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Saturday, November 14, 2009

EDITORIAL 14.11.09

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 14, edition 000350, 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. USEFUL COVER FOR JIHADIS
  2. RACIST BUNKUM ON TIBET
  3. A POSSIBLE ALTERNATIVE - ASHOK MALIK
  4. CONVICTION NEEDED TO BE BRAVE - AJIT BISHNOI
  5. OBAMA'S FIRST TRYST WITH HISTORY - S RAJAGOPALAN
  6. TOWARDS A SOCIALIST AMERICA? - SWARN KUMAR ANAND
  7. THIS COULD DRAIN AMERICA - JAYSHREE SENGUPTA

MAIL TODAY

  1. GOVT'S COMPLACENCY ON PRICES IS APPALLING
  2. WHY HIM OF ALL PEOPLE?
  3. SLEEPING AT THE WHEEL
  4. FAMILY POLITICS - BY NARENDAR PANI
  5. SACHIN THE BEST I - QAISER MOHAMMAD ALI
  6. AZZA WAS IN A CLASS OF HISOWN, SAYS HIS FATHER

TIMES OF INDIA

  1. A POLITICAL ZOO STORY
  2. FREEDOM'S NOT JUST ANOTHER WORD
  3. MAKE HISTORY SEXY
  4. DUMB AND DUMBER -
  5. AT LAST, GOOD NEWS ABOUT POVERTY - GURCHARAN DAS 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERS
  2. SCEPTICS, ONCE AGAIN - BARKHA DUTT
  3. FAITH, A LOST COMMODITY - PRATIK KANJILAL
  4. A GLOBAL FAMILY - SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR

INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. MULTIPLE CHOICE
  2. WEEK LINK
  3. TAKE A VOTE
  4. OUR FAFF-PAK POLICY - SHEKHAR GUPTA
  5. OBAMA'S BURMA MOMENT - ALIA ALLANA
  6. REASSESSING NEHRU - K NATWAR SINGH
  7. THE FUTILITY OF A CASTE CENSUS - A M SHAH
  8. I, ROBOT. YOU, HUMAN TARGET
  9. RADIOACTIVE REPORTING - RUCHIKA TALWAR

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. THE POLITICAL MARKET
  2. HOW TO FIGHT PIRATES
  3. LET BIDDING BEGIN IN THE MARKET - RAJESH CHAKRABARTI
  4. HOW THE BJP CAN GET IT RIGHT - JEEVAN DEOL
  5. FOR MUTUAL BENEFIT? - CHIRAG MADIA
  6. REPORT CARD

THE HINDU

  1. SLIP SLIDING AWAY
  2. OBAMA TREATS U.S. HEALTHCARE
  3. A NOBEL PRIZE FOR POLITICAL SCIENCE - JORGE HEINE
  4. CHINA'S GROWING GLOBAL ROLE UNDERLIES TENSIONS AHEAD OF OBAMA'S VISIT - ANANTH KRISHNAN
  5. THE CHALLENGE OF TACKLING DIABETES - V. MOHAN
  6. FUTURE OIL SHORTAGES DRASTICALLY UNDERPLAYED, SAY EXPERTS - TERRY MACALISTER

ASIAN AGE

  1. A NEW FRONT IN WAR ON TERROR
  2. DOOMSDAY IS NIGH - FARRUKH DHONDY
  3. HIJAB: REBELLION, CHOICE OR DIKTAT? - KISHWAR DESAI
  4. A SONG AND A FATWA - BY JAVED ANAND

DNA

  1. TERROR TRACK
  2. IDENTITY ISSUES - FARRUKH DHONDY 
  3. WHAT ME WORRY? - SWAMI NITHYANANDA 
  4. NO NATIONAL LANGUAGE?

THE TRIBUNE

  1. MAOIST STANDOFF IN NEPAL
  2. JUDICIAL CHECKMATE
  3. TIME TO TAKE OFF
  4. PAK'S HIGH-END TERROR - BY MAJ-GEN ASHOK K MEHTA (RETD)
  5. BAU JI - BY RAJBIR DESWAL
  6. DURBAR MOVE - BY EHSAN FAZILI
  7. DITHERING OVER NUCLEAR PLANT - BY SARBJIT DHALIWAL
  8. INSIDE PAKISTAN - BY SYED NOORUZZAMAN

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

  1. INDO-BANGLA TIES
  2. INVISIBLE WALLS
  3. THE CHERRA–COMPANYGUNJ MOUNTAIN RAILWAY - ARUP KUMAR DUTTA
  4. CHILDREN'S DAY AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE - DR. JYOTSNA BHATTACHARJEE

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. TURN AWAY SOME OF THAT NRI MONEY
  2. A STRANGE POWER LIST
  3. LEFT IN THE LURCH
  4. ULEMA'S PRIORITIES MUST CHANGE - M Y KHAN
  5. LET HOST NATION REGULATE FOREIGN FINANCE - LEONARD SEABROOKE
  6. A TRUE SAVANT, FULL OF EQUIPOISE - VITHAL C NADKARNI
  7. 'INDIAN IT COS CAN BUILD SYSTEMS AT LOWER COST POINTS'
  8. 'INDIA WILL BE A BIG FOOD EXPORTER' - NIDHI SHARMA

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. A NEW FRONT IN WAR ON TERROR
  2. INDIAN CRICKET AND THE KILLER INSTINCT - BY SHIV VISVANATHAN
  3. US COULD PICK JOB TIPS FROM GERMANY - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  4. DOOMSDAY IS NIGH  - BY FARRUKH DHONDY
  5. HIJAB: REBELLION, CHOICE OR DIKTAT? - BY KISHWAR DESAI
  6. OF FRUIT FLIES AND DRONES - BY ROGER COHEN

the statesman

  1. SWEET & SOUR
  2. MORTAL MEASLES
  3. METRO EXPANSION
  4. NEHRUVIAN DILEMMA - SAMAR BAGCHI

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. KEEP THEM SEPARATE
  2. FOREIGN COUNTRY - SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. A RETURN TO AMERICAN JUSTICE
  2. THAT $35 CUP OF COFFEE
  3. RESPECT FOR RAPE VICTIMS
  4. ROOT HOLD - BY VERLYN KLINKENBORG
  5. ONCE AGAIN, INTO THE APOCALYPSE - BY GAIL COLLINS
  6. THE PASSION OF THE RIGHT - BY CHARLES M. BLOW
  7. A RECOVERY FOR SOME - BY BOB HERBERT
  8. THE YOUNG AND THE RECKLESS - BY ELIZABETH S. SCOTT AND LAURENCE STEINBERG

I.THE NEWS

  1. NO BIG SURPRISES
  2. ORGAN TRAFFICKING
  3. IMF AND POWER
  4. THE KNIVES ARE OUT - ARIF NIZAMI
  5. NEW BUBBLES IN THE MAKING? - DR MEEKAL AZIZ AHMED
  6. HILLARY'S NEW 'BLANK PAGE' - SHAMSHAD AHMAD
  7. MODERNS, MODELS AND MARTYRS - FARZANA VERSEY
  8. OUR ZARDARI PROBLEM - BABAR SATTAR
  9. EXPOSED! - ANJUM NIAZ

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. GB COMES IN MAINSTREAM OF DEMOCRACY
  2. DON'T DELAY BALOCHISTAN PACKAGE FURTHER
  3. SHOCKING INCIDENT OF IRANIAN CONSULATE OFFICIAL
  4. HILLARY'S PARTING KICK! - NOSHEEN SAEED
  5. GILANI-NAWAZ MEETING - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  6. TRNC SHOWS ROBUST OPTIMISM - GAUHAR ZAHID MALIK
  7. CAN DIPLOMACY RESOLVE ANTI-AMERICANISM? - GHAZANFAR ALI GREWAL
  8. OF FRUIT FLIES AND DRONES - ROGER COHEN

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. RICE PROCUREMENT
  2. IMPACT OF REMITTANCE
  3. 'STREET FIGHTER' SYNDROME…! - ROBERT CLEMENTS
  4. BRAHMAPUTRA RIVER TRAINING: LESSONS TO LEARN - KAZI IQBAL HASSAN
  5. A DAUNTING CHALLENGE NOT BEYOND OUR REACH - MEHREEN WITH AMANULLAH KHAN AND ABDUR RAHMAN JAHANGIR
  6. INDONESIAN ISLAM AT A CROSSROADS  - DR TERRY LACEY

THE HIMALAYAN

  1. INDIFFERENCE SPEAKS
  2. TEMPORARY TRUCE
  3. CREDOS;CREATE A WINNING ATTITUDE — II - ROBERT KNOWLTON
  4. PAIR BONDING - MARNIA ROBINSON
  5. MICROCREDIT AS THE SAVIOUR THE "YES WE CAN" SPIRIT - SAM DALEY-HARRIS

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. OUR POPULAR PM SHOULD EXPLOIT HIS CAPITAL
  2. HYPERBOLE UNDERMINES DEBATE
  3. WHEN ONE EQUALS ONE

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. TRANSPARENCY BENEFITS PARENTS, CHILDREN AND SCHOOLS
  2. COMMUNITY VALUES WIN JACKPOT
  3. TALE OF TWO TIGERS ATTESTS TO THE VALUE OF CHARACTER

THE GURDIAN

  1. UNTHINKABLE? FIXING PRICES FOR FOSSIL FUELS
  2. SPACE EXPLORATION: TAKING THE LONG VIEW
  3. ELECTORAL REFORM: CHANGE OR DECAY

THE KOREA HERALD

  1. OBAMA AND TRADE
  2. WOMEN IN COMBAT?
  3. SLOUCHING TOWARD SANITY IN POLICY  - J. BRADFORD DELONG 
  4. WILL THE CRISIS RESULT IN TRANSITION? - ERIK BERGLOF

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. WHEN THE WALL CAME DOWN
  2. CHINA-INDIA TENSIONS RISING - BY BRAHMA CHELLANEY

 THE JAKARTA POST

  1. BULLYING CULTURE
  2. THAKSIN'S GAMBLING
  3. TOWARDS GREENER "GREEN" - DONY PASARIBU
  4. BIG CITY MOMMIES `TOO POSH TO PUSH' - KANTI PERTIWI
  5. JAKARTA'S REGIONAL STRATEGY ON THE RIGHT TRACK - JOHN LEE
  6. APEC: TOWARD A STABLE AND PROSPEROUS COMMUNITY- DMITRY MEDVEDEV

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

USEFUL COVER FOR JIHADIS

GET A CHRISTIAN NAME AND US CITIZENSHIP


The David Headley-Tahawwar Hussein Rana story is fast turning into a jihadi pot-boiler now that amazing details are coming to the fore with investigators in India and the US connecting the proverbial dots of an elaborate conspiracy to strike terror with stunning consequences. Both Headley and Rana are of Pakistani origin and went to the same school before migrating to the West. Headley headed for the US where he acquired American citizenship and subsequently discarded his original name, Dawood Gilani — interestingly, he did so before arriving in India in 2006. Rana travelled further north to Canada, became a Canadian citizen but retained his Islamic name. It now transpires that both Headley and Rana signed up with Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, obviously inspired by Hafiz Saeed's ideology of hate, and used their American and Canadian identities as a convenient cover to plot death and destruction at the behest of their mentors in Pakistan. Striking high profile targets like India's National Defence College and the offices of the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten, which published cartoons allegedly lampooning Prophet Mohammed, were on the to-do list of Headley and Rana; they would have possibly gone ahead with their jihadi mission had the FBI not arrested them. It is evident that the two LeT operatives had put in much effort into planning their terror strikes: Headley spent two years in Mumbai and travelled to Delhi several times; Rana is known to have visited him in this country. While what they could have done is still in the realm of possibility, the crimes they have already committed can — and must — be traced back to them. For instance, they are likely to have played a role in the 26/11 multiple terrorist attacks in Mumbai; they ran the Tardeo-based Immigrant Law Centre which investigators believe helped wanted terrorists like Abdul Subhan Qureshi and Riyaz Shahbandri of the Indian Mujahideen escape from India; and, they recruited SIMI activists for foreign 'jobs' with the help of the promoters of the Islamist channel, Peace TV. The Government of India has booked both men under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, charging them with waging war on the nation; it must now vigorously pursue their extradition from the US to stand trial in India.

Strangely, the US has been reticent about allowing Indian investigators access to the accused men although the FBI is sending a team to India for details about their involvement in crimes committed here. It would be in order for the Government not to entertain any queries — if the US wants India to fight the war on terror on its own, so be it; but in that event, Washington should not expect any assistance from New Delhi. Meanwhile, certain questions need to be answered by the US Administration and its counter-terrorism officials. For instance, we need to know the efficacy of homeland security measures like racial and religious profiling which have become an obsession with American officials who seem to derive perverse pleasure from harassing and humiliating travellers to that country if they happen to have a Muslim name or if the colour of their skin is a shade darker than white. Does a Christian name — for example, David Headley — provide immunity from scrutiny? It would seem so. Dawood Gilani was clever enough to realise this simple fact; so may have many more jihadis embedded in American society.

 

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THE PIONEER

RACIST BUNKUM ON TIBET

CHINA COMES UP WITH ABSURD THEORY


As US President Barack Obama embarks on his first tour of Asia, China has given the Tibetan issue a whole new twist to win him over. Beijing has likened its occupation of Tibet with the anti-slavery movement in American history. It has recalled how former US President Abraham Lincoln had fought to preserve the unity of the American federation and had helped usher in an era of equality to justify the horrible abuses it has inflicted on the Tibetan people. And it sincerely hopes that Mr Obama, being the first Black US President, would surely appreciate China's position on Tibet as much as he does Lincoln's contribution to shaping America's identity. Nothing could be more ridiculous. For China to compare its occupation of Tibet to the American anti-slavery movement is an insult to the latter. Indeed, Lincoln would be turning in his grave. To even speak of the two events in the same context is sacrilege. No one in his or her right mind would ever believe, as Beijing would like us to, that the occupation of Tibet was a liberating event that freed Tibetans from the bondages of serfdom. The thousands that have been killed by the People's Liberation Army since 1950 and the inhuman repressive measures that have been adopted by the Chinese Government to muzzle Tibetan aspirations hardly need to be reiterated. Since the present Dalai Lama fled Tibet for India in 1959 after a failed uprising, China has carried out a systematic campaign of cultural genocide, supplanting Tibetan culture with the dominant Chinese Han culture. Far from developing Tibet, Beijing has sought to colonise it, reducing Tibetans to the status of slaves.

China's pathological hatred for the Dalai Lama and his supporters is rooted in its contempt for opposing points of view. Even though the Tibetan spiritual leader has long adopted the political philosophy of 'Middle Path', seeking only true autonomy for Tibet within the Chinese framework, Beijing still insists on portraying him as a 'separatist' leader. The truth is the Dalai Lama represents the antithesis of everything that China is. And it scares Beijing to the core to see the Tibetan leader receive any political acknowledgement. This is not surprising, given that the very foundation of governance in China is totalitarian oppression. The reason why China has of late been so jittery about the Dalai Lama is because he has been in the news — his trip to Arunachal Pradesh has certainly ruffled feathers in Beijing. Now, with the possibility of the US President meeting the spiritual leader after his China visit looming large, Beijing is taking no chances. It is because of this reason that the Chinese have tried to appeal to Mr Obama's Black roots. And it is precisely because he identifies with the Black rights movement that Mr Obama should pay no heed to China's bunkum.

 

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            THE PIONEER

COLUMN

A POSSIBLE ALTERNATIVE

ASHOK MALIK


Many Indians fear the collapse of Pakistan and the imminent takeover of the state by a rampaging army ofAllah. They worry the Pakistani elite — English speaking, whisky drinking, Western and liberal in its personal lives — will simply run away, leaving behind a rump civil society: Illiterate and undereducated millions who will become cannon fodder for the Islamists.


Reality may not be so black and white. It is more likely the Islamisation of Pakistan's polity and society — the tussle between an upper crust that is half embarrassed, half in denial and, at the back of its mind, very, very afraid, and the mullah-jihadi duumvirate — will be a gradual one.


For security reasons, external powers will shore up the nominally secular or moderate elite. The debate between local traditions and mono-cultural, Arab interpretations of Islam will be long drawn, and while headed in one direction will not end in one day, perhaps not even in one century. What it will do, however, is paralyse a society and not let it achieve its potential.


How do we know this? Is there a template for Pakistan? Perhaps there is no one template but several, spread across failed states and a variety of Islamic societies caught in a wrenching struggle between the call of a supranational faith and a modernity rooted in nationalism. The author may not have intended it that way, but Sadanand Dhume's book My Friend, the Fanatic (Tranquebar), just released in India, not only interrogates Indonesia's conversion, inch by inch, from a country of pluralist Muslims to one where Islamism is clearly on the ascendant, but also offers us a prism through which to understand Pakistan.


As Dhume, a Washington-based writer and cartographer of the many social Islams that inevitably seem to gravitate towards the one political Islam, puts it in a conversation, Indonesia represents the eastern edge of a historical contest between "the Sanskritic and Arabist civilisations". The contest was lost centuries ago at its western end — Afghanistan — and has ceded ground, by miles rather than inches, in Pakistan.


In 1947, Pakistan was a Muslim homeland but still a South Asian country, very much situated in the ethos of the Indian subcontinent. Today, it looks in the direction of West Asia and the Arabian desert for a mother culture and a societal anchor. Likewise, says Dhume, the young Muslim boys and girls growing up in Java are probably the first generation in their communities "who do not know who Bhima and Arjuna were". Islamist preachers have, for instance, forbidden rice farmers worshipping a local goddess of fertility, whose origins lie in a pre-Islamic veneration of agriculture.


Indeed, the evolution of Indonesian society in the period following the 2002 Bali bombings is particularly insightful. Dhume reports this in real time. Landing in Bali as a news reporter the day after the attack on the Sari nightclub killed some 150 Australian tourists, he was fascinated by the radicalism that was beginning to become more than just a fringe movement in a country he had travelled to and lived in. He quit his job and decided to become a chronicler of Indonesia's new engagement with Islam.


The book is a result of those efforts. Dhume captures a period when the Islamisation debate was no more a passive, theoretical discussion. It acquired a trenchant edge and was, to use a colloquial expression, very in-your-face. It was a period that forced people to make choices, and also pushed upper class elites into denial, dissimulation, saying different things to different audiences, and pretending the problem would resolve itself. In a sense, this could describe Pakistan after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007.
There are other parallels. Each time there is a Taliban-triggered bombing in, say, Peshawar, crowds gather and chant slogans against America and India. After the Bali bombings, Indonesia was subjected to numerous and fairly complicated theories arguing American and Israeli intelligence were behind the massacre.


There were comic phenomena, and then there were chilling ones. After Bali, Abu Bakar Bashir, leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah, became a terrorist icon and South-East Asia's Osama bin Laden. In large swathes of Indonesia, however, he was anointed a folk hero. Herry, the friend and fanatic Dhume refers to in his book title, named Bashir "Man of the Year" on the cover of the magazine he (Herry) edited.


Herry takes Dhume to meet Bashir in his prison cell, greeting the evil genius as "ustad" (a term of respect with origins in Arabic rather than Bahasa or any known Indonesian language). Bashir is blunt: "Bush said if you're not with us you're against us. I'm against them. It's a choice — like water and fire, or between carrots and steak. I'm a Muslim. I'm a leader of Hezbollah (the party of God); he is the leader of the kafirs."


Bashir had made his choice. He expected everybody in Indonesia to make theirs too — or face the consequences.

In the time Dhume knows them, Herry and wife have two daughters. The first is named Draupadi, as is so common with Indonesians comfortable with a Muslim religious identity and a Hindu cultural idiom. By the time the younger daughter, Ziyadilma, comes along, Herry has exorcised himself of his pre-Islamic legacy (or baggage). He is now writing pamphlets called Signs of Freemasons and Zionists in Indonesia, exploring hidden meanings in pyramids on United States dollar bills and — combining economic grievance with religious prejudice — holding forth on "the Jewish characteristics of the Chinese".


Is it any different from street discourse in Lahore or Rawalpindi denouncing the scheming Hindu 'lalas'? The economically successful neighbour is always a problem, in Mexico as much as in North Korea. In Islamist mythology, however, the successful neighbour is also the religious infidel, a regional variant of the grasping Shylockian Jew.


In the past half-decade, Indonesia has not surrendered to JI or to the Islamist political parties. Rather, pushed by Australia, it has busted terror cells, and its elite continue their libertine partying amid the dazzle of upmarket Jakarta. The economy too has begun to recover. Yet, even in a country blessed with enormous natural resources and rich economic and social achievement this is not going to be enough. The Islamist straitjacket can be pushed back but never broken. To think that could be Pakistan's best case scenario.


malikashok@gmail.com

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

CONVICTION NEEDED TO BE BRAVE

AJIT BISHNOI


World War II was almost over. Still, Hitler was unrelenting in his insane determination to exterminate Jews. A batch of around 20,000 Jews were in a concentration camp. Orders had come from Berlin to go ahead with their execution. However, the head of the concentration camp was not willing to go ahead with this mindless killing of innocent people. But he had a serious problem on his hands. If he did not obey Hitler's orders, his wife's life would be in mortal danger. She was living in Berlin at the time, teaching at the local university.


Hitler knew that some of his officers were not entirely convinced about his policy of elimination of Jews. In order to ensure that there was full compliance of his orders, he had his secret police keeping track of family members of his officers. In case they did not carry out his orders, the family members were punished along with them.

This man at the concentration camp knew the consequences of flouting Hitler's orders. He spoke to his wife and appraised her of his predicament. He knew well that his wife would be in mortal danger if he did not carry out his orders.


His wife promised to get back to him the next day. She said she was waiting for the results of some tests she had got done. Next day she called to say that she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer of the brain and had little time to live. She had suffered from intense headaches a few days before and had got herself examined. She had decided to call him once the results of the tests were out.


This is what she told her husband the next day, "War is coming to an end in a few days. If you do not go ahead with the execution of the Jews there is a good possibility that they will escape this inhuman end. I am dying in any case. If you feel so strongly about these Jews and are prepared to stake your personal life for them you have my full support."


The husband, heartbroken by the news about his wife, did not go ahead with the execution as planned. Once Hitler came to know about this, he sent his secret police to arrest this man's wife. They couldn't since she had committed suicide. She was perfectly healthy at the time of her death; she had made up the story of suffering from cancer. It was her inner strength that had led her to take this extreme step, proving that real bravery comes from within through conviction. All of us would do well to remember this.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

OBAMA'S FIRST TRYST WITH HISTORY

BARACK OBAMA CAME TO OFFICE PROMISING 'CHANGE' AND NOW, THROUGH HIS HISTORIC HEALTH CARE LEGISLATION, HE HAS TAKEN HIS FIRST BIG SWIPE. QUESTION IS: WILL THE ENTRENCHED ELITE ON CAPITOL HILL COOPERATE?

S RAJAGOPALAN


I remember my mother. She was 53-year old when she died of ovarian cancer, and you know what she was thinking about in the last months of her life? She wasn't thinking about getting well. She wasn't thinking about coming to terms with her own mortality. She had been diagnosed just as she was transitioning between jobs. And she wasn't sure whether insurance was going to cover the medical expenses because they might consider this a preexisting condition. I remember just being heartbroken, seeing her struggle through the paperwork and the medical bills and the insurance forms. So, I have seen what it's like when somebody you love is suffering because of a broken health-care system. And it's wrong. It's not who we are as a people.


That was Obama remembering his mother Ann Dunham in the course of one of his Presidential campaign speeches — and arguing forcefully for health-care overhaul in America. During the protracted campaign, he came upon many others with harrowing experiences of medical conditions which the powerful health insurance companies would just not cover, some of which he would relate movingly. So, there has been no mistaking the passion with which he has tried to get the US Congress endorse his agenda for health care overhaul right in his first year in office, knowing full well that it will be a Herculean task to upset the entrenched special interest groups.

Fewer issues have been more polarising than health care reform in an ideologically-driven US Congress. Little wonder then that Obama and his determined pro-reform phalanx in the Democratic Party got a shot in the arm last Saturday, when the House of Representatives approved a $1.2 trillion health reform legislative package. It was a touch-and-go affair though for the 2,000-page Bill, with the House finally clearing the measure by a wafer-thin margin (220-215), with 39 Democrats actually voting against. Nonetheless, it was the first forward movement on health reforms in decades. The last bid by the Clinton administration in 1994 had come a cropper right at the outset.


Broadly, the House Bill would expand health coverage to 36 million of the US's 45 million uninsured; require most Americans to carry insurance and provide subsidies to those who otherwise could not afford it; require large companies to offer coverage to employees or pay penalties; set up a public option plan to compete with private insurance plans with the aim of increasing competition and lowering costs; prevent insurers from cherry picking by denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and canceling policies when people become sick; and forbid the setting of lifetime benefit caps that force persons with severe illnesses into bankruptcy.

Obama, who made a trip to Capitol Hill hours before the vote, was quick to hail the passage. He spoke of the "millions of Americans whose lives will change when we achieve insurance reform - families with pre-existing conditions who will finally have insurance coverage; parents who will be protected from annual and lifetime limits that can force them to pay exorbitant out-of-pocket costs for a child's illness; small businesses that will finally be able to cover their employees; and working folks who will finally be able to afford health insurance for the very first time". He immediately spoke to Katie


Gibson, a cancer survivor from Montana, telling her that if the Bill passed by the House becomes law, it will become possible to "protect Americans just like her from the kinds of insurance company abuses she had to endure".
But the reality is the hard part begins only now as the focus shifts to the Senate. It will be an understatement to say that the reform legislation faces a critical journey there because it has some tough rules of procedure. Even to get the debate started on this hot-button issue, 60 votes would be needed in the 100-member chamber. The Democrats have 58 members, with two Independents normally voting with them, thus making the cut. But not all Democrats can be taken for granted. Also, one of the two Independents, Senator Joe Lieberman, has served notice that if the House bill's "public option" insurance plan is included in the Senate version, he "will not allow this bill to come to a final vote". According to him, the debt burden of this option "can break America".


In the Democratic camp itself, a new complication has cropped up over restrictions put in the House Bill on federal funding of abortions. If Senator Ben Nelson is firm on the Senate version retaining this provision, fellow Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer and Kirsten Gillibrand stoutly would oppose. Nelson, the moderate Democrat from Nebraska, has been regarded as a fence-sitter on the health reform legislation. Another Democrat opposed to a government-run insurance plan is Senator Mary Landrieu from Louisiana. Nelson, Landrieu and a third Democratic Senator, besides independent


Lieberman, have demanded that the legislative text of the Senate bill be available online for 72 hours before any floor debate.


All these threatening postures are being seen as clear hurdles to any quick action in the Senate.


The broad expectation has been that the Senate may take up the debate next week, but till the time of writing there has been no definitive word. The focus is on Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is responsible for crafting a Bill that would pass muster by accommodating the different constituencies without unduly diluting the provisions. The House Bill apart, Reid has two different Bills drawn up by colleagues on two key Senate committees to mix and match. Reid himself has sent his proposals to the Congressional Budget Office and is awaiting word about the cost and coverage implications.


Few expect the House legislation to survive in the Senate.

 

So much so, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham proclaimed: "The House Bill is dead on arrival in the Senate." His party promptly dismissed the Democratic effort as a "government takeover of health care" that would "bankrupt" America. All 40 Republicans in the Senate and a few Democrats are known to oppose the publicly funded insurance option. But most Democrats back some form of public option. "Sixty per cent of the American public want a public option, and I think we should be listening to them as much as listening to ourselves," says Senator Jack Reed from Rhode Island.


There, however, are warning signs. If Majority Leader Reid presses ahead with the House-type of public option, critics may well take recourse to the Senate's unique filibuster mechanism to block a vote. There has been talk of some compromise moves, not particularly appealing, such as the "trigger option" or a government plan that states could opt out of, but it remains to be seen what Reid finally does and how soon. In the midst of their confabulations this week, the Senate Democrats had an unusual visitor — former President Bill Clinton. He was out there to give them a luncheon pep talk on health reform. What did he tell them? "It's not important to be perfect here. It's important to act, to move, to start the ball rolling," he told reporters later. "The worst thing is to do nothing."

 

The writer is The Pioneer's Washington correspondent


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THE PIONEER

OPED

TOWARDS A SOCIALIST AMERICA?

THE PASSAGE OF THE 'AMERICA'S AFFORDABLE HEALTH CHOICES ACT OF 2009' MADE HISTORY IN THE CAPITAL OF WORLD CAPITALISM ON THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL — IS THIS A NEW CHAPTER FOR SOCIALISM?

SWARN KUMAR ANAND


At a time when US President Barack Obama faces stiff opposition in the US Congress due to the prospect of losing a war in Afghanistan, increasing unemployment rate at 10.2 per cent, double loss in two crucial governor's races , the rolling out of the sweeping health-care reform Bill is indeed a victory for the first Black President.

Once implemented, the $1-trillion House Bill would cover 96 per cent of Americans, including 20 per cent of the uninsured population, with subsidies to lower-income individuals and families. Private companies would sell insurance policies in competition with the public plan only through a new government-regulated insurance 'exchange'. The proposals includes implementation of guaranteed affordable health care for all US citizens, reduction in cost, removal of patent protection, and employers' contributions to health insurance.


The proposals seem impressive. However, like all reform efforts, Obama's signature domestic issue faced severe criticism from interest groups like the American Medical Association (AMA), the pharmaceutical industry, and private insurance companies which feared the vast untapped population would opt for the public plan. Other contentious issues like abortion coverage and exclusion of illegal immigrants from the government health-care system are likely to be raised when the House Bill is debated in the Senate.


The Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI) has asked its members to protest against the Bill because it requires US citizens living abroad to pay $750 annually for insurance they may not be able to avail. But AACI executive director David London said that his organisation's disagreement over the 'immigrant' element of the Bill "should not be seen" as opposition to the reform plan in general.


Most importantly, it has given rise to an unprecedented debate. Is President Obama a socialist? Nobody has ever raised such a question about an American President before. That this should happen in the age of 'marketnomics', pure capitalism plus one, is the other wonder.


One of the early articulators of this line of attack is the Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann who has called the Bill the "Crown jewel of Socialism." Toeing the line of the American Medical Association (AMA), she called it Democrats' plan for 'socialised medicine'. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina says that the health care reform Bill could be 'Obama's Waterloo.'


Republicans have been vociferous in their opposition to the Bill, saying that it would open the door for an expensive government takeover of health care. Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele charged President Obama with pursuing a kind of socialism that will hurt the US economy. Steele compared Obama's justification of the Bill with the Republicans' 'fictional' assessments of the creation of Lyndon Johnson's Medicare in 1965. He said, "I think that there is a legitimate debate there about the impact that Medicare and Medicaid are having on the overall fabric of our economy. I think, though, in this case, unlike 1965, the the level of government control and intrusion is far greater and much more expansive than anything we've ever seen."


The anti-reform lobby is raising doubts over the kind of change Obama has in mind for their once-free republic. As the health sector represents one-seventh of the US economy, the government's plan for its takeover is seen as 'aggressive socialism.' But others differ in their views. They say what Obama is doing is to provide accessible health care to poor labourers and in the lower income bracket; while socialism is about providing free health care for all. Supporters defend Obama by comparing the reform Bill with former President Bush's nationalization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.


The present health-care reform effort survived turbulent times since the 1900s. The existing employer-based health insurance system started as an accident, when a Dallas hospital looking for ways to keep its wards full offered a 50-cents-a-month scheme for teachers in the 1920s. It grew as a result of bureaucratic accident and business opportunism, and not because of any legislation. With the promise of a national health insurance, former President FD Roosevelt made an abortive attempt for a second term. The Great Depression of the 1930s changed lawmakers's priorities. In November 1932, the Wilber Commission found that adequate medical care was beyond the reach of millions of Americans and recommended the expansion of group insurance.


President Roosevelt's working group proposed a national health insurance programme, but the effort was half-hearted, and therefore, it could not become a law. The New Deal repealed the existing health insurance and passed the Social Security Act. Before the start of World Wa II, the popularity of the prepaid hospital insurance increased, but excluded jobless youth and people above 66.


During WWII, when wage and price controls were placed on American employers, companies started offering health benefits to compete for workers. The US Congress made a serious effort in 1946 and passed the Hospital Survey and Construction Act, popularly known as Hill-Burton Act, to boost health-care infrastructure, particularly in rural areas. However, the Korean War diverted lawmakers' attention . The mid-1970s recession pushed it back to the reform agenda. When economy bounced back in the late 1980s, corporations started health-care-related businesses. The decade witnessed a shift towards corporatisation of health care. But at the same time, it pushed up costs.


To safeguard older Americans from financial ruin, the US Congress passed the Medical Catastrophic Coverage Act in 1988. The law set an upper limit for patients' payment to hospitals. But the Act faced opposition from affluent older Americans who resented paying surtax to help finance the Act. The law was thus repealed in December, 1989.


1993 saw serious efforts by President Bill Clinton. But Clinton's 'Health Security Act' failed to pass the hurdle due to partisan politics, lobbying by interest groups, and the media's failure in explaining the proposal. The cost of health care which had stabilised in the mid-1990s with President Clinton's 'managed care' climbed further in 2002. By the end of the 1990s, there were 44 million Americans without any health insurance.


Barack Obama's promise of an affordable health-care Act gifted him the presidential chair in November 2008. True to his promise, Obama has gone ahead with the pledge. The America's Affordable Health Choices Act is the best tribute to Ted Kennedy, "the greatest Senator of our time" in President Obama's words, the greatest cause of whose life was to see the enactment of 'essential health-care benefits for all Americans with no annual or lifetime limits'.


The writer is Deputy News Editor, The Pioneer


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THE PIONEER

OPED

THIS COULD DRAIN AMERICA

THOUGH OBAMA'S HONESTY IN FOLLOWING UP ON HIS ELECTION PROMISES IS ADMIRABLE, MANY AMERICANS — NOT NECESSARILY JUST THE RICH — WOULD DIE RATHER THAN SEE THE STATE TAKE OVER AN IMPORTANT BUSINESS; PERHAPS THE OPPOSITION IS MORE IDEOLOGICAL THAN ECONOMIC

JAYSHREE SENGUPTA


Health care was prominent in his election campaign promises and Barack Obama has won the first step towards his ambitious plan that would cover 96 per cent of Americans. The US House of Representatives has passed his reform Bill, but it has yet to go through the Senate. The Bill was passed by a thin margin 220-215 and 39 Democrats voted against it. Clearly the Health care Bill remains controversial and the main objection comes from people who feel there will an increase in government control over their lives. Others fear the huge expenditure that it would entail. It has been termed as a 'job killing, tax hiking, deficit exploding Bill'.


Obama has not been able to please all and even his own party's pro-abortion right advocates. The Democrats were forced to make major concessions on insurance coverage for abortion to attract the final votes for securing the passage of the Bill.


In spirit the Bill is egalitarian, and is intended for less wealthy Americans. There are 36 million Americans who are without any insurance at all. They are at a risk of being turned down or out by hospitals because they have no insurance. The legislation would require most Americans to have insurance and all medically necessary care would be paid for automatically by the US government, ending the need for private insurance. The private insurance companies would provide supplemental coverage and federal subsidies would be given to those who otherwise cannot afford it.


Large companies would have to offer coverage to their employees and both consumers and companies would be slapped with penalties if they defy government's mandates. Insurers would no longer be able to charge higher premiums on the basis of gender or medical history.


Basically many Americans do not seem to favour the idea of a new, federally- regulated marketplace for medical care where the government would also enter and sell insurance. Even more controversial is the government's intention of imposing a tax surcharge of 5.4 per cent on $500,000 in the case of individuals and $1 million for families. This would help the government raise $460 billion.


The health care plan is supposed to lead to savings on the existing Medicare health insurance programme for the elderly (created in 1965) by increasing the eligibility for the low income groups to those with incomes up to 150 per cent of the federal poverty level rather than 133 per cent of the poverty level in the previous version of the Bill. The change would save money because more people would be eligible for Medicare when costs for the federal government are projected to be lower than costs for providing tax credits for individuals to purchase private insurance. The Medicare savings over 10 years is estimated to be $440 billion.


There would be lower administrative costs than private insurance as already proven by the Medicare programme. Paul Krugman argued in 2005 that the single payer system doesn't devote large resources to screening out high risk clients or charging them higher fees. In a single payer system, all hospitals, doctors and other health care providers would bill one entity for their services which would reduce administrative waste and save money. Today the Medicare system is only for senior citizens but when a single payer system is installed, a government-run machinery would collect all health-care fees and pay out all health care costs.


Currently there are tens of thousands of different health care organisations and billing agencies leading to enormous amount of administrative waste.


Single payer would mean health care being paid for by a single body from a single fund.


Krugman said that savings from a single payer system would probably exceed $ 200 billion in a year, far more than the cost of covering all those who are now uninsured. In a study by Harvard University, nationalised health care would lead to health care administration savings by $300 billion. All such costs include overhead, underwriting, billing, sales and marketing departments as well as huge profits and exorbitant executive pay.


But the $1 trillion price tag of the Bill with new taxes on the wealthy and heavy handed government intrusion in the private sector is something that Americans have not liked in the past. The overhaul would lead to the biggest changes in the $2.5 billion healthcare system which accounts for one sixth of the US economy. But would it really bring about reform in the quality of services provided and drug prices? In fact the US government would, under the Bill, be able to negotiate prescription drug prices for patients in Medicare. But many Americans fear long queues at hospitals to see doctors and a general deterioration in the quality of services.


The big question still remains about the financing as some senators believe the debt can break America and send it into a recession. For people fearing a takeover by the government of health care, it is probably no worse than the Wall Street bailouts by the US government when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were nationalised. It didn't amount to a takeover of the financial system. The legislation would still continue to channel billions of dollars into the pockets of giant insurance and pharmaceutical companies through a mandate requiring individual and families to obtain insurance or face a penalty of up to 2.5 per cent of income. Though Obama is sure of the Bill's passage through Senate, doubts persist and the worst one is that over 18 million illegal immigrants would still remain uncovered.


The writer Author of A nation in transition-understanding the Indian

 

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MAIL TODAY

 COMMENT

GOVT'S COMPLACENCY ON PRICES IS APPALLING

 

EVEN as the economy shows signs of clawing back to a higher growth trajectory, the common man may not get to enjoy the benefits of India's stellar show during the global recessionary phase. That is because inflation has now reached positively alarming levels. India's annual food inflation, based on wholesale prices, moved up to 13.68 percent for the week ended Oct 31 from 13.39 percent for the week before.

 

This is hardly news to ordinary consumers, who have been waging a silent battle against rising prices for nearly a year now.

 

The recently revamped wholesale index has started reflecting the actual price situation a little more closely. Even the limited wholesale price data available shows that prices of basic essentials like onions climbed by as much as 33.4 percent over the past year. Potatoes became dearer by 27.9 percent, vegetables were up 18.6 percent, pulses 16.83 percent, rice 15.95 percent, and milk by 8 per cent during the same period. To make matters worse, recent hikes in the price of government administered services like transportation have hit the poor hardest.

 

" Inflation is taxation without legislation," observed American economist Milton Friedman. It is a hydra- headed monster which strikes at individuals from a number of directions at the same time. It eats away the benefits of growth, erodes the purchasing power of wages and devalues savings. Sustainable growth is impossible to achieve in an environment of high consumer inflation.

 

What is worrying about the current phase of inflation is that it is almost entirely home grown. Oil prices have been fairly steady for some time and there is no imported price shock to blame the crisis on. Despite a poor monsoon, the government is sitting on adequate stocks of foodgrains.

 

The crisis is largely supply- side driven. Clearly, this is a shocking failure of governance.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

WHY HIM OF ALL PEOPLE?

 

WHAT'S with the Sangh Parivar? The Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat's riddle me, riddle me ree, game on the choice of a new leader has finally yielded an answer, but in the form of a mouse rather than a mountain. Even his supporters will admit that Nitin Gadkari, currently being spoken of as the chosen one, is not likely to set the Yamuna afire.

 

While he has been active in Maharashtra politics for the past decade and more, he is essentially an insular politician who has little or no experience in the wider politics of the country. His key qualification seems to be that he is a Brahmin from Nagpur, a background that has a special resonance for the RSS. Mr Bhagwat claims that he doesn't run the BJP, but he has drawn the specifications of the new leader in such detail — that he be between 50 and 55 years of age and from outside New Delhi — that Mr Gadkari seems to be a natural fit.

 

But the real issue is not Mr Gadkari's suitability or the lack of it, but the question as to why the party cannot choose a more credible figure from elsewhere. Besides seasoned former Union ministers like Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley in New Delhi, they have leaders like Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Manohar Parrikar, Raman Singh, all of whom have established credentials as chief ministers. Or is it that a man close to Nagpur is being put out as a stalking horse for their real choice — Narendra Modi?

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

SLEEPING AT THE WHEEL

 

SUCH things happen only in India: Teachers in government schools in Uttar Pradesh have been bribing their seniors to get suspended from work, so that they can pursue more lucrative work while continuing to draw half their salary. Elsewhere, police officers in UP have been getting posted in their home towns for the last couple of years on the basis of a forged government order. In neighbouring Bihar, a gang that got matriculation students first division scores without their appearing in the examinations has just been busted.

 

While some will no doubt muse over the perverse uses to which human ingenuity can be put, the more serious issue here is of the enervation of the institutions of governance in our states. They seem to lack even the self- awareness to realise that these scams are occurring under their very noses.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

FAMILY POLITICS

BY NARENDAR PANI

 

The Reddys have shown in Karnataka and AP that political business families are capable of taking on mainstream parties by building their own patronage networks

 

THE THREAT to the Karnataka government from the revolt by the Reddy brothers has been treated as just another case of dissidence.

 

It has been analysed threadbare in terms of its possible impact on the alreadywounded BJP, what it means for the longevity of Mr Yeddyurappa as chief minister and, occasionally, even its effects on the rehabilitation of the people of flood- ravaged northern Karnataka. In the process what is being missed is that the episode may well mark a watershed in the larger process of the political business family eroding the role of the political party and the state.

 

Some of the steps in the Reddy- Yedyurappa battle follow an old, rather predictable, pattern. The Reddy brothers have substantial business interests in the mining industry in Bellary district of northern Karnataka. The practice of their business apparently requires the support of friendly officials. The transfer of some of these officials by the chief minister fuelled the revolt by the brothers. It did not help that the chief minister had also sidelined the brothers in the government's efforts at flood relief in their areas of influence in northern Karnataka. Such political battles over business interests are not unknown in Karnataka with political gossip being full of tales of barons who brought down governments.

 

Where the Reddy brothers departed from the script was in their reaction to the chief minister's challenge. They did not try to battle for control over the government's flood relief operations. Their dissidence also cooled off once the chief minister was asked by the BJP high command to revoke the transfer orders of their favourite officers in the mining areas of Bellary.

 

COALITIONS

What they did instead was to launch a major flood relief operation of their own in competition with the official programme. The many thousands of houses that the Reddy brothers have promised to build give their programme a scale that was previously thought possible only for a government. And as long as they have the right officials in place to protect their business interests they could apparently keep the system of patronage going.

 

The success of this programme would see an aspect of governance — flood relief — being converted into an exercise in private family patronage.

 

As long as this is presented as an alternative to the efforts of the state, it could well see the people of the region looking to the family for support that they previously looked up to the government for. If this continues for any sustained period of time it could further erode the credibility of the state.

 

The more immediate effect is in terms of what it does to political parties.

 

Once a family has put in place an independent patronage network it can build coalitions with other families. These coalitions can cut across party lines and even states. The Reddy brothers of the BJP in Karnataka are tied through business interests to the family of the late Rajasekhara Reddy of the Congress in Andhra Pradesh. And this is by no means an exception. There are a number of political families in Karnataka which share business interests with other political families across party lines.

 

Add to these business alliances those that are cemented by marriage and we have an alternative network of political business families on the ground.

 

PARTIES

The power of these alternative political business family networks that have developed their own systems of patronage is not to be scoffed at. A political novice like Jagan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh could on the basis of the late Rajshekhar Reddy's network make a credible claim to become chief minister on the death of his father.

 

In an era of ideology- free politics the first reaction of political parties to the emergence of political business families is to try to absorb them. Mr Yeddiyurappa too was not averse to using the financial muscle of the Reddy brothers to stabilise his once- minority government.

 

They played a prominent role in the BJP's strategy of getting MLAs belonging to other political business family is now so great at the constituency and even state level, that the high commands recognise the importance of giving tickets to children of successful politicians. Dynastic politics may once have been a term used for the Nehru- Gandhi family. But it is now the norm across the country.

 

GOVERNANCE

A more serious concern is what such a political business family structure will do to governance. It could hand over power to the black sheep of these families, as in the case of Jessica Lal's convicted murderer, Manu Sharma.

 

In less extreme cases, it could place the business interests of the families above the interests of the people of the region. As long as they have the resources to maintain a local system of patronage, their business interests need not follow the laws of the land. Indeed, we may soon reach a point where the laws of the land would themselves be altered to meet the interests of these families.

 

The threat to Indian governance from terrorism and Naxalism are being discussed at great length in the media and elsewhere.

 

But all the while there is a rapidly growing threat from within: the danger of political business families placing their business and other interests above that of governance.

 

The writer is a professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore

 

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MAIL TODAY

THIRD UMPIRE

SACHIN THE BEST I

QAISER MOHAMMAD ALI

 

BOWLED TO: BISHOP

 

I T'S ALWAYS interesting to recall confrontations between two cricketers then unknown to each other. When West Indies fast bowler Ian Bishop bowled to Sachin Tendulkar for the first time on India's tour of England in 1990, it was the batting maestro who emerged victorious.

 

Eighteen years later, Bishop says he was " privileged" to have seen the Mumbaikar bat from close quarters.

 

" I never forgot we ( Derbyshire) played against them a 55- over game and it came down to the last two overs when India needed maybe 10 or 11 and I was bowling the penultimate over. Last ball of the penultimate over and I thought this little guy is still batting...," Bishop told M AIL T ODAY . " I thought I will bowl him a short ball and get over with my spell, and he proceeded to hit the ball into a tree up at Queen's Park, Chesterfield ( on July 16, 1990).

 

That really was my first interaction with Sachin." For the record, Tendulkar, who completes 20 years in international cricket on Sunday, scored an unbeaten 105 and Bishop took a solitary wicket, of Navjot Singh Sidhu.

 

Bishop, who has turned to television commentary after retirement, candidly admitted that Tendulkar won a majority of their confrontations on the pitch. " He had the better of the battles, I won one or two; he has always come across to me as someone who was very much at ease with his status; with his cricket he has few demons to battle," said the 42- year- old gangling former bowler.

 

Bishop's ultimate tribute to Tendulkar was his frank admission that he was the most difficult batsman he had bowled to during his career comprising 43 Tests and 84 ODIs. " I got a good sighting of him. I got a good enough piece of him to say that he was probably the most difficult opponent that I have bowled against," said the extremely articulate and well- mannered former player.

 

The West Indian disclosed how he and his teammates planned to handle Tendulkar. " We always talked when we played against him about the fact that when he cover- drives someone like myself, who primarily delivered the outswing delivery — full and outswing — he gives you a chance," he recalled. " If it's a seaming track, my stock line and length, was such that if he went at the ball hard, which is his first instinct, he gave you a chance. If you don't take that chance, then he makes you pay for it."

 

Bishop particularly remembers the 1997 series, when he felt it was " an opportunity for me" against Tendulkar. " That weak point, we thought — we had planned for it in 1997 — was that when he cover drives, if the ball swings or seams, he could nick it behind and that was the area that we had exploited."

 

When asked what he thought of a batsman who scored his first ODI century in his 78th match, Bishop was pleasantly surprised by the statistic. " It just shows how good a player he has been," he said with a smile. " Sachin is truly one of the greats of the game across Test match and one- day cricket." Today, Tendulkar has 45 ODI tons besides 42 in Tests — both world records.

PHEW!

 

 

 

AZZA WAS IN A CLASS OF HISOWN, SAYS HIS FATHER

MOHAMMAD Azharuddin may not be playing active cricket anymore, but his father Mohammed Azizuddin still vouches for the graceful batting of his son. He says that he has hardly seen a batsman as fluent in stroke play as his right- handed son.

 

" I have seen many good batsmen, but the grace that Azhar had in his batting was different," Azizuddin said during an informal chat.

 

Now living a retired and peaceful life in his native Hyderabad, he still watches a lot of cricket matches on television. As one enters his fifth- floor flat, a live match is on. It seems that the entire household is into cricket. Azhar's mother often joins her husband in front of the television. " Yes, I still watch matches on television. But I don't go to stadiums," he said.

 

Even when Azhar was playing for India, Azizuddin did not frequent stadiums to watch him in action. " I did not see many matches at stadiums. But I did see a few in Hyderabad and Bangalore, and I have also seen Azhar score one or two centuries," he remembers. Azizuddin is essentially a quiet and serious man — and a bit shy too — a trait he shares with his illustrious son. When not watching matches, Azizuddin plays with his grandchildren, the kids of his other son, Balighuddin.

 

Azizuddin does not travel much now. He says when he was working with Andhra Pradesh State Electricity Board, he used to visit Delhi frequently. But since his retirement as a senior accounts officer, he prefers to stay put at home. When told that Azhar, now a member of Parliament from Moradabad, has been allotted an official house in Delhi, Azizuddin smiled and said his troublesome knees won't allow him to venture out at all.

 

Qaiser.ali@mailtoday.in

 

 

CAPTAIN KEEPS HIS WORD

INDIA captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni tries to keep his word, even if it takes a few months for him to fulfil his promises.

 

Take for instance the promise he made to a DDCA functionary who usually attends to the Indian team whenever it plays at the Ferozeshah Kotla. " When he came to the Kotla for a fitness test in August I requested him for a pair of shoes.

 

He said he would definitely send a pair when he comes to Delhi the next time," said Pradeep Kumar. But Dhoni forgot about it as he got busy with the ODI series against Australia.

 

After waiting for a few months, Pradeep sent a reminder to Dhoni and the captain asked one of his friends to ensure that a new pair of shoes reached him. " I have got these Reebok shoes courtesy Dhoni. He asked someone to deliver them immediately to me," he said pointing to his brown shoes. " Sachin too has gifted me a pair."

 

CALLER TUNES CAN INSPIRE

CAPTAINS and coaches have different methods of motivating their players.

 

Some read autobiographies — like the Mumbaiborn current Assam captain Amol Muzumdar — to keep them going while others get inspired by watching certain movies.

 

As coach of the Australian team, John Buchanan once took the national team to World War I battlefields in Gallipoli in 2001 and the Somme in 2005 ahead of an Ashes series in England.

 

Present Uttar Pradesh coach Gyanendra Pandey has found an entirely different method to motivate Mohammed Kaif's team. Pandey says when players call him they get to hear the inspirational song of yesteryear film Imtihaan . The song goes thus: " Ruk jaana nahin, tu kahin haar ke; kaanton se chalke milenge ssaye bahaar ke ... o rahi, o rahi ( Never stop after a defeat, better days follow bad ones)." Said Pandey: " I have got this caller tune for some years now. It motivates my players."

 

DELHI'S under- 22 team is in poor state — thanks to poor performance and perhaps poorer selection.

 

They have made wholesale changes after some bad performances. After barely managing to avoid defeat against Baroda in their first match, they lost to Railways by 10 wickets and, in a kneejerk reaction, the selectors made seven changes in one go. Delhi managed to keep their head high in that Railways game but there were some more changes for the ongoing match against Assam. All this is happening after promises of transparent selection by DDCA president Arun Jaitley, following issues raised by Virender Sehwag.

 

Some things never seem to change.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

A POLITICAL ZOO STORY

 

Elephants' chained existences in zoos and circuses are to be trunk-cated, thanks to the authorities' jumbo hearts. Transported to national parks and sanctuaries, the tuskers will have head-room and leg-room. They'll need their heads and, certainly, all four legs. To run for their lives once the forest official-poacher-ivory trader nexus gets wind of this zoo story. It's like the conservation fairy tale of the Gangetic dolphin becoming our ''national aquatic animal''. Not only was that to symbolise riverine health, but also to help rare species fight extinction. Simple solution: a smart cookie like the dolphin, reminded of the Ganga's state, would itself act. Seek bluer pastures, that is.


Man-animal ties are edgier elsewhere. The porcine kingdom in George Orwell's book, Animal Farm, had a maxim: ''Four legs good, two legs bad.'' Humans have retaliated since. They blamed a flu on swine till lab guys traced the bug's genealogy also to birds and humans. Exposed as birdbrains, humans neutered the scourge by renaming it H1N1. Just as the animals disarmed, humans struck again. Municipal authorities have got Section 144 slapped on Gurgaon's resident pigs. Accused of littering and loitering, the 'offenders' face imminent capture and relocation. But wait. Since pigs can't fly and relocation's often just a lorry ride beyond state borders, swine may have pearls cast before them, after all. They could reform their hygiene in Clean Delhi Green Delhi. And they could learn civilised maxims like 'Four legs good, two legs better'. Oink, oink. It's sheer generosity, allowing lesser creatures the same leniency, roving ambassadorship and survival sport as VVIPs disrupting assemblies, hiding scams or serving life-terms. Proud parochialists, for instance, subject legislatures to the law of the jungle. So, their constituencies get unrepresented while they free-range, going hammer and tongues at all migratory birds. Another well-connected worthy stalks nightclubs before letting red-faced parole-givers lead him back to his cage. Antecedents straight out of a medieval bestiary don't deny politicos belly-room in jumbo ministries. And when money launderers are netted, they show trapeze artistry, swinging from media circuses into specialty hospitals, Sanctuary No 1 of political zoo stories. As for tiger reserves, think luxury hotels where non-docile and non-domicile netas are herded when governments totter. MPs/MLAs being sitting ducks of number-hunters, there's no haathi chhaap on victimisation by poaching.


For similar reasons, bovines needn't resist blame for everything from non-use of zebra crossings to burps causing global warming. Cops are universal fall-guys too. Some in Victoria, Canada, decry a mural showing four-leggeds in police hats, wielding batons. Indian cops have equal cause to combust. Try being beasts of burden on pain of transfer from one wild life to another. As in a certain elephantine state whose rulers, aspiring to monumental divinity, threaten to go on a rampage when caricatured. Then again, Stalin wouldn't find Orwell's crack at authoritarianism funny, either.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

FREEDOM'S NOT JUST ANOTHER WORD

 

the global financial crisis has raised serious questions about both capitalism and globalisation. the enormous amount of capital committed to bailout packages is cause for even greater concern. before completely rejecting a system, it is worth taking a close look at just how far europe has come since the fall of the berlin wall on november 9, 1989.


The Wall's collapse and German unification completed a year later on October 3, 1990, have made Germany the largest economy in Europe and the fourth largest in the world. It also cleared the way for the European Union to become a cohesive economic and political entity and emerge as the world's largest economy. Along the way, the Berlin Wall's collapse resolved once and for all the advantages of a capitalist market-based economy over one that is centrally planned and ignores market realities. China's emergence as a dynamic economic power after converting itself to a market-based economy only provides further proof.


The economic miracle might not have happened if the West had not stood its ground. At the end of World War II, Stalin predicted that the US would abandon Germany within a year. Europe's economy was in ruins, and the continent seemed headed for the Soviet's vision of a socialist state. Instead of withdrawing from the continent, the US Congress authorised the greatest stimulus package of its time. The Marshall Plan ploughed $12.4 billion (roughly $111 billion in today's dollars) into rebuilding Europe. Most of the money was in the form of loans to buy American products and services. The loans had to be repaid in the country's currency, and the money went into a national fund used to further stimulate that country's business development.


Within four years, most of Europe, with the exception of Germany, had returned to its pre-war economic level. Since the US produced most of the goods flowing into Europe, its economy also boomed. Today, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which ran the Marshall Plan, is known as a club of wealthy nations. In contrast, the Soviet Union was determined to make certain that Eastern Europe never provided a threat again. Although the Soviets rejected the Marshall Plan, they were able to make up for their losses by stripping equipment and resources from East Germany. As the Soviets gradually took control of one Eastern European country after another, the Cold War was born. The Berlin Wall became its ultimate symbol.

In that ideological confrontation, West Germany became a showcase for free market capitalism. East Germany emerged as a competing showcase for a Soviet-style economy responding to central planning. While East Germany's economy grew faster than other East European economies, it couldn't compete with the West. It did not take long to see which model was more successful.


The Soviets built the Berlin Wall in 1961 when it became clear that without it nearly everyone in East Germany would escape to the West. That began to happen in May 1989, when Hungary decided to drop its portion of the Iron Curtain and opened its borders to East Germans wanting to reach the West. The resulting crisis in East Germany led to democratic elections there in March 1989, and that led to the collapse of the Wall shortly afterwards, effectively sounding the death knell of a failed economic concept.


The ''German model'', extended across a unified Germany, has added fresh ideas to our notions about capitalism. Germany gives an unusually large role to German banks in helping to shape the industrial sector by actively investing in corporations rather than simply collecting savings and making loans. In industrial relations, Germany encourages unions to work with management councils to arrive at a common understanding of shared goals.

Absorbing East Germany has cost the Federal Republic of Germany an enormous amount in rebuilding the east's infrastructure and in stimulating its economy. Despite the spurt of entrepreneurialism in the East resulting from an influx of capital from the West, there have been adjustment difficulties. But the advantages of having adopted a free enterprise market-based approach are also clear. Attempts to make a centralised planned economy in the East failed miserably, an irrefutable argument in favour of free market capitalism. It is only necessary to take a brief stroll through Warsaw, Prague or Budapest today to see how the transition to free enterprise has empowered individuals, encouraged entrepreneurialism and brought life to sectors of society that were previously moribund.


No doubt the financial crisis has raised questions and a new set of internationally agreed standards and parameters are needed. But it is also important not to forget how far we've come and how we got here. This summer, Germany's growth had been projected to contract by -0.6 per cent in 2010. It is now projected to expand instead by +0.3 per cent, even in the midst of the global downturn. More important, Germany has emerged as a powerful force for democracy in Europe. Policy planners who gambled on economic expansion and a market-based approach to a pan-European economy back in the 1940s appear to have won their bet.


Rightfully, our current system needs to be dissected so we can avoid financial crises as the one we are enduring. By the same token, capitalism's critics would be short-sighted to ignore the symbolism of the Berlin Wall's fall and the progress it helped create.


The writer is professor of accounting and finance at IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

MAKE HISTORY SEXY

 

Academics turn to video games to stoke interest in history Gamers and history geeks don't appear to be two demographics with much overlap, but academics are hoping that a new breed of video games will get players interested in history. They acknowledge, of course, that the version of history these games use is not factual or accurate. The idea is not to replace traditional methods of teaching history with video games, but merely to stimulate interest in the discipline.


Video games can be a great tool to hook youngsters. The popularity of the gaming industry rivals that of Hollywood's, and some of the more popular games beat the big Hollywood blockbusters hollow when it comes to revenue. It is smart to take advantage of such a medium to dispel the image of history and historians as boring and stuffy. Association with video games could convince young people that history is actually cool and fun, and perhaps get them curious about the men and women who have influenced human civilisation in the past.

Take a game in which protagonists identify with figures such as Leonardo da Vinci. Or learn about World War II through a real-life war hero and daredevil who went from being a champion racing car driver to a spy for the British government as the game's principal character. These could go a long way in getting people to find out about the real stories behind these characters. It's undoubtedly a more exciting advertisement for history than a boring old textbook.


Critics will no doubt rail against new technology for destroying the sanctity of learning. But it is smart, not misguided, to use these new tools to inform and educate. Video games, TV shows, movies and popular fiction novels are all media that educationists should consider using to pique student interest in various fields. History, in particular, lends itself well to adaptation in these new forms. The truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction. And that makes for great synergy between video games and history. The games are a lot more interesting because history gives them a rich mine of material to construct their plots around, while history, as a discipline, benefits from the added attention it gets from gamers. It's win-win all around, and there's no reason to discourage the practice.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

DUMB AND DUMBER

 

Just when one thought that things could not get any more frivolous comes more evidence that the world is going truly nutty. Sure, you can trust zany celebrities from the entertainment world to keep up the constant supply of nonsense in our times, but seems like they are getting serious competition from people you'd associate with better sense. Like academics and researchers, for instance. But no, they too have decided to join the silliness party.

Some academics are now all for the use of video games to get students interested in history. They are advocating mixing fun with facts to make the subject often considered fuddy duddy, especially by Generation Y attractive. The American Library Association now offers people the chance to play games to learn about real stories by adding video game versions to its catalogue. Its president thinks that this will aid in "building strong literacy practices while sharpening critical thinking skills".


No you did not read that wrong. Video games are indeed being touted as tools to acquiring critical faculties. History is not going to be better served by such gimmicks. What academics and teachers need to do is come up with innovative ideas that make history friendlier without turning it into a farce. The Jorvik Viking Centre in York where conservationists have reconstructed an interactive Viking village using excavated treasures is a fine example of such an enterprise. Here, visitors get a complete picture of Viking life from trade, architecture and occupations to disease, culture and social life.


Video games are fun but to associate literacy skills with them is downright absurd. In our eagerness to harness technology in every sphere of our lives, we run the risk of deifying it to the detriment of human capability. And in our quest to simplify everything, we are turning ourselves dumber and dumber. We now want quick-fix versions of everything, from literature to art and music. If it's not about condensing Shakespeare for dummies online, then it's about constructing an opera on Twitter. Everyday, we seem to be fast sliding down the slope to mindlessness.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

AT LAST, GOOD NEWS ABOUT POVERTY

GURCHARAN DAS 

If only we would pause and look beyond the horizon of day to day events, we would see a trend of great significance. More people on the earth have risen out of poverty in the past 25 years than at any other time in human history, and this has happened primarily because of sustained high economic growth in India and China. Unlike China, which has embraced growth enthusiastically, India has a vast industry of 'poverty-wallahs', who incessantly raise doubts if our growth is pro-poor.

 

These 'growth sceptics' tend to make our reformers defensive, which slows reforms and the nation loses the potential for even higher growth. Earlier they argued that post-reform growth was 'jobless' until recent data has proved them wrong. Nowadays, they usually say, "growth but..." While the type of growth does matter, the truth is that growth in itself is virtuous, and we should celebrate that India is experiencing this miracle.

 

Now, two experts on poverty have come up with new research, which shows that India's high economic growth since 1991 is, indeed, pro-poor and has decisively reduced poverty. Gaurav Datt and Martin Ravallion, both respected economists, employed a new series of consumption-based poverty measures from 1950 to 2006 and 47 rounds of National Sample Surveys, to show that slightly more than one person in two lived below the poverty line in India during the 1950s and '60s. By 1990 this had fallen to one person in three. By 2005, it fell again, and only one in five persons now lives below the poverty line.

 

In their paper Has India's Economic Growth Become More Pro-Poor in the Wake of Economic Reforms? the authors conclude that "the post-reform process of urban economic growth has brought significant gains to the rural poor as well as the urban poor". The poor in urban and rural areas are now linked through trade, migration, and transfers, which explains why rising standards in India's towns are helping to reduce poverty in the villages. Even though agricultural growth has been relatively weak since 1991, overall high growth has positively affected the lives of the rural masses.

 

This is an outcome that the reformers had dreamt of. They believed that the reforms would create a more efficient and productive economy, which would raise the overall growth rate and transform both urban and rural society. This had happened during the great transformations that occurred in the West during the nineteenth century and in East Asia in the second half of the twentieth century. It is now happening in India.

 

An earlier study by the two economists had examined the period prior to 1991 when our economy grew slowly. India's per capita GDP grew at an annual rate of barely 1 per cent in the 1960s and 1970s; it picked up to 3 per cent in the 1980s; and accelerated to 4-5 per cent after 1991. In the pre-1991 period, modest urban growth brought little or no benefit to the rural poor. (Rural poverty decreased only through rural growth, such as the green revolution.) High growth after 1991 seems to be different - it has pro-poor backward linkages to the rural economy. Hence, the effort to create a more productive economy through the reforms is benefiting the poor, and we have the permission now to dream of becoming a middle class country. The dampener, alas, is that inequality after 1991 is also increasing.

 

This happy news on growth, however, must be seen in the context of lost opportunities. If only India had reformed agriculture and had functioning schools and health centres, the poor would have gained even more from high growth. In another study comparing India, China and Brazil, Martin Ravallion shows that China (with higher growth) and Brazil (with lower growth) have done a much better job at poverty reduction. India's failure in education and health is not a function of money alone, as the prime minister suggested this week when he vowed to raise spending on education to 6 per cent. When one in four teachers is absent and one in four is not teaching, we need accountability in delivering services to the poor. Thus, administrative reforms are just as important to the lives of the poor as economic reforms.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERS

 

The massive rounds of elections this year have thrown up a decisive mandate — that of people-centric governance. And the biggest challenge here will be to focus on the most marginalised among all sections and communities, namely women. With India ranking 114th among 134 countries on gender equality in the World Economic Forum rankings, this will take some doing.

 

The figure released at the India Gender Gap Review, of 300 maternal deaths per 100,000, is telling. We have been stuck at this figure for about a decade. This can only mean that schemes like the National Rural Health Mission have made little difference in villages where it was meant to beef up child survival and safe motherhood. As the World Health Organisation has said in the past, this unacceptably high number of deaths has everything to do with lack of political will and administrative and managerial indifference. Of course, the fact that spending on health is stuck at 0.9 per cent of GDP does not help.

 

The indifference to women's health starts at the highest level and percolates down. This explains why almost no state has a maternal health director, though such a post is sanctioned. The record of the health ministers in the UPA's first term and in the second has been most discouraging. While issues like education and the environment have got star billing, no one can remember the last time any serious initiative on women's health was announced in recent times. The very foundation of the concept of inclusive growth must begin with maternal health and its attendant benefit of child survival.

 

The comparisons that show India in a poor light in relation to less-developed countries should prod us into action. But our tendency has been to challenge the figures as though there were some giant conspiracy to paint us in a bad light. The lamentable part of all this is that it requires very little effort and input to prevent these deaths. All it takes is a minimum number of trained medical personnel and functioning public health clinics so that women don't die during childbirth. Instead we have hairbrained schemes about compulsory medical service in villages. Investing in women's health has a multiplier effect. It impacts on children's health, productivity and population stabilisation.


But, as always, it all comes down to political priorities. With gender equality as the centerpiece, no political party can go wrong.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

SCEPTICS, ONCE AGAIN

BARKHA DUTT

 

Ram Jethmalani, the venerable old warhorse of India's legal fraternity, has a penchant for being contrarian and outrageously provocative. But even after factoring in that character trait, I was flabbergasted to hear him argue that Manu Sharma's evening of pub-crawling while out on parole, was no more than "attending to business over a drink". Over the years, I'm just one among hundreds of people who have unsuccessfully argued with Jethmalani over his decision to take on this case. But at least Jethmalani is Manu Sharma's lawyer; it's his job to defend his client whether he believes in the veracity or sincerity of his own argument or not.

 

What about the Delhi government? Have you heard one reasonable or consistent explanation for why Manu Sharma, a murderer, was let out of jail, against the recommendation of the city's police? Can we be blamed for believing that the parole decision smacks of underhand politics? The timing raises some serious questions as well. Manu Sharma's parole application was cleared in September — less than a month before the crucial Haryana assembly elections. Is it a simple coincidence that Manu Sharma's father, Venod Sharma, happens to be a Haryana Congressman with a sprawling network of influence and wealth?


Is that why the Chandigrah police had such a different view of Manu Sharma's parole application than the Delhi police? Incidentally, when the Hooda government was desperate to shore up numbers to make a majority, it was Sharma who is believed to have swung seven independents and five defectors from Kuldeep Bishnoi's party, thus saving the government. Normally, I have little patience for the middle-class propensity to indulge in over-generalised politician-bashing. But, given how the dots seem to connect in this case, do you really fault the citizenry of this country for smelling a proverbial rat?

 

Why has the normally straight talking Chief Minister of Delhi vacillated between an aggressive assertion of "no-wrongdoing" and defensive silence? When Sheila Dikshit first insisted that she had merely followed procedure on sanctioning a murderer's parole, she omitted to mention that her own police force had given a thumbs down to the application. Yes, she had a go-ahead from the Tihar jail authorities as well as the Chandigarh cops. But when the Delhi police said a firm "no" to manu Sharma's appeal and argued that his

"grounds for parole were not appealing", didn't people have a right to know?


What about the suave and bright Lieutenant  Governor of Delhi? Could he not have sent the file back declining his assent? He has now asked for new guidelines to be set for parole applications. But who in the government bothered to ascertain whether the reasons Manu Sharma based his parole application on were genuine? The first reason — to perform religious rites for his grandmother — seems bizarre, considering his grandmother died in 2008. His second basis — to look after his 'ageing' mother — was found to be a lie; she was attending press conferences with alacrity and aplomb. And finally, his request to attend to his business, in which he is incidentally among the largest shareholders, seemed dubious as well, because, as the Delhi Police argued, the business was doing just fine on its own.

 

And yet, the promptness with which Manu Sharma's file was cleared is especially controversial if you examine the statistics. This year, the Delhi government received 132 parole applications. Of these, 11 were granted, 33 were rejected and 88 are still pending. Was Manu Sharma's really among the 11 most legitimate and deserving applications? Not just was he granted a parole; his parole was extended by 30 days, without anyone bothering to verify his behaviour while out of jail.


Finally, isn't the opposition's silence on the controversy curious? One would like to think it's because the BJP is busy dousing its own forest fires. But given that they have found time and energy to respond to every other lapse of the government, how do they explain the ambiguous indifference to this? Is there a political conspiracy of silence?

 

The Congress has since conceded that the terms of the parole should have been investigated more rigorously. But interestingly, almost no politician or lawyer I've spoken to seems to have a problem with the fact that Manu Sharma, who wasn't even allowed to be in Delhi, was busy lapping up the fun, at two different nightclubs in the capital. Jethmalani argues that the entire purpose of parole is to permit a 'normalcy'. The Congress says whether Manu Sharma was at a pub or a prayer meet is irrelevant; the law is only concerned with whether the basis on which his parole was granted was valid or not.

 

But, in a case like this, can you really ignore the power of symbolism? After all, remember how Jessica Lall died? A rich young man, who believed his political connections immunised him against the law, pulled out a gun in a trendy Delhi restaurant and killed a young woman for refusing to serve him a drink after the bar had shut down. It took the collective outrage of a nation to get his preposterous acquittal turned into a conviction. To see him back on the bar circuit of Delhi, without a care in the world, seems to suggest that even years of prison life and public scrutiny haven't dislodged the innate sense of invincibility. Isn't that chilling?

 

Manu Sharma may be back in prison, 'surrendering' voluntarily after the controversy erupted. His conviction is often cited as a test case for how justice doesn't always have to be trapped by the insidious circle of influence. But the dubious and untold truth surrounding his parole has made sceptics of us, all over again.

Barkha Dutt is Group Editor, English News, NDTV

 

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

FAITH, A LOST COMMODITY

PRATIK KANJILAL

 

Why is everyone so outraged because Manu Sharma went clubbing while on parole? No, I haven't ganged up with Ram Jethmalani, who seems to have lost his sense of propriety after taking Sharma's case. He is suggesting that Sharma needed a drink for business reasons and though he's lodged in Tihar, he believes he never killed anyone in a pub. I'm not feeling bizarre enough to support that position today. And yet, I am glad that Sharma went clubbing. Because if he hadn't, we wouldn't have known the story behind the story, which is that someone leaned on the administration in Chandigarh and Delhi and expedited his parole plea, though it was a parcel of lies.

 

Now, both administrations are claiming that they went by the book. In reality, the Chandigarh police submitted a favourable report without evaluating the grounds for parole. The authorities in Delhi accepted it, overriding the negative report of their own police. If they had indeed gone by the book, Manu Sharma would not have got out. On the contrary, they used their discretionary powers, the source of much knavery in government. Discretion is the fountainhead of corruption, which former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral famously described as a greater danger to the nation than the threat of war.

 

Discretionary powers were built into our systems in good faith, so that laws could be applied efficiently and humanely. But they are used in such bad faith that automation is beginning to look preferable. In fact, the government's vision document on legal reform, which Law Minister Veerappa Moily presented recently, proposes to reduce discretionary powers in some areas.

 

Filing an FIR, the preliminary step towards entering the justice system, will become an automated process using the internet. The poor and the powerless are often prevented from taking this step, and even their betters usually take the elementary precaution of getting an IPS officer to put in a word. Or they take some cash along, which has the same effect. But if the matter goes to court, they face judicial discretion, which has helped to build India's mountainous backlog of cases.

 

Let me illustrate from personal experience. I am involved in a minor, open-and-shut suit in a lower court against a small-time operator. Never mind the details, which might influence the case. What I can say is that a case which should have been closed in six months has dragged on for as many years because a series of affable judges has handed out adjournments to my worthy opponent. Who, ever since the case began, has been bowed under by alleged misfortunes that would have broken the back of a lesser man. But he stands tall, having used them as excuses to evade the court. His latest affliction is swine flu, the flavour of the season. In the future, perhaps he will get HIV too. Disease will not take him off, unfortunately, but merely stall justice.

 

Naturally, I'm happy that Moily has proposed zero tolerance for court adjournments, a widely misused judicial discretion. I hope the principle is applied widely, because discretion has delivered injustice in diverse areas — the law, civil administration, taxation and customs, compensation, the appointment of officials… And, of course, the parole plea of one Manu Sharma.

 

Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine

 

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

 

A GLOBAL FAMILY

SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR

 

Tomorrow is Children's Day. The greatest tribute to 'Chacha Nehru' would be to work for value-based education. Education must attend to all facets of human life. Principles of education need to include the concept that education is an initiation into a life of spirit and a training of the human soul in the pursuit of truth and the practice of virtue.

 

Through nurturing the mind, body and spirit in the child, family values are strengthened and social barriers are replaced
with progressive attitudes. 

 

Every spirit is endowed with values. Only an education that can nourish in-built virtues can impart true intelligence.

 

Awareness of existence, belongingness to the whole creation and commitment to human values in life will help broaden our vision and deepen our roots.

 

Pluralism and embracing people of all cultures should be part of our education. The multicultural, multi-religious fabric are the glory and beauty of the planet. If this thought is imparted to children at an early age, they will love the difference. We need to bring about that multi-cultural and multi-ethnic approach, which in Sanskrit we call 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam'(The whole world is one family.) 

 

The sign of success to me is smile and friendliness, compassion and willingness to serve. I ask children to take a vow to make one new friend everyday. The second thing is to laugh and let go. Third is to work together towards a dual goal. One is to protect our environment, our planet earth. The second thing is to promote human values -- compassion, friendliness, cooperation and a sense of belonging to each other. 

 

These human values need to be nurtured so we can have a stress-free, violence-free society. The right education must harness a mind that is free, not obsessed with anything.

 

Through right education, we can change and unite the hearts and minds of people. The key is to harness the ancient wisdom and being innovative with the modern. We, as global citizens, should vow to take this responsibility.


(The author writes exclusively for HT every other week)

 

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MULTIPLE CHOICE

 

The Union Public Service Commission has proposed significant reform in examinations to recruit civil servants. It recommends that the preliminary examination — on the basis of which a few thousand students are cleared to write the longer tests for final selection for interview — be replaced with aptitude tests. It is also keen on reducing the number of attempts each candidate is allowed, a step that could remove an extraordinary emphasis on memorisation and also address the concern that these large number of attempts take away too many productive years of a twenty-something's career.

 

The format of the civil service examinations has changed over the years, and many of these changes were in response to concerns that it must open the services to ever vaster sections of Indians. If the civil services, more than any other avenue of employment, are sought to be representative and inclusive, the examination has been seen as a way of allowing the largest possible number of aspirants to prove their qualifications. So, in the early decades of independence the weightage given to the interview was decreased, to reduce a perceived advantage to middle and upper classes, and therefore more urbane candidates. The longer essays, requiring an ease with the language that comes with access to good schooling but one which can be taught with good training, were also curbed. But over the years these changes have also meant that the increased emphasis on objective questioning increased the recourse to rote — this is taxing on candidates and it is not necessarily the best way to find the best men and women for the job.

 

If the recommended aptitude tests are meant to determine more keenly a candidate's ability and to cast the net as wide as possible, this can only be a welcome development.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

WEEK LINK

 

A week might be a long time in politics, but not for a high court chief justice. The new chief justice of the Orissa high court, Bilal Nazki, will in fact serve for even less in this capacity — he will attend court for just three days before retiring. The appointment has surprised even the judge himself, who, reports suggest, was looking forward to an active retirement. He is scheduled to take charge on November 14, and retire on November 18.

 

The problems associated with such a short tenure stem from the nature of the job. As the first among equals, a high court chief justice gets to allot cases to certain judges. He also has vast supervisory powers over the lower judiciary, an administrative function that is often overshadowed by his judicial work. There is then status — some statutory posts can only be headed by a former high court chief justice. Appointing the chief justice to a high court is therefore a big deal. But the supervisory power that lies with a chief justice can only be effectively utilised if the incumbent is given a long stay. A week is neither here nor there; there is not even the pretence of being able to have an impact. Indeed, Judge Nazki will sit in court for a full three days.

 

This is of course no reflection on Justice Nazki, who has in the recent past asked stern questions of the Maharashtra government. But even he would agree that such a short tenure hardly does justice to the post. Given that legal reform is so high on this government's agenda, and the higher judiciary itself is seized of its urgency, this sort of appointment to a powerful post highlights another area for attention. Since judicial appointments are such a sensitive issue, and worries of political interference so understandably rife, it is probably best that the higher judiciary formulate its own code. Judges should find a way of avoiding these fleeting appointments, and it is hoped that consensus on this issue emerges from within their own ranks.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

TAKE A VOTE

 

The Left Front government in West Bengal has not exactly been the Kremlin whose imposing edifice would collapse if only someone hammered down the door. Rather, the Left's "impregnable" Fortress Bengal appears to be crumbling all over simultaneously, with Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee looking like the patriarch surprised by sudden ageing and weakening, humiliatingly relegated to contemplating in silence the piling ruins around. Perhaps it is easier and more pertinent to discuss what can be done to avoid total political and administrative disaster in Bengal than dwell on Bhattacharjee's predicament. What began in Nandigram and Singur, routed through Lalgarh and a most embarrassing engagement with Maoists, as well as cadre-related political violence, has since the Lok Sabha results exposed itself as a near-total collapse of governance. Bhattacharjee's government has long lost the will, to say nothing of the way, to govern. It would not be an exaggeration to remark that the promise offered by Bhattacharjee taking over as chief minister has been ingloriously belied on all fronts.

 

Given the current political circumstances in Bengal, the Left Front government should resign and call for assembly elections. In technical terms, the 32-year-old state government has not lost the mandate to rule, since the Left's defeat in the Lok Sabha polls, in the recent assembly by-elections and in civic polls earlier does not negate the 2006 assembly election verdict till 2011. However, for practical purposes, Bengal has no functioning government and the Left Front's administration is popularly per-ceived to lack legitimacy. Not surprisingly, the rumblings are shaking the Left Front from within, with a veteran minister in Bhattacharjee's cabinet calling for his resignation and fresh polls. The fracture within the Left Front characterises the state CPM too and, despite the terseness and evasiveness of official comments, the chief minister is not exactly being looked up to within his party. Meanwhile, residents of Bengal are being increasingly exposed to the Maoist menace and the crossfire from Trinamool-CPM cadre battles. Not only should the violence stop but the state must also have a government capable of taking decisions and acting on them. Above all, it cannot persist with a paralysed administration that cannot provide security and a socio-economic direction.

 

A fresh mandate, no matter who wins, will have the benefit of conferring perceptible legitimacy on the state government and, hopefully, help to halt outbreaks of violence. A new administration is more likely to display the will and ability to govern. And the very process of bidding for a fresh mandate would cleanse the Left of some of its internal contradictions. The use-by date on the Left's singular institutional mechanism in Bengal has expired. The vacuum created by the overlap of party and administration needs now to be filled afresh.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

OUR FAFF-PAK POLICY

SHEKHAR GUPTA

 

My alma mater of 12 wonderful years in journalism, India Today, just came out with a provocative idea on its cover: Can Pakistan Be Saved? I, however, dare to suggest that in India we need to ask that question a little differently: Should Pakistan Be Saved? Then you can proceed with follow-on questions and corollaries: is it good or bad for us if Pakistan is saved/ not saved? And if we conclude that it is good for us, in fact of vital interest to us, that Pakistan is not only "saved" but emerges a stronger, stabler, moderate, modernising and democratic nation through its current crisis, then we need to think what we can do to help that process.

 

For too long now both India and Pakistan have had their judgment clouded by contemptuous distrust of each other. The Pakistanis refer to us as their enemies rather more freely. We are a bit more cautious, hypocritical, and non-Punjabi about the use of such direct language. But let's be honest. Can we deny the fact that every new terror attack on the Pakistani establishment, every development that marks a further decline in the authority of its government is greeted with an utterly unconcealed sense of delight? This is not just the mood of the mobs here. Even the "intelligentsia", the TV talking heads, opinion page columnists, government spokespersons, all have the same smug air of "I-told-you-so" and "so-what-else-did-they-expect" satisfaction. And they ask the same patronising question: hell, can Pakistan be saved?

 

One has to be brave, even foolhardy, to go against a flood of such national unanimity. But you have to now debate if it will be good for India that Pakistan continues to slide. Or, do we have the wherewithal to deal with whatever is left behind, if Pakistan does not survive? Can we deal with five anarchic, angry "stans" instead of one next door to us, with no central authority to share a hotline with? Would we prefer to live with a nuclear-armed anarchy that listens to nobody? What use will coercive diplomacy be then? Who will we bomb?

 

It is time therefore to stop jubilating at the unfolding tragedy in Pakistan. India has to think of becoming a part of the solution. And that solution lies in not merely saving Pakistan — Pakistan will survive. It has evolved a strong nationalism that does bind its people even if that does not reflect in its current internal dissensions. It is slowly building a democratic system, howsoever imperfect. But it has a very robust media and a functional higher judiciary. Also, in its army, it has at least one national institution that provides stability and continuity. The question for us is, what kind of Pakistan do we want to see emerging from this bloodshed? What if fundamentalists of some kind, either religious or military or a combination of both, were to take control of Islamabad? The Americans will always have the option of cutting their losses and leaving. They have a long history of doing that successfully, from Vietnam to Iraq and maybe Afghanistan next. What will be our Plan-B then?

 

Smugness breeds intellectual laziness. Maybe that is why we feel so comforted with the idea of outsourcing the responsibility of stabilising and moderating the Pakistani state and society to the Americans. We talk of their Af-Pak strategy as if it is some funny superpower game being played some place far, far away. We laugh at their failures just as we smile the cynical "didn't-I-know-it-was-coming" smile each time Islamabad receives a knock from its own terrorists. This is delusional. As the Americans would say, the sooner we get off this kerb, the better.

 

Both, as a responsible and important regional power, as well as a permanent resident in this very nasty neighbourhood, we cannot leave our future to the Americans and sit back. We have to be constructively pro-active now. We may not like this government of Pakistan, or we may not think they have as much power as a government should have, but we have to talk to it. It's now been a year since communication broke down after 26/11 and the prime minister's effort to break out at Sharm el-Sheikh ran into the wall of accumulated prejudice and anger. That process has to be resumed now. We can sacrifice another two or more generations waiting and that perfect moment to make one more peace move to Pakistan may never come. So look at this as a reasonably good moment to do so.

 

As the Headley-Rana revelations show, nothing can guarantee another terror attack will not happen in India. It also shows that what we now face is not just the ISI or groups controlled by it. They may still play footsie with some limbs of this monster but essentially it is now out of their control. Our supreme national interest lies in Islamabad winning its own war on terror. It can be nobody's case that the terrorists should win this war. Your enemy's enemy being your friend is an unquestionable truism. But in this case, the enemy's enemy will in fact be a larger threat so we must hope that the "enemy" wins and do what we can to help it in that war.

 

Time has therefore come to nuance our policy as well as national mood and psychology, to not merely reopen communication with Pakistan but to also make moves, offers, anything that will enhance the power and credibility of its government which, with all its faults, is still the most moderate of all forces in that region. Finally, time has also come to set in place some kind of diplomatic standard operating procedures in case more terror attacks take place because a third round of coercive diplomacy may spin out of control. We have to now demonstrate a stake in Pakistan's survival and moderation as a democratic state. Just bombing somebody there in anger won't work, because people who are targeting us are also targeting the rest of the modern world, from Chicago to Copenhagen.

 

sg@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

OBAMA'S BURMA MOMENT

ALIA ALLANA

 

Much has been said about US President Barack Obama's maiden voyage to Asia: that he will address the newly elected Japanese government; he will engage in town-hall style meetings with Chinese students and ensure positive engagement with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao; talk to his counterpart in South Korea with a keen emphasis on the growing North Korean threat. But the real novelty will lie in his participation at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

 

The APEC meet this year is to talk of the creation of an "Asian Economic Community"; rumours have circulated that he may well even embark on a US-ASEAN free trade agreement. There is also speculation about what may transpire if Obama comes face to face with Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein — perhaps reversing a 43-year-old estrangement.

 

Policy towards Burma has been ad hoc from the very start, even among its neighbours. Talk of Burmese entry into ASEAN first circulated in December 1995, when delegates attended the summit as guests. 1996 saw accession to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation where Burma acquired observer status; permanent membership was then brought on the agenda. 1997 was beset with disagreements: Malaysia was against early membership, Indonesia spoke out against ASEAN "rushing into" Burma's participation and Philippines joined in. Eventually the end-of-year ASEAN meet in Kuala Lumpur in 1997 saw Burma and Laos as full members. (The primary concern was Burma's abysmal human rights record, but practicalities too were worrying.)

 

The significance of Sunday's meet is two-fold. First, that there is a president in the White House who has been elected after a campaign where he said he was willing to talk to anyone, leading to expectations of improved ties between the US and Asia. Second, he has markedly departed from the policies of his predecessor: Bush isolated Burma through "non-engagement", Obama is seen to be agreeable to reaching out to the country.

 

In fact, Obama's presidency has given hope to the junta as well. In a rare gesture the junta's deputy leader General Maung Aye and Foreign Minister Nyan Win congratulated him on his victory. Leniency — by junta standards — is visible towards opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi as well.

 

A change in Burma policy can be seen by the increased flurry of activity (Kurt Campbell — the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs — travelled to Burma earlier this month, the highest ranking official to visit the country in 14 years along with Deputy Assistant Secretary Scott Marciel). A re-analysis of the relationship too has been undertaken: the conclusion of the State Department policy review on Burma in September is that a more "inclusive policy" with Burma is required given that past attempts at isolation and heavy sanctions have failed to yield results. The objective is naturally to spur democratisation there.

 

Isolation has allowed the junta to foster. In The River of Lost Footsteps, Burma scholar Thant Myint-U writes: "What is sometimes hard to perceive from the outside world is just how damaging forty years of isolation — in particular, isolation from the West and the international scene — has been to those trapped inside. If Burma were a country where those in charge wanted to engage with the wider world... then a policy of sanctions would make sense."

 

So, what now? APEC and Obama's participation may well nudge Burma towards international participation, with genuine dialogue as a long-term strategy. Meanwhile, internal changes in Burma have created an environment beneficial for international players.

 

Burma votes in the coming year. Despite the absence of a set date the voting will create certain clear periods where international players can exert a degree of influence. The elections have been widely viewed as a process by which the junta can gain a degree of legitimacy in the international arena. The Council on Foreign Relations' Kara C. McDonald maintains that the elections will provide an opportunity for "Washington to identify some concrete steps and benchmarks as a means towards rapprochement."

 

Obama's presence at APEC should thus be viewed as the first step by an international leader in what could be a comprehensive international effort at initiating genuine dialogue with Burmese junta and country without institutions they rule. The political atmosphere the elections have created and Obama's strategy towards greater engagement with Asian leaders combine to create an opportunity that can't be missed — and should be used wisely.

 

Countries that have hitherto followed ad hoc policies have the opportunity to respond in a calculated manner — the junta appears to be willing to talk. The climate for engagement can be sensed; seize the moment, sway the generals.

 

alia.allana@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

REASSESSING NEHRU

K NATWAR SINGH

 

Forty-five years after Jawaharlal Nehru's death, has history done him justice? Regrettably not. In surveys that rank India's best prime minister, he is placed below his daughter, and on some occasions he figures third. This is preposterous. Only three worthwhile books on him have appeared after his death: Hiren Mukherjee's, The Gentle Colossus, S. Gopal's three-volume biography and M.J. Akbar's Nehru: The Making of India.

 

Jawaharlal Nehru laid the foundations of a democratic, secular, pluralistic India. He established the atomic agency and the planning commission. The IITs are his gift. The great dams and steel plants have Nehru's imprint on them. From 1947 to 1957, he was a prominent Asian world statesman. Was he a great man? I share Isaiah Berlin's definition of greatness. "to call someone a great man is to claim that he has intentionally taken... a large step, one far beyond the normal capacities of men...permanently and radically alters the outlook and values of a significant body of human beings...his active intervention makes what seems highly improbably in fact happen." Nehru fulfills every aspect with distinction.

 

Now we come to his record as foreign minister. The Nehruvian foreign policy framework has stood the test of time. No Central government has thought it necessary or desirable to jettison it. Why? Because no government or party has come up with an alternative foreign policy. Take non-alignment. Nehru has been denigrated on this issue, but here are some facts. Its membership now consists of nearly one hundred and twenty countries. The observers include China, Russia, Canada, the US, Japan, Germany, France and several more. The agenda today is obviously different from what it was in the '40s, '60s or '90s. The NAM has to re-invent itself to deal with new issues, terrorism, Muslim fundamentalism, globalisation, environment, drug trafficking, and global migration.

 

Now, about the relevance of NAM. At a superficial level, critics say the Soviet Union has disappeared, and the Warsaw Pact has packed up. The Cold War is over. Why do we need non-alignment? Quite right. However, one is entitled to ask how is NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) relevant? NATO continues to expand, right up to the border of Russia.

 

On two important issues Nehru's judgments and assumptions were off the mark. By taking Kashmir to the UN Security Council he converted a domestic matter into an international one. India approached the Security Council under chapter VI of the UN charter. Chapter six applies to peaceful settlement of disputes. So, we recognised that there was a dispute. This is a case of political innocence in a state of rare purity.

 

What Jawaharlal Nehru should have done was to go to the Security Council under chapter VII of the charter which specifically addresses itself to "acts of aggression". We were shouting from rooftops that Pakistan has committed aggression, so why no state that in the approach letter to the Security Council?

 

The main offenders were Mountbatten, Attlee and Noel Baker — an India baiter if there was one. Some Indian officials are not free from blame either, but history has not found a place for them. Since 1947, Indian diplomats have spent nearly 20 per cent of their time on the Kashmir issue. Nehru even agreed on a plebiscite. It took all the ingenuity of the foreign service to bury the idea.

 

The decision to go to the Security Council was not Nehru's alone. The Cabinet approved. The Cabinet members included Sardar Patel, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. However on matters of foreign policy, Nehru was accepted as the expert. Sardar Patel reluctantly acquiesced. Actually, at a meeting convened by Mountbatten on Kashmir on February 21, 1948, the prime minister and home minister expressed divergent views. "Nehru said that it had been an act of faith by the government, at a time when the situation was rapidly deteriorating, to make a reference to the Security Council in the first place. If this faith was now proved to be misplaced, the consequences would have to be borne by those who made the reference."

 

Sardar Patel did not mince words. He observed that the PM in particular "had great faith in the institution of the UNO but the Security Council had been meddling in power politics to such an extent that very little of this faith was left. He pointed out that it had been the Governor-General who had induced the government of India to make a reference to the UNO in the first place". Kashmir, to this day, is being used by Pakistan to pillory India.

 

Jawaharlal Nehru had an idealistic and romantic view of Sino-India relations. Both countries parroted the same vaporous language "the two countries have not gone to war for 2000 years". How could they? Geography made it impossible. Communication did not exist. Buddhism reached China due to the efforts of great scholars and not great armies.

 

The 1962 war came as a devastating blow to Nehru. The Sino-Indian House he built collapsed in a few days. He himself conceded that "We have been living in a make-believe world". It was his grandson who put Sino-Indian relations on the right track in 1988.

 

I am a Nehruvian. As prime minister I would give Jawaharlal Nehru 85 out of 100. As foreign minister, 60 out of 100. It is my firm belief that one man should not be both prime minister and foreign minister — the foreign minister should take some of the load off the PM. Even Chou En-Lai, who was PM and foreign minister from 1949 to 1958, finally shed the foreign ministry.

 

Was Jawaharlal Nehru the only statesman who made mistakes? Did not Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, Mao make even greater mistakes? And in fact, they all had blood on their hands. Not Jawaharlal Nehru.

 

The writer is a former Congressman and foreign minister.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE FUTILITY OF A CASTE CENSUS

A M SHAH

 

In 1998 when the issue of including caste in the 2001 census was being debated, I wrote an article, "Can the Caste Census Be Reliable?" in Economic & Political Weekly. The issue has surfaced again in the planning of the 2011 census.

 

Many argue that since the colonial state conducted the caste census for eight decades, and the caste system has not yet changed, the post-Independence state should also do the same. While some think that caste is like sex and age, about which the census organisation can collect information easily. But caste does not really have the kind of certainty and rigidity frequently attributed to it. This is the burden of much of social science research that has developed during the last sixty years or so.

 

The demand for caste census assumes that every caste is a discrete unit with clear boundaries determined by the rule of endogamy. It is true that caste boundaries are clear in a village, which is a small community, but the census has to count the members of every caste as they are spread in every village and town in a state and often more than one state. The population of small castes may be counted easily, but most are not so small. The Kolis in Gujarat, the Marathas in Maharashtra, the Jats and Yadavas in north India, the Kammas and Reddis in Andhra, and the Okkaligas and Lingayats in Karnataka are huge castes, with unclear boundaries. The colonial census officials used to point out that they faced enormous difficulties in collating caste data provided by local enumerators.

 

To whom in a village or town would the census enumerator ask the caste question? Would it be every individual in a household or its head? Do we assume that all members of a household belong to the same caste? In which language would the caste question be asked? In Indian languages the English word 'caste' has more than one equivalent. In Gujarati, for example, there are five words for caste: jat, jati, jnati, nat, varna, kaum. Each has more than one meaning. Let us choose the word jati which is more common. It means sex, religion, sect, caste, tribe, race, and lineage. 'Jati' may also get confused with 'jat' which has different nuances. A caste may also be divided into sub-castes and sub-sub-castes. The word jati is used for such divisions also, and only a close inquiry would reveal the division to which the respondent refers in a particular context.

 

How will the caste question be framed? Let us assume it is framed as follows: "What is the jati of your household?" The respondent is likely to give a name keeping in mind anyone of the meanings of jati mentioned above. There would therefore be confusion in collating responses.

 

Let us presume that there is no confusion about the meaning of 'jati', and the head of the household gives a certain caste name. But caste names are not as simple as they appear. It is well known that frequently members of a caste claim to belong to a caste higher than their own, and therefore different members of a caste use different names for themselves. Caste names are also used contextually: one in the context of marriage, another in the context of religion, and a third in the context of claiming a privilege from the state. There is rarely a straight answer to the question: "What is your caste?"

 

Since migrations have increased during the modern times, almost every caste is much more dispersed now. Members of a single endogamous unit may use different names in different places. The task of aggregating data is therefore much more difficult now than during the colonial censuses.

 

The definition of caste as an endogamous unit is questionable. Social scientists have known widespread practice of inter-caste hypergamy, i.e., a lower caste gets its girls married into a higher caste but the latter does not give its girls in return. The Rajputs are known to have received brides from a large number of castes all over western and northern India. A caste which appears to be strictly endogamous at the top of its internal hierarchy may be loose at its bottom. Anthropologists have also known tribe-caste hypergamy in many parts of India. Where hypergamous marriages take place, many members of the bride-giver caste or tribe use for themselves the bride-taker caste's name as a mark of higher status. Hypergamy has been a long established negation of caste endogamy. Ancient Hindu law sanctioned it as anuloma marriage. Caste boundaries are fuzzy in such a situation.

 

Since the boundaries are so loose and fluid, it would be impossible for the Census to collect reliable information. Should the census enumerator in a village or town — usually an ill-paid primary school teacher or lower government servant — record only what the respondent says, or should he investigate 'the truth', i.e., status in the context of societal relationships or in the context of getting reservation benefits? How does he ensure that the respondent does not answer under pressure from the local politicians, which was common during the colonial census operations? Is the enumerator trained to capture the social reality on the ground, that too in a short time at his disposal? If he fails to get the correct information, should his boss decide, like in colonial times decided? In the case of the caste whose population is spread over vast areas, how will the boss

 

reconcile the varied responses? Are there competent anthropologists and sociologists to give reliable opinion?

 

Caste endogamy is negated by modern inter-caste, inter-religious, inter-regional and international marriages which have increased rapidly after independence. In an inter-caste marriage the husband and wife belong to different castes. To which caste do their children belong? A child of one inter-caste marriage may marry a child of another such marriage. Since such cosmopolitan marriages have been taking place for the last several generations, a large new class has emerged which is caste-less. What will be its fate in the census?

 

Sometimes a sample survey of caste is suggested as a substitute for Census, but it has even greater complications. The efforts to fix caste and tribe boundaries might also lead to violent conflict. In this situation, should the government become an agency to impose rigidity and should the judiciary endorse it by considering castes and tribes as discrete units? That is, should the state take a retrograde step towards caste-and-tribe bound society?

 

In the midst of all these ambiguities regarding caste membership, does the Constitution empower the state to force a citizen to declare the name of her 'real' caste if she chooses not to declare it? If she does not declare it, does the state have the power to fix it?

 

The writer is former professor of sociology at the Delhi School of Economics.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

I, ROBOT. YOU, HUMAN TARGET

 

I hadn't thought much about the relationship between fruit flies and Predator drones before visiting the California Institute of Technology, but Caltech, which boasts more than 30 Nobel laureates, teaches many things, not least about the fast-growing field of robotics and war.

 

Fruit flies, as I learned from a graduate student, use optic flow to navigate their environment.When the insect gets closer to an object, that object appears to get larger; the expansion in the optic flow field triggers a collision avoidance response in the fly, which veers away from the expanding object.

 

"The insect eye is not, and does not need to be, high resolution to make this computation, so it follows that low resolution sensors can be employed in robotics and serve the same purpose," she told me.

 

Call this bio-mechanics — biologically inspired engineering principles. It's a booming field. You'll find fruit flies tethered to pins under microscopes that will tell a robot sensor how to mimic the insect for navigation. The feedback loop for the robot is simple: If an object is expanding at a certain rate, that equals proximity, so turn away!

 

The US military is interested in such experiments because robotics is its hot new thing. The loss of more than 5,000 US military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 has concentrated minds on putting robots rather than flesh and blood in harm's way.

 

When the United States went into Iraq in 2003, it had a handful of pilotless planes, or drones; it now has over 7,000. The invasion force had no unmanned ground vehicles; the US armed forces now employ more than 12,000. One is called the PackBot and is made by iRobot, manufacturers of the popular robot vacuum cleaner called the Roomba.

 

Since taking office, President Obama has shown a quiet predilection for drone warfare. There are two programs in operation: a publicly acknowledged military one in Iraq and Afghanistan and a covert CIA programme targeting terror suspects in countries including Pakistan.

 

As Jane Mayer notes in a groundbreaking piece in The New Yorker, "The intelligence agency declines to provide any information to the public about where it operates, how it selects targets, who is in charge, or how many people have been killed."

 

According to a study by the New America Foundation, Obama has authorised as many strikes in Pakistan in nine and a half months as George W. Bush did in his last three years in office — at least 41 CIA missile strikes, or about one a week, that may have killed more than 500 people.

 

The dead have included high-value targets like Osama bin Laden's oldest son and Baitullah Mehsud, the Taliban leader in Pakistan — as well as bystanders. Circling drones have struck panic. But as Mayer notes, "The embrace of the Predator program has occurred with remarkably little public discussion, given that it represents a radically new and geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force."

 

These are targeted international killings, no less real, and indeed more insidious, for their video-game aspect. The thing about robotic warfare is you can watch people get vapourised on a screen in Langley, Virginia, and then drive home for dinner with the kids. The very phrase "go to war" becomes hard to distinguish from going to work. That's a conflation fraught with ethical danger. The barriers to war get lowered.

 

It's time for a reckoning, especially from a president who campaigned so vigorously against the "dark side" of the war on terror. Congressional review of the drone programs and the full implications of robotic warfare is essential to cast light and lay ground rules. The Obama administration should not be targeting people for killing without some public debate about how such targets are selected, what the grounds are in the laws of war, and what agencies are involved. Right now there's an accountability void.

 

There are also broader questions. When robots are tomorrow's veterans, does war become more likely and more endless? Do drones cow enemies with America's technological prowess or embolden them to think America is not man enough to fight? What is the psychological toll on video-screen warriors?

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

RADIOACTIVE REPORTING

RUCHIKA TALWAR

 

American journalist Seymour Hersh has destroyed his own chances of ever getting a visa to Pakistan. His recent New Yorker article about the US securing Pakistan's nuclear arsenal has sent Pakistan's journalistic circles into overdrive.

 

Daily Times reported on November 9: "The journalist wrote that during meetings with current and former officials in Washington and Pakistan, he was told the agreements would allow specially trained American units to provide added security for the Pakistani arsenal in case of a crisis. At the same time, the Pakistani military would be given money to equip and train Pakistani soldiers and improve their housing and facilities¿ The fear was 'extremists inside the military might stage a coup, take control of nuclear assets or even divert a warhead', notes Hersh. The report says the arrangement serves as a safeguard in case of a quickly escalating confrontation with India, but also makes the weapons vulnerable during shipment and reassembly."

 

The US was quick to fire off a rebuttal, as reported in The News on November 9: "US ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson stated: 'These allegations are completely false. The US has no intention to seize Pakistani nuclear weapons... Pakistan is a key ally in our effort to fight extremists and foster regional security. We work cooperatively on a wide range of security assistance initiatives, including efforts focussed on strengthening counterinsurgency capacities to foster stability. The US has confidence in Pakistan's ability to protect its nuclear programmes, as secretary of state Hillary Clinton said during her recent visit to Pakistan."

 

The next in line was the chairman, joint chiefs of staff committee, Gen Tariq Majid who is the man responsible for the nukes. Daily Times reported Gen Majid's angry response on November 10: "I reiterate in very unambiguous terms, there is

absolutely no question of sharing or allowing any foreign individual, entity or state any access to sensitive information about our nuclear assets?

 

He rejected Hersh's 7,000-word article, branding it 'absurd and plain mischief".

 

Anger laced with defensiveness was evident in an editorial in The News on November 10: "Talk of their 'insecurity' is at variance with ground reality and perhaps made with mischief in mind — and perhaps not a million miles from the 'insecurity' in the minds of others attendant upon a Muslim nation being nuclear-armed."

 

Daily Times' editorial compared attitudes t India's nuclear programme: "The US did help Pakistan in formulating an accidental use risk reduction plan, but that is as far as the Americans were allowed to go¿ On a separate note, the double standards of the US vis-à-vis Pakistan's nuclear programme are glaring when it comes to India. A country known to have diverted its civilian nuclear programme to develop nuclear weapons, thereby sparking off a nuclear arms race in the subcontinent, was 'rewarded' by the Americans in the shape of an Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement that leaves at least eight reactors outside the purview of IAEA inspections. India and Pakistan are both not signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but only India is still allowed to carry on nuclear commerce with the rest of the world. Pakistan, on the other hand, has taken steps to stop the nuclear proliferation network headed by Dr A Q Khan in its tracks."

 

Finally, Hersh has to rescue himself on Pakistani television. Dawn reported on November 11: "In an interview with Dawn News TV's programme Newseye, Mr Hersh took pains to clarify he had never talked about any formal agreement in his article as, according to him, he knew it would be immediately denounced and criticised¿ Instead he claimed an 'informal understanding' existed between the chairman of US joint chiefs of staff Admiral Michael Mullen and Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani over the safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal."

 

Rejecting Hersh's claims, US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton stated in an interview to German magazine Der Speigel: "The nuclear arsenal that Pakistan has, I believe is secure. I think the government and the military have taken adequate steps to protect that," reported The News on November 11.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THE POLITICAL MARKET

 

Perhaps the most pleasing trend, at least for long-term observers of Indian politics, from the general election held earlier this year was the decimation of the fractious 'Third Front'. Finally, there was reason to believe that India was heading towards a broadly bipolar polity with the Centre-Left Congress party leading one pole and the Centre-Right BJP leading the other. However, events over the last six months have left one wondering about the near-term viability of the BJP-led Opposition. The BJP seems to have spent most of the time after the general election fighting within rather than outside—unsurprisingly it drew a near blank in the recently held by-elections, losing a crucial Assembly seat even in its stronghold of Chhattisgarh. In contrast, the UPA—the Congress in particular—has only consolidated its hold over power. The big win in the Maharashtra Assembly and the decimation of the Left Front in recent bypolls in West Bengal and Kerala must give Congress party managers much reason for joy. Raj Babbar's spectacular win over Mulayam Singh Yadav's daughter-in-law in Firozabad, a seat won by Mulayam's son just six months ago, will be viewed by the Congress as a major victory, a precursor to even bigger wins, in the state with the maximum number of Lok Sabha seats.

 

There is nothing wrong with a strengthened ruling alliance, if it uses its strength to govern well. However, the lack of political competition, just like the lack of economic competition, induces complacency and reduces the incentive to govern that bit better. Competitive politics of the last two decades has been better for India than single-party politics was for 40 years before that. At least in terms of the economy—economic reform and public services—competition has been good for governments. Those who have failed to compete have lost out and automatic anti-incumbency rules aren't killing good performers. There is still no substantive indication of the country moving towards unipolar politics—the BJP and opposition parties still rule a number of states, even if the Congress rules at the Centre. But the growing over confidence of the Congress and the increasing diffidence of the BJP are not good signs for governance or politics. The BJP needs to urgently get its act together, sort out its leadership issues and begin to function as a genuine opposition party. It is easier said than done given the deep ideological convulsions within the BJP. But to remain relevant, it must move on. The Congress should avoid complacency. It must remember that even a day can be a long time in politics and that electorates often take little time to change their mind if things don't go according to expectations. The Congress need look no further than Mayawati's sweep of the UP Assembly bypolls—they had almost written her off six months ago.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

HOW TO FIGHT PIRATES

 

When Windows 7 was released, we took note of the fawning reviews it had received. Especially of the fact that it was the first Microsoft operating system to have been released with fewer features, a phenomenon we explained in terms of cloud computing. Cloud services include Web-based e-mail, social networking and online games—everything that transposes services from PCs to virtual data centres. Yesterday, FE reported how, in what will be a first for India, Microsoft will offer software suites like MS Office on rent over the Internet. Thanks to software clouds, packages will be available for as low as Rs 120 a month. Microsoft's partner in the venture is Airtel. And thanks to cloud computing, amazingly cheap, Rs 3,000 worth of PCs will be launched later this month, accessing data and software via the Internet. Today's princes will be able to access services ranging from broadband, anti-virus parcels to softwares for just Rs 1,000 a month. When legitimacy becomes this cheap, it becomes a powerful anti-piracy force. Combined with the fact that Windows 7 has been priced 20% cheaper in India than in the US, we see how the fight against software piracy is now taking the steps well-trodden by anti-music piracy campaigns, which have finally begun turning the tide against illegal downloads and the like.

 

It may have been the music industry's high-profile suing of copyright violators that won the headlines (say, in the case against Napster), but the pinpoint and prosecute strategy didn't really work (generating multiple offenders for every one that was shut down) until it was complemented by a price-matching one. Consider Apple's 2003 launch of the iTunes music store, offering downloads at $0.99 per track, or the more recent arrival of Spotify that offers free, advertising-supported streams. Consider a June poll of Swedish users of file-sharing software that found half of them had switched to advertising-supported streaming services. If carrots have served better than sticks on the music front, it's likely that the same will be the case for software in general. In India, PC software piracy level pinged at a high 68% in 2008. In China, Windows 7 suffered an 'early release', thanks to the pirates. Globally, one study found software piracy rose to 41% in 2008, compared with 38% in the previous year. Eradicating piracy seems inconceivable right now, precisely because its price incentive seems so unbeatable. But cloud computing can really bring down user costs, and there couldn't be a stronger fightback mechanism than that. Meanwhile, Microsoft is revelling in a really strong Windows 7 launch, where the operating system came within striking distance of Mac's share within just a couple of weeks of its release.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

LET BIDDING BEGIN IN THE MARKET

RAJESH CHAKRABARTI

 

On the face of it, Sebi's latest move to allow auctions for the Qualified Institutional Buyers (QIBs) part of follow-up offerings, presumably a precursor to its use in IPOs as well, is a major change—a welcome and, some would even say, overdue one. It is hoped to lead to better price discovery, and perhaps more importantly, help issuers get a better price for their equity offerings.

 

To understand the implications of the Sebi order, one needs to tread into the somewhat complex world of share allocations in equity offerings. An issuer interested in going public appoints an investment banker to manage the issue process. The investment banker then checks the demand with potential investors to arrive at a preliminary filing range—the 'price band'—consisting of a floor and ceiling not more than 20% above the floor. Next, investors are allowed to bid for the issue. The information in the bids is electronically transmitted to the book-runner, who sets a final price within the band after at least three days of bidding. About half of a share issue is reserved for institutional players—QIBs—who submit firm bids for the issue.

 

Prior to November 2005, issue managers had discretion in making allocations to QIBs. Since then, QIBs face proportionate allocations, just like their retail counterparts, so the orders have to be filled proportionately starting from the highest bidder down. QIBs cannot bid outside the price band, so this limits them from possibly paying more for the scrip and, since they anticipate getting only a part of their bid volume fulfilled, incentivises them to inflate the bid volume, leading to oversubscription. Essentially, the issuing company ends up losing some of the money that the QIBs were willing to pay. Sebi's new rule would allow QIBs to bid without an upper limit, allowing them to buy at their true 'bids'.

 

Given the possibility of foul play and reciprocal arrangements and clubby relationships between underwriters and institutional investors, one would expect the 2005 change to have brought about significant improvements in price discovery. Interestingly, however, a recent research paper* finds the opposite effect. IPOs, almost always and everywhere, are underpriced. What the paper looks at is the difference in the extent of underpricing between the two regimes—pre-November 2005 when managers had control over allocations among institutional buyers, and later when that control was taken away. The extent of underpricing seems to be more marked in the latter period, pointing to... actually poorer price discovery when allocative powers are taken away from the hands of the issue managers.

 

While, in principle, auctions appear to be the best way of selling financial assets like stocks to the public, the enthusiasm for using auctions in equity offerings worldwide has been lukewarm. While France, the Netherlands, the UK, Poland and Portugal allow it, on the whole it has been in decline in Europe, and, Google notwithstanding, is a rarity in the US.

 

Book-building has remained the key institutional mechanism worldwide. Taiwan uses an auction method, but because of the regulatory constraints that exist there on the auction mechanism, considerable underpricing stays. The US largely follows book-building with soft, 'indicative' bands and discretionary allotments. It seems that the book-building process provides access to certain 'soft' non-bid information that a straightaway auction setting fails to improve upon. Of course, this is not to say that abuse does not happen with allocative powers, but then an

 

auction system is not entirely free from the chances of being rigged either. So, in terms of price discovery, in spite of the theoretical advantage of the auction model, empirically it has not become the standard worldwide.

Sebi is rightly cautious in allowing the change in the Seasoned Equity Offerings first, rather than going to IPOs at once—the price discovery issues are less marked here. It will be interesting to see how frequently this mode is adopted in the issues to come. It is likely that the QIB bidding behaviour will change with the new rule, and companies are more than likely to be able to raise more funds, but the change may not be as much of a giant leap as it appears at first glance.

 

The other parts of the Sebi announcement, including the halving of the market capitalisation requirement for a firm to approach the market with an equity issue, are as important. Notwithstanding the market's excitement about mega issues, it is the mid-corporates that need greater access to equity markets, and this move can go a long way in achieving that. Finally, asking firms to make more current disclosure can also go a long way in improving the information quality of stock prices in Indian bourses. So, overall, it is good news for markets.

 

The author teaches finance at the Indian School of Business Bubna, A and N Prabhala, 'When Bookbuilding Meets IPOs', working paper, ISB and University of Maryland...

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

HOW THE BJP CAN GET IT RIGHT

JEEVAN DEOL


The BJP has spent the past year lurching from crisis to crisis. What has really been at issue is a stark political choice: whether the BJP is content to remain the party of the Hindu right that a section of its supporters would like it to be, or whether it wants to finally become a pro-market, socially conservative party with a broader electoral appeal.

 

The BJP's difficulties with an extreme internal constituency are not unusual: Centre-Right parties in Europe and North America have all had to negotiate fraught relationships with sections of supporters who favour a nationalism based on a single ethnicity, colour or language group. Canada's Reform Party collapsed in the 1990s after its calls to limit immigration, end bilingualism and eliminate Quebec's special constitutional status relegated it to the electoral fringes. Britain's Conservative Party has had similar trouble. The lesson is simple: parties that look to satisfy internal constituencies on the hard right fail to secure a lasting grasp on power at the national level. Some would argue that poverty means that a party of the Centre-Right cannot succeed in India. According to this view, only a strongly interventionist state can protect the poor from market forces, and any political vision that ignores this reality will suffer the fate of BJP's 'India Shining' campaign.

 

The Indian social consensus on the need to protect the poor will mean that the policies of a centre-right party will have to differ in some respects from those of counterparts abroad. But this does not mean that there is no room in India's political culture for a party that seeks to limit the state's influence over interactions between people and broadly favours the market. Indeed, the very weakness of the Indian state in key areas—it has historically struggled to register its citizens, control and tax economic activity, and provide security against terrorist threats and insurgencies—provides striking strategic opportunities for a party of the Centre-Right.

 

The most important of these opportunities is the chance to transform the individual more fully from a subject of the state to a citizen. The post-1947 state has, for many, remained an institution whose functions are largely limited to punishing them for transgressions or arbitrarily granting them favours and resources. For these Indians, it has seemed that the best way of creating a sense of ownership of the state's agenda was to influence and colonise it through and on behalf of class, caste or other communitarian interests. The usual explanation for this failure to create citizens has been to blame the state for failing to replace colonial structures and practices with new ones—in essence, to charge it with not being statist enough.

 

In successful Centre-Right politics, the state cannot make subjects into citizens; only individuals and communities can. An Indian Centre-Right party will not be able to argue for a stripped-down vision of the state in the face of poverty and the state's failure to find consistent ways to tax, register its citizens and provide security. Instead, it will need to advocate politics that make the state better at some of its core functions at the same time as it seeks to place more of the onus for monitoring social services, infrastructure creation and development onto local communities and individuals. It will do this by opening up and devolving control of information—and by seeking to revive and strengthen the traditions of service and local organisation that created modern India.

 

While this might sound like just another reworking of Gandhian political thought, it is in fact essentially a version of the agenda that the European Centre-Right has adopted in the face of the drastic social breakdowns of the past few decades.

 

Even policies that have traditionally been understood as simply ways to extend the reach of the state can take on a very different colouring when their starting point is in the politics of the Centre-Right. Where today's BJP presents national ID cards as an anti-immigration measure that will also reduce cross-border infiltration by terrorists, a genuine Centre-Right party might argue that their real impact lies in their ability to reduce transaction costs—and state intervention in markets—by making fraud harder. Equally, an India that is better at registering its citizens could even out more finely the imbalances created when the poor pay sales and transit taxes on basic goods and small discretionary purchases (which often means that they pay out a greater proportion of their income in indirect taxation than well-off citizens do in income tax). Many countries refund this money to the poor through tax rebates, an option that India has not had until now because so many of its citizens are outside the tax-registration regime.

 

But will the BJP rise to the challenge?

 

The author has taught Indian history at Oxford and Cambridge universities

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

FOR MUTUAL BENEFIT?

CHIRAG MADIA


The mutual funds industry in India, now under pressure to reinvent its distribution system, is turning towards technology. The ban on the entry load brought in parity among all classes of investors. And asking the distributors to collect commissions from investors as directed by

 

the market regulator led to the industry seeing very little inflow from new funds, especially equity based funds. On the other hand, the industry has been witnessing redemptions.

 

This is happening at a time when the markets have nearly doubled (despite the current correction mode) from their lows in March 2009. Now, the fund industry players have started to build online platforms to educate independent financial advisors about mutual fund products, and also provide service and redressals on these platforms. In fact, a common fund platform will be created by the Association of Mutual Funds of India (Amfi) and is slated to be live from March 2010. This is being seen as the biggest development in the industry over the last four decades. The shift from product-based selling, where sales were made depending on the commission offered by the funds—funds were churned on a regular basis by advisors and distributors to gain maximum commission at the behest of the investor—will now move over to investor need-based selling. The platforms are supposed to empower the advisors to bring in this shift.

 

However, despite this new phenomenon, sceptics reckon that common platform will lack a mass appeal and it will be difficult for advisors in the Tier-I and Tier-II cities to utilise these services because of lower penetration of the Internet. Here, fund houses will have to go beyond technology and match it with real hardcore investor support. Many of the fund houses have already initiated the process and those who provided lip service in the name of investor education will have to seriously re-consider their strategies or face extinction. The regulator has made it abundantly clear that they would not backtrack on this move and would leave no stone unturned to see that the cost of investing for retail investors is reduced.

 

chirag.madia@expressindia.com

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

REPORT CARD

 

The authors* use recent data from the 2006 National Family Health Survey of India to explore the relationship between religion and demographic behaviour:

 

In this paper, we use recent data from the 2006 National Family Health Survey to explore the relationship between religion and demographic outcomes in India. We find that fertility and demographic behaviour vary not only across religious groups, but also across caste groups. A comparison of socio-economic variables suggests that Muslims are similar to Dalit Hindus in that they are poorer and have more children, but unusually also exhibit lower infant mortality rates. Our econometric analysis confirms that these differences persist even when we control for socio-economic characteristics, community characteristics and location. Results from samples at the level of individual children, adult females and entire villages all suggest that total infant mortality, and in particular, female infant mortality is lower among Muslims than Hindus. This is an important result for it suggests that India's 'missing women' may be most concentrated in particular caste and religious groups and may not be a general problem in the Indian population.

 

 Borooah, Vani; Do, Quy-Toan; Iyer, Sriya; Joshi, Shareen; Missing Women and India's Religious Demography; Policy Research Working Paper, WPS5096, October 2009, The World Bank

 

This paper* examines the relationship between patent protection for pharmaceuticals and investment in development of new drugs:

 

Patent protection has increased around the world as a consequence of the Trips Agreement, which specifies minimum levels of intellectual property protection for members of the WTO. It is generally argued that patents are critical for pharmaceutical research efforts, and so greater patent protection in developing and least-developed countries might result in greater effort by pharmaceutical firms to develop drugs that are especially needed in those countries. We find that patent protection is associated with increases in research & development (R&D) effort when adopted in high income countries. However, the introduction of patents in developing countries has not been followed by greater investment. This paper examines how R&D investment in pharmaceuticals has changed with the adoption of the Trips Agreement. Particularly in the case of patents for pharmaceutical treatments, Trips involves a tradeoff between dynamic efficiency and static inefficiency. An important issue for developing and least-developed countries is whether the introduction of patent protection for drugs has led to an increase in R&D effort to treat diseases that are especially prevalent there. We conclude that patent protection in developing and least-developed countries does not appear to have created incentives for investment in new treatments for diseases that primarily affect poorer countries. R&D on neglected diseases is not associated with increases in the potential market size in low-income countries, whether or not those markets provided patent protection. This is not to claim that patents are irrelevant: patent protection is associated with greater R&D investment in diseases that affect high income countries, and the treatments developed as a result may benefit people in poorer countries.

 

 Margaret Kyle, Anita McGahan; Investments in Pharmaceuticals Before and After Trips; Working Paper 15,468, October 2009, National Bureau of Economic Research

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

SLIP SLIDING AWAY

 

In two days of rain, the Nilgiris, the hill district of Tamil Nadu, experienced more than 100 landslips and 43 rain-related deaths — more than half the death toll taken in the State by the North-East monsoon. Houses and communication infrastructure came down, and roads and rail lines fell apart. The extent of damage caused to infrastructure is without precedent. True, the Nilgiris got more than its share of the rain: Ketti, for instance, received 82 cm in 24 hours, a record. However, this does not wholly explain the scale of the damage. While torrential rain was the trigger for the two-day havoc, the Nilgiris was laid low by the cumulative effect of years of deforestation and stone quarrying. Plantations and seasonal crops have replaced forests, resulting in loosening of the soil and increased risk of landslides. Urbanisation and mindless promotion of tourism have injured the fragile ecology of the hills. In Udhagamandalam, the headquarters of the district, conservation efforts have failed in the face of the push towards rapid development. A principal villain is the cartel created for illegal stone quarrying, which has enjoyed support from influential officials of the revenue, transport, and geology and mines departments. Just a few days ago, the CB CID (Crime Branch Criminal Investigation Department) of the State Police informed the Madras High Court that there were "glaring lapses" on the part of government officials, but that the investigating agency did not have evidence to inculpate them in a criminal case. The CB CID called for departmental action against more than 30 such officials in the district. All quarrying licences expired by 2003, but quarrying was done in some areas by those who earlier held a licence and, in other areas, by those who had never had a licence. The hills are being chipped or blasted away, with nothing to stop the depredations.

 

It is well established that hill areas are more susceptible to rain ravage than the plains and require extra protection. Although planning rules take into consideration the special nature of the hills, implementation is weak. Population pressures have resulted in houses being built on steep slopes, and large-scale agriculture being taken up in forest areas. The Nilgiris hill district is therefore highly vulnerable during the monsoon. Some of the damage to the eco-system is irreversible, and no matter what action is taken, landslides will be impossible to prevent. But alternative accommodation for people living in inhospitable slopes can at least ensure there is no loss of life during the next monsoon. Strict implementation of existing rules and an end to all quarrying must be the first steps in making the hills a safe place.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

OBAMA TREATS U.S. HEALTHCARE

 

The United States House of Representatives recently passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act by 220 votes to 215. The bill, which is expected to cost $1.1 trillion over ten years, constitutes the greatest reform of U.S. health care since 1965 — when Medicare, a tax-funded single-payer system for those aged 65 or over and those with particular medical conditions, was created as part of the Johnson administration's 'Great Society' programme. If passed into law, the new bill will extend health cover to 96 per cent of legally resident Americans. This it will do by widening the federally funded Medicaid system to include the 36 million Americans who currently cannot afford health insurance or whose employers do not provide it. The low-paid will be able to buy subsidised insurance or get cover from a government plan. Employers will have to provide insurance or pay a payroll tax of up to eight per cent. Significantly, insurers will be banned from rejecting those with pre-existing conditions and from dropping those whose needs increase; age limits will also be abolished.

 

The House vote is testimony to determined work by the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and to President Barack Obama's intensive liaison with Democrat Representatives, including the doubters. The President made serious concessions, for example by accepting that insurers who provide abortion services will not receive federal funding. This could affect a large number of women who are currently uninsured. Fierce controversy continues, with ferocious lobbying and television advertising by corporate insurers and others against the bill. Even mainstream Republicans make claims that the Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman calls paranoid. Fears about the likely costs are outweighed by evidence that administration and screening account for 30 per cent of private insurance costs (as against 17 per cent in neighbouring Canada's single-payer system). The Congressional Budget Office also estimates that the bill's procedures will reduce costs. For example, financial relationships between medical manufacturers and doctors will be monitored by the federal government. The bill's prospects in the Senate are uncertain. But after all the qualifications are made, President Obama deserves applause at this stage for winning where several Presidents — Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton — lost. Independent of the discord, the vigour of the U.S. health policy debate is a signal example for all countries where health coverage is less than universal.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

A NOBEL PRIZE FOR POLITICAL SCIENCE

LET US HOPE THAT THE ECONOMICS NOBEL AWARDED TO PROMINENT POLITICAL SCIENTIST ELINOR OSTROM WILL OPEN THE DOORS FOR THIS "NOBEL" TO BE THE FORERUNNER OF A RECOGNITION GIVEN TO ALL SOCIAL SCIENCES, NOT JUST ONE OF THEM.

JORGE HEINE

 

The award of Nobel Prize in Economics to Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson surprised many, and not just because Ms Ostrom is the first woman honoured with it. Observers are taken aback because Ms Ostrom is not an economist. She received a Ph.D in Political Science at UCLA, has taught for many years in the Political Science Department at Indiana University and was president of the American Political Science Association (APSA), one of the highest honours conferred by the p rofession. To say she was merely "trained" in Political Science, as much of the press has put it (at least those who have not described her, inaccurately, as an outright economist), or that she is "more of a political scientist than an economist," as others have, implying that she later took up the discipline of Economics as her "true" vocation, is false. Ms Ostrom's whole career took place within the boundaries of Political Science, where she excelled (she was the second woman to be elected president of APSA in the organisation's 100-year history) and made significant contributions to our understanding of a number of key issue areas.

 

Like many political scientists, Ms Ostrom does research in political economy, albeit from a perspective very different from that of neoclassical economists. That is, as many of her fellow political scientists, she does actual field work and draws her conclusions from the findings of it, and not on the basis of abstruse models built on preconceived notions of human nature and how we behave. The reason she has enhanced so much of our knowledge of human behaviour is she sets out to find out what happens "out there" — as opposed to starting from the premise she already knows it and that it is just a question of building the mathematical models to prove it.

 

Last November, Queen Elizabeth visited the London School of Economics (LSE) and asked some of the top minds in that discipline in Britain why they had been unable to predict the Great Recession of 2008. Given that failure, the award of the Economics prize this year (strictly speaking, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Science, established much later than the original Nobel awards, and not really a "Nobel Prize" as such) represents a refreshing change from the tradition of giving it to specialists in evermore abstract models of the workings of the financial system, many of whom had nothing to say about the global meltdown that hit us in 2008. As has been pointed out, there is no small irony in the fact that the odds-on favourite to win the Prize this year was Eugene Fama, the author of the efficient markets hypothesis. It was precisely such approaches that did so much to open the doors to the 2008 crash, as Alan Greenspan himself admitted in a testimony before the U.S. Congress.

 

In an impressive oeuvre of 20-some books and hundreds of articles in top journals, which she continues to churn out uninterruptedly at age 76 (Princeton University Press will publish her latest one, Working Together: Collective Action, the Commons and Multiple Methods in Practice, in 2010), Ms Ostrom has addressed that question from a variety of angles. And one of the most fascinating aspects of her by now classic book, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Actions (1990), is precisely that it goes against one of the most ingrained dogmas among economists: the notion of the "tragedy of the commons." That is, the belief that "property that belongs to all, effectively belongs to nobody." The classic example is the alleged contrast between the fate of the wild buffalo that runs the risk of extermination because "it belongs to nobody," and that of domestic cattle that survives happily because "it has an owner." The economists' typical response has been that the solution is to privatise, thus solving the problem (though it is not obvious how wild buffalos can be privatised).

In contrast to those who take the opposite tack, that is, having the government take over the commons, Ms Ostrom, in her extensive work in places as far apart as California, Switzerland, India and Nepal, has discovered that self-organised communities are perfectly able to manage their lands, forests, fishing resources or irrigation systems. At a time when many indigenous communities across the planet find themselves under heavy pressure to privatise whatever common lands they still have, this is highly pertinent.

 

As Ms Ostrom put it in her 1997 APSA presidential address, "the theory of collective action is the central subject of political science. It is the core of the justification for the state. Collective-action problems pervade international relations, face legislators when devising public budgets, permeate public bureaucracies, and are at the core of explanations of voting, interest group formation, and citizen control of governments in a democracy."

 

At the core of Ms Ostrom's work is her effort to explore the ways in which "social dilemmas," that is, situations in which individuals make independent choices amid interdependence. In so doing, she presses beyond the rather simplistic rational choice approach followed by many of her colleagues, which also reduces human beings to homo economicus. In keeping with her notion that "political systems are complexly organised and that we will rarely be able to state that one variable is always positively or negatively correlated to a dependent variable," she deploys a multipronged approach to establishing causal relationships. Through field work, laboratory experiments and such high-tech approaches as satellite photography, she tries to determine how self-organised communities devise rules that protect common property and public goods — without having to rely on privatisation or on the overarching power of the state.

 

In her work, she establishes such apparently unsurprising propositions as "face-to-face communication enhances cooperation," something which the first-generation of rational choice theory had not contemplated, dismissing communication as "cheap talk." There is no substitute for sitting in a meeting with someone and watching his or her face while he or she makes a commitment. An e-mail won't do for these purposes, and that is one reason teleconferencing, though not quite the same as face-to-face meetings, is becoming so popular. But this is only the first step to her finding about human relationships and what she refers to as the second-generation of rational choice theory: the key links between reciprocity, reputation and trust.

 

Once human beings start to communicate with each other, they realise they are better off working together than by remaining in splendid isolation. They also become aware that developing a reputation for trustworthiness is an asset. People are more likely to cooperate with those who stick to their word than with those who "jump ship" at the first opportunity. The longer they are able to do this, the greater the benefits they derive. This mechanism is self-reinforcing. Teams of individuals who know they can rely on each other tend to be more successful than those riven by dissent, and given to backbiting and jockeying for position.

 

Beyond Ms Ostrom's unquestionable merits, her award underscores a broader phenomenon. For too long, the economic profession has allotted to itself a quasi-monopoly of the vocabulary of public discourse and of the methodologies applied to analyse social problems, and the public policies designed to overcome them. The use of econometric models that make total abstraction of reality has become so dominant in many countries that the notion of undertaking field work, that is, genuine field research aimed at establishing how real human beings actually behave, has often been set aside, with disastrous results. The misplaced hubris of the economic profession, that has tended to look down on its sister disciplines in the social sciences, has partly been fed by its being the only one with a "Nobel Prize."

 

Economics, like the other social sciences, has much to contribute to our understanding of social processes. Indian economists have certainly done so, and the worldwide recognition of such noted specialists as Amartya Sen and Jagdish Bhagwati reflects it. However, the analytical and methodological toolkit of economists is by no means the only one available to map out the road towards improving our comprehension of social problems. It also has considerable limitations, including the reluctance of its practitioners to engage in field work. This last year provided us with abundant evidence in this respect. Let us hope that this prize awarded to prominent political scientist Elinor Ostrom will open the doors for this "Nobel" to be the forerunner of a recognition given from now on to all social sciences, and not just one of them.

 

(Jorge Heine holds the Chair in Global Governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs and is a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Waterloo, Ontario. His latest book (with Andrew F. Cooper), Which Way Latin America: Hemispheric Politics Meets Globalization is published by United Nations University Press.)

 

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

CHINA'S GROWING GLOBAL ROLE UNDERLIES TENSIONS AHEAD OF OBAMA'S VISIT

THERE IS A GROWING CHORUS OF VOICES CALLING ON BEIJING TO TAKE A MORE PROACTIVE ROLE IN WORLD AFFAIRS. THE U.S. IS IN SOME SENSE LEADING THE CALL.

ANANTH KRISHNAN

 

When United States President Barack Obama arrives in China on Monday, a key issue at the heart of the many areas of engagement between the two countries, from climate change and trade to North Korea, is what leadership role Beijing sees for itself on the global stage, analysts say.

 

Two decades ago, China's relationship with the U.S. was mainly focused on bilateral ties, Taiwan, and human rights. But next week, top of the agenda for Mr. Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao are a range of issues that will have an impact on the world, from restructuring the world's financial architecture to Iran's nuclear programme. This change has brought with it a deep level of engagement and interdependence never before seen in ties between the two countries. But it has also brought with it a growing list of tensions.

 

"China is deeply embedded in every domestic, regional, and global issue a U.S. president has to deal with, which is a big change in China-U.S. relations," says David Shambaugh, a professor of international relations at George Washington University and a China scholar. "The question of what role China sees for itself in global matters is a key issue [in Sino-U.S. ties]. It is right for the U.S. to be pushing China to be more involved, but American expectations are a source of potential discord."

 

Despite Beijing's obvious growing influence, China's leaders continue to maintain publicly that China is a developing country focused on its own progress and committed to "non-interference" in the internal affairs of others. But there is a growing chorus of voices, both domestically and from abroad, calling on Beijing to take a more proactive role in world affairs. The U.S. is in some sense leading the call, asking China to fulfil its "responsible stakeholder" role and shoulder more responsibilities with regard to North Korea, Iran, and Afghanistan, and also in rebalancing world trade.

 

China's reluctance, and ambivalence, to answer the call has in some ways come to define the two countries' ties, and their problems. "China thinks the U.S. expects too much," says Yan Xuetong, director of the Institute of International Studies at Beijing's Tsinghua University. "China does not see itself as a global power but as a regional power. Beijing is reluctant to get involved and take more responsibility, and sees it more as a gradual process."

 

The tension between American expectations and Chinese policy is most evident in growing discord on trade issues and demands that China should appreciate its yuan currency. Washington says the yuan is being undervalued by Beijing to support its exporters. But its policy has also contributed to the massive trade gap between the two countries, which reached $266 billion last year, and is seen by many as being inextricably linked to the global imbalances that precipitated the financial crisis. Offering a possible olive branch, China's central bank on Wednesday hinted it might be willing to consider re-evaluating the yuan, although China is expected to offer no such commitment next week.

 

More trade tensions surfaced in the past week in an increasingly bitter tit-for-tat on import duties. Last week, Washington gave the green light to what is the biggest ever trade action the U.S. has initiated against China, the imposition of preliminary anti-dumping duties on an estimated $2.6 billion worth of Chinese oil-well pipes. The Chinese government responded by accusing Washington of "abusive protectionism." It has now launched anti-dumping probes of its own on American cars.

The trade spat has led to low expectations in Beijing ahead of next week's visit. Most analysts here do not expect any breakthroughs of significance, either in trade or on climate change, although the two countries are expected to announce greater co-operation in clean energy. Another reason for the low expectations is that Mr. Obama inherits an already solid and deeply institutionalised relationship bequeathed to him by his predecessor, and most analysts expect a continuity of many of the Bush administration's policies.

 

Professor Yan of Tsinghua University echoes the feeling among many analysts in Beijing in his measured appraisal of where things stand between the U.S. and China. "There is a difference between having an important relationship and close relationship," he says. "This is no doubt this is the most important bilateral relationship for the two countries, and for the world, but it's still far from being a close relationship." Chinese analysts often point to the arms embargo the U.S. still has on China as a reminder of where things stand. "Strategic partners do not place arms embargoes on each other," Mr. Yan observes. "The way we see it, we may not be enemies, but we're certainly not friends."

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

THE CHALLENGE OF TACKLING DIABETES

LESSONS IN PREVENTION FROM SOME COMMUNITY-BASED STUDIES.

V. MOHAN

 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), India leads the world in terms of the number of people with diabetes: 41 million in 2007. This number is set to increase to 70 million by 2025. This, unfortunately, makes India the "diabetes capital of the world."

 

Traditionally diabetes was considered a disease of the rich and the elderly. These assumptions are no longer true. In 1998, the Chennai Urban Population Study (CUPS) was carried out by this writer and his colleagues in two colonies representing middle and low income groups respectively. The study showed that 12.4 per cent of the middle income group had diabetes. In contrast, the low income group (living in a slum) had only 6.5 per cent prevalence rate. We therefore decided to share the results with the middle income group colony residents in order to empower them regarding diabetes and the need for prevention. This subsequently led to a park being built by the residents, which resulted in a 300 per cent increase in the number of people in the colony who took up some form of exercise.

 

Ten years later, a re-survey of both colonies was done — which showed astonishing results. Compared to the rest of Chennai, where the prevalence rates have now increased to over 18 per cent, in the colony where the intervention was introduced through community empowerment, the prevalence rate had only marginally increased to 15.4 per cent. Meanwhile, in the low income colony which had much lower prevalence rates in 1998, it had increased to 15.3 per cent.

 

What lessons has this experiment taught us? First, it demonstrates that that by making a modest investment of money (the building of a park) and time (physical activity in the form of walking for about 30 minutes a day) diabetes can be prevented in a substantial proportion of people. If this finding is extrapolated to the whole of India, a 3 per cent reduction in prevalence of diabetes in a population of a billion people would mean that millions of people in India would be saved from diabetes. What is more creditable is that all this was achieved by the community taking up the responsibility for its own health, albeit through empowerment provided by a research team.

 

This is obviously a model for the rest of India and if implemented on a large scale can help prevent diabetes per se and its dreaded complications that affect the eyes, the kidneys, the heart, the feet and the nerves. It can potentially save crores of rupees to the exchequer, and benefit the individual, family and society as a whole.

 

But let us return to the lower income colony, where no prevention measures were advised because of the prevailing conditions there at that time – low prevalence and the fact that people had sufficient exercise. No one could have imagined that the situation would change so dramatically in a matter of 10 years, and that the prevalence among the poorest of the poor would match that seen in more affluent colonies. Why, and how, did this happen? With increasing incomes, people in the lower income groups started adopting unhealthy lifestyles. They now eat 'junk' foods with high calorie, fat and sugar levels. They have drastically reduced their exercise levels and use motorised vehicles for transport. This has led to sharp increases in diabetes rates as also of obesity, hypertension and heart disease.

 

Recent studies confirm that just as the rich-poor divide for diabetes has vanished, the urban-rural divide is disappearing. Prevalence rates in India's rural areas which were around 1 per cent in the 1970s have increased to 6 per cent to 16 per cent in different parts. The southern States have recorded the fastest growth rates, obviously due to better socio-economic development.

THE CHUNAMPET MODEL

This does not augur well for India, as 72 per cent of India's population now lives in rural areas. Moreover, when diabetes affects the poor, the burden of the disease will be heavier. It is estimated that a poor person spends 20 to 30 per cent of his income for the treatment of diabetes. If one happens to develop complications, the costs will increase proportionately.

 

Moreover, currently, diabetes health care is not available or accessible in rural areas; nor is it affordable. Some 70 per cent of doctors practise in the urban areas. With the help of the World Diabetes Foundation, the Indian Space Research Organisation and the National Agro Foundation, two years ago we took up the Chunampet Rural Diabetes Project. Using telemedicine we successfully screened 42 villages in Tamil Nadu's Kancheepuram district covering a population of 43,158 people. Using a suitably equipped van, free screening of complications was done for all people with diabetes in these villages. A rural diabetes centre was set up. Within two years, a remarkable improvement in blood glucose level control was achieved in a rural area where such care was just not available. The Chunampet Rural Diabetes Project could serve as a model for delivering diabetes health care to rural India.

 

What, then, should be done to control the epidemic in India? It will need a multi-pronged attack. First, we should increase awareness about diabetes through educational programmes.

 

Secondly, community empowerment, as in the example cited above, which led to the building of the park by the residents themselves, is necessary. Once the onus is placed on the community, people will rise to the occasion. A community-based programme to prevent diabetes, called D-CLIP, funded by the International Diabetes Federation is being carried out by the author and his colleagues along with Emory University, Atlanta. The programme is entirely driven by volunteers from the community who are designated as Dia-Ambassadors.

 

Thirdly, the government should subsidise healthier food options like fruits and vegetables, making them cheaper for the common person. Conversely, taxing unhealthy food options could lead to decrease in their consumption. Excess consumption of white rice has been shown to be a risk factor for diabetes. The introduction of whole grain products like brown rice, or whole wheat, is necessary. Facilities to increase physical activity must be encouraged in the urban town planning process: separate pathways for pedestrians and cyclists is one example. Workplaces should be made healthier than they are now.

 

For the millions of people who already have diabetes, the government must ensure availability of low-cost testing tools and treatment, for example, affordable blood glucose meters and strips, insurance cover and cheaper tablets and insulin. Capacity-building with the training of large numbers of doctors and paramedical personnel (for example, diabetes educators) can help deliver quality and affordable health care to millions of people with diabetes. The time to act is now.

 

(Dr. V. Mohan is Chairman and Diabetologist of Dr. Mohan's Diabetes Specialities Centre, Chennai, which is a WHO Collaborating Centre for Noncommunicable Diseases and an IDF Centre for Diabetes Education.)

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

FUTURE OIL SHORTAGES DRASTICALLY UNDERPLAYED, SAY EXPERTS

TERRY MACALISTER

 

A leading academic institute has urged European governments to review global oil supplies for themselves because of the "politicisation" of the International Energy Agency's figures.

 

Uppsala University in Sweden published on Thursday a scathing assessment of the IEA's annual World Energy Outlook, saying some assumptions drastically underplayed the scale of future oil shortages. Kjell Aleklett, professor of physics at Uppsal a and co-author of a new report "The Peak of the Oil Age," claims oil production is more likely to be 75m barrels a day by 2030 than the "unrealistic" 105m used by the IEA in its recently published World Energy Outlook 2009. The academic, who runs a Global Energy unit at Uppsala, described the IEA's report as a "political document" developed for consuming countries with a vested interest in low prices.

 

The report from Aleklett and others, including Simon Snowden from the University of Liverpool, says: "We find the production outlook made by the IEA to be problematic in the light of historical experience and production patterns. The IEA is expecting the oil to be extracted at a pace never previously seen without any justification for this assumption." There is particular concern about high future production rates from "unconventional" sources such as tar sands, with the Uppsala report saying there is a lack of information about the figures in the 2008 Outlook and largely repeated in the latest one. "We must therefore regard the IEA production figure as somewhat dubious until it is explained more fully," added the Swedish report, which is to be published in the journal Energy Policy.

 

The Uppsala findings come days after the Guardian reported that IEA whistleblowers had expressed deep misgivings about the way energy statistics were being collected and interpreted at the Paris-based organisation. Insiders questioned whether U.S. influence and fears of stock market "panic" were encouraging the IEA to downplay the potential for future oil scarcity.

 

Aleklett, whose latest work was funded by the state-owned Swedish Energy Agency, said he had experience of similar internal worries about the IEA.

 

"The Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) gave me the task of writing the report, Peak Oil and the Evolving Strategies of Oil Importing and Exporting Countries. This report was one of those discussed at a round-table meeting that was held in the IEA's conference room in Paris. At that opportunity, in November 2007, I had a number of private conversations with officers of the IEA. The revelations now reported in the Guardian were revealed to me then under the promise that I not name the source. I had earlier heard the same thing from another officer from Norway who, at the time he spoke of the pressure being applied by the USA, was working for the IEA."

 

The energy agency dismissed the suggestions of political influence on its analysis saying the document was reviewed by 200 independent experts. The IEA was always trying to find ways to make its estimates even stronger, a spokeswoman said: "We would be happy to see any initiative to improve the data quality on reserves and decline rates. We believe our World Energy Outlook 2008 opened an important door to have more field data and transparency and would very much welcome similar efforts to help improve transparency."— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

A NEW FRONT IN WAR ON TERROR

 

To facilitate deception, duplicity and dodge, changing names and aliases is an occupational necessity in the world of espionage and terrorism, as is exemplified by the case of the former Pakistani national Dawood who first acquired American nationality and then proceeded to officially rename himself David Coleman Headley, a thoroughly Western appellation. Mr Headley of Chicago and an old buddy of his from the Pakistan days, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, now a Canadian national, came under the radar of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation for being in a serious conversation with hotshots of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba in Pakistan on the question of whether to first attack Denmark — where a newspaper had published a cartoon of Prophet Mohammed — or targets in India. The details of the case were forceful enough for the Americans to get the Pakistanis to arrest two people as part of the conspiracy that was in the works. It speaks of Islamabad's lack of sincerity in tackling terrorism directed at India that it did not inform New Delhi of this development. We cannot know how many jihadist sleeper cells of the variety of Headley and Rana Inc exist in North America or continental Europe. But it would be naïve to believe that the physical threat to the US mainland, or Europe, comes only from the Al Qaeda nestling in the tribal regions of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. The Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, in a very real sense, may be taken to be a tributary of Qaeda, and not merely a Punjabi Islamist outfit that just aims to destroy India.

 

This country is naturally concerned and has made its intention known to extradite Mr Headley, who, it transpires, has visited India nearly a dozen times, including shortly before Lashkar's November 26, 2008 attack on Mumbai and at least once afterwards, scouting through half a dozen states and leading cities. To this end, evidence is being assembled. India is also waiting for proceedings against the Pakistani-origin US terrorist to take a certain shape in American courts. Indian investigators have grounds to suspect that Mr Headley may be deeply involved in the 26/11 attack. The FBI has so far been helpful in letting India know of what's turned up so far. But will they agree to extradite, or come under pressure from Pakistan which is likely to be mounted? Earlier this week, US officials hid behind procedure and denied Indian investigators access to Mr Headley and Mr Rana for interrogation purposes. It may be recalled that back in late 2001 and 2002, America had not let the Indians question the hundreds of Punjabi Pakistani fighters who were doing duty on the Taliban side in the Battle of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. Indians were also denied access to sensitive documents recovered from a house in Kabul when the city was taken by the Northern Alliance and the Taliban routed.

 

India has taken the sensible decision to no longer grant visas to certain American nationals after the simple customary procedures. Americans of Pakistani origin will henceforth need pre-screening. Perhaps to balance this, US citizens of Afghan and Iranian origin have also been included in the same category. This was perhaps going too far. In any case, strict constitutionalists are apt to be unhappy about applying a separate yardstick for Pakistan-origin Americans. We may now expect an energetic tit-for-tat by Pakistan, although for nearly a decade Islamabad has kept a wary eye on India-origin Americans, going by anecdotal evidence. But we live in a complex world and ground realities cannot be overlooked. Mr Headley and Mr Rana were students at the cadet training school at Hasan Abdal, not far from Peshawar, which sends up its students for officer training. Their case only reinforces the deep anxieties about far-going links between jihadism and the Pakistan military.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

DOOMSDAY IS NIGH

FARRUKH DHONDY

 

"I always want to sit on the fence

—I'm not stoopid, just kinda dense —

Yesterday is the very past tense

I wish I had more money than sense."

From Bachchoo the Bimbo, an opera

 

To Bee or not to Bee. Sorry! I'll start again. Perhaps it ought to be Bees or not to Bees. I get my quotations from Hamlet constantly muddled but I do remember that "there's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow" which, as Miss Katy Shroff explained to us in our Pre-Degree Science English lectures in Pune, means that God knows about the movement and death of everything and intends it to be so. But I started with bees and not sparrows because I now hear from the alarmists of the liberal newspapers that providence has decreed that the bees of the world are dying out.

 

If one believes Shakespeare, or the character who speaks those lines, or even Ms Shroff's particular interpretation, one would conclude that God intends the bees to be wiped off the face of this earth. Dead as Dodos.

 

But before you shed a tear for the extinction of the buzzies consider the simple truth that 95 per cent of all the species that ever existed on earth are now extinct. The Darwinian process is ruthless and whether or not God intervenes, evolution lays down the law. And the natural law is not kind, but as our own Rudyard noted, red in tooth and claw.

 

I grew up with a certainly rational fear of bees. At the end of our road in Pune cantonment was a compound with a red brick synagogue brooding in it. The synagogue had long sad windows and a tower with square hollows through which the wind blew and which I always avoided looking at when dusk was falling, lest I see the ghosts that inhabited it. Far more dangerous and certainly more evident than these ghosts were the huge bee-hives that would develop and grow in a particular season under the eaves of the laal deval as the synagogue was locally known. The hives would grow to gigantic proportions. I had seen hives elsewhere, but the synagogue ones were special as at that great height they developed rapidly and unmolested.

 

This unmolestation wasn't, alas, reciprocated. Children would be taken by their ayahs to play in the laal deval compound and the younger brother of a friend of mine, when only an infant, was surrounded by a swooping swarm of bees who stung him and caused him to faint. His life had been saved by the action of the ayah and the availability of medical help, but he remained a simple lad and it was always said that the stings had affected the speed of his thought processes. Dumbed-down by bee-sting.

 

I used to see him very many days of the week, inarticulate, blowing bubbles with his spit, always attended by a servant and this slowness of mind was a constant warning as to the danger of bees.

 

So it was with no great alarm that I read that GM Research Pharmaceutical Services were killing off the bee population. Let the vicious little stingers go the way of all dinosaurs, I thought, until a little further in the article I was told that bees are responsible for 80 per cent of the pollination of the world's food crops and if the bees died out then so would we as there would be no food to eat.

 

I think readers all round the world have become used to the Doomsdaywallahs (No, it is NOT a Parsi surname!). There are still cranks parading around Oxford Street and Hyde Park with signs on sandwich boards saying "The End of the World is Nigh" but today everyone who laughs at them goes home and is confronted with a programme on the BBC, a Guardian article or a film by Al Gore saying the same thing, but this time with, purportedly, science on their side.

 

Politicians have taken up the bee-causes in absolute earnestness. The European Union and the British Parliament are to debate the crisis. A British MP has the following quote from Einstein on his website: "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left".

 

Einstein only said B=(mc)x(c) or something similar, nothing about Bees, but then a doomster made up the quote. Now on reliable information from the New Scientist, evidence of which has been featured on these very pages, a couple of world experts in pollination studies declare that the bee population of the world has actually increased in the last five years.

 

The extinction of bees is not the only doom scenario with which the world is threatened. Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) has become the ethic-lyric of every government in the world. India, China and the fast-industrialising nations argue that they ought to be allowed their share of development and the political world and the ubiquitous ecology lobby have come up with off-setting schemes whereby one country, more developed and virtuous than the rest, can sell its quota of pollution to one less developed or fortunate.

 

In the corridors of the AGW empire, the doom-sayers grow more vociferous. By 2012, every polar bear will be standing on a cube of ice small enough to fit into a Punjabi whisky tumbler etc. And yet the scientists who contradict AGW, admittedly a minority of the weighty names in pursuit of these truths, either deny that global warming is taking place at all (the minority within the minority) or attribute the changes in temperature on the earth to conditions other than the rise of carbon emissions.

 

In a demonstration of AGW denial, an Australian professor of geology has proved that the mean temperatures of the ocean, while rising in the late '90s and early noughties have actually fallen from 2006 on till the present. At the same time the graph of the growth of carbon emissions has continued in its upward slope.

 

The other fact that the AGW-wallahs don't account for is the flatulence of cattle. Tying plastic bags to both ends of a cows alimentary canal, scientists in Britain proved that their digestive systems give out methane gas which is 26 times more harmful to the Ozone layer than CO2 emissions from cars. So what about Bovine Global Warming (BGW)? Are the governments of the world going to slaughter the herds? Are we all to turn vegetarian?

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

HIJAB: REBELLION, CHOICE OR DIKTAT?

KISHWAR DESAI

 

Ever since prominent Labour minister Jack Straw made his controversial statement in 2006 that he preferred Muslim women in Britain not to wear the veil, there has been a recurring debate on whether anyone really has the right to dictate who wears what. And at the heart of it is the Muslim woman's right to decide whether she wants to cover herself from head to toe — look like a "fundamentalist post box", as a new controversial play running in London puts it rather succinctly. The situation becomes more complex because you have, all over Europe, a similar heated discussion. In fact, France, Germany and the Netherlands have been trying to ban any form of head covering in public institutions for years. In Britain there is no such ban, but some people confess to an acute sense of discomfort on spotting someone with a hijab or burqa because not only does it evoke a memory of 9/11, there are also religious stereotypes of medievalist behaviour associated with this form of head and body covering.

 

Every now and then the issue explodes as a clash between religion and a more progressive secular culture, but since women are always the first to be affected by any form of social control, the debate carries on. Of course many Muslim women, when they are able to live in a more liberal environment, do try to embrace the new values that a country like Britain can provide.

 

But there are many still who are still caught up in the dominance of a more patriarchal society, which decides that the very sight of a woman's hair can lead to lewd thoughts, and that women have to be neither seen nor heard. Men can, of course, avail of all the freedoms — and dress as they wish, because naturally women can never be excited at the sight of a luscious male body! No, it is only the men who have to be protected from the temptation of seeing a woman's form. And so all forms of headgear, face veils and long robes are designed so that women can move around in disguise — no alien male will be ever able to guess the colour of their hair, and thereby be aroused. And thus the social balance will be maintained — and woman's sexuality (that dangerous concept which destroys the male intellect) can be kept under wraps.

 

To most non-Muslim women, watching another fellow woman soaked in sweat on a hot day struggling under a layer of black cloth evokes a sense of pity. But remarkably, in recent years, more and more young Muslim women in the UK are wearing some form of the veil. It is not just due to religious fervour or a family diktat, but also their own statement against racial stereotyping. These are modern women who have studied in co-educational schools who perhaps want to demonstrate to the world that wearing a veil does not make them into terrorists. It could almost be a form of protest. And for these women, it is "white old men" like Jack Straw who are the real enemy, because like everyone else he wants to decide what they should wear.

 

A new play by 21-year-old Atiha Sen Gupta pushes the debate further. This is not a play that minces words — it is every bit as loud, angry and abusive as any London kid has the right to be. It warns that if people in the play are annoyed with a girl who wants to wear a hijab, it is understandable! But they better watch out — because she has her own reasons which they have to respect.

 

The dilemma arises because before she opted for the headscarf, the girl was a liberal Muslim who used to drink and disco, has a progressive non-burqa-clad mother, a supportive twin brother as well as a white boyfriend. So her sudden decision to wear a conservative headscarf shocks her high school buddies. Far from being a passing fad, it seems she is serious about it.

 

This is Ms Sen Gupta's first full-length play, and going by the reviews and the full house on the day I saw it, she obviously has made a deep impact. It was interesting to see in the audience a large number of young girls with headscarves and burqas who had come to experience a representation of a debate they no doubt endure every day. The fact that the audience sat silently through the play, despite the often provocative language about religion and religious figures, is yet again an indication of how open this society can be.

 

Ms Sen Gupta's most interesting device was to keep the controversial "girl-with-the-headscarf" offstage, and so despite all the debate and furore over her headscarf, we never actually see her! This at times appears a bit contrived as she seems to rather incongruously hide behind various doors. But in a larger sense, it also gave the play more meaning because even if she had appeared we would not have been able to "see" her. And by keeping her offstage, each one of us were able to imbue the absent girl with our own imagined rebellion. And that indeed becomes the crux of the play.

 

Obviously her family and friends would have preferred her to remain part of the indistinguishable mass of students in the class. By adorning the headscarf she has now given herself a firm identity. And that creates a real problem: because with the identity is a set of expected behaviour — that she will no longer drink, and will pray five times a day. Her white boyfriend is confused and angry, and decides to cover his own head with a cross. He is accused of racism when he rips off her scarf and is suspended from class. And the rest of the class has to be sensitised as well.

 

As the gulf grows between her and her friends, the chasm widens between her and her mother as well. Her mother had earlier fought against her family's decision that she should wear the veil, and so cannot understand why her daughter is now throwing away such hard-won freedom. Similarly, her other Muslim school friend and her class teacher recall the long and tortured history of women all over the world who have protested and died because they refused the veil. But the girl is adamant, and her brother is supportive as he has unfairly suffered racial abuse, particularly after the 7/7 attack on London.

 

It is a thought-provoking play which makes you increasingly uncomfortable as you watch it. It has deep contemporary resonance with events, which makes it completely engrossing. And it is also reassuring to see a play by a young woman playwright who is not worried about tackling volatile issues head on.

 

The writer can be contacted at kishwardesai@yahoo.com

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

COLUMN

A SONG AND A FATWA

BY JAVED ANAND

 

Maulana Mehmood Madni, Rajya Sabha member and the driving force behind the more relevant faction of the Jamiatul-ulema-e-Hind (JUH), is my hero, part-time. Self-assured but unassuming, gracious, intelligent, a twinkle in the eyes suggestive of playfulness, nice face, nice beard, nice sound, nice smile. I liked him the very first time we met in mid-April last year.

 

Two months prior to that, in February 2008, a few of us had met at the residence of ad guru Alyque Padamsee: A maulana, a mufti, a woman professor of Islamic Studies and yours truly. We were there to talk about Islam and terrorism.

 

"I don't get it. Every Muslim I meet tells me Islam is against terrorism, every non-Muslim I meet believes Islam teaches terrorism", said Alyque. The maulana, the mufti and the professor cited verses from the Quran to show how Islam denounces any targeting of innocents.

 

"So it's not a question of faith but a problem of communication and maybe that's where I come in", said Alyque with the air of someone who knew exactly how to fix the problem. "We need drama to catch the media's eyeballs so we'll give them that. What we need is a fatwa and a hundred maulanas, each holding a mike, to spell it out loud and clear. Then the media will listen!"

 

How to get a hundred maulanas? That was when we found our hero in Maulana Madni. "You are talking of a hundred, I'm thinking of a million Muslims", he told me when I met him in Delhi in mid-April 2008. I nearly fell off my chair! Already on February 29, 2008, he had brought together thousands of maulanas at Darul Uloom, Deoband, for the same purpose. As part of his year-long campaign against terrorism in Islam's name, he now planned to assemble a million Muslims at the Ramlila Ground in Delhi on May 31, 2008.

 

"Sau salaams to all of you, Maulana Sahib. But, with due respect, it was a mixed message that went out of Deoband", I ventured tentatively. "There is this ad guru friend who says he has an idea or two on how to make your message really travel". "Let's meet in Mumbai then", was Maulana Madni's ready response.

 

"It has to be a fatwa, nothing less", Alyque kept insisting. It was Maulana Madni who got an unequivocal, no nonsense fatwa out of Deoband. "How about an oath to make it more dramatic?" suggested Alyque. Yes, we can, came the response. At the Ramlila ground on May 31, 2008, over 3,00,000 maulanas, maulvis and madrasa students raised their hands and took an "Oath of Allegiance" to fight terrorism in India or wherever… whenever.

 

The self-absorbed media didn't get it. Recall the Muslim state of denial until then, recall the familiar why-don't-even-moderate-Muslims-speak-up grouse? Yet, when, in a clean break from the prevailing denial-ism, 3,00,000 teachers and students from madrasas — alleged dens of global jihad — spoke out in one voice, the national media failed to give it the rousing reception it well deserved. How else does one explain that international commentators, experts and scholars of "Islamic terrorism" are still unaware of a clerics-led anti-terrorism campaign without any parallel in the world?

 

Give it to Maulana Mehmood Madni. Not to be deterred by the myopic media, a trainload of maulanas travelled from Deoband to Hyderabad in November last year to reiterate their "Terrorists-are-enemies-of-Islam", "Islam-means-peace" message. That the message was finally getting home was clear from what special invitee Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of Art of Living fame said at the Hyderabad rally: "An atmosphere has been created the world over linking terrorism with Islam. We have to join hands to remove this misconception". Now, a week ago, it was yoga guru Baba Ramdev, in a beard-to-beard with the maulanas at Deoband.

 

For his unrelenting, unmatched campaign against terror, Maulana Madni and the Jamiat do deserve the grateful thanks of a nation plagued by the terror scourge in recent years. So, it's a real good thing that on November 3, 2009, Union home minister P. Chidambaram, minister of state for communications Sachin Pilot and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury travelled to Deoband to do just that.

 

But many in the media still didn't get it. For them, the "breaking news", the panel discussions that evening and the next, was the Deoband fatwa declaring the singing of Vande Mataram as un-Islamic. Why was there no news flash, no panel discussion on "Ayatollah" Bal Thackeray's adesh that followed directing his Sainiks to cut off the tongue of any Muslim who refuses to chant the national song? Forget the Deoband fatwa, my limited refusal to sing Vande Mataram is simple: It's the Hindu Taliban's patriotism test for Indian Muslims.

 

All good things, alas, must come to an end. And here sadly is the end of the good news from Deoband and the

Jamiat: The Indian state need have no security concern from these quarters, but Indian Muslims, and Muslim women particularly, have much to worry about.

 

True, the bulk of the Deoband establishment had staunchly opposed Partition. Since Independence it has consistently opposed the idea of a separate Muslim political party. But, beyond that, all that the orthodox Deoband and the Jamiat have to offer is an obscurantist, insular, outdated Islam.

 

Have photographs at home, other than a passport? Burn them, NOW, for that's a grave sin. Celebrating a birthday, New Year or Valentine's Day is seriously un-Islamic. Visiting the dargah of a saint: Isn't it part family outing, part faith rejuvenation, part social intermingling with people of other faiths. No way, that's pure shirk! Teaching science and maths in the madrasas? Out of the question. A knowledge of the world and knowledge of Islam don't go together.

 

What if you are a woman? First thing, remember, Allah has made men "rulers", "sovereign" over women. The ideal Muslim woman is not heard or seen, except in a head-to-toe burqa. Higher education to become a doctor, engineer, lawyer, journalist, corporate executive, pilot, astronaut? Banish the thought. Co-education is haraam in Islam. Triple talaaq (instant divorce)? Yes, it's a socially repugnant practice but what to do, its Sharia law. If a man rapes his daughter-in-law, she becomes haraam to her husband for he is now her son: that too is one interpretation in Islamic law.

 

See what I mean? For what it's worth, here's my advice to all Indians, Muslims particularly: join Deoband and the JUH for they are invaluable allies in the fight against terrorism; but challenge them too for they are a huge, big drag on the community and the country's quest for a better tomorrow.

 

Javed Anand is co-editor of Communalism Combat and general secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

TERROR TRACK

 

Just as the first anniversary of the November 26 terror attacks approaches, we have received new information about the planning that went into those attacks as well a series of terror alerts about possible strikes in some western Indian states.

 

The arrest of David Coleman Headley, the US national of Pakistani origin who is suspected of being a Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist and of his colleague Tahawwur Hussain Rana, who is a Canadian national, has thrown up information about how they travelled around India, reconnoitering sites, checking facts and laying the groundwork for the 26/11 attacks.

 

Unfortunately, this shows the extent to which our intelligence agencies were unable to pick up the signs before the attack. Headley lived in Mumbai for almost two years, set up a business, went out around town and made friends with many people. Details are emerging of his associations with locals leading to the conclusion that he may have had something to do with the attacks. At the very least he would have got a sense of the way the city worked.

 

Indian investigating agencies have not yet got the opportunity to talk to him but they are getting inputs from the FBI. What this shows is that the shadowy terror organisations go about their business with meticulous planning. Recall the first ever bomb blasts in Mumbai (then Bombay) in 1993 which too were planned down to every small detail and involved many people. 

 

More than just looking back at the sins of omission and commission that led to 26/11 it is important to ask what lessons have been learnt and what measures have been taken to ensure that nothing like that ever happens again. Terrorism doesn't come with a warning so it helps to be prepared. Do we have systems at every stage, from intelligence to coordination of various agencies and finally, the handling of the aftermath? A new counter-terrorism outfit Force One has been set up but is still struggling to find a home. Coastline patrolling by the Mumbai police is still not at optimum level. And, sadly, many of the victims have yet to receive compensation.

 


We have seen how Pakistan has mocked India's dossier on the attacks and its dilly-dallying on the trial of one of the key accused. In India the case of the lone terror accused of 26/11 is moving apace. That is the difference between a true democracy and a sham one. But we have to do much more. The authorities have to take steps that assure citizens that their safety is in good hands. The first anniversary of those bloody days and nights is approaching and should be a good time to take stock of our preparedness. The picture we see so far is hardly rosy.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

IDENTITY ISSUES

FARRUKH DHONDY 

 

Sitting next to the grandson of a late great English writer, himself a writer, at a dinner party in Exmoor, I am asked if I am a practising Zoroastrian. I say 'not quite' and am asked about its ethics and metaphysics.

 

"Simple," I reply, "Monotheism. The single God, Ahura Mazda in combat with Ahriman, the Lie. And three simple tenets: 'Humata, Hukta, Huvareshta' good thoughts, good words, good deeds, sometimes translated by the venal as good eggs, good fish, good meat!"

 

He is impressed. He tells me that he was even more impressed with the musical works of a Parsi composer called Kaikushru Sorabji who wrote an interminable piece for piano which was performed but once by a friend of his, the famous pianist John Ogdon. Sorabji had arrived in England as a convert to Christianity but reverted to Zoroastrianism later.

 

Other party guests now joined in and someone inevitably mentioned Zubin Mehta and then Freddie Mercury whose interpretation of our three tenets was probably somewhat different. Three Musical Parsis. (The title of my next opera!)

 

Grandson noted that Parsis were a tiny and dwindling minority in India but had
influenced it in a disproportionate way.

 

"Like the Jews," 

 

"No, unlike the Jews," said Grandson. "Parsis exude no sense of victimisation."  
"Quite right," I say, "We eat what we like and so don't feel sorry for ourselves. Pork, beef, no taboos. There was the news recently of a Parsi wedding serving vegetarian food. Which is like a Wordsworth poem with every reference to flora removed."

 

Now the dinner guests in remote Exmoor, like those at the  feast attended by the Ancient Mariner, had never been to a Parsi wedding. They did not know of what I spoke and if I had said Bheeda Pareeda or Patra-ni-Machhi they may have thought I was announcing the names of famous Parsi sopranos.

 

I was then pressed for a brief history of Parsis and I rehearsed the glories of the Achaemenid Empire, overrun eventually by the Macedonian bandit, Alexander the Damned. I progressed to the Sassanians who were in the 7th century AD overthrown by Arab-Muslim occupation, which caused our ancestors to flee as refugees to India.

 

"I'd like to convert to Zorastrianism," says Grandson.

 

"Feel free," I say, "But we Parsis won't accept you as one of us. You have to be born of a Parsi father to claim that distinction."

 

"So no converts?"

 

"No. That's why we are an endangered species. The silence will soon descend."
A bit melodramatic, but it had its effect. A silence descended as the gooseberry tart was being served.

"So you seem… er..content to die out?"

 

"Of course not," I reply. "We have stuck to racial purity in the interests of keeping the relative wealth of the Parsi community within itself. The only concession we have made through the ages is allowing the progeny of Parsi fathers who have made children with non-Parsi servant girls to join the fold.

 

"Now this is unfortunate as, for instance, my sister's children, very beautiful human beings, can't be included as their father was Hindu — not that it seems to bother them: they view Parsis and our ways with an amused tolerance. The in-breeding has diluted the gene-pool and we are sort of funny. And even if we resemble them we shouldn't go the way of the Dodo!"

 

"So what's to be done?"

 

"Well, we have vast pockets of invested wealth. The lands in Mumbai which contains the towers from which dead bodies are disposed by feeding them to the vultures, are a very expensive chunk of real estate. The vultures are dying out as they absorb Diclofenac through eating cattle carcasses. It's a medicine for cattle but lethal to the  birds and has killed 95 per cent of Indian vultures. We should dispose of the dead differently — after all the Zoroastrian Kings, Cyrus and Darius, are buried in tombs. The plan is we sell off the land and hold the proceeds in a Parsi Survival Fund.

 

Then use the fund to import a quarter of a million volunteer women of child-bearing age from countries such as Russia, Romania and places from which adventurous or desperate women volunteer for questionable service in the Gulf and even come to India to join Bollywood dancing choruses and work in the sex trade. These young ladies would be given the status and lifestyle of memsahibs and be required to, with forms of easy social introduction, provide the next generation of Parsis. As Parsi Baby-mothers they would be pampered and pensioned as saviours of the race.

 

"I think I approve," says the late great writer's Grandson. Sorabovsky, Mehtanov or Mercurevich, anyone?

 

The writer is a London based scriptwriter

 

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DNA

COLUMN

WHAT ME WORRY?

SWAMI NITHYANANDA 

 

Sometimes we are so used to living a certain way that we can't look at a better way to live. Worry is one habit that keeps us from living to our full potential and invites disease into the body. Disease starts in the mind.


There once was a doctor famous for his extraordinary and effective treatment for arthritis. He always had a waiting room full of people.


One day an old lady with a bent back entered the clinic, with the aid of a stick. When her turn came, she went into the doctor's room and amazingly, came out within five minutes, walking completely erect with her head high.

 

A woman in the waiting room ran to her and said: "It's a miracle! You walked in bent in half, and now you are walking erect! What did that doctor do?"

 

The old lady replied: "He gave me a longer cane."


Thoughts and worries arise from the navel region. As you create more thoughts inside you and worry, the load on the naval region increases, and you'll feel heavy in your stomach.


There is an energy centre in the navel area called the manipuraka chakra. This energy centre begins to shrink when there's a lot of worry, as it responds directly to worry, and affects the stomach. That's why when you're worried about something, your stomach feels uneasy. Or when you hear some shocking news, you say, 'I can't digest it.' Any disturbing news causes your stomach to churn. The stomach is very sensitive to your thoughts.


You may have observed that those who are very ambitious, who are perfectionists, end up with ulcers. Too much perfectionism leads to stomach troubles and ulcers. Ulcers happen when people continuously suffer from worries. When worry becomes a habit, it causes many psychosomatic diseases, including cancer.


Worry can affect any part of the body. Psychosomatic diseases don't have any carriers. They occur purely due to the way the mind and body of a person interact. That is why worry needs to be addressed and removed from the system.


Understanding brings the energy of insight— insight into the flow of time, laws of the universe, and the cause and effect of many things that happen in the universe. Out of this arises a deep peaceful acceptance and reverence for the universe and its ways. Once this understanding happens, you remain cheerful come what may. You live life with laughter and bliss. A blissful person's life is so rich, there is no space or time for worry.
 
Swami Nithyananda is a spiritual leader

 

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DNA

NO NATIONAL LANGUAGE?

 

Your newspaper has been mentioning Hindi as the "national language". I would like to point out that India does not have a national language and Hindi is just one of the regional languages. Neither the Constitution of India nor Indian law specifies a national language. Article 343 of the constitution specifies that the official language of the Union shall be Hindi in Devanagari script.

K Muralidhara, via email

 

II
I have been quite amused by the enormous reactions on the internet — mainly from NRIs — objecting to Hindi being mentioned as the "national language" when it is only an "official language". For years, in casual speech Hindi has been called the "national language" ("rashtra bhasha") and we must admit, whichever part of India we are from, that both Hindi and English are used the most by people who travel to different regions of India and may not know the local language. It seems we are quibbling. It is true that India has many wonderful languages — not all of them are listed — and we must respect them all. But we cannot deny that the government has been promoting Hindi and the very popularity of the products of the Hindi film industry shows how, "unofficially", Hindi is practically our lingua franca. It is sad that we are returning to language
chauvinism for narrow political ends.

Reema Barua, Mumbai

 

COSMOPOLITAN MUMBAI

Aroon Tikekar's 'Poisoning Minds' (DNA, November 13) was generally well balanced. There may not be many things to be said in favour of Abu Azmi, but in the recent imbroglio, it would be unjust to blame him for being provocative. Which self respecting person would meekly bow to a 'request (?)' with 'threat of dire consequences' if not complied with; especially when he was on to do something which is fully justifiable by law and the Constitution?  Had he read his oath in Marathi he would have helped boost the morale of the ones who had issued the diktat. Honestly, even before the Bal or Raj wave, we (born in Mahrashtra and educated in Marathi) used to start a conversation in Hindi, when we wanted to speak with an unknown person we met on streets of Mumbai. It was a cosmopolitan city then and so is it now even after it became a part of the Marathi state. Let us not curb the freedom of Indian citizens to live peacefully anywhere in the country as long as he or she is not in any way harming other citizens or encroaching on their rights.

Virag Gokhale, Mumbai

 

WRONG STAND

Recently we witnessed ugly scenes in the Maharashtra Assembly over the language issue ('MNS-Azmi rivalry goes a long way', DNA, November 10). The root cause of the controversy was the disrespect shown by Abu Azmi for Marathi. When a person aspires to be a representative of the people in a state he should be familiar with the state language. Constitutionally Abu Azmi has not erred in taking the oath in Hindi but he has certainly shown disrespect for Marathi and he has been living in Maharashtra for two and a half decades! The three-language formula must be uniformly implemented in all the states in India. The Hindi speaking states must also learn a third Indian language besides Hindi and English. Sanskrit is a good option for a third language as it is the mother of almost all Indian languages.

Shreeram Paranjpe, via email

 

UNFAIR GUEST LISTS

I endorse the views of Nandini Ramnath about recently concluded MAMI Fest ('Out of focus', DNA, November 11). However, I would like to ask a question. Why should the inaugural or closing functions including the announcement of awards remain confined to only Bollywood or VIPs who were not even part of the audience for the showcased films at the festival and exclude those who were the registered audience?  If MAMI wishes to involve Bollywood, there are other ways to do it.

 Mohan Siroya, Mumbai

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

MAOIST STANDOFF IN NEPAL

POLITICAL BLACKMAIL MUST BE RESISTED

 

It is a matter of deep concern that Maoists in Nepal are increasingly taking the law into their owns hands and subverting the system that they had agreed to be part of when they ended the decade-long civil war and signed a peace deal in 2006. Their blockade of the entrance to the Prime Minister's office and other ministerial offices on Thursday in the worst standoff since they quit the government earlier this year was notable for its brazenness and an index of their growing frustration over being dispossessed of power. Not only has their agitation stalled the peace process and delayed the integration and rehabilitation of thousands of former Maoist fighters, but it has also hit the once-thriving tourism industry hard. For an impoverished country like Nepal, it amounts to putting the clock back on growth and stability.

 

The Maoists are indeed playing with fire. This is borne out by their attitude towards India too. Recently, a senior functionary of their political outfit UCPN (Maoist) acknowledged in a newspaper interview that they were extending their "full support and cooperation" to the Indian Maoists, who are waging a war against the Indian state. This followed a statement by Union Home Minister Chidambaram that they were possibly supplying arms to Indian Marxists. The attack on two Indian priests in Kathmandu in September was evidently a ploy by the Nepalese Maoists in league with the Chinese to curb Indian influence in Nepal. They reckon that erasing Nepal's Hindu identity would make it easier to convert Nepal into a Communist base. A Maoist Nepal would predictably pose a real security threat to India especially because of the close links the Nepalese Maoists have with their counterparts in India who already have a significant presence in many Indian states.

 

It is vital for democracy in Nepal and in India's security interest that the designs of the Nepali Maoists be frustrated. The Madhav Kumar Nepal government must stand up to the challenge being posed to its authority and not buckle under Maoist strong-arm tactics. The rule of law must prevail at all costs. The Maoists must return to the negotiating table and accept the ethos of democracy. As for India, it would be well advised to continue to support the democratically-installed government in Nepal.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

JUDICIAL CHECKMATE

SCRAPPING VIP PLOTS A SLAP FOR HUDA

 

The Punjab and Haryana High Court's ruling quashing the allotment of industrial plots at Bhiwani in Haryana to VIPs is worthy of appreciation. A division bench consisting of Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur and Justice K.S. Ahluwalia gave the landmark judgement on the ground that the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) had circumvented the rules and established procedure to favour VIPs including the relatives and friends of politicians and bureaucrats. They agreed with the petitioners' contention that the allotment of plots in January 2008 smacked of nepotism, favouritism and lack of transparency. As it happens, HUDA authorities, in their eagerness to please VIPs, had turned a blind eye to the claims of many ordinary applicants.

 

HUDA boasts of an elaborate procedure for plots allotment. It professes to assess objectively the entrepreneurs' applications, their individual merit and financial capability. Evidently, this exists only on paper. As the Bhiwani case reveals, no evaluation was done and no criteria were adopted to assess all the applications for plots. That this disregard of norms is not confined to Bhiwani alone is no consolation. The VIP menace has increased so much in the country that over the years powerful politicians, bureaucrats and influential people have been cornering prime sites everywhere with impunity.

 

In Punjab, too, this has assumed scandalous proportions. One may recall the Kansal land grab case. In February 2009, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had expressed anguish over police officers abusing their authority to purchase property in connivance with government functionaries. In this case, the Bench made it clear that every purchase by an IAS or IPS officer is not made with mala fide intent. Considering the scope and magnitude of the problem, there is need for a thorough investigation of such cases and fixing accountability on those involved, however high they may be. The culprits must be tried in fast track courts and duly punished. There is indeed a need to make the rules of allotment transparent and foolproof.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

TIME TO TAKE OFF

CLOUDS CLEAR FOR THE AIRLINES

 

There is good news from the civil aviation sector: passengers are back. October saw a 25 per cent jump in passenger traffic. In fact, more people (39.7 lakh) flew last month than in October 2007 (36.39 lakh) when the going was good. Credit it to the economic recovery, a pick up in business sentiment, the booming stock markets, the restoration of salary cuts or increased recruitment in the corporate sector or all of them. One major difference now is: more people are flying by low-cost carriers, which account for 76 per cent of seat utilisation.

 

This does not mean the airlines will soon return to profits. The accumulated losses are enormous. Government carrier Air India has reported Rs 5,548 crore loss in 2008-09. The government has offered a bailout to Air India provided it cuts costs, which also means a reduction in the incentives and allowances to the staff, and possibly retrenchment. In trying to cope with the downturn Jet Airways has exposed itself. A number of missteps — the hasty removal of employees and their re-employment under pressure, the mishandling of the pilots' strike, the takeover of Sahara Airlines at a hefty price and the reckless launch of international flights — have multiplied its financial troubles and left its image in tatters. Smaller airlines have relatively fared better.

 

If the oil prices do not go up wildly, the aviation industry in India may soon be able to breathe better. But there may not be an immediate end to air passengers' woes caused by delayed flights, unsafe journeys (planes keep skidding and drunk pilots tend to scuffle or overshoot destinations) and congestion at airports as infrastructure projects take their own time. The airline managements will have to learn from mistakes made when the business was thriving. The financial meltdown, which brought global air traffic to a trickle, must have taught airlines the world over a precious lesson: Do not overstretch yourself and always be prepared for the rainy day.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

PAK'S HIGH-END TERROR

INDIA SHOULD TAKE THE THREAT SERIOUSLY

BY MAJ-GEN ASHOK K MEHTA (RETD)

 

Last month on three successive days, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh extended the hand of friendship to Pakistan acknowledging that India could grow and prosper only if its neighbours did the same. For Pakistan last month was the worst and bloodiest in its history of violence: 12 suicide attacks (and continuing) in 17 days surpassing all records in suicide terrorism in the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan. The perpetrators of the carnage are mainly the Tehreeq-e-Taliban Pakistan and the target the army and security establishment, switching to soft targets when these became inaccessible.

 

The arrival of the human bomber at India's doorstep is a warning to Delhi, especially after TTP terror mastermind, Hakimullah Mehsud declared last month that after Pakistan it would be India's turn. The intelligence and security establishments must heed this threat of high-end terrorism seriously and not be lulled into complacency after a one-year long freedom from it. Pakistan is unarguably the epicentre of terrorism — its soil is being used for cross-border terrorism against all her major neighbours: Iran, Afghanistan and India. Besides a war being waged against TTP by the Army in South Waziristan, largely due to US prodding and financial backing, three debates are raging inside Pakistan — ownership of the war on terrorism, identifying the enemy and utility of the good Taliban, the so-called strategic asset.

 

Whose war is it any way is not a new question. Pakistanis have been living in denial and blaming others for a decade about sourcing and nurturing Taliban when it is clear that the root and branch of terrorism has spread right across the country. With Afghan, Pashtun and Pakistan Taliban bonding becoming a reality, some Pakistanis still believe that faith-driven terrorism is a secondary problem to the US-led war in Afghanistan. If the Americans and foreign forces were to leave Afghanistan, terrorism would fade away, they have been made to believe.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth. The seizure of Swat and parts of Malakand Division by the Pakistan Taliban earlier in the year was the first step towards establishing an Islamic Caliphate in Pakistan. The focus of the war has to be shifted from anti-Americanism and blaming others to the survival of the state.

 

Identifying the enemy was never a problem in Pakistan. It was done through textbooks, waging war by stealth, crusade in Kashmir and cross-border terrorism. Since 9/11, India's unquestioned enemy status has been challenged by the Taliban and its associates. After the storming of the Lal Masjid in 2007, Pakistani interlocutors told their counterparts that India was no longer enemy No. 1. It was the jihadis. That was the time when both countries had clinched the backchannel four-point agreement on Kashmir.

 

26/11 brought India back into enemy No. 1 rating. But the most recent Pew polls indicate that while 11 and 53 per cent of Pakistanis say Al-Qaeda and Pakistan Taliban are the enemy, only 18 per cent name India. But poll ratings have proved quite fickle.

 

For the Army which has redeemed its primacy among the power troika of the President, the Prime Minister and Chief of Army Staff, India remains enemy country and Eastern sector the vital front. Pakistan has always had a one-front strategy and never been geared to fight on two fronts. So while the majority of the people are giving India the benefit of doubt, the Army and ISI remain irreconcilably adversarial. Now, not only is India being blamed for Pakistan's woes in Afghanistan and Baluchistan but in Punjab also.

 

While the US State Department officials have told Pakistan it sees India's role in Afghanistan in a positive light, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says US has no evidence of India's involvement in Baluchistan. Pakistan acting neither against the Afghan Taliban nor Al-Qaeda nor even the Punjab Taliban has led to some plain speaking by the US. First, through the Kerry-Lugar Bill and later through visiting senior military commanders and State department officials. The discussion on merit of these strategic assets has been joined.

 

National Security Advisor Gen James Jones said there were no more than 100 Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan implying that the bulk were in Pakistan. Hillary Clinton created a furore in Lahore recently saying, "it is hard to believe that no one in Pakistan government including the country's military establishment knew where Al-Qaeda leaders were hiding and couldn't get them if they rally wanted to".

 

All of President Obama's top Generals are breathing down Pakistan's neck, seriously doubting its intent and capacity to fight the war on the West. The two-Division military offensive, backed by other tribals and militant groups, the fourth in Southern Waziristan is approaching one month.  South Waziristan has a population of 500,000, 90 per cent of whom are Mehsud tribe whose one sub-tribe specialises in churning out suicide bombers. 

 

US military support and financial incentives will ensure this offensive stays on course. Three months before the operation, Pakistan Army and Air Force softened the battleground with artillery, aircraft and helicopter gunships along with a coordinated economic blockade. US drones, Special Forces Trainers, Mi17 Troop Lift helicopters and other high-tech US equipment have acted as force multipliers. Pakistan had previously refused direct US assistance during the Swat offensive. After the current phase of suicide terrorism, 51 per cent of Pakistanis support military action against militant Islamists.

 

The Army has made impressive territorial gains and followed a scorched earth policy. The valley floors and the immediate surrounding heights in the area of operations are being cleared. Of the 15,000 TTP, more than 300 have already been killed, so the Army claims. But the majority will escape into Afghanistan via North Waziristan.

 

It is not clear whether the aim of the offensive is to disperse or destroy TTP. Some Pakistanis believe that this must be a decisive fight to eliminate the enemy. If that is the goal, the Army will not only have to clear but also hold the liberated areas. At least two more Divisions would be required for a concerted counterinsurgency campaign.

 

The real test of the Pakistan Army's seriousness about fighting the war will come when it takes the campaign into North Waziristan, the hub of the Haqqani network which is a key ally of the Afghan Taliban and a thorn on the side of the US-led NATO forces. The Pakistan Army is already overstretched and will have no resources for another offensive unless it is prepared to thin out from the east.

 

Further, winter will preclude operations in the higher reaches this season. The ISI will least likely order the Army to fight the Afghan Taliban (and Punjabi Taliban) which targets India whom TTP leaders call "our Punjabi brethren" as it regards both as strategic assets which according to the ISI manual means that the entity does you bidding and not act autonomously.

 

Islamabad's ongoing offensive in the Frontier and the war against terrorism inside Pakistan can at best be a tentative exercise till the core issues of identifying the real enemy and rating the strategic assets are resolved.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

BAU JI

BY RAJBIR DESWAL

 

Bau Ji was an ordinary person. But he was a special father. I had never thought of addressing him in 'historical terms of having had been!' Not that he was immortal, but that he was mortally alive and succumbing to all my needs, all my life, made me look up to him being more than a father. And having brought me in this world, who else could have done this to me except him! Bau Ji. My father.

 

As a boy, I saw in Bau Ji all that I could have dreamed to be. As an adolescent, I found him affording me all support I needed. As an adult, I discovered in him an indulgent counsellor. As a man, I had him as my spiritual guru. But more he grew old and infirm, he became a child. Dependent. Emotional. Needing to be repaid for what I owed him. Without asking for it.

 

He was my role model. His upbringing made me follow only him. Being his natural part. If he liked Nehru or Churchill, I too liked them. If he adored Dilip Kumar's style of acting and Talat Mehmood's velvety voice, I too rooted for them the same way. If he preferred to dress immaculately, I too would not let a crease on my clothes get crumpled.

 

I followed Bau Ji even in his initiation into a faith of his choice at the hands of his spiritual master. I heard him compose verses and sing them to small congregations in our village. He made me sing and write like him. His love for Urdu and good English was duly imbibed and emulated by me. He was a graduate of the 1940s vintage.

 

Bau Ji was a true son of the soil. I remember him carrying me as a child on his broad shoulders. Having grown up a little more, I started accompanying father on his tractor to the fields. I would marvel at his sinewy arms with jet black hair down the elbow.

 

Noticing a water channel overflow, father would stop the tractor, come down, roll up his sleeves, pick up the spade and divert the water. I watched his biceps and triceps almost frog-throbbing now and then with the lifting and dropping of the spade into hard soil.

 

With mother having parted company forever about 24 years ago, Bau Ji became a loner, more by choice than by disposition. He became hypertensive, diabetic, and spondylitis literally took the better of him and his upright posture. The hair on his hands turned white and the skin got loosened; sans the rugged texture it once had.

 

Early this month, Bau Ji called up almost gasping for breath on the phone: "I am not well, Bhai!" He had never uttered such words of helplessness — ever! It did not portend well. We took him with us. That night I slept (!) with him when he kept asking the domestic help to 'go and relax' but confirming about me, "Bhai, are you around?" His condition deteriorated the next day and till late evening, he could not hang on. Bau Ji was gone. For ever.

 

On the way to Hardwar, while carrying his ashes to be immersed in the Ganga, I received a call from his mobile left back in the village. The text which appeared on my phone-screen read, "Bau Ji calling!" For a second I preferred not to suspend my disbelief and keep feeling Bau Ji's presence around. You were very special to me, Father! Like all fathers, I believe.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

DURBAR MOVE

A TRADITION THAT UNITES DIVERSE REGIONS

BY EHSAN FAZILI

 

When Maharaja Gulab Singh decided to move his "Durbar" (royal court) for every six months between Srinagar and Jammu to meet aspirations of the people from different parts of the state, very little did he know that this would be going a long way down the historical bondage of the state. After it first began in 1872, the practice has been continuing for the past 137 years, making the State distinct with two capital cities, Srinagar during summers and Jammu in winters.

 

The biannual shift has led to a socio-cultural bondage between the two distinct regions of the State on either side of the Pir Panjal ranges of the Himalayas.

 

The Kashmir valley is connected to the rest of the country through the 296-km-long Srinagar-Jammu national highway, the only surface link through the Jawahar Tunnel. In order to reach out to the people in all the three geographical regions, the State continues to be divided into two administrative divisions – Kashmir, which also includes the thinly populated frontier cold desert region of Ladakh and Jammu division.

 

"Though the biannual shift is a massive task, it has become a necessity and sentiments of the people are attached to it", said a senior officer of the State government. Some time is also lost in the working of the offices in the biannual shift, for packing and transporting the official records and employees.

 

When the government had ordered to retain some of the departments in Srinagar for the winter in 1987, there was a prolonged agitation in Jammu that finally prompted the government to rescind the order for "truncated Durbar move".

 

The practice has also been a "unifying factor" between the two regions that was clear in the wake of last year's Amarnath land agitation. Though the two regions were divided over regional and religious lines, there was a warm welcome to the "Durbar move", which included employees from all the three regions of the State.

 

For many people in both the divisions, the "Durbar move" has been serving a dual purpose – to pursue their pending cases in the Civil Secretariat and be away from the respective treacherous weather conditions. Thus, it also serves as an economic activity through tourism. For these people from Kashmir it provides a chance to shift away from the chilly winters in the snow-clad valley, and for the people of the Jammu region during sizzling hot summer, an opportunity to visit florescent, scenic and serene Kashmir.

 

But the employees moving with the durbar, whose number in the latest move stood at over 7,500, have different tales to unravel, particularly those who have been spending the entire service tenure between the two capitals cities.

 

Shadi Lal, who moved to Jammu last month-end with the Durbar, has spent his 35 years of life moving between the two capital cities since 1973. He opines that the family life suffers a lot in this biannual movement, though the weather greets pleasantly on both sides. He had to shift his children, then in nursery and pre-primary in one of the leading schools in Srinagar , when militancy erupted in the valley in 1989-90. The family life was disturbed like that of all other Kashmiri Pandits, who had then to migrate from the valley. While Shadi Lal, like his community members, shifted his children to schools in Jammu, he had to remain associated with the bi-annual durbar.

"Overall the practice is not so good for an employee", he opines, adding that the proper attention to the studies of children at their primary level cannot be devoted properly by the parents, who remain separated for half the year.

 

"The move is a good practice during the initial years of service and early years after marriage, till kids are sent to schools", opines Qazi Mohammad Shafi, a resident of Srinagar, who has been moving with the Durbar for the past more than 20 years.

 

The national highway has also been playing a spoilsport with usual blockades due to bad weather during winter months, keeping the employees belonging to Kashmir away from their families in good and bad times.

 

Though the frequency of highway blockade in winters over the recent years has declined, it is also hoped that the rail connectivity between Qazigund and Udhampur will further lessen the distance.

 

The employees from the Jammu region have same stories to unravel, says Aijaz Ahmad, adding that family life of the residents living far away from the two capital cities is more disturbed for they virtually have to run three kitchens.

 

Over 7,500 employees have shifted from Srinagar to Jammu this season. They include 850 gazetted officers and 5,500 non-gazetted officers. Of these 3,500 employees required accommodation in Jammu , out of which only 2,800 have been provided with government accommodation.

 

The residential accommodation is a challenging task before the Estates Department, which has hundreds of residential quarters, ministerial and senior bureaucratic bungalows, tenements at both the capitals. It has been more challenging in Srinagar to accommodate non-local and migrant Kashmir Pandit employees in summers due to the trouble since early the 1990s. They are lodged in government houses and private guest houses and hotel quarters and escorted in chartered buses to and fro the Civil Secretariat and other offices.

 

Official sources said that it cost the State about Rs 4.50 crore as compared to Rs 4.30 crore spent last time. Every employee on each Durbar move gets a uniform move allowance of Rs 5,000. This apart, the total amount on boarding and lodging of employees, those from Kashmir division in Jammu (during winter) and those from Jammu region or Ladakh in Srinagar (during summer) involves an huge amount of Rs 35 crore annually, sources said.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

DITHERING OVER NUCLEAR PLANT

BY SARBJIT DHALIWAL

 

IN the past 40 years Punjab's ruling parties have failed to resolve whether the state should have a nuclear power plant. Since 1970 Punjab has continued its struggle for a nuclear power plant half-heartedly.

 

Inadequate power has paralysed the growth of the state. Prolonged power cuts in the urban and rural areas, especially during summer, have become a norm. The state needs to double its power generation capacity in the next five years to cope with the rising power demand as well as to meet the deficit.

 

Unfortunately, the state's decision-makers have been laying too much emphasis on setting up coal-based thermal plants, a major source of pollution. Whereas already three thermal plants are functioning, four more will be set up in the next five years.

 

When all seven thermal plants will be in operation, the daily consumption of coal would cross the figure of one lakh tonne. Punjab will virtually become a smoky state. Some of the experts have linked the high incidence of cancer in Malwa to toxic elements in the ash generated in huge quantity in thermal plants located in the Bathinda belt.

 

As an alternative source of energy, the Union Government has been urging the states to opt for nuclear power plants, relatively a source of clean energy.

 

First in 1970, the Union Government sought options from states to set up nuclear power plants. Showing its inclination for the nuclear energy, the Punjab Government offered six sites – Doburjee and Asron, near Ropar, Reilli on the Hazipur-Dasuya Road, Dhilwan on the Jalandhar-Amritsar road, Jugial near the Mukerian Hydel Channel and a site near Chamkaur Sahib.

 

The Department of Atomic Energy selected Doburjee, near Ropar, as a site for setting up a nuclear power plant in 1970. However, the plant did not come up there. Instead, a thermal plant was set up later.

 

The second exercise for locating the site for the nuclear plant began in 1982. A site selection committee led by Er N.S. Vasant, the then Chairman of the PSEB, was set up.

 

The Vasant Committee visited Dhilwan, near Amritsar, Tapprian near Ropar, Moara near Kiratpur, Uchhi Bassi near Mukerian, Hazipur and Ralla, near Mansa. The list was submitted to the site selection committee of the Department of Atomic Energy. However, the Atomic Energy Department rejected all the sites.

 

During another visit in July 1983, the DOA committee inspected sites at Daroli near Patran, Dhanaula and a site near Chamkaur Sahib. The Patran site was cleared. However, as Punjab had sunk deep in violence then, the Union Government dragged its feet from setting up a nuclear plant near Patran.

 

As Punjab became calm in 1995, another attempt was made to set up a nuclear plant. In March that year, a meeting between the Chairman of the PSEB and the MD of the Nuclear Power Corporation was held in New Delhi. A decision was taken to update the data regarding the Patran site. The updated data was sent to the Nuclear Corporation on May 23, 1995.

 

However, the plant did not materialise. Again the corporation sent a reference to the Punjab Government in January 13, 2000 asking for the latest data on Patran site. The State Government set up another site selection committee on June 13, 2000, asking its members to take up the site selection exercise afresh and submit the report at the earliest.

 

The then Chairman of the PSEB, G.S. Sohal, was made the head of that committee. Its other members were D.S. Guru, then Director, Industries, Punjab; Dr G.S. Chahal, then Director, Animal Husbandry; Santokh Singh Sachdev, a former Project Director of Tarapur Atomic Plant, and Dr H.S. Virk, a nuclear physicist, who is at present working as Director, Research in the DAV Institute of Engineering and Technology at Jalandhar.

 

The nature of sub-strata was tested, details regarding population density were collected, site meteorology was studied, details with regard to potential for surface faulting, soil liquefaction and potential for flooding were also collected. The Punjab Pollution Control Board conducted environmental studies.

 

After completing the exercise laid down by the Department of Atomic Energy, the Patran site was offered to the corporation. A meeting of the Chairman of the PSEB and other members of the committee and a team of the corporation led by its then Chairman-cum-Managing Director, V.K. Chaturvedi, was held on December 14,2000.

 

Before that meeting, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had written a letter to the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on October 23, 2000 requesting him to advise the Department of Atomic Energy to give top priority to the Patran site in Patiala district.

 

There are reports that the Union Government had asked the State Government to deposit Rs 250 crore as the initial installment of money to set up the plant. However, as some senior Congress leaders from the Patiala region became active against the plant, the State Government started dilly-dallying, leaving the plant issue in suspended animation.

 

Dr H.S.Virk says because of the indecisiveness of the state's ruling politicians, Punjab failed to get the nuclear plant. "We need the plant most because due to the shortage of power our development is being affected severally", he says.

 

The Union Government had also not shown its seriousness with regard to allotting the plant to Punjab whereas it had given the same to Haryana now. Had Punjab pushed its case hard, it would have got the plant by now.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

INSIDE PAKISTAN

RIFT IN RULING COALITION

BY SYED NOORUZZAMAN

 

The PPP-led government's failure to get the controversial National Reconciliation Order (NRO) passed by Pakistan's National Assembly (parliament) has led to a major rift in the ruling coalition. The PPP has started ignoring its partner in the government, the Sindh-based MQM, particularly while holding discussions to find solutions to various issues.

 

As reported by The News, Sardar Ahmed, the MQM's high representative in the coalition core committee for Sindh to resolve the issues arising out between the PPP and the MQM, has pointed out that his party was not invited to participate in a recent meeting of the Karachi Coordination Committee in Islamabad. Mr Ahmed said, "his party was being completely ignored". The meeting was called by President Asif Ali Zardari.

 

This is being interpreted as the fallout of MQM chief Altaf Hussain's advice to Mr Zardari to resign in the interest of democracy in Pakistan instead of trying to wash his past sins through the controversial NRO, issued by former military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf.

 

The government had to ultimately withdraw the NRO from parliament as it was certain to face defeat.

 

As Business Recorder says, "They had no idea that by the end of the day, the PPP would be all-alone, deserted by its coalition partners. During the day, Nawaz Sharif advised President Zardari not to table the NRO and Shujaat Hussain had warned that his party would oppose the bill. But the tipping point came when Altaf Hussain dropped the bomb-shell by asking President Zardari to 'offer himself as a sacrifice' in order to save the system."

 

BENEFICIARIES OF NRO

The government has ultimately been saved from certain defeat and humiliation, but the ill-thought-out move relating to the NRO has led to a fresh controversy. There were many other beneficiaries of the NRO than Mr Zardari. Who were they?

 

According to Dawn, "The government told the National Assembly that it was ready to provide lists of beneficiaries of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) as well as of big loan write-offs in the past, and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said politicians could be less than 'other people' who gained from former President Pervez Musharraf's controversial decree."

 

There was a demand raised by many members of both the Opposition and the ruling coalition that the government should come out with a list of the people who got big bank loans written-off during the Musharraf regime. Nothing has happened beyond this. But the demand is likely to be raised again to expose the looters of Pakistan.

 

PAK TALIBAN IN AFGHANISTAN

Can one believe that the US-led multinational forces in Afghanistan will allow Taliban activists from Pakistan to take shelter in Afghanistan? But that is what The Nation newspaper has alleged. It says in one of its editorials that "… an alarming development has taken place, as ISAF commanders have removed security check-posts located on the Afghanistan side of the international border. This move entails multiple intriguing motives.

 

"First, it will encourage infiltration of militants into Afghanistan to justify the American claim that key Al-Qaeda-related insurgents are present in FATA and Balochistan. Second, the open border can be used by the Afghan Taliban commanders to send large-scale reinforcements in South Waziristan to sabotage the military operation."

 

An editorial in Daily Times, too, talks of removal of security check-posts on the Afghanistan side of the Durand Line. "Successive military operations against the local (Pakistani) Taliban have crippled their organization, which is why they could now be crossing the border to safeguard their interests. The alarming factor is that that the 'anvil' (a reference to a 2004 hammer and anvil strategy between the US and Pakistan) is nowhere to be seen as the NATO forces have vacated more than half a dozen key security check-posts on the Afghan side of the Pak-Afghan border opposite South Waziristan", where the Pakistan military is engaged in a war against the Taliban.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUME

EDITORIAL

INDO-BANGLA TIES

 

It is a positive sign that in recent times, the Government of Bangladesh has started responding to India's concerns and the Government of India should take full advantage of the situation to deal with the problem of infiltration of Bangladeshi nationals to India. Earlier, the Government of the neighbouring country even refused to accept the presence of leaders of North East based militant groups in the territory of Bangladesh, but after the Awami League Government assumed office, the situation started changing and it is apparent that the militant groups will now find it tough to use Bangladesh as a safe haven. The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) recently suffered a major setback when security forces of Bangladesh picked up two senior members- Foreign Secretary Sasha Choudhury and Finance Secretary Chitraban Hazarika, and handed them over to the Border Security Force (BSF), while, the Government of Bangladesh also reportedly named ULFA Commander in Chief Paresh Baruah as one of the accused in the 2004 arms haul case, following which it will be tough for the ULFA leader to stay in the neighbouring country. It is also reported that from time to time, the security forces of Bangladesh started raiding the known hideouts of the militant groups and if such pressure is maintained, it will be tough for the leaders of the militant groups to stay in Bangladesh to plan subversive activities in India. At the same time, the Government of India should keep pressure on the neighbouring country to create the join task force to deal with trans-border movement of insurgents as decided earlier and if the border guarding forces of both India and Bangladesh work in close coordination, it will be tough for the elements of anti-India forces to move freely from Bangladesh to India and vice versa.


The Government of India should also take advantage of the presence of a friendly Government in the neighbouring country to deal with the problem of infiltration of foreigners. At present, it is almost impossible to deport the Bangladeshi nationals apprehended in India because of the refusal of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) to accept them as Bangladeshi citizens and India should take up the issue strongly with Bangladesh Government. Moreover, the border disputes slowed down construction of border roads and fencing in some parts along the international border and efforts should be made to settle the disputes including the problem of adverse possessions without further delay for restoration of peace and tranquillity along the border. In some spots along the international border, the fencing cannot be constructed 150 yards inside Indian territory as agreed upon by both the countries earlier because of the terrain and this issue should also be resolved through dialogues without further delay.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUME

EDITORIAL

INVISIBLE WALLS

 

The political masons who had erected the infamous Berlin Wall dividing members of the same country on ideological lines were not from Germany, but from far away power capitals such as Moscow, Washington, London and Paris. The victors of War World II had shared the spoils, so the drawing of a line on a map cut off families and spawned two different cultures within a confined area, separated only by a well-guarded wall of brick and mortar. "Checkpoint Charlie" assumed an almost mythical stature; daredevils who attempted to escape from East to West Berlin were invested by the Western media and fable-tellers with heroic dimensions. There was an element of gloating in the West as far as the Wall was concerned, as though it reinforced its contention that the Western way of life was the apotheosis of freedom as opposed to the authoritarianism of communist East Europe. Yet, in the final analysis, rather than the cultural or ideological aspects, it had been economic compulsions which had destroyed the Wall two decades ago. Seemingly the philosophy of laissez-faire had won over the concept of "community farming!" If citizens from East Germany had to be prevented by soldiers from trying to escape from the country, it was more because the economic grass on the other side appeared greener, and less due to ideological considerations.


But the fall of the Wall was not the West's "achievement" despite attempts by some contemporary historians to attribute it to the aggressive anti-communism stance adopted by countries like the US, President Reagan being supposedly one of those who merited credit. In fact, it was due to a single visionary, Mikhail Gorbachev, and his realisation that the massive communist edifice built up under the leadership of Russia could not sustain itself for very long. His policy of glasnost and perestroika had surely prevented the erstwhile USSR from breaking up in a more violent manner, a consequence which loomed in those days as a historic inevitability. The fall of the Wall was an unofficial seal to the end of the Cold War and the potential dangers, particularly that of a nuclear holocaust, posed by the capitalism-communism confrontation. Unfortunately, the imperialistic urges that had led to the formation of the USSR and its satellites appear to be resurfacing, with Gorbachev being seen more as a betrayer than a hero. Also the revival of old attitudes, as exemplified by the ability of Vladimir Putin to change the Russian Constitution at will, do not portend well for humanity's future. The truth of the matter is that fall of Berlin Wall two decades back did not mark the dawn of a new era. Too many invisible walls still separate nations from nations and ideologies from ideologies — only when these crumble will humanity triumph over existential conditions.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUME

EDITORIAL

THE CHERRA–COMPANYGUNJ MOUNTAIN RAILWAY

ARUP KUMAR DUTTA

 

Sometime back there was a piece called "Train to Cherrapunjee!" on the front page ofThe Assam Tribune. The writer has commendably tried to acquaint the readers of a forgotten piece of railway history, now embodied in local lore. However, I disagree with his assertion that "Still there are many more pieces of the jigsaw that need to be put in place to get the complete picture." On the contrary, the project in its totality has been described by me in length in my book Indian Railways – The Final Frontier, culled from British railway records available in the National archives and the Railway Museum archives in New Delhi and the State archives of Assam.


To put in a nutshell what had been a prolonged saga, these records reveal that there was an attempt in the 1880s to link Shillong, then the capital of undivided Assam, via Cherrapunjee to Sylhet (now in Bangladesh) and onto Calcutta, then the capital of British India. This might appear today to have been a foolhardy endeavour, given the precipitous nature of the terrain leading from the Meghalaya plateau to the plains of Bangla. But this in no way robs the attempt of its grandeur, nor detracts from the ingenuity of those who failed to translate the concept into reality.


Not many of us know that a 3.5 mile long railway track had actually been laid from Cherrapunjee to Mawsmai! Within the current geo-political context, with the later-formed Bangladesh intervening between the North-East and the rest of India, it is difficult for the modern mind to comprehend why the concept was mooted at all. But it must be recalled that in the 19th century no such geo-political barriers existed, and to the British eyes the shortest route to Calcutta from Shillong was via Eastern Bengal. If Shillong was to be rail-linked to the City of Palaces, the obvious route was from Assam's capital by Cherrapunji to Mawsmai, a rope-tramway down the 4,100 feet escarpment to the mining village of Therria in Eastern Bengal and onto Companygunj to connect to Sylhet and Goalundo, from where rail service to Calcutta already existed. That the 4,100 feet separating Mawsmai from Therria constituted a sheer drop over craggy terrain was no deterrent to individuals with imagination and enterprise.


From very early days a narrow mule-track had existed between Sylhet and Cherrapunjee. When the British annexed the Khasi hills in mid 19th century, their soldiers had come by this track. Their first base was Cherrapunjee and only in 1864 did they shift headquarters to Shillong. When, in 1874, Assam was separated from Bengal and given the status of a Province of British India, Shillong was chosen to be the capital. With the same objective of providing the shortest access to Calcutta, at first, from 1861-1864, there was an attempt to transform the mule-track into a cart-road, but due to the steepness of the cliffs the project was finally abandoned as impracticable. Another attempt, from 1867-1891, which led to the squandering of Rs. 5 lakhs, met a similar fate. The Executive Engineer, Mr. H. Kench, ruminated over the problem and came up with a solution. If a road could not be built, why not have a mountain-railway instead?


On January 2, 1883, Kench put forward his proposal "for a wire-rope tramway or rather, series of tramways to be worked on the very precipitous descent below Cherrapunjee in the road between Shillong and the Sylhet District." Attached to the proposal was a persuasive note: "At Pittsburgh, America, there is a passenger incline much used, which ascends 400 feet in a length of 793 feet. It is worked on the balance system, one carriage descending balancing the other ascending, the motive power overcoming friction being a stationary engine.... A line 5000 feet long has been made up Mount Vesuvius. In construction it resembles the Fell system and is worked by 2 ropes passing over a pulley at the top of the incline and down to a stationary engine at the foot, the ropes being 10,000 feet long each. In Brazil the San Paulo railway ascends steep slopes about 2,500 feet high by 4 inclines, each from 6,000 to 7,000 feet long, worked by wire ropes and stationary engines. The above quoted lines are on a much larger scale than is required or proposed between Cherra and Therria ghat. The actual descent between Cherra and Therria ghat is about 4,100 feet. 3 miles will be on the plateau, the road falling 600 feet in this distance and the remaining 3,500 feet along the steep hillside. A road being unsuitable for the traffic it is proposed to substitute for it a series of straight-railed inclines worked by wire-ropes.... Seeing that the tramway is designed to transport 1,000 maunds up daily in 10 hours, and 1,500 maunds down, the total length of the lines is 3 miles 923 yards and the height ascended 3,470 feet...."


Till then the only hill-railway in India was the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, completed in 1881, a conventional system running along a cart-road. Here at least 3,500 feet would have to be ascended within 4 miles! How far Kench's concept was ahead of its times can be judged from the fact that the Nilgiri hill-railway was laid only in 1899, Simla in 1903 and Matheran in 1907. The administration conceded the feasibility of the project, but suggested that the line be continued from Therria ghat to Companygunj (7½ miles) on the bank of the more easily navigable Pivan river, and also from Mawsmai to Cherra, and then possibly along the existing cart-road to Shillong. Even as the proposal was being processed by British bureaucrats in Calcutta, Kench and his men began opening out a ribbony route across the cliff-side, no mean feat under the circumstances, and further survey and measurements of this route enabled them to give greater details of the proposed wire-rope tramway to be laid on 2'6" gauge. The Govternment of India accorded general approval to the plan on December 18, 1883, but actual sanction for the amounts proposed for the 3 sections (Cherra-Mawmai, incline-section and TherriaCompanygunj) was granted in June 14, 1887.


So confident were they of the workability of the project that Kench and his men completed the Therria-Companygunj section even before the inclines had been tested, purchased rolling stock and hired staff. On June 6, 1886, the first section of what was now labeled as the Cherra-Companygunj State Railway was put into active operation, being opened for goods and passenger traffic. They also laid 3½ miles from Mawsmai at the top of the inclines towards Cherrapunjee. Unfortunately, even after a titanic effort to properly align the inclines they failed to do so and, to cut a long story short, the project was effectively derailed.


Such a brief and bland encapsulation cannot convey the imagination, enterprise and toil of those pioneers who conceived it. But had they succeeded, the Cherra-Companygunj mountain railway would surely have become one of the seven wonders of the railway world!


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THE ASSAM TRIBUME

EDITORIAL

CHILDREN'S DAY AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE

DR. JYOTSNA BHATTACHARJEE

 

November 14, the birthday of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, is celebrated as "Children's Day" all over the country. He was immensely popular amongst children and they called him "Chacha Nehru", as he was somebody very close to them. It is only proper that his birthday should be termed as "Children's Day". On this day various schools and organizations hold functions to entertain children, as the day is exclusively dedicated to them. But unfortunately many children are deprived from enjoying this important day, which is meant for them and only for them. They do not even understand the significance of Children's Day. They are the unfortunate children of God, for whom "Children's Day" is like any other day – boring, distressing and frustrating. They go about doing their routine work without the least idea about such a memorable day, which is exclusively meant for them. They are the unloved, uneducated, unwanted dregs of society who are treated like social outcasts.


Education is supposed to be the birthright of every child He has as much right to education as he has right to food, clothing and protection from the parents. Food, clothing, home etc are needed for his physical needs and education enlightens his mental aspect. Since man is a combination mind and body, both these sides must be given due attention. In our country it can be noticed that mere survival is considered to be enough – that is, if physical requirements are met, very little consideration is made for his mental development. But both mental and physical aspects must be given due consideration to make a child a 'whole' man.


There is no doubt that the over-all literacy rate in our country has increased to a considerable extent. Even then many children do not have access to basic education. Sarva Siksha Abhijan and mid-day meal scheme also have not been able to lure all the children to the schools. Mere proposals, suggestions and schemes are not enough, they should be implemented with sincerity. Then despite ban on child labour, we still see minor children engaged in various occupations. These things do demonstrate the apathy and disinterest of the concerned authority towards this basic issue of education for children.


If we look around, we find these small children engaged in various occupations to earn a little bit of money for themselves as well as to maintain their respective families in a hand to mouth existence. Some little children have to bear the entire responsibility of providing meals and other necessities to their parents and families. In garages, tea stalls and various industrial and business houses, children workers below the age of 14 can be seen in large numbers. Some of them, both boys and girls are serving as domestic servants in many of the city homes, working themselves to the bone, just for bare survival. The employers are rarely kind to them and they make these little deprived children work much harder than their emaciated bodies can bear. These kids take over all the household chores from cooking to washing to any other back-breaking job – and after doing all that they get nothing but ill-treatment as reward. They are abused and beaten black and blue for any little fault, by some of their employers.


They are at the beck and call of the pampered over-fed children of the rich. They cannot raise their voices in fear and the employers often take full advantage of their poverty and helplessness. In fact, most of the employers prefer little children for petty and hard menial work, since their wages are minimum, and they cannot protest and raise their voices – though they do run away from tyranny sometimes – only to fall into a worse situation – which is like jumping from the frying pan into fire. These children have to bear all sorts of physical and mental torture – and for the girls the situation is much worse – they fall prey to lecherous advances of many lascivious employers. These small children go through a kind of living death, while the society and authority concerned stand by and watch indifferently.

It is terribly sad that even in this 21st century, when the country is making such enormous scientific and technological progress by leaps and bounds, a large number of our children remain half-starved, half-clad and illiterate. At an age when they should have played games with friends and learnt lessons in the class rooms, they are toiling hard for a bowl of coarse rice to survive in this cruel world of ours and staring into a darker future. So many of them have turned into loafers, ruffians, pick-pockets or drug-traffickers due to sheer frustration. Society condemns them – we ignore them – people avoid them like plague; but very few of us have ever tried to have a glimpse into their unexplored minds. They live in total darkness – their minds are full of unfulfilled dreams. Children all over the world have the same desires, same mischievousness and the same innocence – but they are overwhelmed by the "have nots". No wonder they lose their childhood before time – their childhood pass them by unnoticed and they are compelled to tell lies, cheat, steal and get immersed in all sorts of vices. That is their revenge on a cruel society.


For a nation to be progressive the children must be educated in the proper way, since they are our future. The hope of the country rests on them, some of whom may be one day called to lead the nation. Books are the windows through which they can see the light of this vast world of ours. But the windows are closed to them and they are condemned to live in a dark world, into which not a gleam of light can penetrate. It was the Father of the nation, who once said that the "essence of education lies in drawing out what is best in you". But unfortunately nothing worthwhile has been done to translate Mahatma's dream into reality.


India is perennially inflicted by two stark divisions – rich and poor. There is a vast chasm between them. The rich forms a small minority – and the children of these families are born with golden spoons in their mouths. They go to the best of schools – and usually with parental wealth and influence manage to hold their positions in society, though some of them may be lacking in intelligence and talent. But the country cannot prosper with only a handful of educated and affluent people. For the all-round development of the nation we must take into account the majority, most of whom languish in darkness. They do not lack in talent – but they lack in resources and influential background, which are so necessary for success in this country of ours. You may have an abundance of talents – but without the necessary props you may not have the grand success which you so richly deserve. Because of the lack of encouragement and opportunity many of our talented youngsters may have been lost to us, who may have joined the vast number of unknown people in oblivion. Who knows how many geniuses have perished without getting acclaim – and what enormous amount of talent has been wasted.


So much has been said – so much has been written about compulsory education and child labour – though nothing worthwhile has been done to solve the problem of illiteracy. Child labour cannot be wished away and compulsory education cannot be whistled in by waving a magic wand. Sincere efforts and dedicated work are necessary to make the illiterate people realize the value of education for the good of their children.

Unless economic uplift of society at large is ensured, talking about "education for all" is merely a jumble of hollow words without any meaning. It is easy to talk about the value of education – but to translate it into practice is something entirely different.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TURN AWAY SOME OF THAT NRI MONEY

 

Non-resident Indians (NRIs) have voted with their savings for the India story. In the first half of the current fiscal year, they remitted as much as $2.7 billion into various non-resident accounts with banks, more than twice the amount remitted during the comparable period last year. More significantly, in another assertion of faith in their country of origin, the bulk of their deposits, around 70%, is rupee-denominated.

 

Anyone who interprets this as an act of patriotism, of loyalty to their motherland should quickly disabuse themselves of any such notion. The fact is NRIs, with their keen nose for opportunity — why else would they have become NRIs? — sense the double advantage in keeping their money in rupees rather than dollars. The first is the higher interest rate vis-à-vis rates abroad, apart, of course, from rock-solid banks. The second is the strong likelihood of rupee appreciation, especially vis-à-vis the dollar.


Though some of the appreciation might be driven by weakness of the dollar rather than strong macro-economic fundamentals in India, the bottomline is, it's a win-win situation for the 35-million-strong Indian diaspora.

The problem is what is good for the individual NRI is not necessarily good for the country. At a time when we seem perilously close to doing an encore of 2007-08 when the supply of dollars grossly exceeded the absorptive capacity of the economy, too many dollars could be as bad, if not worse, than too few dollars. So, there is a strong case to pare the interest rate premia offered by NRI accounts. But a caveat is in order.


As our absorptive capacity increases, we could do with more dollars, especially from NRIs who have proved less fickle compared to other sources, especially foreign institutional investors. Hence, any attempt to discourage NRIs inflows should take a nuanced view. Perhaps the right approach would be to encourage more of NRI inflows to take the shape of remittances, of which they already are munificent providers. If we have to prioritise amongst inflows, funds provided by non-resident Indians should be among the last to be discouraged.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

A STRANGE POWER LIST

 

All you have to do, it seems, to make it to a silly-but-mentioned list of some sort is to be nasty, and actively so. The ways of the rich and powerful, and those that pander to them, often tend to the ridiculous. And perhaps none more so than having an arbitrary catalogue of who really matters in the wide world. Thus, Forbes magazine has come up with its ritual list of 67 of the 'world's most powerful people'.

 

Why that precise number? Well, we mortals cannot divine such theological things. The magazine decided, and it shalt be done. And, pray, who all are on the power-packed list? A bearded terrorist, probably skulking around in some remote mountain village or cave, called Osama, laden with the guilt of the murder of hundreds of innocents, for one. Then there is a south American drug lord, on the run again, whose influence extends to a heady supply of cocaine and heroin, one presumes. And then there is our very own Dubai/Karachi-based Mumbai ka bhai, whose power base happened to be making that phone call and asking for a khokha or two from that sundry builder or film producer. These then are the luminaries of the world, according to the august magazine. These are the people who wield the power. And one wonders why that is spoken of as being eminently suitable for corruption!


For sure, there's the nod to the real stuff. The real people. Say, the American president, who can willy nilly order a nuke strike that can annihilate the world, or a media magnate, quite suited to changing news the ways he sees fit. Or our prime minister too, though one wonders if that mild-mannered man would like being in such company. But then, no one asked him. And what sort of fun would it be if only the expected and good ones made up such a list? You got to have a eyeball-grabbing stunt. "This ranking," the highly-endowed magazine informs us, "is intended to be the beginning of a conversation, not the final word." That's just so democratically damning, criminally speaking.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

 

LEFT IN THE LURCH

 

The by-election results in West Bengal and Kerala highlight the crisis of the Left. From a short while ago, when the Left seemed to be in a position to make or unmake the ruling formation of the country, they have slid a long way down the slippery slop of political fortune. The setback is all the more troubling for the Left as their leaders, whether at the Centre, in Kolkata or in Thiruvananthapuram, appear to be clueless on what is to be done.

Blame the dogmatic refusal of the Left leaders to re-position their parties — ideologically, organisationally and strategically — to function within the new realities of a world where the only state to wither away has been the Soviet Union and its client regimes of eastern Europe. The Left parties are crippled by the burden of an outdated party programme, archaic policy/ administrative doctrines, and crippling dogma.


The CPI set about rewriting its party programme about a decade ago and has virtually abandoned that project now. The CPI(M), too, revised its party programme but decided against being revisionist. Compounding this adherence to dogma and tradition has been the very 'un-Communist-like' arrogance of many party leaders.


The mainstream Left is not very different from the Maoists when it comes to their theoretical understanding of the world. They see globalisation as irredeemable evil and instrument of immiserisation. They ignore the millions of people in Asia, including in China, who have risen above the drudgery and degradation of poverty through the very same process of globalisation. When they promote industry, they do it as a compromise with their basic programme. The inherent schizophrenia comes out as Budhadeb Bhattacharjee trying to reform the outlook of the West Bengal government towards capital and industrialisation, within a party set-up that refuses to tell the cadre that ground rules need to change.


This theory-practice mismatch led to Singur, Nandigram and a resurgent Mamata Banerjee. In Kerala, the war-like situation in the state CPI(M) unit, a party secretary being prosecuted for graft, a chief minister hobbled by his own comrades and an ineffective general secretary make it an unending party-time for the Opposition United Democratic Front.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

ULEMA'S PRIORITIES MUST CHANGE

M Y KHAN

 

Deoband has given birth to a number of scholars every year since its inception and is credited with bold sacrifices for India's independence. And the Jamiat-i-Hind condemned terrorism, bloodshed, violence and oppression of human beings, irrespective of caste and religion, at its recent 30th general session. Thus, to label them 'anti-India' would be partisan. The Ulemas of Deoband have documented a few resolutions regarding the economic upliftment and social standards of Muslims. However, they have put the responsibility of solving the problems of the Muslim community on the government.

 

It would have been better if they placed a structured analysis of the plight of Muslims — in terms of their absolute or relative deprivation from the benefits of India's diversified growth — before the nation. It was expected that their presentations would focus on the reasons for Muslim poverty, unemployment and illiteracy. However, it is most deplorable to raise the issue of Muslims singing Vande Matram. These issues were settled long ago. Singing this song isn't mandatory but, equally, no one should show disrespect to this national song. It should also be remembered that Muslims also address India as Madre Vatan which means motherland.


There are some things proscribed in Islam, such as drinking wine, theft, robbery, gambling, oppressing women, raping and kidnapping, dishonesty et al. But it is a fact that Muslims are also prey to such deeds. And it was an act of omission that the Jamiat failed to address these ills. Equally, the fatwa on school-going girls should have been moderate, restricted to things like covering the head with a scarf. Today, Muslim women have to represent Islam through their character and moral behaviour, which includes a sensible dress. A veiled face certainly does not guarantee either a strong character or safety for women. The Maulvis of the Jamiat should not forget that Muslim women today have to face the same economic and other problems as women from other communities. Women can't face contemporary problems with a covered face and illiteracy around their necks.


The leaders of the Jamiat have expressed concern for the economic backwardness of Muslims, which they want to eliminate through government initiatives contained in the Sachar report as well as the 15-Point Programme of the Prime Minister. But the Jamiat itself has not offered any solution to the problems of the Muslim community. No community, or even country, in the world has been able to strengthen its economic and financial health with aid, grants or subsidies. African countries receiving World Bank aid, grants and subsidies for decades are still without food and work. Indeed, the Quran recommends self-help and personal effort on that score.


Every Muslim knows that his/her community is lagging behind in general or technical education. It is worse in the field of professional education, particularly in the area of financial markets. The Jamiat should have stressed that businessmen, industrialists and high net-worth Muslims should start their own training institutes to upgrade the skills and competing capabilities of the Muslim community. Today, India is a global centre and provides a number of opportunities for self-employment in the small sector, in financial sectors as well as in other segments of the economy — particularly in the private sector that consists of foreign institutions, companies, joint ventures as well as domestic companies. All of them can offer employment opportunities to competent Muslim youth. Indeed, there is a substantial visibility of Muslim employees and executives in the private sector. Community initiatives should, in fact, disseminate information on job availability in these sectors.


Deoband leaders, Muslim industrialists, businessmen and high net-worth Muslims can set up training institutions and colleges for general education. The Jamiat should actually have issued a fatwa to such personalities directing them to create educational infrastructure in places that are at least close to Deoband — like Muzaffarnagar or Meerut — or in Delhi where thousands of Muslims are millionaires or billionaires. It is frustrating and disappointing that these cities do not have any professional institutions except Jamia Millia and Hamdard in Delhi. In cities and towns, many institutions have multiplied due to the efforts of other communities, but not so in the case of Muslims, particularly in central, north and eastern India.


It was pertinent on Deoband's part to discuss whether Zakat, or obligatory charity, can be used to develop financial funds for promoting educational and training centres. Muslim graduates and post-graduates have to be imparted professional training so that they can be converted into competent workers. Maulvis should spread this consciousness in the country. It should actually be the case that even Maulvis leading prayers in mosques should spread awareness of professional education skills and competitiveness. It should actually become a movement. One that will not only serve the Muslims but also the nation.


 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

LET HOST NATION REGULATE FOREIGN FINANCE

LEONARD SEABROOKE,

 

One of the mantras of the last decade in international financial regulation has been the need to create a level playing field for all financial institutions (FIs) operating in international markets. On the face of it, this logic is difficult to beat. It sounds meritocratic, fair and responsible. Surely, FIs from developing economies would benefit from being placed on a level playing field with those from advanced economies. The costs of capital would, in theory, be lowered and access to international credit markets would increase. The costs of funding development would be reduced and rates of economic growth could be enhanced. All of these benefits should be provided by an international financial system in which a level playing field was in operation.

 

However, even before the most recent global financial crisis, we knew that the idea of a level playing field did not make accessing capital easier for all involved in the game. International financial accords, such as the Basel-II principles for international financial regulation, favour large FIs from the most advanced economies. Those institutions with a capacity to demonstrate strong IT capabilities and a capacity to implement complicated risk management models were considered superior players on the level playing field. All banks, in other words, were equal in international finance, but some were more equal than others. Accordingly, the costs of capital for FIs from developing countries who could not demonstrate similar capacities increased. The level playing field of all institutions operating on the same basis was only equal in the abstract, but highly unequal in its effects. Academic research on the impact of the Basel-II accord has demonstrated that it raised the costs of capital for institutions from developing economies. At the same time, the accord permitted large FIs from advanced economies to lower their costs, in part through investment into securitised debt.


One important element of the level playing field argument has been the stress placed on home country regulation within international finance. Home country regulation allows large FIs to operate as branches in the foreign countries where they are active while under the oversight of their home regulators. This is justified on the same grounds as technological superiority — that sound regulation within major advanced economies will make international finance more secure, especially in dealing with developing economies. We know from the last two years that this is far from true.


Rather than home country regulation providing a source of stability, it can act as a source of instability. It also permits large FIs to be used as a tool of foreign economic policy. In the 1990s, Alan Greenspan had an explicit strategy to encourage more foreign investment into various types of US debt while new US superbanks sought to expand their branch operations under American rules. Such relationships are not new. In the 1960s, the massive expansion of US foreign branches was encouraged by domestic legislation to keep a cap on credit growth and inflation inside the US, and effectively exporting both out in the world economy. The consequence of such actions was the rapid growth of the Euromarkets, which generated instability within the Bretton Woods system as governments and FIs speculated about the real dollar-gold exchange rate. Scholars of financial history can point to various incidents where public officials have paired up with private interests to place pressure on foreign governments to open up their economies.


The operations of the Corporation of Foreign Bondholders in South America provide one example. The fusion of public and private interests within the great trading companies commonly associated with empire provides another. The point here is that under home country rules, governments can use large FIs as tools of foreign economic policy. They, in turn, expand their foreign market share while avoiding local regulatory requirements that would be enforced under a host regulatory system.

An international financial system based on host rather than home country regulation makes much more economic and political sense. Economically, it makes sense because if a foreign institution is required to establish a subsidiary that is under the supervision of the host regulator, the institution must provide adequate and sufficient financial information on its risks. A host regulator can ensure that certain institutions are not lending recklessly in a manner that leads to artificial asset booms. Host regulators can enable counter-cyclical charges on institutions creating such booms within a broader framework of national macro-prudential regulation.


Host regulators can also more easily cool down 'hot' capital flows through the imposition of controls, if need be, as well as place restrictions on foreign borrowing should an unsustainable carry-trade emerge. Importantly, they can monitor the overall behaviour of institutions within a national system rather than relying on unevenly implemented global standards that stress micro-prudential regulation and fail to identify system-wide risks. For these reasons, host regulation makes good economic sense and would have alleviated many of the problems that have caused the current crisis. The Warwick Commission on International Financial Reform has noted that India's system of host regulation has both empowered and insulated the economy from some of the worst excesses of the crisis.


We suggest that a system of host country regulation also makes good political sense for three reasons. The first is that host regulation provides a greater capacity for regulators and governments to encourage links between the financial system and the real economy in the pursuit of national economic and social goals. In a time where many are asking 'what is a financial system for?' host regulation allows governments, regulators and the financial sector to provide an adequate answer. The second reason is that it permits greater diversity in the world economy on types of FIs and financial activity. Such diversity is important not only in permitting a better allocation of capital as countries offer different incentives for investment, but also avoiding regulatory 'groupthink', where regulators are trapped within an intellectual framework that can easily falter (as with modern financial risk management). The third reason is that host regulation stops more advanced economies from using their large FIs as tools of foreign economic policy and empowers developing economies to make their own choices in the world economy.


(The author is director of studies at Warwick Commission on International Financial Reform, University of Warwick)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

A TRUE SAVANT, FULL OF EQUIPOISE

VITHAL C NADKARNI

 

Claude Lévi-Strauss, the influential French anthropologist who died recently at 100, bemoaned passing of the traditional world. "We live in a world where I feel out of place," he complained. "The one I knew, that I loved, had 1.5 billion inhabitants," he added. "The world today is made up of six billion humans. It is no longer mine."
He also emphasised the fact that for 99% of its history, humankind had lived in small groups with very low population densities, existing in close interaction with a variety of other living species. He therefore regarded the study of such groups, as the pre-contact Amazonian Indians, to be of greater value and relevance than scrutiny of the relatively short-lived modern industrial world.

 

Such an approach inspired him to pay scrupulous attention to Amerindian myths, which he also greatly admired for their anonymity of authorship. "The individual subject, the self-obsessed innovator or artist so dear to much western philosophy, had, therefore, no place for Lévi-Strauss, and indeed repelled him," the anthropologist Maurice Bloch writes in an obituary tribute. "He saw the glorification of individual creativity as an illusion. As he wrote in Tristes Tropiques: 'the I is hateful'."


This self-effacing perspective came to the fore after Lévi-Strauss' exploration of Amerindian art. The so-called primitive art did not involve the great individualistic self-displays of western art that the anthropologist detested. The tribal artist, by contrast, tried to reproduce what his forebears had done and, if he was innovating, he was unaware of the fact. "Throughout Lévi-Strauss' work, there is thus a clear aesthetic preference for a creativity that is distributed throughout a population and that does not wear its emotions on its sleeve," Bloch comments.

"(But he wasn't) in any way a recluse. He was secretly warm and had a delightful sense of humour. He was charming and very considerate and respectful towards whoever he was dealing with, irrespective of status. I remember him at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, on the occasion of his being given an honorary degree, listening to students telling him about what they got from his work and not allowing them to be interrupted by the French ambassador, who failed in the attempt to barge in and drag him away in the direction of more important guests." A true savant, full of equipoise.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'INDIAN IT COS CAN BUILD SYSTEMS AT LOWER COST POINTS'

 

As Jon Fredrik Baksaas, president and chief executive of Swedish phone firm Telenor prepares to launch Uninor — a joint venture with Unitech, he said India offers 'the fastest path to profitability' when compared with Telenor's other greenfield phone projects. Uninor plans to have around 8% of the Indian mobile phone market and also achieve profitability within three years of operations. Excerpts from an exclusive interview with ET.


How does your profitability target for Indian business compare with other greenfield projects Telenor executed in other European and Asian markets?

When we made this decision about entering India, the economy was in a slump, and the decision was made to create growth for us. We know it takes time to build a profitable position. We are looking at break-even (EBITDA) in three years of our operation. We also expect to achieve cash flow break-even within five years of operation.

With outsourcing, India offers a completely different cost structure, compared to any other market. The path to profitability is really fast, because tower sharing allows you to have a very low capex-based model. For instance, we took nine years to become profitable in Norway, and seven years to achieve break-even
in Hungary.

 

How does India compare in terms of 'time-to-market' with other greenfield projects?

April last year is when we decided to enter India, and with plans of launching our operations before Christmas, we are talking of six to eight months of working time.

 

This is our most speediest launch ever, any where in the world. It was made possible by concept of tower sharing, among other benefits of outsourcing. If we were to establish our own network, we could have taken around a year to launch. What also made it possible was the available pool of professionals with relevant experience.

What role has IT played in helping you achieve cost and launch targets?

Indian IT companies have a very powerful formula for building systems and solutions at lower cost points. We work with Wipro for our broad IT needs and have also identified three firms for outsourcing of customer service function.

What kind of market share do you plan to achieve?

We are in the middle of a very fast build up when it comes to the Indian mobile subscriber growth. As we speak, 10 million subscribers are being added every month, and that will continue for another 2-3 years. Our long-term target is to have around 8% share of the market.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'INDIA WILL BE A BIG FOOD EXPORTER'

NIDHI SHARMA


Syngenta , a $12-billion gl acquisitions globally in its seeds business. In his visit to India, company's chief executive Mike Mack spoke exclusively to ET Now . Excerpts. obal company, has big earning expectations from emerging countries like India even as it continues to scout for

 

What are your plans for India?

We have been in India for quite a few years now and grown our business substantially over the years. We have made fresh investments in manufacturing and an R&D facility in Goa, and invested in a number of development sites throughout the country. A huge investment in people, resources and our new office in Pune is proof of our recommitment to potential of India.


What are the opportunities Indian agriculture offers to Syngenta?

Opportunities are unlimited. India is ready to be perhaps the most populous country on planet. It has vast resources like water, field crops and vegetables. It offers opportunity not only for growers to improve their productivity but to help India sustain its economy. I have confidence that at some point in future, India will be a big part of the food export industry.


You have a positive outlook for 2010. How do you see emerging economies like India contributing to your company's growth?

A couple of years ago, emerging economies accounted for merely mid-teens of the total Syngenta's sales. At present, they contribute 35% of the company's sales. That is the testimony to progress that countries like India have made over the past couple of years: familiarising themselves with new technology, recognising that they have a bigger role to play and helping feed population and making a business at the same time.


Globally, how would you like to grow: organically or through acquisitions?

We have a large crop protection business and this has already been consolidated. The seeds business, on the other hand, we think, is not concentrated. Most of the seeds of the world today are of very low quality and, in some cases, they are given away free. Many seeds today are unhybridised and there are many mom-and-pop seed companies. We have done a number of acquisitions over the past 60 months in our seeds business and we tend to do quite a bit more.


Syngenta is leader in crop protection technology and ranked third in high quality commercial seeds business. What are your global plans?

At Syngenta, our aim is to bring plant potential to life. Which means additional things what we can do to help plants feed the world, help plants to be a big part of fibre and offer opportunity to solve energy challenges, which is to say fuels as well.


We see a lot of potential in plants and to unlock that, we necessarily have to invest in R&D. We are an R&D company and nothing will make us happy than be part of technology evolution and bringing plant potential to life.

What is Syngenta's position in relation to introduction of genetically-modified (GM) technology in India?

Here in India, I sense a real growing emergence to be able to put GM in a number of crops. In India, there is a lot of experience with GM cotton. Right now, the government appears to be standing behind putting GM into aubergine.
There are other
technologies that need to complement GM technology. I am encouraged by acceptance of government officials to have a good regulatory framework for that and for growers to understand how it works, and Indian people are themselves very progressive.

 

GM technology has faced resistance. How do companies like Syngenta address the issue?

Broadly speaking, it has been widely adopted now in North and South America and it is becoming widely adopted in Asia Pacific, in countries like India. Chinese are doing work in GM technology, the Filipinos are looking at it quite hard, and even the Australians. We see acceptance and one area where it faces resistance, absolutely for all wrong reasons, is in Europe. But even there, the science in Europe is behind the fact that GM technology is safe and represents a valuable and useful tool in helping to solve the food challenges facing us over the coming decades.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A NEW FRONT IN WAR ON TERROR

 

To facilitate deception, duplicity and dodge, changing names and aliases is an occupational necessity in the world of espionage and terrorism, as is exemplified by the case of the former Pakistani national Dawood who first acquired American nationality and then proceeded to officially rename himself David Coleman Headley, a thoroughly Western appellation. Mr Headley of Chicago and an old buddy of his from the Pakistan days, Tahawwur Hussain Rana, now a Canadian national, came under the radar of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation for being in a serious conversation with hotshots of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba in Pakistan on the question of whether to first attack Denmark — where a newspaper had published a cartoon of Prophet Mohammed — or targets in India. The details of the case were forceful enough for the Americans to get the Pakistanis to arrest two people as part of the conspiracy that was in the works. It speaks of Islamabad's lack of sincerity in tackling terrorism directed at India that it did not inform New Delhi of this development. We cannot know how many jihadist sleeper cells of the variety of Headley and Rana Inc exist in North America or continental Europe. But it would be naïve to believe that the physical threat to the US mainland, or Europe, comes only from the Al Qaeda nestling in the tribal regions of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. The Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, in a very real sense, may be taken to be a tributary of Qaeda, and not merely a Punjabi Islamist outfit that just aims to destroy India.


This country is naturally concerned and has made its intention known to extradite Mr Headley, who, it transpires, has visited India nearly a dozen times, including shortly before Lashkar's November 26, 2008 attack on Mumbai and at least once afterwards, scouting through half a dozen states and leading cities. To this end, evidence is being assembled. India is also waiting for proceedings against the Pakistani-origin US terrorist to take a certain shape in American courts. Indian investigators have grounds to suspect that Mr Headley may be deeply involved in the 26/11 attack. The FBI has so far been helpful in letting India know of what's turned up so far. But will they agree to extradite, or come under pressure from Pakistan which is likely to be mounted? Earlier this week, US officials hid behind procedure and denied Indian investigators access to Mr Headley and Mr Rana for interrogation purposes. It may be recalled that back in late 2001 and 2002, America had not let the Indians question the hundreds of Punjabi Pakistani fighters who were doing duty on the Taliban side in the Battle of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. Indians were also denied access to sensitive documents recovered from a house in Kabul when the city was taken by the Northern Alliance and the Taliban routed.
India has taken the sensible decision to no longer grant visas to certain American nationals after the simple customary procedures. Americans of Pakistani origin will henceforth need pre-screening. Perhaps to balance this, US citizens of Afghan and Iranian origin have also been included in the same category. This was perhaps going too far. In any case, strict constitutionalists are apt to be unhappy about applying a separate yardstick for Pakistan-origin Americans. We may now expect an energetic tit-for-tat by Pakistan, although for nearly a decade Islamabad has kept a wary eye on India-origin Americans, going by anecdotal evidence. But we live in a complex world and ground realities cannot be overlooked. Mr Headley and Mr Rana were students at the cadet training school at Hasan Abdal, not far from Peshawar, which sends up its students for officer training. Their case only reinforces the deep anxieties about far-going links between jihadism and the Pakistan military.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

INDIAN CRICKET AND THE KILLER INSTINCT

BY SHIV VISVANATHAN

 

A nation's fears get frozen into stereotypes and have a long shelf life. The Punjabi, for example, is seen as fun-loving, the Tamilian is the perpetual nerd. Hindus are seen as weak and cunning; the Pathans have patented masculinity. Local proverbs and jokes testify to their power and validity. Stereotypes thrive through dialects, proving that fecund diversity as they rework the imagination of music, food, politics and the body.

 

Stereotypes are a folk sociology. They provide a map and help create self-fulfilling prophecies. Often lovable and obviously livable, they become a second skin, a crust we need to break-through. Colonialism, in fact, loved stereotypes. The frontier races made good soldiers. The Hindus were bred to be babus. The fact that the babu was created by Macaulay is often forgotten. Usually what we construct in the mind becomes a defining principle for reality.

 

One stereotype with a long life is the claim that Indians lack the killer instinct. The killer instinct is the Indian translation of the Darwinian survival of the fittest, of culture, red in tooth and claw. The killer as hero yields to none, knows that victory is complete when it is a zero-sum game.

 

Consider the Gita. Some commentators argue that Yudhisthira was a wimp. He loved negotiability. He avoided battle. He delayed revenge. The killer instinct sees goodness as fragile, the inability to stand up to the inventiveness and ruthlessness of evil. Goodness is seen as gentle and, therefore, effete. Krishna's advice to Arjun is seen as a summon to the killer instinct. But the killer instinct goes beyond the warrior's code to seeing life itself as a battle. Only the killer survives or, to use the title of a recent book on management, Only the Paranoid Survive. Paranoia is seen as a gene that filters those who deserve to survive. Management of war, sport and politics demand the killer gene, the ability to stand pressure and the pressure of killing, the need to win at all costs.

 

Think of tennis. In the 60s, Sports Illustrated published an article on the ABC of tennis, featuring Amritraj, Borg and Connors as the future maestros. Later, observers wondered what happened to the A in the alphabet of tennis. Borg went on to become the ice cool legend, five-time winner at Wimbledon. Connors also won once, defeating Ken Rosewall. Connors' pugnacity was legendary. The A in tennis became M, as McEnroe became a legend. The super brat's behaviour almost became his brand name. When people discussed why Amritraj with his physique and his talent never reached the top, they began often by saying that he was too much of a gentleman. It was a prelude to calling him a softie, a Tamil without a killer instinct.

 

Amritraj, who still has an interesting career as a commentator, once claimed that he would rather not win the Wimbledon than be like B, C and M. He suggested that it was not that he did not hunger to win, or that he collapsed under pressure. It was merely that victory under any terms was not what he looked for. He wanted to enjoy tennis and the fruits of tennis. Tennis was a way of being, not a reason for being. The killer instinct as a pervasive sociology marks the difference between North and South. The Punjabi as a stereotype of the North is tough, domineering and exuberant. The Tamil appears meek, thin, a nerd who needs two bodyguards to survive. The stereotype broke as the LTTE infected its code of masculinity on the South, destroying the mindset of a generation. The South attained its killer gene at genocidal cost.

 

The fable of the killer gene acquired a professional veneer in cricket in the 70s and 80s. Gavaskar stood up to the legendary West Indian bowling proving some Indians were vertebrate. Ganguly gave Indians a sense of that bravura waving his shirt like a flag, celebrating a great victory. Aggression was the new style of the day. One needed to be six-pack in brawn and mentality.

 

But now the narrative changed. Some Indians wanted to be aggressive as the Australians and our spinner Bhajji represented that. Harbhajan and Dhoni were seen as new exemplars of aggression. Media-friendly critics turned them into pre-mature legends. I remember when Bhajji missed an opportunity to score a century. While others acclaimed his aggressive knock, Tendulkar reprimanded him quietly for not staying on. Bhajji might be aggressive but there was no doubt about who the warrior was.

 

The story changes. Now we had a recessive killer gene — Indians as a team wilted under pressure. The whole was less than the sum of the parts. Every time we lost or lost closely, this theory of "the weak Indian" was hung out like dirty linen. The litany was complete.

 

We lost in hockey because we lacked the killer instinct. Questions of astro-turf, tactics, speed were irrelevant. We lose in cricket because of weakness under pressure. We succumb before the other man blinks. Our need for success makes the killer gene a patriotic requirement. Lack of it creates a Mcarthyite regime of spectators.

 

In fact, it is the spectator not the player we have to understand. Our players are healthy and competitive enough. They still have a sense of fun and exuberance. It is the ruthlessness of the spectator and his demands that we need to sense. I have known fans who switch off the TV once Sachin is out. The legend of Indians succumbing under pressure reveals insights not of the player but of the consumer, who wants incessant excitement and constant victory. He demands on the playing field what is denied to him in real life. He is the crowd in the Roman arena asking for blood. He is the mob beating a small thief to death. We need to abandon such theories that demand of play, not playfulness but sacrifice.

 

Bad sociology is always a spectators sport. I hope the virus does not extend to the players. Tendulkar, Dravid, Vishwanathan Anand are the answer to such idiocy — gentlemen who can show a true toughness of spirit. One hopes India does not succumb to this reverse racism that masquerades as current management theory.

 

Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

US COULD PICK JOB TIPS FROM GERMANY

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

 

Consider, for a moment, a tale of two countries. Both have suffered a severe recession and lost jobs as a result — but not on the same scale. In Country A, employment has fallen more than five per cent, and the unemployment rate has more than doubled. In Country B, employment has fallen only half a per cent, and unemployment is only slightly higher than it was before the crisis.

 

Don't you think Country A might have something to learn from Country B?

 

This story isn't hypothetical. Country A is the United States, where stocks are up, GDP is rising, but the terrible employment situation just keeps getting worse. Country B is Germany, which took a hit to its GDP when world trade collapsed, but has been remarkably successful at avoiding mass job losses. Germany's jobs miracle hasn't received much attention in this country — but it's real, it's striking, and it raises serious questions about whether the US government is doing the right things to fight unemployment.

 

Here in America, the philosophy behind jobs policy can be summarised as "if you grow it, they will come". That is, we don't really have a jobs policy: we have a GDP policy. The theory is that by stimulating overall spending we can make GDP grow faster, and this will induce companies to stop firing and resume hiring.

 

The alternative would be policies that address the job issue more directly. We could, for example, have New-Deal-style employment programmes. Perhaps such a thing is politically impossible now — Glenn Beck would describe anything like the Works Progress Administration as a plan to recruit pro-Obama brownshirts — but we should note, for the record, that at their peak, the WPA and the Civilian Conservation Corps employed millions of Americans, at relatively low cost to the budget.

 

Alternatively, or in addition, we could have policies that support private-sector employment. Such policies could range from labour rules that discourage firing to financial incentives for companies that either add workers or reduce hours to avoid layoffs.

 

And that's what the Germans have done. Germany came into the Great Recession with strong employment protection legislation. This has been supplemented with a "short-time work scheme," which provides subsidies to employers who reduce workers' hours rather than laying them off. These measures didn't prevent a nasty recession, but Germany got through the recession with remarkably few job losses.

 

Should America be trying anything along these lines? In a recent interview, Lawrence Summers, the Obama administration's highest-ranking economist, was dismissive: "It may be desirable to have a given amount of work shared among more people. But that's not as desirable as expanding the total amount of work". True. But we are not, in fact, expanding the total amount of work — and Congress doesn't seem willing to spend enough on stimulus to change that unfortunate fact. So shouldn't we be considering other measures, if only as a stopgap?

 

Now, the usual objection to European-style employment policies is that they're bad for long-run growth — that protecting jobs and encouraging work-sharing makes companies in expanding sectors less likely to hire and reduces the incentives for workers to move to more productive occupations. And in normal times there's something to be said for American-style "free to lose" labour markets, in which employers can fire workers at will but also face few barriers to new hiring. But these aren't normal times. Right now, workers who lose their jobs aren't moving to the jobs of the future; they're entering the ranks of the unemployed and staying there. Long-term unemployment is already at its highest levels since the 1930s, and it's still on the rise.

 

And long-term unemployment inflicts long-term damage. Workers who have been out of a job for too long often find it hard to get back into the labour market even when conditions improve. And there are hidden costs, too — not least for children, who suffer physically and emotionally when their parents spend months or years unemployed.

 

So it's time to try something different.

 

Just to be clear, I believe that a large conventional stimulus would do the trick. But since that doesn't seem to be in the cards, we need to talk about cheaper alternatives that address the job problem directly. Should we introduce an employment tax credit, like the one proposed by the Economic Policy Institute? Should we introduce the German-style job-sharing subsidy proposed by the Centre for Economic Policy Research?

 

The point is that we need to start doing something more than, and different from, what we're already doing. And the experience of other countries suggests that it's time for a policy that explicitly and directly targets job creation.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

DOOMSDAY IS NIGH

BY FARRUKH DHONDY

 

 "I always want to sit on the fence

—I'm not stoopid, just kinda dense —

Yesterday is the very past tense

I wish I had more money than sense."

From Bachchoo the Bimbo,

an operaTo Bee or not to Bee. Sorry! I'll start again. Perhaps it ought to be Bees or not to Bees. I get my quotations from Hamlet constantly muddled but I do remember that "there's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow" which, as Miss Katy Shroff explained to us in our Pre-Degree Science English lectures in Pune, means that God knows about the movement and death of everything and intends it to be so. But I started with bees and not sparrows because I now hear from the alarmists of the liberal newspapers that providence has decreed that the bees of the world are dying out.

 

If one believes Shakespeare, or the character who speaks those lines, or even Ms Shroff's particular interpretation, one would conclude that God intends the bees to be wiped off the face of this earth. Dead as Dodos. But before you shed a tear for the extinction of the buzzies consider the simple truth that 95 per cent of all the species that ever existed on earth are now extinct. The Darwinian process is ruthless and whether or not God intervenes, evolution lays down the law. And the natural law is not kind, but as our own Rudyard noted, red in tooth and claw.

 

I grew up with a certainly rational fear of bees. At the end of our road in Pune cantonment was a compound with a red brick synagogue brooding in it. The synagogue had long sad windows and a tower with square hollows through which the wind blew and which I always avoided looking at when dusk was falling, lest I see the ghosts that inhabited it. Far more dangerous and certainly more evident than these ghosts were the huge bee-hives that would develop and grow in a particular season under the eaves of the laal deval as the synagogue was locally known. The hives would grow to gigantic proportions. I had seen hives elsewhere, but the synagogue ones were special as at that great height they developed rapidly and unmolested.

 

This unmolestation wasn't, alas, reciprocated. Children would be taken by their ayahs to play in the laal deval compound and the younger brother of a friend of mine, when only an infant, was surrounded by a swooping swarm of bees who stung him and caused him to faint. His life had been saved by the action of the ayah and the availability of medical help, but he remained a simple lad and it was always said that the stings had affected the speed of his thought processes. Dumbed-down by bee-sting.

 

I used to see him very many days of the week, inarticulate, blowing bubbles with his spit, always attended by a servant and this slowness of mind was a constant warning as to the danger of bees.

 

So it was with no great alarm that I read that GM Research Pharmaceutical Services were killing off the bee population. Let the vicious little stingers go the way of all dinosaurs, I thought, until a little further in the article I was told that bees are responsible for 80 per cent of the pollination of the world's food crops and if the bees died out then so would we as there would be no food to eat.

 

I think readers all round the world have become used to the Doomsdaywallahs (No, it is NOT a Parsi surname!). There are still cranks parading around Oxford Street and Hyde Park with signs on sandwich boards saying "The End of the World is Nigh" but today everyone who laughs at them goes home and is confronted with a programme on the BBC, a Guardian article or a film by Al Gore saying the same thing, but this time with, purportedly, science on their side.

 

Politicians have taken up the bee-causes in absolute earnestness. The European Union and the British Parliament are to debate the crisis. A British MP has the following quote from Einstein on his website: "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left".

 

Einstein only said B=(mc)x(c) or something similar, nothing about Bees, but then a doomster made up the quote. Now on reliable information from the New Scientist, evidence of which has been featured on these very pages, a couple of world experts in pollination studies declare that the bee population of the world has actually increased in the last five years.

 

The extinction of bees is not the only doom scenario with which the world is threatened. Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) has become the ethic-lyric of every government in the world. India, China and the fast-industrialising nations argue that they ought to be allowed their share of development and the political world and the ubiquitous ecology lobby have come up with off-setting schemes whereby one country, more developed and virtuous than the rest, can sell its quota of pollution to one less developed or fortunate.

 

In the corridors of the AGW empire, the doom-sayers grow more vociferous. By 2012, every polar bear will be standing on a cube of ice small enough to fit into a Punjabi whisky tumbler etc. And yet the scientists who contradict AGW, admittedly a minority of the weighty names in pursuit of these truths, either deny that global warming is taking place at all (the minority within the minority) or attribute the changes in temperature on the earth to conditions other than the rise of carbon emissions.

 

In a demonstration of AGW denial, an Australian professor of geology has proved that the mean temperatures of the ocean, while rising in the late '90s and early noughties have actually fallen from 2006 on till the present. At the same time the graph of the growth of carbon emissions has continued in its upward slope.

 

The other fact that the AGW-wallahs don't account for is the flatulence of cattle. Tying plastic bags to both ends of a cows alimentary canal, scientists in Britain proved that their digestive systems give out methane gas which is 26 times more harmful to the Ozone layer than CO2 emissions from cars. So what about Bovine Global Warming (BGW)? Are the governments of the world going to slaughter the herds? Are we all to turn vegetarian?

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

HIJAB: REBELLION, CHOICE OR DIKTAT?

BY KISHWAR DESAI

 

Ever since prominent Labour minister Jack Straw made his controversial statement in 2006 that he preferred Muslim women in Britain not to wear the veil, there has been a recurring debate on whether anyone really has the right to dictate who wears what. And at the heart of it is the Muslim woman's right to decide whether she wants to cover herself from head to toe — look like a "fundamentalist post box", as a new controversial play running in London puts it rather succinctly. The situation becomes more complex because you have, all over Europe, a similar heated discussion. In fact, France, Germany and the Netherlands have been trying to ban any form of head covering in public institutions for years. In Britain there is no such ban, but some people confess to an acute sense of discomfort on spotting someone with a hijab or burqa because not only does it evoke a memory of 9/11, there are also religious stereotypes of medievalist behaviour associated with this form of head and body covering.

 

Every now and then the issue explodes as a clash between religion and a more progressive secular culture, but since women are always the first to be affected by any form of social control, the debate carries on. Of course many Muslim women, when they are able to live in a more liberal environment, do try to embrace the new values that a country like Britain can provide.

 

But there are many still who are still caught up in the dominance of a more patriarchal society, which decides that the very sight of a woman's hair can lead to lewd thoughts, and that women have to be neither seen nor heard. Men can, of course, avail of all the freedoms — and dress as they wish, because naturally women can never be excited at the sight of a luscious male body! No, it is only the men who have to be protected from the temptation of seeing a woman's form. And so all forms of headgear, face veils and long robes are designed so that women can move around in disguise — no alien male will be ever able to guess the colour of their hair, and thereby be aroused. And thus the social balance will be maintained — and woman's sexuality (that dangerous concept which destroys the male intellect) can be kept under wraps.

 

To most non-Muslim women, watching another fellow woman soaked in sweat on a hot day struggling under a layer of black cloth evokes a sense of pity. But remarkably, in recent years, more and more young Muslim women in the UK are wearing some form of the veil. It is not just due to religious fervour or a family diktat, but also their own statement against racial stereotyping. These are modern women who have studied in co-educational schools who perhaps want to demonstrate to the world that wearing a veil does not make them into terrorists. It could almost be a form of protest. And for these women, it is "white old men" like Jack Straw who are the real enemy, because like everyone else he wants to decide what they should wear.

 

A new play by 21-year-old Atiha Sen Gupta pushes the debate further. This is not a play that minces words — it is every bit as loud, angry and abusive as any London kid has the right to be. It warns that if people in the play are annoyed with a girl who wants to wear a hijab, it is understandable! But they better watch out — because she has her own reasons which they have to respect.

 

The dilemma arises because before she opted for the headscarf, the girl was a liberal Muslim who used to drink and disco, has a progressive non-burqa-clad mother, a supportive twin brother as well as a white boyfriend. So her sudden decision to wear a conservative headscarf shocks her high school buddies. Far from being a passing fad, it seems she is serious about it.

 

This is Ms Sen Gupta's first full-length play, and going by the reviews and the full house on the day I saw it, she obviously has made a deep impact. It was interesting to see in the audience a large number of young girls with headscarves and burqas who had come to experience a representation of a debate they no doubt endure every day. The fact that the audience sat silently through the play, despite the often provocative language about religion and religious figures, is yet again an indication of how open this society can be.

 

Ms Sen Gupta's most interesting device was to keep the controversial "girl-with-the-headscarf" offstage, and so despite all the debate and furore over her headscarf, we never actually see her! This at times appears a bit contrived as she seems to rather incongruously hide behind various doors. But in a larger sense, it also gave the play more meaning because even if she had appeared we would not have been able to "see" her. And by keeping her offstage, each one of us were able to imbue the absent girl with our own imagined rebellion. And that indeed becomes the crux of the play.

 

Obviously her family and friends would have preferred her to remain part of the indistinguishable mass of students in the class. By adorning the headscarf she has now given herself a firm identity. And that creates a real problem: because with the identity is a set of expected behaviour — that she will no longer drink, and will pray five times a day. Her white boyfriend is confused and angry, and decides to cover his own head with a cross. He is accused of racism when he rips off her scarf and is suspended from class. And the rest of the class has to be sensitised as well.

 

As the gulf grows between her and her friends, the chasm widens between her and her mother as well. Her mother had earlier fought against her family's decision that she should wear the veil, and so cannot understand why her daughter is now throwing away such hard-won freedom. Similarly, her other Muslim school friend and her class teacher recall the long and tortured history of women all over the world who have protested and died because they refused the veil. But the girl is adamant, and her brother is supportive as he has unfairly suffered racial abuse, particularly after the 7/7 attack on London.

 

It is a thought-provoking play which makes you increasingly uncomfortable as you watch it. It has deep contemporary resonance with events, which makes it completely engrossing. And it is also reassuring to see a play by a young woman playwright who is not worried about tackling volatile issues head on.

 

The writer can be contacted at kishwardesai@yahoo.com [1]

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

OF FRUIT FLIES AND DRONES

BY ROGER COHEN

 

PASADENA, CALIFORNIA

 

I hadn't thought much about the relationship between fruit flies and Predator drones before visiting the California Institute of Technology, but Caltech, which boasts more than 30 Nobel laureates, teaches many things, not least about the fast-growing field of robotics and war.

 

Fruit flies, as I learned from a graduate student, use optic flow to navigate their environment. Optic flow is the apparent motion of the landscape relative to the insect as it flies through it. When the insect gets closer to an object, that object appears to get larger; the expansion in the optic flow field triggers a collision avoidance response in the fly, which veers away from the expanding object.

 

"The insect eye is not, and does not need to be, high resolution to make this computation, so it follows that low resolution sensors can be employed in robotics and serve the same purpose", she told me. Call this bio-mechanics — biologically inspired engineering principles. It's a booming field. You'll find fruit flies tethered to pins under microscopes in a virtual arena with the aim of developing simplified command algorithms that will tell a robot sensor how to mimic the insect for navigation. The feedback loop for the robot is simple: If an object is expanding at a certain rate, that equals proximity, so turn away! The US military is interested in such experiments because robotics is its hot new thing. The loss of more than 5,000 US military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 has concentrated minds on putting robots rather than flesh and blood in harm's way.

 

When the United States went into Iraq in 2003, it had a handful of pilotless planes, or drones; it now has over 7,000. The invasion force had no unmanned ground vehicles; the US armed forces now employ more than 12,000. One is called the PackBot and is made by iRobot, manufacturers of the popular robot vacuum cleaner called the Roomba.

 

Since taking office, US President Obama has shown a quiet predilection for drone warfare. He's been vacuuming up targets. There are two programmes in operation: a publicly acknowledged military one in Iraq and Afghanistan and a covert Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) programme targeting terror suspects in countries including Pakistan.

 

According to a just-completed study by the New America Foundation, quoted in Mayer's piece, Obama has authorised as many drone strikes in Pakistan in nine-and-a-half months as George W. Bush did in his last three years in office — at least 41 CIA missile strikes, or about one a week, that may have killed more than 500 people.

 

The dead have included high-value targets like Osama bin Laden's oldest son and Baitullah Mehsud, the Taliban leader in Pakistan — as well as bystanders. Circling drones have struck panic. But as Mayer notes, "The embrace of the Predator programme has occurred with remarkably little public discussion, given that it represents a radically new and geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force". These are targeted international killings, no less real, and indeed more insidious, for their video-game aspect. The thing about robotic warfare is you can watch people get vaporised on a screen in Langley, Virginia, and then drive home for dinner with the kids. The very phrase "go to war" becomes hard to distinguish from going to work.

 

P.W. Singer, the author of an important new book called Wired for War, told me that, "We are at a breakpoint in history. The US Air Force this year will train more unmanned system pilots than fighter and bomber pilots combined. And, as Bill Gates has noted, robotics are now where computers were back in 1980". Now you might think that a "pilot" sitting behind a computer bank in Nevada blowing away people in Afghanistan is less liable to combat stress than a soldier in a unit deployed there, but Singer said the opposite has often proved the case. It's time for a reckoning, especially from a President who campaigned so vigorously against the "dark side" of the war on terror.

 

Congressional review of the drone programmes and the full implications of robotic warfare is essential to cast light and lay ground rules. The Obama administration should not be targeting people for killing without some public debate about how such targets are selected, what the grounds are in the laws of war, and what agencies are involved. Right now there's an accountability void.

 

There are also broader questions. When robots are tomorrow's veterans, does war become more likely and more endless? Do drones cow enemies with America's technological prowess or embolden them to think America is not man enough to fight? What is the psychological toll on video-screen warriors? There's nothing innocent after all about the fluttering of a fruit fly's wing.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

SWEET & SOUR

UP STRENGTHENS BSP'S FOUNDATION


THE state that sends the largest contingent to the Lok Sabha has recorded a decidedly dramatic performance in the recent by-elections in eleven assembly constituencies. And the verdict in Uttar Pradesh has been dramatic almost equally in terms of gains and losses. Three distinct strands can readily be delineated. It is perhaps not so ironical that Mayawati has effected a remarkable strengthening of the BSP's foundation just when she appeared to be under a cloud over the squandering of public funds in the erection of statues. Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party has drawn a blank, the defeat in Firozabad at the hands of the Congress being a particularly resounding setback. Equally dismal has been the performance of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the rout in Lucknow West ~ again against the Congress ~ being the most shattering. And not least because it happens to be a segment of Atal Behari Vajpayee's Lok Sabha constituency. The result is a testament to the infighting; it deepens the crisis within a party, now groping in search of a new president.


It bears recall that Mayawati's social engineering had paid off in the last assembly election when she studiously courted the Brahmin vote. The voting pattern last Saturday confirms that she has been quite as successful at another remove. The BSP has swept the by-election chiefly because its leader has managed to make a dent in Mulayam's OBC segment, an achievement that has been as stunning as it was unanticipated. The leading light of the SP has suffered almost a personal setback in Firozabad where his daughter-in-law Dimple was trounced by Raj Babbar, the SP rebel who fought on a Congress ticket. The Congress has captured Firozabad after 25 years, provoking a section of the SP to contend that Mulayam's "dynastic politics" has floundered. It definitely has been a severe letdown for the SP considering the existence of Firozabad's traditional Yadav-Lodh-Rajput-Muslim vote-bank. The BSP victory in Mulayam's traditional turf of Etawah compounds the SP's denouement.
While the BSP exploitation of the caste factor did the Samajwadi Party in, the rout of the BJP showcases the crisis within. And most importantly in Lucknow West, a seat that witnessed a half-baked campaign because the MP, Lalji Tandon's son was denied a ticket. To a large extent, Mayawati's victory can be ascribed to her selection of candidates, based on their political acceptability and caste loyalties. Clearly, the perfectly justified outcry against the statues has failed to cut electoral ice. For all that, the Supreme Court stricture reaffirms that the law is still above her.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

MORTAL MEASLES

INDIFFERENCE TOWARDS UPDATED IMMUNISATION


Even Somalia and Burkina Faso have fared better than the country perceived as an emergent world power. Two years after the World Health Organisation's caveat that India was among the 47 countries worst-affected by measles, it has now been established by the medical fraternity that there has been an inexplicable delay in updating the immunisation programme. The lapse makes the WHO projections still more chilling considering that the affliction kills no fewer than 160,000 children in the country each year. Such callous indifference in a major segment of public health is a nationwide phenomenon, though the record of certain states may be still more dismal. The reality mirrors Amartya Sen's thesis that in certain critical areas of welfare, India flounders between Sub-Saharan Africa and the Silicon Valley.


It thus comes about that while at least ten countries in Asia and Africa have abided by the WHO directive to introduce a second dose of the measles vaccine, India has adopted no such action. With the result that while mortalities have been significantly contained in the two continents, the graph appears to be rising in this country. Not that the second dose of the vaccine is not readily available; in the absence of any official explanation, we are driven to the conclusion that the lethargy of the public health authorities continues to hobble the immunisation programme. Medical science is an evolving discipline; there can be no two opinions on the imperative to update immunisation with a second dose, as prescribed. At stake are the lives of hundreds of thousands of children. Attitudes fly in the face of facts. The single dose, usually administered at the age of nine months, can at best immunise 85 per cent of the children. The second dose, in effect a booster shot, can protect 99 per cent ~ almost a life-saving prescription advanced by WHO in 2004 and iterated last November. After close to six years, the "second dose" still doesn't feature in the immunisation programme. Shame on you, Prime Minister.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

METRO EXPANSION

WHY IGNORE THE RAILWAYS?


ENTHUSIASM, excitement and satisfaction marked the commissioning of the Metro line to Noida. Deservedly so, for nothing has more revolutionised life in the Capital than the ultra-modern rapid transit system. There will of course be some concerns that given the very limited number of trains in service it will now be agonisingly difficult to board a Dwarka-bound train from Connaught Place ~ it will already be full. Yet that would be a comparative pinprick when compared with the serious concerns thrown up by the announcement that action is being initiated to further extend the system to Faridabad and Bahadurgarh: and that could trigger even more demands. While it does make sense to be forward-thinking, reality suggests that the system is in dire need of consolidation, it has already overreached itself in seeking to complete Phase II ahead of the Commonwealth Games. Who can deny that the quality of construction has been adversely affected if not compromised in the race against time, the new carriages have been put on the track even before their teething troubles had been rectified, even the train operators are "green" ~ jerky rides and inaccurate halts. Surely all these kinks must be removed before attention is diverted by expansion projects.


No less disturbing is the manner in which the railways seem to be have been excluded ~ or are excluding themselves ~ from the greater-suburban transport operation. Lines, more than one track, exist to Faridabad, Bahadurgarh ~ indeed in five directions from the city. Rather then incur huge costs on a parallel permanent way the emphasis should be on upgrading the railway services ~ coaches, frequency and what have you ~ and bring them on par with the Metro. Integrating those operations with both the Ring Railway and the Metro would make for a comprehensive, cost-effective network. With the DTC truly dovetailed. Yes, the essence of that success would be coordination and that's where our netas have got to sacrifice their egos and "empires" for aam aadmi's advantage. It is time that Rail Bhawan is made to understand it is required to do more than service West Bengal, Bihar or whichever is the home state of its presiding deity. Just because the bigwigs of the Capital never condescend to use public transport doesn't mean the Dilliwallah can be overlooked.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

NEHRUVIAN DILEMMA

SAMAR BAGCHI


When India's freedom was nigh and the Indian leadership was getting set to take over the mantle, there were two paradigms of development being considered by the national leadership. One was Mahatma Gandhi's line and the other was supported by majority of the Congress leadership, led by Jawaharlal Nehru and the scientists of India. Even when freedom was approaching, Gandhiji wrote to Nehru on October 5, 1945: "I want to write about the difference of outlook between us. If the difference is fundamental, then I feel the public would also be made aware of it…… I have said that I still stand by the system of government envisaged in Hind Swaraj…… I

 

am convinced that if India is to attain true freedom and through India, the world also, then sooner or later the fact must be recognized that people will have to live in villages, not in towns, in huts, not in palaces. Crores of people will never be able to live at peace with each other in towns and palaces. They will then have no recourse but to resort to violence and untruth…… while I admire modern science… (it) should be reclothed and refashioned aright……"


Nehru replied on October 9. I quote: "…it is 38 years since Hind Swaraj was written. The world has completely changed since then; probably in a wrong direction… you may be right in saying that the world, or a large part of it, appears to be bent on committing suicide. That may be an inevitable development of an evil seed in civilization that has grown."


WESTERN PARADIGM

After committing itself to the Western paradigm of development, after 62 years of freedom, about 70 per cent of India's population lives in poverty, one child dies of malnutrition every three seconds before attaining the age of five, there is no electricity in the homes of 800 million people out of 1.12 billion and about 100,000 farmers have committed suicide between 1993 and 1998 in a continuing exercise.


On the other side of the picture, post globalization and the structural adjustment programme, India boasted of nine billionaires in 2004 and, by 2009, more than 40 billionaires. This represents the highest average growth of billionaires in the world as the divide between the rich and poor gallops away.


One year before his death in 1964, Nehru had a new vision about his "tryst with destiny". In a seminar on "Social Welfare in a Developing Economy" held in New Delhi on September 22, 1963, he said, "My mind was trying to grapple with the problem of what to do with more than 5,50,000 villages of India and the people who live there… if we were to think purely in terms of output, all the big and important factories in India are not really so important as agriculture… what Gandhiji did was fundamentally right. He was looking all the time at the villages of India, at the most backward people of India…"


In a debate on planning, held in Parliament on December 11, 1963, Nehru said: "I begin to think more and more of Mahatma Gandhi's approach. It is odd that I am mentioning his name in this connection. I am entirely an admirer of modern machine and I want the best machines and the best technique but taking things as they are in India, however rapidly we advance towards the machine… the fact remains that large numbers of people are not touched by it and will not be for a considerable time."


One does not know what course Nehru would have taken had he been alive. What one does know is that the temples of modern India have yielded space to extremism of all manner: religious fanaticism, ethnicism, casteism and political extremism that are taking centre-stage across the Indian landscape. With colonization, Europe became the 'core' country and India became the 'periphery'. Through loot, massacre, de-industrialization and de-education of the periphery, Europe had its Industrial Revolution and its affluence.
The question is: where is the periphery for India? The answer leads one to the regions where people who live in the villages, valleys and mountains; regions like Singur, Nandigram, Lalgarh, Kalinganagar and Narmada. The lives and livelihood of about 60 million people, a very modest estimate, but more than double the population of Australia and 10 times the population of Finland have been sacrificed at the altar of the Western paradigm of development adopted in India.


Gandhiji had written, "God forbid India should ever take to industrialization in the manner of the West. A tiny island kingdom is today keeping the whole world in chains. If an entire nation of 300 million took to similar kind of economic exploitation, the whole world will be bare like locust." One year before his death, in 1940, Tagore wrote to poet Amiya Chakraborty in America, "Using Brahmin's knowledge, Kshatriya's arms and Shudra's services, today's commercially-minded Europe has become irresistible. But I can see their feet on a downward slope towards extinction". In the drama, Muktadhara, written in 1922, he breaks away a dam. In 1923, he wrote Raktakarobi, a devastating critique of the de-humanizing industrial civilization. In the year of his death, in 1941, Tagore wrote Crisis in Civilization.


Today's world is Tagore's and the Mahatma's nightmare come true amidst a collapse of both the social and natural environment. Poets had premonitions of this state of affairs long ago. In the beginning of the last century, W.B. Yeats wrote, "Things fall apart/ The centre cannot hold/ Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world/ The blood-dimmed tide is loosed/ The ceremony of innocence is drowned/ The best lack all convictions/ And the worst are full of passionate intensity."


CONSUMERISM
civilization and life are nearing the tipping point and mankind must come up with a new paradigm of development that stays away from the gluttonous consumerism of the rich few and the middle class of the world.


There is a reign of quantity in the modern industrial society. In the middle of the Industrial Revolution in 1800, when an American went to the market, he had a choice of only 300 items of goods and services in a market space of 150 sq m only. Some two hundred years later, in 2000, when an American, living in a city with a population of 100,000 goes to the market, he has a choice of 1 million items in a market space of 1.5 million sq m. This is the root of the crisis. Out of the goods manufactured, the majority are not the essential needs of man. Mark Twain commented, "Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities" satisfying which demands burgeoning production and depletion of all the five natural reserves: forest, land, water, air and biodiversity, on which life on earth depends.


What modern civilization needs is inter-generational equity if it is to ensure sustainable societies. This in turn demands a turning back of the clock and cannot be achieved by the pious thinking of a few. It means a struggle to get the global constituents to commit themselves to a reversal of ways and to get back to the basics of constructive work around education, agriculture, land, water and all that Tagore called development of atmashakti. Around 80 per cent of Indians lead simple lives. In India it is a question of working on the remaining 20 per cent, but it is the rich and middle class who find it difficult to adapt. What it will take to convince them that they are at the precipice of the gorge of crisis is the question that demands an immediate answer. Clearly seminars and lectures and even reams of newsprint on the subject are not being able to do the job.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

KEEP THEM SEPARATE

 

There is something audacious about the proposal that the Supreme Court should take over the task of making laws. The arguments being put forward by those who are in favour of giving to the apex court the power to enact laws believe that there are too many gaps in the existing legal structure, and through these gaps escape many offences and social evils that are not adequately covered by the existing laws. The legislatures are too slow to make laws and often those who are supposed to make the laws are guilty of taking advantage of the loopholes that exist in the laws. The proponents of this radical move are therefore arguing that the judiciary should become more active, and step in to act as a surrogate for the failures and the lapses of the legislature. They strengthen their argument by pointing out that, in some cases, the Supreme Court has already taken over the role of lawmaker by issuing directives. Fortunately, there are voices of caution and conservatism even within the judiciary.

 

The position that the judiciary should not involve itself in the process of making laws is derived from the doctrine of separation of powers that is integral to the Constitution and is a concept that is fundamental to the idea of a popular democracy. The executive, the legislature and the judiciary have their respective fields of activity that are well delineated. Since, in a democracy, the people form the basis of all power, their representatives are given the responsibility of enacting the laws that will govern the lives of the people. Thus law-making becomes the primary duty and responsibility of the legislature and its members who are all elected by the people. The executive implements these laws and the judiciary ensures that those who violate those laws are duly punished within the framework of the existing laws. There are bound to be deviations from this ideal state of affairs. But those aberrations — even when there are too many, as in India — cannot form the basis of tampering with the doctrine of separation of powers.

 

In India, there is always a propensity to confuse levels of discussion. The failure of the legislatures to perform their duties adequately and responsibly cannot be compensated by over-empowering the judiciary. The legislatures' failure is located at the level of operations. This cannot be remedied by eroding the principle of the separation of powers. The problem that lies with the legislatures should be addressed at that level, and steps should be taken to ensure that they function properly and pass the laws that are necessary for the smooth and effective administration of the republic. The judiciary should be left unencumbered so that it can perform its essential duty of judging and punishing those that violate the law of the land. Indian democracy, with all its faults, functions on the basis of the separation of powers among the three organs of the State. This functioning can be improved not by blurring the lines of separation but by ensuring that all three function effectively within their domains.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

FOREIGN COUNTRY

WHAT DID BRITAIN REMEMBER ON REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY?

SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY

 

Watching last Sunday's solemn ritual at the Cenotaph in London, I wondered how many in the dense crowd noticed the prominent role accorded to Commonwealth high commissioners (including India's Nalin Surie) while the ambassadors even of the United States of America or France were as conspicuously absent as the European Union flag. It's a moot point, too, if the Remembrance Sunday (Poppy Day we used to call it in Calcutta) roll-call of battles far away and long ago — Cyprus, Malta, Malaya — to whose dead the Queen also paid tribute, held any meaning for Britain's young.

 

The past is a foreign country, as the novelist, L.P. Hartley, wrote, probably even more so for modern Indians. I once heard a non-resident Indian academic dismiss the Greater India Society (Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, Suniti Kumar Chatterji and Kalidas Nag), which extolled the glories of Suvarnabhumi, as "an attempt by Britain's slaves to show their rulers that they, too, had their own slaves in South-east Asia"! Bombast is contemptible, but no nation can come to grips with the challenge of the future except with the confidence of past achievement. That NRI professor hoped to escape his past by running away to the West. But flight is not an option for the bulk of Indians … or, for that matter, Britons facing economic crisis, political marginalization and the pain without reward of Tony Blair's international commitments.

 

Though Blair spoke of Britain "emerging from its post-empire malaise", the empire was relegated to the oblivion of Ozymandias's works long before his Cool Britannia. Those locals who can afford the Victoria and Albert Museum's steep admission fee gawp at the opulence of the current Maharaja exhibition with no sense of connection. Only two days before Remembrance Sunday, a military buff lamented at a reception in the panelled parlour of Peterhouse, reputedly Cambridge's smallest, oldest and snootiest college, that no one had heard of the Viceroy's Commission. Another man interjected, "No one has heard of the viceroy!"

 

The spread of ignorance is truly awesome, and not confined only to the past. A young Oxford graduate who sought a briefing on the eve of flying to India for some highly intellectual project stared blankly when I said that not all Indian politicians were Vicars of Bray. The cleric in the anonymous 18th-century poem who turned his coat to suit every regime from Charles II to George I ("And this is law, I will maintain/ Until my dying day, sir/ That whatsoever king may reign/ I'll be the Vicar of Bray, sir") has always been a popular byword for opportunism. An educated young Englishman's ignorance of the analogy might suggest that opportunism is no longer worth comment.

 

Meanwhile, not far from Peterhouse's cobbled precincts, the lists were about to be opened to 'sell' Cambridge University Library. Since it will be named after the biggest donor, future generations of Cantabrigians might be surprised to be told it was ever anything other than the Mittal or Hinduja (or Bill and Melissa Gates) Library. Tesco, the supermarket, is also in the running to bestow its name on that abode of seven million books and other items. From the profound to the profane, and I am reminded of the crass, but mercifully abortive, attempt to name a room at the Bengal Club after a generous finance company. Vulgarity always betokens the flight of values.

 

Nothing could be more vulgar — and cruel — than the mass-circulation Sun newspaper's suspected manipulation of a mother's grief to attack Gordon Brown. When Jacqui Janes's 20-year-old son, Jamie, a Grenadier Guardsman, was killed in Afghanistan, Brown wrote to her by hand, an unthinkable courtesy for most prime ministers. But instead of responding graciously or making allowance for Brown's near-blindness and scrawling handwriting, she complained that the letter's 25 alleged spelling mistakes insulted her son's memory and her bereavement. Brown's placatory telephone call made matters worse, provoking her to blame her son's death on the absence of helicopters and equipment, and demand shrilly how he would like it if his son bled to death. The worst part is that her moves appear to be monitored, if not dictated, by the Sun whose owner, Rupert Murdoch, has now nailed his colours to the Tory mast.

 

If Afghanistan's Helmand battlefield, from where the bodies are being flown back, seems less remote than Cyprus, Malta and Malaya where Britain once defended a direct interest, it's for a bizarre local reason. Beards and burqas, headscarves and ankle-length robes in streets, shops, restaurants and offices, and the ownership of institutions like Harrods and the Cromwell Hospital, make Britain appear almost like a part of the Islamic ummah. Cynics will argue that Prince Charles's wish to exchange the monarch's "Defender of the Faith" title for "Defender of Faiths" is unnecessary because with floods of immigrants from Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan adding to those from Bangladesh and Bosnia, the faith defended will no longer be Christianity.

 

Whoever succeeds Brown (with the Murdoch empire's help) will have to decide whether the people of these offshore islands must continue to suffer death because Blair thought he could restore Britain's greatness by making George W. Bush's wars and vendettas his own. Conquest demands sacrifice, and we are familiar in India with neglected acres of crumbling British graves. Iraq's toll of 179 British lives and Afghanistan's 231 up to the time of writing may even seem small. But mothers like Jacqui Janes cannot reflect that their loss is the price of national glory, as in the 18th and 19th centuries. Constant media depictions of flag-draped coffins, booming salutes, Last Post and widows in black sporting a new medal that has been struck make their loss seem more poignant.

 

Worse, no one knows why Britain is at war. First, it was to avert a nuclear holocaust because Saddam Hussein was wickedly manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. Then to punish the perpetrators of 9/11. The third aim was to transform Iraq and Afghanistan into Westminster-style democracies. The objective was then changed to making Britain's streets safer by destroying Taliban (and, by extension, al Qaida) terrorists in their own stomping ground. Finally, nuclear-armed Pakistan had to be protected.

 

Lately, one hears it whispered that a military solution isn't feasible. Brown talks of "Afghanistanization" of Afghanistan, of handing back Helmand province and an exit strategy. There are hints of negotiations sooner or later with moderate elements in the Taliban. Some 64 per cent of Britons consider the war unwinnable and 63 per cent want the 9,500 British troops withdrawn as swiftly as possible. As Brown gropes from one justification to another for a war that is not of his making, his bumbling ineffectiveness is a symbol of the country he leads.

 

In Marlborough House, not far from his residence, George V and Queen Mary stare severely out of gilded frames, their imperial crowns sitting beside them, as bags are packed for the Commonwealth summit in Trinidad and Tobago. It will mark the 60th anniversary of what the formidably articulate secretary-general, Kamlesh Sharma, a spinner of words if ever there was one, calls a "great global group". Whether or not the deliberations in Port of Spain will encourage the "globalization of wisdom" as Sharma predicts, the Commonwealth is still a worthy organization that its 32 small and vulnerable members probably still need. The Queen is said to be an ardent votary. But when her grandmother bequeathed Marlborough House to the Commonwealth, she probably saw it as a modernism for Empire (like studio for bedsitter) and would have been aghast to hear Zambia's Kenneth Kaunda threatening to expel Britain during the Rhodesian crisis. Not many Britons would notice if that happened today. Few would be seriously concerned. The past is, indeed, a foreign country.

 

sunandadr@yahoo.co.in

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

A RETURN TO AMERICAN JUSTICE

 

Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. took a bold and principled step on Friday toward repairing the damage wrought by former President George W. Bush with his decision to discard the nation's well-established systems of civilian and military justice in the treatment of detainees captured in antiterrorist operations.

 

From that entirely unnecessary policy (the United States had the tools to detain, charge and bring terrorists to justice) flowed a terrible legacy of torture and open-ended incarceration. It left President Obama with yet another mess to clean up on an urgent basis.

 

On Friday, Attorney General Holder announced that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and four others accused in the plot will be tried in a fashion that will not further erode American justice or shame Americans. It promises to finally provide justice for the victims of 9/11.

 

Mr. Holder said those prisoners would be prosecuted in federal court in Manhattan. It was an enormous victory for the rule of law, a major milestone in Mr. Obama's efforts to close the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and an important departure from Mr. Bush's disregard for American courts and their proven ability to competently handle high-profile terror cases. If he and Vice President Dick Cheney had shown more faith in the laws and the Constitution, the alleged mass murderers would have faced justice much earlier.

 

Republican lawmakers and the self-promoting independent senator from Connecticut, Joseph Lieberman, pounced on the chance to appear on television. Despite all evidence to the contrary, they said military tribunals are a more secure and appropriate venue for trying terrorism suspects. Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a former judge who should have more regard for the law, offered the absurd claim that Mr. Obama was treating the 9/11 conspirators as "common criminals."

 

There is nothing common about them — or Mr. Holder's decision. Putting the five defendants on public trial a few blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center is entirely fitting. Experience shows that federal courts are capable of handling high-profile terrorism trials without comprising legitimate secrets, national security or the rule of law. Mr. Bush's tribunals failed to hold a single trial.

 

The fact that defense lawyers are likely to press to have evidence of abuse aired in court — Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was tortured by waterboarding 183 times — is unlikely to derail the prosecutions, especially given Mr. Holder's claim to have evidence that has not been released yet.

 

Regrettably, the decision fell short of a clean break. Five other Guantánamo detainees are to be tried before a military commission for the 2000 bombing of the Navy destroyer Cole, including Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is accused of planning the attack.

 

The rules for the commissions were recently revised to bring them closer to military standards. And Mr. Holder cites the fact that the Cole bombing was an attack on a military target to justify a military trial. But that does not cure the problem of relying on a new system outside the regular military justice system. Nor does it erase the appearance that the government is forum-shopping to win convictions. Most broadly, it fails to establish a clear framework for assigning cases to regular courts or military commissions going forward.

 

Still, this much is clear: the Obama administration has yet to completely figure out how to rectify the disgraceful Bush detention policies, but it is getting there.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THAT $35 CUP OF COFFEE

 

Federal regulators have a long and distressing history of talking about predatory banking practices while doing little to end them. The Federal Reserve Board's new rules aimed at protecting unsuspecting holders of debit cards from multiple overdraft fees are, at best, half-measures.

 

The banks euphemistically refer to this fleecing, which can amount to hundreds of dollars a day, as "overdraft protection." They typically enroll accountholders in these programs without their knowledge and make it hard to escape. And, generally, banks do not notify debit card customers that they are overdrawn, which means that people can rack up a succession of expensive overdraft charges during the course of a shopping day.

 

This has become big business. According to a recent study by the Center for Responsible Lending, American families spend nearly as much on overdraft fees as on major household appliances. Banks and credit unions socked customer accounts for nearly $24 billion last year, roughly a third more than two years earlier.

 

The new Federal Reserve rules have value. They create an opt-in provision, which means people cannot be enrolled in the overdraft programs without their permission and only after they have been told what it would cost. For those who do not choose to enroll, banks would presumably revert to the once-common practice of declining transactions when the charge would create a negative balance. The rules also give customers the right to opt out at any point and forbids the banks from discriminating against those who do not join the program.

 

The rules also have serious shortcomings. They cover one-time charges, though not recurring ones like bill payments. But the main problem is that they place no limit on how high overdraft charges can go and how often people can be hit with them. Overdraft bills pending in both the House and Senate would cap the number of charges at six per year.

 

These bills would also require that overdraft fees be proportionally related to what the transaction actually costs the bank. They would also forbid the banks from deliberately posting charges in a way that maximizes the number of overdrafts. Congress should pass these bills and put the overdraft scam to rest.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

RESPECT FOR RAPE VICTIMS

 

A promising bipartisan bill introduced this week in the Senate addresses a stubborn scandal: the enormous backlog of untested rape kits, which contain the physical evidence obtained from sexual assault victims.

 

In 2004, Congress provided grant money for prompt DNA analysis of this evidence, but the problem persists.

 

There is no firm national count of the number of untested rape kits. But last March, Human Rights Watch found more than 12,500 untested rape kits in the Los Angeles area alone. The Houston Police Department recently found at least 4,000 untested rape kits in storage. Detroit's backlog may be as high as 10,000 untested kits.

 

This week, the National Institute of Justice, a research arm of the Justice Department, released the results of a survey of more than 2,000 state and local law enforcement agencies, including troubling confirmation of languishing rape case evidence. In 18 percent of open, unsolved rape cases, forensic evidence had not been submitted to a crime lab.

 

This is a huge insult to rape victims, who submit to a lengthy and intrusive process to have the DNA evidence harvested from their bodies. It is also an inexcusable loss for law enforcement and justice. Testing of a rape kit can identify an assailant, corroborate the victim's account of an assault, exonerate innocent defendants and help prevent a habitual offender from striking again. New York City's practice of testing every rape kit has paid off in a 70 percent arrest rate for rape that is three times the national average.

 

The Senate bill would increase the number of trained personnel and further encourage lagging jurisdictions to routinely send all rape kits to crime labs. By requiring annual reporting of backlogs, it would increase pressure on states and localities to clean up their act.

 

Senator Patrick Leahy, the Judiciary Committee chairman, has long expressed concern about the backlog. He now needs to carve out time in the committee's crowded agenda to move this legislation forward. Some national problems are highly complex and defy workable, bipartisan solutions. Ending the rape kit backlog is not one of them.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

ROOT HOLD

BY VERLYN KLINKENBORG

 

This time of year, I nearly come to terms with entropy. The grass has stopped growing, and so has the wild mint and spotted touch-me-knot. The snow hasn't begun to fall. Most of the firewood is stacked, as is the hay. The thistle-down has blown, milkweed ditto. The leaves are down. That's about as organized as it gets around here.

For a few weeks in midautumn, I feel as though I can see the farm plain. I get a clear picture of what needs doing, and I rediscover the simple pleasure of doing those things one at a time. A rubber feed pan needs moving from the chicken yard to the barn. I walk it down, and it stays put. In summer, every object on this place gravitates freely from place to place. Every morning, I get up and everything is everywhere else. That feeling goes away when fall comes. Fall is the season of staying put, except for the leaves.

 

There was a wet, sloppy, dousing of snow the other night, heavy as a deep depression. The dogs and I looked at it regretfully, as if the darkness were growing even thicker as the snow fell. But that, too, is the beauty of this time of year. Darkness can only get so dark, so deep. What it does get is longer, and yet even that's good news. We've already been there in the past — in the long dark of December, the deep chill of January. This is not some galaxy we've never visited before.

 

As the snow melted the next morning, I found myself wondering how it all feels to the striped-bark maple I planted a decade ago. Its leaves were among the first to fall, but now its twigs are stark with dull ruby buds. They are poised for a season I can't quite imagine yet. It's tempting to believe that all of that maple's strength has swollen precariously in those buds, but it hasn't. It's deep underground, rooted in the equilibrium of earth itself.

 

Horticulturists say that a good wind just firms up a young tree's root hold, and that's how I'll think of this season. Here in the clarity of fall — before the weather gathers and snow climbs up and down the storm — I look for ways of increasing the order in life, firming a root hold I too seldom feel.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

ONCE AGAIN, INTO THE APOCALYPSE

BY GAIL COLLINS

 

A lot of people are worrying about the world coming to an end in 2012.Bummer. I thought we'd gotten over all that in 2000.

 

The question of whether the End of Time will arrive during the holiday shopping season three years hence is already the subject of a veritable library of books. We also have what "The Complete Idiot's Guide to 2012" claims are almost 600,000 Web sites devoted to worrying about it.

 

This seems to be the fault of Nostradamus, the Mayan calendar, angst on the left about global warming and angst on the right about the election of Barack Obama. Or the health care bill. Or government bailouts. Or the repositioning of "In God We Trust" on the nation's coinage.

 

Really, for ultraconservatives, the last year has been one sign of the apocalypse after the other. Soon, the rivers will run red with Starbucks Raspberry-Flavored Tazo Passion Shaken Iced Tea. Owls will give birth to two-headed frogs who shriek the lyrics to Lady Gaga songs.

 

Hollywood is unleashing a raft of movies about humanity tottering on the edge of extinction. In "2012," a G-8 summit convenes to discuss the fact that "the world as we know it will soon come to an end." Actually, I would not be surprised if the participants found this preferable to another round of the Doha trade talks.

 

The film characters who are best prepared for the planetary calamity had been consulting the ancient Mayan calendar, which runs through more than five millennia and then comes screeching to a halt on Dec. 21, 2012. Some say that for the Mayans, this was just the end of a cycle, like completing a really long year, and that if they'd been able to hang around for a few more centuries they'd simply have issued a new, post-2012 calendar, this time perhaps including some nice pictures of puppies.

 

Others see more dire forces at work. In "2012," the crust of the earth starts bouncing around like Tom DeLay in that cha-cha competition. No one can save us, not the black president or the governor of California with an Austrian accent. Certainly the Europeans can't help, since not even the collapse of every tall building on the planet can get Americans to pay attention to non-American ideas.

 

Also coming soon to a theater near you are: "The Road" (Viggo Mortensen struggles across a barren landscape after a mysterious cataclysm) and "The Book of Eli" (Denzel Washington guards a book that could save post-apocalypse humanity from Gary Oldman). Obviously, Hollywood has determined that the reason all those Iraq-war-themed movies failed was that the moviegoers felt the scenery wasn't bleak enough.

 

I've been disappointed that, so far, almost no one has noticed that St. Malachy's List of the Last Popes has been running out of gas almost as fast as the Mayan calendar. Malachy was an Irish bishop who died in 1148, after allegedly having seen a vision of the future 112 popes who would reign until the end of the world. By this count, the current Benedict XVI would be 111.

 

Each of the popes gets a little hint as to his identity. For the most part, Malachy cannily chose to keep them general enough ("angelic shepherd") that it was hard not to hit a lot of home runs. But good luck in figuring out how Benedict is "glory of the olives."

 

Keeping things vague, or subject to multiple interpretations, is the real key to apocalyptic predictions. It's what made Nostradamus a household name. He'd stare at a bowl of water for hours on end, and then come up with something like:

 

For the merry maid the bright splendor

Will shine no longer, for long will she be without salt.

With merchants, bullies, wolves odious,

All confusion universal monster.

Which is obviously a foretelling of the Sarah Palin book tour.

 

My own favorite prognosticator, The Amazing Criswell, always got into trouble with specificity, including his prediction that a black rainbow would circle the earth in 1999 and suck out all the oxygen. He lost a lot of credibility even earlier, after he announced that the United States would move its capital to Wichita and that pressures from outer space would turn Denver into jelly. Really, people tend to remember stuff like that.

 

I'm predicting that by the time we reach 2011, the 2012 Web sites will hit the million mark, not to mention the Twitters of Terror. But we've survived end-of-the-world panic many times before.

 

When I was a kid, the nuns at my school filled us with stories about prophecies of doom, frequently from Our Lady of Fatima. They always revolved around the Communist menace, and we were occasionally sent home on Friday with assurances that the End was coming by Sunday. We were credulous enough not to question why, in that case, there were homework assignments.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE PASSION OF THE RIGHT

BY CHARLES M. BLOW

 

In 354 days, the dead will rise. Or so believe Republicans.

 

They believe that their suffering and forbearance in the face of an overzealous, hyperliberal left will culminate in a 2010 resurrection of the battered Republican brand.

 

Case in point: After G.O.P. victories in Virginia last week, Representative Eric Cantor, the House Republican whip, exclaimed that voters are "looking for change. ... The Republican resurgence begins again tonight!"

 

Unfortunately, he's probably right, in part at least. They are likely to make significant gains, not because of their anachronous tenets, but because of historical patterns and an electorate exasperated with seeming Democratic ineptitude.

 

According to a Gallup poll on Wednesday, in a generic 2010 Congressional matchup, Republicans moved ahead of Democrats 48 percent to 44 percent. Now generic polls have to be taken with a grain of salt. That said, they do measure the mood of the populace, and it doesn't look good for Democrats.

 

The most striking finding in the poll was the margin for Republicans among independents. It grew from 1 percentage point in July to 22 percentage points in November. This is important because according to the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal Survey, independents are now nearly as large a group as Democrats and Republicans combined.

 

And, it gets worse for the Democrats. The Gallup poll was of registered voters, not likely voters who skew more Republican, in part because fewer young people vote in midterm elections.

 

Let's take a look at how these factors played out in the recent gubernatorial races. In Virginia and New Jersey, the percentage of voters under age 44 dropped 18 and 14 percentage points, respectively, from last November to this November. And what of the all-important independents Obama narrowly won in both states? They voted overwhelmingly for the Republican candidates.

 

Cantor is also right that the people want change — still. They trusted Democrats to deliver. The Democrats haven't, not yet at least, and pleas for patience come at a price. If voters' thirst remains unsated, they will change politicians until politicians change policies.

 

The party that wins the White House generally loses Congressional seats in the midterm, but this Democratic-controlled government has particular issues. Its agenda has been hamstrung by a perfect storm of politics: the Republicans' surprisingly effective obstructionist strategy, a Democratic caucus riddled with conservative sympathizers and a president encircled by crises and crippled by caution.

 

And, the most important pocketbook issue — jobs — hasn't been the priority that it should be. History may eventually judge these Democrats favorably. Who knows? But real-time anxiety threatens to undermine them.

 

Jobs may be a lagging indicator of economic recovery, but consecutive summers of "staycations" may be a leading indicator of political realignment.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

A RECOVERY FOR SOME

BY BOB HERBERT

 

President Obama's strongest supporters during the presidential campaign were the young, the black and the poor — and they are among those who are being hammered unmercifully in this long and cruel economic downturn that the financial elites are telling us is over.

 

If the elites are correct, if the Great Recession really is over, then these core supporters of the president are being left far, far behind — as are blue-collar workers of every ethnic and political persuasion. Nobody wants to talk seriously about class in America, but the elites are smiling and perusing their stock portfolios while the checklist of Americans locked in depressionlike circumstances just grows and grows: construction and manufacturing workers, young men without college degrees (especially young black and Hispanic men), teenagers, and those who were already poor when the recession began.

 

The economic environment for all of these groups is an absolute and utter disaster.

 

Now we're learning that unmarried women are among those being crushed by the epidemic of joblessness. As the Center for American Progress has noted, "The high unemployment rate of unmarried women, and particularly the 1.3 million unemployed female heads of household who are primary breadwinners for their families, is devastating to their financial circumstances and standard of living."

 

Mr. Obama announced this week that he would convene a jobs summit at the White House next month to explore ways of putting Americans back to work. It remains to be seen whether the summit will yield anything substantial. But it's fair to wonder why the president and his party have not been focused like fanatics on job creation from the first day he took office.

 

It was the financial elites who took the economy down, and it was ordinary working people, the longtime natural constituents of the Democratic Party, who were buried in the rubble. Mr. Obama and the Democrats have been unconscionably slow in riding to the rescue of those millions of Americans struggling with the curse of joblessness.

 

We've been hearing that there are six unemployed workers for every job opening in the U.S., but even that terrible figure is deceptive. There are 25 unemployed construction workers for every job opening in their field, and more than a dozen for every opening in the durable goods industries, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston.

 

This was not a normal recession, and we are not on the cusp of anything like a normal recovery. The unemployment rate for black Americans is 15.7 percent. The underemployment rate for blacks in September (the latest month for which figures are available) was a gut-wrenching 23.8 percent and for Hispanics an even worse 25.1 percent. The poverty rate for black children is almost 35 percent.

 

Wall Street can boast about recovery all it wants, much of America remains trapped in economic hell.

 

It will take a monumental leadership effort by the administration and Congress to spark the kind of changes necessary to transform this wretched employment landscape. Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute has written: "By itself, the private sector is unable to create jobs in the numbers the United States needs to obtain a robust, full economic recovery."

If that's true, and I have long believed it to be the case, then we need to rethink our entire approach to employment. Conventional efforts to kick-start economic growth are dwarfed by the vast scale of the problem. Bold new efforts — creative efforts — are needed.

 

A recent survey for the policy institute found that one in four families had been hit by a job loss during the past year and 44 percent had suffered either the loss of a job or a reduction in wages or hours worked. Economic insecurity has spread like a debilitating virus through scores of millions of American families.

 

What kind of recovery are we talking about if blue-collar workers, and men and women without college degrees, and large percentages of ethnic minorities and the young and the poor are not part of it? And how can any recovery be sustained if economic insecurity is a permanent feature of even middle-class life?

 

The financial elites have flourished in recent decades to a great extent because they have had government on their side, with the politicians working diligently to ensure that rules, regulations and tax policies established an environment in which the elites could thrive. For ordinary Americans, it has been a different story, with jobs shipped overseas by the millions and wages remaining stagnant, with labor unions under constant assault and labor standards weakened, with the safety net shredded and the message sent out to workers everywhere: You're on your own.

 

We'll get a chance to see at President Obama's employment summit whether anything much has changed.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE YOUNG AND THE RECKLESS

BY ELIZABETH S. SCOTT AND LAURENCE STEINBERG

 

ON Monday, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases that ask whether sentencing a juvenile to life in prison without the possibility of parole is a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.

 

Those who hope the court will ban this sort of sentencing point to the 2005 decision in Roper v. Simmons, in which the court abolished the juvenile death penalty. They believe that the logic the justices applied in Roper to exclude minors from capital punishment should extend to life without parole as well.

Those who hope the justices will retain life sentences for juveniles argue that "death is different," and that the court should exercise restraint, as it typically does when reviewing non-capital sentencing decisions for fairness under the proportionality principle.

 

Certainly, death is different. But the sentence of life in prison without parole is also different from even lengthy conventional sentences; it is a judgment that an offender will never be fit to rejoin civil society, however long he lives. This punishment may be suitable for adults who have committed terrible crimes, but it is never a fair sentence for a juvenile, whose character is unformed and whose involvement in crime reflects the immature judgment of adolescence.

 

A crucial lesson of the Roper case is that the developmental differences between adolescents and adults are important under the Eighth Amendment, as they are in other areas of constitutional law. In deciding to end the juvenile death penalty, the court repeatedly emphasized the relative immaturity of minors, even at age 17, as compared to adults — a point that is well established in behavioral research and finds growing support in brain science.

 

Writing for the majority in Roper, Justice Anthony Kennedy observed that juveniles' impulsivity, recklessness and susceptibility to peer pressure made them inherently less responsible than adults. Justice Kennedy also noted juveniles' potential for rehabilitation, because their personality and character traits are less fixed than adults.

 

In the years since the Roper ruling, research on adolescent brain and behavioral development has provided additional support for Justice Kennedy's observations. There is now a consensus among neuroscientists, for example, that brain regions and systems responsible for foresight, self-regulation, risk assessment and responsiveness to social influences continue to mature into young adulthood. This evidence that adolescents are psychologically and neurologically less mature than adults should be important in deciding how to punish their criminal acts.

 

In Monday's oral argument, the justices did not question the proposition that juveniles generally are psychologically less mature than adults. The debate focused instead on whether the mitigating trait of immaturity justified a categorical exclusion of juveniles from the sentence of life without parole.

 

Some justices argued instead that age and maturity should be considered in sentencing on a case-by-case basis. But this approach was rejected by the court in Roper — and it should be rejected here as well. As Roper recognized, even psychological experts are unable to distinguish between the young person whose crime reflects transient immaturity and the rare juvenile offender who may deserve the harsh sentence of life without parole. If experts can't reliably make this determination, then it seems unlikely that juries and judges would be able to do much better.

 

The two Florida offenders whose cases will be decided by the court differ in age and in their offenses: Terrance Graham was sentenced to life without parole for a probation violation involving a house break-in at age 17, while Joe Sullivan was convicted of sexual assault at age 13.

 

It is possible that the court will treat these two cases differently. But in both cases, the lower court decisions should be struck down. For a minor to be confined in prison for life with no possibility of ever having the opportunity to demonstrate that he should be allowed to rejoin society is an egregious violation of the Eighth Amendment, especially for a crime in which no life was lost.

 

Such a sentence offends "the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society," the court's announced standard for reviewing state punishment under the Eighth Amendment. Indeed, in our opinion, life without parole is never a fair sentence for a juvenile, even in a murder case.

 

There is no question that teenagers who commit serious crimes should be held accountable and punished, and that society must be protected from young people who are violent and dangerous. But studies show that the vast majority of juveniles who commit crimes — even very serious crimes — grow up to be law-abiding adults, and that it is impossible to predict which juvenile offenders will become career criminals.

 

Absent an ability to do this, and in light of what science tells us about the capacity for adolescents to change, it makes no sense to lock up any young offender and throw away the key.

 

Elizabeth S. Scott, a professor of law at Columbia, and Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple, are co-authors of "Rethinking Juvenile Justice."

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

NO BIG SURPRISES

 

There have been no major surprises in the first election for the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly. The PPP is set to claim majority in the 24-seat house. This success has been marred by some allegations of rigging. A number of pre-poll analysts had predicted a hung house – but traditionally Gilgit-Baltistan, accustomed to decades of rule from the centre, has leaned towards the ruling party. The turnout was generally good despite the bitter cold, but the refusal to allow women to vote in a few constituencies is a matter the authorities need to take up. The interest shown by people in the electoral process, with large rallies forming a part of the run-up to voting, highlights the strong desire for democracy everywhere in our country. It is unfortunate that people have so often been denied this right through our history.


There were other distinct trends that the major parties need to take note of. The MQM picked up one seat, finished in second place on several others and picked up an impressive number of votes generally. Certainly, the MQM's open condemnation of extremism went down well in an area that has remained largely calm despite the violence sweeping the north. So too did its call for constitutional rights for people and the grant of status to the region as the fifth province of Pakistan. It is indeed rather ironical that for over 60 years Gilgit-Baltistan has been denied this right, even as fierce nationalist movements in other provinces challenge the notion of federation and seek to break away from it. This is something for the federal government to consider. While it has, since independence, stood on the sidelines of Pakistan, Gilgit-Baltistan comprises an area that is three times larger than FATA and over 12 times as big as AJK. There is immense tourist potential amidst mountains that include some of the tallest in the world and a unique culture that goes back centuries. There is then potential for the region to contribute to Pakistan and perhaps even to pull it back from the brink of extremism and international isolation. This needs to be recognized and further steps taken to pull Gilgit-Baltistan into the mainstream of the country.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

ORGAN TRAFFICKING

 

It is pleasing to note that the National Assembly Standing Committee on Health unanimously approved the Human Organs Transplantation Bill and that parliament swiftly signed the bill into law via a consensus vote on Thursday. The new law sets the punishment at 10 years imprisonment and/or a million-rupee fine for anybody convicted of being involved in the trafficking of human organs. The bill was passed unanimously and without amendment in a laudable display of cross-party unity and now becomes the foundation on which will be fought the battle to defeat illegal practices related to organ transplantation. We have acquired a grisly reputation as one of the world's leading nations when it comes to the illegal sale of organs for transplant of which there is a global shortage; a reputation we need to lose.


Prior to the new law the organ trade was regulated by the Human Tissues and Transplant Ordinance of 2007, which promoted organ donation between living relatives and allowed the transplantation of kidneys between unrelated persons only in exceptional circumstances. The ordinance was in accord with the World Health Organisation's guiding principles on transplants, which recommend that there should be no sale or purchase of human tissue. The WHO also says that where there are transplants between living but unrelated donors and recipients questions are inevitably raised about the motivation of the donor – who is anyway open to coercion or recruitment. Within a year of the promulgation of the ordinance, Shahid Malik of the Pakistan Medical Association wrote that "since there has been no implementation of the law, illegal traders have resurfaced and are doing the business with impunity". And there lies the rub. Good laws are only as good as their implementation. We have no shortage of good legislation but a desperate shortage of implementation and enforcement. There is now a commitment to the establishment of a federal authority for the surveillance of voluntary transplantations. We hope that this proves to be the case and that the new authority has the necessary teeth to regulate this odious trade.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

IMF AND POWER

 

The IMF has said some encouraging things about Pakistan's economy at its meeting with the country's finance managers in Dubai, suggesting it sees some signs of recovery. This good news comes with an extremely bitter pill. The Fund has also insisted that power tariff be raised on the ground that the increases introduced so far have been insufficient. The issue of tube-well owners and bottom-line users, exempted from the tariff rises, has also been brought up. Pakistan's finance minister has, following these talks, said that a 12 per cent power tariff increase can be expected in January. The new year will thus start on a particularly tough note for most citizens. Islamabad had indeed known of the hardships that lay ahead when it entered into its accord with the IMF last year. The increases we have since seen in the prices of essential utilities add to the burden of almost every household. The salaried segment has of course been especially hard hit, with wages failing to keep pace with the pressures. According to some studies, a quarter to half of incomes on average goes towards paying bills. This proportion will increase less than two months from now. Indeed, the IMF is reported to be also demanding a retrospective hike from October 2009, on the grounds that the power sector is still not bringing in sufficient revenue.

For any elected government the situation is indeed a hard one. The deal with the IMF had to be entered into partially because there was little choice as Islamabad stared at the prospect of bankruptcy. But it has also added to growing discontent as people struggle to make ends meet. Paying for a utility that is indeed not available for hours on end adds to public ire. The priority now must be to rebuild economic strength. The small gains made recently suggest we have the potential to do so, with some investors tentatively venturing into the country again. We must build on these gains so that in the future we no longer need to turn to the IMF and have more options when it comes to economic decision-making.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE KNIVES ARE OUT

ARIF NIZAMI


The knives are out for Mr Asif Ali Zardari with his detractors predicting that he will not last this winter in his office as president. A section of the media has already written his political obituary whereas there are others who think that the whole exercise is to clip his wings, as an all-powerful Zardari is not acceptable to the ubiquitous military establishment.


The only thing that can be said for sure is a deep sense of uncertainty about his political future. The government's hasty retreat on presenting the NRO in parliament after its ally, the MQM, threatened to vote against it has opened a Pandora's Box of speculations about the future of Mr Zardari and his cohorts,the main beneficiaries of the 'corruption laundering ordinance'.


Hasty summoning of the erstwhile nemesis Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan by both Mr Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani a few days ago has not helped matters. Such are the excegencies of power politics that Ahsan, whose membership of the Central Executive Committee was suspended by the party co-chairperson, and was also physically prevented from proceeding to Naudero to say fateha at his leader late Benazir Bhutto's grave only a few months ago, is now being offered the moon. It is evident that at this juncture the lure of being made attorney general of Pakistan -- and later the governor of Punjab -- is no longer an acceptable option for him.


According to Aitzaz Ahsan, Mr Zardari, as long as he is president, enjoys immunity from prosecution by the courts. But this does not hold true for the rest of his colleagues many of whom are members of the cabinet. Hence, life sans NRO is not business as usual for the PPP government and is bound to pose problems for Mr Gilani as well.


To further compound matters by most accounts are the relations between Mr Zardari and the rmy that have hit an all-time low. Mr Kiyani's reservations on the Kerry-Lugar Bill (KLB) are well known. The army perceives that it virtually caps Pakistan's nuclear programme. These reservations were not only expressed privately in meetings but also in a letter written to the prime minister by the Chairman Joint chiefs of Staff, General Tariq Majeed. Later when nothing worked they were publicly expressed in an ISPR press release issued after the Corps Commanders meeting on the matter.


Historically, the Pakistani establishment has perceived PPP governments, albeit unjustifiably so, as a 'security risk'. And the present military set-up is no exception to this rule. This should have entailed extra caution on the part of Mr Zardari, especially when the principle of civilian control over the armed forces has not taken root in the Pakistani body politic or in its social milieu.


Another bone of contention is the widely held perception about corruption -- euphemistically called lack of transparency in the PPP-led government starting from the top. Reportedly, a couple of months back, a list of patently corrupt ministers was presented to President Zardari in person by a top intelligence sleuth. The president promised to sack those named. But nothing happened with the agency finally being told to mind its own business.


Poor governance or rather lack of it -- although not entirely of Mr Zardari's making -- is another worrisome factor that is bogging down the economy and sapping the confidence of the business community. Most ministers are not performing well, are not interested in their work or simply have no clue. The finance and foreign ministries are among the few exceptions but, with the current wave of terrorism and the rest of the government bogging down the system, a few performing ministers cannot make a difference.


Despite the predictions of gloom and doom for democracy and redoubled the efforts of those who want to derail it for their own nefarious ends, there are strong factors which militate against an extra constitutional change. For starters, Mian Nawaz Sharif notwithstanding his huge trust deficit with Mr Zardari, is not willing to rock the boat.

This is not because of love of Mr Zardari. Mian sahib and his party are high on the national popularity ratings but are also well aware that his turn to rule will only come if the system survives. In this sense, his politics is different from the likes of Imran Khan and Munnawar Hasan who have no stake in the present system. It is also unlikely that coalition partners of the PPP, MQM, ANP or JUI despite some posturing in the end analysis would lend overt support to an extra constitutional change.


On the other hand, even the army, notwithstanding the differences with the government, does not seem to be in take-over mode. It is bogged down in the war on terror and General Kiyani is no Bonaparte. He has the reputation of being an intellectual general who is well aware of the collateral damage of military rule under which of Pakistan has suffered for years. However the same cannot be said about the rest of the institution that traditionally sees itself as the sole protector of national interest.


But the politicians should not stretch their luck too far and must set their house in order. Mr Zardari is still dithering on the repeal of the 17th Amendment and has given March as the deadline to replace it with the 18th Amendment. The Raza Rabbani committee on the 17th Amendment is moving at a snail's pace whereas the PML- N, while on one hand wanting the Charter of Democracy to be implemented as soon as possible, is unnecessarily bogged down with issues like renaming of NWFP.


It is never easy to give up power. But Mr Zardari should know better that the nation ushered the present lot in power and rejected the Musharrafites at the hustings last year in February to usher in a genuine parliamentary system in which the latter will be supreme and the courts independent. The PPP reneged on both these promises. The Chief Justice of Pakistan was restored sadly by behind the scene mediation by General Kiyani whereas the 17th Amendment, a relic of Musharraf, remains intact thanks to Mr Zardari's unexpectedly assuming the mantle of presidency reneging on his commitments.


Instead of acting under pressure, Mr Zardari should wrest the initiative without wasting more time and develop a consensus on issues related to restoring the supremacy of parliament, including the repeal of Article 58 (2B). He should reconcile to being a president in a parliamentary system rather than trying to retain a quasi presidential system under the garb of a parliamentary system. Being the party president gives him ample political clout as has been demonstrated by Sonia Gandhi across the border.


Another issue, which needs urgent attention, not only by Mr Zardari but more so by Prime Minister Gilani, is the issue of governance and transparency. By one estimate there are some 90 people enjoying perks and privileges as federal ministers. Apart from purging corrupt and incompetent ministers, there is a need to drastically cut down the number -- quite a few of whom are not even members of the cabinet but are enjoying perks and privileges on the basis of cronyism or personal loyalties.


There are other sticking points that need to be sorted out directly with the military. Issues like relations with the US and the perception that the present government has become too close for comfort to Washington needs to be resolved. Similarly, the military establishment and the civilians should be on the same page about strategic perceptions and Pakistan's role in the region. Reviving the National Security Council (NSC) or the defence committee of the cabinet are ideas which need to be seriously examined.

The role of the media has also come under scrutiny in the present confusion. Formulas like 'minus-one or minus-two' have appeared without being credibly sourced. Having said that, the media managers of the government have miserably failed. The government should be given due credit for tolerating adverse news and views in the media. However, the time has come to have spin-doctors engaging the media in an effective manner, rather than leaving the job to media managers.


The ultimate survival of the present set-up will depend on whether it delivers in key areas. If it continues to fail, patience with the already fragile democratic institutions is bound to run out. And that will be an unmitigated disaster.

The writer is a former newspaper editor. Email:
arifn51@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

NEW BUBBLES IN THE MAKING?

DR MEEKAL AZIZ AHMED


The global economy is showing signs of life after experiencing the Great Recession. Growth is being spearheaded by strong recoveries in the Asian countries although the industrialized countries are also performing well with the US economy expanding at 3.5 per cent in the third quarter and Japan, Germany and France recording two successive quarters of growth. Yet there are looming risks on the near horizon. The key risk is surging prices of housing and real estate, stock markets, and commodities such as gold. The concern is that this surge in prices is not consistent with, or related to, "economic fundamentals", as economists call it. More specifically, are we seeing portends of new bubbles in asset markets?


The fact is that economists simply do not know. They do know and have strongly recommended a sharp and sustained easing of macroeconomic policies, both fiscal policy and monetary policy. Fiscal deficits are large, injecting fresh demand into the economy. Interest rates, the leading edge of monetary policy, are at unprecedented lows (in the US it is effectively zero). This is as it should be since it is the only way to cushion the recent global economic and financial downburst and prevent the Great Recession from turning into a Great Depression, with its incalculable consequences.


This is the good news. The bad news is that the recovery is being accompanied by surging prices in asset markets noted above reflecting a world awash in liquidity. The compelling question therefore is what is to be done? Should macro policies be tightened to deflate what could be emerging bubbles which have a nasty habit of bursting, as they did recently, and take the global economy down with it resulting in a painful "double-dip" recession?

Unfortunately, the risk here is that such a tightening of macro policy could have the unintended consequence of aborting the global recovery. It could mean a premature withdrawal of fiscal and monetary stimulus just as the momentum of growth was strengthening. Even the dour and conservative IMF is urging countries around the globe to stick with the present easy stance of macro policy until the recovery is more firmly entrenched and assured.

Another problem with the dichotomy between economic fundamentals and asset markets that we see emerging today is that we don't know, and cannot tell, ex ante, whether these are bubbles or simply a cyclical run-up in prices which usually accompany an economic up-swing. Even the great maestro, Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the US Federal Reserve denied that a bubble was emerging in the US. By keeping interest rates too low for too long, he simply made matters worse. The financial meltdown that ensued, in the US and globally, was more severe and costly in terms of output, employment and a loss of wealth than it needed to be.


However that may be, it may surprise many that central bankers don't target bubbles. They may be aware of their existence and keep a weary eye on them. But they don't adjust policies in response. They largely concentrate on other real and financial variables such as output, the degree of slack in the economy, inflation, employment, the money supply and macroeconomic imbalances. This is because they don't know whether there is a bubble to begin with and they don't know how much and how far interest rates need to go up to prick the bubble gently and stem its debilitating consequences in financial markets and the real economy.


Pakistan has experienced its share of bubbles. While growth was rapid in the Musharaf era, it was accompanied by an unsustainable and potentially dangerous run-up in prices in real estate, the stock market, and commodities as economic slack was taken up, resource pressures intensified, and the economy overheated in an ill-advised dash for growth. Even our local Greenspan kept interest rates artificially low although, to be fair, Pakistan had little choice with global interest rates at unprecedentedly low levels as well. This must have created a difficult policy dilemma for the authorities. If interest rates in Pakistan had been pushed up to slow the forward momentum of the economy and keep inflationary pressures at bay, there would have been capital flight as economic agents would have taken their money out of the country in search of better returns abroad. The only option left to policy makers to withdraw stimulus from the economy and slow down the torrid pace of domestic demand growth would have been to tighten fiscal policy. This was something they were obviously reluctant to do.

What did happen is that the economy entered a period of stagflation as inflation took-off amid slowing output growth, and prices in asset markets underwent a large downward correction. But the impact of the bursting of the bubble in Pakistan's case did not, in the main, affect banks and lead to a credit crunch and frozen credit markets, as witnessed elsewhere, but reflected itself in unprecedented turmoil in the foreign exchange market. As confidence waned and the government remained stupefied in the face of a gathering balance payments crisis, there was massive capital flight as everyone encashed their investments in asset markets and took them out of the country. As Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves started to vanish with astonishing speed, we had no choice but to seek recourse to exceptional financing from the IMF.


The writer has a doctorate from Oxford University and has worked at the Planning Commission and the IMF. Email: meekal ahmed2@aol.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

HILLARY'S NEW 'BLANK PAGE'

SHAMSHAD AHMAD


What successive US leaders over the past 60 years couldn't do, Hillary Clinton, during her first-ever visit to this country as secretary of state, has done. Despite the agitated mood in the country over the Kerry-Lugar Bill (KLB) issue, she managed to reach out to the people of Pakistan plunging into an unprecedented public diplomacy and communicating directly with a cross-section of our society. Her interaction with our media and the youth, in particular, was lively and frank and served a purpose that could not have been served by any set of officially in-laid "talking points" on either side.


Ms Clinton was not expecting the "hard talk" she had with our anchorpersons and students. She heard things that beguiled interlocutors in Islamabad's governmental cocoonery could not have dared say. One must give her credit for being patient in her town-hall meetings with outspoken audiences who represented the new self-assured face of Pakistan. She could not have had a better opportunity to respond to the concerns and apprehensions in Pakistani minds over the US role and activities in and around the country.


It was an unusual engagement in public diplomacy with no holds barred. Each side made its case well. The US secretary of state did her utmost to clear the overcast atmosphere of the last few months. On the KLB issue, she was blunt enough to tell her audiences that nobody was stuffing the aid package down their throats, and it was up to the people of Pakistan "to take it or leave it." The US Congress had passed the legislation in keeping with its normal procedures and the final law was meant only to serve the US national interests. It is now for us to understand that "beggars cannot be the choosers."


In terms of atmospherics, Ms Clinton did seem to be overly cautious. Unlike one of her distinguished predecessors who, on her first visit to Pakistan in the late 90s as secretary of state came wearing a shorter skirt than she normally wore only to signal her distaste for Pakistani culture, in her public appearances, Ms Clinton remained fully conscious of local sensitivities, and was effusive in praising Pakistani costumes and cuisine while speaking fondly of her "love" for Pakistan and its culture.


Ms Clinton left a message in Pakistan. After eight years of the Bush administration, during which suspicions between the two countries had deepened, Pakistan now had a "friendly" new administration in Washington where, according to her, both she and her president, Barack Obama were seeking to build a new bilateral relationship to be based on mutual respect. Getting this message across was an uphill task, she herself admitted while hoping that her visit would turn a new page in the US-Pakistan relationship.


But Ms Clinton's new page turned out to be blank. While on a "fence-mending" mission, she should have been more careful in some of her responses to questions from perturbed minds. On the continuing US drone attacks, she abruptly said: "Al Qaeda has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002. I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to." Even neutral American observers found this brash remark totally out of line with the spirit of her mission and also insulting for the Pakistan government, its army and its intelligence services.


Turning one page, in any case, will not change the 62-year-long chequered history of a relationship which throughout its existence has lacked continuity, a larger conceptual framework, and a shared vision beyond each side's "narrowly based and vaguely defined" issue-specific priorities. It has been a curious, if not enigmatic relationship as it never had any conflict of interest and yet it experienced repeated interruptions in its intensity as well as integrity.

This unusual relationship has seen ups and downs with rotating phases of "engagement and estrangement" depending on the nature of regional and global dynamics. And every US "engagement" with Pakistan was issue-specific with no shared perspectives. The spells of close ties between the two countries have been and continue to be single-issue engagements of limited or uncertain duration.


Curiously, each engagement or "honeymoon" period coincided with a military or military-controlled government in Pakistan and a Republican administration in Washington. Most of the "estrangement" phases of the US-Pakistan relationship happened when they had a Democrat administration and we had a civilian-elected government in Pakistan. This tradition generated its own anti-Americanism in Pakistan with a perception that the US was not a reliable ally and did not want democracy to take root in this country. This perception is deeply seared into Pakistan's collective memory. One fears that the KLB issue is the beginning of yet another "estrangement" phase in our troubled relationship. On her part, Ms Clinton wanted us to forget the unpleasant past and look towards a promising future. She assured our people that this time the US will not abandon them as it did after the Soviet withdrawal. She repeatedly said the current US engagement with Pakistan is going to be enduring, not transitory or evanescent.


Ms Clinton went to the extent of comparing the US-Pakistan relationship to an indissoluble marriage. And perhaps unconsciously, she arrogated philanderer hubby's role to the US itself. A woman in any society knows what it means to be the partner of an unfaithful husband in an indissoluble marriage. Unpredictability, neglect and betrayal are the only constant of such expediency-driven conjugality.


She promised that she and her president were determined to redress this historic sense of injustice among the Pakistani people. The change of leadership in Washington did provide a watershed opportunity for "remaking" of the US-Pakistan relationship. Vice-President Joe Biden envisioned a new people-centered approach in transforming this "transactional" relationship into a normal one.


Ms Clinton must have seen how the people in Pakistan feel disturbed by their country being treated as America's traditional fall guy. They consider the US responsible for all their terrorism-related problems. They are concerned over the growing Indo-US nexus beginning with their defence and nuclear deals three years ago and now developing into a multi-dimensional strategic partnership with ominous implications for the critical balance of power in the region and for Pakistan's legitimate security interests. Somehow, our people also blame the US for invariably being on the wrong side in their traditional power struggle in the arena of domestic politics. They see US footprints in most "constitutional subversions" and "judicial circumventions" in this country, and an invisible role in our shadowy political deals including the notorious NRO. Our dictators, civilian or non-civilian, have always been Washington's blue-eyed boys.


On a lighter side, Ms Clinton perhaps didn't notice that her visit to Lahore did bring an instant change. Governor Salman Taseer while receiving her took off his dark glasses only to show her that he too has blue eyes. Whatever his motive, without the dark glasses, he now at least sees the world with his real eyes.


But for Ms Clinton's US, Pakistan must mean its real people, not the chintzy class of its money-gulping and land-grabbing ruling politico-bureaucratic elite. To endure and flourish, the US-Pakistan equation must be based on sovereign equality and mutual respect. Our people may resent US power and its overbearing conduct but not its ideals of liberty, justice and democracy which they want for themselves too. Washington's new focus must be on the people rather than the corrupt ruling elite who have always abused this relationship for their own self-serving purposes.


The writer is a former foreign secretary. Email: shamshad1941@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

MODERNS, MODELS AND MARTYRS

FARZANA VERSEY


If you believed the Indian media, then not only do Pakistani women possess cleavages and midriffs but their displaying these body parts is considered a fight against militancy. "Bare shoulders, backless gowns and pouting models are wowing Pakistan's glitterati as the Fashion Pakistan Week shows the world a different side of the Taliban-troubled nation," said one report. Are there no other paradigms for us to understand modern Pakistan? Do we even want to?


There is talk about Islamic clothes as opposed to what was witnessed on the catwalk. This is an artificial comparison. Social dress codes vary for regular wear even in the couture capitals of the world such as Paris, Milan and New York. However, the Indian media saturated with tribal chiefs found an opportunity to perform a virtual bereavement ritual as fashionistas supposedly braved gunfire to strut on the ramp.


This is a patronising attitude because we forget that we have to deal with not only the right-wing moral police but also educational institutions that lay down the rules. In Kolkata, for example, a college wanted its students to only wear sarees and not shalwar kameez; the elite St Xavier's College in Mumbai issued a diktat against short dresses going completely against what Karan Johar has assiduously been promoting.


We want to look at modern Pakistan as the West does -- a materialistic opposition to fanaticism. None of these people are modern in the sense of being ideologically driven. We give prime time and front-page space to wardrobe malfunction and there are psychological discussions on stress levels. It perhaps adds a similar dimension when we see our neighbour defying external stress.


A modern Pakistan is both a relief and a threat to India. It is a relief because there are mutual opportunities and back-scratching possibilities for the fake blonde bluster to cover up real blonde moments. It is a threat because we need those bearded guys and burqa-clad women to make us feel good about our democracy. For those who constitute the upper layer of any society, democracy is the ability to walk the ramp -- for charity, theatrics, flaunting money, regenerated bodies, redeemed self-esteem and for flaunting trophy hubbies. To belong to the jet set, you need to walk the ramp.


Can such cocoons rebel against society? Take this headline: "Fashion takes a bow near the Taliban hub in Pakistan." Do we know what a hub is? And how close is Karachi to the hub? The show taking place under heavy security does not, as a matter of course, catapult it to the level of a valid protest.


I can imagine our media chortling at the words of one expat Pakistani designer who said, "my muse is that quintessential modern woman who's self-aware and knows what she wants. She's ambitious and driven but isn't afraid to flaunt her softer side in fear of contradicting that image. In fact, she embraces it." Oh no, the power woman has those threads sewn into her mannequin frame and control over body means just not being able to exhale.

Why do these people assume that a woman in the tribal areas, if heard, might be unaware about what she wants? Is it not possible that her ambition is to not flaunt certain assets? The neocons transpose the victim of fanaticism against a peek preview of the houri from heaven and end up portraying extremism in two limited shades.

The positions are in place. Men have to take on the war against terror and women must do the phoney mommy of moderation act. Liberalism is the new poster girl and caters to market demands. No wonder it has degenerated to the level of the trivial.


Look beyond this current event and you will find that according to the Indian media, the great Pakistani moderns are not the true dissenting voices, but the flavours of the season. Modern is Imran Khan coming out of a socialite's pool in Mumbai like Ursula Andress, Meera covering half her face with shades and the other half with braggadocio, politicians and diplomats wearing suits, media persons talking in clipped accents punctuated with home-grown patois, and activist cats crying over spilt milk of peaceful resolutions to the conflict.


This is a composite list. If you notice, the arrivistes overtake the artistes. People who do street theatre, use art and dance as statement, who question the status quo are simply bypassed or seen as ranting mavens unless they are threatened. Then, they can take that great leap towards modernism. Intellectual martyrdom has good currency.

Interestingly, television and newspapers in India have buttressed the feudal class as spokespersons for such modernism. The idea is that a haveli may well be a hotbed of intrigue against the system when more often it is only a haven for hors d'oeuvres. On the rare occasion when a person of clear merit is propped up, it is as per western parameters. Edhi is not just a mere do-gooder but the 'Mother Teresa' of Pakistan, and she was a celebrity; that too imported. It is this construct that makes us narrow-mindedly listen to our neighbour talk the robot walk. No wonder that we count among the great moderns former President Pervez Musharraf. The reason is simple: he has a dog.


The writer is a Mumbai-based columnist and author of A Journey Interrupted: Being Indian in Pakistan. Email: kaaghaz. kalam@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

OUR ZARDARI PROBLEM

BABAR SATTAR


To say that many Pakistanis do not find the personality, character and actions of Asif Zardari endearing is as politely as one can put it. Zardari and the PPP government have been grievously hurt due to a string of political and policy disasters: the failed attempt to obstruct restitution of independent-minded judges; offering unequivocal support to the controversial and unpopular Kerry-Lugar Bill (KLB); and making a no-holds-barred attempt to promulgate the reprehensible National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) as a permanent law. Proponents of the 'minus-Zardari formula' have been extremely vocal since the ISPR release that chastised the PPP government for its fervent endorsement of the KLB. The recent NRO debacle has added fuel to fire with the MQM and other political groups seeking their pound of flesh and making muffled suggestions that Zardari should step down.


Our Zardari problem has legal, constitutional and political dimensions that overlap. The legal issues are two-fold: the fate of benefits already derived by beneficiaries of the NRO and its consequences for Zardari and the scope and extent of the immunity conferred on the president under the constitution. The first issue is already subject to judicial determination in the suits pending before the apex court that challenged the legality of the NRO back in 2007. The outcome of these suits together with clarifications proffered by the court regarding the relevant part of its detailed judgment in the PCO Judges Case (that gave ordinances promulgated by Musharraf an additional lease on life till November 31, 2009) will determine whether or not the benefits garnered under the NRO will stay.


If the court holds that the NRO is ultra vires of the constitution, or clarifies that it has held in the PCO Judges Case that no benefits could be derived under the ordinances after their original four-month expiry period (February 2008) despite the extension granted to them by the Supreme Court (SC), the benefits derived by Zardari will be swept away. Whether or not such outcome will affect Zardari's position as president will partly depend on whether he could have qualified as a candidate for the office of the president under Article 41 of the constitution, read together with Articles 62 and 63, even in the absence of the NRO.


If Zardari qualified as a candidate for the office due to legal benefits derived under the NRO, the courts will need to determine (i) whether the resumption of such ineligibility after the demise of the NRO disqualifies Zardari from continuing to serve as president, or (ii) if Article 41(6) somehow cures inherent disabilities of a successful candidate upon completion of the election process as it states that "the validity of the election of the president shall not be called in question by or before any court or other authority." If, on the contrary, Zardari had no convictions that disqualified him as a candidate under Articles 62 and 63 and was eligible to participate in the presidential election independent of the NRO, we will only need to consider the extent of immunity afforded to the president under Article 248.


Article 248(2) of the constitution states that "no criminal proceedings whatsoever, shall be instituted or continued against the president or governor in any court during term of office", and sub-article (3) further states that, "no process for the arrest and imprisonment of the president or a governor shall issue from any court during his term in office." The language of these provisions is significantly different from that of Article 248(1) that grants limited protection to the prime minister, chief ministers and federal ministers, "for the exercise of powers and performance of functions of their respective offices or for any act done or purported to be done in the exercise of those powers and performance of those functions."


The clear intent of Article 248 appears to be that (i) criminal proceedings can neither be instituted nor continued against an individual once he is elected president, and (ii) a judicial order for the arrest or imprisonment of an incumbent president cannot be issued or enforced. This read together with Article 48 suggests that the president can only be removed through the impeachment process by two-thirds majority of parliament on grounds of physical or mental incapacity, breach of the constitution or gross misconduct. The obvious question then is what happens if the president engages in patently criminal acts when in office and murders someone, for example? Is he simply above the law?


The answer seems to be a yes and a no. The constitution does protect the person of the president from the normal process of law. Holding the president accountable for a criminal act is thus a two-tier process. At the first stage, the parliament functions as an investigation tribunal against the president, who, if found guilty or incapable during impeachment proceedings, can be removed from office and thereby denuded of his special protection against the ordinary process of law. This would allow for initiation of the second stage where the ordinary process of law would take its course.


The framers of the constitution probably extended such protection to the president as part of the constitutional scheme of separation of powers. But there is no reason in principle why the personal and non-official acts of our head of state should be afforded such extraordinary protection, especially when other public officials including the head of the executive or custodians of the parliament are not endowed with such immunity. But here is something that can labelled a constitutional problem for which the courts have no solution. Under the doctrine of limited powers enunciated by the SC in the PCO Judges Case most recently, as an institution exercising only such powers as delegated by the constitution, the court can only interpret the constitution and not amend it.

We must resist the temptation of seeking a creative interpretation of the constitution from the apex court merely because it could produce desirable political consequences by hastening Zardari's ouster. If Zardari is to be removed from office on the basis of accusations of graft that amount to gross misconduct, it must be done in accordance with the letter and spirit of the constitution. Vying for Zardari's removal through a purposeful interpretation of Article 248 will not only pollute our constitutional jurisprudence but will also drag the SC's independence and integrity. If enough people believe that the personal acts of the president should be subject to the regular process of law like another citizen, let us campaign to alter Article 248 through a constitutional amendment.

Seeking Zardari's ouster through judicial activism or military adventurism, or contriving other extra-constitutional initiatives to implement the 'minus-one formula' will be no panacea to our multi-faceted problem. The need of the hour for PPP is to (i) rely on PML-N for political stability, (ii) undertake constitutional reform that makes the executive more accountable to parliament and strengthens provincial autonomy, (iii) bring within the state's decision-making hierarchy credible PPP leaders, such leaders Aitzaz Ahsan, Raza Rabbani and Sherry Rehman, exclude the likes of Rehman Malik and Salman Taseer, and cultivate the sense that PPP is not just tinkering with the façade but changing the structure and complexion of governance, and (iv) initiate a non-partisan accountability drive to check growing corruption and cronyism.


There is no reason for Nawaz Sharif to seek Zardari's removal at the expense of strengthening the army and further aggravating the civil-military imbalance that will be the bane of any future PML-N government. An enfeebled president also suits the army for now as it enables khakis to exercise power without authority and continue to pull strings from behind the curtain. But growing unpopularity is like an autoimmune disease that could bring Zardari and the PPP down. If Zardari can facilitate the process of reform with a sense of urgency and reconcile with limited constitutional authority and relative anonymity, he could end up saving himself and strengthening his party. But there is no room to falter anymore and time is of the essence.

Email: sattar@post.harvard.edu

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

EXPOSED!

ANJUM NIAZ


Today President Zardari and the Sharif brothers stand exposed. The moment of reckoning is upon them. Proof of their allegedly stealing billions, from what rightfully belonged to the people of Pakistan, is before us in black and white. Washington and London, with the blessings of our establishment, have finally decided to let the skeletons in the politicians' cupboards come out. The politicians tried to outsmart the military by flirting with the Kerry-Lugar Bill cleverly scripted by our ambassador in Washington. The army threw in a monkey wrench and thwarted it. Husain Haqqani has since gone into hiding while his boss in Islamabad is hunkered down in the Presidency.

Folks, the army is not going to topple the government through a coup. It is going to pull the plug on our leaders charged with corruption. Democracy will not be disturbed; we will only witness a change of guards. Faces like Aitzaz Ahsan, newly returned from Washington DC (maybe with an important message from the White House?), can well be our future rulers.


The toothless NAB is leaking like a sieve. Or is it the agencies that whisked away classified files from the basement of its Islamabad office, fearing that the present government may tinker with the proof; even destroy it? The damning documents of alleged kickbacks received by Zardari from the sale of three submarines have wormed their way to the French daily Liberation, courtesy the NAB. It's just one small piece of the larger picture.

In Washington, the chased-out Pervez Musharraf called Zardari a "criminal," a "fraud" and a "third-rater." Halleluiah! Musharraf has now seen the sinister side of a man with whom he negotiated the NRO and left him in charge of 180 million Pakistanis. My educated guess is that the Americans gave the nod and a wink to the general to go ahead and abuse Zardari.


The NAB, or make it the secret agencies, have also the Sharif brothers trapped today. Stabbed by their own man, Ishaq Dar, the brothers' alleged corruption is out in the open. In a 43-page confessional statement by Dar recorded on April 25, 2000, before the district magistrate of Lahore, Dar admits to handling the Sharif's finances, alleging that Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif were involved in money laundering worth at least $14.886 million.

Meanwhile Musharraf awaits the return of the three with impatient glee.


But Zardari's appointee in Washington too may be moving. "The [Pakistani] military clearly has decided that it would like to have him removed," says The Boston Globe, citing a congressional aide not authorised to speak to the media. "If he returned home, friends say, his safety could be threatened," reports the Globe. "Haqqani hasn't returned to Islamabad for eight months." One "friend" describes Haqqani-bashing as "brutal." Michael Krepon of the Henry L Stimson Center, who has penned many Pakistan-centric articles lambasting our security agencies, has known Haqqani for long.


The ambassador has already received a "welcome back" message from Boston University's spokesman Colin Riley. Haqqani currently wears two hats: Pakistan's ambassador to Washington and Boston University's professor. According to the Globe, he has "maintained ties with BU" and "continues to advise a student pursuing a doctorate who is defending her dissertation this month." Can an envoy of a country serve two masters? Well, Haqqani is blatantly doing it, and also drawing two salaries?

I have great news for the NRO dirty dozens soon to become political fugitives. It's safe to make New York your home. Thanksgiving and Christmas is here, guys. The shopping is great; the deals amazing. The godfather who likes to wear $17,000-a-pair shoes will feel right at home in Manhattan. The New York Stock Exchange is up. Go grab another penthouse on Fifth Avenue, or buy yourself a 2nd, a 3rd mansion. Buy a dog and name him Maximilian.

Email: aniaz@fas.harvard.edu & www.anjumniaz.com

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

GB COMES IN MAINSTREAM OF DEMOCRACY

 

COMPLETION of the electoral exercise in Gilgit-Baltistan is indeed a historic development as people of the region would now have, for the first time, a Legislative Assembly for law-making on a host of subjects besides approval of the budget. In fact, people of Gilgit-Baltistan, who have been struggling for long time for their rights, would enjoy status of a Province sans representation in Parliament of Pakistan.


Though there have been charges of rigging by PML(Q) and MQM, which have strongly been rebutted by the ruling PPP, yet by and large the process has been fair and the PPP has clenched most of the seats of the Legislative Assembly. In a way, it is recognition of the revolutionary steps taken by the present Government for fulfilling demands of the people of the erstwhile Northern Areas. With the promulgation of the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009 a process has been initiated for wide-ranging administrative, political, financial and judicial reforms in the area. Gilgit-Baltistan would now have an elected Legislative Assembly, which would elect a chief minister. There would also be a cabinet, Supreme Appellate Court, Auditor-General, Chief Election Commissioner and Public Service Commission. Apart from introducing reforms of far-reaching import, the PPP Government also moved quickly in accepting a number of other demands of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan on the eve of the polls and understandably reaped the benefits. The enthusiasm shown by the people of GB during electioneering and on the polling day was also reflective of the fact that the reforms package has been received well by them. There were long queues of voters in all the constituencies and the voters were thrilled to exercise their right to franchise. The elections have also heralded a good change in the region in that almost all major political parties fielded their candidates and their leaders visited the area for mustering support for their parties. It was for the first time that MQM, a Karachi bound party, has also won seats in the Legislative Assembly. The party already has a symbolic presence in the AJK Legislative Assembly and is striving hard to establish its presence in the Punjab. This would surely give it a genuine national outlook.

 

 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

DON'T DELAY BALOCHISTAN PACKAGE FURTHER

 

PRIME Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani took a wise step on Thursday by holding consultations with PML(N) Quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif on the crucial issue of Balochistan Package. Later, in the evening, the Prime Minister held a meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari and the two leaders reportedly discussed the strategy on how to move ahead on the issue.


It always pays to take all stakeholders on board on important national issues and we are sure this gesture of the Prime Minister would also produce good results. The package, prepared by Raza Rabbani Committee, is awaiting announcement for the last few weeks. The Government has been claiming for the last one year that it is in contact with Baloch leaders both inside and outside the country with a view to making the package acceptable to the majority of Baloch people whom it is directed at. We hope that it would include points to satisfy all legitimate demands of the people of the province and it can be further fine-tuned in the light of input from leaders like Mian Nawaz Sharif. We would also welcome the offer of the PML(N) leader for mediation between the Government and the annoyed Baloch leadership. However, we would differ from his proposition that the package should be made public before its formal announcement and implementation. No doubt, in a democratic system it is the right of the people to know and express their views and the process helps crystallize issues and problems. However, it would not be advisable in the case of Balochistan package because it has already been delayed and the country cannot afford the luxury of wasting more time. Issues involved are known to all and in fact various reports and recommendations are also available to help rectify the wrongs. What we need is the will to address the problem squarely and implement the recommendations in letter and in spirit. Delays in the name of so-called consensus always lead to complications as we have witnessed in the case of Kalabagh Dam. Balochistan package, however comprehensive it might be, is bound to attract both positive and negative comments and could push us to a point of no return. We would, therefore, urge the President and the Prime Minister to present the package in Parliament and make some adjustments in the light of parliamentary debate. But there should be no further delay in its announcement on any pretext.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

SHOCKING INCIDENT OF IRANIAN CONSULATE OFFICIAL

 

UNIDENTIFIED gunmen shot dead Abul Hassan Jasfferi, a Pakistani national heading the protocol and public relations department at the Iranian Consulate in Peshawar near his residence in Gulberg on Thursday. The 56-year-old Jafferi, who was a former journalist, suffered bullet injuries when the assailants opened fire on him with pistols soon after he left his home for work.


It is not yet clear as to who killed him and what were the motives — whether personal enmity was involved or it has something to do with the on-going target killings and acts of terrorism. However, it is known to everyone that there are a host of local and foreign elements at work to destabilize the country and incidents of killing or kidnapping of foreign nationals and diplomats have also been reported in the past. Last year, head of the Iranian consulate in Peshawar Heshmatollah Attarzadeh was abducted and his Pakistani gunman, who tried to resist, was killed. There are also some elements who are trying to stir up sectarian trouble in the country. It would, however, be after thorough investigations that things would become clear and the hidden hand behind the tragic killing exposed. But we would urge all segments of the society to sink their petty differences and forge unity in their ranks as the real threat to the country is the wave of extremism and terrorism. Everyone of us will have to exercise vigilance to foil designs of internal and external enemies of Pakistan as this is the surest way to steer the country out of the existing quagmire.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

HILLARY'S PARTING KICK!

NOSHEEN SAEED


I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are, and couldn't get to them if they really wanted to, Maybe that's the case; maybe they're not gettable. I don't know." US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton


Hillary Clinton's parting kick negated the positivity of her visit. Once again a formal charge of wrongdoing has been brought against Pakistan without any concrete evidence only unfounded information. Pakistan needs to watch out; three days after his inauguration, on January 23, 2009, President Obama ordered US predator drones to hit inside Pakistan. Since that first Obama-authorized attack, the US has repeatedly bombed Pakistan, killing scores of civilians. The New York Times reported that the attacks were clear evidence Obama "is continuing, and in some cases extending, Bush administration policy."


During his presidential campaign Obama made clear that Pakistan's sovereignty was subservient to US interests, saying he would attack with or without the approval of the Pakistani government and if the US had "actionable intelligence" that "high value" targets were in Pakistan, the US would attack. Hillary Clinton echoed similar sentiments on her campaign trail and "did not rule out U.S. attacks inside Pakistan, citing the missile attacks her husband, Bill Clinton, ordered against Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1998. "If we had actionable intelligence that Osama bin Laden or other high-value targets were in Pakistan I would ensure that they were targeted and killed or captured."


A good scapegoat (Pakistan) is nearly as welcome as a solution to the problem. Washington has since long stop thinking, it only listens and responds to hemlock being poured into its ears by regional players who have their "own axe to grind" in the region. They expect Pakistan to do what America could not with all its military might, sophisticated weapons, well-trained soldiers, satellites, spyware equipment and unmanned surveillance aircrafts. Not to forget intelligence agencies devoted to information gathering, espionage, communication interception, cryptanalysis but incapable of pin-pointing exact locations of terrorists and targeting them; agencies powerless to find out who is providing financial support and hi-tech weapons to the terrorists; agencies ineffectual to guard security check posts that allow militants to cross over freely, permit free flow of weapons and grant an easy escape route. If the intelligence agencies and the NATO forces have not succeeded in stopping cross border infiltration how is Pakistan supposed to perform miracles?


A reality being ignored is that under the control of champion of human rights U.S. and its intelligence setup CIA, Afghanistan has turned into a bastion of not only anti Pakistan activities but also a hub of corruption, widespread criminal activity and a drug smuggler's paradise. President Hamid Karzai's brother is believed by the U.S. Government to be a major player in growing, processing and trafficking Afghanistan drugs worldwide. Drug money is supporting terrorist groups, being used to purchase weapons and ammunition and serves to finance separatist regimes. Would these Drug-trafficking groups making millions and financing corruption and terrorism ever want the War on Terror to end?


Pakistanis would love to have Osama's scalp and wipe out Al-Qaeda terrorists from their soil for they are witnessing 9/11 every single day. Hillary's insensitive allegations seem like a cruel joke being played on an ally that has been inflicted difficult battles on several fronts; a partner that lost more soldiers and civilians than the combined NATO forces, a populace that has been displaced because their homeland has been turned into a war zone, its infrastructure in ruins and its citizens traumatized by some of the worst wreaking terrorist attacks and suicide bombings. Add to the misery, US drone attacks that not only violate our sovereignty and take civilian lives but inflame public anger and bolster support for the militants. And the mother of all tragedies is handing over Pakistan to the players of the "lost decade" who left the country plundered, compromised and humiliated during their previous tenures. Like P.J. O'Rourke remarked, Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. In Pakistan those at the helm of affairs are worse then teenage boys. The most endemic and entrenched manifestation of poor governance, economic mismanagement, corruption, incompetence, arrogance, self aggrandizement, cronyism and has become virtually a way of life in the country, once again. Instead of leading the country out of turmoil, they have plunged it deeper into the abyss of despair, poverty and corruption. To talk much and arrive nowhere is the same as climbing a tree to catch a fish.

The US has a credibility problem in Pakistan and rightly so! There definitely exists a trust deficit between the two because of Washington's long trail of betrayal. Pakistanis are wary of American interference in Pakistan's internal affairs and are behaving like a man who once been bitten by a snake is afraid of every piece of rope. In the 80's the US granted Pakistan substantial aid in return for its help with the CIA'S covert operation war in Afghanistan. The monster of violence and sectarianism was unleashed and the culture of drugs and Kalashnikovs was introduced. Pakistan was left with sectarian militant groups trained in terrorism and millions of Afghan refugees. After the Soviet withdrawal in1989 Washington hit Pakistan with massive sanctions over its clandestine pursuit of nuclear weapons. After 9/11 the services of discarded Pakistan were sought again.


Comprehending the trauma the Americans underwent, Pakistan blindly jumped to become Washington's front-line ally in the War on Terror without specifying a time-frame or terms and conditions. While Pakistan has done everything within its power to eliminate terrorism on its land and capture terrorists on its borders the US media, think tanks and lobbyists have tried to embarrass Pakistan and tarnish its image worldwide. Pakistanis remember Washington Times lampooning Pakistan's role in the war on terror; the offensive cartoon published in May 2006 showed a US soldier patting a dog (Pakistan) that held Abu Faraj Al Libbi ( a terrorist linked with AL Qaeda) and saying, "Good boy—now let's go find Bin Laden." The arrest of Al Libbi was a critical victory in the war on terror but the cartoon showed how much the US, valued Pakistan's role, in the war on terror. What has Pakistan gained in terms of gratitude? Only, Pakistan bashing, nothing else!


Ironically our efforts were and are all in vain since our sacrifices were judged by the US aid $11 billion yardstick given to Bush's buddy Musharraf, who was never asked to account for the sum received. The mantra of Pakistan having received US$11 billion, since 9/11 and having not delivered is to put the nation on the defensive and pressurizing it "do more." The only appropriate response to Washington's never ending mantra of doing more is to say; we've done enough "you do more." And look at what US$11 billion has brought us nothing but misery, death and destruction.


Pakistanis don't want the Great Game or games, both great and small being played on their land or their people being consumed as collateral damage by drone attacks; they don't want their country to be run by an American under secretary of state Richard Holbrook; they take exception to the demeaning expression Af-Pak which turns them into a part of the problem; they don't want their country micromanaged through puppet regimes; they don't want to be a client state toeing US orders; they don't want US aid with humiliating conditions; they don't want to be slaves they want to be masters of their own destiny.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

GILANI-NAWAZ MEETING

MOHAMMAD JAMIL


President Asif Ali Zardari and Mian Nawaz Sharif have held about a dozen meetings in the past and discussed mainly annulment of 17th amendment and withdrawal of 58-2(b), as the former blocks Mian Nawaz Sharif's chance to become third-time prime minister, and withdrawal of the latter would strip president of unprecedented powers. In other words, they gave overriding consideration to secure their positions and there was nothing for the hapless teeming millions who wanted jobs, basic facilities of education and health and availability of essential items at affordable prices. Now, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) Quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif have met in Prime Minister House and reportedly the focus of discussion was proposed Balochistan Package, though 17th amendment and 58-2(b) also figured in the talks. After the meeting Mian Nawaz Sharif said that that he presented his viewpoint on the governmental package for Balochistan.

Mian Nawaz Sharif has to bear in mind that no government of any hue and shade in the world allows violence and separatist tendencies. He should not forget that the US and India have special interest in the province and are supporting those elements who raise the slogan of independent Balochistan. And the government claims to have incontrovertible evidence of funding and arming the insurgents by the Indian RAW in Balochistan. Addressing a news conference in the Punjab House following his meeting with the prime minister, PML-N chief said that army operation should stop; all arrested persons should be released; all missing persons should be traced and recovered and those involved Bugti's murder should be arrested and put on trial. He said: "There were no political problems in Balochistan during the tenure of democratic governments. There had not been any loss of lives of Pakistan army troops and police in the restive tribal areas and Balochistan as well; if there would have not been dictatorship in the country." But this is travesty of the truth. One should remind Mian Sahib that there was not only political problem but also rebellion and insurgency during the tenure of democratically elected government of late ZA Bhutto, which was constrained to conduct army operation. It has to be mentioned that it was a military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq who withdrew the sedition cases against the Baloch Sardars and National Awami Party members. It is possible that late Bhutto had the desire to see the PPP-led governments in all the provinces but the fact remains that sardars and centrifugal forces had put up resistance when the PPP government tried to build roads and schools in the province. There is no denying that during British Raj and after independence Balochistan and NWFP were neglected so far as development is concerned. But this is also true that despite being part of the provincial governments, sardars did nothing to persuade or push the central government for development of their province. From the statements and interviews of scions of Bugti, one can understand that the bone of contention between late Akbar Bugti and the federation arguably was that he wanted crores instead of millions as gas royalty. He wanted that gas companies should employ people only on his recommendations though the skilled personnel were not available in Balochistan. As regards Mian Sahib's suggestion of holding talks with those who are not in Balochistan, he indeed meant negotiations with Brahamdagh Bugti who is ensconced in Afghanistan and Mir Byar Marri who is in London. If one believes statements of scions of Baloch sardars, they will accept nothing short of independence. Alluding centrifugal forces in Balochistan, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman is already complaining that government is turning a blind to those challenging the writ of the state in one part of Pakistan, whereas in the other province military action is being taken dubbing them anti-Pakistan and terrorists.. It has to be understood that Balochistan is a multi-ethnic province where pushtuns, hazaras and Punjabi settlers live. And they are being targeted by the centrifugal forces. The PML-N chief has suggested that the package must be made in such a way that it is acceptable to the people of the province, and for this purpose the government should hold dialogue with all elected and unelected leaders of Balochistan, and also with those who are in self-exile.

There is no denying that during British Raj and after independence Balochistan and NWFP were neglected so far as development was concerned. And efforts should be made to develop these provinces by allocating additional resources to bring the people of Balochistan at par with developed provinces. Sardars want levies under their control, of course to be paid by the government, to enhance their power so that they could keep the weak and smaller tribes under subjugation and pressure. They do not want any cantonments as if Balochistan is not part of Pakistan. It has to be understood that it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that frontiers are safe, and the enemy is indeed deterred by the presence of the armed forces. How Mian Sahib could reconcile with sardars who arrogate to themselves the right to take the decisions as to the quantum of the army to be deployed in Balochistan? And it is too well known that they do not want cantonments in Balochistan.The citizens have started realizing that their leaderships are preoccupied with their own agendas and have their own priorities. And they are totally indifferent to their problems. Even in the recent meeting with Mian Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari agreed to expedite the annulment of 17th amendment thus paving the way for Mian Sahib to become third-time prime minister. In return Mian Nawaz Sharif promised not to destabilize the government. Both parties would do well to give priority to solving the problems people are facing otherwise they would lose faith in the democratic process. In the CoD, the PML-N and the PPP had, among other things, stood for supremacy of the constitution, non-intervention of military in politics and independence of judiciary, which are, indeed, important issues. But of no lesser importance are the miseries afflicting the masses in their daily lives, and by articulating their hardships and problems and commitment to redress them could earn the people's goodwill.


Having said all, the government should ensure that provincial autonomy is given to all the provinces. According to 1973 Constitution, the matter of provincial autonomy was resolved, and in view of the crisis a compromise formula was evolved whereby 'concurrent list' was to be reverted to the provinces after 10 years i.e. 1983 but nothing has been done in this respect so far. Distribution of federal divisible pool has been another bone of contention between federation and the federating units. The fact is that the provinces require financial resources to be able to maintain the social and physical infrastructure needed to provide basic services to their people. And since the bulk of the provincial resources come from the taxes of the federal government, they are dependent on the latter. It is, therefore, imperative to ensure an equitable distribution of financial resources between the federation and federating units, otherwise social and economic disparity between the provinces could only grow, strengthening the centrifugal forces fanning greater provincial disharmony.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

TRNC SHOWS ROBUST OPTIMISM

GAUHAR ZAHID MALIK


As we know the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) Kuzey Kýbrýs Türk Cumhuriyeti commonly called Northern Cyprus or North Cyprus is a de facto independent republic located in the north of Cyprus. The TRNC declared its independence in 1983, nine years after a Greek Cypriot coup attempting to annex the island to Greece triggered armed action by Turkey. The Turkish Army maintains a large force in the TRNC with the approval of the Turkish Cypriot population. The history of the TRNC begins with the gaining of independence of a united Cyprus from British rule in August 1960. The agreement involved Cyprus being governed under a constitution which apportioned Cabinet posts, parliamentary seats and civil service jobs on an agreed ratio between the two communities. Within three years, tensions between the two communities in administrative affairs began to show. In particular, disputes over separate municipalities and taxation created a deadlock in government. In 1963 President Makarios proposed unilateral changes to the constitution via thirteen amendments, which some observers viewed as an unconstitutional attempt to tilt the balance of power in the Republic. Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots rejected the proposed amendments as an attempt to settle constitutional disputes in favor of the Greek Cypriots.


In 1963, the Greek Cypriot wing of the government created the Akritas plan which outlined a policy that would remove Turkish Cypriots from the government and ultimately lead to union with Greece. The plan stated that if the Turkish Cypriots objected then they should be "violently subjugated before foreign powers could intervene". On December 21, 1963, a Turkish Cypriot crowd clashed with the plainclothes special constables of Yorgadjis. Almost immediately, intercommunal violence broke out with a major Greek Cypriot paramilitary attack upon Turkish Cypriots in Nicosia and Larnaca. Seven hundred Turkish hostages, including women and children, were taken from the northern suburbs of Nicosia. Nikos Sampson, a nationalist and future coup leader, led a group of Greek Cypriot irregulars into the mixed suburb of Omorphita and attacked the Turkish Cypriot population. By 1964, 193 Turkish Cypriots and 133 Greek Cypriots had been killed, with a further 209 Turks and 41 Greeks missing and presumed dead. Turkish Cypriot members of the government had by now withdrawn, creating an essentially Greek Cypriot administration in control of all institutions of the state. Widespread looting of Turkish Cypriot villages prompted 20,000 refugees to retreat into armed enclaves, where they remained for the next 11 years, relying on food and medical supplies from Turkey to survive. Turkish Cypriots formed paramilitary groups to defend the enclaves, leading to a gradual division of the island's communities into two hostile camps. The violence had also seen thousands of Turkish Cypriots attempt to escape the violence by emigrating to Britain, Australia and Turkey. On July 15, 1974, the Greek military junta of 1967-1974 backed a Greek Cypriot military coup d'état in Cyprus. President Makarios was removed from office and Nikos Sampson took his place.


Turkey said that, under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, the coup was sufficient reason for military action to protect the Turkish Cypriot populace. Following Turkey's military intervention, the coup failed and Makarios returned to Cyprus. Turkish forces proceeded to take over the northern third of the island (about 37% of Cyprus's total area). In 1975 the "Turkish Federative State of Cyprus" (Kýbrýs Türk Federe Devleti) was declared as a first step towards a future federated Cypriot state, but was rejected by the Republic of Cyprus. After eight years of failed negotiations with the leadership of the Greek Cypriot community, the north declared its independence on November 15, 1983 under the name of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Politics of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus takes place in a framework of representative democratic republic, whereby the President is head of state and the Prime Minister head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Assembly of the Republic. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. In wake of the April 2004 referendum on the United Nations Annan Plan, and the support of the Turkish Cypriot community for the plan, the European Union made pledges towards ending the isolation of northern Cyprus. These included measures for trade and 259 million euro in aid.


The Organization of the Islamic Conference gave the TRNC the status of a constituent state, making the "Turkish Cypriot State" an observer member of the organization. A number of high profile formal meetings have also taken place between President Mehmet Ali Talat and various foreign leaders and politicians including the former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the then British foreign minister, Jack Straw and former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has an indigenous Turkish Cypriot Security Force (TCSF), which is primarily made up of conscripted Turkish Cypriot males between the ages of 18 and 40.


In addition, the mainland Turkish Armed Forces maintain a Cyprus Turkish Peace Force (CTPF). The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is divided into five districts. The winter in Northern Cyprus is cold and rainy, particularly between December and February, with 60% of annual rainfall. These rains produce winter torrents that fill most of the rivers, which typically dry up as the year progresses. Snow may fall on the Kyrenia Range, but seldom elsewhere in spite of low night temperatures. The short spring is characterized by unstable weather, occasional heavy storms and the "meltem", or westerly wind. Summer is hot and dry.


The education system in Northern Cyprus consists of pre-school education, primary education, secondary education and higher education. Five years of primary education is mandatory. There are six universities in Northern Cyprus, including Near East University, Girne American University, Middle East Technical University, European University of Lefke, Cyprus International University, and Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU). Despite the constraints imposed by the lack of international recognition, the TRNC economy turned in an impressive performance in the last few years. Between 2002 and 2007, Gross National Product per capita more than tripled (in current US dollars) from US $ 4,409 to 14,047. The number of tourists visiting the TRNC during January-August 2006 was 380,000, up from 286,901 during January-August 2003. According to a census carried out in the beginning of 2006 by the Turkish Cypriot administration, the TRNC has a population of 265,100 of which majority is composed of indigenous Turkish Cypriots. The TRNC is almost entirely Turkish speaking. English, however, is widely spoken as a second language. Many of the older Turkish Cypriots speak and understand Greek. The republic wants to ensure safeguards for the Turkish Cypriots which was the spirit of original constitution of the united island. Over the years the leadership of TRNC tried to reach an agreement with the Greek Cypriots but the desire has not been fulfilled. The Turkish Cypriots are determined to safeguard their independence and working for their progress. Turkey fully supports TRNC in its efforts to reach an honourable settlement with Greek Cypriots and has been cooperating with it in all vital fields. Greek Cypriots and Greece cannot ignore the aspirations of the Turkish Cypriots any more.


The writer is Executive Editor, Daily Pakistan Observer and currently visiting the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

CAN DIPLOMACY RESOLVE ANTI-AMERICANISM?

GHAZANFAR ALI GREWAL


The new public diplomacy has drawn significant attention in the studies of international relations in post 9/11 era. Edmund Gullion, former American diplomat coined the term public diplomacy in mid 1960s. Paul Sharp defines public diplomacy as "the process by which direct relations with people in a country are pursued to advance the interests and extend the values of those being represented". It's a long-term process which, is based on consistency. The key function of it is to win "the hearts and minds" of foreign publics to resolve the "image problem" of a nation. Public diplomacy is an instrument of soft power which is an inclusion of cross cultural activities, student exchanges, and food, music, and tourist activities. The new public diplomacy is a two-way engagement among the diplomats and the foreign publics. It is an evolutionary form of traditional diplomacy, which is being used by the state for achievement of certain foreign policy goals or national interests.


However, the major main difference between traditional diplomacy and public diplomacy is that the former is among the two governments where as the latter is between the diplomats and the non officials (NGOs and Civil Society etc) of the target nation. The aims of public diplomacy cannot be achieved if they are believed to be inconsistent with a country's foreign policy or military actions. Recently, the U.S. is suffering from "image problem" in most of the Muslim states. Therefore, the U.S. policy makers are very much concerned how to improve the image problem around the world, particularly in the Muslim dominating states such as namely Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Iraq and Indonesia etc. Analysts view that anti-Americanism in the Muslim world can be divided into two categories: attitudes towards American culture and society and attitudes towards American policies. Evidence indicates that Obama administration could not mitigate anti-Americanism in the Islamic countries. Joseph Loconte, a senior research fellow at the King's College in New York City, states that "Islamic countries distrust the United States under the leadership of President Obama about as much as they did under President George W. Bush. Many people in Muslim-majority states believe the United States is playing a largely negative role in the world, according to a survey, 72 percent in Turkey say the United States is playing a mainly negative role, 69 percent in Pakistan, 67 percent in Egypt, 53 percent in Iraq, and 39 percent in Indonesia". However when President Obama was elected to lead the United States, there was a hope in Muslim countries that the United States will change its policies and would take concrete steps to ward off the perceptions that the U.S. war on terror is in fact a war against Muslims. But with the passage of time, disillusion among the Muslims has increased.


Anti-Americanism in the Muslim world is based on multi factors namely Iraq and Afghanistan wars; "War against Terrorism" is perceived as war against Muslim, the U.S. backing for authoritarian regimes, the U.S. double standards on core Muslim issues like Palestine and Kashmir etc. Last but not least, the U.S. aid for human development and democracy is not free from foreign policy objectives and not bases on altruism. As a result the U.S. public diplomacy approach remain unable to "win hearts and minds" of public. Therefore, very recently Pakistani's disappointment with the United States' policies has been reflected in their opposition to the Kerry Lugar Bill. According to this Bill the U.S. would provide $ 1.5 billion annually for the next five years. This aid is meant for social development and to strengthen democracy in the country. But, this aid program has conditions some of which (nuclear related activities and involvement in military affairs etc) have been criticized by majority of population. Most of Pakistanis consider such conditions as interference in the domestic affairs of the country. As a matter of fact the introduction of this bill has been a classic case of the failure of U.S. public diplomacy in a country which has remained an important ally of the United States for over many decades. The issues concerning Muslim world, including Palestine and Kashmir, require immediate U.S. attention. If the United States can take impartial stand and help resolve these issues in a fair and just manner, the US standing among the Muslim populations will certainly get positive boost. The US can also enhance its image among the Muslim populations by quickly ending its occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. As long as the US troops are stationed in these countries and civilians are being killed by the US troops operations, hatred against the US policies will keep fueling Muslim hatred against the U.S. There should be consistency between the public diplomacy and the foreign policies. Among the Muslim countries, the double standards of the U.S. are the major cause of anti Americanism. Muslims believe that the U.S. actions do not match with its claims. The U.S. should involve middle class, civil society, NGOs and other welfare organizations to improve the "image problem". Recently, Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State, visited Pakistan to engage with public. It is a part of public diplomacy to improve the image problem. She interacted with students, civil society members, journalists and business community to develop two-way engagement as a pillar of public diplomacy. She emphasized over long term interaction among the two nations. Pakistani public appreciated this effort and expected deeper relationship on equal footings between the two countries. But, the U.S. has to do a lot to remove the main causes of anti-Americanism.


Trust deficit is to be removed for the achievement of better outcomes, which is not possible without outreach programs. But in turn effective out-reach programs cannot be devised without bridging the gap between root causes of anti-Americanism and policy measures taken by the U.S. To conclude, it can be said that public diplomacy can be used as an effective tool to isolate the hardliners from the main stream and the former would be defeated easily. One major reason of the failure of U.S. efforts so far against hardliners is that the U.S. has remained unable to effectively employ public diplomacy techniques along with eradicating basic factors of anti-Americanism. There is no short cut to win "the hearts and minds" of the Islamic public, but fair resolution of all the concerns of the Muslim world.

 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

OF FRUIT FLIES AND DRONES

ROGER COHEN


Fruit flies, as I learned from a graduate student, use optic flow to navigate their environment. Optic flow is the apparent motion of the landscape relative to the insect as it flies through it. When the insect gets closer to an object, that object appears to get larger; the expansion in the optic flow field triggers a collision avoidance response in the fly, which veers away from the expanding object. "The insect eye is not, and does not need to be, high resolution to make this computation, so it follows that low resolution sensors can be employed in robotics and serve the same purpose," she told me.


Call this bio-mechanics — biologically inspired engineering principles. It's a booming field. You'll find fruit flies tethered to pins under microscopes in a virtual arena with the aim of developing simplified command algorithms that will tell a robot sensor how to mimic the insect for navigation. The feedback loop for the robot is simple: If an object is expanding at a certain rate, that equals proximity, so turn away! The U.S. military is interested in such experiments because robotics is its hot new thing. The loss of more than 5,000 U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 has concentrated minds on putting robots rather than flesh and blood in harm's way. When the United States went into Iraq in 2003, it had a handful of pilotless planes, or drones; it now has over 7,000. The invasion force had no unmanned ground vehicles; the U.S. armed forces now employ more than 12,000. One is called the PackBot and is made by Irobot, manufacturers of the popular robot vacuum cleaner called the Roomba. Since taking office, President Obama has shown a quiet predilection for drone warfare. He's been vacuuming up targets. There are two programs in operation: a publicly acknowledged military one in Iraq and Afghanistan and a covert C.I.A. program targeting terror suspects in countries including Pakistan. As Jane Mayer notes in a groundbreaking recent piece in The New Yorker, "The intelligence agency declines to provide any information to the public about where it operates, how it selects targets, who is in charge, or how many people have been killed." According to a just-completed study by the New America Foundation, quoted in Mayer's piece, Obama has authorized as many drone strikes in Pakistan in nine and a half months as George W. Bush did in his last three years in office — at least 41 C.I.A. missile strikes, or about one a week, that may have killed more than 500 people. The dead have included high-value targets like Osama bin Laden's oldest son and Baitullah Mehsud, the Taliban leader in Pakistan — as well as bystanders. Circling drones have struck panic. But as Mayer notes, "The embrace of the Predator program has occurred with remarkably little public discussion, given that it represents a radically new and geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force."These are targeted international killings, no less real, and indeed more insidious, for their video-game aspect. The thing about robotic warfare is you can watch people get vaporized on a screen in Langley, Virginia, and then drive home for dinner with the kids. The very phrase "go to war" becomes hard to distinguish from going to work. That's a conflation fraught with ethical danger. The barriers to war get lowered.

P.W. Singer, the author of an important new book called "Wired for War," told me that, "We are at a breakpoint in history. The U.S. Air Force this year will train more unmanned system pilots than fighter and bomber pilots combined. And, as Bill Gates has noted, robotics are now where computers were back in 1980." Now you might think that a "pilot" sitting behind a computer bank in Nevada blowing away people in Afghanistan is less liable to combat stress than a soldier in a unit deployed there, but Singer said the opposite has often proved the case

It's time for a reckoning, especially from a president who campaigned so vigorously against the "dark side" of the war on terror. Congressional review of the drone programs and the full implications of robotic warfare is essential to cast light and lay ground rules. The Obama administration should not be targeting people for killing without some public debate about how such targets are selected, what the grounds are in the laws of war, and what agencies are involved. Right now there's an accountability void. There are also broader questions. When robots are tomorrow's veterans, does war become more likely and more endless? Do drones cow enemies with America's technological prowess or embolden them to think America is not man enough to fight? What is the psychological toll on video-screen warriors? There's nothing innocent after all about the fluttering of a fruit fly's wing. —The New York Times

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

RICE PROCUREMENT

 

The government has set a target to procure three lakh tons of Aman paddy and rice. It also fixed the procurement prices at Taka 14 for per kilogram of paddy and Taka 22 for rice. The procurement drive starts from December 7 next. This timely announcement of the drive is consistent with the government's policy of building a comfortable buffer stock for ensuring food security. What needs to be seen is whether the planned procurement drive will start in time and the target to procure three lakh tons is based on proper assessment of the existing stock and of the ongoing Aman harvest. India, an exporter of rice, this time had a poor harvest and has already started importing rice. This is also indicative of a price surge in international market. So, we have to build a sufficient stock of food with a view to avoiding any food crisis. 


When farmers produced a bumper harvest of Boro last season, the procurement drive more or less fell through only because the mechanism planned by the government  to procure paddy and rice at fixed prices could not be put in force in time. As a result farmers were compelled to sell their products at prices lower than their production cost. The middlemen and dishonest traders took advantage of this and melted money depriving the paddy producers of the procurement prices fixed by the government. As a result many of the small farmers who had to sell their paddy at lower prices at that time are now reportedly compelled to buy rice at higher prices to meet the shortfall.


So the government should have enough rice at its disposal in times of crisis to counter market manipulation by middlemen and rice hoarders. Compared to the current price level of Aman rice in the open market, the government-fixed rate is definitely lower. Some of the finer varieties of Aman rice are now sold at Taka 38 to 40 a kilogram. Clearly farmers are not expected to get a fair deal. Then where is the guarantee they will be able to sell paddy and rice directly to millers? The plan did not work last time, nor will it do now unless the authorities ensure a strict ground level monitoring.

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

IMPACT OF REMITTANCE

 

Our consistently high foreign exchange reserve has protected us from the global economic downturn and improved our credit rating.  Bangladesh Bank Governor Dr Atiur Rahman said remittances sent by overseas workers have played a major role in the foreign exchange reserve which last week reached a record high of 10 billion US dollars. This means that despite a decline in the country's manpower export, remittances have registered more than 22 per cent growth.  Dr Atiur said that the healthy reserves will have a number of positive impacts on the national economy and would create a positive image for it. In fact, one of our most redeeming features is that we have been reasonably successful in accessing overseas employment and are among the top 10 recipients of workers' remittances for countries in the SAARC region.


With the number of migrants worldwide now reaching almost 200 million, their productivity and earnings are a powerful economic force for aiding development and poverty reduction. The World Bank has, however, said time and again that rich and poor countries need to make it cheaper for immigrant workers to send money back to their families. And as unreported flows mean that remittances are probably 50 per cent higher than the recorded number, immigrant workers must be encouraged to send their earnings through formal channel.
In 2006 the Bangladesh Bank took some special measures to augment the inflow of remittance by expediting the transfer process and reducing the cost involved. These measures were taken up under a British government-assisted three-year scheme called the remittance and partnership project. Government agencies, including the BB, are planning to apply various strategies to further increase the flow of remittance through formal channel.
While the rising foreign currency reserve is a matter of satisfaction, the government also must ensure that the undue accumulation of currency reserve does not happen without much economic justification.

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

BOB'S BANTER

'STREET FIGHTER' SYNDROME…!

ROBERT CLEMENTS

 

My psychiatrist friend Dr Gupte shook his learned head with disapproval, "You really shouldn't blame those four MLA's for beating another in the House!" he said, "They are actually not to blame!"


"Not to blame!" I shouted, "Not to blame? They beat up an elected representative for taking his oath in Hindi not Marathi and you say they are not to blame?" The good doctor bade me to sit down in his clinic and asked his assistant to bring me a glass of water, "Let me explain," he said, "It's what we call the 'street fighter' syndrome!"


"It's an illness?" I asked. "A disease," said the psychiatrist shaking his head sadly. "What are the symptoms?" I asked. "Itching hands, opening and closing of palms, flexing of muscles, closing of fists, opening of fists, punching, yelling, screaming…"


"My god!" I exclaimed, "I've seen those symptoms!"


"Where?" asked the doctor with a patient smile. "On the streets!"


"Exactly! Which is why we call it the 'street fighters' syndrome!"


"Isn't it treatable?"


"Absolutely!" said the doctor, "And the cure is amazing, absolutely amazing, to counteract this violent virus you inject the patient with the same virus, you give punch for punch, scream for scream, treat the flexing of muscles with another set of flexed muscles, and normally this treatment works!"


"And where do you carry out this treatment? In a clinic or hospital?"


"In a jail or police lock up!" said the doctor. "Very, very effective I must say!" I looked at Dr Gupte, my psychiatrist friend, "So why did you say that they are not to blame?" I asked. "Simple!" said the doctor as he bade me drink the water his assistant had brought, "It's just that they did not get treated before entering the House!"


"So what you are saying…"


"Is that when we had the ability to offer this free treatment, when these same people displayed the symptoms earlier and we did nothing about it, then why are we complaining about it now?" I was about to have a sip of water from the glass the assistant had brought in when the assistant himself came rushing into the room snatched the glass from my hand and doused me with the water. "Why?" I spluttered, "Why did he do that?"
"Because you were speaking in Hindi," said the doctor patiently. "But this is a case of the 'street fighter' syndrome," I yelled hysterically, "Why don't you sack him?"


"Sack him?" whispered the doctor, "I can't do that, but I will suspend him from activities liking bringing water for you for a period of four years…!"


bobsbanter@gmail.com

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

BRAHMAPUTRA RIVER TRAINING: LESSONS TO LEARN

KAZI IQBAL HASSAN

 

In a live bed river like the Brahmaputra, development of erosion and scour is very rapid. It can develop overnight and can damage one structure significantly. We have seen it many times in recent years in the Brahmaputra. The latest is in July this year; Sirajganj Hard point, one of the country's most expensive erosion control structures, was damaged when the river was flowing well below the danger level.


Recently Bangladesh Water Development Board has lowered the danger levels at three most vulnerable points along Sirajganj Town Protection Embankment, Kazipur and Mathurapara. In other words, from now on, flood alarm will be raised earlier. Danger level at Sirajganj point has been lowered to 13.35 mPWD from 13.75 mPWD and at Kazipur to 14.85 from 15.24 mPWD.


The decision is much appreciable for protecting people's life and properties in the event of flooding.  However, we need to address further the hydraulic link of danger level with the erosion processes in alluvial rivers like the Brahmaputra. If the decision is meant that it has been lowered for the safety of the hard point and the bridge (which is partly true), then there is possibility that the monitoring team can mistake this level as the threshold of their activities, which can jeopardise the safety of the structure.


Two types of structures have been linked with this decision - one is for flood control and the other is for erosion control. Both are nationally important for us.


In river engineering, there are several types of structures designed according to their purpose. Structure for flood control is sometimes referred to as structures for 'high water training' or 'training for discharge.' It aims at the provision of a sufficient cross-sectional area for the safe passage of the maximum flood without an attempt at changing the river bed conditions.


220km Brahmaputra Right Embankment, famously known as BRE, was constructed as flood control embankment during 1957-60, at 1500m away (called set back distance) from the eroding bank. The flood embankment, however, had to be rehabilitated (also called retiring) few times at few locations with new set-back distance.


Structure for erosion and sediment control is referred as structure for 'mean water training' or 'training for sediment'. This type of training aims at rectification of river bed configuration and efficient movement of suspended and bed load for keeping the channel in good shape. The maximum eroding capacity of river occurs in the vicinity of mean water or dominant/bankful flood discharge.


Sirajganj hard point and Jamuna Bridge guide bunds are river training structures for control of erosion; at Sirajganj it is built along the eroding bank and at Jamuna Bridge it is built inside the river (west guide bund).
These two erosion control structures were built at priority locations as integral part of the long-term bend stabilisation Master Plan of the Brahmaputra as formulated in China-Bangladesh Joint Expert Team study (CBJET, 1991) and Brahmaputra River Training Study (BRTS, also know as FAP1, 1993). Sirajganj hard point and Jamuna Bridge guide bunds are at consecutive bends of the river. Therefore, any damage to one will destabilise the other, only in short course of time.


Bankful discharge in the Brahmaputra is 48, 000m3/s. It occurs when water level is approximately at 12.9 mPWD at Sirajganj point. The new danger level is 0.45m above this, and the previous danger level is 0.85m above this. Water level was well below the danger level when the hard point collapsed in July this year. On 10 July 2009 when the hard point first collapsed, the water level was 0.75m below danger level and on 17 July when the hard point collapsed again, the level was approximately 1.75m below danger level.
Therefore, the threshold of risk for two different kinds of structures can not be seen in the same scale and level. For example in a certain year, water level can remain below the danger level for the whole year, and will not trigger any alarm for flooding. While for the same year, the erosion control structures may still be significantly exposed to high risk of erosion.


Historic water level at Sirajganj point reveals that the river exceeds bankful discharge approximately 51 per cent days during the monsoon, while the danger level exceeds 19 per cent days. The river did not exceed danger level at Sirajganj point in 1992 and 1994. June 1 to October 31 has been considered as monsoon in the calculation.


The evidences indicate that the critical period for erosion may even be more than 60 per cent days during monsoon. Therefore, there is concern whether the perception of the threshold for flood warning level played any role in the on-going monitoring activities and caused any deviation to the programme; though there is specific monitoring manual prepared by the consult for the erosion control structures. Higher the hydraulic gradient in the river or simply higher is the difference of water level between two points, more will be the power of the stream to cause erosion and scour. When does the higher gradient occur? Is it at the time when the river flows high at and above danger level? Or does it happen around the bankful discharge?


Difference of water levels between Bahadurabad and Sirajganj clearly shows that the river has more eroding power when the flood level is around the bankful discharge; this eroding power will be significantly higher at local level, like at Sirajganj, where the river is controlled by hard points, bridge constriction, groynes and spurs.
Unlike groyne/spur, which is a flow attacking structure purposely used in river training to increase depth and stabilise bank, hard point is a more flow friendly structure. It is also known as passive structure due to its minimum obstruction to flow.


Therefore, we can expect that local scour around hard point should be smaller than that at groyne. We have records of scour depth around the tips of groynes at a number of places in the Brahmaputra and Ganges rivers.
The tip of Shailabari groyne was washed away in 2003; after rehabilitation work, it was washed away again in 2004 and 2005; river bed eroded down to -28mPWD causing scour depth of more than 35m. The hard point at 1.0 km downstream was still functioning alright. With a scour depth to this extent, should it have happened at the hard point, it should also have been washed away. Why the hard point was not damaged! The answer could probably help us to find out why it is damaged now (2009).

 

[To be continued]

 

(The writer is former Head, River Engineering Division, Institute of Water Modelling, Dhaka) Presently working as a modelling specialist in UK.)

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

A DAUNTING CHALLENGE NOT BEYOND OUR REACH

MDG-5 - MATERNAL MORTALITY REDUCTION

MEHREEN WITH AMANULLAH KHAN AND ABDUR RAHMAN JAHANGIR

 

Bangladesh's satisfactory performance in some major areas of the health sector against all odds has won international recognition. Promoting oral re-hydration therapy, curbing high population growth, increasing immunization and Vitamin A capsules distribution coverage, controlling malaria and tuberculosis, ensuring safe drinking water supply and popularizing family planning and breast feeding programmes are among the many success stories in the health sector of the country. Bangladesh has also made a headway in reducing under-5 child mortality while steadily progressing towards other health related MDGs except for the maternal mortality which sill remains high, causing a setback to achieving MDG-5 by 2015.


Most of the indicators for measuring successes in target achievements under Goal-5 points to the fact that Bangladesh is lagging behind in this goal (Millennium Development Goals: Bangladesh Progress Report 2008). The maternal mortality data from the Sample Vital Registration System (SVRS) of 2007 demonstrated that there was a substantial decline in the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) from 574 in 1990 to 391 in 2002. However, in recent years, this ratio has not been falling as expected, making it difficult for Bangladesh to realize the target by 2015.


MDGs: Bangladesh Progress Report 2008 prepared by the General Economics Division (GED) of the Planning Commission with the support of UNDP, points out that the presence of low-skilled professionals at the time of delivery still continues, along with low institutional delivery. Some other obstacles to promoting maternal health are low antenatal care received (4+ visits), high adolescent fertility and the general traditional mindset about childbirth that still persists among the majority of the public. According to the Unicef Country Report 2009, around 12,000 mothers and 120,000 newborn babies die every year in the country due to pregnancy or childbirth-related complications which impact adversely on achieving the MDG target. This report further states that the reduction of maternal mortality has been much slower compared to the fall in child mortality that results in a maternal mortality ratio of above 320 deaths per one hundred thousand in childbirth (574 in 1990) which is far higher than the MDG target of reducing maternal mortality to 143 per one hundred thousand by 2015. The high mortality rate occurs due to the underlying fact that around 85 percent of women give birth at home mostly with unskilled attendants and that around 45 percent of mothers are malnourished who are likely to give birth to low-weight babies which is also one of the major causes of death among the newborns. Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey 2007 reveals that the neonatal mortality is 37 per thousand live birth, which accounts for about 57 per cent of under-five mortality.


Though Bangladesh as a country is trailing in achieving the MDG-5, to our surprise we discovered an encouragingly different scenario during our recent visit to a crowded slum at Jhilpar in Purba Rampura which is tucked away in the north eastern down town of the capital Dhaka. Nearly 4,000 people squat in a huddle of shanty slums occupying some four bighas of land. We quizzed over a dozen women inhabiting there about maternal health, which is of paramount importance to them. They claim maternal morality rate has dropped sharply in the last decade in their community. They assert they now rarely find any woman dying during pregnancies in their community. They saw the deaths of only two women during childbirth in their slum in the last 3 to 4 years. They attribute low maternal mortality rate together with improvement in maternal health to such reasons as development of medical science, availability of better and more medicines, improvement and expansion of healthcare centres established by government, NGOs and with private initiative, increased number of doctors and nurses who provide quality and better treatment, improved mother and child care, adoption of family planning, heightened awareness level among expecting mothers about the need to go to hospitals and consult doctors during pregnancies, development of communication infrastructure and transport making hospitals etc more accessible to mothers, media and NGOs intense projection on health issues of mother and child, government sponsored free immunization programme for mothers, family members' prompt action immediately before child birth and the reduced level of superstition surrounding child birth. All these have helped to bring down the maternal mortality rate to a low level.

[To be continued]

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

INDONESIAN ISLAM AT A CROSSROADS

DR TERRY LACEY

 

The roads of Java had been jam-packed with millions of Muslims, during last Eid as they went the "mudik", the Indonesian traditional Idul Fitr journey to their home towns. As they drove back by car and motorbike to the cities, which road is Indonesian Islam going to take next was a question to ponder?


Noordin M the top the Malaysian Muslim terrorist leader died after a shoot-out with the Indonesian anti-terrorist police. The attempt by an outgoing defeated parliament to introduce the pre-Islamic punishment of stoning to death for adulterers in Aceh was grounding to a halt as provincial and central government put rocks in its path. But local government sharia by-laws introduced by populist politicians are still proliferating.


A religion is trying to survive and move forward, amidst political struggles apparently between hard-line Islam and the state. But political realities are more complex with opportunist secular politicians playing games with Islam. Two seminal articles in The Jakarta Post summed up historical realism about Indonesian Islam, the first contrasting the Christian Reformation in Europe with the prospects for the Muslim Reformation and the second looking more hopefully to the victory of Muslim feminism and an Islam of choices rather than tramlines. Julia Suryakusuma, who usually writes about more swinging things, spent three days in Ramzan looking up the Indonesian Muslim Yellow Pages or the Kitab Kuning classic texts for teaching in pesantren (Islam boarding schools) which ulemas brought back from Mecca and were used here since the mid-19th century. She attended a three-day course with a progressive Muslim women's NGO learning about fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), aqidah (faith), akhlak (character building), tasawuf (spiritualism), hadiths (words and deeds of the Prophet) and tafsir (interpretations).


She also learned about mazhab (schools of thought) and despite the Sura 4 verse 34 (which allows a husband to beat his wife) that the tradition of ijtihad might lead to the critical use of reason in interpreting the Koran in a more progressive way. So Islam means choices for followers and their families for the future and not necessarily tramlines leading to terrorism and intolerance. Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, or MDS for short, argues the Abrahamic faiths all contain the seeds of hatred as well as goodness, in their denunciation of heresies to sanctify their own righteousness. This tendency to the dark side explains why the late Mohammed Roem, the first Indonesian Foreign Minister, described Indonesia's large Muslim population as a source of both pride and concern.


And why the Indonesian patriot and founding father Mohammed Hatta refused the requests to insert sharia law into the Indonesian constitution and instead substituted simply "a belief in one God" instead of agreeing to impose Islamic sharia law on a multi-cultural society.


These contradictions echo why many Arab and Muslim states see the distortion or politicisation of Islam as their greatest threat, rather than a united and modernised Muslim community as one of their greatest assets.
As long as the Muslim reformation and modernisation process remains substantially inconclusive and incomplete these two sides of the coin will remain and the image of Islam presented to the non-Muslim world will remain ambiguous and threatening.


Similarly Christian fundamentalism remains a political problem which has been used to justify hard-line policies in the Middle East, as does religious-based Jewish ultra-nationalism among settlers and political extremists in Israel, while the Northern Ireland conflict partly reflected religious tribalism going back three hundred years to the political fault-lines of the reformation.

MDS sees the Christian reformation, and the struggle of modernises to get the Church to see reason instead of imposing dogma as a useful historical lesson for Muslims. Do not ignore history and make the same mistakes!
He concludes Islam remains "a fertile breeding ground for extremism" as long as Islam's silent majority allows it to be hijacked by noisy advocates who use Islamic texts to justify violence and intolerance.
Islam is six centuries younger than Christianity so catching up with political modernity could take five centuries. But economists say the Indonesian economy will overtake South Korea, Japan, the UK and Germany by about 2045. This cannot happen without a Muslim reformation, to leave behind the legacy of feudalism, backwardness and under-development. So the pace will quicken. But rapid Muslim modernisation must mean some problems, as well as rapid progress.

 

(The writer, a development economist in Jakarta writes on modernisation in the Muslim world, investment and trade relations with the EU and Islamic banking).

 

 

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THE HIMALAYAN 

EDITORIAL

INDIFFERENCE SPEAKS


With the scheduling of the election for the Constituent Assembly Constitutional Committee chairman for August 17, all the tall talks for consensual choice has fallen flat. The major political players—UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress, and CPN (UML)— have all been adamant regarding their choice to receive the approval stamp. None of the parties have budged from their stance creating the necessity for CA Speaker Subas Chandra Nembang to announce the election as a way out to fill the vacant seat. To go to the backdrop, the CC chairman seat fell vacant with Madhav Kumar Nepal becoming the Prime Minister. It was indeed a matter of great concern that no attempts in the genuine sense had been made to get a new man in the prestigious and responsible post. It was all because of the bickering between the major parties that created the obstacles and the delay that is one of the reasons for the statute drafting task lagging behind schedule. And, of all the surprises that the people have been subjected to, every party wants its own nominee to be steering the CC. This is all queer as the CC has the representation from all the parties and the chief acts as a facilitator rather than decide the whole show.


The Constitutional Committee is supposed to be the most important of the CA committees as it is directly has to deal with the concept papers submitted by the thematic committees and after perusal and thorough study has to prepare the draft of the new constitution. It is unfortunate that such an important committee was left to languish for months without the head. With the CA still


dogged by the UCPN (M) bent on not letting it function smoothly, the whole mission of readying the onstitution within less than ten months from now would not be possible. However, a headway seems to have been made ith all the parties agreeing to hold the election for the CC chief. There is still hope left for the political parties to decide on a single candidate, which would set an example of consensus for which they have been making the attention-seeking rhetoric.


This particular issue has brought to the fore the petty partisan interests that still holds sway among the parties. None of them have been able to overcome their party interests and work in the interest of the nation. Whatever that may be, even if an election is to be held it would pave the way for the CC to function in the manner that it has been designed to. However, if the Maoists do not give up their House stalling tactics then there will be further delays in the already cramped up time space for the constitution writing task. The question is high on the agenda if the Maoists are interested in getting the new statute prepared, finalized, approved and enforced at the earliest or not. But, all that it is doing is creating hurdles so that the CA remains a hostage unable to carry out the tasks that are urgent with the days and weeks passing by rapidly. It is the single largest party in the CA that is playing with the mandate of the people who remain bewildered, silent observers only. Maybe some sense comes to the working of the major parties when constitution drafting at the earliest is at stake.

 

NEW FINDS

The eastern Himalayas are considered to be one of the biologically richest regions in the world. As many as 353 new species have been discovered here in the past ten years. The eastern Himalayas consist of swathes of territory from Nepal, Bhutan, north-eastern India, Tibet and far-north Myanmar. In Nepal alone 94 species has been discovered. Discovering new species is a laborious process and those who have discovered these deserve gratitude for they are contributing to the conservation efforts, especially considering that much of the flora and fauna are being threatened by the growing population, the increasing demand for them in the global market and also the dreaded phenomenon of global warming and climate change.

 

More studies should be carried out about them and also the habitats as studies show that only 25 per cent of the original habitat in this region is now intact. So that more species do not become extinct, all efforts should be made in conservation drives and for this the role played by the conservation experts could prove crucial. Again they deserve the credit for discovering more new species, and there are certainly more waiting to be found.

 

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THE HIMALAYAN 

EDITORIAL

TEMPORARY TRUCE


The last minute syndrome is one of the most fascinating aspects of the way the Tribhuvan University functions. However, their latest attempt to do away with the Proficiency Certificate Level in its campuses have not worked out the way TU authorities had wanted. The decision in this direction met with stiff resistance, not only from the students affiliated to various student unions, but also from the minister concerned. Of course, the fickle minded officials ought to realize that their effort was not totally undesirable, but that the government ought to have prepared the groundwork, that is making 10+2 education accessible both in terms of economic viability and the choice over a wide range of subjects offered to the students. In fact, it is mostly the private colleges that have gone in a big way for the higher secondary curriculum and in the process have levied a very exorbitant tuition and other fees on the aspirants. With the access to cheap 10+2 education nowhere down the pipeline, the students were bound to protest. In the past decade several attempts were made to make PCL redundant, but they proved to be unsuccessful, including the latest one.


TU has valid reasons for wanting to phase out the PCL. One of them is related to it is that the world over it is not given the due recognition which lands many aspiring students wanting to study abroad in a dead end. The other reason floated is that the university has to foot a heavy bill for running the PCL classes in the campuses funded by it. These motivated TU to announce that no admissions would be undertaken from this year. They were adamant on not revoking their decision. But with the heavy pressure brought on by student unions, the decision could not hold. And now the PCL studies will continue as usual this year. There are some other reasons for vested interest in continuing PCL, besides the extremely low financial burden on the students, and that is related to the politicisation of education. The interest of all the political parties also seems to be working through their student wings to keep intact their vote banks.


As usual, the government that has to make concrete decisions on either retaining or scrapping PCL  had to bow down to extreme pressures of the protest that turned violent with a number of cases of vandalism. Maybe, the law and order element saw the government giving the thumbs down to TU to revoke its decision to phase out PCL. For the time being the row has been settled with the students jubilant over making their voices heard. But, the road ahead clearly leads to making PCL redundant very soon considering the requirement criteria accepted in many foreign countries where Nepali students might want to continue their higher studies. In this regard, the welcome move is for the formation of a commission to mull over and recommend the process through which the PCL will be discontinued. The thrust now should be on capacity building of the government schools to include 10+2 in their academic activities which also means that the government also has to increase its investment at this level both for creating the infrastructure and skilled manpower. It calls for commitment and the political will to act. 

 

Make them safe

Nepal was once regarded to be one of the safest destinations for tourists. However, this is no longer the case with many tourists being attacked and cheated or their belongings stolen. Things have gone so out of hand that some foreign countries do not recommend this country for their citizens to include in their itinerary. The implications are far reaching for a country that largely relies on earnings from tourism which is providing the means of livelihood for many Nepalese. Besides, much of the investments made in building the tourism infrastructure are going unutilized as the country is seeing fewer visitors. Not that attempts have not been made to provide extra security to the tourists, but they appear to have so far failed.


Thus, the Hotel Association of Nepal has submitted a memorandum to the CDO of Kaski to provide stronger security in the Lakeside area and other tourist destinations in Pokhara where there is growing insecurity. Thus, there should be provisions for special security for the visitors peculiar to their needs. This may require creating a new security apparatus and provide training to security personnel.

 

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THE HIMALAYAN 

EDITORIAL

CREDOS;CREATE A WINNING ATTITUDE — II

ROBERT KNOWLTON

 

There is a science to creating a positive attitude of achievement. It is made up of very specific elements. They are presented here in a sequence, but it is the simultaneous interaction of them working together that creates the chemistry for a winning attitude and success in just about any endeavor.


Read over this list. Then, follow the exercise at the end.  For a start you have to set your inner motivation. Inner motivation happens when you are clearly motivated toward a very specific goal and away from the unpleasant consequences of not achieving it. You must realize the value of high standards. Set your own high standards. This means achieving anything less is unacceptable. Dedicate yourself to this level.


Get your goal into chunks. Break down your goal into manageable, bite-size chunks. The benefits are:


a. You'll focus on small tasks you can and will do.


b. This creates a sense of satisfaction in completing each small step towards achievement.


The time frames of the present and the future have to be combined. Think vividly and fully in the positive future. At the same moment you are concentrating on achieving the task at hand, you can also see the big bright picture of your future accomplishment drawing you forward.


What step can you take right now to reach your next milestone? Fully experience the present and take action toward your future.


Personal involvement is of utmost importance. Get involved in your own success. Don't wait for it to happen to you. When you participate, you influence what's going on. It increases your commitment, focuses your intensity, and makes you more determined. Personal involvement leads to owning a bigger stake in your own future. —icbs.com

 

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THE HIMALAYAN 

EDITORIAL

PAIR BONDING

MARNIA ROBINSON


Human behavior varies a lot. As compared with other primates, we're heavily influenced by culture, religion, family upbringing, and so forth. As a consequence, it's logical to conclude that our fitful monogamy is purely culturally induced and not instinctual. (On the other hand, we readily seem to accept that promiscuous tendencies are wired into our brains.)


We are programmed to pair bond. By programmed, I mean that our brains are set up so that we engage in these behaviors with a lower threshold of enticement than we would otherwise. Italian research, for example, reveals that our racy "honeymoon neurochemistry" typically wears off within two years.  Pair bonding is not simply a learned behavior. If there weren't neural correlates behind this behavior, there would not be so much falling in love and pairing up across so many cultures. The pair-bonding urge is built-in much like the program that bonds infants with caregivers. — psychologytoday.com

 

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THE HIMALAYAN 

EDITORIAL

MICROCREDIT AS THE SAVIOUR THE "YES WE CAN" SPIRIT

SAM DALEY-HARRIS


When President Obama presents the Medal of Freedom to 16 distinguished American and international "agents of change" at a White House ceremony on August 12th one of the honorees will link Mr. Obama to both his past and to the future he is so committed to creating.  Among the 16 leaders who will receive America's highest civilian honor is Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, which makes tiny loans for self-employment to some of the poorest people in that country.  Prof. Yunus is also one of the world's most effective champions of the "yes we can" spirit.


Decades ago, the economics professor and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate described his search for new bank clients as a process of "looking for the most timid." He wasn't looking for the villagers who were the first to step forward to ask for a micro-loan starting at less than $10, he was looking for those who were last to come forward and who trusted their abilities the least.  To those villagers he and his staff would say, "Yes you can."

Thirty-three years later nearly 8 million members of Grameen Bank (a total of 40 million when you count their family members) are saying "yes we can" to the whole world.  Since its inception Grameen Bank has lent more than $8 billion to the poor in Bangladesh.


Today, Yunus runs Bangladesh's Grameen Bank, a leading advocate for the world's poor that has lent more than $5.1 billion to 5.3 million people. The bank is built on Yunus' conviction that poor people can be both reliable borrowers and avid entrepreneurs. It even includes a project called Struggling Members Program that serves 55,000 beggars. Under Yunus, Grameen has spread the idea of microcredit throughout Bangladesh, Southern Asia, and the rest of the developing world.


The mission keeps expanding in scale, and in the meantime, Yunus has grown intimately familiar with the unbearable dimensions of global poverty. As many as 1.2 billion people around the planet lack access to basic necessities, he explains, and microfinance could be their pathway out of despair. Yunus and Grameen have taken a first step, which has inspired others to take a look at [microfinance] as a business.


So how does one start an enterprise that reaches nearly 40 million people in one's own country and touches the lives of tens of millions more around the world?  Dr. Yunus had his own "yes we can" moment as a young economics professor who faced an agonizing famine that left him doubting his valu e as a teacher and as a human being. He was so shaken by the sight of people dying of starvation that when he set foot into Jobra, the village next to his campus, all he wanted to do was to see if he could be of use to one person.  It was in that village that he met a stool maker who horrified him when she explained that she earned only two cents a day for her beautiful craftsmanship. With no money to buy the bamboo she needed, Sufia Khatun was forced to borrow from a money-lender who demanded that she sell her finished stools back to him at a price he set­a price so low that she made only two cents a day profit. When he asked whether she could earn more if she was freed from the moneylender, she told him, "Yes I can."


Professor Yunus had a student look for other villagers who were in the same dilemma.  The student found 42 people who needed a grand total of $27 to pay-off the moneylender, buy their raw materials, and sell their wares to the highest bidder.  That's right; all they needed was an average of 68 cents each. With her loan of less than $1 the stool-maker's profits soared from two cents a day to $1.25 a day.


Now Prof. Yunus has set his sights on titans of business and industry with his social business concept and the chairmen of Danone, Intel, and BASF are beating a "yes we can" path to his door to create new non-profit/non-loss businesses that have as their sole goal improving people's lives.  The corporations can recover their initial investments in the social businesses, but after that, all profits are plowed back into these new companies.  They include a joint venture with Danone producing nutritionally fortified yogurt for malnourished villagers, another with BASF producing chemically treated bed-nets to protect people from mosquitoes carrying malaria, and still another with Intel bringing information technology solutions to rural villages.


When the US President shakes the hand of the Bangladeshi micro-banker at the White House ceremony this week, Mr. Obama will be touching his own past and the microfinance work his mother did in Indonesia.  And when Professor Yunus opens the Microcredit Summit next April in Nairobi, Kenya, the micro-banker from Bangladesh will launch the next phase of microfinance.


President Obama should accompany Muhammad Yunus to that Summit in Kenya to join in the micro-banker's most inspiring appeal­ daring call to put poverty in the museums where it belongs.


Yes we can!

 

Daley-Harris is Director and Founder of the Microcredit Summit CampaignSam Daley-Harris

When President Obama presents the Medal of Freedom to 16 distinguished American and international "agents of change" at a White House ceremony on August 12th one of the honorees will link Mr. Obama to both his past and to the future he is so committed to creating.  Among the 16 leaders who will receive America's highest civilian honor is Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, which makes tiny loans for self-employment to some of the poorest people in that country.  Prof. Yunus is also one of the world's most effective champions of the "yes we can" spirit.


Decades ago, the economics professor and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate described his search for new bank clients as a process of "looking for the most timid." He wasn't looking for the villagers who were the first to step forward to ask for a micro-loan starting at less than $10, he was looking for those who were last to come forward and who trusted their abilities the least.  To those villagers he and his staff would say, "Yes you can."


Thirty-three years later nearly 8 million members of Grameen Bank (a total of 40 million when you count their family members) are saying "yes we can" to the whole world.  Since its inception Grameen Bank has lent more than $8 billion to the poor in Bangladesh.


Today, Yunus runs Bangladesh's Grameen Bank, a leading advocate for the world's poor that has lent more than $5.1 billion to 5.3 million people. The bank is built on Yunus' conviction that poor people can be both reliable borrowers and avid entrepreneurs. It even includes a project called Struggling Members Program that serves 55,000 beggars. Under Yunus, Grameen has spread the idea of microcredit throughout Bangladesh, Southern Asia, and the rest of the developing world.


The mission keeps expanding in scale, and in the meantime, Yunus has grown intimately familiar with the unbearable dimensions of global poverty. As many as 1.2 billion people around the planet lack access to basic necessities, he explains, and microfinance could be their pathway out of despair. Yunus and Grameen have taken a first step, which has inspired others to take a look at [microfinance] as a business.


So how does one start an enterprise that reaches nearly 40 million people in one's own country and touches the lives of tens of millions more around the world?  Dr. Yunus had his own "yes we can" moment as a young economics professor who faced an agonizing famine that left him doubting his valu e as a teacher and as a human being. He was so shaken by the sight of people dying of starvation that when he set foot into Jobra, the village next to his campus, all he wanted to do was to see if he could be of use to one person.  It was in that village that he met a stool maker who horrified him when she explained that she earned only two cents a day for her beautiful craftsmanship. With no money to buy the bamboo she needed, Sufia Khatun was forced to borrow from a money-lender who demanded that she sell her finished stools back to him at a price he set­a price so low that she made only two cents a day profit. When he asked whether she could earn more if she was freed from the moneylender, she told him, "Yes I can."


Professor Yunus had a student look for other villagers who were in the same dilemma.  The student found 42 people who needed a grand total of $27 to pay-off the moneylender, buy their raw materials, and sell their wares to the highest bidder.  That's right; all they needed was an average of 68 cents each. With her loan of less than $1 the stool-maker's profits soared from two cents a day to $1.25 a day.


Now Prof. Yunus has set his sights on titans of business and industry with his social business concept and the chairmen of Danone, Intel, and BASF are beating a "yes we can" path to his door to create new non-profit/non-loss businesses that have as their sole goal improving people's lives.  The corporations can recover their initial investments in the social businesses, but after that, all profits are plowed back into these new companies.  They include a joint venture with Danone producing nutritionally fortified yogurt for malnourished villagers, another with BASF producing chemically treated bed-nets to protect people from mosquitoes carrying malaria, and still another with Intel bringing information technology solutions to rural villages.


When the US President shakes the hand of the Bangladeshi micro-banker at the White House ceremony this week, Mr. Obama will be touching his own past and the microfinance work his mother did in Indonesia.  And when Professor Yunus opens the Microcredit Summit next April in Nairobi, Kenya, the micro-banker from Bangladesh will launch the next phase of microfinance.


President Obama should accompany Muhammad Yunus to that Summit in Kenya to join in the micro-banker's most inspiring appeal­ daring call to put poverty in the museums where it belongs.


Yes we can!


Daley-Harris is Director and Founder of the Microcredit Summit Campaign

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

OUR POPULAR PM SHOULD EXPLOIT HIS CAPITAL

MR RUDD MUST HAVE THE COURAGE TO BUILD ON A STRONG BASE

 

PUT to the test by the global financial crisis, Kevin Rudd and his ministers did well. Not surprisingly, the government is keen to claim credit for rescuing the nation over the past few months and tends to minimise the importance of a strong China and a well-run financial system here at home.


No matter. Such politicking does not detract from the government's swift response to the GFC -- an event that came just one year into its term. But another year on, it is clear the crisis helped cement the Prime Minister's image, giving him a clear narrative and masking the lack of solid achievement of his first term. Mr Rudd has high personal popularity and leads a Labor government seen by voters as superior to the Coalition in managing the economy. His challenge now is to use this solid foundation to build a great Labor government rather than preside over a populist but policy-free administration. As Paul Kelly says in his finale to our week-long special series on Mr Rudd's record, the Prime Minister must resolve the contradiction between his "softly-softly" political tactics and his ambitious policy goals.

 

That Mr Rudd finds himself at this fork in the road is no surprise, given the temperament, skills and experience he brings to the job. He came to power after only nine years in parliament, with limited experience of economics and the national political agenda. He had solid credentials as a bureau