Google Analytics

Amazon Contextual Product Ads

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

EDITORIAL 02.12.09

 

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

 media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month december 02, edition 000365, 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

For ENGLISH  EDITORIAL http://editorial-eng-samarth.blogspot.com

For TELUGU EDITORIAL http://editorial-telugu-samarth.blogspot.com

 

THE PIONEER

  1. QUESTION OF PRIORITIES
  2. ADOPTING UNFAIR MEANS
  3. SERMON WITH A DIFFERENCE - AUTAM MUKHERJEE
  4. OPPOSING HINDI HURTS INDIA - RAM GOPAL
  5. THE LIBERHAN FARCE - MN BUCH
  6. A PUBLIC RELATIONS EXERCISE - CP BHAMBHRI
  7. NO WINTER CHILL FOR FARMERS IN LADAKH - ZAINAB AKHTER

MAIL TODAY

  1. WELCOME GROWTH BUT WATCH OUT FOR HURDLES
  2. SELLING NEWS
  3. WAYWARD MPS
  4. CAT BIT BY THE MOUSE - BY SUBIMAL BHATTACHARJEE
  5. PATIALA PEG - VIKAS KAHOL

TIMES OF INDIA

  1. REVVING UP
  2. KODA'S CONDUCT
  3. A DATE WITH REALITY -
  4. 'SCIENCE SUGGESTS THAT HIGH-CARBON GROWTH KILLS ITSELF'
  5. THAT OLD BEAT AGAIN -
  6. UNAFFORDABLE GOD - JUG SURAIYA 
  7. GOOD TIMES, BAD TIMES: WHAT€™S THE DIFFERENCE? -

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. TRITIUM GOES A WALKABOUT
  2. NO FREE LUNCHES HERE
  3. POISONED AND SHUT - INDRA SINHA
  4. LEARN FROM THE PAST - RICHARD MAHAPATRA
  5. SAYING SORRY IS WISDOM SIGN - PP WANGCHUK
  6. LIFE SUCKED OUT - MADHU BHADURI

INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. ON HOLD
  2. SILENT QUESTION
  3. THE DUBAI SHAKE
  4. SAUBHIK CHAKRABARTI
  5. AN INTERROGATIVE PAUSE - M R MADHAVAN
  6. LIBERHAN'S LAPSES - RAVISHANKARPRASAD
  7. THE GREAT GAME FOLIO - C. RAJA MOHAN
  8. VIEW FROM THE LEFT - MANOJ C G
  9. UNBLOCKING THE ROADS - P. VAIDYANATHAN IYER

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. THE INVESTMENT STORY
  2. GRADUATE FROM KG
  3. SETTLE FOR NEW SYSTEMS OR SUFFER - JAYANTH R VARMA
  4. THE IDIOT BOX CAN EMANCIPATE - KRISHNAMURTHY V SUBRAMANIAN
  5. CARRY ON TRADING? - AKASH JOSHI
  6. REPORT CARD

THE HINDU

  1. LEARNING FROM KAIGA
  2. A PERSISTENT ISSUE
  3. THE SYNDROME OF JUDICIAL ARREARS - V.R. KRISHNA IYER
  4. 25 YEARS AND STILL WAITING - VIDYA SUBRAHMANIAM
  5. EXTRADITE OR PROSECUTE… COMPETENTLY - MENAKA GURUSWAMY
  6. A SURGE CAN ONLY MAGNIFY THE CRIME - MALALAI JOYA

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. I HAVE TO GO ON... - JAVED ABIDI
  2. 1947: Partition in the Army - S.K. Sinha
  3. LIBERHAN'S WEAK SPOT - P.C. ALEXANDER

DNA

  1. GOD IS IN ALL PLACES
  2. RECOVERY CURVE
  3. GRAVE QUESTION
  4. IS INDIA GOING THE PAKISTAN WAY? - NN SACHITANAND
  5. THE MORALITY BOMB - RAMESH THAKUR 

THE TRIBUNE

  1. GROWTH PICKS UP SPEED
  2. PAK DOUBLE GAME
  3. IS KODA OFF THE HOOK?
  4. SHEIKH MUJIB'S IDEA OF B'DESH - BY KULDIP NAYAR
  5. THE PILGRIMAGE - BY HARISH DHILLON
  6. INDIANS EMERGE FROM FATALISM TO REALISE THEIR DREAMS - BY VIJAY SANGHVI
  7. ZARDARI HOLDS OFF HIS FOES - BY PAMELA CONSTABLE
  8. FLASHY DUBAI TURNS TO STAID ABU DHABI FOR AID - BY JEFFREY FLEISHMAN AND MERIS LUTZ

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

  1. CHANGE OF HEART
  2. DEMOGRAPHIC EVILS
  3. LIBERHAN REPORT AND BABRI MOSQUE DEMOLITION - SAIKH MD SABAH AL-AHMED
  4. THE SURRENDER EPISODE AND ITS AFTERMATH - DR M P BAROOAH

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. THE KAIGA WARNING
  2. BASE CAMP POLITICAL REFORM
  3. THE COMEBACK KID
  4. GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: THE WAY AHEAD - Y V REDDY
  5. HUMAN ELEMENT THE DECISIVE ONE - VITHAL C NADKARNI
  6. ALLOCATE 15% OF BUDGET FOR FARM: KAYANO NUWANZE - SHABANI BHATIA
  7. INDIA READY FOR A NEW DAWN: STEPHEN ROACH - ANDY MUKHERJEE

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. 7.9% GREAT, BUT IS IT TIME TO PARTY?
  2. LIBERHAN'S WEAK SPOT  - BY P.C. ALEXANDER
  3. OBAMA LEADS AFGHAN WAR FROM THE FRONT  - BY DAVID BROOKS
  4. 1947: Partition in the Army - By S.K. Sinha
  5. I HAVE TO GO ON...  - BY JAVED ABIDI 3

the statesman

  1. LUMPENS TAKE OVER
  2. FLUNKED
  3. INSIPID 'ESSENCE'
  4. LONELINESS 'SPREADS LIKE A DISEASE'
  5. BLEND OF BURKE & PITT - BY SOBHANLAL MUKHERJEE

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. THREE SURPRISES
  2. CASH COURSE
  3. A TREATY TO NOWHERE  - AMITABH MATTOO
  4. THE GODS WHO FAILED - SUMANTA SEN

DECCAN HERALD

  1. CLIMATE WAR
  2. SILENT MOVEMENT
  3. WAITING FOR ACTION - BY B G VERGHESE
  4. AIDS: NO TIME FOR COMPLACENCY - BY OLINDA TIMMS
  5. THE LOTUS POND - BY MAYA JAYAPAL

THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. ELBARADEI'S FAILURE
  2. GRAPEVINE: CIVILIZED DISCOURSE - GREER FAY CASHMAN
  3. TERRA INCONGNITA: MODERATION - NOW THERE'S SOME WISHFUL THINKING - SETH FRANTZMAN
  4. THE OPTION NO ONE WANTS TO THINK ABOUT - LAWRENCE HART
  5. PRESENTING MY PEACE PLAN TO BARACK OBAMA - RAY HANANIA
  6. SAVE THE DATE - YITZHAK KLEIN

HAARETZ

  1. 0THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR AG
  2. WHAT NETANYAHU REALLY THINKS ABOUT SETTLEMENTS - BY ALUF BENN
  3. 0MESSIAH IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD - BY AVIRAMA GOLAN
  4. DEMJANJUK TRIAL / GERMANY SHOULDN'T HAVE TRIED 'IVAN THE MISERABLE' - BY YITZHAK LAOR
  5. OBAMA'S NOT THE PROBLEM - BY NATASHA MOZGOVAYA

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. THE AFGHANISTAN SPEECH
  2. A MISGUIDED TAX REVOLT
  3. WOLF HUNT
  4. WHO'S SARI NOW? - BY MAUREEN DOWD
  5. THIS I BELIEVE - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  6. THE 9/11 OF 1859 - BY TONY HORWITZ
  7. FREEDOM'S MARTYR - BY DAVID S. REYNOLDS

I.THE NEWS

  1. EVAPORATING
  2. HARD TIMES
  3. OMINOUS
  4. OUR LEADERSHIP CRISIS - SHAMSHAD AHMAD
  5. AN ASIAN MONETARY FUND? - DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN
  6. ACTS OF GHAIRAT - DR A Q KHAN
  7. UNBECOMING RHETORIC - RAOOF HASAN
  8. MALIGNANCY OF THE MIND - ANJUM NIAZ
  9. LET'S BE THANKFUL - CHRIS CORK

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. OBAMA SURRENDERS TO WARMONGERS
  2. SLOT OF PM SHOULD BE STRENGTHENED
  3. CRIPPLING RISE IN POL PRICES
  4. A LA MODE! - KHALID SALEEM
  5. INDIA'S BLOODLESS WAR AGAINST BD - SAJJAD SHAUKAT
  6. PAK-INDIA TALKS  -  NOOR-UL-AIN
    BABRI MOSQUE DEMOLITION & INDIAN SECULARISM - FATIMA SYED
  7. A GIFT CALLED LOVE..! - ROBERT CLEMENTS

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. C'WEALTH CONSENSUS
  2. STIMULUS PACKAGE
  3. TALKING HIMSELF TO DEATH..!
  4. GOVERNMENT IMPOSES EXTRA COST ON BANGLADESHIS - DR SYEDA SHARMIN ABSAR
  5. CHALLENGES OF HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT OF BANKS - SYED SULTAN UDDIN
  6. A ROADMAP TO BINDING CARBON CAPS FOR CHINA - ZHONGXIANG ZHANG

THE HIMALAYAN

  1. TO NOWHERE
  2. SEEING GREEN
  3. CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACT ON NEPAL
  4. BIDUR PRASAD UPADHYAY
  5. SPECIFIC REFUSALS HELP - PREM KAKKAR
  6. NCS VIEW ON FEDERALISM CONSPICUOUS BY ABSENCE - PRAKASH ACHARYA

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. SENSIBLE SCEPTICISM CAN BRING THE ELECTORATE AROUND
  2. LIBERALS NEED TO GET BACK TO THE FIGHTS THEY CAN WIN
  3. THE GREAT CONSERVATIVE REVOLT

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. NOT RELAXED, BUT COMFORTABLE
  2. EXPLAIN YOURSELF, MR RUDD
  3. CONSERVATIVE COUP RISKS RERUN OF 2007 LOSS, WITH INTEREST

THE GURDIAN

  1. PRE-BUDGET REPORT: THE SHADOW OF 1937
  2. AUSTRALIA AND CLIMATE CHANGE: THE PITILESS BLUE SKY
  3. IN PRAISE OF… RONNIE SCOTT'S AT 50

THE KOREA HERALD

  1. WOOING EXPATRIATES
  2. N.K. REDENOMINATION
  3. CONSUMERS AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE - MEGLENA KUNEVA
  4. WELL-DRIVEN NAILS AND ILL-DRIVEN NAILS - KIM SEONG-KON

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. A 'LACK OF CONFIDENCE' IN IRAN
  2. COMMONWEALTH REACHES OUT - BY DAVID HOWELL
  3. AIDS TAKES INCREASING TOLL ON WOMEN'S LIVES - BY CESAR CHELALA
  4. RUDD WRESTLES WITH REFUGEE CRISIS - BY ALAN GOODALL

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. THE UNNECESSARY COMPLICATION OF BANK CENTURY CASE - UMAR JUORO
  2. A GROUNDBREAKING MOVE?
  3. RE-EVALUATING RI'S MILITARY STRUCTURE - PHILIPPE RAGGI AND FARIED KEI LANUR
  4. MONKEYING WITH THE ENVIRONMENT? - JULIA SURYAKUSUMA
  5. THANKING THE SWISS VOTE

CHINA DAILY

  1. EDUCATION CALLING
  2. PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT
  3. CAUGHT BETWEEN OPTIMISM AND CAUTION - BY DAN STEINBOCK (CHINA DAILY)
  4. VISIT, THOUGH LATE, STILL WELCOME - BY ZHANG WENZONG
  5. MAKING ASIA'S BOND MARKETS WORK FOR THE REGION - BY JONG-WHA LEE

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. MURDER ON THE NEVSKY EXPRESS - BY YULIA LATYNINA
  2. BETWEEN IRAN AND THE WEST - BY ALEXANDER SHUMILIN
  3. RUSSIA'S RENEGADE PUPPET - BY DMITRY SHLAPENTOKH

 ***************************************

******************************************************************************************

THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

QUESTION OF PRIORITIES

TRUANT MPS MUST BE CENSURED


The manner in which Question Hour devolved into a farce and had to be abruptly terminated on Monday is the worst possible advertisement for the Lok Sabha. Thirty-four members who had listed questions did not bother to turn up. Of the 20 questions scheduled to be asked, only three were eventually put up. The Speaker called out name after name but got only an embarrassed silence in return. The absent MPs came from a variety of political parties — the Congress and the BJP, the Shiv Sena and the Muslim League. First term MPs such as Mr Varun Gandhi (BJP) and Ms Shruti Choudhary (Congress) also played truant, wasting public money and making a mockery of the claim that younger parliamentarians are more conscientious and attentive to the rules and decorum of the House. Their behaviour, along with that of the 32 others who didn't show up, is uncalled for and unacceptable, and tax-payers have every right to feel upset if not offended. If Question Hour is to be treated with such casualness, one wonders why people bother to enter public life at all. When a question is listed, the answer is not an off-the-cuff remark by the relevant Minister. Rather, the question is studied and the response researched by the Ministry concerned. Civil servants dig out data and information, often collecting and collating it from diverse sources. Hours and even days of work can go into this. That apart, there is the cost of running Parliament, estimated at approximately Rs 1.4 million an hour. Who will make amends for this? This incident comes at a time when the cash-for-questions scandal is still fresh in public memory. It can lead to the cynical conclusion that some MPs only ask questions when there is an ulterior motive and are not really interested in having queries answered in other circumstances. Of course, such a sweeping observation would be unjustified and unfair to the many hard-working MPs who still take the task of representing their constituents and participating in legislative work seriously. Yet, the bad apples have done their damage.


The missing 34 MPs cannot just get away with it. The Speaker of the Lok Sabha has promised to bring up the issue with leaders of political parties. Stronger action is necessary. It would do for the House to unanimously adopt a motion censuring the absent MPs. Parliamentary rules also need to be looked at afresh. Habitual defaulters who waste public money in this manner could perhaps be banned from asking further questions for the rest of the session. Finally, the Congress and the BJP, as the two national parties that make up 60 per cent of the Lok Sabha, have to give their offending members a dressing down. Urgent and visible steps are needed to restore popular confidence and emphasise that political parties are genuinely contrite over Monday morning's shame.

There is a larger issue here. Cash-for-questions, attempts at buying support to save a Government — as infamously seen in 2008 — frequent disruptions, physical assault: Parliament must be conscious of the gradual but determined decline in both its standards and its standing. In Britain, a cash-for-questions scandal and, more recently, an expenses scandal (MPs claiming financial perks on the basis of bogus vouchers) has brought respect for national legislators to an all-time low. India hasn't quite got that far, but Monday's delinquent MPs have contributed their mite!

 

***************************************

THE PIONEER

ADOPTING UNFAIR MEANS

KASAB'S TRIAL MUST NOT BE DELAYED


The dismissal of Mr Abbas Kazmi, the lawyer who was hitherto representing Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist caught alive in the 26/11 attack on Mumbai, by the special court hearing the charges against the latter needs to be seen in the right perspective. There is no doubt that Mr Kazmi was trying every trick in the book to drag on and delay the proceedings of the case. He had created such a situation that it had become impossible for the court to continue with his services. Only days before he was dismissed, Mr Kazmi had been reprimanded by special court judge ML Tahaliyani that his conduct was inconsistent with the spirit of the court. However, on that occasion the court decided to pardon Mr Kazmi after he tendered an unconditional apology and asked him to continue as Kasab's lawyer in the greater interest of justice. Nonetheless, Mr Kazmi's determination to refuse to accept the affidavits of 340 witnesses that were submitted by the Prosecution as formal evidence irked the court to a point of no return. There was no way it could have allowed the cross examination of all 340 witnesses at this critical juncture of the case like Mr Kazmi was insisting. It is only apt that the court has observed that the right of the accused to have a just and fair trial does not mean that the advocate appointed by it to represent the defendant shall take advantage of the situation. Mr Kazmi has definitely overstepped his brief.


Although advocate KP Pawar, who was assisting Mr Kazmi as a junior lawyer in defending Kasab, has been appointed by the court to take charge of the defence, it will not be unreasonable to assume that there is bound to be some procedural delay in the progress of the case. It will also give some sections of the human rights lobby ammunition to claim that Kasab is not getting a free trial. Plus, the fact that from hereon Kasab is to be represented by a Hindu lawyer as opposed to the latter's Muslim predecessor will not be lost on those with evil intentions. They will maliciously argue that Kasab will not get a vigorous defence under a Hindu advocate, which of course is not true. These accusations, baseless though they are, could impede the progress of the trial. This would be unfortunate indeed. For, Kasab is getting more than a fair trial. All efforts to suggest otherwise amount to nothing more than a conspiracy. It would be best if the special court insulates itself from such rubbish and forges on with purpose. Any more delay in the trial would be a great disservice to those who were slain or maimed for life by Kasab and his fellow jihadis. It must be ensured that justice does not elude the victims of 26/11.

***************************************

            THE PIONEER

COLUMN

SERMON WITH A DIFFERENCE

AUTAM MUKHERJEE


In the extreme media coverage of our own 26/11 event of a year ago and the damp squib of the tabled Liberhan Commission report after 17 long years, most people may have missed the exhortation by Mufti-e-Azam of Saudi Arabia Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al Sheikh in his Haj sermon of November 26.


The message of the sermon was both unexpected and surprising, but only in so far as so few of the senior Islamic clergy around the world, as also moderate laity for that matter, have thus far condemned Islamic terrorism in unequivocal terms.


Sheikh Abdul Aziz urged the Ummah not to compromise against terrorism and be united against suicide attacks. The sermon was delivered by the Mufti-e-Azam in Masjid Nimra at Arafat near Mecca to tens of thousands of pilgrims. This is indeed most welcome, coming as it does from the most prominent cleric in Saudi Arabia, and on the eve of a new decade after one scarred by much needless strife and bloodshed.


If, like the Mufti's, enough moderate Muslim voices among the clergy and the laity decide to criticise, censure, curb, and eventually expel the warped logic being pushed in the name of Islam, much can indeed be accomplished, especially if the change in sentiment is followed by action to cut off lifelines to extremists, even those which fuel the ancient animosity between the Islamic sects of Shias and Sunnis.


After all, every war is probably only one part classical warfare and two parts a battle for hearts and minds. What Islam can do to reorient itself against terrorism from within, no outside retribution from injured people of other aiths can do.


It is certain that the jihadis must know their chances of winning this war against all others, including those Islamic regimes they see as reprobate, are doomed; but as the self- brainwashed 'Sword Arm of Allah', they see themselves in miraculous, if unrealistic, terms.


But sermons such as the Mufti of Mecca's hold out hope to give the lie to Samuel Huntington's dark prognosis of a "clash of civilisations". Echoing, as it does, the logic of the Crusades of antiquity, it should not gain further ground. If Muslims themselves curb their extreme fringes and refuse them the liberty of giving the vast majority a bad name, this nightmarish progression can be arrested much faster.


Also, jihad, always intended to be an improving and internal battle of the spirit, in which good overcomes evil, or so it is claimed, stands a chance of returning to its true Islamic meaning, one in which the spilling of innocent blood has no place.


The Mufti of Mecca's bold and statesmanlike call for a peaceful departure from the terrorists' "deviant ideology", taken at face value, can perhaps be viewed as a very important step towards the eventual elimination of terrorism. After all, it is a call from Islam's highest pulpit, at the end of its most important pilgrimage that is incumbent, at least once, on all 'believers'.


This sermon, if amplified suitably by others who take up the Mufti's call, should have great resonance among the moral majority. After all, common or garden Islamic terrorism, with its subversive guerrilla tactics, is claiming altogether too many victims both in the world at large and from within the ranks of Muslim youth. This, with little or nothing of value to show for itself. It seeks, improbably, to simultaneously defeat the Christian West, Jewish Israel, and the Hindu nation, but could end up annihilating humankind via a nuclear misstep.

That is why apocalyptic retaliation cannot be seen as anything but pyrrhic, while prevention, even if successful, as a product of a siege-like, freedom-destroying and suspicious defensiveness.


Only internal reform and reorientation within the Ummah can heal this wound in the most effective way. It is ironic though that in today's world the ways of peace sound like a pipe dream. Perhaps it is a bridge too far, as always, but wasn't humankind meant to learn from the futility of past ideology/religion-based warfare?


It is, therefore, very pleasant to dream of Islamic terrorism as an aberration without moral, financial and popular support from Muslims. This terrorism without roots would not only be doomed in terms of its eventual outcome, but couldn't even persist and prosper for long.


In the same sermon, the Mufti also blamed the ongoing economic crisis around the globe on the non-observance of Islamic principles in the conduct of business and economic affairs. This, of course, tends to put the maximum leveraging ways of Dubai, an Islamic Emirate, in the same boat as several banks and institutions in the Western world.

And while terrorism may not be migrating across ideological frontiers with as much facility as greed, both owe their "deviant behaviour" to exaggeration and excess. The world's capitalist excesses have the same world searching for moderation, probity and recalibration. This promises, after a season of tribulation, a more secure future with more realistic assumptions.


If there is a parallel between the terrorism of Islamic fringe elements supported darkly by certain Governments and the economic turmoil caused by guardians of capital making much too free and easy with it, it can only be in terms of the extremes that both have gone to.


Since terrorism has the greater potential for ultimate destruction, it is good to read in the Mufti's message his juxtaposition of global economic mayhem and the deviant ideology that has produced Islamic terrorism a subtext of redemption.


The world is being compelled to curb its economic extremism, Dubai being the latest citadel brought to its knees, due to eventual non-viability. By the same token, we can expect terrorism to also see its own depraved face in the mirror some day and realise shattering the mirror won't do away with its innate ugliness.


It will however, sooner or later implode upon itself, not so much as a consequence of losing its jihad but more because it will inexorably lose its raison d'etre.


The Mufti of Mecca's message is a message of peace and a call for course correction. With the Christians about to celebrate Christmas espousing similar sentiments later this month, and the dawning of a new decade days after that, it may be time to re-frame the worldview defined by the attacks of 9/11 in 2001.

 

***************************************

THE PIONEER

COLUMN

OPPOSING HINDI HURTS INDIA

RAM GOPAL


The ongoing tirade against Hindi in your Letters to the Editor column is distressing. It signals doom not only for Hindi but Indian nationhood as well. Pejoratives like, 'Hindi chauvinism' and 'Hindi fanaticism' are ill-founded. Haters and baiters of Hindu India, bent upon destroying India's Hindu identiy, must be happy with the debate.

Hindi has been India's national language on its own strength for about a thousand years without causing any harm to regional languages. Great national leaders of the pre-1947 era, like Lokmanya Tilak and Veer Savarkar, recognised this fact while declaring Hindi as India's national language. Till 1918, Mahatma Gandhi too was an ardent supporter of replacing English with Hindi. The great Vedantist of the 19th century, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, hailed from Gujarat and used Sanskrit for conveying his Vedic message. The renowned Brahmo Samajist of Bengal, Keshub Chandra Sen, inspired him to use Hindi so that he could reach out to a larger number of people. The Swami acted upon it and wrote his treatise, Satyarth Prakash, in Hindi.


The greatest religious gathering is the Kumbh Mela where Hindus and preachers of all Hindu sects from all over the country and abroad gather. The common link language there is Hindi. During the past 60 years, the use of Hindi has spread despite opposition from English and Urdu enthusiasts. To disfigure and destroy Hindi, its opponents are now corrupting this language by introducing Arabic, Persian and English words on the excuse of enriching it. So much so that words like Vande, Pranam, Namaskar, Naman, have recently been replaced by 'Salaam'.

The Constituent Assembly adopted Hindi as the official language of the Union of India in place of English alone, allowing English to be used as such for a transitory period of 15 years. The Constitution allows States to adopt any one or more of the Scheduled Languages as their official language. So, there is no conflict between Hindi and regional languages. The Constitution casts a duty on the Union Government to promote Hindi. Hence, it is the Union Government which has put up posters for learning Hindi, and not the 'Hindi Brigade' as has been alleged.


Mind it, there's a real danger to India's unity and identity from Islamism and Americanism, which are spreading through Urdu and English respectively, not from poor Hindi.

 

***************************************

THE PIONEER

OPED

THE LIBERHAN FARCE

THE REPORT OF THE LIBERHAN COMMISSION OF INQUIRY GLOSSES OVER THE ROLE OF VARIOUS CONGRESS LEADERS IN THE DEMOLITION OF THE BABRI MASJID STRUCTURE ON DECEMBER 6, 1992. IT TOOK LIBERHAN 17 YEARS TO PREPARE A REPORT THAT SAYS NOTHING. THE COMMISSION SHOULD BE MADE TO PAY BACK RS 8 CRORE

MN BUCH


On December 6, 1992 the structure at Ayodhya known as Babri Masjid was demolished by a mob of frenzied kar sevak who owed allegiance to the Sangh Parivar. This was done in full public view and was broadcast live throughout the world by television teams of various news channels covering the event. There was nothing secret about this operation and even today various aspects of the demolition of Babri Masjid are discussed in the newspapers, in public speeches and over the television. The facts are well known, the people involved in the demolition of Babri Masjid are well known, the sequence of events is in the public domain and nothing about the whole affair required any judicial inquiry. All it needed was the decision of Government about what was to be done in the matter, including prosecution of the offenders, restoration of the mosque or otherwise, and any consequential action necessary to prevent the recurrence of such an event.


Instead of acting decisively, the Government set up a Commission of Inquiry under the chairmanship of Justice MS Liberhan, who took 17 years to submit his report which should normally not have taken him more than two months to compile. Mr Liberhan has exonerated the Narasimha Rao Government of any blame; indicted a number of BJP leaders, including Atal Bihari Vajpayee who was neither called upon by the commission to give evidence nor asked to explain any charges against him; blamed the Uttar Pradesh Government for not taking adequate steps to protect the Babri Masjid; and, suggested some steps for consideration in the future. One of these is that there should be a Central police force to deal with such incidents. Unless the Constitution is amended and police made a Union or Concurrent List subject, this recommendation cannot be implemented, a fact which Mr Liberhan should have appreciated.


What Mr Liberhan seems to have put together is a compendium of various newspaper reports on various aspects of the incident. Had he bothered to delve deep into the subject, he would have found that for over 200 years the structure called the Babri Masjid had not been used for prayers by Muslims because the Shia Nawab of Oudh had prevented worship therein because there was a dispute about ownership between Shias and Sunnis. Whether this deconsecrated the mosque or not is a question I cannot answer, but the only worship performed in the compound was of Ram. Even this was stopped in 1948 in the wake of partition by then Chief Minister Govind Ballabh Pant on the recommendation of the District Magistrate of Faizabad that such worship was leading to unnecessary communal tension.


This was a wise step, which was undone by Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, consequent upon the District Judge of Faizabad ordering the opening of the temple in a civil suit before him. Why the Centre or the State Government did not immediately reseal the temple beats me. It is said that this decision followed the cowardly surrender by the Government to bigoted mullahs agitating against the Supreme Court judgement in the Shah Bano case. The opening of the temple, therefore, was Rajiv's way to appease outraged Hindu sentiments.


The unlocking of the gates was followed by a second attempt to appease Hindus by way of laying the foundation stone of a new Ram temple in the compound of the Babri Masjid by Buta Singh, Home Minister of India. Did not Mr Liberhan see these two acts as clear signals to the people that the Government of Rajiv Gandhi was for the construction of a Ram temple on the disputed land? Did not Mr Liberhan think that these signals sent out by the Congress Government were sufficient to encourage the kar sevaks to attack Babri Masjid structure? That Mr Liberhan has left Rajiv Gandhi out of the reckoning speaks volumes about his own incompetence.

In 1992 my batchmate, Mr S Rajgopoal, was Cabinet Secretary and two colleagues of the Madhya Pradesh Cadre, Mr Amar Nath Varma and Mr Naresh Chandra were Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and Adviser to the Prime Minister on the Babri Masjid respectively. On December 1, 1992, I spoke to all three of my friends and, considering the gravity of what was likely to happen on December 6, 1992 I suggested that three courses of action were available to the Government. First, the Union Government could use Article 356 of the Constitution to dismiss the Uttar Pradesh Government and assume the administration of the State. My friends appreciated the suggestion but said that it was unlikely to be acted upon because the Supreme Court could set aside such an order. Second, under Article 3 the Government of India could carve out a separate Union Territory comprising Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh, post Central officers there as the Administrator, District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police, and directly take on the protection of the Babri Masjid. This idea, too, was appreciated but I was told it could not be acted upon because as per the proviso to Article 3 any Bill in this regard would have to be referred by the President to the State Legislature of Uttar Pradesh for its opinion and the time available did not permit this. My suggestion was that even if the act was not strictly constitutional, expediency demanded immediate action, whether to dismiss the State Government or to declare Faizabad a Union Territory. Even if the Supreme Court were to later strike down the order of the Union Government, that would take time and meanwhile effective steps could be taken to save the Babri Masjid. Third, if both suggestions were to be rejected, a third option was to flood the Babri Masjid area with more than 20,000 troops, all dressed in civilian clothes and sitting around the mosque chanting "Ram Dhun". I could lay a bet that no kar sevak would physically remove this human barrier and, therefore, the mosque could be saved.

My friends agreed with me but neither they nor the Prime Minister did anything and six days later, the Babri Masjid was a thing of past. Is not the Government culpable for its inaction? If the Sangh Parivar is to be indicted, should not Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao be included in the list of people in the dock? By glossing over their respective roles, the Liberhan Commission has produced a report which is not worth the paper on which it has been printed.


If there is any justice in the world the Liberhan Commission and those who constituted it and subsequently, gave it innumerable extensions, should be made to cough up Rs 8 crore spent on the commission. That is the least restitution we expect.

 

***************************************

THE PIONEER

OPED

A PUBLIC RELATIONS EXERCISE

THE PRIME MINISTER'S VISIT TO THE US WAS A TOTAL FAILURE IN TERMS OF A FOREIGN POLICY MISSION AS HE STILL DOESN'T REALISE THAT AMERICA'S POLICIES ARE MOULDED BY ITS OWN NATIONAL INTERESTS

CP BHAMBHRI


The highly publicised official visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Washington, DC, last month deserves to be closely scrutinised. This is because the UPA, both in its previous avatar and now, has announced that India has developed a 'very special' relationship with the US. The eagerness on the part of the Manmohan Singh Government to sell the idea of 'special India' to the American public and policymakers became clear during Mr Singh's interactions with informal centres of American power like the Council on Foreign Affairs, the US Chamber of Commerce, the US-India Business Council, and through the India-US joint statement issued on November 25.


Though the credibility of joint statements issued after formal meetings between heads of Governments is quite low — this was clearly stated by Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor while dismissing the reference to Balochistan in the joint statement issued by the Indian Prime Minister and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani at Sharm el-Sheikh — they are representative of the underlying fundamentals in a bilateral relationship.

It is true that Indians were rattled by the joint statement issued by US President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao at the conclusion of their formal meetings from November 15 to 19. But Mr Singh seized the first opportunity to tell the Americans in his address to the Council on Foreign Relations that, "The world had come to terms with the peaceful rise of China… However, there is a certain assertiveness on the part of China. I am unable to understand it. It should be taken note of." Mr Obama, like his predecessor Mr George W Bush, knows that China is a tough nut to crack.


Given the value of the renminbi vis-à-vis the greenback and China's advantageous trade equation with the US, Mr Obama did not get any concession from the Chinese on his first official visit to Beijing. Hence, the Americans do not need Mr Singh to tell them that new China is assertive.


Mr Singh continued to market the idea of India to the Americans, emphasising that China was no role model for Indians. He stated, "There are values and principles too. China's economic growth has been superior to ours. But India does not want to adopt the Chinese model. We have our own values where human rights, religious freedom, democracy and multiculturalism are appreciated…." He also said that "both India and the US draw strength from their common values…"


Mr Singh is either innocent or naïve because American foreign, economic and strategic policies are not conditioned by the domestic political systems of different countries but are moulded by American national interests. Is Afghan President Hamid Karzai democratically elected? Yet the US wants him at the helm of affairs in Afghanistan. The Americans are not going to change their approach towards China just because India is upset. After all, Mr Obama refused to meet the Dalai Lama because he felt that the Chinese would be offended by such an action. The Americans have hardly been persuaded by Mr Singh and his monologue on the great values of Indian democracy compared to the growing global assertiveness of China.

Mr Singh's second agenda was to clearly convey to Mr Obama that Pakistan, a special friend of the US, is actively engaged in perpetrating terrorism against India and that Washington, DC, should think about a joint anti-terror mechanism with New Delhi. It is one thing on the part of Mr Obama to state that India and the US share a defining partnership of the 21st century, and another to establish a joint front against Pakistan to fight terrorism. Pakistan has always been a frontline state for the Americans, whether during the Cold War era or during the Afghan war.


The US needs Pakistan for its own interests in the Arab world, even if it means the latter misusing American aid to arm itself against India. We will simply have to fight our own battles against Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.

The US is fighting a 'necessary war' in Afghanistan, and without Pakistan's help, American efforts towards exterminating the jihadis can never succeed. Mr Singh should know that a neo-imperialist power like the US cannot be expected to be persuaded by India. Hence, Mr Singh's trip can be said to be a total failure in terms of a foreign policy mission. At best, it was an exercise in public relations.

 

*************************************

THE PIONEER

OPED

NO WINTER CHILL FOR FARMERS IN LADAKH

GREENHOUSES PROVIDE JOBS AND PUT AN END TO DESPERATE SEARCH FOR FRESH VEGETABLES, WRITES ZAINAB AKHTER


With the onset of winter, icy winds and temperatures plummeting way below sub-zero, farmers in Ladakh are a worried lot. Over 90 per cent of Ladakh's population is engaged in farming with livelihoods directly dependent on agriculture. It is not easy to get a good yield though. The extremely short summers and long harsh winters make it difficult for farmers to grow vegetables even to sustain themselves. For months on end, heavy snowfall covers the fields, leaving little scope for anything to grow, leaving farmers waiting in despair.


However, things are changing. Farmers in Leh district of Ladakh have adopted a method of greenhouse farming, which enables them to grow vegetables during harsh winters. It has led to the availability of vegetables throughout the year, which even a few winters ago was unheard of.


The concept of greenhouses was developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, from its unit located in Leh. The moving spirit behind this innovation was to help farmers overcome the hazards of harsh winters and protect their farming practices so that they could get a good yield. Interestingly, it was adopted by the Indian Army for the first time in Kargil after the 1999 border warfare and introduced amongst the local populace.

The farming community earlier could not believe the wonder of growing green leafy vegetables throughout the winter season. "We get fresh green leafy vegetables even during January, February and March. We want more greenhouses to be promoted so that more people get benefit from this novel method," said Mr Tsering Dolker, a farmer.

It is a far cry from the past when the supply of green vegetables in Ladakh during the long winter months was restricted to cargo that arrived via air from Delhi, Jammu or Chandigarh. Now as Ladakh gets snowed in, the supply of vegetables like cucumber, eggfruit and capsicum emerge from the hothouses. For the locals, to be relishing these vegetables when it is nail-biting cold outside, is a delightful experience. It has demonstrated how technology can be applied to natural processes to boost the yield and make the region self-reliant. It has also demonstrated that with applied research, the farming community in Ladakh need not be at the mercy of climatic cycles but offset its disadvantage by adopting new methodologies. The viability of agricultural processes and yields has grown tremendously with this one intervention.


This has signified a turning point for farmers. Seeing the remarkable way in which the yields have increased, the Horticulture Department was quick to respond with its own initiatives. It was the quantum jump in the yield that moved the authorities to further this novel concept and take its benefit to a wider population. They helped establish similar greenhouses across the region.


Leh has another natural advantage. Because of its unique geography, it receives good sunlight for an average of 325 days in a year. This has been a boon for the greenhouse project. "We have seen that solar energy has a lot of potential in Leh town. We have tried to develop farming and we are encouraging farmers to grow vegetables. This concept was developed in 1998 to make greenhouses using local material," said Mr Tashi Thokmat, Deputy Director, Ladakh Environment and Health Organisation.


The momentum has caught on. Biju Shitall, a Pune-based private company, offered to organise an exposure tour for farmers of Ladakh to travel to Pune and learn about technical innovations in vegetable seed production. It was a tremendous learning experience which Ladakhi farmers will retain and apply in their own region.

District Agriculture Officer, Leh, Mr Thinless Dawa, said during the tour, "These farmers were provided extensive training followed by field visit to farms of the State."


Mr Dawa added that there is an understanding between Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Biju Shitall and the Farmers Cooperative Society to market vegetable seeds to other States. Also in pipeline is a move to adopt a model village for seed production in Leh.


The farming community and the consumers in Leh are enjoying the benefits of summer during the winter season when normally they would be deprived of fresh vegetables. This turnaround is clearly based on scientific methods buoyed by the enthusiastic response by the community and the authorities. It has all but solved the scarcity of vegetables in the harsh and long winters in this Himalayan plateau. The day does not seem far when after meeting the demands of the region, farmers will be exporting vegetables to the other parts of the State during the winters. For a community that used to scrounge around amidst diminishing winter stock of fresh food, this has come like manna from heaven.

 

**************************************

******************************************************************************************

MAIL TODAY

EDITORIAL

WELCOME GROWTH BUT WATCH OUT FOR HURDLES

 

WE HAVE always maintained that India's growth story is no mere flash in the pan, or a short- term bubble driven by cheap credit and risk- hungry markets. The strong performance recorded by the economy in the second quarter of the current financial year, therefore, should not have caused as much surprise as it did. At 7.9 per cent growth in GDP, the Indian economy is currently running China close for the title of the fastest growing economy in the world. That is not really the reason for the surprise, since the two Asian giants have been at the forefront of recovery since the onset of the global financial crisis.

 

What has caught economists off guard is the quantum of the spurt in growth. The second quarter growth is 1.8 per cent over the previous quarter. For an economy considered to be still battling a slowdown, this is a stellar show. More encouraging is the strong performance by manufacturing and services, which together account for nearly two- thirds of the economy.

 

This does not mean that we are back to the heady days of 8- 9 per cent growth. The real impact of the poor monsoons, and the floods that followed later, will show on agricultural GDP only from the third quarter onwards. The KG basin gas find has majorly boosted numbers. Also, the incremental impact of the increased government spending on wages, thanks to the Sixth Pay Commission award, will cease to make a difference from the next quarter onwards.

 

The strong show has been largely powered by easy liquidity, which boosted domestic demand, even as the export sector continues to shrink alarmingly. With the stimulus programme officially ending by March next year, recovery could be derailed. The government needs to balance inflation control and stimulus spending to ensure that growth translates into tangible gains on the job front.

 

**************************************


MAIL TODAY

EDITORIAL

SELLING NEWS

 

THE burgeoning scandal on how some newspapers and TV channels sold editorial space during the recent Lok Sabha elections is only the tip of a much larger iceberg. It has been no secret now that some big media houses in both the print and electronic sectors have been involved in the cash- for- news business for some years now. This takes the form of outright cash for buying editorial space, to the so- called " private treaties" where companies give media houses equity in exchange for favourable coverage.

 

What is surprising is that despite the efforts by a group of senior editors to highlight the issue since last June, the Election Commission has remained unmoved. Election expenditure is supposed to be carefully monitored and regulated. But the EC seems to have done little by way of punitive action against those who have been buying news space, as well as those selling it, in the process fooling the voter into thinking that the newspapers concerned were offering unbiased news.

 

Integrity is, perhaps, the most valuable commodity of journalism. In the past media houses have gone to unprecedented lengths to preserve and foster it. Media proprietors and journalists have, on occasion, preferred to go to jail and even sacrifice their lives for its sake. This is what made for the print media's credibility in the years that the government controlled the electronic media. It is easy to destroy this credibility, but it will be much more difficult to reconstruct it should it be treated so wantonly.

 

**************************************

MAIL TODAY

WAYWARD MPS

 

THAT parliamentarians listed to ask questions from ministers were found missing from the Lok Sabha on Monday, forcing the Speaker to adjourn the all- important Question Hour is hardly a surprise. All those who have seen our MPs behave the way they do when they do care to attend the House, would say it was only a matter of time before even the Question Hour was robbed of its sanctity.

 

Clearly the MPs consider parliamentary duties secondary to their other concerns.

 

Running Parliament may cost the exchequer Rs 14 lakh per hour and parliamentary intervention may be critical in the running of a democracy, but such considerations cannot be expected to weigh on the minds of our MPs as long as they draw their salaries and perks. This being so, launching a ' no work no pay' scheme for these worthies may be a good idea.

 

************************************** 


MAIL TODAY

EDITORIAL

CAT BIT BY THE MOUSE

BY SUBIMAL BHATTACHARJEE

 

The CATfailure should be awake- up call for all those who expect online services to be safe and secure

 

THE COMMON Admission Test (CAT) for admission to the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) this year has run into controversy.

 

For the first time the test was being held online and technical glitches hit it on the first day itself. The CAT 2009 was planned as a two and a half hour test to be taken by a candidate in front of a computer in one of the 360 testlabs at 104 test locations across 32 cities in India over a span of 7 days beginning 28th November. About 2.4 lakh candidates were to take the exam for about 1500 seats in the IIMs and for about 500 more seats in a few other management institutes which base their selection on the CAT results.

 

While the IIMs were responsible for generating questions for the tests, the US firm Prometric was responsible for conducting the test. Prometric has had the experience of handling various online tests like GRE and TOEFL. The significant difference from the previous years' exams was that the candidates would be answering CAT by clicking the mouse and not using pencils to mark the answers on paper. The computers at the 104 centres were connected to a main server managed by Prometric and multiple sets of questions were there to be randomly sent to the candidates.

 

While there were concerns about such a mammoth online examination being held for the first time in India, there was a reasonable belief that things would go smoothly. Some experts, and also a few aspiring candidates, had raised the issue of readiness and the need for mock drills but the disquiet had died down due to the expectations that anything the IIMs did would be well organised and that Prometric had the right experience. However from day one, problems surfaced and many of the candidates could not complete their exams at various centres across the country

 

EXPLANATIONS

Prometric announced the closure of 50 centres on the second day to remedy the problems. All the affected candidates were promised that they would be notified of alternative dates and timing to undertake the test. But the problems persisted and erupted at fresh locations on the second and the third days as well.

 

Various guesses were made for the reasons behind the glitches and the IIMs, for their part, finally blamed computer viruses for the problem.

 

They manifested themselves in various ways such as preventing a computer from launching the application, or at times during the launching not authenticating the candidates and, in some cases, the question paper not showing up even after authentication.

 

In other cases, the server became very slow and some charts and graphics failed to get displayed.

 

The common reason being attributed is that the servers crashed for a variety of reasons.

 

There could have been too much of content loaded on the servers and the hit rates of the candidates could have slowed the system.

 

But that is not expected as Prometric, with its excellent credentials, would have necessarily planned the server load factor and accordingly apportioned space and content.

 

With the declaration that the cause of the problems were virus attacks the question arises about the level of anti- malware protection that the computers had at the various test centers to be thus affected by a not so recent or hard hitting virus. There are possibilities of the malware and Trojans being planted even in the network systems. Even a low scale distributed denial of service attack on the main server by a group of hackers could have affected the system's capability to respond to the genuine requests of the candidates.

 

All the above possibilities will have to be examined but the fact remains that somewhere there has been a shortcoming and an enterprise- like system planning and delivery mechanism was not put up for such a mammoth exercise.

 

Today banks, power and utility systems have robust networks for online availability, confidentiality and integrity at all times.

 

They are definitely much more sensitive in nature and are also on the radar of all the criminal syndicates and hackers. But they are able to thwart attempts successfully because of the multiple levels of security and operational arrangements in place. The online CAT model should have also been built to those robust levels of system delivery.

 

Since a lot of cost savings and operational efficiency would have been expected due to the move towards these online exams, sufficient investment and rigorous mock trials should have been conducted before agreeing to go in for a full scale online examination system.

 

For the first time, the realisation has dawned that while technology is a great enabler, it can also be of great disadvantage if it does not deliver to expectations. Today many critical functions run on the expectation that computer systems are available for the integrity of its operations.

 

BALANCE

With a greater migration to computer based systems because of its huge advantages, the thoroughness and value of the traditional systems are being sidelined.

 

The episode is disquieting.

 

CAT is one of the most competitive exams and anything that creates a sense of doubt in the minds of the candidates and their parents has an enormously negative effect. Because of the glitches, many candidates have become entangled in rescheduling and juggling with dates of other examinations.

 

Already arguments are being made that because CAT went completely online, some students have opted out because they were not completely familiar with the system and lacked access to computer systems.

 

There has been a noticeable drop of about 12 per cent in candidates appearing in the test as compared to those who appeared in 2008. As a matter of smooth transitioning, both the online and written examinations should have been kept in place for the introductory year.

 

CONFIDENCE

The fact remains that irrespective of whether the glitches were due to the shortcomings in the technical infrastructure or some computer crime, the confidence in the system has been shattered. Many students are worried whether the marking and evaluation shall also be hostage to such problems. Despite the bad precedent, there is a recognition that the process has been sincere and transparent.

 

While GRE and TOEFL — on a somewhat smaller scale — are also conducted online they have been held for several years allowing the process to mature. No doubt there is a future for online examinations, particularly for such exams which involve a huge number of candidates and which require objective answers. These recent incidents relating to CAT should not only be a wake up call for those who organised the exam, but also for the many other enterprises that thrive today because they provide services through online systems that require high integrity.

 

The writer is country head, General Dynamics.

The views are his own

 

**************************************

MAIL TODAY

PATIALA PEG

VIKAS KAHOL

 

CHANGING LIVES WITH CARE AND INGENUITY

NEWSPAPERS have the potential of transforming lives, in more ways than one. Ask about 50 Chandigarh slum children and they would tell you how raddi newspapers have helped them look forward to a respectable future.

 

Zulfiqar Khan who founded Theatre Age — for slum children — has been motivating people to " donate" waste newspapers.

 

The proceeds from their sale have been financing the education of the slum kids, also ensuring for them two square meals a day.

 

The slum children's " King Khan" was once upon a time an aspiring film actor. But after passing out from the Department of Indian Theatre at Punjab University in Chandigarh with a gold medal 17 years ago, he realised that a more meaningful role in life awaited him.

 

He enrolled some boys who made a living on the university campus polishing shoes for a play and became an instrument in transforming their lives. He went from door to door asking people to donate him used newspapers.

 

Weaning slum kids away from drug trafficking, pick- pocketing, rag- picking and such activities was not an easy task. The man with conviction utilised the charms of drama, dance and music to attract the children.

 

Some performing professionals volunteered to hold free classes for these children every evening and at least one healthy meal was served to them for retaining their interest.

 

The children got free clothing, shoes, books and toiletries for maintaining general hygiene. Once the children got accustomed to their new lives, Zulfi's Theatre Age enrolled them for formal education at a government school.

 

The slum children did not let Zulfiqar down and performed well in the school examinations.

 

They secured between 50 and 70 percent marks in their respective classes. One of his discoveries — Vicky Raja — would earlier steal hens and utensils from neighbourhoods and sell them. But, he gave up his anti- social existence after coming to Theatre Age. The boy is now a proud BSF soldier.

 

Another boy, Raman, has secured admission to the region's prestigious Government College of Arts. Raman did not have anything to look forward to till he was discovered by Theatre Age. His father is a sweeper and he could not give him education. The boy interest in theatre and subsequently started making posters for stage shows. This — besides Zulfi's support — motivated him to study hard and aspire to become a fine arts professional.

 

Some other children gave up drug addiction and got reformed. They have also set out to earn a respectable living for themselves.

 

You can see the sign of contentment on Zulfiqar's face.

 

Now his wards do not have to gather beneath trees for their activities since the education department has accorded them permission to use four rooms on the school premises. They have their own kitchen, a classroom, vocational study centre, computer lab and heaps of waste newspapers for turning around their lives.

 

LAWYERS UNLEASH MAYHEM

CROWDS IN India are known to dish out instant justice on occasions, but the question whether lawyers have a right to do is being debated here. This follows the unruly conduct of lawyers outside the Punjab and Haryana High Court recently. It all began after the family members of a runaway couple allegedly assaulted two lawyers. This infuriated their colleagues so much that they unleashed mayhem on the court campus for about three hours.

 

The problem started after the counsel of the girl — who had sought court protection after marrying against her family's wishes — stopped her mother from interacting with her. The lawyers said that the relatives accompanying the girl's parents thrashed the lawyer, while the girl's mother accused him of using indecent language.

 

But instead of lodging a complaint against the family, the lawyers decided to take the law into their own hands and went after the brother of the bride, who had allegedly hit the lawyer.

 

Soon, hundreds of advocates gathered outside the court and tried to barge into the picket where the family was being given shelter by the police. They forced the father of the girl to stand up on a chair and apologise to the lawyers, even asking him to slap himself repeatedly.

 

Surprisingly the police were mute spectators to this unfortunate event. Even mediapersons were not spared. The lawyers chased and even thrashed lens men attempting to capture the incident. The lawyers dispersed only after acting Chief Justice J S Khehar intervened.

 

PRICE RISE NO WORRY FOR BHATTI

WHEN everyone complained about the price rise, satirist Jaspal Bhatti asked banks and other financial institutions to grant loans to people for buying vegetables and grocery. The banks should charge less interest on the loaned money, he felt. He also " appreciated" — on behalf of Diabetic Patients Association — the Union government's role in allowing the sugar prices to soar. The government's efforts, he said, would force everyone to switch to " sugar- free." He also put up a stall at a function in Chandigarh and invited people to play games and win vegetables.

 

CHANDIGARH CARNIVAL A HUGE SUCCESS

CHANDIGARH Carnival — an annual event — once again rejuvenated the spirits of city residents.

 

The two- day event that concluded recently included the display of artistic creations, handicrafts and the depiction of Indian culture and heritage through different modes.

 

School and college students had started preparations for the show weeks ago. They came out with a procession of decorated floats during the carnival. People dressed in ethnic costumes danced and made merry around them. The participants wore special carnival caps as the parade went around the city. The festival was also a platform for folk dancers and artists from Punjab and other parts of the country to showcase their distinct regional art forms.

 

The carnival also attracted international tourists. The Le Corbusier Centre and the tourism departments of Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana attracted visitors to stalls put up by them. Participants from Jordan, Hungary and France also showcased their goods, seeking to draw Indians to their countries for tourism and business purposes.

Vikas. kahol@ mailtoday. In

 

DISTINCTION FOR PAU ALUMNUS

BHANU Kalia — an alumnus of Punjab Agricultural University ( PAU), Ludhiana — has earned the honour of becoming a Monsanto- Beachell Borlaug scholar. She is the only Indian among twelve students selected worldwide for the Monsanto Beachell- Borlaug International Scholars Program ( MBBISP) this year.

 

She received the fellowship on the basis of her outstanding breeding research on wheat. Kalia's work involves next generation breeding research aimed at improving adult plant resistance to leaf rust. This is one of the biggest problems faced by the wheat crop. Kalia will pursue a PhD at Kansas State University and collaborate with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre for research work on wheat.

 

The MBBISP is administered by Texas AgriLife Research — an agency of the US- based Texas A and M University System — with a grant of Rs. 50 crore ($ 10 million) from Monsanto.

 

The primary objective of the fellowship programme is to produce qualified rice and wheat plant breeders who would become future agricultural leaders.

 

MBBSIP honours the accomplishments of Dr. Henry Beachell and Dr. Norman Borlaug, who pioneered plant breeding and research on rice and wheat, respectively.

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

REVVING UP

 

India's second quarter GDP growth, at 7.9 per cent, has surpassed expectations. At its fastest pace in 18 months, economic expansion has three main drivers: a sharp rise in government spending, continuing buoyancy in manufacturing and services, and mining's robust show, reflecting increased gas production linked to KG basin flows. At 0.9 per cent, farm sector growth may seem a drag, but should be viewed in the context of expectations that agriculture would actually contract. Significantly, financing and banking haven't done badly in the face of lingering sluggishness in credit demand and offtake.


For the world's second fastest growing major economy, pleasant Q2 data comes on the back of news of September's healthy industrial output growth at 9.1 per cent. More recently, exports' rate of decline was shown as slowing considerably. Though October's 6.6 per cent represented the 13th consecutive month of slide, we've come a long way from May's whopping fall of 39.2 per cent. Clearly, fiscal support to the sector appears to be bearing fruit. More important, global demand appears to be reviving. The positive fallout already seems visible in, say, the textile sector with orders picking up, and factory units reopening and creating jobs.


The finance minister has spoken of a possible upward revision of overall GDP growth in 2009-10, from the projected 6.5 per cent. This raises inevitable posers about whether the time's ripe for tightening fiscal and monetary policy. Any decision here needs to factor in a larger question. The recovery may no longer be in doubt, but will it sustain? Thanks to the fickle monsoon, agriculture is likely to go into the red and the impact is expected to show in the October-December quarter. Plus, infrastructure industries with a near-27 per cent weightage in the index of industrial production grew at a modest 3.5 per cent in October. As a result, factory output for that month could be lower than in September. As for inflation, it's on the uptrend but in manageable terrain. The worry is high food prices but since they concern supply side issues, hardened monetary policy isn't the antidote.


Looking at its sizeable contribution to Q2 growth, public expenditure is still fuelling recovery. Three stimulus packages have pumped Rs 1.86 lakh crore into the system since October 2008. Though far from displaying last year's listlessness, private investment must rev up much faster for green shoots to translate into durable recovery. More, consumer demand is yet to outgrow the impact of Sixth Pay Commission handouts and other government inducements to spending. At some stage fiscal and monetary stimuli will doubtless be rolled back without denting the growth momentum or spoiling the mood on the street and in the bourses. Now isn't the right time.

 

***************************************

TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

KODA'S CONDUCT

 

The arrest of Madhu Koda, former Jharkhand chief minister, is timely. Koda, allegedly the kingpin in the Rs 4,000-crore mine lease scam, had evaded summons from various investigating agencies for weeks while managing to remain on the campaign trail for the upcoming assembly elections. Koda, though, is not a good advertisement for democracy. The arrest may help restore confidence in the public about the law enforcement machinery's willingness to act tough against powerful politicians facing corruption charges.


Koda claims that the cases against him are part of a high-level conspiracy to finish his political career. He, of course, is no political lightweight. That he was the state's chief minister for two years, without belonging to any political party, conveys a lot about his political skills. A rag-tag combine of parties including the Congress and Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal had backed his government, which was packed with an assortment of MLAs drawn from various parties as well as independents. It is unlikely that leaders of the outfits that backed him weren't aware of the ways and means by which mining rights in the mineral-rich Jharkhand were granted by the Koda government to private parties. Some of the ministers have been booked, but their parties have escaped censure.

It is important that the Jharkhand scam is investigated to its logical end and the beneficiaries are convicted. That's necessary to reassure citizens that the democratic system has the will and wherewithal to address deficiencies in governance and punish the guilty. States like Jharkhand are under attack from extremists like the Maoists who claim the system doesn't work. It is the task of the political mainstream to expose the hollowness of the Maoist claim. Political parties, for their own interest, must take steps to isolate the corrupt and keep them away from positions of power.


Systemic changes are also necessary to address issues of corruption. Mine leases are at the centre of the Jharkhand scam. Politicians and bureaucrats involved with the sector seem to have flouted norms and issued licences to exploit precious minerals after taking bribes. Clearly, the process of leasing mines needs to be reformed and made more transparent, while removing the discretionary power of leading politicians. Since it is at the heart of so much corruption, international best practices should be studied and adopted in the task of allotting mining blocks and regulating resource extraction.

 

***************************************

TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

A DATE WITH REALITY

 

It's easy to visualise the Pune teenager who arranged to meet her boyfriend the day before Friendship Day recently. Just 15, she must have been flushed with excitement at the prospect of feeling special and desirable, and coming home later from the rendezvous floating in that delicious dreamy delirium that characterises the early days of a relationship. But the boyfriend brought along three friends for some 'fun' and they raped her in turns. The following day, the girl hanged herself. In their tragic interplay, i imagine she was seeking love while he wanted sex. Her humiliation and death reveal how the dating game in India is going horribly wrong because boys and girls are playing by different rules.


Girls are eager to explore their newfound social freedom to experience the headiness of loving and being loved. Physical desire is obviously an important part of this exploration because the hormones of a teenage girl are fizzing just as furiously as those of any young male. But girls venture into this new world almost utterly defenceless and, as mostly small-town ingenues, are vulnerable to the first predator who comes along.

So girls are filmed undressing by their boyfriends. The MMS clips are sent to friends or used for blackmail. Girls who end relationships have acid thrown on them. Girls who reject boys' advances are stalked and threatened. In the West, young girls absorb vast amounts of information about relationships before acquiring their first boyfriend. From TV programmes and debates, magazines, playground gossip and conversations with mothers and elder sisters, they develop a sixth sense for detecting a false note or a whiff of aggression that could endanger them.


More than information, certain ideas have entered their minds. The theories of the feminist movement from the 1970s onwards in the West made women aware of the power dynamic between men and women. The ideas of Germaine Greer, Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedman filtered down into popular consciousness. No doubt, they were diluted and reduced to slogans by the time they reached the woman on the street but they nevertheless coloured the landscape of her mind.


This process has been absent in India where such debates have been largely confined to women's groups and magazines such as Manushi. Here, girls plunge into the dating game intellectually blindfolded, groping (excuse the pun) for signposts as they navigate this new terrain. They possess none of the psychological tools to discriminate between genuine and fake interest. Having had arranged marriages themselves, their mothers and elder sisters are of no help.


Quite apart from the limited help available from their families, even the wider culture around them fails to imbue girls either with sense or suspicion. How can it? For centuries, social norms have imposed strict social segregation. The new freedom for the sexes to mix is so new that society has barely woken up to its implications. Whereas in the West, relations between the sexes evolved gradually, over decades, in India, the process has been squeezed into 10-15 years, jumping from Jane Austen to Paris Hilton in the blink of an eye.

As girls, without being forewarned, rush into the arms of their beaux, they misread the signals. Exacerbating their vulnerability is the desire for male attention that virtually consumes girls at this age. Not all young men, of course, are hell-bent on abusing their new access to women. Plenty of them treat their girlfriends with respect. But many, just like the girls, misread the cues.


They see a woman in a bar wearing attractive clothes as 'available' because they have never been educated by literature, films, books and newspapers to grasp the notion that a woman can be drunk, dressed revealingly and behave suggestively but if she says 'no' to sex, it means no. They too are confused. All the old familiar rules have gone and it's a free-for-all. Just the other day, at least in some circles, they were taught to believe that any woman who displayed pleasure during lovemaking, even with her own husband, was a whore. Now they have to learn that women can pose semi-naked, smoke and drink and yet must be treated as respectfully as they treat their mothers.


India has moved from segregation to mingling between the sexes without any of the attendant debates on sex, feminism and contraception. There has been no transition. Many men have leapt from believing that women should be sequestered inside the home to expecting their girlfriends to take responsibility for contraception. Girls pop the 'morning after' pill casually, rather than as an emergency measure. The boyfriends are happy to be carefree and few even bother to find out whether there could be repercussions on the girl's health.

Young Indian women need to realise that many of the new sexual freedoms that were hailed initially as 'liberating' in the West (such as the availability of the pill) turned out to carry a heavy price. When neither side knows the rules because the rules are still being worked out, the dating game becomes potentially lethal.

( The writer is a journalist)

 

***************************************

TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'SCIENCE SUGGESTS THAT HIGH-CARBON GROWTH KILLS ITSELF'

JOHAN ROCKSTROM IS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF STOCKHOLM ENVIRONMENT INSTITUTE (SEI) AND STOCKHOLM RESILIENCE CENTRE. IN A PATH-BREAKING PAPER, HE AND A TEAM OF 28 SCIENTISTS FROM AROUND THE WORLD HAVE DISCUSSED HOW TO DEAL WITH CLIMATE CHANGE. ON A VISIT TO INDIA, HE TELLS MEENAKSHI KUMAR THAT 'WE ARE SUBSIDISING OUR LIVING STANDARDS TO A LEVEL WHICH THE PLANET CANNOT AFFORD':

 

What are the planetary boundaries that you and a team of 28 scientists have identified in a recent research?

The nine boundaries identified include climate change, stratospheric ozone, land use change, freshwater use, biological diversity, ocean acidification, nitrogen and phosphorus inputs to the biosphere and oceans, aerosol loading and chemical pollution. What the study suggests is that three of these boundaries climate change, biological diversity and nitrogen-phoshorus cycles may have already been transgressed. Interestingly, these have a 'Three Musketeer' behaviour-crossing one may threaten the safety levels of the others. So, it's essential that we emphasise on sustainable development if we want to save the planet.

 

You once said, 'we're running the planet like a subprime loan'. What do you mean by that?

We could apply the same logic behind the recent financial crisis to the present environmental challenge. The financial crisis happened because we allowed housing loans way beyond the stock levels that were available. Similarly, we are subsidising our living standards to a level, which the planet cannot afford. This environmental problem is not just about climate change, it's also about our forests, seas, rivers, fishes, from which we are taking out at such a great speed to subsidise our lives. We have to be careful about that.


Who is the bigger culprit the developed or the developing world?

It's 20 per cent of the world's countries, which are driving the enormous risks to the planet. And these are the old industrialised countries. The rest 80 per cent are keen to improve and that's quite heartening. The developing countries are paying the biggest price. The boomerang effect is hitting them disproportionately. What's amazing is that the developing countries are not in a blame game even though they have to pay the price. Imagine, some countries, like Maldives, have to think of relocating its people to some other land because of climate change. Yet, i don't find the Maldivian president Nasheed blaming the developed world.


What role can India play in saving the planet?

Domestically, it should realise we are in it together. India should move towards a low-carbon future. Science suggests that high-carbon growth kills itself. India should invest in new technology. It should be very tough on the world community in requesting lots of money for climate adaptation.

 

***************************************

TIMES OF INDIA

DANCING QUEEN

THAT OLD BEAT AGAIN

There was a time when little boys were made to waltz with girl classmates. Stout music teachers sternly presided over the classes from the piano with a foot-ruler. The lessons were torture. Catapults, tiny frogs and such boyish essentials hidden in shorts were routinely confiscated. As the fidgety lot grew older in Bangalore Cantonment, some were occasionally cornered by friends' sisters and introduced to jive. As Green Door or Jailhouse Rock played on the gramophone, many a rascal succumbed to the guilty pleasures of dancing. Those memories returned when Joees, our Hong Kong company's Cantonese-Mandarin-English interpreter, came to say, "I need to leave office at 6 o'clock. Going dancing with my friend." "Can i come too?'' i asked, joking, "Maybe you have a pretty friend i could dance with?" Taken aback, she said seriously, "OK, you can come. But guest not permitted to dance." So instead of an evening hanging around JB's, the famous watering hole in Wanchai, i went with her to the Miramar Hotel in Kowloon. There, her 'dancing partner' was waiting. No, it wasn't some cool, tall, fancily dressed man. It was a Chinese girl!


More surprises unfolded that evening. As we stepped into the large dancing hall, in the air was not the rock of Chuck Berry or Elvis Presley or Abba but the swirling Victor Sylvester kind of music; gossamer pop of the 1940s and '50s. The band, neatly outfitted in tuxedos with slick, shiny hair and shinier instruments, energetically let loose a barrage of foxtrot, quickstep, cha cha cha, rumba, samba and Paso Doble! The packed dance floor was ecstatic. The formally dressed post-work couples glided and slid elegantly with a snap of their heads or a sudden freeze before melting into old, slow rhythms. The steps and timing were immaculate, the dancers poker-faced. Then came the powerful, throbbing beat of El Choclo. Joees said, "Excuse me. My teacher wants me to dance." With that, she and a tall, cadaverous gent in a light suit did a mind-blowing red-hot Argentine tango all the while, serious as ever. I sat at the table nursing a lager, stunned, watching the dance floor. And breathed a sigh of relief, glad guests were not permitted to dance.

 

***************************************

TIMES OF INDIA

UNAFFORDABLE GOD

JUG SURAIYA 

 

On the anniversary of the 26/11 terror attack, the TOI cited an anonymous official as saying that keeping the sole surviving perpetrator of the assault, Ajmal Kasab, in safe custody has already cost the exchequer Rs 31 crore. Certainly justice should not only be meted out to Kasab but it should be seen to be meted out fairly and squarely. But in this case justice is proving to be a very costly affair, and the authorities might be tempted to send the bill to the prime instigator of 26/11. And who was the ultimate inspiration for not just 26/11 but all the jihadi attacks, not to mention the more direct wars that this country has had to fight against an implacable foe? No, not Pakistan. While Pakistan has been the proximate cause of all this bloodshed, it is not the final cause. The final cause of all this wasteful violence, the final cause behind the creation of Pakistan itself, is religion. In other words, God. Or rather, the human perception of this divine myth. It is not geopolitics but theo-politics which is responsible for Indo-Pak hostilities.

 

Similarly, the demolition of the Babri masjid -- the anniversary of which we shall shortly be observing with all the media fanfare and remorseless remorse that we allocated for the anniversary of 26/11 -- is also, and even more obviously, a manifestation of theo-politics, the lethal and vengeful politics of God.

 

Today, everyone is playing at theo-politics. And in doing so, we are all, willy-nilly, becoming playthings of the game that we think we are playing. It is not just Kasab, and the Taliban, and al-Qaeda, and Pakistan's ISI, which both exploit and are, in inevitable turn, exploited by theo-politics. We in India are also increasingly held to ransom by the politics of religion, the vicious sectarianism of a split-personality God, divided along the fault-lines of Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and all the other isms we have invented to hide heaven from our eyes while we create hell on earth.

 

It is not just the Taliban -- and their reverse image in India, the sangh parivar -- who are practitioners and unwitting dupes of theo-politics. Self-styled secularists like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh are equally complicit, equally the propagators as well as the victims of the politics of religion and a divisive God.

 

The Rs 31 crore spent on Kasab -- an infinitesimally insignificant pawn in the murderous chessboard of theo-politics -- is a drop in the ocean in the calculus of human and social costs that not just individual societies or communities but civilisation as a whole has incurred in the name of religion and a God who encourages fratricide, the killing of brother by brother. Can humankind (curious word; it should be humancruel) as a whole afford any longer such a self-devouring God? Perhaps it's time for all those who believe in God -- of whatever stripe, creed or nomenclature -- to pray to Him (to Her?) to turn us all into atheists, or at least agnostics. So that we would no longer be required -- in the name of a God we no longer believed in, by the grace of that very God -- to kill each other to His greater glory and could get on trying to deal with mundane, down-to-earth and not up-to-heaven problems like poverty, and disease, and illiteracy.

 

Won't happen of course. The more troubled the times -- and ours are very troubled indeed, what with global terror, pandemic disease and the economic meltdown to worry about -- the greater the premium that people pay to God as insurance cover; fear and religion are two sides of the same coin.

 

And perhaps even if -- by some God-given miracle -- we were all to become atheists, above us only sky, we might still find other, no less spurious excuses to enable us to hate and fight and kill each other. Caste? Race? Gender? Take your pick. Or choose all three.

 

In the meantime, let's chalk up Kasab's Rs 31 crore -- and the rubble of the Babri masjid -- as yet another IOU from God to us.

 

***************************************

TIMES OF INDIA

SPEAKING TREE

GOOD TIMES, BAD TIMES: WHAT€™S THE DIFFERENCE?

It is human nature to get disenchanted with the world when we see around us much violence, crime and degradation of values. It makes us worry over what is in store for future generations.


However, the present time is as good or as bad as any other time and the state of the world and society could not be some thing other than what it is now.


Even during periods that are perceived to be better than ours, our predecessors have poured out their anguish at the declining moral and ethical standards then prevalent. Seers and social reformers have been on a mission since ages to combat negative forces and reform society. Was human society ever better than it is now? Socrates was poisoned. Christ was crucified. Caesar was betrayed. Deceit, treachery and court intrigues fill the pages of history.

Unalloyed happiness is impossible because the world cannot exist except as an amalgam of the good and bad. Negativity cannot survive by itself. It needs the support of some good alongside to survive. The Kauravas thrived because of Bhishma, Dronacharya and Karna. Once these eminent men departed, the Kauravas had to go. Likewise, Vibhishana’s pious nature was a counterpoint to that of Ravana’s. Vibhishana crossed over to Rama’s side, Ravana’s defeat and death were foretold. Such was the case with Prahlad and his father Hiranyakashipu. The demon king tried to eliminate his pious son who, indeed, was his life-supporting system and the king paid the price for it.


On the flip side, pure good also cannot survive all by itself. Pure good would sublimate and merge with the Supreme Force without trace. We might ask: How did saintly souls like Christ, Buddha, Ramana Maharshi, Tukaram, Guru Nanak and others lead a pure life? How can we associate them with any form of negativity? The reason for their living through the appointed time is twofold. First, their own past karma kept them grounded here. Second, although they did not commit any sin, the sins got stuck to them. It is people like us who prostrated before them, sought their blessings and deposited our sins at their feet. Is it not said that Jesus bore the cross for the sake of the sinners?


Strangely, Kaliyug is the favourite whipping boy. Let us examine the truthfulness of this, in the light of divine avatars on earth. The Supreme incarnated nine times in all and His tenth incarnation is expected in present Kaliyug , to root out suffering and re-establish Dharma. What does it mean? In the three earlier yugs comprising, Satyug , Dwapara Yug and Treta Yug He had to descend nine times and it means there were greater evil then than in this age when He is slated to appear only once.


Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita : “Whenever adharma surpasses the limit He will incarnate on earth.” That He has not done so yet implies that the evil, which we fret about, has not transcended limits.

Krishna’s statement could allude to the evil within each of us and when it transcends the limit He will incarnate within us to purge, cleanse and establish dharma within us. Did He not make a highway robber into Maharshi Valmiki, did He not transform the miser into Purandara Das and did not Kartikeya possess the flesh-hungry youngster into a poet-saint Arunagirinathar?


The collective goodness of mankind seeks a medium to express itself and manifests as godliness in few individuals whom we worship as saints and prophets. Likewise the collective evil within all of us seeks to find an expression and manifests in a few individuals whom we call as demons. There is enough goodness outside of us and we need only to focus our attention on the canvas instead of the picture.

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

TRITIUM GOES A WALKABOUT

 

The mass radioactive poisoning of the Kaiga nuclear plant is the worst possible advertisement for India at a time when all and sundry are lining up to sign nuclear agreements with the country. The Department of Atomic Energy is clearly guilty of faulty internal procedures. Tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, is an internationally controlled nuclear substance.

 

It should never have been possible for anyone to walk away with a vial of it without detection. That as many as 5,000 people may have had access to the area where it was stored is only further evidence that something is wrong in the management of India's nuclear installations. And this is apart from the human tragedy of 55 workers unsuspectingly drinking water contaminated with a cancer-producing substance.

 

This is particularly embarrassing given that a civilian nuclear agreement with France has just been cleared in Paris, similar agreements with Canada and Argentina have been signed, and an agreement with the United States on enrichment and reprocessing technology is just weeks from completion. Underlying these and other agreements is international confidence in India's strong nuclear safety record and an impeccable history of nonproliferation. Incidents like the Kaiga poisoning have the potential to undermine this confidence and make it all the more difficult for India to argue it deserves the rights of an accepted nuclear power. Tritium is not merely a health hazard. Because it is important in the development of nuclear warheads and also physically unstable there is a permanent demand for tritium in the nuclear black market. The International Atomic Energy Agency has calculated that global military demand for tritium outstrips its civilian production by a factor of ten to one — and only a handful of countries, including India, enjoy surplus stocks.

 

The signing of the Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement was, in many ways, just one rung on a ladder towards winning global acceptance of India as a legitimate nuclear weapons State and part of the international civilian nuclear regime. Signed pieces of paper are only part of the story. The other parts are what India does in the realms of diplomacy and nuclear practice. This is why it was important for India to join in censuring Iran for clearly violating its nuclear treaty obligations. And this is why it is important for India to find out what happened at Kaiga and ensure it does not happen again.

 

*************************************** 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

NO FREE LUNCHES HERE

 

We have to applaud the ingenuity of the Delhi government. Who could ever have thought up a scheme in which the fortunate visitor can get a bed and breakfast accommodation and lose weight at the same time without paying extra? The Delhi government in its innovatively worded National Capital Territory of Delhi (Incredible India) Bed and Breakfast Establishment (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2007, has strictly forbidden hapless B&B owners from allowing their guests so much as a nibble after breakfast. Now we the less enlightened might have thought priority would be given to the type of accommodation on offer and the guests' security.

 

The Delhi government has also specified that only two-thirds of a home may be developed as a B&B home, so any guests with ideas of spreading themselves out a bit can think again. The next thing that our clever bureaucrats will have to think up of is how to actually see that some smarmy owner does not sneak in a morsel to a guest returning for the evening. Will they, like Inspector Clouseau, be lying in wait? As for breakfast itself, we feel that a calorie specification is in order as are the nature of furnishings. None of that western baths and beds nonsense when we are out to promote Incredible India.

 

A native-style convenience facility and a charpai will give them a feel of the country as it is.

 

As for their other meals, they should dart around the orderly streets of Delhi to really mingle with the crowds to grab a bite. The first hapless B&B guests are meant to flood in as the Commonwealth Games start. Will the Games take off, Mr Kalmadi's effervescent optimism notwithstanding? Well, that's food for thought but strictly at breakfast.

 

*************************************** 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

POISONED AND SHUT

INDRA SINHA

 

Bhopal is not a normal place. It is deeply, intimately, poisoned. Twenty-five years after the catastrophic gas disaster, Union Carbide's toxins still flow in the soil, in the water, in the wells, in people's blood, in wombs and breast milk and in the hearts of local politicians. Go and see for yourself. Once you've arrived in Bhopal, take an auto-rickshaw to any one of Annu Nagar, Blue Moon Colony, Nawab Colony, Atal-Ayub Nagar, Oriya Basti, Garib Nagar, Kainchi Chola. You'll soon notice that an awful lot of children seem in some way damaged. It's about one in 25, ten times the national average. You'll see a lot of people who are obviously sick. More than you'd normally expect to find, even in slums as desperate as these.

 

Open your ears and listen to the stories of those who live here. 'That night' is still vividly alive in people's memories, a nightmare that will not fade. Many Bhopalis are seriously, chronically ill from the injuries they sustained as they fled the gas, and unwittingly drew it deep into their lungs. Wherever you go in these areas you get views, sometimes far off, often close, of Union Carbide's factory. The company abandoned it full of dangerous chemicals, thousands of tonnes of them, and now it is derelict, falling apart.

 

Winds and storms tear at it. Twenty-four monsoons have rusted and rotted it. The rains have washed the chemicals deep into the soil and groundwater. From there they pass into the wells and bore pipes, gush from taps, enter people's bodies, flow in their veins. The poisons burn stomachs, corrode skin, damage organs and seep into wombs where they go to work on the unborn. By the time the infants are born, the poisons are waiting in their mothers' milk.

 

If you are scientifically-minded, take samples of soil and water inside the factory. Union Carbide was itself the first to do this. In 1989 its samples were so lethal that fish introduced to them died instantly. The findings were kept quiet. Ten years passed before Greenpeace's survey found mercury in places at six million times background level, and cancer — and birth-defect-causing poisons in the water supply.

 

Draw water in Atal-Ayub Nagar from handpump AA2 — people drink this, wash their clothes and bathe in it — have the sample analysed at the best lab you can find. You'll discover carbon-tetrachloride at 4,880 times the EPA safety limit. Ten years ago Greenpeace tested this same well and carbon-tetrachloride was then at 682 times higher than EPA limits. In the last decade, the water has got seven times more poisonous. Thirty-five thousand people living near the factory have to use contaminated water. No wonder so many are sick, so many children born deformed and brain-damaged. What is surprising is the attitude of the politicians, both at the state and Centre.

 

The factory has been poisoning its surroundings for a very long time. Well, before the gas accident, a Bhopal lawyer called Babulal Gaur was involved in a dispute between Union Carbide and local farmers who claimed their cattle were being poisoned by the factory. Later Gaur became a minister in the local BJP government and to him fell the duty of caring for the city's gas survivors. In 2004, he told the Christian Science Monitor that the groundwater was contaminated and complained that the previous Congress state government had tried to hush the matter up. In May of that year India's Supreme Court ordered the state to supply clean water to the poisoned communities. Gaur's government ignored this order. A year passed and a group of women and children went to government offices to ask why nothing had been done. They were savagely beaten, punched and kicked by the police. A month later Gaur, by now the Chief Minister, announced an ambitious Rs 600 crore plan to beautify the city with ornamental fountains and badminton courts.

 

To mark the 25th anniversary of the gas disaster, Gaur, now demoted to Gas Relief Minister, announced that he would open the derelict factory site to the public. There was no water contamination, he said. Also, displaying a curious naiveté, he told journalists that he had handled some waste and not become ill. A cynic remarked that this was like touching a cigarette and saying, 'Look, I haven't got lung cancer.' Denying that contamination exists clearly serves the company's interests. No doubt it is mere coincidence that Dow Chemical, owner of Union Carbide, has been making donations to Gaur's party, the BJP.

 

This sordid little tale is itself an echo of the bigger machinations going on at the Centre, where Dow has been trying to twist the arm of the Manmohan Singh Congress government into letting it off the Bhopal hook. When people ask, why is the disaster continuing? why have Union Carbide and Dow Chemical not been brought to account? the answer is this: Union Carbide's victims are still dying in Bhopal because India itself is dying under the corrupt and self-serving rule of rotten leaders. Bhopal will not be healed, cured or cleaned, as long as the power-brokers and the money-brokers are allowed to get away with it. India is a democracy. This agony will end only when people like you demand that justice long overdue must finally be done.

 

Indra Sinha is the author of Animal's People, the Booker-shortlisted fictionalised account of a Bhopal gas survivor. He is also an active campaigner for Bhopal gas victims

 

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

***************************************

HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

LEARN FROM THE PAST

RICHARD MAHAPATRA

 

Jayanna, a 35-year-old resident of Kothapally in Andhra Pradesh's Kurnool district, typifies a climate change victim in India. A small farmer, she was about to leave her village, haunted by the worst drought in the last four decades, when on October 2 came the once-in-10,000-years rain, pouring 300 mm of rainfall in three days into a river basin known to receive the country's lowest rainfall. From being a drought victim, Jayanna is now a flood victim.

 

Climate change is universal but its impact has a class bias. Like Jayanna, India's 100 million small farmers suffer from unpredictable weather conditions, the most visible impact of climate change. According to a World Bank report, an increase of two degree centigrade would lead to a loss of 3 to 9 per cent of agricultural income. For a three degree centigrade rise, the report predicts, income losses will be between 3 and 26 per cent. It is a poverty trap for most of India's 300 million poor who depend on climate-sensitive sectors. This makes climate change a national development challenge as small and marginal farmers contribute over 50 per cent of India's total agricultural output. On the other hand, climate change-led disasters eat away funding meant for anti-poverty schemes.

 

Many disaster-stricken states are spending more on relief and rehabilitation than on rural development programmes.

 

Maharashtra spent more than its entire planned expenditure for irrigation, agriculture and rural development during 2002-07 on managing the floods of 2005 and the drought of 2003. In Orissa, the total loss of livelihood and damage of capital stock due to calamities between 1998 and 2002 was close to 60 per cent of its total 10th five year plan outlay.

 

But why do we look so helpless in the face of climate change? It is not creating new monsters but droughts, floods and cyclones that we have braved for centuries. Even though 85 per cent of the country is hazard-prone, India has more than 140 years of experience in managing these problems.

 

Droughts, floods or cyclones are natural hazards — it is our mishandling that is turning them into disasters. In the last five decades, droughts and flood-prone areas have doubled. Containing these disasters is all about climate change adaptation. Substantial parts of our population still use their own methods to manage hazards. This traditional wisdom will play a critical role in how successfully we fight the wide and diverse impacts of climate change.

 

Drought impacts the largest number of people in India. Let's go back to Jayanna's story to see how her village managed to sail through drought: three decades ago, five traditional tanks used to store enough rainwater to sustain two crops, even in a year with 50 per cent deficit rainfall. But gradually they silted up as the nearby forests vanished. The result:


today, even a small deviation in rainfall triggers a drought, as there are not enough storage facilities in the village.

 

Villages in India can fight the impact of climate change locally. India has around seven million traditional tanks and ponds in its six lakh villages. Add to this, one million structures were created under the drought relief programmes in the last three decades and 2.8 million water harvesting structures were made under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

Studies show that a traditional water harvesting structure can irrigate a minimum of one hectare of land ensuring two crops.

 

Climate change is of immediate concern to rural communities. The first step should be to pool together local wisdom and resources to insure communities against disasters. The Nrega is an effective tool and the mandatory village plan provision for communities under it can be used to identify problems and offer solutions. Incentives like high wage rate for taking up water conservation and drought proofing works can be brought in. This will help people earn more while ensuring their village is secured from climate change.

 

Richard Mahapatra is a New Delhi-based development writer

 

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

***************************************

HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

SAYING SORRY IS WISDOM SIGN

PP WANGCHUK

 

One may be foolish. Or even a fool. But how does one know that one is not a fool? The Buddha has this to say: "One who does not admit he is a fool is a real fool. And the fool who admits he is a fool is wise to that extent."

 

Wiser or more confused?  Wait. A fool is a person who thinks low of others, and tries to achieve success by fooling others. He does not realise, in doing so, he is befooling himself the most. And, in the process, he comes to great harm.

 

One can't always be treading on the "highway of success" by befooling or cheating others. The other day I was reading what Kiron Majumdar-Shaw of Biocon fame had to say on success. Having succeeded in an area where others won't even dare to tread, she should know who can succeed.

 

When asked what lies behind success, she quipped, "winners never cheat." Now, Winners Never Cheat is also the title of a book on successful leadership by Jon Hutsman.

 

Hutsman, known for his brand development leadership, says the basic pillars of success are honesty and sincerity.

 

No foundation based on unfair means can help an empire stand for long. And when it falls, no  human being or god will come to give a helping hand. Justice is delivered quickly and fairly.

 

The problem with most of us is that we never try to come out of our self-conceited and make-believe world. We never happily and readily admit to our mistakes. We never summon up the courage to pull up ourselves for the wrongs we have committed. We are never gracious enough to take up responsibility when things go wrong.

 

Surely, one cannot be more foolish. At times we consider ourselves unlucky or victims of circumstances.

 

Here too one is falling into one's own trap. He is befooling himself, and not getting wise enough to admit that the ills that surround him are all his own doing. And he alone can undo it.

 

***************************************

HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

LIFE SUCKED OUT

MADHU BHADURI

 

For those who ask the question: where has the water of the Yamuna gone? The answer is depressing, but it also shows the way to reviving the river. Up to Hathnikund and the Tajewala headworks, the river has a flow of 82 cubic metres per second (cumesec) of water, of which 1.5 per cent is diverted to the Eastern Yamuna Canal and 98.5 per cent to the Western Canal.

 

At Wazirabad, 11 cumesec is subtracted for supply to Delhi, and nothing flows into the river downstream from here. To that is added Delhi's sewage.

 

Between Hathnikund/Tajewala and Etawah, the Yamuna is deliberately turned into a large sewage drain. Only at Etawah the Chambal, Sindh and Ken bring an estimated 90 cumesec of fresh water to it, reviving it back to a normal self-cleaning and flowing river. The river's flow downstream from Hathnikund during 1971-1980 was above 20,000 cumesec, was down to 12,000 cumesec by 2000, and is a mere trickle now.

 

Authorities in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan have limited their attention to cleaning the river through engineering projects, and paid no heed to the advice for providing fresh water downstream of Wazirabad as recommended in a modelling exercise for the Yamuna Action Plan Phase II.

 

An ordinance would be in order to revive the river by ensuring an environmentally minimum amount of water, round the
year. Those who liken the Yamuna to the Thames, Seine and Danube should add their voices to those of experts recommending fresh water inflow into the deliberately starved river.

 

Madhu Bhaduri is a former diplomat

 

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ON HOLD

 

The uncertainty about Karnataka Chief Justice P. D. Dinakaran's elevation to the apex court continues, a circumstance that has helped no one, least of all the judge himself. Apart from the rumours and whispers that it has bred, there has been the recurring spectacle of advocates protesting Justice Dinakaran's appearance in the Karnataka high court by, amongst other disruptions, abstaining from work. The uncertainty is also hurting the judiciary's image. It is not just that in the absence of clear decisions, rumours grow and aspersions are cast. It is also that the higher judiciary's credibility in regulating its most sensitive appointments is seen to be at stake.

 

The question mark over Justice Dinakaran's elevation to the Supreme Court draws from a report from the collector of the district in which the judge is alleged to have grabbed land. The delay calls into question the appointment procedure. The Supreme Court, in 1993 and later in 1998, had decided that court appointments would be made by its five senior-most judges. But on the procedure for external inputs and inquiries, there is perceived to be ambiguity. Which is why, since complaints have surfaced against Justice Dinakaran, there has been no set way to go about it. Former Chief Justice J.S. Verma points to a simple way out. In an editorial page article in this newspaper on Monday, he argued that the law, which he helped lay in 1993, is clear. If there is even a hint of impropriety or whiff of scandal, the judge must not be appointed. Even if there is a possibility that upon subsequent and thorough investigation the judge could be proved to be absolutely innocent, the reputation of the Supreme Court calls for erring on the side of caution. Justice Verma also argues that the executive can play a role in this.

 

The point is, this issue is turning out to be less about Justice Dinakaran's case and more about the capacity of the system to proceed in what could be uncharted waters. For every day that the controversy drags on, the judiciary's image gets affected. The month-long impasse has sparked a public trial of the judge, which in itself is not fair. The collegium or the executive must act swiftly, and their actions, above all, must preserve the image of the world's most powerful court.

 

***************************************

INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SILENT QUESTION

 

Every morning the two Houses of Parliament begin proceedings at the rather leisurely hour of 11 a.m. In each House, a little booklet is circulated carrying the 20 starred questions for that day. An extraordinary amount of groundwork goes into selecting these questions, ascribing them to particular MPs, and putting on notice the concerned minister. Questioner and questioned (the minister) are expected to be in attendance and, in case either cannot be present for some reason s/he is expected to alert the chair and designate a stand-in. In fact, ministers on call are routinely seen with stacks of papers to prepare them for any eventuality that may come by way of supplementary questions. Parliament's website underlines the importance of the entire exercise: "The government is, as it were, put on its trial during the Question Hour and every minister whose turn it is to answer questions has to stand up and answer for his or her administration's acts of omission and commission."

 

It is therefore obviously shocking that once Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar had overseen the first three questions on Monday morning, she was forced to adjourn the House because more than 30 MPs against whose names the remaining 17 questions had been listed were not present. Certainly, written answers to those 17 questions will be circulated. But by failing to be present the MPs denied the House the opportunity to pose supplementary questions and deepen this exercise in accountability. What is truly telling, in addition, is the political spectrum covered by this record in absenteeism: BJP, Congress, JD(U), CPI, AIMIM amongst them. One of the offending MPs tried to obfuscate his discourtesy by pointing out that since the House normally covers about five questions on average in that hour, he was liable to be doubtful that his question, listed seventh, would be taken up so soon that morning.

 

That is disingenuous, and the floor managers of the above mentioned parties must be watched for the seriousness with which they follow up this lapse. At the end of the last Lok Sabha, a roll call of dishonour included MPs who'd never asked a question. Monday added a new criterion for taking stock of the House.

 

***************************************

INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE DUBAI SHAKE

SAUBHIK CHAKRABARTI

 

The economics/finance cognoscenti's take on the Dubai sheikhs' bond repayment difficulties is that the world is unlikely to be shaken. But might not a few critical things get stirred? A minority of nervous types are arguing this. Post-Lehman it always pays to give nervous types a hearing.

 

One of the critical things is global markets' perception of the rich world's public debt. True, at $80 billion, the debt of Dubai World — a firm wholly owned by Dubai's royal sheikhs (aka the Dubai government) — may well be, as witty commentators have put it, a drop in the Burj Al Arab swimming pool; public debt in major countries is in tens of trillions of dollars. But all is not calm in the swimming pool.

 

Global public debt in 2010, according to recent analysis by Moody's, will increase by 45 per cent — yes, 45 per cent — from its 2007 level and reach nearly $50 trillion. Nearly 80 per cent of that jump will have been accounted for by the G-7 countries. Will the G-7, plus other European countries (Greece and Ireland, for example) that have piled up massive post-crisis public debt, spook the markets at some point of time? That's the question thrown up by the Dubai debt problem — because psychology is not unimportant in market perception. This is more so when lenders hedge against default.

 

The last point is unappreciated in discussions on global public debt risk. There are credit default swaps (CDS, yes, the same CDS that almost became a household term post-Lehman) that insure lenders against public debt default. CDS contracts are useful for lenders; useful, too, as market markers of a sovereign borrowers' capacity. But they can hugely increase the global impact of what is called a credit event: rumblings of debt repayment problems. If a CDS contract is written in a way that it becomes payable at the hint of a problem and if there are many, many such CDS contracts on sovereign debt around the world, a major financial impact can be produced without actual debt default. Incidentally, the cost of insuring G-7 sovereign debt has been going up.

 

In this mix one must add politics. Ultimately, lenders to governments judge the latter on their political determination. Politics decides whether there will be tax hikes and/or government spending cuts that make deficits sustainable. It determines the strength of debt repayment resolve. Dubai was supposed to have the political will to back its own creature, Dubai World. Now, Abu Dhabi is supposed to have the political will.

 

Of course, major rich countries or even minor European nations are totally different from sheikhdoms. For example, even though countries like Greece and Ireland are facing questions on their sovereign debt, markets have the assurance that their being part of the eurozone means the EU will step in if push comes to shove — the EU is assumed to have the political will. Similarly, though Britain's public debt is spooky and its AAA credit rating is being questioned, London is supposed to have the political will to properly manage its debt.

 

But will there be enough political will? Those downplaying a sovereign debt problem now are not looking at the problem over time. Lenders need to feel that over the next 20 years or so necessary corrections will be made. Everyone's favourite example is Sweden, which undertook a radical public debt surgery between 1993 and 2000. But a Goldman Sachs study shows the problem is tougher for some rich countries now. Britain, the study estimates, may need to make an adjustment (tax hikes and spending cuts) of up to 9 per cent of GDP to make public debt sustainable. That's huge. The problem is worse for some other European countries and for Japan. A JPMorgan study on sovereign debt even talked about the possibility of Britain going for an IMF bailout.

 

An American Enterprise Institute study says of the US that its debt levels resemble those of other nations that have defaulted. True, America's position is uniquely different (everyone accepts the dollar, too many people and institutions around the world hold US government bonds, the US is the biggest economy, so, no one therefore wants a run on US sovereign debt). But even America's AAA rating has been questioned. And there's no visible plan for fiscal adjustment in Washington. Given all this, the right question to be asked is whether markets will continue to believe there's enough political determination over time to tackle the debt problem.

 

Some very well-informed watchers of global finance are arguing that public debt problems are almost certain. Willem Buiter, a senior Bank of England official who has just been hired by Citi as its chief economist, argued in his blog that we must see "the massive build-up of sovereign debt as a result of the financial crisis" for what it is: "(it is) all but inevitable that the final chapter of the crisis and its aftermath will involve sovereign default, perhaps dressed up as sovereign debt restructuring or even debt deferral."

 

So, the point about the Dubai shake is that even if the sheikhs put together a bail-out (and call it something else), notice on the global debt problem has been issued from a desert city with an indoor ski-slope.

 

What about India, where public debt to GDP ratio is over 80 per cent and where tonnes of government bonds have been issued over the last 18 months? As it is for major Western countries or Japan, few are saying there's an immediate problem. India in fact is perceived more like a high-debt Western country than a high debt emerging economy. Its high foreign exchange reserves, relatively stable exchange rate, high growth rate, all contribute to this assessment.

 

But like major rich world debtors, India has a big potential problem. However, note a difference. Most of India's public debt is sold domestically and most of that is bought under fiat by sarkari banks. Very little official debt is sold to private sector foreigners or even to private domestic players. This means GoI doesn't get the best deals on its debt. But many in India think that is okay because, in the absence of widely and privately held public debt, a sudden, sharp crisis won't happen. They are wrong. Economic agents can still vote against India if its debt looks unmanageable. Credit ratings can come down sharply. Foreign investors can become wary. What India loses out on efficiency isn't made up for by a false notion of safety.

 

saubhik.chakrabarti@expressindia.com

 

***************************************

INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

AN INTERROGATIVE PAUSE

M R MADHAVAN

 

The Question Hour in Lok Sabha was adjourned early on Monday on account of the absence of MPs whose questions were to be answered. Three out of twenty questions listed were answered in the first 26 minutes, and the remaining 34 minutes remained unutilised.

 

The first hour of each day of Parliament is Question Hour, a period is used by MPs to ask questions to ministers. In the Indian context, it is important to note that MPs do not represent their parties during this Question Hour: there is no whip, the anti-defection law does not apply, and they are expected to raise issues that reflect the concerns of their constituents as well as that of the larger public.

 

The history of asking questions in the parliamentary system goes back to 1721, when Earl Cowper in the House of Lords asked the government whether the chief cashier of the South Sea Company had fled the country and had been arrested in Brussels. Subsequently, British MPs started asking questions in order to bring pressure to bear on the government, and a formal Question Time was adopted in 1869. Many parliamentary democracies have adopted variants of this system.

 

There is significant difference in the structure of Question Hour across countries. In India, an MP has to submit questions at least 10 days in advance. He has to indicate whether the question is starred or unstarred. Starred questions are answered orally; supplementary questions may also be asked, which too the minister has to answer orally. Unstarred questions receive written replies. Starred questions that are not answered (usually due to lack of time) also receive written replies. On Monday, written replies were tabled to the 17 questions that were not answered in the house. The UK follows a similar system, with two significant differences. Ministries may refuse to answer questions if the cost to do so is higher than a threshold amount (currently 750 pounds). Second, the prime minister answers questions, without notice, for half-an-hour every Wednesday. The system in Australia is designed to keep ministers on their toes. All ministers are expected to be present in the House, and MPs may ask questions to any of them. They do not have advance intimation about the questions.

 

Though ministers know the questions in advance, MPs can ask supplementary questions without prior notice. These supplementaries provide an effective tool for parliament to examine the competence of ministers. Often, our parliamentarians do not utilise this opportunity to hold the government to account. Being the first hour of the day, this period is frequently disrupted when MPs are agitated over some issue. During the last three years, about 45 per cent of Question Hour was lost to interruptions. Only about one-sixth of all starred questions were answered orally. Indeed, this issue was raised by Vice President Hamid Ansari at the whips conference in February 2008 when he asked, "Is not disruption of proceedings during the Question Hour a breach of privilege of individual members who await answers to admitted starred questions, and supplementary questions?"

 

The issue again arose in Rajya Sabha on February 27, 2008, as seven MPs stated that their questions could not be answered orally as some other MPs did not allow the House to run. The matter was referred to the Privileges Committee which submitted its report in July 2009. The committee concluded that "bringing such matters strictly under the purview of parliamentary privileges would not be an optimal solution to the problem as the intention of the Members complained against was not to prevent any other Member from speaking or from raising a particular issue or question the authority of the Chair, rather it was to express their discontent over the manner in which, they thought, they were being ignored." It however urged MPs "to be more circumspect and respect the rules of the House and abide by the directions of the Chair so that such incidents do not recur in future."

Monday's event was a rare one. The House did not run short of time — it ran short of MPs whose questions were listed. It may be useful for Parliament to amend its rules to require ministers to answer even such questions. Then other MPs may raise supplementaries. This process would help retain Parliament's role of keeping a check on the work of the government.

 

Speaker Somnath Chatterjee summed up the issue on a similar occasion in April 2007. On finding that 22 MPs who had starred questions were absent he said," Are we not inviting some critical comments from the people of India?" We hope that our MPs fulfill the important duty of keeping the government accountable.

 

The writer works with PRS Legislative Research, New Delhi

express@expressindia.com

 

*************************************** 

INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

LIBERHAN'S LAPSES

RAVISHANKARPRASAD

 

The Liberhan Commission report relating to the events of December 6, 1992 at Ayodhya is the big political issue of our time. However, reading the report clearly demonstrates that it is deeply flawed both in terms of procedural compliance, and on substance.

 

The Commission's very first mandate was vide para 2.1.1 of the report, to examine the sequence of events leading to and all the facts and circumstances relating to the occurrence at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. If this was the very first mandate then it was incumbent on the Commission to examine the role not only of P.V. Narasimha Rao, who was prime minister during the crucial period but also the role of Rajiv Gandhi and Buta Singh, who was home minister when Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister; because during that regime the locks were opened in the Ram Janmabhoomi Temple and the shilanyas was permitted. The Commission's silence is baffling, because one cannot understand how their role would not come under scrutiny while examining the sequence of events leading to December 6, 1992. The Congress Party even now admits Rao's culpability, because of which he was denied the Lok Sabha ticket in 1998. One can draw necessary conclusions from the Commission's eloquent silence.

 

Similarly, at page 958 of the report, the Commission has held sixty eight individuals culpable. Under section 8B of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, it is incumbent to give reasonable opportunity of defence to a person whose reputation is to be prejudicially affected. There has to be a notice. Nearly 25 out of the 68 persons held personally culpable, which is prejudice indeed, were not given any notice at all. This includes Atal Bihari Vajpayee, one of the country's most popular leaders and a former prime minister. In his case the Commission, on July 29 2003, by an elaborate order rejected the plea to summon him. Yet, he too has been held individually culpable in patent violation of law. The sweeping comment that merely because one supports the demand of the construction of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya (feeling shared by millions all over) perforce he is also responsible for the destruction of the structure, is not only based on no evidence but laughable indeed. This list includes Devaraha Baba, a much respected saint worshipped by many in the country, who has already taken samadhi over ten years ago. Even the former acting Prime Minister Gulzarilal Nanda, who was hardly part of the movement, has come under cloud in the report.

 

Even on substance, there is a conscious attempt to ignore relevant material while determining culpability, and that too in a sweeping manner. The report's conclusion is replete with very critical references against the RSS as solely responsible for the incident. It may be relevant to note that after December 6, 1992 the RSS was banned under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act 1967 and one of the grounds was its involvement in the demolition. The notification declaring RSS unlawful was sent for adjudication by the tribunal headed by Justice P.K. Bahri, Delhi high court judge, as is the legal requirement. The adjudication by Justice Bahri was notified by the home ministry on June 18, 1993 wherein, at page 71, the learned judge noted the evidence of PW-7, a very senior IB officer, that there was no material evidence to show that these associations (RSS) had pre-planned the destruction of the disputed structure. The report also notes the white paper prepared by the Central government, which does not support the pre-planning theory. The tribunal accordingly held that there is no sufficient ground to declare the RSS unlawful.

 

Obviously, the judicial verdict of June 18, 1993, just seven months after the events of December 6, 1992, which exonerated the RSS, would carry greater sanctity than the Commission's report which has come after seventeen years and which holds the RSS as a villain. One is entitled to ask why Justice Liberhan did not take into account the 1993 decision at all. There is another serious flaw. On page 334, vide para 57.4; the Commission has held that the RSS is communal and against the secular principle of the Constitution because it supports Hindutva or cultural nationalism. While doing so, the Commission surprisingly ignored the Supreme Court judgment in the Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhu Case (1996 (1) SCC page 130) where on para 44 the Supreme Court has clearly held that "It is a fallacy and an error of law to proceed on the assumption that any reference to Hindutva or Hinduism in a speech makes it automatically a speech based on the Hindu religion or, that the use of words Hindutva or Hinduism per se depict an attitude hostile to all persons practicing any religion other than the Hindu religion." If this is the legal position settled by the Supreme Court which is equally binding on the Commission, then how can Justice Liberhan take a sweeping contrary view against the RSS on the ground that it is communal to espouse Hindutva or cultural nationalism?

 

L. K. Advani, as the deputy prime minister, deposed before the Commission for a full three days and replied to all the relevant questions. Apart from his deposition there was enough material before the Commission to show that he tried his best to stop the kar sevaks. Yet, the Commission has come to a curious conclusion that his attempt was feeble. The BJP is perfectly within its democratic right to take a position that the Ram Temple must be constructed there, because Hindus have believed for thousands of years that Lord Ram was born there and its denial itself is the worst manifestation of pseudo-secular politics. Yet, the Commission has a problem with the BJP because it held such view.

 

The Commission cannot become the arbiter of political or social choices. Its recommendation no. 1.16 that a government which has religious issues on its political agenda must be barred is patently undemocratic. If the people of the country elect a political party which advocates and opposes the discriminatory character of religion-based politics and the resultant competitive vote-bank, the Commission holds that it be prevented from coming into power even if the voters have given it a massive majority. We are being advised about a new rule of democracy by the Commission whose bias is self-evident.

 

The writer is a BJP MP

***************************************

INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE GREAT GAME FOLIO

C. RAJA MOHAN

 

As US President Barack Obama announces a new strategy for winning the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Delhi should react with its head rather than its gut; because the American escalation in Afghanistan will have huge and enduring consequences for India.

 

Three decades ago this month the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan made South Asia a theatre where the Cold War was fought to its bitter end. The subcontinent has not been the same since, thanks to the Western empowerment of violent religious extremism to defeat Soviet Communism.

 

While the Soviet Union disappeared from the map, the Pakistan army found great advantage in extending the same strategy towards Afghanistan and India. The bloody results are now very much part of our lives.

 

Obama's speech Tuesday night is about the difficulties of putting the genie of religious extremism back into the bottle. After eight years of a listless effort, the United States has now arrived at a make-or-break moment in Afghanistan.

 

While he is expected to announce a surge of 30,000 troops, Obama is likely to underline that the US commitment is not open-ended. Given the faltering domestic support for the war in Afghanistan, the only way Obama can gain backing for an escalation is by coupling it with a foreseeable exit. As he brings US troop levels to the psychologically important figure of 100,000, Obama will want to explain the objectives of the war and justify them to the American people.

 

At the end of March when he announced the conclusion of a review of Afghan policy, Obama said the objective was to "disrupt, defeat and dismantle" the al Qaida and its affiliates in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Whether he simply reaffirms this or reframes it, the indications are that Pakistan will figure a lot more prominently in his speech, which in turn brings India into the equation.

 

Delhi's concerns

For Delhi, the good news from Washington is that the Obama administration has recognised the importance of ending the segmented American approach to terrorism in our neighbourhood.

 

Obama is now reportedly pressing Islamabad to act against all extremist groups including the Afghan Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Taiba — the two organisations nurtured by the Pak Army to gain advantage vis-a-vis Kabul and Delhi.

 

In return for a comprehensive war against extremism, Washington is promising a solid new partnership with Islamabad and offering to address its security concerns vis-a-vis India.

 

If Delhi can keep its emotions in check for a moment, it will find there is no reason to object. If Washington can get the Pak Army to disown the LeT and put an end to cross border terrorism, India has every incentive to take the peace process with Pakistan forward.

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his predecessor Atal Bihari Vajpayee have both said they are ready to resolve the Kashmir question if Pakistan ends its support for terrorism and agrees to a comprehensive normalisation of bilateral relations.

The problem for Delhi does not lie with the kind of formulations on South Asian peace and cooperation that Obama is likely to make tonight. They are in fact a big advance from Bush's unwillingness to see the dual nature of Pakistan's policies towards terrorism.

 

The real challenge for Delhi is about holding Washington's feet to fire on what Obama might say about separating the Pak Army from its chosen instruments of terror.

 

It is reasonable to assume that the Pak Army will do its best to wriggle out of the current pressures from Washington. India's objective, then, must be to make sure that the Obama administration will persist with the goals that it might set for itself in Afghanistan and Pakistan now.

 

Special envoy

To complement the intensified military effort, Obama is working with Prime Minister Gordon Brown to convene an international conference on Afghanistan in London next month.

 

The objective is to create a framework to prevent competitive intervention in Afghanistan by its neighbours and encourage them to move towards regional economic integration.

 

As the military and diplomatic consequences of Obama's new policy unfold, India will need a full time Special Envoy who can bring a measure of coherence to Delhi's Afghan strategy as well as coordinate the multiple strands of diplomatic engagement with our neighbours as well as the great powers.

 

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

 

***************************************

INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

VIEW FROM THE LEFT

MANOJ C G

 

RAO'S CULPABILITY

After questioning the Justice Liberhan Commission's decision to give a clean chit to P.V. Narasimha Rao, the CPM is now leaving no stone unturned in order to establish that the former prime minister failed to protect the Babri Masjid despite having the powers to do so.

 

The latest edition of its mouthpiece People's Democracy carries the statement made by Jyoti Basu before the Liberhan Commission in which the veteran CPM leader recalls a 1992 meeting of the National Integration Council which had given powers to Rao to take necessary measures to protect the Masjid.

 

In his five-paragraph statement, reproduced by the CPM weekly, Basu also says that he had telephoned Rao two days before the demolition to share his apprehension that the Masjid may be attacked but the then-prime minister did not act then also.

 

Interestingly, out of the five paragraphs carried by the weekly, three refer to Rao's failure to protect the Masjid, giving clear indications about the CPM's plan to target Rao along with the BJP and sangh parivar while taking part in the debate in Parliament.

 

BACK TO THE FARM

Six months back, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was the CPM's trusted ally. With the fall of the Third Front in the Lok Sabha elections, it seems the ties have also ruptured. The CPM is now agitating against the state government on the issue of farmer suicides.

 

The edition carries a news report which criticises the Patnaik government. It says farmer suicides are taking place because of anti-farmer policies followed both the Central and state governments. "The state government, instead of taking urgent measures to tackle the deteriorating plight of the farmers, has shown a lackadaisical attitude towards the problem. The caricature of the situation made by the state's agriculture minister adds insult to the injury," it says. The article also talks about agitations being organised by the CPM against the state government.

 

SOLIDARITY NOW

The CPM may have hosted the international meeting of the Communist and Workers' parties but it understands the changed times and accepts that it is not possible to revive the Communist International, which existed in the first half of the last century under Kremlin's patronage, and was dissolved before the Second World War.

 

In an article in People's Democracy, politburo member Sitaram Yechury says such meetings were organised basically to reassert communist identity, which lies precisely in its ideology of being the only alternative to capitalism.

 

"Clearly this process is not aimed at recreating a 'communist international' like the one that existed prior to the Second World War. Those times are now history. What is being attempted here is a greater coordination and expression of solidarity between the communist parties of different countries," he says. According to Yechury, it is this communist identity which will be the foundation and the core for forging the broader anti-imperialist united fronts.

***************************************


INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

UNBLOCKING THE ROADS

P. VAIDYANATHAN IYER

 

In a casual conversation about Kamal Nath's recent initiatives in the roads sector, a senior government official pointed out an interesting factoid to me. It is surprising, he noted, that the highways development programme does not come under the purview of the prime minister's Delivery Monitoring Unit. The DMU, set up a month after the UPA-II returned to power in June this year, monitors what the government terms "flagship programmes, iconic projects and new initiatives". From 101, these have been reduced to a select menu of 18 items of high visibility and high impact, which, fortunately or unfortunately, does not include the roads sector.

 

You could expect Kamal Nath, the individual that he is, to create a buzz in a sector that has been dormant for almost two years. Two big irritants — investment climate and inefficient leadership — plagued India's highways, which figured prominently in the economic agenda of the NDA government. Besides many other reform initiatives, the NDA left an indelible imprint on the country's physical infrastructure through its roads — both highways and gram sadak — programme. But Planning Commission-induced rigidities in award of contracts and T.R.Baalu's lack of interest during his tenure as roads minister in the past five years marred investor interest, led to litigations and stalled progress. The global economic meltdown only worsened the situation and brought road-building to a standstill.

 

Indeed, the ministry has raised expectations by setting for itself a lofty target of building 20 kilometers a day. The minister has worked around the bureaucracy to correct the bidding procedure. The bid documents were largely conceived in the Planning Commission. With good intentions, it did standardise the request for proposal, request for qualification and the model concession agreement documents. But in a country like ours, with many geographical peculiarities and region-specific constraints, standardisation resulted in rigidities. Again, in limiting the number of companies that can compete for projects, the Plan panel's intention was to filter the process and avoid frivolous and non-serious bids. But this led to genuine complaints by the industry that a select few will end up bagging all projects. Besides these, there were some irritants too. One such is the conflict of interest clause that is absurd. For instance, if HDFC Mutual Fund picked up a 1 per cent stake in GMR and GVK, these two companies cannot bid for the same project since it resulted in conflict of interest.

 

After a few meetings with stakeholders, Kamal Nath got the prime minister to appoint a committee chaired by none other than a member of the Planning Commission (B.K.Chaturvedi) itself to suggest ways to revitalise the highways and roads sector. The committee recommended doing away with all rigidities in the bid documents. Kamal Nath interacted very closely with the committee members, got his point across, even as he reinforced publicly the fact that it was a PM-appointed committee. The Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure accepted the report in toto. Sector participants are relieved. An official closely involved in the roads sector summed up the earlier bid documents and process as: "The best was becoming the enemy of the good."

 

Looking ahead, is the 20-km a day target feasible? Fortunately, for Kamal Nath, the prime minister's DMU is not monitoring it. So, he is not strictly in the radar. As a politician, he has followed the general approach that when you exert huge pressure on the system, it will deliver. So, he has announced an array of projects — thousands of kilometres of expressways every year, mega road projects, special economic zones along the expressways, etc. Even if half the target is achieved, it will be more than twice the road length the government managed to build in the past five years.

 

The policy issues are in place and the target is set. This is but only half the job done. His single-minded pursuit now must be to improve governance — the biggest hurdle in infrastructure development — especially when he is trying to rope in big-ticket funding from multilateral institutions such as the World Bank. There are multiple parts to governance. The first part, of course, is the process itself: the manner in which the government goes about roping in private players, particularly the global ones. Local players may still cope up with the frequent changes in bidding documents, but changing goalposts midway during the bidding process will put off new entrants and foreign players. So, while Kamal Nath has wrangled the authority to make changes to RFPs and RFQs, he needs to be judicious in exercising it.

 

The second part relates to the time period during which the project is executed. There is still lack of clarity on costs for the road developer with changes in the design and scope of the work undertaken. It still takes a long time to obtain local permits and corruption at panchayat level is rampant. Further, developers can benefit from duty exemptions on equipment imported for only one stretch of land. If for some reason, the developer uses the same equipment for building another road, the taxman can put him on notice. These are small issues, but have considerable nuisance value. It is for the implementing agency — the National Highways Authority of India — to get it resolved. Kamal Nath has empowered NHAI officers by decentralising decision-making, set up village level units to facilitate land acquisition and has even allowed lateral recruitment in NHAI.

 

Finally, there is need for good governance even post-construction when it comes to toll collection. Differences in interpretation have in the past led to large number of litigation. Hundreds of cases in arbitration never get amicably resolved and land up in courts. The NHAI is often unwilling to settle cases in arbitration because of fear of the Comptroller and Auditor General. The NHAI general manager would rather let the files gather dust or opt for legal recourse than try to settle the case.

 

Kamal Nath can use his clout with Robert Zoellick aided by his negotiation skills and WTO association to get funding. But progress is contingent on good governance. The roads minister should know the devil is in the details.

 

pv.iyer@expressindia.com

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THE INVESTMENT STORY


One of the most encouraging sub-trends in the GDP numbers released on Monday was the strong recovery posted by manufacturing, which grew at over 9% in Q2. But what is perhaps even more significant than that number is the resilience shown by gross fixed capital formation (or investment), which is back to a level close to 35% of GDP. One of the big fears through the crisis period since last September was the potential negative effect the squeeze on liquidity and the loss of confidence would have on investment. Now, it seems reasonable to conclude that those fears were unfounded. Of course, there was a temporary setback in the October-December period last year, but the negativity seemed to have vanished fairly quickly. Consider what the statistics on the (year-on-year) growth rate of gross fixed assets of non-finance companies reveal. CMIE data, based on the audited financial results of 7,000 non-banking and non-financial services companies, shows that gross fixed assets of these companies grew by 15.3% in 2008-09. This was only a marginal fall from 16% and 16.5% recorded in the previous two years of unqualified boom, and hardly significant for a crisis year. The comparison becomes even starker when we consider the growth in gross fixed assets in the years before the last three. The growth in gross fixed assets between 1999-2000 and 2005-06 ranged from 6% to 12.6%, well below the 15.3% recorded in the crisis year. The figure for 2009-10 is likely to be higher than 2008-09, possibly matching the peaks of 2007-08 and 2006-07.

 

There are additional statistics that reaffirm the strength of the Indian investment story. CMIE has, using Capex data from firms, estimated that projects worth Rs 4.5 lakh crore are set to be commissioned in 2009-10. This is a massive improvement over the Rs 2.8 lakh crore worth of projects that were commissioned in the previous financial year—the year of crisis. So, quite clearly the GDP statistics are just confirming what other numbers on private investment, compiled from company balance sheets and company Capex plans, seem to be suggesting. So, is this reason enough for policymakers to believe that they have carried out enough stimulus and it's now time to withdraw? After all, other countries seem to be headed for the exit door—Australia just hiked its interest rates for the third time in three months. In India's case, though, any exit from monetary stimulus will be premature, at least until the end of the financial year. It is important to nurture this encouraging investment turnaround. Inflation, as we have said many times before in these columns, is largely on account of food prices, and monetary policy remains a bad instrument for tackling that.

 

***************************************

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

GRADUATE FROM KG


The impressive growth of the mining sector in the just released GDP numbers is in large part due to the boost that gas production has given the sector. In fact, if mining's weightage in the GDP numbers wasn't so low, gas would have given GDP numbers an even better shine. Most of the increase in gas production has been accounted for by the discoveries in the KG basin where the gas production is around 33 mmscmd, which is about 25% of the total natural gas production in the country. Domestic gas production is now expected to double from last year's level when the output in the KG basin reaches peak production of 80 mmscmd. Estimates indicate that India may soon have a surplus supply if the production prospects are fully tapped. This positive outcome in gas is largely a result of the measures taken by the government to clip down the monopoly powers of public sector companies in the exploration business. Private sector investments (around $6 billion by Reliance Industries alone) in deep sea oil and gas exploration have followed liberalisation of government policy. Reliance was able to commence production in a record time of six and a half years as against the global benchmark of 9-10 years for similar deepwater facilities. This has made the company the world's second-largest deepwater operator among oil companies and the largest deepwater gas producer in the world.

 

Still, while the government certainly deserves praise for the opening up of this sector, there remain many problematic government interventions, which threaten to mar full exploitation of this natural resource. In particular, pricing and distribution policies dictated by the government continue to be a mess. Not only are the gas prices determined by the government but the rates also vary depending on the source of gas and the user categories ranging from $3.7 to $5.7 per mmbtu. The problems are compounded by the rules that allow the government final say in the distribution of gas to varied sectors. Then there are other irritants like lack of clarity in tax policies, especially those pertaining to the tax holidays for the sector. Income tax authorities have refused relief to the natural gas producers on the plea that the related provisions of the Income Tax Act only refer to oil and not to gas. The uncertainties in this regard continue as the matter is now sub judice before courts and tribunals. Quick steps to overcome these distortions would give a further boost to the sector.

 

***************************************

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

SETTLE FOR NEW SYSTEMS OR SUFFER

JAYANTH R VARMA


RBI recently released a vision statement for the payment systems in India for the next three years. The mission is "to ensure that all the payment and settlement systems operating in the country are safe, secure, sound, efficient, accessible and authorised."

 

It is true that the payment system in India has made considerable progress in the last few years with the emergence of Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system, National Electronic Fund Transfer (NEFT) system, implementation of core banking software in most large banks and rapid spread of the ATM network. With these developments, India is gradually moving away from antiquated paper- based payments to a modern payment system. The progress is slower than one would like, but it is progress all the same.

 

However, the global financial crisis in 2007 and 2008 has changed the way we look at the safety and soundness of payment systems, and the RBI vision statement does not reflect these new concerns and priorities at all. In fact, the document is characterised by a pre-crisis world view that makes it largely complacent about settlement system risks.

 

The first lesson from the crisis is that any payment or settlement system that settles in commercial bank money is simply unacceptable as a 'safe, secure and sound' system. During the crisis, credit default swap spreads on some of the largest banks in the developed world as well as in India rose to levels indicating serious concerns about their solvency.

 

This immediately brings up the horror scenario of every payment or settlement system: pay-ins take place into the settlement banks of these systems just before the settlement bank fails. In other words, the settlement bank fails after receiving the pay-in but before making the pay-outs.

 

Since the major securities and derivative settlement systems in India settle in commercial bank money, this horror scenario should be giving sleepless nights to the securities regulator and to the central bank. Unfortunately, the vision statement does not betray any such concern.

 

I think urgent steps should be taken to allow major settlement agencies like the clearing corporations of the stock exchanges, derivative exchanges, commodity exchanges, the Clearing Corporation of India and similar entities to make settlements in central bank money. Whether this takes the form of giving them a limited banking licence or of opening up the RBI's payment system to systemically important non-bank entities is a matter of detail that need not bother us here.

 

The point is that we do not have a true delivery-versus-payment (DVP) system unless the payment happens irrevocably in central bank money. Before the crisis, it was possible to pretend that large banks are safe enough to allow settlement to happen in their books. After the crisis, the regulators would be irresponsible and delusional to accept this idea.

 

An even bigger problem exists in the settlement of foreign currency transactions where time zone differences preclude any true payment-versus-payment (PVP) settlement of these transactions. Herstatt Risk has really not been solved several decades after Herstatt Bank in Germany failed after receiving payments in its currency but before making payments in foreign currency.

 

The international community has come up with the idea of having a private bank (CLS Bank) handle the global settlement of foreign currency trades. This avoids banks having to take exposure on each other, but requires them to take exposure on CLS Bank and sometimes on a participant bank that provides access to CLS Bank.

 

The thinking was that a settlement and custody bank like CLS Bank cannot fail, but this is a delusion. During the 2008 global crisis, questions were raised about some US banks that were largely settlement and custody banks rather than lending banks. Moreover, even settlement and custody banks can suffer from acute operational risk as was demonstrated in a famous episode two decades ago in the US. As a member of the G20,

 

India has an opportunity to argue for putting foreign exchange settlement on a sounder footing.

 

Many alternatives can be thought of. First is that the IMF could take on the responsibility of running foreign currency settlement not only because it holds all the currencies of the world, but also because it enjoys multilateral guarantees that would make settlement in IMF books a true PVP. The second possibility is that the world's major reserve currencies (and currencies of invoicing) can be persuaded to run a 24/7 RTGS that eliminates the time zone problem.

 

The third solution, closer in line with the post-crisis philosophy of each country taking responsibility for risks within its territory, is for RBI to run a US dollar RTGS in Mumbai by taking advantage of its huge dollar reserves.

 

In short, a lot needs to happen before we can say that "all the payment and settlement systems operating in the country are safe, secure and sound."

 

The author is a professor of finance at IIM Ahmedabad

 

***************************************

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE IDIOT BOX CAN EMANCIPATE

KRISHNAMURTHY V SUBRAMANIAN


A few months ago, health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had remarked that providing TV sets to households can have a positive effect on population control. Turns out that Azad hit the bull's eye. Economic research shows that turning on the TV can be a simple yet influential way of improving a woman's standing in rural India.

 

Beyond providing entertainment, television vastly increases both the availability of information about the outside world and exposure to other ways of life. Anthropological accounts suggest that the growth of TV in rural areas has had significant effects on a wide range of day-to-day lifestyle behaviours, including latrine building and fan usage. Unlike anthropological studies, where causal effects of TV ownership are hard to document, recent research in economics provides evidence of the causal effect of the introduction of cable TV in rural areas of India on attitudes towards and discrimination against women. Emily Oster of the University of Chicago and Robert Jensen of the University of California, Los Angeles, find in their study The Power of TV: Cable Television and Women's Status in India that the introduction of cable TV in India had a significant positive effect on various measures of women's status in India.

 

In a 1992 article, Amartya Sen argued that India had 41 million 'missing women'—women and girls who died prematurely due to mistreatment resulting from a dramatically male-biased population. The population bias towards men has only gotten worse in the last two decades as sex-selective abortion has been more widely used to avoid female births. More broadly, girls are discriminated against in nutrition, medical care, vaccination and education. Also, gender inequality is significantly worse in rural than in urban areas.

 

The advent of cable TV in the 1990s seems to have had a positive effect on mitigating these social ills. While television was first introduced to India in 1959, for the first three decades, all broadcasting was regulated by the government. The most significant innovation in terms of both content and viewership was the introduction of satellite TV in the early 1990s. In the five years from 2001 to 2006, about 30 million households, representing approximately 150 million individuals, added cable service. Jensen and Oster examine the effect of this change.

 

Soap operas are among the most popular shows on cable: the most popular show in both 2000 and 2007 (Nielsen ratings) was Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. By virtue of the fact that the most popular Indian serials take place in urban settings, women depicted on these shows are typically much more emancipated than rural women. Characters in the popular soap operas have more education, marry late, and have smaller families—all things rarely found in rural areas; and many female characters work outside the home, sometimes as professionals, running businesses or in other positions of authority. By exposing rural households to urban attitudes and values, cable and satellite TV may lead to improvements in status for rural women. It is this possibility that Jensen and Oster explore by examining the effect of the introduction of cable and satellite TV in India on a variety of measures of women's status: autonomy, attitudes towards spousal abuse, son preference and fertility. In addition, they explore the effects on education for children, which some authors have argued will increase when the status of women is higher.

 

The authors use several measures of the status of women. They begin with attitudes towards beating and son preference. Attitudes towards spousal abuse were measured by asking women whether beating is acceptable in six possible situations (if a woman neglects children, is unfaithful, etc), and counting the total number of situations in which she reports beating is acceptable. Son preference was measured by asking women who want more children whether they want their next child to be a boy. Jensen and Oster found large effects of the introduction of cable television on both of these variables. Women who live in villages that have introduced cable TV see large declines in both the number of acceptable beating situations and son preference; villages that haven't introduced cable TV see no change.

 

Indicators involving changes in actual behaviours, as opposed to attitudes, likewise suggest substantial improvement in women's status. These include participation in household decision making, choices about obtaining healthcare, purchasing goods, etc. Consistent with the argument put forward by the health minister, the authors also found a decrease in pregnancy after cable TV introduction. All these effects are large: between 45 and 70% of the gap in attitudes and behaviours between urban and rural areas are closed by the introduction of television.

 

The author is an assistant professor of finance at Emory University, Atlanta, and a visiting scholar at ISB, Hyderabad

 

***************************************

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

CARRY ON TRADING?

AKASH JOSHI


The recent Dubai debacle sends shivers down the spines of many who thought that the financial meltdown was restricted to the Western countries where there was gross mismanagement of funds. However, even as the world recovers from the aftermath of the Lehman Brothers' crash and the bursting of asset bubbles, there are signs that lessons have not been learnt.

 

The new issue emerging is from the dollar carry trade and even the pound carry trade. With interest rates at near zero levels in several western countries, it becomes attractive to borrow at these levels and invest these monies in the emerging markets. Moreover, parking funds in money market or debt instruments overseas would also fetch near zero returns. With these economies clearly set to not grow at impressive numbers, it does make sense to place these funds in emerging markets and commodities which are likely to see some movement.

 

Experts reckon that many of these funds are being routed into India as well and, therefore, there remains a significant amount of risk in the market place at the moment. Hedge funds are seen taking arbitrage positions in the market place and are willing to play for as low as 5% to 6% gains and with the chances of the currency strengthening, the pay-off is even better. The Yen carry trade that was witnessed in 2007 saw the markets moving into the irrational zone, and a tizzy was created. Several funds were extremely over-leveraged and started taking the market in an upward spiral that could not be contained and the returns attracted more monies.

 

And, when the unwinding of the carry trade started, the markets tanked to extreme depths. At the moment, things look smug as central bankers have not started to tinker with interest rates but when they do, the carry trade unwinding could start having a negative impact. Little wonder then that the powers that be are concerned and a committee under the chairmanship of UK Sinha of UTI AMC has been set up to track the nature of overseas inflows.

 

akash.joshi@expressindia.com

 

***************************************


FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

REPORT CARD

 

The aim of this paper* is to see if there are consistent macroeconomic patterns leading up to asset price busts:

We have found that asset price busts have typically been preceded by rising investment, expanding credit, and deteriorating current account balances. Large deviations in these variables from local trends have some value as indicators of future asset price busts. Just as importantly, however, the stance of monetary policy has not been a good leading indicator of future asset price busts, consistent with the evidence that inflation and output are poor leading indicators—evidenced by both the event study analysis and the probit regressions. Monetary policy also does not appear to have been the main cause of the recent asset price booms. Other variables, such as excessive credit expansion, overinvestment, and deteriorating external balances merit greater concern. However, it is not immediately clear that policy rates are the appropriate tool. In a companion paper (Kannan, Rabanal and Scott, 2009), we consider the case where policymakers are equipped with an additional macroprudential tool that works directly on lending margins. We find that such an instrument is useful to tackle problems in financial markets, which may help limit the need for aggressive monetary policy reactions. The coordination of monetary and macroprudential policy is important and may require an expansion of central bank mandates to include concern for financial vulnerabilities.

 

Prakash Kannan, Pau Rabanal and Alasdair Scott; Macroeconomic Patterns and Monetary Policy in the Run-up to Asset Price Busts; IMF Working Paper 252, November 2009

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

LEARNING FROM KAIGA

 

The recent incident at the Kaiga Atomic Power Station in Karnataka, where workers drank water that turned out to have been spiked with a radioactive substance, raises disquieting issues. Most of the nuclear power plants in the country that are currently operational, including the one at Kaiga, run on natural uranium. These nuclear reactors also use large quantities of heavy water, whose molecules incorporate a heavier form of hydrogen known as deuterium. With the radiation inside the reactor, some of the deuterium turns into a still heavier form of hydrogen called tritium, which is radioactive. At Kaiga, the first sign of trouble came when a routine urine analysis showed that workers at one of the nuclear plants had ingested tritium. All the nuclear plant's systems were found to be functioning normally and there had been no heavy water leaks. The tritium was traced to a water cooler in the building that houses the reactor. Small samples of heavy water are drawn daily from the reactor to check its purity. The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board said in a press release that, as the cooler's water tank was kept locked, "some mischief maker" had added a small quantity of tritiated heavy water to the cooler through its overflow tube.

 

Officials believe that some insider is the culprit. But even if that turns out to be the case, the incident must be treated with the utmost gravity and the appropriate lessons learnt. There are computerised access control systems to make sure that only authorised individuals enter key areas of the nuclear plant. Close-circuit TV cameras keep watch over activities in critical areas of the reactor building. The tritiated heavy waters samples are also supposed to be guarded. Such surveillance, as it is currently practised, obviously has significant blind spots. How else would even an insider be able to steal a radioactive substance and then introduce it into a water cooler in the reactor building without being detected? The ongoing investigation will hopefully shed light on these issues. But it is not a matter of simply identifying and punishing the guilty individuals. It also goes beyond preventing pilferage of tritiated heavy water in the future. Just a few years ago, an employee at the Waste Immobilisation Plant at Tarapur in Maharashtra was found to have deliberately hidden a tiny bottle containing minute quantities of highly radioactive waste in a chair cushion; three people who later sat on the chair were exposed to low levels of radiation as a result. What is needed now is a thorough review of security procedures at nuclear facilities across the country. The biggest challenge lies in finding ways to guard against insiders bent on making trouble.

 

***************************************

THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

A PERSISTENT ISSUE

 

The Telangana statehood issue just refuses to go away. By embarking on a fast-unto-death protest, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and its leader K. Chandrasekhar Rao have whipped it up yet again. While the ruling Congress party has desisted from taking a clear stand on this sensitive, divisive question, Mr. Chandrasekhar Rao has not exactly covered himself with glory the way he has handled the latest phase of agitation. The first two days of his fast saw four men, incl uding a policeman, committing suicide and violence breaking out on university campuses in the Telangana region. As for the Congress party in the State, it stands divided both at the government and organisational levels, with sections from Telangana supporting the statehood cause. The main opposition party, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which was founded by N.T. Rama Rao on the plank of 'Telugu pride' and had for long stood against any division of the State, switched its stance on the eve of the general elections and favoured statehood for Telangana .

 

At the national level, the Congress leadership has been ambivalent in its approach. It talked of evolving a political consensus on the issue and announced the setting up of a panel headed by Pranab Mukherjee for the purpose. At one stage, it even promised a Second States Reorganisation Commission to take a holistic view of demands for separate States countrywide. Precious little has been heard on both fronts since then. Given the inter-dependent nature of the three regions in Andhra Pradesh — Telangana, Rayalaseema, and coastal Andhra — chipping off Telangana will undermine the State's integral character. More importantly, the question of capital city will prove highly contentious since Hyderabad, the State's capital is part of the Telangana region. Considering that the recently created States — Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Uttarakhand — are still in need of special attention and support on the development front, there is no way the Centre will venture into another round of reorganisation involving the dismemberment of larger States in the foreseeable future. In the specific context of Andhra Pradesh, the Congress party, ruling the State and heading the government at the Centre, is in no hurry to take a clear stand on carving out a separate Telangana State. Unless a political consensus emerges in favour of the statehood demand, the Central government will be under no pressure to act. Meanwhile, the Telangana statehood, an emotional and divisive issue, will remain alive and erupt periodically, disturbing public peace and order.

 

*************************************** 

THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

THE SYNDROME OF JUDICIAL ARREARS

HAVING MORE COMPETENT JUDGES, NOT MORE NUMBER OF JUDGES, IS THE SOLUTION TO THE PERSISTING PROBLEM.

V.R. KRISHNA IYER

 

Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.

— Reinhold Niebuhr

 

When justice is denied by any society, including a socialist, secular and democratic one as in India, expectations darken into depression. Then that depression turns into dread, dread transforms itself into despair and despair evolves into explosive terrorism. State violence as an instrument to suppress terrorism is futile: after a time the bitterness and revengefulness that is generated will seek to overthrow those very forces that control state power — call it fasc ism, naxalism, Maoism or whatever. This dangerous deterioration of democracy into bedlam terrorism is hastened when access to justice ceases to be a reality and the only alternative is violence. When the rule of the robes proves a mirage, the rule of robbery gets support and sanction.

 

The way to eliminate this ghastly syndrome is not more state force but making the system of justice, justices and justicing truly accessible to the have-nots by means of radical judicial reform that is decentralised and democratic. If this does not become possible, the suffering people may leave the courts and take to the streets. This social strategy and humanism are what we need if noxious, nocent violence is to surrender to truth, justice, equity and egalite, the majestic values of the Mahatma. Rowlatt or Chowri Chowra or Naokhali, or Gandhian courage — which do we need? Here is the critical issue. Is our justice system jejune, and have the robes been robbed of their reality?

 

How shall we transform our judicative process? The Executive has force at its command and the Legislature is incompetent to make meaningful laws but has the backing of the masses who voted for its members. The judiciary has the bench to sit on and the authority of the Constitution to back it. If its verdict is ignored, it has no means to enforce its rulings. Sans justice, judges are powerless power.

 

What is wrong with our courts that they have lost their credibility and prestige? Corruption has crept in. Forensic morals have been jettisoned and no longer form their inviolable virtue. More than all else, delay of dockets and Himalayan arrears frustrate the hope of justice from the forensic process. While the system is accessible and open to the rich and those from the creamy layer, the under-privileged have no money and are priced out of the institution. The Bar, an indispensable factor in the adversarial system, is too expensive for the lowly and the forlorn. The fees and the formalities make the law too dear for the have-nots. The hierarchy adds to the cost, the delay and the uncertainty of the final verdict.

 

Appeals upon appeals make justice through litigation inordinately dilatory and costly, and the law becomes the last means for the aggrieved to get relief. One appeal is necessary, two is too much, but we have four or five decks to spiral up. The litigant has only one life but litigation has several lives to see its end. Judgments typically take years to pronounce and some judges do not pronounce any judgment at all. They would seem to be unaccountable since there is no Performance Commission in operation.

 

Another great deficiency is that a collegium that is untrained in the task, selects judges in secret and bizarre fashion. There could be room for nepotism, communalism and favouritism in the absence of guidelines. The selection process excludes the Executive. Nowhere in the world do we have judges alone selecting other judges. The collegium is a disaster: the P.D. Dinakaran episode is an example. A new code by a constitutional chapter has become an imperative. Appointment is a desideratum.

 

What we now have as weaknesses of the system is Parkinson's Law and Peter Principle. The first creates vacancies after mediocre judges cause arrears to mount. The second elevates officers to the highest level of their incompetence. Even if you have 10 times the present number of judges, so long as there is no accountability, the arrears will multiply, the judicial budget will escalate and the disgrace of the judiciary will grow. A revolution is necessary and a sense of scientific spirit and reason is needed if the judicature is not to become a caricature, or a torture of the right to justice.

 

If our Founding Fathers are not to be betrayed, we need at once a judicial-constitutional code including a scissoring of the hierarchical syndrome. Or be prepared for a revolution. The unknown collegium, judges expanding their own breed, creating arrears more than anywhere else in the world, and other pathologies promoting a self-operated system…

 

Is India so bereft of statesmanship that it cannot create a swadeshi-swaraj judicature? A spiritual-natural synthesis carrying out Bharat jurisprudence and justice system must be the operation of the next Parliament.

 

Did not Jawaharlal Nehru assert that the Supreme Court is no third chamber of the House? Did not Franklin D. Roosevelt tell the American Supreme Court that if it did not serve the nation's interest he will pack the court? Let us not therefore allow the Indian courts to refrain from the tryst with destiny or go back on the grand Preamble of the Constitution. We, the People of India, shall not allow the judges to produce a pathological syndrome of seppuku.

 

I am critical of the great institution of justice of which I was a member during the best part of my life. But as Oliver Wendell Homes, the great American judge, said while criticising his judicial system, it would be less than fair if I do not constructively and correctively criticise the system of which I was a part if I see some dark drawbacks therein. My purpose is only to improve the system, never to denigrate it.

 

The Berlin Wall has fallen. Leningrad and Stalingrad is no more on the map of the Soviet Union. Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, prisoners under the empire, have become Fathers of the Nations. Why not the Indian judiciary, patterned after the British, change and become truly swadeshi and Indian?

 

Judges have a heavy responsibility in the matter of chronic docket arrears. Nowhere in the world except in India does litigation last up to half a century in some instances. The art of fast disposal of cases would seem to have become alien to the judges, who do not know the strategy of having a brief hearing and delivering the judgment in a few days. A leisurely, jocose and even bellicose style, a high-and-mighty bearing, and slow and endless arguments are hampering the competent performance of the judges. American judges allow half an hour and no more. Look at the discipline that this writer showed in the stay proceedings of the Indira Gandhi case. Originality, imagination and talent have become scarce commodities. These are mostly covered up by demands for 10 times more of incompetent judges and none to expose them for fear of being hauled up for contempt.

 

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has been repeatedly urging that we must have thousands more as members of the judiciary as the solution to the problem of arrears. But that will only be a remedy which could aggravate the malady. This is a mediocre recipe that could prove counter-productive.

 

This view is supported by two great Indian jurists. M.C. Setalvad commented in his autobiography My Life (1970) on the statement of Dr. K.N. Katju, when he was Home Minister, that the "greater the number of judges in court, the lesser the rate of disposal for each judge. Though one may regard this as an overstatement, it is undoubtedly true that a larger judicial personnel frequently makes the courts cumbrous and slow moving." He added: "What is needed is the appointment of really able persons who can rapidly and satisfactorily deal with the accumulation of work."

 

Likewise, M.C. Chagla observed in Roses in December: "To my mind the solution is simple. See that the men you appoint are proper ones. Find judges with an alert and active mind. What is more important, pay the judges better, give them a better pension, and enforce better conditions of service. The usual solution put forward is to increase the number of judges. But if the men selected are not really competent, Parkinsons' Law will come into play. The more the judges, the greater will be the load of work."

 

It is time we had an effective executive which will call the bluff when judges invent alibi to explain away their incompetence and absence of integrity. An investigation into the entire higher judiciary may well weaken our faith in the integrity and incorruptibility of their lordships.

 

***************************************

THE HINDU

25 YEARS AND STILL WAITING

THE ANDERSON SAGA IS ONE MORE REMINDER THAT THE POWERFUL CAN ALWAYS COUNT ON OFFICIAL HELP.

VIDYA SUBRAHMANIAM

 

In the fall of 2002, Greenpeace campaigner Casey Harell paid a surprise visit to the New York State private estate of Warren Anderson, and found him living a "life of luxury". Nothing odd about the discovery except that in the eyes of the law Mr. Anderson was untraceable, and had been so since 1992 when an Indian court, exasperated by his refusal to heed multiple summons for trial, declared him a fugitive from justice.

 

Mr. Anderson was chairman and chief executive officer of the United States-headquartered Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) at the time of the lethal December 2-3 methyl isocyanate leak from Carbide's pesticide plant in Bhopal and faced charges on many counts, including culpable homicide. The UCC chief, or "Accused no 1" in a December 1, 1987 chargesheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation against him and 11 others, including UCC, USA; Union Carbide (Eastern), Hong Kong; and Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL), had been placed under house arrest soon after the disaster but won his release on a promise to return to India to stand trial.

 

Neither Mr. Anderson nor Carbide would turn up in the Indian court and for obvious reason. The toxic gas leak had caused a human tragedy of unprecedented proportions: Around 4,000 (unofficially 8,000) immediate deaths and over a lakh people permanently disabled. In the years to come, the death toll from long-term exposure would mount to 20,000, tens of thousands of children would have birth defects, and many millions would fall gravely ill from drinking water contaminated by the massive amounts of chemical waste dumped in and around the Carbide factory grounds. UCC and its CEO would have had hell to pay had they chosen to face charges.

 

Mr. Anderson had been in hiding for ten years when Greenpeace, and before that a British newspaper, tracked him down. Mr. Harell would remark after the meeting: "If a team of journalists and Greenpeace managed to track down India's most wanted man in a matter of days, how seriously have the U.S. authorities tried to find him in all these years? The U.S. has reacted swiftly on curbing the financial corporate crimes of Enron and WorldCom, but has clearly not made much of an effort to find Anderson, responsible for the deaths of 20,000 people in India."

 

The searing comment underscored the dubious role played by the world's most powerful democracy in protecting the key perpetrator of the world's worst industrial disaster. Seventeen years after he was proclaimed an "absconder", Mr. Anderson, now 88, continues to elude the long reach of the law. However, it is not just that the wheels of justice showed no inclination to move in the U.S. The Indian government has been no less lethargic in bringing Mr. Anderson to justice. It sent out a formal request for his extradition in May 2003, close to two decades after the crime. As Bhopal activist Nityanand Jayaraman would tell The Hindu on the 25th anniversary of the gas leak: "In the case of Anderson, the [Indian] government's heart is just not on the job."

 

Indeed, the Bhopal saga is a painful reminder of the unconscionable way justice plays out for the poor in this country — with victims fighting a battle so long and hard that justice has little meaning when it finally arrives. Following an unjust settlement reached between Carbide and the Indian government in 1989 (the Indian government sued the corporation for $3 billion but settled for 15 per cent of the amount), survivors were awarded a lifetime average compensation of Rs.25,000, far below international compensation standards. But even this meagre amount would reach the awardees after long delays, protracted red tape and bribes paid to lawyers, middlemen and touts. Compensation would not reach some survivors until 2005, and till date no compensation has been awarded to those born with disabilities and those drinking contaminated water.

 

The struggle for compensation at least got somewhere, unlike l`affaire Anderson which shows no signs of coming to fruition. In all these years, the gas leak survivors have got used to being told that they must move on, that they must put their tragic past behind them. It is a familiar story. Sikh victims of the 1984 pogrom have heard this nugget of wisdom as have Muslim victims of Ayodhya 1991 and Gujarat 2002. It is as if the perpetrator of a criminal act somehow becomes less guilty if he holds out long enough.

 

Astonishingly, this was the official stand taken by the Indian government with regard to Mr. Anderson. On August 6, 2001, then Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee advised the Vajpayee government in writing against pursuing Mr. Anderson's extradition. He argued that it would be difficult for the Indian government to satisfy the "probable cause" requirement necessary for securing Mr. Anderson's extradition. As the phrase itself suggests, "probable cause" means something more than a mere suspicion but less than the quantum of evidence required for conviction.

 

Mr. Anderson exercised managerial control and supervision over the operations of UCIL, he approved and ratified the standards in design, safety and operations at UCIL, which were far inferior compared to UCC's plant in West Virginia, he knew that Carbide had sent a team to inspect the Bhopal plant before the disaster which noted leaking valves in the plant and warned of the "potential for the release of toxic materials". To show Mr. Anderson prima facie guilty of a grossly irresponsible act that killed, maimed and continues to cause grievous hurt to millions of people was hardly a huge challenge.

 

Mr. Sorabjee thought otherwise. Worse, he also pointed to "humanitarian considerations" likely to be cited by the U.S. government against Mr. Anderson's extradition. "The reasons are humanitarian concerns, such as Mr. Anderson's age, said to be 81 years old, and [his] health and length of time that has elapsed, almost 17 years, between the event and the Indian government's decision to make a formal request for extradition." In other words, it was the fault of the victims that Mr. Anderson had grown old while the Indian government took its own time — despite countless petitions to successive governments and prayers before the Bhopal District Court — to take up the extradition question with the U.S. government.

 

Yet the more the government dithered, the stronger was the survivors' determination to fight to the end. They organised themselves under various banners and fought simultaneous battles on many fronts — in India as well as in the U.S. Each setback spawned a further round of protest marches, hunger strikes and petition-making. In November 1999, survivor organisations filed a class action suit against UCC and Mr. Anderson in the Southern District Court of New York, charging them with violating international human rights law, environmental law and international criminal law. Federal Judge John F. Keenan would twice throw the case out before agreeing to hear the case again following a partially successful appeal in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (New York).

 

A fresh twist in the case came with the 2001 acquisition of UCC by The Dow Chemical Company. The latter persisted with the lie that it had acquired the assets of UCC without its liabilities. It also refused to surrender Carbide (now its subsidiary) for trial. To add insult to injury, Dow also landed law suits on protestors who besieged its offices in India, shouting, "Dow, you now have Union Carbide's blood on your hands". Dow claimed $10,000 in compensation for alleged loss of work resulting from the demonstrations.

 

In all this, the CJM's court in the Bhopal District Court remained as the lone flicker of hope for the Bhopal gas survivors. The court struck blow after blow for them. From the 1988 letters rogatory issued to the U.S. administration seeking permission for the CBI to inspect the safety systems at UCC's West Virginia plant to proclaiming Mr. Anderson an absconder in 1992 to persistently seeking information from the CBI on the status of extradition proceedings to quashing the agency's 2002 attempt to dilute the charge against Mr. Anderson from culpable homicide (punishable with imprisonment up to 10 years) to criminal negligence (punishable with imprisonment up to two years), the District Court was as pro-active as the Indian government was laid back.

 

The CBI's 2002 attempt at dilution of charges was of a piece with Mr. Sorabjee's 2001 advice to the government against seeking Mr. Anderson's extradition. However, with the Bhopal magistrate standing firm, the CBI was left with no option but to request the Ministry of External Affairs to seek Mr. Anderson's extradition, which the MEA did, obviously reluctantly, in May 2003.

 

In July 2004, the U.S. government expectedly rejected the Indian request. It stated that the request did not meet the requirements of Article 2(1) and 9 (3) of the extradition treaty between the U.S. and India.

 

What now? On July 22, 2009, the CJM's court in Bhopal issued a fresh warrant of arrest against Mr. Anderson, and ordered the CBI to produce him before the court for trial. Unfortunately, the meandering path the case has taken so far gives no cause for hope. Indeed, it is difficult to believe that the Indian government, even less its U.S. counterpart, will persuade the 88-year-old "Accused no 1" to come to India one last time — to stand trial for a crime he committed a quarter of a century ago.

 

***************************************


THE HINDU

EXTRADITE OR PROSECUTE… COMPETENTLY

PAKISTAN'S DISINGENUOUS PROSECUTION OF TERROR SUSPECTS WEAKENS A BASIC PRINCIPLE OF INTERNATIONAL LAW — THE DUTY TO EXTRADITE OR PROSECUTE ACCUSED OFFENDERS.

MENAKA GURUSWAMY

 

On December 11, 2008, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, leader of the internationally recognised terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out last year's horrific attacks in Mumbai, was placed under house arrest in Lahore. Saeed was held on charges under Pakistan's Maintenance of Public Order law, which allows authorities to detain individuals likely to create disorder. In early June 2009, the Lahore High Court deemed Saeed's confinement unconstitutional and orde red his release.

 

On August 25, 2009, Interpol issued a Red Corner Notice against Saeed, in response to India's request for extradition. Saeed was yet again placed under house arrest a few days after the notice, and charged with inciting public sentiments. He was also charged with raising funds to wage jihad— an offence under local anti-terrorism laws. On October 12, the High Court quashed all cases against Saaed and set him free. It also declared that the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the Lashkar front-organisation, was not a banned forum and could operate freely in Pakistan.

 

Saeed is quite used to rapid detentions and brief stints of house arrest, followed by equally rapid release orders from courts. After the July 2006 Mumbai train bombings, Saeed was kept under house arrest and released a month later, on an order by the Lahore High Court. He was re-arrested the very day of his release —and set free again a month and half later in October 2006, after yet another order by the High Court.

 

The criticism of Pakistan is that at no point has the government treated Saeed like an accused in a major crime. It has sheltered him by placing him under house arrest, composing only weak charges and never adducing enough evidence to clinch a conviction.

 

As the saga of Hafiz Saeed continues, judge Malik Mohammed Akram Awan presided over an "anti-terror" court in Islamabad on November 25. He framed charges against seven men, allegedly members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, including Zaki-ur-Rehman, operations commander. They were charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act for suspected involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

 

This trial, closed to the public and the press, has been widely critiqued. It follows the familiar pattern of high-level Lashkar operatives being shielded by the state. Newspaper reports on investigation dossiers submitted by Pakistan to the Prime Minister of India indicate that no evidence has been presented linking high-level Lashkar commanders to the attacks. Only low-level cadres have been implicated. Even evidence of movement of funds concerns low-ranking cadres — no evidence is offered on the source of those funds. Essentially, the prosecution case will never net upper-level Lashkar decision-makers.

 

Pakistan's disingenuous prosecution of suspects hampers its own and India's efforts at dismantling terrorist operations. It also weakens the trust the international community places in the multilateral dispute resolution mechanism called the United Nations, and the principles and practice of International Law. A basic principle of international law that has evolved over the decades is that of aut dedere aut judicare — the duty to extradite or prosecute accused offenders.

 

Extradition is the process by which a person charged with or convicted of a crime under the laws of one state is arrested in another state and returned to the former state for trial or punishment. Usually extradition is facilitated through bilateral treaties. In the absence of such treaties and in a bid to deter use of force, this basic principle of law is now universally enforceable — the accused must be either extradited to the victim country (in this case, India), or prosecuted in the host country ( Pakistan). This customary practice is codified in all international conventions and treaties that deal with terrorism of any kind.

 

For instance, the Hague Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft 1970, which deals with hijacking of aircraft by terrorists, makes this an extraditable offence. The Hague Convention states clearly that should the host state not extradite an offender, then that state is obliged, without exception whatsoever and whether or not the offence was committed in its territory, to submit the case to its competent authorities for prosecution.

 

Similarly, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents 1973, the International Convention against the Taking of Hostages 1979, The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials 1979, the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings 1997, the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism 1999, and the most recent Draft Comprehensive Convention on Terrorism that is still being finalised, all have extensive provisions that make these various actions by terrorists internationally extraditable offences; and failing extradition, domestically prosecutable ones.

 

The intention behind such provisions is to retain the trust of the victim state in the state hosting the accused. That trust can be maintained only if the prosecution of the accused is competent, honest and comprehensive. It is important for all countries to maintain such trust, since this is the only means of ensuring that nation-states do not resort to force, in retaliation for acts of terrorism.

 

Every multilateral international treaty that is painstakingly negotiated by parties comprising nation-states is based on the premise that there is a better, saner and more just option than the use of force — and that is court of either the host or victim state. When the investigating authorities and the prosecution services of the host state refuse to adduce available evidence to enable conviction of these accused, then they weaken that premise.

 

It is also imperative for Pakistan to allow the prosecution of upper-level Lashkar management. This would vindicate its stance that it as a state is not involved in attacks on India, support its assertion that these acts are committed by independent organisations, and absolve Pakistan of its potential responsibility of state-support to terrorism, an offence under international law. The International Law Commission is a body established by the U.N. General Assembly to make recommendations for codification of international law. It describes when conduct of private parties is attributed to states in its Draft Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts. Article 8 provides that: "[T]he conduct of a person or group of persons shall be considered an act of a State under international law if the person or group of persons is in fact acting on the instructions of, or under the direction or control of, that State in carrying out the conduct."

 

Clearly the lower-level Lashkar operatives indicted were acting on instructions from the higher echelons. Now is the time for Pakistan to show the international community that that those responsible were high level organisation commanders — and not the host state. The only way to do this is to ensure the able prosecution of senior Lashkar operatives, in a fair trial with all the necessary and available evidence being adduced and those responsible being charged and convicted.

 

Shortly after the Mumbai attacks, amid heavy criticism from the international community, Pakistan represented to the Security Council on December 9, 2008 that amongst other anti-terrorism measures, it would proscribe the Jamaat-ud-Dawa. This it has not done, and must do.

 

In the past the Security Council imposed sanctions on Sudan and Libya for sponsoring terrorism. In both those cases, the might of United States "diplomacy" was at work. In this case, the U.S., which has declared Lashkar and its front organisations terrorist groups, will not support such a move for reasons located in international realpolitik and not international law. Fortunately, Pakistan is not Sudan or Libya. Its courts have a rich tradition of independence, and jurisprudential excellence. This increases disappointment in India that Pakistan's judges are not provided with evidence that would enable them to render an accurate verdict.

 

(Menaka Guruswamy practises law at the Supreme Court of India.)

 

***************************************


THE HINDU

A SURGE CAN ONLY MAGNIFY THE CRIME

IF BARACK OBAMA HERALDS AN ESCALATION OF THE WAR, HE WILL BETRAY HIS OWN MESSAGE OF HOPE AND DEEPEN AFGHANISTAN'S PAIN.

MALALAI JOYA

 

After months of waiting, U.S. President Barack Obama will announce tonight (1st December) the new U.S. strategy for Afghanistan. His speech may be long awaited, but few are expecting any surprise: it seems clear he will herald a major escalation of the war. In doing so, he will be making something worse than a mistake. It is a continuation of a war crime against the suffering people of my country.

 

I have said before that by installing warlords and drug traffickers in power in Kabul, the U.S. and Nato have pushed us from the frying pan to the fire. Now Mr. Obama is pouring fuel on these flames, and this week's announcement of upwards of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan will have tragic consequences.

 

Already this year we have seen the impact of an increase in troops occupying Afghanistan: More violence, and more civilian deaths. My people, the poor of Afghanistan who have known only war and the domination of fundamentalism, are today squashed between two enemies: the U.S./Nato occupation forces on one hand and warlords and the Taliban on the other.

 

While we want the withdrawal of one enemy, we do not believe it is a matter of choosing between two evils. There is an alternative: the democratic-minded parties and intellectuals are our hope for the future of Afghanistan.

 

It will not be easy, but if we have a little bit of peace we will be better able to fight our own internal enemies — Afghans know what to do with our destiny. We are not a backward people, and we are capable of fighting for democracy, human and women's rights in Afghanistan. In fact the only way these values will be achieved is if we struggle for them and win them ourselves.

 

After eight years of war, the situation is as bad as ever for ordinary Afghans, and women in particular. The reality is that only the drug traffickers and warlords have been helped under this corrupt and illegitimate Karzai government. [Afghanistan President Hamid] Karzai's promises of reform are laughable. His own Vice-President is the notorious warlord Fahim, whom Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch describes as "one of the most notorious warlords in the country, with the blood of many Afghans on his hands".

 

Transparency International reports that this regime is the second most corrupt in the world. The U.N. Development Programme reports Afghanistan is second last — 181st out of 182 countries — in terms of human development. That is why we no longer want this kind of "help" from the West.

 

Like many around the world, I am wondering what kind of "peace" prize can be awarded to a leader who continues the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and starts a new war in Pakistan, all while supporting Israel?

 

Throughout my recent tour of the U.S., I had the chance to meet many military families and veterans who are working to put an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They understand that it is not a case of a "bad war" and a "good war" — there is no difference, war is war.

 

Members of Iraq Veterans Against War even accompanied me to meet members of Congress in Washington DC. Together we tried to explain the terrible human cost of this war, in terms of Afghan, U.S. and Nato lives. Unfortunately, only a few representatives really offered their support to our struggle for peace.

 

While the government was not responsive, the people of the U.S. did offer me their support. And polls confirm that the U.S. public wants peace, not an escalated war. Many also want Mr. Obama to hold the former President, George Bush, and his administration to account for war crimes. Everywhere I spoke, people responded strongly when I said that if Mr. Obama really wanted peace he would first of all try to prosecute Mr. Bush and have him tried before the international criminal court. Replacing Mr. Bush's man in the Pentagon, Robert Gates, would have been a good start — but Mr. Obama chose not to.

 

Unfortunately, the U.K. government shamefully follows the path of the U.S. in Afghanistan. Even though opinion polls show that more than 70 per cent of the population is against the war, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced the deployment of more U.K. troops. It is sad that more taxpayers' money will be wasted on this war, while Britain's poor continue to suffer from a lack of basic services.

 

The U.K. government has also tried to silence dissent, for instance by arresting Joe Glenton, a British soldier who has refused to return to Afghanistan.

 

I had a chance to meet Mr. Glenton when I was in London last summer, and together we spoke out against the war. My message to him is that, in times of great injustice, it is sometimes better to go to jail than be part of committing war crimes.

 

Facing a difficult choice, Mr. Glenton made a courageous decision, while Mr. Obama and Mr. Brown have chosen to follow the Bush administration. Instead of hope and change, in foreign policy Mr. Obama is delivering more of the same. But I still have hope because, as our history teaches, the people of Afghanistan will never accept occupation. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

 

(Malalai Joya was the youngest woman elected to the Afghan Parliament in 2005. She is the author of Raising My Voice: The Extraordinary Story of the Afghan Woman Who Dares to Speak Out)

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

THE ASIAN AGE

 EDITORIAL

I HAVE TO GO ON...

JAVED ABIDI

 

In my 17 years of being what people call a "disabled activist", one thing I have never known is to be at a loss for words. But, like they say, there's always a first time. The other day a friend asked me: "Aren't you tired of doing what you do?" I was taken aback, perhaps a bit annoyed. After all, even I take myself so much for granted!

 

I smiled and kept quiet. But as the evening wore on, the question kept coming back. "Am I tired?" I asked myself. Not sure if I wanted a confrontation with myself, I tried to put the question away. By nightfall, it was haunting me!

 

Left with no choice, I began to reflect. Seventeen years of by and large the same work: Advocacy, bordering on activism; Education, employment and access; Press conferences, rallies, even dharnas. An eternal optimist and yet a certified "confrontationist". The enfant terrible of the Indian disability sector, constantly in someone's hair, good at turning friends into foes, and yet not bad at "converting" opponents into allies! Same work. Same accusations. Even the same gossip! Am I not tired? The truth is that I am tired. Very tired. Who wouldn't be? Repeatedly reminding India of our existence, that we are at least 70 million, that disabled Indians have rights too, that, damn it, we are as much citizens of this nation as the other, non-disabled, are!

 

But then there is another truth, the inner voice, which says: "I am tired, but I have to go on..."

 

Tomorrow, December 3, is World Disability Day (WDD). We have been celebrating it at India Gate for the last 12 years. There are times when it feels like a ritual. An annual event that has to be organised, because tradition demands so. Then, at other times, it feels like an upcoming major festival! A senior colleague once said that WDD for disabled people is like Eid, Holi, Diwali and Christmas, all rolled into one. It is that one day we all look forward to... because it is only on this one day that India remembers us! Government, politicians, media, civil society — all suddenly get a collective jolt and realise that there are 70 million disabled Indians amongst them. Functions are organised, posters printed, announcements made, celebrities paraded, charities abound, spots telecast, promises, promises and more promises made!

 

Promises are made only to be broken. Worst, forgotten. And the whole charade is then repeated, 364 days later, on "another" World Disability Day.

 

In 2005, the then human resource development minister announced a "Comprehensive Action Plan for Inclusive Education" in Parliament. The following statement was made, verbatim: "It will be our objective to make mainstream education not just available but accessible, affordable and appropriate for students with disabilities. All the schools in the country will be made disabled-friendly by 2020 and all educational institutions, including hostels, libraries, labs and buildings, will have barrier-free access. All universities will have a disability coordinator. University Grants Commission will assist all universities to establish a separate Department of Disability Studies. Talking text books, reading machines, computers with speech software, sign language interpreters, transcription services…"

 

This was not an off-the-cuff statement at some Spastics Society event. This speech was made in Parliament.

 

It will soon be five years since this well-intentioned speech was made. And it doesn't give me any happiness to say that not even a half-hearted beginning has been made. Making "all the schools" in the country disabled-friendly is a tall order, but how much does it take to ensure that all universities appoint a disability coordinator? Four Union Budgets have since been presented. Has even a paisa been allocated to ensure that our hostels, our libraries and our labs become barrier-free?

 

The Disability Act was enacted on February 7, 1996. Section 41 mandates "incentives" for the private sector to motivate them to give jobs to people with disabilities. Dream target — five per cent of the workforce! In 1999, the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) conducted a study on the so-called "Top 100" companies in India, including MNCs. As many as 70 responded. Average rate of employment of disabled people was 0.4 per cent.

 

Yet, no incentives were ever announced. It took a decade for the government to wake up from its slumber! Finally, in the 2007 Budget, P. Chidambaram announced a scheme on paper, but even here the "incentives" are so miniscule that no corporate seems interested.

 

Against the 1,00,000 jobs that are promised to people with disability every year, in the two years that have gone by only 261 appointments have been made. Yes, go ahead and pinch yourself! The figures are indeed that astonishing!

 

The law, passed by the Parliament in 1995, and enacted in 1996, categorically says that all public buildings and transportation will be made disabled-friendly. It has been 13 years and more. Forget making the existing infrastructure accessible, not even the newly-constructed architecture is disabled-friendly. From the fancy New Delhi Municipal Council toilets to the reception at the Supreme Court, or the brand new airport in Bengaluru, by and large nothing is "accessible". A girl in wheelchair gets admission on merit at a well-known law college in Pune, but is then denied education because the girls hostel was not conducive to her needs. The law is there, complaints are made, but no action is taken. The girl is heart broken, the family distraught. She gives up on her dream to be a lawyer.

 

This is the bitter reality in the 21st century, modern, nuclear-age India, where the present Union urban development minister himself happens to be an orthopaedically-impaired person.

 

Tomorrow, under the clear blue sky, thousands of disabled people will gather once again at the India Gate. The sun should shine. Disability colours of blue and yellow will reflect and spread cheer. Some, like me, may cry. Many will sing and dance and look forward to a better day.

 

n Javed Abidi, 44, is a disability rights activist. He has been a wheelchair user since the age of 15. He heads the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP).

 

***************************************

THE ASIAN AGE

 EDITORIAL

1947: Partition in the Army

S.K. Sinha

 

The fact that the Indian Army also influenced the decision on Partition needs to be taken into account. After their experience with Cromwell's military dictatorship, the British ardently nurtured the concept of an apolitical army. It suited them to transplant that concept in the Indian Army that they raised. While this concept continues to hold good in India, it was thrown overboard in Pakistan. After 1857, the British decided not to have one-class regiments except for Gorkhas and Garhwalis. All other combat units were composed of 50 per cent Muslims and 50 per cent non-Muslims. Different communities living together in war and peace and encouraged to remain apolitical developed a regimental ethos that held them together.

 

I was commissioned in the Jat Regiment, which had two companies of Jat Hindus and two of Muslims. I served with a Punjabi Muslim company. I found the regimental spirit among the men strong. There was no communal divide. This continued in the Army till the end of 1946 but started cracking in 1947, reaching breaking point by August 1947. Yet I saw that when the Muslim companies of the Jat Regiment were going to Pakistan, tears were shed on both sides. This happened in other regiments as well.

 

Indian officers during British rule hardly ever discussed political matters among themselves. I recall that in Rangoon, soon after the end of World War II, one junior British officer referred to the INA as traitors and used vulgar epithets. There was no senior officer present in the Mess. This led to a heated discussion between the British and Indian officers, both Hindus and Muslims.

 

The Indian Army then got involved in a strange war in Indonesia. It had been sent there primarily to take the surrender of the Japanese. The Dutch had been driven out and accompanied the Indian Army to re-establish colonial rule. But the Indonesians had declared independence and had their own army. The Indian Army got involved in fighting the Indonesians. The Indonesians would tell us that we were ourselves not free and yet we were fighting against their becoming independent. This was embarrassing to hear. When the Indonesians raised the banner of Islam in their appeal to Indian soldiers, I was told that about a thousand or more of our Muslim soldiers deserted and joined them. They were left behind when we came out from Indonesia. I mention this because this was the first time that I saw the virus of communalism affecting the Army.

 

Notwithstanding the early signs in Indonesia, it is remarkable that during the outbreak of communal violence in August 1946 and till well after 1947 had set in, the Indian soldier, Hindu and Muslim, showed remarkable impartiality when dealing with communal violence. This was so in Kolkata in August 1946, in Bihar in October 1946 and in Garhmukteshwar (Uttar Pradesh) in November 1946. Two or three battalions of the Bihar Regiment, which had Hindus and Muslims in equal number, had operated in Bihar during the communal riots with complete impartiality. At the time of those riots, Col. Naser Ali Khan, who later went to the Pakistan Army, and I were serving at General Headquarters in Delhi. He was many years senior and always very kind. One morning at breakfast, after having read a newspaper report about the Bihar riots, he told me excitedly that his blood boiled when he remembered that I was Bihari. I told him I condemned what was happening in Bihar more than him. He was not the only Muslim officer I interacted with in Delhi who was so worked up over the terrible rioting in Bihar. I mention these incidents to show how circumstances were forcing the communal virus to spread in the Army. Till March 1947, things appeared under control. Localised communal riots took place in different places and the Army, deployed to maintain order, remained disciplined and impartial. Wavell, in his farewell address on March 21, 1947, said, "I believe that the stability of the Indian Army may perhaps be the deciding factor in the future of India".

 

With Muslim League ministries coming to power both in Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province, communal passions were sought to be aroused in a planned manner. Widespread communal riots erupted in Peshawar and Rawalpindi. Soon entire North India was on fire. The strain on the soldiers started showing. Most of the soldiers, both Muslim and non-Muslim, were from the north. Their homeland was being ravaged and, in several cases, their families had become victims. It was becoming increasingly difficult for them to remain impartial. The downslide became more perceptible after Partition was announced. The day after that announcement I met two officers in Delhi with strange shoulder titles — RPE and RPASC. In those days officers from Engineers and Army Service Corps wore the shoulder titles RIE (Royal Indian Engineers) and RIASC (Royal Indian Army Service Corps). Some officers had begun to wear Pakistan shoulder titles within hours of the Partition announcement and much before Pakistan was born. There were reports of senior Muslim officers going to meet Jinnah, who then lived at 10, Aurangzeb Road in Delhi.

 

On the morrow of Independence in August 1947 the Gilgit Scouts staged a coup, arresting Brigadier Ghansara Singh of the Kashmir Army who had been sent there as governor by the Maharaja. This was the first military coup in the Pakistan Army. More would follow.

 

The Punjab Boundary Force, comprising in equal measure units earmarked for the Indian and Pakistan Armies, was set up under a British commander in late July 1947. It was hoped that it would help maintain order on both sides of the border at a time when communal violence and migration were peaking. The experiment failed because the impartiality of the soldier had been eroded and there were several instances of soldiers taking sides. Large-scale violence again erupted in Kolkata, prompting Mahatma Gandhi to fast with dramatic effect. It was then that Mountbatten remarked that a one-man boundary force had succeeded in Kolkata while the 50,000-strong Punjab Boundary Force had failed in the north. The Punjab Boundary Force was disbanded and the two Dominions assumed responsibility for maintaining order on their side of the border.

 

In mid-1947, Sardar Patel, based on his experience in the Interim Government when the Muslim League had brought government functioning to a halt, the peaking of communal violence and the Army getting contaminated combating communal violence for nearly a year, realised there was now no alternative to Partition. His decision to salvage the wreck in 1947 was an act of statesmanship. Otherwise, things would have become much worse. We could have had a civil war with the Army broken up and participating from both sides. India may have broken up into several independent states, like the erstwhile Yugoslavia, or could have become a much larger version of today's Lebanon.

 

The author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir

 

***************************************

THE ASIAN AGE

COLUMN

LIBERHAN'S WEAK SPOT

P.C. ALEXANDER

 

It will be highly hazardous to attempt a review of Justice M.S. Liberhan's report on the demolition of the Babri Masjid (hereafter referred to as the disputed structure) on December 6, 1992, without having had the opportunity of reading it.

 

I have some experience in assisting political bosses and the best that a former civil servant like me can do is

concentrate on what strikes me as the most conspicuous weaknesses of the report.

 

The picture that emerges from the accounts in the media about the Central government at that time is that it

knew what was to be done, namely, the introduction of President's Rule, but it was helpless and hesitant in taking the decision.

 

Let us examine how far Justice Liberhan had done justice to the evidence he had before him on this issue. Why was Justice Liberhan inclined to come to the conclusion that the Central government had no option but to continue to press the state government to make full use of the Central forces placed at its disposal, instead of assuming that power for itself and dealing with the situation in Ayodhya? Why was the Central government so reluctant to use the power it had to deal with the emergencies of the type which developed in Uttar Pradesh in 1992?

 

Let us briefly examine the legal and constitutional position regarding the introduction of President's Rule in a state. Though maintenance of public order is included in the state list of the Constitution, the framers of the Constitution were well aware of the fact that situations might arise when a state government might be unable to carry on its functions according to the provisions of the Constitution. That is why adequate provisions have been made in the Constitution for the Central government to intervene in situations of emergency so that it never finds itself helpless in such situations.

 

The Constitution mentions three types of emergencies:

 

l when the security of the country is threatened by war or external aggression or armed rebellion (Article 352);

 

l when the financial stability of the country is threatened (Article 360); and

 

l when there is a failure of the constitutional machinery in a state (Article 356).

 

There is no ambiguity whatsoever about the fact that the duty to protect states from external aggression and internal disturbance is squarely on the Central government.

 

Article 356 empowers the President (which means the Central government) to intervene when satisfied that the government of a state is unable to function in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution. In such circumstances, the President can assume all or any of the provisions exercised by the governor of the state. Though the framers of the Constitution thought that this provision would be used sparingly, the Centre has resorted to action under this on more than 100 occasions.

 

The issue which the Central government had to decide, as 1992 drew to a close, was whether the situation in Ayodhya required invocation of the powers under Article 356. Unfortunately, there had been considerable hesitation on the part of the decision-makers within the Central government itself of taking on direct rule of Uttar Pradesh. It is a well-known fact that the Cabinet was sharply divided on this issue.

 

Some of the administrative steps taken by the Uttar Pradesh government in defiance of the advice given by the Centre in the weeks preceding the demolition of the disputed structure at Ayodhya should have convinced the Centre that without the powers conferred on it under Article 356 it would continue to play an advisory role about preserving public order in the state.

 

Even without waiting for requests for additional forces, the Central government had been deploying large number of paramilitary forces in the hope that they would be posted at the Ayodhya complex. However, the Central government found itself helpless when the state used such forces in places other than Ayodhya and sent its own state police forces to be on duty in Ayodhya. The state government had also been posting to Ayodhya and its neighbourhood its "trusted officers" in various offices who had the responsibility for maintaining law and order.

 

The Union home ministry at that time had as its secretary a very competent Indian Administrative Services officer, Madhav Godbole, who had prepared contingency plans of action which could come into force within minutes of approval by the Cabinet for placing the state under President's Rule. He had been regularly meeting the Prime Minister and a few senior members of the Cabinet to warn them about the grave risks involved in postponing the decision about introduction of President's Rule. However, the Centre chose to take no action as advised by its own home secretary and waited till the last minute of the proverbial 11th hour to do what it did.

 

Let me now deal with the state governor's letters advising against imposition of President's Rule. Introducing

President's Rule in a state is a matter on which the Constitution has given full powers to the President, i.e. the government in Delhi. The governor's recommendation is nowhere mentioned as an indispensable condition for such action. Article 356 clearly states that a decision on introduction of President's Rule can be taken even without a report from the governor. In any case, it is too much to say that the governor of Uttar Pradesh would have been better informed about the developments in the state than the Prime Minister and his colleagues in the Cabinet. There was very little new that the governor could convey to the Centre on this matter. However, this letter became an excuse for postponing the decision and the Liberhan Commission appears to have justified this policy of "no action under Article 356". The Centre appeared to have been confident that it could have the cake and eat it and continued the "No action under Article 356" policy till Kalyan Singh himself submitted his resignation.

 

The so-called helplessness of the Central government was because of its own decision not to assume the powers provided for in the Constitution to deal with such situations. The Liberhan Commission chose to endorse this stand of the Central government in December 1992 and that is why this has to be described as the weakest part of the commission's report.

 

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

 

***************************************

  

******************************************************************************************

DNA

EDITORIAL

GOD IS IN ALL PLACES

 

The palms of the Lord are everywhere. Whatever is offered to Him, good or bad, He receives. Scriptures say that the ordinary human beings of the world use their power of discrimination before they decide upon what to receive and what not to receive when offered. They accept only that which they like and reject that which they do not like. Uttama purusa on the other hand, do not accept anything from anyone. But Parama Purusa is entirely different from these two groups. He makes no discrimination whatever and accepts all that is offered to Him.

Once Lord Buddha asked the man, "Suppose you give something to somebody which he accepts; then the ownership of the thing is transferred to the receiver, isn't it?" The man agreed. The Lord continued, "And if the man rejects the offering, will not the thing be returned to its owner?" The man again agreed. Lord Buddha concluded, "All the words given by you have not been accepted by me!"


But the Lord (Parama Purusa) has His palms ever ready to accept all that is offered by His children anywhere in the world. The palms of human beings are so small — they can receive and contain so little. But the palms of the Lord are large enough to receive any quantity from all His children at the same time.


The Lord's feet are also everywhere. There is no place which is inaccessible to Him. The Lord is everywhere. His eyes are even in a closed room where one may consider himself or herself alone. The story goes that once Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa gave a pigeon to Swami Vivekananda asking him to kill the bird in a place where he was alone. At the end of the day Swami Vivekananda returned along with the living pigeon and reported to Sri Ramakrishna that he could not find himself alone anywhere because wherever he went he found a pair of eyes — the Lord's — watching him.

 

***************************************

DNA

EDITORIAL

RECOVERY CURVE

 

The growth figures for the second quarter — 7.9 per cent — should not come as a surprise. The economy was not as badly affected by the global recession as was imagined. There was acute fear and anxiety in industry and business circles that recession will push the economy into the doldrums. The private sector has been underestimating the domestic factor for a long time. The general feeling is that it is export earnings and inflows of foreign investments that served as engine of growth. It proved to be an inaccurate perspective because the domestic demand and consumption remained stable. Government stimulus packages and the RBI's easing of interest rates contributed to the economy cruising at a comfortable pace. Domestic consumption at 53.5 per cent is higher than that of the previous year's 53.4 per cent. Government spending stood at 10.6 per cent, which is up from last year's 8.7 per cent. It is riding on these two factors that manufacturing has clocked 9.2 per cent. As a matter of fact, it is the vibrancy of the domestic sector that seems to be attracting foreign investments in search of safe destinations.


There is of course need for the inevitable caution. The figures are good compared to the comparative trends in the rest of the world, especially the developed one, where recovery is yet to pick up momentum. There is no denying the fact that Indian economy can flourish and gallop only when the world economy recovers. Until then, it will be on the trot if not on a canter. But that is not enough for a country like India that desperately needs faster and higher growth to meet the needs of its billion plus population. Then there is worrying factor of rising inflation, with food prices constantly moving north. As a matter of fact, agricultural output has shown a positive trend despite the dampening news of shortage in rainfall. It seems to be a more case of bottlenecks and that is something government needs to monitor and handle.


This quarter's figures are clear indicators that things are looking up and nothing more. This does not mean that stimulus package can be trimmed or withdrawn. That would have to wait till the middle of the next financial year. Planning commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia is quite right when he says that this is not the time to worry over inflation. There is still ground to cover to pick up the pre-recession levels of growth.

 

 ***************************************

DNA

GRAVE QUESTION

 

The absence of members who tabled questions in the Lok Sabha on Monday marks another new low in the declining norms of parliamentary practice. It shows the sheer indifference on the part of the legislators to the working of the House. It is not surprising that Speaker Meira Kumar took exception to this and let her distress be known.

The Question Hour is usually a lively part of the day's proceedings in the House where members from all sections of the House are present. It also assumes importance because it is the only time when the government is put in the dock. Ministers have to be present and answer the queries of the members. It is true that most questions are not always incisive, nor are the answers inspiring. But it is the clearest interaction between the government and the members. Even members of the ruling party end up embarrassing the governments on acts of omission and commission.


It is well known that the debates that take place in the afternoon in contrast to the Question Hour quite often do not even have the quorum — the mandated minimum numbers of members who should be present. And the most crucial bills are passed with the least number of members present. It seems that Question Hour might face the same kind of fate as other debates in the House. 

There is a general sense among Members of Parliament that Parliament is not an effective forum for discussing problems of the people. That is why politicians do not hesitate to stall proceedings to let the country know about their gesture of dissent. And many of them even argue that boycott of the House is a legitimate form of parliamentary protest. Unless this anarchic trend is checked, Parliament will not function as it ought to and members will betray their primary role as representatives of the people.


There is the disturbing attitude among younger members of Parliament who feel that participating in the House proceedings is not as important as nurturing one's constituency. Members will have to feel that they have an obligation to participate in the House during the Question Hour, during the discussions that precede bills that are passed and which then become the law of the land. Parliament is meant to scrutinise every act of the executive and dereliction of duty tantamounts to betrayal of democracy and the country.

 

***************************************

DNA

IS INDIA GOING THE PAKISTAN WAY?

NN SACHITANAND

 

During the course of the last one year, ever since the depredations of the Islamic terrorists started hurting Pakistan viscerally in its main cities, the Indian media has been frequently posing the question about Pakistan becoming a failed state. Instead  of sneering at Pakistan's predicament, we should perhaps be asking ourselves: "Are we going the Pakistan way?"


How are we different? They have the Taliban rampaging in the Northwest, forcing an extremist ideology on the hapless locals, blowing up schools and police stations, beheading  or shooting in cold blood those whom they suspect as government spies, extracting  protection money from the  better off in the local communities and, of course, not permitting the State writ to run in the conclaves  they control. In India we have the Maoists behaving in exactly the same manner in a south-north belt of 200 districts that they infest among the states in the Eastern region. And the writ of the respective state governments does not run in a large number of these districts.

In  Pakistan, the Balochistan province to the west has had a continuous insurgency going against the  federal government ever since the reigning monarch there acceded to Pakistan in 1948. There have been four major confrontations with the Pakistan government forces since then, accusations of  brutal suppression of Baloch national aspirations still flow thick and fast and the cry for autonomy still resounds strongly  in that province. Does all this remind you of the happenings in a particular state in Northwest India? In fact, while Pakistan is fighting insurgency only in its western borders, we have been battling insurgency since Independence both in the Northwest as well as the Northeast.


Balochistan is mineral rich (natural gas, copper, gold, uranium) and its people are dirt poor. Part of the anger against the Centre stems from the resentment that the minerals are being exploited by the federal government but the locals do not benefit. Orissa in eastern India mirrors that profile, with the Maoists establishing themselves in the hinterland by capitalising on tribal resentment against the establishment of mineral-based industries which do not benefit them.


Pakistan is derided as a bankrupt nation surviving on the oxygen of US and Saudi money. India's economy is apparently much stronger with the second highest GDP growth rate in the world and a comfortable foreign exchange position. But, analyse the situation a bit more deeply and what do you have? Fiscal deficit  that may cross 10% of GDP, inflation that is hitting 15% for the bare necessities, a ballooning population half of which are barely surviving, falling forex reserves for the past one year and massive unemployment among the youth which could trigger urban anarchy.


Pakistan is facing implosion due to the deep  schisms in its society: Shia and Sunni, Mohajir and Punjabi, Baloch and Pashtun, army and politicians, conservatives and moderates. Yet, when it comes to the number and variety of  fractures in society, Pakistan is not a patch on  India. We have religious, lingual, class, caste, regional and political. Of course, our trump card is that we have been a stable democracy, whereas Pakistan has frequently alternated between civilian and military rule. This has led to a stronger civil society in our case and hence, more stability.


However, there is the growing incidence of criminals getting elected to our legislatures; the increasing accretion of political power in the hands of a handful of families leading to the pre-Independence situation when India was largely ruled by a few hundred royal families; the rise of rampant corruption; and the increasing exploitation of socially divisive issues among our politicians to gain power.

The cynic may as well ruefully say, "With such politicians, does the country need terrorists and insurgents to tear it apart?"

 

***************************************


DNA

THE MORALITY BOMB

RAMESH THAKUR 

 

Both sides had hoped that a nuclear cooperation deal could be signed as the centrepiece of Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper's visit to India (November 15 to 18). 


Although this proved impossible, the two prime ministers did resolve all outstanding issues and announced the conclusion of the deal when they meet during the Commonwealth summit meeting in Trinidad and Tobago. But Australia still refuses to sell uranium to India because of the latter's alleged violation of the global anti-nuclear norm.

This despite India remaining committed to nuclear abolition. It demands and supports a nuclear weapons convention that is truly universal, non-discriminatory between those who already have the bomb and others who do not, verifiable and enforceable. Canada and Australia have always sheltered under the US nuclear umbrella and support the continuation of the NPT so that the status quo of nuclear apartheid between the five powers who have the bomb with the NPT's blessing and all others can be maintained indefinitely. At one time, Australia even allowed Britain to test on Australian territory.


And India should be ashamed of nuclear immorality while Canada and Australia pat themselves on the back for their virtuous nuclear purity?


Moreover, it is okay for uranium to be sold to China but not to India. Granted, India betrayed its earlier agreement with Canada in conducting the nuclear test of 1974. (True to its perverse tradition, India paid an international political and technology-denial price by testing but sacrificed the chance for security gains by insisting on the test having been peaceful and not weaponising. But that's another story.) No amount of sophistry by New Delhi can wash away the stain of having misappropriated Canadian technology.


This I get. But it is history. Ottawa should get over it and get on with building a broad-based relationship with today's India. Canada needs India more than the other way round.


Leaving that aside, India has an impeccable record of not proliferating nuclear-sensitive material or skills to anyone else. China on the other hand is the willing source of Pakistan's nuclearisation. Thomas Reed, a former nuclear weapons designer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, secretary of the air force under presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, and special assistant to president Ronald Reagan for national security policy, has claimed that Pakistan's first nuclear weapon test was carried out for it by China on May 26, 1990. "We believe that during [Benazir] Bhutto's term in office, the People's Republic of China tested Pakistan's first bomb for her in 1990. That's why the Pakistanis were so quick to respond to the Indian nuclear tests in 1998. It only took them two weeks and three days."

This was reported in the US News & World Report on January 2 this year. On November 13, a report in the Washington Post was appropriately headlined "A nuclear power's act of proliferation." It revealed that the "deliberate act of proliferation" by China began in earnest in 1982 with the transfer of weapons-grade uranium and a blueprint for making a bomb that China had already tested. Thus began the chain of proliferation that extended later to Iran and Libya.


And China is to be sold uranium and co-opted into the group that will lecture India on nonproliferation responsibility and act as an enforcer of the international nuclear order? And US president Barack Obama has the temerity — or is it ignorance — to seek China's help in resolving India-Pakistan relations when Beijing has stoked the fires of subcontinental rivalry with nuclear-tipped tongs?


Am I missing something?

 

The arms control NGO lobby has campaigned loudly and actively against the civil nuclear cooperation deal with India unless and until India signs the NPT as a non-nuclear power.  This is also what Security Council resolution 1887 (24 September) demanded. Excuse me? The country that exercised restraint for the longest period should be ostracised and punished by those that committed the nuclear sin much earlier?


If the bomb is intrinsically bad, it should be banned for all. No qualifications, no caveats, no delays, no ifs and buts. If it can be justified on national security grounds for some and not others, India, China, Russia, Israel, Pakistan, Iran and the US will make the cut, but not Britain and France.


The NGO activists are so convinced of their moral rectitude that they fail to spot their intellectual laziness in painting India as the nuclear villain. Logical clarity and moral courage might point them towards supporting India's call for serious nuclear abolition talks to begin now, for all. And governments should recalibrate relations with India based on enduring interests, not self-serving and selective morality. Australia should follow Canada in lifting restrictions on uranium sales to India.

 

*************************************** 

******************************************************************************************

THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

GROWTH PICKS UP SPEED

STIMULUS, RESILIENCE KEY FACTORS

 

At a time when Dubai's credit woes have depressed investment sentiment comes India's better-than-expected GDP growth data as a ray of hope, which has put life back into the stock markets. The 7.9 per cent economic growth during the September quarter, just a tad behind China's 8.9 per cent during the same period, is something not even optimists in the government or outside had predicted. The global economic scenario has turned so uncertain that analysts prefer to be cautious rather than risk facing the accusation of being out of touch with reality. Hardly had people started believing that the economic recovery was real that the Dubai crisis took centrestage.

 

What has spread cheer in India is attributed to the government's stimulus package, which propped up manufacturing and services. Salary hikes at the state and Central levels and increased government spending in rural India have not let consumption flag. The corporate sector has stopped lay-offs even if job pick-up is slow and perks and incentives, which had sparked a craze for MBA, are yet to return to their previous levels. Although the government would like to take all credit, it is equally the inner resilience of the economy and low dependence on ever-falling exports that have saved the day.

 

A major surprise comes from agriculture. Everyone had expected a negative growth after the way the monsoon behaved. The real effect will, however, be seen in the coming months. If agriculture has not disappointed, credit must go to farmers, who go to any length to save their crops. They need help. The government should focus more on agriculture as it employs half the country's workforce. The robust GDP figures, partly due to the sluggish growth last year, may drive the RBI to raise the interest rates to control inflation and the government to cut stimulus spending to rein in fiscal deficit. Yet the temptation should be avoided. Pro-growth policies should stay in place. The recovery, as the RBI Governor noted a few days ago in Hyderabad, is still "fragile".

 

 ***************************************

THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

PAK DOUBLE GAME

OBAMA COMING TO GRIPS WITH REALITY

 

US President Barack Obama's blunt message to Pakistan President Asif Zardari that Islamabad "cannot continue" to use terror as an instrument of state policy shows Washington's realisation that Pakistan has been playing a double game ever since it became a US "ally" in the war against terror. It has been willy-nilly fighting against Al-Qaida and the Taliban, but at the same time clandestinely helping some of the groups aligned with them to achieve its unholy objectives in India and Afghanistan. In a recent message to Mr Zardari, the US leader has specifically mentioned, perhaps for the first time, the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), one of the many Pakistan-based terrorist outfits operating against India, along with Al-Qaida, the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani group and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. The message warns that if Pakistan cannot deliver, then the US itself will have to accomplish the task. It appears the US is no longer prepared to ignore "ambiguity in Pakistan's relationship" with any of the terrorist outfits functioning from its territory.

 

Significantly, Mr Obama's terse communication upholds India's viewpoint on handling terrorist outfits. India has been arguing that the war against terror cannot be won unless all kinds of terrorist networks are eliminated root and branch. Any distinction between those harming the interests of the US and Pakistan and the groups operating to cause death and destruction in India will not serve the purpose. Terrorists are terrorists irrespective of their targets. The LeT among the India-bound terrorist networks has been finding frequent mention after its hand was discovered behind the 26/11 attack on Mumbai. But the Jaish-e-Mohammed and other such groups are equally dangerous and need to be decimated.

 

Almost all of the terrorist groups sending their recruits from Pakistan to India have been created and patronised by the ISI at one time or the other. These were floated to fight Pakistan's proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India. After 9/11 these groups have been providing all kinds of help to Al-Qaida and the Taliban. The US would have been more successful in achieving its objectives had it given serious thought to what India had been pleading for. Anyway, it is better late than never, as they say.

 

 ***************************************

THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

IS KODA OFF THE HOOK?

INVESTIGATING AGENCIES COULD DO MORE

 

The arrest of former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda appeared to be an exercise designed to ward off rising suspicion that he was being let off the hook. But in effect his arrest has served to strengthen suspicion due to the Jharkhand Vigilance Bureau's failure to press for his remand. Had the Bureau been serious about questioning Koda, it should have asked for his custody from the court and continued with his interrogation. But in the absence of any such prayer, the special vigilance court on Monday remanded Koda to judicial custody for 14 days. If the Bureau did not intend to question Koda, there was no need to arrest him now, specially since a chargesheet is yet to be filed. The arrest, on the other hand, allows him to escape the glare of the media. It may also help him garner some sympathy among voters and help his regional party win a few or all of the six seats it is contesting in the on-going election for a new Assembly.

 

That Koda took advantage of his public office and feathered his nest is well-documented. Affidavits, filed at the time of the Assembly election in 2005 and the general election in 2009, establish that his movable assets grew from Rs 13 lakh to Rs. 94 lakhs in four years and that his cash-in-hand rose spectacularly from Rs. 30,000 in 2005 to Rs. 13.6 lakh. But the crucial question is whether he was involved in hawala transactions of over Rs. 2000 crore and whether he bought companies in Thailand and mines in Liberia, the allegations which appeared in the media but are yet to be declared officially or substantiated in chargesheets before the courts. Koda himself has publicly denied the charges, describing himself as a "poor tribal" who does not have any asset abroad. The country certainly wants to know the truth.

 

While politicians are fond of repeating that law takes its own course, it would be taken more seriously if agencies complete the investigation and file chargesheets in the court. Not that our politicians are ever daunted or deterred by them. The disproportionate assets case against former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav has lingered on for over a decade. Chargesheets actually gave a boost to his political career. Who knows what political fortune now awaits Madhu Koda?

 

*************************************** 

THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

SHEIKH MUJIB'S IDEA OF B'DESH

IT MUST BE TRANSLATED INTO REALITY

BY KULDIP NAYAR

 

THAT the killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman have been brought to book is the biggest compliment to the judiciary of Bangladesh. First the lower court, then the High Court and finally the Supreme Court have pronounced death sentence on 12 retired and dismissed army personnel. Understandably, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was "overwhelmed with emotion" after the verdict. She was abroad when her father, her mother and her three brothers were killed in a coup on August 15, 1975.

 

The credit for seeing the case to its ultimate end goes to Hasina and her party, the Awami League. They retrieved the case from the limbo 17 years ago when they came to power for the first time after the Sheikh's assassination. It was a lower court which sentenced the culprits during her regime. Whenever the opposition, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), headed by Begum Khalida Zia, came to power, it saw to it that the case did not move or moved at a snail's speed. The prosecution would stall the matter as if it did not want the culprits to be brought to justice.

 

In fact, BNP Secretary-General Khandakar Delwar Hossain confirmed the doubt by his churlish remark on the eve of the Supreme Court's verdict. He said, "People of the country will certainly accept the final verdict of the Supreme Court. Where was the dispute about it?" People of Bangladesh have been waiting for the sentence for the last 34 years when the person who led them to freedom was killed by the army. Hossain unnecessarily revived the debate over the responsibility for the delay in the judgment and showed where he and his party stood.

 

I was in Dhaka a few days after the assassination of the Sheikh and his family members. I went to the Dhanmandi area where they lived. The security men did not allow me to visit his home. But I could see how forlorn the place was. I could relate the tragedy to the killing of Mahatma Gandhi at the hands of a fanatic Hindu. I had then gone to Birla House where Gandhi lived before the assassination.

 

Dhanmandi, like Birla House, had an air of asceticism and spiritualism about it. Something touched me deep within. I remembered how only a few years earlier I had interviewed the Sheikh. How buoyant and confident he was about the future of his country and outlined many plans to take Bangladesh forward, economically and socially. His emphasis was on the unity of the nation. The words he had uttered at that time were that Bangladesh belonged to its people, both Muslims and Hindus. This was the ethos of India's independence movement too. Would Bangladesh respect the Sheikh's thoughts ? Would his mission for unity be completed after sacrifice? For the time being I could see that the loss had fused the different religious communities. All constituted a nation in mourning.

 

Now that the case relating to the Sheikh's assassination is out of the way, the government in Dhaka should hold an inquiry into why the information conveyed by India's RAW to the Bangladeshi authorities that the Sheikh faced the danger of assassination was not taken seriously. It is believed that some officers went from Delhi to discuss with the top officials in Dhaka at that time about the possibility of a coup and the elimination of the Sheikh. Probably, the accomplices of the killers or their influential friends did not want the warning to be taken seriously and did little to protect the Sheikh. Their negligence or complicity took away from Bangladesh the leader it wanted the most at that time.

 

I told the Bangabandu what Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the then President of Pakistan, had said in an interview. "…Our standard of living could rise substantially more than that of East Pakistan or whatever you want to call it and in terms of per capita income even more than India if we make a go of it and control our population. Of course, we do not have much of a population problem but we still have to control the population and have an economic policy attuned to modern times; develop our agriculture and industry, and oil-I think we have got oil and I think we are going to make a big search for it. So, I think if we make a good go of it that is good enough."

 

When I conveyed what Bhutto said to the Sheikh, his reaction was: "We have more resources than Pakistan; we have fish, tea, jute, gas, fruits, fertile land and a handy people. We shall soon be on our own. It is Pakistan which will have to mortgage itself to sustain the present level of spending." How prophetic the Sheikh has turned out to be! However, Hasina has to make his dream about Bangladesh come true.

 

While holding the inquiry into the circumstances that led to the Sheikh's assassination, one relevant factor that needs to be looked into closely is the supply of tanks to Bangladesh. India's minister D.P.Dhar, who was the civilian face of India's operation, had told New Delhi not to send tanks to Bangladesh. Who supplied the three tanks to Dhaka because the entire coup was carried out by the three tanks? I believe Cairo had sent them. Why? Were the killers, senior army officers, involved in importing the tanks in one way or the other?

 

The chapter does not close with the Supreme Court's laconic judgment: "We find no cogent ground to interfere with the judgment of the high court" that had confirmed the lower court's judgment. The Sheikh Hasina government must strengthen the democratic forces in the country so that the freedom of the people is not snatched away as it happened when the Bangabandhu was killed. Bangladesh had to suffer a long military rule which did its worst to destroy the values that were planted in the minds of the people during the liberation struggle.

 

Hasina has to reignite the spirit of togetherness which her father had fostered. This requires the participation of the people in governance. It is not beyond Hasina, who has won this year's Indira Gandhi prize for peace, to do so.

 

***************************************

THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

THE PILGRIMAGE

BY HARISH DHILLON

 

My father had some strange habits. He was a very taciturn man — his conversation was limited to monosyllables and even these dried up altogether when the conversation turned to subjects like his three and a half year internment in a Japanese POW camp in Singapore during World War II. Because of this I did not get to really know him.

 

He was miserly in his personal habits. He would salvage anything that was even remotely edible from the kitchen peelings, patch his worn-out trousers and refuse to discard chipped crockery. His conduct was even more incomprehensible because he never stinted any expense for the rest of the family. Because of these habits my memory of him had harboured less respect for him than it should have.

 

Then two weeks ago I found myself in Singapore and was able to fulfil a longstanding wish to visit the place where he had been imprisoned. The camp was gone now but the graphic display in the little museum that stood there brought it back so vividly, it was like being in prison myself.

 

My father had shared a six feet by eight feet cell with three other inmates, with a hole in the ground in one corner as the toilet. He survived on a daily diet which was just a point away from total starvation. The diet took its toll and a heartrending photograph of the survivors at the time of the Japanese surrender in 1945 showed them all as skeletons dressed in a loose covering of wrinkled skin.

 

The prisoners had only the clothes they wore. When these fell away in tatters, they salvaged abandoned sacking and any other material they could lay their hands on, to cover their nakedness.

 

There was another haunting picture, of a group of prisoners wearing nothing but a loin cloth. It was a fuzzy picture but looking at it, I imagined my father among the group.

 

There was a mug on display. Each inmate was issued one such mug which became a prized possession because it was used for bathing, for drinking water and for food. Only those who were exceptionally strong in spirit had survived.

 

My heart and mind were completely numbed and I sat down in the little chapel to collect my thoughts. Gradually, the horrible enormity of my father's situation came upon me and I put my head in my hands and wept. I wept for all the suffering that he had undergone. I wept because for so long I had been unfair and unjust to him. I wept because at last I understood his strange habits. And I wept at the indomitable will and courage which had helped him to survive.

 

There is a little shrine in the courtyard of the museum where I lit a candle to his memory and pinned a note to him on the memorial board. I walked out with a deep, almost radiant stillness in my heart, born out of a new and great respect for my father.

 

***************************************

THE TRIBUNE

OPED

INDIANS EMERGE FROM FATALISM TO REALISE THEIR DREAMS

BY VIJAY SANGHVI

 

A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance." This was written by an Indian visionary, Jawaharlal, a few years before Independence.

 

He was certainly a visionary but not a pragmatic or a practical person to clearly see that there was a mismatch in the two models he had chosen for his vision of India. His political model was of a liberal democracy on the pattern of the West but his economic model was based on the Soviet pattern of a planned development in which he refused to allow a place for and participation by private sector and individuals on their own. The consequence was a tightening of the nozzle on Indians' creativity, most of whom had been under the spell of fatalism for centuries.

 

They were eking out their lives in the abyss of poverty, illiteracy, social and economic disparities and inequalities. They accepted life as it came and continued their vocations of life as were ordained by the prevalent caste system without ever protesting.

 

The rigidity of life under the spell of fatalism was confirmed vividly by the fact that more than four million preferred to perish in the worst famine of 1943 in Bengal when food-laden trucks were waiting on main streets of Kolkata for onward journey to Burma for the fighting British forces. They could not think of stretching their hand to take food from trucks as it was not given to them by the owner.

 

They were thankful that the government organised cheap food for them through imports. But no one questioned why the government had not attended to improving agriculture and productivity so that the country would not suffer from perennial food shortages.

 

The first stirring in their life began with the introduction of the Green Revolution in 1966, the first year of Indira Gandhi as the prime minister. Before they could see the fruits of the revolution, Indira Gandhi promised everyone two meals a day as their right when she was combating old guards in her party to ensure her survival in office.

 

They identified with her and placed her on a high pedestal of their hearts by giving her a massive mandate. She could not keep her promise but she had nevertheless delivered a message to them that food was their right and not their fate alone. Disappointed in their expectations raised by her promise, they became restless and the situation slipped out of the hands of Indira Gandhi within three years.

 

The tribal population of Bastar district defied the establishment, first instance of their defiance to bring the rail movement in their region to a complete halt for a week as they were looking for food during the severe scarcity conditions in 1974. It was an unheard-of event in India.

 

The Green Revolution caused the first stirrings with the economic benefits flowing to the rural areas with improved productivity in agriculture and a cascading impact on other allied services connected with it.

 

Economic liberation for a large section appeared on the horizon and it also brought freedom of thinking about life. They had never before seen better job opportunities that the improved agriculture provided now. The slow liberation from economic wants had brought social awakening in other aspects. First was the need for better education to children.

 

For centuries people had believed, and the poor more ardently, that more hands in the family would help. Now they had understood that more hands also meant more mouths to feed. There never was enough food to share with so many hungry bellies. A dream of economic betterment had brought social awareness of small family.

 

A realization also dawned that without education, children would never be able to break out of the caste straight jacket in which their lives were tightly packed. For centuries India has been an open society with closed minds. The prospects of betterment of economic conditions began to open their minds.

 

The Other Backward Classes always had numerical superiority but the life struggle had kept them away from the political arena. Some of them were accommodated on the periphery of parties but were never given a place inside the decision-making structures.

 

With improved conditions, their aspirations and a desire for a share in power structure were aroused. As they found no place in traditional parties, they began forming their own parties. Their strength was always fragmented among several castes with an ever-present strife for a larger share within.

 

Hence they could not collectively assert their position in the political arena. No leaders had attempted to bring the entire OBC under one umbrella so they could end the upper-caste hold on the levers of power and divert gains of economic development to more needy classes.

 

Dr. BR Ambedkar had during the freedom struggle strived relentlessly to give a voice to the Dalits. However, he could not succeed in giving them courage. Kashi Ram, a former employee of the Defence Ministry, was able to make them understand the need for closing their ranks and stand united to demand their due share and social equality.

 

For twenty years, he continued with his social movement to inculcate a sense of belonging and courage to stand on their ground without bowing their heads. He was able to motivate the better-off among the Dalits by education and jobs to devote their time, money and energies for the Dalit causes.

 

A measure of his success was in a clear majority in the Uttar Pradesh assembly election in 2007 won by the Bahujan Samaj Party that he had launched in 1983. The Dalits needed no more to stand with bowed heads before men of upper castes. They had ripped through the caste jacket that had kept them in captivity for ages.

 

It is true that even now nearly one-third of the population ekes out life on twenty rupees per head per day. However, India has now a middle class of 300 million, which is larger than the population of the United States of America.

 

The pace at which the population is emerging from the abyss of poverty is phenomenal. The pace increased since the global winds blew across India and engulfed even the poor. It gave them the courage to dream that they can snap out of the social straight jacket that had kept them bound for centuries.

 

In the last two decades, the spread of education, easy availability of means of communication and an expansion of the media have brought the entire world to the homes of even lower middle class families as they aspire to provide a computer at home for access to the internet for their children.

 

More than 400 million mobiles were in use by the year-end and ten million new connections are being added every month. Mere statistics of enrolments in schools and emerging graduates from universities cannot convey the full story of the march to modernity that Indians have undertaken during the last two decades.

Even GNP figures do not tell the full story as the value of services rendered by the unorganized sector, including the roadside cobblers, tea vendors and food servers, is not covered by the GNP figures merely due to logistical difficulties.

 

The poor have always been objects of politics. Everyone talked of the poor and poverty in India as it cost nothing. Now they have become subjects of politics because they no more hesitate to aspire for a better life. They are willing to struggle for it rather than wait for the destiny to decide and deliver it. They have stepped out of the old world to enter a new age.

 

*************************************** 

THE TRIBUNE

OPED

ZARDARI HOLDS OFF HIS FOES

BY PAMELA CONSTABLE

 

President Asif Ali Zardari, fighting to keep his job amid pressure from opponents in the media, the courts, the Parliament and the military, appears to have reasserted his grip on the presidency for the time being, according to analysts here.

 

But Zardari's government remains caught between pressure to support Washington in the war against Islamist insurgents in Afghanistan and the need to improve its tenuous relations with the army, which is focused on fighting domestic Taliban extremists and mistrusts the Obama administration's friendship with India, Pakistan's neighbor and archrival.

 

On Monday, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani – who reports to Zardari but is also a political rival – warned in a television interview that any sizable increase in U.S. troops in Afghanistan would lead to a spillover of insurgents into Pakistan, further destabilizing the border area where troops are now conducting a ground and aerial war against domestic Taliban forces.

 

In the past week, Pakistan's embattled president has had to relinquish a number of executive powers to Gillani to placate his adversaries. Zardari agreed Friday to transfer control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal to the prime minister, and has also given up his right to dissolve Parliament, an authority he inherited through a decree by his predecessor, Pervez Musharraf.

 

Now, Zardari's opponents in Parliament are demanding that he give up even more authority, and some have called on him to resign. Zardari cannot be impeached because his Pakistan People's Party dominates the legislature, but it is now being widely predicted that he will serve out his term with greatly reduced powers.

 

Meanwhile, the president has also become vulnerable to legal action by Pakistan's Supreme Court. An amnesty for past corruption charges against Zardari and a host of other officials expired Saturday, and although the president cannot be prosecuted while in office, the high court could also rule that his election was illegitimate and then pursue the original cases against him.

 

But Zardari, backed into a corner by multiple adversaries, has come out swinging. In a defiant speech last week, he lashed out at "political actors" seeking to dethrone him and sharply criticized certain opponents in the media. He also forced the cancellation of a cable TV show whose host often criticized him.

 

Such clumsy actions drew further ridicule from the anti-Zardari media. Shaheen Sehbai, editor of the News International newspaper, wrote in a sarcastic column that he "laughed and laughed" at Zardari's "rants." Sehbai has called for the president to "step down with dignity," hand over his powers to Gillani or become a figurehead.

 

Zardari appears to have temporarily fended off a far more powerful opponent: the army. Analysts said that although the army is still unhappy about Zardari's concessions to Washington and soft stance on India, and has been working against him behind the scenes, it does not want to be linked to a messy or illegitimate change of government.

 

Moreover, military experts noted that the army is heavily dependent on U.S. spare parts and equipment to wage its current air war against the Taliban and cannot afford to sabotage Zardari's ties with Washington just as U.S. officials are calling for a new "strategic relationship" with Pakistan.

 

The president has also received a political lifeline from a surprising source — his longtime rival, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-N. Until this month, Sharif had been seen as biding his time and waiting for Zardari to self-destruct so he could run for president in midterm elections.

 

But in a high-profile TV interview recently, Sharif struck a more statesmanlike chord. He said he did not support a midterm election or power-sharing formula. He warned that "time is running out for democracy" in Pakistan and that obsessive partisan competition was partly to blame.

 

A third potential source of trouble for the president, Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, also seems less likely to pounce than he did just a few weeks ago. Analysts noted that the president has been careful not to antagonize the court.

 

By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

 

***************************************

THE TRIBUNE

OPED

FLASHY DUBAI TURNS TO STAID ABU DHABI FOR AID

BY JEFFREY FLEISHMAN AND MERIS LUTZ

 

The flashy, spendthrift needs his prim, conservative neighbor to bail him out.

 

Such is the situation between debt-ridden Dubai and flush Abu Dhabi, two Persian Gulf emirates with starkly different financial strategies and temperaments that grudgingly may need each other to prevent long-term investor panic from spreading beyond the United Arab Emirates.

 

Dubai's $80 billion debt, nearly $60 billion of it held by the investment conglomerate Dubai World, is testament to the emirate's overextended reliance on a real estate market whose fortunes tumbled in the global downturn. Unlike much of the region, Dubai was not blessed with vast oil reserves and needs deep pockets to prevent two of its main corporations – and its reputation – from collapsing.

 

Abu Dhabi has deep pockets. The question is: How deep will it dig? It considers Dubai to be an upstart, a boisterous, garish spectacle of steel and glass rising along the Persian Gulf. Oil wealth has conjured a staid sense of stability in Abu Dhabi, which regards itself as shrewd and refined, cautiously expanding its skyline and portfolio.

 

Analysts believe at least a partial bailout plan from Abu Dhabi will be forthcoming; a financially teetering Dubai over time could weaken the entire nation, which comprises seven emirates. The United Arab Emirates' two stock markets were down 7.3 percent and 8.3 percent Monday over anxiety about Dubai's problems. And other gulf nations, including Qatar and Bahrain, are expected to try to entice investors wary of the emirates.

 

"I fully agree with the `Dubai is too big to fail' rhetoric," said Samir Ranjan Pradhan, an economic analyst with the Gulf Research Center in Dubai. "You look at Abu Dhabi's strategy and financial commitment to bail out Dubai as it involves huge stakes for them also."

 

Abu Dhabi has put "a significant proportion of its assets on the line in Dubai, and perhaps even done more than some would expect," said Hady Amr, director of the Brookings Institution branch in Doha, Qatar. "At some point, you have to temper your support for your own brother when he keeps getting into trouble."

 

Over the years, Dubai became a hub for trade, international investment and glitz, attracting movie and sports stars and endless bling and buzz. That attention has agitated Abu Dhabi, which prefers tribal circumspection and seeks artistic and cultural respectability; the emirate eventually will house branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums. Abu Dhabi's oil reserves may not last forever, but they give it clout these days in negotiations with Dubai.

 

It is unclear what will happen in the United Arab Emirates' financial markets in coming days as Dubai World, which oversees the developer Nakheel, seeks to suspend debt payments while its puts together a restructuring plan. The central bank has promised to stand by foreign and domestic banks with holdings in the country. The five other emirates, lacking the economic and political power of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, can do little but mediate from the sidelines. Dubai officials insist their emirate's financial problems have been exaggerated. It is unlikely, however, that such a scenario would have unfolded in Abu Dhabi.n

 By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

CHANGE OF HEART

 

The change of heart of the Government of Bangladesh towards the security concerns of India is a positive development and the Government of India should take full advantage of the situation to deal with the problem of infiltration and insurgency. For years, the Government of Bangladesh even denied the presence of leaders of the militant groups based in the North East in the territory of the country, but the situation totally changed after the Awami League Government came to power in the neighbouring country and the Government of Bangladesh already started acting tough against the leaders of the militant groups using the territory of the country as safe haven for years. The Government of Bangladesh proved its sincerity by picking up two senior United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) leaders- Foreign Secretary Sasha Choudhury and Finance Secretary Chitraban Hazarika and handing over to India and it is reported that the other top leaders of the militant groups are not allowed a free run any more. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh is scheduled to visit India in December and the possibility of Bangladesh taking stern action against the militants before the visit cannot be ruled out and if the proposal to set up a joint task force by India and Bangladesh to deal with terrorism becomes a reality, it will play a big part in bringing the situation in the North East under control in the days to come. Of course, Bangladesh has its own problems to deal with and incidents like the mutiny by the personnel of Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) might have slowed down the action taken by the Government against the militants, but it is a fact that the attitude of the neighbouring country is changing in the positive direction.


With Bangladesh starting to take strong action against the militants, the possibility of trans-border movement of militants cannot be ruled out and India must take all out steps to secure the borders. The vigil along the international border should be intensified to prevent ultras from sneaking into India from Bangladesh and it is a positive sign that the police and security forces have realized the importance of securing the borders of Assam. However, only increasing vigil along the Assam-Bangladesh border will not serve the purpose as there is no guarantee that the militants will try to cross over only through this particular stretch of the border. Efforts must be made to intensify vigil all along the border with Bangladesh. Efforts must also be made to intensify operations in the areas along the border to nab anyone who manages to sneak past the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel deployed along the border by taking advantage of the terrain in the area. Majority of the chars along the international border are still out of the security radar and efforts should be made to increase vigil in such places, which can be very good hiding places for anti-national elements. 

 

***************************************

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

DEMOGRAPHIC EVILS

 

Though India has adopted a number of legislative measures in the last few decades to stop abuse of and cruelty to humanity while seeking to restrict demographic proliferation, it could not wipe out various evils relating to child labour, child marriage, motherhood of pre-mature girls, prevalence of dowry and related deaths and, of course, quite a different crime of female foeticide in the pregnancy period itself through pre-determination of sex among a section of affluent people. There are stunning disclosures flowing from the figures of last census report and subsequent handouts of research studies which show how grossly government's legal stand is violated. The story of more than 12 million child labour neither finding jobs to help parents nor getting conducive situation to get enrolled in schools is perhaps not as stunning as the story of India's 3,00,000 girls under 15 years of age who are not only married but who have already become mothers at least once if not more. Of these child mothers, 60 per cent have given birth to 2 children while the rest of 40 per cent have one kid. The reproductive age on their account having already started even before they reach 15 will last for the period till they reach 45. One could, therefore, imagine what fertility rate this class of women would achieve in contrast to the national average of 2.8 as in 2004. As the recent UNICEF report reveals, it is the incidence of early marriage and inadequate health care of women which adversely affects survival of their children; and despite a decrease in child mortality figures, around 5000 children under the age of five die in India everyday.


What is again contrary to general belief, as the study reveals, is that almost 30 per cent of the under-15 married mothers are from urban poor class. It shows that modern living with pursuit of small family norm of urbanities to better enjoy comfort of life fails to demonstrate lessons to this group of people from poverty-striken slums and superstitious or prejudiced social surroundings. Yet another type of demographic crime has led to declining sex ratio that could give rise to a serious kind of socio-logical unrest in future. A sickening situation arising out of choice for small family in the tradition-bound society of son-seeking parents has led to simply a heinous crime in the form of sex-selective female foeticide mainly among the urban educated and affluent classes. There is urgent need to look at population policy afresh. While the menace of female foeticide cannot perhaps be stopped without crushing unholy alliance between some unscrupulous greedy doctors and sex-selecting parents, the other aspects can be tackled mainly with removal of poverty, spread of education, reduction of fertility and child mortality and enhanced empowerment of women. Since these are only long-term measures, some short-term steps like complete halt to child marriage and compulsion of contraceptive measures after two child-births need be immediately taken up.

 

***************************************

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

LIBERHAN REPORT AND BABRI MOSQUE DEMOLITION

SAIKH MD SABAH AL-AHMED

 

It was the nascent 1990's; the deeply lacerating wounds from the frenzied and mawkish Mandal Commission brouhaha had only just healed: India's cretaceous political fabric was slowly but surely limping back to normal, after the somewhat tentative tenures of the effete doppelganger governments led by VP Singh (December 2, 1989 – November 10, 1990) and Chandra Shekhar (November 10, 1990 – June 21, 1991). The refreshing winds of change were nonchalantly blowing over India's 'economic envelope'. a whiff of fresh air too, was carelessly caressing the hitherto rigidly-pedantic economics of India, courtesy, our then Finance Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, an Oxford-educated economist widely credited for initiating economic reforms like liberalisation, that finally ended the infamously-suffocating Licence Raj system.


It was lust around these progressive times of economic transformation that the very foundations of the Indian nation-State were rocked by the brazen demolition of the historic 16th century Mughal-era Babri Mosque located at the ancient city of Ayodhya, the old capital of Awadh, in the Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh. It was a shameful-Sunday of December 6, 1992; a profanely asinine act of desecration and defilement, perpetrated by an over-zealous, raucous and fanatical cartel of iconoclastic kar-sevaks. The then PV Narasimha Rao-led Congress minority government literally slept through the entire demolition; crippled by failure, coupled with its sheer inaction to protect the Babri Mosque, it immediately resorted to a 'being wise after the event act' by setting up the "Liberhan Ayodhya Commission of Inquiry" on December 16, 1992, under Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan, then a serving Judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court, who, later on, not only served as a Judge of the Supreme Court, but also became the Chief Justice of both the Madras and Andhra High Courts.


It was on June 30, 2009, that Justice MS Liberhan finally submitted his voluminous 1, 029 page-report to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in presence of Union Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram. The controversially-copious, long-awaited report took nearly 17 laboriously-long years, 399 sittings, 100 witnesses, 48 extensions and cost a whopping Rs 8 crore. The Commission in August 2005 had finished hearing its last witness, Kalyan Singh, who was Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister at the time of the demolition and was dismissed soon after. The report, which is in four volumes, has an extensive set of annexures. This apart, with 48 extensions to its mandate, it had gone on to become India's longest-serving commission of inquiry.


The "Report of the Liberhan Ayodhya Commission of Inquiry" set up by an order of the then Union Home Ministry to inquire into the sequence of events leading to, and all the facts and circumstances relating to the razing of the historic Babri Mosque, was tabled in the Lok Sabha along with the 13-page Action Taken Report (ATR), by Home Minister P Chidambaram on November 24, 2009. The English version of the report was tabled during Zero Hour, a day after the leakage of its findings to The Indian Express set off a frenzied political storm of sorts. The Liberhan Report has held 68 people, including former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, responsible for "bringing the country to the brink of communal discord". The list also includes Lal Krishna Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi as well as Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray the then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders Ashok Singhal and Pravin Togadia, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief KS Sudarshan as well as Govindacharya, the late Vijayaraje Scindia, Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti and Sadhvi Rithambara. Bureaucrats have been named too, including AK Saran, IGP (security) and Chief Secretary VK Saxena.


The Commission has identified the then Kalyan Singh-led BJP government in Uttar Pradesh as the key to the execution of the conspiracy to demolish the Babri Mosque. The probe report labelled the Babri Mosque demolition as "tailor made" and blamed Kalyan Singh for collusion. Justice MS Liberhan in his report observes: "It stands established beyond doubt that the events of the day were neither spontaneous nor unplanned nor an unforeseen overflowing of the people's emotion, nor the result of a foreign conspiracy as some overly imaginative people have tried to suggest". The report also accuses the RSS of being the chief architect of the demolition. Justice MS Liberhan has termed Atal Behari Vajpayee, LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi as "pseudo-moderates", pretending to keep a distance from the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign when they were actually aware of the whole conspiracy. But surprisingly the ATR does not recommend any punitive action against these 68 persons, (as, according to Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily, it was only a fact-finding Commission), though the government promises to enact a Communal Violence Bill to prevent and control riots and setting up special courts to deal with them.


Coming back to the Babri Mosque itself, a fleeting account of its majestic grandeur becomes all the more obligatory, more so, to give us a quaint sense of an awesome architectural marvel, which we seem to have forlornly lost forever. The Babri Mosque is believed to have been constructed by order of the first Mughal emperor of India, Zahir ud-din Muhammad Babur, (February 14, 1483 AD — December 26, 1530 AD) in Ayodhya, roughly in between 1527 AD-1528 AD. It is also vaguely believed that it was actually Mir Baqi, Babur's commander-in-chief, who, on the orders of Babur, was the man behind the construction of the Babri Mosque, although, there seems to be a historical ambiguity of sorts to corroborate its veracity with exactitude. The Babri Mosque was one of the largest mosques in Uttar Pradesh and followed the architectural school of Jaunpur. According to Graham Pickford, architect to Governor-General of India Lord William Bentinck: "A whisper from the Babri Masjid Mihrab could be heard clearly at the other end, 200 feet away, and through the length and breadth of the central court".


The brazen act of bringing down the historic Babri Mosque by an amalgam of around 200,000 kar sevaks, who literally tore the mosque down, using hammers and their bare hands, was an act that swiftly brought about an overnight paradigm shift, even a global attitudinal change, vis-a-vis India's age-old liberal, tolerant and pluralistic-polity. This apart, the most disturbing part of the entire shameful episode was that the Babri Mosque was blatantly destroyed in front of a feeble Faizabad district administration, that too, despite a commitment to the Supreme Court that the mosque would not be harmed.


This apart, claims of a Ram temple under the mosque had persisted throughout history, many people believing that Babur had built the mosque after demolishing the temple. But no specific mention was made of this in the Baburnama (memoirs of Babur) though, and some historians believe Babur merely repaired an existing edifice of a mosque. Sadly, neither Lord Ram nor Emperor Babur are alive today to have testified before Justice MS Liberhan, so as to settle this profusely sensitive national imbroglio once and for all, that actually started on December 22, 1949, when idols of Ram Lalla were allegedly installed inside the Babri mosque in the night by a group of saffron-fanatics, following which a court ruled that the site be locked against entry to quarrelling Hindus and Muslims. Regardless of all these, the fact of the matter is that on a shameful-Sunday of December 6, 1992, around 200,000 saffron-clad militants (read zealots), mostly from the VHP, climbed over the hallowed edifice to bring it down, literally to rubble; a national wound that 17 years later, still throbs, still pierces, still lacerates the hearts of every peace-loving, devout Muslim in India.

 

***************************************

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

THE SURRENDER EPISODE AND ITS AFTERMATH

DR M P BAROOAH

 

From time to time some of the cadres from different militant organisations in Assam like the NDFB, ULFA, DHDU) etc have come overground to surrender, sometimes with arms and sometimes without them to join the mainstream on condition, that they would be rehabilitated into the socio-economic platform. On the other hand some militant cadres surrender only after their apprehension and the cadres are housed in designated camps for a pretty long time without serious thought by the authorities over their rehabilitation. It is a fact that some cadres come out on their own due to. frustration or dissension arising out of the negligence from the high-ups of the organisation. Be that as it may, the point is that the government should not buy time and keep the encampment of the cease-fire cadres for a long time in which case the disgrutled lots may opt out for yet another jungle life. Some of the inmates of designated camps warned that if unrehabilitated for long, they might return to the jungle and take up arms. This would create problems for the government like Frankenstein did to its master.


It is said that an idle brain is the devil's workshop. The surrendered militant cadres provided with food and shelter cannot obviously be happy over the ongoing situation of languishment in the camps since the government cannot give them life-long encampment benefits. Of course packages are planned by the Centre to cater to the needs of inmates of the designated camps. It is a matter of concern that always a gap remains between plan and implementation from the government side.


The need of the hour is that the Centre should forthwith create a central pool (of funds) for the State of Assam and thrash out the rehabilitation aspect with unified command in office. The surrendered cadres in the camps should be inducted into Indian Army for its civil, military and engineering wings and cases against the militant cadre should be dropped as a good will gesture. It is presumed that the militant cadres need not be trained while on entry into regular army since they are already well-versed in guerilla ware-fare. Their joining the army would be a bonus for the security organisation. Those outside the ambit of army wing may be used in civil, engineering units along with health wing since the militant organisations have civil wings capable of handling these departments. The economic package to each surrendered cadre in the shape of cash grants (like Rs 2/3 lakh) is simply fruitless as experiences prove. Presently in the designated camps of Assam, there are about 4000 inmates. Majority of them are having warfare experience. Let them be inducted into the army with deserving ranks.

The next step is that rehabilitation of a few in civil, engineering and health units in the army and they are supposedly experienced in those fields. It may be mentioned that a host of ex-BLT cadres were inducted into the security network of the BTAD council. Likewise, the inmates of designated camps should be immediately inducted into security network. This step would surely induce the underground elements to come overground with Popes of social establish-ment. It will be a great motivation for them. Otherwise, the display of surrender episode in the print and electronic media would be a "sound ... signifying nothing."


The militancy situation in Assam now has somewhat changed from that existed one or two years back in view of the fact that coordination amongst different militant organisations has been dismantled with a sizeable number of militants and cadres in 'custody' supporting a pro-talk platform provided that they be rehabilitated in letter and spirit.


Militancy in Mizoram or the Punjab is over. Moreover, Myanmar and the present Bangladesh have stopped upping the ante in terms of the galvanisation of the militant outfits probably on geo-political grounds. The recent gesture of the Hassina regime led to the 'arrest' of ULFA foreign secretary, Sasadhar Chaudhury and finance secretary Chitravan Hazarika. Now, with the big guns of the ULFA like Bhimkanta Buragohain, Mithinga Daimary, Anup Chetia and others away from organisational activities, an atmosphere prevails for a dialogue which the government must initiate without politicising the nagging issue. While viewing the 'arrest' of ULFA leaders recently as a 'blow' to the organisation, Mithinga Daimary has not ruled out the solution of the problems. It may be assumed that Daimary has given indication in an indirect way about the resumption of a 'talk' between the government and the militant organisation.


Peace is the need of the hour. History repeats itself: Violence, enmity, hatred and the likes have no solid base in the history of human civilisation. That is why Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln are remembered to this day and not Hitler, Mussollini or Stalin. Let the surrendering militants and their cadres including the latest addition of DHD(J) group in designated camps be rehabilitated in letter and spirit, let the cases against them, real and 'fabricated' be withdrawn for the greater interest of inducing them into joining the "main stream" about which the high-ups in the army and civil camps often refer to in the print and electronic media. The divide-and-rule diplomacy of the erstwhile Britishraj led to the formation of seven States from the flesh of Assam (united) which was greater than UK at one time. Political dismantlement of Assam has rendered Assam into an underdeveloped State which is the key factor in the rise of militancy. "Human resources" involving the ULFA and the public have been wasted in the loss of life and damage to property from both sides. Let us bid good-bye to violence and say as the great poet Tennyson said: "Ring out the false, ring in the true."

 

 ***************************************

******************************************************************************************

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE KAIGA WARNING

 

The recent incident of water in one particular water cooler at the Kaiga Nuclear Power Plant in Karnataka being spiked with a small dose of heavy water serves as a wake-up call on industrial safety, days before the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy. We need higher safety standards and their rigorous implementation at locales dealing with hazardous substances.

 

Employee sabotage at a nuclear plant is shocking, but not implausible, and so must be taken into account in the security protocol. Of course, the Kaiga incident in which 55 employees had to be hospitalised is nowhere on the scale of the Bhopal tragedy. But given the huge expansion that has been envisaged in the nation's nuclear programme, foolproof safeguards against any untoward incident become all the more vital.


Given that expansion and the historic international recognition and acceptance of our nuclear programme and capabilities, one could also argue that India's nuclear establishment no longer needs to be cloaked in excessive secrecy. Ushering in greater transparency would boost national and global confidence in our safety and security procedures. Indeed, that in itself would be an important aspect of India settling into the role of a fully-established and responsible nuclear power. And safety standards are not just about engineering, as the theft of vials of heavy water at Kaiga shows. Standards must cover human conduct in their scope.


The destructive potential of nuclear energy, if not handled with utmost care, is too horrific to contemplate. The Chernobyl disaster proved how far-reaching and long-lasting the destructive effects of radioactive poisoning can be. As had the Japanese hibakusha, survivors of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who eked out painful lives and passed on mutant genes to their next generations. And as nuclear energy becomes increasingly more important for India, both because it helps us reduce our dependence on imported oil and because it is a cleaner source of energy, we cannot afford to let down our guard. Incidents like Kaiga must not recur, ever.

 

***************************************

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BASE CAMP POLITICAL REFORM

 

The corporate governance code for voluntary adoption recommended by a CII taskforce chaired by, surprise, Mr Naresh Chandra is welcome: it signals the right aspiration, even if it mostly regurgitates past recommendations for the most part. The taskforce comprises some venerable names in corporate governance, many who serve as independent directors on boards of the bluest-of-blue chip companies.


So if they find little original to say, it shows the soundness of past work on the subject. And focuses attention on the eco-system that prevents the flowering of insight into a harvest of public good. Nonetheless, it is welcome that the CII panel has suggested companies should voluntarily adopt these best practices rather than be forced into it by regulators such as Sebi (through Clause 49 of the Listing Agreement) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI).


Voluntary codes can be more effective as they would be implemented in the right spirit as opposed to a check-box compliance that most decreed codes invite. To ensure voluntary adoption of such codes, industry chambers such as CII and Ficci need to play a catalyst role. Many of its members have in the past opposed mandatory corporate governance codes and even ensured delayed implementation of Clause 49 by Sebi.


Perhaps the chambers should consider some incentives or disincentives to ensure members freely adopt best practices, rather than wait for another scandal to come out in the open. Satyam may have been a one-off incident, as the report says, given the size of malfeasance, but it is difficult to believe, when there is a strong nexus between business and political parties, that corporate practice is squeaky clean. Corporate governance practices can improve significantly only when the political funding mechanism is cleaned up.


The CII taskforce spells out the role, duties and responsibilities of non-executive directors, including independent directors, and provides parameters to assess their performance. Its recommendation that non-executive directors' compensation should have fixed and variable components may prod the directors take their role more seriously.


Managements too must ensure that board meetings are more than sponsored vacations for directors and spouses and that real work is transacted. More importantly, the code should not end up being another instance of check-the-box.

***************************************

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

THE COMEBACK KID

 

Few things can be as exciting as the sight of an enthusiastic young, fast bowler running in to bowl the first few overs of a Test match. It holds all the promise of a youthful beginning where no limitations are seen and the possibilities are infinite. The only thing more exciting is the sight of an enthusiastic young, fast bowler running in to bowl after making a comeback from injury and months in the wilderness.


But, then, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth has always defied the odds right from that winter day in 2005 when, while playing the finals of the Challenger Trophy where different Indian teams face each other, he continued to bowl at his fastest even though the batsmen needed just a few runs to win. His team lost but he came across as someone trying to fulfil the schoolboy's dream that nothing is impossible!


That dream came true in 2006 when Sreesanth bowled India to its first Test win in South Africa, taking 5 for 40 in an innings. The former South African fast bowler Allan Donald praised Sreesanth's consistent line and length and the upright seam position with which he bowled the perfect outswinger.


A year later, he helped India win the inaugural T20 World Cup. However, at some stage, the injuries cropped up, something all fast bowlers are prone to in this day and age when too much of international cricket is being played. The scream he let out when he hit Andre Nel for a six in that first Test win in South Africa was regarded as amusing. His snarling at international players when the wickets stopped coming his way attracted criticism.

The best thing Sreesanth did was to remove himself from the media glare and recover his form and fitness by playing county cricket this summer for Warwickshire whose bowling coach was Allan Donald. His six-wicket haul in the Kanpur Test of the ongoing Indo-Lanka series is the stuff that comeback-kid dreams are made of!

 

***************************************

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: THE WAY AHEAD

Y V REDDY

 

The financial markets and large institutions are functioning without disruption today. In fact, there are some signs of euphoria in financial markets despite the fact that huge public funding of financial sector in the western world with bloated balance sheets of central banks persist. Further, the declining trends in output and employment have been arrested, and growth restored in some countries, but the adverse impact on economic activity and employment is still evident in many countries. The recent developments in Dubai are a reminder of the possibility of unexpected dangers.


Huge uncertainties remain in regard to the journey towards normalcy and the exit from the unconventional measures and stimulus. Managing the crisis has been critical and largely successful, thus front-loading the benefits, but the costs are back-loaded and the distribution of burden among the different sections of people in future contentious. Unless rigorous growth is restored in ample measure, the burden on the taxpayer or the stress on public services including healthcare and the pressure on prices may be noteworthy.


The crisis is global; actions are national; benefits could be universal; but burdens in future on their account have to be incurred at national level. Exit is essential as the risks to growth abate and inflation risks emerge and intensify. The timing of exit is critical since premature exit may derail recovery and growth while a delayed exit may feed inflation and threaten growth over the medium term. Each country will have to consider the tools for it to exit.


More important, communication of policies and intent becomes challenging if the interests of financial market participants and the intent of policy diverge. Such a divergence was not observed, particularly at the time of crisis, though not all economies.


There are, broadly speaking, two approaches to new normalcy. One advocates rethink; rethink of the fundamental, ideological and theoretical foundations of a market economy. In practical terms, this is reflected in an informal chat with a Chinese official, who said that they used to see the US as their teacher but now they realise that the teacher keeps making mistakes and, hence, they have decided to quit the class. There are some who express doubt about the validity of conventional wisdom after assessing the economic performance of the US and China. For example, China has shown that high growth in real sector for a prolonged period was possible consistent with stability without any significant development of a modern free market-based financial sector. It is also not clear how China is able to ward off inflationary pressures if the currency has systematically remained devalued for a prolonged period.


Initiatives have been taken to develop new economic thinking (INET), which has an advisory board that includes two winners of Nobel prize in economics. It is, therefore, argued that the current Great Recession, comparable to Great Depression, may result in such a fundamental rethink of theory, practice and institutions.


The alternate view is that the markets do benefit the society and economy significantly, but some of the excesses or aberrations that took place leading to the crisis need to be rebalanced, within the broader but existing framework.


At this stage, it is reasonable to assume that the destination of exit strategies currently under consideration would be towards a new normalcy based on yet-ill-defined rebalancing. However, the rebalancing will be in favour of state; the presumption will continue to be in favour of relative efficiency of markets; but with a clear understanding that it is a presumption that could be rebutted when appropriate, with state acquiring the policy space to intervene at its discretion.


There is recognition that there has been excessive financialisation of the economy with a cognisable disconnect between development in real sector — i.e., goods and services finally consumed — and that in financial sector. At the same time, finance plays a critical role in mobilising resources and allocating them efficiently. Finance contributes to the well being of people through a variety of ways. The real issue is determining the appropriate level of financial sector development as well as sophistication and regulation that promotes genuine innovation and curbs excess speculation.


In any case, there is a consensus on the excessive leverage in the financial sector, warranting corrections. Some curbs on the growth of financial sector relative to real sector thus seem to be part of rebalancing that should occur. This may take several forms that are already under consideration, viz. higher capital cushions; curbs on managerial remuneration; changes in incentive framework; taxes on financial transactions; measures for investor and consumer protection including for certification of safety of financial products; restrictions on over-the-counter trade; expanding the scope and intensity of regulation etc.


There is a virtual consensus that the regime of regulation of financial sector in major developed countries needs a thorough overhaul. The crisis has strengthened the view that globalisation of finance has significant risks unlike globalisation of trade which had been, on the whole, beneficial. The rebalancing could happen by globalising regulation or recalibrating globalisation of financial sector or a combination of both.


There are efforts to develop globally-acceptable standards of regulation, at a technical level in Board for Financial Stability. The renewed interest in capital controls, Tobin Tax and strengthening of regulation by host countries may be indicative of the reality of recalibrating globalisation of finance.


The focus on tax havens is a recognition of the fact that harmonisation of financial regulation at a global level may not address the issues of tax arbitrage.


More generally, the advocacy of counter-cyclical regulation also affects the balance between policy-space available at national level and compulsions of global finance. The national authorities have to decide on the weight to be given to national level economic cycles and global cycles, unless it is assumed that they will always converge. Further, counter-cyclical policies, to be effective, require harmonisation of policies of financial regulation, monetary and fiscal authorities.


The rebalancing exercise in regulation of financial sector may have to address the broader issues of policy-space for national authorities and governance of arrangements that oversee globalisation of finance.


(Edited excerpts from the former RBI governor's S Ranganathan Memorial Lecture, 2009, delivered on Nov 30)

***************************************

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

HUMAN ELEMENT THE DECISIVE ONE

VITHAL C NADKARNI

 

James Cameron obviously had the blue-skinned God Vishnu in his mind while making his latest film. The movie is called Avatar, or reincarnation, something for which Vishnu is celebrated in the Indian mythical tradition. The complexion of the protagonists, a humanoid race known as Na'vi, is an electrifying shade as blue as the sky-coloured God's skin.


But the divine symbolism is more than skin-deep. The hero of Avatar is a paraplegic ex-marine who lies in a casket-like space vessel, while his consciousness is projected into an avatar: "Vishnu-blue and nine-feet-tall", like the native extra-terrestrials.


As a pre-viewer says, "It's a fantasy about fantasy, about the experience of sitting inert in the dark while your mind enters another world." Unlike the eastern avatar, the Hollywood version is not about to save the alien world from wrack and ruin. Initially, all the avatar wants to do is to infiltrate among Pandora's local people only for the sake of exploiting a precious superconductor called Unobtanium. As the name suggests, it can only be obtained on planet Pandora under conditions that are extremely noxious to humans.


But then the ex-marine Jake, through his avatar, falls in love with the Na'vi princess, who then teaches him to live in harmony with nature. In turn, the avatar leads his beloved's people in a war of insurrection against the 'evil exploiter' colonists.


So, the movie once again swings back to resonate with yet another blue-skinned avatar of Vishnu, who was famed for his yellow raiment, and who delivered an immortal discourse on the mother-of-all-battlefields called Kurukshetra in India.


The director has played God in other ways for the first film made by him in 12 years after the success of Titanic: he worked with a linguist to develop the Na'vi language, inspired by fragments of Maori he picked up in New Zealand years ago.


He based Pandora, and its myriad flora and fauna partly on the creatures of the coral reefs and kelp forests he has seen at the abyssal depths. As George Lucas, another director known to be imbued with 'God complex', says, "Creating a universe is daunting. I'm glad Jim is doing it — there are only a few people in the world who are nuts enough to. I did it with Star Wars, and now he's trying to challenge that."


But in the end, what will make it (or break it) is the human element, just as in the millennial Indian epics of avatars.

 

***************************************

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

ALLOCATE 15% OF BUDGET FOR FARM: KAYANO NUWANZE

SHABANI BHATIA

 

India could get an additional $120 million for agricultural development by 2012 but the Indian government needs to do a lot more to match up to measures undertaken by the developed countries says Kayano Nuwanze, president of International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad). On his first visit to India as Ifad president, he told ET NOW that India must set aside 15% of its annual budget for agriculture and rural development. Excerpts:

How do you you view the ongoing rural projects in India?

The Indian government is doing a lot, but much more is required. We are confronted with many issues such as rising population, change in dietary habits and climatic changes. The need of the hour is to address the complexity of issues by adapting to new technology. We need to focus on providing infrastructural facilities, incentivising productivity and giving greater decision-making powers to farmers directly. We must concentrate on community development to empower the bottom of the pyramid that constitutes a sizeable chunk of the country's population.

Would you say that both the developed and the developing countries are doing their bit for further development of agriculture?

The G8 countries have set aside over $20 billion for agricultural investment, but this is not enough. There are heightened concerns over new money being deployed for the same. We should not expect G8 countries to provide necessary funds for other countries to develop their own economies. The developing countries have to demonstrate real political will to match investment by G8 countries. We need to look at global partnerships to cope with this situation.


Developing nations should allocate 15% of annual budgets for agricultural development on an annual basis. India's rural belt has great potential to grow along with Brazil, China and Africa.

 

Commodity prices have doubled over the past year for tea, sugar and coffee. Is the government on track to stabilise the volatility in prices?

We must recognise that in some cases, the price hikes are independent of the economy. You had a drought that affected about 15% of rice production. So clearly, it is climatic changes that's affecting the productivity. Countries in eastern Africa are exposed to extreme drought. Hence, there is a need for global partnerships: on how we can invest in the most vulnerable population in most vulnerable sectors. Otherwise, the gap will lead to food insecurity and multiple challenges that will be beyond the control of any government.


Are you looking to increase your investment in India for rural development?

India has received largest investments by Ifad over the last 30 years. India is our largest partner in over 23 projects since 1979. We have invested over $650 million of our own investments and the total co-financed package is in excess of $1.5 billion. We are looking to invest close to $120 million in the three years beginning 2010. The investments will be made in developing tribal areas, rural financing and resource management.


Acquisition of agricultural land in regions such as Africa is one of the most controversial issue right now. Should this practice be encouraged?

I see it as an investment in agriculture and optimisation of natural resources in regions where it is under-invested. This brings greater employment opportunities but it's more about how the deal has been structured. I believe we have a potential of new partnerships when resource-rich countries get financial aid from the investing country.

 

If such moves are successful, countries such as Sudan and Ethiopia could, through partnerships, increase production, productivity and income. If done correctly and without marginalising the population, this could be a win-win situation. If the motive is profit for a small group, then it will surely ruin the partnership.


Finally, what is the main agenda put forth during your visit to India?

Simple. Increase investment in rural population and rural development. Meeting challenges of the rural community should be the key to agricultural growth. Measures to tackle food security and climatic changes should be kept in mind. It not possible to prevent shocks like drought or excessive rains but we need to learn to sustain growth despite the severity of shocks.

 

***************************************

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

INDIA READY FOR A NEW DAWN: STEPHEN ROACH

ANDY MUKHERJEE

 

The global economy may see a very subdued anaemic recovery, says Stephen Roach, chairman, Morgan Stanley Asia Pacific. In an interview with ET NOW, Mr Roach says he is optimistic about India because "its micro story looks good and the macro is getting better". Excerpts:

 

You have said recently that there will be no V-shape recovery from this global recession. What makes you so confident?

Forecasting is often times an art and not a science, but there are four key reasons to look for a much more restrained rebound from this crisis. One, the financial crisis itself is far from over, financial institutions have written off collectively about $1.7 trillion of toxic acids in the aftermath of this crisis, IMF estimates suggest they are only halfway through that process.


Secondly, this is a much broader downturn that we have seen in the past. The low point the global economy had about 75% of all the economies in recession in March of 2009. Normally that number is 50-50. Thirdly, the demand side of the world is going to be restrained for years to come by the biggest and most overextended consumer in the world, the American consumer who has suffered lasting damage in the bursting of the property and credit bubbles.


Finally, Asia itself remains a region driven more by supply, exports and export-led investment especially in China, less so in India which is a good news for India. So, I see a very subdued anaemic recovery in the global economy.

Talking about the US, do you really see the possibility of a Japanese style lost decade or perhaps something a bit more sinister?

I do not want to generalise, Japan, of course, is now at two lost decades, not just one but the US consumer has been seriously damaged. The US consumption share of GDP still today stands at a record 71.2% of GDP; no country has ever taken consumption to that excess. It was not supported by income. Whether that is a lost decade or not it is hard to say but it is going to be several years before the American consumer has repaired the damage that has been done.


You've said one of the key challenges post the bubble will be to correct the global imbalance of excess US consumption and excessive Asian saving. Do you think that this is going to be a long and painful process of readjustment?

Well, depending upon the economy, depending on the state of imbalance in the respective economies, it can be painful and that will be the case in the US. But in the case of China where there are some excesses in terms of investment is unmistakable. If China now moves aggressively to put in place pro-consumption policies as part of its new 12th five-year plan that will be enacted in 2011, it need not be painful.


You envision a new era of reforms in India. What makes you optimistic because successive Indian governments have been known to over promise and under-deliver?

Well, I learned in watching India in great detail over the years. Change in India, opportunity in India is a process. It takes time, the debate is a rich one and those used to quick and aggressive action often times tend to get frustrated and disappointed at the rich lively and long and run-out process of debate and reform but I am optimistic in India for three reasons.

One, the micro story has always looked good and still good, a large collection of world class companies, a well educated English speaking, IT enabled workforce, relatively stable market institutions, financial institutions, world-known democracy. Secondly, the macro is getting better in India right now. National savings rates up, foreign direct investment inflows are up, even infrastructure share of GDP and thirdly, this political angle which you asked me about, post mid-May elections with the communist no longer in the ruling party coalition, there is some much better chance now than there was in the preceding five years to push through reforms.


So, if the government is eventually able to achieve those reforms in the context of solid micro and better macro then this is a great place for India to be.

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

7.9% GREAT, BUT IS IT TIME TO PARTY?

 

India's spectacular 7.9 per cent GDP growth in the second quarter (July-September) of this fiscal year should not have been entirely unexpected as the country's industrial production figures were showing a steady upward movement. Most of this is due to the growth in manufacturing, and while this is heartening, particularly for what it means on the employment front, it might be a little too early to say that the party can start once again. Both the finance minister and the Planning Commission deputy chairman were cautious in their assessment — indicating it might be wiser to wait for the third-quarter figures before thinking of celebrating. There are many reasons for such caution: one, that much of the growth could be attributed to government stimulus packages as well as being an effect of the Sixth Pay Commission's largesse; and two, that agriculture might not have been taken into account in its entirety. The agriculture ministry's advance estimates on production of foodgrains, oilseeds and commercial crops for 2009-10 indicate that the production of rice, coarse cereals, pulses and oilseeds are likely to decline by 17.9 per cent, 19.7 per cent, 7.5 per cent and 14.8 per cent respectively in contrast to the previous season. But as a government press note points out, since little of the anticipated kharif production of these crops accrues in July-September, this had not been taken into consideration while computing the Q2 GDP figure. These crops account for 18 per cent of GDP in agriculture; which means that 82 per cent of the Q2 agriculture figures are based on the anticipated production of fruits and vegetables, other crops, livestock, etc. The press note also showed a slowdown in the transport sector, with cargo handled at major ports and airports registering negligible or negative growth. This too raises doubts about the strength of the recovery. One factor that did contribute to higher GDP growth was drastically reduced inflation and negative inflation in this period. But inflation has been picking up since, so the third-quarter GDP figure could well throw up some surprises. Even as the euphoria over the 7.9 per cent GDP growth lingered in the stockmarket, albeit with less gusto than seen on Monday, there were indications from some quarters that manufacturing growth could have slowed in November. What is intriguing in the recent IIP figures is that they have been robust despite the slow growth in credit offtake. According to one report, credit outstanding fell by Rs 21,000 crore in the second half of October in contrast to the first half — a gap that was only partially offset by financing from other sources such as IPOs, private equity, external commercial borrowings, etc. The conventional wisdom is that if bank credit growth slows, so does industrial growth. The Reserve Bank of India also lowers interest rates so that industry gets access to bank credit in bad times such as the economic slowdown. But the spurt in IIP figures in recent weeks defies this theory. Earlier, for instance, the 2004-2008 economic boom was on the back of huge liquidity provided by bank credit. Interestingly, the robust GDP growth in Q2 has given rise to fears that the Reserve Bank might well begin the process of withdrawing some of the monetary stimulus measures it had initiated.

 

 ***************************************

DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

LIBERHAN'S WEAK SPOT

BY P.C. ALEXANDER

 

It will be highly hazardous to attempt a review of Justice M.S. Liberhan's report on the demolition of the Babri Masjid (hereafter referred to as the disputed structure) on December 6, 1992, without having had the opportunity of reading it.


I have some experience in assisting political bosses and the best that a former civil servant like me can do is concentrate on what strikes me as the most conspicuous weaknesses of the report.

 

The picture that emerges from the accounts in the media about the Central government at that time is that it knew what was to be done, namely, the introduction of President's Rule, but it was helpless and hesitant in taking the decision.


Let us examine how far Justice Liberhan had done justice to the evidence he had before him on this issue. Why was Justice Liberhan inclined to come to the conclusion that the Central government had no option but to continue to press the state government to make full use of the Central forces placed at its disposal, instead of assuming that power for itself and dealing with the situation in Ayodhya? Why was the Central government so reluctant to use the power it had to deal with the emergencies of the type which developed in Uttar Pradesh in 1992?


Let us briefly examine the legal and constitutional position regarding the introduction of President's Rule in a state. Though maintenance of public order is included in the state list of the Constitution, the framers of the Constitution were well aware of the fact that situations might arise when a state government might be unable to carry on its functions according to the provisions of the Constitution. That is why adequate provisions have been made in the Constitution for the Central government to intervene in situations of emergency so that it never finds itself helpless in such situations.


The Constitution mentions three types of emergencies:

 

* when the security of the country is threatened by war or external aggression or armed rebellion (Article 352);
* when the financial stability of the country is threatened (Article 360); and* when there is a failure of the constitutional machinery in a state (Article 356).

 

***************************************

DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

OBAMA LEADS AFGHAN WAR FROM THE FRONT

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

In late 2006, Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. James F. Amos released a brilliant book with a thrilling title. It was called the Army/Marine Corps Field Manual 3-24. In its quiet way, this book helped overturn conventional wisdom on modern warfare and gave leaders a new way to see the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It's a mistake to think you can succeed in conflicts like these by defeating the enemy in battle, the manual said. Instead, these wars are better seen as political arguments for the loyalty of the population. Get villagers to work with you by offering them security. Provide services by building courts and schools and police. Over the long term, transfer authority to legitimate local governments.


This approach, called comprehensive counter-insurgency (COIN), has reshaped military thinking, starting with the junior officers who developed it and then spreading simultaneously up and down the chain of command.
When US President Barack Obama conducted his first Afghanistan strategic review last winter, he too gravitated toward the (COIN) mentality, appointing Gen. Stanley McChrystal, one of the chief architects of COIN, to run the war effort there.


This fall, General McChrystal came back with his own report, and made two key recommendations. First, the US should deliver a sharp blow, to regain the initiative and reverse the Taliban's momentum. Second, he wrote, "Success demands a COIN campaign".


But over the past few months, senior members of the Obama administration have lost some of their enthusiasm for COIN. It may be a good approach in the abstract, they say, but there are problems with applying it in this particular context.


First, they say, COIN is phenomenally expensive. It consists of doing a lot of things at once — from increasing troop levels to nation-building — and doing them over a long period of time. America no longer has that kind of money, and Americans won't accept a new 10-year commitment having already been there for eight.
Second, it may be possible to clear and hold territory, but it is looking less likely that we will be able to transfer it to any legitimate Afghan authority. The Karzai government is like an organised crime ring. The governing talent is thin. Plans to build a 4,00,000-man Afghan security force are unrealistic.


Third, they continue, the population in Afghanistan is too dispersed for COIN to work properly. There would be a few bubbles of security, where allied troops are massed, but then vast sanctuaries for the insurgents.
Fourth, COIN is too Afghan-centric and not enough Pakistan-centric. The real threats to US interests are along the Afghan-Pakistani border or involve the destabilisation of the Pakistani government. The COIN approach does little to directly address that.


The administration seems to have spent the past few months trying to pare back the COIN strategy and adjust it to real world constraints. As it has done so, there has been less talk in the informed policy community about paving the way for a new, transformed Afghanistan. There has been more talk of finding cheap ways to arrange the current pieces of Afghanistan into a contraption that will stay together and allow us to go home.
What's emerging appears to be something less than a comprehensive COIN strategy but more than a mere counter-terrorism strategy — shooting at terrorists with drones. It is a hybrid approach, and after we watch President Obama's speech (Tuesday night in the US), we'll all get to judge whether he cut and pasted the different options into a coherent whole. It's not the troop levels that matter. What matters is how this war will be fought.

Some very smart people say that the administration's direction is already fatally flawed. There is no such thing as effective COIN-lite, they argue. All the pieces of a comprehensive strategy have to be done patiently and together because success depends on the way they magnify one another.


These experts may be right. But none of us get to have our first choice on this matter. President Obama faces such a devilishly complex set of constraints that the policy he announces will be partially unsatisfying to every American and to every member of his administration. The fights inside have been so brutal that there have been accusations that the defence and state departments have withheld documents from the President to bias his thinking.


Nonetheless, my impression, pre-speech, is that Obama has negotiated these constraints in a serious manner, and improved some of his options — for example, by accelerating troop deployments. He has not been enthusiastic about expanding the US role in Afghanistan, but he has not evaded his responsibility as commander-in-chief, and he's taking brave political risks.


It may not be the complete COIN strategy, which offers the best chance of success. But it may be the best strategy under the circumstances.

 

***************************************

DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

1947: Partition in the Army

By S.K. Sinha

 

The fact that the Indian Army also influenced the decision on Partition needs to be taken into account. After their experience with Cromwell's military dictatorship, the British ardently nurtured the concept of an apolitical army. It suited them to transplant that concept in the Indian Army that they raised. While this concept continues to hold good in India, it was thrown overboard in Pakistan. After 1857, the British decided not to have one-class regiments except for Gorkhas and Garhwalis. All other combat units were composed of 50 per cent Muslims and 50 per cent non-Muslims. Different communities living together in war and peace and encouraged to remain apolitical developed a regimental ethos that held them together.


I was commissioned in the Jat Regiment, which had two companies of Jat Hindus and two of Muslims. I served with a Punjabi Muslim company. I found the regimental spirit among the men strong. There was no communal divide. This continued in the Army till the end of 1946 but started cracking in 1947, reaching breaking point by August 1947. Yet I saw that when the Muslim companies of the Jat Regiment were going to Pakistan, tears were shed on both sides. This happened in other regiments as well.


Indian officers during British rule hardly ever discussed political matters among themselves. I recall that in Rangoon, soon after the end of World War II, one junior British officer referred to the INA as traitors and used vulgar epithets. There was no senior officer present in the Mess. This led to a heated discussion between the British and Indian officers, both Hindus and Muslims.


The Indian Army then got involved in a strange war in Indonesia. It had been sent there primarily to take the surrender of the Japanese. The Dutch had been driven out and accompanied the Indian Army to re-establish colonial rule. But the Indonesians had declared independence and had their own army. The Indian Army got involved in fighting the Indonesians. The Indonesians would tell us that we were ourselves not free and yet we were fighting against their becoming independent. This was embarrassing to hear. When the Indonesians raised the banner of Islam in their appeal to Indian soldiers, I was told that about a thousand or more of our Muslim soldiers deserted and joined them. They were left behind when we came out from Indonesia. I mention this because this was the first time that I saw the virus of communalism affecting the Army.


Notwithstanding the early signs in Indonesia, it is remarkable that during the outbreak of communal violence in August 1946 and till well after 1947 had set in, the Indian soldier, Hindu and Muslim, showed remarkable impartiality when dealing with communal violence. This was so in Kolkata in August 1946, in Bihar in October 1946 and in Garhmukteshwar (Uttar Pradesh) in November 1946. Two or three battalions of the Bihar Regiment, which had Hindus and Muslims in equal number, had operated in Bihar during the communal riots with complete impartiality. At the time of those riots, Col. Naser Ali Khan, who later went to the Pakistan Army, and I were serving at General Headquarters in Delhi. He was many years senior and always very kind. One morning at breakfast, after having read a newspaper report about the Bihar riots, he told me excitedly that his blood boiled when he remembered that I was Bihari. I told him I condemned what was happening in Bihar more than him. He was not the only Muslim officer I interacted with in Delhi who was so worked up over the terrible rioting in Bihar. I mention these incidents to show how circumstances were forcing the communal virus to spread in the Army. Till March 1947, things appeared under control. Localised communal riots took place in different places and the Army, deployed to maintain order, remained disciplined and impartial. Wavell, in his farewell address on March 21, 1947, said, "I believe that the stability of the Indian Army may perhaps be the deciding factor in the future of India".

With Muslim League ministries coming to power both in Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province, communal passions were sought to be aroused in a planned manner. Widespread communal riots erupted in Peshawar and Rawalpindi. Soon entire North India was on fire. The strain on the soldiers started showing. Most of the soldiers, both Muslim and non-Muslim, were from the north. Their homeland was being ravaged and, in several cases, their families had become victims. It was becoming increasingly difficult for them to remain impartial. The downslide became more perceptible after Partition was announced. The day after that announcement I met two officers in Delhi with strange shoulder titles — RPE and RPASC. In those days officers from Engineers and Army Service Corps wore the shoulder titles RIE (Royal Indian Engineers) and RIASC (Royal Indian Army Service Corps). Some officers had begun to wear Pakistan shoulder titles within hours of the Partition announcement and much before Pakistan was born. There were reports of senior Muslim officers going to meet Jinnah, who then lived at 10, Aurangzeb Road in Delhi.


On the morrow of Independence in August 1947 the Gilgit Scouts staged a coup, arresting Brigadier Ghansara Singh of the Kashmir Army who had been sent there as governor by the Maharaja. This was the first military coup in the Pakistan Army. More would follow.

 

The Punjab Boundary Force, comprising in equal measure units earmarked for the Indian and Pakistan Armies, was set up under a British commander in late July 1947. It was hoped that it would help maintain order on both sides of the border at a time when communal violence and migration were peaking. The experiment failed because the impartiality of the soldier had been eroded and there were several instances of soldiers taking sides. Large-scale violence again erupted in Kolkata, prompting Mahatma Gandhi to fast with dramatic effect. It was then that Mountbatten remarked that a one-man boundary force had succeeded in Kolkata while the 50,000-strong Punjab Boundary Force had failed in the north. The Punjab Boundary Force was disbanded and the two Dominions assumed responsibility for maintaining order on their side of the border.
In mid-1947, Sardar Patel, based on his experience in the Interim Government when the Muslim League had brought government functioning to a halt, the peaking of communal violence and the Army getting contaminated combating communal violence for nearly a year, realised there was now no alternative to Partition. His decision to salvage the wreck in 1947 was an act of statesmanship. Otherwise, things would have become much worse. We could have had a civil war with the Army broken up and participating from both sides. India may have broken up into several independent states, like the erstwhile Yugoslavia, or could have become a much larger version of today's Lebanon.

 

 The author, a retired lieutenant-general, wasVice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir

 

***************************************

DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

I HAVE TO GO ON...

BY JAVED ABIDI

 

In my 17 years of being what people call a "disabled activist", one thing I have never known is to be at a loss for words. But, like they say, there's always a first time. The other day a friend asked me: "Aren't you tired of doing what you do?" I was taken aback, perhaps a bit annoyed. After all, even I take myself so much for granted!


I smiled and kept quiet. But as the evening wore on, the question kept coming back. "Am I tired?" I asked myself. Not sure if I wanted a confrontation with myself, I tried to put the question away. By nightfall, it was haunting me!


Left with no choice, I began to reflect. Seventeen years of by and large the same work: Advocacy, bordering on activism; Education, employment and access; Press conferences, rallies, even dharnas. An eternal optimist and yet a certified "confrontationist". The enfant terrible of the Indian disability sector, constantly in someone's hair, good at turning friends into foes, and yet not bad at "converting" opponents into allies! Same work. Same accusations. Even the same gossip! Am I not tired? The truth is that I am tired. Very tired. Who wouldn't be? Repeatedly reminding India of our existence, that we are at least 70 million, that disabled Indians have rights too, that, damn it, we are as much citizens of this nation as the other, non-disabled, are!
But then there is another truth, the inner voice, which says: "I am tired, but I have to go on..."

 

Tomorrow, December 3, is World Disability Day (WDD). We have been celebrating it at India Gate for the last 12 years. There are times when it feels like a ritual. An annual event that has to be organised, because tradition demands so. Then, at other times, it feels like an upcoming major festival! A senior colleague once said that WDD for disabled people is like Eid, Holi, Diwali and Christmas, all rolled into one. It is that one day we all look forward to... because it is only on this one day that India remembers us! Government, politicians, media, civil society — all suddenly get a collective jolt and realise that there are 70 million disabled Indians amongst them. Functions are organised, posters printed, announcements made, celebrities paraded, charities abound, spots telecast, promises, promises and more promises made!


Promises are made only to be broken. Worst, forgotten. And the whole charade is then repeated, 364 days later, on "another" World Disability Day.

 

In 2005, the then human resource development minister announced a "Comprehensive Action Plan for Inclusive Education" in Parliament. The following statement was made, verbatim: "It will be our objective to make mainstream education not just available but accessible, affordable and appropriate for students with disabilities. All the schools in the country will be made disabled-friendly by 2020 and all educational institutions, including hostels, libraries, labs and buildings, will have barrier-free access. All universities will have a disability coordinator. University Grants Commission will assist all universities to establish a separate Department of Disability Studies. Talking text books, reading machines, computers with speech software, sign language interpreters, transcription services…"


This was not an off-the-cuff statement at some Spastics Society event. This speech was made in Parliament.
It will soon be five years since this well-intentioned speech was made. And it doesn't give me any happiness to say that not even a half-hearted beginning has been made. Making "all the schools" in the country disabled-friendly is a tall order, but how much does it take to ensure that all universities appoint a disability coordinator? Four Union Budgets have since been presented. Has even a paisa been allocated to ensure that our hostels, our libraries and our labs become barrier-free?


The Disability Act was enacted on February 7, 1996. Section 41 mandates "incentives" for the private sector to motivate them to give jobs to people with disabilities. Dream target — five per cent of the workforce! In 1999, the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) conducted a study on the so-called "Top 100" companies in India, including MNCs. As many as 70 responded. Average rate of employment of disabled people was 0.4 per cent.


Yet, no incentives were ever announced. It took a decade for the government to wake up from its slumber! Finally, in the 2007 Budget, P. Chidambaram announced a scheme on paper, but even here the "incentives" are so miniscule that no corporate seems interested.


Against the 1,00,000 jobs that are promised to people with disability every year, in the two years that have gone by only 261 appointments have been made. Yes, go ahead and pinch yourself! The figures are indeed that astonishing!

 

The law, passed by the Parliament in 1995, and enacted in 1996, categorically says that all public buildings and transportation will be made disabled-friendly. It has been 13 years and more. Forget making the existing infrastructure accessible, not even the newly-constructed architecture is disabled-friendly. From the fancy New Delhi Municipal Council toilets to the reception at the Supreme Court, or the brand new airport in Bengaluru, by and large nothing is "accessible". A girl in wheelchair gets admission on merit at a well-known law college in Pune, but is then denied education because the girls hostel was not conducive to her needs. The law is there, complaints are made, but no action is taken. The girl is heart broken, the family distraught. She gives up on her dream to be a lawyer.


This is the bitter reality in the 21st century, modern, nuclear-age India, where the present Union urban development minister himself happens to be an orthopaedically-impaired person.

 

Tomorrow, under the clear blue sky, thousands of disabled people will gather once again at the India Gate. The sun should shine. Disability colours of blue and yellow will reflect and spread cheer. Some, like me, may cry. Many will sing and dance and look forward to a better day.

 

* Javed Abidi, 44, is a disability rights activist. He has been a wheelchair user since the age of 15. He heads the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP).

 

 ***************************************

******************************************************************************************

THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

LUMPENS TAKE OVER

ON BEHALF OF A NON-ENTITY


THE lumpen knows no political affiliation and his services are available on hire, cutting across party lines. As much was reinforced during Monday's Bangla bandh called by the Bharatiya Janata Party expressly to protest against the price rise. It is difficult to perceive that a party, with zero representation in the assembly and barely a presence in the state, could have engineered the scale of arson and the disruption of train services. Whether or not the BJP acted with the moral and material support of the Left ~ two very unlike quantities ~ can only be speculated upon. That speculation deepens with the studied silence of the CPI-M brass and the manner in which the hooliganism was tacitly condoned by the law-enforcement authorities, such as it exists. Particularly muted has been the response of Mr Biman Bose. In terms of political logic, a Left dispensation would have strained every nerve to scuttle a BJP bandh. Far from it; the Right was allowed to flex its muscle and enforce the bandh with an effect that was as startling as it was destructive. It was almost as if the police were under instructions not to act as buses went up in flames and as impediments were placed on the rail tracks. The saffronite footsoldiers blended a lethal cocktail of political bankruptcy and calculated malevolence, unmistakably embedded in malice aforethought and a simulated concern over ballooning prices.


It is no defence of a bandh to argue that there might have been a scintilla of sensibility had a peaceful protest been observed not least because of the stated issue. As suspicions are bound to deepen over the source of a political non-entity's spurious expression of destructive strength, civil society is entitled to certain explanations from an administration that is trying to cope with existential dejection. Specifically, why was no attempt made to rein in the rampaging hooligans across the city and beyond? Was the show of lumpen violence studiously timed on the eve of the Central team's visit to the disturbed areas? Was the dubious exercise planned by the likes of Rajnath Singh and Rahul Sinha to impress an overbearing RSS on the eve of the selection of the next Opposition leader in the Lok Sabha? The answers may not be forthcoming just yet. For now, the moral of the story must be that a party ~ if a non-entity in Bengal and down-at-heel at the national level ~ can yet flaunt a certain nuisance value.

 

***************************************

THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

FLUNKED
IN THE COMMON APTITUDE TEST


Organisers of the Common Aptitude Test for admission to the Indian Institutes of Management (and a few dozen other management schools) have flunked. This is the most charitable construct that can be placed upon the rerun of the fiasco that has marked the weekend test. The systemic failure on the first day has been compounded by the inability to rectify the glitches on the second and third. In the net, the number of candidates who will have to face the test again has gone up from 350 in Kolkata on Saturday to 4,000 across the country. Of course, the computer system can blink in even the most state-of- the-art network. But it is the fiasco at the threshold of a prospective B-school career that must be particularly distressing. The organisers must acknowledge their responsibility, an admission that is as urgently necessary as fixing the revised dates. The next round is of relatively lesser moment than the fact that if technological advance is to be reflected in the test, it presupposes that the fundamentals are foolproof and absolutely so. It is all very well and in keeping with the times to replace pen and paper with a computerised format. This may even be in step with the ambience of an IIM campus. So it is that conventional means of communication were dispensed with this year at the altar of the computer, mouse, terminal and keyboard. But the net result has been terribly pathetic; indeed, the blank screen on two successive days in several centres in the country has veritably logged out the innovation.


Much like the computers that hanged, the aspirations of hundreds now hangs in the balance on account of this technological goof-up. A second test is on the anvil, which at once puts the uniformity of the standard open to question. The adjective ~ common ~ will scarcely be relevant. The candidates will be evaluated again precisely because of the failure of the organisers, indeed those who devised the online format. The system has worked remarkably well in the GRE for admission to US universities, but has floundered in its application in the home-grown centres of excellence. The high-profile admission test has had to be cancelled in 24 centres in 13 cities. Before rescheduling the dates for a fairly large segment of the candidates, the IIMs as much as the service provider owe people an apology. The virus has been damaging, morally as much as materially.

 

***************************************

THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

INSIPID 'ESSENCE'

QUESTION HOUR RAISES QUERIES


HAVING repeatedly and collectively demeaned the institution, it is unlikely that many members of the Lok Sabha would be troubled by the "collapse" of Question Hour on Monday, when 17 starred queries were junked because the questioners were absent. Understandably upset at having to adjourn the House, the Speaker will be writing to party leaders to maintain the sanctity of what she hails as "the essence of democracy", but there are slim chances of a positive response. After all, when disrupting Question Hour is now standard party practice, absenteeism cannot cause much concern ~ and there have been precedents. The leaders would tend to offer the excuse that it was a Monday, members could not return in time, a familiar scene on the opening day of the week which got exaggerated by the extended weekend break (maybe the railway minister could re-schedule the Rajdhani expresses so that they arrive earlier). What ought to be of greater concern than the financial implications, and loss of prestige of a no-show is an increasing sense among members that the government takes their queries lightly: the vague, evasive responses that conceal more than they reveal have had a negative impact (not that all questioners come "prepared"). Would the Speaker's missive address that too? For the reaction of the parliamentary affairs minister suggests that the government would not lament a scrapping or curtailment of the practice.


A re-look is certainly required. Perhaps listing only 10 instead of 20 starred questions a day would bring requisite focus: with just seven or eight taken up each day those whose queries are at the tail of the list are not enthused to be present. The "lottery" system by which queries are selected/numbered needs overhaul, the buzz is that it is manipulated. The Ethics Committee might also consider more intense monitoring. Long before the "cash-for-query" scam was exposed some queries invited the charge of being sponsored/influenced by commercial entities. Queries are also used as a pressure tactic. And never forget that sometimes ministers "persuade" those who have raised uncomfortable queries to absent themselves. One way to avoid a repetition of the "collapse" is to accept all listed questions as the "property of the House" and permit another member to formally raise it when the questioner is missing. Question Hour is too precious to depend on individuals' presence.

 

***************************************

THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

LONELINESS 'SPREADS LIKE A DISEASE'

PRESS TRUST OF INDIA


LONDON, 1 DEC: Believe it or not, loneliness spreads like a disease.

 

An international team has carried out the study and found that people who feel lonesome can spread that feeling to others "like a cold".


The study found that lonely people tend to spread their outlook on life to others and that over time the whole group of lonely, disconnected people move to the fringes of society, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Lead researcher Dr John Cacioppo of Chicago University said: "We detected an extraordinary pattern of contagion that leads people to be moved to the edge of the social network when they become lonely.
"On the periphery people have fewer friends, yet their loneliness leads them to losing the few ties they have left. These reinforcing effects mean that our social fabric can fray at the edges, like a yarn that comes loose at the end of a crocheted sweater.


"Because loneliness is associated with a variety of mental and physical diseases that can shorten life it is important for people to recognise loneliness and help those people connect with their social group before the lonely individuals move to the edges."


For the study, the researchers examined records of about 5,000 people who lived in Massachusetts. They made graphs that charted the subjects' friendship histories and data about their reports of loneliness, and so were able to establish a pattern that spread as people reported fewer close friends. The data showed that lonely people "infected" the people around them with loneliness, and those people moved to the edges of social circles.

 

 ***************************************

THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

BLEND OF BURKE & PITT

SHYAMAPRASAD AS A NATIONALIST DEMOCRAT

BY SOBHANLAL MUKHERJEE


I WELCOME The Statesman's efforts to examine the role of Shyamaprasad Mukherjee (1901-53) in its historical perspective. Indeed, recent articles maintain the tradition that was set by the paper with its obituary (24 June 1953). What a pity that a politician of the stature of Pranab Mukherjee brands him 'communal.'
I can never forget Shyamaprasad's warm smile and his gentle pat on the students at the annual prize-giving ceremony of my school. He was a father-figure. I am pained when professed secularists of a university in West Bengal rejected a PhD application on Shyamaprasad under my guidance, describing him as 'communal'.
Son of Sir Asutosh Mukherjee, a scholar, educationist and jurist, Shyamaprasad tried to implement his father's far-sighted policy to ensure that every home had a graduate. The Bengal Left ridiculed this policy of 'manufacturing clerks to serve an alien government'. Nonetheless, it helped evolve a cosmopolitan culture and equipped the intelligentsia to lead the freedom struggle.


None but a secular Shyamaprasad, the youngest Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University, could set up the department of Islamic History and Culture, strengthen the Pali  faculty, extend the scope of Sikh history, and generally promote Indian multi-culturism.  As the VC, he could well be called the 'Younger Pitt' primarily for his dedicated public service.


Hindu Mahasabha

HOWEVER, Subrata Mukherjee in his article entitled 'Creation of West Bengal' (26 September) wrongly portrayed Shyamaprasad as a 'product' of 'Hindu Mahasabha'. His political career was linked with that of Madan Mohan Malaviya (1861-1946), a senior Congressman. The rift surfaced when Ambica Charan Majumdar, the Faridpur Congress leader, presided over the Congress at Lucknow in 1916 and Malaviya differed on the Hindu-Muslim issue.


The latter presided over the Delhi session of the Congress and the Hindu Mahasabha as well (1920). The non-commital policy of the Congress was unacceptable to Malaviya. The party had adopted a 'neither accept nor reject' attitude towards the Communal Award. Malaviya set up the Nationalist Party in Benares in 1933 to fight elections under the new Act of 1935. The prominent nationalist leaders, who were elected to the new Central legislature from Bengal, were Akhil Datta and PN Banerjee. Congress got Sarat Chandra Bose, Netaji's eldest brother, elected. This strategy weakened the Nationalist Party in Bengal.


I quote from The Statesman's obituary: 'Dr SP Mukherjee was elected to the Bengal Legislative Council in 1929 as a Congress candidate from Calcutta University constituency. He resigned when the Congress decided to boycott the legislature, but was re-elected as in Independent candidate in 1930. He was later elected unopposed to the Bengal Legislative Assembly in 1937 and 1946 from the same constituency.'


The obituary is reinforced by archival sources that 'the Calcutta session of the All Indian Hindu Mahasabha in 1939 marked Shyamaprasad's entry into Mahasabha politics.' As a Bengal MLA, he was elected to the Indian Constituent Assembly in 1946. He also joined Nehru's interim government as a minister and resigned on 8 April 1950. He got himself elected to the first Lok Sabha as a Jan Sangh candidate, the party he founded in 1951, defeating the Congress and CPI candidates.


As an MLC, Shyamaprasad, the 'Indian Burke", strongly criticised the Bengal administration during the Dyarchy. He condemned the Primary and University Bill (1933), moved by Sir Nizamuddin as 'communal' (Bengal Legislative Council Proceedings). Instead of the scholar, Tarak Nath Sen, one Wadud was selected as lecturer in a government college on the flimsy ground that he had more teaching experience than Sen.
In a marathon speech, Shyamaprasad refuted the arguments of Mr Dain, a nominated European member, that British universities were then self-financing. WC Wordsworth, a nominated member and former Editor of The Statesman, praised Shyamaprasad, once his student, for his 'admirable speech.'


As a humanist as well as a nationalist, Shyamaprasad condemned the torture of political prisoners. One cannot forget how he pleaded for justice in the case of Anil Das, suspected to have been beaten to death in jail. Even the mighty Sir Pravash Chunder Mitter, in-charge of the jail, failed to convince Shyamaprasad with his replies, which were 'halting and apologetic.'


As an MLC, Shyamaprasad was rightly described by The Statesman as 'an outspoken critic, an expert parliamentarian and a 'forceful orator'.' His greatest asset was his trilingual skill ~ in English, Bengali and Hindi. He typified the best of the British parliamentary model. He was an institution by himself.


Shyamaprasad was minister for industry and supplies in Nehru's interim government. He was rather forced to appoint him pressed as he was by the small, but powerful, Indian Christian lobby, including HC Mukherjee, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, John Matthai et al who insisted on a Cabinet of talent.

 

Shyamaprasad's policy of pursuing a mixed economy still remains the underpinning of the government's policy. In the context of globalisation, his policy still seems valuable and viable for Third World countries.
The Statesman's obituary reported a significant change in Shyamaprasad's perspective of parliamentary politics. 'He saw no reason for the existence of a separate political organisation confined to Hindus as such. This view was under the active consideration of the Mahasabha Working Committee for nearly 15 months.
In January 1948, the urgency and importance of the question was aggravated by the murder of Mahatma Gandhi. On February 15, 1948, 15 days after the death of the Mahatma, the Hindu Mahasabha Working Committee resolved to confine its activities only to social and cultural work. This was in accordance with Dr Mukherjee's advice.' Six months later, however, 'the Mahasabha Working Committee rescinded this decision and resolved to resume its political activities. Towards the end of November 1948, Dr Mukherjee resigned from the Sabha Executive.'


NEHRU-LIAQUAT PACT

SHYAMAPRASAD resigned as a union minister on 8 April 1950 because of Nehru's failure to implement the pact with Liaquat on the protection of minorities in former East Pakistan. He started playing the role of an Opposition leader, resenting the Preventive Detention Act and proposing the abolition of Article 370 relating to Kashmir, specifically the unconditional integration of Jammu and Kashmir with India. He was arrested in Delhi in March 1953 on his way to Kashmir, but released by the Supreme Court on a habeas corpus petition. He then tried to return to jail, pending disposal of his case. He failed. Re-arrested, he died in a jail in Kashmir on 23 June 1953.


The Abdullah government of Kashmir and the Central dispensation of Nehru must be blamed for their utter negligence in handling Shyamaprasad, a known cardiac patient who fought his illness in the chilly, mountainous surroundings, without the minimum of medical care.


Umaprasad Mukherjee, the third brother of Shyamaprasad, published a book, 'Shyamaprasad Mukherjee ~ His death in Detention: A case for Enquiry.' Even the cries of his mother, Jogmaya Devi, for insaf, failed to evoke any response from the government. There is a certain aberration, a peculiar stupor, a strange sense of escapism, almost neurotic passivity in the Bengali ethos ~ the last moments of two of its great nationalist leaders are still shrouded in mystery. One of them has been blacklisted in certain quarters as 'Fascist Tojo's dog,' while the other has been given the label of 'communal.' They are remembered ritualistically, only on their birthdays! Is this hypocrisy or sheer indifference? Or sheer ingratitude, which Shakespeare poignantly describes in King Lear, as a 'marble-hearted friend?'


The writer is a retired Professor of Political Science, Rabindra Bharati University

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

THREE SURPRISES

 

When it comes to statistics, it is often easy to confuse numbers with facts. The Central Statistical Organization sprang a surprise on most people with the July-September quarterly GDP figures that showed the economy grew by an annualized 7.9 per cent. But before jumping for joy at reversing the economic slowdown, the numbers demand a closer look. There were, in fact, three surprises: one, agriculture, which was expected to show negative growth, actually grew by 11 per cent; two, the extent of government spending — GDP estimates are based on expenditure — which grew at nearly 27 per cent (compared to 10.2 per cent in the April-June quarter), raised many eyebrows; and three, services grew by 9.3 per cent against expectations of less than 7 per cent growth. Many analysts are cheered by the growth in personal consumption expenditure, which grew by 5.6 per cent against 1.6 per cent in the previous quarter. Investment was also up; gross capital formation grew by 7.3 per cent. The numbers also have some sobering reality checks; if not for the growth in government expenditure, growth in this second quarter at 4.9 per cent would have been lower than that in the first quarter (5.5 per cent). Despite the pick-up in investment demand, bank credit growth — which should be financing this growth — remains muted.

 

The CSO reports that there has been a decline in inventories or destocking. Yet, the Reserve Bank of India's Business Conditions Survey as well as Dun & Bradstreet's Business Expectations Index, and even the Purchase Managers Index, all indicate inventory restocking. The other area to be watched is statistical discrepancies: quarterly GDP estimates are based on expenditure or consumption, and they will vary with the income side. The difference between the two is included as discrepancies, which, for this quarter, was a very high negative 5.4 per cent, compared to 1.5 per cent on average. The discrepancies are sorted out when revisions are made later, and the amounts redistributed under the correct accounting heads. The bigger the discrepancy, the more uncertain the policy response.

 

In this instance, government officials have indicated that the stimulus will continue for the next two quarters. Many worry whether the RBI will begin to tighten liquidity — which is correcting already — through an increase in reserve requirements, leading to higher interest rates. Others worry that the return to fiscal prudence means the stimulus could be withdrawn before its objectives and benefits have been fully realized. It has been said that surprises are pleasant when they are expected. The latest GDP numbers are an unexpected surprise, and it is not clear that it is a pleasant one.

 

*************************************** 

THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

CASH COURSE

 

Does a corruption charge make any difference to an Indian politician's career or votebank? The arrest of Madhu Koda, the former chief minister of Jharkhand, raises the old question yet again. His political career has been brief, but it gave him enough time to amass wealth said to be to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore. The charge against him became something of a cause célèbre of the current polls in Jharkhand. But Mr Koda's story is hardly that of an individual's crime and punishment. It shows how the virus of corruption has spread through the body politic of the new state. Both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party have tried to make the case against Mr Koda a campaign issue against each other. But that is how politicians usually see corruption — not as a crime in itself, but as an issue for partisan campaigns. The Congress can hardly absolve itself from its responsibility in Mr Koda's case. Although an independent member of the state assembly, he survived as chief minister only because of the Congress's support to his ministry. And the corruption charge against him dates from the time he was the mines minister in the BJP ministry led by Arjun Munda. Both parties are now fighting the polls, promising to give the people a "corruption-free Jharkhand". There are obviously no limits to absurdities in India's political theatre.

 

But there is also a deeply saddening side to the episode. Jharkhand is among the poorest of the Indian states, where hunger, illiteracy and lack of basic healthcare stand far above the national average. The majority of the people belong to tribal and other communities that have been left out of the country's development agenda for decades. The new state was carved out of Bihar in the hope that it would help the poor people see a better life at last. But the dream remains distant, thanks largely to the ways of its politicians. If the Maoists have a free run of large areas of the state, it is because of the failure of democratic politics.

 

 ***************************************

THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

A TREATY TO NOWHERE

THE PRESENT NPT NOW BELONGS TO THE DUSTBIN OF HISTORY

AMITABH MATTOO

 

Almost every week for the last few months, a star-studded international conference has been organized to garner support for the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The venue of the conference may change (New York, Helsinki, Amman, Vienna or Beijing) but the message is the same: the NPT is needed to prevent an apocalyptic nuclear nightmare. The reason for this flurry of activity is simple. In May 2010, the NPT will be reviewed by its nearly 190 members, and there is growing apprehension within the NPT-approved nuclear-weapon states (N-5) that a revolt is waiting to happen. After 40 years of submitting themselves to the double standards, bad faith, arm-twisting and even humiliation by the United States of America, Russia, the United Kingdom and, more recently, France and China, a critical section of the non-nuclear weapon states may finally have had enough. And even the charisma of President Barack Obama and his vision of a world free of nuclear weapons may not be enough to save the treaty.

 

But the plot is getting more curious. Late last month, at Washington's Mayflower Hotel, the American secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, delivered the second Dean Acheson Memorial lecture sponsored by the US Institute of Peace. Much of the lecture on nuclear non-proliferation was predictable, but it was towards the end of the programme — during the question and answer — that she threw the audience of largely non-proliferation ninjas off balance. She declared that President Obama's administration was looking forward to working with India to come up with a 21st-century version of the NPT. Whether Clinton had carefully thought over this idea or had merely let her passion for India take over, the reality is that the secretary of state had underlined a significant reality.

 

The NPT, as it stands today, is an illegitimate entity born of a secret liaison between Moscow and Washington. The NPT is out of tune with world realities and has failed its own charter, and any attempt to resuscitate it will only further erode the objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. It is time to think of a new nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament architecture and it is critical that India takes the lead in this venture.

 

The NPT was, in essence, created in a rare moment during the Cold War when the Soviet Union and the US got together to prevent those outside the N-5 from acquiring nuclear weapons. They presented a fait accompli to the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament (the designated multilateral negotiating forum on arms control, and a precursor to the Conference on Disarmament) and put into force a treaty that reflected their interests and their view of global stability. The NPT divided the world, almost permanently, between nuclear 'haves' and 'have nots'.

 

The NPT rested on three pillars, and all three are on the point of collapsing.

 

The first pillar is non-proliferation. Nuclear-weapon states, party to the treaty, committed themselves not to supply nuclear-weapon technology to non-nuclear states. And non-nuclear states pledged not to acquire nuclear weapons. This is a farce. China supplied nuclear weapon technology to Pakistan, even after signing the NPT. The US, at the very least, benignly allowed Israel to acquire nuclear weapons. North Korea, a member of the NPT, had a clandestine nuclear weapons programme, and withdrew from the treaty once it was discovered. And Iran is arguably even today moving towards nuclear weaponization even while being a member of the treaty. And, of course, because the NPT refuses to recognize — due to its arbitrary cut-off date — that India, Israel and Pakistan are nuclear weapon states.

 

The second pillar was civilian nuclear energy. Non-nuclear weapon states had an inalienable right to research, develop, produce and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Further, the treaty declared that the peaceful applications of nuclear explosions would be made available to non-nuclear-weapon states on a non-discriminatory basis. The treaty has failed even on this count, with non-nuclear weapon states getting virtually no access to the civilian benefits despite the so-called nuclear renaissance. Moreover, because the popular low-cost light nuclear power station uses enriched uranium fuel, states must be able either to enrich uranium or purchase it in the international market. Neither is being allowed. In addition, NPT countries are being virtually coerced to accept additional safeguards.

 

The third and arguably most important pillar was nuclear disarmament. Each of the parties to the treaty undertook to pursue negotiations in good faith for cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and for nuclear disarmament. Despite considerable cuts in Russian and US nuclear arsenals since the end of the Cold War, and Obama's desire to move towards a nuclear-free world, the fact is that there seems to be no real commitment on part of the N-5 to truly move towards a Global Zero, to use a term popularized by a nuclear disarmament campaign. It is believed that the nuclear posture review being conducted by the US scientific and defence establishment will ensure that nuclear weapons remain an integral part of American security plans.

 

What, however, has inflamed many of the NPT members, including those in Latin America and the Middle East, is the impunity with which assurances, decisions and resolutions arrived at in previous review conferences have been disregarded. The NPT initially entered into force for 25 years in 1970. It was reviewed and extended indefinitely in 1995 only after a series of commitments were given, including on negative security assurances and especially explicit assurances over the Middle East. None of these commitments has been kept. In 2000, a series of 13 steps was agreed upon, but progress on many of these steps has been tardy. In 2005, there was uproar at the review conference, but not a rebellion. In 2010, however, as said earlier, a revolt is waiting to happen.

 

Not surprisingly, at a recent meeting in Beijing, all three chairmen of the NPT review conferences in the past, the ambassadors Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka, Serge Duarte of Brazil and Muhammad Shakhar of Egypt, felt betrayed by the manner in which the treaty was undermined, primarily by the US and other nuclear-weapon countries. The time has come now to push the treaty to where it rightly belongs: the dustbin of history. The time is also ripe for New Delhi to take the lead in suggesting a new nuclear architecture that will accommodate the nuclear realities of the world, create a better balance of rights and obligations between nuclear and non-nuclear states and address the most dangerous possibility of non-state actors getting access to nuclear technology and weapons. This framework should, of course, be founded on a larger credible plan for nuclear disarmament which builds on the action plan for nuclear disarmament put forward by the former Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in 1988.

 

The author is professor of International Politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University

 

 ***************************************

THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

THE GODS WHO FAILED

FIFTH COLUMN - SUMANTA SEN

 

When it comes to tribals, the general tendency is to paint a picture of sparsely clad, impoverished people exploited by outsiders in their domain and so seething in anger. The picture may not be wholly distorted, but most certainly is not complete. For, among the same tribals, there are people who have made it good in the world and often at the expense of others of their kind. This is so at Jharkhand, which is now in the process of electing a new ministry with the wretched of the earth in the Santhal Parganas, Singhbhum and in other places where the Sorens, the Kodas and the Mahatos face strong allegations of having built a different lifestyle out of tainted money. Since the same problems plague tribals and non-tribals alike, when discussing tribals, it is perhaps better to talk in terms of class rather than ethnicity.

 

Unless this class distinction is stressed, that which should be a non-issue becomes the dictating factor. In non-tribal areas of north India, it is caste which causes the poor Brahmins or the Kshatriyas to think of themselves as different from the poor Yadavs or the Dalits. In tribal areas, ethnic affinity is actually a non-issue as there can be no real affinity between the tribal who is well-off and those whom he lords over. Unfortunately, no political party of any relevance in Jharkhand has ever sought to highlight this for the simple reason that the Jharkhand brand of politics does not allow thoughts of class division to creep into the psyche. The Maoists profess to pursue a different ideology but, in practice, they also equate both classes as they go about their mission of filling their coffers from all and sundry.

 

With all talks of class kept under wraps, and consequently all references to personal misdeeds pushed under the carpet, a Madhu Koda has no problems attracting huge crowds. Even his rivals avoid these issues.

 

CHAOS BECKONS

The Congress, having lent full support to Koda when he managed to become the chief minister, and Koda having allegedly made his pile when he was a minister of the Bharatiya Janata Party, it is natural for the two parties to talk of other things. And Shibu Soren is still known as Guruji for the image he has built for himself over the past many years, his various acts of omission and commission notwithstanding. Elsewhere in the country, the poor can no longer be taken for a ride — they have started asking questions — but in Jharkhand, their tribal allegiance prevents them from doing so.

 

For the most part, they are incapable of understanding that their gods have failed them, and that those whom they thought of as saviours are in league with the exploiters. There was no one to open their eyes to the fact that the Jharkhand movement was being largely sustained by the same section of businessmen and contractors who helped the other side. If the betrayal had started with Jaipal Singh Munda joining the Congress, none of the other leaders behaved differently, betraying the spirit of the movement even while being a part of it. And this is true not just of the leaders of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha but also of others who had promised a new deal.

 

Jharkhand, as also Chhattisgarh, perfectly exemplifies the reasons why the creation of small states along ethnic lines is no guarantee for overall satisfaction. There will always be those privileged by circumstance of birth and education, and it is they who will rule the roost. If Jharkhand today has become the happy hunting ground of the Maoists, it is because of the collective failure of all the contending parties. They are unlikely to usher in any change, and there is every danger of the ordinary man deciding one day that the democratic system holds no promise for him. Then it will be an invitation to chaos.

 

**************************************

******************************************************************************************

DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

CLIMATE WAR

"VOLUNTARY CUTS UNVEILED ARE PRESSURE TACTICS."


With the Copenhagen climate summit just days away, the scene is getting hotter and more noisy with announcements of voluntary national actions, fresh proposals and ideas and talks about deals being worked out behind the scenes. Some of this is public relations and pressure tactics and others efforts to find common ground on the contentious issues that are up for negotiations. The possibility of a side deal between China and the US has been denied and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has reiterated the Indian position that the country is committed to an equitable agreement that mandates binding emission cuts for developed countries and transfer of technology and funds to developing countries for mitigation and adaptation. China's announcement of voluntary emission cuts by 40-45 per cent of the GDP from 2005 levels and the US offer of a 17 per cent cut based on 2005 levels are mainly psychological and political moves. Since these are basically public relations exercises that go into the atmospherics of the negotiations, India can also consider them, as environment minister Jairam Ramesh has indicated. In fact India has not made known to the world the efforts it has made and the initiatives it has taken in this regard.


But the draft proposals unveiled by Denmark, which hosts the summit, and the common platform of proposals agreed to by four major developing countries – Brazil, South Africa, India and China, which now go by the name of BASIC bloc –present the respective contentious positions that divide the community of nations. The Danish draft has proposed 2025 as the deadline for all countries to peak their emissions. This is not acceptable to the developing countries as it does not fully accept the idea of differentiated responsibility among nations for carbon emissions. India has already rejected the proposal. The four countries have made a slew of counterproposals which present their minimum negotiating positions. They include non-acceptance of binding emission cuts, unsupported mitigation actions and use of climate change as a trade issue. China took the initiative to formulate this draft, which represents the consensus of the developing countries and will set the agenda of them at the summit.


There are other proposals also in the air emanating from France and  Britain. There are also attempts to divide the developing countries with temptations and disguised disincentives. They need to stand together and do collective bargaining, as they affirmed in Beijing last week.

 

 ***************************************

DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

SILENT MOVEMENT

"SILENT VALLEY AGITATION HAS SET A BENCHMARK."

 

Twentyfive years later, the success of the movement for preservation of Silent Valley, a pristine rain forest in Kerala, continues to inspire those who consider protection of environment as important as development. It was in November 1974 that it was finally decided that a hydro-electric project which would have submerged the forest and wiped out a large number of unique flora and fauna would not be allowed to come up in Silent Valley. The Kerala government,  which fought hard for it, and the Central  government, which had almost approved it, came together last week, ironically to celebrate the silver jubilee of the scrapping of the dam plan and declaration of the forest as a national park. The state  has since added some more adjoining forest land to the park area to give it better protection.


The Silent Valley movement was the first important environmental agitation in the country and has become a text book example of successful mass movements.  Environmental movement was young and the awareness was yet to seep into the minds of people. It has matured over the years and is now a factor to be reckoned with in formulating and implementing public policy. It was a grassroots movement involving students, scientists, poets, artists, women and common people of all kinds who fought against a nexus of politicians, officials and timber mafia and finally prevailed. It provided the model for many other movements for protection of environment elsewhere in the country in later years. The Chipko  movement to protect trees in the Garhwal Himalayas started around the same time. There have been other agitations since then to protect the Western Ghats, the Aravalis and other ecologically sensitive regions. They have helped to plant the idea of the need to preserve the bond with nature deeply in the collective consciousness. In that sense the Silent Valley movement changed the terms of debate about development in an essential way.


Many laws and regulations which helped to protect the environment followed the movement. The Forest Conservation Act , which shifted forests from the state to the concurrent list was a direct result. But it also taught that the will of the people is stronger than governments and the laws.

 

 ***************************************

DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

WAITING FOR ACTION

ISLAMABAD HAS TO BEFRIEND NEW DELHI, ENDING THE NEGATIVISM AND HATE INHERENT IN ITS FOUNDING PHILOSOPHY.

BY B G VERGHESE

 

The country has relived the horror of 26/11 a full year after the event, vainly waiting for Pakistan to respond with more than empty words, counter- accusations and injured innocence. Seven dossiers later, Pakistan is still brazenly waiting for more evidence while prime movers like Hafeez Saeed, the former LeT head and now the chief of the Jamat-ud Dawa, a wolf in lamb's clothing, walk free.


Meanwhile it faces punishment in the Talibanised inferno of its own creation. It is the innocent who bleed while the ideologues, military and hapless civil-political regime they manipulate watch and wait for something to turn up. 

Far from fighting the so-called war on terror, Pakistan is an epitome of world terror, having nurtured this scourge over the years, earlier, with American assistance and silent approbation to fine tune it into an instrument of state policy under the protection of its own nuclear umbrella, which too it was allowed and assisted to create by China and America for short-term collateral gains unmindful of huge future collateral damage from which India has surely been the worst affected. 



PERIOD OF INCOHERENCE

Hillary Clinton formally described this as a period of incoherence in America's AfPak policy. This incoherence clearly remains as General Stanley MacCrystal, the US commander in Afghanistan, has high praise for Indian humanitarian assistance to that devastated country and yet asks Delhi to be solicitous of Pakistan's sensitivities even as Washington periodically arraigns Pakistan for thwarting, if not aiding, the Taliban in Afghanistan.


The Pakistan calculation is that sooner or later, the Americans will tire of Afghanistan and once again walk away after proclaiming some kind of victory, leaving the field clear for it to use that unhappy land as a strategic asset and the Taliban as its sub rosa strike force in pursuit of its eastern ambitions.  


Obama has now joined with Hu Jintao, the Chinese Premier, to call for "more stable and peaceful relations in South Asia." This is a gratuitous barb – coming just as A Q Khan has again reminded the world through the Pakistan media that Beijing assisted Islamabad with enriched uranium and the blueprint of a tested nuclear weapon  in 1982 - notwithstanding the further remark that neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan "can or should be used as bases for terrorism."


Even as Ajmal Kasab's trial continues in Mumbai, new evidence keeps surfacing of other sinister players operating out of Pakistan or with Pakistani connections. Headley, an American and Rana, a Canadian, both of Pakistani origin, increasingly appear to have been involved in the Mumbai terror plot or were possibly planning more mischief elsewhere in India. Evidence points to their having been in touch with the same Pakistani handlers as the 26/11 terrorists.


Meanwhile, more arrests have been made in different parts of the country and huge caches of arms found. Much of this evidence might yet be circumstantial but as the dots are joined, the emerging picture suggests that the Pakistani state and not just non-state actors remains active and working to a plan to wage a terrorist jihad in India. 

It might be argued that a distinction must be drawn between Islamabad and rogue elements within the state and genuine non-state actors, former protégés now out of control and creating mayhem within Pakistan itself. Such subtleties provide cold comfort. Even if their background is ignored, the Pakistan state refuses to take on these ideologues and cover organisations. The trial in Rawalpindi of Lakhvi, Zarar Shah and five others for their role in 26/11 inspires little confidence as it proceeds fitfully in camera, with long adjournments under different judges, one of whom recused himself as he was under threat.


PAKISTAN'S DEFENCE

Pakistan's defence is now offence. The Pakistan Prime Minister, Gilani, farcically asserts he has clear evidence of India's complicity but will only reveal details 'at the right time.' Such humbug fools nobody, not even Pakistanis themselves.

 

The problem is that nobody quite knows who is in charge in Pakistan. Not Zardari who has his back to the wall especially after his national reconciliation order indemnity against corruption charges was rescinded. Gilani? The military, with the ISI in tow? Sundry ideologues in cahoots with rogue elements within the civil establishments and military? 


The Americans, hoist with their own petard and afraid that if they push too hard Pakistan might collapse under the weight of its many contradictions, in which scenario desperate men might use or sell nuclear material to dubious elements even if the actual nuclear arsenal can be protected in these circumstances.  


What then should India on the first anniversary of 26/11? Not rant and rage or encourage chauvinist bravado. Nor refuse to engage Pakistan quietly. Merely sitting on its hands is no policy. It must endeavour to strategise to assist incipient civil, democratic forces in Pakistan to rally and build themselves to reclaim the state.   


Pakistan has to find its soul, not in enmity but in friendship with India, ending the trauma of partition and the negativism and hate inherent in its founding philosophy. For its part, India must go forward boldly with a Kashmir settlement, internally certainly and externally if possible on the lines of the Manmohan-Musharraf package of cohabitation between the two parts of J&K, making boundaries (the LOC) irrelevant, but retaining the existing twin sovereignties.

 

 ***************************************

DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

AIDS: NO TIME FOR COMPLACENCY

IT IS FEARED THAT THE TASK OF CONTAINING THIS DREADED DISEASE IS DIFFICULT IN OUR COUNTRY.

BY OLINDA TIMMS

 

After many years there appeared some positive news on the HIV status in India when the corrected figures for 2008 showed that the actual prevalence of HIV infection in India was lower than anticipated. But the government has shown necessary resolve in not resting on its laurels but initiating fresh programmes in tandem with private efforts to drive this number down further.


Although it appeared later in India, HIV infection rates rose rapidly in the '90s and it was feared that the task of containing this dreaded disease would be particularly difficult in our country, given the levels of education, awareness, poverty, public health and the formidable size of the population.


However, the large scale media blitz, education strategies in schools and colleges, countrywide testing, screening and treatment has resulted in containing what could well have been a devastating epidemic. The National Aids Control Organisation set up in1992 has improved its effectiveness and has been ably assisted by numerous NGO efforts and privately sponsored partnerships. With the numbers of infected cases rising from thousands to millions, the government adopted a National AIDS prevention and control policy in 2001.


After the success achieved through initial efforts, the third stage of the National AIDS Control Programme was  launched in July 2007 and it runs until 2012. The programme has a budget of around $2.6 billion, two thirds of which is for prevention and one sixth for treatment. Aside from the government, this money will come from non-governmental organizations, companies, and international agencies, such as the World Bank and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The focus will be on creative methods to spread awareness in every state and sensitizing members of high-risk groups on preventing infections.


Social challenges

There are still many social challenges that must be addressed so that the control policy can be effective. In line with international opinion, HIV testing may only be out voluntarily, with consent of the patient concerned. NACO has set up thousands of Integrated Counseling and Testing Centers (ICTI's) in India which facilitate such voluntary testing. However, it is well known that many hospitals routinely test patients before delivery or surgery without their knowledge. It is supposedly done to take necessary precautions but results in unnecessary fears and discrimination, or the surgery getting cancelled.


Another challenge is the availability of antiretroviral drugs which slows the progression of HIV infection to AIDS. Most of the drugs have been accessed from the private sector and are prohibitively expensive leaving large populations of HIV infected persons without access to the drugs. The government provided more than a hundred treatment sites by 2007 but ran into another problem, that of drug-resistance. Second line drugs, which are always more expensive, have been made available in eight Indian states since 2009. Even so, given the size of populations to be covered and the widespread nature of the disease, access to treatment remains a second crisis experienced by every person diagnosed with HIV infection.


The irony is that India is a major provider of cheaper generic copies of antiretroviral drugs for other developed countries of the world but the prevailing patent regimes restrict their availability in India. This bizarre imbalance is soon to be corrected with world pressure on pharmaceutical companies to relax this stranglehold in view of the urgent nature of the pandemic. Over 100 countries have set a target to ensure 80 per cent of their HIV infected patients with treatment by 2010.

The third area of concern is the stigma and discrimination that still exist in Indian society today with regard to this disease. This epidemic is still misunderstood among the general public, preventing persons from coming forward to be tested or treated. Some parents are alarmed when awareness programmes in school lead their children to talk so freely about the disease. This fear and secrecy has hampered efforts at prevention and control sending possibly infected patients into hiding. Hospitals too have to take their share of the blame in this regard with ill-advised personnel creating a panic of sorts around any patient found to test positive.


High-risk groups

Although a higher prevalence of infection is still located within high risk groups, HIV infection has made its way into all parts of society and is today a concern for everyone. The sterling work done by rehabilitation centers and orphanages is an example to all, leading us to belief that each one has a role even if merely to accept those among us who are infected.


Even though the problem has not been as great as earlier predicted in India, and we are better off than many African nations, many millions will continue to get infected and need care in the years ahead. Clearly, we have all the resources we need and it only remains to channel our efforts to achieving complete access to prevention and treatment in the next few years.

(The writer is a medical consultant and ethicist)

 

***************************************

DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

THE LOTUS POND

THE MYRIAD COLOURS AND ACTIVITIES AROUND THE LOTUS POND HAD ME ENTHRALLED.

BY MAYA JAYAPAL


The lotus pond in the ayurvedic treatment centre is full this time as compared to the last, when it was just a gaping cement-lined hole, sterile and empty. Now the water comes right up to the little cement embankment. The leaves, large and small, lie on the surface starred with globules of water which glitter like large moonstones or opals when the sun's rays catch them.


The surface is not still for long. Ripples break it every now and then. Little fish swim in it. A passing bird drops something. Sometimes copper coloured dragonflies skim its surface, alighting like ballerinas, delicately, on a leafy pad. Sometimes a dry stalk or leaf, brown and sere, snaps from the mango tree on its edge and falls into the water.


One day, I saw a water bird, a pond heron, walk across it, ungainly yet with a coltish grace, stepping lightly from leaf to leaf, at the same time looking into its depths for its breakfast. Bees buzz around, metallic gold and green, flitting from flower to flower, sipping fastidiously, doing their ordained jobs, brushing their  wings with the golden pollen.


I watch it at different stages of the day. In the early mornings when the mist is still rising from the ground, in the afternoon, when the Kerala sun is hot and oppressive they droop with languor much like fine ladies out too long in the sun, and at night they look waxy, ghostly in the moonlight or when flashes of lightning illumine them in streaks.


The lotus flowers are at different stages of evolution. There are the tightly furled buds, waiting for the right time to slowly unfurl, stretch towards the life giving sun to open. There are two half open ones, one white and waxy, just barely showing the golden yellow centre and one a blush pink, the colour of the soon to be dawn.  


And then there are the full-blown ones, with their bright yellow filaments and spored centres, rising up from the muck and the slime and debris of dried stems and soggy leaves, symbolic of the invincible courage of man, rising above the vicissitudes and the tribulations of life- the true embodiment of the Greek term physis- the aspiration upwards and onwards, towards joy and fulfilment, going beyond oneself. Synonymous with Phusus the Greek goddess of Nature, a force of rejuvenation and healing.

 

*************************************** 

******************************************************************************************

THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

ELBARADEI'S FAILURE

 

As of yesterday, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog, has a new director-general, the understated Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano. Mr. Amano has his work cut out for him.

 

His predecessor, 67-year-old Mohamed ElBaradei, stepped down after 12 years with what, by his deplorable standards, amounted to a bang rather than a whimper.

 

In the last few days, ElBaradei declared bitterly that the IAEA's probe of allegations that Iran has been trying to make nuclear arms is at "a dead end" because Teheran is not cooperating.

 

He warned that confidence in Teheran had shrunk in the wake of its belated revelation of a previously secret nuclear facility at Qom.

 

He slammed Teheran for rejecting a proposal meant to delay its ability to make nuclear weapons. Iran would have had to ship out most of its stockpile of 1,500 kilograms of low-enriched uranium. Its demand to "dilute" the proposal, ElBaradei stressed firmly, "was unacceptable because it could mean Teheran retaining enough enriched uranium for use in a nuclear weapon."

 

Reflecting its outgoing director's frustrated assessments, the IAEA's board on Friday overwhelmingly passed a resolution demanding that Iran stop construction at the Qom facility and stop uranium enrichment.

 

The US promptly warned that its "patience" on Iran might be exhausted by year's end. Britain, sounding increasingly irritated, urged Iran to "accept the hand that has been extended toward it." And the French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, spoke of "one last chance for dialogue" before "very harsh" sanctions.

 

"Why did Iran announce 10 new uranium enrichment sites when it has only one nuclear plant to burn this fuel?" Kouchner demanded, not unreasonably, referring to the defiant Iranian response to the IAEA's resolution.

 

THE ANSWER to Kouchner's question, and to the wider question of why Iran treats the IAEA with such contempt, is simple: because, under ElBaradei's blinkered watch, it has learned that it can.

 

It has watched North Korea proceed serenely to a nuclear weapons capability. It has adroitly exploited international disunity, and its own significant circle of diplomatic allies and trading partners, to ensure that sanctions efforts to date have caused it no great inconvenience. But most of all, it has benefited from the naivety, or worse, of ElBaradei's IAEA.

 

Listening to the outgoing director-general in the final few days of his term, one might have believed that here was the furious, final re-emphasis of a warning too long ignored. In fact, however, ElBaradei's farewell talk of untenable Iranian non-cooperation, of dead-ends and of dangers, was a departure.

 

Previously, he had assured the international community that Iran was ready "to cooperate fully with us and to demonstrate full transparency" (2003), that "the most sensitive part of the Iranian program, which is the enrichment program, is now under complete agency inspection" (February 2009), that, "in many ways" the Iranian nuclear "threat has been hyped" (July), and that the greatest danger in the region stems from the threat of an Israeli air strike on Iranian nuclear facilities (October).

 

That final assertion came in the course of an interview with an Austrian newspaper in which he declared that, with Iran, "negotiation is the only possible solution," and noted: "Israel says it cannot tolerate an Iran in possession of nuclear weapons. But when you talk now with Arab leaders, they say they cannot tolerate a nuclear Israel."

 

THERE, IN a few words, is the essence of ElBaradei's failure - his incapacity or disinclination to distinguish between the dangers posed, on the one hand, by a tiny country that, over several decades during which its very existence has frequently been under threat, has not resorted to the use of a reported nuclear capacity, and, on the other, by a regional bully that has brazenly lied to the international community about its nuclear program, oppressed its own people, relentlessly incited the elimination of a sovereign state, and vowed to remake the entire world order.

 

The IAEA is charged with preventing the proliferation of nuclear technology, to ensure that the most devastating, last-resort weaponry remain out of reach to those who cannot be trusted with it. Given the accelerating ease of technology-transfer, the task is complex enough. Under ElBaradei, a man incapable of recognizing where the most potent dangers were sited, it became a lost cause.

 

 ***************************************

THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

GRAPEVINE: CIVILIZED DISCOURSE

GREER FAY CASHMAN

 

BRITISH AMBASSADOR Tom Phillips was a veritable Anglo David against a hostile group of largely British expatriate Goliaths, who as Israelis voiced their displeasure with British attitudes toward their country in somewhat more strident tones than those used by Jews in the land they left behind.

 

Phillips courageously stood his ground on somewhat sensitive issues, which was not so difficult because in general the whole affair was conducted in the civilized fashion in which Brits generally behave.

 

The occasion was an an Any Questions evening cohosted last week at the Begin Heritage Center Jerusalem by the British Zionist Federation and the Israel Britain and the Commonwealth Association.

 

The strident tones were actually outside the auditorium. Inside, the questions, which had been collected in advance, were asked by moderator Andrew Balcombe, who is also the BZF chairman. There was only one instance in which the civilized behavior was disrupted and that's when Phillips spoke of occupied territory. The terminology provoked anger from some members of the audience.

 

Phillips was instantly defended by Miri Eisin, the former media adviser to and spokeswoman for prime minister Ehud Olmert. Eisin recalled former prime minister Ariel Sharon saying to the Knesset that occupation was not a good thing.

 

No longer in an official position, Eisin allowed herself to say things which she might not have said in the days when she was one of Israel's most eloquent spokespeople.

 

For instance, in response to a question about Gilad Schalit, Eisin, speaking as "a citizen, a colonel in the army and a mother of three," said: "There is no easy solution to Gilad Schalit. We in the State of Israel are committed to our soldiers. At the end of the day every soldier matters. If I'm going to send my kids to the military I want to know they're going to come home. No price is too high."

 

Prof. Gerald Steinberg, of the Political Science Department at Bar-Ilan University and a Jerusalem Post columnist, deplored the fact that human rights organizations have largely ignored Schalit.

 

Phillips, who has met members of the Schalit family, said that an attempt was made via the Red Cross to send Rosh Hashana cards to Gilad. "The Red Cross tried hard" but apparently did not succeed. "We can feel the difficulty," said Phillips. "This is a high value society. The fact that one individual matters so much is admirable."

 

Concurring with Steinberg, Daniel Taub, a senior legal adviser in the Foreign Ministry, said "the deafness of the international community is shocking." He cited so-called human rights activists to whom he had brought up the matter of Schalit, but they could not bring themselves to mention his name in their reports.

 

Phillips neatly evaded a question related to the Goldstone report as to whether British soldiers in Afghanistan could also be accused of war crimes on the basis of accusations made against Israeli soldiers in Operation Cast Lead.

 

When Phillips was asked to explain Britain's apparent change of attitude to Israel, he said that the non-vote on the Goldstone report in Geneva was due to the fact that Britain was in discussion with the Israeli government at the time, and the discussion had not concluded. Britain abstained from voting on the Goldstone report at the UN Security Council because it had decided to stand back from the process because Israel had failed to launch an independent inquiry.

 

As for the possibility of arrest of certain senior Israeli figures should they go to Britain, British law allows for extraterritorial extradition which applies not just to Israelis but to anyone. However even if Israelis were arrested, Phillips doubted that there would be much chance of prosecuting them.

 

Trade relations are still sound, he pointed out, with two-way trade standing at around £2 billion, in addition to which a large number of Israeli companies are listed on the London Stock Exchange.

 

Despite all the publicity to the contrary, there are no academic boycotts. "There's a lot of talk, but nothing has happened," said Phillips.

 

He admitted that there has been a shift in the center of gravity.

 

Eisin said that she has heard the narrative of occupation all her life, but what she found disturbing was the changing narrative that delegitimizes Israel.

 

For all the criticism of Britain, Taub declared Britain to be one of the key anchors for protecting Israeli interests in the international community.

 

Phillips underscored that both main political parties in Britain support Israel's right to exist in the Middle East. "We think Israel's best security comes through peace with its neighbors and a two-state solution. It's the only way to get a guarantee of Israel as a secure state in the Middle East."

 

n WITHIN THE framework of the event, Balcombe announced the founding of the European Friends of Israel, an English-speaking group that he heads together with Brenda Katten, the immediate past chairwoman of the Israel Britain and the Commonwealth Association, and a group of other people. As a rule, IBCA functions are held in Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan or Herzliya, but more than 50 IBCA members made their way from the Coastal Plain to Jerusalem as did students from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and from other institutions and organizations.

 

EFI intends to establish good relations with ambassadors primarily from European countries stationed here and to discuss with them specific issues affecting the country and the way it is perceived in the countries they represent. The aim is to promote pro-Israel sentiment. EFI also wants to boost aliya, plans to run aliya fairs for tourists and is already running training programs in Europe for young Jewish leaders. It also intends to launch an extensive home hospitality program to give diplomats, foreign media and potential olim a glimpse of the real Israel.

 

n TWO NIGHTS later, a huge overflow audience of English speakers showed up at the same venue for the launch of Hadar, a new Anglo pro-action group which believes that Anglos have a lot to contribute to Israel's development and public diplomacy. Director and founder Shalom Helman heaped praise on acting chairman Bobby Brown, who in turn heaped praise on moderator, New York born journalist Ruthie Blum Leibowitz (whose parents, siblings and husband are all in the communications business), and described her as a great intellectual.

 

The impression that was conveyed was that RBL was one of the Hadar founders. The fact of the matter is that she was asked to moderate the event, but as she told people afterward, she doesn't believe that being Anglo is necessarily a cohesive factor. The founding leadership of Hadar is identified with the political right, as is RBL, but if the organization puts political affinities aside and opens its doors to all Anglos, RBL says that she would have more in common with a right-wing sabra than with a left-wing Anglo.

 

As an example she cited former Meretz MK Naomi Chazan as someone with whom she would not have anything politically in common. Though born in pre-state Jerusalem, Chazan spent her adolescent and early adult years in the US where her father, the late Avraham Harman was ambassador from 1959-1968. In addition, she received her BA and MA degrees from Columbia University. This, coupled with the fact that both her parents were born in England, makes Hazan, whose column regularly appears in The Jerusalem Post, an honorary Anglo.

 

n THERE WAS also a large turnout on Saturday night at Jerusalem's Great Synagogue where Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief David Horovitz interviewed Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on the completion of his first year in office. Among the subjects that came up for discussion were the Sabbath riots instigated by the Eda Haredit, the ultra-Orthodox, anti-Zionist group which has been protesting the operation of parking areas and the employment of Intel personnel on Saturdays. When asked whether the Eda Haredit pays municipal taxes, Barkat replied in the affirmative, thus dispelling yet another negative myth.

 

n welfare and sOCIAL SERVICES Minister Isaac Herzog wears many hats, and it was difficult to tell in exactly which capacity he was speaking at Tel Aviv University's Buchman Faculty of Law to mark the launch and conferment of the Abba Eban Doctorate Scholarship for Diplomacy and Law which was awarded by philanthropist David Azrieli and the Azrieli Foundation to Olga Frishman for her research on the globalization of legal thought. Herzog's wife Michal chairs the TAU Law Graduates Association of which Isaac Herzog is also a member. He is also a nephew by marriage of Abba Eban. His aunt Suzy Eban is the older sister of his mother Aura Herzog. Both were present along with other relatives.

 

In addition Herzog is well acquainted with the Azrieli Foundation, which though it donates primarily to educational projects, also contributes generously to social welfare. Herzog commented that it was appropriate for a scholarship in Eban's memory to be donated to a law school because at the time that he was foreign minister, it was still possible to differentiate between international law and international politics. In the interim he noted, international law has become the tool of international politics and vice versa.

 

As for international law, Herzog was proud to relate that the late Prof. Hersh Lauterpacht, one of the 20th century's leading experts on international law, was a cousin to his mother and his aunt. To close the circle on that point, Prof. Hanoch Dagan, observed that Eyal Benvenisti, professor of human rights at TAU, who delivered the keynote address in which he analyzed Eban's speech to the UN on presenting Israel's application for admission, had previously occupied the Hersh Lauterpacht Chair of International Law at the Hebrew University.

 

Azrieli, alluding to Eban's talents as a mediator and to the crisis situation currently confronting TAU's Board of Governors of which he is a member, said that Eban is sorely missed. When the opportunity presented itself for him to do something in Eban's memory, said Azrieli, he felt privileged to be part of such a project. Azrieli lamented the fact that so many young people today are unaware of the historically significant contribution made by Eban to the creation of the state.

 

n AMERICAN EXPATS Charley and Shelly Levine, who are well known in local public relations and real estate circles, wanted to give their new American in-laws Emanuel and Fran Schiowitz and the guests they brought with them from New York a truly memorable experience to take home. So although both families are Ashkenazi, the Levines acceded to the wishes of their daughter Dori and organized a true Moroccan henna two days in advance of her marriage to Avi Shiowitz. Aside from a little hassidic music and the ethnic affiliation of most of the guests, the only Ashkenazi element was the missing bridegroom. Whereas the bridegroom also participates in a genuine Moroccan henna ceremony, in religious Ashkenazi circles, the bride and groom do not see each other for a week prior to the wedding.

 

The idea to go Moroccan was hardly surprising. When the Levines and their young children arrived here just over 30 years ago, they had Moroccan neighbors who adopted them and introduced them to Moroccan culture with which they fell in love. The friendship has continued and so has the love for all things Moroccan. The wedding itself was a strictly American affair with the overwhelming majority of guests being American olim or visitors from America who had specially come for the occasion.

 

The Levines like to do things in style and are always eager to ensure that family and friends are well fed. Thus the reception at the Jerusalem Crowne Plaza prior to the ceremony was a banquet in itself. Because the date coincided with Thanksgiving, the huge buffet selection included roast turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.

 

n IN RESPONDING to the honorary doctorate conferred on her last week by Ben-Gurion University, Prof. Alice Shalvi recalled that in 1969, she had been sent by the Hebrew University to set up the beginnings of an English department at the fledgling university which physically bore no resemblance to the present sprawling campus. As difficult as the physical conditions were, morale was high because there was intense commitment on the part of the faculty. There was something very special in pioneering a university in the Negev. In addition to her teaching role, Shalvi was elected to a series of important administrative positions, learning along the way what it meant to run an institute of higher learning.

 

But she learned the most important lesson when the dean of the Department of Humanities resigned and she decided to apply for the post. It wasn't enough to be interviewed by the various powers-that-were at BGU. She was also interviewed by their opposite numbers at the Hebrew University. And in each case, even though she was fully qualified and experienced for the job, the response was: "But you're a woman." She had never felt so humiliated, nor had she realized the extent of gender discrimination in academia. The lesson changed her life - not only her life but the lives of untold numbers of women here, many of whom were inspired by her to become feminist activists whose advocacy resulted in legislation that gives women equal opportunities.

 

Nothing could have been more rewarding to Shalvi than the fact that the current president of BGU is a woman. Shalvi was this week the recipient of yet another prize - the Leibowitz Prize named for controversial historian and philosopher Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz, awarded to her by Yesh Gvul, the organization founded by combat soldiers who selectively refuse to serve in areas that are not part of Israel proper. The award was made at Tzavta in Tel Aviv, and her fellow recipient was Rabbi Arik Ascherman, director of Rabbis for Human Rights.

 

n WHILE ILLNESS prevented Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu from traveling to Germany this week, opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who was also ill, showed up at Israel Gateway's annual foreign trade convention at the Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv at which some 20 countries were represented. Livni was on hand to launch the Safe City conference aimed at dealing with the rising crime rate in many of the world's major cities. For this reason the conference was attended not only by business people and commercial attaches but by representatives of foreign governments, homeland security technological personnel, mayors and law enforcement officials.

 

n THE MASKED man who came up behind American immigrant Miriam Segal in Beit Shemesh and attempted to attack her and snatch her purse, did not know that he was dealing with a black belt martial arts expert, even though she looked like one of the town's average Orthodox women. Initially, Segal thought it was her husband who was being playful, but quickly realized, when the man spoke Hebrew, that she and her baby strapped to the front of her torso were in danger. In a deft move, she threw the man to the ground, but then his knife wielding partner came on the scene, and Segal had to quietly talk him out of using his weapon. For some reason, he suddenly gave up and let her move away. The 35-year-old ex-Floridian and mother of four has been in the country for less than two months. It wasn't the nicest introduction to her new environment, but she proved that she was well equipped to handle the situation.

 

n IN THE process of making her farewells is Larisa Miculet, the ambassador of Moldova who is returning home next week after four years here. Miculet came to the foreign service from her country's justice system, and her legal background was extremely useful. At this stage, she's not sure of what the future holds, but she does want to continue serving her country in a diplomatic capacity.

 

Also leaving is Australian Ambassador James Larsen, who with his wife Antoinette Merrillees, a diplomat in her own right, is returning with their children to Australia. They are leaving in January so that the children can start school in the new school year. Larsen's father-in-law Robert Merrillees served as Australia's ambassador here more than 20 years ago. He and his wife now live in France, but visited frequently during Larsen's stint here - the last time for nine months. Larsen and his family spent vacations in France and will continue to do so, except in future they'll also try to combine their vacation trips with visits to Israel.

 

n AT THE other end of the diplomatic spectrum, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will in all likelihood appoint Vilna-born Dorit Golendar, 60, who heads Radio Reka's Russian-language department, as the next ambassador to Moscow. Golendar came here in 1967 and a year later began broadcasting in Russian to the Soviet Union. She was subsequently one of the founders of Radio Reka.

 

Rumor has it that Alon Pinkas, who was tipped to be the next ambassador to the UN, may have his plans torpedoed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

 

greerfc@gmail.com

***************************************

THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

TERRA INCONGNITA: MODERATION - NOW THERE'S SOME WISHFUL THINKING

SETH FRANTZMAN

 

One of the most galling and recurring ironies of democracy appears to be that it provides a platform, through free speech, for the very thing that seeks to undermine it. This point has been driven home with the recent revelations that the Iranian-controlled Alavi Foundation gave money to US colleges - the same colleges which proclaim "free speech" when they invite the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak on campus.

 

The first way in which Islamism uses democracy is through the ballot box. This was one of the unintended consequences of the Bush administration's program of spreading democracy in the Arab world. One of the most egregious examples of this was the Hamas election victory in the Palestinian elections of January 2006. In elections in 2005, the Muslim Brotherhood obtained around 20 percent of the seats in Egypt's parliament (88 of 454). Turkey has also served as a test case for Islamist democracy. Since Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development (AK) party won 34% of the vote in the 2002 elections, the country has been governed by its brand of Islamism.

 

The rise of Islamist parties and their use of the democratic system has three main causes. First, the Islamist parties position themselves as parties of "change," representing a supposed reform from years of economic stagnation and political corruption. Second, the parties capitalize on disillusionment with nationalism and the current return to religiosity. Lastly, the Islamist parties are aided and abetted by the West, whose democratic values are twisted by them to great success. The West tends to view electoral triumphs by Islamists as a form of "moderating" them.

 

Thus in the wake of the Brotherhood's gains in 2005 The Washington Post declared that "Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood may be a model for Islam's political adaptation." Numerous stories by The New York Times and others have tried to portray the AK in Turkey as a party that supports individual rights. Thus its fight for the "right" of women to wear head scarves at university is a positive struggle, rather than a negative intrusion of religion into the public space. Women in Turkey have even come to wear the head scarf out of "protest." In this way Islamism passes itself off as defending individual rights even as it seeks a monolithic imposition of piety on the masses. The West's commentators are seduced by these appeals to individual rights and protests against the national semi-secular ethos.

 

THE MYTH of moderation and the idea that exposure to the West's democratic values will necessarily improve the Muslim world is enticing. But it is a myth that is evidenced by the numerous Islamists who have been produced by the West, rather than existing in spite of the West's values.

 

Consider the fountainhead of Islamism, Sayyid Qutb. Born in Egypt in 1906, he was educated at a British school. He joined the Ministry of Education when Egypt was still under the hand of British semi-rule in the 1930s. In 1948 he received a scholarship to study education at the University of North Colorado in the US. Already gravitating towards Islamic piety, the US helped engender greater extremism and he published his first Islamist text in 1949, while in the land of democracy. He travelled widely in the US and came to loath "the American girl" and her "seductive capacity" which "lies in the round breasts, full buttocks... she shows all." He was disgusted by jazz music which was "created by Negroes... to whet their sexual desires."

 

Qutb's increasing hatred for the US, and hypocritical lurid interest in American women, mirrors the transformation of Major Nidal Malik Hasan who carried out the recent Fort Hood massacre. Hasan was a US-born Muslim-Palestinian whose entire success in life was primarily due to the US Army which paid for his schooling and promoted him despite his dismal record. Hasan played on the fact that FBI and army investigators feared being perceived as discriminating against him in order to proselytize fellow soldiers, spread hatred and contact a radical imam in Yemen. Like Qutb he had a love-hate relationship with women, attending the Starz strip club next to the very army base where he gunned down American servicemen.

 

The imam Hasan contacted was Anwar al-Awlaki, an American of Yemeni descent who was born in New Mexico in 1971. Awlaki studied in three major American universities, almost obtaining a doctorate from George Washington University. Portrayed as a "moderate" after 9/11, despite his contact with the hijackers, he moved to Yemen in 2004 to fight a jihad against the US and its allies.

 

Hasan and Qutb are just the tip of the iceberg. Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the architect of 9/11, attended college in the US. Many of the colleagues of the Ayatollah Khomeini, father of the Iranian Islamic revolution, studied in the US and Europe on scholarships from the shah's regime. David Headley (Daood Gilani), who plotted terror against the Danish newspaper that printed cartoons of Muhammad, is a US citizen. Adam Ghadan (Adam Pearlman, Azzam the American) is the son of Northern California hippies who now works as a spokesman for al-Qaida.

 

Going forward in the war on terror one of the greatest problems will be the way in which the West's values of openness, secularism and free speech will be manipulated and even used to inspire terror and jihad. There doesn't seem to be a good way to prevent this problem. However, as Joshua Muravchik has shown in his recent book The Next Founders: Voices of Democracy in the Middle East, the values of the West also inspire a positive form of democracy that doesn't simply lead to the "road to hell" of Islamism.

 

The writer is a researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

 

 ***************************************

THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

THE OPTION NO ONE WANTS TO THINK ABOUT

LAWRENCE HART

 

Israel at one time was the world leader in combating terrorism. Military colleges studied the Entebbe raid of 1976. People marveled at the courage of storming a children's house on Kibbutz Misgav Am in 1980 and killing all five terrorists before they could slaughter the remaining children. Israel launched a daring commando raid against a particular terrorist in Lebanon, coming under cover of night, killing him and getting back out without losing a man - a perfect surgical strike.

 

Israel is responsible for declaring that terror can never be negotiated with, knowing that any such negotiations represent a slippery slope to defeat.

 

But Israel has been languishing in recent years, infected by the same political correctness that is drowning the rest of the Western world. It just doesn't seem to have what it takes to deal the proper blow to the terror in its midst. What with the 2006 debacle in Lebanon, and missing the opportunity to cut the head off one of these snakes in Gaza last year, Israel appears doomed to live with terror until it either destroys us or burns itself out - in 100 years or so.

 

ENTER THE Sri Lankans. I think they have an answer, and I think Israel should listen to what they have to say.

 

Sri Lanka used to be just like Israel. It had a perennial terrorist problem with its Tamil minority. For almost 30 years, organized bands from that community terrorized the nation, to the point where the country could not evolve. Navin Dissanayake, Sri Lankan minister of investment promotion, claims that it "could have been another Singapore if it had not been for that war." Terrorism in Sri Lanka, as it did in Israel, held that country from progressing - progress which would have been good for Sri Lanka and the world.

 

The Tamil Tigers , sometimes referred to by its full name, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), resembled Middle East terror groups. Actually, it is more correct to say that Middle East terror groups resemble the Tamil Tigers, as the Tigers introduced many of the techniques subsequently used by Israel's enemies. They invented the suicide belt and perfected the suicide bombing attack, turning it into a tactical device. They were the first to use women and children in these attacks. And they have been accused of using their own innocent civilians as human shields. They are a vicious crowd, and were implicated in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi of India in 1991. As we all know, the Palestinians have imitated these tactics with devastating brutality.

 

The Sri Lankans had more or less lived with this horror since 1983. Then 9/11 happened and a new dynamic, promoted by president George W. Bush and the United States, gave the Sri Lankans a new outlook. With a new administration elected on the promise of stopping the LTTE permanently, the country embarked on a full-scale military assault. It sent its army, much stronger than the Tamil tigers, into Tamil-occupied territory and began to take back town by town, going street to street in some cases, and killing anyone who resisted.

 

Jehan Perera of the Sri Lankan Peace Council said, "This government has taken the position that virtually any price is worth paying to rid the country of terrorism."

 

The price paid was indeed a heavy one. Many innocent people died. The Sri Lankan government deeply regrets the killing of innocent civilians, but most government officials believe they made a conscious choice to pay that price, and that the alternative status quo was simply no longer acceptable.

 

It was bloody and dirty, and they took a lot of criticism for it. The UN estimates that during the final months of fighting in Sri Lanka, at least 7,000 Tamil civilians were killed and 13,000 were wounded. But they also wiped out the scourge of terror, not stopping until total victory was declared last May. Today, Sri Lankans can once again walk the streets of their cities, visit the marketplaces and conduct business without the fear of being murdered in such gruesome ways that not even their loved ones can identify their bodies. It is a new dawn for Sri Lanka.

 

Israel can take a real lesson from this experience. The threat facing the Jewish state from the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon is no different than the threat to the north of Sri Lanka, and its coastline into the south that the Tamils occupied before the Sri Lankan army began its war of elimination.

 

THE TIME has come to admit that there might not be a solution to the Palestinian problem, but there is a way to end it. The next time terror forces Israel to take military action, this option should be considered. Israel must realize that there will be no peace with an intransigent enemy that refuses to act in good faith. Palestinian rejectionism and Iranian-backed Hizbullah threats to our existence will never be placated; they will not stop until Israel is destroyed. Once the population realizes this unfortunate reality, there is only one way to change it. Israel must take the Sri Lankan initiative and move into these areas one by one, cornering, enveloping and killing off all armed resistance.

 

Bending over backward to make peace with the Palestinians has proven fruitless. It's time to make the choice of a better life for all. More than 60 years of living with this is enough. When we have completely wiped out this enemy, a new dynamic will rise. Without the Muslim thugs holding their own people back, there will be nothing to stop them from negotiating genuine peace. There might be a Palestinian, a Lebanese, a Syrian, maybe even an Iranian peace partner which will transform the Middle East from a charnel house of hatred and bloodshed to a prosperous community of nations working together to make the daily lives of all their citizens better.

 

The writer lives and works in Los Angeles. He has a BA from California State University, Northridge in history, with an emphasis on the Middle East and is currently a graduate student at that institution. He is a father of three.

 ***************************************

THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

PRESENTING MY PEACE PLAN TO BARACK OBAMA

RAY HANANIA

 

I'm no dummy. I know that the Jews don't run the media and the Arabs have no clout. So who do I present my peace platform to where it might find some "legs" to make it happen? The White House, of course.

 

As you know, I'm running for "president of Palestine." Not that I can win, of course, but I know I have better ideas on peace than any of those who can be elected president. The White House has pretty much run the Middle East conflict since the beginning, not always on the same side. If the White House wants to make a difference and push both Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, it can.

 

So how do I get my plan to the one guy who can make a difference, President Barack Obama? Since announcing my candidacy and the Yalla Peace Party and platform, I've been contemplating that challenge. I figured that feat to be harder than compromising on Jerusalem. And I almost gave up until I read last week that a guy and his wife managed to walk right up to the president of the United States without having to worry about little things like "security clearances" and "background checks."

 

To top it off, the guy, Tareq Salahi, is an Arab, though we all know that just because you have an Arab name doesn't mean you are actually Arab. The president's middle name is Hussein, and while he has a lot of admirers on the far Right who insist he is an Arab (and a few other choice four-letter-words that I won't repeat here), he's not an Arab.

 

Still, Obama's the guy I have to reach to make peace happen. I could use my connections to Obama. He is a distant cousin 53 times removed, who I refer to in colloquial Arabic as khiyya, or cousin.

 

OR I could just follow the Salahi lead and walk right past all the president's security to shake his hand, First Lady Michelle Obama's hand, the hand of some Indian dude who the black-tie party was called to honor, and even get to share a few laughs with Vice President Joe Biden and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

 

Who's laughing now? Just walked right in. Past the security gate. Past the Secret Service. Past the bodyguards.

 

I always assumed that anyone who just walked up to the president uninvited would get tackled to the ground faster than a Chicago Bears quarterback. And that's fast, as many of you sports fanatics who are interested in America football (real football, not that fake kicking-stuff thing) know.

 

But apparently, any Arab can just walk into the White House and see the president. That's the message the conservative Right, led by its new fearless leader (actually old former leader) Dick Cheney, is peddling.

 

I'm Arab, or so I am told. So I had better get in there to see the president before Cheney gets into office, because Cheney won't just have me tackled to the ground. He'll use me as target practice for a new battalion of Blackwater and Halliburton contractors.

 

Salahi's wife is one of those socialites. Hot looking, with blond hair. Nordic. My wife is hot-looking, too. Blond hair, European Jewish. Which reminds me, if I'm elected president, Palestine and Israel would both share something huge. They'd both have Jewish first ladies.

 

My wife thinks I'm nuts, or meshuganeh in Yiddish. Magnoon in Arabic. If I'm elected president of Palestine,

where am I going to get the gefilte fish? It's a big issue in my house, although I told her that she'd still be able to

eat all those "Jewish" foods like mensiff, tabouleh, felafel and humous. Hey, I have to be strategic about my marriage - of course it's not called a marriage when a Jew and a Palestinian marry. It's called an "occupation."

 

Still, she thinks my plans are the most imaginative presented so far. I'm just hoping President Obama has an imagination just like mine. He needs something, with all his big plans from health care to the Middle East in disarray.

 

She did point out, though, that Salahi may have ruined it for me. "You ululate 'Allahu akbar' once in his presence and the Secret Service will be swarming all over you." I just shrugged and sighed, insha'allah! Like all Arabs do.

 

Does Obama say that, I wonder? If I do make it past the security, I wouldn't just shake his hand. I'd give him a fist bump. And then hand him my plans for the "settler-refugee exchange program" - the heart of my campaign efforts.

 

The plan is simple, really. For every Israeli settler that Israel keeps as part of the peace process, Israel has to take back one Palestinian refugee. There are some 500,000 settlers in the West Bank, including around east Jerusalem.

 

Israel can take back all or none, depending on how many settlements it wants to keep.

 

That's a lot of reasons to maybe trade in a few more settlements than they have been planning on, in exchange for real peace.

 

For the Palestinian refugees, it just might be the answer, too. They've been held hostage by politics for years, living in destitution and despair for generations since the war started more than 62 years ago.

 

In the end, in my plan, everyone gets a new life, Palestinian and Israeli. And that's all we can hope for in a two-state solution.

 

I think Obama could like that idea.

 

Of course, if it fails, maybe I can follow the lead of the Salahis and get my own reality TV show. A comedy. Along the lines of Survivor.

 

The writer is really running for president of Palestine. His Web page is www.YallaPeace.com.

 

***************************************

THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

SAVE THE DATE

YITZHAK KLEIN

 

Save the date: Sunday, September 26, 2010. That's the day that the significance of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's declaration of a "temporary settlement freeze" will become clear, because it's the first business day after it expires. If building in the communities of Judea and Samaria then commences on a significant scale, as Netanyahu promised in his public address, he and his cabinet colleagues from the Likud can still claim to be faithful to their own frequently expressed views regarding Israel's vital interests. If not, one will have to come to the conclusion that cowardice, not prudence, governs their decisions.

 

Those Likud members who will vote in the next party primaries should take note.

 

Despite Netanyahu's rhetoric about peace, the decision regarding a settlement freeze has nothing to do with peacemaking.

 

Netanyahu knew this even as he spoke. There never was a chance that Mahmoud Abbas or any Arab state would respond to the freeze with a move toward reconciliation or negotiations. The freeze is intended merely to discharge a supposed obligation toward the White House.

 

For precisely that reason, the freeze makes meaningful negotiations less likely and the prospect of peace more distant. A unilateral Israeli concession undertaken in response to American pressure, it encourages the Arab world to believe it can continue to rely on the US to squeeze concessions out of Israel without even acknowledging Israel's existence.

 

That's not a formula for peace.

 

ON THE other side of the balance, Netanyahu can point to one small step forward. A de facto freeze has been in effect ever since Netanyahu took office. Now, for the first time, the freeze has a putative ending point. To that limited extent, Netanyahu has adopted a policy in Judea and Samaria at variance with the administration's.

 

Two months ago I suggested in this space that the Obama administration would be happy to "negotiate" the terms of a freeze indefinitely, and that Israel had no choice but to put some distance between its policy and the administration's. I suggested that Netanyahu unilaterally declare a six-month freeze, simply to get it over with without straining US-Israel relations overmuch. Now, two months later, the end of the freeze is supposedly in sight.

 

Of course, while the Americans have endorsed the freeze, they haven't endorsed its ending. From their perspective there's plenty of time to pressure Israel to extend the freeze indefinitely on one excuse or another. A situation in which there are no meaningful peace negotiations but Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria slowly die on the vine is just fine with the administration, even if it is diametrically opposed to Israel's interests.

 

The critical question is whether all the backtracking Netanyahu has engaged in since he was elected, from nominally favoring a Palestinian state to declaring a freeze without any quid-pro-quo, advances Israel's interests. The coming 10 months are likely to demonstrate convincingly that they have had the opposite effect. It will be a big surprise if Abbas suddenly decides to negotiate, or Saudi Arabia decides to open an interest section in Tel Aviv.

 

This is especially true if Netanyahu brings to fruition the irresponsible policy of releasing a large number of Palestinian murderers in return for Gilad Schalit. These murderers will now supposedly include Marwan Barghouti, the great white hope of the minority of Israelis who still believe in a negotiated peace with the Palestinian Authority. Yet the consummation of this deal will bolster Hamas and Palestinian radicals generally.

 

Barghouti himself has said that one kidnapping has produced more results for the Palestinians than any number of negotiations. He is likely to prove a determined, dynamic leader willing and able - as Mahmoud Abbas is not - to mobilize Palestinian society for a third bout of warfare against Israel.

 

There has been much speculation that the freeze is some kind of Israeli payment for a stiffer American policy against Iran. This is hardly credible. The best strategy for limiting Iran's nuclear ambitions is to impose effective, long-term sanctions on it, and this strategy is every bit as much in America's interest as Israel's.

 

As for the US facilitating direct Israeli military action against Iran, such action is unlikely.

 

This may come as a surprise to ordinary Israeli citizens who have been fed for months off their government's

posturing, but direct Israeli action against Iran is probably unwise. Iran has twice Israel's national product, 10 times its population and 70 times its territory. No matter how effective an initial strike against Iran's nuclear infrastructure would be, Israel might not win the long, bitter conventional war against Iran and its proxies that would ensue, and Netanyahu and his ministers must know it. There is thus little the US can do regarding Iran that would be worth paying for in terms of important Israeli interests.

 

So the prospects for peace and the outlook for Israel's interests are likely to be darker 10 months from now than they are today. That is the point when the Netanyahu government will have to make a fateful choice. It will have to point out what is obvious even now - that the freeze policy has made Arab-Israeli relations worse rather than better. It will have to take another, bolder step beyond the constraints of American policy and end the freeze. If it does not, it will have failed to justify its stewardship of Israel's affairs.

 

The writer heads the Israel Policy Center, whose mission includes reinforcing Israel's character as a Jewish, democratic state.

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

 

THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR AG

The process of selecting a new attorney general is not yet finished. After the selection committee failed to settle on a candidate, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman's recommendation that Yehuda Weinstein be appointed was far from satisfactory. Weinstein, a respected lawyer in private practice, has specialized in criminal law, which is not central to the attorney general's work. Neeman's involvement in concealing his personal ties with one of the other candidates, Yedidia Stern, who has since withdrawn his candidacy, doesn't bolster Neeman's recommendation. Likewise, the justice minister's candidate would have to recuse himself from dealing with a series of cases against public figures with whom he has had personal ties.


The post of attorney general must be filled by someone with a spotless reputation who has expertise first and foremost in public law. Most of the attorney general's work involves administering legal advice to the government on questions that don't actually involve criminal law. The fact that State Prosecutor Moshe Lador is a criminal-law expert reinforces the need for an attorney general with a background in public law.


Four of the candidates for attorney general garnered the support of three members of the selection committee, among them Daphne Barak-Erez, whose integrity and expertise in public law is unassailable. She has been a candidate for years as a Supreme Court justice; this is one of the best tests of her suitability as attorney general. Many High Court rulings have cited her legal scholarship, which has dealt with such issues as the law of war, fundamental rights, religion and state, gender and privatization. And the government gains a distinct advantage in being represented in court by someone the judges highly esteem.

The need to increase the number of women in senior positions and to break the "glass ceiling" in official posts that have hitherto been filled only by men should also be noted. The executive and legislative branches still suffer from a serious and outrageous underrepresentation regarding everything related to women.


Barak-Erez should be chosen as the next attorney general. Her expertise, knowledge and the high esteem for her in the judicial system and academia should guide the cabinet, as should the importance of appointing women to senior positions. It's not too late. At the next cabinet meeting, when the ministers choose the next attorney general, the cabinet should reject Neeman's recommendation and vote for Barak-Erez.

 

***************************************

HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

WHAT NETANYAHU REALLY THINKS ABOUT SETTLEMENTS

BY ALUF BENN

 

Why did Benjamin Netanyahu alter his stance and agree to a Palestinian state and the freezing of settlement construction? Was he only giving in to pressure from Barack Obama, or were there domestic reasons? Did his assessment of the situation alter since he returned to power, or is this that "same old Bibi," who simply got hold of a new list of slogans?


More than previous premiers, Netanyahu considers himself a leader and an intellectual. It is important to him that his policy rely on an extensive worldview, and he has written books presenting his political and economic viewpoints. It is, therefore, worthwhile listening to what Netanyahu has been saying in recent weeks in a series of speeches revealing his strategic outlook; they express deep fear of the threats facing Israel and introduce preferences for countering them.


This is Netanyahu's fear scale: "First, Iran must be prevented from developing a military nuclear capability. Second, we need to find an appropriate solution to the missile and rocket threat. And third, we must reinforce the right of Israel to defend itself."


What to do? Netanyahu wants the international community to rally and impose strict sanctions on Iran and undertake actions to undermine the regime. He is proposing a peace agreement with the Palestinians, based on territorial compromise in the territories and the establishment of "secure and recognized borders" for Israel. Central to the agreement would be security arrangements and disarmament aimed at blocking the smuggling of rockets and missiles into the West Bank. This is the main problem, from the prime minister's point of view, and it will not be resolved by agreeing on a peaceful border. The defense solution must combine effective means for securing the border and intercepting arms shipments into the territories, as well as the development of missile defense systems. Israel will also request international guarantees that "bypass Goldstone" and will be based on Israel's right to defend itself against terrorism.


Netanyahu estimates the security requirements will cost tens of billions of dollars, and for Israel not to collapse economically, it will need to retain annual growth of 4-5 percent. He thinks the money can be found in bureaucratic efficiency, privatization of state lands and incentives for high-tech industries and entrepreneurs. But economic reforms will not be enough. Netanyahu's security model relies on broadening Israel's dependency on the United States. The prime minister wants America to neutralize Iran, back it up in its effort to curb the smuggling of rockets, assist in the development of missile defense and take action to shelve the Goldstone report.

It is worthwhile paying attention to what is missing here: Netanyahu does not consider the settlements a component in the security of Israel. It is important for him to block the border against rockets, and maybe this will require the presence of a military force in the Jordan Valley. But the fact that Jewish settlements exist on the hills offers nothing. In his view, Elon Moreh does not protect Tel Aviv. This does not mean that he has decided to remove Itamar or Yitzhar, only that Obama's support is more important to him.


Netanyahu was not nurtured by the Yesha Council, and it is hard to recall his tours of settlements beyond the separation fence. He stopped at Ma'aleh Adumim and Ariel. The harsh criticism of him from the settler leaders, as a result of the building freeze, is not affecting his supporters the way it did Ariel Sharon. Netanyahu did not climb the hills with bulldozers like Sharon did, and did not sit with Zambish (Ze'ev Hever) to discuss maps and plans, but fought for the rights of Israel in television studios and at the United Nations and considers international support a lot more important than a few prefabricated houses. His support for settlers, in the argument with Obama over the freeze, centered on the call to allow them to have a normal life, not more growth.

During his speech at the Eilat journalism conference on Sunday, Netanyahu said: "The people in Israel and the Palestinians are tired of long-lasting war and want to reach a peace agreement." Like Menachem Begin, who went from "not a single inch" to "no more war," and like Yitzhak Rabin, who was shocked by the pathetic show of resolve among Tel Aviv residents during the Gulf War and opted for a compromise with the Palestinians, Netanyahu, too, understands that the majority of the Israeli public wants quiet and considers the settlers a nuisance. And this means the decision to freeze settlement construction for 10 months is just the first taste of domestic confrontation.

 

*************************************** 

 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

MESSIAH IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

BY AVIRAMA GOLAN

 

At noon last Friday, two young men in black suits, long beards and determined faces stood opposite the gates of the Alliance school in Ramat Aviv and urged the 13- and 14-year-old boys to put on tefillin (phylacteries). But actually, not really - because the ceremony they proposed bore only vague resemblance to the original religious commandment. They were wrapping the tefillin straps around the boys' heads and arms simultaneously, in the middle of the day and the middle of the street, and murmuring the Shema Yisrael ("Hear O Israel") prayer along with the phrase "May our lord, master and teacher, the King Messiah, live forever." And the two young men, faces aglow, cried ecstatically, "Jews, the Messiah is already here!"


Not for nothing, an observer might conclude, did noted teachers of Jewish law define the messianist segment of those who seek to bring Jews back to religion as "Christian missionaries." Yet secular Jews appear to see nothing harmful about this game. The fact is that the boys stood in line to see the "rebbe" - a young man who himself "got religion" not long ago. And aside from a few members of a neighborhood committee formed to battle the messianists, there was no sign of worried parents or teachers demanding the immediate dismantling of their tefillin stand.


Ramat Aviv has recently been the scene of well-publicized clashes that are often erroneously described as a cultural and communal struggle between secular and Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews. These clashes have prompted claims that the secular are simply being racist: Why are they so afraid their children might become religious? Do they fear that someone will offer their children better values? Others argue that Chabad Hasidim - the ones behind the tefillin stand - are nice: After all, everyone celebrates Pesach at Chabad houses in Thailand and Nepal, and besides, what's wrong with a little yiddishkeit?

The other side's arguments are also nothing to write home about, with the most off-putting being the argument that Haredi families lower the value of veteran residents' houses. Nor is the effort to catch Tzvaot Hashem, the Chabad outreach group, in minor building violations convincing.


Despite all this, the question of whether Ramat Aviv residents are rabid Haredi-haters is of marginal importance. What is crucial to understand is that the new residents of this neighborhood - a neighborhood whose overall character is secular even if religious people also live there - are not just Haredim who happen to have moved house. Rather, they are an organized group with a declared, aggressive goal, and one whose connection to religion in general, and to Judaism in particular, is dangerous quackery.


Students at the Tomchei Temimim Yeshiva, who moved into the building that was once a cinema and then a journalism school, were sent to colonize a neighborhood they define as "hedonistic" and "very influential." Rabbi Yossi Ginzburg, the head of the yeshiva, is the son of Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburg - the author of the book "Baruch Hagever," which praises Baruch Goldstein (who massacred 29 Muslims at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron in 1994), and a man known for his fanatic sermons.


All the yeshiva's students are people who themselves "returned" to religion and have come to Ramat Aviv to save other Jewish souls, as they do in every other alleged site of debauchery and sin in the world. Their goal is to bring the ultimate redemption right now. After they return from a pilgrimage to the Lubavitcher rebbe's house at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn ("because the rebbe needs me personally," as one said), they must risk their own souls in this neighborhood to save its residents.


At their nursery schools, which secular toddlers also attend, the male teachers (women are mere caregivers, not teachers) teach the children to sing "Who are we? The armies of the Lord [Tzvaot Hashem]. What is our role? To fight. Against whom and what? The evil inclination."


One can of course argue that they don't force anyone to attend. But given the shortage of nursery schools (and certainly at the tempting price their schools charge), and the fact that they benefit from millions of shekels in donations from businessmen such as Michael Mitelman of Starkist Food d'Or and others, this argument is shaky. Yet all this pales beside the support they receive from public figures, politicians and celebrities.


The yeshiva's public relations material features pictures of businessmen attending its "weekly lecture." How is it that of all the different ways one could study Judaism, only the fanatic Messianic approach speaks to them? And while one could accept Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Effi Eitam, Eli Yatzpan and Arie Shumer as members of its "friends' circle," why are Matan Vilnai, Zeev Bielski, Ephraim Halevy and many others pictured at various events embracing these merchants of redemption, who preach racism, hatred of non-Jews and messianic delusions, and thumb their noses at any principle related to the needs of the state?


This is not a local, secular Ramat Aviv issue. This is a war over the nature of Israeli society. The people to blame for the retreat of humanism, culture and knowledge in the face of ignorance and idol worship are not the ignorant, but the public figures who fawn over them, betray their own values and leave our children alone at the front.

***************************************

 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

DEMJANJUK TRIAL / GERMANY SHOULDN'T HAVE TRIED 'IVAN THE MISERABLE'

BY YITZHAK LAOR

 

From its very beginnings, West Germany never enjoyed remembering, and its first chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, built his political career, and indeed his country's power, on defying the outside world's accusations, making out that the Germans were only victims. So who was guilty? Hitler and his gang, of course, and they had vanished a few years before. So that's all there was to the matter.


That Germany, ruled by the Christian Democrats, did everything it could to avoid legal proceedings against the Nazis who had escaped prosecution during the Allied occupation immediately after the war. The reparation and compensation agreements were a wise move, and Germany entered the international community by way of financial atonement. But the money did not go to all the countries that were devastated and whose people were slaughtered by the German military, but almost only to the Jews and Israel.


The most outstanding example of the way Israel repaid that Germany, with its scant memories, was the order David Ben-Gurion gave to the prosecutor in the Adolf Eichmann trial, Gideon Hausner. When describing the events that led to the destruction of the Jews, he was to omit one detail - the name of Adenauer's top aide in the postwar West German government, Hans Globke. Before the war, Globke served on the team that drew up the Nuremberg Laws, but he was not only spared prosecution, he became an important leader of the Christian Democratic Party.


As the years went by, the politics of German remembrance underwent a transformation. A generation passed and a truly new generation replaced it, one whose memory consists of islands of knowledge and ignorance. Either way, Germany waited until 1996 before marking the Holocaust, and even now it does so using a very selective memory. The other atrocities have never been memorialized. This selective memory jibed well with the Israeli memory that crystallized gradually over the same years. The horrors of World War II and the crimes by the German military on the various fronts are slipping slowly into oblivion, both here and there, whereas the Holocaust is singled out as a unique phenomenon, almost detached from all the other monstrous acts.


All the above provides a backdrop to the farce surrounding the trial of John (Ivan) Demjanjuk. In this last trial of its kind on German soil, a non-German has been accused of crimes against humanity; the proceedings will end, at best, with the moral that there were also wicked Slavs. Listeners to a German radio station or viewers of German television on Monday might have believed that Josef Mengele was going on trial, or that a the criminal who regrettably wasn't hanged at Nuremberg after the war had finally been caught. But the man in the wheelchair who was rolled into court, with hundreds of reporters and photographers looking on, was merely one of tens of thousands of Nazi collaborators the United States admitted after the war.


Israeli schoolchildren are not taken to march around Bergen-Belsen in northern Germany (the German government wouldn't allow such parades on its home turf), but to Poland, without learning what the Poles underwent during the Nazi occupation. Similarly, the last chapter in Germany's legal proceedings against Nazi criminals will be the trial of Ivan the Miserable. Heinrich Himmler thought that mass murder was not a simple matter for German refinement to handle, as he explained at length in his speech at Posen in October 1943. So he assigned the Slavs to do the dirty work in the death camps. He could have chuckled over this trial and said that the Slavs really did the job. The German judicial system would have done better to refrain from this self-debasement.

 

**************************************

HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

OBAMA'S NOT THE PROBLEM

BY NATASHA MOZGOVAYA

 

President Barack Obama isn't short of critics. He bowed to the emperor of Japan? How humiliating for Americans. He appeases the Chinese? A sure sign he doesn't care at all about human rights. The national debt has risen? He's a spendthrift. The jobless rate didn't stall at 8.5 percent? His economic plan's a flop. He plays basketball with guys? He's a male chauvinist unworthy of female support. He's deploying more troops in Afghanistan? He's a "war president" unworthy of his Nobel Peace Prize.


Obama also has plenty of critics in the Middle East. A week ago, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Obama wasn't doing anything to get talks going with Israel. The Washington Post detailed the string of times Obama has disappointed the Arabs, and a New York Times editorial accused him of not thinking more than one step ahead. Meanwhile, members of Benjamin Netanyahu's government have expressed abhorrence over pressure from Washington, and Israel's ambassador to the United States had to explain to reporters that the freeze in settlement construction was above all a gesture to the American president.


"It is Obama and his team that have created this situation," said an Israeli source involved in efforts to get talks going, in all seriousness, making it sound as if it weren't for Obama the two sides would long ago have broken bread and shared a plate of hummus. True, the administration has made some mistakes in handling the Middle East; for instance, the way it pushed Abbas into a corner over the Palestinian response to the Goldstone report. Another example is its lack of regard for Israeli public opinion. But blaming the current deadlock on Obama is unfair, and attempts to dictate terms for American participation are impertinent.

 

With all the problems he is facing, perhaps Obama should not have even involved himself in the Mideast dispute. Instead, he quickly took take advantage of the momentum created by his great popularity. He honestly believed that both sides wanted to ensure their children a better future, not at the expense of those living on the other side of the fence. Perhaps he hoped that the Israelis would not quickly forget that the eight years of George W. Bush's support brought the end of the dispute no closer.


It's true that the open squabble between Jerusalem and Washington was carried on in a warped manner that made the Palestinians dig in their heels. Instead of negotiations without preconditions, the construction freeze became a precondition - and its abridged version was not enough to create the "positive atmosphere" necessary to get talks going. But the idea itself is not new, and it could have been used as a lever for a serious discussion on Israel's future and borders if efforts hadn't been used to make Obama seem like some kind of a pharaoh, with Israel's main task being to withstand the pressure until the end of his term.


Making out that Obama is "bad for Israel" may have helped Netanyahu mobilize some support, but in the long term a responsible Israeli leadership should try to keep the president's status from eroding and take advantage of his efforts to improve relations with the Islamic world, instead of jealously measuring who is getting more attention. There's no sense in trying to extort declarations of love from an administration that speaks in terms of interests. It makes sense to try to speak its language. But it would be even more helpful to admit that Obama is neither the problem nor the solution, not until at least one of the sides takes responsibility for establishing a dialogue with the other, not with Washington.

 

*************************************** 

******************************************************************************************

THE NEW YORK TIMES

THE AFGHANISTAN SPEECH

 

Americans have reason to be pessimistic, if not despairing, about the war in Afghanistan. After eight years of fighting, more than 800 American lives lost and more than 200 billion taxpayer dollars spent, the Afghan government is barely legitimate and barely hanging on in the face of an increasingly powerful Taliban insurgency.

 

In his speech Tuesday night, President Obama showed considerable political courage by addressing that pessimism and despair head-on. He explained why the United States cannot walk away from the war and outlined an ambitious and high-risk strategy for driving back the Taliban and bolstering the Afghan government so American troops can eventually go home.

 

For far too long — mostly, but not only, under President George W. Bush — Afghanistan policy has had little direction and no accountability. Mr. Obama started to address those problems at West Point, although the country needs to hear more about how he intends to pay for the war and how he will decide when Afghanistan will be able to stand on its own.

 

The president's prolonged and leak-ridden policy review had fanned doubts here and abroad about Mr. Obama's commitment. He showed no reluctance on Tuesday night. He said he decided to send more troops because he is "convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan," which he called "the epicenter of the violent extremism practiced by Al Qaeda."

 

"This is no idle danger," Mr. Obama said, "no hypothetical threat." He warned that new attacks were being plotted in the region, and raised the terrifying prospect of an unchecked Al Qaeda taking over a nuclear-armed Pakistan.

 

Mr. Obama's decision to send an additional 30,000 troops — and ask NATO allies for several thousand more — is unlikely to end the political debate. Republicans are certain to point out that it is still short of the 40,000 requested by the top field commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and object to the president's pledge of a quick drawdown. Many Democrats and the president's own vice president had opposed any escalation.

 

At this late date, we don't know if even 100,000 American troops plus 40,000 from NATO will be enough to turn the war around. But we are sure that continuing President Bush's strategy of fighting on the cheap (in January 2008, the start of Mr. Bush's last year in office and more than six years after the war began, there were only 27,000 American troops in Afghanistan) is a guarantee of defeat.

 

Mr. Obama said he planned to move those 30,0000 troops in quickly — within six months — to break the

 

Taliban's momentum, secure key population centers, speed up training of Afghan security forces and then hand over control to Afghan authorities. He said he expected to be able to start drawing down American forces in July 2011. But he made no promise about when all American combat troops would be gone, saying only that the decision would be based on conditions on the ground.

 

Over all, we found the president's military arguments persuasive.

 

The Afghan people have no love for the Taliban's medieval ideas and brutality, but the Karzai government's failure to provide basic services or security has led many to conclude that they have no choice but to submit. Driving the Taliban back swiftly and decisively from key cities and regions should help change that calculation. Coupled with an offer of negotiations, it may also peel away less committed fighters.

 

There is no point in doing that unless there is a minimally credible Afghan government to "hold" those areas. There is no chance of that unless Mr. Karzai ends the corruption and appoints competent officials. One of Mr. Obama's biggest challenges is figuring out how to goad him into doing that, without further damaging the Afghan leader's legitimacy, or driving him even deeper into his circle of unsavory cronies and warlords.

 

In his speech Mr. Obama sought to put Mr. Karzai on notice, but more gently than we would have. "The days of providing a blank check are over," he said, vowing that his government "will be clear about what we expect from those who receive our assistance."

 

We hope that the president and his aides — who failed to stop Mr. Karzai from trying to steal his re-election — are a lot more specific and a lot more forceful with the Afghan leader in private.

 

Mr. Obama faced a similar balancing act with Pakistan. He forcefully argued that Pakistan's survival also depends on defeating Al Qaeda and the Taliban but gave the Pakistani government more credit than we would have for seeing that.

 

Pakistani officials insist they understand the threat but question Washington's staying power. Mr. Obama said the United States will support Pakistan's "security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent." But it will take a lot more cajoling and pressure to finally persuade Islamabad to stop hedging its bets and fully take on the extremists.

 

For years President Bush sought to disguise the true cost of the Afghan and Iraq wars. So it was a relief to hear the president put a credible price tag on his escalation — he said it is likely to cost an additional $30 billion next year — and promise to work with Congress to pay for it. He and Congress need to address that issue quickly and credibly.

 

We are eager to see American troops come home. We don't know whether Mr. Obama will be able to meet his July 2011 deadline to start drawing down forces.

 

For that to happen, there will have to be a lot more success at training Afghan forces and improving the government's effectiveness.

 

Still, setting a deadline — so long as it is not set in stone — is a sound idea. Mr. Karzai and his aides need to know that America's commitment is not open-ended. Mr. Obama's generals and diplomats also need to know that their work will be closely monitored and reviewed.

 

Otherwise, Mr. Obama will be hard pressed to keep his promise that this war, already the longest in American history, will not go on forever.

 

***************************************

THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A MISGUIDED TAX REVOLT

 

Thomas Suozzi has just lost his job, voted out as Nassau County executive by about 380 votes in an election that turned on voters' frustration and anger about high property taxes. It was a victory for free-form anxiety, but a loss for Nassau County, whose tax-weary residents went after the wrong target.

 

Mr. Suozzi was elected in 2001 to pull Nassau out of a fiscal ditch, and he did — over the hard-core opposition of an intransigent Republican minority. He brimmed with ideas to reinvigorate the local economy and was an early leader of the crusade to repair Albany's rancid political culture. He had big plans for a third term, but they were whomped by the recession and a little-known Republican, Edward Mangano, who also ran for the newly invented Tax Revolt Party.

 

Mr. Suozzi was not alone in the New York region. In one election night voters fired County Executive Andrew Spano in Westchester, Gov. Jon Corzine of New Jersey and Democratic candidates in local races all over. The Nassau County Legislature is in Republican hands again, after 10 years. Nassau's comptroller, the Democrat Howard Weitzman, fell to a little-known Republican.

 

The Republicans took the simplistic path to success, railing against taxes to turn voters' pain into votes. But their logic was grossly misplaced. Nassau's property taxes are crushingly high, but the county portion of the bill, Mr. Suozzi's responsibility, is only about 16 percent. More than 60 percent goes to school districts, whose bloated budgets voters routinely support. Twenty percent pays for a galaxy of special taxing entities, like garbage districts and fire departments, that voters have never seen fit to consolidate or close despite Mr. Weitzman's withering audits.

 

The prime reformer for cutting taxes and putting the county economy on solid footing has been Mr. Suozzi. He led a campaign to curb costly state mandates on local governments and pushed an ambitious plan for development in faded downtowns and in central Nassau.

 

What did Mr. Mangano offer? A pledge to repeal an energy tax that would immediately blow a $40 million hole in the county budget and imperil its bond rating. Vague promises to cut spending in a campaign Newsday's editorial page called "idea free." The Republican who unseated Mr. Spano, Rob Astorino, is going to lead a county government that he once said should confine itself to tasks like running the airport and fixing roads. Christopher Christie, the governor-elect of New Jersey, never explained how he plans to cut taxes at a time when New Jersey's budget is battered by the recession.

 

Decades of Republican majorities in Nassau County kept taxes down by borrowing and borrowing until the crisis exploded. Mr. Corzine fell into a hole created by the reckless borrowing and tax-cutting of the state's last Republican governor, Christine Todd Whitman.

 

Voters in these areas should hope their newly elected leaders don't actually try to keep their promises.

 

***************************************

THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

WOLF HUNT

 

Not everyone was happy when the gray wolf population in the Northern Rockies, near extinction in the mid-1970's, staged a remarkable comeback under the protections of the Endangered Species Act. By the end of last year there were about 1,650 in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. Ranchers complained that the wolves were killing their sheep and cattle; hunters complained that they were devastating big game, mainly elk.

 

So when protections were lifted earlier this year in Idaho and Montana the states immediately approved wolf hunting seasons. But what seemed to be an ordinary big-game hunt, with licenses and duly apportioned quotas (75 in Montana, 220 in Idaho), now looks like the opening of a new front in the age-old war on wolves.

 

Once the season opened in Montana, some of the most-studied wolves in Yellowstone, including a female that scientists had been tracking for years, were killed almost immediately just outside the park, jeopardizing several scientific studies. The reaction from the state's wolf program director? "We didn't think wolves would be that vulnerable to firearms harvest." By the time Montana's season ended on Nov. 17, 72 wolves had been shot — 3 short of the state's quota — out of a total population of some 500.

 

Nothing lays bare the true point of the wolf season more than Idaho's recent decision to extend its hunt by three months, ending on March 31. The reason is that hunters have simply not killed enough wolves — only half of the state's quota of 220 so far.

 

Environmental groups and other wolf advocates argued, before protections were lifted last spring, that populations across the Northern Rockies had not in fact reached sustainable levels. Having lost that argument, they are now insisting on stronger state management plans, and a moratorium on hunting until such plans can be formulated. This is a fair request. What matters is the survival of not just a few token wolves, but strong, genetically healthy wolf populations.

 

***************************************

THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

WHO'S SARI NOW?

BY MAUREEN DOWD

 

WASHINGTON

Michaele and Tareq Salahi finally actually got invited to an exclusive Washington gathering.

 

But they're not sure they want to accept.

 

It is, after all, an invitation to Thursday's Congressional hearing into their Night of Living Dangerously, the notorious White House party-crashing incident.

 

The Salahis discovered the secret to sneaking through a mythical gate, and that has now taken on the import of one of Dan Brown's ancient portals; the breached White House wall serves as a prism to examine our society, our president and our values.

 

We live in an age obsessed with "reality" and overrun by fakers. The mock has run amok.

 

This decade will be remembered for the collapse of the Twin Towers, the economy and any standard of accomplishment for societal prestige. TV and the Internet wallow in the lowest common denominator.

 

Warhol looks like Whistler.

 

But if Congress investigates social climbing and party crashing in Washington, it won't have time for anything else.

 

Because even the outrage over the fakers is fake. The capital has turned up its nose at the tacky trompe l'oeil Virginia horse-country socialites: a faux Redskins cheerleader and a faux successful businessman auditioning for a "reality" show by feigning a White House invitation.

 

Yet Washington has always been a town full of poseurs, arrivistes, fame-seekers, cheaters and camera hogs.

 

Lots of people here are trying to crash the party, wangle an invite to the right thing, work the angles and milk their connections to better insinuate their way into the inner circle.

 

Barack Obama is the ultimate party crasher. He crashed Hillary's high-hat party in 2008 and he crashed the snooty age-old Washington party of privileged white guys with a monopoly on power.

 

Sneaking past the White House gates with the slippery Salahis, we catch a rare glimpse of a Secret Service, a social office and a Pentagon with glaring — and chilling — vulnerabilities and liabilities.

 

The Washington Post reported the Secret Service guard waved in the Salahis, breaking the rules, because he "was persuaded by the couple's manner and insistence as well as the pressure of keeping lines moving on a rainy evening."

 

Because Barack Obama has broken historic barriers and excites strong passions, he requires a heightened level of Secret Service protection. Now, he isn't getting the minimum required.

 

Vetting guests does not involve emotion or leeway. Famous lawmakers like Pat Schroeder have been turned away after showing up without IDs.

 

Whatever Michele Jones, the Pentagon-based liaison to the White House, e-mailed the Salahis to enhance their delusion of having a shot at a dinner, she was mindlessly enabling fabulists.

 

Desirée Rogers, who has also been asked to testify Thursday, has been cruising for a bruising since telling The Wall Street Journal in April: "We have the best brand on Earth: the Obama brand. Our possibilities are endless." She wanted to pose for The Journal in an Oscar de la Renta gown in the first lady's garden, but the press secretary, Robert Gibbs, vetoed that.

 

The statuesque social secretary brandishing a Harvard M.B.A. and animal-print designer shoes is not any mere party planner. The old friend of the first couple from Chicago has the exalted and uncommon title of social secretary and special assistant to the president.

 

Instead of standing outside with a clipboard, eyeballing guests as Anne Hathaway did in "The Devil Wears Prada," Desirée was a guest at the dinner, the center of her own table of guests, just like the president and first lady.

 

As Michael Isikoff wrote in Newsweek, Rogers sidelined Cathy Hargraves, the East Wing staffer whose job it was to go to the East Gate portico and check off the names of each guest from a printout.

 

Rogers told Hargraves that the Obama team felt no need for those services because, given the recession, there wouldn't be many lavish dinners. But even if it's just two state dinners a year, as the first lady plans, one big mistake is too many.

 

Also, the rejection of the Bush appointee has unseemly echoes of Hillary Clinton sacking the White House travel office staff, unnecessarily politicizing an office that required old pros.

 

Rogers also conjured up a White House closing ranks on itself, allowing far too many West Wing staffers, mid-level political aides, press flacks and speechwriters to attend the prestigious premiere state dinner, rather than people more relevant to the Indian guests of honor. The Obama team always talks of making the White House "the People's House," so why let it look like the White House Mess?

 

Even before the Salahis swept in preening, the Obama staffers were there preening, standing around celebrating themselves. And of course, savoring the wonder of the Obama brand.

 

***************************************

THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THIS I BELIEVE

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

Let me start with the bottom line and then tell you how I got there: I can't agree with President Obama's decision to escalate in Afghanistan. I'd prefer a minimalist approach, working with tribal leaders the way we did to overthrow the Taliban regime in the first place. Given our need for nation-building at home right now, I am ready to live with a little less security and a little-less-perfect Afghanistan.

 

I recognize that there are legitimate arguments on the other side. At a lunch on Tuesday for opinion writers, the president lucidly argued that opting for a surge now to help Afghans rebuild their army and state into something decent — to win the allegiance of the Afghan people — offered the only hope of creating an "inflection point," a game changer, to bring long-term stability to that region. May it be so. What makes me wary about this plan is how many moving parts there are — Afghans, Pakistanis and NATO allies all have to behave forever differently for this to work.

 

But here is the broader context in which I assess all this: My own foreign policy thinking since 9/11 has been based on four pillars:

 

1. The Warren Buffett principle: Everything I've ever gotten in life is largely due to the fact that I was born in this country, America, at this time with these opportunities for its citizens. It is the primary obligation of our generation to turn over a similar America to our kids.

 

2. Many big bad things happen in the world without America, but not a lot of big good things. If we become weak and enfeebled by economic decline and debt, as we slowly are, America may not be able to play its historic stabilizing role in the world. If you didn't like a world of too-strong-America, you will really not like a world of too-weak-America — where China, Russia and Iran set more of the rules.

 

3. The context within which people live their lives shapes everything — from their political outlook to their religious one. The reason there are so many frustrated and angry people in the Arab-Muslim world, lashing out first at their own governments and secondarily at us — and volunteering for "martyrdom" — is because of the context within which they live their lives. That was best summarized by the U.N.'s Arab Human Development reports as a context dominated by three deficits: a deficit of freedom, a deficit of education and a deficit of women's empowerment. The reason India, with the world's second-largest population of Muslims, has a thriving Muslim minority (albeit with grievances but with no prisoners in Guantánamo Bay) is because of the context of pluralism and democracy it has built at home.

 

4. One of the main reasons the Arab-Muslim world has been so resistant to internally driven political reform is because vast oil reserves allow its regimes to become permanently ensconced in power, by just capturing the oil tap, and then using the money to fund vast security and intelligence networks that quash any popular movement. Look at Iran.

 

Hence, post-9/11 I advocated that our politicians find sufficient courage to hike gasoline taxes and seriously commit ourselves to developing alternatives to oil. Economists agree that this would ultimately bring down the global price, and slowly deprive these regimes of the sole funding source that allows them to maintain their authoritarian societies. People do not change when we tell them they should; they change when their context tells them they must.

 

To me, the most important reason for the Iraq war was never W.M.D. It was to see if we could partner with Iraqis to help them build something that does not exist in the modern Arab world: a state, a context, where the constituent communities — Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds — write their own social contract for how to live together without an iron fist from above. Iraq has proved staggeringly expensive and hugely painful. The mistakes we made should humble anyone about nation-building in Afghanistan. It does me.

 

Still, the Iraq war may give birth to something important — if Iraqis can find that self-sustaining formula to live together. Alas, that is still in doubt. If they can, the model would have a huge impact on the Arab world. Baghdad is a great Arab capital. If Iraqis fail, it's religious strife, economic decline and authoritarianism as far as the eye can see — the witch's brew that spawns terrorists.

 

Iraq was about "the war on terrorism." The Afghanistan invasion, for me, was about the "war on terrorists." To me, it was about getting bin Laden and depriving Al Qaeda of a sanctuary — period. I never thought we could make Afghanistan into Norway — and even if we did, it would not resonate beyond its borders the way Iraq might.

 

To now make Afghanistan part of the "war on terrorism" — i.e., another nation-building project — is not crazy. It is just too expensive, when balanced against our needs for nation-building in America, so that we will have the strength to play our broader global role. Hence, my desire to keep our presence in Afghanistan limited. That is what I believe. That is why I believe it.

 

***************************************

THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE 9/11 OF 1859

BY TONY HORWITZ

 

Charles Town, W.Va.

ONE hundred and fifty years ago today, the most successful terrorist in American history was hanged at the edge of this Shenandoah Valley town. Before climbing atop his coffin for the wagon ride to the gallows, he handed a note to one of his jailers: "I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood."

 

Eighteen months later, Americans went to war against each other, with soldiers marching into battle singing "John Brown's Body." More than 600,000 men died before the sin of slavery was purged.

 

Few if any Americans today would question the justness of John Brown's cause: the abolition of human bondage. But as the nation prepares to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who calls himself the architect of the 9/11 attacks, it may be worth pondering the parallels between John Brown's raid in 1859 and Al Qaeda's assault in 2001.

 

Brown was a bearded fundamentalist who believed himself chosen by God to destroy the institution of slavery. He hoped to launch his holy war by seizing the United States armory at Harpers Ferry, Va., and arming blacks for a campaign of liberation. Brown also chose his target for shock value and symbolic impact. The only federal armory in the South, Harpers Ferry was just 60 miles from the capital, where "our president and other leeches," Brown wrote, did the bidding of slave owners. The first slaves freed and armed by Brown belonged to George Washington's great-grandnephew.

 

Brown's strike force was similar in size and make-up to that of the 9/11 hijackers. He led 21 men, all but two in their 20s, and many of them radicalized by guerrilla fighting in Bleeding Kansas, the abolitionists' Afghanistan. Brown also relied on covert backers — not oil-rich Saudis, but prominent Yankees known as the Secret Six. Brown used aliases and coded language and gathered his men at a mountain hideout. But, like the 9/11 bombers, Brown's men were indiscreet, disclosing their plan to family and sweethearts. A letter warning of the plot even reached the secretary of war. It arrived in August, the scheme seemed outlandish, and the warning was ignored.

 

Brown and his men were prepared to die, and most did, in what quickly became a suicide mission. Trapped in Harpers Ferry, the raiders fought for 24 hours until Robert E. Lee ordered marines to storm the building where the survivors had holed up. Ten raiders were killed, including two of Brown's sons, and seven more hanged. No slaves won their freedom. The first civilian casualty was a free black railroad worker, shot in the back while fleeing the raiders.

 

This fiasco might have been a footnote of history if Brown had died of his wounds or been immediately executed. Instead, he survived, and was tried under tight security in a civilian court in Charles Town, near Harpers Ferry. Rather than challenge the evidence, or let his lawyers plead insanity, Brown put the South on trial. Citing the biblical injunction to "remember them that are in bonds," he declared his action "was not wrong, but right."

 

"If it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice," he said, "and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel and unjust enactments — I submit; so let it be done!" He was hanged a month later, before a crowd that included John Wilkes Booth, who later wrote of the "terroriser" with a mix of contempt and awe.

 

Brown's courage and eloquence made him a martyr-hero for many in the North. This canonization, in turn, deepened Southern rage and alarm over the raid. Though Brown occupied the far fringe of abolitionism — a "wild and absurd freak," The New York Times called him — Southern firebrands painted his raid as part of a broad conspiracy. An already polarized nation lurched closer to violent divorce. "The time for compromise was gone," Frederick Douglass later observed. "The armed hosts of freedom stood face to face over the chasm of a broken Union, and the clash of arms was at hand." This was exactly what Brown had predicted in his final note.

 

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is no John Brown. The 9/11 attack caused mass, indiscriminate slaughter, for inscrutable ends. Brown fed breakfast to his hostages; the hijackers slit throats with box cutters. Any words Mr. Mohammed may offer in his own defense will likely strike Americans as hateful and unpersuasive. In any event, the judge probably won't grant him an ideological platform.

 

But perhaps he doesn't need one. In 1859, John Brown sought not only to free slaves in Virginia but to terrorize the South and incite a broad conflict. In this he triumphed: panicked whites soon mobilized, militarized and marched double-quick toward secession. Brown's raid didn't cause the Civil War, but it was certainly a catalyst.

 

It may be too early to say if 9/11 bred a similar overreaction. But last night President Obama vowed to increase our efforts in Afghanistan — one of two wars that, eight years on, have killed nearly twice as many Americans as the hijacked planes. The nation, beset by the wars' burden, will continue to find its domestic and foreign policy options hobbled.

 

Show trial or no trial, terrorists sometimes win.

 

Tony Horwitz is the author of "Confederates in the Attic" and "A Voyage Long and Strange." He is working on a book about John Brown's raid.

 

***************************************

THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

FREEDOM'S MARTYR

BY DAVID S. REYNOLDS

 

IT'S important for Americans to recognize our national heroes, even those who have been despised by history. Take John Brown.

 

Today is the 150th anniversary of Brown's hanging — the grim punishment for his raid weeks earlier on Harpers Ferry, Va. With a small band of abolitionists, Brown had seized the federal arsenal there and freed slaves in the area. His plan was to flee with them to nearby mountains and provoke rebellions in the South. But he stalled too long in the arsenal and was captured. He was brought to trial in a Virginia court, convicted of treason, murder and inciting an insurrection, and hanged on Dec. 2, 1859.

 

It's a date we should hold in reverence. Yes, I know the response: Why remember a misguided fanatic and his absurd plan for destroying slavery?

 

There are compelling reasons. First, the plan was not absurd. Brown reasonably saw the Appalachians, which stretch deep into the South, as an ideal base for a guerrilla war. He had studied the Maroon rebels of the West Indies, black fugitives who had used mountain camps to battle colonial powers on their islands. His plan was to create panic by arousing fears of a slave rebellion, leading Southerners to view slavery as dangerous and impractical.

 

Second, he was held in high esteem by many great men of his day. Ralph Waldo Emerson compared him to Jesus, declaring that Brown would "make the gallows as glorious as the cross." Henry David Thoreau placed Brown above the freedom fighters of the American Revolution. Frederick Douglass said that while he had lived for black people, John Brown had died for them. A later black reformer, W. E. B. Du Bois, called Brown the white American who had "come nearest to touching the real souls of black folk."

 

Du Bois was right. Unlike nearly all other Americans of his era, John Brown did not have a shred of racism. He had long lived among African-Americans, trying to help them make a living, and he wanted blacks to be quickly integrated into American society. When Brown was told he could have a clergyman to accompany him to the gallows, he refused, saying he would be more honored to go with a slave woman and her children.

 

By the time of his hanging, John Brown was so respected in the North that bells tolled in many cities and towns in his honor. Within two years, the Union troops marched southward singing, "John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave, but his soul keeps marching on." Brown remained a hero to the North right up through Reconstruction.

 

However, he fell from grace during the long, dark period of Jim Crow. The attitude was, who cares about his progressive racial views, except a few blacks? His reputation improved a bit with the civil rights movement, but he is still widely dismissed as a deranged cultist. This is an injustice to a forward-thinking man dedicated to the freedom and political participation of African-Americans.

 

O.K., some might say, but how about the blotches on his record, especially the murders and bloody skirmishes in Kansas in the 1850s? Brown considered himself a soldier at war. His attacks on pro-slavery forces were part of an escalating cycle of pre-emptive and retaliatory violence that most historians now agree were in essence the first engagements of the Civil War.

 

Besides, none of the heroes from that period is unblemished. Lincoln was the Great Emancipator, but he shared the era's racial prejudices, and even after the war started thought that blacks should be shipped out of the country once they were freed. Andrew Jackson was the man of his age, but in addition to being a slaveholder, he has the extra infamy of his callous treatment of Native Americans, for which some hold him guilty of genocide. John Brown comes with "buts" — but in that he has plenty of company. He deserves to be honored today.

 

For starters, he should be pardoned. Technically, Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia would have to do this, since Brown was tried on state charges and executed there. Such a posthumous pardon by a state occurred just this October, when South Carolina pardoned two black men who were executed 94 years ago for murdering a Confederate veteran.

 

A presidential pardon, however, would be more meaningful. Posthumous pardons are by definition symbolic. They're intended to remove stigma or correct injustice. While the president cannot grant pardons for state crimes, a strong argument can be made for a symbolic exception in Brown's case.

 

By today's standards, his crime was arguably of a federal nature, as his attack was on a federal arsenal in what is now West Virginia. His actions were prompted by federal slavery rulings he considered despicable, especially the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision. Brown was captured by federal troops under Robert E. Lee. And the Virginia court convicted him of treason against Virginia even though he was not a resident. (He was tried in Virginia at the orders of its governor, probably to avert Northern political pressure on the federal government.)

 

There is precedent for presidential pardons of the deceased; in 1999, Bill Clinton pardoned Henry O. Flipper, an African-American lieutenant who was court-martialed in 1881 for misconduct. Last year, George W. Bush gave a posthumous pardon to Charles Winters, an American punished for supplying B-17 bombers to Israel in the late 1940s. In October, Senator John McCain and Representative Peter King petitioned President Obama to pardon Jack Johnson, the black boxing champion, who was convicted a century ago of transporting a white woman across state lines for immoral purposes.

 

Justice would be served, belatedly, if President Obama and Governor Kaine found a way to pardon a man

whose heroic effort to free four million enslaved blacks helped start the war that ended slavery. Once and for all, rescue John Brown from the loony bin of history.

 

David S. Reynolds, a professor at the CUNY Graduate Center, is the author of "John Brown, Abolitionist" and "Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson."

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

EVAPORATING

 

The Zardari presidency is clearly crumbling before our eyes and the president has little chance of avoiding this disaster, which is of his own making. Domestically he has lost the support of the media with but a few diehard exceptions. He has scant support by the military and is being harried by an effective opposition. At the grassroots his popularity is at rock-bottom. Internationally, the US is said to be fearful of presidential 'collapse' and he is under intense pressure to scrap the 17th Amendment and restore the powers of both prime minister and parliament. Foreign media, particularly in the US, speculate about the weakness of the presidency and how that reads across to the difficulty faced by America and others to determine the future shape of policy on Pakistan. To say that Mr Zardari is the wrong man in the wrong job at the wrong time understates the case by several orders of magnitude.


But what is happening to President Zardari needs to be seen as part of a process and not an isolated political event. The process is that of transition and it is neither smooth nor quick. The shape of the state has become distorted over decades, as have the roles of the institutions of state, and restoring them to their rightful shape is painful and difficult. Currently we may be seeing the beginning of the long end of dynastic politics in one of the principal political parties and it may eventually follow in others. Power is moving back to the prime minister's office, the eventual death of the 17th Amendment will restore some parliamentary function and in the short to medium term the process of transition will be complete. There will be a pause for consolidation and institutionalisation of the change process before moving forward again. The president is not going to go quietly and he will fight to retain what he can of his power and position, but the die is now cast – it is a matter of 'when' and not 'if'. It could have been so different had he kept a few more promises and not lost touch with an electorate that in reality was voting for his slain wife and not him as the leader of the hour. But it was not to be and the president who should never have been will be another sad footnote in our political history.

 

***************************************

I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

HARD TIMES

 

Even as people attempt to recover from the unrelenting inflation, there is another shock in store. The Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority has delivered a sudden, sharp shock. The prices of petrol have risen by just over Rs4 per litre, to Rs66. We are told the increase, for December, has come in response to rising international prices. This is a double blow for the poor. Kerosene oil -- the fuel that keeps the stoves of the least wealthy flickering -- has gone up from Rs57.87 to Rs62.63 per litre. At the same time, the prices of essential food items – which have already been rising steadily – will rocket as a result of the increase in transportation costs brought about by the petrol price change. The slowing in the inflationary trend which we had seen for a few months will vanish. Unscrupulous retailers will add to the 'real' increase to maximise their own profits.


There are other implications. For commuters the cost of getting to work or sending kids to school will go up. Life will become harder still for people barely able to make ends meet. It is ironic that a government which claims to stand for people should be able to do so little for them. Perhaps it does not see that the unremitting inflation contributes to its own poor standing in the eyes of the people. Ministers may fool themselves into believing that, outside an election year, this is of little significance. Indeed too many of our politicians have demonstrated that for them people matter only when the time comes to seek their votes. But they must keep in mind that no government whose standing plummets steadily downwards can survive for a prolonged period of time. The social frustrations that flow through our society have manifested themselves in many ways including extremism and militancy. It is easy to dismiss the rise in petrol prices as a minor, possibly unavoidable, event. But decision-makers should consider the wider impact on our people and on the democratic process which can thrive only if backed by the people.

 

*************************************** 

I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

OMINOUS

 

There are about 400,000 Muslims in Switzerland but few mosques, with the Muslim population going to 'prayer houses' instead; and in the entire country there are just four minarets. The matter of minarets became an issue on which the SVP, a Swiss political party, were so exercised that they forced a referendum by gathering 100,000 signatures over 18 months. The results are discomfiting. More than 57 per cent of voters and 22 out of 26 cantons – or provinces – have voted in favour of the ban on building minarets. This is not what the Swiss government wanted or expected. Opinion polls had suggested there would be a slim majority against the proposed ban, but this populist vote may be seen as an emphatic sign that European nations in general are increasingly intolerant of Muslims within them.


The Swiss government now fears unrest in the Muslim population. It had advised against voting for the ban but the electorate is worried about the effects of rising immigration and a parallel rise of Islam as the faith of a majority of the influx. Condemnation of the outcome is almost universal with religious leaders of all faiths and politicians speaking out with uncommon clarity and firmness. Despite this, populist perceptions of Islam have altered radically since 9/11 and the Madrid and London bombings. The tolerant liberal veneer carefully nurtured since the 1960s has been eroded. Polarities that were latent or masked beneath a layer of multiculturalism and grudging tolerance have risen to the surface across European states, slightly less so in America. In the UK far-right and openly racist parties are gaining ground. They have representation in the European parliament, and the Swiss vote is going to strengthen their hand, providing a rally-point that has the validation of democratic preference. The Swiss result is just the latest indicator of the unease with which Islam is viewed in countries where it is a religious minority seeking its own place and space. It will feed through into the 'Clash of Civilisations' debate and serve to confirm already hardening attitudes far beyond Switzerland. The referendum result may yet be overturned by the European Court of Human Rights or the Swiss Supreme Court, but it has sounded an ominous note on the fate of the relationship between Muslim and non-Muslim populations in Europe.

 

***************************************

I. THE NEWS

OUR LEADERSHIP CRISIS

SHAMSHAD AHMAD


'Take me to your leader' is easier said than done in today's world. Nations are not led by leaders any more. Countries, including those considered champions of democracy, are no longer governed by moral imperatives. The Muslim world, in particular, is totally arid and bone-dry in terms of democratic and accountable leadership. Today, ends justify the means no matter what happens to democratic norms and fundamental rights and freedoms.

Historically, different social arrangements and legal structures have warranted different forms of leadership and governance. Leadership is always a complicated amalgam of an individual personality, needs and expectations of a community and exigencies of the age.


Plato's preferred ruler was 'the philosopher king' provided there is such a "superior person who could rule with perfect wisdom and justice." For Aristotle, good governance was a relative matter as there is no best form for all peoples at all times. He differentiated between the 'lawful monarch' and 'willful tyrant,' and favoured a government that sought the welfare of the people.


In imperial China, Han Fei Tzu idealised the leader as a distant figure of enlightened subtlety, who kept very close counsel and ruled not by virtue but by law. The legendary Lycurgus, depicted by Plutarch, inaugurated in Sparta a systematic society where virtue and law were one to ensure the good of the community. For Ibn Khaldun, the great 14th-century Arab social scientist, an ideal leader is a gentle person whose mission is to promote the interests of his subjects.


Machiavelli's concept of leadership relied more on the ends rather than the means. His prince had to be strong, pragmatic and ruthless enough to unite the then city states of Italy. In the absence of virtuous citizens, he believed, there are only "corrupt masses", who can be controlled only by a prince through his "deceitful and vicious behaviour".


There may be no ideal state but in his Social Contract, Rousseau visualised his own ideal of a state with democratic system in which the sovereign power rests with the people, for they alone are in possession of an inalienable "general will". In his view, only a popularly elected government can implement the general will. Hegel, a 19th-century philosopher, glorified the state power beyond limits but also recognised people's general will.

With such an array of thoughts influencing human minds since the emergence of nation state, the world has experienced all forms of political systems ranging from monarchies to republics; from aristocracies to oligarchies and from tyranny to democracy. After centuries of trial and error, democracy emerged as the universally preferred choice, and is now considered the most prevalent model of our era.


Yet, history is also replete with tales of political figures who not only equated themselves with the state but also viewed their reign as a mere extension of their own egos and idiosyncrasies. Even today, there is no dearth of willful rulers of all sorts, elected or unelected, civilian or military, casting their shadows across the world. But in Pakistan, we have never been without crisis of leadership and governance.


The nature and form of our political system has long been the subject of debate in our country with no clarity in our minds regarding the system that suits us most. At the time of our independence, we inherited a parliamentary tradition but soon lost track, groping in the maze of political chaos and confusion. Since then, we have been experimenting with distorted versions of different systems at different times and some times all at the same time.


For decades, we have had a parliamentary system with our parliament never functioning as a sovereign body or playing any role in the country's decision-making. It has never made laws nor has it ever undone the wrongs done to the constitution by successive willful rulers. This regretfully has been the case even when our politicians are in power as they are now. Today again, it is our president, not the prime minister who embodies power. We only wear a parliamentary mask.

We have been experimenting with our own version of presidential system, at times under chief martial law administrators, including a civilian one, with no precedent in the world's history and also with no relevance to the established models of world's known republics. Pakistan today is a laughing stock of the world. Ours is the only parliament which remains at the beck and call of one individual. Legislating is a business beyond its capacity and alien to the temperament of its members.


Democracy, pluralism, good governance, rule of law, separation of powers, institutional integrity, and normative standards are of no relevance to political illiterates of our country. They are doing things in the name of democracy that no other country in the world has ever experimented. With an ingrained culture of political opportunism and ineptitude we have yet to discover a theory of state and methods of government which will suit the genius of our nation. Our present neither-parliamentary-nor-presidential system has no parallel in political philosophy or contemporary history.


The closest to this is perhaps the Machiavellian princedom which is premised on the infamous "doctrine of necessity." Machiavelli's prince must have a "hypocritical and vacillating" personality wearing only the face of "mercy, faith, integrity, humanity, and religion" to create a public image, but in practice often acting contrary to those very ideals. He is either "the child of fortune born into power" or "acquires power through deceit and force."

Pakistan's political history is indeed rich in Machiavellian tradition. The people have had no role in their country's decision-making. Parliaments and elections have been used as the means of serving only selfish group interests or the interests of opportunistic feudal, moneyed, law-evading, land-grabbing, loan-defaulting and privileged elites and classes.


Our rulers, civilian or non-civilian, have mostly been contemptuous of the people's sovereign will. They enjoy wielding absolute authority, often reminding us of France's Louis XIV's famous dictum: "L'etat, c'est moi"-- "I am the state." We also know what they consider to be the limits of their power -- nothing. But in Rousseau's words, "the strongest is never strong enough to be always the master."


With Musharraf's departure, the people expected real democracy to return to the country. But that was not to be the case. Our leadership crisis continued. PPP Co-Chairperson, Asif Zardari, while still holding his top party position got himself elected as president in violation of tradition and an ethical code established by the Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in 1947 when, as governor general, he refused to remain be the head of the Muslim League.


Not only this, Zardari is also holding on to his dictator predecessor's legacy, the 17th Amendment. He had an opportunity of his life to be a man of destiny in Pakistan's history. But like Musharraf, he ignored history. Unlike his own party's iconic Bhutto leaders, he deviated from the democratic path. For an elected president, there is no justification to continue to draw strength from undemocratic instruments of power left behind by a military dictator.

President Zardari has been in office just little over a year but history with its moral force is already registering its accounts, and is judging him fast. It is between history and Zardari now. He already carries an excess baggage of his past. The NRO overhang now adds another ominous dimension. The other day, a televised address from the bunkered presidency showed him huffing and puffing in an unpresidential manner. He didn't have to do that.


Perhaps there was nobody around him sincere enough to tell him that he would have been better off without that performance. If he had a message for anyone, he could have used more appropriate alternative means. He also didn't have to highlight his vulnerability by making unnecessary assertions on his eligibility to hold the highest state office and his ex-officio indemnity.


One thing is clear. Nobody wants to derail the system. President Zardari himself admitted this. But the system must return to the 1973 Constitution as it stood on October 12, 1999. The 17th Amendment must go. He must uphold the rule of law and revert to what PPP's real leaders, the Bhuttos, stood for. That alone will reinforce his moral and legal authority but only as a nominal constitutional head of state.

 

The writer is a former foreign secretary.

 

***************************************

I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

AN ASIAN MONETARY FUND?

DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN


Asia has emerged as a powerful growth pole of the world economy. Its gross domestic product (GDP) is already equal to those of Europe and North America, and its influence on the world continues to rise. After growing strongly for a decade, the Asian economies were hit hard by events for which they were not responsible. They are paying a heavy price in terms of loss of incomes and human sufferings for the misgovernance of others.

The world economy has witnessed the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression (1930s). What appeared first as a sub-prime mortgage crisis in the United States during the summer of 2007 began to unravel a deeper fissure across the global financial institutions, triggering a full-blown economic crisis around the world by September 2008. Asian economies with a track record of strong economic performance, owing to their outward-orientation, were hit hard. The major economies of Asia like Hong Kong, Malaysia, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand are projected to witness negative growth in 2009.


The crisis has not only hit Asia directly through its impact on incomes and jobs but it has now threatened to roll back the development gains of the last decade, especially with respect to progress towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MGD). More than 26 million people could lose jobs in the region, with many millions more becoming unemployed. The crisis has diminished the hopes of 65 million people to move out of poverty in Asia. Millions who took decades to work their way out of poverty have slipped back in it within months of the crisis as their personal savings dried up. Experience from the 1997-98 financial crisis shows that the lag between the economic and labour market recovery can be as long as 4-5 years. Therefore, it may take five more years to make up for the lost ground in the struggle against poverty. The economies of Asia may recover soon but the human suffering will persist for sometime.


To address the multi-dimensional challenges of the economic crisis, most governments of the region quickly enacted a large fiscal stimulus package, the size of which depended upon the fiscal space available prior to the crisis. As a result of supportive policies, the region is emerging from the global economic crisis. Recent data suggests that signs of a tentative recovery across much of the region are visible. However, the rebound remains fragile and dependant on the government's continued supportive measures as well as rapid economic recovery in developed countries.


Asia is at a critical juncture. How governments manage the challenges of economic meltdown in coming months will determine the maturity, speed and sustainability of the recovery process for many years to come. The current crisis has provided food for thought to the governments of the region. Asia has paid the price of misgovernance of the United States. There are many lessons to be learnt to avoid such crises in future.

One such lesson centers on the need for promotion of new sources of growth that will compensate for weak demand from the developed world. This requires a rebalancing of the region's economies in favour of domestic consumption and exploiting regional demand. Such rebalancing would require regional economic and financial cooperation to share each others dynamism and generate additional aggregate demand. With over four trillion dollars of foreign exchange reserves, the region now has the ability to foster a major programme of investing in itself.

There is another lesson that can be learnt from the current economic crisis. The need for regional financial cooperation has never been so great. Over the past decade, many countries in Asia have accumulated large foreign exchange reserves, providing some self- insurance against external shocks. The tendency to accumulate large reserves has its roots in more fundamental deficiencies of the international monetary and reserve system. This can be reduced with a more effective mechanism for liquidity provisioning, and reserve management at regional and international levels.


The IMF facilities should be significantly simplified and include more automatic and quicker disbursements proportionate to the scale of the external shocks. While the IMF has taken action in the recent years through its exogenous shocks facility, the total resources remained limited and much more is needed to supplement the IMF efforts through a regional approach.


The dynamism of Asian economies requires that the region should devise comprehensive regional financial cooperation arrangements. The recent crisis highlighted the lack of financial tools at the regional level, over and above of those in the hands of national governments. While some countries have built up sufficient reserves to protect themselves, others were impacted as they had no recourse to regional resources for assistance.


A regional financial architecture, performing the role of lender of first recourse, for effective prevention of systemic crisis is the need of the hour. The region now has a window of opportunity to press forward with truly effective regional, financial institution to foster monetary and financial cooperation in the region. Let this institution be known as the Asian Monetary Fund (AMF). The Asian Development Bank is working side by side with the World Bank and supplementing its effort as development partners. The AMF can work side by side with the IMF in promoting regional and global financial stability. Let the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), as a regional arm of the United Nations, undertake detailed work on potential, scope and modalities for establishing the AMF. It may like to set up an expert group to initiate work on the subject.

I would urge the Government of Pakistan to fully support this initiative. Many countries in Asia are also supporting the establishment of the AMF.


The writer is dean and professor at NUST Business School, Islamabad. Email: ahkhan@nims.edu.pk

 

***************************************

I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

ACTS OF GHAIRAT

DR A Q KHAN


In one of my columns I had written about ghairat. That article gave rise to much discussion. It was heartening to note that some people are still conscious of this "scarce commodity." It came as a surprise to me that, while some people were happy that I had drawn attention to an important need, there were others who were angry about it and some retorted in a manner that lacked logic


In the article I wrote about the proverbial pride of the celebrated poet of pre-Islamic Arabia, Amr bin Kulthum, who had slain the king, Amb bin Hind, because the queen had addressed the proud poet's mother in an insulting manner. In our own time, the young Iraqi journalist Muntazar al-Zaidi, displayed an example of ghairat by throwing his shoe at George Bush in anger at his policies and occupation of Iraq. Unfortunately, it did not make much impression on President Bush. It was like water flowing off a duck's back.


Many acts of ghairat have been shown by the Sikh community. The genocide of unarmed civilians took place in Amritsar in 1919 at the orders of Lieutenant Governor Michael O'Dwyer. A Sikh named Odham Singh went to England and avenged the deed by killing O'Dwyer in his own country. Sikh guards shot Indira Gandhi for her part in the infamous raid on the Golden Temple. Another Sikh killed the chief of staff of the Indian army, Gen Arum Shridhar Vaidya, because he had ordered the attack. In this case, the general was killed after his retirement while he was driving his car in Poona. They also pursued another person involved, an ex-IG Police of Punjab named Pereira. He had meanwhile been posted as the Indian ambassador to Bucharest after his retirement. Though he survived the attack, he was crippled for the rest of his life.


The history of our own brave tribal people is also replete with similar golden examples of valour and pride. They have proved again and again that those who injure their pride have to bear the consequences.


On a visit to the US, then-Defence Minister George Fernandes of India was told by American security staff that they were required to conduct his body search. He simply turned away, walked back to the plane and returned home. The Indian government reacted promptly and ordered a body search of every American official visiting India, be he the ambassador, or even a former president. Clinton was due to visit India within a few days and the new orders sent shivers down American spines. They hastened to tender written apologies to the Indians, promising that such incidents would not occur again. Contrast this to what we saw from our senior minister (advisor) Sharifuddin Pirzada and his entourage. We saw them taking off their hats and shoes, emptying their pockets and raising their arms like criminals when they were searched at an American airport.


If you want to see the character of a nation and how they defend their honour and dignity, look at Iran, North Korea and Venezuela. If you want examples of beghairti, you do not have to look far. The past and present history of many Muslim countries is replete with disgraceful examples. The way Gen Pervez Musharraf complied with American wishes after just one telephone call is a perfect example of beghairti of the worst kind. The surrender by Gen Niazi to Gen Aurora in Dacca on Dec 16, 1971, is yet another example. These put the nation of Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal to shame.


Two human vices -- hypocrisy and shamelessness -- are closely related to beghairti. To say one thing but act otherwise, telling blatant lies, making false promises, deceiving those who trust you, are all glaring examples of hypocrisy, shamelessness and beghairti. Haya is a nobler emotion than ghairat. In fact, it is the moving spirit of all human nobility. When haya is no longer there, one becomes directionless like a vehicle with a broken axle moving at high speed. It will/can hit anything and destroy itself. That is why the Holy Prophet (SAW) said: "If you lose haya, then you may go around doing whatever you like."


In our country the disease of beghairti crept into our system during the Ayub Khan era and has taken a firm root since then. Unfortunately, we have seen it reaching unparalleled heights at the present time. Gen Pervez Musharraf promised the nation that he would shed his uniform by December 2004 but he went back on his word without hesitation, thus testifying to his own beghairti. Before that, many public pledges made by Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan and Zia-ul-Haq were broken. Even elected governments were not blameless. All of them got off scot-free with no trace of accountability. All these are examples of beghairti. The present government has its own record of broken promises, etc.


What makes it worse is that those who utter the name of Allah, who proclaim their faith (kalima), thereby invoking the blessings of Allah in supplication, are the same people who behave contrary to this very concept and commit beghairti, day in and day out. This deplorable state of our faith and conduct is nothing other than a result of losing haya, that vital inner component of human character which the Holy Prophet (SAW) has called "an integral part of our faith."


The question arises, if ghairat is an integral part of our faith, then why is it disappearing so fast and being replaced by beghairati? That is the million-dollar question. History bears witness to the fact that all our great leaders and role models – Quaid-e-Azam, Allam Iqbal, Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar, Hasrat Mohani, Liaquat Ali Khan, Nawab Ismail Khan, Raja Sahib Mahmoodabad (Senior and Junior), Sir Abdur-Rahman, Nawab Hamidullah Khan, Sir Aga Khan and Ghulam Ishaq Khan – were all shining examples of ghairat. Before them there were heroes like Ghazi Abdul-Qayyum and Ghazi Ilmuddin, who laid down their lives to protect the prestige of the Holy Prophet (SAW) from Hindu bigots. Had our great leaders of yore not been infused with ghairat, we would never have achieved freedom.


Let us seek guidance from the Book of Allah in this regard. In verse 59 (Surah Hud), Allah says: "Such were the Ad people. They rejected the signs of their Lord and Cherisher, disobeyed His Messengers and followed the command of every powerful, obstinate transgressor."


In Surah Bani Israil (verse 16), Allah says: "When we decide to destroy a population, we first send a definite order to the affluent and the influential among them; yet they transgress, so that the word is proved true against them, then we destroy them utterly." Here Allah (SWA) is telling us that He gives some respite to beghairat leaders before ultimately destroying them, while the population is punished for blindly following these leaders.

In Surah al-Anam (verse 123), Allah says: "Thus we have placed leaders in every town, its wicked men to plot therein; (little they know that) they only plot against their own souls, but they perceive not."


Unfortunately, this attitude prevails amongst our ruling elite – a malady that can be described with a single word – beghairti. However, we should never despair of Allah's mercy. He will surely, sooner or later, provide us with a ghairatmand -- honest, courageous and sincere -- leadership. We should all live in the hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

 

***************************************

I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

UNBECOMING RHETORIC

RAOOF HASAN


Speaking from the dungeon called the Presidency, Mr Zardari addressed a few thousand supporters who had gathered to celebrate the 43rd foundation day of the PPP, using scathing language that would be more appropriately attributable to a worker assigned the responsibility to stir up confrontation. His no-holds-barred attack on the media in general, and one group in particular, spoke volumes of the state of a person who is feeling besieged at the prospect of the Supreme Court adjudicating on the fate of some members of his clique who had assumed the mantle of power through the NRO. The 120-day deadline set by the judiciary for the parliament to convert the ordinance into an act has already expired as the government was forc