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Friday, November 20, 2009

EDITORIAL 18.11.09

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month november 18, edition 000353, 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. CHICAGO DOPE
  2. AT A CRUCIAL JUNCTURE
  3. ISLAM TRANSCENDS LOYALTY TO NATION - SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY
  4. THE LEGACY OF THE PINDARIS - PRIYADARSI DUTTA
  5. JIHAD VIA SOCIAL NETWORK - SHASHI SHEKHAR
  6. INDIA KEY TO GLOBAL RECOVERY - SHIVAJI SARKAR
  7. AN ISLAND OF FREE TRADE IN A STORMY SEA - OLEG MITYAEV

MAIL TODAY

  1. BAL'S ATTACK ON SACHIN A SIGN OF DESPERATION
  2. EXPOSED AGAIN
  3. TOUGH STAND WELCOME
  4. WHY ARE INDIA'S TRIBALS RESTIVE? - BY BHARAT BHUSHAN
  5. PM'S VISIT EXPOSED UGLY FACE OF COPS - VIKAS KAHOL

 

TIMES OF INDIA

  1. HIT WICKET
  2. MORE HOT AIR
  3. LIFT THE VEIL OF SECRECY -
  4. 'I WISH WE HAD HAD A THIRD MEETING WITH THE PM'
  5. HOMAGE & HATRED - JUG SURAIYA 
  6. A BRIGHTER TOMORROW -

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. GRAPH IN THE DINNER PLATE
  2. SPELLING IT OUT
  3. APOCALYPSE NOT NOW
  4. CONNECTION ERRORS - RAJEEV CHANDRASEKHAR
  5. OF STYLE AND SUBSTANCE - SHAHNAZ HUSAIN

INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. RATE YOUR DEPARTMENT
  2. BEYOND DENIAL
  3. EXIT ROUTES FROM COPENHAGEN - MK VENU
  4. ON THE HOUSE - M R MADHAVAN
  5. MAKING A CASE FOR THE HUMANITIES
  6. CROSSED WIRES - SARITHA RAI
  7. THE GREAT GAME FOLIO - C. RAJA MOHAN
  8. THE TAINT OF MONEY

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. YUAN, TWO, THREE...
  2. THE POLICY ENVIRONMENT
  3. COMPETITION COMMISSION & CAPITALISM - DHIRAJ NAYYAR
  4. THEY HAVE A GREEN SOUL IN KOREA - RENUKA BISHT
  5. READING THE TEA LEAVES - ROHIT KHANNA
  6. REPORT CARD

THE HINDU

  1. LEGITIMISING THE OTHER
  2. THE PRICE OF UPHOLDING THE LAW
  3. HINDI MEDIA AND AN UNREAL DISCOURSE - MRINAL PANDE
  4. DISQUALIFICATION BY JUDGES' INTEREST IN LITIGATION - T.R. ANDHYARUJINA
  5. REGISTERING THE WORLD'S 'INVISIBLE' MILLIONS - PENNY SPILLER
  6. READING THE TEA LEAVES IN U.P. - VIDYA SUBRAHMANIAM

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. BRAVO SACHIN!
  2. TALKING POINTS - BY SATISH KUMAR
  3. I FEEL GOD IN MUSIC - RM. PALANIAPPAN
  4. WHEN POLITICIANS MOCK THE VOTER - BY P.C. ALEXANDER

DNA

  1. FUNDING TERRORISM
  2. ROBBING TRIBALS
  3. THE WINTER OF 1989 AND THE AUTUMN OF 2008
  4. PARSA VENKATESHWAR RAO JR
  5. POISED FOR A CHANGE - SHIKHA MUKERJEE 

THE TRIBUNE

  1. SACHIN FOR INDIA
  2. DEATHS IN INCUBATORS
  3. ANOTHER POLICE DISTRICT
  4. NO DIALOGUE AT THIS STAGE - BY K. SUBRAHMANYAM
  5. THE INAUGURATION - BY DR ANJALI MEHTA
  6. CRIME AND PUNISHMENT - BY B.G. VERGHESE
  7. NEW TIME ZONE FOR NORTH-EAST - BY SANJOY HAZARIKA
  8. CAN WE REALLY CONTROL THE WEATHER? - BY TOM CHOULARTON

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

  1. DIPPING TEA OUTPUT
  2. MEDIA'S CREDIBILITY
  3. LIFE AND TIMES OF HARIBILASH AGARWALA - PRANJIT AGARWALA

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. DIGITALISE TERRESTRIAL TV
  2. DO AWAY WITH PNS - SACHIN KA SAAMNA
  3. FUSS OVER CONFLICT OF INTEREST IN JUDICIARY - MUKESH BUTANI
  4. READING MIND LIKE AN OPEN FACEBOOK - VITHAL C NADKARNI
  5. GEAR UP FOR CLIMATE-CHANGE POLICY - JAIDEEP MISHRA
  6. 'A YEAR IS NOTHING IN THE LIFE OF A 144-YEAR-OLD COMPANY'
  7. MOBILE IS CRITICAL COMPONENT FOR US: GOOGLE INDIA MD
  8. HARSIMRAN SINGH & PRAMUGDHA MAMGAIN
  9. 'THERE IS GREAT SCOPE FOR BOUTIQUE I-BANKS' - GEORGE CHERIAN
  10. I'M FOR LIBERAL, SOCIAL DEMOCRACY: MARTA MESZAROS - ASHOKE NAG
  11. 'HIGHER INCOMES & BETTER DIETS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR RISING PRICES' - NIDHI NATH SRINIVAS
  12. 'INDIA IN A BETTER POSITION NOW THAN IT WAS SIX MONTHS AGO' - DEEPTHA RAJKUMAR

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. BRAVO SACHIN!
  2. AN EARLY TRUCE IN WEST ASIA IS A DELUSION - BY ROGER COHEN
  3. WHEN POLITICIANS MOCK THE VOTER - BY P.C. ALEXANDER
  4. TALKING POINTS  - BY SATISH KUMAR
  5. DON'T BLAME PALIN'S STARDOM ON ALASKA - BY MICHAEL CAREY
  6. TODAY CHINA IS WHAT US WAS - BY DAVID BROOKS

the statesman

  1. THE BJP'S DILEMMA
  2. BLOTTED ASPIRATIONS
  3. RETIRE AT 57
  4. MUSSOLINI JEALOUS OF HITLER!
  5. PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
  6. VILLAINS AND SAINTS~II - SAROJ KUMAR MEHERA

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. CUPPED HANDS
  2. WAR WITHIN
  3. NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH  - KRISHNAN SRINIVASAN
  4. OUT IN THE COLD  - SUMANTA SEN

DECCAN HERALD

  1. SMALL THINKING
  2. NUCLEAR DEADLOCK
  3. PM'S VISIT TO THE US - BY CHINTAMANI MAHAPATRA
  4. IS CLIMATE DEAL BEYOND REACH? - BY JOHN M BRODER,NYT
  5. THOSE KODAK MOMENTS - BY HEMA RAVICHANDAR

THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. CROSSING THE LINES
  2. GRAPEVINE: THE PERIPATETIC PRESIDENT - GREER FAY CASHMAN
  3. BARACK OBAMA'S VISION IMPOSSIBLE - YISRAEL HAREL
  4. THE ISRAELI OPTION SHOULD BE FIRST - OPHIR FALK
  5. THE ACADEMIC BOYCOTT CAMPAIGN: IS IT OVER? - BEN COHEN

HAARETZ

  1. THE NEXT BATTLE IN THE CAMPAIGN
  2. WHY NETANYAHU REALLY DOES WANT TO ADVANCE PEACE - BY ALUF BENN
  3. WHO ARE ISRAEL'S ULTRA-ORTHODOX JEWS? - BY AVIRAMA GOLAN
  4. WERNHER VON BRAUN'S LEGACY - BY MOSHE ARENS
  5. RESTRAINT IS THE KEY - BY YAGIL LEVY

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. ANOTHER ROUND OF REGULATORY REFORM
  2. HUNGER IN THE UNITED STATES
  3. THE DRUG INDUSTRY CASHES IN
  4. ROGUE AMERICAN WOMAN - BY MAUREEN DOWD
  5. WHAT THEY REALLY BELIEVE - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  6. WHY WE SHOULD PUT JIHAD ON TRIAL - BY STEVEN SIMON
  7. BEN FRANKLIN ON GLOBAL WARMING - BY BEN GELBER

I.THE NEWS

  1. PUNJAB BANK SCAM
  2. THE PRESIDENT SPEAKS
  3. TARGET ERROR? - MOSHARRAF ZAIDI
  4. THE TRUTH OF THIS CONFLICT - PART II
  5. TIME OF RECKONING - RAOOF HASAN
  6. TIMBUKTU -- CITY IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
  7. RANDOM THOUGHTS (PART III) -  DR A Q KHAN
  8. SWAT OPERATION: THE AFTERMATH - ZUBAIR TORWALI
  9. GILANI, ONE IN A 100 MILLION! - ANJUM NIAZ
  10. DIFFERENT TUNE - SAMINA WAHID PEROZANI

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. WHAT UNITED STATES IS UP TO?
  2. ANOTHER INCREASE IN POWER TARIFF
  3. GROWING CONTROVERSY OF POLLS RIGGING IN G-B
  4. INTERNATIONAL OIL PRICE YO-YO - KHALID SALEEM
  5. PROPAGANDA AGAINST ARMED FORCES - SAJJAD SHAUKAT
  6. IN SEARCH OF PEACE IN AFGHANISTAN - GEN MIRZA ASLAM BEG
  7. NRO AND THE LAW OF LAND - MUHAMMAD TARIQ AWAN
  8. THE 'STREET FIGHTER' SYNDROME..! - ROBERT CLEMENTS

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. GLOBAL HUNGER
  2. CONJOINED TWINS
  3. WE CAN'T SWITCH OFF THE ENGINE...!
  4. DISARRAYED POLITICAL ECONOMY - ABDUL KHALEQUE
  5. SEVENTH NATIONAL PAY SCALE TO ENHANCE JOB BENEFITS - DR M ABUL KASHEM MOZUMDER AND DR MD SHAIRUL MASHREQUE
  6. CONCEPT OF JUSTICE IN ISLAM - ASGHAR ALI ENGINEER

THE HIMALAYAN

  1. FEAR FACTOR
  2. COVER UP?
  3. IC AND RESERVE CURRENCY AN ISSUE TO MOOT - RAGHAB D. PANT
  4. SILLY LOVE FOR TRAPPINGS  - PRABHA THACKER
  5. WOMEN REPRESENTATION IN JUDICIAL SECTOR APPALLING - ANANTA RAJ LUITEL

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. SPORTS REPORT IS A REAL LOSER
  2. PRIVATE EQUITY OFTEN FAILS ECONOMY'S BEST INTEREST
  3. REFORMING LAWYERS' RORTS

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. OBAMA REASSURES IN BEIJING
  2. THE OPERA HOUSE IS WORTH A FACELIFT
  3. OBAMA'S QUEST FOR BETTER BALANCE UNSETTLES BEIJING
  4. FOOTY SHOW PAYOUT A WIN FOR WOMEN IN FOOTBALL

THE GURDIAN

  1. IN PRAISE OF… LATE ALAN BENNETT
  2. WITHDRAWAL FROM AFGHANISTAN: ANOTHER WAY OUT OF THE MIRE

THE KOREA HERALD

  1. RICE SURPLUS
  2. STUDENT EXODUS
  3. WHITHER FTA? THE MOMENT OF TRUTH  - CHOI BYUNG-IL
  4. BARACK OBAMA: EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE IN LEADERSHIP AT LAST

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. APEC GOES THROUGH THE MOTIONS
  2. FLAWS IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE - BY HUGH CORTAZZI
  3. GHOST IN THE RECOVERY MACHINE - BY ROBERT J. SHILLER
  4. SLIPPERY SLOPE OF DOCTOR-ASSISTED EUTHANASIA - BY PETER SINGER

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. MR. PRESIDENT, JUST DO IT
  2. THE UN AND CIVIL SOCIETY'S ROLE IN COUNTERING TERRORISM - ABDUL WAHID MAKTUB AND ALISTAIR MILLAR
  3. WAR AGAINST TERRORISM IN SOUTHEAST ASIA - ROMMEL C. BANLAOI
  4. FAMILY REUNION: CRASH OR CRASH-THROUGH? - JULIA SURYAKUSUMA

CHINA DAILY

  1. UNNECESSARY LUXURY
  2. BEYOND MUTUAL BENEFIT
  3. ASIA MUST LEARN FROM EUROPE AND LOOK INWARDS

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. PUTIN'S VERTICAL OF CORRUPTION - BY YULIA LATYNINA
  2. MEDVEDEV'S ABRACADABRA MODERNIZATION PLAN - BY VLADIMIR RYZHKOV
  3. THE PERFECT FALL GUY  - BY LILIA SHEVTSOVA

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

CHICAGO DOPE

HEADLEY, RANA AND CLUELESS OFFICIALS


What is truly astonishing about the Federal Bureau of Investigation busting the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba's Chicago cell is that India knew so little about the terrorist reconnaissance missions in its own territory. American anti-terrorism investigators have pieced together an elaborate conspiracy at the centre of which are two North Americans of Pakistani origin: David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana. Both had visited India several times, especially in the crucial days before the November 26, 2008, terror attacks on Mumbai. Coleman, an American citizen, had been issued a visa by the Indian consulate in Chicago and travelled to Mumbai on work, even establishing a human resource consultancy there that was possibly a cover for terror recruitment. Rana, a Canadian passport holder, came to India with his wife, disguised as an innocent tourist couple. The two men went to at least four States and often took outbound flights to suspect West Asian destinations. It is stunning that none of this came up on the radar of Indian authorities. A full year has passed since a robust domestic inquiry into 26/11 and its causes, and yet the names of Headley and Rana were unknown till earlier this month. At the very least, the visa processing team at the Indian consulate in Chicago has proven to be downright embarrassing. It handed out a multiple entry visa to a terrorist without basic due diligence. It is absolutely shocking that Headley came to India nine times in three years without anybody noticing anything was amiss. This speaks extremely poorly of India's domestic surveillance, its monitoring of local groups seen as linked to or fertile ground for radical and terrorist organisations and for the efficacy of its border/airport gatekeeper security systems. What if the Americans had not picked up Headley's trail and arrested him just as he was boarding a flight to Pakistan, perhaps on his way to execute his mission? India would have been left so vulnerable.

To be fair, the problem goes back far longer than merely the past year. The key to a rigorous and sustainable terrorism prevention matrix is accurate, actionable intelligence. Indians tend to see anti-terrorism operations in terms of hardware — more guns, more weapons, more commandos — rather than software: Better intelligence, informants within the terror sanctuaries and seminaries of religious extremism. As senior policemen have often stressed, the level of feedback from and assets within local minority communities or Muslim neighbourhoods in even India's biggest cities is abysmal. This is crucial to any anti-terrorism strategy. The ability of a sympathetic citizen to inform the beat policemen or a neighbourhood intelligence mole about the presence of shady newcomers who are asking uncomfortable questions and looking to win over people for strange operations is critical to terror detection. Unfortunately, as the Rana-Headley affair has shown, India has a long way to go on this. It would not do to blame just the National Investigation Agency. Police forces in Delhi and Mumbai, in Kerala and Gujarat, each of which is autonomous and meant to have its own, localised, information system, all failed to realise what Headley and Mr and Mrs Rana were up to.


In some respects the Chicago conspiracy is a sharper wake-up call than the storming of the Taj and Trident Hotels in the winter of 2008. It is a pointer to how India continues to be a playground for transnational jihad.

 

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THE PIONEER

AT A CRUCIAL JUNCTURE

SRI LANKA CAN'T AFFORD POLITICAL TURMOIL


After having militarily defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Sri Lanka today finds itself at a crucial juncture. So it should choose, it could capitalise on the opportunity and usher in a new era of peace and prosperity for all Sri Lankans irrespective of their ethnic or religious identity. In that sense, in the aftermath of the 25-year-old civil war, the road ahead for Colombo is even tougher. Though Sri Lanka fully deserves to be commended for its historic victory over the militant separatist forces in that country, genuine Tamil grievances remain to be tackled. If these are not properly addressed and the fears of the Tamil minority community not allayed, it would certainly take the lustre off the military victory over the LTTE. That said, there is another problem that seems to be brewing. Gen Sarath Fonseka, the man who is widely credited for the Sri Lankan armed forces' emphatic decimation of the Tamil Tigers, has put in his papers as the Chief of Defence Staff — a post he was promoted to from Army commander after Colombo declared victory in the war. The reasons for Gen Fonseka's premature retirement are many. But one that particularly stands out in the General's letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa is Colombo's reaction to rumours about an Army coup last month. The Sri Lankan Government had contacted New Delhi over these rumours, asking the latter for help. In response, Indian security forces were put on high alert. Gen Fonseka has cited this reaction of the Sri Lankan Government as having brought discredit on the Sri Lankan Army and, indirectly, on him.


Ever since the victory over the LTTE, Opposition leaders within Sri Lankan politics have started viewing Gen Fonseka as a possible alternative to President Rajapaksa. Of late, this has become more apparent with several Opposition parties conceding that should Gen Fonseka choose to contest, he would be their candidate in the next presidential election. It is known that China had supported the Sri Lankan Army's military offensive against the Tamil Tigers by supplying it with weapons. It also well known that Gen Fonseka is a key figure in this relationship with the Chinese. When one juxtaposes this with the fact that the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna — a Sinhalese, extreme Left-wing, nationalist party responsible for two armed insurrections in Sri Lankan history — has decided to formally invite Gen Fonseka to be the presidential candidate on behalf of the combined Opposition, it is a cause for reflection. It will be recalled that the JVP is militaristically anti-India, something that was evident in the aftermath of the India-Sri Lankan accord of 1987. If Gen Fonseka were to become Sri Lankan President one day, it will have consequences that New Delhi will not be able to overlook. After all, India and Sri Lanka share strong historical and cultural ties that the former can't take for granted.

 

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            THE PIONEER

COLUMN

ISLAM TRANSCENDS LOYALTY TO NATION

SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY


It's not quite a fatwa but Iran's Supreme Leader has spoken through his representative in London. Ayatollah Abdolhossein Moezi, director of the Islamic Centre of England, has called on Muslim immigrants to be "better Muslims" and not to join the West's armed forces. It is un-Islamic, he says, for them to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The wonder is that the directive was so long in coming. It needed the tragedy of Maj Nidal Malik Hassan, the American-born military psychiatrist son of Palestinian refugees, who ran amok and killed 13 people, to remind Ayatollah Khamenei of the conflict of loyalties that Muslims in the West face. A contributory factor may have been reports from The Hague, where Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader indicted on 11 charges including genocide, has succeeded in bullying the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia into postponing his trial. But not before the court heard transcripts of his telephone conversations warning of "a black cauldron where 300,000 Muslims will die".


Karadzic's troops besieged and captured the United Nations safe haven of Srebrenica. Nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys were tortured, machine-gunned and bulldozed into mass graves while their womenfolk were abused, raped and forced to defile the Quran. The Bosnian leader himself was quoted in court as saying, "They will disappear from the face of the earth."


Those revelations, coinciding with Maj Hassan's murderous spree, may have convinced the Ayatollah of the need for Muslims in the West to take a stand. But the dilemma is not confined to the diaspora. The Governments of Jordan, Egypt, the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia ostensibly support the US and Nato in Iraq and Afghanistan. But, significantly, they dare not send troops to wage the so-called war on terror. It also bears noting that the ruling regimes in some of these countries have also been targeted by jihadis. Pakistan is sui generis for it is as much at war with itself as it is under attack. Lines are blurred because religious extremism is also a feature of the continuing internal struggle for political power.


But there is no denying the peculiar predicament of Muslims in the West who live with what they see as their faith's historical adversary. The anger that drove Karadzic harks back to six centuries of Ottoman rule over south-eastern Europe. The 'Crusader' tag for Westerners (used by Al Qaeda and the Taliban) recalls another ancient enmity. British Muslims in the small town of Luton publicly jeered at a regiment holding a ceremonial parade after returning from Iraq. The mayhem in London was the handiwork of British-Pakistani boys born and bred in Yorkshire who played cricket and spoke with a broad Yorkshire accent. That did not stop them from blowing themselves up while killing a large number of innocent folk.


The US police claim to have foiled a terror plot by six foreign-born men to blow up Fort Dix in New Jersey. The FBI accuses Najibullah Zazi, an airport van driver, of planning bomb attacks using hydrogen peroxide. In another case, Hosam (Sam) Smadi, a 19-year-old Jordanian-American, tried to bomb a Dallas skyscraper. The recent shooting of five British officers in Helmand province by an Afghan National Police officer, referred to only as 'Gulbuddin', recalled Aden's British-trained police ambushing and killing seven British soldiers.


Western opinion-makers have been busy since the Fort Hood massacre upholding the "loyalty" of Muslims in the West. Condemning Maj Hasan's shootings as a "heinous incident", the Muslim Public Affairs Council of the US intoned piously, "We share the sentiment of our President". President Barack Obama had just expressed horror. The Council sees no conflict between being American and Muslim and, indeed, there is no reason why French, British and American Muslims should not be as loyal as anyone else to their adoptive countries. But secular loyalty is separate from religious commitment. The myth of the 'moderate' Muslim, on which Western policy is predicated, continues to ignore this crucial divide despite a wealth of evidence.


The US has something to learn in this respect from Chinese-majority Singapore whose Muslims (14 per cent of the population) share the religious, ethnic and linguistic — but not political — identity of Malaysians next door. So close are the two countries that a Singaporean plane is in Malaysian air space almost immediately after takeover. Relations between the two countries have always been delicate.


Malay Singaporeans were initially exempt from military service which was compulsory for all other communities. When some protested that this was a form of discrimination, they were admitted to the armed forces but generally not into sensitive services that might expose them to temptation. The analogy one heard was that no Malay Singaporean soldier should be placed in a position where the call of religion might tempt him to drive a tank across the Causeway to Malaysia or fly his aircraft there.


Singapore also offers a much earlier warning of religious passion transcending military discipline. A little-noticed World War I memorial in the heart of the city-state recalls the mutiny by British Indian troops when they were ordered to embark for West Asia to fight Turkey and the Caliphate. The mutineers were captured and executed: They were all Muslims.


Maj Hassan may also have had two non-religious motivations. As a trained psychiatrist who treated repatriated American soldiers, he became familiar with the trauma of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Secondly, his cousin, Mr Nader Hassan, confirms the "harassment from his military colleagues" he suffered because of his "Middle-Eastern ethnicity". In other words, they taunted him for his race and religion. That must have seemed the height of Western Christian injustice to someone who had been born and bred in the US and insisted on defying parental opposition to join the American Army because he had to do something for his country. He took to wearing salwar, kameez and a cap when off duty, regularly attending the mosque and distributing copies of the Quran.


Executing Maj Hassan will not solve the larger problem. Others may not explode as violently, but his outburst is indicative of the conflicting pulls to which Muslims are subject when they are forced to subordinate religious and cultural affiliations to secular considerations. They, too, see Karadzic as the face of the Christian West.

 sunandadr@yahoo.co.in

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

THE LEGACY OF THE PINDARIS

PRIYADARSI DUTTA


Maharashtra Navnirman Sena's four horsemen of the apocalypse are now being castigated by the media after their suspension from the Maharashtra State Assembly for assaulting MLA Abu Asim Azmi. Mr Azmi was at the receiving end of the wrath of the four MNS legislators for daring to take his oath of office in Hindi. Few from the 'Maratha confederacy' of parties viz the Congress, the NCP, the BJP and the Shiv Sena, came to his rescue when the MNS goons were manhandling Mr Azmi on the floor of the House. Nontheless, by espousing Hindi, the Samajwadi Party MLA has unwittingly re-positioned himself as a champion of Indian nationalism. A remarkable image makeover for someone who was arrested in connection with the Mumbai serial bombings of 1993 before being released by the Supreme Court in 1995. Popularly referred to as 'Qaied-e-Millat' or leader of the Muslim community by his supporters, Mr Azmi has cleverly cultivated an image for himself as a leader of the 'persecuted minorities'.


It is unfortunate that Maratha nationalism — once the dynamo of Indian renaissance — has been alienated from the national psyche. Why rue Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind's anti-Vande Mataram fatwa alone when perhaps the fate of the National Song, part Sanskrit and part Bengali, might soon await Mr Raj Thackeray's approval to be sung in Maharashtra? If so, it would be a sad day indeed, for, Maharashtra is the land of Pandit Vishnu Digambar Pulaskar, Master Krishnarao Fulambrikar and VD Ambhaikar, all of whom idolised Vande Mataram in their mellifluent voices.


In his election speech at Ghatkopar, the MNS chief eulogised Rabindranath Tagore for writing all his works in his mother tongue, Bangla, to shore up his argument for Marathi. But he forgets that Tagore's words might have been in Bangla, but his spirit was universalist.


The recovery of India's long-exiled political independence had begun from the hills of Sahyaadri with Shivaji in the 17th century. Though Shivaji was a Maratha, he is celebrated across India as an iconic figure. It's a sordid tale that his descendants after Baji Rao I degenerated into horseback looters and extortionists. The Scindias of Gawalior, one of the Maratha confederates, patronised the professional freebooters called Pindaris, Pathan and Afghan irregulars. The MNS, if it resembles anything in the history of Maratha nationalism, is the legacy of the Pindaris. That they stand for 'Marathi pride' makes them baleful rather than glorious.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

JIHAD VIA SOCIAL NETWORK

SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES ON THE INTERNET HAVE BEEN USED BY VARIOUS JIHADIS INVOLVED WITH TERRORISM IN INDIA TO POST MESSAGES, WARNINGS AND VIDEOS. THESE PROVIDE AMAZING CLUES TO THEIR IDENTITIES AND THEIR EVIL MISSION. THEY COULD ALSO REVEAL MORE INFORMATION ABOUT HEADLEY AND RANA!

SHASHI SHEKHAR


The nationwide investigations into the David Headley case have taken a curious turn with revelations of newspaper advertisements posted by Tahawwur Hussain Rana in India to interview candidates desirous of immigration to the United States and Canada.


As speculation grows on whether Rana was meeting with or recruiting sleeper cells, it is instructive to revisit the phone intercepts of the terrorists during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks that were made public in the dossier of evidence.

The identity of 'Baba' referenced in the transcript of an intercept between the terrorists in Taj Mahal Palace and their handlers in Pakistan dated November 27, 01:37 am remains unknown to date.


Initial speculation on whether the 'Baba' was 7/11 accused Bahawalpur based Lashkar commander Azam Cheema, also known as Babaji to his recruits, has been denied by Indian authorities.


But 26/11 was not the first time a 'Baba' was referenced in a terror phone intercept. Just a few weeks before 26/11, investigation into the Guwahati blasts revealed another 'Baba' in a phone intercept. The phone intercepts also revealed a Tauqeer, Jahangir exchanging congratulatory notes and instructions asking them to shift base.

The Guwahati blasts of October 2008 were followed by a claim of responsibility via SMS by Islamic Security Force -Indian Mujahideen. While there was ambivalence in reports if the Tauqeer in the intercepts was the Indian Mujahideen's Tauqeer, it was an interesting cyber trail of Tauqeer leading up to a week before the Guwahati blasts.


On October 24, 2008 a video appeared on YouTube under the channel 'DueToRevenge' glorifying Indian Mujahideen's Tauqeer. The three-minute video clip ended with an intriguing question: "What will Tauqeer do next ?" The cyber trail from the YouTube channel 'DueToRevenge' leads to an Indian Mujahideen blog on the site wordpress.com linking to the same video and to other jihadi content.


Activity on both the YouTube channel and the Wordpress.com blog peaked in October 2008, more specifically after the October 23, with many jihadi videos and blog entries, with the last one being on Tauqeer. Following the Guwahati blasts there was no further activity on either the YouTube channel or the Wordpress.com blog after the first week of November.


The cyber trail from both these sites leads to a profile of 'DueToRevenge' on popular social networking site Orkut and to a host of file sharing accounts on the popular file sharing site e-snips.com.


An examination of the accounts common across these four Internet sites reveals common jihadi videos, references to Mumbai and Bangalore as base locations and videos of founder and president of the Islamic Research Foundation Zakir Naik's speeches. In light of David Headley's interest in physical fitness and association with Rahul Bhatt at a fitness gym, it is important to note that the jihadi content on the file sharing site includes several documents on fitness training for commandos.

Several names surface from these accounts of which two stand out for different reasons — Aebak Islam who claims to be from Bangalore also responsible for the Indian Mujahideen blog, and Aazam Khan who claims to be from Mumbai also responsible for the Orkut profile and YouTube account 'DueToRevenge'.


During the first week of January of 2009 several IT firms in Bangalore went into a tizzy after receiving a terror threat via e-mail. On January 6, 2009, the Deccan Chronicle in its Bangalore edition detailed how Aebak Islam walked into multiple Internet cafes in Bangalore to send the terror threat e-mails to IT firms in Bangalore. Subsequently, Aebak Islam's YouTube account was suspended.


Aebak Islam's several other accounts on esnips.com and scribd remained active. Of particular interest is Aebak Islam's Orkut account with an explicit threat to assassinate BJP leader LK Advani; that account started a month before the Bangalore and Ahmedabad blasts, before falling quiet a few weeks before 26/11.


Aebak Islam, Aazam Khan and many other accounts identified themselves to search engines with the key word Ansarullah or 'Helper of Allah'.


Aazam Khan's Orkut account 'DueToRevenge' has an explicit reference to his being part of the 'Mujahideen of Ansarullah cell ILP 33'.


While there is no known outfit with this name, Ilyas Kashmiri's 313 Brigade has an elite unit that goes by the name Jundul Fida.


If the elite fidayeen called themselves 'Soldiers of Allah' is it a stretch to hypothesise that the sleeper cells that help them locally could call themselves 'Helpers of Allah' ?


As the nationwide investigations into those in touch with Headley and Rana unfold we must not forget that in pre-empting terror we are limited by our own imagination.


In conclusion of this series, it is important to recognise that the Takfiri impulses within Al Qaeda that saw Ilyas Kashmiri at the command of Pakistani jihadi organisations under 313 Brigade also find an echo in the Indian Mujahideen e-mail sent after the Jaipur blasts with these chilling words:


"The Islamic sharia allows the mujahideen to go to any extent to crush the dignity and power of the enemy… by allowing to destroy their trees, their areas, their animals… above is a clear witness on mass destruction used against the Kuffar."


 Concluded


The writer tracks terrorism in South Asia

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

INDIA KEY TO GLOBAL RECOVERY

OUR ECONOMY MAY NOT BE AS LARGE AS THAT OF MANY WESTERN COUNTRIES, BUT IT HAS THE CAPACITY TO WARD OFF FINANCIAL CRISES THAT AFFLICT DEVELOPED ECONOMIES

SHIVAJI SARKAR


India has emerged as one of the most resilient economies. Whether it would be able to lead the world or not has been rocking the discussions at the India Economic Summit. There are some positives and some negatives in the process.

The world is looking towards India for more than one reason. Despite its close trade, business and to a large extent financial rupee-rouble alliance, the country did not succumb to the pressures created by the fall of the Soviet Union. In 1997-98, it withstood the pressures of the South-East Asian crisis with equal élan. The 2008 Lehman Brother scandal-led global recession did not hit it gravely.


The economy of the country may not be as large as that of the US or many European countries, but what surprises the international experts is its capacity to insulate against odds that hit and often devastate major economies like that of the Soviet Union or the US.


India's mixed economy - Government-owned socialist ideology dictated public sector and capitalist ideology based private sector - has emerged as the greatest strength. If one dithers even a bit, the other comes to the rescue of the system. The Government is not actively involved in day-to-day functioning of industries or business but it acts as an effective benign intervener or regulator.


World Economic Forum associate director Michele Petochi on his approach to Global Redesign initiative says, "The challenge is to have a compelling approach to complex problems". This is where India is expected give cue to the world's complex economic system.


India has also emerged as a country that generates credible statistics unlike that of China. India is beating China in the latest edition of the London-based Legatum Institute's prosperity index. Index processing data for 104 countries puts India at the 45th rank and China at 75th rank. India was a lowly 70th and China 54th in 2008. The index is now broad-based to include how citizens in a country feel about personal freedom, institutional maturity and mutual trust. The parameter for India is increasing.


So would India be able to come up again with the same kind of resilience in the latest IMF predicted mother of all meltdowns in emerging markets, a crash that would make the 2008 one look like a pigmy?


In a situation like this Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's announcement to withdraw stimulus package next year would be a help or hindrance also needs to be debated. But if the Reserve Bank of India is to be believed earlier the package is withdrawn it is good and wise for the economy. Some economists say that autonomous institutions like the RBI have helped the country take the right decisions and create the necessary resilience.


If banks did not collapse in the wake of global Lehman scandal, the credit is given to the RBI and its allied organisations like SEBI, NABARD, and NHB.


There is synchronisation in politics and economics. It is not always that the Government listens to the RBI, which decides on financial and economic consideration. The Government acts on broader parameters taking the people's aspirations into account. This has pushed India below China in the Eurasia Group compiled Global Political Index. The index gives credit to tough political decisions, which a monolithic China can and India cannot.

But this alone is not the impediment. India has not been found to be very competitive. It has been placed 49th out of 133 countries in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index 2009-10. The country lags behind in infrastructure, health, primary education and galloping inflation and fiscal situation prevents the Government from making the much needed investment. Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia in his presentation also mentioned infrastructure as the most important constraint.


The index says that bureaucracy, over-regulation and corruption still affect the functioning of Indian markets. And by global standards, the diffusion of information and communication technologies remains very low. Minister for Roads and Highways Kamal Nath accepted it in a different way saying, "We had our decade of information technology, now let's have our decade of infrastructure".


 The writer is a senior economic affairs journalist.


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THE PIONEER

OPED

AN ISLAND OF FREE TRADE IN A STORMY SEA

APEC COULD DELIVER WONDERS IF ONLY CREASES COULD BE IRONED OUT, WRITES OLEG MITYAEV


During the global economic crisis, the world's 20 most industrialised countries, known as the G20, have embarked on anti-crisis measures which are bound to result in protectionism.


Against this background, appeals to revive the principles of free trade at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which took place in Singapore, sounded a discordant note. However, this reasoning stems from the region's small countries, whereas the world's biggest trade partners, the United States and China, aware of the need to protect their markets, conducted pointless debates on currency regulation.

The APEC forum unites 21 economies, including such economic monsters as the US, Japan, China, and Russia. However, the majority of its members are small regional states. Their economies are based on exporting commodities to the industrialised countries, primarily to the US. They are not capable of rendering substantial aid to their economies; and protectionism of the world's major economies, above all, the US, has substantially undermined their foreign trade revenues.


These small APEC countries are consistently demonstrating their adherence to the principles of free trade. During the last 20 years, they have managed to reduce customs duties in the region from 17 per cent to 5 per cent on average. It is no accident that on the weekend of November 14-15, the APEC summit discussed a 'paradigm of new growth'. This phrase is implicit in the efforts to reduce the dependence of Asian and Pacific countries on exports to rich countries and the prospects for potential economic integration in the region, including a long-term plan for the formation of a free trade zone in Asia and the Pacific.


In addition, these small countries have probably remained the only supporters of the Doha round of WTO talks, which provide for the signing of a comprehensive agreement on free trade all over the world.


The summit's final communiqué denounced all forms of protectionism. This was a strong statement considering that the US has just increased import duties on Chinese steel, and China on all chemical imports.

Representing Russia at the summit in Singapore, President Dmitry Medvedev said that Moscow will take only temporary protective measures in the economy and will curtail them later on.


In Singapore, China and the US, the world's biggest partners in regional and global trade, launched heated debates over the currency exchange rates. Each of them is trying to improve their respective trade with a favourable exchange rate, thereby haphazardly damaging its partner.


The US has long accused China of artificially lowering the yuan's exchange rate, which secures for Beijing a huge, positive trade balance with America.


But this time China itself lashed out against the dollar. Chinese representatives believe
that during the crisis the US artificially reduced the value of its currency with low
interest rates on dollar assets, thus posing a threat to the global economy.


In their opinion, low interest rates in the US have resulted in enormous 'carry trade'. The mechanism is simple: Loans are taken in a country with low interest rates (the US in this case) and the funds gained are transferred to countries with a bigger yield on investment.


The Chinese maintain that this policy is already producing speculative investment in the growing market, which is fraught with the swelling and eventual burst of the bubble.


In reality, China is much more concerned about its own huge investment in American public bonds. Its reserves, the world's biggest, are being depleted gradually by the declining dollar and the interest rates on these bonds.

Incidentally, China's own monetary policy is a subject for heavy criticism. Big loans issued by Chinese banks this year may also produce bubbles and fan inflation.


It is no surprise that the summit's statement on currency policy was at the heart of the biggest controversy. Somehow on November 12, APEC Finance Ministers managed to emphasise in the final communiqué the following intention: "We will undertake monetary policies consistent with price stability in the context of market-oriented exchange rates that reflect underlying economic fundamentals."


However, Chinese President Hu Jintao managed to have it deleted from the leaders' final statement. US President Barack Obama agreed with him.

 

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MAIL TODAY

 COMMENT

BAL'S ATTACK ON SACHIN A SIGN OF DESPERATION

 

THERE is a phrase for what Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray did in the " open letter" to cricketer Sachin Tendulkar in party mouthpiece Saamna — clutching at straws. Bereft of any ideology and a charismatic mass leader, the Shiv Sena has lost ground in almost every constituency that it once prided to have complete control over. The October 13 assembly elections, therefore, were more than a hint that the Sena needed a complete makeover in terms of a programme to reach out to the people.

 

Yet, with the Tendulkar episode, it is evident it does not have one. Instead it is using a broken- record formula that may have worked in the early days of the Sena, but is totally anachronistic in 2009. Besides, it is using Tendulkar as an easy excuse to get back at Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena which seems to have usurped the " Marathi Manoos" agenda from the Shiv Sena.

 

To be sure, Tendulkar was only responding to a question by a television journalist about his feelings for Mumbai, Maharashtra and India. His exact reply was: " I am a Maharashtrian and I am extremely proud of that. But I am an Indian first. And Mumbai belongs to all Indians." Surely to twist that nation- unifying statement by giving it a communal twist and compartmentalising it into a petty linguistic framework, is not only perverse, it shows that the Sena is nothing more than a local party that operates from Bandra ( East) in Mumbai and has little influence beyond the Thackeray residence there.

 

In fact, by attacking Tendulkar, the Sena would lose whatever little ground it had left in the minds of the people. Even the staunchest Marathi chauvinist knows that Tendulkar is beyond the petty boundaries of language. Perhaps the ageing Mr Thackeray and his party — now surely in terminal decline — would do well to remember that.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

EXPOSED AGAIN

 

THAT we haven't learnt well the lessons of last year's deadly Mumbai attack — in which even the deployment of the elite National Security Guards was delayed, costing several lives — was evident from the mock drill conducted at the deputy commissioner's office on Shahjahan Road on Sunday afternoon. While a phone call about a bomb being planted saw nodal officers of all departments swing into action, New Delhi district's chief district medical officer ( CDMO) was unreachable on phone for close to two hours. This means that in a real- time scenario, the absence of emergency medical care — vital for such situations — would have probably cost us human lives despite the police, fire and administration officials reaching the spot on time.

 

It must be remembered that the DC's office is in a high security zone area and that terror warnings have been issued of late in the wake of the approaching anniversary of the 26/ 11 attacks. This makes it clear that as far as common India and Indians are concerned they are still sitting ducks for the enemies of this country. Serious disciplinary action against the errant CDMO should be the first step towards ensuring a change in this state of affairs.

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

TOUGH STAND WELCOME

 

SPORTS Minister MS Gill deserves praise for taking a tough stand on doping offenders and ensuring that all the officials of Indian Weightlifting Federation resigned and made way for a new set of individuals.

 

At a time when New Delhi is readying for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, it is important that India presents itself as a nation whose sportsmen are free of the drug taint. That this was not the case and all was not well with the weightlifting federation became clear after six lifters tested positive for drugs two months back.

 

Rather than come down heavily on the federation, the Indian Olympic Association too dragged its feet. But Mr Gill's clear stand clinched the issue. The best thing to emerge from the new scenario is that the International Weightlifting Federation will now not ban the Indian federation, thereby ensuring that Indian lifters can compete in next year's Games.

 

At the same time, the job of ensuring free and fair elections in the Indian Weightlifting Federation is going to be difficult. Here the IOA and Sports Ministry must ensure that at no cost should the outgoing office bearers get themselves re- elected!

 

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MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

WHY ARE INDIA'S TRIBALS RESTIVE?

BY BHARAT BHUSHAN

 

AS THE government launches its biggest offensive against the Maoists/ Naxalites ( Operation Green Hunt), it does so completely disregarding the advice of its own experts, bureaucrats and policemen in report after report.

 

Each one of these has emphasised that the Maoist movement is political in nature and needs a political solution. Yet it is astounding that the government is hell bent on a military operation.

 

There is no way of guaranteeing that innocent citizens, caught in the crossfire, will not be killed and dubbed " Naxalite supporters" or worse, as Naxalites themselves.

 

There are already reports of villagers fleeing in Lalgarh in West Bengal and of terrified tribals of Bastar desperately getting ID- cards made — which have no legal sanctity — to show that they are not Maoists.

 

Studying two documents — the Planning Commission's " Development Challenges in Extremist Affected Areas" and the Ministry of Rural Development's report of the " Committee on Agrarian Relations and Unfinished Tasks of Land Reforms" — suggests that perhaps the government is unwittingly going on the wrong path. The military option is being chosen without exploring others.

 

These reports argue that the Naxalite movement is a political movement with a strong base among the landless, the poor and the tribals and its emergence and growth need to be understood against the experience and conditions of the people who form a part of it. They point out that a feature of the Naxalite affected areas is the huge gap between the failure of state policy to protect their meagre livelihoods and the rights which guarantee them.

 

They suggest that even if the long term aim of the Naxalite movement is to capture state power through violence, in its day to day manifestation it should also be seen as a fight for social justice, equality, protection and local development. The spread of the Naxalite movement, they argue, is because of the failure of the State to address the conditions which nurture it.

 

The experts whose help the Planning Commission sought were of the unanimous opinion that the basis of the Naxalite movement lies in the lack of basic resources to sustain livelihood in our tribal areas, forced displacement from tribal land and lack of governance.

 

ALTERNATIVE

The State of India is represented only by revenue officials, forest officials and the police who treat the tribals as less than human. The Planning Commission report in fact notes that instead of the state ensuring that its functionaries perform their duties, it is the Naxalites who have on occasion forced teachers to teach in schools and doctors to attend primary health centres.

 

As the state's judicial processes are inaccessible or time consuming, the people tend to go to the kangaroo courts of the Naxalites where their disputes are resolved in a rough and ready, if not also crude and barbaric, manner. However, the outcome, the Planning Commission report points out, is generally in favour of the weaker party and meets the unmet demands of the tribal community.

 

The Planning Commission has singled out " land alienation, forced evictions from land, and displacement" as the most significant factor adding to the unrest.

 

The Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution provides statutory protection to the scheduled tribes from their land and natural resources being transferred to non- tribals. It applies to nine states with significant tribal population. Besides prohibiting the transfer of tribal land, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Fifth Schedule also provides for its restoration and gives the tribals presumptive right of ownership over their land and the minerals it might contain in case of a dispute with a non- tribal entity. This was in a landmark judgment known as the Samata judgment ( Samata vs. State of Andhra Pradesh and others).

 

Despite such constitutional protection the tribal people are losing their land through acquisition by mining interests supported by the state, disrupting their society and economy.

 

The report of the ministry of rural development finds that such problems are faced by tribals even in Chattisgarh and Jharkhand which were created as tribal majority states.

 

Their population in the fertile plains tracts has been decreasing as tribals are pushed out by non- tribal immigrants to the less fertile hilly tracts.

 

Displacement Despite the " legal presumption" of ownership of land and natural resources being in favour of the tribals, excepting Orissa, claims to have illegally transferred land restored are largely rejected by the courts in Andhra, Chattisgarh, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. Not only are land transfer decisions not in favour of the tribals, the case pendency is very high — ranging from 50 to 70 per cent.

 

It is not the passivity of the State but its active connivance which is responsible for this. In fact, the Andhra government as well as the Centre appealed to the Supreme Court to amend the Samata judgment and reinstate their power to lease tribal lands to private companies.

 

The plea was dismissed. The Centre then made attempts to amend the Fifth Schedule and the Andhra government to circumvent it but both attempts failed.

 

The Samata judgment was, however, watered down by the Supreme Court when privatisation of the public sector Bharat Aluminium Company ( BALCO) was sought through a 51 per cent sale to a private company, Sterlite. It ruled that the Samata judgment applied only in certain situations where the Fifth Schedule was not supported by executive instructions or state laws.

 

If one argues that the people being displaced by big industrial projects or mining activities should protest using Gandhian methods rather than turn to armed militants for help, then one must examine the fate of non- violent protests. The experience of peaceful protests has been dismal whether in the case of the displacements in the Narmada valley, in Kalinganagar and Kashipur in Orissa, in Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh in West Bengal, in Khammam in Orissa and in numerous places in Chattisgarh and Jharkhand.

 

It is estimated that although they are only about eight per cent of the country's population, tribals form 40 per cent of all people displaced by big projects. Whereas the State has failed them, the Planning Commission report notes that the Naxalites have helped the displaced tribals occupy government land for homestead and cultivation and reassert their traditional usufructory rights over forest land.

 

The Naxalites have clearly created a quasi- state within the State which addresses the problems of the tribal poor better. This situation has to be dealt with politically. The State must delegitimise the Naxalites by living up to its constitutional responsibilities instead of running with the hares and hunting with the hounds.

If the Naxalites have come to represent the demands of the tribals, addressing those demands effectively and quickly is the way to go. The Prime Minister is right to offer a dialogue to the Naxalites but this must be pursued seriously. The issues which give rise to Naxalism cannot be addressed through daily press statements. Action in favour of the tribals and protecting their rights has to be seen on the ground.

 

AMELIORATION

This is what the government's own experts are suggesting. " An ameliorative approach with emphasis on a negotiated solution helps to generate greater confidence of alienated people in governance. This approach is used the world over to tackle insurgencies democratically. It will cause the least amount of injury to people caught in the conflict," recommends the Planning Commission report.

 

But is anyone listening? This is not a war against an enemy.

 

In the fight against violent, undemocratic and unaccountable politics, non- violence, democracy and accountability must win. That was the basis on which India was founded and our future must be built on the same principles — even if we have to consume less mineral resources and forego a few mining leases.

 

If the government persists with the military action and the unfortunately termed " collateral damage" is high, this might turn out to be a war against its own citizens by the Indian State. We must not do what the Sinhalas did to the Sri Lankan Tamils — alienating them permanently in their bid to annihilate the extremists among them.

 

bharat. bhushan@ mailtoday. In

 

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MAIL TODAY

PATIALA PEG

PM'S VISIT EXPOSED UGLY FACE OF COPS

VIKAS KAHOL

 

THE POLICE in Chandigarh appear determined to absolve their men from blame for refusing a young patient entry into the hospital which the prime minister had been visiting a fortnight ago. The patient died before he could get medical assistance. The police smugly concluded that the driver of the car ferrying the patient was not familiar with the route and this was behind the incident.

 

Whatever be the findings of the police inquiry, the common man cannot digest the assertion that cops wouldn't have stopped the private vehicle from entering the hospital at that hour.

 

This reporter has had the experience of the police being completely apathetic to the concerns of common people. In an incident that took place about a decade ago, this reporter's former colleague, a photojournalist, actually captured some policemen on a " looting spree" after they had lathi- charged agitating teachers in Chandigarh. The policemen on duty ran away with fruits from a juice cart after they had forced the vendor to abandon it.

 

The attitudes remain similar even ten years later. A roadside icecream vendor — who was found overcharging customers — was probably justified when he said he did not have any other option. He earned about Rs 150 as commission over the total sales. The policemen would come on motorbikes and take away icecream cones without paying for them. " I would not survive if I do not overcharge customers," he explained.

 

The issues concerning the highhanded behaviour of policemen may appear trivial to those at the helm of affairs, but, they often cost poor people a large chunk of their earnings and sometimes more.

 

The policemen devise many ways to harass citizens.

 

An environmental ist launching an NGO required members' verification by the police. One of the members — who initially refused to oblige the police officer verifying his antecedents — found that the cops had mentioned a criminal case against his name. He finally had to " bribe" the policeman to report the truth that the case was withdrawn by the complainant.

 

Then there is the story about a dead man walking and five persons being punished for his " murder" in Punjab. The five served a life term in jail for killing a man who was living elsewhere with a new identity.

 

The Punjab Police had proved the case in the trial court 10 years ago. They did not care to listen to the families of those found guilty, who claimed that the " victim" was alive.

 

And what would you say about a Haryana cop who " connived" at an honour killing? He was assigned to provide protection to Manoj and Babli, the Kaithal couple who had married against the wishes of the girl's family. He allegedly provided information about the couple's whereabouts to the girl's family. The couple was eventually murdered.

 

MIGRATORY BIRDS FLOCK TO THE CITY

 

WINGED visitors are flocking to Chandigarh. The Sukhna Lake and about 200 adjoining wetlands have started buzzing with their presence. Forest officials estimate that nearly 3,000 migratory birds have already arrived and their number is expected to go up to 15,000 by January.

 

The Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden Ishwar Singh says that the birds come from Siberia, China, Afghanistan and the Himalayan region to escape the biting cold there. The species visiting the city include brahmi ducks, common pochards, red- crusted pochards, grebes, geese, shell ducks, marsh ducks, diving ducks, rails, coots, stilts, hill kingfisher, mallard, pintail, cormorants, Siberian ducks, cranes, storks and sandpipers.

 

The birds have made the city water bodies their winter home for over two decades now. The pleasant climate and sufficient fish and reptile population attract the winged beauties to Chandigarh. The birds start reaching this marvel of urban planning in early November and stay back till March or April.

 

The nearby Mahendra Chaudhary Zoological Park, commonly known as Chhatbir zoo, is also a host to several migratory creatures. There is a complete ban on poaching and playing loud music or bursting crackers in the vicinity of the areas where these birds build their nests. The forest officials have also been removing weeds and checking against any symptoms of infection or mortality among the birds.

 

CAMPAIGN FOR ROAD SAFETY

LIFE is precious and mustn't end in fatal road crashes — that is the message being sent out to the youth through a road safety campaign in Chandigarh. The kin of road accident victims — in addition to people from all walks of life — got together for making roads safe.

 

Remembering their kin lost to bloody road crashes on the World Day of Remembrance of Road Traffic Victims, on November 15, they pledged that they would continue the campaign to save lives.

Ramneek Kaur Sekhon, who lost her son Karam about three years ago, broke down as she recalled that she could never convince her son to follow road safety norms. Parents should ensure their children adopt responsible driving habits, she said.

 

A London based writer, artist and cartoonist Woodrow Phoenix — who authored Rumble Strip, an illustrative book on road safety — explained that persons behind the wheel can also help safe lives on roads. The campaign was launched by Arrive Safe — an NGO in Chandigarh managed by a road accident victim, Harman Singh Sidhu, who is paralysed following a spinal injury.

 

SCHOOL GIRL ON A MISSION  

A 12- year- old girl from Haryana — Ishita Uppal — is set to travel across India for sensitising people against female foeticide and infanticide.

 

Ishita would set out on her mission on November 19 — the birth anniversary of the late Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. Her journey would culminate in Mumbai on December 9.

 

A student of seventh standard at Panchkula's Little Flower Convent School, Ishita Uppal believes that girls must take upon themselves the challenge of creating awareness about the skewed sex ratio. She plans to meet President Pratibha Patil, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar for enacting tougher provisions to curb the violation of PNDT Act. During her tour she will also hold lectures in schools and interact with students on the issue.

Vikas.kahol@mailtoday.in

 

HOW can a village benefit from the wedding of one of the most eligible bachelors in Punjab? With the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal MLA Bikram Singh Majithia scheduled to wed a Delhi girl on November 25, a village cluster in the Seonk- Perch belt on Chandigarh's periphery witnesses an unprecedented development. The roads are being re- laid and PWD workers are busy filling earth on roadsides. " A bureaucrat's farmhouse will host the wedding reception.

 

Since VVIPs will be coming, roads should be better, arrangements proper," said an official. Majithia is the brother- in- law of Punjab Deputy CM, Sukhbir Singh Badal.

 

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MAIL TODAY

INTERACTIVE

HEALTHCARE IN INDIA NEEDS TOTAL OVERHAUL

 

THE HORRIFIC death of seven newborns in an Andhra Pradesh hospital in a single day underscores the abysmal state of healthcare in India. Reportedly, the negligence of the hospital staff was as responsible for this tragedy as the quality of the incubators itself.

 

What makes this dreadful incident even more deplorable is the serious breach in medical protocol — nurses were the only ones overseeing the babies in incubators in the neo- natal unit whereas post- graduate doctors are supposed to observe them. However they were absent because of a doctors' strike demanding a higher pay scale.

 

Such horrendous medical negligence is unimaginable in developed countries. But this is not the first time such an incident has happened in India, and despite that we do not seem to learn from it.

 

Despite frequent claims by our healthcare leaders and mushrooming private hospitals and nursing homes, the standard of medical practice in India has declined sharply in recent times.

 

There can be no argument that medical negligence is a social evil of the worst kind.

 

The best way to deal with medical negligence is to establish a transparent medical justice system and to give exemplary punishment to proven perpetrators. Unfortunately, the members of the medical profession in India are virtually " untouchable" for more reasons than one.

 

Doctors in India are not only wealthy and influential but they have also created a godlike status for themselves in the society.

 

The doctors and medical staff responsible for the death of these seven innocent newborns should be prosecuted in accordance with the law. More important, those doctors that are grossly negligent must receive just and adequate punishment from the medical regulatory authority.

 

The Supreme Court of India has categorically stated in the past that those in important public services like healthcare cannot go on strike. The fundamental right to strike by a small group of people in a specific profession cannot supersede the combined rights of thousands in the society. Will the Medical Council of India or the state medical council cancel the licenses of the striking doctors because of whom these defenseless newborns had to die? Unfortunately, the answer of this poignant question is known to all of us. A complete overhaul of the Indian medical system is essential in order to prevent similar ghastly incidence of medical disasters in the future.

Kunal Saha via email

 

SHIV SENA PLAN FALLS FLAT ON ITS FACE

SHIV Sena chief Bal Thackeray may have used Sachin Tendulkar's name to settle his personal score with nephew and MNS chief Raj Thackeray, but his ploy has failed miserably. As self- styled representatives of the Marathi Manoos, the Thackerays do not seem to be doing their homework judiciously all the time.

 

Maharashtrians idolise Tendulkar.

 

If they think someone is trying to sully their revered hero's reputation, their anger will be apparent soon, and the Sena will have to eat its own words.

Maybe Mumbaikars can start a campaign to say that they Thackerays do not represent Marathi Manoos anymore, thanks to their dirty and petty politics.

 

Manjula Pal via email

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

HIT WICKET

 

Bal Thackeray might live to regret his latest editorial in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece. By taking a swipe at Sachin Tendulkar for saying that Mumbai belongs to India, the Sena chief has grossly underestimated the cricket star's iconic status. Political parties across the board have been quick to condemn Thackeray for his editorial, which not only uses cricketing metaphors to suggest that Sachin has been "run out", but also issues a not-so-veiled threat to the star cricketer to stop him from batting against the Marathi manoos. Such utterances do not have a place in a democracy.


Thackeray and the Sena have been allowed to get away far too often with their nativist agenda. How many times have we seen them threaten people, including celebrities, for a perceived slight to Marathi pride. More often than not, Thackeray's targets have toed the Sena line out of fear. The Sena chief's latest diatribe - which he calls a "friendly" warning - against an Indian icon represents an opportunity for the Maharashtra government and mainstream political parties to unite and isolate Thackeray.


Thackeray statements need to be seen in the light of the Sena's struggle to hold on to its core constituency. Ever since Bal Thackeray's nephew Raj left the Shiv Sena to form a rival outfit, the Sena has been fast losing ground. In both the Lok Sabha and state assembly polls held earlier this year, Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has seriously dented the support base of its mother organisation. The MNS has done so by stridently championing Marathi chauvinism. Its latest tactic was the attack on an MLA inside the state assembly for taking the oath of office in Hindi. A marginalised Bal Thackeray has sought to hit back by taking on India's biggest living icon.


This game of competitive chauvinism cannot be allowed to go on. Both the Shiv Sena and MNS have struck at the very root of the idea of India and its federal character. Sachin had stated the obvious when he said that he was proud to be a Maharashtrian but he was an Indian first. For Thackeray to take umbrage at this statement shows the poverty of his politics and ideology. But then to go further and issue a warning to Sachin is clearly not on. Just as the Maharashtra assembly acted promptly to suspend the MNS legislators for taking the law into their own hands, it should also be made clear to Thackeray that he cannot write and say things that are against the Constitution and could incite violence. It's in India's interest that he be no-balled.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

MORE HOT AIR

 

It's turning out just as feared. The world's leaders will not sign a comprehensive, binding protocol when they meet next month in Copenhagen for the UN Climate Change conference, billed as COP15. And the reason why this has come to pass is pretty much why the Kyoto Protocol failed to deliver substantial benefits ^ the United States refuses to sign up. The Kyoto Protocol will expire but there will be no legally binding treaty in its place. US president Barack Obama said last week in Singapore that time has run out to secure a protocol in Copenhagen. All sorts of excuses for this failure are now being proffered, including concerns that preparatory talks have not been thorough enough.


Simply put, the so-called global consensus on climate change stands exposed. Countries, developing and developed, are nowhere close to seeing eye to eye. The world's biggest fuel guzzler and leading polluter - the US - has yet again put itself ahead of shared, global concerns. The contentious issues remain emissions caps and the funding and transfer of clean technology to developing countries. The US refuses to accept binding cuts. It cannot do so, Washington argues, until the US Senate passes a crucial climate legislation, which it is not in a position to do before COP15.


When he assumed office, Obama claimed he would reverse years of US inaction on climate change and that the US would lead the way in hammering out a deal in Copenhagen. His backtracking now gives the lie to those claims. The US Senate has not even begun debating the issue when the world has known for a while now about COP15 and its agenda. Clearly, Obama allowed domestic political considerations to overrule his promise of global leadership. Meanwhile, Brazil has pledged voluntary cuts of up to 42 per cent by 2010 and other developing countries are pulling their weight as well.


As he began his presidency, Obama sought to reclaim America's eminent position in world affairs. He began well - mending fences with countries the US had antagonised, and reaching out to the Muslim world. But on the climate change front, he has abandoned responsibility. In an attempt to salvage the talks, Danish prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen has suggested that countries adopt a political resolution in Copenhagen and later agree upon a binding framework in 2010. How much that will help is questionable. After all, what are the guarantees that the US will not stall progress in the future as well?

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

LIFT THE VEIL OF SECRECY

 

Rarely has the judiciary grabbed headlines as in the recent past. And that too for mostly the wrong reasons. The 'voluntary' declaration of wealth by Supreme Court judges comes after a contentious debate over whether the judiciary should be treated on a par with other public officials. The matter is not a closed chapter by any means. A court-room battle is still being fought over whether the Right to Information Act applies to judges with the somewhat absurd situation of the Supreme Court contesting a high court ruling.


The declaration of wealth also comes in the wake of several corruption scandals, many of which are yet to be resolved. The list is long but some of them stand out: A retired chief justice of India was accused, possibly for the first time, of favouring relatives; the current CJI recommended the removal of a sitting judge of Calcutta high court for corruption; and in the Ghaziabad provident fund (PF) scam, 37 judges, including a sitting Supreme Court judge, have been accused of siphoning off money from the PF kitty of court employees. To top it all, the controversy over the proposed elevation of Karnataka chief justice P D Dinakaran - against whom there are allegations of land grabbing - to the Supreme Court continues to linger.


The intense public scrutiny of the higher courts is a critical moment in the history of the Indian judiciary. Indeed, an eminent jurist has gone so far as to say that this might be the biggest crisis for the judiciary since the Emergency. Worryingly, it could dent the high levels of trust that Indian citizens have traditionally reposed in the courts. In survey after survey, the judiciary has usually been ranked higher than other government institutions. In a 1996 nationwide survey, 46 per cent of the respondents said they had "high trust" in the judiciary compared to a measly 17 per cent for political parties. A more recent survey in 2004 found that the share of Indians willing to put their faith in the courts was 72 per cent, second only to the Election Commission.


There is, however, an upside to the poor publicity for the courts. It is rare in India for people to talk about judges and courts. For far too long, the judiciary has been somewhat of a closed book to the Indian public. While we've always given the judiciary high marks, there is precious little that we know about the men and women in black robes. This is in sharp contrast to the situation in democracies such as the US. During the confirmation of US supreme court judge Sonia Sotomayor earlier this year, everything from her love of Nancy Drew books to her moves on the dance floor was minutely dissected. There is good reason why Supreme Court nominees are discussed in such detail. US Supreme Court judges are political appointees for life, and the stakes are naturally very high.


This is of course not so in India where Supreme Court judges, or even chief justices, rarely stay long enough to stamp their authority or ideological preferences over a court that is much larger and more unwieldy than the nine-judge US supreme court. But if the appointment process has its faults in the US, in India it's as opaque as it can get. In this context, the fairly vigorous debate in the recent past on the method of selection of judges and for imposing greater accountability on the judiciary is welcome.


Over the years, several Supreme Court judgements have reiterated that a five-judge collegium headed by the CJI is responsible for appointment of apex court judges. There have, however, been suggestions that the selection process be made more transparent. The parliamentary standing committee that looked into the Judges (Inquiry) Bill, which was introduced in 2006 and has since lapsed, suggested that appointment of judges should be entrusted to a body wider than the present collegium with "representation both from the judiciary and the executive". The same committee suggested that investigation into impropriety by judges should be investigated not by the judiciary alone but by a more "broad-based committee" with representatives from the executive, Parliament and the Bar. The legislation will now be presented in a new avatar, the Judicial Accountability and Standard Bill, in the winter session of Parliament.


Declaration of wealth by judges has been an important part of the debate. There was an attempt earlier this year to introduce the Judges (Declaration of Assets and Liabilities) Bill in Parliament, which was rejected in the Rajya Sabha. The primary reason for the rejection was a clause in the Bill that said declaration of assets would be made privately to the chief justice and wouldn't be available to the public. The recent voluntary declaration of wealth by SC judges on the court website does not clear these misgivings. Since it's voluntary, judges are under no compulsion to declare their assets; neither can the details be called into question. It's worth noting that all US Supreme Court judges are required to declare their assets under the Ethics in Government Act, 1978.

An independent judiciary is essential for a democracy and the Indian Constitution does well to safeguard this independence. But this need not come at the expense of transparency and accountability. Otherwise our confidence in the judiciary could take a knock.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'I WISH WE HAD HAD A THIRD MEETING WITH THE PM'

 

Abdul Gani Bhat is former chairman of the Hurriyat Conference. Humra Quraishi spoke to him in the light of reports that the Union government has initiated talks with separatist groups from Jammu and Kashmir:



Has the situation in the Valley improved?

No. There is no change for the common man. My opinion is that metal detectors can't detect the anger and alienation of the Kashmiri people. No amount of weapons can defeat people's discontent.


In recent years Hurriyat leaders have met the Indian prime minister only twice. Is there any move to meet him in the coming weeks?

We are waiting. Intezaar ki ghariyaan khubsoorat hoti hain (the anticipation is always exciting). I wish we had had a third meeting with the PM. We are all for the dialogue process, we support the dialogue process. We would like to first meet the Indian PM and then the Pakistani PM.


How can the situation in the Valley be improved?

Paradise is lost not to Milton but to the people of Kashmir and now how do we regain the Paradise lost? I'm no politician, but, yes, i am an eyewitness and seek a settlement and want to call a spade a spade, and justice ought to be done. But before we talk of the crisis in the Valley, it is important to understand who exactly is a Kashmiri. Kashmiri is from the 'Naag' tribe and his serpentine qualities are such that he will neither bite nor trouble you if he is left alone. He is also bestowed with great adjustability to situations. Today, you have to take into consideration sentiments of Kashmiris and the dynamics sweeping across the world. We have to go beyond beaten tracks and yesterday's hostilities. Today, the only way out for India and Pakistan is to work on actual issues. Peace and dispute can't coexist and nuclear weaponisation in the subcontinent has added an alarming dimension.

How could we ease the situation?

Besides CBMs (confidence building measures) along the lines of self-government, no political hegemony, no masters and no surrogate, there has to be an amicable relationship between India and Pakistan. When i last met Pervez Musharraf sahib he told us about this 'reality' of that time: an Indian Muslim ruling Pakistan and a Pakistani Sikh ruling India! Also, borders are to be made porous and irrelevant and there has to be demilitarization of the region. Let there be free trade and free movement of people.


We have to focus attention on how to address the deepening alienation of the Kashmiri people and the political uncertainty hanging over Kashmir. Regarding demilitarisation, India can't withdraw its troops from Ladakh and Pakistan can't withdraw from the Gilgit areas but why can't troops be withdrawn from our towns and villages?

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

SUBVERSE

HOMAGE & HATRED

JUG SURAIYA 

 

In the countrywide chorus of homage that went up to felicitate Sachin Tendulkar on his triumphal completion of 20 years in the arena of international cricket, one sour note was struck: Shiv Sena's Bal Thackeray took the 'Master Blaster' to task for putting the nation above Maharashtra, and national honour above that of the Marathi manoos. It was a case of fanatics rushing in where angels fear to tread; the Sena chief was compelled to take up competitive cudgels on behalf of Marathi manoos, a real or imagined constituency increasingly encroached upon by the Sainik supremo's nephew, Raj Thackeray, and his MNS.

 

The politics of bigotry and cultural chauvinism were also evident in an unrelated but contemporaneous incident in which Shiv Sena goons defaced movie posters which showed Kareena Kapoor barebacked, which the Sainiks saw as an affront to 'Indian culture'. In very different ways, and to very different extents, these two cases - of Sachin and of Kareena  - reflect the Janus-face that increasingly profiles our polity: idolatrous homage and violent intolerance and a visceral hatred of anything and anyone perceived to threaten our fragile self-esteem.

 

Often, as in the case of Sachin, the object of homage and of intolerance is one and the same. M F Husain who for years was feted as an iconic genius who helped to internationalise Indian art was forced to go into exile by the forces of fanaticism because of his allegedly 'sacrilegious' depiction of Hindu deities. Sania Mirza, hailed as the great new supernova of Indian tennis, despite her very modest ranking globally, was with equally little reason vilified by a vocal minority for purportedly showing disrespect to the national tricolour (she had, unintentionally, seated herself above the flag).

 

True, in all these, and very many similar instances, it is a small group of thuggish bigots, of varying creeds and ideologies, who foster the climate of intolerance and hatred which increasingly is permeating Indian society. But the fact that little or nothing is done to stop such attacks, verbal and physical, and such exercises in vilification, and that their perpetrators get away scot-free, is by itself a damning indictment of the supposedly tolerant majority. Tolerance of wrong is not tolerance; it is complicity. It has been rightly said that for evil to succeed all that is required is for the good to do nothing.

 

Almost as though to compensate for the mean-minded hostility and the parochial intolerance that increasingly dominate our public life and discourse, we often go overboard on the other extreme and err on the side of a reverence bordering on fawning sycophancy, whether the object of adulation is a sportsperson, movie star, political leader (Indira Gandhi continues to be a case in point) or social or cultural celebrity.

 

Winston Churchill remarked that the 'Hun' (his disparaging term for Germans) was either at one's throat or at one's feet: a vicious adversary, or a worshipful devotee. Are we, as a people, becoming like that arch-imperialist's apocryphal 'Hun', who swings from one emotional extreme to the other? Moderation in emotional response is said to be the hallmark of maturity, while emotional polarity - between euphoria and despair, love and hate - is a sign of immature adolescence. Are we becoming a nation of emotionally and psychologically retarded adolescents, unable or unwilling, or both, to control our hopes and our fears, our over-the-top adoration and our equally unreasoning and unreasonable hostilities?

 

Sometimes homage and hatred are two sides of the same coin. And it's a coin gaining far too much currency among us, heads or tails.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

SOMETHNG TO LEARN

A BRIGHTER TOMORROW

Knowledge, education and employment; it is fascinating how these three are intertwined. Gaining knowledge has been a coveted aim in India. In ancient India, only a select few had the right to learn and learning was often in the form of memorising. Today, in 'modern' India, the emphasis is still on cramming information and not on applying knowledge. If India is to take its place as a global superpower we need to be a powerhouse of original ideas, skills and thought-provoking leadership. India should revamp its education system to engender the application of theory. It cannot be said that Indian path-breakers like Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Azim Premji and Lakshmi Mittal have excelled because of the education system. They excelled despite it. As a country with over a billion people, we should have lakhs of leading entrepreneurs, inventors and researchers, but we are held back by the lack of encouragement and uncertain reward for this kind of originality. Leadership and innovation, if not nurtured, will die a slow death.


Holistic evaluation in a populous country is difficult but this is not an excuse to avoid it. There is no one-size-fits-all prescription for holistic evaluation. The evaluating methodology has to be devised after a comprehensive study of the concerned institute. Percentage-based cut-offs and entrance tests that are quantitatively weighted make the job easier for the selectors but this is not necessarily a job well done. Though much is said about brain drain, little has been done to prevent it. Quality educational institutes need to be created so that bright students do not go abroad to study in the first place. Open recruiting practices should be the norm, so that the students who've already left can be enticed to come back home to promising careers. For a start, companies should have an active link on their websites to invite applications from fresh out of college foreign educated Indians. While no education system in the world is perfect, some countries are striving hard towards getting it absolutely right. In India, we often underestimate the value of holistic evaluation, preferring instead to box people in numbered categories that are considered tangible. But some of the greatest gifts we have are those of leadership, creativity and ideas and these cannot be quantified or sold in a bottle.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

GRAPH IN THE DINNER PLATE

 

India's wide experience with monsoon failure yields a formulaic response: draw down grain stocks to feed the poor, sell some of it in the open market to keep a lid on food prices, lower taxes on food imports, pay more for farm produce, and ensure availability of power for irrigation. Since the last drought, in 2002-03, the Centre is now better equipped to arrest the associated shrinkage in agricultural incomes and jobs through a nationwide employment dole.

 

The costs of a drought are well documented. The average drop in grain output in a drought year has been 11 per cent. The impact on the growth of the economy is, of course, progressively declining as agriculture's share in national income shrinks and the correlation with industrial output becomes looser. There is, however, no secular downtrend in the price impact. Food price inflation, already at 13.7 per cent, will accelerate next year as grain reserves are replenished at higher prices. Historically, food inflation has ratcheted up by 4 percentage points in every year after a drought. The continuing story in the inexorable rise of food prices is that population is growing faster than farm output. At an estimated 1.5 per cent, the annual rate of increase in population is ahead of the 1 per cent growth in grain production in 2008-09.

 

The prospects of a respite in food inflation appear dim. In 2008, grain prices joined the sharp spike in commodity prices the world over. Rice was quoting at twice its price a year ago, and wheat 50 per cent more. These levels have not been witnessed since the 1970s. The drastic falls in most of the speculation-driven commodities — for instance, oil — after the financial bubble burst in September 2008 did not carry over to grain prices, which were in actual short supply. Although India did not import these wild fluctuations, the government on its part added to the inflationary process by hiking the procurement price for all crops by 30 per cent. The government's approach to drought has been that of crisis management, not mitigation. This mindset, and the accompanying resource allocations, must change. The alternative is to invest in a second Green Revolution that combines technology upgrades, a shift towards more expensive but drought-resistant seeds, and rehabilitation of water delivery systems.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

SPELLING IT OUT

 

The last time there was nervousness surrounding the name of an American president or presidential candidate was when Bob Dole was running against Bill Clinton for the White House top job. The Arab world went into a tizzy not because it had something ideological against the 1996 Democrat presidential candidate, but because 'Dole' sounded like the Arabic word for penis. So when Mr Clinton did win the presidency, much more than the Beach Boys-loving 'did not inhale' liberals, Arabs breathed a sigh of relief. After all, who wants to read a headline: 'Penis new US president'? This time, the rustle over how to spell Barack Obama's name in Mandarin is, therefore, small print stuff. As Mr Obama hit the Chinese road on Monday, some mandarins were scratching their metaphorical goatees about how to spell his name. Is it 'Aobama', as the Han would have it? Or should it be 'Oubama', the way US officials want it to be?

 

Coming from the land that made us change Mao Tse-Tung to Mao Zedong and Peking to Beijing — not to mention Tibet to Tibetan Autonomous Region — one should have thought that more important matters related to US-China ties would grab attention than spelling a Kenyan name. But the politics of names do matter. If the Americans want to spell their president's name in Mandarin in a certain way, it should be their prerogative. Just as the Chinese way of having the surname before the name — Mr Wen, not Mr Jiabao — should be respected.

 

Thankfully, we Indians with our Babel-speak give names a wide berth. It really doesn't matter whether we're writing 'Cheen' for China and 'Umrika' for America in, say, Devnagari. Frankly, we know that whatever way we spell Manmohan Singh, he'll still be the mild-mannered gent in a blue pagdi. Or is it pugree?The last time there was nervousness surrounding the name of an American president or presidential candidate was when Bob Dole was running against Bill Clinton for the White House top job. The Arab world went into a tizzy not because it had something ideological against the 1996 Democrat presidential candidate, but because 'Dole' sounded like the Arabic word for penis. So when Mr Clinton did win the presidency, much more than the Beach Boys-loving 'did not inhale' liberals, Arabs breathed a sigh of relief. After all, who wants to read a headline: 'Penis new US president'? This time, the rustle over how to spell Barack Obama's name in Mandarin is, therefore, small print stuff. As Mr Obama hit the Chinese road on Monday, some mandarins were scratching their metaphorical goatees about how to spell his name. Is it 'Aobama', as the Han would have it? Or should it be 'Oubama', the way US officials want it to be?

 

Coming from the land that made us change Mao Tse-Tung to Mao Zedong and Peking to Beijing — not to mention Tibet to Tibetan Autonomous Region — one should have thought that more important matters related to US-China ties would grab attention than spelling a Kenyan name. But the politics of names do matter. If the Americans want to spell their president's name in Mandarin in a certain way, it should be their prerogative. Just as the Chinese way of having the surname before the name — Mr Wen, not Mr Jiabao — should be respected.

 

Thankfully, we Indians with our Babel-speak give names a wide berth. It really doesn't matter whether we're writing 'Cheen' for China and 'Umrika' for America in, say, Devnagari. Frankly, we know that whatever way we spell Manmohan Singh, he'll still be the mild-mannered gent in a blue pagdi. Or is it pugree?

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

APOCALYPSE NOT NOW

 

In a few weeks, the world meets in Copenhagen at the most important climate change conference in history. The task is not simple however clear. We need a global climate agreement that is ambitious and equitable and that sets firm targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Ambitious, because we need to ensure that the temperature on our planet does not reach dangerous levels, which would result in catastrophic climate change and endanger future generations. Equitable, because any agreement must enable developing countries to grow and lift their populations out of poverty.

 

Some people say that in these times of financial crisis, the world cannot afford to address the issue of climate change. I would beg to differ. The world cannot afford not to address the issue and it could be a way out of the crisis. Denmark's green corporate world sets a good example. The latest figures from 2008 show that Danish export of energy technology rose by 19 per cent. This is approximately four times the corresponding number for ordinary export. This shows that it pays for the corporate world to go green — both now and in the future.

 

It goes without saying that developing countries have a right to develop their economies. But in 2050, we will be nine billion people on planet Earth and eight billion of these will live in what we today refer to as developing countries. They must, of course, have access to the same resources as in the developed countries. But we are forced to find a better way to make use of our resources. We cannot continue polluting our planet and overusing fossil fuels the way we do today. That is simply not viable, scientists tell us. And in the same breath they tell us that now is the time to act; because if we don't do something today, it will become increasingly expensive to carry out the necessary measures in the future. In short: the cost of delaying action against climate change will only keep rising the longer we wait. Business as usual is not an option. The only growth we can afford is green growth.

 

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not only something that has to do with our climate and saving future generations. It is evident that it also has to do with energy security and foreign policy. Depending on foreign oil and gas is simply not a solution for the 21st century. Not in the developed world, not in the developing world. We need to find an answer that will spur the development of cleaner energy to rid ourselves of our dependency on foreign energy resources.

 

India has shown willingness to lead and to be part of the solution. Ambitious national targets on solar energy and energy efficiency have already been announced. India also successfully organised a conference on climate change technologies last month in New Delhi that provided important input to the international negotiations and paved the way for an agreement on technology in Copenhagen.

 

It is no secret that there are marked differences between developed and developing countries. But it is time to move from controversy to compromise. In the last march towards reaching an agreement in Copenhagen, we all have to appreciate the stride of others; we all must give and take; and we all have to come to Copenhagen with flexible mandates so that we can seal the deal the world needs.

 

Not every aspect of the challenge of climate change will be overcome once and for all in Copenhagen. But if everything works out, the conference could go down in history as the moment where the leaders of the world united and took a significant step towards stopping dangerous and destructive climatic changes enabling growth and prosperity for all. What we, in effect, have is a golden, green opportunity, which we shouldn't allow to turn to dust.

Connie Hedegaard is the Minister for Climate and Energy, DenmarkThe views expressed by the author are personalIn a few weeks, the world meets in Copenhagen at the most important climate change conference in history. The task is not simple however clear. We need a global climate agreement that is ambitious and equitable and that sets firm targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Ambitious, because we need to ensure that the temperature on our planet does not reach dangerous levels, which would result in catastrophic climate change and endanger future generations. Equitable, because any agreement must enable developing countries to grow and lift their populations out of poverty.

 

Some people say that in these times of financial crisis, the world cannot afford to address the issue of climate change. I would beg to differ. The world cannot afford not to address the issue and it could be a way out of the crisis. Denmark's green corporate world sets a good example. The latest figures from 2008 show that Danish export of energy technology rose by 19 per cent. This is approximately four times the corresponding number for ordinary export. This shows that it pays for the corporate world to go green — both now and in the future.

 

It goes without saying that developing countries have a right to develop their economies. But in 2050, we will be nine billion people on planet Earth and eight billion of these will live in what we today refer to as developing countries. They must, of course, have access to the same resources as in the developed countries. But we are forced to find a better way to make use of our resources. We cannot continue polluting our planet and overusing fossil fuels the way we do today. That is simply not viable, scientists tell us. And in the same breath they tell us that now is the time to act; because if we don't do something today, it will become increasingly expensive to carry out the necessary measures in the future. In short: the cost of delaying action against climate change will only keep rising the longer we wait. Business as usual is not an option. The only growth we can afford is green growth.

 

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is not only something that has to do with our climate and saving future generations. It is evident that it also has to do with energy security and foreign policy. Depending on foreign oil and gas is simply not a solution for the 21st century. Not in the developed world, not in the developing world. We need to find an answer that will spur the development of cleaner energy to rid ourselves of our dependency on foreign energy resources.

 

India has shown willingness to lead and to be part of the solution. Ambitious national targets on solar energy and energy efficiency have already been announced. India also successfully organised a conference on climate change technologies last month in New Delhi that provided important input to the international negotiations and paved the way for an agreement on technology in Copenhagen.

 

It is no secret that there are marked differences between developed and developing countries. But it is time to move from controversy to compromise. In the last march towards reaching an agreement in Copenhagen, we all have to appreciate the stride of others; we all must give and take; and we all have to come to Copenhagen with flexible mandates so that we can seal the deal the world needs.

 

Not every aspect of the challenge of climate change will be overcome once and for all in Copenhagen. But if everything works out, the conference could go down in history as the moment where the leaders of the world united and took a significant step towards stopping dangerous and destructive climatic changes enabling growth and prosperity for all. What we, in effect, have is a golden, green opportunity, which we shouldn't allow to turn to dust.

 

Connie Hedegaard is the Minister for Climate and Energy, DenmarkThe views expressed by the author are personal.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

CONNECTION ERRORS

RAJEEV CHANDRASEKHAR

 

For a country that has pretensions to economic superpowerdom, and more specifically, that has an economic strategy that significantly depends on foreign investment flows, the inability or reluctance of the Department of Telecom/Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (DoT/TRAI) to handle a simple process of awarding telecom licences transparently should worry all of us.

 

The protagonists in this tragicomedy — DoT and TRAI — have by now developed a perfect track record of 'doublespeak'. Phrases like consumer benefit, common man and competition when emanating from them take on an ominous hue. It's not the first time that the TRAI and DoT (seemingly acting in concert — when the opposite should be true) have used the common man and his benefit to roll out scams.

 

Take the recent initiative by the TRAI. On October 16 it initiated public consultation to 'facilitate easier consolidation and M&As (mergers and acquisitions) in the telecom sector'. In fact, the language in the consultation paper already points to a decision of allowing M&As across the board in telecom, and the questions are framed to extract responses that'll facilitate a decision favouring M&As and, therefore, reduce the number of telecom operators.

 

This would seem harmless enough, except that this move by the TRAI is in sharp contrast to everything that the DoT has said over the last two years while defending itself against allocation of spectrum at 2001 prices in January 2008. The telecom minister is defending his decision by saying it will introduce competition and lower prices, an important public policy objective given widespread evidence of cartelisation among existing operators. In fact, in response to one of my questions, he wrote to me, "viewing the present teledensity of 25 per cent, there are ample opportunities available to new telecom licensees". In multiple press releases, the DoT has justified the decision using a TRAI guideline as a prop.

 

The DoT-TRAI tandem has worked before as well. For instance, in the infamous Wireless in Local Loop (WLL) scam that morphed into the current first-come, first-serve telecom policy of 2004, the international long-distance grey market fiasco and the recent spectrum giveaways. Given the losses that the exchequer has suffered, it's surprising that there was no investigation into the conduct of the DoT and TRAI.

 

It seems the combination continues to work even now. This is how I predict things will play out if we leave them to DoT-TRAI.

 

A set of companies gets spectrum and telecom licences at Rs 1,600 crore apiece. The market value for this spectrum is much more — Rs 4,000-9,000 crore — depending on the market transactions of Unitech, Swan, and Datacom and the reserve price for 3G licences).

 

The DoT requires a lock-in period before the licences can be sold and holds these companies to their network rollout obligations. But the TRAI has come out with a consultation paper to do away with the restriction on sale of licences to allow 'consolidation and M&As'.

 

That leaves all the new licensees in an interesting situation — they have licences worth far more than what they paid for and there's no need to roll out or invest further. They can sell their licences to make a lot of money for doing nothing. Where does that leave the government and people for whom these new licences represented affordability and competition? Basically nowhere. The government loses money from spectrum and the people see the market going back to the same structure as before.

 

That's the scenario if the TRAI continues down the path it has signaled in its October paper.  However, if it is serious about remaining consistent with the objectives of increased competition and consumer benefit this is what it should be doing.

 

Make sure that no part of its recommendations impacts adversely the basic principle of consumer benefit. The regulator's role is not to maximise investor returns. The TRAI must intervene in cases of cartelisation and not rely on forbearance as an excuse to abrogate its role in tariff reduction.

 

It must ensure that consolidation, if permitted, still leave 9-10 operators in each market. Given the size of the Indian market--800 million-1 billion by 2015--each of the 10 operators will have scale of almost 100 million, making them among the largest players in the world.

 

If any of the new licensees sell their licences, profits on the sale must be taxed at a special rate — a kind of windfall tax. Since these licences were obtained cheaply and without auctions for spectrum in the name of consumer interest, if the operator exits without rolling out a network it is only appropriate that the profits accruing should be to the account of the government as well.

 

Rajeev Chandrasekhar is a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha

 

The views expressed by the author are personal.

  

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OF STYLE AND SUBSTANCE

SHAHNAZ HUSAIN

 

Tomorrow is Indira Gandhi's 92nd birth anniversary. I was fortunate to have known her personally and look beyond her political image and persona. I met her for the first time at Teen Murti Bhavan, when my father, Chief Justice N.U. Beg, and I were Pandit Nehru's houseguests. The beautiful sight of Indiraji in a striking white sari with an orange border is unforgettable.

 

Over the years, I saw her off and on. She had formally agreed to be the chief guest at my daughter's wedding. But a call from Willingdon Crescent informed us that she might not be able to make it. Fortunately, a flaw in Indiraji's arrest orders in 1975 made for her sudden and electrifying arrival. Though out of power, she seemed secure and confident.

 

Indiraji, in a maroon silk sari with a gold border, was elegance personified. She had an immaculate dressing sense and favoured traditional handlooms and silks, with beautiful textures, vibrant contrasts and weaves.

 

I remember the times when I used to visit her place. Once, she had remarked, "What a beautiful green you are wearing." Gandhi had an innate sense of colour and seemed to instinctively feel colours. At a get-together, she gave me one look and remarked, "This is the third colour you have in the same style!" I was amazed at her razor-sharp memory and keen observation.

 

On another occasion, I asked her to write the preface of my book. She saw me waiting in the crowd and asked, "Why are you standing here? Why didn't you come to the house?"

 

"Every time I come, they check me. I think I look suspicious," I had replied. She smiled: "Well, I think you look different! Come with me to the house and I'll put your name under the glass on my table. Whenever you come, ask them to look there."

 

Once I received a note from Indiraji saying, "Can I have that pink sunblock cream that I use? I have either misplaced it or you had forgotten to give it to me. I am leaving for electioneering in the South." I promptly sent her Shabase, our sandalwood protective cream. It became her favourite. She told me that it was a great boon in the sun during her tough election campaigns. When I told her that what I had created for her had become an international hot-seller, she laughed and remarked, "Then you owe me royalty!"

 

Indira Gandhi had the rare quality of displaying care, concern and humour while thinking about important national and international issues. Once, she suddenly asked me, "How is your throat? What did the doctors in Bombay say?" I was surprised that she remembered all details about my health. I told her that the doctor had advised me to go abroad for a check-up and also to stop talking. She smiled wryly and said, "I doubt if you can manage that!"

 

Much has been written about Indiraji's political stature and service for her country. But the warm, sensitive, considerate and stylish compassionate Indira Gandhi was known only to a few. I am fortunate to be one of them.

 

Shahnaz Husain is CEO,  Shahnaz Herbals Inc.

 

The views expressed by the author are personal.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

RATE YOUR DEPARTMENT

 

This government entered office with fine-sounding plans about transparent, outcome-bound governance. Besides a bunch of accountability initiatives, we were promised quarterly progress cards for all the big Bharat Nirman programmes, and yearly reports on education, health, employment, environment and infrastructure. The prime minister put his own office directly in charge of delivery monitoring. And now, there appears to be some movement on that front, as the government asks all ministries to carve their own "results framework" — a customised "vision and mission document", differently-weighted priorities and finally, a five-point scale to measure their own work. These reports will be periodically evaluated by a Committee on Government Performance.

 

It is unclear how the Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Function (PMES) will pan out. But despite all the talk of "outcomes, not outlays", the outcomes budget (meant to shake up ministries and make sure that spending was not staggered towards the last quarter of the year) was recently criticised for its blunt tools. Appraisals, we know, work in concept by sharpening goals, breaking down work into small, measurable units and holding up actual functioning to this standard. In practice, they often offer fantasies of control. If no straight thing was ever made out of the crooked timber of humanity, imagine how much more twisted things get when we're talking about the timber of bureaucracy. Extracting clean, usable numbers from internal assessments is a comforting thought for central planners, but we mustn't be lulled into imagining that measurement is management.

 

India desperately needs more responsive, results-oriented governance. This PMES could well be a spur and a goad, it could discipline departments and make them redouble their efforts. At the least, it offers us a report card that ministries can be held to. But making it more than a perfunctory ritual would involve tilting the very fundamentals of governance-as-usual. And without that shift, it risks sounding like standard Yes Minister farce, piling on administrative encumbrances in the name of streamlining administration.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

BEYOND DENIAL

 

Now that the opposition is seeing the ruling Left Front in West Bengal eye-to-eye — in fact, brow-beating it — nobody needs to underscore the changed political equation in the state. The electoral rout of the Left was coming; but its, particularly the CPM's, denial hid that inevitability from its eyes. For long the very picture of internal cohesion, the Left Front's internal contradictions and criticism of its own government are now embarrassingly in the public domain. Its loss of purpose is of concern since it is in government and has been so for 32 years. A government that has lost its reason for being, even if it has almost two years of its tenure left, is no government and should go.

 

It is in everybody's interest to have early assembly polls in Bengal since Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's own ministers and allies are publicly criticising the government, some of them calling for a fresh mandate, many more certain that the Left has little chance of returning to power in 2011. After the fisheries minister and the PWD minister — both veterans and advocates of Bhattacharjee's resignation and fresh polls — now, Land and Land Reforms Minister Abdur Rezak Mollah has

 

remarked that the CPM has become "stale" and that Mamata Banerjee is certain to take over in 2011. The fact that Mollah, associated with the Vedic Village controversy and hardly the conscience of the party, can call the CPM to account highlights the depth of its crisis. Allies like the CPI, on the other hand, while not favouring early polls, want the CPM to take the lion's share of the blame for the Left's rout.

 

If the hitherto all-powerful CPM in Bengal were to ask itself why it was taken by surprise when it was suddenly overrun on all sides, it would have to sincerely introspect. However, more than the Left's

 

crisis, what is of grave concern is the paralysis of the government. The absence of decisive governance and the state's precarious security situation are inconveniencing and endangering residents. Notwithstanding the disproportionate focus on Bhattacharjee's own political failings, the Left's real problem is the disintegration of the system it has used to enjoy power in Bengal. Its internal dissension today exposes the passing of its government's day.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

EXIT ROUTES FROM COPENHAGEN

MK VENU

 

Sometime ago we asked if Barack Obama was black or white. Now we are wondering how green he is, going by the way the US establishment has already given up on a legally binding global agreement on climate change at Copenhagen. However, the American president needs to be complimented for eschewing hypocrisy and stating upfront that nations are not yet ready for a single binding treaty instrument which seeks to adopt important features of the Kyoto Protocol while ensuring a differentiated treatment to developing economies like India and China for the emission cuts they might undertake. Plainly put, in all negotiations so far, no breakthrough could be reached on how the developed world would commit adequate compensation to economies like India and China for legally committing reduction in carbon emissions going forward.

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh clearly spelt out last week at the India Economic Summit that a reasonable agreement would be possible only if the developed nations committed themselves to adequate capital and technology transfer to facilitate emission reduction by the developing world. It seems the United States, partly for its own selfish reasons, recognised the logic of this proposition. In recent weeks, it was perceived that India was getting pressured by an unduly

 

climate-change proactive Obama administration. Those fears must now stand somewhat mitigated.

 

On the contrary, by putting off a final binding agreement at Copenhagen, Obama has possibly ensured that some of the key principles of the Kyoto Protocol, which were reinforced in the Bali Action Plan, could get a fresh lease of life. In the current negotiations, the emerging economies were apprehensive that a single internationally binding instrument at Copenhagen might have diluted some of the critical elements of the Kyoto Protocol which mandated differentiated responsibility for the developed and developing worlds aimed at giving adequate carbon space for the latter.

 

In some ways, Obama has ensured that economies like China and India may get more carbon space even as they autonomously lay down their own nationally appropriate carbon development path. Other climate sensitive nations like Australia too have recently proposed that mitigation commitments and actions must be determined by national circumstances. So there can be a "spectrum of efforts", they have said. Spectrum of efforts is another term for differentiated responsibilities undertaken by nations as per their development imperatives.

 

The latest pronouncements by the US may also have been motivated by other critical factors which affect the global economy and politics at the current juncture. History tells us that it is well nigh impossible to reach a consensus on such issues when the world is in deep economic distress. There is no knowing how many years the US, the EU and Japan will take to recover fully from the current recession. Unemployment and mortgage defaults are expected to peak in the US in the middle of 2010. Obama is well aware of the tough times ahead for the US economy as well as its polity as he grapples with massive commitments on healthcare funding for American citizens. In the middle of such a domestic crisis, Obama may not want to get trapped by the highly contentious issue of climate change, especially when he needs cooperation of the fast-growing emerging economies like China to help in a global recovery.

 

Seen in a medium-term (three to five years) perspective, America actually wants emerging economies to consume more at this stage and drive massive domestic production and consumption to bail out the world economy. This does not exactly square with the objective of a global agreement on carbon reduction which effectively means somewhat altering the current consumption patterns. There lies the big contradiction.

The whole effort of the US-led fiscal and monetary stimulus is to revive consumption in a big way across the world. The US is constantly imploring China to push domestically driven growth by revaluing its currency. China has responded by creating the biggest ever bank-credit-driven infrastructure investments in its recent

 

history. Now the obvious question to ask is how such massive construction activity over the next few years will square with a carbon reduction commitment at Copenhagen!

 

The new G-20 framework is also riddled with the same contradiction. The effort by G-20 is to help create massive consumption globally, even as it talks about dovetailing climate change issues within the overall agenda. In America, the massive fiscal stimulus is largely going towards reviving the same carbon-spewing industries like automobiles, etc. So there is no motivation, at least in the medium term, for America to push for a climate change agreement. Obama's attempt to put off an internationally binding agreement must be seen in this context.

 

The developed world, given its own economic woes, is also not in a position today to put in place credible efforts, especially in terms of funding, to support technology transfers to the developing economies. This could be another reason why the US wants to put off an internationally binding agreement.

 

There could be other political/ strategic motivations for the US to avoid a global agreement at this stage. It may feel more comfortable dealing with China and India, the two biggest aggregate polluters of the future, on a bilateral basis. After all, China and India cannot escape autonomous efforts at creating a green economy in the future. According to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, low carbon energy and infrastructure production would generate $33 trillion worth of investment by 2030. America may want to grab a lion's share of this on a bilateral basis. Never underestimate the mercantile instincts of the Americans!

 

M. K. Venu is Managing Editor of The Financial Express

mk.venu@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

ON THE HOUSE

M R MADHAVAN

 

Parliament meets on Thursday for the Winter Session. The government has moved forward on several issues listed in its 100-day agenda. Expectations on legislative action are high in two fields: judicial reforms and higher education.

 

There are three broad areas of concern related to the judiciary. First, the slow speed of justice delivery has been seen as a significant issue by several law ministers, chief justices and law commissions. Second, the process of appointment of judges to high courts and the Supreme Court has come under focus after the allegations related to Justice Dinakaran. Third, allegations of improper behaviour by judges of some high courts have revived the issue of accountability of judges. All these concerns have to be balanced by the need to ensure the independence of the judiciary.

 

The law minister has unveiled a vision document to reduce backlog of cases. Much of the focus is on attacking the bottlenecks and using modern management and information systems. The document also looks at the various types of cases such as matrimonial and dowry cases, bouncing cheques, etc, and indicates that steps will be taken to address these. It proposes to recruit retired judges and experienced lawyers on short contracts as ad-hoc judges in order to clear the backlog. The law minister has also indicated that commercial courts will be established to focus on high-value commercial disputes, many of which are now decided by high courts. Some of these initiatives need legislative approval.

 

The vision document also indicates that there is 23 per cent vacancy in the Supreme Court, 26 per cent in high courts and

 

18 per cent in the lower judiciary. The Constitution states that judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the president in consultation with the Chief Justice of India. Following two seminal judgements in 1982 and 1993, the Supreme Court ruled that judges shall be selected by a collegium comprising the CJI and the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court. Any change in this system shall require a constitutional amendment, which also needs to be ratified by half of all state legislatures. Though the lack of transparency and slow speed of the collegium system have been seen as problematic issues, the law minister has not indicated a clear plan to make any amendments.

 

The last Lok Sabha witnessed an attempt to change the system of accountability of judges. The Judges Inquiry Bill 2006 proposed a system of complaints by citizens against judges in addition to the current system of a motion in Parliament for removal of judges. It also proposed to codify minor measures such as warnings, non-allocation of work to a judge and request for voluntary resignation. The bill has lapsed. In the last session of Parliament, the law minister wanted to introduce a bill requiring judges to disclose their assets and liabilities. That bill also prevented this information to be disclosed to the public. On opposition from MPs, he decided not to introduce the bill. Subsequently, Supreme Court and high court judges have decided to voluntarily declare their assets. The law minister has indicated that he will be introducing the judges standards and accountability bill. The details of this bill have not been made public.

 

On education, the HRD minister has moved fast on issues related to school education. The right to education legislation has been passed. The minister has announced major changes to the system of Class 10 board examinations. Reforming higher education could be next on the agenda.

 

Both the Yash Pal Committee and the National Knowledge Commission have recommended major reforms to improve access and quality of higher education. These include the establishment of a new regulator, as well as phasing out and restricting the role of several existing regulators. The HRD minister may introduce bills to address some of these structural issues.

 

A bill was circulated among MPs in 2007 which proposed to permit foreign universities to operate in India. However, the government heeded objections from the Left parties and did not introduce the bill. The minister has indicated that he intends to introduce a bill on this issue.

 

There is broad political consensus on the need to reform the judicial and education sectors. If the government uses this forthcoming session to initiate reforms in these sectors, it can take credit for a job well begun. And the remaining half will have to be done by Parliament through proper scrutiny and debate.

 

The writer works with PRS Legislative Research, New Delhi

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

MAKING A CASE FOR THE HUMANITIES

 

In the heady progressive years of the early 20th century, few things were more alluring than the promise of scientific knowledge. In a world struggling with rapid industrialisation, massive immigration, and chaotic urban growth, science and technology seemed to offer solutions to almost every problem.

 

Newly created state colleges and universities devoted themselves almost entirely to scientific, technological, and engineering fields. Many Americans came to believe that scientific certainty could solve not only scientific problems, but could also reform politics, government, and business. Two world wars and a Great Depression rocked the confidence of many people that scientific expertise alone could create a prosperous and ordered world. In the aftermath of World War II, the academic world turned with new enthusiasm to humanistic studies, which seemed to many scholars the best way to ensure the survival of democracy and to resist tyranny. American scholars fanned out across much of the world — with support from the Ford Foundation, the Fulbright program, and the US Information Agency — to promote the teaching of literature and the arts in an effort to make the case for democratic freedoms.

 

In the America of our own time, the great educational challenge has become an effort to strengthen the teaching of what is now know as the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math). There is considerable and justified concern that the United States is falling behind much of the rest of the developed world in these essential disciplines. India, China, Japan, and other regions seem to be seizing technological leadership.

 

At the same time, perhaps inevitably, the humanities — while still popular in elite colleges and universities-have experienced a significant decline. Humanistic disciplines are seriously underfunded, not just by the government and the foundations but by academic institutions themselves. Humanists are usually among the lowest-paid faculty members at most institutions and are often lightly regarded because they do not generate grant income and because they provide no obvious credentials for most nonacademic careers.

 

There is no doubt that American education should be training more scientists and engineers and should be teaching scientific literacy to everyone else. Much of the hand-wringing among politicians about the state of universities today is focussed on the absence of "real world" education — which to a large degree means preparation for professional and scientific careers. But the idea that institutions or their students must decide between humanities and science is false. Our society could not survive without scientific and technological knowledge. But we would be equally impoverished without humanistic knowledge as well. Science and technology teach us what we can do. Humanistic thinking can help us understand what we should do.

 

The humanities are not simply vehicles of aesthetic reward and intellectual inspiration, as valuable as those purposes are. Science and technology aspire to clean, clear answers to problems (as elusive as those answers might be). The humanities address ambiguity, doubt, and scepticism — essential underpinnings in a complex and diverse society and a turbulent world.

 

It is not surprising that many of our greatest scientists are also deeply committed to humanistic knowledge and values. Nor should it be surprising that many humanistic fields find scientific tools essential to their work. At my own university, all undergraduates must take a rigorous humanities core, but they are also required to develop scientific skills and literacy. Many liberal-arts institutions have developed similar curricular goals. Among academics, scientists and humanists not only coexist, but often collaborate. It is mostly in the politics of education that debates over the relative value of these different disciplines take place.

It is almost impossible to imagine our society without thinking of the extraordinary achievements of scientists and engineers in building our complicated world. But try to imagine our world as well without the remarkable works that have defined our culture and values. We have always needed, and we still need, both.

The writer is former provost, Columbia University

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

CROSSED WIRES

SARITHA RAI

 

For ever so long, India's call centres have been portrayed as glamorous workplaces where fashionable young men and women work crazy schedules and lead fast-paced lives. Their workers have been depicted as brash spenders and year-round revellers.

 

Now anthropologist-couple Purnima Mankekar and Akhil Gupta, both from the University of California, Los Angeles, say their joint research titled, Refashioning Selves, Reimagining Futures: Media and Mobility in Call Centers in Bangalore's back office companies shows how not-true these portrayals are.

 

For a study funded by the American Institute of Indian Studies and the Fulbright Program, Mankekar and Gupta have spent the best part of this year uncovering and understanding the lives of back office workers.

 

Call centres have become the symbol of India's relationship with the globalising world. Their workers are participants in the larger story of India's rise, and in the new energy of its recent economic status. But the rapid cultural changes wrought by these economic shifts as seen through the lives of call centre workers, have got very little attention.

 

The stereotypes from the industry's early days are very hard to shake off but the current reality is different, say researchers Mankekar and Gupta. The past years have changed the kind of workers that seek call centre employment. Lower middle-class men and women from cities and smaller urban towns form the bulk of the worker pool today.

 

Bangalore's call centres have grown rapidly in the past years. Their employees, mostly teenagers and twenty-somethings operating in American, British and Australian time-zones form the bulk of India's million-plus industry pool.

 

To understand the workers' lives and their interconnectedness with the world, the researchers surveyed and interviewed workers in three different call centres working with overseas customers. Their socio-economic backgrounds varied widely, as also the money they earned.

 

Contrary to the fun-loving, high-living image, many of the young workers shouldered the heavy burden of supporting their families or aged parents. Call centre agents who came from smaller towns to Bangalore for work usually sent home money. "Agents worked long hours and saved money to send back to families," says Mankekar, a professor of women's studies at UCLA.

 

Gupta and Mankekar found many employees slept a couple of hours a day. They worked very hard at their jobs at night and attended college in the day trying to build a life for themselves.

 

But stereotypes, a legacy from the early days, still flourished in society. "I found many women, very young women, supporting entire families in the face of societal suspicion and criticism of the kind of work they were doing. When would these women go to pubs and bars?" asked Mankekar.

 

Labels still dictated how society and neighbours viewed call centre workers. Many parents were happy with the money their sons and daughters brought home but were deeply ambivalent about the work. "Even for very supportive parents, having their daughters go out to work at night — the very negative symbolism of it — was very distressing," Mankekar said.

 

At another level, call centres have granted very dramatic social mobility to a section of young Indians, say the anthropologists. "The daughter of a bus conductor or the son of a plumber has made social mobility possible for their entire families because of his or her one job," says Gupta. These workers' status is dramatically different than that of their parents.

 

"It was not possible a few generations ago for poor families to overnight become middle-class families. Call centres have provided this opening," describes Gupta. Anyone can be a call centre worker without requiring specialised education. Further, these workers can rise from agent to manager level, a kind of factory floor-to-executive cabin climb that was unimaginable a generation ago.

 

India's call centres have been at the centre of the debate on the virtues and problems of globalisation. Because of the massive changes wrought on young lives and public culture, they will continue to be exciting sites for sociologists and anthropologists to study transformational changes.

 

saritha.rai@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE GREAT GAME FOLIO

C. RAJA MOHAN

 

 "China has promoted security and stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan". With that simple statement in his Asia policy speech in Tokyo last week, Obama has acknowledged Beijing as the newest power in the Great Game.

 

Beijing, of course, has not been waiting for Washington's permission to play a larger role in the Great Game.

As a weakened Washington struggles to recast its strategy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan, Beijing has already made itself indispensable.

 

Thanks to its decline in the 19th century, China was marginal to the Great Game between British India and Russia. In the middle of the 20th century, China, under Communist leadership, reasserted its territorial control over Xinjiang and Tibet and re-emerged in the Central Asian theatre. As Soviet Russia and America fought over Afghanistan in the final years of the Cold War, Beijing was tilted towards Washington, but was not the decisive player.

 

A different story has begun to unfold this decade. Besides its traditional 'all-weather' friendship with Pakistan, a rising China has steadily expanded its political engagement and economic presence in Afghanistan.

 

If and when the United States eventually withdraws from Afghanistan, China, in collaboration with Pakistan is bound to gain a decisive role in the region. Beijing, naturally, has not put all its eggs in the Pakistan basket. It has been reaching out to President Hamid Karzai and all the other major political factions and formations in Afghanistan.

 

Even if an exhausted America sticks around the north-western parts of the subcontinent, it will need a lot more cooperation from China in stabilising Afghanistan and Pakistan. Whatever might happen in Afghanistan there is not much that China can lose.

 

G-2 on Indo-Pak

The conduct of American foreign policy is far more organised and intellectually enriched than that of India. But there seems little institutional memory in Washington about events and controversies that occurred just a decade ago.

 

If there was a bit of recall, Obama's advisers might have avoided referring to India's ties with Pakistan in their joint statement. In June 1998, a few weeks after the Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests, President Bill Clinton issued a strong statement on South Asian nuclear proliferation in Beijing with his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin.

 

India, in response, went ballistic and denounced the talk of a Sino-US nuclear condominium over the subcontinent. Delhi is a lot less jittery these days and could well choose to ignore the references to India and Pakistan in the joint statement issued by Presidents Obama and Hu Jintao on Tuesday.

 

In the section on regional and global issues, Obama and Hu "welcomed all efforts conducive to peace, stability and development in South Asia". The two leaders went on to extend their support to "the efforts of Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight terrorism, maintain domestic stability and achieve sustainable economic and social development, and support the improvement and growth of relations between India and Pakistan".

 

What might make some people see red in Delhi is the final proposition on South Asia in the Obama-Hu joint statement. "The two sides are ready to strengthen communication, dialogue and cooperation on issues related to South Asia and work together to promote peace, stability and development in that region."

 

Delhi, of course, can't stop Washington and Beijing from discussing South Asia in their bilateral engagement. But Washington should be left in no doubt that bringing Beijing into the Indo-Pak equation is absolutely unacceptable to Delhi.

 

Police training

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lands in Washington at the end of this week as pressure mounts on Obama to complete the extended review of the US strategy in Afghanistan. Whatever the final decision might be, training the Afghan security forces and letting them take a larger responsibility role for the security of the nation is expected to be an important element of the new strategy.

 

One way India can be helpful to the United States is to offer a larger Indian commitment to the training mission in Afghanistan. Neither Delhi seeks nor does Washington want a larger Indian military role in Afghanistan. But there should be a lot of scope for India to assist Afghanistan in expanding and strengthening its police forces.

 

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

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE TAINT OF MONEY

 

In the light of the rebellion in the Karnataka BJP waged by the mining barons of Bellary, CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat talks about the larger issue of the invasion of business into the sphere of politics and the need for checking the trend, in the latest issue of party mouthpiece People's Democracy.

 

He says that representatives of big business houses, their liaison men and contractors are getting elected to legislatures and Parliament while business tycoons sit in parliamentary committees that decide on policies. What's more, there are ministers in the Union cabinet and state cabinets who are actual businessmen by profession.

 

"Politics as business and business through politics is becoming the norm. This assault on democracy needs to be checked. Money power cannot be allowed to subvert the democratic system. There have to be fresh norms and rules to be enforced," he says.

 

Karat also tries to score a political point over his rivals by referring to the "brazen nexus" between politics and big business that the BJP has forged in Karnataka, the increasing business interests of Jaganmohan Reddy in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and the support given to tainted former Chief Minister Madhu Koda by the Congress in Jharkhand.

 

Which Wall?

For the CPM, the euphoric celebrations that marked the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall was a ploy by the capitalist world to divert attention from the global financial crisis. The argument is that the celebrations will seek to obfuscate the anti-people manner (the bailout packages amounting to trillions of dollars given to those very institutions who have been the chief instruments leading to the present crisis) in which imperialism is seeking to emerge from the economic crisis.

 

The lead editorial in People's Democracy blames the US, France and Britain for keeping Berlin divided for decades. It also argues that history has been distorted by the West to project the Soviet Union and socialism as responsible for the division of Berlin. "Surely, sometime in the future, real history will be put back on its feet instead of standing on its head. However, the need to distort this history is important for imperialism in the current conjuncture where its impregnable Wall — Wall Street — has collapsed," it says.

 

Speak for yourself

With the Parliament's Winter Session beginning this week, the CPI has given signals that there could be no silent coordination within the Opposition to corner the government. The reasons — the issues to be raised by the Left and the BJP are different. While the CPI wants focus on price rise, pro-US tilt in the foreign policy and job losses due to recession, it feels the BJP was not ready to allow free and frank debate on such serious issues. Rather, CPI's mouthpiece New Age says, the BJP is focussing on emotive issues like the Vande Mataram controversy. While the unrest at the Indo-China border is very much on the BJP agenda, CPI feels a calculated anti-China campaign has been launched to divert attention from the government's surrender to imperialists on the foreign policy and climate change fronts.

 

Scotching aspirations

Why is the opposition — Left, middle and right — falling apart without a thud? According to an article in the New Age, it is because the leaderships of these parties have failed to understand the changes ushered in by the 21st century.

So what are these changes? The author feels the sudden awakening and rise of the middle class has consigned old values and politics to the back burner. It says thousands and thousands of young people, well equipped with their technical education, have got jobs in MNCs giving them an opportunities to fulfill their dreams.

 

The lifestyle of the middle class has changed — which could be gauged from the fact that the sale of luxury items reached new heights in the festive season despite recession, and holiday destinations were packed with tourists, it says. What the article forgot to mention is that it was the Left parties, which have all along been opposing the entry of the same MNCs into India. Besides, the Left have always opposed economic reforms, which in many ways have contributed to the rise of the middle class.

 

Compiled by Manoj C.G

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

YUAN, TWO, THREE...


It's difficult not to notice the asymmetry in the relationship between the US and China. And ironically enough, it is the lesser power that is in the dominant position. For all the talk about China's rise, it is, after all, way behind the US in terms of economic heft and military might. China's much-vaunted economy is just a third of the US economy. Sure, China is a country on the rise and the US is perhaps going through its deepest trough in decades, but one would have imagined that the US would have had more clout with China than it does. The short shrift given by the Chinese to Obama's proposal on exchange rate revaluation of the yuan—there was no mention of it in the Hu-Obama joint statement—is evidence of the balance of power. In fact, China managed to give the US an on-the-record rap on the knuckles for protectionism against Chinese goods. Actually, it's economics that dictates China's continued clout with the US. The erstwhile USSR, despite its military might, never had the economy to sustain it. Hence, the Soviet Union's meek surrender to the US in the end. But with China, the game is different. There is, of course, an economic balance of power—China won't pull the plug on the US for it stands to lose the most. But the chances of a quick adjustment to the huge China-US imbalance of trade, what many people believe is the key to addressing the problems that underlay the recent crisis, seems remote.

 

But let's not lose sight of one fact: the US has plenty of problems of its own to grapple with, more important than its deficit with China. There is still much to be done to reform the financial system that precipitated the crisis—cheap money from China can still be used productively. Obama is fast running out of his famous political goodwill and charm, and needs to show results before he loses the trust of the American people. Healthcare reform is his big test, but he has already risked failure because of outsourcing too much to Congress. On climate change, Obama seems to have climbed down for the time being. Most fundamentally, the US needs to arrive at a consensus on how it sees manufacturing in the coming years. It is unlikely to ever compete with China or other emerging economies by propping up struggling firms like GM. It isn't clear yet whether the US has made sufficient breakthroughs in cutting-edge green technologies, which may form the core of manufacturing in a decade or two. Perhaps now's the time for the US to also start looking within while negotiating with China.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THE POLICY ENVIRONMENT


The Prime Minster has summoned both his special envoy on climate change, Shyam Saran, and the environment & forests minister, Jairam Ramesh, to instruct them to put their heads together to formulate a 'joint statement' on India's approach to the Copenhagen climate change summit. Hitherto, the two gentlemen have sometimes spoken at odds with each other, which clearly cannot be in India's best interests. Even if commentators have written off the Copenhagen summit as dead—with the US and Chinese Presidents doing their bit to hasten this demise—the fight is far from over. Green deal-making is here to stay, and India's representatives must stay on top of them to deliver us the best possible arrangements. All around us, we see proactive leaders showing global communities how to adapt and mitigate the adverse impact of climate change, whether or not a global treaty is signed. An exemplary case in this regard is Brazil, which has become the first major developing country to voluntary commit (not a binding commitment) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 36% by 2020. This move is intended to break the negotiations deadlock, and we certainly welcome it.

 

Globally, governments have budgeted as much as $500 billion for green projects. Asia accounts for more than three-fifths of the total. Private capital is also pouring in. China has dedicated around one-third of its overall fiscal stimulus to projects such as wind, solar, hydropower and clean-coal technologies that will help the country achieve its target of increasing the share of renewable energy to 10% by 2010. India has also taken the lead in trying to arrive at a cost-effective, environment-friendly vehicle. The government must provide encouragement in the shape of higher rebates for such cars and incentivise green technology use by the industry. Meanwhile, India is involved in various green initiatives at individual, government and corporate levels. It aims at energy-efficiency targets for at least 700 industrial operations as a step towards a national trading system centered on energy-efficiency certificates. It will enforce energy efficiency for appliances, lighting, power distribution transformers and set mandatory fuel-efficiency standards for the transport sector by 2012. India has also facilitated Rs 95-crore green investment. We also have reason to cheer because the international environment NGO, Greenpeace, has ranked Manmohan Singh fourth in a global ranking of heads of government, based on their positions in the global warming debate. At 53/100 points, Singh is six points and one rank behind Chinese President Hu Jintao. Leaders of all the major developing countries—India, China, Brazil and South Africa—fared far better than their counterparts from industrialised countries.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

COMPETITION COMMISSION & CAPITALISM

DHIRAJ NAYYAR


Good regulation, independent of both government and industry, is a crucial institutional requirement of an efficient capitalist economy. India only began its tryst with independent regulation as recent as in the 1990s after we moved decisively towards a market economy. Still, our experience with regulatory institutions has been rather good.

 

Of course, there has been little clash between regulators because their domains are so clearly defined and different. But there was bound to come a time when there would be an overlapping of domains. And as reported by FE on Monday, it seems that the just-about-functional competition commission of India (CCI) has become the first regulator to run into a problem of turf with other sectoral regulators—with RBI on banks and with Trai on telecom. The government is reportedly considering a plan to clip the CCI's wings and restrain it from intervention in domains that are overseen by sectoral regulators. That would be unfortunate, because the CCI, if it is to be effective, must have jurisdication across all sectors.

 

The key function of any competition commission is to ensure that firms do not abuse their power either by themselves or in collusion—consumers should always get a competitive price, sufficient quantity and high quality of goods & services; other competitor firms should not be driven out of the market by unfair practices like predatory pricing. The CCI's mandate should be no different.

 

The challenge in India for a competition authority is tougher than in advanced capitalist economies simply because there are still many policy induced restrictions on competition, which is not the same as firms abusing market power themselves. And that is the root cause of the reported differences between RBI and CCI.

 

The CCI thinks that RBI policies discriminate against private banks and are in favour of public sector banks. That is not in the best interest of competition. While that is true, it doesn't amount to saying that PSU banks abuse market power. The CCI would indeed be stretching its mandate if it tries to push government departments or government regulators from altering policy. The CCI could, following its logic on PSU banks, potentially object to caps on foreign investment in say retail and telecom. But these are policy issues, not firm-specific issues.

 

The reported difference between Trai and CCI may be a similar case of overreach by the CCI. It isn't for the CCI to decide how many licences Trai should give operators in each circle. Because as any competent competition authority would know, just adding more players to a market need not make it more competitive—there can still be collusion. Similarly, there could be brutal competition even between just two service providers—look at Coke vs Pepsi or Boeing vs Airbus. What the CCI should instead focus on is examining whether firms are acting in a competitive manner after they are operational, whether there are two players per circle or five or more. The focus should be on specific firm(s), not the policy at sectoral level.

 

And when it reaches the matter of investigating if, for example, a group of telecom companies is indulging in price fixing or a particular bank is exploiting its market power unfairly, then sectoral regulators must step aside and let the CCI investigate. Of course, sectoral regulators can also work to ensure that there is sufficient competition in the sectors they regulate, but it's hard to make a case against an expert agency being allowed to undertake investigations, particularly when there is a big merger or consolidation exercise, which can in theory be anti-competitive. Two checks are better than one.

 

However, for it to be credible, the CCI needs to be able to demonstrate 'expertise' in competition matters. For the moment, the top positions are unfortunately occupied by bureaucrats (some retired) who do not possess any specific expertise in anti-trust. That probably explains their (and therefore the CCI's) instinct to dabble in policy matters ending up in friction with other institutions. But it's not just the top management that makes an institution. The CCI needs to quickly build a core of good lawyers, economists and accountants who actually have expertise in this field. Once the CCI has the right personnel, it will focus more clearly on what its real mandate is.

 

Going forward, there is another kind of overreach that the CCI must avoid. It should not become an impediment to all M&A activity—consolidation is critical in many sectors of the economy. In this context, it is important to note that, increasingly, competition must be viewed from a global perspective and not just local. So, we may actually need larger (and as a corollary, fewer) firms in India (in any given industry) to compete with big firms from abroad. As long as we move steadily towards zero tariffs and completely liberalised foreign investment rules, the anti-competitive potential of firms in India will shrink anyway. In the meanwhile, the CCI should at no cost become a forum for protectionism against takeovers of Indian companies by foreign companies. Its role, like that of other regulators, should be to facilitate capitalism in India, not add a layer of licence raj to it.

 

dhiraj.nayyar@expressindia.com

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

THEY HAVE A GREEN SOUL IN KOREA

RENUKA BISHT

 

Slow life is good life. That's the latest mantra being chanted top-down across South Korea, with a unified force that would be more familiar to China than to India. It signals a surprising policy shift for a country that—barring a late nineties blip—has been a byword for the Asian growth miracle. As a side effect of exemplary growth, carbon emissions doubled during 1990-2005, the fastest among OECD members. Admitted into this rich countries' club in 1996, South Korea not only stands on the border between developing and developed worlds, but also rides the line that takes Kyoto to Copenhagen. With the latter destination looking dead, our post-crisis world is seeing the emergence of new orthodoxies. South Korea's slow life moves exemplify this shift—where countries have little appetite for signing on to binding treaties, but where national investments in green industry look like an excellent yardstick for separating the big boys from the wannabes.

 

There is a pretty stream that flows through Seoul today. It's called Cheonggyecheon. And it's President Lee Myung-bak—whom the US President will meet today as he wraps up the last leg of his first Asian tour—who is credited for restoring this picturesque miracle to the city's lungs and landscape. This was back when he was the mayor of Seoul, and many say that this was critical to his presidential victory. But don't let the pretty name fool you. Don't get distracted by wistful slogans. Reclaiming an ancient stream off an expressway was more than a romantic endeavour; it was an engineering feat. All the slick, suited and booted young Koreans you see walking along the stream at sunset echoing the slow life mantra, they aren't really taking things easy either. Pali, pali, they are still muttering. Hurry, hurry.

 

The country's $38 billion stimulus package included an 80% green component. Critics call such claims 'greenwashing', accusing the government of veiling its growth aspirations behind better colours. Critics also point to CO2 emissions as well as the use of energy, pesticides, fertilisers et al as being among the highest in the world. This is also true. As is the fact that the government sees going green fundamentally within the fabric of growing bigger. But South Korea isn't required to commit to emission-reduction targets under the Kyoto protocol. Such commitments are as much in good faith as India's. And ahead of the Barack Obama visit, the Lee government has committed to a 30% emissions reduction from business-as-usual levels by 2020. This is in sharp contrast to a) Obama dropping the ball on Copenhagen, and b) African nations insisting on developed countries' commitments before making any of their own.

 

Over the next few years, Lee's government envisages spending around $100 billion on green growth. It's going to put a good kick behind the slow life mantra on every front—energy efficiency, renewables, hybrid cars and so on. If the world's fifth-largest automaker gets behind green cars, that will inevitably have a big impact. If the country delivers the technological leaps that it's promising, we'll all be grateful and its growth will be good, too. Or take nuclear power, where South Korea has just entered the global race to build power plants by bidding against established French giant Areva for a UAE contract. The country itself depends on nuclear power for 40% of its energy supply.

 

Speaking of nuclear going-ons, one must, of course, address North Korea. As will Obama later today. The twentieth anniversary of the Berlin Wall's fall has drawn particular attention to this ultimate bastion of the Cold War. Obama is bound to take the occasion to ask Pyongyang to play nice. For us in India, the only way to imagine the North-South détente is to envisage the India-Pakistan border coming down. This is obviously inconceivable. But South Koreans think the unthinkable. Of the 500 promises that Obama allegedly made during his election campaign, reconciling the North and the South may have been one. People in Seoul believed this, anyway. But then so many people also believed that Obama would bring the US aboard Kyoto. Instead, he has yodelled the song of its demise. So, those hoping that he would bring Seoul closer to Pyongyang have reason to feel disheartened today.

 

Here's the thing though, irrespective of what Obama says, South Korea looks set to conquer the green frontier. What one wonders in passing is why India hasn't looked to this miracle story as an example, why Beijing obsesses us and Seoul leaves us unmoved. Perhaps it's a question of character. Seoul's is too singular. The very feature that makes it possible for a mantra to spread at supersonic speed, also underlines a deep difference with India. Slow life is good life, says the Centre, and so say the masses. Debate is scarce. Because as the underlying hymn goes, we are a one people nation. Ethnic homogeneity of a scale unthinkable in India, the US or even China rules the roost.

 

renuka.bisht@expressindia.com

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

READING THE TEA LEAVES

ROHIT KHANNA


Faced with an inevitable ban of Endosulfan, a pesticide widely used in Indian tea plantations, the country's tea industry fears a decrease in exports to Europe. What is worrying it more is a significant escalation in input costs with the use of alternative chemicals.

 

The tea industry is looking at a decision from the Stockholm Convention regarding Endosulfan that has included Endosulfan in the list of persistent organic pollutants (POP). The POP review committee has decided to take up a risk management evaluation for the chemical, the final step before putting it on the banned list.

 

This has put the tea industry in a tricky situation, as using alternative chemicals is likely to push up input costs 'significantly'. A section of the industry feels that although the alternative chemicals are expensive, they will be used in smaller quantities as the dosage is much smaller—less than half of Endosulfan. But the actual cost increase can only be determined once the extent of pest attack is known.

 

What worries the industry is the residual level of alternative chemicals. The Tea Research Association has no data about the minimum residual levels (MRLs) of the alternatives. It would carry out field tests next year and send data to the EU for approval.

 

Previously, the permissible level of Endosulfan in Indian tea was 30 parts per million. Lower MRLs had helped the industry since it could be applied in much larger doses.

 

For the industry the mandate is straight. If the MRLs for the alternative chemicals are above the EU accepted level of 0.01 parts per million, it will not buy Indian tea. European countries bought 30 million kg of tea worth Rs 435 crore last year. With the absence of MRL data about alternative chemicals, the industry is clueless about the usage of new chemicals.

 

This leads the tea industry to two solutions. First, gear up indigenous research for alternative chemicals to keep costs low, and second, concentrate more on less stringent markets. If Europe refuses to buy Indian tea owing to MRL issues, then the Indian industry will have to look for new markets since it has constantly been trying to increase production in the last couple of years.

 

rohit.khanna@expressindia.com

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

REPORT CARD

This paper* analyses the institution of public interest litigation in India:

 

A number of criticisms of PIL have been voiced in recent years, including concerns related to separation of powers, judicial capacity and inequality. The social class of the claimant was not discernible in 1% of the cases related to SC/ST/OBC, 34% of cases related to women and children rights, and 45% of explicit PIL cases. While critics have been persuasive when pointing to particular cases, the sheer number of cases, as well as the variation in tendencies over time and among court benches, they have made reaching a general conclusion difficult. This paper has argued that complaints related to separation of power concerns are better understood as criticisms of the impact of judicial interventions on sectoral governance, and that structured case studies of sectoral governance are necessary to assess those criticisms. On the issue of inequality, this paper contributes to an overall assessment by systematically examining the relative magnitude, case composition, and geographical origins of, as well as legal representation and the claimant's social class in, PIL and Fundamental Rights cases that reached the Supreme Court. The analysis of PIL 'cases' shows that they do not appear to consume a significant share of the resources of the Supreme Court; they constitute less than 1% of the overall case load. The subject matter of PIL cases and orders remains difficult to discern because over 70% of them are classified as 'other', which is problematic from the point of view of judicial transparency.

 

Varun Gauri; Public Interest Litigation in India: Over-reaching or Underachieving?; November 2009 Policy Research Working Paper, WPS5109, The World Bank

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

LEGITIMISING THE OTHER

 

The decision of the Election Commission of India to allow eunuchs and transsexuals the choice of registering under a separate sexual identity is a significant step towards mainstreaming an ostracised people who have been treated heartlessly by society. By giving them the choice of registering as "Others," thereby dropping the requirement that they declare themselves male or female, the ECI has freed sexual identity from the trappings of obscurantism and bigotry. This should open the doors to other kinds of official identification and speed up the process of social inclusion. As things stand, official recognition for the third sex is contained in a few government documents — in passport application forms and on ration cards issued in some States, notably Tamil Nadu. The ECI's decision, which will enable the transgendered to contest elections as 'Others,' will give this marginalised community a stronger political voice. The Indian discourse on human rights has largely neglected the transgendered. The law in India does not recognise a third sex, or sex change operations. Nor does it allow transsexuals to choose their own gendered role.

 

This presents a contrast to liberal and progressive trends elsewhere, where the rights of the transgendered to choose their sexual identities are becoming more and more entrenched. In 2002, the European Court of Human Rights held in a landmark case (Christine Goodwin v/s the United Kingdom) that disallowing transsexuals to change their birth certificates or from marrying in their self-assigned gender roles was a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. The campaign for transgender rights received a big boost when Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. Commendably, his administration is committed to providing the transsexual community, along with gays, lesbians, and bi-sexuals, the full spectrum of equal rights in civil union and at the workplace. The International Bill of Gender Rights, which was drafted and adopted at a conference in 1993 and subsequently modified, lays down a constructive framework for the right to define and freely express one's sexual identity. It has served as a working model for progressive reform in many countries. It is heartening that the ECI has taken the bold step in favour of the transgendered at a time when the central government's commitment to LGTB rights is wobbly — reflected in its vacillations on the repeal or suitable amendment of Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a colonial-era provision that criminalises "unnatural sex" even if it is between consenting adults.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

THE PRICE OF UPHOLDING THE LAW

 

The Obama administration's honourable decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — the self-confessed mastermind behind the attacks in the United States on September 11 — 2001 and terrorist attacks on U.S. buildings and citizens overseas, in a civilian federal court has created nearly as many problems as the Bush administration's notorious creation of the Guantánamo Bay detention centre in which Mohammed and 239 others have been held for several years. Some of the problems are practical ones; for example, the Bush administration's incompetence means that many of the case documents are scattered around the world. There are political problems too, as Mr. Obama's decision to close the Guantánamo centre is unpopular with those who do not want the detainees held in their neighbourhoods; the term NIMBY, meaning 'Not in my back yard,' describes them accurately. That problem might be soluble, as plans are afoot to move the detainees to a high-security prison near Thomson, Illinois. Other political difficulties, like Republican opposition in Congress to the $80 million that it will cost to close Guantánamo and move the detainees to the U.S., may be more troublesome, because large numbers in the U.S. regard the detainees as guilty and dangerous irrespective of any legal process.

 

The main problems, however, are legal ones. U.S. military commissions have lower standards of proof than civilian courts, and Mr. Obama's attempts to modify them have been abandoned. Secondly, the plan to try Mohammed and four of his alleged accomplices in New York City, the scene of the main attacks on 9/11, is procedurally sound, but questions arise whether a fair trial would be possible there. Thirdly, Mohammed himself has been waterboarded no fewer than183 times. U.S. attorney general Eric Holder has publicly declared that waterboarding is torture. In advance of a trial, it is difficult to tell if enough evidence has been lawfully obtained against the detainees to convict them. As to a trial itself, Mohammed and his associates have refused to cooperate with their military defence lawyers and may refuse to be represented in a civilian court. It will be for the trial judge to decide if they can represent themselves. A guilty plea will mean there is no trial, but a plea of not guilty could give Mohammed and his associates the opportunity to showcase their ideology to the watching world and give the al-Qaeda a propaganda coup — especially considering that Mr. Holder's stated intention to seek the death penalty could enable Mohammed to claim that he is being martyred. President Obama is no doubt finding that upholding the law can be fraught with difficulty.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

HINDI MEDIA AND AN UNREAL DISCOURSE

THE HINDI MEDIA HAVE SEEN HUMONGOUS GROWTH, BUT SEEM PERILOUSLY CLOSE TO ENTERING A PHASE OF 'REFEUDALISATION.'

MRINAL PANDE

 

"Far too many people — especially those with great expertise in one area — are contemptuous of knowledge in other areas, or believe that being bright is a substitute for knowledge. But taking pride in their ignorance is self-defeating," wrote Peter Drucker.

 

Drucker is a guru to many who run businesses in India, including the Indian language media which constitute a fast-growing sector. But almost all of India's print media mandarins, trained at top business schools and hired at salaries that far exceed those paid to editors, hardly try to familiarise themselves with the socio-economic intricacies of the Indian markets through vernacular publications. They would rather put their faith entirely on reports prepared by foreign rating agencies, to which the Hindi belt is the largest homogenised market in the country, period. These, 11 of India's most populous States, from the central Himalayan States of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand to Bihar and Jharkhand in the east, involve many variables. They face many pulls and pressures, and have cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity. But these are seldom factored into media-planning exercises. This is but hubris.

 

India's earliest English language dailies, some of them closely modelled on their British counterparts, were launched for the "cultured" classes. For most of the readers and the editorial decision-makers of many of these English dailies, the only reality was the city, and the only viable working systems were those created by the British media. When India won its freedom, all eminent politicians, from Congressmen to the Muslim 'Leaguees' to the Communists, were united by the English language despite the love for Gandhiji and the people's languages most of them professed. After 1947, in both India and Pakistan, the English newspapers began to be referred to as the 'national' dailies, despite the fact that they often catered to less than 10 per cent of the population. For over half a century the branding helped them collect the largest shares of advertising revenues.

 

The growth of the vernacular press, especially the Hindi press, in India was to follow another, somewhat Habermasian trajectory. In 1845, Raja Shiv Prasad Sitara-e-Hind, the ruler of Varanasi, launched the Hindi daily Banaras Akhbar. It was soon followed by Raja Lakshman Singh's Praja Hitaishi (1861), Raja Rampal Singh's (of Kalakankar) Hindusthan (1883), and Maharaja Srilal Baldev Singh Joo's (of Rewa) Bharat Bhrata (1887). Raja Rampal Singh chose a bright young law student by name Madan Mohan Malviya to head his paper, but ensured that his name (Atra Bhavan Sada Samar Vijayi, Maharaja Ram Singh Joo) was printed below the masthead as that of the Chief Editor. Malviya quit two years later, angered by the unprofessional conduct of the Raja who was mostly vacationing in London.

 

By the early 20th century, change was in the air. In 1920, the Hindi daily Rajasthan Kesri was banned in Udaipur state after it sharply criticised the feudal classes for their lavish lifestyles that contrasted with the poverty of their subjects. And by 1936, Madan Mohan Malviya, who had had a nasty run-in with the feudal press earlier, emerged as a notable follower of Gandhiji. He prevailed upon the owners of Hindustan Times to launch a Hindi daily to serve the common man. This kick-started a second phase — that of a gradual democratisation of the Hindi media.

 

Rupert Murdoch once said that it is incredibly hard to make oneself believe that other people exist in the same way that we do. The greatest challenge before journalism in any democracy is to convince people of this fundamental truth. During the phase that began in the 1940s, editors and journalists of the vernacular press, mostly recruited from small towns and semi-rural areas, had somehow grasped this fact instinctively. Together with their avid new readers, the Hindi journalists underwent a unique expansion of the heart and mind as they began to report and write and absorb the fascinating reality of India beyond its big cities and the party headquarters offices. Their writings may have been less polished, their dailies less well-produced, but it was as though India had at last learnt to speak for itself. It is this aspect of the vernacular media, including in Hindi, which one finds the most beautiful and endearingly human. And with this, the Hindi newspapers, as in the case of their Tamil, Telugu, Kannada or Bengali counterparts, managed to create a republic for the humblest readers sitting far away in Samastipur or Farrukhabad or Almora.

 

As the idea of the inviolable human dignity of news became central, a new public language for democratic discourse was created effortlessly. And when in 1979 the first National Readership Survey revealed that the vernacular papers, particularly those in Hindi, now commanded several times the readership of the English newspapers, it did not surprise the readers or journalists of the vernacular press.

 

Between 2002 and 2005, a new Cinderella story was written. Readership in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand recorded a phenomenal annual growth of 14 per cent. Over two-thirds of these readers were based in small towns and rural areas. Despite continuous political turbulence, poverty, rise in crime and a near-breakdown of law and order, or perhaps because of these, the poor but news-hungry readers in Bihar were ready to spend Rs. 5 a copy for a slim Hindi newspaper, almost three times the price of the (considerably fatter) English dailies.

 

Today, according to the Indian Readership Survey, 2009 (Round 1), the list of India's top 10 dailies has only Indian language newspapers, and six of them are in Hindi. India's largest-selling English daily, The Times of India, now stands outside of the Big 10, at No. 11. And, according to IRS 2008 (Round 2), its total sales (133.4 lakh copies a day) is but a fraction of the vast numbers sold by the top four Hindi dailies: Dainik Jagran (557.4 lakh), Dainik Bhaskar (338.3 lakh), Amar Ujala (293.8 lakh) and Hindustan (266.3 lakh).

 

But ironically, with such humongous growth the Hindi media seem perilously close to entering the Habermasian third phase of 'refeudalisation.' During this phase, Habermas had predicted, the state and the corporates would seize control of the lucrative media businesses and the public sphere would degenerate — till the media become a mass 'product' and the reader a mindless consumer driven by advertisers' choices, not his or her own. This is not a very pleasant thought. But given India's half-open markets, the vernacular media's wide readership base, and the fact that journalists are also informed consumers, perhaps we will ultimately have an unfinished revolution of sorts where the informed consumers and the system will beat back the predatory market forces again and again. In the Habermasian Kali Yuga, do not be surprised to see print media readers being subtly assisted by the state when they demand a more professional dissemination of news.

 

There are two reasons for this: one, the print media are infinitely less of a threat to the ruling class compared to the increasingly ratings-driven, 'breaking news'-seeking, visual media. And since your enemy's enemy is your best friend, the ruling class will not allow market forces to starve the print media at the expense of the visual media.

 

The second reason has rather insidious implications. Over the last few years, as disposable incomes in small-town India have risen, the wall that stood between English and vernacular publications has begun to crumble. After almost all the editors of English dailies, like the Hindi media barons before them, have turned owner-editors, they have quickly sensed the advantage in forming protective guilds across regions. Unbelievably, new bands of brotherhood are being formed by the marketing managers in order to formulate strategies, sign 'no poaching' pacts, and share information about the best clients and the cleverest (although they are often the most unprofessional) practices. Media barons are no longer dismissive of their vernacular publications, and the Hindi owner-editors are also coming out of their small, simple and static world and sending their sons to Wharton or the Indian Institutes of Management. The vernacular readers may have grown up on a diet of only language papers, but they now send their children to English-medium schools. The brave new bi-lingual households of the future are the new focus area. That is where the action is.

 

(Mrinal Pande is a senior Hindi journalist and writer. This is the first of a two-part article.)

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

DISQUALIFICATION BY JUDGES' INTEREST IN LITIGATION

JUDGES SHOULD BE MADE OF STERNER STUFF AND SHOULD NOT RECUSE THEMSELVES MERELY TO PRESERVE AN APPEARANCE OF NON-BIAS WHEN THERE IS NO REAL POSSIBILITY OF BIAS.

T.R. ANDHYARUJINA

 

Four recent cases in the Supreme Court have raised the question of when a judge, who has either a pecuniary interest in the litigation or non-pecuniary connection with a party to the litigation, should recuse himself from a case.

 

In the first case, Justice S.H. Kapadia sitting on a bench of three judges, having disclosed his interest as a shareholder in Sterlite Industries, a party in the proceedings before him, and parties before him not objecting to his participating, heard the case and delivered a judgment. A leading vigilante lawyer later wrote in a popular periodical that Justice Kapadia had committed gross misconduct. This led to moving a contempt of court petition against him by another advocate.

 

In the second case, Justice R.V. Raveendran hearing the Reliance company cases at the very outset disclosed that he held shares in both companies, and upon both parties expressing no objection, proceeded to hear the case with other judges. After six days of hearing, Justice Raveendran recused himself from the case as he had discovered that his daughter was a lawyer in a firm which was doing legal work not connected with the litigation before him but for one of the Reliance companies. Consequently, the case has had to be reargued with a substitute Judge. The same day, Justice M. Katju recused himself in a part-heard matter as his wife held shares in a company which was a litigant in the case before the bench. On November 6, Justice Kapadia recused himself from a case in which the Sterlite Industries' sister concern, Vedanta, was an applicant in the court.

 

The basic principle of judicial conduct is that a judge should not have an interest in the litigation before him which could give rise to an apprehension of his deciding a matter in favour of one of the parties. Bias by interest falls into two broad classes. First, where the judge has a pecuniary interest in the subject matter of litigation and, second, wherefrom his association with or interest in one of the parties the judge may be perceived to have a bias in favour of that party.

 

As regards a pecuniary interest of a judge in the case, it has become a hoary rule of judicial propriety that even the smallest interest will disqualify a judge automatically and the law will not allow any further enquiry whether his mind was actually biased by the pecuniary interest or not. The most frequent application of this rule is when the judge owns shares in a company which is a party in the case before him.

 

This rule came to be laid down in a celebrated case in 1852 of the House of Lords where the Court held that Lord Chancellor, Lord Cottenham, ought not to have decided a case in which he held the shares of a company which was a litigant before him. The Court observed: "No one can suppose that Lord Cottenham could be, in the remotest degree, influenced by the interest that he had in this concern; but it is of the last importance that the maxim, that no man is to be a judge in his own cause, should be held sacred. And that is not to be confined to a cause in which he is a party, but applies to a cause in which he has an interest."

 

If this rule operates in modern conditions of corporate shareholding in its absolute rigour and severity, it would result in a large number of judges being disqualified and a considerable disruption of judicial work. In today's times, as contrasted to the times of Lord Cottenhan, holding shares in joint stock companies is a routine investment by all and sundry, including judges. Should a judge recuse himself from a case even if his or his spouse's shareholding is minimal or if his judgment would have a remote or no effect on the company? The high-sounding rule of judicial propriety that justice should not only be done but seen to be done often leads to the erroneous impression that it is more important that justice should appear to be done than it will, in fact, be done.

 

For these reasons, the modern view is that the rule in cases of financial interest of a judge should not be one of automatic disqualification but a rule of automatic disclosure to his colleagues on the bench and to parties of his financial interest. If the judge himself has no doubt that the holding of shares by him will have no influence on his participation in the case and if after a full disclosure of his shareholding the parties do not object to the judge hearing the case, the disqualification must be considered to be waived. This is the manner in which cases in which a judge has a shareholding in a company litigating before him have worked for over a century-and-a-half without any serious objection.

 

Where a judge's interest is not pecuniary but of some direct or indirect association with one of the parties, there is no automatic disqualification. The question then is: whether there is, in the circumstances of the case taking all facts into consideration, a real likelihood of bias in the opinion of a reasonable person — that the judge might unfairly regard with favour or disfavour the case of the parties.

 

There could have been no real likelihood of bias in Justice Raveendran's tenuous connection of his daughter's employment with a legal firm which was not concerned with the case before him. But, apparently, he thought it better to play safe and recuse himself from the high publicity Reliance cases. The problem with such recusals out of abundant caution is that they are held out as precedents. In the U.S., the Justices have stated in their 1993 Statement of Recusal Policy: "We do not think it would serve the public interest to recuse ourselves, out of an excess of caution, whenever a relative is partner in the firm before us or acted as a lawyer at an earlier stage."

 

After all, a judge by his oath is sworn to do justice. He cannot be suspected if, after the disclosure of his interest, the parties have not expressed a lack of confidence in him or there is no real likelihood of bias. Judges should be made of sterner stuff and should not recuse themselves merely to preserve an appearance of non-bias when there is no real possibility of bias.

 

The example of Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court is relevant. In 2003, Justice Scalia firmly declined to recuse himself even when one of the parties objected to his taking a case in which Vice-President Dick Cheney, with whom he had gone on a recent duck hunting holiday, was an official respondent. The objecting party cited the reporting of the newspaper with the largest circulation in the U.S. which had supported his objection. Justice Scalia dismissed the objection stating: "Since I do not believe my impartiality can reasonably be questioned, I do not think it would be proper for me to recuse … The people must have confidence in the integrity of the judge and that cannot exist in a system that assumes them to be corrupt by the slightest friendship or interest in an atmosphere which the press will be eager to find foot-faults." He went on to say: "If it is reasonable to think that a Supreme Court Justice can be bought so cheap, the nation is in deeper trouble than I had imagined."

 

(The writer is a Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court & former Solicitor-General of India.)

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

REGISTERING THE WORLD'S 'INVISIBLE' MILLIONS

THERE ARE MILLIONS OF BABIES BORN EACH YEAR WHO ARE NEVER REGISTERED, DEPRIVING THEM OF VITAL EDUCATION AND HEALTH CARE AND LEAVING THEM VULNERABLE TO ABUSE.

PENNY SPILLER

 

Togolese teenager Awawou had overcome the toughest of childhoods to build an education for herself. After years of hard work, and against all the odds, she was about to sit her school exams when she learned she was not eligible because she did not have a birth certificate.

 

Her parents had died when she was small and she had not been registered at birth. It took Awawou a year of running errands to earn the $10 she needed to buy the certificate and sit her exams. Now, aged 18, she hopes to become a dressmaker.

 

Awawou is one of half a billion children who are estimated to be without a birth certificate. It is thought that at least 51 million of the babies born each year are not registered. Without registration, it is difficult, if not impossible, to gain access to vital services such as health care, education and welfare support, says child rights organisation Plan International. It also denies them the possibility of voting or getting legal aid.

 

Children without any record of identification are more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse such as human trafficking and prostitution, being forced into under-age marriages or into becoming child soldiers, the organisation adds. However, this has now changed for some 40 million people in 32 countries over the past five years, thanks to a Plan International campaign called Universal Birth Registration (UBR).

 

Experts from around the world — from governments, non-governmental organisations and universities — have gathered in London for a two-day conference to discuss Plan's campaign, and consider ways to continue the work. "The purpose of the conference is two-fold," said Nadya Kassam, Plan's Head of Global Advocacy.

 

"We really want people to learn about the actual physical practices involved in birth registration. We want them to find out about what we do and replicate it. Also, it's not over. There are still millions of children every year who are not registered. We really want everyone to get together to recommit to universal birth registration. Plan can't do it alone. Those who are attending will have the resources, technology and practices to make it happen."

 

UNDER-AGE MARRIAGES

Nathalia Ngende has helped to register more than 7,000 people in Cameroon — including, for the first time, 300 of the semi-nomadic Baku people. There are a number of reasons why people go unregistered, Ms Ngende says, including ignorance, a lack of understanding of the processes or because of the long distances involved in getting to a registration centre.

 

Many children in rural parts of Cameroon are still able to get an education, even though they officially should be registered. But like Awawou, their trouble comes when they try to sit exams. "The public exam can only be sat with a birth certificate, so many children leave school at this point, without any qualifications," Ms Ngende told the BBC.

 

Children also need a birth certificate to be eligible for the vaccination programme available to under five year olds. Those who are ineligible are left vulnerable to preventable diseases, a common problem in Cameroon. Plan's report documents some fast and dramatic changes resulting from its campaign.

 

In Cambodia, about seven million people — 56 per cent of the population — picked up their birth certificates in just 10 months, the report says. In one area of Indonesia, registration rates rose from just 3 per cent to 72 per cent in two years.

 

The report also recounts how one woman in the Dominican Republic walked 120 km just to register her child.

 

The campaign has gone some way towards stemming the number of under-age marriages that take place in Bangladesh. The parents of 13-year-old Jhasoda had, without her consent, arranged for her to be married for a 30,000 taka ($435) dowry. They claimed she was older than she was.

 

Jhasoda's plight came to the attention of village officials in Khampara region. They were unable to act because she did not have a birth certificate, and quickly began to realise what a big problem it was. Since then, the chief officials have managed to get Jhasoda and the rest of the village registered. Jhasoda did not have to get married.

 

Ms Kassam says getting governments to improve their laws — to make registering easier and to ensure the information is properly stored — is a key element in the UBR campaign.

 

"Changing the law in a country has a really significant effect on the population. It is the only way to bring about sustainable long-term change," she told the BBC.

 

The reason so many Cambodians were able to acquire birth certificates in such a short time was largely down to the government, which carried out an awareness-raising exercise and made it easy to register, she explains. And registration does not have to be a difficult process, she adds.

 

Plan International got around the logistical difficulties presented by an inaccessible area like Pakistan's North-West Frontier by taking the registration process out to the people. More than one million people in that remote region now have birth certificates.

 

"People understand the importance of it, and will do it, especially when the process is made easier for them," she said.

 

But while it is one thing to get registered, it is quite another keeping hold of a paper certificate in an area that may be prone to natural disaster and conflict.

 

Ms Kassam agrees there is work to do in many countries to ensure records remain, even if the physical evidence disappears.

 

But there are examples of innovative thinking, for instance a project in Tanzania is under way to optically scan certificates for births, deaths and marriages, so that villages will always have a record.

 

"We have found people are very creative about how their secure their documents," Ms Kassam said. "Even roofs and rafters have been used to keep them safe."

 

— © BBC News/Distributed by the New York Times Syndicate

 

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THE HINDU

READING THE TEA LEAVES IN U.P.

IT IS IMPORTANT NOT TO OVER-INTERPRET THE RECENT BY-ELECTION RESULTS.

VIDYA SUBRAHMANIAM

 

The surprises thrown up by the latest round of by-elections in Uttar Pradesh have once again rejigged the electoral order in India's politically most-watched State.

 

In recent years, politics in U.P. has been like a game of snakes and ladders. The line-up after the May 2007 Assembly election was: The Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress. In a stunning reversal in the Lok Sabha election two years later, the BSP crashed to the third spot while the Congress, last seen in the State in 1989, came as if from nowhere to take the second place behind the SP. The BJP which seemed unshakable in the Ram years finished last.

 

Barely had the pundits finished prophesying an SP versus Congress main battle in the 2012 Assembly election, when their calculations again went haywire — this time because of the November 2009 by-elections to the Firozabad Lok Sabha seat and 11 Assembly segments.

 

The November 2009 reboot has placed the BSP on top with the Lok Sabha topper SP consigned to the bottom most rung along with the down and out BJP. The Congress, which pulled off an audacious victory in Firozabad and wrested the VIP constituency of Lucknow West, is seen to have consolidated its May 2009 whiz kid status. Expectedly, battlelines have been drawn afresh and current estimates have narrowed down the 2012 field to two contestants : The BSP and the Congress.

 

It is not an incredible conclusion. After all the BSP won 9 of 11 Assembly seats, topping its three of four score registered in the August 2009 Assembly by-elections, and the Congress took Firozabad from under Mulayam Singh's nose, displaying just the kind of killer instinct required to win the next Assembly election. On the other hand, the SP and the BJP appear to have lost the plot: While the BJP has been a goner for sometime now, few could have expected the SP to be so comprehensively outperformed on its own turf.

 

And yet for the precise reason that the trend has changed so rapidly from one season to another, it would be unwise to predict how the parties would stack up in 2012. Besides it is important not to be misled by the results of by-elections which are narrow-focus contests.

 

MORE COMPLEX PATTERN

Indeed, an analysis of by-election results over a longish period reveals a more complex pattern than the "Mayawati-Congress rising" picture suggested by this round of polls. Statistics emerging from the exercise also give credence to the long-held wisdom that by-elections favour the ruling party. Of the 58 by-elections held in U.P in the six years between November 2003 and November 2009, the SP won 23 and the BSP 26. The rest nine seats were shared among the BJP, the Congress and others. Significantly, the SP won 20 (SP 18 and alliance partner Rashtriya Lok Dal 2) of its 23 seats when it was in power. Similarly, the BSP won 20 of its 26 seats when it was in power.

 

The SP chief took the oath of office in September 2003, and with that his party went on a winning spree, starting with a 3/3 victory in the November 2003 Assembly by-elections. Of the total 31 by-elections held while Mr. Mulayam Singh was in power, the SP-RLD won 20, the BSP 6, the Congress 3 and the BJP 2. The SP's victories might have been greater had it not been for the fact that two of the by-elections were fought in the Congress backyard of Amethi-Rae Bareli. In April 2004, Amita Modi won the Amethi Assembly by-election while in April–May 2006 Sonia Gandhi famously returned to reclaim Rae Bareli.

 

Ditto sequence for Ms Mayawati. She came into office in May 2007, and in June 2007, the BSP won all three Lok Sabha seats for which by-elections were held. The trend continues to this day. Of the 27 by-elections held between May 2007 and November 2009, the BSP won 20, the SP 3, the Congress 2 and the RLD 1. One seat went to an independent while the BJP drew a blank. The BSP's only significant loss in this period was the Badhohi Assembly seat to which a by-election was held in February 2009.

 

The ruling party's advantage in a by-election is explained by its limited nature, which allows concentrated deployment of official machinery and resources. Two examples would suffice. In October 2004, the BSP's Raju Pal won the by-election to the Allahabad West Assembly constituency. He was shot dead by gangsters which led to his wife, Pooja Pal, contesting the seat in a June 2005 by-election. The ruling SP fielded Ashraf, the main accused in her husband's murder. The BSP believed that public sympathy would be with the widow. However, thanks to the SP putting all its resources into fighting the election, Ms Pooja Pal was defeated by Mr. Ashraf. In the latest round of by-elections, the BSP's candidate Kailash Sahu trailed in Jhansi for the most part but squeaked past his nearest rival by nine votes after a recount.

 

It is important to bear in mind that the SP and the BSP registered impressive wins in by-elections but went on to lose the big battles: The SP lost the May 2007 Assembly election and the BSP trailed behind the SP and the Congress in the May 2009 Lok Sabha election.

 

TOO-STARK-TO-MISS DETAILS

Does this mean that no inferences can be drawn from the recent by-elections? No, some details are indeed too stark to miss. The losses registered by the SP this time are colossal and defy the by-election trend of parties winning in their own bastions. The SP lost three key seats in Mulayam country— the Assembly segments of Barthana and Etawah besides the Firozabad Lok Sabha constituency, contested by bahu Dimple. Firozabad, won with a margin of over 60,000 by Mr. Mulayam Singh's son Akhilesh Singh in May 2009, and later vacated by him, ought to have been a cakewalk for Dimple, more so with an assortment of Bollywood actors and politicians lining up behind the family. But evidently the SP clan did not bargain for the Rahul Gandhi-Raj Babbar combination. .

 

The SP's losses in Barthana, which was vacated by Mr. Mulayam Singh, and Etawah, his home district, are no less significant. The SP did not do well even as a runner-up, coming second in only six of the 11 Assembly seats.

 

What about the Congress? A closer reading of the results reveals an uneven performance which is at odds with its self image as the winner of the 2012 election. Indeed, the brilliance the Congress displayed in Firozabad and Lucknow West is offset by its abysmal showing in Jhansi and Padrauna both of which were vacated by Central ministers with considerable influence in their respective constituencies.

 

Nonetheless, the Congress can draw satisfaction from the visible improvement in its overall showing. The party which habitually finished last in any by-election in the State — except when a star contestant was in the fray — saw a marked increase in its vote share. What is more, the Congress got two first positions and three second positions, which is surely stupendous by the yardstick of its previous performances.

 

If the by-election verdict is unambiguous for any party, it is for the BJP, which has steadily declined with every election. This time it plumbed the depths: It won no seats, came second in one seat, third in three seats and fourth in six seats. But it is not the BJP alone that needs to pull up its socks. With results tending to go topsy-turvy, no party in U.P can claim with confidence that it will have its way in 2012.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

 EDITORIAL

BRAVO SACHIN!

 

The Marathi manoos of the Shiv Sena's conception, and those of its derivatives, took a hard knock when the octogenarian Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray seriously miscalculated and messed with Indian superstar Sachin Tendulkar, who happens to take great pride in his Maharashtrian roots. Violating the canon of the Maharashtrian-chauvinist party, the cricketing hero declared without hesitation in reply to a reporter's question that he was an Indian first, and that all Indians had an equal right to Mumbai. This has made the Sena chief see red because the view challenges the first principle on which his outfit has been built over the years. To allow Mr Tendulkar's assertion to go uncontested may have appeared to Mr Thackeray to participate in the crime of his own denigration. After all, the Marathi-Mumbai sutra is a bread and butter matter for Mr Thackeray, whose storm-troopers — and those of Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena — have intimidated non-Maharashtrians in Mumbai, including the likes of superstar Amitabh Bachchan, with no one daring to offer resistance. Now that a Marathi manoos, who sees himself first as an India manoos, has challenged the bully squad, the cookie has crumbled. It is indeed a pity that no Maharashtrian of stature had spoken up earlier in the forthright terms that Mr Tendulkar has employed. This imparts the famous cricketer's contribution immeasurable value. His words will impact not just all of India but all of Maharashtra, and that is what counts in building the edifice of a multi-ethnic, multilingual society and state. Indeed, most Maharashtrians are likely to be relieved that a much-loved and admired son of the soil has stepped forward to fill the breach.

 

Where they were silent before, senior politicians of every description are coming out to praise Mr Tendulkar's no-nonsense India-first stand. The Shiv Sena's alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has also announced that the batting genius is spot on. Mumbai kowtowed to Mr Thackeray because it feared him. Anxiety about Sena reprisals is likely to be less pervasive now, and this may be expected to corrode the politics and mobilisation strategy of the Sena and others of its ilk. The Shiv Sena was licked in the recent state elections. The Marathi petty bourgeois constituency, including its backward caste segment, appears to be shrinking even if the MNS votes and seats are brought into the equation. Perhaps its core will never go away, and a moth-eaten Sena will remain a part of Mumbai's political landscape. But, in time, that can only resemble a political mafia. Goaded by the Congress with a view to curbing communist influence, the Shiv Sena had come into existence in a shortage economy and just in time to fill the gap being left on account of the decline of Communist influence in the trade unions of Mumbai. The circumstances have undergone a sea change since then. Narrow chauvinism will not deliver the political goods effectively when the economic system is in an expansion phase. Policies aimed at raising employment opportunities is apt to further whittle the politics of navel-gazing.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

TALKING POINTS

BY SATISH KUMAR

 

The outcome of the recently held high-level Track II dialogue with Pakistan suggests that dialogues do not yield anything because of the rigid attitude and closed minds of our Pakistani friends. Yet one wonders whether there is an alternative to a dialogue, given the fact that war or coercive action are no longer feasible options.

 

Combating terrorism is the priority on the India-Pakistan agenda at present. But the dialogue on this subject does not proceed an inch without entering into polemics. There is no meeting of the minds on any parameter. Pakistan's stand is that terrorism is a common problem. No amount of assertion by the Indian side that while the problem is common its causes and sources in both countries are different convinces the Pakistanis. One distinguished participant went to the extent of saying that if 5,00,000 Indian troops in Kashmir have not been able to stop terrorism there, how can Pakistan be expected to succeed in stopping it. There cannot be a more absurd argument in a situation where Pakistani mujahideen have been more than half the source of terrorism in Kashmir. Besides, the argument reveals complete unwillingness to accept that Pakistan has anything to do with terrorist attacks in India, which is just the opposite of what India believes to be a fact. So how can you proceed further?

 

This brings us to the question of evidence. The stock argument from the Pakistani side is: give us evidence so that we can take action against, for instance, the 26/11 suspects. The evidence already provided by India is not enough. When questioned whether Pakistan has legally sustainable evidence against the Taliban militants who are destroying the Pakistani state and against whom Pakistan's Army is taking action, there is no cogent answer.

 

For some reason, the Pakistani side keeps insisting that the Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism should be reactivated. The mechanism was tried out in a couple of meetings in 2007 in the wake of the agreement in Havana in September 2006. Pakistan demanded that terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir be kept out of the purview of this mechanism. While that knocked the bottom out of this mechanism, it is simply impossible to expect Pakistan to reveal in the joint mechanism what action it has taken or not taken against certain terrorists, given the politics of terrorism in Pakistan. The related Pakistani suggestion of intelligence sharing was shot down by Indian participants on the ground that information cannot be shared with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), a sworn enemy of India. Nor is there much scope for dialogue on the Kashmir issue. The Pakistani side clearly stated that former President Pervez Musharraf's four-point formula died with his exit. If the post-Musharraf government wants to revive it, it will have to redefine it in its own words and bring it to the table again. The four-point formula evolved by Mr Musharraf in 2006 comprised no change of boundaries but making the Line of Control irrelevant, staggered demilitarisation, autonomy or self-governance and joint control mechanisms. It is generally believed that in back channel diplomacy some progress was made on Mr Musharraf's agenda although it is difficult to confirm. But all back channel agreements can also be said to have died with the exit of Mr Musharraf. And India's current external affairs minister clearly rejected the revival of back channel approach by stating in New York in September that the back channel was not needed when the front channel was open.

 

For the rest, the Pakistani side had stale ideas like India should agree to talk to Kashmiri separatists too, without realising that New Delhi's invitation had been spurned by the separatists on more than one occasion. And yet, some talks with them have been going on.

 

There was some discussion on mutual threat perceptions when the Pakistani side lamented the launch of a nuclear submarine by India and the Indian side referred to the expansion of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and questioned the safety of its nuclear weapons. But there was no satisfactory answer from Pakistan to the question why it was diverting foreign military aid meant for fighting terrorism to buy weapons usable against India. Nor was there any recognition of the fact that Pakistan was resorting to terrorism as a state policy and was using non-state actors for this purpose.

 

India's justifiable anger against Pakistan's attitude and denial has led it to adopt the posture of no-dialogue whereas Pakistan has been desperate to resume some sort of a dialogue. This has been described by commentators as coercive diplomacy of India, even though there is no coercion in India's behaviour. India's refusal to talk is a mere expression of its frustration at the outcome of such talks. And yet relations between India and Pakistan are at a standstill. "No-dialogue" has helped neither India nor Pakistan. One has to understand why.

 

Pakistan will just not be able to take strong action against high-profile anti-India militant leaders for quite sometime even though it will keep up the facade of legal action against the second-rung leadership. Pakistan is under an ideological siege, an Islamic siege, which is its own creation. Militant leaders like Hafeez Saeed not only have a huge following of Islamic zealots in the Pakistani heartland but also a large capability to resort to organised violence. Besides, by virtue of their strong links with the Army-ISI combine, they are privy to important secrets. No Pakistani government can afford the risk of strong action against them. They are not threatening the Pakistani state, like the Taliban.

 

Talking to Pakistani friends, their helplessness becomes obvious, though not expressed in so many words. Is there a way by which India can help them out of this siege? No other country can, not the United States, not China. If at all, it is India, and that too only through dialogue.

 

The dialogue does not have to begin with Kashmir. It can begin with terrorism but not confined to specific incidents. It can address the question of how multi-sectoral exchanges can be expanded between the two countries with the aim of creating more tolerant and plural societies. It can include the consequences of Talibanisation of Pakistan for both countries. It can include Afghanistan at some stage, and later some bilateral issues.

 

Let the pace be slow and hesitant. But the two countries should keep talking. Pakistan has nowhere to go except turn to India if it needs to know how to create a tolerant society.

 

The writer is editor, India's National Security Annual Review, and former professor of diplomacy at JNU, New Delhi

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

I FEEL GOD IN MUSIC

RM. PALANIAPPAN

 

It is through my work — karma yoga — that I feel the presence of God. There are times when the body and mind move together, in totality, during work. That is when I experience extreme happiness. I also realise the extraordinary reality that is God when I listen to some beautiful music — be it Western classical, Carnatic classical or film songs. When I work in silence — especially during night time — I feel cosmic energy traversing in my body.

 

Realisation of myself gives me a lot of energy. Imagine the energy produced in the movement of the universe. Or the energy produced by the Sun. Self-realisation has helped me not to harm or hurt my fellow human beings. I understand that I am a part of this big cosmos.

 

Visiting temples and waking up early for prayers are a part of my practice. Such practices help me enjoy the present and enjoy the work that I do. I never remain aloof from my fellow humans. I share my joys with them.

 

I think feeling happy and practicing peace are two important things to get closer to God. And this helps me connect with the spirit of cosmic energy. I always want to be associated with the nature's good and positive energy. I work and, therefore, I exist.

 

(As told to Peer Mohamed)

 

 Rm. Palaniappan is a famous painter. He is also regional secretary, Lalit Kala Akademi, Chennai.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

COLUMN

WHEN POLITICIANS MOCK THE VOTER

BY P.C. ALEXANDER

 

The political developments in some of the advanced states in the country, especially Karnataka, in the last few weeks have so badly dented the image of the parliamentary system of democracy that people have started having serious doubts about whether this system is suitable at all for us.

 

Britain's parliamentary system is based partly on statutory provisions and partly on unwritten laws and conventions. But political morality in that country is so high that the type of bargaining for seats and portfolios that has become common in India rarely affects the primacy of the Prime Minister in the selection of his Cabinet colleagues or the smooth working of the principle of collective responsibility.

 

But after what we have witnessed in Karnataka, one even wonders whether the prefix "chief", which is part of the title "chief minister" as mentioned in our Constitution, has any significance at all.

 

Referring to the immense power and influence exercised by the Prime Minister in Britain during war and other crisis situations, Sir William Ivor Jennings had observed that "given a solid party backing and confidence among party leaders, a British Prime Minister wields an authority that a Roman emperor might envy or a modern dictator strives in vain to emulate".

 

However, with the decline of influence of national parties during the last two decades, the offices of the Indian Prime Minister and chief ministers have become so greatly devalued in our country that it is doubtful whether the great expectations of the framers of the Constitution about the holders of these offices still hold good as guidelines for our democracy.

 

The treatment which B.S. Yeddyurappa, chief minister of Karnataka, had to endure from his own partymen has exposed the utter helplessness of this functionary against a few influential partymen. The rate at which concessions were being demanded from the chief minister and the way he granted them showed that no price was too high to keep his chair.

 

The irony in Mr Yeddyurappa's case was that even the party high command could not salvage the prestige of the office of the chief minister, but instead was keen for a settlement between the chief minister and his rivals by making him yield to almost all the demands of his rivals. The sight of the chief minister breaking down in anguish in front of television cameras will forever remain etched in people's memory as marking the level to which a chief minister's office was reduced by his own party.

 

The way the chief minister expressed disappointment at his own helplessness said it all. In a self-condemnatory mood, he lamented, "For my selfish ends I was forced to ditch those who were my trusted people… Even God will not forgive me for this". The tears which rolled down his cheeks were indeed tears for parliamentary democracy itself in our country. An "amicable settlement" was eventually reached between the chief minister and his rivals, but one has to wait and see how amicable this settlement is and how long it will last. The fear now is that such scenes will be enacted in other states as well by over-ambitious politicians to extract their share of power according to their own measure.

 

The situation regarding ministry-making in Maharashtra was not as bad as it was in Karnataka. But what surprised those who have known Maharashtra as one of the best administered states in India, based on healthy conventions of parliamentary democracy, was the long time taken by the two coalition parties, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), over every issue related to the elections and the state Assembly — allotment of constituencies, selection of candidates and later ministers, distribution of portfolios etc. If it took over 18 days after the election results were known to swear in a new Council of ministers, one begins to doubt whether there is really any common ground between the Congress and the NCP and whether this type of coalition arrangement can last long enough and deliver good governance to the people who have been waiting for it.

 

Ministry-making in Haryana did not encounter the problems which had appeared in Karnataka and Maharashtra. It became relatively easy for chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda to complete the formalities of cobbling up a coalition government as the anti-defection law now permits such fence-jumping by legislators without having to give up their Assembly seat. He could easily find the additional support required for a majority from a few MLAs for whom a ministerial seat is more important than loyalty to a party or ideology.

 

In our legislatures almost all members seem to think that they are well qualified to be ministers. In Western democracies members elected to Parliament consider it a great privilege to serve for long years as MPs. A ministerial office does not by itself enhance the social prestige or standing of an MP in those countries. In fact, many MPs in advanced democracies think that they can be more useful to the people without the additional leverage of ministerial offices.

 

The choice of ministers is a relatively easier task for Prime Ministers in Western democracies because of the "shadow Cabinet" system — the main Opposition parties have shadow Cabinets whose members are selected by the party based on experience, standing in the party, aptitude for ministerial work etc. It is time that political parties in India too start thinking of grooming at least a few leaders who could be first choices for the major portfolios in the Cabinet without having to spend several days in discussions.

 

If we have to take lessons from the experience of ministry-making over the last few weeks, we must seriously consider extending the scope of legislation on defection and splits in political parties and making it compulsory that a defector seeks re-election instead of creating artificial legal limits to convert a defection into a split. This may be considered an extreme remedy against the practice of defection, but if the parliamentary system is to develop on healthy lines in our country, such drastic steps are necessary.

 

P.C. Alexander is a former governor of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

FUNDING TERRORISM

 

The Americans seem to discover things that are known to the rest of the world. You can call it the willing suspension of disbelief. The US media reports citing former intelligence operatives have revealed that one-third of Central Intelligence Agency's (CIS) budget has been channelled to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The establishment in Islamabad is sure to revel in the fact because it just goes to show how important Pakistan is for the US, especially in the war against terror. The Americans too recognise Pakistan as a strategic partner, and it is for this reason there is acknowledgment that aid amounting to billions of dollars - including clandestine channels - has been funnelled to Pakistan, and to the ISI in particular. It is now official that $15 billion has been given to Pakistan since September 11, 2001.


The Pakistanis are not complaining though some of the former intelligence officials have woken up to the harsh reality that it is not really paying off. The most optimistic of them say that in the last eight years about 700 Islamic extremists have been taken off the streets and that is good.


The truth is much worse. Despite the billions of dollars spent and hundreds of American and Pakistani lives lost in the running battle between the Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda, the threat of terror has not really receded, much less overcome. The Obama administration is desperately looking for an exit policy in Afghanistan because the realisation is sinking in that this is an unwinnable war. And more depressingly, it is becoming more evident than ever that the ISI is actually undermining the American effort to eliminate the Islamic terrorist network.

The American largesse for the ISI is a matter of grave concern for India in the light of the revelations about the possible connection between US-based jihadi operatives, David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana and the terror attacks on Mumbai on November 26, 2008. The money that Americans choose to pay the ISI finds its way, unsurprisingly, to Pakistan-based terror groups waging a war against India. Washington and Islamabad cannot pretend that they have no clue about the ramifications of funding the ISI that is dangerously linked to the jihadis. This is not a US-Pakistan bilateral issue. It has dangerous and tragic consequences for south Asia, including Pakistan, and for the world, including the US. The blunt fact is that the US is funding, however unwittingly, terrorism on the one hand, and fighting against it on the other.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

ROBBING TRIBALS

 

The investigations into the corruption charges against former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda have not just revealed a massive web of connections and fraud but also a complete contempt, in some sense, for India's most deprived. The amount spent on development by the Jharkhand government until October — Rs1500 crore — is about as much as the Rs1450 crore allegedly transferred through hawala channels to Dubai by friends of the chief minister.


Investigations by this paper show that diaries by a Koda aide have been found which throw much light on the Rs4000 crore scam. The names include those of several politicians from across the country. Of course it is hardly surprising to find politicians involved but what is shocking is that the scam originated in one of India's poorest states and involves those very people who could have done the most for it.


There is something about this fraud being committed in Jharkhand which is similar to the problems faced by many small nations in the African continent. The people are consistently cheated by their own, by those who swore to change the exploitation but when they come to power, find the fruits of office too irresistible to forego. However, this is not an excuse, just a possible explanation. All corruption is unacceptable but when it is committed to the detriment of a new state, battling with years of neglect, with a large population of tribals who have not been given the wherewithal to progress although they are searching for betterment, a state suffering with Maoist incursions, it is nothing short of criminal.


The onus now lies on the investigating agencies and those they report to ensure that this case does not go the way of all other such "corruption in high places" cases of the past. In today's world there is an additional weapon in the hands of the helpless – public pressure. In a small way, the fact that Manu Sharma's parole was revoked because of public outrage shows that governments today are no longer as arrogant as they once were. They are susceptible to the voice of the people and this must be maximised to whatever extend possible.


But much as we all know that corruption exists and we rail against it, we also too often give up against it because the effort is too demanding. The Koda case can be used as a turning point in the fight against corruption.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

THE WINTER OF 1989 AND THE AUTUMN OF 2008

 PARSA VENKATESHWAR RAO JR

 

Many in Europe are busy remembering the fall of communist regimes from Warsaw to Berlin to Budapest to Bucharest to Prague and Moscow in that memorable year of 1989, which also marked the bicentenary of the French Revolution and the fall of Bastille. The year 1789 marked a dramatic and violent overthrow of a dilapidated monarchy represented by that weakling Louis XVI and his flighty queen, Marie Antoinette. There was also plenty of violence — heads literally rolled thanks to the guillotine and all this was done in the name of reason and liberty. It ended with the anointing of the dictator-emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte.


But 1989 turned out to be interestingly different. The communist dictatorships became decrepit and when people pushed, the edifice came down crashing. The fall of the Berlin Wall parallels the fall of the Bastille. But this was a democratic revolution in the true sense of the term. Not a shot was fired. The dictators just fled. The exception was that of Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu and wife Elena who were executed in a peremptory fashion. But no other dictators replaced the communists. The democratic transition was slow and painful. But today, the east European countries which went through the dark four decades of authoritarian governments and closed economies stumbled and managed to survive in the market arena.


This would have been a perfect moment to sing once again the virtues of democracy and market economy. The party is spoiled by the fact that the markets have suffered a traumatic setback when the financial institutions in the US and Europe tumbled in a somewhat similar fashion like the communist dictatorships in 2008. One fall triggered the fall of others. And 2009 turned out to be a year of market gloom.


What are we to make of these two major events of the last 20 years? It is possible to argue that the fall of communism was a monumental landmark, something that happens once in a century or two, while the crash of markets was a mere episode in a regular cycle of boom and bust which recurs almost once every decade.

There is no need to rethink communism. It is a bad option and it is good that it crumbled the way it did. The capitalism story is not a happy one and there is need to finetune it and remove the inevitable glitches. That is not an easy thing to do either. What this means is that capitalists cannot really gloat over the fall of communism, at least at the moment. The die-hard opponents of capitalism do nurse the hope that this is the time to refute the false claims of the market. But it is rather a false hope. It is not because their misgivings and distrust of the market are misplaced. It is more because they do not have a good enough economic alternative to offer. Communism and socialism have turned out to be ineffective and inefficient.


The search for a better alternative does not lie with the old-fashioned communists or with good old, heartless capitalists. The fact that these two systems are dead ends should not give rise to the illusion that a modified socialism is the panacea. The beleaguered British prime minister is not really practising any socialist voodoo to save the British banks. He is implementing commonsensical principles of prudence which predate capitalism and communism as we know them. US president Barack Obama, whose hysterical right-wing opponents dub him a socialist, is fumbling along the same Brown ways. For the man on the street, neither capitalism nor communism is comforting. The third way remains elusive. The glimmer of hope lies in the recognition that selfishness is self-destructive and that as societies we have to learn to be fair to each other. That is called morality. Genes can perhaps be selfish and thrive, not human beings. They need to care for each other, something that communists and capitalists hate with all their hearts and minds.

 

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DNA

POISED FOR A CHANGE

SHIKHA MUKERJEE 

 

Like the season, a different sentiment is sweeping across West Bengal. Like the ominous pre-monsoon storms, electoral setbacks for the reigning Communist Party of India Marxist (CPM)-led Left Front, starting with the 2008 panchayat , through the 2009 Lok Sabha and the recent  by-elections, can be read as harbingers of a change. The Trinamool Congress has certainly read the signs as such and its campaign slogan has reiterated "change" as an imperative for improving the health of West Bengal. 


The unprecedented November by-election results in which CPM got zero and the Trinamool Congress won seven out of 10 confirm that change is in the air. By acknowledging that it had, of late, grown alienated from the "people", the CPM's state leadership confirmed that the Trinamool Congress received a positive endorsement from voters. 


In West Bengal, in the addas of Kolkata, the guess is that the Congress-Trinamool Congress combine can pull of a bare 148 seat win in the 294 seat state assembly. While that would be necessary for the CPM to get thrown out of government, it would not be sufficient as an indicator that the party has lost power. And Mamata Banerjee knows this. 


To make good on her claim that instead of the famous "Red Flag" signifying the CPM's dominance over rural Bengal, the Trinamool Congress flag will flutter, Banerjee has to get on her own a minimum of 148 seats in the next state assembly elections due in 2011. It is a challenge because chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee scored 175 seats for the CPM in 2006 and Jyoti Basu scored 178 seats in 1977. As of now, the Congress has rubbed it in that the Trinamool Congress's stunning 19-seat victory in the Lok Sabha and the equally dismal nine-wins performance of the CPM was not a one-to-one combat.  


Assuming that West Bengal's electorate moves in roughly 30 year cycles, the first phase under the Congress and the next 30 plus years under the CPM, Banerjee needs to win by a margin of seats that ensures her reign in the state for at least a decade. Since the leitmotif of politics in Bengal is the misrule of the ruling party, Banerjee's longevity, once she wins, is guaranteed.


As the party-in-waiting, unburdened by any past track record, the Trinamool Congress is uniquely placed. Unlike other parties-in-waiting elsewhere in India, the Trinamool Congress has no special constituency to serve, barring voters disenchanted by the CPM and those who had been excluded by both the Left and the Congress. While it gives Banerjee greater room to manoeuvre, it also pushes her towards keeping unsavoury company. 


In Nandigram and in Singur, the Trinamool Congress made common cause with whichever political group opposed to the CPM. It was not choosy about the agendas of these groups. It is now evident that the People's Committee Against Police Atrocities in Lalgarh as well as the anti-land acquisition coalition were used by the Maoists to promote their politics and occupy turf in West Bengal. Banerjee has admitted her proximity of the Maoists/Naxalites by advertising her success in "mainstreaming" some of them. Since the Maoists have declared her their candidate for 2011, it seems obvious that she will get their support.


The re-entry of the ultra Left and its politics of violence in West Bengal is the outcome as much of the CPM's failure, as it is of the encouragement the Maoists have got from the Trinamool Congress. Because the famous party organisation has grown as dysfunctional as the equally famous inefficient administration, the mounting grievances have touched unbearable highs. From the CPM's inability to recover morale after its losses in the 2008 panchayat elections, preceded by the fierce confrontation over land acquisition for the Tata Motors factory in Singur, the Nandigram SEZ and its defeat on both counts, it is obvious that the fight has gone out of the party. The differences within the CPM over managing the series of crises that its actions have provoked, from the withdrawal of support to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance in 2008 to the panic-stricken response over land acquisition conflicts have further eroded the credibility of a weak leadership. 


Missteps by the CPM, the abuse of power by opportunists crowding under the party flag, its badly handled shift to enthusiastically espousing market reforms have all contributed to making space for every sort of opposition to make headway. Because the difference between regular bourgeois parties and the CPM has narrowed, Banerjee can claim, apparently convincingly that she is the "new" and "real" Left leader, despite her three stints as minister in Congress and BJP-led governments at the Centre. With nothing to choose between, West Bengal's jaded voters seem to be veering round to changing their brand, though it is unclear if the brand they prefer is only Trinamool.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SACHIN FOR INDIA

BAL THACKERAY DIVISIVE AS USUAL

 

The tongue-lashing that Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray has got from political leaders cutting across party lines as also from people at large clearly bears out that the unabashed Marathi card that he played in criticising legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar has misfired. Thackeray has never been known for moderation but his slamming Sachin for saying that Mumbai could not be monopolised and that all Indians had an equal right over it is the ultimate in outrageousness. Sachin's remark that he is a Maharashtrian and he is proud of that but he is an Indian first, should be a lesson for every Indian. We are living in times in which electoral politics has touched a new low with parochialism and casteism being used by political leaders to divide society for narrow partisan ends. Sachin Tendulkar's statement amounted to a rebuff to the "Marathi manoos" plank of the Shiv Sena and Raj Thackeray's MNS which is deeply divisive and regrettable. The icon that Sachin is, his forthright support for the "Indian first" creed seeks to unite the country and not divide it. For this the country must salute this extraordinary cricketer who has the gift of a genius and is unusually humble.

 

Bal Thackeray has had an inglorious record of divisive politics. He began his political career with an ugly campaign against South Indians in Mumbai. In the recent assembly elections, when his son and heir-apparent, Uddhav Thackeray, shunned the agenda of hate and concentrated his attention on the development plank, there was surprise in political circles. Raj Thackeray, on the other hand, took up the 'Marathi manoos' plank which was originally Bal Thackeray's and made some electoral gains. If Bal Thackeray's dig at Sachin Tendulkar is a manifestation of one-upmanship over his nephew Raj, it is a sad reflection that nothing has changed with this rabble-rouser.

 

Sachin is a national hero and nothing that anyone says can detract from that. Now that Bal Thackeray has mud on his face, he must introspect and express regret over his remarks. The people of Maharashtra and of India in general love Sachin far too much and they would never forgive a person who seeks to belittle this jewel in India's crown. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

DEATHS IN INCUBATORS

NEGLIGENCE AND INDIFFERENCE TO NEW-BORNS

 

When six new-born babies were killed in an incubator fire in Government Rajindra Hospital, Patiala, on January 31 it was thought that the incident was so ghastly that the kind of negligence that had caused the tragedy would never be repeated anywhere. But that presumption has proved to be horribly wrong. In an equally appalling case of medical negligence, seven infants have now died at a government hospital in the coastal Andhra city of Vijaywada. Here too, the deaths occurred due to faulty incubators and ventilators. As is their wont, the hospital authorities tried to escape responsibility by initially claiming that the deaths occurred only due to various ailments that the newborns, all between two and three days old, were suffering from. It was only when the outrage became too widespread that the government ordered a probe and promised to take action against the negligent staff.

 

The parents of the diseased babies have alleged that only four out of 11 incubators were functioning at the hospital. The babies were allegedly put in broken incubators and the neo-natal ward was not even equipped with centralised oxygen system for incubators. As if all that was not callous enough, the newborns were left unattended because of the ongoing strike by junior doctors demanding hike in the stipend. Nothing could be more shocking than this virtual murder by sheer negligence of seven infants.

 

Many cases of negligence take place in government hospitals on a routine basis, but at least children should have been spared this inhumanity. The inquiry that has now been ordered should not become an exercise in buying time till public anger on the issue subsides. Responsibility should be quickly fixed and the guilty given exemplary punishment so that there is no repeat of the horrifying incident. Such a ghastly tragedy taking place even once is unthinkable. India has had the dubious distinction of witnessing it twice, that too in the same year. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER POLICE DISTRICT

MAKE PUNJAB POLICE LEAN AND EFFICIENT

 

The Punjab government has created one more police district called Jalandhar (Rural) and appointed one more DGP, the sixth in the state, contrary to the advice from the Finance Department, which has not much money in its kitty. Media reports say there are plans to create two more rural police districts at Patiala and Bathinda. Police expansion is high on Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal's agenda. He plans to have commandos in the Punjab Police on the pattern of the National Security Guards. Realising the cash-strapped state's inability to bear the financial burden, he has asked the Centre for Rs 100 crore to "modernise" the force.

 

Though the state was rid of militancy long ago, the police districts have remained intact (their names have changed) and more are being created, possible to accommodate officers. VIP security has not been slashed. The police mindset has not changed. Frequent reports of custodial deaths, torture and excesses on citizens have tarnished the police image and credibility. According to the police's own data, one rape is reported everyday and one woman murdered every second day. Ten per cent of the cases registered by the Punjab Police are questionable. Drug addiction could not have flourished in the state without police blessings at the grassroots level upwards.

 

In these days of fast communication and transport systems, why should a small state like Punjab have such a top-heavy police force? If one IG could head the police force in the undivided Punjab, why is one DGP not enough for the truncated state? Apart from six DGPs, the state has 13 ADGPs. The police force, it seems, exists more to protect VIPs and serve the interests of officers than ensure safety to the citizen. Despite the Supreme Court orders, police reforms are being implemented half-heartedly. The need is to make the police lean, mean and efficient as well as sensitise the policemen so that they learn to respect the rights and dignity of every individual.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

NO DIALOGUE AT THIS STAGE

PAKISTAN MUST HONOUR ITS WORD ON TERRORISM

BY K. SUBRAHMANYAM

 

A debate is on in the country whether India should accede to the Pakistani demand and get into the composite dialogue that was suspended in the wake of the 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai. The Pakistanis maintain that without the resumption of the dialogue and reduction of Indian forces on their eastern borders they are unable to put in optimum military effort in their war against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. It is claimed that this view has the support of some American officials also.

 

Others argue that dialogue with a nuclear neighbour is not only desirable but also imperative, and communication interruption is not in our interest. Some Indian analysts expect that the Prime Minister will come under pressure during his summit meeting with President Obama on November 24 to yield to the Pakistan demand for the resumption of the composite dialogue process.

 

The Indian stand has been that Pakistan should show adequate seriousness in prosecuting the 26/11 case and there should be action against the Lashkar -e-Toiba chief, Hafiz Saeed. Since American, Israeli, British, French and Singapore nationals were killed in the 26/11 terrorist strike, the Government of India owes it to its people as well as to the people of those countries that justice is done. Pakistan is not only testing India's tolerance in this case but also that of the Americans. The US has the recordings of the phone conversations between the terrorists and their handlers. Pakistan has refused US agencies access to the accused in its custody. The Pakistanis have problems in bringing the LeT accused to trial since that would expose the Pakistani Army's sponsorship of the attack.

 

Some new information is emerging with the arrest of David Headley and Tahawwur Rana by the FBI in Chicago. It would appear that Headley and Rana may be connected with the 26/11 attack and this is being investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in India. In the chargesheet filed in the US courts there are references to an unidentified person of the LeT and it is possible that it may be another Army officer whose identity is being shielded at present by the FBI.

 

If India's NIA were to establish a connection between Headley and Rana and the 26/11 attack then the case in Chicago will take a different turn and those two will also be culpable for the killings on 26/11, including that of the Americans. Imagine the outrage in India, the US and elsewhere if the Government of India were to yield on the composite dialogue even as the Pakistanis dodge the 26/11 trial and the Hafiz Saeed case and Headley and Rana get involved in the case. After Pakistan received $13 billion from the US the Republicans, whose handling of General Musharraf during the last seven years, according to President Obama, only produced mixed results, will be able to criticise the President for being soft on those who killed six Americans on 26/11.

 

If Pakistan gets away with this dodging they will be emboldened to find new excuses not to commit themselves wholeheartedly to defeat the jihadis and dismantle their insfrastructure. They have already started complaining that while they push the Taliban into the Afghan territory in South Waziristan the US and NATO forces on the other side of the Durand Line are not playing their roles effectively. The Pakistan Army is looking for excuses not to carry out its campaign against the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and its associate organisations. They have excuses galore — that the US and NATO are not doing their job, the US is not making funds and equipment available for use or the Indian Army is on the eastern border.

 

The composite dialogue was agreed to by Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee in January 2004 on General Musharraf's assurance that no territory under Pakistani control would be allowed to be used to launch terrorist attacks on India. Not only 26/11 was launched from Pakistani soil but also the Pakistanis are making a mockery of the trial on the one side and arguing that Hafiz Saeed had been set free by the judiciary. It is obvious to both the Indian and US authorities that the Pakistani government is not interested in making out a case against Hafiz Saeed. Putting up a bad case and getting an accused acquitted is one of the oldest tricks of corrupt policemen.

 

President Obama has made it clear that Pakistan did not face any threat from India. He asserted, "So make no mistake, Al-Qaeda and its extremist allies are a cancer that risks killing Pakistan from within." The Pakistani argument that they are unable to shift their troops to fight the Taliban without troop reduction by India amounts to taking a stand that they would rather die of terrorist cancer than look at India realistically and not through a hate prism. India had never started a war. All four wars between the two countries were started by Pakistan. Indian troops are on the border because of Pakistan waging a covert war against India since 1989.

 

By putting forward this excuse of composite dialogue, a solution to the Kashmir problem and not taking effective action against jihadis, Pakistan wants to preserve its terrorist instrumentalities not only against India but the US as well. Without the US being subjected to a terrorist threat, money will not flow from Washington. Therefore, the LeT has to operate in the US and threaten it with various terrorist acts from time to time. Consequently, we have Headleys, Ranas and Zazis (arrested in Denver), and there may be more we do not know about.

 

An uninterrupted dialogue with Pakistan is essential. But undertaking it at this stage will send a wrong message to them both from the Indian and US points of view. To initiate a dialogue when the Pakistanis are laughing at India and the US that they are able to get away with the terrorist murder without getting anybody even legally proceeded against seriously will be counterproductive.

 

Two steps are essential before any dialogue can be considered. We should wait till the Indian investigation of the Headley-Rana case is completed. Secondly, Pakistan should demonstrate seriousness in respect of its commitment to disrupt and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and defeat the jihadis. That includes the 26/11 trial and action against Hafiz Saeed.

 

Pakistani Army officers are of the view they have been able to outsmart not only Indians but the Americans as well. They got their nuclear weapon, billions dollars producing "mixed results" in Mr Obama's words, have sustained their jihadi organisations and have not been punished though Pakistanis shot CIA men in 1993, tried to blow up the World Trade Centre in 1993, sent money to the lead hijacker of 9/11 and Pakistani Khalid Sheikh Mohammed plotted the operation.

 

They gave asylum and sustained Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, and allowed the Afghan Taliban to regroup and use their territory as safe haven. Yet they received massive aid from the US during this time. Let not the Pakistanis continue to feel that they can outsmart the US and India by getting the dialogue started without fulfilling their commitments.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

THE INAUGURATION

BY DR ANJALI MEHTA

 

A new piece of equipment had been bought at the hospital which had to be "inaugurated". Unlike other instruments which had been bought and used without much fuss or preamble (and discovered accidentally by the intended users. Typically, a doctor would say. "hey the table looks cluttered today!" and someone would point out "That's because these new lenses are lying on it") this was different. A well-known public figure had funded the purchase and his generosity had to be highlighted. This would ensure that this was not the only cheque of its kind !

 

The site chosen for the inauguration was the block room just outside the main operation theatre where anaesthetic injections are given prior to surgery.

 

The chief guest had arrived and the entourage was going around the hospital. It was suggested that I start giving the anaesthetic injections in the block room. I reckoned that were the chief guest to come into the room just then and I were seen lurking in the background with hypodermic needles instead of flowers, there was a fair chance that the security guards might arrest me. I refused, deciding to give the blocks inside the theatre instead.

 

Accordingly, I changed into OT gear but soon encountered a problem. They had taken the old machines' metal stand to place the "to be inaugurated" machine on so we had no stand on which to place our old machine and start the surgeries. I suggested to sister that we shift the machine with its decorations ( ribbon et al ) onto a more dispensable table.

 

Easy enough; the machine was not very heavy. The only problem was that if the chief guest entered the room right when we had lifted the machine off its original table, it could prove awkward. The stand was covered with a flower-decked tablecloth (on which sat the gleaming new machine), the other table was bare. So we could be in an odd situation where the decorations were on the stand and the machine on the other bare table (if we did not have sufficient time to deck up the other table).

 

The worst case scenario was if the machine was in sister's and my arms and we had one bare table and one decorated stand on either side of us. I decided that were we indeed caught in the act, we would nonchalantly pretend that it was meant to be that way…they could just cut the ribbon while sister and me were holding the machine. The only drawback being that this large scissor would be precariously close to our fingers which were in front near the bow of the ribbon.

 

I quickly summarised for sister the story about the legendary William Tell of Switzerland and how his son stood with the apple on his head while Tell fired the arrow. I inspired her to prove that we had the kid's bravery hiding in our hearts and this was the time to exhibit it.

 

As things transpired, we were able to place the decorated tablecloth on the new table and the machine on it without being interrupted.

 

We then briskly got down to work and thus our new equipment came into being.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

THERE IS TOO MUCH LAW AND TOO LITTLE JUSTICE

BY B.G. VERGHESE

 

It is strange and worrying that so many people in India appear to believe that punishment should not fit the crime. Manu Sharma, now serving a life sentence in Tihar jail for murdering Jessica Lall in 1999, was granted parole for a month in September and then for another month on the ground that he needed to observe his grandmother's death anniversary, visit his sick mother in Chandigarh and there attend to the family business.

 

He voluntarily returned to Tihar a few days ago after a hue and cry about his parole in the first place and his conduct while out of prison – such as pub crawling.

 

The modalities for granting parole are said to have been correctly observed under law. The grounds, however, do not appear to have been properly checked, as the death anniversary was antecedent and Sharma's mother was not ill.

 

The parole procedure followed in this case is now being probed. But even granting the reformative aspect of imprisonment and the efforts commendably prescribed to reclaim criminals, should parole for heinous crime be granted as easily as it is in India and should preference be given to people with wealth and connections while lesser breeds have none to speak for them?

 

A grandmother's death anniversary and attending to the family business appear trivial grounds for parole. So perhaps are weddings. And if prisoners are ill, should they be permitted to choose their hospitals and enjoy what for many would appear to be a holiday under five-star medical care?

 

Now Madhu Koda, the former Jharkhand chief minister currently under investigation for fraud, has complained that he is being framed and will "reveal all" at the right time. What could be a better time than now?

 

The Reddy brothers. who are allegedly part of the notorious Bellary iron ore mining mafia, have just succeeded in blackmailing Yeddyurappa, the Andhra chief minister, into reshuffling his ministry and certain civil servants in order to avert a party split that might have cost him his majority. If the BJP succumbed to this pressure, the Congress and others have done so too. Criminals rule.

 

As disgraceful was the hooliganism displayed by MNS MLAs in the newly-convened Maharashtra Assembly when they violently objected to a Samajwadi Party member Abu Azmi, taking his oath in Hindi.

 

This, because their boss, Raj Thackeray had ordained that oaths must be taken only in Marathi as a matter of Marathi pride. There was pandemonium as Azmi was assaulted and furniture scattered.

 

The Speaker suspended the four errant MNS members from the House for four years, a punishment that the MNS claims is too harsh as its Members meant no disrespect to the House!

 

The suspension should not be revoked or commuted, nor should the four errant MLAs be allowed to come to the Assembly, sign the attendance register and claim their salary or allowances. This sort of misbehaviour is becoming endemic as it goes unpunished or is too lightly punished.

 

The oath may be taken in any of the country's 22 Scheduled languages and Hindi is the national language. What does the oath state: "I… do swear in the name of God/solemnly affirm,,,.. that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established ….". So if the Constitution is violated at the very threshold, what remains?

 

In the instant case, the malaise stems from the rabid threats that have emanated from Raj Thackeray, in the manner of his uncle, Bal Thackeray, about reserving jobs in the state for Maharashtrians and mandating that all "outsiders" shall speak Marathi or face dire consequences.

 

"Outsiders" have contributed greatly to Mumbai and Maharashtras' prosperity and do so even today.

 

Thackeray has been at this game of rabble rousing for quite some time and has warned that Mumbai will burn if he is touched. The government has sadly treated such open incitement and defiance with extraordinary pusillanimity.

 

Maharashtra is not the only state that has been cowed down by thugs and bullies, which has only whetted their appetite for mischief and encouraged others to follow suit. This must end.

 

Punishment must be swift and condign and if public property is destroyed, the party must be made to pay, if necessary by selling off personal property of the ring-leaders and other guilty elements. This will end impunity and immunity.

 

Finally, there was the sad case of agitating lawyers manhandling the Karnataka Chief Justice, Mr Dinakaran, as he has been charged with accumulating wealth through improper means. It is for this reason that his name was not further processed after much protest when put up for promotion to the Supreme Court bench.

 

Peaceful agitation is one thing. But creating disorder in the Chief Justice's court room and manhandling him is an assault on the judicial process and constitutes unacceptable behaviour. The outrage committed has been widely condemned. But is that sufficient? What next?

 

All around us we see an erosion or outright collapse of civility and democratic conduct, sometimes by those who are extremely privileged or are supposedly the guardians of the system. The rot cannot be allowed to spread, else it will destroy us all. One of the critical issues we face is perhaps too much law and too little justice.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

NEW TIME ZONE FOR NORTH-EAST

BY SANJOY HAZARIKA

 

As the sun rises in the North-East, much of India sleeps.  To paraphrase Jawaharlal Nehru's memorable moving remarks when the sun set on the British Empire in 1947: "At the stroke of midnight when the world sleeps, India awakes to life and freedom."  Indeed, as the early morning light washes across the North-east of India, darkness prevails over the rest of the country.

 

As a result, for 62 years, instead of following the natural cycle and that of the sun, India and its eastern periphery have been trapped in a time zone that makes neither common sense nor social and economic sense. 

 

The latest reports of the region lagging behind the rest of the country by as much as 35-to-5 percent are a grim reminder of the fact that power brokers and politicians, bureaucrats and the national security lobby have made an unmitigated mess of conditions in the region for all these years.

 

Let me elaborate: I am not jumping on the bandwagon of everyone from or in the NE who blames the Centre for everything that is wrong in the region.  This is a very simple and practical issue that lies at the foundation of how we measure our days, our productivity and the structure of our lives. I shall argue here that the IST paradigm is harmful not just for the NER but for all of India which should at the least, have three time zones.

 

Now, according to the way international time zones are calculated, four minutes is the what a degree of Longitude measures in actual time. That means that we are looking at 31.7 degrees multiplied by 4 = 126.8 minutes, which gives us the figure in the previous paragraph.

 

These are not just statistics that one is pulling out of a hat: it is based on solid research and work done by a team led by the noted film director and thinker from Assam, Jahnu Barua.  Jahnu's point again is
simple: a huge amount of potential productive time in wasted in the region, waiting for offices (government and private) to open, schools and other educational institutions to start functioning. In some cases, as much as six hours daylight has passed before the doors of the secretariat of government open.

 

That's in summer.  In winter, it's the other way around: because the sun sets early, darkness rushes across the landscape while Delhi, Mumbai and other cities are still lit by the sun. So, in many cases, those working in offices in Nagaland and Manipur – if they stay in office that long (government offices, barring exceptions, are not known either for competence or discipline: many staff members come late and leave early) – end up completing their last hours of duty in darkness.

 

There will be many in different establishments who will decry the suggestion and argument for a new Time Zone, for the North-east and other parts of India. But for those who do so, we have questions:

 

• Have the Time Zones in Russia and the United States been an impediment or advantage for economic progress, not to speak of security and governance? (Thus, if a Jet Airways flight leaves from Delhi at say 10 am and arrives in Guwahati at 10:24 am instead of 1250 hrs, surely it would improve business and travel: a businessman, official or any other person can actually move easily between the region, using time to the maximum)

 

lWhy is it that the biggest zones of economic growth are in the West, North and South which work in a time zone that is suited to them

lRationally, then, why is it that the poorest zones of growth are in the East and North-east (Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal and the North East?

 

lThink of the hours of energy time that are used (and misused) in homes, government and other offices that could be saved: Jahnu has calculated that over the past 40 years alone, some Rs. 43,800 crores in the NE has gone down the drain thanks to this irrational time structure.

 

lYet, the Government of India has in the past two decades set aside, according to one figure, not less than Rs. 120,000 crore for the region!

 

Of course, practical changes would need to be made – to schedules and timings of institutions and government, apart from readjusting the body clock and insisting on greater discipline.  But if the latest reports of the niggardly progress of the Northeastern states if anything to go by, it should serve as a wake up to governments and those out of it, to start designing the productivity cycle in the NE and other parts of the country in a rational manner.

 

It is not as if a special time zone did not exist in the region: it did, even under the British. Today there is still Tea Time, which is an hour ahead of the rest of IST. That time was also used by Oil India Ltd until the 1970s and the arrival of a major public sector behemoth in the oil and gas sector. Efficiency and productivity have since plunged in that sector in the region.

 

For those who cavil from the security point of view – four to six hours of extra daylight means greater scope for improved operations. In addition, daylight saving, which is what we are advocating in essence, can certainly not present a threat to the idea or integrity of India: it would only strengthen it! I am sure that even the wise men in the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council would agree.

 

The morning hours are the critical time of life and the day: for to those concerned with the root issues of insurgency and conflict, which lie in the failure of the State to understand political concerns and governance (unemployment, lack of basic services, lack of minimum needs) it represents a major robust challenge.

 

Extra (North-east) time means that young minds would need to be filled with ideas, empty hands with work and empty stomachs with food.  For no reason is there an adage that an empty mind is the devil's workshop.  There has been enough of messiness and harm caused by ideas espousing violence and conflict, where the young and poor suffer the most, not those who call for the fight – either the State or non-State actors.

 

The writer is a specialist on the North-east 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

CAN WE REALLY CONTROL THE WEATHER?

BY TOM CHOULARTON

 

Recently both Russia and China have claimed to be able to use cloud seeding to increase rainfall and snowfall, or change the location of where it falls. In the past, snow-making experiments have been carried out in North American ski resorts in the past with little evidence of success. So how have the Russian and Chinese scientists achieved this feat and what evidence is there that it is in fact due to cloud seeding?

 

The seeding method used is to add tiny particles of silver iodide to the clouds and there is solid science behind this method. At temperatures a few degrees below zero degrees centigrade, clouds consist mainly of supercooled water droplets.

 

These clouds can be quite stable, but silver iodide has an ice-like structure and it will cause a few of these water droplets to freeze. Once you have ice particles mixed in with the supercooled droplets, these crystals grow rapidly to form snowflakes, causing the cloud to precipitate. The effect is that the water is released from the cloud.

 

This form of cloud seeding is not new - It has been used since the 1960s in the western USA to try to make rain, as well as being used in Israel in the past. The difficulty is it has always been hard to prove whether the cloud would have rained naturally if it hadn't been seeded. Even tests where seeding lots of clouds takes place and un-seeded clouds are used as controls haven't produce statistically significant results. Therefore, if it works at all it can't be hugely effective.

 

So although the underlying science behind the technique seems to be sound, what is presently wrong with the technique?

 

We at Manchester University have been flying the UK atmospheric research aircraft in clouds that may or may not produce rain or snow, to investigate effective conditions for cloud seeding in different environments. Last winter, we were flying in low clouds with temperatures just below freezing and we did not manage to seed any of the clouds and they were left entirely natural. We found that on many occasions these clouds already contained a mixture of supercooled water droplets and ice crystals, and the ice crystals were growing and falling out as snow. However this wasn't on account of our seeding efforts.

 

Interestingly, the origin of these ice particles seemed to be due to freezing caused by particles of dust, ash and organic material carried up into the cloud (some of which can be attributed to pollution). We found that once some ice is formed there is a powerful secondary ice particle production process which occurs at about minus six degrees Celsius. This produces lots of ice crystals, meaning that even if the clouds had been seeded with silver iodide, it would have had little effect. Snow was being produced very effectively and quite naturally anyway.

 

Interestingly, when we flew higher into clouds, well above the ground and away from a lot of the particulate material, we did find clouds at colder temperatures, as cold as -30C that were made up entirely of supercooled water droplets so maybe seeding these would have had an impact.

 

So does cloud seeding work? Well our studies indicate that in many clouds that produce lots of snow it does not seem to, because there is plently of natural ice already. However, I don't completely dismiss it as a method – I do believe it's possible it can be effective in some clouds in the right conditions and at the right temperature. Nevertheless, I feel some of the stronger claims made recently need further verification, before we herald this as a breakthrough in scientists' ability to manipulate natural weather cycles.

 

 By arrangement with The Independent

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

DIPPING TEA OUTPUT

 

The latest Tea Board data released on November 5, 2009 shows that India's tea production in September was down at 101.46 million kg as against 107 million kg in the corresponding month of 2008. This is mainly due to decline in output in Dooars and Terai regions of West Bengal. Tea export from India during the month also fell by more than one million kg as compared to the previous year. The report of the Tea Board reveals that during the period from January to September, 2009, tea output declined to 697 million kg as against 707 million in the corresponding period of 2008. Production in Assam which accounts for more than 50 per cent of the country's total, however, registered a little increase from 356.7 million kg in January-September period of 2008 to 359.6 million kg in the same period of current year. India– the world's second largest producer of tea, only after China, has, of late, taken to increasing imports of the beverage. Despite high prices, the country's tea imports shot up by 28 per cent in the current year as growing domestic consumption and fears of decline in output in coming months have triggered the overseas purchases touching the 13.17 million kg mark in the period between January and July of the current year as against 10.3 million kg in the same period of the last year.


The reasons for such growing imports of tea are not only robust domestic consumption and fears of decline in domestic output of the country's largest tea producing State, Assam due to drought conditions and low level of infrastructure, but also earning of high profit from exports of value-added products prompting traders to import larger quantum even though the prices are going higher. Another important aspect of the international market is that tea consumers are increasingly demanding organic tea in preference to agro-chemically made product. It is high time that India mobilises all efforts to rise to the changed situation to capture the opportunity. Now that the tea sector has come out of cyclical downturn in the country, it should start taking aggressively to organic production and avoid use of agro-chemicals, that would also reduce the cost of production. The Tea Board has obtained a fair trade and G-9 certification for organic Darjeeling tea to protect its quality and flavour and has also registered the trade mark 'Nilgiri' for a special type of tea in Tamil Nadu, Assam and North East where this variety is grown in hill gardens. Yet another variety of organic tea grown in Sikkim is very popular in Europe, specially in Germany and hence, the estate has applied for G-9 protection. Arunachal Pradesh is also practising cultivation of organic tea. Assam has already started this cultivation though at a small scale. To encourage this aspect of tea outlook the three most important necessities are increased initiative from authorities, growing level of research and development (R&D) activities and enthusiastic venture from small tea growers.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

MEDIA'S CREDIBILITY

 

Press Council of India chairman Justice GN Ray's observation that the media is increasingly indulging in corrupt practices such as distortion and disinformation – often for monetary considerations – should serve as a wake-up call for the entire media fraternity. It is a fact that the media has succumbed to the vice of malpractices and corruption, with the result that serious compromises are being made on the avowed objectives of the fourth pillar of democracy. While the media is a potent tool for effecting development and moulding public opinion, the need to check the unhealthy trends afflicting this powerful institution is urgent. The media has a sacred responsibility of keeping the people informed but unfortunately, distortion in news for serving vested interests has come in the way of dispassionate dissemination of information. Sensationalization, preoccupation with trivia, and obsession with violence now dominate the media. Then, more often than not, we get to see the media at the judge's chair, as the media is fast discarding its role of a detached observer. The tone and tenor of presenting news, especially in the electronic media, is far from being measured. All this is perhaps an undesirable side effect of the media's proliferation and commercialization in recent times, leading market forces to dictate the media in an unprecedented manner. The result is that entertainment and trivia are riding roughshod over genuine news. This is seriously eroding the media's credence both as news provider and an engine for growth.

Since our media enjoys a reasonable level of independence, it is equally duty-bound to behave in a responsible manner, especially when dealing with violence or other sensitive issues. Sensatinalization often leads to dangerous consequences by arousing public passion. The growing trend of sensationalism and biased reporting has already done much harm to the society. Given the complex and sensitive issues plaguing the North-East, it is all the more imperative for the media to act sensibly. The mindless obsession with violence and trivia has effectively relegated the larger issues of public interest to the backstage. It is time the media did some serious introspection and mended its ways. The way forward will depend largely on the manner the media conducts itself. The media must fulfil its responsibility of engineering socio-economic progress and creating an enlightened readership. Business interests and work pressure cannot be an excuse to stray from the cardinal principles of journalism.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

LIFE AND TIMES OF HARIBILASH AGARWALA

PRANJIT AGARWALA

 

The history of the language, literature, art and culture of Assam cannot be recounted without recalling the contributions of Rupkonwar Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, Chandra Kumar Agarwala and Ananda Chandra Agarwala. Deservedly all of them are reverred by the people of Assam. However even today very few people know about Haribilash Agarwala, whose progeny they are and who instilled in them the spirit of enterprise, learning and social service.


Haribilash Agarwala believed in all round development. As such his work for self- prosperity and growth was not exclusive but was all encompassing. His endeavors went beyond trade and commerce to include socio- religious welfare, patronizing art and culture, promoting Assamese language and literature, philanthropy, travelling to widen the horizons of self and the state, to statesmanship. The nearly years of his life and times therefore gives an insight into the economic, social, cultural and political conditions prevailing in Assam during the period.


He was the first Assamese to travel the length and breadth of India as well as to visit Burma (Myanmar) and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). He developed the rubber trade and brought Assamese entrepreneurship into prominence even outside Assam including south India. He foresaw the prospects of tea in Assam and in 1861 appealed in the durbar held at Dibrugarh by Lt. Governor Cecil Biden to provide equal opportunities to the indigenous gentry for tea planting. In 1858 he was a student at Sibsagar and witnessed the strong undercurrent of public resentment when Maniram Dewan was hanged at Jorhat. In 1859 he had the privilege to visit and meet at Burdwan the deposed Ahom King Kandarpeswar Singha who was exiled and kept in solitary confinement there after the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. In 1849 he saw his father build the stretch of the North Trunk road, now NH 52 from Behali to Gohpur. His statesmanship was responsible for keeping the peace between the hill tribes, Akas and Duffalas, and the British Government, for which he was appointed a tehsildar but which he refused to accept. In 1899 his singular effort of printing and publishing the ancient hand written scriptures of Sri Sankardev and Madhabdev helped bring to light the significant heritage of Assam which provided the impetus necessary to develop the Assamese language and literature. It was an extraordinary life that began at Gomiri in present day Sonitpur District where he was born in September 1842. His name at birth was Bapiram son of Navarangram.

His forefathers were wealthy and renowned "Saudagars" from Tai village in the erstwhile state of Jaipur. However in the internecine clashes so common at the time, his grandfather Hemraj was persecuted by a group of zamindars for his wealth. To save his and his family's lives, he fled from Tai abandoning everything and came to Churu in the then state of Bikaner in destitution. His palatial home in Tai exists even today though in a dilapidated condition. And in Churu the family is still known as "Taiwala".


Unable to bear the loss Hemraj died leaving behind his wife and three sons, of whom Navarangram was the eldest. Extremely hard times followed and at the age of 16 years Navarangram ventured eastwards to turn the wheel of fortune.


Navarangram Agarwala worked his way across North India passing through Mirzapur Farukkabad, Varanasi, Murshidabad and arrived at Goalpara in 1827 working as a helper in the boat he came in. North India was then in transition with the Mughal empire crumbling and the British empire in India emerging. Goalpara was then the business centre of Assam and lower Assam up to Biswanath Chariali was under British rule, while Upper Assam was under the rule of Ahom King Purandhar Singha. The boundary between the two territories was the Behali river on the North Bank and the Dhansiri river on the south bank.


Navarangram worked at first in the firm of Ramlal Poddar. However in 1830 he left and set up his own business at Gomiri forty kilometers east of Biswanath Chariali. Gomiri was then under Ahom rule. At Gomiri with his business acumen, determination and enterprise his business grew substantially and spread to North Lakhimpur and Dibrugarh.


He soon became a name to reckon with and Maniram Dewan appointed him the Royal Collector of Revenues for all the Ahom ruled territories on the north bank. When in 1838 the British deposed Purandhar Singha and the whole of Assam came under British rule they introduced the Mouzadari system for the collection of land revenues. Navarangaram was made the Mouzadar of Kolongpur. Because of his umder standing with the Akas and Duffalas he was instrumental in bringing about peace between them and the British government.


He believed in social and communal integration and hence chose to marry outside his community. First "Sadori" the mother of Haribilash hailing from the famous Rajkhowa family of Gomiri. And later "Sun-Pahi" from the equally renowned Saikia family of Brahmajan. At the time many people who came from outside, married local girls and settled permanently in Assam. But they chose to change their original surnames, and adopted local titles so that in future there would be no doubts about their being natives of the state. Unlike them Navarangram chose to retain his title of origin, Agarwala. Otherwise he intergrated completely into the Assamese community following their customs, way of life, dress and language. He was also influenced by the reformist teachings of Sri Sankardev and became a disciple of Auniati Satra of Majuli and embraced Vaishnavism which he actively propagated and practiced.


For a devout Marwari Hindu to take such extraordinary decisions required a lot of courage at a time when society was rigidly bound by customs and traditions. Navarangram died in 1865. Thus like many Marwaris, Navarangram Agarwala also came to Assam to do business, but unlike them he set a unique precedent that encouraged people to look at the old world in a new way. A way of integration that gave Assam a lineage which in the future would influence Assamese thinking and figure prominently in the annals of Assamese culture.

Haribilash Agarwala therefore grew up in a home that was a confluence of diverse influences. He had a keen interest in learning. However as there were no schools in the area his father sent him to Dibrugarh for schooling. At that time all schools in Assam had Bengali as the medium of instruction. There were two English medium schools, in Sibsagar and Guwahati only. Students used wooden slates blackened with soot to write on and all text books were in Bengali. After studying in Dibrugarh till 1856, he joined the English medium school at Sibsagar where the Head Master was Lionel Angels. He was good at Arithmetic and being hardworking always came either first or second. He was also awarded a scholarship which was Rs 4/- annually. In 1859 he went to Calcutta for further studies and joined the Hindu School. However after only a few months he had to leave and come back home to help his father manage the rapidly growing family business.


In 1861 still a teenager he entered business taking charge of their business in Dibrugarh. That was the year when the government banned poppy cultivation in Assam and tea began to be planted on a large scale. With the advent of tea gardens the economy of Assam, especially Upper Assam, improved and business opportunities increased. Till then their business was mainly confined to trading in traditional items along traditional lines. But with his enterprise, acumen and dynamism Haribilash charted a new course expanding and diversifying the business.

In a span of twenty five years with his foresight and dynamism he built up a business empire spread over Assam, Bengal, Orissa and the south. In Assam he had established over sixty shops. Tamulbari Tea Estate was developed into one of the best and biggest tea gardens of Assam. Manufacturing of tea was started with Tamulbari Tea becoming the benchmark of quality Assam tea.


He organized and developed the rubber trade in Assam and also became a prominent figure in the trade in the South. In 1876 he bought the premises of a Jewish firm Ezra and Company on 10, Armenian Street at Calcutta and started his own banking business. He was one of the first proponents of tea garden financing and was the agent of leading companies like Williamson Magor and Mcleod's. In 1883 he set up a saw mill and tea chest making unit at Jahajghat Tezpur which was the first integrated industrial unit on the north bank. In Orissa he had invested in mines, while in Chakradhapur he had opened up a leather business. He also had a cane business with an Englishman C.D. Stewart as agent in Calcutta. Besides he had acquired substantial prime properties in Tezpur, Dibrugarh and North Lakhimpur towns. Therefore by 1888 he was regarded as among the top most and wealthiest businessmen of Assam.


However achieving all this was not easy because as a native businessman he had to face a lot of impediments. The British and the Europeans primary objective in coming to India was for trading and exploiting its vast natural resources. As such the British government followed a policy that discriminated against native businessmen and the concept of free trade was if at all, in theory only.


For instance seeing the bright prospects of tea in Assam, the British followed a discriminatory policy of giving grants of prime government lands to British and European planters for tea plantation. Soon these tea companies became the biggest land owners of Assam. In this context in 1861 Haribilash had appealed for equal opportunities to the local gentry for tea planting in the durbar of Lt Governor Cecil Biden at Dibrugarh. At the same time hordes of immigrant labourers were brought over mainly from Chottanagpur and Jharkhand areas of Central India to work in the tea gardens. This was the beginning of the demographic change in Assam which in the next century would be the cause of major social and political unrest in Assam.


Again in the rubber trade the government made it compulsory for all traders to procure rubber from the forest department which auctioned off forest blocks of rubber trees. In the tenders European tenderers were given preference over native bidders. In spite of that Haribilash was successful in out bidding them and taking over forest blocks /mahals. Even then the government tried to obstruct him by instituting false cases against him and barring him from the trade and even seizing his stocks. But undeterred he fought legal battles and proved his innocence and succeeded in retaining his share of the market. Therefore at that time there was a pronounced bias against native businessmen and the British and European businessmen together took every opportunity to obstruct the growth of native businessmen.


It was because of this intense rivalry that Haribilash was made to suffer a huge loss when the manager of his sawmill and tea chest making unit sent a stern letter to the gardens, which were all European, asking them to clear their outstanding dues against supply of tea chests. Outraged at receiving such a letter from a native they decided to henceforth boycott the unit en-masse. Not only that they made a Mr. Ryan set up another unit at Tezpur to supply them with tea chests. Consequently Haribilash suffered huge losses as tea chests and raw stock worth lakhs of rupees just rotted away.


Once the news of his losses spread his banking business at Calcutta got affected as investors started pulling out their money. This sudden outflow of a huge amount of cash caused a severe liquidity crunch. But unfazed he kept his commitments. When he had exhausted all his cash reserves he had to sell off some of his prime properties to honour his commitments. It was at this time that he had to sell his property at 10, Armenian Street in Calcutta.


Moreover he had to close down all his shops in Assam and sell off all his commercial properties in Dibrugarh town. Any other man would have been devastated. But his spirit remained undefeated and along with his sons he started re-building the family fortune with enterprise and industry. By 1912 even though he could not regain his properties and businesses in Calcutta, within, Assam he succeeded in restoring his position. This was further strengthened when in 1919 his youngest son Gopal Agarwala established Bholaguri Tea Estate, the first non-European tea garden on the north bank, near Gohpur.


For the education of his children in 1873 Haribilash had shifted from Gomiri to Tezpur. At Tezpur he had built his home in the middle of the town which was burnt to the ground in a fire in April 1874. On the site of the burnt out house he built a new home "Poki". "Poki" was not only his home but also the hub of the political, cultural and social activities of Tezpur and the then undivided district of Darrang. Even later "Poki" was at the centre of many momentous events that took place. Many prominent leaders of Assam and India including Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru have visited "Poki". Of still greater relevance is the place of "Poki" in the art and cultural history of Assam. It was here that Haribilash's grandson Rupkonwar Jyoti Prasad Agarawala gave a new life and direction to Assamese literature, art and culture. It was at "Poki" that Bishnu Rabha and Phani Sarnia honed their skills which later came to life at Tezpur's immortal "Ban" theater. And it was at "Poki" that Jyoti Prasad discovered Bhupen Hazarika and nurtured his talent that in later years became a legend in Assam, India and beyond.


"Poki" today is in the hands of the Assam government and is known as Jyoti Bharat', a silent witness to its glorious past, but rather indifferent present and uncertain future. "Poki" deserves to be preserved as one of the important heritage buildings of Assam, because within its precincts are encapsuled a part of Assam's political, social and cultural history.


Even though Haribilash Agarwala was basically a businessman he himself was very learned and a scholar of Sanskrit literature. He had a well stocked library of Sanskrit literature in his home. He made an invaluable contribution to Assamese literature when in 1899 for the first time he had the ancient hand written scriptures of Sri Sankardev and Madhavdev like the Kirtan, Nam-Ghosa, Srimad Bhagwat, Bargeet etc printed and published. This gave the new generation of Assamese scholars and litterateurs an insight into the rich treasure trove of ancient Assamese literature. This singular effort gave a big boost to the language movement for the revival and development of the Assamese language at the time.


Haribilash Agarwala died on 18th November 1916 at Tezpur at the age of 74 years. What was his life all about? It was about building a business empire with social responsibility. It was about family values and being principled and ethical in the most trying of times. It was about remaining unconquered even in defeat, and how to overcome and not be overwhelmed.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

DIGITALISE TERRESTRIAL TV

 

The government behaves as if third-generation (3G) telecom services are an indulgence for the public and a revenue source for itself. Why else would it dawdle on 3G licences the way it has been? At the pre-bid conference held this Monday, it had no clarity to offer on any substantive issue and, not surprisingly, foreign players, who hope to see 3G as their entry point in India, skipped the meet altogether.


True, it does not mean that the latter would finally stay away from 3G licence auctions. But the main constraint is that the government is offering just 5 Mhz of spectrum with each 3G licence, citing shortage of spectrum. This is just not enough for viable services, leave alone efficient network

planning. Spectrum shortage is entirely a result of faulty planning and, worse, implementation.


Our terrestrial broadcasting monopoly, Doordarshan (DD), hogs valuable spectrum in the 700 Mhz band, ideally suited for 3G services. Apparently, it is possible to release 108 Mhz of spectrum in this band by digitalising all terrestrial broadcast. Nations around the world are on the verge of completing their transition to digital TV.


In India, DD has a desultory plan to go digital by 2017, and in India, deadlines have a life of their own: 2017 could well yawn, stretch and walk over to 2027. Such an attitude amounts to criminal negligence, given the potential that wireless broadband has for transforming the economic potential of rural India. Let us not make the mistake of thinking fun and games when we think 3G.


In India, 3G is likely to carry vital services, rather than entertainment: data ranging from educational material for schools and diagnostic information on patients hundreds of miles away from a qualified doctor to precise instructions on growing orchids and crafting embroidery for export.


Give DD a one-year mandate to go completely digital. Part of the cost can be met from the fund meant for achieving universal telecom access. Consumers will need set-top boxes (STBs) to make their analogue TVs receive digital signals. STB makers can get fiscal incentives on top of huge volumes to make STBs cheap. The spectrum released, when put to wireless broadband access, will generate more than enough incomes to justify any fiscal outlays on digitalising all of Indian TV.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

DO AWAY WITH PNS

 

With about a month and a half yet to go before the end of this calendar year, 2009 could well see India set a new record for foreign portfolio investments. Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) have already pumped in $15 billion — just shy of the $17.7 billion they brought in in 2007 — driven not so much by our macroeconomic fundamentals as by the availability of cheap dollars.


Thanks to the US Federal Reserve persisting with its cheap money policy, the yen carry-trade of yesteryears has been replaced by the dollar carry-trade: people borrowing in dollars and investing in emerging markets, including India.


If the BSE Sensex is up 84% in dollar terms over December 2008, markets in China are up 108%, Russia is up 127% and Brazil is up an astounding 140%. Clearly, the bane of plenty is not India's alone! Equally clearly, we need to find a global solution to the problems posed by a scenario where the US calls the shots quite heedless of the consequences of its policies for other economies (thanks to the dollar's role as an international reserve currency).

But all that can happen only in the long-term (and going by the protracted negotiations at the G20 talks on the new financial architecture, it's going to be a long while in coming).


In the short term, each country will have to device whatever policy instrument is best suited to its own circumstances. Much has been written about Brazil's tax on capital inflows with some suggesting that we could go in for something similar. But a one-size-fits-all solution is not the answer. Things still have not reached a stage where we need to tax inflows.

S
We can still resort to the tried-and-tested technique of allowing some appreciation of the rupee and some accretion to our reserves combined with sterilisation. But all that comes at a cost. Instead of waiting till the problem becomes unmanageable, this is the right time to re-visit the old debate on participatory notes (PNs) that allow FIIs to transfer gains/losses from their
investments to those who choose to invest in the Indian market without registering themselves with the Sebi. The moment is opportune to ban PNs. Opposition, if any, is bound to be muted in the light of what sleuths have unearthed about the antics of former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

 

SACHIN KA SAAMNA

 

Sachin Tendulkar has dealt with some of the most hostile bowling on his way to greatness in cricket. The latest bodyline attack comes though not from the gentleman's game but from the big bad world of politics. Bal Thackeray has taken umbrage to the master blaster's declamation that Mumbai belongs to all Indians and lashed out at him in Saamna, the Shiv Sena's quasi-official newspaper.


In an editorial, Mr Thackeray has asked the little master to "refrain from using his tongue to bat against the just and legitimate rights of the Marathi manoos" on grounds that they might not like it. So what is it that Mr Thackeray thinks the Marathi manoos might not like? The fact that Mumbai is a part of India? The fact that they are Indians?


The fact that this is a democracy where people have the right to stay in any part of the country? The fact that Sachin Tendulkar is proud to be an Indian? Unfortunately, unless we were to conduct an opinion poll — and those are rather unreliable — it would be hard to conclusively answer these questions.


What we do know from the recent assembly elections in Maharashtra is that the Marathi manoos does not particularly like the Sena, either variant of it. Then too Mr Thackeray had lashed out, ironically at the Marathi manoos, saying they had stabbed him in the back. He further went on to say that he had lost his faith in the Marathi manoos.


Strange that in a matter of months, the man who lost faith in the people is now speaking for the very same people. Coming back to the controversy, Tendulkar's place in history is guaranteed regardless of what his critics, on or off the field, say about him. However, for the Shiv Sena to not end up being consigned by history books as a has-been, Mr Thackeray would be better off with Sach ka Saamna (confronting the truth) rather than Sachin ka Saamna.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

 

FUSS OVER CONFLICT OF INTEREST IN JUDICIARY

MUKESH BUTANI

 

An independent and impartial judiciary of undisputed integrity is akin to a bedrock institution ensuring compliance with democracy and the rule of law. Undoubtedly, public confidence in the judicial system and in its moral authority and integrity is of utmost importance.

 

A judge must consider it his or her duty not only to observe high standards of conduct but also to participate in collectively establishing, maintaining and upholding those standards. An interesting debate has arisen on potential conflict of interest for judges who hold stocks in companies whose matters have come up for adjudication in courts presided by them.


Bangalore principles of judicial conduct: Let's examine Clause 2.5 of the UN-sponsored judicial code formulated to establish standards for ethical conduct of judges. "A judge shall disqualify himself from participating in any proceedings in which the judge is unable to decide the matter impartially or in which it may appear to a 'reasonable observer' that the judge is unable to decide the matter impartially."


Such proceedings include instances where the judge has actual bias or prejudice, the judge has previously served as a lawyer or a material witness in the case or the judge or a member of the family has an economic interest in the outcome of the matter in controversy.


The Bangalore principles are based on a celebrated 19th century English judgement Dimes vs Proprietors of Grand Junction Canal, where a decision of Britain's judge was set aside on discovery that the judge had substantial shareholding in the canal company. In this case, the court went beyond the principle, "No man could be a judge in his own cause," and concluded that the said principle is not confined to a cause in which the judge is a party, but applies to a cause in which the judge has an interest.


Who is a reasonable observer — international jurisprudence: The declaration seeks to ensure that judges are not just impartial in deciding matters, but their judgements cast no 'reasonable apprehension' by the 'fair-minded lay observer'.


A question whether the judge should recuse himself from hearing a matter if he or his family members hold insignificant holding in the litigant company has to be answered in contextual terms. Firstly, how material is the holding given the size of the company and, secondly, whether his interest can be considered material by the 'fair-minded lay observer'.


An Australian court's decision on an identical issue (Ebner vs Official Trustee in Bankruptcy) pointed that the two judges who held shares in ANZ Bank (which was funding the Bankruptcy Trustee) and a party to the dispute was not sufficient to disqualify the judge since the holding was too small to concern the 'fair-minded lay observer'. The decision was based on a simple premise that minimal shareholding was irrelevant given the bank's billion-dollar fortune. Further, members of the public understand that such shareholding is common in the present age and that a reasonable observer would not apprehend that the judges could be influenced by their minimal shareholding.


Similarly, in Australian Airlines case, the judge recusing himself disclosed that he had long-standing 'personal, professional and financial associations with one of the Barristers appearing before him'.

POLITICS is taking over pragmatism: India should advocate a pragmatic approach and application of the doctrine needs to be weighed in light of circumstances. It should not necessarily disqualify a judge unless the shareholding is substantial or the interest is made known to the litigants. The Bangalore principles are being adhered to in its spirit and vested interest groups are attempting to make a mockery of our judiciary, which has otherwise been stupendous for seeking justice in our democracy.


Recent developments suggest that their openness in disclosure and being transparent in discussion of personal, professional and financial associations has invited criticism, rather than being attributed to judges' good reputation.

Let's not forget the doctrine of necessity: Insofar as India is concerned, the 1997 'Restatement of Judicial Values' allows a judge to remain on the Bench despite conflict of interest if he has disclosed his interest and no objection raised by the litigants. Though this may sound a far cry from the Bangalore Principles of Conduct adopted in 2002 by judges from across the world, including India, the 1997 statements are based on the Doctrine of Necessity, given the peculiar facts under the Indian scenario. The said doctrine repositions law in relation to the state and society, providing for standards external to law to judge its adequacy. There are several international precedents supporting the doctrine.


Let us not forget our dismal record in relation to the time it takes to seek justice. As of June 2009, 52,000 cases are in the Supreme Court (24 judges and seven vacancies), almost 4,00,000 cases in high courts (652 judges and 234 vacancies) and a whopping over 2.5 million cases in subordinate courts (13,723 judges and 2,998 vacancies). The ratio of judges is as low as 12 per million, compared to 107 in the US, 75 in Canada and 51 in the UK.


Frequent disqualification may bring public disfavour to the Bench and to the judge personally, besides imposing unreasonable burden on his (judge's) colleagues. It would be open for the litigant to pick and choose the judge who will decide its case, and this is clearly undesirable. If the debate is not taken to its logical conclusion, similar questions would arise in lower courts, tribunals and all forms of judicial bodies, and if the present trend of judges recusing themselves continues, we shall enter an era of anarchy in our country's otherwise strong judicial system.


In conclusion, the need of the hour is to revisit our 1977 Restatement of Values, independent of Parliament and Executive. We should take into account India's position in a globalised world and tune with international standards. And finally, the Restatement of Values should be made applicable across all courts and other judicial and quasi judicial tribunals.



(The author is a partner at BMR Advisors and was assisted by advocates R Rao and Arijit Prasad. Views are personal.)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

READING MIND LIKE AN OPEN FACEBOOK

VITHAL C NADKARNI

 

As you tap in your text, twitter away 19 to the dozen, or simply scroll down Facebook on your mobile, the death of the good old-fashioned narrative is hardly on your mind. Yet, that is the stark message sought to be delivered by the setting up of the Institute for Future Story-telling at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's redoubtable Media Laboratory.


Of course, the centre is being envisioned as a 'labette', a little laboratory. Still, it will get $25 million over next seven years to examine whether the old way of telling stories — particularly those delivered to the millions on screen with a beginning, middle and an end — is in serious trouble. In today's mobile world of data, chatter and noise, old (read long-winded) narrative may look like an endangered beast to some. But others argue that narrative is too deeply wired into our brains for us to predict its demise beginning with the next killer application.

Starting in 2010, 'principal investigators' will join hands (or minds) with grad
students and interns along with seers and savants from the film and book worlds, "to examine how virtual actors and 'morphable' projectors (which instantly change the appearance of physical scenes) might affect a storytelling process that has already been considerably democratised by digital delivery".


Ironically, 'morphable' characters, if not projectors, are as old as spinning of yarns, the very sort of stories that Wendy Doniger, the noted cartographer of myths from University of Chicago, serves up in her latest brick of a book, The Hindus: An alternative History. "The central actors and their actions are threads around which the great narratives of Hinduism coalesce like crystals in a supersaturated solution," Doniger writes. Linguistic and cultural ambiguity and complexity have enriched this process immeasurably, she adds.


For example, "the verb on which ahimsa is based, han, is ambiguous, meaning both 'to strike or beat' and 'to kill'. Ahimsa, therefore, when applied to cows, to take a case at random, might mean refraining from beating them or killing them — quite a difference. In any case, ahimsa represents not a political doctrine or even a social theory, but the emotion of the horror of killing (or hurting) a living creature, an emotion we will see attested from the earliest texts."


Ahimsa-nama is coming online on Jainpedia.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

GEAR UP FOR CLIMATE-CHANGE POLICY

JAIDEEP MISHRA

 

For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else, noted the poet and essayist who had two feet firmly on the ground, a realist. That was then, in more simplistic times when win-win outcomes and group-dynamic strategies were unheard of. It was also many decades before global warming and climate-change concerns. Fast forward to the here and now, and it is now quite clear that a legally-binding global pact for limiting and curbing greenhouse gas emissions, at the Copenhagen summit in December, would not happen for various technical reasons.


The US, the world's pre-eminent emitter, has, for instance, no relevant domestic law in place although the Congress there is reportedly considering key cap-and-trade and attendant clean-energy legislation. There are other reasons as well for the lack of global consensus on climate change, what with the mature economies not very forthcoming on committing substantial emission reductions. In any case, the Kyoto Protocol norms on emission curbs that most industrially-developed nations agreed to in 1997 — the US, of course, preferred to stay out of it — have simply not been adhered to. Meanwhile, in New Delhi, there's avoidable confusion on our negotiating stance at Copenhagen and well beyond.


There is reportedly a bit of disagreement between the prime minister's special envoy on climate change and the Union environment minister. In firming up India's position on climate change, what's necessary is forward-looking vision and negotiating tact. The way ahead is to be open to the idea of a series of climate-friendly initiatives to shore up energy efficiency economy-wide, and also rev up supplies by purposefully policy foraying well beyond conventional fossil fuels. Most of the relevant emissions arise due to combustion of fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas, albeit to a much lesser extent for the latter.


But concurrently, there seems ample scope to negotiate a global climate agreement keeping in mind the ground realities in India, and also constructively desist the designs of the rich nations to go-slow on appropriate commitments on emission curbs. The point is that the Indian stance can be well positioned for a leadership role in bringing about heightened global cooperation on climate-change issues. Average temperatures are known to have gone up by no more than a few tenths of a degree centigrade, and already there's mounting evidence of climate change that can no longer be ignored in policy terms.


It is notable that in the last few months, there have been several domestic moves to proactively improve energy efficiency parameters pan-India. Notice, for example, the move by NTPC, our main electricity producer, to opt for large-scale induction of super-critical boilers for its upcoming power plants, with the specific purpose of boosting thermal efficiency and output. There are parallel, 'green' policy initiatives in the cards, such as an ambitious target to generate 20,000 mw of solar power by 2020. Other steps involve tighter vehicular emission norms and those for 'green' energy-saving buildings.


There are still other policy moves reportedly being actively considered, including legislation to encourage more efficient energy usage generally. Such measures are clearly unexceptionable, given our lowly per-capita energy consumption levels. Which is why it makes eminent sense to invest in, 'localise' and diffuse a commercially-viable, greener technology like super-critical boilers in thermal stations. It would mean generating considerably more power with little increase in the fuel input.


It implies better allocation of resources in a critical sector like power. But in tandem, there are a host of green technologies in the offing such as those involving 'carbon-capture' that remain to be made cost-effective and commercially viable. It cannot be gainsaid that traversing to a low-carbon economy would require huge upfront investments in research and development and related overheads.


Besides, the technological 'search' and follow through would also necessarily involve high uncertainty and not just risks. Risks tend to be measurable — but uncertainties by definition are not. Now, some experts believe that currently non-conventional solar power would reach 'grid parity' in terms of costs and prices in about five years. But, generally speaking, nothing concrete can be said about green technologies. It is precisely because of the societal costs involved in making the paradigm shift to non-fossil fuels — and the end-result is by no means certain — that the mature economies don't seem to have made much headway on emission reductions. It's also the reason why we in India are particularly chary of explicit emission-reduction commitments.


At Copenhagen then, we need to call for stepped up programme of international collaborative R&D centres on climate change, and located mostly in high-growth economies like India with huge additional energy requirements. Sustainable growth in the energy economy globally surely ought to be at least cost. We do need a global technology policy on climate change. About time, too.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'A YEAR IS NOTHING IN THE LIFE OF A 144-YEAR-OLD COMPANY'

 

Cargill Inc, one of the world's largest privately held companies, is at the forefront of the global food, commodity

and risk management markets. While the company, which owns brands such as 'Nature Fresh' and 'Gemini', has always been bullish on India, Cargill chairman and chief executive officer Gregory R Page tells ET in an exclusive chat why it is an exciting time to invest in food production.


What are your expansion plans for India?

Historically, 60% of Cargill's growth has come organically, which happened in India too. In the next few weeks we will be starting our sugar refinery. We are building additional assets in animal nutrition.


Being a family-owned company, 90% of the cash flow is available for investment, and the company needs to grow dramatically to utilize this money. In the last three years, we have invested heavily in South America and Asia. So there is a corporate imperative and economic incentive to invest in here.


Are you entering any new business?

In the next room they are studying a potential new business here. But I can't tell you what just yet. We are keen to re-invest and accelerate the speed of growth. So some capital will certainly come in.


Hasn't the delay in your Indian sugar refinery cost you gains from the price spike?

It would have been good if we had done it earlier. But we are just a year late. Had we been a decade late it would have been a problem. A year is nothing in the life of a 144-year-old company.


Do you think India has dealt well with food price inflation?

There has been no inflation in vegetable oils because the government relied promptly on global trade to meet the shortfall. In sugar we have seen that India can be exporter and importer depending on the price signals farmers receive.


Whether Indian farmers will plant the ratoon crop has become the source of a big debate and we will know by January. In wheat the government has created a very complicated environment and I'm going to stay out of that.


Our phytosanitary norms disqualify US grain. Does that bother you?

Our job is not to complain about specs but deliver wheat from any country that meets India's requirements.


You are facing intense competition in Brazil from Bunge, Louis Dreyfus, and ADM. Are they your biggest rivals here too?

The intensity of competition always has been much higher in Brazil. In Asia we have new competitors Wilmar and Noble, apart from the food companies here.


Companies such as Cargill are often blamed for volatile prices. How do you respond to it?

The spike is caused either by a rise in demand or drop in supply. As we deliver this message to consumers, we are attributed with causing this volatility. It's basically shooting the messenger.


But the solution to high prices is high prices and the right price signal can get farmers back. It is important that as an international agricultural products service provider, we do a better job of explaining our role.

Has inflow of cash in commodity futures added to the problem?

It does create short-term turbulence. But we know that they can't sustain their long positions forever. Moreover, they don't change the fundamentals. Higher incomes, better diets and biofuels are responsible for rising prices.

Investment gurus Jim Rogers and Marc Faber make commodities appear very attractive to retail investors. Is it really that simple?

I enjoy reading Jim Rogers' books. But we need to distinguish between commodities that are non-renewal natural resources, such as a copper mine, and renewable commodities such as crops. The first one is a bet on GDP growth and India's housing market. One can invest in it.


However, investing in renewable commodities without investing in the land that produces them is speculation over and over again. You need to invest in land. Just buying corn futures is not investment in corn. I don't see the logic in that.


Companies are buying land in Africa and South America. Good move?

Any capital invested in increasing the capacity for food production will be a good thing. One can argue whether one farm of 1000 acres is better than 1000 farms of one acre each. But the world is further away from famine than it has ever been because of investment of capital in farming.

 

How can that be bad for the world?

Every country is keen to become self sufficient in food after the market failed to smoothen the shortfalls last year.
We need a trust-based global food
trading system. Attempts to achieve complete self sufficiency would be an economic and environmental disaster, which would lower the standard of living in many countries.


Cargill is emphasizing its commitment to health and yet opposing tax on junk food. Is health simply a marketing ploy?

We are against the desire to politically decide what's healthy. There are good and bad diets and lifestyles, not good or bad food. It is dangerous for people to put a red dot on a label and say they have informed the consumer. I'm in favour of labeling but not oversimplification.

 

Is the global economic recession over?

Technically yes, emotionally no. In Brazil, China and India food demand has been vibrant. But in other countries people remain under enormous pressure and are still exercising caution while making choices for their shopping basket.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

MOBILE IS CRITICAL COMPONENT FOR US: GOOGLE INDIA MD

HARSIMRAN SINGH & PRAMUGDHA MAMGAIN

 

For Google, which owns the world's most-visited search engine, India's over-471-million phone subscribers provide a good opportunity to replicate its Internet success and challenge rivals Microsoft and others . Google India managing director Shailesh Rao spoke with ET about how India ranks first in the global mobile search market , whether Google would participate in the 3G auctions, and how the company's advertising revenues from the country are growing at double digit rates, ahead of many other developed markets. Excerpts:

Will Google bid for 3G spectrum in India? Will it partner with a mobile operator for the same?

The mobile medium is very important to us, particularly in countries such as Japan, India, US and China. (But) we have no plans of bidding in an auction as yet. Yes, we did participate in a similar auction in the US, where networks are very tightly held and not open.


The bid in US was to get this message out to the regulatory bodies. In India, we have successful relationships with most operators. Of the 500 million subscribers in India, around 25 million are mobile internet users, 19 million are subset users.


The users that are actually using data are smaller but growing. We are not only focused on providing our classic services to mobile internet users but also experimenting with SMS.


Recently, we came up with 'Google SMS channels' . Under this anyone can create a channel and post content on it, which will be posted via free SMS to all those subscribing to the channel. So, mobile is a critical component of what we do. But in principle, our goal is not to bid for 3G to get business.


How has the Indian online advertising market evolved for Google?

Year 2009 was a kind of a breakthrough year. The shift is very clear. Earlier we used to rely on internet oriented companies, matrimonial and job sites for our ad revenues.


Today, we rely upon on large banks, telecom companies, airlines and online travel agencies for revenues. The shift is noticeable. Banks, which have been losing depositors and want to go after young ones, are coming to advertise online.


According to estimates, the Indian ad market will shrink by 5% in 2009. But Google's ad revenues have been growing in doubledigits even in this environment. There is no other medium where you can do very targeted advertising , like online. A large number of clients spend more than Rs 5 crore on just online ads.


With so many mobile subscribers in the country, what kind of success has your mobile search business achieved?

Of the total number of Google searches that happen from India, the percentage that happen through mobile are in double digits. Google search on mobile in India has become the fastest growing mobile search in the world. The volumes have gone through the roof.

 

With no marketing and partnerships, we are witnessing triple-digit growth in mobile search numbers. Even advertisers are coming forward. Right now, you cant see ads when you search for something via Google on your mobile. But mobile search monetisation will be a major thrust next year for us.
Google's rivals say that people spend only 3% of their time on search, and rest on movies, cricket etc. Does Google plan to offer it all in a single portal?

It's unfortunate when people associate us only with search. Google has a very broad-based relationship with users. They use it to watch video on YouTube, communicate with friends on Orkut, chat and mail through Gmail, blog through Blogger, and of course, Google search.


We are developing new products, like Google Wave, to provide users a singular browsing experience. Then there is Chrome and Android. So, we offer a large number of services and are thus successful with over $16 billion in cash, larger than any other internet company.


Will Google ever get into manufacturing hardware?

Our mission is to organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. Whatever, we can do to achieve this goal, we will do. In India, we have the risk of an increasing digital divide.


I get worried when out of 30 students, just 10 possess a computer and 20 don't . What we are focussed on is bringing down the cost of hardware , by making software associated with it open and free.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'THERE IS GREAT SCOPE FOR BOUTIQUE I-BANKS'

GEORGE CHERIAN

 

As top-boss of one of the few North American banks that have sailed through the financial crisis virtually unscathed, he believes the large standalone investment bank is inconceivable in the new order of global financial markets. That universal banks are the only entities capable of filling the vacuum created by the downfall of bulge-bracket investment banks. In an interview with ET NOW's Banking Editor George Cherian, BMO Financial Group president & CEO William Downe says it's important that there be a discipline around risk, return and compensation but debunks the view that contract bankers could be the new norm in investment banking.

We're hearing of banking regulations in the US that will be put out to address systemic risk. What must we expect?


There've been very clear indications from the regulators that a framework around stronger capital ratios worldwide is being sought. In the US, you can expect that new capital will be raised although relative to some of the other jurisdictions like Europe, they have less far to go.


In Canada, the capital raising challenge will be much less because we started with much higher capital ratios to begin with. Risk oversight will be a very important area. The tying back of responsibility for risk directly in the lines of business and obviously the connection between risk and compensation is another area that will be extremely important.


And the third one, which is a priority for the administration at the White House is consumer protection. The creation of a single agency that will be responsible for consumer protection, in the end, may be more efficient but most importantly, its going to provide comfort to the average person.


Everyone tells us how banking in the 'new normal' is going to be much more difficult for banks. But what's the new normal going to be like for investment banks?

I think the trend in investment banking towards universal banking will continue because for intermediaries to be in the M&A business, to be in the business of providing advise, they also have to be able to raise capital for clients. They have to be able to provide liquidity, make markets and in order to do that, they have to have very strong balance sheets.


So I think the universal banking model will live on in the new normal. The one element I know for certain that we are going to see is a return to a period of 5-7 years ago when people really understood risk and return and that taking risk requires correct pricing for it.


So would you then say that the days of the standalone investment bank are over?

I think there's a great opportunity for boutique investment banks that focus on specific sectors. But I think it is going to be quite difficult for large standalone investment banks to operate from a systemic point of view. That's because they have to be regulated in a way that ensures they have sufficient capital in an illiquid market so that they can be bridged through. If they require government support at any point in the market cycle, the public is going to demand that they are strongly regulated and that makes the large standalone investment bank inconceivable.

There's talk of contract employment becoming the norm in investment banking. What do you think?

I'm not attracted to that model. The culture of the firm is critical to what we are to our clients so I cannot conceive of having contract specialists in an investment bank who have the ethic of the firm, who can
project the brand of the firm and who would be consistent contributors, recognising that we have shareholders.


What are the opportunities you see for BMO Capital Markets in India?

I think Indian firms need to think their way through the supply and demand equation. Natural resources have long lead times. It takes a lot of capital and a lot of time to develop a mine. And if you think about the global mining environment, we provide in-depth research coverage on over a hundred global mining companies.

These are companies that I think are going to be opportunities for Indian investors. In essence, it will allow them to hedge against rising commodity prices but we do also see a re-combination of companies.


The advise that we can provide is, how do you think your way through where you want to have concentrations of investment, how do you have a diversified portfolio. Because of our direct knowledge of so many of the participants in the market, where could you form partnerships, or inevitably, where could you make acquisitions.

So, I think it's a combination of a knowledge of the underlying business and understanding of the people who are now participating in the business that allows us to bring two partners together. So I'm not a fan of that model. The model may work from a competitor point of view and we would be happy to compete with people who use contract bankers as their front line.


Do you believe capping pay at banks will limit your ability to attract talent? And also, shouldn't it be shareholders and not the government that decides?

I think the market will ultimately clear. The most important thing is that there's a discipline around risk and return and then risk and compensation. So the notion that two-thirds of bankers' compensation should be deferred for some period of time, is good. That way, the long-term results or the intermediate term results of the transaction are evident.


Compensation deferrals do not have to be 10 years but I think 3-5 years are good. It is then understood why pay levels are where they are and there's disclosure upfront so you do not have situations where an employee has a contract that results in a gigantic payout and people are then upset about it.


So once again, it comes back to transparency and governance and as long as those conditions are in place, the supply and demand equation will keep compensation at the level it needs to be at. It should be shareholders who decide on compensation levels and they should take a view that they are returning to employees what they've earned either by way of dividends or share price appreciation.


The situation around the capping of compensation has come where the government is the de-facto shareholder. So where there has been government assistance, until taxpayer money is returned, what they're saying is the compensation ought to be held in check and that is so that there is an incentive for them to return money to the public sector.

 

I know both in Canada and the US, the regulators have said that it is a shareholder matter and that as long as the shareholders are not government, then the market should set the compensation levels.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

I'M FOR LIBERAL, SOCIAL DEMOCRACY: MARTA MESZAROS

ASHOKE NAG

 

Marta Meszaros's family migrated from Hungary to Russia in 1935. Marta was two years old at that time. It was the peak of the Stalinist regime. Her father, Laszlo Meszaros, who was a sculptor, fell victim to Stalin's cleansing. The family continued to live in Russia. In an exclusive interview with ET the 69-year-old talks about her life, her forthcoming film and Satyajit Ray. Excerpts:


What were the years in Russia like?

Terrible. Stalinism was at its height. It was quite impossible. But, we had no option. In any case, I was too young at that time to take any decision. From a certain stage, I realised that I wanted to do films. I went to film school in Moscow. It was the Union State Film School. We had great filmmakers teaching us at that time. There
were names like Eisenstein and Dovzhenko. We had returned to Hungary in between.


You had started making films around the mid-fifties. Your first film was Faces Smiling Again. Did you begin with documentaries?

I made documentaries to begin with at the Bucharest Alexandru Sahia Studio. Later, I also made short films at the Hungarian Film Production Company. Actually, my years as a filmmaker has been a mix of documentaries, shorts and features. I've made around 22-23 feature films.


What has drawn you the most in your films?

It has always been a search for a story. My films have revolved around love, life, society, history.....


Which countries have you shot in mainly?

I have shot in many countries. Hungary, of course. Then, I've travelled to France, Poland, Germany, Italy and Canada. I had once made a documentary in the US, too.


When do you think your success as a filmmaker came?

In 1975, I won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for my film, Adoption. Then, I won awards in Cannes, Venice and other festivals. It's difficult to mention them all. But, among them were the Grand Prix at Cannes and another Silver Bear in Berlin.


Has it been difficult to raise money for filmmakers like you?

You see, it hasn't been always easy to raise money. But, I won't say I faced a major difficulty. Different genres of films was normal in Europe at that time and considered important. There were major directors like Fellini, Antonioni, Bergman and Truffaut, among others, who were making films those days.


Which filmmakers have you admired?

Oh, many. Fellini, Bergman, all the masters. Then, there are some of Russian greats. Poland's Wajda. They were all very interesting filmmakers.


How much has the collapse of Soviet Communism changed things?

Things really changed. It was for the good. The degenerated Soviet economy was all pervasive. The Soviet army was breathing down our necks all the time in Hungary as in other places in Soviet controlled Europe. Soviet Communism was of a different brand. Not like as it is in India.


Did you or do you have any ideology?

I never believed in Communism or Capitalism. I find American Capitalism strange. I believe in liberal, social democracy. I think this has come to Europe now. You are free to do more of what you feel like.


It must have been really trying to make the sort of films you did under the earlier regime?

It was difficult. But, not impossible.

 

How many times have you travelled to India?

Four times, as I remember. The New Delhi, Goa and Trivandrum festivals and now the Kolkata Film Festival.


Which Indian directors do you admire?

I just love (Satyajit) Ray. I can't name all the films of Ray I've watched. But, the atmosphere in his films is haunting. I met him for the first time in Cannes in the 70s. We were in the jury together. He was a very nice and fascinating man. And, he was so tall and beautiful. The next time we met was in Budapest. His films were being shown there. People in Europe love his films. I have also seen some other very interesting Indian films at the festivals. But, the directors' names elude me.


Have you ever watched a Bollywood film?

They come to Hungary sometimes nowadays. I saw two last year. I find the music and dances interesting. The women are beautiful to look at.

 

What is your impression of today's Hollywood?

It's all gangster and mafia now. Something has gone wrong. There were such fantastic directors in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Wilder, Wyler, Hitchcock, Coen brothers, Scorsese, Coppola, Peckinpah...... As I see it, (Quentin) Tarantino is the only Hollywood director who's making movies of interest now.


What is the scene in Europe now. European studios, one hears, like Cinecitta where the great directors once shot, is dominated by TV?

Yes, TV, no doubt, has become very important. Commercial TV is everywhere. But, interesting films are getting made, too. You have film makers like (Spain's) Almodovar working. That's just one name. There are good films getting made in Germany, the UK, Italy and Poland. The young French women directors are coming up with very engaging films.

 

When is your next film being released. What's it titled?

It's opening in November itself in Hungary. The film is called Last Message from Anna. It has a somewhat complicated structure. The movie occasionally flashbacks into the 70s and returns to contemporary times. After releasing in Hungary, it will travel to other places.


Is the state still funding films in Hungary?

Yes, the state supports films still. The government gives money for making films. But, the bigger commercial film makers get private financiers to fund them.


Are you contemplating a film now?

My new screenplay revolves around a historical film based in Hungary. It's a bigger budget film. The costumes itself are very expensive. I think it's going to have both government and private funding. This film is planned to be a co-production between Hungary, Poland and Italy.


You will obviously never retire from films?

(Raises her hands in the air) All depends on God.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'HIGHER INCOMES & BETTER DIETS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR RISING PRICES'

NIDHI NATH SRINIVAS

 

Cargill Inc, one of the world's largest privately held companies, is at the forefront of the global food, commodity

and risk management markets. While the company, which owns brands such as Nature Fresh and Gemini, has always been bullish on India. Cargill chairman and chief executive officer Gregory R Page tells ET why it is an exciting time to invest in food production.


What are your expansion plans for India?

Historically, 60 per cent of Cargill's growth has come organically, which happened in India, too. In the next few weeks, we will be starting our sugar refinery. We are building additional assets in animal nutrition. Being a family-owned company, 90 per cent of the cash flow is available for investment, and the company needs to grow dramatically to utilise this money. In the past three years, we have invested heavily in South America and Asia. So there is a corporate imperative and economic incentive to invest in here.


Are you entering any new business?

In the next room they are studying a potential new business here. But I can't tell you what just yet. We are keen to re-invest and accelerate the speed of growth. So some capital will certainly come in.


Hasn't the delay in your Indian sugar refinery cost you gains from the price spike?

It would have been good, if we had done it earlier. But we are just a year late. Had we been a decade late, it would have been a problem. A year is nothing in the life of a 144-year-old company.

 

Do you think India has dealt well with food price inflation?

There has been no inflation in vegetable oils because the government relied promptly on global trade to meet the shortfall. In sugar, we have seen that India can be exporter and importer depending on the price signals farmers receive. Whether Indian farmers will plant the ratoon crop has become the source of a big debate, and we will know by January. In wheat, the government has created a very complicated environment and I'm going to stay out of that.


You are facing intense competition in Brazil from Bunge, Louis Dreyfus, and ADM. Are they your biggest rivals here, too?

The intensity of competition always has been much higher in Brazil. In Asia, we have new competitors Wilmar and Noble, apart from the food companies here.

Companies such as Cargill are often blamed for volatile prices. How do you respond to it?

The spike is caused either by a rise in demand or drop in supply. As we deliver this message to consumers, we are attributed with causing this volatility. It's basically shooting the messenger. But the solution to high prices is high prices and the right price signal can get farmers back. It is important that as an international agricultural products service provider, we do a better job of explaining our role.


Has inflow of cash in commodity futures added to the problem?

It does create short-term turbulence. But we know that they can't sustain their long positions forever. Moreover, they don't change the fundamentals. Higher incomes, better diets and biofuels are responsible for rising prices.

Investment gurus Jim Rogers and Marc Faber make commodities appear very attractive to retail investors. Is it really that simple?

I enjoy reading Jim Rogers' books. But we need to distinguish between commodities that are non-renewal natural resources, such as a copper mine, and renewable commodities, such as crops. The first one is a bet on GDP growth and India's housing market. One can invest in it. However, investing in renewable commodities without investing in the land that produces them is speculation over and over again. You need to invest in land. Just buying corn futures is not investment in corn. I don't see the logic in that.


Companies are buying land in Africa and South America. Good move?

Any capital invested in increasing the capacity for food production will be a good thing. One can argue whether one farm of 1,000 acres is better than 1,000 farms of one acre each. But the world is further away from famine than it has ever been because of investment of capital in farming. How can that be bad for the world?

Every country is keen to become self-sufficient in food after the market failed to smoothen the shortfalls last year.

We need a trust-based global food
trading system. Attempts to achieve complete self-sufficiency would be an economic and environmental disaster, which would lower the standard of living in many countries.

 

Cargill is emphasising its commitment to health and yet opposing tax on junk food. Is health simply a marketing ploy?

We are against the desire to politically decide what's healthy. There are good and bad diets and lifestyles, not good or bad food. It is dangerous for people to put a red dot on a label and say they have informed the consumer. I'm in favour of labelling, but not oversimplification.


Is the global economic recession over?

Technically yes, emotionally no. In Brazil, China and India food demand has been vibrant. But in other countries people remain under enormous pressure and are still exercising caution, while making choices for their shopping basket.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'INDIA IN A BETTER POSITION NOW THAN IT WAS SIX MONTHS AGO'

DEEPTHA RAJKUMAR

 

He terms the crisis more of a developed world financial crisis rather than global financial crisis. John Ford, CIO, Fidelity International Asia-Pacific, believes that the crisis may have started in the West but will get solved with help from the East. In conversation with ET, he says the US still has to go through some pain before the good times return. In contrast, emerging markets are in a sweet spot, he says.


There is a lot of liquidity chasing growth and emerging markets have benefitted greatly from that. Do you think the trend can sustain?

Cash is expensive and you were not getting any returns. Fixed income, corporate and treasury bills were all very expensive, even though it's correcting in many markets. I think equity is a liquid asset class which can reprice very quickly. Hence, it was something people had to look at pretty closely. Markets in the long term look flat. But Asia and some of the other developing economies on a relative basis are likely to have higher potential growth rates than they have in the past, so they will continue to attract flows.


What about concerns of excessive liquidity? Brazil has imposed a 2% tax on capital inflows. In India, the central bank has already expressed concern over the flood of liquidity. Do you think it is something one needs to factor in?

There is excess liquidity in the world at the moment. But it is deliberate, as central banks and governments want to ensure that green shoots continue to flourish. The key issue is at what time the tap is going to be turned off. The general perception is that the time is not right other than in certain areas like China where they have kickstarted the process by encouraging banks to start lending. So, it will be sequential. It is not going to be that everyone stops at once. There is lot of excess capacities in the world and inflationary pressures are by and large pretty muted. It is likely that central banks of the world are going to err on the side of caution. Is it a concern for India? Let me put it this way, they are in a much better position than they were in say six months ago.


What has Fidelity's approach been in the current scenario?

We are very much a bottom-up house. With regard to our portfolios, we've had a significant rise, but they have levelled out a bit. Though the trend is generally up, the trajectory is less steep. That is the kind of market that suits someone like us with our bottom-up approach. It is less now about buying beta, buying the market. It is more about being more discerning, what's been left behind, where are the pricing anomalies, where have the stocks run ahead, where we should be taking profits or if we don't own them yet we should be avoiding them and where are the opportunities. It is happy picking for us now.


Would you be more comfortable deploying funds in India or overseas?

India is not one of the more expensive markets i.e, if you look at Asia (excluding Japan). There are markets which have run up sharply and are looking arguably more pricey. But that's not the only story. If you are a regional portfolio manager, you will actually look for individual stocks. You are less concerned about whether India itself is expensive or cheap. If you find a particular opportunity in the Indian market which looks interesting in itself, there is no reason why you wouldn't want to buy that. This is a stockpickers' market, not a top-down macro-driven market. Where we go from here is very much down to profit growth, which is down to economic growth and so on.


If we have a dollar pull-back, how will that impact sentiment?

Much will depend on the pace of the decline. Whatever happens to the dollar, whether it goes down or up, it creates anomalies which will, in turn, create opportunities for stock picking.

 

Which geography has attracted the most money this year?

If you look at the flows, a lot of money has gone into the emerging markets, most of them in Asia. It may well be that now Asian markets may actually have a much more strategic allocation. It is early days, but if you look at our institutional pipeline, which are basically large European and US organisations and savings institutions like pension funds and insurance companies, our focus on Asian businesses has never been bigger. One could say it is a reflection of the fact that we have got a faster recovery in Asia than elsewhere.


As Asian economies pull away from the rest of the world, one could see a much more permanent allocation of capital to this part of the world. That has interesting implications and not the least for valuations because the quality of the markets here will improve the stability and that reduces their risk and volatility, potentially.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

BRAVO SACHIN!

 

The Marathi manoos of the Shiv Sena's conception, and those of its derivatives, took a hard knock when the octogenarian Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray seriously miscalculated and messed with Indian superstar Sachin Tendulkar, who happens to take great pride in his Maharashtrian roots. Violating the canon of the Maharashtrian-chauvinist party, the cricketing hero declared without hesitation in reply to a reporter's question that he was an Indian first, and that all Indians had an equal right to Mumbai. This has made the Sena chief see red because the view challenges the first principle on which his outfit has been built over the years. To allow Mr Tendulkar's assertion to go uncontested may have appeared to Mr Thackeray to participate in the crime of his own denigration. After all, the Marathi-Mumbai sutra is a bread and butter matter for Mr Thackeray, whose storm-troopers — and those of Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena — have intimidated non-Maharashtrians in Mumbai, including the likes of superstar Amitabh Bachchan, with no one daring to offer resistance. Now that a Marathi manoos, who sees himself first as an India manoos, has challenged the bully squad, the cookie has crumbled. It is indeed a pity that no Maharashtrian of stature had spoken up earlier in the forthright terms that Mr Tendulkar has employed. This imparts the famous cricketer's contribution immeasurable value. His words will impact not just all of India but all of Maharashtra, and that is what counts in building the edifice of a multi-ethnic, multilingual society and state. Indeed, most Maharashtrians are likely to be relieved that a much-loved and admired son of the soil has stepped forward to fill the breach.
Where they were silent before, senior politicians of every description are coming out to praise Mr Tendulkar's no-nonsense India-first stand. The Shiv Sena's alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has also announced that the batting genius is spot on. Mumbai kowtowed to Mr Thackeray because it feared him. Anxiety about Sena reprisals is likely to be less pervasive now, and this may be expected to corrode the politics and mobilisation strategy of the Sena and others of its ilk. The Shiv Sena was licked in the recent state elections. The Marathi petty bourgeois constituency, including its backward caste segment, appears to be shrinking even if the MNS votes and seats are brought into the equation. Perhaps its core will never go away, and a moth-eaten Sena will remain a part of Mumbai's political landscape. But, in time, that can only resemble a political mafia. Goaded by the Congress with a view to curbing communist influence, the Shiv Sena had come into existence in a shortage economy and just in time to fill the gap being left on account of the decline of Communist influence in the trade unions of Mumbai. The circumstances have undergone a sea change since then. Narrow chauvinism will not deliver the political goods effectively when the economic system is in an expansion phase. Policies aimed at raising employment opportunities is apt to further whittle the politics of navel-gazing.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

AN EARLY TRUCE IN WEST ASIA IS A DELUSION

BY ROGER COHEN

 

I've grown so pessimistic about Israel-Palestine that I find myself agreeing with Israel's hardline foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman: "Anyone who says that within the next few years an agreement can be reached ending the conflict simply doesn't understand the situation and spreads delusions".

 

That's the lesson of early Obama. The US President tried to rekindle peace talks by confronting Israel on settlements, coaxing Palestinians to resume negotiations, and reaching out to the Muslim world. The effort has failed.

 

It has alienated Israel, where Obama is unpopular, and brought the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, close to resignation. It's time to think again.

 

What's gone wrong? There have been tactical mistakes, including a clumsy US wobble toward accepting Israeli "restraint" on settlements rather than cessation. But the deeper error was strategic: Obama's assumption that he could resume where Clinton left off in 2000 and pursue the land-for-peace idea at the heart of the two-state solution.

 

This approach ignored the deep scars inflicted in the past decade: the killing of 992 Israelis and 3,399 Palestinians between the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000 and 2006; the Israeli Army's harsh reoccupation of most of the West Bank; Hamas' violent rise to power in Gaza and the accompanying resurgence of annihilationist ideology; the spectacular spread of Jewish settlements in the West Bank; and the Israeli construction of over 250 miles of a separation barrier that has protected Israel from suicide bombers even as it has shattered Palestinian lives, grabbed land and become, in the words of Michael Sfard, an Israeli lawyer, "an integral part of the West Bank settlement plan".

 

These are not small developments. They have changed the physical appearance of West Asia. More important, they have transformed the psychologies of the protagonists. Israelis have walled themselves off from Palestinians. They are less interested than ever in a deal with people they hardly see.

 

As Ron Nachman, the founder of the sprawling Ariel settlement, comments in René Backmann's superb new book, A Wall in Palestine, the wave of Palestinian suicide attacks before work on the barrier began in mid-2002 meant that: "Israelis wanted separation. They did not want to be mixed with the Arabs. They didn't even want to see them. This may be seen as racist, but that's how it is".

 

And that's about where we are.

 

With Palestinians saying, "Not one inch further will we cede". The myriad humiliations of the looping barrier, which divides Palestinians from one another as well as from Israel, have cemented this "Nyet".

 

On the surface, Obama's decision to tackle settlements first was logical enough. Nothing has riled Palestinians as much as the continued flow of Israeli settlers into East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Both Oslo (1993) and the Road Map (2003) called for settlements to stop, but the number of settlers has risen steadily to over 450,000.

 

The President was categorical in his Cairo speech: "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements".

Nor do I. But facts are hard — and Obama has tried to ignore them. The history briefly outlined above makes clear that the Right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won't deviate from the pattern of settlement growth established since 1967.

 

Indeed, Backmann's book (from which the Sfard quote is also taken), demonstrates a relentless continuity of Israeli purpose, now cemented by a fence whose aim was in fact double: to stop terrorists but also "to protect the settlements, to give them room to develop".


That is why, even at 250 miles, the barrier (projected to stretch over 400 miles) is already much longer than the pre-1967 border or Green Line: It burrows into the West Bank to place major settlements on the Israeli side, effectively annexing over 12 per cent of the land.

 

The United States condoned the construction of this settlement-reinforcing barrier. It cannot be unmade — not for the foreseeable future. Peace and walls do not go together. But a truce and walls just may. And that, I must reluctantly conclude, is the best that can be hoped for.

 

Obama, who has his Nobel already, should ratchet expectations downward. Stop talking about peace. Banish the word. Start talking about détente. That's what Lieberman wants; that's what Hamas says it wants; that's the end point of Netanyahu's evasions.


It's not what Abbas wants but he's powerless. Shlomo Avineri, a political scientist, told me, "A non-violent status quo is far from satisfactory but it's not bad. Cyprus is not bad".

 

I recall my friend Shlomo dreaming of peace. That's over. The last decade destroyed the last illusions: hence the fence. The courageous have departed West Asia. A peace of the brave must yield to a truce of the mediocre — at best.

 

At least until Intifada-traumatised Israeli psychology shifts. I agree with the Israeli author David Grossman when he writes: "We have dozens of atomic bombs, tanks and planes. We confront people possessing none of these arms. And yet, in our minds, we remain victims. This inability to perceive ourselves in relation to others is our principal weakness".

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

WHEN POLITICIANS MOCK THE VOTER

BY P.C. ALEXANDER

 

The political developments in some of the advanced states in the country, especially Karnataka, in the last few weeks have so badly dented the image of the parliamentary system of democracy that people have started having serious doubts about whether this system is suitable at all for us.

 

Britain's parliamentary system is based partly on statutory provisions and partly on unwritten laws and conventions. But political morality in that country is so high that the type of bargaining for seats and portfolios that has become common in India rarely affects the primacy of the Prime Minister in the selection of his Cabinet colleagues or the smooth working of the principle of collective responsibility.

 

But after what we have witnessed in Karnataka, one even wonders whether the prefix "chief", which is part of the title "chief minister" as mentioned in our Constitution, has any significance at all.

 

Referring to the immense power and influence exercised by the Prime Minister in Britain during war and other crisis situations, Sir William Ivor Jennings had observed that "given a solid party backing and confidence among party leaders, a British Prime Minister wields an authority that a Roman emperor might envy or a modern dictator strives in vain to emulate".

 

However, with the decline of influence of national parties during the last two decades, the offices of the Indian Prime Minister and chief ministers have become so greatly devalued in our country that it is doubtful whether the great expectations of the framers of the Constitution about the holders of these offices still hold good as guidelines for our democracy.

 

The treatment which B.S. Yeddyurappa, chief minister of Karnataka, had to endure from his own partymen has exposed the utter helplessness of this functionary against a few influential partymen. The rate at which concessions were being demanded from the chief minister and the way he granted them showed that no price was too high to keep his chair.

 

The irony in Mr Yeddyurappa's case was that even the party high command could not salvage the prestige of the office of the chief minister, but instead was keen for a settlement between the chief minister and his rivals by making him yield to almost all the demands of his rivals. The sight of the chief minister breaking down in anguish in front of television cameras will forever remain etched in people's memory as marking the level to which a chief minister's office was reduced by his own party.

 

The way the chief minister expressed disappointment at his own helplessness said it all. In a self-condemnatory mood, he lamented, "For my selfish ends I was forced to ditch those who were my trusted people… Even God will not forgive me for this". The tears which rolled down his cheeks were indeed tears for parliamentary democracy itself in our country. An "amicable settlement" was eventually reached between the chief minister and his rivals, but one has to wait and see how amicable this settlement is and how long it will last. The fear now is that such scenes will be enacted in other states as well by over-ambitious politicians to extract their share of power according to their own measure.

 

The situation regarding ministry-making in Maharashtra was not as bad as it was in Karnataka. But what surprised those who have known Maharashtra as one of the best administered states in India, based on healthy conventions of parliamentary democracy, was the long time taken by the two coalition parties, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), over every issue related to the elections and the state Assembly — allotment of constituencies, selection of candidates and later ministers, distribution of portfolios etc. If it took over 18 days after the election results were known to swear in a new Council of ministers, one begins to doubt whether there is really any common ground between the Congress and the NCP and whether this type of coalition arrangement can last long enough and deliver good governance to the people who have been waiting for it.

 

Ministry-making in Haryana did not encounter the problems which had appeared in Karnataka and Maharashtra. It became relatively easy for chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda to complete the formalities of cobbling up a coalition government as the anti-defection law now permits such fence-jumping by legislators without having to give up their Assembly seat. He could easily find the additional support required for a majority from a few MLAs for whom a ministerial seat is more important than loyalty to a party or ideology.

 

In our legislatures almost all members seem to think that they are well qualified to be ministers. In Western democracies members elected to Parliament consider it a great privilege to serve for long years as MPs. A ministerial office does not by itself enhance the social prestige or standing of an MP in those countries. In fact, many MPs in advanced democracies think that they can be more useful to the people without the additional leverage of ministerial offices.

 

The choice of ministers is a relatively easier task for Prime Ministers in Western democracies because of the "shadow Cabinet" system — the main Opposition parties have shadow Cabinets whose members are selected by the party based on experience, standing in the party, aptitude for ministerial work etc. It is time that political parties in India too start thinking of grooming at least a few leaders who could be first choices for the major portfolios in the Cabinet without having to spend several days in discussions.

 

If we have to take lessons from the experience of ministry-making over the last few weeks, we must seriously consider extending the scope of legislation on defection and splits in political parties and making it compulsory that a defector seeks re-election instead of creating artificial legal limits to convert a defection into a split. This may be considered an extreme remedy against the practice of defection, but if the parliamentary system is to develop on healthy lines in our country, such drastic steps are necessary.

 

P.C. Alexander is a former governor of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

TALKING POINTS

BY SATISH KUMAR

 

The outcome of the recently held high-level Track II dialogue with Pakistan suggests that dialogues do not yield anything because of the rigid attitude and closed minds of our Pakistani friends. Yet one wonders whether there is an alternative to a dialogue, given the fact that war or coercive action are no longer feasible options.

 

Combating terrorism is the priority on the India-Pakistan agenda at present. But the dialogue on this subject does not proceed an inch without entering into polemics. There is no meeting of the minds on any parameter. Pakistan's stand is that terrorism is a common problem. No amount of assertion by the Indian side that while the problem is common its causes and sources in both countries are different convinces the Pakistanis. One distinguished participant went to the extent of saying that if 5,00,000 Indian troops in Kashmir have not been able to stop terrorism there, how can Pakistan be expected to succeed in stopping it. There cannot be a more absurd argument in a situation where Pakistani mujahideen have been more than half the source of terrorism in Kashmir. Besides, the argument reveals complete unwillingness to accept that Pakistan has anything to do with terrorist attacks in India, which is just the opposite of what India believes to be a fact. So how can you proceed further?

 

This brings us to the question of evidence. The stock argument from the Pakistani side is: give us evidence so that we can take action against, for instance, the 26/11 suspects. The evidence already provided by India is not enough. When questioned whether Pakistan has legally sustainable evidence against the Taliban militants who are destroying the Pakistani state and against whom Pakistan's Army is taking action, there is no cogent answer.

 

For some reason, the Pakistani side keeps insisting that the Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism should be reactivated. The mechanism was tried out in a couple of meetings in 2007 in the wake of the agreement in Havana in September 2006. Pakistan demanded that terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir be kept out of the purview of this mechanism. While that knocked the bottom out of this mechanism, it is simply impossible to expect Pakistan to reveal in the joint mechanism what action it has taken or not taken against certain terrorists, given the politics of terrorism in Pakistan. The related Pakistani suggestion of intelligence sharing was shot down by Indian participants on the ground that information cannot be shared with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), a sworn enemy of India. Nor is there much scope for dialogue on the Kashmir issue. The Pakistani side clearly stated that former President Pervez Musharraf's four-point formula died with his exit. If the post-Musharraf government wants to revive it, it will have to redefine it in its own words and bring it to the table again. The four-point formula evolved by Mr Musharraf in 2006 comprised no change of boundaries but making the Line of Control irrelevant, staggered demilitarisation, autonomy or self-governance and joint control mechanisms. It is generally believed that in back channel diplomacy some progress was made on Mr Musharraf's agenda although it is difficult to confirm. But all back channel agreements can also be said to have died with the exit of Mr Musharraf. And India's current external affairs minister clearly rejected the revival of back channel approach by stating in New York in September that the back channel was not needed when the front channel was open.

 

For the rest, the Pakistani side had stale ideas like India should agree to talk to Kashmiri separatists too, without realising that New Delhi's invitation had been spurned by the separatists on more than one occasion. And yet, some talks with them have been going on.

 

There was some discussion on mutual threat perceptions when the Pakistani side lamented the launch of a nuclear submarine by India and the Indian side referred to the expansion of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and questioned the safety of its nuclear weapons. But there was no satisfactory answer from Pakistan to the question why it was diverting foreign military aid meant for fighting terrorism to buy weapons usable against India. Nor was there any recognition of the fact that Pakistan was resorting to terrorism as a state policy and was using non-state actors for this purpose.

 

India's justifiable anger against Pakistan's attitude and denial has led it to adopt the posture of no-dialogue whereas Pakistan has been desperate to resume some sort of a dialogue. This has been described by commentators as coercive diplomacy of India, even though there is no coercion in India's behaviour. India's refusal to talk is a mere expression of its frustration at the outcome of such talks. And yet relations between India and Pakistan are at a standstill. "No-dialogue" has helped neither India nor Pakistan. One has to understand why.

 

Pakistan will just not be able to take strong action against high-profile anti-India militant leaders for quite sometime even though it will keep up the facade of legal action against the second-rung leadership. Pakistan is under an ideological siege, an Islamic siege, which is its own creation. Militant leaders like Hafeez Saeed not only have a huge following of Islamic zealots in the Pakistani heartland but also a large capability to resort to organised violence. Besides, by virtue of their strong links with the Army-ISI combine, they are privy to important secrets. No Pakistani government can afford the risk of strong action against them. They are not threatening the Pakistani state, like the Taliban.

 

Talking to Pakistani friends, their helplessness becomes obvious, though not expressed in so many words. Is there a way by which India can help them out of this siege? No other country can, not the United States, not China. If at all, it is India, and that too only through dialogue.

 

The dialogue does not have to begin with Kashmir. It can begin with terrorism but not confined to specific incidents. It can address the question of how multi-sectoral exchanges can be expanded between the two countries with the aim of creating more tolerant and plural societies. It can include the consequences of Talibanisation of Pakistan for both countries. It can include Afghanistan at some stage, and later some bilateral issues.

 

Let the pace be slow and hesitant. But the two countries should keep talking. Pakistan has nowhere to go except turn to India if it needs to know how to create a tolerant society.

 

The writer is editor, India's National Security Annual Review, and former professor of diplomacy at JNU, New Delhi

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

DON'T BLAME PALIN'S STARDOM ON ALASKA

BY MICHAEL CAREY

 

SARAH PALIN, a one-time beauty queen, a mother of five, the Republican candidate for US vice-president in 2008, and the former governor of Alaska, has a new incarnation: author.

 

Her memoir, Going Rogue: An American Life, out today, is already a bestseller. In what was trumpeted as a "world exclusive", Ms Palin sat down with Oprah Winfrey on Monday to discuss the obvious controversies in which she has been a participant — among them, the dismal Katie Couric interview, her conflicts with the McCain campaign and her difficult relationship with Levi Johnston, the father of her grandson. Her book tour, much of which will be conducted by bus, promises to attract the energy of a "tea party" rally and the hoopla of a presidential campaign.

 

As the country continues to be fascinated with Ms Palin, here is what continues to fascinate Alaskans: how a woman who takes pride in calling herself a homemaker from Wasilla brought celebrity culture to the Last Frontier.

 

No other Alaskan can match her stardom. Ted Stevens, a senator for four decades, became only briefly notorious after being indicted on corruption charges. Only hockey fans recognise Scott Gomez (formerly of the New York Rangers, now of the Montreal Canadiens).

 

The four-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race champion, Susan Butcher, died in 2006. The skippers on the Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch are not household names.

 

It all happened so fast.

 

In March 2008, I ran into Ms Palin at the start of the Iditarod in downtown Anchorage. She had no entourage, no security, only her daughter Piper — who wanted to go home. We chatted about her beautiful parka with its wolverine ruff.

 

Sometime around then, I also interviewed her on a radio call-in programme. As we waited to go on air, I asked her where she got her long, round Os — as in her pronunciation of the name of her 2006 Democratic opponent in the governor's race, Tony Knowles, "Tooon-y Knooowles". She leaned over and asked, with an air of confidentiality, "Do you think I should hire a voice coach?"

 

Her life changed when she was nominated for vice-president, and ours did too. Reporters, photographers and anchormen descended on our state. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Alaskans were interviewed.

 

Few of us previously understood just how exhaustively the American news media would follow a celebrity story. The Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 drew plenty of national journalists, but far more came to cover Ms Palin. Sometimes her fame was contagious: young Levi Johnston has become a tabloid figure quoted authoritatively on the Palin family's private life.

 

Ms Palin exposed Alaskans to a larger universe. We learned how celebrity is created through images, words, legends and, in a few cases, outright fabrication.

 

Several times after the 2008 Republican convention, I had a variation of the following experience in restaurants, bars and waiting rooms.

 

Someone sitting nearby would blurt out "Look!" and point upward as if having seen an apparition. There she

would be on a television screen overhead — campaigning before a huge throng in Pennsylvania, North Carolina or somewhere else Outside, as Alaskans call the rest of the country.

 

In that "Look!" I heard a mixture of pride and amazement. Because there, right in front of us, was an Alaskan — a neighbour from down the road — standing on the biggest stage in the world.But Ms Palin's celebrity is unlikely to have a lasting effect on Alaskan politics. Her movement was not inheritable, not transferable. She did not reshape the state. When she still held office, her fame was mostly an annoyance to legislators who felt she was too busy pursuing national ambitions to talk to them. The 2010 gubernatorial race is likely to be a contest between candidates promising competent, meat-and-potatoes government to constituents who grew sick of their governor staring at them from magazine covers as they waited in the supermarket checkout line. For the time being, it appears that American celebrity culture will remain in the Lower 48.

 

For the record, I don't believe Sarah Palin will ever hold national office. She inspires many Right-wing activists and enchants some members of the conservative news media, but the independents and moderates decisive to any presidential bid won't send her to Washington with "quitter" on her résumé.


Still, she's likely to remain in the limelight for years to come.


If that makes you scream, don't scream at Alaskans. We only made her governor. The nation made her a celebrity.

 

Michael Carey is a columnist for The Anchorage Daily News and the host of the public television programme Anchorage Edition.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

TODAY CHINA IS WHAT US WAS

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

When European settlers first came to North America, they saw flocks of geese so big that it took them 30 minutes to all take flight and forests that seemed to stretch to infinity. They came to two conclusions: that God's plans for humanity could be completed here, and that they could get really rich in the process.

 

This moral materialism fomented a certain sort of manic energy. Americans became famous for their energy and workaholism: for moving around, switching jobs, marrying and divorcing, creating new products and going off on righteous crusades.

 

It may seem like an ephemeral thing, but this eschatological faith in the future has motivated generations of Americans, just as religious faith motivates a missionary. Pioneers and immigrants endured hardship in the present because of their confidence in future plenty. Entrepreneurs start up companies with an exaggerated sense of their chances of success. The faith is the molten core of the country's dynamism.

 

There are also periodic crises of faith. Today, the rise of China is producing such a crisis. It is not only China's economic growth rate that produces this anxiety. The Chinese, though members of a famously old civilisation, seem to possess some of the vigour that once defined the US. The Chinese are now an astonishingly optimistic people. Eighty-six per cent of Chinese believe their country is headed in the right direction, compared with 37 per cent of Americans.

 

The Chinese now have lavish faith in their scientific and technological potential. Newsweek and Intel just reported the results of their Global Innovation Survey.

 

Only 22 per cent Chinese believe their country is an innovation leader, but 63 per cent are confident that their country will be the global technology leader within 30 years. The majority of the Chinese believe that China will produce the next society-changing innovation, while only a third of Americans believe the next breakthrough will happen here, according to the survey.

 

The Cultural Revolution seems to have produced among the Chinese the same sort of manic drive that the pioneer and immigrant experiences produced among the Americans. The people who endured Mao Zedong's horror have seen the worst life has to offer and are now driven to build some secure footing. "Do you understand?" one party official in Shanxi Province told James Fallows of the Atlantic, "If it had not been for Deng Xiaoping, I would be behind an ox in a field right now... Do you understand how different this is? My mother has bound feet!"

 

The anxiety in America is caused by the vague sense that they have what we're supposed to have. It's not the per capita income, which the Chinese may never have at our level. It's the sense of living with baubles just out of reach. It's the faith in the future, which is actually more important.

 

China, where US President Obama is visiting, invites a certain sort of reverie. It is natural, looking over the construction cranes, to think about the flow of history over decades, not just day-to-day. And it becomes obvious by comparison just how far the US has drifted from its normal future-centered orientation and how much this rankles.

 

The US now has an economy shifted too much toward consumption, debt and imports and too little toward production, innovation and exports. It now has a mounting federal debt that creates present indulgence and future hardship.

 

Americans could once be confident that their country would grow more productive because each generation was more skilled than the last. That's no longer true. The political system now groans to pass anything easy — tax cuts, expanding healthcare coverage — and is incapable of passing anything hard — spending restraint, healthcare. The standard thing these days is for Americans to scold each other for our profligacy, to urge fiscal Puritanism. But it's not clear Americans have ever been self-disciplined. Instead, Americans probably postponed gratification because they thought the future was a big rock-candy mountain, and if they were stealing from that, they were robbing themselves of something stupendous.

 

It would be nice if some leader could induce the country to salivate for the future again. That would mean connecting discrete policies — education, technological innovation, funding for basic research — into a single long-term narrative. It would mean creating regional strategies, because innovation happens in geographic clusters, not at the national level. It would mean finding ways to tamp down consumption and reward production. As the financial crises ease, it would be nice if Americans would once again start looking to the horizon.

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

THE BJP'S DILEMMA

RSS CHOICE A SETTLED FACT


IS the Bharatiya Janata Party all set to play on the back foot? It may just be going through the motions of the democratic procedure during the selection of the party president next month. At this juncture, the choice appears to be an almost settled fact with the parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, reinforcing the remote control mechanism. And it has been reinforced despite the general flutter in the saffronite ranks over Mohan Bhagwat's recent off-the-cuff barb that the BJP requires chemotherapy. In its heyday, the party would have been expected to come up with a sufficiently robust response; in its present state of inertia ~ deepened after the UP debacle ~ it appears to be sulking under a suppressed state of resentment. Bhagwat's choice of Nitin Gadkari, his acolyte and Maharashtra MLC, as the next BJP president suggests that the BJP's second rung of leaders, notably Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu have been overlooked. He has taken care of his self-imposed pre-requisites, specifically "a younger candidate" and one who is "not based in Delhi". In the event, he has opted for someone with roots in the RSS headquarters of Nagpur. By conveying his choice to LK Advani and the present incumbent, Rajnath Singh, Bhagwat isn't merely proceeding from conclusion to procedure; he has made it quite transparent that it is the RSS chief who is calling the shots. He has made the choice in December a near-settled fact. On a parity of RSS reasoning, the next leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha may also be a Bhagwat loyalist.


Increasingly is it becoming clear that Bhagwat intends to place his acolytes or deputationists from the RSS to the strategic posts within the party. Yet he is being presumptuous if he imagines that the BJP will remain "divided, dysfunctional and rootless" if it doesn't abide by the RSS terms of engagement. He seems intent on blurring the line that divides the BJP, a potential party of governance, from the RSS, an intensely Hindutva entity. Yet if the RSS chief wants the BJP to re-evolve as an equally intensely Hindutva outfit, it may be still less acceptable in the electoral stakes. Aware of the underpinnings of realpolitik, Vajpayee and Advani had been able to balance Hindutva with the compulsions of governance. Bhagwat's agenda seems geared towards a decidedly communal remove.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

BLOTTED ASPIRATIONS

AGONISING CHOICE FOR JHARKHAND VOTERS


THE blotted aspirations of a separate Jharkhand have confirmed that it is often difficult to protect legitimate movements from selfish politicians. This is why it becomes necessary on the 10th anniversary of the state and the 134th birth anniversary of the legendary tribal leader, Birsa Munda, for the Governor to emphasise that the state needs a corruption-free government more than anything else. He may have been referring to the prospects after the assembly election later this month. A more anxious reference may be to Madhu Kota who is pulling all the strings at his disposal to defer the proceedings against him in the Rs 2,000-crore corruption case. The Governor may have left it to his audience to decide what kind of government it wants. The question is, what options do they have? In a short span of nine years, the state has witnessed all kinds of dubious interests at the helm of power. Each government came with the hope of giving the tribal population a proper deal that Birsa Munda had converted into a lifelong struggle and which had eventually justified the breaking away from Bihar. It hasn't taken more than nine years for those dreams to turn into a nightmare.


None of the prophets of hope have succeeded in doing what Lalu Prasad ignored during his years as chief minister of the unified state. A BJP head of government at the inception of Jharkhand ran into internal squabbles and had to be replaced. An Independent was supported by the Congress with no better result and then set a record for perhaps the biggest scam witnessed in any state. A Jharkhand Mukti Morcha patriarch turned out to be equally concerned about his personal interests whether as Union minister or chief minister while having a string of criminal cases hanging over his head. That has left the field in the coming election open to Lalu Prasad who had challenged the idea of statehood itself. The fact that Trinamul has jumped into the fray doesn't make a huge difference when Lalu, Mamata Banerjee and Sibu Soren are bitter rivals who remain part of the UPA. Seldom has an election presented such an agonising choice. No leader with inspiring credentials may be in sight for voters. That is no reason why tribal aspirations should go so cruelly by default.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

RETIRE AT 57

NAGALAND'S SUDDEN TURN OF MIND


RIDING the crest of the foreign nationals issue, the apolitical All Assam Students' Union changed the state's political landscape in 1985. It created the Asom Gana Parishad which won the assembly election that year and assumed power, but its students-turned-politicians paid little attention during their tenure ~ a little less than 10 years ~ to implementing the Illegal Migration (Determination by Tribunals) Act, 1983. In fact, at one point of time the Aasu was forced to launch an agitation against the AGP for its failure to implement the 1985 Assam Accord and the organisation continues to be a power to reckon with, being as it is in the forefront of anything that concerns the people of Assam. The Nagaland Students' Federation is another such ~ a veritable platform for future politicians. Some of its former leaders have enjoyed ministerial berths. More than the authority, NSF members keep track of those entering Nagaland without Inner Line Permits and conduct regular checks. Recently, state home minister, L Imchen, congratulated the NSF for helping the government introduce and pass the Nagaland Government Retirement from Public Services (second amendment) Act, 2009. When this came into force in October, many senior staff who turned 57 on that day ceased to be government employees. According to the NSF president, this was done in the interest of the younger generation. But how it will solve the problem of the educated unemployed is anybody's guess, even admitting that governments in North-east states are the largest employers.


Following the petition by the Senior Government Employees' Welfare Association against the retirement act, the Supreme Court has directed the state government not to issue further notice until it hears the case on 14 January. Interestingly, the Neiphiu Rio ministry gave its employees a pleasant surprise when it "suddenly" raised the superannuation age from 57 to 60 in 2007, a few months before the 2008 Assembly elections. So what went awry so soon?

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

MUSSOLINI JEALOUS OF HITLER!

PRESS TRUST OF INDIA


LONDON, 17 NOV: Though Benito Mussolini regarded Adolf Hitler as a "very kind man, he was "jealous" of the Nazi leader's power and fame, declassified diaries of the Italian dictator's mistress have revealed.
Claretta Petacci's journals ~ Secret Mussolini ~ which will be published this week, describe a meeting he had with the German leader in 1938 after the then British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain agreed to Germany's annexation of the Sudetenland, The Daily Telegraph reported. "The Fuhrer was very kind. At heart, Hitler is an old sentimentalist. When he saw me he had tears in his eyes," Mussolini was quoted as telling his lover.
The diaries also show Mussolini was irritated by being regarded as a junior partner to Hitler, maintaining that his fascism and anti-Semitism dated back to the 1920s, before Hitler rose to prominence.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

VILLAINS AND SAINTS~II

CONGRESS MISTAKES MADE THE DIVISION INEVITABLE

SAROJ KUMAR MEHERA


A MYTH among Pakistanis is that Mountbatten influenced Radcliffe to award the Muslim-majority Gurdaspur district to India, giving the latter the only access from its territory to Kashmir. There is a map in Wavell's papers, prepared by him if Partition was to take place, showing Gurdaspur district as allocable to India. This map, from a former Viceroy's papers is likely to have influenced Radcliffe, a person with no previous knowledge of the country, rather than any exhortations by Mountbatten. Wavell, if not pro-Muslim, was certainly anti-Congress.


A current myth and subject of great argument and debate is that Jinnah was not secular. Any unbiased study of the man and his life will disprove this. An outstanding example of his secularism was his speech of 11 August 1947 on the eve of the birth of Pakistan, when he said that in the course of time, Muslims would cease to be Muslims, Hindus would cease to be Hindus, not in the religious sense, because religion was a personal matter, but in the business of the state, where all would be equal citizens of Pakistan.


Apart from the rebuff to the UP Muslim League in 1937, mentioned earlier, the Congress committed several mistakes, which, collectively, made Partition inevitable. One was the decision to resign from the provincial governments in 1939, because Linlithgow, the Viceroy, without seeking Congress support, declared India to be at war with Germany. He would have received that support, despite Gandhi's pacifism, because Nehru, for one, had made known his anti-fascist views publicly for years.


Cripps proposals

HOWEVER, the majority in the party supported Gandhi and a conservative hidebound core. By that time, Jinnah and the Muslim League were not prepared to jointly campaign with the Congress for independence, preferring to plough their own patch without, however, any clear definition of their goals until 1940, when the Pakistan Resolution was passed. The 1937 rebuff still rankled and feelings of insecurity and distrust of Hindus became stronger among Muslims, even the more liberal thinkers.


The next mistake was to reject outright the Cripps proposals in 1942. Instead of putting them on the shelf until the war was over, Churchill was delighted as he never wanted Cripps to succeed, despite US President Roosevelt pressurising him to get Congress involvement in the war effort.


The next mistake followed closely ~ the Quit India Resolution of August 1942. It was seized upon by Churchill and the Raj as evidence that Congress, and particularly Gandhi, were determined to seriously embarrass a Britain fighting for its life against the Axis powers. Jinnah took full political advantage of this and was lauded by Churchill as the genuine representative of the Muslims, a community which provided a large percentage of the soldiers of the British Indian Army, loyal to the Empire, unlike the perfidious Hindus.


The Cabinet Mission plan of 1946, faulty as it was in the grouping system, and a weak Centre with great autonomy proposed for the provinces, did lead to the formation of a Constituent Assembly and an Interim Government with Congress and Muslim League participation. However, yet another blunder took place with Nehru declaring that the Congress would stay in the Constituent Assembly as long as it suited them and they would be free to act as they saw fit in India's interest. Jinnah saw red and events moved inexorably towards Partition. A more sensible approach would have been to concede the Muslim demand for autonomous groups in the North-West and North-East but without any coercion of unwilling large non-Muslim minorities. Effectively this would have meant what was eventually achieved at Partition. It was said recently, in 2009, by a Pakistani journalist that what Jinnah sought was space for Muslims in a greater India! Surely this is exactly what Iqbal had in mind!


Jinnah and his party were no less guilty of blunders. They could have negotiated something on the above lines but the clash of monstrous egos between Jinnah and Nehru probably stood in the way. Both men, particularly Jinnah, were powerful enough to carry with them, their parties, including the conservatives and fundamentalists. Jinnah did not even try and instead blundered his way into a call for Direct Action Day. The results of the 1946 elections established beyond doubt that he was the acknowledged leader of the Muslims, despite the apparent lack of support in Punjab and the NWFP for the idea of Pakistan. But the Punjab provincial government of Sir Khizar Hyat Khan Tiwana  and his Unionists, was weak and unstable, with some of the Muslims switching allegiance to the Muslim League. Sir Khizar eventually decided to step down and the Governor took over the administration under Section 93 when it became impossible for any party to cobble together a popular government.


But Bengal was a different proposition and the Muslim League government, led by Husein Shaheed Suhrawardy, was fanatically loyal to Jinnah. Suhrawardy was a dapper, dandyish man, a habitué of the 300 Club, a nightclub on Theatre Road in what was then Calcutta to which he was driven in his white Packard saloon, its numberplate marked BLA. This same man on 16 August 1946 showed what Direct Action meant to him, by declaring a public holiday and unleashing his party's thugs to slaughter and maim as many non-Muslims as they could. A month later he informed the press that if Bengal's Muslims went on the warpath, there would not be a single Hindu left alive in eastern Bengal. His personal ambitions showed up in his efforts to form a sovereign Bengal and, surprisingly, Congress leaders like Sarat Bose and Kiran Shankar Roy favoured the idea. Far from regarding it as treachery on Suhrawardy's part, Jinnah welcomed it. Mercifully, it was shot down by Nehru and Patel, who rightly held that there was no possibility of the Hindus in Bengal putting themselves under permanent Muslim domination. In this, they were strongly supported by the able and powerful Shyamaprasad Mukherjee of the Hindu Mahasabha. This same Suhrawardy sought Gandhi's protection in Calcutta on the eve of Independence.


UNTENABLE DEMANDS

THE Viceroy, Wavell, gamely carried on trying to make the Constituent Assembly and the Interim Government work but by this time Jinnah and his party had become more and more unreasonable, with untenable demands like numerical parity in the government between Muslims and non-Muslims and insistence that Congress could not include a Muslim in its quota of ministers even if he was a party member. That horrible three-letter word ~ ego ~ had now afflicted all the politicians and it should have become painfully obvious to all and sundry ~ which it did not ~ that Partition was inevitable.


Pervez Musharraf once described the Kashmir problem as the unfinished business of Partition. The problem would have been solved 60 years ago, as Rajinder Puri has cogently argued recently, if Nehru had accepted the original plebiscite proposal, whose prerequisite provided for all Pakistani regular and irregular forces to be withdrawn and some Indian forces retained to keep law and order. The chances are that the result would have been a divided Kashmir not very different from what it is today.


The clock cannot be put back and Partition cannot be undone. But is it possible to build some sort of loose federation on the ideas of Iqbal and the reported desire of Jinnah of "space for Muslims in a greater India"?

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

CUPPED HANDS

 

It is a small red cup, and it tends not to run over. The United Nation's World Food Programme often uses such a cup to provide food for the world's starving. It has now chosen this object as the symbol for the acute shortage not only in the UN's coffers but also in food for the world's poor. For the first time in history, the number of hungry people in the world will be more than a billion this year, and the UN is running out of money for dealing with this crisis. So the WFP has launched its "A Billion for a Billion" campaign, appealing to individuals and the private sector who have access to the internet, money in the bank and cards to donate it with to gift whatever they can afford by clicking on the red cup on its web-page. The appeal, this time, is not to governments, but to the "global citizen", who can pay in euros or dollars, although the country options are unlimited. The funds shortage is because of the economic and the food crises hitting the globe together. This, then, is the dark side of globalization, making the global citizen an important agent — the giver independent of government, freeing the gift from the geopolitical web into the World Wide Web.

 

Giving, like taking, is an ambiguous activity, economically and ethically. It is impossible for gifts to be truly disinterested, for they bind individuals, communities, nations and economies in dubious networks of stated and unstated obligation. So the private, but global, giver is a way of redistributing resources in an emergency without getting into fiscal or political tangles, without forgetting the short-term nature of such a solution, and without absolving privileged governments of their responsibilities. And with Internet and the global media, it has also become impossible for the well-fed to look away and pretend not to know about hunger. India tops the hunger chart, with 230 million people being undernourished, but it is also a big player now in the globalized scenario. Will netizen Indians with their own bits of plastic see themselves as part of the community of global givers in the Billion for a Billion programme? Or will they conveniently choose to see themselves as part of the 'developing' world instead, as they have with climate change, and prefer to be with those who are at the receiving end of the campaign? The peculiar contradictions in India's self-image as a developing, yet globalizing, nation might play themselves out yet again when faced with the little red cup in cyberspace.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

WAR WITHIN

 

Sri Lanka continues to be in a state of war months after its historic win over the Tamil Tigers. The war, this time, is being fought in the glass house of Sri Lanka's establishment, and its effect is proving to be quite shattering. Sarath Fonseka, the army general who led the operation against the Tigers and was part of the war cabinet together with the president of Sri Lanka during that momentous period, has 'retired'. His parting gift is a letter addressed to the president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, that levels serious charges against him. Apart from indicating how the president has tripped on the issues of human rights and media freedom, the letter deals, and in large parts, with how Mr Rajapaksa undermined the trust Mr Fonseka placed in him by sidelining the latter in the months following the war. The president's betrayal of the war-hero is expected to be interpreted as his betrayal of the nation itself. The letter bears an undeniable mark of Mr Fonseka's self-importance, but this in itself is a reflection of the inordinate importance the Sinhala-predominant nation has come to attach to the war, which is perceived to have vanquished and subdued a troublesome minority. It is on the credit of waging this successful war that Mr Rajapaksa wagers his second coming as president. The Rajapaksa administration, quite naturally, has been rather ungenerous about sharing the victory with an army general, who is supposed to be a tool of the State. Unfortunately, Mr Fonseka thinks otherwise. So does the Opposition, which has now found in Mr Fonseka's rebellion a way not only to needle an overconfident government but also to overcome rancour and ego clashes. The United National Front, an alliance formed recently by the major Opposition parties, may now be dependent on Mr Fonseka to queer the pitch of the ruling combine by dividing its votes and, thereby, strengthening the hands of the United National Party leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is waiting in the wings.

 

Mr Rajapaksa may not be frightened of Mr Fonseka yet. But he is aware of the threat Mr Fonseka poses. The announcement of the presidential elections, which were to have taken place at the summit of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party last Sunday, has suddenly been withheld. Were they to take place before the parliamentary polls in April, Mr Rajapaksa would have to contend with a number of spoilers in the game that has been so meticulously planned for him to win.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH

LOOK EAST, BUT LOOK HARDER

KRISHNAN SRINIVASAN

 

The attributes of an influential power are never precise, but would certainly imply that India's impact must spread beyond South Asia. India's prominence in West Asia is impeded by the religious factor as well as the blocking abilities of Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Southeast Asia is one of the few remaining areas for Indian cultural, soft-power and economic expansion, which could not materialize during the Cold War period. After India realigned its position with the post-Cold-War order, engagement with East and Southeast Asia had to be one of its priorities.

 

India had first to convince Asean that it had seen the light, and would befriend countries with which relations had been cool over previous decades. India had been perceived by Asean as close to the Soviet Union and neither really fully Western nor Asian, and India's cultural uniqueness was not considered a positive element in facilitating its integration with Asean. The 'Asean way' rests on personal relationships, gradual consensus-building and skirting contentious issues, whereas Indians are seen as legalistic, bureaucratic and impersonal. In other words, India was a very late starter, and had miles to go to catch up with the established presence of other big countries both from within and outside the region.

 

The Indian 'Look East' policy accorded with the market model in place in Southeast Asia. China's involvement with those countries had already witnessed strong momentum, helped by people of Chinese origin who had long dominated business in at least half of the ten Asean countries. India had fallen far behind in the movement for regional integration, although the political and strategic situation on India's southeast flank affected its security, even more so after the admission of Myanmar made Asean adjacent to India's land border.

 

India had shown no inclination for political leadership in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, but paradoxically now wanted to go beyond South Asia and the Indian Ocean to extend its influence towards the Pacific. India's new emphasis on the East was motivated by the China factor, its social, cultural, religious and linguistic links with Asean, and the persons of Indian origin who had a presence in the socio-political life of the region. As Indo-Asean ties increased, the role of these communities became more salient.

 

In general terms, compared with the caution of the early 1990s, India is now a reasonably confident participant in the Asia-Pacific political and strategic domain. However, in the economic sphere, India is yet to make any notable headway. The recent Indo-Asean free-trade agreement exceeded all time-lines and it remains to be seen how it will operate in practice. The leverage exercised by Indian protectionist lobbies on political circles in New Delhi should never be underestimated. In terms of intra-regional trade, in comparison with China, Korea, Japan and the Asean members, India has been insignificant. There are several shortcomings in the Indian economy, where the market is quite closed, the average tariff level high, investment environment poor, and the level of infrastructure development and external trade low, so that India is not a highly regarded commercial partner. India's partnership with East Asia will crucially depend on its capacity for making a distinct contribution towards the progress of closer economic integration in the region.

 

While India's economic and political contacts are formal rather than functional, its bilateral defence arrangements with individual Asean countries have assumed greater relevance. India has never clarified what genuine interests it has to defend in the region, but the Indian presence is appreciated and welcomed by Asean, an attitude based on balance of power. Asean welcomes all major powers to participate in the regional security architecture, but in its view no single power should be permitted to dominate the area. This is to India's advantage. Because India has greater military resources to share with Asean than vice versa, defence cooperation has occurred to some degree with almost every Asean country — more so, in most cases, than with India's neighbours in the Indian subcontinent. In contrast, there is little Chinese military involvement with Asean, other than Myanmar.

 

The Asean Regional Forum is the first multilateral security forum ever to be joined by India. It had been India's traditional approach to keep security issues out of the scope of regional groups such as the Saarc and the Indian Ocean Rim Association, in both of whose formation it had played a key role. But with the ARF, the objective of 'containing' China influenced India to reverse its historic position on such groupings. Competition between India and China in the region is predictable because the two countries do not enjoy mutual trust and there are overlapping perceptions of their historical spheres of influence and interest. They have made efforts to address bilateral problems with some progress recorded, but given the inherent rivalry and geopolitical interplay, the nature and degree of friction between them is a constant concern for the members of Asean.

 

There is, therefore, a competitive edge in India's policy to achieve some kind of equal footing with China. But it will be necessary for India to draw China closer into discussions on cooperation and security in the Asia-Pacific region. The approach of 'containing' China by aligning with some individual powers whose strategic goals and military practices do not necessarily complement ours, nor share the long-term vision of India's relationship with its northern neighbour, will be most unwise. India's strategic engagement with Asean should not be premised only on the China factor, and military means cannot be considered the preferred method of asserting a regional role in preference to the more valuable soft-power assets like culture, technology, IT, and trade and investment. India has taken the initial steps to being regarded as a serious partner in emerging Asia, but it has now to enhance its economic and strategic relevance that are both largely in the potential, rather than the actual, sphere.

 

India may already see itself as an influential factor in the Asean economic and security space, but this self-perception will not be shared by other major actors. Asean has differing levels of consensus on many issues including security, and many among its ten members regard India only as an Indian Ocean power and not an Asia Pacific one. Being part of the Asia Pacific is a necessity for India's pursuit of world status and its friendly ties with the United States of America can boost that strategy. But in matters critical to Asean like the Korean peninsula, the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, it remains to be seen whether India has the capacity and will to be involved; for instance, it has given no significant opinion on Pyongyang's nuclear and missile experiments. In security conclaves like the six-power talks on the North Korean nuclear issue, India is not included, and if the six member ad hoc body eventually morphs into an embryonic Asian security construct, Indian relevance and participation might become a subject of contention.

 

India will be prepared to play a more energetic role, along with the West, in maintaining the security of international sea-lanes, and its ambitions may be on the right lines, but it has incrementally to enhance its economic integration with other Asian countries. India has to make much greater effort to make Asean an important stake-holder in Indian prosperity. India is still far from being an indispensable country, and the reality is that the gap between China's and India's levels of engagement with Asean remains huge: no number of summit photo-opportunities for our prime minister with East Asian leaders will redress this imbalance.

 

Military contacts are not nearly as important as economic interdependence, because without such integration, it is premature to talk about any possible role for India in the security architecture in Asia. At this time, when the level of acrimony between India and China is disturbing and even reminiscent of the 1950s, it is sobering to keep in mind that in the unlikely event of a clash of arms, such international support as India receives will again come, as it did in 1962, mainly from the West, for the West's own purposes, whereas the so-called non-aligned group of countries will at best sit on the fence or, far more likely, tilt towards our northern neighbour.

 

The author is former foreign secretary of India

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

OUT IN THE COLD

SUMANTA SEN

 

Marxists should have learnt from their experience in Assam and partly in Tripura that ethnic consolidation stands in the way of bringing together the masses along class lines. But they did not, apparently, and there were a few smiles in Calcutta when tribals in the Dooars stood up against the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha as it sought to extend its influence in their homeland. The smiles should now disappear as the Kalchini bypoll results show that the tribals, under the umbrella of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad, have an agenda of their own which does not include coming to the aid of the Left Front. By winning, the Parishad has spoilt the party for the Front constituent, the Revolutionary Socialist Party, and helped the GJM to emerge as a surprise winner. So in this particular constituency, it was tribal consolidation versus Nepalese consolidation, and class considerations did not feature in the minds of the people.

 

Tribal consolidation is a new feature in the state's political life. There has always been the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, but it could never cut much ice and, at present, it is a divided house. In the Dooars, however, it is clear that tribals have come together in a much more meaningful manner and it will be very surprising if the idea does not catch on in the districts of Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapur. Right now, these are Maoist lands but an outfit like the Adivasi Vikas Parishad can always attract notice as it talks of tribal rights without any call for armed action. The ruling Leftists may well say they are all for tribal rights but they do not really have much to show for their sincerity. Indeed, if the Adivasi Vikas Parishad does try to spread out, then the tribal population may have to choose be between it and the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Out in the cold will be the Communist Party of India (Marxist), as also the Congress and the Trinamul Congress at Kalchini, unless, of course, the latter can work out a deal with the tribal outfits.

 

FUTURE TROUBLE

The scenario in the Dooars brings Tripura to mind, not because of any similarity but because of dissimilarity. In that northeastern state also, ethnicity had reared its head but could not last because of the presence of the Ganamukti Parishad, the militant tribal body of the CPI(M) which, in its earlier avatar as the Upajati Mukti Parishad, had waged a guerrilla warfare in the late Forties against the rulers of Agartala. The West Bengal Marxists never fought any such battle, never thought of having any organization with ethnic overtones among tribals.

 

In north Bengal, tribal consolidation may not be restricted only to the tea garden labourers or to those living in the hamlets that dot the forests around. For long, there has been unrest among the Rajbansi and Koch tribals which has led to the birth of the Kamtapur People's Party, the outlawed Kamtapur Liberation Organization and the Greater Cooch Behar movement. The people involved are also adivasis and a larger coming together of tribals may well be in the offing. It is not without any significance that the GJM is in touch with the Kamtapuris.

 

The possibility of the emergence of such a scenario makes the Kalchini result that much more important. True, the GJM and the Adivasi Vikas Parishad have fought each other, but that dividing line may well disappear if the call is for a larger ethnic block. And Kalchini is not an isolated phenomenon. At Rajganj, the TMC was supported by the GJM with whatever support it enjoys there. So it is not as if the GJM is looking for a working relationship only with other ethnic groups. For the Opposition parties, the situation may be pleasing at the moment but should not allow any long-term solace. Ethnic unrest has never helped any country in the world.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

SMALL THINKING

"INDIANESS DOES NOT NEGATE REGIONALITY."

 

Bal Thackeray's churlish response to Sachin Tendulkar's statement that he is an Indian first lays bare yet again the small mindedness of the Shiv Sena chief. Tendulkar had observed at a function in Mumbai that Mumbai belongs to all Indians and that while he is a proud Maharashtrian, he regarded himself as an Indian first. This has annoyed the Sena chief. He has let loose a tirade against Tendulkar in a signed editorial in the Sena mouthpiece 'Saamna'. Thackeray has accused Tendulkar of speaking against the 'nyaya hak' (just rights) of the Marathi manoos and hurting Marathi sentiments. But there is nothing anti-Maharashtrian in Tendulkar's comment. Mumbai is part of India. The city has been enriched not undermined by its cosmopolitanism. Thackeray is upset with Tendulkar stressing his Indian identity. Feeling Indian does not negate one linguistic or other identity. India's composite culture and identity has room to accommodate a person's linguistic identity as well. Being Indian does not preclude one from being Maharashtrian or Kannadiga or Bihari or Naga. India is based on the idea of unity in diversity. But this idea of India is simply beyond the comprehension of Thackeray. He has showed himself to be a man of small ideas, limited imagination and no vision.


The Sena chief's comment is objectionable not just because it targeted a cricketing legend. It is condemnable because it is driven by a narrow outlook. It is undermining India's composite nationalism. This brand of politics is anti-national. Thackeray is of course not alone in pursuing an agenda that emphasises parochialism. Nephew Raj Thackeray has been competing with the Sena chief and perhaps outdoing him in this regard. Recently Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) legislators attacked a Samajwadi Party MLA who took his oath in Hindi rather than in Marathi.


It is obvious that the Sena chief is rattled by the MNS activism on the issue of protection of Marathi interests. Hence the attack on Tendulkar's remark. Neither Thackeray nor Raj is protecting the interests of Marathis with their engagement in exclusionary, insider-outsider politics. If anything, they are giving Marathis a bad name. Marathis need to reflect on the kind of politics the Thackerays are promoting in their name. What would Mumbai be without a cosmopolitan culture and its multi-ethnic identity? And where would Mumbai's economy be if not for the hard work of outsiders who toil here. An inward looking preoccupation does Maharashtra little good.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

NUCLEAR DEADLOCK

"STALEMATE OVER IRAN'S NUKE ISSUE CAN BE RESOLVED."

 

International efforts to resolve the deadlock over Iran's nuclear programme has suffered a setback after a deal which was considered to be acceptable to all parties has run into trouble. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (P5+1) and Iran, after hard negotiations, had come close to an agreement which had originated in the US but underwent changes in the course of talks. It would have answered temporarily the West's questions about Iran's uranium enrichment activities and served as a confidence-building measure. According to the plan Iran was to give custody of its 1,200 kg of low enriched uranium at its plant at Natanz to the International Atomic Energy Agency  (IAEA). The IAEA would get it further enriched in Russia and fabricated into fuel rods in France and send back to Iran for production of medical isotops which Iran claims it is meant for. The deal was acceptable to the West because it would have deprived Iran of the reason to enrich its uranium to higher levels.


It seems there is opposition within Iran to the deal and the reasons could be partly political, arising from the fact that President Mahmoud Ahmedinijad is yet to consolidate his position after winning the recent elections. The wisdom of sending the whole stockpile of accumulated uranium out of the country is being questioned. Many in Iran also do not like the idea of the fuel rods being made in France. The only country, other than America, which can make the fuel rods for Iran is Argentina, which in unwilling to do it. But these problems do not seem to be insurmountable. Iran would also like to get more credible guarantees about the return of its uranium. Argentina may be taken on board with some persuasion.


If the deal is further modified to assuage Iran's concerns it can be a win-win agreement. Iran is happy with it because it does not involve suspension of the enrichment programme and the West accepts it because it is sure of the end use of the uranium. Efforts seem to be under way behind the scenes to get around the problems that have come up and the West, especially the US, would do well not to take recourse to the usual aggressive and counter-productive rhetoric against Iran.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

PM'S VISIT TO THE US

BY CHINTAMANI MAHAPATRA


Singh and Obama are likely to carry forward the bilateral ties with more vigour than it has seen in last 10 months.

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have the distinction of being the first state guest of US President Barack Obama as he travels to Washington next week for a bilateral summit meeting.


The summit has significance far beyond the Indo-US bilateral context for both the countries. The world is currently gripped by a prolonged recession. The global war on terrorism unleashed by Obama's predecessor George Bush is far from over. The sole superpower is now substantially dependent on China to restore its economic health.


The most significant bilateral alliance in Asia — the US-Japan alliance — appears to be in for substantial transformation. Two Asian countries, Iran and North Korea, have seriously challenged the international nonproliferation regime. A nuclear weapon power of the subcontinent, Pakistan, is in a state of possible implosion.

It is in the backdrop of these developments that the Singh-Obama summit will take place. Indo-US relations have had a long history of hope and illusion, ups and downs and peaks and valleys until the two countries settled for nothing less than a strategic partnership in the new context of the post-Cold War era.


The substantive changes in this relationship occurred in the aftermath of India's decision to overtly go nuclear, path-breaking visit to India by President Bill Clinton, unprecedented defence and security cooperation forged during the first term of President George Bush and a novel civilian nuclear cooperation agreement concluded during the second Bush term.


The credit for the civilian nuclear cooperation agreement between India and the US would undoubtedly go to Singh and George Bush. This signature accomplishment was the outcome of years of strategic haggling, domestic opposition in both the countries and unprecedented diplomatic efforts in multilateral forums, such as IAEA and the NSG.


Bush and Singh had a wonderful chemistry between them and they succeeded in elevating Indo-US relations to new heights. For the first time in history, India did not feel threatened or even annoyed by Washington's security cooperation with Pakistan, which went to the extent of making Pakistan a major non-NATO ally.


Despite the negative ratings of Bush in the world as well as in the US, history will judge him as a president who was responsible for substantively altering the direction of US-Indian relationship for the good of the two countries and for the good of the world.

 

Obama's victory in the 2008 presidential election was hailed the world over as a momentous history in the making. And truly it was so. It energised the masses around the world, including in India. But the events that unfolded created an impression that the changes in Indo-US relations brought about by Singh and Bush was but a temporary honeymoon trip.


Out of focus

The news headlines were silent about the military-to-military cooperation between India and the US; effective implementation of the civilian nuclear deal; US-India global partnership in myriad fields and stories that would hint at non-stop improvements in Indo-US relations. India simply did not blip in the new Obama administration's foreign policy radar.


When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decided to make her first foreign trips to Asia, India was not part of her itinerary. When Vice President Joe Biden came to Afghanistan and Pakistan, he did not even make a stopover in Delhi. The initial attempt to make India part of a new strategy to deal with the worsening situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan raised serious concerns in Delhi and led to a diplomatic protest and quiet lobbying in Washington. President Obama's views on Kashmir during the early days of his presidency too generated certain amount of bilateral tension.


Obama's preoccupation with domestic economic crisis could not have given adequate rationale to explain the low priority given to India. Even the administration's decision to work out a phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq and more focus on Pakistan and Afghanistan do not provide a justification. After all, Obama dangled an olive branch to Iran, offered direct talks with North Korea and went to Cairo to address the entire Muslim world. Where was India in Obama's foreign policy agenda?


Things began to change, as Obama administration's efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan did not bear much fruit and Washington's south Asian strategic ally increasingly appeared as a state at war with itself. Afghanistan as usual behaved like a hard nut that would not crack despite a new Af-Pak strategy of the new administration.

China, on the other hand, that enriched itself by running a trade surplus worth billions of dollars vis-à-vis the US for decades, turned out to be a country with a Communist government that holds the single largest chunk of US treasury bonds. China could play havoc with the US economy that is quite vulnerable due to prolonged recession!


Better late than never and Hillary Clinton paid a visit to India and reiterated everything that would soothe the Indian ears. She set at rest Indian worries about a robust US nonproliferation agenda that could force India to sign the CTBT and derail the civilian nuclear deal.


India actually looks better from Washington perspective now, if seen along with North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, the global economic downturn, etc. Singh and Obama are likely to touch upon all these issues in their summit and vow to carry forward the bilateral relationship with more vigour than it has been in last 10 months. After dealing with a Republican president, Manmohan Singh now has to carry forward the relationship with the US by engaging a Democratic president.


(The writer is professor of American studies and chairman of Centre for Canadian, US and Latin American Studies, JNU)

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

IS CLIMATE DEAL BEYOND REACH?

WITHOUT A COMMITM-ENT FROM THE US, OTHER NATIONS HAVE BEEN RELUCTANT TO DELIVER PLEDGES OF THEIR OWN.

BY JOHN M BRODER,NYT

 

President Barack Obama came into office pledging to end eight years of American inaction on climate change under former President George W Bush, and all year he has promised that the US would lead the way toward a global agreement in Copenhagen next month to address the warming planet.


But this weekend in Singapore, Obama was forced to acknowledge that a comprehensive climate deal was beyond reach this year. Instead, he and other world leaders agreed, they would work toward a more modest interim agreement with a promise to renew work toward a binding treaty next year.


The admission places Obama in the awkward position of being, at least for now, as unlikely to spearhead an international effort to combat global warming as his predecessor — if for different reasons.


In Bush's case, he remained skeptical about the science of global warming until near the end of his presidency and dubious about the need for concerted global action. And his reluctance was echoed by a Congress that wanted to see clear commitments from developing countries like China.


UNILATERAL MOVE

But Obama has been a champion of climate change regulation. He has moved unilaterally to limit greenhouse gases from vehicles and large sources like coal-burning power plants. And in recent months, China, India, Brazil and some other developing countries have issued promises to slow the growth of emissions, although with the knowledge that a binding treaty to enforce such pledges will not take effect for at least several years.
Yet Obama has found himself limited in his ambitions by a Congress that is unwilling to move as far or as fast as he would like. American negotiators have been hamstrung in talks leading to the Copenhagen conference by inaction on legislation supported by the administration that would impose strict caps on carbon dioxide emissions. The House passed a relatively stringent bill in June, but the Senate is not expected to begin serious debate on the measure until next year.


Without a firm commitment from the United States — for decades the world's leading emitter of climate-altering gases — other nations have been reluctant to deliver firmer pledges of their own.


Obama expressed support on Sunday for a proposal from Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen of Denmark to pursue a two-step process at the Copenhagen conference.


Under the plan, the 192 nations convening in the Danish capital would formulate a nonbinding political agreement calling for reductions in global warming emissions and aid for developing nations to adapt to a changing climate. The group would also promise to work to put together a binding global pact in 2010, complete with firm emissions targets, enforcement mechanisms and specific dollar amounts to aid poorer nations.


Although many read the compromise as a sign that the Copenhagen talks were doomed to produce at best a weak agreement, Yvo de Boer, the UN official managing the climate negotiations, said the statements out of the Singapore meeting did not limit his ambitions.

Rajendra K Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said the compromise agreed to by the leaders in Singapore was an honest admission of what had become obvious over the past several weeks, as negotiations toward a climate treaty stalled. But he said the admission was a severe disappointment from Obama and the other leaders.


"It signifies an abandonment of moral responsibility that a position of leadership on the world stage clearly mplies," Pachauri said in an e-mail message, adding that the scientific consensus on global warming demanded mmediate action, not stalling tactics.


Obama, speaking in Japan on Friday, seemed to anticipate the criticism the US will face for the setback in the Copenhagen talks. He said he had started a momentous change in American policy on global warming that would take some time to complete.


"Already, the US has taken more steps to combat climate change in 10 months than we have in our recent history," Obama said, "by embracing the latest science, by investing in new energy, by raising efficiency standards, forging new partnerships and engaging in international climate negotiations."


"In short, the US knows there is more work to do," he said, "but we are meeting our responsibility, and will continue to do so."

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

THOSE KODAK MOMENTS

STEP OFF THE TREADMILL JUST ONCE IN A WAY AND HOLIDAY WITH YOUR OFFSPRING.

BY HEMA RAVICHANDAR

 

My husband was smiling like the proverbial Cheshire cat. "I swung it," he said proudly. Wondering what the deal was this time, I quirked my eyebrows and waited. "The kids have agreed. We get a full three hour slot with them this evening at the club."


To all you parents of teens and young professionals, does that sound familiar? Well, welcome to the club. How many of us settle down to a good balance of work and leisure (I hate the 'work life' terminology) and after a particularly hectic decade or two of work, peer around to spend life more meaningfully. And that of course includes great chunks of time with offspring.


But surprise, surprise! Children by then have minds of their own. So we, who are caught up in the time warp of the plaintive "Mummy, Daddy, I want to come out with you" cry, are surprised out of our wits the first time we hear "Chill Dad, it's so uncool. Why would I want to go out with you?"


The 'Aha' moment and your magnanimous "Let's go out together" gesture just fell flat on its face. Which is why when I see young parents discipline their young ones to stay at home, I always tell them to go easy, to enjoy the requests, the pleas and the tears. For soon, you will be the one begging for hours from their busy schedules. When I see professionals slogging at work I always stop by to remind them to step off the treadmill just once in a way and holiday with their offspring — for family holidays like family outings become oh so rare as the years go by.


Recently, a dear friend told me about a detailed holiday plan they had chalked out with their 20 something son and their beautiful teenage daughter only to be soundly told off that the dates just wouldn't match. 'Empty Nesters' have their own tales to tell. And while some actually relish the freedom that they enjoy once the birds have flown the coop, many are haunted by the lost opportunities of missed holidays.


And so just as they say "time and tide wait for no man", so it is that holidays and outings — en famile, wait for no parent. So yuppies, young parents, workaholics — stop a while, smell the coffee, pick up your brood when little and step out for that filial outing or holiday! Salt away enough memories and Kodak moments to last a whole lifetime. It is time indeed well-spent.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

CROSSING THE LINES

 

There is a perennial debate among Jewish intellectuals in the United States about whether Jews are more naturally suited to be liberals or conservatives. Norman Podhoretz's latest book Why Are Jews Liberals? laments the fact that so many are; Leon Wieseltier's New York Times book review replies: How could Jews be anything else? Each side musters proof-texts from Jewish sources and history to make its case, though there isn't universal agreement on how to define "liberalism" and "conservatism."

 

In any event, there is one thing liberals and conservatives agree upon: In the course of Jewish history, Jews have done best in societies characterized by political, social and economic stability, and suffered where opposite tendencies prevailed. So, regardless of political orientation or denominational affiliation, it's plain that upholding the legitimacy of the American political system and preserving its stability is a Jewish interest.

 

That is why we were struck by "Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies," newly issued by the New York-based Anti-Defamation League. Conservatives would argue that lack of faith in the government is called "democracy in action." The sections of the report that draw our concern, however, spotlight the activities of a minority on the Right who have crossed the line from criticism of President Barack Obama's policies to denying the legitimacy of America's political system itself.

 

As is often the case, the excesses on the Right were precipitated by bad behavior on the Left. Recall, for example, how MoveOn.org compared George W. Bush to Hitler. Now, it is rightists who are accusing a president of plotting to destroy the American way of life.

 

Even the comparatively mainstream Rush Limbaugh has flirted with Hitler-Obama analogies. The more volatile Glenn Beck screams that Obama is taking the United States "towards socialism, totalitarianism beyond your wildest imagination."

 

BUT IT is destabilizing conspiratorialists who trouble us. They say Obama is a closet Muslim, or assert that his Hawaii birth certificate is a forgery so he is constitutionally ineligible to be president.

 

Among the conspiratorialists are demagogues pushing claims that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is constructing concentration camps, and that a (supposed) "door to door" gun confiscation campaign is a precursor to martial law.

 

The ADL study draws attention to some lesser known demagogues including Texas-based Alex Jones whose broadcasts and Web sites promote the theory that the 9/11 attacks were an "inside job" by the American government, part of an elaborate plot involving international bankers, the Federal Reserve, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Bilderberg Group to create a New World Order. (Of course, 9/11 conspiracy theories also thrive on the extreme Left and in Arab circles.)

 

On a recent program, Jones warned that a public health education effort aimed at children to curtail the spread of H1N1 virus was actually a psychological warfare scheme to brainwash them to become informers against their parents. He said the government will use fears surrounding H1N1 to stage a pandemic in order to declare martial law. The H1N1 vaccine, said Jones, is a plot to sterilize the masses. The ADL report also points to some 200 militias across America training for the day when the government turns against its citizenry.

 

Some will dismiss the report as alarmist or argue that ADL national director Abraham Foxman is pandering to his liberal constituents. We worry, however, that Foxman's claim of "a toxic atmosphere of rage" in America is not hyperbole, but a true assessment of the political system's condition.

 

REGRETTABLY, there are fresh signs that "toxic rage" exists here in Israel, too, among an increasingly radicalized segment of the settler population. It's manifested by a worrisome breakdown in army discipline among soldiers whose first allegiance is not to the state.

 

On Monday, several enlisted men from the Nahshon battalion held a political protest on base evidently out of pique that the IDF had dismantled an illegal outpost earlier in the day. The issues at stake transcend partisanship.

 

Demagogic Knesset members and post-Zionist rabbis who encourage servicemen to disobey their officers, or deny the legitimacy of the political echelon to direct the military are undermining the State of Israel.

 

Disrespect for legitimate authority, demonization of elected officials and demagoguery are bad for the Jews… even when it takes place in their own state.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

GRAPEVINE: THE PERIPATETIC PRESIDENT

GREER FAY CASHMAN

 

After a gruelling week and a half of back-to-back meetings, gala events and travel from state to state and country to country in South America, President Shimon Peres is due to return home today, but he won't have much time in which to rest up. He has three more overseas trips lined up between now and the end of January.

 

THE PRESIDENT'S son-in-law and personal physician, Prof. Raphael Walden, who travels with him, will barely have time to shower and change after landing, before making his way to the Jaffa residence of French Ambassador Chritophe Bigot, to receive the Legion of Honor that will also be conferred on Dr. Yossi Beilin.

 

IN THE plane en route to Argentina from Brazil, Walden came across a copy of Buenos Aires Economico, which ran a front page and inside story on Peres's impending arrival and an advertisement for the Argentina edition of Newsweek which had made Peres its cover story and described how he had turned a largely ceremonial role into an influential political and diplomatic role and had become an international symbol of peace. Walden was so excited that he felt the need to share the information with everyone on board.

 

FOR ARGENTINIAN born Channel 1 cameraman Eduardo Gordin, working hand-in-glove with veteran broadcaster Dalia Mazor, returning to Argentina with the president of Israel was the emotional closing a circle. Gordin was carrying a group photograph taken some 20 years ago when Peres previously visited Argentina, and Gordin was head of the umbrella Zionist youth movement, in which capacity he had greeted him. Shortly afterward, Gordin came on aliya. Returning to Argentina and then going back to Israel with new immigrants from Argentina and Brazil who joined Peres's entourage simply gave more impetus to his own decision to build his future in Israel.

 

GOVERNMENT PRESS office cameraman Itamar Bouton had to go back to Israel almost as soon as he arrived in Brazil. The reason: His wife had given birth prematurely to a boy.

 

IT WAS a matter of coincidence that among the bilateral agreements signed with Brazil was a memorandum of understanding pertaining to coproduction of movies. External Relations Minister Celso Amorim, who signed on behalf of Brazil, told Peres that his son is working in cinema and is crazy about Israeli films.

 

BY COINCIDENCE, Madonna happened to be in Brazil at the same time as Peres, and both were in the country during an electrical power failure that plunged much of the country into darkness. The Brazilian media had a field day speculating over what Peres and Madonna were doing during the blackout.

 

WHEN HE arrived in Brazil, Peres was whisked off to an air force base where a huge honor guard decked out in white pants and blue jackets with elaborate gold and red trimming awaited him. After he walked the long stretch of tarmac to the reception area, the honor guard that included a 32-member brass band marched around the whole parameter of the tarmac, while the music of the band was punctuated every few minutes by a cannon fire salute.

 

PERES AND his entourage had been flown on a special air force plane supplied by President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva from Sao Paulo to the capital Brasilia. A smartly dressed air force cabin crew served breakfast on board, and apparently no one had filled them in on Jewish dietary laws. Dominating each tray was a plate of ham and cheese surrounded by pork sausages. There were several religiously observant people in the entourage, including at least two members of the president's security detail.
While it was true that most of the members of the entourage couldn't care less and ate whatever was put in front of them, there is such a thing as Jewish pride when representing the Jewish state. Whatever anyone does in private is his own business, but on a state visit, it would have been appropriate for everyone to have left the plate untouched. The Brazilians would shortly have gotten the message for next time. As it was, the mistake was not repeated.

 

THERE IS however a difference between Jewish pride and Israeli pride as was demonstrated at the Brazilian Congress, where local journalists kept talking and using their cellphones after Peres had already entered the hall. In fact his entry was entirely without fanfare.The official proceedings were introduced by the national anthems of Israel and Brazil, and the Israeli journalists in a spontaneous gesture sang "Hatikva" at the top of their voices.

 

THE ALVARADO Tulip hotel where the presidential party was staying in Brasilia does not have a microwave oven in the kitchen. Thus frozen kosher meals that were sent from Sao Paulo could not be properly heated. Kitchen staff put the packages in a double-boiler, but this barely succeeded in defrosting them.

 

According to Giora Becher, Israel's ambassador in Brazil, there is no kosher food in Brasilia, just kosher style.

 

AT LEAST two of the 15 journalists travelling with Peres came armed with instructions not only from their editors but also from their kids. Yediot Aharonot's Itamar Eichner was told by his son not to come home without a genuine Brazil national soccer team uniform and Ma'ariv's Arik Bender was ordered by his son to bring home a soccer ball with the autograph of Brazilian all-time soccer champion Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima. Bender also came home with the signature of Shimon Peres.

 

WHILE THE Israeli media did eventually feature quite a lot of material about the tour, for some journalists it was initially difficult on the home front to get news editors to evince any interest. However it was a different story in Argentina, where there was literally a media stampede to cover the Peres visit. There was tremendous print and television coverage before his arrival, and enormous crowds of video crews, photographers and reporters at events in which Peres was met by leading officials.

 

ALL THE Israeli journalists were frustrated by the four-hour time difference between Brazil and Israel which made getting material back to home base in time to make the deadlines more than a little difficult. The frustration was compounded by difficulties in getting Internet access, and in the case of this columnist an inability to comprehend technical information. When her laptop suddenly became inoperable, she went into panic mode. The hotel technician spent a fruitless half hour trying to solve the problem, but gave up because he couldn't understand English. Going into the hotel corridor, she listened intently for someone speaking Hebrew, and when she heard two men chatting in the holy tongue, she waylaid them and asked in desperation if they knew anything about computers. "That's what we're here for," replied a benignly smiling man who turned out to be Elbit president and CEO Yossi Ackerman who was accompanied by Yuval Chaplin, who in 10 seconds flat had the laptop up and running.

 

AMONG THE people on the Peres trip to South America was Dov Litvinoff, the Argentina-born head of the Tamar Dead Sea Regional Council, who was promoting both tourism and recognition. The Dead Sea is considered one of the seven modern wonders of the world, which makes it a good selling point. In addition, Litvinoff is putting out the word that in June, opera loving visitors to Israel will be able to see a production of Nabuko on Masada.

 

BEFORE LEAVING Brazil, Peres was given a tour of the coastline of Rio de Janeiro, courtesy of Rio Governor Sergio Cabral. The original plan had been to take Peres on a city tour, but traffic congestion was so dense that Cabral decided that travel by water was easier and gave Peres, his security detail, staff and journalists a wide-ranging perspective of Rio from the decks of the luxury yacht Spirit of Brazil. Peres was dressed for the occasion in a bright turquoise Lacoste shirt and dark glasses. And almost everyone on board wanted to pose with him for a souvenir photo. Peres, who is used to such requests, readily obliged. Even GPO photographer Moshe Milner who has been on countless trips with Peres, gave someone his camera so that he too could be photographed with the president.

 

Now if those photos were to be published, the least Lacoste could do, would be to give the government of Israel the equivalent of the highest fee ever paid to Bar Rafaeli with the money to be earmarked for building extensions and improvements at Beit Hanassi. After all, it's not every day that a company can boast that a president of the State of Israel and a Nobel Prize laureate is wearing its brand.

 

GUESTS AT a luncheon hosted by Cabral in honor of Peres included Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Pais, who was celebrating his 40th birthday and who is very well disposed to Israel. He has good reason to be. He is a graduate of the Foreign Ministry's Mashav program in public administration.

 

THE POPULARITY that Peres is enjoying in his role of president has not eluded the top brass of Brazil, who compared it to that of Brazilian President da Silva who is also enjoying vast popularity. Peres told the Brazilian Houses of Congress that he and da Silva had been reared in the same cradle of socialism. Jose Sarney, who was Brazil's 31st president and who currently serves as president of the Senate, is widely considered to be the country's leading statesman. It takes one to know one. In welcoming Peres to the Congress, Sarney called him "the world's leading statesman."

 

greerfc@gmail.com

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

BARACK OBAMA'S VISION IMPOSSIBLE

YISRAEL HAREL

 

There is no place outside the US (where, in view of the likelihood of Senate approval of health reform, the situation is a bit different) where people are not disappointed in President Barack Obama. This is not an entirely justified disappointment: Anyone with eyes, particularly here in the Middle East, should have known that his commitments and style could not produce the results he promised. True, the man has vision, charisma and natural leadership qualities, but the trees he has climbed are too high.

 

If Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, for example, truly believed that Obama would succeed in completely ceasing settlement construction and then bring about the dismantling of the settlements and an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines, he provided Israelis and Arabs yet further proof that he is not a statesman.

 

And the Israelis quaking with fear, especially after Obama's Cairo speech, lest he abandon Israel on the altar of reconciliation with the Muslim world, did not understand the strategic and psychological constraints that would prevent him, even if he wanted to (and he doesn't), from sacrificing Israel.

 

IN MOST of the foreign policy arenas where Obama is unsuccessful in implementing his plans (except Iran), the main reason is that it's impossible to do so, unless he changes the rules of the game completely, particularly regarding the deployment of military forces several times larger than those currently in the region. Yet this contradicts both his ideology and his mandate. Besides, Congress would never approve, nor would the other powers, led by China and Russia.

 

In the Middle East, outside of Iran, there is no need for the American army. Diplomatic pressure will do, though even here Obama is beginning to realize that his vision enjoys no real support - aside from the rhetoric of a few so-called leaders - among the Israeli and Palestinian publics he is trying to serve. The vision, ostensibly so noble, has collided with reality.

 

Obama's vision, first formulated by the Israeli left years ago, is two states for two peoples. Had the president of the United States done his homework and not relied on an ideology without foundations or bowed to the pressures of his closest aides (themselves influenced by far-left Israelis trying to weaken their government through their access to the White House and other centers of power), he would have discovered that his vision is a nonstarter.

 

Those in the Arab world with the real influence and power - not just Hamas - oppose it forthrightly. Even the Israelis who pay lip service to the two-state vision, like Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in his Bar-Ilan speech, in fact reject it. Indeed, even the moderate Zionist left that used to believe in this solution now has its reservations - not because it opposes giving up territory, but because it has lost faith in the sincerity of the Palestinian offer to make peace with a Jewish state on the basis of two states for two peoples.

 

Accordingly, some of the proposals voiced in the media - and, lo and behold, taken seriously by the White House and State Department - to "deal head-to-head" with this or that leader (read Netanyahu) are not serious, even childish. Like Obama himself, Netanyahu, even if pressed to the wall, cannot bend beyond his own capacity for political survival. Hence he withstood the pressure of an impossible American diktat to freeze all settlement construction, including in Jerusalem.

 

With Abbas the situation is far worse. First, Obama's rhetoric thwarted
him: It raised his expectations to the sky and led him to make commitments, such as not meeting with Netanyahu until a freeze is in place, that he cannot keep if he wants to see any movement at all. In any case, his own status among his public is at best symbolic: Even without binding himself with rhetoric, he can't really make significant commitments in the name of Palestinians. When he has committed, for example regarding an end to terrorism, his opponents have proven with Kassam rockets and suicide bombers that the president of Palestine has no authority.

 

So what should Obama do? If he applies pressure, it will only generate more terrorism by Hamas and other Palestinian opposition groups, and this is the opposite of what he wants to achieve. Nor is toppling Netanyahu an option. That won't bring the Israeli left to power, but even if it did, there is today no leader there who can unite the public around a withdrawal to the 1967 lines and the dismantling of settlements - the American "vision."

 

In a way, Netanyahu is the only leader who can move, within limits, in coordination with the Americans and hope to survive. The "only the Likud can" slogan is spot on when it comes to making territorial concessions, as Menachem Begin did in Sinai and Ariel Sharon in Gaza. A left-wing government could not have done it; the right would have flooded the streets with tens of thousands of demonstrators to prevent the dismantling of settlements.

 

SO IS there a way out? Not for the moment. In the longer run, if there emerges a Palestinian leadership capable of committing all factions to its decisions and if the decision is to go for a two-state solution, I believe the Israeli public will offer its support, subject to the following minimal conditions. First, the Palestinians forgo the right of return. Second, the settlements remain in place. And third, Palestinians do not receive land inside Israel as "swaps" for the "settlement blocs."

 

After the trauma of the Katif bloc in which "only" some 10,000 settlers were removed, I doubt any Israeli government could remove all or even most of the settlers in Judea and Samaria in accordance with the Palestinians' (and Americans') minimal demand. Both the Palestinians and the Obama administration must recognize that the talk of "time is in the Arabs' favor" is in fact wrong. When Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Accords, there were around 150,000 Jewish settlers. Today, despite the (incomplete) settlement construction freeze, nearly 300,000 Jews live in the territories. They are determined soon to reach half a million - and they will.

 

Thus it is Palestinian time that is running out.

 

The writer heads the Institute for Zionist Strategy in Jerusalem and writes a weekly political column in Haaretz. He founded the Council of Jewish Settlements in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip and headed it for 15 years. This article originally appeared in www.bitterlemons.org and is reprinted with permission.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

THE ISRAELI OPTION SHOULD BE FIRST

OPHIR FALK

 

With Shaul Mofaz's recent pitch for a peace plan, it seems that yet another politician has reached the overdue conclusion that a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians is currently not in the cards. Believing that the current state of stagnation does not enhance national security, coupled with his identification of a lack in Palestinian as well as Kadima leadership, Mofaz has decided to fill the void.

 

The Mofaz model comes with good intentions, but based on past experience, it will likely yield bad results.

 

A different model of negotiations developed at Harvard University asserts that when a negotiated agreement between two sides to a conflict is not feasible, each side should strive for the best alternative to a negotiated agreement (or BATNA). The main problem with Mofaz's plan is that it puts forth the Palestinians' best alternative ahead of Israel's.

 

Facilitated by security strategists and political pundits, the gist of Mofaz's master plan is to enable a Palestinian state on borders that temporarily encompass approximately 60 percent of Judea and Samaria, and to guarantee Israel's eventual withdrawal from 92% of the territories once conditions ripen.

 

Furthermore, the former defense minister is willing to consider swapping land from Israel proper in exchange for parts of the territories that are not relinquished to the Palestinians, as well as to recognize Hamas once it is kind enough to recognize Israel. Finally, pending final status negotiations, Mofaz's plan does not rule out dismantling additional Jewish settlements, making concessions in Jerusalem and allowing Palestinian refugees to relocate to Israel proper. In return, Israel will be entitled to peace.

 

MOFAZ IS an Israeli war hero, but his proposed plan for peace does not serve his country well. The plan's main problem is that it is more of same in terms of giving the Palestinians something in return for nothing. That formula has failed repeatedly.

 

The time has come to change this premise for peace and the sequence of give-and-take.

 

Israel should start by getting land rather than always giving it away. There is a wide national consensus and a broad international understanding, long ratified by UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 that part of the territories will become part of Israel proper. Mofaz noted 8% in his plan, Binyamin Netanyahu has mentioned much more and Ehud Olmert said that the Palestinians will never receive more than what he once offered them.

 

Land that is either barren or densely populated with Jews, such as the Ariel, Modi'in Illit and Ma'aleh Adumim areas will be part of Israel proper. The Clinton and Bush administrations recognized it; the Europeans recognize it; the moderate left in Israel recognizes it; and even pragmatic Palestinians acknowledge it. So let's start from there, instead of continuing the formula of giving something for nothing.

 

Once the Palestinians see that the process of give and take is a two-way street, it might actually serve as a catalyst for negotiations. The PLO was established well before the 1967 war, but only after Israel managed to settle hundreds of thousands of Jews in the territories were the Palestinians willing to negotiate. Palestinian pragmatism might need a kick-start.

 

As they have recently stated their intention to declare an independent state and by doing so shut the door on dialogue, Israel's best alternative to a negotiated agreement is to finally define and draw "secure and recognized" borders based on a national consensus and simple criteria of maximum area, maximum Israelis and minimum non-Israelis within those borders, while limiting the uprooting of residents (regardless of nationality) to an absolute minimum.

 

Endless - and at times senseless - discussions have been carried out as to whether the Syrian option should be preferred to the Palestinian option or vice versa. I suggest we concentrate on the Israeli option first.

 

The writer is a research fellow at the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya and a Partner at the Naveh, Kantor Even-Har law office. He is currently pursuing a PhD in International Relations at Haifa University and is an author of Suicide Terror: Understanding and Confronting the Threat, recently published by John Wiley & Sons.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

THE ACADEMIC BOYCOTT CAMPAIGN: IS IT OVER?

BEN COHEN

 

Last week, Prof. Trond Andresen of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) received a lengthy, patiently argued e-mail from an Israeli colleague at the Weizmann Institute. The proposal circulating at NTNU for a blanket boycott of Israeli academics was, opined the Israeli, a lousy idea on so many levels. A boycott would violate the precious norms of academic freedom. It would do nothing to advance dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. To the contrary, it would simply fuel extremism on both sides.

 

Andresen promptly posted the e-mail on his personal page on the NTNU Web site, together with a short introduction. "The Israeli lobby machine has sent a quick and targeted reply for my attention," he wrote. "I have today, as a supporter of the NTNU boycott of Israel, received a 'personal letter.' Notice how it is tailored to me in the sense that the sender positions himself as a 'dove of peace' in the Israeli political spectrum. Smart thinking."

 

This can be put another way. Since it is, at least for the boycotters, blindingly obvious that Israeli academics are complicit in the policies of war and occupation pushed by the rogue state in which they live and work, it follows that anyone who opposes an academic boycott is expressing not a personal opinion, but the imperatives of an invisible-yet-eerily-powerful lobby. You might call this Andresen's Law.

 

EXCEPT THAT you can't. As laws are based on science, and the boycott campaign is all about a rigid, dogmatic ideology, Andresen's response tells us more about the mind-set of the boycotters than anything else. Hence, the key question: whether, in the wake of the NTNU board's November 12 decision to unanimously reject the boycott, its proponents will do what ideologues are notoriously resistant to doing, namely, rethinking their assumptions.

 

On the surface, they should. When more than 100 of your own colleagues sign a petition opposing the boycott, when Norway's own minister of higher education comes down against it, when prestigious international bodies like the American Association of University Professors and the Russell Group of leading British universities urge you to desist, can all that really be blamed on the "lobby?"

 

Answer in the affirmative and you have to prove that the very same "lobby" cajoled or pressured all these disparate groups and individuals into taking this position. It is, to say the least, a tall order, which is why scientific, rational minds have historically dismissed conspiracy theories and emotionally-rooted beliefs.

 

However, having followed the academic boycott campaign's trajectory over the years - as well as Norway, it's been a recurring issue in France, Canada, South Africa and, with a vengeance, the United Kingdom - I would counsel against any hasty conclusions. The boycotters may have been chastened by the NTNU decision, but they won't give up.

 

In part, it's because two very different sets of arguments confront each other. One side frames the debate entirely in terms of what is good for the university. As the NTNU press release after the November 12 meeting stated, "the board voted against the proposal to boycott, and stressed the need for open lines of communication and between scientists at NTNU and academic institutions in Israel."

 

The other side regards the university as a platform for a campaign which focuses on Israeli academics, but targets Israel itself. Here is a flavor of the pro-boycott petition at NTNU: "Since 1948 the State of Israel has occupied Palestinian land and denied the Palestinians basic human rights... we refrain from participating in any kind of academic or cultural cooperation with Israeli institutions... until the occupation of Palestinian land will be terminated."

 

Since their points of departure are very different, any productive debatebetween these two perspectives is nigh on impossible.

 

That is why the boycotters are down, but not out. They exist in their own self-referential world in which opposing views are discounted before they are even heard. As for the mundane priorities of ordinary mortals - "Most Norwegians would prefer not to think about Israel any more than we think about Syria," quipped one exasperated local blogger - those can be put down to what Marxists call "false consciousness."

 

I am not going to predict where the boycott campaign will again rear its head. A more immediate concern is that those institutions where the boycott has been raised should be extra vigilant in ensuring that Israeli academics are not victimized by private, undeclared boycotts. Why? Because when you are convinced that you are right beyond any doubt - as the boycotters manifestly are - the rules don't matter.

 

The writer is the American Jewish Committee's associate director of communications and the author of the AJC monograph, The Ideological Foundations of the Boycott Campaign Against Israel.

 

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE NEXT BATTLE IN THE CAMPAIGN

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the right decision when he chose not to support Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman's plan to split the post of attorney general into two. Netanyahu's position that the next attorney general will have the same authority as the incumbent, Menachem Mazuz, brings an end to Neeman's proposal, which had threatened to undermine the rule of law.


It looks like Netanyahu can wrap up his own in-depth consideration of the plan and have it implemented from 2016 - for the attorney general who follows Mazuz's successor. But there is no way of predicting who the premier and justice minister will be then, or what the constellation of political forces will be. Nor is it clear if the matter will again come up for consideration - so the significance of Netanyahu's postponement is to shelve the matter indefinitely.


Neeman's confrontation with Mazuz, State Prosecutor Moshe Lador and like-minded colleagues who opposed splitting the position ended in a major success for those suspicious of what was motivating Neeman, the ideological heir and successor in office to Daniel Friedmann. They were also concerned about the harm to the legal system if the plan went forward.

 

The Neeman proposal, which was supposed to address the attorney general's heavy workload and split the focus between criminal and civil matters, sought a division of authority between a legal adviser to the government and a prosecutor general; under these posts criminal and civil prosecution would be split. The news this week of arrests in an Internet-gambling case, which were made possible by officials working in intelligence, investigations and enforcement under Mazuz, reflects the damage that the split to the post of attorney general would cause. The fight against various kinds of crime, not least matters involving corruption of public officials, would have suffered if the split had been put into effect.


This, however, is just one battle, as important as it may be, in a campaign over the nature of the legal system. The battle over the next attorney general is still being fought. Neeman, with the prestige and power he has left, will try to win approval for his preferred candidates from the selection committee headed by retired Supreme Court justice Theodor Or. He can then focus on one of them when the committee makes its recommendations to the government. The forces that stopped Neeman in the last battle should not be lulled into the illusion that there has been a break in the campaign or that it is over. The campaign will be decided by the battle over the next attorney general.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

WHY NETANYAHU REALLY DOES WANT TO ADVANCE PEACE

BY ALUF BENN

 

I could hear the prime minister's familiar voice on the telephone. "I want to advance a peace agreement with the Palestinians. I am capable of achieving an agreement. I have the political will inside me," Benjamin Netanyahu told me. He repeated this message during his speeches at the conference of Jewish communities in Washington and at the Saban Forum in Jerusalem: great concessions, generosity of spirit, territorial compromise, let's start negotiations and surprise the world, he said.


I believe him. Political leaders are tested on a public message that they are willing to defend in front of cameras and microphones. Experience shows that there is a correlation between what is said on stage and discrete whispers behind closed doors. Conclusion: Netanyahu's peace talk is meant to prepare the political pundits and Israeli public opinion for a political move, which he presented to U.S. President Barack Obama during their meeting last week.

 

Netanyahu is motivated by a number of things:

 

The Strategy: It appears that Netanyahu is preparing for war against Iran and Hezbollah in the coming spring, when the snows melt and the clouds clear. Evidence of this is the additional defense budget and the home front's preparations for a confrontation. And even if in the end Netanyahu doesn't strike, he must be ready. It is better for Israel to fight on fewer fronts and neutralize enemies through diplomacy.


Popularity: According to the Haaretz-Dialog survey published Friday, most Israelis want a settlement with the Palestinians and are willing to talk to Hamas, but prefer that the negotiations be handled by a right-wing government. Netanyahu is popular, and currently no politician is threatening to take the public's support away from him. If he moves forward in a political process, he will be meeting the public's expectations, as he had done in his declaration for "two states for two peoples" and in canceling the drought tax.


Politics: Netanyahu fears a breakdown of the Labor Party, which may take it out of the coalition and leave him with only his "natural partners," who oppose a settlement, and without Defense Minister Ehud Barak, whom the prime minister wants next to him in an expected confrontation with Iran.


Netanyahu needs to give Labor enough slack so it can stay in his coalition, as he did when he responded to Barak and came out against Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman's plan to split the role of the attorney general.


The World: Israel's international isolation is becoming more difficult. Credible negotiations with the Palestinians, especially if they are accompanied by the "generosity" that Netanyahu promises, will remove the Goldstone report from over Israel's head and with it the threat of being boycotted and condemned. They will also contribute to the rehabilitation of relations with Europe, Turkey and Jordan.


It is true that Netanyahu can trick them all and buy time with empty negotiations until he makes up his mind whether to attack Iran, or until Obama is deep in the race for a second term and leaves him be.


Netanyahu knows that he is not believed and says: I don't want a peace process for the sake of the process, but to bring an end to the problem.


He can trick the journalists who, in the worst-case scenario, will write things against him. But it is hard to believe that he will try to cheat the president of the United States and make false promises.


The deal that Obama is offering is clear: a diplomatic struggle against Iran and defense backing for Israel - in some areas even more than what was on the table during the Bush administration - in return for a pullout from the territories and a Palestinian state.


Netanyahu understood this and still insisted on meeting the president, even at the cost of public humiliation, to tell him that he wants to push forward on a settlement with the Palestinians. He spoke with him about "concrete steps" and made his promises public. Why would he do this if his intentions were not true?


The prime minister is lonely. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas avoids him. His senior ministers are not thrilled by the prospect: Barak leans toward Syria and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman looks down on negotiations with the Palestinians.


It is not clear if Netanyahu has a negotiator who can cobble together a deal, as Moshe Dayan was for Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres for Yitzhak Rabin. Every political leader needs a court diplomat, a Henry Kissinger of sorts. Barak and Ehud Olmert carried out the negotiations on their own and crashed.


But these problems can be resolved. The minute Netanyahu is convincing that he is serious and has a serious peace plan and not mere slogans, the political world will be shaken up, and those supporting a settlement with the Palestinians will back him. This is his challenge. He convinced me; let's see him convince Abbas.

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

WHO ARE ISRAEL'S ULTRA-ORTHODOX JEWS?

BY AVIRAMA GOLAN

 

The more Israeli society deteriorates and its skullcap-wearers divide and subdivide into groups and communities with differing lifestyles and differing relations with society and the state, the shallower the perspective from which secular people view them.


Who, in fact, is Haredi, a member of the ultra-Orthodox? Is it that fellow with the long side curls and a striped robe setting fire to trash cans, breaking reporters' bones and proudly declaring to a television camera that "every child born to me is revenge on the Zionists"? Are the Haredim those people from Beit Shemesh who a few weeks ago stoned a woman who was not modestly dressed, in their opinion, and almost killed her?


Maybe the Haredi is that thin, pale, shy young man walking in Bnei Brak, his eyes cast down, seeing nothing until he reaches the yeshiva, where he hides away until evening, poring over his books and barely remembering to eat or drink. Or maybe it's that portly Hasid walking along Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard, pushing a stroller crammed with a baby and two toddlers, with a few more kids tagging along. Also on hand is his adolescent daughter wearing a long blue skirt, and at some distance, his wife, the mother of his children.

Or maybe they are the students at Kiryat Ono Academic College, who will be lawyers and accountants, or maybe the young woman who will be the treasurer of the Bnei Brak municipality, or MA students at Harvard University, or owners and staff at a Glatt kosher restaurant in Herzliya Pituah. And maybe they're the Chabadniks in their mitzvah tank, who light Shabbat candles in the heart of Tel Aviv. But do they not also belong to the group that seeks to take over Ramat Aviv? Woe to us - there's an internal split even there, between the messianists and the non-messianists, between the newly observant and the veterans, and so on.

With all these differences within and among these groups, it's impossible to define the word "Haredi," just as it's impossible to define "Jew" or "Arab" with all the human, religious, cultural and social variants of those definitions.


There is no connection between the newly religious man chanting "Na-Nah-Nahman" as he dances in the streets and the students at the college. There is certainly no connection between the future treasurer of the Bnei Brak municipality and the "Taliban mom" or the "starving mother" and her friends, or between a Hasidic child whose father and grandfather serve in the reserves and work for a living, and a young man "growing stronger" in his faith who makes his living collecting donations.


There is also no connection between those who start riots on Shabbat and the veteran Hasidic families of Netanya and Haifa, who work and pay taxes. And there is no connection between these families and Shlomo Benizri of Shas, for example, or his rabbi who encourages people to become religious. There is also a very great variety among Shas' hundreds of thousands of voters.


This large group of people, most of whom are deeply involved in Israeli society, is represented in politics and the media by individuals who are not elected, but appointed, and whose interests do not reflect their community's needs; sometimes they even oppose them. In addition, three other very damaging factors are at work in this community: the anti-Zionists from Jerusalem, the fanatic preachers and those who encourage people to become religious, and the extreme ultra-Orthodox nationalists (for example, Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg and his son, who is active in Ramat Aviv).


These four factors come face to face with the distress of the secular, traditional and national-religious lower middle class. Worrying about losing the little socioeconomic security they have, these people fight to hold on at work, to pay for health care and a roof over their heads, to take care of their elderly and educate their children. In their distress, they seek to place blame. They have two easy targets: the "Arabs," who courtesy of Yisrael Beiteinu have been branded "disloyal to the state," and the "Haredim", who since the advent of the Shinui party have been collectively dubbed "parasites."


These people who fear losing what they have should remember one small fact: Economic concerns are pushing many moderate religious Jews into Haredi arms, just as economic, social, cultural and national concerns are pushing the moderate Arab community into the Islamic Movement's arms. And the writing on the wall points a finger not at the "Arabs" or the "Haredim," but at the government, which has abandoned its citizens to extremists.

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

WERNHER VON BRAUN'S LEGACY

BY MOSHE ARENS

 

In the last months of World War II the Germans unleashed against Britain what Hitler called the vengeance weapon. The V-2 rocket developed by Wernher von Braun and his team of scientists as a terror weapon was launched daily against civilian targets, mainly in England. Before the Allied armies had reached the rocket-launching sites by the end of the war, 1,400 rockets had landed in England, with 500 hitting London. Around 9,000 Londoners lost their lives to V-2 rockets. Fifty-five years later rockets modeled after the V-2, imported from the Soviet Union and North Korea, were launched against Israel by Iraq during the Gulf War.


Since then rockets large and small, now powered by solid-fuel motors that make it simpler to launch them, unlike the liquid-fueled V2, have become the weapon of choice for Israel's enemies. Tens of thousands of rockets, their number increasing daily, have been deployed in the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon, threatening Israel's entire civilian population. What in the days of the Katyushas in the north was first seen as a bearable nuisance that would have to be neutralized sooner or later has become a major strategic threat to Israel. No one should underestimate the large number of civilian casualties that would result if Israel were to be attacked by these rockets. And that is the purpose of those who are deploying them.

 

These rockets are terror weapons, pure and simple. As their numbers grew, the Israeli government, fearing large-scale civilian losses that would result from a heavy barrage, began to be deterred from taking effective actions to eliminate the threat. The terrorists' strategy was simple. Once a large enough arsenal of rockets had been assembled, they would launch them at Israel sporadically or take other provocative actions like kidnapping soldiers - counting on the government's hesitation to respond forcefully for fear of a massive rocket response against Israel's civilian population.

 

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That is what happened with Hezbollah in the north. Hezbollah's ever-growing arsenal of rockets deterred Israeli governments over the years from taking measures to eliminate this threat, or even to respond effectively to the group's provocations. This happened until the Second Lebanon War, when the Olmert government responded massively against Hezbollah's provocations but never finished the job. During the war, northern Israel was severely damaged by Hezbollah's rockets, while the Israel Defense Forces did not put an end to the launchings. And today Hezbollah's arsenal of rockets is considerably larger than before that war.

Hamas in Gaza imitated the Hezbollah example: building up an arsenal of rockets, launching them against Israeli towns and villages in the south for years, and counting on Israeli hesitation to respond out of concern it would receive a barrage in response. This went on until the latest IDF operation in the Gaza Strip. But here again the job was not finished. Hamas today has a larger rocket arsenal threatening Israel than it had before the IDF offensive, and continues to pursue the same strategy. Here and there rockets are launched at Israel, based on the assumption that the government will not respond for fear that a response would be met by a massive barrage.

Now Hamas can count on the Goldstone report to constitute an additional obstacle to an Israeli decision to react to provocations from the Gaza Strip. There should be no mistake about it - this situation is intolerable for Israel. Its civilian population is being held hostage to terrorist rockets from the north and south. The range of these rockets now covers the whole country. Nobody is safe.


It's hard to believe that any nation would indefinitely put up with such a situation. When the United States was threatened by the deployment of Soviet missiles in Cuba in 1962, John F. Kennedy, realizing that the constant threat of these missiles would harm U.S. security, insisted that they be removed. Similarly, the constant threat of rockets in the hands of irresponsible terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas represents a real danger to Israel's security. That danger will have to be eliminated. As a first step, the government should make it clear that it considers the deployment of these rockets to be intolerable, that the supply of additional ones must cease immediately, and that sooner or later the existing arsenal will have to be removed.

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

RESTRAINT IS THE KEY

BY YAGIL LEVY

 

While Israel seethes over the Goldstone report's accusations of war crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, in the United States tensions are running high over the future of the war in Afghanistan, following the leak of a report by the commander of the U.S.-led coalition forces there. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said in the report that a key element of the American strategy should be winning the support of the Afghani population. To do so, he said, the forces must avoid harming civilians as much as possible. Consequently his field commanders have been ordered to carefully weigh the effect of their operations on non-combatants at every stage. This entails a very cautious policy in terms of the use of fire, including air power, to the point of disengagement from the enemy if necessary.


To avoid causing harm to civilians, McChrystal determined that the danger to which his own troops are exposed had to be increased. This is a departure from the accepted approach in Western armies since the 1980s, which dictated that prevention of casualties to their own forces was preferable, even if it entailed the deaths of more civilians in the combat zone.


There is something to be learned from the McChrystal document that can be applied to the Goldstone report - mainly about what the UN report does not contain, and what is absent from the public discourse about it. The Israel Defense Forces, which shed much of its own blood on Lebanese soil, in the 1990s gradually began adopting the approach of its Western counterparts, of trying to wage a risk-free war. Since the first intifada - in which Israeli troops were exposed to a relatively high degree of risk because of their close contact with the Palestinian civilian population and the restrictions on using their firearms - the danger to which soldiers have been exposed has gradually diminished, due to the adoption of a policy which has increased the volume of Palestinian civilian casualties.

 

In Gaza, according to figures supplied by the Israeli civil rights organization B'Tselem, the ratio of Palestinian non-combatants killed to Israeli military fatalities grew from 6:1 in the first intifada to 86:1 in Operation Cast Lead. The policy that led to this state of affairs was based on the need to cater to the increasing sensitivity of Israeli society to IDF casualties, a sensitivity that could strike a serious blow to the ability of forces to carry out their missions successfully.


Under these circumstances, the orders handed down by the IDF command were a far cry from McChrystal's. His considerations - to minimize the risk of alienating the local population - did not hold water among those who planned Cast Lead. The commanders of the Western forces in Afghanistan and Iraq understand that a policy of endangering civilians in order to protect their own troops actually endangers their very ability to carry out their military mission, because it boosts the population's support for an enemy the West wants to crush. This insight plays no part in Israeli military thinking, despite the fact that the Israelis will have to live alongside the Palestinians, whereas the coalition forces will ultimately go back home, far from Afghanistan.


Instead of focusing on the Goldstone report, Israelis should be discussing this issue. The degree to which international law has been broken is not a technical matter, and certainly not a question of whether the law should be changed. It is a question of the need to adapt Israel's policies to the strategic goal of living in peace with its neighbors. This aim dictates putting an end to rule over the Palestinian population and to minimizing the use of force, if the political leadership believes that force must be used.

The writer is on the faculty of the Open University.

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