dialogue needs to be initiated by the Government of India immediately with the Kashmiri Muslims.


DIAMETRICALLY OPPOSITE

Forty per cent of the population are Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists who live in the Jammu and Ladakh regions. Their political aspirations are diametrically opposite to their Muslim brothers living in the Kashmir region and the hilly areas of Jammu adjoining the Kashmir Valley. They want closer ties with India and so it is very easy to solve their political problems. All that they want is a separate Jammu state within India and the two Union Territories of Leh and Kargil. However, if only this easy part of the question is addressed without solving the problems of 60 per cent of the population living in Kashmir, the solution for Kashmir will become more complicated. Hence we must try to first come to some agreement with the Muslims of Kashmir. The problems of Jammu and Ladakh would be solved automatically.


India must start a dialogue with an open mind with the Hurriyat Conference, the Hizbul Mujahideen, the J&K Liberation Front and others, and subsequently associate Pakistan with the talks for taking their acceptability. Mainstream political parties like the PDP and the National Conference should be involved in the talks because they also represent the Kashmiris and their aspirations are identical to the other Kashmiri aspirations except for the fact that they do not believe in violence and practise democratic methods.


India must start the dialogue with an offer of forming a highly autonomous region of Kashmir where the Kashmiri language is spoken. The region would obviously constitute the whole of the Kashmir Valley and some parts of Doda district of Jammu (like Kishtwar, Banihal and Bhaderwah tehsils), the Thamamandi areas of Rajowri, the Loran areas of Poonch and Mahore tehsil of Udhampur district. This region could be given all the autonomy that Kashmiris want ~ maintaining Indian sovereignty over the region. Defence and foreign affairs should be with India ~ but otherwise the Prime Minister of this autonomous region should be allowed to take all decisions by himself if he strictly follows democratic means to come to power. They may even have their own currency, telephone services, television channels if they so wish. The Supreme Court of India, the Chief Election Commissioner of India, need not have any jurisdiction there and the all-India services could be withdrawn. Checkposts could be set up at Ramban to check the Indian passports of Indian visitors. They will not require any permit from the Kashmir government to enter this region and on return, their passports could simply be checked.

All Kashmiris must hold Indian passports and if they want to enter India through Jammu their passports will have to be checked at Ramban or Banihal. If they want to travel by air to India their Indian passports will have to be checked at the airport counters. This will ensure that non-Indians cannot sneak into India using this autonomous territory as a clandestine route.


If Pakistanis want to enter Kashmir by road through Uri or elsewhere, they must obtain a permit or visa from the Kashmir government. If they want to take a direct flight to Srinagar from Lahore or Rawalpindi then their permits/ visas will have to be checked at Srinagar airport and this checking will be done only by the Kashmir government staff.


NO CAUSE FOR ALARM

WE need not be alarmed by this because even if Pakistanis enter Kashmir freely, they will not be able to cross over to Jammu and other parts of India without a visa from the Government of India. If the flow of traffic from Pakistan increases, this will boost all manner of economic activity in Kashmir. And this is bound to gladden the hearts of all Kashmiris. 


The autonomous region of Kashmir could become a bridge of friendship between India and Pakistan and the Prime Minister of Kashmir could help in cementing Indo-Pak ties. This step will certainly save India and Pakistan from a nuclear confrontation and could boost our economy not least because all unnecessary expenditure on defence would decrease. Pakistan may also see merit in such a solution because its economy will also get a boost.


As a by-product of this solution, Jammu will get its much cherished statehood and the grievances of its people that they are being discriminated against vis-a-vis Kashmiris will also disappear. Ladakhis will also get their promised Union Territories of Kargil and Leh. If a dialogue is started with such solutions in mind all misunderstandings will vanish. So too will militancy from Kashmir as well as other parts of India.
We must stop suspecting all the time that Kashmiris are terrorists. We should not forget that Kashmiris are the most generous, friendly, hospitable and polite among all Indians, besides being the most handsome race in India.

The writer is a retired IAS officer

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

BRUTE POWER

 

Verbal communication — speaking and listening — is fundamental to being human. To do so with grace is fundamental to being civilized. And the ability to communicate publicly and collectively is fundamental to a democracy. Slapping, kicking and wrecking public property are a form of communication that is less than human by all three counts. Hence the uncouthness of the four legislators doing precisely that in the Maharashtra assembly. They have offended against humanity, civilization, democracy and the Constitution. The incident affords an opportunity to reflect on the decline in India's culture of democracy. In their violence against a colleague for taking his oath in Hindi instead of Marathi, the four legislators from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena have failed the people they represent in two ways. First, they have projected their own and their party's bigotry upon the will of the people. Second, by getting themselves suspended for four years, they have rendered their constituencies unrepresented in the legislature for this period. They deserve worse punishment than suspension, and no country, and no people, deserves to be led by such leaders. Between the four of them, these men have attacked north Indian industrial workers in Maharashtra, dug up a cricket pitch in Mumbai to disrupt sporting ties with Pakistan, brought the city to a standstill several times, and fought with election security personnel over voting machines. This reduces the entire idea of democracy, of popular representation, to a dangerous and disgraceful travesty.

 

The MNS, together with its 'parent' organization, has been running a parallel regime in Mumbai and Maharashtra that is an obnoxious inversion, or perversion, of democracy. Thus Mumbai's legendary resilience has had to be directed as much against its internal enemies as against threats from outside the country. An old and complex nexus of power, money, corruption and terror holds this system together and keeps some of Mumbai's most iconic citizens in its mercy. It is a shame that the spirit of enterprise, openness and cosmopolitanism that informs most Mumbaikars has to resist or ignore continually the brutality of the MNS's and the Shiv Sena's regressive politics, which presumes to act on behalf of those people whose will it oppresses and appropriates in the name of regional allegiances.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

FREE RUN

 

Elections in West Bengal tend to run on predictable lines. When the Left held sway, it took no special skill to read the electoral tea leaves. The elections to the Lok Sabha earlier this year broke the Left's hold over West Bengal. Since then, it has become clear with every election result, at whatever level, that the people of the state want change and that they are tired of the Left's dominance. It is not difficult to predict that votes will be cast in favour of the Trinamul Congress and its leader, Mamata Banerjee. The latest round of election results only confirms that the voting trend continues to be in favour of Ms Banerjee. On the face of it, Ms Banerjee's triumph seems unstoppable. The Left, especially the Communist Party of India (Marxist), is caught in a situation where it can do precious little to prevent the continuing, and massive, erosion of its electoral support base. It would not be an exaggeration to conclude that only in a few seats is a communist candidate destined to win. This is a complete reversal from the time when a CPI(M) candidate was a certainty as a winner. The CPI(M) is not only at a loss to stop the erosion, it is also incapable of explaining to itself and to others why the debacle is taking place. It continues to mouth party platitudes as explanations.

 

It would be simplistic, however, to see the election results as a verdict in a TMC versus CPI(M) conflict. There is another loser: the Congress appears to be nowhere in the political scene of West Bengal. At one level, this is not surprising since the Congress has been leaderless in West Bengal longer than anyone in the Congress high command cares to remember. The Congress leadership, deliberately or otherwise, appears to have chosen to hand over West Bengal to Ms Banerjee. She dominates the entire anti-Left space, and now with the fall in the Left's support, she is close to dominating the entire political space. If she is allowed, by sheer default on the part of the Congress high command, to become the tsarina of West Bengal politics, the Congress might regret it more than the comrades. Her dominance will inevitably enhance her bargaining power not only in the run-up to the assembly polls in 2011 but also within the United Progressive Alliance. The Congress may have let loose a genie from the bottle that is set to defeat the Left, but which is not amenable to any control if allowed an unfettered run over West Bengal.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

THE BEST AND THE WORST

AFGHANISTAN WILL BE THE CHALLENGE WHEN SINGH MEETS OBAMA

K.P. NAYAR

 

At one of the scores of meetings being called in Washington every week in the run-up to the visit of the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, to the White House in less than a fortnight, one participant posed the question, "What is the best thing that could come out of PM Singh's visit?"

 

A bright Indian at the meeting responded that the best thing for India, the United States of America and the whole South Asia region would be if the Americans could find a way to translate the realization among sections of the Obama administration about the true nature of Pakistan as the fountainhead of global terrorism into a credible policy of making Pakistan change its ways of pushing the entire region into an abyss. The participants at this meeting were waiting for their main interlocutor to arrive and start the deliberations, so a counter-question popped up: "What would be the worst thing that could happen during the prime minister's visit?"

 

This time, it was an American's turn to answer. He said that would be if the Obama administration — or even loose cannons within the administration — pushed, during Singh's visit, for a revival of the idea of including India, all over again, in 'AfPak', the Afghanistan-Pakistan conundrum. If only by way of clutching at any straw in America's desperate bid to evolve a policy on Afghanistan that would show results and prevent Barack Obama from getting sucked into Afghanistan the way two of his predecessors, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, became trapped in Vietnam.

 

No one, absolutely no one, in the Obama administration will tell to the prime minister's face, when he is in Washington, that India should be included in a triangular solution to the region's problems and looked at collectively as Afghanistan-Pakistan-India.

 

Some of Obama's close advisers on South Asia vividly remember a wintry December morning last year, only weeks after his historic victory in the 2008 presidential election, when an Indian with considerable influence over the United Progressive Alliance government's policies on Afghanistan and Pakistan plainly told a Track-II meeting in Washington that if the incoming Democratic administration appointed a special envoy for India and Pakistan, he would be considered persona non grata and denied a visa to travel to New Delhi. In the end, it was that bold and unambiguous statement, albeit delivered unofficially, that persuaded the president in White House to trim Richard Holbrooke's mandate and exclude India when he was appointed special envoy for what eventually came to be known only as AfPak.

 

Notwithstanding New Delhi's known opposition to bracketing India along with Pakistan and Afghanistan, there are many policy-makers in the Obama administration who believe that the US cannot win the war in Afghanistan unless they also push for a solution to Kashmir and that the problem of a failing state in Pakistan cannot be adequately addressed unless New Delhi and Islamabad are nudged towards a reconciliation.

 

Last week, even as preparations for receiving Singh at the White House were briskly under way, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, held forth at the National Press Club in Washington on Indian threats to Pakistan. "They," he said, meaning his counterpart men in uniform in Rawalpindi, "are still very concerned about India. That is not going to go away overnight, and we are not going to wish that away."

 

A few weeks earlier, the top US General in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, said in his assessment of the war in Afghanistan, a report that was leaked in Washington for maximum effect, that "increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani counter-measures in Afghanistan or India". The General added in an accusatory tone in the same report that "the current Afghan government is perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian".

 

Reflected in General McChrystal's assessment is the dominant view within the US military establishment that the US cannot win the war in Afghanistan unless the interests of Pakistan across the Durand Line are taken into account, and that a big Indian presence in Afghanistan runs counter to the objective of peace in the region.

 

But the risk for the prime minister on Afghanistan during his forthcoming visit to Washington may not be how the US military establishment views India's role in Kabul. It may not even be any aspect of US policy on AfPak. Anything the prime minister and his top aides may say to their American interlocutors on the subject will, however, have to be first weighed against an epic internecine war that is going on within the Washington establishment over Afghanistan.

 

Consider this. On paper, Richard Holbrooke is Obama's point man for Afghanistan. He goes to Islamabad with the US secretary of state on Hillary Clinton's just-concluded visit to Pakistan. Coincidentally, the election process in Afghanistan has drawn to a conclusion, and Hamid Karzai has been re-elected to another term as president. But Holbrooke is unable to go to Kabul, at least on the pretence of assessing the post-election scenario, because Karzai will not even see him.

 

Flashback to the last week of October. Obama holds a crucial video conference, which is a key input into his future policies on Afghanistan, and Holbrooke is excluded from its deliberations. Undeterred, the special envoy calls an on-the-record media briefing at the state department to create the impression that he is, indeed, in charge of AfPak.

 

Despite the Pentagon's known disdain for Holbrooke, he manages to appoint his protégé, Robin Raphel, to the lucrative, Islamabad-based job of deciding how the massive new assistance to Pakistan of $7.5 billion in the next five years should be spent and who should get the money. Raphel, known to most Indians as the assistant secretary of state who questioned Kashmir's instrument of accession to India, is an 'FoB' or Friend of Bill and equally close to the former president's wife, Hillary Clinton. Even if Obama wanted to get rid of Holbrooke, the president will not be able to do so because the special envoy has made himself indispensable in Islamabad, but he is hated in Kabul, and there is no love lost between him and his Indian interlocutors.

 

Then there is a vastly understated player, Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador in Kabul. It will be an irony if the task of rebuilding Obama's broken bridges with Karzai has to be successfully executed by Eikenberry through his celebrated past connections with Afghan warlords like Mohammed Fahim, who will be vice president in the new Karzai government. The Obama administration had made much of Karzai's ties with warlords as part of Washington's failed campaign to soften up, and possibly remove, Karzai from office under the pretext of calling for a clean election.

 

In 2001 and 2002, as then president, George W. Bush, was preparing to wage war in Iraq, there was little understanding in India that the Bush enterprise against Saddam Hussein would turn out to be disastrous on multiple counts. Similarly, there is lack of comprehension now in New Delhi that the Obama administration intends to eventually legitimize the Taliban: what Washington is looking for is a way to put the best front on that eventuality and justify such an about-turn. With 55 American troops dead in Afghanistan in a month, October has been the deadliest month for the US forces since the war started there in 2001. In addition, the last three months accounted for a quarter of all battlefield injuries in Afghanistan in the previous eight years.

 

If this trend continues, the war in Afghanistan may be a factor in the mid-term Congressional elections next year, with the Democrats already facing rough weather on other fronts such as healthcare and the economy. As 2012 approaches, Obama will have no desire to follow Lyndon Johnson and withdraw from the re-election campaign or be defeated because his country is stuck in a quagmire in Afghanistan. That may require making peace with the Taliban on its terms, and dealing with Afghanistan on that premise may be one of the challenges that the prime minister will face as he meets Obama in the White House.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

START AGAIN

STEPHEN HUGH-JONES

 

There must be somebody who regrets the early death of Windows Vista, Microsoft's short-lived replacement for its reliable Windows XP operating system. Not many people, though, to judge from user reviews, and certainly not me. My knowledge of computing could be written on half a postage stamp. I've no notion what a spreadsheet is, and no need to know: all I use my laptop for is the Internet, word-processing and email. I still use olde-worlde dial-up (is it even available in India?), not broadband. I don't even know the computer geeks' vocabulary, let alone what it means.

 

In sum, in these computer-literate days, I'm a dinosaur—no, let's say an ichthyosaur, their swimming cousins, which must have known there were faster ways of getting around but just didn't bother to evolve accordingly. And I'm falling further behind every day. Still, for my limited purposes, I'd made sense of dear old XP. It did what I asked it to, and it didn't crash. Then my laptop was stolen. By then, Vista ruled, and, like a fool, I reckoned that such basic needs as mine could be met by its most basic version, and the next thieves would make that much less profit out of me. My new laptop was duly so equipped, complete with Microsoft Works for word-processing instead of Word.

 

A fool indeed. The thing offers me 191 different typefaces and 28 different colours, it can probably sing, dance and play baseball on ice. What it certainly does is vary, and what it doesn't do is what I ask it for. Some days it offers me a connection to my service provider before even being asked. Other days it waits till I've asked it for the Net, and even then its response is variable. My wife has to go through a small (and quite different) litany of clicks before she is allowed onto the Net.

 

I start writing, and find that its default setting is illegibly small. I correct that and write. Trouble over? Well, guess. Having written, I want to simply Ctrl+C the result and transfer it to the body of a Yahoo email bound for Calcutta. No way; when I try, the screen, with a grin on its face, assures me that "the Internet has stopped working", but "Windows is checking for a solution", which turns out to mean "start again". I go laboriously through a couple of extra hoops, and at last the job is done.

 

Well, maybe done. Because, quite often, as I am in mid-flow, the machine, without warning, delights in suddenly updating itself; with the latest 28-colour song-and-dance in Old Church Amharic typeface, I daresay, and very pretty I'm sure it would look. But actually I'd prefer the plain old black-and-white Times Roman that I've just spent three hours on and which has now vanished into cyberspace. And when all is re-done, and I want to save my text as a document, it offers me several formats but only works with one. No doubt one can cure all these ailments (and thank you, anyone who cares — in plain English — to tell me how), but why should it be the user that has to cure them? Isn't that what Microsoft pays its armies of engineers to do before it puts junk on the market?

 

At this point you may be asking what on earth all this has to do with the English language. I'll tell you, with an analogy. Let us suppose that one day back in the 15th century (yes, Works, unasked, wrote that th as two little superscript letters), Herr Johann Gutenberg, the Bill Gates of his time, had decided that boring old lead, which he used for the movable type he'd just invented, was out of date, and in future he'd use an amalgam of fool's gold, mercury and face-powder.

 

Result: no more printing, no Renaissance, no western civilization, if you like. And no English language as we know it: no editions of Chaucer or Shakespeare or the great 1611 Bible or Shelley. Or Darwin. Or Arundhati Roy, for that matter.

Computers are to today's language and literacy what lead type and paper were once. Sell them to innocents and fools like me, by all means. But, just because we are fools, don't let genii-fools design them. And now for Windows 7....

 

THEWORDCAGE@YAHOO.CO.UK

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

ADVOCATING VIOLENCE

''LAWYERS SHOULD REALISE THEY ARE NOT ABOVE LAW.''

 

The conduct of lawyers in Bangalore, who disrupted proceedings of the Karnataka High Court on Monday, locked up judges in the court room and even physically assaulted them, deserves the strongest condemnation. The lawyers were trying to enforce a call to boycott the court of Chief Justice P D Dinakaran against whom land encroachment and other charges have been levelled. The  Advocates' Association of Bangalore had called upon Justice Dinakaran not to perform judicial work till his name is cleared of the charges. Since the Chief Justice continued with his duties, the lawyers decided to boycott courts on Monday to express their protest. But they took the law into their hands and resorted to even violence to impose their will on judges and others.


Requesting Justice Dinakaran to keep himself off judicial work till his name is convincingly cleared is one thing. It is improper for the Chief Justice to continue with his work when he is in the midst of the controversy. But to resort to violence and to stop judges from discharging their duties through force is a different matter altogether. That amounts to disrupting judicial work and obstruction of justice. In the past, lawyers have also been prone to unruly behaviour in Bangalore and elsewhere in the country when they have agitated on various issues. They are expected to be friends of the court and should have the highest commitment to the rule of law. But their conduct has belied such expectations. The advocates' association cannot escape responsibility for the shameful incident by claiming that it was the handiwork of some bad elements.


The lawyers' rowdy and uncivilised conduct should not go unpunished. Very often they have got away with lawless behaviour. A recent instance is the Madras High Court letting off lawyers, who had clashed with the police in the court premises in February, with just a friendly advice. There was no reason for the court to be lenient when there was evidence of the lawyers' violent conduct, and an enquiry commission, headed by Justice Srikrishna, had indicted them. Such magnanimity only encourages them in their criminal ways. The lawyers must be made to realise that they are not above the law. In his report Justice Srikrishna had recommended framing of guidelines on lawyers' conduct and amendment of the Advocates Act to better discipline them. These need to be done and misconduct should be handled without leniency and mercy.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

WALLS ABOUND

''THE WEST BANK WALL TOO HAS TO BE BRO-UGHT DOWN.''

 

 

It is 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The event was historic. It triggered, if not shaped, several developments in the two decades since. It inspired dozens of popular movements. The roughly 140-km-long concrete and steel wall closed off West Berlin from East Germany. But it was more than a physical barrier. It symbolised the Cold War and all the suspicion and hatred it stood for. The fall of the Wall, therefore, did more than ease the way for East Germans wanting to travel to the West; it paved the way for the reunification of the two Germanys and more importantly, it set in motion a series of events that resulted in the collapse of the Soviet Union and brought to an end the Cold War. The fall of the Wall was perceived as emblematic of the triumph of capitalism over communism. It gave a giant boost to the spread of capitalism.


While the role of the Wall's fall in encouraging democratic struggles the world over must be celebrated, its part in the rise of unrestrained capitalism calls for a sober rethink. The collapse of great banks and financial houses, and the ensuing economic turmoil in the last couple of years indicates that the triumph of capitalism marked by the fall of the Wall lasted less than 20 years.


Western leaders who have assembled at Berlin to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall have been patting themselves on the back for their role in 'liberating' East Germans and the Communist world. But their rhetoric regarding their respect for rights and freedoms rings hollow. Since 2003, Israel has been constructing a concrete and steel barrier around the West Bank — in fact it runs into Palestinian territory — in brazen violation of UN resolutions. This is a wall that is far more oppressive than the one at Berlin. Still, the West, which so determinedly backed the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, has done little to bring down the West Bank wall. On Monday, even as the world was preoccupied with celebrations at Berlin, dozens of Palestinians assembled at the wall near Ramallah and broke down a small segment. The international community must come out to support them as they did 20 years ago in Berlin. The rights of Palestinians are as important as were those of the East Germans.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

FUSING FAITHS

MUSLIMS IN INDIA SHOULD UNDERSTAND THAT THEIR EXISTENCE IS LINKED WITH THAT OF HINDUS.

BY FIROZ BAKHT AHMED

 

As a devout Indian Muslim I love singing 'Vande Mataram'. I have memorised its Sanskrit version. The obsolete and redundant controversy over 'Vande Mataram', a wonderful patriotic song, has again landed it into an unnecessary political quagmire owing to a diktat by the Jamiat-e-Ulema-i-Hind at it's annual conference in Deoband.

The acrimonious debate raging these days made me recollect my childhood when we would sing 'Vande Mataram' full throated. If I had not sung that song then, would I have been a better Muslim? What does it matter what a child sings? We should just allow our children to do what the teachers ask them to do. Even if the first two stanzas were against the tenets of Islam and if the children sang them, Allah would forgive the kids. Allah is ever clement, forgiving, merciful. So says the holy Quran.


Except for a few myopic rabble-rousing clerics, the song is a non-issue with Muslims. Muslims must follow the example of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who was bold enough to propagate nationalism to Muslims at variance with the prevalent political consciousness based on communalised politics, while supporting the same with Islamic sanction. The Maulana saw in 'Vande Mataram' the fusion of the endogenic creativity, the Vedantic vision of many parts of truth with the Islamic doctrines of Wahdat-e-Deen (unity of religion) and Sulah-e-Kul (universal peace).


While listening to a rendition of 'Vande Mataram' in 1952 by a renowned maestro, Krishna Kumar, in Delhi, Maulana Azad admired it, saying that it was graceful and inspiring as great luminaries like Rabindranath Tagore, Surendranath Banerjee, Satyabhushan Gupta, R N Bose, H Bose and others had sung it.


On the occasion of the inauguration of the ICCR, the Maulana's forehead was smeared with a 'tilak' at which 'Dawn', a Pakistani daily commented in a cartoon that he had converted to Hinduism. At that, the Maulana said that in fact by such participation his faith in his religion strengthened.


The tragedy of Muslims is that they have failed to project the true tenets of their faith which are far more open, broad-based and liberal than those of Hinduism. H G Wells, one of the worst critics of Islam, conceded: "Islam prevailed because it was the best social order that the times could offer. It was the broadest, freshest, and cleanest political idea that had yet come into actual activity in the world."


The fundamentalist and obscurantist Muslim clerics and intelligentsia on the one side, while the opportunist BJP politicians and the calculating Congressmen on the other, have all have dragged the most charming, beautiful, patriotic and nationally-flavoured 'Vande Mataram' into a quagmire for mere political mileage. Muslims should not get carried by a few lines of the song as nobody is asking them to bow down.


Muslim voices of sanity aren't loudly heard. Today, Islam is under the scanner owing to a multiplicity of voices stating that the religion seemingly advocates separatism, violence, etc. 'Vande Mataram' is the latest to be added to the list. I fail to understand why some of my co-religionists are trying to make a religious issue out of 'Vande Mataram' that has a universal appeal for all Indians irrespective of caste, creed and faith.

Giving life to dead issues

While the Jamiat passed a resolution supporting an earlier decree against the song, it drew fierce criticism from the Sangh parivar constituents — Shiv Sena, BJP and VHP — which called the move 'anti-national'. Such moves by Muslim clerics actually rejuvenate otherwise sidelined redundant and dormant hardliners like Uddhav Thackeray, Praveen Togadia, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, etc. What is also unfortunate is that clerics like the Shahi Imam (of Jama Masjid), Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangimahli and others give Hindutva forces the handle to beat Muslims with. Why should we fault Togadia for airing anti-Muslim statements when our own clerics pour vitriol that give the impression that Muslims are less patriotic than the Hindus?


The media is also responsible for creating such an impression by repeatedly giving publicity to speeches by these clerics who are no more than bigots. My friend, scriptwriter and lyricist Javed Akhtar believes the controversy over the national song is obsolete and those who have any objection to it should simply not sing it. The voices of secular, patriotic and liberal Muslims never get a forum. We live in a liberal society where we are encouraged to know about one another's religion. Does a Hindu become 'ashudh' (impure) by going to the Jama Masjid or a church? Don't the Muslim children going to missionary schools, sing the psalms from the Bible during morning assembly? Do they come back home their faith lost?


Then how is 'Vande Mataram' un-Islamic? The lyrics "Mother, I bow to thee! Rich with thy hurrying streams, Bright with thy orchard gleams... Mother, to thee I bow...," found to be objectionable, are nothing of the kind as we do not do 'sijda' (bow) before anyone except Allah. Where's the controversy except in the minds of the misguiding fundamentalists?


As far as Muslims are concerned, true, as per the dictates of Islam, they can never worship or bow in front of anything other than Allah. But that doesn't take from them the fact that they are loyal to the nation and that they do not need a certificate to prove this.


It is high time that Muslims in India understand that their existence is linked with that of Hindus and that they cannot separate themselves and think of living in their own outdated ghettos on the pretext of saving their religious identity. Befriending Hindus and striving to understand them is the practical approach. Muslims must explore, identify and enlighten themselves on the common grounds between Islam and Hinduism and their holy scriptures, though in different languages but sharing several common ways of life. If a sincere attempt is made, both Hindus as well as Muslims will discover that many of their roots are nurtured by similar philosophies, composite culture and thinking.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

A LAY OF EUROPE FOR ALL FAITHS

THERE ARE MILLIONS OF CITIZENS WHO HAVE DIVERSE CULTURAL ROOTS WHICH ARE ALL WORTHY OF EQUAL CONSIDERATION.

BY EMMA BONINO, IPS


Exponents of the Catholic Church and the Italian government have reacted angrily to the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights requiring the removal of crucifixes from all schools in the country. Since the Nov 3 decision, both entities are on a war footing and are mobilising to have the decision reversed or its enforcement blocked. The court is based in Strasbourg and has representatives from 47 nations, not all from Europe.


Is the decision scandalous, as its opponents assert, or inevitable?

The basis of the ruling states that "the State must abstain from imposing religious beliefs in places where people meet under its jurisdiction". The presence of the crucifix in classrooms implies "a violation of the freedom of parents to educate their children in keeping with their own convictions" and is contrary to "the religious freedom of the students". The court "does not believe that the display of a symbol that it irreasonable to associate with Catholicism can contribute to the educational pluralism essential to the preservation of a democratic society — a pluralism recognised by the Italian Constitutional Court".


The sentence of the Strasbourg court is neither a scandal nor the product of 'lay fury'. Rather, it is a simple confirmation that all public spaces belong to all, wheth er Catholic believers, non-believers, or believers of other religions.


Respect for all

On the other hand, laicism has nothing to do with majorities or minorities but involves the protection of each and every person. It is inclusive and respects all people, and public spaces — and schools in particular — are public because all can recognise themselves in them. In effect the premise of the ruling is that public spaces are dedicated to collectivity, which includes believers an non-believers alike, and for this reason I consider the ruling an act of common sense and authentic laicism.


The court's decision teaches us the value of pluralism, a concept that should be familiar to all in a democratic society. Religiosity should reside in hearts and behaviour and not on walls.


It has been argued that the symbol of the crucifix is a part of our culture and identity as Italians. This is the same argument used at the European level when various religious groups and the Catholic Church in particular launched a fervent campaign to include in the preamble to the European constitution a statement that Christianity is an important part of the roots and cultures of the continent.


I don't see how the current ruling can be seen as conflicting with people's identity if there was no prior identification of the roots of Europe, or Italy, as Christian.


When the debate on the European constitution began, certain Catholic groups called for discussion to be shifted from the "roots to the fruits" of Christianity. And the majority of European nations did not agree that Christian identity should be included as a foundation of a union of peoples.


Cultural identity

At any rate, I think that a significant proportion of Catholics would find it difficult to defend the crucifix and all it represents as merely a component of cultural identity. The discussion should centre on the common values of the Old Continent. I agree with the thinking of Europeanist Altiero Spinelli that there is a precise historical European identity: a group of peoples who believe in liberal democracy, the rule of law, and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.


There are millions of citizens — in Italy as well as other countries of Europe and the world — that have diverse cultural roots all of which are worthy of equal consideration. The religiosity practised in churches and places of worship deserves respect. However, public spaces must be maintained as such, neutral.


The option is a serious laicism, which is more and more Europe's cultural patrimony, thanks to which we have reached a crucial balance that in no way impinges on the exercise of religion.


The Italian government has announced that it will appeal the decision of the European Court. I invite the government to reflect on the fact that this ruling should not be seen as a scandal or assault by lay forces but simply as a product of objective consideration. This should not be seen as an occasion to raise the barricades by either side.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

THE FLIGHT OF THE SPARROW

MOVING TO HIGH-RISE APARTMENTS OF YELAHANKA OR SARJAPURA IS A BIRD-BRAINED IDEA.

BY VINITA KRISHNAMURTHY


They say old-timers are leaving their cosy homes in Bangalore city for the suburbs. They would rather brave the long commute to visit, work or shop once a week than live amidst the noise and chaos. One rarely sees the silk saree-clad 'maami' of Malleswaram, the 'thambi' with 'lungi' at half-mast in Ulsoor or the impeccably dressed gentleman with long-sleeved shirt and faultlessly creased trousers of Richmond Town. And they aren't the only ones who have moved away...


On a hot summer afternoon, at the grey, windy, impersonal Bengaluru International Airport I discerned a twittering that was at once familiar and yet something I hadn't heard in a long time. Looking up I saw two small birds, happily perched on one of the supporting rods of the ceiling. Up there near the skylight, these sparrows had built their nest of dry grass and bits of cotton in a truly safe place.


I remembered how, years ago, the same species foolishly built nests in the most impractical places. At home, everyone desisted from switching on the fan during the nesting season. No one wanted to hurt the parents of the small spotted eggs housed rather precariously on the tubelight or in the cup of the ceiling fan.


The sparrow was often cursed for its poor site selection. It was a common joke that the bird had a death-wish and would soon become extinct like the dodo. Could anyone have known that it was a prophecy waiting to be fulfiled? Studies suggest that the polluted air, criss-crossed with cellphone signals has driven away the sparrow from Bangalore.


But Passer domesticus hasn't become Passer extinctus. It has chosen to move to Devanahalli. The BIAL water fountain quenches its thirst and it is quite at home in the waiting lounge, despite the continuous use of cellphones and radar communication. Its presence here makes you rethink the 'scientific' reasons for its disappearance from the city. And then you wonder whether or not moving to the high-rise apartment complexes of Yelahanka or Sarjapura is a bird-brained idea, after all...

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

ISOLATED INCIDENTS...

 

Today is Veterans Day in the United States. President Barack Obama will be laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. The November 11 commemoration is intended to honor those who served in the military, while Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday in May, was originally set aside for remembering America's war dead.

 

Since al-Qaida launched its war of civilizations on Sept. 11, 2001, America's all-volunteer army in Iraq and Afghanistan has suffered 5,000 dead and over 30,000 wounded.

 

ARLINGTON is located 5 km. from the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, Virginia. It was there that Nidal Hasan - the Muslim-American physician of Palestinian descent who murdered 13 people and wounded 29 last Thursday at Fort Hood, Texas - crossed paths with Nawaf al-Hamzi and Hani Hanjour, two of the 9/11 hijackers.

 

Many people came through Dar al-Hijrah, one of the largest mosques in America. Still, it is curious that in 2008 and early 2009 Hasan exchanged e-mails with Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born former imam at the mosque presently propagating al-Qaida's venom to English-speakers from Yemen. US intelligence picked up these communications, but determined they were part of the doctor's research on post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

Nor did anyone think it odd that in June 2007, Hasan delivered a PowerPoint presentation - "The Koranic World View As It Relates to Muslims in the US Military" - at what was intended to be a Walter Reed hospital medical seminar. Hasan told residents that Muslims love death more than Westerners love life, concluding with a slide: "Fighting to establish an Islamic state to please God… is condoned by the Islam."

 

In a Web posting Monday, Awlaki sang Hasan's praises: "He is a man of conscience who could not bear the contradiction of being a Muslim and fighting against his own people. No scholar with a grain of Islamic knowledge can deny the clear cut proofs that Muslims today have the right - rather the duty - to fight against American tyranny."

 

The FBI has no evidence that Hasan was part of a larger conspiracy. In the fullness of time he may explain why he carried out this massacre. But it hardly requires prophecy to intuit that he opposed the presence of foreign forces in the Middle East and believed Muslims shouldn't be killing Muslims on behalf of infidels.

 

Hassan and Awlaki are further proof that the war of civilizations is radicalizing American-born Muslims, while immigrants are certainly not immune. Hesham Mohamed killed without compunction at the El Al counter in Los Angeles (2002); Naveed Afzal Haq went on a fatal rampage at the Seattle Jewish Center (2006), and Sulejmen Talovic slaughtered shoppers in a Salt Lake City mall (2007). Yesterday, the US Supreme Court rejected a stay of execution against another US-born Muslim, John Allen Muhammad, "the Beltway sniper," who killed 10 in 2002. "Sniper's motive remains a mystery," said a BBC headline. Perhaps. But such "isolated incidents" reflect a bloody pattern pre-dating the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.

 

IN THIS context it is only mildly reassuring that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a mainstream group, has strongly condemned the Fort Hood. Such declarations don't inoculate Arab moderates if they continue to champion the policies of terrorist organizations.

 

CAIR says it has "consistently denounced violence by Hamas, Israel and other groups." Very droll.

 

In fact, the group's founders are intimately linked to Hamas's "humanitarian" work.

 

Speaking in Istanbul on Tuesday, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared: "Obama … can't collect the support of the illegal murderous Zionist regime and the countries of the region as well. Earning friendship … is not compatible with the Zionist regime's friendship."

 

He was telling Obama, either ditch Israel or forget about a rapprochement with Iran. He's got a point. No one can have one foot in the Islamist camp while championing liberty, tolerance and coexistence. It really is "either/or."

 

So Muslim-American leaders need to do some soul-searching about the charities they support, the foreign causes they embrace and the clerics they tolerate.

 

In the wake of 11/5, President Obama needs to work on parallel tracks - to ensure that blameless individuals are not scapegoated for Hasan's crimes, and to press Muslim moderates to cut all links with those who run charities by day and guns by night.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

CENTER FIELD: DELEGITIMIZING THE DELEGITIMIZERS

GIL TROY

 

November 10 marked the 34th anniversary of the UN General Assembly's passage of the infamous 'Zionism is racism' resolution. That day, noting that it was the 37th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazis' countrywide pogrom on "the night of broken glass," UN ambassador Chaim Herzog denounced the resolution.

 

"I stand here not as a supplicant... For the issue is neither Israel nor Zionism," Herzog said. "The issue is the continued existence of this organization, which has been dragged to its lowest point of discredit by a coalition of despots and racists. The vote of each delegation will record in history its country's stand on anti-Semitic racism and anti-Judaism. You yourselves bear the responsibility for your stand before history, for as such will you be viewed in history. We, the Jewish people, will not forget."

 

As he concluded, remembering how his father, Palestine's chief rabbi in the 1930s, protested the British White Paper restricting Jewish immigration, Herzog ripped up his copy of the resolution.

 

Herzog could tear the resolution to tatters. The UN could rescind it in 1991. Yet 34 years later this new Big Lie - whose Soviet and Nazi roots historian Bernard Lewis uncovered - persists. Jews, long victimized by racists and disgusted by racism, have been tagged as racists.

 

Israel, the Jewish people's collective entity, has been compared to apartheid South Africa, with the Palestinian-Israeli national conflict cast falsely as a racial conflict. And just as anti-apartheid activists once nobly agitated to boycott South African products, divest from South African companies and sanction South African racists, an ignoble BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions for Palestine) seeks to impose similar punishments on Israel.

 

BDS sounds like a new communicable disease; in many ways it is. It is viral and pathological; we ignore it at our peril.

 

One of the first sessions held as the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities convened this Sunday in Washington featured speakers who understand what Herzog understood, that this campaign reflects on its perpetuators - its perpetrators. It reflects their bias, their double standards, their blindness to the sins of others and their myopic obsession with Israel's imperfections.

 

Herzog understood something else too. Israel's adversaries have given it a gift of sorts by drawing a clear line in the sand. The BDS debate is not about "occupation" or borders or peace processes. It is not about Likud vs. Labor or Meretz vs. Shas. The BDS campaign assails Israel's legitimacy, declaring it so odious that no one should drink any Israeli wine, no one should enjoy any Israeli film, no one should collaborate with any Israeli academic. This BDS movement is an obscene campaign of blacklisting, demonizing and slandering, as activists in Toronto have redefined it, understanding we must name, shame and reframe.

 

SO FAR, the warfare has been asymmetrical. Facing the systematic BDS campaign to delegitimize Israel, Jewish groups have responded sporadically, haphazardly. But there is a growing awareness that the Jewish community needs a sophisticated, coordinated strategy. As Herzog's UN colleague Daniel Patrick Moynihan would later write: "It would be tempting to see in this propaganda nothing more than bigotry of a quite traditional sort that can, sooner or later, be overcome. But the anti-Israel, anti-Zionist campaign is not uninformed bigotry, it is conscious politics... It is not merely that our adversaries have commenced an effort to destroy the legitimacy of a kindred democracy through the incessant repetition of the Zionist-racist lie. It is that others can come to believe it also. Americans among them."

 

At the session which I moderated, and which attracted an overflow crowd, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, called this fight "the defining issue of our time." He said the Jewish people, despite our pride in being a tolerant people, must have "zero tolerance for this intolerance."

 

Professor Irwin Cotler, the former Canadian minister of justice and attorney-general, analyzed the anti-Israel "lawfare," showing how the language of human rights - the important infrastructure of international law - is hijacked to legalize and legitimize Israel's delegitimization.

 

He showed how this unrighteous assault using righteous concepts sought to make Israel today's "new anti-Christ." Cotler, a noted human rights activist, also reported that when he was invited to join a UN human rights inquiry whose biased anti-Israel mandate predetermined a guilty verdict, he said no. Cotler refused to be "a Jewish fig leaf," for a corrupted, anti-Israel, human rights-lynching, unlike his colleague Richard Goldstone.

 

The remainder of the session provided reports from the field of useful tactics to combat the Israel-haters. The Jewish community cannot do this alone. Relationships must be nurtured, grassroots must be tended to establish common cause against the forces of hatred. We must be proactive not reactive, nimble and subtle, mastering the insider lingo of each special interest group involved in a particular fight.

 

When boycotters targeted the Toronto International Film Festival, Hollywood heavyweights mobilized, not just to defend Israel, but to fight blacklists, which are anathema in that community. Corporations must realize how much money they will lose if the world market becomes a politically correct, divestment-strewn battlefield on which the world's despots target Israel, the perennial whipping boy, or some other perceived enemy. And soldiers fighting terror all over the world must realize that if Israel's anti-terror squads are prosecuted in international courts one day, America's or England's or Canada's war heroes could be next.

 

The pro-Israel community can make lemonade from these BDS lemons. In Toronto, when the BDSers boycotted Israeli wine merchants, they triggered a wave of Israeli wine purchases; when they protested a Dead Sea Scroll exhibit and the Toronto International Film Festival's tribute to Tel Aviv, they guaranteed sold-out events.

More broadly, we should seize this opportunity to reframe the debate away from the messy complexities of Israeli politics and Israeli-Palestinian disputes to the simple question the blacklisters-demonizers-slanderers raise about accepting or repudiating Israel's right to exist.

And we should recall, that just as 40 years ago the prospects of freeing Soviet Jewry seemed dim, just as a century ago the dream of a Jewish state seemed impossible, sometimes the good guys win, conditions improve, grassroots movements shape historical earthquakes.

 

The time to forge coalitions of the righteous against the hypocritically self-righteous has come. We need a sustained, effective, movement against the delegitimization of Israel, understanding that in defeating this Orwellian inversion of all that is good, we will restore the world's moral balance while defending the Jewish state, the Jewish people, and democracy from despots and terrorists.

 

The writer is professor of history at McGill University on leave in Jerusalem and the author of Why I Am A Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today and The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

LION'S DEN: SUDDEN JIHAD, OR INORDINATE STRESS AT FORT HOOD?

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 academia - stands on one side of this debate, insisting that some kind of oppression caused Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, 39, to kill 13 and wound 38 at Fort Hood on November 5.

 

It disagrees on the specifics, however, presenting 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 describing being deployed to Afghanistan as his "worst nightmare." Accordingly, a typical newspaper headline reads "Mindset of rogue major a mystery."

 

Instances of Muslim-on-unbeliever violence inspire this victim school to dig up new and imaginative excuses. Colorful examples (drawing on my article and Weblog entry about denying Islamist terrorism) include:

 

  1990: "A prescription drug for... depression" (to explain the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane)

 

  1991: "A robbery gone wrong" (the murder of Makin Morcos in Sydney)

 

  1994: "Road rage" (the killing of a random Jew on the Brooklyn Bridge)

 

  1997: "Many, many enemies in his mind" (a shooting murder atop the Empire State Building)

 

  2000: A traffic incident (the attack on a bus full of Jewish schoolchildren near Paris)

 

  2002: "A work dispute" (the double murder at LAX)

 

  2002: A "stormy [family] relationship" (the Beltway snipers)

 

  2003: An "attitude problem" (Hasan Karim Akbar's attack on fellow soldiers, killing two)

 

  2003: Mental illness (the mutilation murder of Sebastian Sellam)

 

  2004: "Loneliness and depression" (an explosion in Brescia, Italy outside a McDonald's restaurant)

 

  2005: "A disagreement between the suspect and another staff member" (a rampage at a retirement center in Virginia)

 

  2006: "An animus toward women" (a murderous rampage at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle in 2006)

 

  2006: "His recent, arranged marriage may have made him stressed" (killing with an SUV in northern California in 2006)

 

ADDITIONALLY, WHEN an Osama bin Laden-admiring Arab-American crashed his plane into a Tampa high-rise, blame fell on the acne drug Accutane.

 

I reject these explanations as weak, obfuscatory and apologetic. The jihadi school, still in the minority, perceives 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 jihadis and the history of Muslim violence on American soil.

 

We are not mystified by Hasan, but see overwhelming evidence of his jihadi intentions. He handed out Korans to neighbors just before going on his rampage, and yelled "Allahu akbar," the jihadi's cry, as he fired more than 100 rounds from two pistols. His superiors had reportedly put him on probation for inappropriately proselytizing about Islam.

 

We note what former associates say about him: one, Val Finnell, quotes Hasan saying: "I'm a Muslim first and an American second" and recalls Hasan justifying suicide terrorism; another, Col. Terry Lee, recalls that Hasan "claimed Muslims had the right to rise up and attack Americans"; the third, a fellow psychiatrist who worked closely with Hasan, 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 coreligionists, 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." Hasan himself, echoing that message, advised a young Muslim disciple, Duane Reasoner Jr., not to join the US army because "Muslims shouldn't kill Muslims."

 

If the jihad explanation is overwhelmingly more persuasive than the victim one, it's also far more awkward to articulate. Everyone finds blaming road rage, Accutane or an arranged marriage easier than discussing Islamic doctrines.

 

And so, a prediction: What Ralph Peters calls the army's "unforgivable political correctness" will officially ascribe Hasan's assault to his victimization, and will leave jihad unmentioned.

 

And thus will the army blind itself and not prepare for its next jihadi attack.

 

The writer (www.DanielPipes.org) is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

GRAPEVINE: THE GOOD WORD ABOUT ISRAEL

GREER FAY CASHMAN

 

HEBREW media have been having a field day at the expense of Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev, reporting almost gleefully that former consul-general in New York Alon Pinkas is in line to replace her and that her predecessor Dan Gillerman has been recruited in the campaign to refute the Goldstone report. Interviewed on Israel Radio, Shalev, 68, who has been in office since September 2008, put a damper on speculation about her future as a diplomat when she said that it had been understood from the very beginning that she would not serve for more than two years, and so it was appropriate that a search for a successor begin now. With regard to Gillerman, she said that the more capable people on board to explain Israel's cause, the better.

 

A professor of law with an international reputation, Shalev, for all her brilliance, is less dynamic than the charismatic Gillerman, and the media has pounced on this again and again. Of the country's 14 ambassadors to the UN, only five have been career diplomats. The articulate and knowledgable Pinkas, who is in frequent demand by major international and local media outlets as a commentator on both Israel and US affairs and who also defends Israel in global panel discussions, has served as an adviser to several foreign ministers, beginning with Shimon Peres. Prior to joining the foreign service, he worked as a defense correspondent for The Jerusalem Post.

 

  FOREIGN MINISTER Avigdor Lieberman took time out last week for a little personal business. Together with a group of other proud parents, he came to kvell at the ceremony marking the successful conclusion of an IDF officers' course. Among the graduates in the course was Lieberman's 21-year-old son Kobi. Lieberman, who usually keeps his emotions in check, could not control the glow of pride that spread across his face. Once the ceremony was over, he gave Kobi a warm embrace. To those who may have been somewhat surprised to see the soft side of his character, Lieberman said: "Politicians are parents too."

 

  MOUNT SCOPUS Memorial College of Melbourne, the largest Jewish day school in the Southern Hemisphere, is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Rabbi James Kennard, the seventh principal of the school, decided to kill three birds with one stone. He had come to escort a group of 10th graders who will spend several weeks here, living with Israeli families and seeing the country from the inside out, rather than the outside in. Aside from that, he has a son living here, so this was a good opportunity to see him. And in addition, since there are a lot of Mount Scopus Old Collegians here, a 60th anniversary was an excellent reason for a reunion. However in the latter case, Kennard found himself in a rather strange position at the Ramada Hotel in Jerusalem. He was hosting the reunion, but he was the odd man out, because he knew hardly any of his guests.

 

When the idea of a reunion was initially floated, Kennard told the gathering, it was thought that at best, 60 people would show up. In the final analysis, it was more than double that number, with quite a few people who had not previously indicated any interest, turning up on the night.

 

Although this was the fourth Mount Scopus Old Collegians reunion in Israel, there was still a degree of excitement, because the attendees represented the six decades history of the school and included Val Pachman who had been the school's first kindergarten teacher, five of her pupils and two people from the first graduating class: Louise (Goulburn) Israeli and Amiel Gurt, each of whom came armed with photographs from their schooldays. There was also a large contingent of last year's graduates, several of whom are spending a year here before continuing their studies at universities in Melbourne.

 

Surprisingly, Mark Regev, the Old Collegian with the best known face here and around the globe, was able to stay the duration of the evening. Regev, who is one of the busiest spokesmen for Israel, working out of the Prime Minister's Office, is constantly pursued by radio and television stations. A graduate of the class of '77, when he was still Mark Freiberg, he found time to swap memories with former classmates and with others whom he had known in school. Pachman and Jocelyn (Cohen) Goldberg of the class of '64, came with faded Jerusalem Post clippings containing a report of a previous Old Collegians reunion in 1985 at Moshav Beit Halevi, which is home to Old Collegian Denise (Goulburn) Cass of the class of '58. At that time, the school's founding principal Abe Feiglin had been visiting the country, and unlike Kennard, he was familiar with every face in the room, knowing some of those attending since their days in kindergarten.

 

The busiest person at this recent reunion was Jake Livni of the class of '72, who was running around photographing everyone and anyone, and who took numerous group shots for posterity.

 

When Pachman came across lawyer Zvi Ehrenberg, she excitedly told him that she had celebrated her wedding at the New Empire Ballroom in Melbourne of which his father had been a co-proprietor.

 

Garry Stock of the class of' '60, who today heads the James Richardson operations at Ben-Gurion Airport, and whose family remains closely involved with the college, acted as master of ceremonies, introducing Kennard to individuals at floor level and to the entire gathering from the podium.

 

Although there were several lawyers and doctors among the Old Collegians, there were also people in other fields. Esther (Rich) Katzir of the class of '61 works for Emunah, the religious women's organization that runs a network of educational facilities and villages for children at risk; David Stark of the class of '73 works for the Australian Consular Services; Tommy Lamm of the class of '63 was a long-time worker with the Jewish Agency prior to his early retirement; Anita (Klein) Weiss of the class of '61 runs a travel agency with her husband who is an honorary consul for Hungary; and Warren Zauer of the class of '67 deals in real estate.

 

For Paul Israel, of the class of '86 who was one of the key organizers of the event, there was a slight disappointment in that he was the only representative of his class. Organizing and networking comes easily to Paul Israel. It's something he does on a regular basis in his capacity as director of the Israel-Australia Chamber of Commerce. Also disappointed was Tamara (Leibler) Grynberg, who was likewise the only member of her class, but attributed this to the fact that many of her former classmates had seen each other at a recent Bnei Akiva reunion, and therefore did not feel the need to get together again so soon.

 

  MOVE OVER Charles Bronfman, Sammy Ofer, Shari Arison, Michael Steinhardt, Lynne Schusterman, Leonid Nevzlin, Dan David, Nochi Dankner and other local and overseas philanthropists who have given generously to numerous and varied projects here. Here comes David Azrieli, who intends to create Israel's largest philanthropic fund. In an interview with Yediot Aharonot, Azrieli, the shopping mall tycoon and real estate developer, who divides his time between Canada and Israel, and whose triple complex of triangular, round and rectangular buildings dominate the Tel Aviv skyline, said that he would leave the bulk of his estate to Israel to be administered through the Azrieli Foundation that supports a wide range of initiatives here and in Canada. Azrieli, whose fortune is estimated at around $2.5 billion, said that he would follow the example of Bill Gates and allocate between 75 percent and 80% of his fortune to the foundation, while still leaving a considerable sum for his children.

 

  WOMEN WANTING to enter the business world, but in need of a little help from those who are already

there, will benefit from a new organization called Yasmin, headed by Ofra Strauss, who chairs the Strauss Group of companies. A nonprofit organization designed to encourage initiative by females, Yasmin held a well attended conference at the Dan Carmel Hotel in Haifa where it also launched the Yasmin Internet portal. Among the guest speakers was Cherie Blair, wife of Quartet envoy to the Middle East and former British prime minister Tony Blair, who established the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women which aims to strengthen the capacity of women entrepreneurs in countries where they lack equal opportunities so they can grow their businesses and become greater contributors to their economies. This is accomplished by working with local partners to provide women with access to business development, networks and finances. Strauss wants to do something similar here for women from all branches of society regardless of ethnic or religious background. Women have a contribution to make to the economy she says, and all they need is the chance to prove their capabilities.

 

  OVER THE past few weeks, Israel Radio's Yaron Enosh has been interviewing veteran broadcaster Micha Limor about yekkes - the name given to early German immigrants because they continued to wear their jackets even when engaged in heavy manual labor. A jacket in German is jacke, with the j pronounced as y. These days Limor edits Yekinton, a monthly for yekkes, published by the Association of Israelis of Central European Origin, a nonprofit organization which was established for the welfare of Central European natives.

Among the many attributes of yekkes that came up in the course of their conversation was their hardiness of body and mind and their longevity. Generally speaking they live a long life. A few examples are former MK, ambassador to Denmark and founding director of the Center for Volunteer Services Esther Herlitz who recently celebrated her 88th birthday; actress Hana Meron who will be 86 on November 23 and fellow actress Orna Porat, 85, who are both still on the boards and considered to be the leading ladies of Israeli theater; retired Supreme Court justice Gabriel Bach, 82; industrialist Stef Wertheimer, 83; peace activist and journalist Uri Avnery, 86; former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post Ari Rath, 83; former Tel Aviv mayor Shlomo Lahat, who on November 9 celebrated his 82nd birthday; famed photographer David Rubinger, 85; Yehudit Huebner, 88, the first president of Emunah Israel and a former ambassador to Norway; plus relative youngsters former MK Modechai Virshubski, 79; Mr. Television Haim Yavin, 77; and spring chicken filmmaker Micha Shagrir, 72.

 

In Germany and Austria there is great interest in Yekinton and in yekkes who can remember pre-Holocaust Europe. Television and radio stations as well as newspapers and magazines are eager to interview them to gain a different perspective of history and the culture of those times.

 

  FOR THE third consecutive year, the Menta chain of stores in Delek gas stations sponsored the annual Wheels of Love Bike Ride which gives bike riders a great opportunity to see the country while raising money for the Jerusalem-based Alyn Hospital for children with special needs. Some 600 cyclists from 10 countries participated in this year's ride. Delek Retail CEO Haim Almoznino said that the Menta chain was happy to be a sponsor for such a worthy cause which serves not only the community of disabled children but helps to create social awareness of people with special needs.

 

  Thousands of people congregate in the Jerusalem International Convention Center on the closest Saturday to the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach to commemorate his teachings and his music. Carlebach referred to his followers as hevra. They were part of an extended family that stretches around the globe. They were and are not only part of his extended family, but of each other's. Many of them were far removed from any kind of religious observance. Some were drug addicts; some suffered from psychological problems; some had no sense of belonging to anything - and he took them all under his wing, and in the overwhelming majority of cases brought them back into the circle of Judaism. He was their anchor and their inspiration.

 

Today, his work is perpetuated by Shir L'Shlomo, the Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach Foundation, whose 12-member board includes Emuna Witt-Halevi, who not only travels abroad to impart his teachings, but who edits the annual "Kol Hevra" anthology which contains updates of what's happening in the lives of the hevra, shared poignant memories and photographs of Carlebach and tributes to Carlebach friends and followers who have joined him in the next world. Among those remembered in the current issue is Rabbi Mickey Rosen, the founder of YAKAR, an acronym for his late father and noted educator Rabbi Ya'acov Kopel Rosen, but also the Hebrew word for "dear." Indeed Rosen embraced humanity with the same non judgmental love as Shlomo Carlebach; sang Carlebach's tunes at his services and provided opportunities for Carlebach to teach at YAKAR when he was in Israel.

 

The current issue of Kol Hevra is also important because it marks the 20th anniversary of Carlebach's visit to Poland. He gave concerts and teach-ins in Biala, Lublin, Warsaw, Krakow and Katowice and helped many Jews raised as Catholics to rediscover their Jewish roots. As an outcome of this, Rosen pioneered a program for Polish Jews at YAKAR. Some of the young people who participated in this program decided to come on aliya. Others who returned to Poland are sharing their new-found knowledge with their peers. Yachad Witt, the eldest son among Witt-Halevi's 14 children celebrated his bar mitzva on that historic tour of Poland. It was the first bar mitzva to be celebrated in Warsaw in 50 years.

 

  SOME DAYS prior to the memorial rally in Kikar Rabin, the life and work of Yitzhak Rabin were commemorated at the Alexander Muss High School in Hod Hasharon via the Masa-sponsored Budokan Martial Arts and Fitness Program. Participants from several countries spend five months studying Jewish history, Hebrew and martial arts with champion Israeli exponents, such as judo champion Yonah Melnik, who trained soldiers participating in the Entebbe Operation, in self-defense. Amir Offer and Eyal Oren, two of the IDF officers who were directly involved in the daring Entebbe rescue operation in July, 1976, during Yitzhak Rabin's first term as prime minister, recounted their experiences in the dangerous mission in which they rescued hostages taken from a hijacked Air France plane.

 

Danny Hakim, who has won several international karate championships and who is one of the founders of the program as well as one of the martial arts teachers, emphasized the importance of learning history in the context of self defense. The Budokan program is a vehicle enabling young Jews from all over the world to strengthen their Jewish identity, their Jewish knowledge, their physical fitness and their self confidence.

 

  FOLLOWING HIS election to the Knesset, Dan Meridor had to give up his position as international chairman of the Jerusalem Foundation. However the position has remained in the family with the recent appointment to the same post of his brother Sallai Meridor. No novice to the international Jewish community or to movers and shakers in foreign governments, Sallai Meridor was Israel's ambassador to the US, prior to which he was chairman of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization.

 

As someone born, raised and educated in Jerusalem, the welfare of the city is close to his heart, and thus the job is more or less tailor-made for him. Meridor is scheduled to travel to the US on a fund-raising and familiarization tour. He probably knows most of the important American donors to the Jerusalem Foundation, but in his previous dealings with them, he was wearing a different hat. He has already boned up on the foundation's projects, and will be able to talk about them from first hand knowledge.

 

  JAPANESE AMBASSADOR Haruhisa Takeuchi hosted the Amos Ganor Foundation's awards ceremony at his residence in Herzliya Pituah. More than 60 guests, including Egyptian Ambassador Yasser Reda, Foreign Ministry Director-General Yossi Gal and Shimshon Shoshani, director-general of the Education Ministry, braved the heavy downpour to attend. While it's all very well to say that a little rain never hurt anybody, some parts of Herzliya Pituah and areas nearby were flooded.

 

The Ganor Foundation is named for deceased diplomat Amos Ganor, who while serving as ambassador to Japan made an enormous contribution to the enhancement of relations between the two countries. The Ganor Foundation was established as a means of continuing his work and grants scholarships to Israeli and Japanese students whose focal interest is on Middle East issues. Also present at the ceremony were Dalia Ganor, the widow of Amos Ganor, and journalist Akiva Eldar, chairman of the Ganor Foundation.

  DESPITE AN extremely busy schedule, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu made time last Thursday to celebrate the 51st birthday of his wife Sarah. The two had an intimate dinner at one of their favorite restaurants - not in Jerusalem, nor in Tel Aviv, nor even in Caesarea where they like to spend their weekends - but at Decks in Tiberias, located on the Lido beach of the Sea of Galilee, after having first checked in at the Scottish Hotel. That's certainly one way to get away from it all.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

REVOLUTIONS ARE A SERIOUS BUSINESS

NIR BOMS AND SHAYAN ARYA

 

Revolutions require zeal, energy and fervor - all of which need to be maintained. For the past 30 years, Iran's Islamic regime has struggled to keep its revolution alive. The latest round of the nuclear deal is no different. It is already presented as another revolutionary victory, and it might strengthen the hold of the fragile government in Teheran that is desperately seeking legitimacy since its controversial elections in June.

 

But legitimacy, we should note, is no longer in the hands of the International Atomic Energy Agency or the international community; it is in the hands of the Iranian people.

 

Take last week for example. November 4 was the official day of commemorating the seizure of the American Embassy in Teheran 30 years ago. It was intended to be a day of anti-American protests. But this year hundreds of thousands of Iranians poured into the streets to protest something else. Despite the Islamic regime's repeated warnings that any deviation from the official demonstration line would be met severely by the security forces, Iranians came out in defiance and again, just as they had for the past five months, shouted "Death to the dictator."

 

And just as in the past five months, video clips of these demonstrations circulated on the Internet. In one, young Iranians cheer and jump into the air as one of them tears down a huge banner of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In the clip, they throw the picture on the ground and walk on it. As Judith Miller wrote in her opinion piece on Fox Forum: "The Iranian government is now loathed by most of its people."

 

The demonstrations on November 4 were no surprise, especially after the last round just weeks ago on al-Quds Day.

 

International Quds Day is a day of Muslim solidarity with the Palestinian cause, and is scheduled for the last Friday of Ramadan. Traditionally - and ever since it was initiated by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini - this was one of the strongest rallies, orchestrated as a show of support for the revolution. Defying the supreme leader, who had warned not to use that day for anything except its intended purpose of solidarity with the Palestinians and opposition to Israel, millions of Iranians poured into the streets to do the exact opposite. They cheered another revolution on the streets of Teheran. They cheered the March of Liberty.

 

Before the demonstrations were even over, video clips were posted on the Internet. Masses of Iranians could be seen walking in the streets of Teheran, Shiraz, Isfahan and Tabriz with their green colors. Even more telling were the clips of official cheerleaders on the back of pickup trucks trying desperately to get people to chant "Death to America" - to which people would respond: "Death to Russia." Frustrated, the cheerleaders would shout, "Death to Israel" and people would shout back, "No to Gaza. No to Lebanon. We give our lives for Iran."

 

In an open letter to Mir Hossein Mousavi and former president Mohammad Khatami, Ahmad Tavakoli, one of the most prominent hard-line members of the parliament and head of the Center for Strategic Studies of the Islamic Parliament, expressed his outrage about the al-Quds Day events. He demanded that both Mousavi and Khatami distance themselves from the demonstrators and their slogans. The movement, he wrote, enjoys global support from the "enemies of Iran, the Islamic revolution and Muslims." Its members, he added, "are seculars who intend to challenge the Islamic regime."

 

Similar comments and expressions of outrage poured in from preachers all across the country.

In their outrage, the hard-liners unintentionally admitted something they had always tried to deny. For the first time, high-ranking officials were forced to admit that millions of Iranians have nothing in common with the Islamic revolution's ideology and are determined to challenge its authority.

 

And this might be another point in the history of a revolution in the making. Al-Quds Day and the November 4 demonstrations were a turning point in the Iranian people's struggle to regain their freedom. They taught the Iranians that they can turn government organized and sanctioned demonstrations that had worked for years as instruments of indoctrination and intimidation into a nightmare for the Islamic officials.

 

Thomas Jefferson once famously said, "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty."

 

For the past 30 years, people were fearful of the Islamic regime, but since June's presidential election and the al-Quds Day demonstrations, it seems like it is the Islamic regime that is increasingly more afraid of the people.

 

True liberty might not be granted yet, but its spirit is already marching in the streets of Teheran. There is no question about that.

 

Nir Boms is vice president of the Center for Freedom in the Middle East and a cofounder of the CyberDissident project. Shayan Arya is an Iranian activist and a member of the Constitutionalist Party of Iran.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

 

IS SWEDEN HEADED BACK TO THE PAST?

TOMAS SANDELL

 

This is an extract of a speech which will be given at a hearing in the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm today in connection with the debate on the article under the headline "Our sons are plundered for their organs" which appeared in Aftonbladet on August 17.


'This I will have to share..." It was with great admiration and deep sympathy that I listened to the opening address of the impressive Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust on 26 January 2000. Sweden, through its then prime minister Göran Persson, had taken the lead in alerting the world community about the deadly virus of anti-Semitism and about the need to keep the memory of the Shoah alive. In an unprecedented effort to combat new forms of anti-Semitism, 1 million copies of a book about the Shoah, Om detta må ni berätta ( This you will have to share), were distributed in Sweden.

 

Never would it have occured to me that almost exactly 10 years later I would be sitting in the Swedish Parliament opening my speech with these very same words. "This is what I need to share with you..." As a non-Swede and a non-Jew for that matter, but with a broad European outlook, I have to share what I have observed in that country in 2009, 10 years after this landmark conference.

 

Earlier this year a friendly David Cup tennis match in Malmö had to be played without a live audience since the mayor of the host city explained that he "could not guarantee the safety of the event." He also admitted that he "very much disliked the behavior of the Israeli army during Operation Cast Lead" and that he could "well understand the crowd that had gathered outside the match to shout anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish slogans." A small solidarity event in support for Israel had to be broken up "because the police could not guarantee their safety." Later an Israeli tennis player explained that "it felt odd to be able to play professional tennis in Qatar and Dubai but not in Malmö."

 

But violence against Israel has not been limited to Malmö. During a solidarity rally for Israel in Stockholm in January, the audience had to be escorted out from the church by the police, in groups of five. Some blamed the extraordinary measures on the tense situation in Gaza at the time, but the same procedure had to be applied also one year earlier during a Holocaust memorial service in the local synagogue during a period with relative calm in the Middle East.

 

In Israel, the government has been upset with the fact that anti-Israeli NGOs which campaign against the democratically elected government are openly funded by EU-member states. Few governments would accept to be systematically undermined by organizations funded by other nations. Among government agencies which have a long history of funding anti-Israeli groups is Sweden.

 

THE REASON why I am here today is not because of these examples alone, but to discuss the article which appeared in Aftonbladet in August which openly accused the IDF of harvesting organs from dead Palestinians, thus reactivating an old medieval myth of Jews as especially bloodthirsty creatures.

 

The diplomatic crisis which developed between Sweden and Israel as a result of the article will therefore have to be seen in this wider context. Is there latent anti-Semitism in Sweden and, if so, should we discuss it openly?

 

When the article appeared in Aftonbladet, the European Coalition for Israel which I represent, wrote an open letter to Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt asking for an "emergency meeting," very much the same way the EU had acted in 2004 when an EU-survey made it clear that Israel was regarded as the greatest threat to world peace. People have the right to speak their mind, regardless of if they are right or wrong. Newspapers have the right to publish bad articles although ethical guidelines must be adhered to. But a prime minister and a foreign minister of Sweden and at the same time leader of the presidency of the European Union needs to have the moral courage to speak out when he detects the deadly virus of anti-Semitism.

 

This is what the EU did in March 2004 when anti-Semitic sentiments were rampant in Europe and this is what they did again in 2005 when the publication of the Muhammad cartoons in Denmark created a stir in EU-Arab relations. On both occasions the EU called for an emergency summit to discuss these real problems.

 

AND YES, we have a problem today in the relations between Israel and Sweden. Anti-Semitism and xenophobia are gaining strength in Sweden and in Europe. The election results of the European Parliament in June, where several openly anti-Semitic and racist parties won seats, should leave us in no doubt about this. Perhaps it is symptomatic that the plans for the first openly "anti-Zionist party" has just been presented in Sweden. Their party leader openly welcomes neo-Nazis, radical Islamists as well as right-wing and left-wing extremists to join.

 

This is hardly the Sweden that Göran Persson was dreaming of 10 years ago or the Europe that the heads of state who participated in the Stockholm conference committed to building.

 

Now is the time to wake up. We owe it to the future generations of Europe and we owe it to the Holocaust survivors who we still have among us. Many of them are constantly asking if Europe will ever learn? Will we?

 

Let me seek the answers in two quotes from the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust, one from prime minister Göran Persson and another from Elie Wiesel.

 

"The future we are shaping now is the past that we will share tomorrow." But will our past become our children's future?

 

"Ladies and gentleman, let us help answer that question with a convincing 'no!'"

 

The writer is the founding director of the European Coalition for Israel.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

 

IN GERMANY, THE EAST-WEST DIVIDE IS STILL ALIVE AND KICKING

ANETTA KAHANE

 

Twenty years ago, the Berlin Wall came down. Germany then developed into a trustworthy partner and solid ally in Europe. Did this mean there was a good ending to the terrors of German history? Did November 9, 1989, with its "peaceful revolution" of East Germans, make up for November 9, 1938 with its Kristallnacht?

 

Shortly after the fall of the wall, international skepticism about a newly powerful Germany in the center of Europe stood in contrast to German euphoria. Today, the situation seems to have reversed. Germany is seen as a stable democracy, exemplary in its support for Israel. And Germany has showcased its friendliness and openness by being a good host for international events such as the World Cup.

 

Relief that the worst fears about the land of the perpetrators were unjustified, so that the world no longer needed to deal with the "ugly Germans," was cause for celebration. There are plenty of other problems in the world, and it is good to put the traumas of World War II, the Holocaust and German division behind us.

 

AND IN Germany? There, despite official celebration on the anniversary of the fall and elation at the international sense of relief about a good, normal country, there is skepticism in the general population about the consequences. Neo-Nazi crimes, anti-Semitic insults and anti-Israeli sentiment are on the rise. Should we ignore this to protect our relief?

 

The governor of the east German state of Brandenburg, Matthias Platzeck, said recently that it is time to have a reconciliation with "the Left" - the party that succeeded East German communists - just like people have reconciled themselves to the Waffen SS in the west. This thought reveals a dilemma of Germany's social policy after the fall of the wall, one that is responsible for modern neo-Nazism and contemporary anti-Semitism that focuses on Israel.

 

During unification, the west invested heavily in infrastructure in the east while it turning a blind eye to the social reality there. This was done for pragmatic reasons; the idea was to align the east with the west, and thus governance structures from the west were simply transposed onto the east.

 

In the process, east German elites were sidelined. The curious justification for this by the children of the earlier perpetrators was that they didn't want to repeat the mistakes of the Federal Republic and integrate former Nazis into society - this mistake, they said, should also not be repeated in the east with the communists.

 

But a significant fact was forgotten: Nazi crimes were also committed in the territory that became East Germany. Nazis, Nazi supporters and bystanders were integrated into East German society. In East Germany too, people profited from the murder of Jews. And whereas society's involvement in Nazi crimes has been very slowly and laboriously worked through in West Germany, in East Germany the population was spared this painful confrontation thanks to a general ideological amnesty.

 

The people had been seduced by fascism, the amnesty declared. In east Germany, November 9, 1938 is not a day of remembrance of the general pogrom against Jews. Instead, it is commemorated as the launching event of the fascists's imperialist war. There is hardly any individual reckoning with the Nazi past. East Germany has reinvented itself as the "better" Germany, and refuses to acknowledge German guilt.

 

The wall functioned as a corset within which all kinds of stereotypes, including anti-Semitism in the shape of anti-Israeli policy, continued to operate. After the fall of the wall, the east was able to breathe out this conserved legacy. The West was not interested in delving into east German sensitivities, and definitely not into this one. To revisit the difficult path to democracy would have been uncomfortable and would have required much more than building highways and setting up administrative structures. It was easier simply to accept the myth of east Germany as a space devoid of history, for which people use the term "anti-fascism."

 

THE WEST'S willful ignorance has had dramatic consequences. Neo-Nazis in various guises dominate entire regions in the east. They wear suits and sit in regional parliaments, they set the tone among youths at everything from small-town discos to medieval fairs, they beat up and even kill people who are not like them (homeless persons, ethnic minorities, gays) and they control discussion forums on the Internet. They do all this while openly invoking their grandfathers.

 

The east German successor party, "the Left," has managed to become widely popular because it did what the other parties neglected to do - it showed interest in the moods and sensitivities of the population. But this is the party in which the litmus test for progressiveness is to question Israel's core principles. Slowly but surely this party is becoming established in the West as well.

 

Neo-Nazis and the Left express extremist ideas that are becoming commonplace in general German society: a sometimes malignant anti-Zionism that is completely oblivious to the realities of the Middle East. Thus it is necessary to say that the fall of the wall and the accompanying euphoria have made something possible that would not have been possible 20 years ago. A run-of-the-mill social worker in Berlin may now tell the youths he works with, without causing concern: "Don't say Jewish pig. Just say you are critiquing Israel's policy."

 

Germany remains caught in the framework of its history. Did November 9, 1989 replace November 9, 1938? That remains wishful thinking, international elation notwithstanding.

 

The writer is founder and chairwoman of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation (http://www.amadeu-antonio-stiftung.de/eng/) which monitors neo-Nazi activity in Germany.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

WITH MOFAZ AS BEILIN