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Saturday, December 5, 2009

EDITORIAL 05.12.09

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month december 05, edition 000368, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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THE PIONEER

  1. TO CUT OR NOT TO CUT
  2. QUARTER CENTURY LATER
  3. DEEP FLAWS IN OBAMA POLICY - HIRANMAY KARLEKAR
  4. KNOW THE REAL FROM THE UNREAL – RAMSUKHDASJI
  5. OMINOUS ROAD AHEAD - SWARN KUMAR ANAND
  6. AFPAK-II AND ITS MIXED SIGNALS - S RAJAGOPALAN
  7. WHAT ABOUT AMERICA'S GLOBAL RESPECT? - SAMUEL BAID

MAIL TODAY

  1. VOLUNTARY EMISSION CUTS SIDESTEP ISSUE
  2. A STEP FORWARD
  3. NONE LIKE VIRU
  4. INDIA NEEDS A RECOVERY WITH JOBS - BY R. SRINIVASAN
  5. DIGITAL INK - SACHIN KALBAG
  6. ARMY SAYS TROOPS ARE BATTLE READY - BY MANOJ JOSHI IN NEW DELHI
  7. RAISINA TATTLE
  8. BONDING SCIONS

TIMES OF INDIA

  1. THE BALL IS THERE TO BE HIT
  2. A DUET NEED NOT BE OUT OF SYNC -
  3. ANY STRATEGY IS GOOD TO INITIATE ACTION
  4. ENOUGH HYPE, WE NEED SOLUTIONS -
  5. OH GIVE THANKS TO THE BIRD -

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. FIREWALLS FOR THE OPPONENT
  2. RUFFLED FEATHERS - INDRAJIT HAZRA
  3. AN EVER PRESENT PAST - PRATIK KANJILAL
  4. CARBON COPIES - BJORN LOMBORG

INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. PAPER CHASE
  2. A GULF OF DESPAIR
  3. MINESWEEPER
  4. HIS AF, OUR PAK - SHEKHAR GUPTA
  5. LEGACY'S END - RAKSHIT SONAWANE
  6. STATE OF THE UNION - ASHUTOSH VARSHNEY
  7. THE FOREIGN HANDS IN NEPAL - YUBARAJ GHIMIRE
  8. BARACK OBAMA, ACTION HERO
  9. AFF-PAK, AGAIN - RUCHIKA TALWAR

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. BOTTOMLESS PIT
  2. REMEMBERING THE AMNESIAC
  3. EVEN CLIMATE IS ABOUT THE MONEY - ARUNABHA GHOSH
  4. THE REAL STATE OF REAL ESTATE LEVERAGE - K VAIDYA NATHAN
  5. BATTLE IN ENERGY DRINKS - LALITHA SRINIVASAN

THE HINDU

  1. CHOGM MISSES KEY OPPORTUNITIES
  2. COMMEMORATING KRISHNADEVA RAYA
  3. THE GROWING THREATS TO HUMAN RIGHTS - RAMESH THAKUR
  4. THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD - MEENA MENON
  5. TRIAL BEGINS FOR CATTLE VACCINE - WILLIAM NEUMAN

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. BE FIRM, DON'T LET ULFA OFF THE HOOK
  2. DANGLING BETWEEN SHOCK AND AWW - SHOBHAA'S TAKE
  3. BRITAIN'S HIGH-FLIERS - KISHWAR DESAI
  4. TAJ AND THE TEARDROP - FARRUKH DHONDY

THE TRIBUNE

  1. TOWARDS COPENHAGEN
  2. SEHWAG ON THE RAMPAGE
  3. THE RED RIBBON 
  4. CHASING THE DREAMERS - BY VIJAY SANGHVI
  5. MANY FACES OF FRIENDSHIP - BY GEETANJALI GAYATRI
  6. WHAT THE WORLD MISSED - BY JOSHUA E. KEATING
  7. CAN KARZAI STABILISE AFGHANISTAN? - BY ANITA INDER SINGH
  8. INSIDE PAKISTAN - BY SYED NOORUZZAMAN

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

  1. ECONOMIC UPTURN
  2. FIGHTING AIDS
  3. INDIA'S ECONOMY: CHALLENGES GALORE - DR BK MUKHOPADHYAY
  4. BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY - AN INDUSTRIAL CATASTROPHE - BABUL TAMULI

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. THE LONELINESS CONTAGION…
  2. DECLINE OF MULAYAM
  3. CONCLUDE DOABLE DOHA
  4. FAMILY TREE OF BHOPAL GAS DISASTER - KAVERI RAJARAMAN
  5. COPENHAGEN NEEDS A STRATEGIC RESPONSE - MUKUL SANWAL
  6. RELIANCE INFRA BETS BIG ON HIGHWAY SECTOR

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. BE FIRM, DON'T LET ULFA OFF THE HOOK
  2. TAJ AND THE TEARDROP - BY FARRUKH DHONDY
  3. REFORM OR BE PREPARED FOR FISCAL CALAMITY- BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  4. DANGLING BETWEEN SHOCK AND AWW  - BY SHOBHAA'S TAKE
  5. BRITAIN'S HIGH-FLIERS - BY KISHWAR DESAI
  6. ANALYTIC MODE  - BY DAVID BROOKS

the statesman

  1. VISITING IN VAIN
  2. TROOP DRAWDOWN 
  3. GREEN VERGE
  4. JAW-JAW IN COPENHAGEN - BY M RIAZ HASAN

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. POISON AND POWER
  2. OUR ATOM STATE
  3. RAMACHANDRA GUHA

DECCAN HERALD

  1. HEAT IS ON
  2. BLOOD ON ROADS
  3. NEED FOR PRAGMATISM - BY SUVROKAMAL DUTTA
  4. POLITICAL GIMMICKRY - BY KHUSHWANT SINGH
  5. POWER OF WORDS - BY C SUBRAMANYA

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. AFGHANISTAN'S ARMY
  2. PHOTOS AND FREEDOM
  3. A LITTLE PENSION REFORM
  4. THE HONDURAS CONUNDRUM
  5. THE LOST WEEKEND  - BY GAIL COLLINS
  6. BLACK IN THE AGE OF OBAMA - BY CHARLES M. BLOW
  7. IN SEARCH OF EDUCATION LEADERS - BY BOB HERBERT
  8. SWITZERLAND'S INVISIBLE MINARETS - BY PETER STAMM

I.THE NEWS

  1. TOLL OF CORRUPTION
  2. MASSACRE IN THE MOSQUE
  3. OBAMA OFFERS AN OPENING TO PAKISTAN - MUSHAHID HUSSAIN
  4. BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE - ARIF NIZAMI
  5. ET TU, CANADA? - DR MUZAFFAR IQBAL
  6. MUDDLING THROUGH THE CRISIS - TALAT MASOOD
  7. BLIGHTED DEMOCRACY? - BABAR SATTAR
  8. BUGGED! - ANJUM NIAZ

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. GILANI RIGHTLY SEEKS CLARIFICATION
  2. FO RE-EXPOSES INDIAN HAND
  3. NEED FOR A NO GO ZONE BETWEEN KSA & YEMEN
  4. WINDS OF CHANGE NOWHERE TO BE SEEN! - NOSHEEN SAEED
  5. NRO: GOD, LORDS & MY LORDS –
  6. NRO, CRISES MAY DESTROY NATIONAL UNITY?  - ALI ASHRAF KHAN
  7. RESPONSES TO UPHEAVALS, US DUAL STANDARD - ASIF HAROON RAJA
  8. THE ANALYTIC MODE - DAVID BROOKS

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. SICK INDUSTRIES
  2. AFGHAN STRATEGY
  3. WATER..! - ROBERT CLEMENTS
  4. ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN: AN OVERVIEW - MOSTAFA SOHEL
  5. LIBYA WINS, JAPAN MAYBE LOSES, INDONESIA IN-BETWEEN - DR. TERRY LACEY
  6. GENDER ATROCITIES - MARYAM ELAHI

THE HIMALAYAN

  1. TEMPORARY TRUCE
  2. MAKE THEM SAFE
  3. INDIFFERENCE SPEAKS
  4. CREDOS;CREATE A WINNING ATTITUDE — II
  5. ROBERT KNOWLTON

 

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. REALISTIC, RATIONAL COPENHAGEN
  2. TWO NEW LEADERS WHO ARE GAME TO HAVE A RED-HOT GO

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. KENEALLY MUST SHOW SHE IS NOT ANOTHER LABOR ROBOT
  2. TAKE THE PORK FOR A WALK
  3. ABBOTT PITCHES CLIMATE POLICY FROM LEFT FIELD

THE GURDIAN

  1. UNTHINKABLE? A WORLD CUP FOR ALL
  2. UGANDA: UNJUST AND INFAMOUS
  3. LABOUR POLITICS: IN A CLASS OF THEIR OWN
  4. LABOUR POLITICS: IN A CLASS OF THEIR OWN

THE KOREA HERALD

  1. TIME TO ASK HAN
  2. PRICE FIXING
  3. WHY ARE GOOD POLICIES BAD POLITICS? - BRADFORD DELONG
  4. INDUSTRIAL POLICY MAKES A COMEBACK - MICHAEL BOSKIN

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. THE DUBAI DEBT BOMB

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. TRAFFIC CHAOS UNCHANGED
  2. DUE PROCESS OF LAW IS TESTED - FRANS H. WINARTA
  3. QUERYING ENTREPRENEURSHIP-BASED CURRICULUMS - SETIONO SUGIHARTO
  4. UNDERAGE MARRIAGE VS PROTECTING KIDS' RIGHTS - MUHRISUN AFANDI

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

TO CUT OR NOT TO CUT

TIGHTROPE WALK AHEAD IN COPENHAGEN


India's announcement days before the international climate summit in Copenhagen that it will voluntarily reduce emission intensity by 20 to 25 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020 has generated much heat. Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh, while announcing the policy in the Lok Sabha, has reiterated that the reduction target is in line with the measures that the Government has already announced to tackle climate change. He has also made it clear that the reduction target is purely voluntary and that India will not sign any treaty at Copenhagen which commits the country to legally-binding targets. So far so good. But the issue becomes tricky with the next part of Mr Ramesh's assertion. According to the Minister, although the Government is determined to stick to its present position of not committing to legally-binding carbon reduction targets, it is ready to do more than the voluntary measures announced by him, provided there is an equitable agreement at the summit. What this means is India will essentially be playing it by the ear at Copenhagen. If it sees what is being offered as attractive enough, it might even be willing to junk its existing position and adopt a more 'globally acceptable' approach. This might appear to be reasonable, but it is not without pitfalls. For, what consensus will actually evolve at the summit is anybody's guess. And it would certainly not be in India's interest if it were to agree to a set of policies that severely impacts the country's socio-economic growth. Mr Ramesh has affirmed that the Government draws a clear distinction between supported and unsupported mitigation action. What India has offered so far is the latter and, therefore, the measures under the same should not be subject to international review. However, if there is an agreement at Copenhagen by developed countries to finance mitigation action in developing countries, according to Mr Ramesh, the Government might be more open to international checks and monitoring.


This is ominous indeed. For, there is a possibility that the Government, in its enthusiasm and in order to prevent being isolated, might agree to policies that could impede the country's industrialisation goals in the long run. This would be unfortunate and unfair. The Government must remain firm on its stand that human-induced global warming is largely the creation of the developed world and that the industrialised countries of the West have the greatest responsibility towards mitigating the crisis. That said, it must also be borne in mind that the policy of voluntary cuts that both India and China have put forward should not become an excuse to wriggle out of a concrete action plan to tackle global warming. It has been pointed out by several environmentalists that it is counter-productive for India and China to continuously cite their low per capita emission figures. There is merit in this argument. This is because if the two largest developing nations are seen to be soft in tackling climate change, it will give industrialised countries (such as the US) little reason to adopt vigorous carbon reduction measures like they should. It will be recalled that it was primarily because the Kyoto Protocol did not hold China to specific carbon reduction targets that the US never signed the climate agreement. This was also the main reason why the Kyoto Protocol failed. Hence, the challenge for India at Copenhagen will be to justify its present position and at the same time not appear to be shirking away from its responsibility towards tackling global warming.

 

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THE PIONEER

QUARTER CENTURY LATER

UNION CARBIDE DISASTER HAUNTS THE WORLD


Twenty-five years ago the world was shocked when deadly methyl isocyanate gas leaked from one of the tanks at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal and killed thousands of people in the early hours of December 3. Most of the victims died a horrible death, gasping for breath; thousands of children never woke up the next morning. The Government pegged the death toll at 15,000, but that was far less than the real figure which was more than 30,000. If the gas leak at the Union Carbide factory in 1984 was (and remains) the world's worst industrial disaster, the Government's immediate response deserves to be described as the world's most elaborate cover-up. Mr Arjun Singh, the then Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, shall be remembered for not only ensuring that Warren Anderson, CEO of Union Carbide, was promptly released on bail after being arrested by the police, but also provided with a helicopter to fly out of Bhopal; he subsequently fled India on a private jet. The man who should have stood trial for mass murder retired with a hefty pension. Mr Arjun Singh moved on to bigger jobs with greater responsibility. But for NGOs and social activists, those who survived the disaster would have been left to fend for themselves. It was relentless activism which forced Union Carbide to agree to pay compensation to the victims, but the meagre amount only highlighted the contempt with which people in developing countries are treated by MNCs for whom nothing matters more than profits. That attitude is unlikely to have changed in the last 25 years.


While it is true that the Bhopal tragedy did force the Government of India to review industrial safety laws and bring in tougher compliance norms for hazardous units, it is doubtful whether much has changed at the ground level. An elaborate monitoring system exists on paper; it has been rendered ineffective by rampant corruption. Industrial units continue to get away with blatant violations of the law by greasing palms — bureaucrats and politicians are easily persuaded to look the other way as corners are cut and lives endangered. Nor can it be said that we have been able to put in place an effective mechanism to deal with industrial disasters. The blame for this must be equally shared by babus and their political masters — they are loath to expend energy simply because they are not adversely impacted by industrial accidents more often than not caused by negligence. There were many lessons to be learned from the Bhopal disaster — tragically they have been wasted on a callous system which is unmoved by the plight of hapless people. Yes, Union Carbide was to blame for the horrendous loss of lives in 1984. But the Government cannot be absolved of responsibility. Not then, not now.

 

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            THE PIONEER

COLUMN

DEEP FLAWS IN OBAMA POLICY

HIRANMAY KARLEKAR


Will US President Barack Obama's much-awaited AfPak policy succeed? For an answer one must consider its goals and the chances of achieving these. The basic aim is making the United States safe from terrorist attacks. Referring to Afghanistan and Pakistan and the latter's areas bordering the former, Mr Obama told 4,000 cadets of the US Military Academy at West Point on December 1, "This is the epicentre of the violent extremism practised by Al Qaeda." Stating that the attacks on the Pentagon, Washington, DC, and the World Trade Center towers, New York, on September 11, 2001, were planned from the areas, he added, "It is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak."


The Taliban and Al Qaeda, which operate out of the region, have to be defeated for the US to be made safe from terrorist strikes by Islamist fundamentalists and their efforts to get hold of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal foiled. In the words of Mr Obama, "The stakes are even higher with a nuclear-armed Pakistan, because we know that Al Qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons, and we have every reason to believe that they would use them."

Mr Obama seeks to achieve his goal by sending 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in the next few months. He is also trying to make his NATO allies commit 5,000 to 8,000 additional troops, taking the total figure close to the 40,000 additional troops that Gen Stanley A McChrystal, the highest-ranking military commander in Afghanistan, had wanted in September.


The deployment of additional troops is part of a wider strategy aimed at reversing the Taliban's gains over large parts of Afghanistan and provide better protection to the country's important population centres, including Kabul, Khost and Kandahar. Surveillance drones and field reports will help to locate small groups of Taliban fighters and guide attacks, particularly by Special Operations forces. Simultaneously, Afghan military and police forces are to be trained and increased in strength — 240,000 Army and 160,000 police personnel — to be able to take over the defence of their country. Support will be extended to anti-Taliban tribal militia and local armed groups.


The plan includes stepped-up attacks on Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders operating from Pakistan. According to a December 1 New York Times report, "Between the Lines: An Expansion in Pakistan" by David A Sanger and Eric Schmitt, besides providing the White House with classified information about Afghanistan, the Central Intelligence Agency has delivered a plan for widening the campaign of strikes against Al Qaeda and Taliban elements by drone aircraft, sending additional spies there, and increasing the CIA's budget for operations inside that country. The report further states that the expanded operations could include drone strikes in Balochistan where senior Afghan Taliban leaders are said to be hiding.


The other aspects of the strategy are ensuring good governance by ending corruption which has assumed gargantuan proportions in the Afghan Government, and economic development. If all this suggests a comprehensive approach, the clear identification of Pakistan as a spawning ground of Islamist terrorism indicates formal recognition of something that has been public knowledge for a long time.


While the strategy is comprehensive, it has a major flaw which can turn fatal — the assertion that the US will begin withdrawing its troops from the middle of 2011, which makes it barely a year-and-a-half from now. Two questions arise: Can one really expect the US and Nato forces to defeat the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and their Pakistani patrons so roundly by then that the Afghan troops can protect their country thereafter? Can the Afghan police and military forces be so well-trained as to be able to do so?


The answers are likely to be negative. Thanks to Pakistan's hospitality and help, the Taliban and Al Qaeda have recovered from the rout they had suffered when they were thrown out of Afghanistan in December 2001. By all accounts, the Taliban contingents now engaging the US and Nato forces are highly motivated and skilled and match their enemies move by tactical move. Besides, the resumption of operations in Kunduz in Afghanistan, where things had become so quiet that there had been a reduction in the presence of US and NATO forces ("Taliban open northern front in Afghanistan" by Carlotta Gall in the New York Times of November 26), reflects sound strategic thinking aimed at spreading out anti-Taliban forces so thin that they are vulnerable at many points to concentrated Taliban thrusts.


The Taliban, therefore, are highly unlikely to be worsted by the middle of 2011. On the other hand, the knowledge that the US would begin withdrawing by then would boost their morale immensely, particularly since it is known that powerful elements in the Democratic Party want a quick end to the war. They would fight tenaciously, trying to maximise US casualties in the hope that the pressure for a withdrawal would mount as arrival of body bags picks up. Or equally, they just have to melt into the local population and resume their offensive once the US and its allies leave.


On the other hand, personnel of the US and Nato forces may be less inclined to risk their lives knowing that all they need to do is to wait till 2011 to go home in one piece. Equally, even those in Pakistan opposed to the Taliban and Al Qaeda will be unwilling to act against them for fear of reprisal when the US troops leave. This may not only make for lack of action against the Afghan Taliban, but slow down the offensive against the Pakistani Taliban currently under way.


Afghanistan is unlikely to be able to withstand the severe pressure it will then face. Numerically the present strength of 90,000 soldiers and 93,000 policemen is woefully inadequate. The quality of officers and men of the Army leaves much to be desired. Many in the Obama Administration are at pains to explain that 2011 would mark only the beginning of withdrawal, that its pace would depend on circumstances, and that the US would not just up and leave. But not many are convinced. Nor are they certain of an US victory. A US defeat would leave India facing a resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda which may take over Pakistan, including its nuclear arsenal. It better be prepared for that.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

KNOW THE REAL FROM THE UNREAL

RAMSUKHDASJI

The Gita says, "Nasato vidhyate bhaavo, Naabhaavo vidhyate satah." (Gita 2.16).


The unreal has no existence, and the real never ceases to be. Which means that the unreal (thing, individual, activity) does not exist, and there is never the absence of the real. In other words, the real is ever existent.


When a man does not give importance to this discrimination and presumes his own body as the self, that is, he regards the body as 'I' and 'mine', then there arise some deficiencies in him. The reason is relationships with the unreal have their limitations. Once these limitations reveal themselves, a man becomes dissatisfied and unhappy. There arises the desire to remove these deficiencies. After this the person becomes dependent as the degree of the shortages continue to increase. This is because even after the fulfillment of one's desire, another desire arises and the hunger remains alive.


Man, by valuing his relationship with the unreal, commits the mistake that he wants to fulfil the innate desire for sat chit anand or experience truth through consciousness and bliss. Though the need in him is for the real, yet to fulfil this need, he desires the unreal. However, by desiring the unreal, neither the need is fulfilled nor does the desire end.


Man assumes the unreal as the real objective of his life. The result is that he becomes dependent (read slave), unhappy, miserable, tired, defeated, and poor. Not only this, when the attachment to the unreal intensifies, he sees independence in dependence, pleasure in pain, rest in tiredness, victory in defeat, prosperity in poverty and support in weakness, and goes from humanity to brutality.


However much a man is degraded, in him the eagerness for the real (truth), consciousness and bliss cannot be completely wiped out. His need for the real can never destroyed. Just as a man does not like to be poor, similarly, he does not like his own destruction, his lack of consciousness, or the lack of real blissful feeling or anand.

At some point in his life, either through a holy book or through the company of noble souls, or by facing a calamity, man starts to realise the truth in the form of the real. He develops a disinclination for the unreal and an inclination for the real. Thereafter, the desire for the unreal does not stay with him and he embarks on a quest for the real. That quest is what will eventually lead him to enlightenment.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

OMINOUS ROAD AHEAD

OBAMA'S NEW AFPAK STRATEGY WITH A CLEAR EXIT CLAUSE IS BAD NEWS BUT PERHAPS HE HAS AN ACE UP HIS SLEEVE

SWARN KUMAR ANAND


The haste shown by US President Barack Obama in committing himself to a US troop withdrawal in real time from war-torn Afghanistan raised eyebrows in all world capitals this week. Yet, it has come as a mixed message. Preceding the phased withdrawal, beginning mid-2011, some 30,000 fresh American troops would land in Afghanistan, hope to smash the Taliban and simultaneously strengthen democracy in that country and then return home.


"We will pursue a military strategy that will break the Taliban's momentum and increase Afghanistan's capacity over the next 18 months," President Obama announced in the course of his much-awaited speech on Tuesday.

This week, The Pioneer's Washington correspondent S Rajagopalan writes (Main) that this is some kind of a mother of all-things-to-all-people speeches. Placed as he is in the thick of things in the US capital, Rajagopalan reports the near-disbelief that marked the reactions sweeping America in the first 48 hours following the speech. Even staunch advocates of the tune-up of American presence in Afghanistan concede that the task cut out by the President is daunting. Senator John McCain said that Obama's deadline sent "exactly the wrong message to both our friends and enemies." But the US President avoids mentioning or rejecting several independent studies and reports — including General Stanley A. McChrystal's own assessment — that the US would have to stay in Afghanistan for at least five years to build up an able Afghan National Police and a formidable Afghan army that could hope to fill the space left after the departure of NATO forces.


The US' European allies praised Obama for the exit strategy but then nobody expected them to say otherwise. They were secretly hoping for this because of the difficulties they were facing in recruiting soldiers to send to Afghanistan. All of them see the Afghan situation as lost and though their old loyalty to Washington (a legacy of World War II) compels them to play the role of factotums to Uncle Sam, their patience was reaching a breaking point.


The US had expected that the NATO allies would back up the new resolve by making their own announcements about heightened troop involvement. To Washington's bitter disappointment, all that was forthcoming was a commitment for 5,000 soldiers. Some EU leaders are waiting for an international conference on Afghanistan in London next month before promising any more troops. Additionally, the US allies have reached a consensus that instead of seeking a military solution, the focus should be on finding a political solution and on bolstering Afghanistan's own security apparatus. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, "It is absolutely crucial for our strategy that the Afghans start to take control of security as soon as possible." Poland has emerged as the biggest European ally to offer more forces in an apparent bid for more attention from the US to make up for the loss of interest from the EU. However, France and Germany prefer a wait and see policy.


The new AfPak policy does not convince anybody about America's intention of addressing the root cause of Taliban resurgence — Pakistani chicanery. Pakistan did not find significant mention in Obama's speech, which was explained away as sensitivity to Pakistani feelings about playing second fiddle to America. That in itself is acknowledgement of America's reluctance to catch the bull by the horns. If we are believe that America under Obama is looking for a lasting solution to Afghanistan, then the US President's cageyness does not inspire.

As Indians, we have real cause for worry. India has invested a lot in Afghanistan's revival from the ruins. Though President Hamid Karzai is not an outstanding leader on any count, New Delhi drew considerable comfort from the fact that he was not sovereign enough to do everything that he pleased. The ISI-backed bombing of the Indian embassy proved beyond doubt the fragility of the Indian position in Kabul. What would happen after the Americans returned? Worries about a return to the 1989 situation are not unfounded.


If one is to search for the single biggest lacuna in the Obama speech it is the failure to remove the free world's fears that the al-Qaeda's safe havens in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia would go in 18 months flat. What if America is outwitted? The dumbest things that the Taliban and al-Qaeda could do between now and July 2011 is take the Americans on. They just need to lie low for 18 months and create an illusion of peace which would lead to an euphoria in the US that Johnny can finally come home. And, then, after the last American has left, Afghanistan would revert to the 1990s. This time, nuclear armed.


Every right thinking Afghan is baffled by this volte face. There is no sign of stability on the horizon. The Afghans are also worried about their democracy, human rights and national building. "The timetable is very short," said Mohammad Gulab Mangal, governor of Helmand province, an Afghan district that is expected to see an influx of American soldiers.


Another problem is rampant corruption in Aghanistan. Much to the chagrin of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, his brother Ahmed Wali Karzai has been accused of being involved in a high-level drug smuggling ring. Kandahar Mayor Ghulam Haider Hamidi said, "The police are taking money from both sides — the government and the Taliban… When we have this kind of police and military, the Afghan problem won't be solved in 20 years." To aid to the woes are low salaries — $60 a month for many district administrators. Now, with Obama trying to wrap up the operation due to the escalating cost of war, the Afghan government could expect trouble attracting talented people who won't take bribes.


Obama has criticised Karzai for his lapses. But with Pakistan he persists with the carrot-and-no-stick policy of the Bush years. The fragile nuclear weapon state is a greater security threat to the region and the US. The al-Qaeda has more serious presence in Pakistan and everybody knows that Osama bin Laden is hold up there. The relationship between Pakistan and insurgents in both Pakistan and Afghanistan is more complex then that between Afghanistan President Karzai and his people. Obama said, "We will act with the full recognition that our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan. There is no doubt that the US and Pakistan share a common enemy." But he is mistaken, the enemy is not common. The Pakistan Army has been covertly supporting the Taliban to ensure its drug business in Afghanistan goes on smoothly.


The presence of the Taliban and the al-Qaeda in Afghanistan has been a cash cow for Pakistan which is still plying double game of engaging the US and helping build the Taliban. But the short timetable has indeed diminished any incentive for Pakistan to cut ties with Taliban militants.


 The writer is Deputy News Editor, The Pioneer

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

AFPAK-II AND ITS MIXED SIGNALS

AFGHANISTAN HAS BEEN THE GRAVEYARD OF WESTERN INTERVENTIONISM SINCE 1842 AND THIS WEEK BARACK OBAMA BECAME THE LATEST BIG CHIEF TO WILLY-NILLY ACKNOWLEDGE THAT ANOTHER WITHDRAWAL — IN 2011— IS IN THE OFFING
S RAJAGOPALAN


Barack Obama, in one of his first acts after assuming office in January, banished a catchphrase of the George W Bush era — "Global War on Terror", or GWOT in officialese. Team Obama came up with a curious substitute — "Overseas Contingency Operation". Many wondered what it was all about. Some commented it was symptomatic of where President Barack Obama stood on grappling with the challenge of global terrorism as opposed to his predecessor's no-nonsense, albeit heavy-handed, ways.


Today, it is clear that President Obama faces his first real test in Afghanistan. After what was initially thought to be the unveiling of a cleverly balanced surge-and-exit plan last Tuesday, the jury is still out. The immediate reaction has been anything but positive. If fellow Democrats oppose his escalation of the war by deploying 30,000 more troops, the Republicans have questioned the wisdom of going public with an exit strategy, beginning July 2011. The American public, weary as it is of an eight-year war that has cost 800 American lives and over $200 billion, does not know what to make of the new plan.


But supporters of Obama, who appear to have suddenly thinned in number, argue that he has made the best of a bad situation. They disagree that he has no appetite for winning this war. If it were so, he had the easy option of turning down his commander's request for the surge. After all, his own deputy, Vice-President Joe Biden, was an initial critic of the surge idea. It is being argued that there is something for everyone in this plan: a military commitment for the Afghans even while assuring the American public that this commitment is not endless. For Republicans, there is the surge. And for Democrats, there is the exit roadmap — with a target date.


The surprise element of the package has been the exit strategy. Details of the surge had been leaked to the media days earlier, but nobody had a whiff of the exit component with a definitive start date. This may have pleased the average American, but it has raised concerns abroad, particularly across South Asia. Critics say it also raises questions about the worth of the surge itself. While the full complement of 30,000 troops would be in position by the middle of 2010, the pullout is set to start a year later. Analysts believe the reinforcements may not have sufficient time to make their presence felt.


The Obama plan has also been faulted for another key reason: its woefully inadequate focus on the looming problem of Pakistan. With almost the entire leadership of the Taliban and al-Qaeda ensconced in its tribal tracts, Pakistan is being seen as the potential hideout for insurgents fleeing from Afghanistan once the reinforcements arrive. The issue has been highlighted by Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar, the chairman and ranking Republican respectively of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.


"We have largely expelled al-Qaeda from Afghanistan. Today it is the presence of al-Qaeda in Pakistan, its direct ties to and support from the Taliban in Afghanistan and the perils of an unstable, nuclear-armed Pakistan that drive our mission. What happens in Pakistan, particularly near the Afghan border, would do more to determine the outcome in Afghanistan than any increase in troops or shift in strategy," said Kerry, while chairing a hearing at which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Robert Gates testified on the new Obama plan.


Said Lugar: "It is not clear how an expanded military effort in Afghanistan addresses the problem of Taliban and al-Qaeda safe havens across the border in Pakistan. If these safe havens persist, any strategy in Afghanistan would be substantially incomplete.


Specifically, will Pakistan work with us to eliminate the leadership of Osama bin Laden and other major al Qaeda officials?" As he put it, the potential global impact of instability in a nuclear armed Pakistan dwarfs anything that is likely to happen in Afghanistan.


Obama said that the future direction of governance in Pakistan would haveconsequences for non-proliferation efforts, global economic stability, America's relationships with India and China, and security in both West and South Asia. The President did not dwell on Pakistan in his speech on Tuesday evening, perhaps in acknowledgement of Pakistani sensitivity to American influences and intentions. But, Lugar stressed, the President and his team must justify their plan not only on the basis of how it would affect Afghanistan, but also on how it would impact America's efforts to promote a stronger alliance with Pakistan that embraces vital common objectives.Coming to the surge itself, it is true Obama has granted his Afghanistan commander, General Stanley A McChrystal, three-fourths of the 40,000 troops that he had sought. Another 5,000 has been promised by the US's NATO partners. The American presence itself should cross the 100,000 mark in about six months. Yet, the focus of the debate in Washington and other world capitals has effectively shifted to Obama's exit strategy. In the US itself, the Republicans are leading the charge, raising questions on whether Obama is in it to "bring this war to a successful conclusion" as he declared in his address from the US Military Academy at West Point, New York this week.


On Capitol Hill, Republican Senator John McCain led the offensive against Obama's "logically incoherent" exit plan even as the latter dispatched his top guns to sell his new strategy. "Will we withdraw our forces based on conditions on the ground or based on an arbitrary date? It's got to be the appropriate conditions or it's got to be an arbitrary date — you can't have both," McCain demanded.


Defence Secretary Gates did some tightrope walking to make sure that he did not upset the anti-war Democratic base. "We will have a thorough review in December 2010. If it appears the strategy's not working and that we are not going to be able to transition in 2011 then we will take a hard look at the strategy itself," he submitted, without clarifying if July 2011 was a start date written on stone. However, in the face of continued grilling, he appeared to suggest that the prevailing conditions would determine the course, saying at one point that the President always has the "freedom to adjust" the date, if conditions so warrant.


But the White House is playing it both ways, knowing full well it may need the support of both the Democrats and the Republicans as and when the $30 billion funding request for the troops surge is voted upon. "A conditions-based drawdown will begin in July 2011," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told the media. Later, he separately told the CBS News that Obama has "locked in" the target date. "Troops will start coming home in July 2011. Period." the network quoted Gibbs as saying. This, however, may not be the last word on the subject.


Obama aides are arguing that a deadline of sorts is also needed to see that the Hamid Karzai government in Kabul gets its act together. Obama himself brought up this issue in his speech, saying: "The absence of a timeframe for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government. It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan." At one point, he went on to comment: "The days of providing a blank cheque are over."

 

The writer is The Pioneer's Washington correspondent


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THE PIONEER

OPED

WHAT ABOUT AMERICA'S GLOBAL RESPECT?

OBAMA SHOULD REALISE THAT BY WITHDRAWING IN 2011 HE WOULD NOT ONLY SURRENDER SOUTH, CENTRAL AND WEST ASIA TO JEHADISTS AND OTHER ROGUES BUT ALSO WEAKEN LIBERAL DEMOCRACIES EVERYWHERE

SAMUEL BAID


Afghanistan "would embolden them in a manner which could have catastrophic consequences for the world at large". This statement of India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the November 22 issue of the Newsweek reflects the vision of horror that unites the whole world. "God forbid if al-Qaeda gets another strong foothold in Afghanistan. I'm not an astrologer, but there is a great worry that it could happen," he said, adding that al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban "are chips of the same block".


Singh's statement came at a time when countries fighting global terrorism in Afghanistan are showing signs of a defeatist mind having lost thousands of their young men and billions of dollars without achieving their objectives. The American public wants American soldiers to come back home. President Obama has been showing diffidence — some say dithering — about his Afghan policy. Early in the year he very definitely announced he would send 20,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to give the Taliban a final blow.

In his Newsweek interview, Dr Singh had said: "I sincerely hope the US and global community will stay involved in Afghanistan. A victory for the Taliban in Afghanistan would have catastrophic consequences for the world, particularly for South Asia, for Central Asia, for West Asia. If this group of people that defeated the Soviet Union now defeats the other major power (America), this would embolden them in a manner which could have catastrophic consequences for the world at large." What will be the consequences of the US exit? The very first consequence will be the loss of its international image and influence: it will be regarded as a paper tiger. The weight of the European Union in the world affairs will consequently suffer and undemocratic authoritarian powers like China will be emboldened to try to dominate the world.


But the most hellish scenario — if the US leaves the war on global terrorism incomplete and makes way for the return of the Taliban — will Afghanistan, under the Taliban rule, go nuclear with the help of the jehadists and rogue elements in the Pakistan Army? There are people in Pakistan who would do anything for the return of Khilafat and Muslim domination of the world. They believe the Taliban can take them near that goal.

That the Pakistan Army stands by the Afghan Taliban is nobody's secret. Recently, the Army shifted Taliban supremo Mullah Omar to Karachi from his hideout in Quetta to save him from a possible US drone attack. The Army stands for Taliban because it wants Afghanistan under its control.


In the early days of his Presidency, Barack Obama had bracketed Afghanistan and Pakistan together as a terrorism problem. This should have been done right in 2001. After all, Afghanistan and Pakistan have been cradles of global terrorism since the 1990s. The change of perspective as infused by Obama has come too late.


Since the early 1950s, the US has tried to understand Pakistan with the help of its Generals — Ayub Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf. But even here they failed to understand the minds of these Generals.


General Musharraf received $10 billion to fight Taliban and al-Qaeda. But there was no accountability. Beyond the Generals, Pakistan hardly existed for Washington. The Americans either remained indifferent to civilian governments or worked for their replacement with military dictatorships. They had no feelings of Pakistani civil society. During her recent visit to Pakistan, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was puzzled by anti-US sentiments in that country. Such sentiments are being exploited by vested interests including a section in the Army, bureaucracy, politicians and the Urdu-language media.


Similarly the Americans did not correctly understand Afghan society. During the Cold War era, they looked at it from the anti-Soviet angle. They seemed to take Afghan society for granted after the goodwill they received for freeing Afghanistan of the Taliban rule in 2001. Between 2001 and March 2003, when the Bush administration let down the Karzai government by turning its attention to Iraq, no serious efforts were made to consolidate this goodwill. On the contrary, the American action in Iraq undid the gains in Afghanistan. It allowed the Taliban to re-bounce; weaken Karzai and his administration and helped revive old ethnic and sectarian feuds. Corruption and inefficiency became rampant.


After Obama became President, the American Press came out with stories of Karzai and his brother's involvement in corruption. But the question is: in which country have the Americans ever supported holy dictators? In South Asia they always supported military dictators who were corrupt, murderous and violators of human rights. They supported Ayub Khan for 11 years; Zia for 11 and Musharraf for nine years. Then what is their problem with Karzai?


The present campaign against President Karzai is creating confusion in Afghanistan and is making the war on Taliban and al-Qaeda difficult. The loyalty of the Afghan Army, police and elders cannot be taken for granted when the administration of the country's President is being so ruthlessly maligned.


It appears there is no alternative to Karzai in Afghanistan. His re-election and assumption of power for the second time did not cause any bloodshed. That means he is acceptable to the common and the so-called warlords. Therefore, it will be in the interest of the mission the young soldiers from the US, Britain, Italy and other countries are carrying on in Afghanistan at the risk of their lives and limbs, to give the respect that Karzai's office demands.

 

 The author is Media Director, YMCA


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MAIL TODAY

EDITORIAL

VOLUNTARY EMISSION CUTS SIDESTEP ISSUE

 

WE have heard a series of announcements by major countries on their plans to cut emission intensity voluntarily in the run up to the United Nations conference in Copenhagen.

 

This chain reaction was triggered by the pledge to cut down emissions by the US and was quickly followed by China. Now India, too, has joined the bandwagon. The announcement regarding the intent to reduce emission intensity within a selfmandated timeframe is being welcomed widely as a desperate attempt to have a deal at Copenhagen. But, in effect, this announcement will do the opposite.

 

The announcements — including that of India — are aimed at deflecting the global climate change agenda which so far was focused on hammering out a legally- binding, fair and equitable deal. Under this framework, industrialised countries must be willing to cut their carbon output by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 if they expect poorer nations to agree to long- term reduction goals. But now the focus has shifted to voluntary — not mandatory — measures that both industrialised and developing countries will take under their respective domestic frameworks.

 

So, the ' deal' which is likely at Copenhagen, at best, might turn out to be a mere statement of intentions and pledges — something which the US has been insisting on since the Kyoto Protocol came into being. At the domestic level, the emission intensity cuts appear to be an exercise in a hurry. The minister has not spelt out what implications this will have on the nation's energy mix, growth of the manufacturing sector, transport sector and so on. It is amazing how the figure was arrived at when we don't even have an updated national inventory of emissions in different sectors.

 

The government must reveal the roadmap, if it has any, on how it plans to achieve these reductions in emission intensity.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMENT

A STEP FORWARD

 

UNION Home Minister P Chidambaram deserves a pat on the back for taking the ' risky' step of withdrawing a significant number of armed forces battalions from Jammu and Kashmir. The largest withdrawal of armed forces in the last two decades, calibrated with the decline in violence, will help restore a semblance of normalcy in the state. Of particular significance is the decision of the army to vacate a camp in the heart of Srinagar. This will send out the right message to the people of J- K. The ground situation in the state of late has been conducive to the de- escalation measures. The number of security personnel and non- combatants who have lost their lives to insurgency in J- K is down to 123 this year, the lowest since insurgency erupted in the state. Sizing down the force level — one of the primary demands of the separatists — will help the Centre's efforts to break new ground with the Hurriyat and other separatist outfits.

 

Like it or not, the presence of large numbers of armed forces and paramilitary personnel does, on occasion, aggravate the situation in an already tense state. And this is not just related to the charges of highhandedness that are leveled against them from time to time. So any genuine forward movement on the Kashmir question would have to be linked with cutting down of troop strength even if the continuing infiltration attempts from across the border mean there are limits to the extent to which this can done at present.

 

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MAIL TODAY

NONE LIKE VIRU

 

VIRENDER Sehwag was distinctly unlucky to miss his third triple hundred — which would have been a world record — falling for 293 after mauling the Sri Lankan bowlers in the Mumbai Test. Having scored 40 boundaries and slammed seven sixes in his 254- ball effort, the marauder from Delhi showed once again that only he can bat this way.

 

With Test cricket returning to the historic Brabourne after 36 years, Sehwag treated the audience to the most audacious strokeplay.

 

Whether it was pace or the wily spin of Muthiah Muralitharan, Sehwag batted as if he was playing an extended T20 match.

 

People often say that Test cricket is dying a slow death. But cricket fans around the globe who watched Sehwag cut, pull and drive on either side of the wicket on Thursday will beg to disagree. They will also concede that there has been nothing like Viru in the pantheon of Indian batting greats.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

INDIA NEEDS A RECOVERY WITH JOBS

BY R. SRINIVASAN

 

INDIA appears to have successfully tackled the slowdown precipitated by the global financial crisis. Recovery is under way. Growth, in the second quarter of the current fiscal, was nudging eight per cent. Even if the slowdown, feared by the government on account of the impact of the poor monsoon on agriculture, as well as a tailing off of the government's stimulus spending, comes to pass, GDP growth for the year still promises to be at least one per cent over the 6 per cent forecast at the beginning of the fiscal.

 

So, the recovery has been managed.

 

The trouble is, it is looking troublingly like a jobless recovery. And without jobs, any amount of self- congratulation on the economic recovery front — whether by the government, or by India Inc — rings hollow.

 

The real impact of the worldwide recession sparked by the credit crunch has not really been documented in India. Apart from a few early scare stories, and of course, the big play given to wage cuts and hiring freezes in the organised sector, there has been little concrete information available on who actually suffered, and where.

 

Information

 

The stray information that is available points to an untold tale of hardship and human suffering. In a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha tabled in July this year, the government stated: " With a view to assess the impact of economic slowdown on employment in the industries/ sectors supposed to be badly affected by the slowdown during the quarter October- December, 2008, Ministry of Labour & Employment carried out a survey in 2581 units spread over 11 States/ UTs in important sectors, viz. Mining, Textiles, Metals, Gems & Jewellery, Automobiles, Transport and IT/ BPO. These sectors contributed more than 60 per cent to GDP in the year 2007- 08. The survey has revealed that about half a million workers lost their jobs during October- December, 2008. The major impact of the slowdown is noticed in the export oriented units." That is five lakh jobs just in three months, in a thin sample, carried out in selected sectors. Elsewhere, the government had admitted that in the highly labour- intensive textile sector alone, which has been decimated by the huge fall in exports, about a million jobs might have been lost last year alone. As of October this year, exports were still shrinking at over 6 per cent per month in dollar terms, and there is no reason to believe that the trend would have changed significantly.

 

There is also the urban- rural divide.

 

With 60 per cent of the workforce in rural areas, the real impact on a slowdown — or a recovery — have to take into account the effect on the entire workforce, and not just on exportoriented or organised sectors.

 

A huge contribution to the growth story of the past half decade or so — especially the massive boom in construction and real estate — was possible in part thanks to the plentiful availability of labour, migrating from a slowing agriculture sector.

 

If a slowdown impacts this demand, it would be logical to assume that some of this labour would head back.

 

If there is not sufficient offtake in agriculture, rural joblessness is bound to rise.

 

Here again, one is hampered by the lack of current data. But it is not insignificant that the world's largest operational rural employment

 

guarantee scheme, the NREGA, is expanding exponentially. The NREGA website says it has covered 3.55 crore households this year, and provided over 155 crore man days of employment. Its budget was hiked 144 per cent this year, and the finance minister has said that he plans to triple its allocation over the next few years.

 

Even allowing for leakages and corruption, there has clearly been a jump in rural unemployment, which has led to this increase in claimants under NREGA. This is not to say that there has been no visible impact of the recovery which has been taking place over the past seven months or so. A newer survey carried out by the Labour bureau for the July- September quarter of 2009, showed that almost 5 lakh jobs were created in the second quarter of 2009.

 

IT

 

The trouble is, it is virtually impossible to draw any meaningful comparison between the two, since the sectors and samples were different.

 

The newer study was limited to units in just eight sectors spread across 11 states.

 

At the other end of the spectrum, employers are back thronging the IITs and IIMs. India's best and brightest, after a brief blip, are once again back on their high growth trajectory.

 

The poster boy of post- reforms India, the IT sector, is widely expected to have its worst year in a decade this year, in terms of hiring.

 

Not that it will be shedding jobs — the sector is still adding jobs, but at a greatly reduced rate. This has spelt bad news for the Tier II workers in this sector — the non- IIT, non- engineering degree- holder entrants, who

 

were being hired in vast numbers by an explosively growing BPO and services sector.

 

But what about the poor and the not- so- privileged? Nobody seems to quite know for certain. As recently as the end of October, the minister for labour and employment was quoting figures dating back to 2005.

 

At the 43rd session of the Standing Labour Committee on October 30, labour minister Mallikarjuna Kharge said, " there is an open unemployment of 10.8 million as per estimates available for the year 2004- 05 and the country also faces the problem of working poor." Apart from the fact that even the minister was quoting four year- old data, the other significant fact to note here is the admission that apart from open unemployment, disguised unemployment — or " working poor" as he terms it — continues to be a major issue.

 

Entrants

 

But the working poor, at a pinch, can wait. The immediate problem — and one which could well blow up into a major socio- political problem if allowed to fester unchecked — is that of the millions of people entering the workforce every year.

 

India adds anything upwards of 3 million graduates a year to the workforce pool. Of these, half a million have engineering degrees. Roughly 35 per cent of these engineering graduates have computer engineering degrees. All of them will look for a white collar job. Are we creating anything like enough jobs to soak up this massive influx? The short answer is: no. But for a few years, till the great meltdown hit, we were managing almost enough to make do. This rapidly expanded the consuming class, and contributed greatly to the boom in demand for everything from homes to automobiles, as these young people got employed and became consumers in their own right.

 

If we are to ensure that any recovery, or even a return to high growth in GDP terms, becomes meaningful and has a visible impact on the lives of people, we have to ensure that growth also creates adequate number of jobs, not only across the board, but most importantly at the entry level, in both skilled and unskilled areas.

 

That is the downside of the demographic dividend we have enjoyed during the good years.

 

r.srinivasan@mailtoday.in

 

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MAIL TODAY

DIGITAL INK

SACHIN KALBAG

 

Top of Form

GOOGLE ON COURSE TO DOMINATE THE WORLD

WHAT are the two biggest things you and I want from the Internet? My choice ( and I suspect yours too) would be these: " I want to get the information I need" and " I want that information quick… real quick". We might differ in our articulation of those desires, but my guess is they would more or less fall in the same broad category with a few variations on the specifics.

 

Sadly the current Internet is clunky – it is too slow unless you force it to go fast using a superfast connection. Even then, try streaming a rather long online video. This is similar to using thousands of litres of fuel just to push a rocket off its launchpad – the problem is not with the fuel, it is do with the sheer weight of the rocket.

 

Google wants to change all that.

 

In the era of superheavy rockets that drain fuel, it claims it has a superlight spaceship that can combine with current broadband pipes to give warp speed — the stuff that you see in science fiction that helps a spaceship go from one planet to another in a matter of seconds.

 

Google announced two things recently to achieve Internet superspeeds using the same broadband pipes that are in use at present.

 

One, it said it will announce a new protocol instead of the current HTTP ( short for Hypertext Transfer Protocol); and secondly on Friday, it said it is launching its own public DNS or Domain Name System.

 

It is a terribly complex technology so we won't get into the details, but what it essentially means is that DNS is responsible for changing website names ( www. mailtoday. in, for instance) into something that is readable by computers to help serve matter on your screen quickly.

 

The official Google blog said: " The average Internet user ends up performing hundreds of DNS lookups each day, and some complex pages require multiple DNS lookups before they start loading.

 

This can slow down the browsing experience. Our research has shown that speed matters to Internet users, so over the past several months our engineers have been working to make improvements to our public DNS resolver to make users' web- surfing experiences faster, safer and more reliable.

 

You can read about the specific technical improvements we've made in our product documentation and get installation instructions from our website." The blog ( googleblog. blogspot. com) also gives users step- by- step instructions to try and speed up things a bit. So, like any diligent technology columnist who does nothing the whole day, but has to show something to his editor to prove his productivity, I tried the public DNS on my home computer's wireless router ( it's easy, don't sweat). Well, it works. A bit.

 

Pages did download a few seconds faster than normal and a couple of YouTube videos I streamed actually ran without buffering every five seconds and launched me into a nostalgia trip remembering the erstwhile 6 Mbps connection I once had.

 

The other thing that Google is doing is introducing SPDY, a new way of accessing web pages.

 

Instead of typing HTTP before every website name on your browser, if you use the new SPDY ( short for Speedy) technology, Google claims, the page download times reduce by a phenomenal 64 per cent. That is superquick.

 

Google says: " As part of the " Let's make the web faster" initiative, we are experimenting with alternative protocols to help reduce the latency of web pages. One of these experiments is SPDY ( pronounced " SPeeDY"), an application- layer protocol for transporting content over the web, designed specifically for minimal latency. In addition to a specification of the protocol, we have developed a SPDY- enabled Google Chrome browser and open- source web server.

 

" In lab tests, we have compared the performance of these applications over HTTP and SPDY, and have observed up to 64 per cent reductions in page load times in SPDY. We hope to engage the open source community to contribute ideas, feedback, code, and test results, to make SPDY the next- generation application protocol for a faster web." SPDY will be under development for some time and the Google public DNS will take some time before the technology is perfected and can be used around the world.

 

It will also have security issues and compatibility with office networks could be a hindrance.

 

Be that as it may, what Google has done is take the first baby steps towards making the internet useful for what it was really built for — quick information dissemination.

 

Google is already the undisputed world champion of search. Now it only needs to control the Internet, and who knows with SPDY and the new public DNS, Google may turn out to be the company that rules the world.

 

Unless of course, the guys at Microsoft, Yahoo and Apple have some other ideas.

 

 

 

YOUTUBE GOES FEATHER LIGHT FOR BROADBAND HUNGRY USERS

ONE of the reasons YouTube — the world's largest video sharing site — does not have great traffic emanating out of broadband starved countries such as India is that its videos tend to be heavy, and also the number of distractions that are present on the page.

 

Yes the distractions such as the scores of links on the page, related videos, channels names, etc are a necessary evil ( and in a perfect broadband scenario a great value- add to the viewer), but they can be also be dispensed with and the viewer won't miss much.

 

So, not surprisingly, YouTube said it is now experimenting with a lightweight version of its video player pages, christened " feather". As YouTube puts it: " Let's face it: in this age of instant gratification, even several seconds of loading time can feel like an eternity. With all of this in mind, " Feather," an ultra light watch page, launches today in TestTube, our ideas incubator where we test out new products. As you can see by the below screenshot, the player still features prominently, but will default to standard quality. Related videos, comments and other familiar features from the current watch page are kept to a minimum. All of this results in a user experience that aims to keep things simple and the videos loading and playing quickly. If we see adoption go up along with improvements in latency, we'll look to roll this out of TestTube and make it more widely available." If you are one of those affected by slow speeds, you can try out the new Feather pages on www. youtube. com/ testtube, the web page where YouTube puts out its experiments for the general public.

 

Leading technology site CNET says: " It's worth noting the feature does not yet appear to work on all videos just yet. We had the best luck on popular videos, including those from YouTube's featured section. Also, if you're a YouTube power user who regularly makes use of things such as video replies and user comments, it's worth staying on the standard version of the service."

 

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MAIL TODAY

ARMY SAYS TROOPS ARE BATTLE READY

BY MANOJ JOSHI IN NEW DELHI

 

THE MINISTRY of defence ( MoD) has claimed that the armed forces " are fully prepared, battle- worthy and capable to counter any challenges at very short notice". This is their response to a Headlines Today / M AIL T ODAY news item that revealed that the army suffers from serious shortages in virtually all key arms including armour, air defence, artillery and combat engineering.

 

And that the shortages could only be filled a staggering 18 years down the line, in 2027.

 

In a press note issued in the Capital on Friday, the MoD came up with a gobbledygook answer. It said, " Modernisation is a deliberate process and is progressive in nature, the deficiency of the military hardware is reviewed at regular intervals

 

and replacement of these are projected after deliberation based on the operational requirement and enhancement of operational efficiency keeping pace with modernisation.

 

Projection of military hardware requirements has already been made and these are at various stages of procurement." The Headlines Today/ M AIL T ODAY report was based on a power- point presentation made to the Parliament's standing committee on defence. It noted that in terms of armour, the country's preparedness in key areas was 71 per cent, in combat helicopters 17 per cent, in mechanised infantry 62 per cent and 52 per cent in artillery.

 

In air defence systems the preparedness was 44 per cent, 60 per cent in engineers, in infantry 65 per cent, in special forces 69 per cent and in Net centricity 24 per cent.

 

Even these figures don't tell the whole truth. They do not tell us, for example, that India only has 300 T- 90 main battle tanks and that the 2,000 strong T- 72 fleet is yet to be modernised to fight at night.

 

It does not tell us that there are as many as 1,000 Vijayanta tanks that no General would dream of sending into battle because they are underarmoured and under- powered.

 

According to the briefing, it appears that what the army will achieve by 2027 is not a modern army circa 2027, but achieve the targets that it had set nearly 10 years ago.

 

So, the Schilka air defence cannons will be overhauled, the T- 72 and Vijayanta tanks retired and so on. But there seems to be little understanding of the challenges that may emerge in the coming 18 years.

 

The army's belief that it can meet the target by 2027, too, must be seen in the light of their poor record of acquisitions in the past. Last year M AIL T ODAY cited a Comptroller & Auditor General's report that noted that the army was able to meet only 36 per cent of its target for infantry modernisation in the three five year plans of the period 1992- 2007. It met only 15 per cent of its target for armour, 24 per cent for mechanised infantry, 39 per cent for artillery and so on. In no area did its performance reach even 50 per cent of the target.

 

The army's claim that it is ready to give battle " at very short notice" is belied by the fact that it is yet to create the combat battle groups that will be the core of the " cold start" strategy. These battle groups are, of course, based on top- of- the- line equipment which the army is short of.

 

Also, the army's ammunition acquisition policy is such that it would be a month and more before ordnance factories can ramp up production for a full- fledged war.

 

Last year M AIL T ODAY cited the report to say that the army was not stocking enough artillery ammunition for a quick war.

 

The army had an outstanding order of 68,000 filled extended range base- bleed shells for its best artillery gun — the Bofors 155 mm howitzers in 2006-' 07, but it only set a target of 20,000 for the ordnance factory at Chanda and Badmal which have a capacity of 1.7 lakh shells. At the time, the army had an outstanding demand of 2.41 lakh shells of this type of ammunition.

 

Likewise, the army had an outstanding demand of 1.15 lakh FSAPDS anti- tank ammunition in the same year; the ordnance factory at Khamaria has a capacity of 90,000 shells per annum.

 

But the army only set a target of 45,000 to the factory for the year. The story is the same for other types of tank and field gun ammunition for the artillery.

 

manoj.joshi@mailtoday.in

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MAIL TODAY

RAISINA TATTLE

BONDING SCIONS

 

IT'S A season of bonding for the Young Turks of the Congress and what better place to do that than the Central Hall of Parliament? The son of Late Y. S. Rajashekhar Reddy, Jaganmohan Reddy, and Deepender Hooda, the son Haryana CM Bhupinder Hooda, are often spotted together these days. They meet several times in Parliament and talk for hours together in the Central Hall.

 

The rising stars of the powerful families of their respective states are seen to be bonding exceptionally well. So, what is cooking? Do they talk about their respective business interests, plans as future leaders of their respective states or something as mundane as how to strengthen the Congress in their states? The Telugu Desam Party MPs are whispering if they are up to something.

 

Jagan, meanwhile, is also seen getting closer to Rahul Gandhi, who is expected to invite first- time Congress MPs for a high tea just ahead of the AICC session. What would be the point of discussion is, however, not known. It could be another bonding session for the young leaders of the Congress.

 

Pranab's anger

 

FINANCE minister Pranab Mukherjee has not been in the best of moods lately, especially in Parliament. His outburst in Parliament has become a topic of discussion with some BJP leaders suggesting that it could be a sign of age catching up with Pranab da . Perhaps his " blood pressure" is not under control, they say.

 

There are speculations about another outburst but this time it is said to be non- verbal. Mukherjee apparently wrote a chit in Bangla to Mamata Banerjee on Thursday when the Trinamool MPs held the Lok Sabha proceedings to ransom.

 

While the content of the chit is not known, an angry Mamata tore the chit to pieces.

 

Hum and din

 

FOR ONCE, MPs had nothing to do with the cacophony that engulfed the Lok Sabha on Friday.

 

The dissonance started the moment Pranab Mukherjee rose up to speak.

 

However, this time, it was not caused by a verbal battle between the finance minister and CPM members. It was the audio system that suddenly gave away, filling up the House with a grating hum.

 

Speaker Meira Kumar, who had asked members to put supplementary questions, quickly expressed her regrets over the snag- hit sound system. The MPs, many of them visibly amused, removed their earphones, reset the buttons and resumed business.

 

The singer CM

 

< Neiphiu minister chief Nagaland than other None singer? The Kohima. near village Heritage Kisama venue: Festival. Hornbill annual the OCCASION:>

 

The otherwise staid Rio ( 59) enthralled a clutch of foreign tourists by belting out evergreen numbers of John Denver, Don Williams and Eric Clapton. The gathering cheered wildly as Rio pulled off a flawless rendering of Country roads ( John Denver), You are my best friend ( Don Williams) and I feel wonderful tonight ( Eric Clapton).

 

The CM's enthusiasm and melodious rendition, his aides said, was not surprising considering he often shares the dais with local musicians.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

THE BALL IS THERE TO BE HIT

 

You could almost hear a nationwide sigh of disappointment when Virender Sehwag spooned a catch back to the bowler within sniffing distance of a triple hundred. The regret was possibly most acute for hacks in newspapers and television channels who had been dreaming up banner size headlines and special shows from the night before. They were literally willing Sehwag to take a crack at cricket immortality by crossing the 400-run barrier. But the man himself had other plans, as he always seems to. Just seven runs short of what would have been a record-breaking triple even better than the Don himself Sehwag holed out. Not for him the boring accumulation of records and statistics. He had said that he wanted to score a double century in this game. Deed done, he headed back to the pavilion.


Should we have been surprised? Not one bit. Have we forgotten that this was the same man who along with Rahul Dravid had come perilously close to breaking one of the oldest records of the game the highest partnership in Tests, incidentally scored by an Indian pair in the 1950s. But a few runs away from the record Sehwag threw it away. Later he confessed that he was unaware of the record. And what's more he hadn't heard of either Vinoo Mankad or Pankaj Roy, the legendary duo who held the record.


It's this uncluttered approach that typifies Sehwag. In interviews he has repeatedly said one thing if the ball is there to be hit he will do so. And if records tumble along the way, so be it. It can't get any simpler, can it? It's worth recalling a story about the days when Sehwag was playing county cricket, recounted by none other than Shane Warne. It so happened that Sehwag was facing one of the many Pakistani practitioners of reverse swing. He went up to his batting mate and said he had a plan to counter the swing. The next ball was whacked out of sight. The ball was duly replaced and the reverse swing successfully nullified.


That's what makes Sehwag so special, and any predictions about him so utterly futile. After his last innings, most cricket pundits are finally beginning to take out the ifs and buts that inevitably crept in when one discussed Sehwag. He's being compared with the all-time batting greats. It's time too that we do away with such epithets as the Nawab of Najafgarh, which is so often used to describe Sehwag. Yes, he might have grown up in the outskirts of Delhi, but do we geographically limit a Sachin or Lara? Let us accept that Sehwag is up there with the very best. Period.

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TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

A DUET NEED NOT BE OUT OF SYNC

When asked to specify the most important change in middle-class Indian society in the last four to five decades, my answer has been, ''The changing Indian woman!'' More concretely, it is the middle-class Indian woman who i consider the driving force behind changes taking place in many areas of social life. Here, though, i will concentrate only on one such realm: marriage.


The woman's role as the prime mover of social change was made possible by two developments. One, a revision of the traditional view on the education of a daughter, which encouraged higher education for girls and thus made their participation in work life possible. Two, the growing financial needs of middle-class families, partly due to their higher consumption aspirations, which welcomed the woman's contribution to the family income.


One consequence of these developments has been the woman's higher self-esteem and potential for self-assertion which, in turn, have led her to demand greater emotional fulfilment in marriage than was the case with women of an earlier era. In other words, women today feel more entitled and are more vocal in their demand for a universal promise of marriage: intimacy, a couple's mutual enhancement of experience beyond procreative obligations and social duties, a state of being that integrates tenderness and eroticism, human depth and common values.


Even a few decades ago, the nature of Indian social reality and family life was not conducive to the fulfilment of this promise, at least in the first few years of a couple's married life. The dangers posed to the larger family by the development of intimacy in a couple were suggested by such questions as: Will the couple's growing closeness cause the husband to neglect his duties as a son? As a brother? Will the increasing intimacy of the couple turn the woman primarily into a wife rather than a daughter-in-law and inspire the husband to transfer his loyalty and affection to her rather than remaining truly a son of the house?


These were, of course, not either/or choices. However, custom, tradition and interests of other family members demanded that in the redefinition of roles and relationships initiated by marriage, the roles of husband and wife, at least in the beginning, be relegated to relative inconsequence. Today, slowly but surely, the middle-class woman is pushing the Indian family towards a greater acknowledgement, grudging or otherwise, of the importance if not yet the primacy of the marital bond, and a far greater recognition of the couple in the affairs of the larger family. The outcome of the conflict between two different principles of family organisation the importance of the parent-son and fraternal relationships on the one hand and that of the husband-wife on the other is shifting in favour of the couple as the fulcrum of family life.


This shift, however, is imposing its own distinctive strains upon Indian marriages. As middle-class disenchantment with other institutions in our society becomes rampant, there is a danger that the strains placed on the couple as a space that fulfils the quest for authentic experience may prove too much for this still-fragile institution.

For one, the couple is an emotional hothouse albeit one that also grows wondrous plants where, at different times, the spouse is required to be lover, parent, child and sibling. The demands on the partner, mostly unconscious, to fulfil these multiple roles rather than their being spread over the larger family as was the case earlier can certainly become a major source of strain in the emotional life of a young couple.


Another source of strain on the couple lies in its tendency to isolate itself from the larger family. Here, the danger is that the inevitable upsurges of aggression in the life of the couple will have no other outlet than the partners themselves, and thus cause serious damage to their intimacy. The larger family mitigates the effects of aggression by either some of its members serving as the objects of its discharge or by providing the stage where the husband and wife can be hostile towards each other in the relative safety of an intimate audience.


Is the middle-class Indian woman's increasing emphasis on intimacy as a sine qua non (a condition) of married life overblown? I will answer by saying that the movement towards the couple is indeed desirable, a necessary corrective to the excessive 'familism' as i would call the traditional ideology governing intimate relationships. We need to be on our guard, however, that this movement does not cross over to an extreme that is defined by a complete disregard of other family ties. Whereas we may welcome the modern Indian woman's wish to constitute a two-person universe with her husband, we must also caution against the couple's tendency to become a fortress that shuts out all other relationships. The couple needs to remain vigilant that intimacy does not degenerate into a mutual ego-boosting enterprise; that it does not become a joint self-centredness which is the bane of not just a few European and North American marriages.


The writer is a psychoanalyst and novelist.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

ANY STRATEGY IS GOOD TO INITIATE ACTION

 

If it were not for sensationalism - the media splashing stories and photographs of melting polar ice, dying polar cubs, receding glaciers, habitat loss and species extinction public awareness of climate change issues would not be as widespread as it is now. Fewer among us would be switching from conventional bulbs to CFCs, reducing wastage, opting for car pools or measuring our carbon footprints. Extending that argument, if the Maldives cabinet had not scheduled a meeting underwater to highlight the island nation's vulnerability to rising sea levels, how many of us would have taken the trouble to put himself in a Maldivian's shoes? If the Nepal cabinet convened a meeting at Mt Everest's base camp, it did so to draw global attention to the plight of the Himalayan ecosystem of which Nepal is an intrinsic part. Similarly, initiatives like Earth Hour when many people around the world switch off lights in a synchronised manner have been criticised widely for encouraging tokenism rather than real action. Without the drama, however, it is unlikely that climate change issues would be on top of our minds today.


Currently, climate change has been placed on the fast track by human exploitative activity, something that can be reversed only through our collective action. It is imperative, therefore, that any action directed towards reining in greenhouse gas emissions whether at the individual, community, national or international level is not trivialised or trashed as being mere symbolic gestures. Every effort counts, for they add up to collective action that could ultimately help us meet what is essentially a global challenge.


Climate scientist James Hansen is making heads turn with his recent interviews. The head of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies has been a climate activist; now he says that there should be no global consensus at the Copenhagen UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. He prefers that the talks fail rather than the convention coming up with a weak, ineffectual agreement. This, too, is a sensational way to force people to take the issue seriously.

 

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COUNTER VIEW

ENOUGH HYPE, WE NEED SOLUTIONS

Nepal's move to have a cabinet meeting in the shadow of Mount Everest, to highlight the impact of climate change on the Himalayan ecosystem, may be rich in symbolism. The Maldives pulled off a similar stunt some months ago by having a cabinet session underwater. But such symbolic acts are no more relevant. In the initial days of climate change debates, they would have forced the world to sit up and take note of an emerging phenomenon that was under-reported in the media and ignored in public forums. But we are past that phase.


Climate change today attracts saturation coverage. The world recognises the immense challenges posed by climate change. The upcoming jamboree at Copenhagen is a clear indication of the importance world leaders have given to the issue. At this point we need to look beyond symbolic acts and focus sharply on the politics of the debate. Countries like Nepal and Maldives do not stand a chance with solo acts. Their concerns are best addressed as part of the agenda of the developing countries. The real issue is whether the Copenhagen summit can produce a framework and a road map to tackle climate change without compromising the interests of the developing world.


That's unlikely. As pioneer climate change expert James Hansen argues, it is best to allow the Copenhagen summit to fail. There are such divergences in the positions of developed and developing countries that the current approach reflected in the pre-summit negotiations is fundamentally flawed. A consensus forged by prioritising the interests of the developed world at the cost of all other nations is iniquitous and unlikely to carry weight in world capitals. As Hansen argues, it is best not to have a deal than an unenforceable deal. What the world needs now is neither hype nor a quick-fix agreement for the Copenhagen summit, but coming out with equitable solutions that could work. That's possible only if there is trust among countries, which is going to take a while and a lot of talking in between. It's a long haul ahead.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

JUST GRAFFITI

OH GIVE THANKS TO THE BIRD

WASHINGTON: Last week, Ohran Pamuk, the Turkish Nobel laureate, declared in an interview on National Public Radio: "The human heart is the same everywhere." By which he meant the fundamental sameness of human emotions the world over. Probably true. But does the same hold true for the human taste bud?


Yes and no. I use that cop-out phrase for ducking complicated questions because there is no simple answer. To a hungry person anywhere, taste is clearly secondary to a need to fill the stomach. But, for most of us, what we choose to eat is an option we cherish. Taste varies from person to person, from culture to culture; it separates groups and marks identities. Studies show that the last habit an immigrant gives up, if ever, when settling in a new society is food.


Thanksgiving dinner in the United States, however, breaks the pattern. The menu at millions of homes across the country on the last Thursday evening of November every year is more or less uniform. A stuffed roast turkey sits at the centre of the dining table surrounded by side dishes of corn, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and pumpkin and/or apple pie. Vegetarians replace the big bird with something more to their taste but keep the rest of the menu undisturbed. Indian-Americans might spice the turkey with tandoori masala; Mexican-Americans might add a chilli-beans side dish. But the basic structure of the feast remains.


So it has been from the year 1621. That was when a few early immigrants from Europe the Pilgrim Fathers had the first ever Thanksgiving dinner along with local inhabitants of a seaside spot in Massachusetts they named Plymouth after the English port where they had set sail on their ship, the Mayflower, to try out life in a new world. Of the 100 or so of those who had landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620, only 49 had survived the first year. They wanted to thank someone Up Above for their good fortune. So, they joined the people living there for a turkey and corn harvest dinner that the natives traditionally held at that time of the year.


Thus began a tradition which today has become the one annual ritual that all ethnic groups in the US celebrate with family and friends. It is a strictly non-commercial festival. Shops keep their shutters down, barring a few grocery stores that stay open half a day to help meet last-minute culinary needs. Presents are not expected and usually not exchanged, though a guest might bring a bottle of wine or a side dish to augment the home-made servings. Religious folk pray thanking the divine; atheists and sceptics thank their stars or the Big Bang or just the turkey for being there. Happy chatter follows, family fights sometimes happen.

 

his week the talk in America was all about Afghanistan. Last week, it was anything but. At a Thanksgiving dinner table, religion and politics are out. No Afghanistan, no Iraq, only turkey with a small 't'. Of course, as the evening rolls on and wine seeps through the veins to mellow moods, conversations can become robust.


At our delightful Thanksgiving dinner this year we went to our friends Pam and Louis' in Concord, Massachusetts a terrific discussion went on late into the night. We sorted out health care in America, resolved the conflict in Afghanistan, threw up our hands over Pakistan, agreed that the Salahi couple in the White House dinner for Manmohan Singh were a pair of smart-looking idiots, and concluded that President Obama should hear us out before speaking to the nation next week.


A hundred and fifty years ago, our neighbours in the little town of Concord would have been an impressive bunch who would perhaps have had a more nuanced conversation. They would have been people like Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Louisa M Alcott, contemporaries all.

Perhaps Pamuk could have graced such an august gathering to ruminate on the universal rhythm of the human heart. Only, he would have wondered why that roasted bird was called a turkey. Back in his homeland, they call it the Indian Bird.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

FIREWALLS FOR THE OPPONENT

 

The Sun King is mad again. And an angry Rupert Murdoch usually has his way with entrenched opposition. The latest object of his ire —Google, whom the media mogul accuses of stealing content — has agreed to limit the number of free clicks inside newspapers' paywalls. This looks like the opening shots in a battle a badly mauled newspaper industry is engaging with geeks bearing gifts. Typically, newspapers have made money on the news they print and from the act of reaching it to the reader's doorstep. They, therefore, kept tight control on both their proprietary content and distribution networks. But they lost distribution in the digital world to its gatekeepers, principally search engines like Google, which make money from advertisers for generating 4 billion clicks every month at newspaper sites across the world.

 

Newspapers have themselves to blame for losing business — advertising and circulation revenues in the US have plummeted from $60 billion in 2006 to $37 billion today. They allowed news trawling software to merrily cart away their content even as they saw the music industry bring file-swapping Napster to heel. Enough, they say now. Two years after taking over the Wall Street Journal, the only mainstream newspaper to charge for its news online since 1996, Mr Murdoch states content is king. And when Google — the most-fancied stock in the world built on the premise that every byte ought to be free — lets a freeloader inside a members-only area, it is an act of piracy on the digital sea. Google, on the other hand, believes distribution is god. It argues that the mess the industry is in is of newspapers' own making and that it is only helping by bringing them custom online. This cuts little ice with media bosses.

 

Two issues are at play here. The limited one is of evolving an online distribution model for the newspaper industry, or for that matter, any industry. This would arrive at revenue-sharing arrangements between content creators and the guys that direct consumers to the stuff they seek. The larger question is whether property laws should hold online in broadly the same terms as they do in the real world. Google's attempts to make the web free are increasingly facing resistance — from music labels to newspapers to publishers. Does the digital economy need an entirely new set of playing rules?

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

RUFFLED FEATHERS

INDRAJIT HAZRA

 

Honky soul mixed with heavy R&B is a diet that I simply can't resist when cooked well. I wouldn't have blinked twice some 15 years ago if confronted with a new Black Crowes album. Frontman Chris Robinson, guitarman Rich Robinson and their band of shake their moneymakers were, after all, the Michelin star chefs of this heavy bootstomping, thin-ass-wiggling Southern concoction.

 

But like far too many bands that have lasted more than one appearance on the MTV Music Awards night stage — and the Black Crowes have been making records since 1990 (Shake Your Money Maker that bristles with shamanic gems like 'Jealous again', 'Sister luck' and a railroad-breaking cover of Otis Redding's 'Hard to handle') — this band from Atlanta, too, had its rendezvous with dud albums. So understandably, I was worried that the new Black Crowes album, Before the Frost... would jeopardise the nice relationship I had with the band's music. I needn't have worried at all.

 

The curtains open with 'Good morning captain' and you know that we're back where the Crowes and we belong — a bar with the piano pumping and the guitar-fuzz tasting so good. 'I ain't hiding' is one swaggerful song that has even my docile furniture asking for some respect as Chris spits out: "Ain't your saint ain't your enemy/ I'm a long shadow on the highway/ I know this ain't how it's supposed to be/ Baby I ain't hiding." Holy shades of the Stones' Exile on Main Street there, especially with the hypnotic, repetitive end of 'Feeeling high!' to a great song.

 

The 70s Southern rock sound rushes back into the room as 'A train still makes a lonely sound' comes out of the platform. The guitar strings bend in 'Been a long time (waiting on love)', and Chris does that mini-lag behind the music so well that at least I'm willing to forget and forgive the Black Crowes for producing creations like Lions (2001) and Warpaint (2008).

 

What makes Before the Frost... downright irresistable is that the band hasn't strayed from their strengths but have actually added new arsenal to their sound. I could have been sitting and listening to their album that should have come out after the 1994 Amorica (whose cover of an American flag bikini bottom, complete with a few strands of pubic hair peeking out remains a prized possession in my 'old cassette garden'.

 

Playing Keith Richards to Chris Robinson's shaggy Jagger, guitarist-brother Rich comes out for the first time and sings into the microphone in  What is home. The result is a joyful, lifting song tasting of a peanut butter downed with bourbon after a long decade of being lost.

 

The album's high points — and for me, the chugga-chugga of the fifth track, 'I ain't hiding' certainly contains the climax — are physically palpable. The bones-shaking music that's been a Black Crowes trademark, a coupling of the Southern sound of Lynyrd Skynryrd with the gritty hormonal chaos of the early 70s Rolling Stones, moves up by a couple of notches in Before the Frost...

 

Just one serious advice. Play this loud and play it to have the music bounce and ricochet off your walls. You'll feel the indoors storm.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

AN EVER PRESENT PAST

PRATIK KANJILAL

 

We have safely negotiated the silver jubilee of the Bhopal gas disaster. Did the ritual remembering. Wondered what Warren Anderson was doing at home in Long Island, safe from the limp arm of the US law. Wondered how the Dow management gets any sleep. While declining to pay to clean up the 2,000 tonnes of hazardous waste dumped in Bhopal by its subsidiary Union Carbide, it has spent a packet to propose a new element for the periodic table — 'Hu', the human element. The Dow Hu ad blitz supports corporate goals which include 'Local Protection of Human Health and the Environment', 'Product Safety Leadership' and 'Sustainable Chemistry'. Seriously, how do Dow's managers sleep at night?

 

They can because they've got away with it again, like they got away with selling napalm and Agent Orange. Our government muffed up, settling for Union Carbide's paltry insurance money instead of the $3.3 billion claimed. That was 18 years ago and today, one sees that the disaster labelled the Industrial Hiroshima has left a disproportionately small footprint on the world's consciousness. Bhopal enjoys a fraction of the recall of another disaster that happened a year and a half later: Chernobyl. They're like a diptych, a study in contrasts.

 

Chernobyl forced a reappraisal of nuclear safety. After a referendum, Italy decommissioned all its reactors. Global concern forced Moscow to let down the veil of secrecy, contributing to the process of opening up that led to the collapse of the USSR. Today, an international Chernobyl Forum oversees the cleanup. And in popular culture, the depopulated Zone of Alienation and the ghost town of Pripyat have featured in four video games and the Oscar-winning Chernobyl Heart.

 

The Chernobyl meltdown directly killed 56 people and contributed to perhaps 4,000 cancer deaths. Union Carbide immediately killed about 8,000 and the cumulative toll could be 25,000. Factor in morbidity and genetic disorders and Bhopal is probably worth ten Chernobyls. And yet the world generally goes, "Bhopal… what?" Only the activist community remembers. In 2003, Greenpeace even tracked down Warren Anderson when he was sought by Interpol and the US government claimed to have lost him.

 

But five years ago the Yes Men, culture jammers from New York, put the 20th anniversary of Bhopal in the face of 300 million. On BBC, Andy Bichlbaum impersonated a Dow spokesman and announced that Union Carbide would be liquidated and the $12 billion proceeds paid to Bhopal's victims. Dow's scrip lost $2 billion in 23 minutes. The Yes Men also infiltrated a financial conference in London to present a fake Dow Acceptable Risk Calculator, which computed industrial project gains against doomed lives. Its slogan: "Because the skeleton in your closet could be a golden skeleton", like Bhopal. Its mascot: Gilda, a gilded human skeleton. Global risk managers still line up to know more.

 

Footage from these gonzo 'actions' features in The Yes Men Fix the World, which premiered in US theatres in October. A Hindi print is planned for India release. Not sure when that will happen, so I'm publishing the script later this month. One does what one can. What happened in Bhopal in 1984 was impunity on an industrial scale. It is important to remember it, and not only on its anniversary.

 

Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine

 

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

CARBON COPIES

BJORN LOMBORG

 

We run the risk of being the generation that promised a huge deal but failed to effectively respond to global warming. Negotiations to cut carbon have repeatedly failed. There is growing evidence that another set of policies — research and development into climate engineering and low-carbon energy alternatives — could be much more effective.

 

Unfortunately, political leaders gathering in Copenhagen this December plan to stick with an approach that has failed again and again. We have not reined in emission rises despite promises in Kyoto in 1997 and Rio in 1992. Carbon cuts are expensive. That problem is only going to grow as our promises become more ambitious.

 

Research by climate economist Professor Richard Tol for the Copenhagen Consensus Center shows that carbon cuts big enough to keep temperature rises lower than 2 degrees Celsius — a target that the G8 and many others have argued is necessary — could cost a staggering 12.9 per cent of global GDP in 2100, or the equivalent of $40 trillion a year. Available estimates show that the welfare loss induced by global warming will be just $3 trillion per year by 2100. Put simply: the solution is far more costly than the problem. And the $40 trillion estimate assumes that politicians everywhere in the world would, at all times, make the most effective, efficient choices possible to reduce carbon emissions. Dump that far-fetched assumption, and the cost could easily be ten or 100 times higher.

 

A global deal based around carbon cuts is expected to include a lot of spending from developed countries to help developing nations to prepare for global warming. There is a great danger that this will actually be diverted from saving lives, from today's problems. Developed countries seem set to spend much money to save few lives in the distant future, instead of combating malnutrition, malaria, or communicable diseases today. It is amoral to build a dam to avoid flooding in 100 years, when the people living beside that dam are starving today: we should be helping communities become stronger today and better able to prepare for global warming in 50 years time.

 

Little wonder that five of the world's top economists — including three Nobel laureates — who gathered this summer for the Copenhagen Consensus on Climate to evaluate policy responses to climate change found that global carbon taxes are a "very poor" option.

 

Yet, carbon cuts have become the mantra of the political elite of developed nations. We need another way that is moral, politically feasible and economically responsible. World leaders should focus on the investments that the economists for the Copenhagen Consensus project found most promising: increased research into climate engineering and into low-carbon energy alternatives.

 

Research from Eric Bickel of the University of Texas highlights the potential of climate engineering to provide a short-term answer to warming.

 

Bickel and his co-author Lee Lane explore the costs and benefits of so-called marine cloud whitening, a well-established tech-proposal in which boats would spray seawater droplets into clouds above the sea to make them reflect more sunlight back into space-augmenting the natural process where evaporating ocean sea salt helps to provide tiny particles for clouds to form around. Bickel concludes that about $9 billion spent developing this technology might be able to cancel out this century's global warming. The benefits — from preventing the temperature increase — would add up to about $20 trillion.

We should research this technology today to identify its limitations, risks and potential as a stop-gap measure that could buy us a century's delay in warming.

 

To sustainably reduce temperature rises, though, we need better non-carbon based technology options. Research by economist Professor Chris Green from McGill University shows that non-fossil sources like nuclear, wind, solar and geothermal energy will — based on today's availability — get us less than half-way towards a path of stable carbon emissions by 2050, and only a tiny fraction of the way towards stabilisation by 2100.

 

Policy-makers should abandon carbon-reduction negotiations and make agreements to seriously invest in research and development. About $100 billion spent annually on non-carbon based energy research could essentially stabilise our emissions and get temperature reductions under control within a century or so. Green conservatively concludes that the benefits of such an investment — from reduced warming and greater prosperity — would bring about $11 worth of climate damage prevention for every $1 invested.

 

Because research spending would be much cheaper than carbon emission cuts, there would be a much higher chance of political agreement, and a much higher probability of the promises being enacted.

 

Many of us fear inaction on global warming. But we should equally fear continuing down the perilous path of promising costly action that will either fail to be enacted, or be more harmful than global warming itself. We have within our grasp alternative policy options that would truly leave the planet in a better state.

 

Bjorn Lomborg is Director, Copenhagen Consensus Center,  Copenhagen Business School and the author of Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

PAPER CHASE

 

The Medical Council of India has recommended that postgraduate medical students must present a paper at a national-level conference and publish in a reputed journal before they can sit for their examination. The MCI had earlier made it mandatory for assistant and associate professors to publish if they were to be promoted. The new proposal, which reports suggest is likely to get the health ministry's nod, aims to boost research in medicine. It is in line with HRD Minister Kapil Sibal's emphasis on research in higher education (even though his ministry has no direct control of this). As Sibal points out, India's contribution to global research has slipped to 2.87 per cent from 10 per cent about 30 years ago.

 

While the idea of encouraging research and publication is good in theory, the MCI's current plans make little sense. For one, the requirements that students have to publish in high-quality journals is a high bar for so young an age, especially if not many faculty can boast of the same. What's more, given the paucity of medical students and how tightly they are stretched in simply putting their learning to use in overburdened hospitals, this suggestion seems rather otherworldly at the moment. While gearing education towards first-hand research is a laudable aim, medical students, who learn by doing in the most valuable ways, shouldn't be burdened with too much workload. Surely incentives for research (such as the National Science Research Fund which Sibal has mooted) work better than forcing all students to comply with the same requirements.

 

The MCI has a point: more research in medicine will have long-term benefits. But the way to do this must be better tuned; top-down mandatory rules are precisely what ail the overregulated higher education sector. There should instead be facilities and funds that incentivise doctors and students

 

to pursue research and produce papers. It is hoped that the health ministry does not approve this particular recommendation, while at the same time coming up with novel and workable ideas to encourage research in medicine.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

A GULF OF DESPAIR

 

Eighteen years of lawlessness run a country into the ground. Thus, when the second batch of medical graduates in those 18 years gathers for a ceremony, one expects a celebration. Unfortunately, nothing is simple in Somalia. A suicide bomber — a man in a veil — blew up the hotel hosting the event. Scores have died, amongst them the health minister, the minister for higher education and the minister of education. No group has taken responsibility, and allegations and counter-allegations are being tossed around. The disorganised response is symptomatic of the Somalia conundrum — as can be seen in the lack of a central authority in addressing the piracy issue.

 

The government believes this to be the handiwork of al-Shabab. The rise of al-Shabab coincided with the formation of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), who ruled briefly amid sprouts of calm. Al-Shabab were instrumental in creating this period of stability. ICU rule was viewed dubiously internationally — by the UN, the US and the African Union (AU) — and was brought to a forceful end by Ethiopian guns. The current government, of former ICU man Abdirashid Sharmarke has tacit support from international and regional forces. But not from al-Shabab. Sharmarke's task since he was thrust to power in February 2009 has been to secure Mogadishu; but al-Shabab still control pockets of southern Mogadishu.

 

Somalia, the crossroads of the Indian Ocean, is in a fix. Following the failed peacekeeping effort of the '90s, the international community has shied away from direct involvement and AU troops on the ground are regularly attacked. The prospects of a stable, strong central government remain weak. The Gulf of Aden is a key strategic route, and as Somalia nosedives into lawlessness yet again, maritime trade and regional security are threatened. India needs to keep close watch — not just on the seas but on the land as well.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

MINESWEEPER

 

In the surprisingly high growth numbers for India's economy released recently, the excellent performance of the mining sector, historically subject to underinvestment and low efficiency, stood out. But India's massive, unexploited natural resources have become, over the past year, an unprecedented political hot potato. This has had two symptoms. The first is that a discourse, mistaken and malicious, took hold among sections of people who refer to themselves as "civil society": that plans for coordinated state action against Naxalites were because of, and timed according to the demands of, commercial interests interested in the natural resources lying below Naxal-hit territory. The second is that, in several states, the control of mineral wealth has begun to seriously disrupt state politics, and distort the conversation about policy. Witness Karnataka, where governance was paralysed for weeks thanks to the open rebellion against the chief minister by the Reddy brothers, who control mining in Bellary district and have used the fortunes that that has gained them to become powers in the state BJP. The Reddy brothers also figure in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, where Chandrababu Naidu has attempted to form a coalition against their interests, which he identifies with that of the state Congress, so long under the sway of Y.S.R. Reddy. (The Central government has just suspended the clearances of six Reddy mines in AP.) And then there's Madhu Koda and the missing 4000 crore rupees .

 

The problem? Mining is one of the most unreformed sectors in our economy, and also one of the most opaque. "Illegal mining", the expansion of claims beyond what is legally yours, might be endemic — or it might not. The lack of transparency not only allows, possibly, the amassing of vast fortunes at the exchequer's expense — such as Koda is accused of building up — but it also permits the conception and transmission of a hundred conspiracy theories, a thousand whispered allegations, each of which adds to the disruption of state politics, and to shrill "civil society" denunciations of action against Naxalites.

 

We can't rely on governments in states with already contentious mining industries to develop a political response to the growing concern about illegalities in mining. The impetus must come from the Centre; the constitution grants it regulatory authority in the sector if it sees a need "in the national interest". An overhaul of the antiquated legislation that governs the sector is planned. That must not be delayed. But most importantly, the Centre must be visibly willing to push states, and to set up independent investigation and oversight. Mining will grow. Our political response must grow along with it.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

HIS AF, OUR PAK

SHEKHAR GUPTA

 

Just when the three basic postulates of India's post-Cold War geostrategic position were becoming established comes the game-changer. How does India prepare to live, and protect its interests, in a neighbourhood which is now not only the playground of the world — but where the leader of the world has also given himself a deadline for retreat?

 

In the history of warfare, conventional or unconventional, nobody has ever won by announcing a deadline before deployment. That's what Obama has now done. The Taliban will be telling their hordes, all they have to do is hunker down and survive in the mountains for just 18 months. All they need to tell other, moderate or pro-American, Afghans is: you've just got 18 months. After that, we will deal with you — or you now start dealing with us. And Afghans are pragmatic people when it comes to deal-making. You'd have to be that way if you live in such a brutal place, where the only national industry and employment for two millennia has been fighting wars. As usual, a humorist has put it more accurately and cruelly: Jay Leno said this week, with a straight face, that Obama has announced he will bring his troops back after 18 months — and the Taliban announced they will continue fighting for just 19 months.

 

Jokes apart, where does this leave India? We had just got used to the idea of having active American military presence in our neighbourhood when they tell the world two more things. One, that they intend to build a new state in Afghanistan, change the nature of state and society in Pakistan. And second, that they intend to achieve this in 18 months and return home. We are a civilisation and neighbourhood where wars last generations. So July 2011 looks closer here than it would in Washington DC. Look at it this way: it would come just about the time West Bengal goes for the assembly polls.

 

There are three pillars of India's post-Cold War foreign-strategic policy doctrine: one, that India's territories must not shrink any further, while it has no appetite for expansion; two, that India's freedom of stockpiling, control and doctrine over its strategic nuclear assets must remain undiminished; and three, that there should be no challenge to India's preeminence in its immediate neighbourhood. It is that last pillar that is now shaky.

 

First of all, the coalition that has now been built to fight the "bad" jehadis in Afghanistan is a lot more global than the one put together to fight alongside the "good" jehadis in 1979. This is no Great Game or Cold War sideshow, and there is no balance-of-power. Second, we have as big a stake as others — in some way even bigger than Washington — that Obama does not return from Kabul a loser. And third, which is the most significant, the Global Afghan Project-II is fundamentally different from the first, because a "fixing" of the Pakistani state is integral to it. While all three may be the source of some anxiety to us, the last one brings some opportunity as well.

 

Concern, because changing the nature of Pakistani state and society, or in other words, democratising a 14-crore-plus population that is deeply Islamic, fiercely nationalist, insecure and suspicious, and has tasted many freedoms of democracy, howsoever faulty, is a formidable challenge. And America's experience and expertise so far lie in propping up and sustaining dictatorships. They may be spending billions on democratising now, but in their hearts they must pine for a Musharraf. Makes life much simpler. There is no way they can achieve success within 18 months, particularly when their very presence is such an irritant to most Pakistanis. And if they think they will continue working in Pakistan after their military pull out from Afghanistan, they are being optimistic. And opportunity, because, should they succeed, won't it be just what we have been wishing for decades, but never had the resources or traction to achieve? Particularly since the era of Islamisation, with the Zia takeover, began? Every million dollars that the Americans spend taking Pakistani scholars, soldiers, NGO activists, opinion leaders, journalists, parliamentarians to Western institutions to strengthen and widen the base of a new, liberal and democratic elite in Pakistan is a million invested in our future. Nothing will serve our interests better than a stable, prospering, democratic Pakistan, at peace with

 

itself, looking inwards, and focusing its energies on its own growth, and competing with us economically. Beggar-my-neighbour may be a tempting thought each time a big terror attack takes place. But big, serious nations do not run a foreign policy for cheap thrills.

 

That is why, while we build roads, schools and the parliament building in Afghanistan, we must also make our own contribution to the larger project by changing our approach to Pakistan and coming out of this permanent post-26/11 sulk. We need to engage with its democratic establishment, with all its imperfections and all the irritating verbosity of some of its leaders. The 26/11 investigations, Headley revelations and now Robert Gates' statement have left no doubt that what we are fighting is more than just the ISI. While the Pakistani establishment may still nurse LeT as a likely strategic asset, the use-by date on that is now over. And it is not because they have got scared of us, or of the prospect of an Indian bombing of Muridke if another attack takes place. It is because the rest of the world — not just America — will never accept such nuancing. Those times will not even return after 18 months, irrespective of whether Obama returns a loser or victor or, as is most likely, goes to his Congress and asks for more time.

 

Our biggest worry will be if he returns a loser, or in haste by claiming a partial success as victory. The situation we would then be left with will be like that of a patient who the surgeon has left unstitched on the operation table. Our policy has to work to ensure that does not happen, and if it does, to build the strength to deal with not one, but two debris states next door. Until then, we also have to accept living in our region with our preeminence deeply curtailed.

 

If Obama wins, we win. If he loses, we have to be strong enough to look after ourselves — because unlike him,

we have no escape. He, indeed, will be watched closely by an increasingly unsure American population. What Jay Leno did this week was to underline an old Washington truism: it doesn't matter how much they abuse you in this city. But you've got to get worried when they start laughing at you.

 

sg@expressindia.com

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INDIAN EXPRESS

LEGACY'S END

RAKSHIT SONAWANE

 

As the country observes the 53rd death anniversary of Dalit icon Babasaheb Ambedkar on December 6, the outcome of the recent Lok Sabha and legislative assembly elections has signalled the beginning of the end of the brand of politics followed by Ambedkarites in his home state of Maharashtra.

 

For the first time since the state was formed, the Congress-NCP chose not to ally — they didn't need to — without any of the major Dalit factions, divided into the dozen-odd splinter groups of the Republican Party of India (RPI). The election results have pushed the likes of Ramdas Athawale into political wilderness. He had formed a state-wide "third front" after losing the Shirdi Lok Sabha seat for the assembly polls, but his party drew a blank despite contesting 106 seats.

 

The Congress-NCP trick in the assembly polls was to eliminate the need for RPI leaders, who used to act as middlemen in harnessing the Dalit vote. Ruling parties approached the voters directly and "convinced" them to vote for them. Athawale's candidates could neither mobilise resources nor the fighting spirit among Dalits resulting in the defeat of leaders like noted poet and founder of Dalit Panthers, Namdeo Dhasal.

 

Two RPI groups shunned the third front — one led by Prakash Ambedkar (that fought independently and won two assembly seats in Akola) and the other led by Rajendra Gavai (son of Kerala Governor R.S. Gavai), who broke away to back the Congress. The RPI leadership failed: educated middle-class Dalits do not patronise their brand of politics and the poor, after having seen a few leaders prosper, have become cynical. Consequently, RPI leaders have lost their bargaining power.

 

How did they get here? After embracing Buddhism in October 1956 with his followers, to escape the socio-economic caste oppression of orthodox Hindus, Ambedkar wanted to launch a political party that would represent the distressed, irrespective of caste or religion. He had written to some prominent socialists and leftists about his plans.

 

The need to broad-base his movement lay in his experience in the labour movement. He floated the Independent Labour Party in 1936, but could not garner adequate support. Later, in 1942, he formed the Scheduled Castes' Federation (SCF) to consolidate his position among Dalits — which won only two seats in 1952, prompting the desire to broad-base the organisation. The SCF became a constituent of the Samyukta Maharashtra movement in Maharashtra that included the communists, the Peasants' and Workers' Party and the Praja Socialist Party (and even Bal Thackeray's father Keshav alias Prabodhankar Thackeray). The mega alliance was fighting for the formation of the Marathi linguistic state of Maharashtra with Mumbai as its capital.

 

This helped the SCF to win nine Lok Sabha seats (including six in Bombay) and 15 assembly seats in state elections the next year. The BSP's "social engineering" actually started with Ambedkar.

 

Ambedkar was throughout a bitter critic of the Congress, which always used politicians from the "cobbler" community against him. However, the RPI, formed after his death in 1956, chose to join hands with the Congress in newly-formed Maharashtra, when then Chief Minister Yeshwantrao Chavan promised reservations for Dalits who had embraced Buddhism along with Ambedkar. (The conversion was aimed at liberating Dalits from the caste system by giving them a new identity, and urging them to leave for cities. But only Hindu Mahars were recognised as a Scheduled Caste and thereby eligible for reservation; Buddhists were not.) The Congress in Maharashtra grabbed the opportunity, and RPI leaders were eager to fall in line in return for crumbs of power — ministerial berths or political appointments.

Besides, the RPI became bitterly divided over the leadership issue, resulting in a presidium that later broke into factions. Ambedkar had died without naming his successor; he ensured that institutions formed by him (like the People's Education Society) were not controlled by his family members, such as his son Yeshwantrao, and there were too many ambitious leaders waiting in the wings.

 

The scramble for spoils led to amoebic division of the RPI. Its leaders confined the movement to Buddhists, without reaching out to other communities to fulfil Ambedkar's dream. Besides, the conversion to Buddhism became a hurdle in unifying Dalits, as other SC communities like the Chamars and Matangs chose to stay within the "Hindu" fold. The schism was exploited by parties like the Shiv Sena, which even campaigned with Hindu Dalits by accusing Buddhists of grabbing a major share of the SC quota. The Congress, on the other hand, ensured that Buddhist politicians within its fold got elected and were appointed ministers.

 

Ambedkarites in Maharashtra have outlived their utility for

 

the Congress. Unsurprisingly, despite winning two assembly seats independently, Prakash Ambedkar's MLAs have backed the government.

rakshit.sonawane@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

STATE OF THE UNION

ASHUTOSH VARSHNEY

 

The emerging security debate on the first anniversary of the Mumbai attacks has neglected a vital constitutional question. Does federalism by any chance weaken India's counter-terrorism effort? Without considering the relationship between federalism and national security, we will not understand the underlying factors driving India's counter-terrorism effort. The nation's centre-state laws and practices are a principal obstacle in developing a stronger response. If not addressed imaginatively, Mumbai-style attacks simply cannot be ruled out.

 

Scholars of comparative federalism generally call India's linguistic federation a spectacular institutional success. One of the greatest indicators of the success is the disappearance of language riots, common in the 1950s and 1960s, after the linguistic reorganisation of states was completed. But for all its successes, India's federalism now faces a new and extremely serious challenge.

 

Central to India's internal security are three laws and practices.

 

First, according to India's Constitution, internal law and order are entirely on the so-called "state list", not on the "Central list" or "concurrent list". Only under President's rule can Delhi take over the internal security of a state. "Federal crime" is not a concept in Indian law, as is it in the US, and it cannot be introduced unless the Constitution is amended. Its relevance has been debated within government circles since the late 1960s, but the idea of federal crimes remains legally elusive. Even when the Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu was diverted to Kandahar in December 1999, leading to India's external affairs minister agreeing to a humiliating agreement that released well-known terrorists from Indian jails in return for the safety of passengers, the case was not, and could not be, registered as a federal crime. Indian Airlines reported to Delhi police that its plane, due to arrive in Delhi, was missing. "Hamaara hawaai jahaaz nahin aayaa". It was registered as a Delhi-based crime.

 

Second, Central agencies — including the national security guards (or commandos), who are especially trained for urban terrorism — simply cannot function without the cooperation of state police. Requisition from state governments is legally required before the commandos can be used. India's commandos were all based in Delhi when Mumbai was terrorised. After Mumbai, hubs have been created in Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai. As a consequence, they can be deployed more quickly, but for operations, they still need the assistance of state police. NSG commandos have no knowledge of local specificities. State police remains the greatest repository of ground-level intelligence in India.

 

Third, all serious students of terrorism recognise that intelligence is central to the prevention of terrorism. Since terrorists are willing to sacrifice their lives, one can only try to minimise damage, not avoid it, once the act of terror has begun. Unfortunately, India's intelligence system is fractured and weak. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the institution often identified as the leading intelligence agency of India, is most unlike America's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In contrast to the FBI, which combines intelligence and investigation functions, the CBI is primarily an ex-post investigation body, not an intelligence collecting agency. For the latter, it depends primarily on state police, and secondarily on Delhi's Intelligence Bureau (IB).

 

The CBI was established under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946. Its direct jurisdiction covers Delhi and the centrally administered Union Territories. Unlike the FBI, it can not pursue investigation at the state level on its own. To investigate, it must receive state requisition or consent, or be ordered to do so by the Supreme Court or a High Court. In other words, for it to function well, it depends heavily on state police. It can also team up with Delhi's Intelligence Bureau (IB), but the IB reports to India's home ministry, whereas the CBI reports to the ministry of personnel. The cooperation is not always forthcoming. More importantly, the IB simply does not have the same intelligence-gathering machinery as the state police does. State governments have the constitutional right to deny permission for CBI investigations. Goa, for example, did so during the late 1990s. Maharashtra did not hand over cases concerning the Mumbai blasts of 1993 to the CBI for almost a year. Northeastern states have often denied permission to the CBI.

 

At the root of this problem is the dark underbelly of Indian politics: corruption and vendetta. The CBI is not trusted by state leaders for they believe it is politically used by Delhi to target adversaries. The adversaries may be accused of corruption, or even violent crime. It does not matter that such corruption or criminal conduct may often be real, not imagined. But over the last 20-30 years, as politicians accused of crime and corruption have, in particular, risen in politics, the CBI has been caught in a political crossfire. Delhi often wants to use it, but the CBI faces enormous resistance at the state level, especially if the state government is run by a coalition or political party different from that ruling in Delhi.

 

So long as the Congress party ruled both in Delhi and the states, there was no such resistance. Such matters were handled as internal negotiations within the party. Moreover, in the 1950s and 1960s, the era of Congress dominance, no one had imagined the possibility of terror, let alone cross-border terror. The rise of a coalitional era might have made Indian politics much more democratic, federal and competitive, but national security has suffered as a consequence.

 

Although this problem cannot be fully resolved unless corruption and crime begin to disappear from Indian politics, India's political process has thrown up a potential solution. Via a Parliamentary act, a National Investigation Agency (NIA) was created after the Mumbai attacks. In theory, the NIA can become India's FBI, but serious impediments remain.

 

The NIA Act was created using an entry related to defence of India on the Central list. Of all security matters, only defence of India is handled by Delhi. What is generally called internal, as opposed to external, security is almost entirely under state jurisdiction. The NIA Act is not a constitutional amendment, which would have required approval of two thirds of Parliament and half the states, not easily possible in a coalitional era. The concept of a federal crime, requiring a constitutional amendment, has still not been introduced precisely for the same reason. States would not give consent if they believe that the NIA might become a much more powerful CBI.

 

The NIA does not yet have an elaborate organisational structure of its own. And that may not happen until two conditions are satisfied. First, if more Mumbai-style attacks happen, it is possible for security to become an overriding national objective that no political party can ignore without peril. Thus far, terrorism is an element in India's elite politics, not in its mass politics. It does not determine election outcomes. Second, if the Congress party, currently showing signs of revival, becomes even stronger, both in national Parliament and at the state level, it would also allow the possibility of a constitutional amendment. The first condition is not desirable, the second somewhat improbable, if not impossible, at the moment.

 

India's home minister is well known for his intellectual firepower, but his hands are tied. He can only do the following: modernise the intelligence system through new technologies; try to generate a better knowledge system — for example, a national counter-terrorism centre — that supports national security; create institutions that seek to coordinate the rather fractured intelligence. State governments might also create their own commando forces, as Maharashtra appears to be doing and Andhra did some years back. All of these measures would help, but the home minister cannot legally force a state government to accept the dictates of the NIA unless a constitutional amendment introducing the concept of federal crime is put through. However desirable such a concept in the 21st century might be, India's federal polity will not easily allow it to come about.

 

writer is professor of political science, Brown University. His books include 'Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India'

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE FOREIGN HANDS IN NEPAL

YUBARAJ GHIMIRE

 

Recently, Gagan Thapa — a young and articulate member of the constituent assembly — asked the Kathmandu-based Norwegian ambassador, who was hosting a closed-door discussion on topical issue, point blank — why do you fund both the constitution-making process, as well as those who burn it?

 

This is clearly a reflection of Nepali suspicions about the role and intention of donors and international agencies in the country. In fact, external agencies are now giving them greater reason to be suspicious, visibly meddling in internal affairs, especially after their support of the anti-monarchy movement in April 2006. This phenomenon is increasingly being questioned now — Thapa's question being proof of that.

 

Last month, Ian Martin, who was assigned a mediator's job in Nepal's peace process as Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and first head of the United Nations Mission to Nepal (UNMIN) made some confessions almost a year after he left the country: "As the cantonments were being established in late 2006, they (Maoists) swelled the numbers there by bringing in young people, many of them minors, attracted by promises of salary payments and future recruitment into the security forces". UNMIN under Martin was in charge of registration and verification of Maoist combatants. His mission declared that out of the 31,000 plus registered, 19,000 plus were genuine combatants, another four thousand child soldiers and others disqualified on various grounds while the remaining eight thousand did not did not show up at the time of verification.

 

Martin kept mum all through, when questions were raised about the disappearance of these eight thousand plus 'combatants'— much against Maoist Chief Prachanda's assurance to the then Prime Minister G.P. Koirala — that Maoist combatants were not more than 7,000 in number. A video of Prachanda addressing his combatants way back in November 2007, boasting how the party has been able to inflate the number of combatants from around 7,000 to 30,000 and have it certified by the UNMIN, found its way to the media. Martin, who was still in Nepal when it came out, stayed silent. There is also speculation — some of it based on hard evidence — that most combatants are actually in the Young Communist League (YCL), the party's para-military youth wing, who never went to the specially-built cantonments still under UNMIN supervision.

 

No one knows whether it was a revelation of fact or confession of guilt and incompetence on Ian Martin's part, but it will have a bearing on the UNMIN's future in Nepal, after its term expires in June. Was Martin, often described as pro-Maoist by the Nepal army, trying to silence the Nepal army by inflating the strength of Maoist combatants?

 

All these verified combatants, including the child soldiers are being looked after at government expense. An army loyal to a political party being raised at state expense may not be unusual in a conflict-hit country, but it certainly poses a threat to the future peace and also legitimises the role of arms in politics. Martin, in fact also admitted that the election to the constituent assembly was not all that free and fair, a fact that the donors and international communities had chosen to ignore altogether.

 

The UNMIN did not even wait for polling to end before certifying that Nepal's elections were free and fair. President Carter, the leading figure of the international observers team, whose visit had been funded by DFID, breached the agreement that such a statement should come after the polls are over.

 

The Election Commission, especially its chief, had taken the public stand that election to the constituent assembly was part of the peace process. So the message that he was trying to deliver was 'let us not take irregularities seriously'. In fact, he did not. Violence, obstruction of campaign and assault on candidates by various rival groups —mainly the Maoists — in more than 70 places were not at all taken seriously.

 

"The Maoists created their Young Communist League, not solely as a movement of law-abiding youth activists based in their own communities, but as a paramilitary formation in quasi-barracks under former commanders from the People's Liberation Army. They used it in the contest for the Constituent Assembly election to deny other parties the space in some localities for free and fair campaigning", Martin said in New York.

 

Unfortunately, all this has come at a time when Maoists' proposed declaration of the provinces — most of them based on caste and ethnic lines — is being seen as a way of calling off the peace process. Martin's revelations only show that the peace process — even in the best of times, when international observers were highly enthusiastic —was full of deceit, concealment and conspiracies.

 

araj.ghimire@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

BARACK OBAMA, ACTION HERO

 

Many Democrats are nostalgic for Barack Obama's presidential campaign — for the passion, the clarity, the bliss-to-be-alive fervour. But, of course, the Obama campaign, like all presidential campaigns, was built on a series of fictions. The first fiction was that government is a contest between truth and error. In reality, government is usually a contest between competing, unequal truths. The second fiction was that to support a policy is to make it happen. In fact, in government power is exercised through other people. It is only by coaxing, prodding and compromise that presidents actually get anything done.

 

The third fiction was that we can begin the world anew. In fact, all problems and policies have already been worked by a thousand hands and the clay is mostly dry. Presidents are compelled to work with the material they have before them.

 

The fourth fiction was that leaders know the path ahead. In fact, they have general goals, but the way ahead is pathless and everything is shrouded by uncertainty.

 

All presidents have to adjust to these realities. The only surprise with President Obama is how enthusiastically he has made the transition.He leads long, analytic discussions, which bring competing arguments to the fore. He sometimes seems to preside over the arguments like a judge settling a lawsuit. His governing style, in short, is biased toward complexity.

 

This style has never been more evident than in his decision to expand the war in Afghanistan. His decision to expand the war is the most morally consequential one of his presidency so far, yet as the moral stakes rose, Obama's emotional temperature cooled to just above freezing. He spoke in the manner of an unwilling volunteer, balancing the arguments within his administration by leading the country deeper in while pointing the way out.

 

Despite the ambivalence, he did act. As Andrew Ferguson of The Weekly Standard pointed out, he is the first Democratic president in 40 years to deploy a significant number of troops into a war zone.

 

Those new troops are not themselves a strategy; they are enablers of an evolving strategy. Over the next year, there will be disasters, errors and surprises — as in all wars. But the generals will have more resources with which to cope and respond.

 

The advantage of the Obama governing style is that his argument-based organisation is a learning organisation. Amid the torrent of memos and evidence and dispute, the Obama administration is able to adjust and respond more quickly than, say, the Bush administration ever did. The disadvantage is the tendency to bureaucratise the war. The danger is that Obama's analytic mode will fail to inspire and comfort.

 

Barring a scientific breakthrough, we can't merge Obama's analysis with George Bush's passion. But we should still be glad that he is governing the way he is.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

FAFF-PAK, AGAIN

RUCHIKA TALWAR

 

After the three-day Eid break, Pakistani papers were agog with the new Af-Pak strategy unveiled by US president Barack Obama. Eyebrows expectedly were raised over the text of the new plan and apprehensions made clear. The News quoted foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on December 2: "Our issue is not that the US is increasing its troops in Afghanistan, but how they deploy them in Afghanistan, and also better coordination." Asked whether the input on the Afghanistan issue was also taken from the military leadership, he replied that the military leadership was on board on this issue and all civil and military leadership were united on it." Officials told Dawn that the foremost concern was their deployment in the area bordering Pakistan would have a direct implication on the country and would mean an increase in cross-border infiltration...It was a serious issue for Pakistan because reports suggested Afghanistan's territory was being used as transit route for the supply of weapons to militants battling security forces in South Waziristan and Malakand division." Underscoring Pakistan 's apprehensions, Daily Times reported: " President Obama's new strategy must ensure there is 'no adverse fallout' on Pakistan ." Daily Times expressedstronger disapproval in its December 4 edition: " Pakistan was 'kept in the dark over the finer parts of the review policy,' diplomatic sources said. The sources said Pakistan had 'serious reservations' over Obama's decision to send an additional 30,000 combat troops to Afghanistan .

 

The News added an interesting dimension by reporting Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan's view : " The strategy shows the wishes and demands of the American people, who are confronting serious financial problems, have not been kept in mind. Rather the strategy was formulated to protect the interests of the generals at the Pentagon and the capitalists... It is aimed at killing two birds with one stone — to reduce Afghans' apathy to foreign forces and to counter criticism in the US and concern of their allies. However, it is of no use, as military casualties will also increase with the rise in the number of foreign troops in Afghanistan . In the history of Afghanistan , none was able to capture it with deceptions, resources and high number of troops... Neither have we any base in Pakistan nor we needed such a base outside Afghanistan as we control a vast area in our own country."

 

What's in a name?

The much-talked about 17th Amendment to Pakistan's Constitution has an interesting roadblock — the proposed renaming of NWFP. Dawn reported on December 1: "Renaming of the NWFP as 'Pakhtunkhwah' and provincial autonomy beyond the repeal of the concurrent list are stumbling blocks in the way of presentation in Parliament of a unanimous package for amending the 17th and 8th amendments to the Constitution." Daily Times added on December 2: " Almost all political parties agree and there is no second opinion the province be renamed to give it an identity. The renaming of the province is the longstanding demand of the Awami National Party that proposed three names — Pakhtunkhwah, Afghania and Pakhtunistan — and is adamant the province be given one of the proposed names as it was one of the election slogans of the ANP."

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

BOTTOMLESS PIT


As was noted on this page by our columnist on Friday, it's been found that bribes have been paid for every Jharkhand mine opened up for private mining since 2005. This indicates the scale of rot, with the big Madhu Koda scandal merely bringing a big stink to the surface. The former Jharkhand CM has in the past enjoyed the patronage of both the major national parties, the BJP and the Congress. The scandal, as it's been reported, is not just the Rs 4,000-crore scale of the mining lease scam he masterminded, but also that he may have cleared as many as 41 files for iron ore mining leases in an hour. None of this movement has helped productivity: of the $63 billion worth of proposed investments to develop the state's resources, only $2.1 billion had been realised as of August 2008. But Jharkhand, which has around 40% of India's total mineral resources, is far from being alone in its failure to set up an efficient and evenhanded system for allocating mines. Elsewhere as well, mine leases continue to be doled out as largesse from politicians and bureaucrats with vast discretionary powers.

 

Take the case of Andhra Pradesh, where the Union government has suspended forest clearances of six iron ore mines, including those owned by Karnataka tourism minister Gali Janardhana Reddy of BJP and by Congress MP Jaganmohan Reddy. Both, not unlike Koda, have cried political conspiracy. It may well be that, given that former CM Chandrababu Naidu has suddenly begun mobilising on the mining issue. But when stories of political involvement are flooding in from so many states and so many parties, we can be certain that the malaise is real rather than cooked up; national wealth is being looted at all levels, and sections of the higher echelons are far from being shy about demanding their share. Court-mandated punishment against a few big names will help create an environment that deters bribe-taking. But it's equally necessary that the processes of giving licences are reformed and made transparent. In this context, we welcome the fact that the Union minister for mines and development of the Northeastern region, BK Handique, has turned the heat on state CMs, demanding their personal intervention in the matter. What will also help, obviously, is the mobilisation of technology. If state governments weren't still using age-old methods to map areas, we could track illegal mines and illegal mineral movements via satellite imagery.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

REMEMBERING THE AMNESIAC


The human brain is still probably the least understood part of the human body. Unsurprisingly, research in neuroscience is now at the cutting edge of scientific research. And because there is still so much to learn about the brain, the discipline evokes much excitement not just from those who work in the field, but also from those who are generally curious about expanding knowledge. Some of this was on display over the last three days as a laboratory in San Diego, California, conducted a careful dissection of a very valuable (from a scientific point of view) human brain. The lab decided to webcast live the entire experiment on the brain of the late Henry Molaison who, until his death in 2008, was known only as HM for reasons of anonymity. Incidentally, he had donated his brain to the cause of science as far back as in 1992. The webcast had already recorded 3 million hits in around a day going into Friday; such was the general interest in the brain of the man who lived with amnesia (lack of memory formation) for more than fifty years. By dissecting his preserved brain, scientists hope to learn how exactly human memory is formed and which parts of the brain are responsible for it. Molaison lost his memory in the early 1950s after a brain surgery (involving the removal of a part of the brain's hippocampus) to cure his epilepsy robbed him of his memory—the artificially induced amnesia is what makes his brain so valuable for this research.

 

Of course, this research may not have an immediate bearing in helping those (in terms of medication or procedure) who suffer from amnesia or other neurological diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia. But this is the kind of basic research that will lay the foundation for later clinical research and application. And that is why basic science research, so often neglected in India, and usually given second place to applied research even abroad, is so important. Fortunately, the mass general interest in at least this experiment shows that basic research in science still has a passionate following. For applied sciences, particularly in medicine and pharmaceuticals, which have had no blockbuster breakthrough drug or application (probably since Viagra), the next big discovery may well be in serious disorders related to the brain. But they too need this basic research on the precise structures of the brain (down to the tissues) to lay out the fundamentals before they can move to applications. The world of science, of course, owes a great debt to HM for permitting it to study him continuously during his lifetime and to study his brain in this detail after his death.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

EVEN CLIMATE IS ABOUT THE MONEY

ARUNABHA GHOSH


A lottery would not get many ticket sales if it disclosed the prize after the draw. With this observation, a developing country delegate expressed frustration over the lack of a climate finance mechanism. Why, he argued at climate negotiations earlier this year, would poor countries undertake costly climate-related actions without guarantees that funds would be available? As the Copenhagen meeting begins, it looks less like lottery and more like poker.

 

Lotteries are games of pure chance. Poker is a game of part chance, part strategy. Climate negotiations hinge on, among other things, creating a pool of finance to share the burden of mitigating and adapting to climate change. The game is not one of a winner taking all by sheer luck, but of who contributes how much to the common pot. No country is willing to act first; doing so would be to fold. Countries are taking a chance on the level of aggregate effort needed to avoid dangerous climate change, but their strategy is to avoid revealing preferences.

Several countries have announced plans for emission cuts (Brazil, EU, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, South Korea, the US) or carbon intensity reduction (China, India). These are, however, opening gambits to guess how far others would go. For instance, China's offer of 40-45% reduction in carbon intensity by 2020 is a continuation of its already existing policy, which began in 2006. If other countries had expected more, China was not going to oblige. By 2020 the US aims to reduce emissions by 17% relative to 2005, which is way below desired levels (using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 1990 baseline, this means only 4% reduction). For rich countries as a whole, the IPCC recommends reductions of 25-40% by 2020; offers on the table amount to only a 12-19% cut. Further, many leaders have suggested that Copenhagen will not deliver a legally binding treaty.

 

The absence of internationally enforceable mitigation commitments means that the burden on climate finance will increase. Unilateral promises will depend on whether sufficient financing is available to achieve the scale of actions needed. So, who will pay? The Commonwealth Heads of Government backed a British-French proposal for a $10-billion fund to help developing countries reduce emissions and adapt to a changing climate. This was one more push to secure at least a political deal in Copenhagen.

 

But larger issues remain unresolved. The first is the scale of funding required. Estimates for additional annual investments for climate mitigation in developing countries vary, but they hover around $100 billion annually by 2020. A tiny fraction of that is spent at present with even new funds failing to disburse significant amounts. Funding for adaptation shows similar gaps, with only $1 billion being spent when the needs are perhaps 40 times more.

 

Many argue that significant increase in official development assistance (ODA) is difficult. Therefore, a second issue is the funding mix. No doubt a large share of financing has to come from private, market-based sources. But, as currently configured, carbon markets will not generate funding to match the actions required. The incremental costs of moving up the technology ladder—R&D, capital costs, intellectual property—imply public financing support. It is unhelpful to pretend that market failures in cleaner energy technologies will correct themselves without support.

 

Needed then are arrangements that generate win-win situations. These arrangements involve a mix of political commitment, public finance and private investment. In October, delegations meeting in New Delhi endorsed India's proposal for a network of technology research centres across developed and developing countries. Again, the US and China announced several joint initiatives during Obama's recent visit, on energy efficiency, research on cleaner coal plants, electric vehicles, carbon capture & storage and renewable energy, among others.

 

Such bilateral initiatives, while important, are still small scale. Moreover, they must not divert attention from multilateral arrangements. Otherwise, financing might indeed turn into a lottery for a few countries while others are left without access to clean technologies.

 

That raises a third issue of 'additionality' of funding. This is jargon for climate funding being over and above existing ODA allocations. Developing countries worry that climate finance will simply substitute money intended for education, health and other development needs. The EU has sought to delete references to additional funding from the Copenhagen text.

 

There is a long history of unmet commitments that has resulted in an atmosphere of sheer mistrust and bad faith between rich and poor countries. Despite its bilateral initiatives, the US has yet to table any substantial offer regarding climate finance. President Obama admitted at the G8 summit in July that the US had 'sometimes failed to meet its responsibilities so let me make it clear those days are over'. Those days are not over yet; the game of poker continues.

 

There is an alternative: a multilateral Low Carbon Technology and Finance Facility that uses public finance to leverage private investment, underwrites project risks, covers intellectual property fees, and offers rich and poor countries equal voice in governing climate finance. Will negotiators at Copenhagen play this new game?

 

The author is Oxford-Princeton Global Leaders Fellow at Princeton University

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE REAL STATE OF REAL ESTATE LEVERAGE

K VAIDYA NATHAN


I am currently in Dubai. Here, defaulting on debt or even bouncing a cheque is punishable with jail. I am told by friends here that most Indians in financial difficulty take the safest route—the next flight out of Dubai. Yet, when the government-owned investment company, that is, the sovereign wealth fund of Dubai, called Dubai World (DW), defaulted on its payments on November 25, the owners of the fund gave the impression of being antagonistic than apologetic.

 

Last week, DW warned that it does not have enough money to pay back a $3.5 bn loan that is due in December. It has asked creditors if it can postpone its forthcoming payments until May next year. DW's announcement shook investor confidence across the Persian Gulf. The announcement appeared to be timed to minimise its impact on markets. It came after the stock market shut and just before the eve of the long Eid-al-Adha holiday that has closed many firms and government offices in the Gulf until December 6. Nevertheless, the news has caused great concern in the global financial markets.

 

DW was launched in July 2006 as a holding company. The Vice-President & Prime Minister of UAE and the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed, holds the majority stake in the sovereign wealth fund. Through the holding company, the ruler controls some of the biggest businesses in Dubai, including the third-largest port operator in the world, Dubai Ports World and Nakheel, known for residential estate development projects such as the Palm Islands and the Dubai Waterfront. The investment company manages and supervises a portfolio of businesses and projects for the ruler across a wide range of industry segments and projects that promote Dubai as a hub for commerce and trading.

 

In the region, it is often the case that the ruler, the government, the central bank and the businesses, are effectively the same entity. Dubai is a political territory ruled by a dynastic monarch. It is one of the seven emirates comprising the United Arab Emirates, which includes Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. Dubai borrowed $80 billion to fund a construction boom to transform the economy into a regional tourism and financial hub.

 

Foreign banks have stopped lending since the beginning of the year. Since then, Dubai has turned to its neighbouring emirate, Abu Dhabi for financial help. Sheikh Mohammed relied on Abu Dhabi's central bank in February this year to raise $10 billion by selling debt. However, now most creditors are pessimistic and do not foresee help forthcoming from its neighbour should Dubai have difficulty repaying the debt even after six months. The ruler, however, tried to assuage the fears of its 70 creditors by 'clarifying' that those who doubt the unity of Dubai and Abu Dhabi should 'shut up'. I thought you wore an apologetic look when you don't have money to pay back debt. That apart, I imagine that Dubai can expect financial support from the deep-pocketed Abu Dhabi to keep itself afloat. But Dubai will likely have to abandon a flamboyant economic model that focused on heavy real estate investment and inflows of foreign capital.

 

The money it borrowed in the last six years wasn't deployed well. Rather, the frantic investment of the borrowed money in real estate created a bubble. A six-year boom that turned sand dunes into an even more glittering metropolis, creating the world's tallest building, its biggest shopping mall and, some say, a shrine to unbridled capitalism, is grinding to a halt. Strolling through the streets, the evidence of economic slowdown is obvious. Many construction projects have either been put on hold or cancelled, leaving a trail of half-built towers on the outskirts of the city stretching into the desert. Luxury hotels seem to have a vacant look. Earlier, you expected to see a Ferrari parked beside a Rolls-Royce in Dubai. But now, you are more likely to see a scruffy 'for sale' sign in English and Arabic taped to the windows.

Historically, too much money pouring into the real estate has proved to be a detrimental strategy, especially if it is borrowed money. The regulators, bankers, businesses and speculators were the collective culprits during the Asian crisis and the more recent sub-prime crisis. However, in this case, the buck stops at the state because the regulator, central bank, business and speculator are effectively the state. Dubai's default is the biggest sovereign default since Argentina in 2001. A series of leveraged investments by the government in real estate have caused this 'bounced cheque'. If a commoner's cheque for even 100 dirham bounces, he can be jailed here. Probably, it is a little difficult for the rulers to apply the same law to themselves as they apply to commoners. It would be interesting to see, at the very least what corrective action the state undertakes to come out of this financial mess.

 

The author, formerly with JPMorganChase's Global Capital Markets, is CEO, Quantum Phinance

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

BATTLE IN ENERGY DRINKS

LALITHA SRINIVASAN


There's a new fizz in the battle between Coca-Cola and PepsiCo in India. After fighting a pitched battle for market share in the carbonated drinks sector, archrivals Coke and PepsiCo are now betting big on the non-cola segment. The reason? The Rs 250-crore branded energy drinks sector in India is growing at the rate of 60% as compared to 10% growth rate of the Rs 7,000-crore soft drinks market. On the back of an increasing number of modern retail stores, the energy drinks market is expected to reach Rs 1,100 crore by 2010.

 

Recognising the growth potential of this sector, Coke and Pepsi are introducing their global energy drinks in India to woo new consumers. For starters, Coca-Cola India has launched its global energy drink, Burn, in Mumbai.

 

Incidentally, Coca-Cola has positioned Burn as 'a drink with a potent energy formula which ignites and intensify experiences'. Targeted at youth, Burn is available in a 250 ml can priced at Rs 75. Indian youth will now have a reason to burn their money to taste the 'potency of Burn'.

 

In the race for energy drinks, Coke archrival PepsiCo has already scored brownie points by foraying into the energy drinks sector with the launch of its global brand, SoBe, three months ago. In keeping with its plan to expand the non-carbonated portfolio, PepsiCo India launched its first energy drink 'Sobe Adrenaline Rush' from the SoBe stable. The other major brands in this sector include Red Bull and Cloud 9.

 

SoBe Adrenaline Rush will be available initially in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore and is supported by point-of-sale promotion and sampling exercises. Coke is also supporting its new launch with an intensive below-the-line consumer engagement programme involving large-scale sampling and presence in consumer touch points involving fashion, music and Bollywood.

 

Clearly, the competition between Coke and Pepsi will put pressure on the current market leader Red Bull, which has, so far, maintained a low profile.

 

lalitha.srinivasan@expressindia.com

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

CHOGM MISSES KEY OPPORTUNITIES

 

The 2009 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that took place in Trinidad between November 27 and 29 was presaged with ambitious statements from some of the major participants. Indicating a high degree of hype, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma dramatically claimed that it was a crisis summit. Sure enough, with the Copenhagen climate summit looming large on the horizon, the subject dominated the proceedings. At the instance of the host, Trinidad Prime Minister Patrick Manning, a special session on climate change had special invitees such as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Danish Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen, and French President Nicholas Sarkozy. The summit did produce a strong statement on climate change reflecting the view of the developing world. But other than that, the conference had little momentum.

 

Ahead of the summit there was considerable talk of CHOGM positioning itself as an effective platform of developing countries at a time of significant global changes. But there was little evidence of such a summoning up of a collective commitment to evolving a common position on other critical issues. Fiji remained suspended and Rwanda gained admission after it changed its language to English from French in 2007. Yet the overall tone was a far cry from the robust exchanges that preceded the expulsion of South Africa over apartheid, the 1995 suspension of Nigeria for executing Ken Saro Wiwa, the suspension of Pakistan in 1999 and again in 2007, respectively for a military coup and the delayed lifting of martial law, and the suspension of Zimbabwe in 2002 over flawed presidential elections. Critics say the Commonwealth has ceased to commit itself to upholding human rights and civil liberties. Despite brave words from certain of the leaders present, the organisation seems to be under-funded and under-supported. Its civil-society arm, the Commonwealth Foundation, has caused disappointment by transferring most of its funding from the prevention of HIV/Aids to cultural activities. CHOGM 2009 had a curious listlessness portending increasing irrelevance. It would have been far more useful had the grouping of 53 nations with a shared history of colonialism used the occasion more imaginatively. It would be worthwhile for the Commonwealth to transform itself into an enduring platform lending itself to consensus building on some core issues of global importance. That would have sent a clear message to the world about the high value of a multicultural, multi-faith, and multilateral body. It is a pity that instead it did precious little to stop what could be a slide to ineffectuality.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

COMMEMORATING KRISHNADEVA RAYA

 

"A perfect king...a great ruler and a man of much justice," recorded Domingos Paes, a Portuguese traveller of the 16th century. The king was Krishnadeva Raya, who ascended the Vijayanagara throne in 1509 and died, of unknown natural causes, in his forties. But it is for very good reason that these encomiums were showered on him, and his coronation is being celebrated half a millennium after the event. He was a great warrior but also an able administrator, a tolerant statesman, and a learned patron of the arts. In a relatively short reign of 20 years, Krishnadeva Raya expanded the Vijayanagara kingdom into a vast empire. Aggressive military campaigns might have enabled this, but it was his administrative acuity and farsightedness that checked the authority of territorial chiefs and strengthened the core of the empire. His ambitious expansion plans often brought him into conflict with the Deccan sultans. He fought them bitterly, but neither he nor the other Vijayanagara kings were anti-Islamic, as they are made out to be by the communally minded. Duarte Barbosa, another Portuguese traveller visiting Krishnadeva Raya's court, confirms this by recording that every one was permitted to "live according to his own creed." Muslim soldiers were acknowledged for their superior archery and cavalry skills and were an integral part of the army.

 

Hampi, the capital of this empire and now a world heritage site, owes much of its magnificence to Krishnadeva Raya. The vastness, wealth, "infinite trade," and sophistication of life within this 30 sq km metropolis never failed to impress a visitor. Hampi, in fact, was frequently compared to Rome. It was significantly expanded, with six of its 12 sectors built during his reign. The art and architecture of South India reached its apogee. Tall gopurams, pillared halls, and sculptural columns are some of the architectural contributions of the Vijayanagara Empire. In fact, the hybrid architecture combining Hindu and Islamic elements, seen in the Lotus Mahal at Hampi, served as a prototype for what came to be known as Indo-Saracenic architecture. Krishnadeva Raya's reign has also been described as a "glorious epoch of literature" and inscriptions attest to his support to poets, particularly Allasani Peddana. Legends, with a wide popular appeal in South India, recall the king's literary prowess, the eight great intellectuals of his court, and the wit of Tenali Ramakrishna. The State of Karnataka may have taken the lead in celebrating the 500th year of Krishnadeva Raya's coronation but his enduring legacy can be found in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu as well.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

THE GROWING THREATS TO HUMAN RIGHTS

IN MOST CASES, THE GRAVEST THREATS TO THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF CITIZENS EMANATE FROM STATES.

RAMESH THAKUR

 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed on December 10, 1948, transformed an aspiration into legally binding standards and spawned a raft of institutions to scrutinise government conformity and condemn noncompliance. It remains the central organising principle of global human rights and a source of power and authority on behalf of victims.

 

A human right, owed to every person simply as a human being, is inherently universal. Human rights are held only by human beings, but equally by all; they do not flow from office, rank, or relationship. Universalising the human rights norm was one of the great achievements of the twentieth century. Numerous U.N. conventions, declarations and protocols produced this progressive result. They are our "firewalls against barbarism" (Michael Ignatieff).

 

Human rights establish boundaries between individuals, society and the state. The assertion of a human right is a claim on protection from threats from people, groups or public authorities. Human rights are endangered in conditions of anarchy when there is no functioning law enforcement and judicial machinery to defend them. In most cases, however, the gravest threats to the human rights of citizens emanate from states.

 

Over the past decade state-based threats to human rights have taken several forms. Many civil liberties have been curtailed in recent years through law or by administrative decisions and infringements on freedoms that would have been challenged in the pre-9/11 environment. Western governments have sometimes abandoned nationals overseas if their detention or abuse is carried out in the name of anti-terrorism. Their troops in Afghanistan may have colluded in handing over suspects to local interrogators skilled at breaking more than toothpicks. Their law enforcement officers have transferred the burden of risk of death and injury to innocent people, for example through lax protocols governing the use of tasers.

 

Border agents everywhere seem to be drifting into a make-my-day machismo as their default mode of dealing with the travelling public. Banning the gadfly British MP George Galloway from visiting Canada in March 2009 was especially egregious and counterproductive in giving him dollops of extra oxygen for free publicity. The banning of minarets by the good citizens of Switzerland is illiberal democracy at its worst, fanned by the flames of group hysteria against the backdrop of post-9/11 Islamophobia. The ceremony of innocence will be truly drowned if the western centre of civilisation cannot hold.

 

The problem was aggravated with the former chief champion of human rights becoming a leading delinquent. U.S. abuses in Guantánamo and Iraq significantly weakened the world's ability to protect human rights. When a dominant country like the U.S. openly defies the law, others mimic its policy and its leverage over them is reduced: Washington cannot call on others to uphold principles it itself violates.

 

In a landmark case involving the CIA's extraordinary rendition programme as part of the war on terror, on November 24, an Italian judge convicted 23 Americans of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric on a Milan street in 2003. They were tried in absentia and may never see jail time. But they are in effect fugitives in the 25 EU countries and subject to arrest and extradition to Italy. The case thus is another nail in the coffin of impunity and sends a warning shot across Washington's bow that if the U.S. fails to hold its officials accountable for breaking foreign laws, other countries will.

 

Once, torture was acknowledged to be so abhorrent that no one publicly approved the practice. The post-9/11 climate of fear encouraged debate on whether torture is justified if it prevents mass terrorist attacks. A posture of moral relativism can be profoundly racist, proclaiming in effect that "the other" is not worthy of the dignity that belongs inalienably to one. Those of us who live in zones of safety, activating "the moral imagination to feel the pain of others" (Ignatieff) as our own, have a duty of care to those living in zones of danger.

 

A second set of threats is posed by the creation of human rights machinery that has become a monster mocking the meat it feeds on. Human rights seek to protect individuals from oppression by political, social and religious authorities. The responsibility for enacting laws and constructing the bureaucratic, police, and judicial machinery to monitor and enforce human rights lies with the state. Social and religious groups can capture the political agenda and subvert the process to "protect" group human rights by penalizing individuals who dissent and depart from community sanctioned views and behaviour.

 

Criminalising hate speech is a case in point, especially when offence is established not by the intent of the doer but the hurt sensibilities of a complainant. University campuses, which should be among the frontline defenders of free speech — a defence that has no meaning if it does not include the freedom to offend — have been among the first to succumb to political correctness or lobby group pressure. Yale University Press sunk to a new depth in low farce recently in publishing a book on the Danish cartoons controversy but pre-emptively censoring itself and not reprinting the cartoons.

 

In some jurisdictions, in hearings before quasi-judicial bodies like human rights commissions (with members appointed by governments), complainants suffer no financial or other penalty even if their case is found to be frivolous and wholly without merit. Defendants can have their lives ruined financially, professionally and socially. Eventual vindication is inadequate solace or compensation. Thus has machinery meant to defend human rights become politically motivated attack organs, using taxpayers' money to chip away at their freedoms. They are paradigms of a bureaucratic solution: well-intentioned, labour intensive and expensive. The value of an end — promoting human rights — is used to set in motion a self-defeating means to achieve it.

 

The final source of state-based threats to human rights is from intergovernmental organizations. International norm shifts in human rights include outlawing genocide, delegitimising institutionalised racial discrimination (especially apartheid), moving from sovereign impunity to international criminal accountability, improving the status of women, and developing the concepts of dignity and the protection of minorities and vulnerable groups.

 

Here too there has been a distressing reversal, for example a Canadian citizen being put on a secret U.N. blacklist with no judicial oversight on the basis of unknown and therefore unchallengeable evidence — some of which can turn out to be flimsy. Abousfian Abdelrazik spent almost six years in detention in Sudan and may have been tortured before being returned to Canada in 2009. No national or U.N. official has been held to account.

 

Somewhere along the line, the U.N. human rights machinery got captured and subverted by its enemies. Its actual performance was scandalous and a travesty of the noble vision and ideals animating the global movement. The protection of internationally recognised human rights will remain fraught in the years to come. The U.N.'s main collective body on human rights affairs is made up of states. Claims by citizen against governments are unavoidably political. States are less eager to create enforceable police and judicial machinery than to endorse human rights in the abstract, and less open to effective U.N. enforcement of rights than to weak supervision of policies.

 

Even liberal democratic states often sacrifice human rights on the altar of national security and commercial profit. Western governments have not been notably anxious to use the U.N. machinery to criticise China or Saudi Arabia. Changing the nomenclature of the Commission on Human Rights to the Human Rights Council will not change the reality of double standards based on national interest calculations.

 

States can band together at the U.N. to proscribe injuries to religious sensibilities, for example by publishing cartoons that some spokesmen of some religion find offensive. In March 2009, the U.N. Human Rights Council passed a Pakistan-sponsored and Organisation of Islamic Conference supported resolution calling on all countries to pass laws banning criticism of religion. The resolution was dressed up in the language of human rights (freedom of religion).

 

This is why, even as advocates seek desirable advances in the global governance of human rights, they must constantly hold fast to the critical kernel of truth that human rights is about protecting individual beliefs and actions from group-sanctioned morality at local, national and global levels of governance.

 

(Ramesh Thakur is director of the Balsillie School of International Affairs, Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, and Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo.)

 

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THE HINDU

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD

IT HAS BEEN 17 YEARS SINCE THE BABRI MASJID WAS DEMOLISHED AND MUMBAI WITNESSED ITS WORST COMMUNAL CARNAGE. IT HAS BEEN A BITTER BATTLE FOR THOSE WHO HAVE SOUGHT A LEGAL COURSE OF ACTION.

MEENA MENON

 

For Mukim Mumtaz Sheikh, 37, the Liberhan Commission and its report are not going to make any sense. He confessed to being too scared to testify before the Srikrishna Commission which investigated the communal riots in Mumbai after the Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992. He has no regrets as he believes that the people who testified before the Commission did not get justice in any case.

 

Mukim is a survivor in more ways than one. He has vivid memories of the riots in which his father died of suffocation and he barely escaped death. He has taken to photography recently and can be seen at all important political functions, a digital camera hanging around his neck. He has rods in his hand and it is difficult for him to drive. Mukim, who has studied till the tenth standard, was wary of his writing skills but now he runs his own paper, "Hindustan ki Awaz." He is married with three children and has got on with life.

 

Slightly built, with wide eyes, he unravels a long and rather complicated story. In the second phase of riots in January 1993, chased by a mob he and his father ran across rooftops and seeing some of his neighbours in the mob, he extended his hand for help. What he got instead was an arm broken in three places. The mob robbed his watch, stripped off his shirt and dragged him to the main road and beat him up. When he regained consciousness, he does not know after how long, he found himself in what must have been a septic tank. His father was below him shouting for help. Soon his cries ceased. Some 30 hours later Mukim was rescued by a policeman, with whom he stays in touch in gratitude.

 

PROMISE NOT KEPT

He still has friends from his old locality. He is fond of his old home and he believes that rioters have no religion. He has left justice to Allah. It has been 17 years since the Babri Masjid was demolished and Mumbai witnessed its worst communal carnage which killed nearly a 1,000 people. While the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) keeps promising to implement the Srikrishna Commission report, there is every evidence to the contrary.

 

Unlike Mukim, Farooq Mapkar, a security guard who was injured in police firing at Hari Masjid on January 10, 1993, testified before the Srikrishna Commission. Seven people were killed when police barged into the mosque and fired. Mapkar's is a long quest for justice which has still not ended. He was accused by the police of rioting and fought a case since 1993. He was only acquitted of all charges in February 2009. However, his persistence led to the first information report against the policemen being filed on 28 August 2006, 13 years after the offence.

 

Last year the Bombay High Court ordered a CBI inquiry into the Hari Masjid firing. While the State government had agreed to hand over the case to the CBI, the agency contended that it was not in a position to take it up because it was already overburdened with cases, among other reasons. Justices R.S. Mohite and F.I. Rebello of the Bombay High Court in their order of December 18, 2008, meticulously overruled the CBI objections and said that it is a primary duty of the State to ensure that no community should be left with the feeing that they have no forum to address their grievance or a feeling that the law is not uniformly applied to all its citizens. "We find that the action taken so far in this case is a matter of concern and requires urgent redressal," the court said.

 

As the inquiry was in progress, in a surprising turn of events, on August 28, the Maharashtra government moved the Supreme Court and asked for a stay on the CBI investigation. The State contended that it had carried out a departmental inquiry against Nikhil Kapse, the policeman who was involved in the firing at Hari Masjid, and said the firing was not an indiscriminatory act. The apex court stayed the CBI investigation. For activists and lawyers fighting for Mapkar this was a final nail in the coffin. The Srikrishna Commission held that Kapse's role in the entire incident was condemnable and he is guilty not only of unjustified firing but also of inhuman and brutal behaviour.

 

There are several petitions pending in the Supreme Court regarding the riots and one of them filed by lawyer Shakeel Ahmed relates to the involvement of 31 policemen named by Justice (retd) Srikrishna in his report. It has been a long and bitter battle for those who have sought a legal course of action. Advocate Yusuf Muchhala who has fought several cases, is quite convinced that the government is certainly not going to do anything about justice. Even the media has failed to keep the issue alive in the public consciousness.

 

While Mapkar has approached the Supreme Court, there was another setback. The Bombay High Court upheld a lower court order as just and legal and cleared the former Mumbai Joint Police Commissioner (crime), R.D. Tyagi, and eight other policemen accused of forcibly entering and killing nine people in another case, the Suleiman Usman Bakery firing, on January 9, 1993. This case was examined by Justice (retd) Srikrishna and he said, "the Commission is of the view that the story of the police does not inspire credence."

 

Justice Mridula Bhatkar's order of October 16 upheld that the trial judge has rightly observed that the firing in the Bakery was unnecessary. "Indeed it was a cruel and atrocious act on the part of the police. In the case of the communal riots, a humane and sensitive approach is expected," she says. "However, it should be within the legal framework. Howsoever be the serious or heinous offence, an innocent cannot be put to trial," the order continues. The court held there is no sufficient evidence against Tyagi and others that they either had common intention to murder the inmates in the Bakery or have committed or abetted the offence of criminal trespass.

 

The State government in 2001 had filed a case against 18 policemen, but nine of them, including Tyagi were discharged in 2003 by the trial court. Despite promises, the government did not appeal against the discharge. It was left to another victim of firing, Noorul Huda Maqbool Ahmed, a madrasa teacher near the bakery. It is now his turn again to approach the Supreme Court.

 

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THE HINDU

TRIAL BEGINS FOR CATTLE VACCINE

EVEN IF THE VACCINES PROVE SUCCESSFUL, THEY FACE AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE AS FARMERS AND FEEDLOT OWNERS WORRY ABOUT WHO WILL PICK UP THE EXTRA COST.

WILLIAM NEUMAN

 

Jason Timmerman coaxed a balky calf into a chute on his feedlot one recent afternoon and jabbed a needle into its neck. He was injecting the animal with a new vaccine to make it immune to a dangerous form of the E. coli bacteria.

 

The calf and thousands of others are part of a large-scale test to see whether animal vaccines are an answer to one of the nation's most persistent food-safety problems.

 

The test has been a long time coming. Bureaucratic delays in Washington stalled the arrival of the vaccines for years, even as people continued to become sick and die from eating tainted beef. And now, even if the vaccines prove successful in the ambitious tests that are just getting under way, they face an uncertain future as farmers and feedlot owners worry about who will pick up the extra cost.

 

"I hope it works," Timmerman said. "It probably won't be so good for my pocketbook directly, but it'll probably be good for the industry."

 

Scientists are fairly sure that vaccines like the one Timmerman gave his cattle will not, on their own, wipe out the dangerous strain of E. coli known as O157:H7. But if they prove effective, they could significantly reduce the amount of harmful bacteria that cattle carry into slaughterhouses, which means that safeguards already in place there would have a greater chance of eliminating the remaining germs from the beef supply.

 

While studies have shown varying degrees of effectiveness, many researchers believe E. coli vaccines can reduce the number of animals carrying the bacteria by 65 to 75 per cent. That may be enough to prevent the surge of E. coli that typically occurs each summer, when the germ thrives and reports of illness increase.

 

The vaccines may also reduce the number of so-called supershedders, cattle that carry unusually high levels of E. coli, with the potential to overwhelm slaughterhouse safeguards.

 

"Anything we can do to reduce that inbound load will help us be more successful," said Mike Chabot, general manager of a Cargill packing plant in Fort Morgan, Colo.

 

RECURRING PROBLEM

Food poisoning from toxic strains of E. coli, mostly the O157:H7 variety, has become a recurring problem. The strain is responsible for an estimated 73,000 illnesses and 61 deaths across the country each year. Since January 2007, the industry has initiated 52 recalls of beef tainted with E. coli, compared with 20 in the three previous years. In one of the most recent cases, in October, a company in upstate New York recalled more than 500,000 pounds of ground beef after two people died and more than two dozen were sickened.

 

In an effort to counter the threat, two vaccines have been developed commercially. One, made by a Minnesota company called Epitopix, received preliminary approval from the Agriculture Department in March, meaning it can be sold while research continues. Dr. James D. Sandstrom, general manager of Epitopix, said that about 300,000 head of cattle will get the vaccine in the coming months as part of a series of large trials.

 

A second vaccine has been developed by Bioniche Life Sciences, a Canadian company. It was approved for use in Canada last year and is awaiting approval in the United States.

Both vaccines spent years tangled in Washington red tape, largely because they straddle the border between animal medicine and human health.

 

Many E. coli strains live in a cow's digestive tract without making it sick. But several strains, notably O157:H7, can sicken people who eat it in ground beef or other foods.

 

Companies have been working on vaccines for close to a decade. The Agriculture Department received its first application for an O157:H7 vaccine in 2001. But by September 2003, the agency determined that it did not have jurisdiction. The agency said it had authority to approve vaccines only for animal health, and E. coli did not make cattle sick.

 

The Food and Drug Administration determined that it did not have jurisdiction, either. While it regulated many animal medicines as well as drugs aimed at human health, it was not responsible under federal law for animal vaccines.

 

"It was in both agencies' netherworld, where neither agency felt they were authorised by law to approve that product," said Chuck Lambert, a former deputy under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs at the Agriculture Department.

 

Finally, in March 2005, the Agriculture Department reversed course and said it would take applications. But even as it agreed to review the vaccines, the agency set a high bar for approval.

 

Officials determined that the vaccines must show at least a 90 per cent reduction in the number of cattle carrying the bacteria. And among cattle that still harboured E. coli after being vaccinated, the agency insisted on a 99.9 per cent reduction in the number of bacteria shed by the animals.

 

That was more than the vaccines could achieve — and more than the agency demanded of many other vaccines.

 

Today another roadblock stands in the way of the E. coli vaccines: who will pay for them.

 

Epitopix said it had not yet set a price for its vaccine. In Canada, Bioniche charges about $3 a dose. The vaccines require two or three doses to be effective, meaning the cost could approach $10 an animal.

 

Farmers and feedlot owners fear that they will be stuck with the vaccine cost and that it will cut into already tight margins. Timmerman, the feedlot owner, said that in a good year his profit is $25 to $35 an animal.

 

"The incentive for the vaccine is it's going to benefit the packer who is vulnerable to recalls and lawsuits," said Ronald F. Eustis, executive director of the Minnesota Beef Promotion and Research Council, a trade group that represents farmers and feedlot owners. "Unless the farmer, the producers, the rancher is somehow compensated, he's going to be reluctant to lay out the cash."

 

The large-scale study that includes Timmerman's calves is being coordinated and paid for by Cargill, the food giant that is the biggest producer of ground beef in the country.

 

It will include close to 100,000 cattle, with the animals going next summer at Cargill's Fort Morgan slaughterhouse. Tests will be done on the meat, in particular the smaller pieces, known as trim, that go into ground beef. Researchers will look to see if it contains less E. coli than trim from unvaccinated cattle.

 

E. coli contamination generally starts when bacteria in feces on a cow's hide are transferred to the carcass. Cargill has added many steps to keep carcasses clean, including steam pasteurisation and hot water washes. But regular tests at the plant still turn up occasional traces of E. coli in trim, underscoring the need for additional steps, like a vaccine.

 

"It's definitely a piece of the solution," said James L. Marsden, a professor of food safety at Kansas State University. "When you combine it with other pieces you may be looking at a real solution, a total solution." — © 2009 The New York Times News Service

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

BE FIRM, DON'T LET ULFA OFF THE HOOK

 

Dramatic developments have lately occurred in the context of the United Liberation Front of Asom, arguably the most dangerous terrorist outfit in India's Northeast. It is thought to have live links with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and Bangladesh's HuJI, the jihadist group which is used as a sword by the ISI to attack targets in India. The Assamese terror group has also shown the ability to move nimbly across borders in countries on our eastern and northeastern periphery, including Bangladesh, Burma and possibly China, obviously not without the host authorities turning a blind eye, if not actually conniving and offering sanctuary. Ulfa could carry a punch, as demonstrated by the level of weapons it had access to. Among swirling rumours for the past two days, its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa was picked up by the BSF on the Bangladesh border Friday morning, where he was said to have been found loitering. Evidently, the helpful Bangladesh government headed by Sheikh Hasina Wajed had him picked up and pushed across the border for the Indians to collect. Ulfa had prospered in Bangladesh under the earlier government headed by Begum Khaleda Zia, which enjoyed the backing of fundamentalist elements. The Ulfa chairman is now being subjected to the judicial process in Guwahati after being handed over to the state police. This clearly is no magical development, and can only be an integral part of the process orchestrated by the Centre to secure the return of the Ulfa's top leadership to Indian soil. With Mr Rajkhowa in custody, among the terrorist group's top leadership only Paresh Baruah, Ulfa's chief military commander, now remains out of the net.

 

It would be a pity if the context is sought to be turned into a political outing by Tarun Gogoi's Congress government in Assam, who could just be tempted to play the regional card in a bid to outflank a proto Assam-chauvinist group such as the AAGSP, which had risen on the back of the so-called anti-foreigner movement in Assam. After all the spilling of the blood of the people of Assam for 30 years in the name of fighting for Assamese "sovereignty", Ulfa today can fairly be said to enjoy little popular following. There has been no public outcry against the prospect of Mr Rajkhowa and other senior Ulfa leaders being brought to trial, although efforts might be on to whip one up. Part of this incipient campaign involves the demand made in certain quarters that Mr Rajkhowa be given "dignified" treatment, offered "safe passage", and be invited for talks, rather than be subjected to the rigours of the law. It is to be hoped that the chief minister does not fall prey to this: there is a sense among leaders of various parties in Assam that Ulfa's blessings can help in election season. The Congress should show the good sense to rise above such feelings, specially now when Ulfa cannot lay claim to much public sympathy. Much of the reason for this is its demand for "sovereignty" and secession, which does not resonate with most people in Assam.

 

Even if almost all the top leaders of the terrorist outfit have been captured, the group is likely to have a fair number of foot-soldiers, both inside Assam, other states in the Northeast as well as in neighbouring countries, who may be scared to come in from the cold for fear of prosecution and long jail sentences on account of the violence and killings they have resorted to. The government could think of an amnesty and rehabilitation package for them, and those who are resistant could be subjected to military means. Those are the kinds of issues that can be talked about.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

DANGLING BETWEEN SHOCK AND AWW

SHOBHAA'S TAKE

 

Some copywriters just have it! I don't know the identity of the person who came up with that marvellously emotive line for Montblanc ("The power to write your own destiny…"), but it sure worked for me. In fact, every aspect of the TV commercial managed to access my sentimental side in those few, magical seconds. That's called the power of good advertising. Take the script and the actor/models. The commercial starts with Slumdog Anil Kapoor seated at a handsome desk in an impressive study. He talks about his father wishing him luck just before Anil embarks on his movie career. The wise dad tells him bluntly he has nothing to give him but a pen (cut to a close-up of a Montblanc nib), with which to write his own destiny. Very nice. Especially if you happen to be a movie buff and are aware of Anil's early struggles to make it. Next sequence shows Anil as the dad, recreating a similar scenario featuring his actor/daughter Sonam. The sense of continuity is delicately maintained and the mood is evocatively captured. The protagonists stay in character and audiences are swept away in a tidal wave of nostalgia. I know several people who get weepy each time they watch the commercial. Nobody cares about logic when the emotional graph is this strong. I mean, a Montblanc is a Montblanc — a pricey pen. Nobody cares that just a month or so prior to the premiere of this commercial, there was a mini storm in India over Montblanc launching a special edition Mahatma Gandhi pen. In India, public memory is short. Which is a good thing. And a bad thing. Right now, we are hyperventilating over the Liberhan report and its not-so-startling findings that consumed 17 long years of Justice Liberhan's valuable time (it consumed a lot of paper as well, but we won't bring in carbon print at this point).

 

Are Indians such sentimental fools? On many levels, the answer is, "Yes". All we need is a mushy, gooey speech to make us go weak in the knees and rush to forgive our worst enemies. If even a single Pakistani celeb praises us, we instantly return the compliment and go overboard gushing over our neighbours. Nothing wrong in that… but like any award winning ad, it's all about the timing. We have the incredible knack of getting ours consistently wrong. I remember how overwhelmed we were by US President Barack Obama's Diwali party. We couldn't get over the lighting of the diya in the White House. That was pretty powerful stuff, in terms of milking a nation's emotions. It worked big time, too. Never mind that just a few weeks later Mr Obama was busy cosying up to the Chinese and leaving us feeling marooned. He quickly fixed that problem by greeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with a namaste at the state dinner and serving mainly vegetarian food at the banquet. How cute, we sighed. Now we know America really, really cares for us!

 

That gesture was no different from the Montblanc commercial. Viewers know the emotions are faked, the lines scripted, and the set carefully designed. But so what? These things appeal to the marshmallow in all of us. We all go "Aaaawww" over something at some time. And maybe the world really does need more "Aaaawww" moments to make us all feel a little better, a little less cynical. At least speaking for myself, I can tell you I could do with more cheesy, smarmy stuff where that came from. Which may explain why I love the cheesiest, smarmiest Hindi films. The ones that ooze sentimentality in every second scene and really overwork our tear ducts. I can't get enough of them! I even cry in utterly rubbishy films like De Dana Dan (okay, I'm fibbing about this one, but it's just to illustrate my point). Our world looks sinister without these filters and safety valves. I do not exaggerate even a bit when I say I lie awake most nights going over the horrific 72 hours of the 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai. A year has gone by. I should be over the trauma. But that has not happened. There are thousands like me.

 

I have a regular on my blog who keeps reminding me about what happened to the Sikhs after Indira Gandhi's assassination. He was a little boy at the time, but he is seething silently so many decades later. His memory is not short. And I don't know whether or not he'll enjoy a movie like Rocket Singh.

For most of December, I shall be out of the country. My first stop is Australia. I am very keen to know the mood of the average Australian towards us and, more importantly, the feelings of Indian students who call Australia their home. Clearly, a salve is what the doctor must instantly order, before the wounds turn gangrenous. Like the Americans, the Aussies too seem to be more tuned into courting China. Our "Incredible India" pitch has not done the trick so far. We need to change it to something that touches the right chords and makes better music Down Under. But what? Maybe, we could hire the Montblanc copywriter and come up with a similar concept that tugs at countless heartstrings. Maybe the power to write our own destiny is up for grabs. What are we waiting for?

 

— Readers can send feedback to

www.shobhaade.blogspot.com

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

BRITAIN'S HIGH-FLIERS

KISHWAR DESAI

 

Flying back to London, this time on Air India, made me realise that there are certain times of the day when perhaps getting a comfortable ride even in economy class (as we are all following Sonia Gandhi's footsteps, of course!) is if you fly in the afternoon. Though, now the big question is whether flying economy can be ennobling anymore, given the fact that the Indian growth rate is back to 7.9 per cent? This is an argument that Indian bureaucrats and politicians, who have been deprived of an automatic upgrade, now want to push forward. Hmmm…

 

But let me tell you, it wasn't bad at all. There were hardly any passengers, and as a result we could all convert our three seats across into a business-class style lying down. The fabulous lack of passengers also made for a cleaner aircraft. Unlike the outbound Air India flight from London which has detailed instructions (following the normal spiel about security) on how to use the washroom, (yes!—this is a toilet roll, and this is a tap, and this is the toilet and this is the sink, and please put the water on before you wash your hands, etc) the inbound flight to London, I was surprised to note, has no such thing. Obviously the passengers flying out of London have not been properly toilet-trained while those coming from India have been. This rather unusual assessment by Air India is mystifying. Maybe the tapes of the aircrafts have got mixed up?

 

Meanwhile, while clearing security at the Delhi airport I was nice and relaxed till I reached the aircraft and looked at the stamp on the tags they had attached to my hand baggage. The date of the fresh security stamp was not December 3, 2009, which was the date that it should have been — but November 3, 2009. Surely the zillions of sleepy security personnel who frisk you like you were Osama bin Laden's mother know that they are living one month behind in time. But being a cautious Indian I decided not to think about it till I reached London — the existing bizarre Indian security service may have been immediately galvanised into pushing us all through the security gates once more. Obviously, they would have assumed that we had all stolen the tags one month before en masse and put them on our luggage. But I do hope someone will adjust the dates on those security stamps. At least before the New Year, before some poor fool is thrown out of an aircraft for no fault of his — or hers.

 

Security at the London end, however, is much more grim and dramatic. In fact, there is now a prime-time TV serial about the "Border Control" police and it features mostly real-life cases of those who are trying to somehow slime the law and enter the country illegally. And every time one lands at Heathrow, my heart sinks when I spot yet another sweet, and hopefully innocent fresh-from-the-Punjab couple standing uncomprehendingly in front of a border control desk. This time round, matters were finally sorted out by a smartly dressed Punjabi-speaking girl who appeared and frankly looked the Jat in the eye and said in thet Punjabi, "Come on, whats the story you were trying to give my colleague? Who exactly is this woman with you and how long do you plan to live here?"

 

Luckily the airports are full of Punjabis and so communication for these fresh migrants (legal or otherwise) is not a problem — but often what they want to communicate may not exactly be the truth. And so there is always tension in the air with the interrogation of a hopeful migrant by someone whose parents migrated to the UK many moons ago.

 

One wonderful point of an island country is that whenever you return, the world has not changed. Gordon Brown is in Downing Street and all is still not well with the world. But with Christmas round the corner what has changed, surprisingly, in the world of publishing is the decline in the sales of celebrity memoirs. Of course, these were never big in India (most of them end up as a rather self-indulgent carefully censored narratives anyway) — but in the UK we have had some real bestsellers — especially of big-busted but lightweight authors such as Katie Price aka Jordan. She had initially been turned down by all the publishers — till John Blake gave her a £10,000 advance and turned her into a bestselling celebrity author. She sold over 7,20,000 copies and set the trend. Other publishers jumped onto the bandwagon handing out one million pound advances left, right and centre — but many of those memoirs have dropped by the wayside. For instance, the young, newly-turned father Wayne Rooney was paid £5 million for his autobiography which is seems has already been kicked into the long grass by the publishers and not the footballer.

 

So what are the chances that there will be celebrity memoir in your Christmas stocking? Most book publishers don't think that's a real fear at all: there has been either a decline in the celebrity culture or perhaps celebrities have run out of things to say. And so sales are down by around 25 to 30 per cent of celebrity memoirs.

 

Unbelievably, then have we really stopped finding these celebrities (most of whom come out of TV reality shows and become instant stars) inspirational? One can only hope that perhaps good sense will prevail and we will finally see these celebrities for what they are: dressed up by ghost writers to be more enticing than the pieces of fluff they actually consist of!

 

But there are a few indications that this assessment may be too hopeful: the news is already out that Russell Brand has already signed a reported £1.8 million two book deal with HarperCollins following the success of My Booky Wook, a bare-all memoir which sold more than one million copies. So if a man with a dodgy hairstyle and an even more dodgy sense of humour can prove so attractive to the reading public, is there any reason why we should give up on other celebrities? After all — they are willing to do anything to be famous — even write books!

 

The writer can be contacted at kishwardesai@yahoo.com

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

TAJ AND THE TEARDROP

FARRUKH DHONDY

 

"When they blow off your head

You have no cheek left to turn"

From Theological Ripostes of Bachchoo

 Ask any child "who built the Taj Mahal?" and he or she will say Shah Jahan. Ask the same child to reflect on whether this person built it all on his own and after a moment the metaphorical connotations of "built" will become evident.

 

The Taj Mahal was designed by architects, its foundation, walls and dome erected by masons, its surfaces adorned by craftsmen who worked in sculpting semi-precious stones. The story goes that thousands of workmen had their hands amputated to forestall them building such a wonder again. Again, a little reflection will demonstrate that workmen's hands may be irreplaceable, but workmen are not. Any despot could gather the same number of skilled and unskilled slaves together and get them to make another - if he had the armies to compel them to so do.

 

My father used to tell a more fascinating story, also undoubtedly untrue, that the real architect of the Taj was a young man whose design surpassed that of all the other competitors assembled by the Emperor to try their hand at what he wished would be the enduring monument to his earthly love. The young architect, whose name has been erased by history (but remains in the story my dad told me), produced the design and built the tomb.

 

It was only when it was completed that the Emperor summoned him and decreed that the architect be given a stupendous reward and pension, but in an act he could not in faith avoid, he would also, as part of that reward, have his eyes put out. Blinding him, the Emperor reasoned, would stop him from designing any such wonder of the world again.

 

In the dialogue that follows the Emperor gets a hint, then suspects and then fully realises that this fellow could not have designed such a uniquely beautiful monument of love without its inspiration. He asks him who inspired him and answer comes there none.

 

And then through interrogation and the evidence supplied by the envious, it is discovered that the young architect was in love with Mumtaz herself, she to whom the monument has been erected. Did the Queen know? The answer is that she did! And then, the twist of the knife, did she reciprocate? No reply. Did she, when he, the Emperor, was with his concubines or other wives, seek solace in the arms of the young architect?

 

We don't know with what defiance the architect answered but the sentence was passed. Jealousy calls it treason. The sentence is carried out and the young man, weeping blood, smiles. Why? Because he has a secret, a provision to last till eternity. He has designed the dome with a tiny but deliberate fault in it, so that each time it rains, just one drop of water will seep through the dome, gather into an oval pearl and fall as a forlorn tear on Mumtaz's grave.

 

I admit I have contrived to visit the Taj during the monsoon and circling the inner chamber have strained my sight to spot the teardrop on the inside of the dome, but have inevitably been pushed or hustled along by parties of American and Japanese tourists who may have read reams on the quality of marble and lapis lazuli, but don't know about my teardrop.

 

Myths grow around monuments and around people and are constantly reinvented. The Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington, London, is hosting an exhibition called Maharaja, the Splendour of India's Royal Courts. The theme of the exhibition is summarised in its subtitle and is an attempt to sell a myth. The exhibits, from Art Nouveau howdahs and shields with Western heraldry to a Rolls Royce and the most elaborate necklaces and brooches made by French and American jewellers in the '30s, are meant to give the viewers the impression of the "power and independence" of the "Maharajas".

 

A few well-spent hours at the exhibition defeat any such contention. I came out thinking that the Maharajas were as powerful and independent as ventriloquists' dummies. The exhibits themselves revealed their secret: A painting from Tanjore, circa 1797, depicts a procession of Amar Singh, the Raja, in a large chariot, preceded by his nephew Sarfoji II in a smaller chariot. Their soldiers surround, and follow them. Behind Sarfoji's chariot is a contingent of East Indian Company troops in uniform, carrying bayoneted muskets. The Tanjore soldiers carry spears and symbolic sceptres. History relates that soon after the painting was complete, the Company's Armies deposed Amar Singh and placed Sarfoji on the Tanjore throne.

 

In another large portrait we see the then Mughal Emperor Akbar Shah II (1806 to 1837) and his sons (one of whom is Bahadur Shah Zafar) with an Army of his soldiers. On the last elephant in the procession rides Sir Charles Metcalfe, the British "Resident" in Delhi, with a few of his staff. His expression tells us who really runs the show whereas the poor Emperor looks, even in expressionless Mughal portraiture, bewildered by the intrigue that surrounds his impotence.

 

All the pictures in the exhibition are either portraits by Western painters (my favourite an eight-feet painting of Madhu Rao Narayan with Nana Phadnavis and attendants by the Scotsman James Wales, who was invited in 1792 to Poona by the British resident) or processions in the reverse-perspective Mughal style in which walls and courtyards get wider as they recede.

 

There are no pictures of battles - all that is over after 1818 when the British, defeating Holkar, are clearly the masters. No conflict for the "kings" except in the harem; no courage except the little required to shoot animals. Their processions and durbars are parades of impotence.

 

The mutiny of First War of Independence against the East India Company in 1857 attempted to place Bahadur Shah Zafar on the throne of Delhi - or because he was already on it, sought to bring some authority and power to that throne.

 

The defeat of their insurrection was also the defeat of the idea of any Indian monarchy - Victoria became Empress to be succeeded by her lineage and Indians began the progressive demand toward democratic self-rule. No one needed Maharajas. The Raj sustained them for its own administrative convenience but they were no more kings than those in Tenniel's brilliant illustrations in Alice in Wonderland. The Victoria and Albert (the perfect place to house it) displays their toys and their empty vanity.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

TOWARDS COPENHAGEN

INDIA OPTS FOR VOLUNTARY CARBON CUTS 

 

Striking a balance between firmness and flexibility India's emerging climate change policy on the eve of the Copenhagen summit provides for a 20-25 per cent voluntary reduction in carbon emissions into the atmosphere. While Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has made it clear in Parliament on Friday that India will not accept any binding cuts, he has left some room to manoeuvre if an "equitable" deal can be reached during the negotiations. With the U.S., China, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa all making domestic emissions pledges ahead of the summit it was indeed important for India to clear misgivings about its sincerity in controlling carbon emissions. That it has done so reaffirm India's low-carbon intentions.

 

Significantly, India has now practically agreed to allow international emission scrutiny of ventures developed with outside financial and technological support. This is perhaps to accommodate Western demands. But Mr Ramesh has made it clear that there is no question of subjecting its indigenous technology, developed without foreign support to any such scrutiny. With China having adopted a conciliatory stand, India has had to give up looking rigid, but it would be unfair to look upon these as a sellout.Yet, India must not give up its insistence at Copenhagen that the developed world should atone for the damage it had inflicted on the planet by providing financial resources and technology to help developing countries control their carbon footprints as they industrialise. The Kyoto Protocol, which is now sought to be replaced at Copenhagen, had provided for commitments only from the rich countries. The Bali Action Plan did ask developing countries to take actions on reducing emissions but only when enabled by international finance and technology.

 

Whatever the outcome at Copenhagen, this country can ill afford complacency on carbon emissions in its own enlightened interest. Global warming, which is a consequence of high carbon emissions is playing havoc with our own ecological balance and the sooner we replace among other things carbon-releasing energy with clean energy the better it would be for the country and the people.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SEHWAG ON THE RAMPAGE

PITY HE MISSED THIRD TRIPLE CENTURY

 

SO close and yet so far! Seven runs are all that separated Virender Sehwag from becoming the first man on earth to score three triple centuries and beat the record of Don Bradman and Brian Lara. But wily Sri Lankan Muttiah Muralitharan finally had the Nawab of Najafgarh out, dashing the hopes of a billion-plus Indians on the third day of the third and final Test against Sri Lanka. But forget what has not been achieved. Focus on what Sehwag did manage against the world's highest wicket-taker and his colleagues. Sri Lankan bowlers were made to look like defanged club players on Thursday by a super-charged Sehwag. His 284 not out – off just 239 balls — was the highest ever scored by an Indian in one day, next only to Bradman (309) and W Hammond (295).

 

And to think that only recently there were serious question marks on his selection in the national team. After all, he was throwing away his wicket in the one-day international series against Australia last month. But in the Test match it was a different Sehwag on display. That has been the pattern all along. He is an unconventional player who can be at his best only when he is playing his own natural way.

 

The Brabourne innings is proof enough that he is still the terminator who can make any bowler think of early retirement. His overused back troubles him at times, but once he gets going he can forget all that and simply concentrate on pulverising the attack. If there is one player who can be depended on to have another shy at a triple hundred, it is he. And who knows, even Lara's 400 may not be too far. The batsman who learnt his cricket in the dusty by-lanes of Najafgarh has taught India to dream big, very big. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

THE RED RIBBON 

URGENCY NEEDED IN TACKLING HIV/AIDS

 

WHILE the first case of AIDS virus came to light over two decades ago, HIV infection is now a major health issue facing the nation, affecting the vulnerable sections of the population, especially women and children. Of the 2.5 million affected one million are women. The National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) says India has as many as 1,00,000 children below 18 infected with HIV. A large number of children below 15 are infected through parent — to child transmission. Thus the extended support from Global Fund for Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission (PPTCT) as well as NACO's emphasis on early diagnosis assumes significance.

 

The theme of the World AIDS Day this year is — Universal Access and Human Rights. Sadly in India, the ground realities for the HIV infected remain largely unchanged. The HIV infected continue to face neglect, apathy and discrimination. Infected children are forced out of schools and people lose jobs and even refused burial services. Denial of health services is another stark reality that most HIV patients have to live with. Yet the ambitious HIV/AIDS Bill that could ensure the basic rights of the HIV affected is yet to be tabled.

 

While steps like flagging off the Red Ribbon Express are welcome, the government needs to step up its drive to tackle AIDS. The people too should shun their prejudices and stop treating the HIV infected as pariahs. Fear of rejection not only makes it difficult for the HIV patients to cope with the dreaded disease but also impinges on the effectiveness of HIV prevention and care programmes. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

CHASING THE DREAMERS

THE YOUTH DISILLUSIONED WITH BJP

BY VIJAY SANGHVI

 

THE Sangh Parivar has a penchant for changing names of places and townships in India that they believe were, the Sangh believes, deformed by the Moghul or the British Empires. So it followed the practice and changed the name of Rajgir in Bihar as is known for generations to Rajgriha where the RSS held its conclave under the new chief Mohan Bhagwat.

 

Though it claims to be a cultural organisation, it does not miss an opportunity to dabble in politics as its praise of the young Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for his visits to the Dalit families in villages and for Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram for launching a concerted assault on the Naxalite groups do indicate.

 

There has been no change in the Sangh's approach and attitude. None of its statements and resolutions reflects its realisation of the fast transforming world. Mohan Bhagwat merely repeats what earlier chiefs have been narrating. Only phrases may have changed but the substance is the same.

 

He defines the word Hindu by saying, "it does not symbolise any particular way of worship, language, province, creed or religion. Actually it signifies an ancient culture, a way of life that has come down to us through ages."

 

As his predecessors, he also does not answer the related important questions as to what way of life? Whose way of life and who would decide that? The question has never been answered as to when and where the Indian culture began in their concept?

 

Can we take the Indus civilisation was the beginning of the Indian civilisation? Or it began with the aggression of the Aryans who came from outside 5,000 years ago to India in search of land and water for their food and survival but destroyed the civilisation of that time that had peacefully existed for nearly eight centuries and that was far more advanced than what had existed in other parts of the world at the time? But it was destroyed and all that remained of it were the relics at Harappan and Mohenjo Daro.

 

However, Bhagwat says that the nature of Hindu society is tolerant because Hindutva accepts every one and rejects none. Yet he emphasises on dangers to Hindu society from forces unleashed by monotheist religions Islam and Christianity. No wonder, the Sangh Parivar could not find words to condemn events of the communal carnage in Gujarat in March 2002 as it already condoned what had happened.

 

Apparently, he would not accept another view that danger to Hindu society did not emanate from two religions because most part of the Hindu society was already under destruction by globalism. It certainly had brought in dramatic changes in the 30 per cent of upper crusts of society as the new concepts have dealt a severe blow to what is essentially a Bharatiya culture in the eyes of Bhagwat and his followers.

 

A decade has passed since the horrifying events in Gujarat. In these years, the entire world has undergone a radical change that has virtually demolished traditional concepts and theories of politics, economies and social and cultural aspects of human life. The expansion of ideas on the global level have brought down boundaries that had separated states and their sovereignty, redefined the concepts of patriotism that had held sway for centuries and crossed barriers of religions, castes and creeds all over the world.

 

As the lid over the creativity of Indians that had remained bottled up for four decades of Independence was taken off in early nineties with the economic reforms, the young Indian mind has undergone a metamorphosis in its thinking, in its ambitions and aspirations. Indian of any caste, creed or religion has inherent talent of creativity that surpasses any else in other parts.

 

Even those who take the criminal routes to fake the modern means have talents. Without talents no one can fake a passport or hack any of computer systems. The only problem is that they have no access to positive utilisation of their talents. Nevertheless, it is a talent and in abundance in India.

 

Mohan Bhagwat wants change of drivers of its political wing — the Bharatiya Janata Party. He did not ask the leadership to go on a trip of introspection to understand causes of its failures in two consecutive elections to the Lok Sabha. He has merely assumed that the seven-decade old ideology that the Sangh adapted was adequate to meet challenges in the changing world.

 

The BJP's failure in the Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana has triggered a crisis for the party. Change has now become imperative. Though it has postponed the crisis to a later date, it would not enable the BJP to solve the crisis it faces to its identity. It is not a question of merely raising hands in praise of the Almighty differently. The young have already installed a different symbol in place that was earlier occupied by the concept of God.

 

For every young mind, the symbol is same because the definition of his Heaven or his Jannat has changed. But Bhagwat does not want to recognise it and also wants the BJP leaders not to ponder over it though Pramod Mahajan had insisted before the 2004 elections that the party needed to do introspection to understand what constitutes the political mind of the young generation that constitutes more than half the electorate.

 

Bhagwat and the BJP leaders need to understand the essential difference between need and desire. Needs are in the present and can be easily satisfied with little more toiling. But desires are for the future and mental conceptions. They cannot be easily realised as desiring has no end.

 

The young mind is no more worried about his needs. He is after his desires. To catch the young, every political party and social activist would need to change and walk with the young to entice the young by offering an attractive package for realisation of that new dream. A cow-centric approach would not entice because the young is enamoured by the Internet offerings.

 

The Sangh and the BJP spokesman were at unnecessary pains to deny that Bhagwat had freed the volunteers from obligation of campaigning for the BJP during the elections in states. Their campaigning or not is the least relevant factor as the outcomes in the state assemblies and the Lok Sabha elections indicate.

 

The Sangh did not support the BJP in Gujarat and yet Narendra Modi won through his independent machinery. Shivraj Chavan and Raman Singh won on the basis of their performance but Vasundhara Raje could not despite full support of the Sangh campaign.

 

The message is written in large letters in these results but the Sangh would need to change its ideological lenses to read the message. It refuses to change the lenses as its prescription for the rectification of the BJP fortunes does say. Bhagwat cannot limp out of his dream to chase the young who are after a new dream.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

MANY FACES OF FRIENDSHIP

BY GEETANJALI GAYATRI

 

Our friendship began over a decade back, on a pleasant March evening, just around the time I began my career as a journalist. A chance introduction with three persons and we hit the friendship trail almost instantly, our age difference notwithstanding.

 

I was in my early 20s and, they were, for me, "just over the hill" at 30 plus, as I often joked with them. But then, gender, age, names, castes and positions have very little to do with friendship, in fact nothing at all. So, as the days changed to weeks, months and years, our friendship blossomed and bloomed.

 

Friendship has a way of infusing new energy and I wasn't untouched. It brought a spring in my step along with the confidence that in a world where people are forever waiting to pull you down, I had my friends to fall back upon. My support system was only a call away. They, I believed, were there for keeps.

 

Alas, I was wrong because good times don't last forever. The hands of the clock run at their own pace no matter how hard you try holding them back, wearing off relationships, chipping away at precious moments, hiding beautiful beginnings behind misty curtains to bring painful endings. Time devours!

 

All relationships, it seems, have a shelf life. Times change, memories fade and people move on in life. My friends, too, moved on, leaving me behind. Keeping in touch was entirely my prerogative. They had a thousand things to juggle and loads of excuses. I had fond memories of my "picture-perfect friends" from the times gone by.

 

I clung to those memories and made desperate bids to save a withering friendship. Through it all, I never once doubted their commitment to our friendship. However, after years of single handedly running the friendship network among us, I realised it wasn't working out.

 

The magic was gone, lost in the hurry of reaching personal and professional milestones as the years went by. And, one day, 11-and-a-half years later, the proverbial straw, finally, broke the camel's back. Peeped by their attitude, I decided to close the chapter, our chapter, realising I was only dragging my feet on the inevitable and that I had waited too long to let go.

 

Now, after a few months, my anger has subsided and the bitterness has all gone. As I gather pieces of a friendship that was, to tuck away in a corner of my mind, my conscience is not weighed down by guilt that I didn't try hard enough.

 

Today, I am glad our paths crossed. For, as long as it lasted, we had our own happy times ... those that belong entirely to us. Our times of togetherness bind us in this separation as well. The present may not be ours but at least, together we shared a past.

 

Maybe, they had compulsions I didn't realise. Just maybe. So, I have decided to keep my illusions about undying friendships intact. For, friendships are just not about having a good time but sticking around in times of need, not about nursing grudges but forgiving and forgetting and not about fretting and fuming over what didn't work out but being grateful for all that clicked.

 

As I muster courage to move on, I am reminded of the oft-quoted lines: Talk not of wasted affection, affection never was wasted!

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

WHAT THE WORLD MISSED

SOME REPORTS GOT LESS ATTENTION IN 2009

BY JOSHUA E. KEATING

 

Sometimes it's those news stories that don't feel the love from cable talk shows or the blogosphere that reveal the most about what really happened in a given year. 2009 had plenty of them. From a naval alliance that could shift the balance of power on two continents to the risk of another housing bubble, these are the stories that got less attention they deserved this year – but could dominate the conversation in 2010.

 

Northeast passage opens for business

 

The mythic Northwest Passage still captures the imagination, but in September, two German vessels made history by becoming the first commercial ships to travel from East Asia to Western Europe via the Northeast Passage from Russia through the Arctic. Ice previously made the route impassable, but thanks to rising global temperatures, it's now a cakewalk. "There was virtually no ice on most of the route," Captain Valeriy Durov told the BBC. "Twenty years ago, when I worked in the eastern part of the Arctic, I couldn't even imagine something like this."

 

The significance depends on your perspective. The passage could be a gold mine for the commercial shipping industry, as a shorter and cheaper route from Asia to Europe. But the news is also a sign that climate change may be reaching a dangerous tipping point.

 

Iraq's new flash point

 

With attention riveted on President Obama's review of Afghanistan strategy, almost any news from Baghdad got short shrift this year. But the Iraq war is far from over. From a persistent insurgency to a distressing lack of political reconciliation in Baghdad, Iraq has any number of potential flash points. Most troubling may be the growing fears of a new conflict between Iraq's Arab and Kurdish populations.

 

The attention this subject has gotten has focused on the Kurdish claims to oil-rich Kirkuk, but analysts say developments in nearby Nineveh province might be more dangerous. The area is south of the Kurdish border but contains a large Kurdish population eager to incorporate the territory into Kurdistan. After the U.S. invasion, the Kurds became politically dominant in Nineveh and stationed pesh merga militia troops there.

 

That changed in January, when Sunnis rallied around the hard-line Arab nationalist party al-Hadba-a – which campaigned on a platform of countering Kurdish influence – and handed it a narrow majority in Nineveh's provincial elections. The Kurdish Fraternal List, the region's main Kurdish party, walked out of the provincial council, vowing not to return unless it was given several senior leadership positions.

 

With both sides threatening violence to resolve the dispute and insurgent attacks continuing, Iraqi and U.S. authorities increasingly view Nineveh's conflict as a key threat to Iraq's stability. "Without a compromise deal, (Nineveh) risks dragging the country as a whole on a downward slope," Loulouwa al-Rachid, the International Crisis Group's senior Iraq analyst, said in September.

 

A hot line for China and India

 

"Hot lines" between world leaders, such as the legendary Moscow-Washington "red telephone," are designed to prevent misunderstandings from escalating into nuclear confrontations. China and the United States have one. So do India and Pakistan. This year, the leaders of India and China agreed to set one up, highlighting concerns that a worsening border dispute could deteriorate into a major confrontation.

 

Asia's emerging superpowers are at odds over the Himalayan region of Tawang, a district of India's Arunachal Pradesh state that China claims is historically part of Tibet and therefore within China's borders. The countries fought a war over the territory in 1962 that killed more than 2,000 soldiers.

 

The area has been increasingly militarized, and the Indian military documented 270 border violations and almost 2,300 cases of "aggressive border patrolling" by the Chinese in 2008. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the area in October, drawing official protests from Beijing.

 

In June, the Times of India reported that Chinese President Hu Jintao suggested to Singh that the hot line be established so that the border dispute didn't lead to military – or even nuclear – confrontation.

 

A new housing bubble?

 

Ill-advised speculation on U.S. real estate helped set off the global financial crisis. But even after millions of foreclosures and their secondary effects rippled through economies around the world, U.S. homeowners might be making the same mistakes again.

 

After suffering their largest month-to-month drop in history, U.S. home prices began to increase again in May. The S&P/Case-Shiller index, a top measure of housing prices in the United States, rose 3.4 percent between May and July, with gains in 18 of the 20 cities the index measures. Prices were still 13.3 percent lower than last year, but that figure was less than expected. The release of this data coincided with other positive indicators, including an increase in existing home sales and home construction.

 

The "civilian surge" fizzles

 

In November 2007, Defense Secretary Robert Gates delivered a now-famous speech at Kansas State University in which he acknowledged that "military success is not sufficient to win" counterinsurgency wars such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan, and called for a larger role and increased funding for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. In its Afghan strategy announcement in March, the Obama administration called for a "civilian surge" of State and USAID personnel to complement the increased number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

 

Just one month later, however, the administration asked Gates to identify 300 military personnel to fill jobs in Afghanistan intended for civilian experts, as not enough civilians were available. Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy acknowledged in a speech that the government was "playing a game of catch-up" after years of not developing civilian expertise.

 

The Pentagon has also been taking over some traditional State Department functions in neighboring Pakistan. Under a supplemental funding bill passed in June, the Pentagon was given temporary authority to manage a $400 million fund aimed at boosting the Pakistani military's counterinsurgency capabilities. Assistance of this kind is usually supervised by the State Department, but Gates argued that State lacked the capability to administer it.

 

The State Department may yet live up to the initial vision of Gates and Obama – a "civilian response corps" that would be able to deploy as many as 400 people to conflict areas seems promising – but for now, the dream of a civilian surge seems far off.

 

 By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

CAN KARZAI STABILISE AFGHANISTAN?

BY ANITA INDER SINGH

 

India's interest in Afghanistan's stability was reflected by the presence of S.M. Krishna, the Minister for External Affairs, at the inauguration of President Karzai's second presidential term in Kabul on November 19.

 

Karzai's declaration that the Afghan security forces should take responsibility for running the country in five years; that another loya jirga (tribal council) would be set up to tackle the thorny issue of political reconciliation; and that corruption that has undermined his government's standing over the last five years would be tackled, will coincide with the views of any country which would like to see extremism defeated in Afghanistan.

 

None of these aims will be easily achieved. Another loya jirga will not end Afghanistan's political crisis or guarantee more efficient governance.

 

Corruption certainly needs to be addressed if Karzai is to deliver essentials, including food, irrigation and employment, and enhance the legitimacy he himself weakened by rigging the vote in the second presidential poll on August 20.

 

But the West is not infallible, and its own record on corruption is not squeaky clean. In 2001 the US defeated the Taliban with the support of some very unsavoury warlords, some of whom it now wants Karzai to distance himself from.

 

They include Muhammad Qasim Fahim, one of his two vice-presidents, and Abdul Rashid Dostum. Fahim is alleged to have been involved in drug-trafficking, while Dostum's poor reputation on human rights is apparently an embarrassment to the West.

 

But the power of the warlords in the post-2001 dispensation owes much to the fact that the West turned a blind eye to their involvement in the narcotics trade, which filled their coffers with cash to buy weapons for their private militia.

 

That is one reason why they are now in a position to challenge any government in Kabul and exacerbate insecurity in Afghanistan. Defiance of the centre with private armies is not synonymous with democratic decentralisation, and the West has belatedly realised that some of its former warlord friends have turned out to be a double-edged sword.

 

To some extent Nato's inability to ensure security could explain Karzai's wish to be on good terms with them. And Washington and London must surely know that any deals that they might advocate with 'moderate' Taliban — whoever the moderates may be — will involve hard cash, and that bribery may not win over the fence-sitters, who could pocket western goodies — and line up with extremists.

 

Moreover, the West should not forget that Afghans are a proud people and will resent western dictation to their government, just as they have resented the killing of innocent Afghan civilians by Nato soldiers in their anti-Taliban military campaign.

 

Karzai cannot afford to appear a western stooge. By publicly berating Karzai the West could further weaken his legitimacy.

 

That would be bad, if only because reconciliation is essential in Afghanistan. But without a strong government in Kabul, the chances of having any political reconciliation are bleak.

 

It may not be Karzai's fault that reconciliation has yet to take off. The Taliban don't want to talk. Since their overthrow by the US in 2001 they have turned down every overture for peace parleys, which they regard as an admission of defeat by Karzai and Nato.

 

Will Nato and Karzai prove them wrong? The next five years will establish whether they can contain extremism and stabilise Afghanistan.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

INSIDE PAKISTAN

BY SYED NOORUZZAMAN

A RUDDERLESS NATION

 

Hardly a day passes when there are no bomb blasts or suicide bombings in Pakistan, particularly in the NWFP and Balochistan. People have never felt more insecure than they do today. In 2009 alone, over 1800 civilians and 800 security personnel were killed in more than 60 suicide attacks. As a result, the country's economy is in tatters. Inflation is as high as 22 per cent. There are unending shortages of essential commodities. Their prices have gone sky high, beyond the common man's reach.

 

To cap it all, there is no capable leader to anchor the ship of the Pakistani nation. As Mushfiq Murshed says in an article (The Nation, December 3), "The Pakistani people are seeking a leader to follow. At this moment, however, the ship is rudderless".

 

President Asif Ali Zardari, who continues to have all the powers Gen Pervez Musharraf wielded as a military ruler, is getting weaker and weaker day by day. According to The News (December 2), "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'… To say that Mr Zardari is the wrong man in the wrong job at the wrong time understates the case…."

 

President Zardari is under tremendous pressure to get the infamous 17th Amendment scrapped. If this happens, parliament will have its status restored to what was envisaged by the 1973 constitution. The Prime Minister, in that eventuality, will have more powers than he has at present.

 

Mr Zardari is being criticized for wearing two caps at the same time – being the President of Pakistan as well as the co-chairperson of the ruling PPP. This is against the Pakistani constitution, which wants the President to resign from his party.

 

As the situation prevails today, his survival in office is no longer possible. As The News commented, "the die is now cast – it is a matter of 'when' and not 'if'."

 

Waiting for court verdict

 

A Dawn report says, "Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry constituted on Thursday a 17-judge larger Bench to hear from Monday legal challenges to the amnesty granted to thousands of politicians and bureaucrats under the National Reconciliation Order (NRO)". The verdict of the Bench, to be headed by the Chief Justice, will seal the fate of President Zardari, who is among the prominent beneficiaries.

 

Legal experts reportedly believe that the court will "not only decide the fate of the beneficiaries, but also determine the scope and parameters of the constitutional immunity from prosecution for the Head of State".

 

Aitzaz Ahsan, a former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, has said the result of the case will have "far-reaching and widespread effects on the constitutional and political landscape".

 

But will this end the leadership crisis? Pakistan has always had this problem. The only difference between the situation that prevails now and the one that existed in the past is that nobody knows who is more powerful today in real terms.

 

Gilani the gainer

 

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is the real gainer under the circumstances when Mr Zardari has little support from the army and has lost much of his popularity among the public. The situation is ideal for an army takeover, but that is unlikely to happen as Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaque Kiyani has been saying that he does not nurse such ambitions.

 

The truth, however, lies elsewhere. The present US administration wants the democratically elected government to survive in Pakistan. Besides this, the army does not want to be openly in the driver's seat when frequent suicide bomb blasts are making Pakistan ungovernable.

 

The Prime Minister has emerged as a front for the army. He does nothing which is not in accordance with the wishes of the army top brass. He must be waiting for the day when Mr Zardari is finally shown the door. That day may come with the 17-judge Bench pronouncing its verdict on the cases relating to the NRO beneficiaries.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

ECONOMIC UPTURN

 

Belying all conservative predictions on GDP growth, Indian economy in the second quarter of current fiscal (July-September, 2009) has registered a robust 7.9 per cent growth thanks to long-lasting stimulus packages and strong secondary as well as tertiary sector growth. This is against the GDP growth of 6.1 per cent in the previous quarter and even higher than in July-September quarter of 2008-09 that followed the deepening global financial melt-down. Consequently, Indian economy rose by 7.0 per cent in the first half of the current fiscal. What is all the more stimulating is that the second quarter growth rate of 7.9 per cent comes in the back drop of several agencies including the Reserve Bank of India, the Finance Ministry and the Planning Commission predicting GDP growth of around 6-7 per cent with the global agencies and analysts forecasting even a lower growth level ranging between 6.1 per cent and 6.6 per cent. Again, the growth upscale of close to 8 per cent in the second quarter is also remarkable in the context of just 0.9 per cent expansion in farm production due to weak monsoon and continued contraction of exports due to recessionary demand situation overseas. The sentiment is also expressed in the stock market of the country with Bombay Stock Exchange sensitive index shooting up by 300 points from the low of sensex triggered by Dubai debt crisis in previous days.


With the economic upturn, India's domestic economy continues to be the second fastest growing large economy in the world only after China, which recorded an 8.9 per cent growth in the same July-September quarter of 2009. It is not only India but also the major economies seem now to be recovering from the ongoing global down turn. Thanks to strong economic fundamentals and huge bail-out packages, accompanied by sufficiently well capitalised banking sector to help credit growth, emerging economies including India, China, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Russia and a few South-East Asian nations now appear to be slowly returning to economic recovery mainly through their growing domestic demand. The main reason for India's growing income-scale in current months is the upswing of industry and services sectors expanding by around 12.7 per cent in July-September period of the current year. At this up turn of GDP growth, some might be expecting that the government should now think of withdrawing the fiscal stimulus for fast-growing sectors. However, since the government has spent enough of resources in the course of one year in various forms to tide over the recession-hit economy and fiscal deficit now running at around 11 per cent of GDP on account of both the Centre and the States, an exit from stimulus packages right at the moment is perhaps not timely. Moreover, the Centre's revenue position does not appear to be very encouraging and our export sectors are still doing badly not only due to slackened demand but also due to protectionist policies pursued by a number of countries. India should therefore wait for some more time to withdraw the stimulus packages.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

FIGHTING AIDS

 

The low level of AIDS awareness in the State continues to be a major worry, negating the efficacy of the interventions made to curb the menace. While improvements have been made in monitoring and care, poor awareness continues to pose a grave threat. The State has 3,835 HIV-positive people but the more distressing aspect is that thousands of others could be carrying the virus without being aware of the fact, constituting a large group of potent carriers of the dreaded virus. As AIDS has no cure, utmost thrust has to be given on prevention. This will be possible only through dissemination of information at every level, especially at the grassroots and among the vulnerable sections. But despite the fact that crores of rupees have been spent on spreading awareness, ignorance continues to be widespread among the high-risk groups such as truck drivers, migrant labourers, prostitutes, injecting drug-users, etc. This makes it apparent that the most crucial aspect of the strategy to combat AIDS has not been addressed in the manner it should. The lacunae plaguing effective implementation of AIDS awareness campaigns need to be identified and addressed accordingly. Since huge amounts of funds are coming from various agencies for fighting AIDS, it has to be ensured that those are utilized in a transparent manner.


The AIDS scenario in the North-East remains depressing, with Manipur and Nagaland among the worst-affected States in the country. Both the Centre and the State governments ought to take a serious note of the situation in the North-East. While mass awareness is critical to the success of the fight against AIDS, a serious challenge lies in the form of identifying the HIV-positive people who are unaware of their status. For this, we need more counselling and testing centres. The stigma associated with AIDS often comes in the way of voluntary testing and disclosure and hence the importance of counselling. Sensitizing the society in general on the diverse aspects of the disease, especially the trauma faced by the patients is a dire need. It has been seen that the media too sometimes act in an irresponsible manner while reporting on AIDS. The traditional approach to tackle AIDS has undergone a sea-change with the growing realization that any effective strategy to deal with it has to take into account the fact that the AIDS epidemic has ceased to be a mere health problem, and is emerging as a big challenge to the psychological, behavioural and social aspects of the human beings. The issue cannot be handled without addressing the concerns related to gender empowerment and human rights.


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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

INDIA'S ECONOMY: CHALLENGES GALORE

DR BK MUKHOPADHYAY

 

A rosy picture has started emerging rather in a faster way! The RBI assessment (correctly locating the twin objective of controlling inflation / food prices while inviting higher growth rate), ECA, World Bank, IMF predictions, among others are not wrong whatsoever, but the facts remain that whatever certificate is given the same is to be taken with a pinch of salt. The question of exaggeration does not arise at all because whatever results are emerging they just show some signs only and morning today not necessary shows the day especially in case of such emerging economics in as much as there are problems galore in many fronts —food security, energy security, military and insurgency threats and the like. To what extent, the agri-sector would perform the same remains a big question since the inhibiting factors' strength remains quite strong - not to forget about external factors which are simply beyond our control.


The global economy has still been facing insurmountable difficulties with crude prices showing and indicating an upward drift (till recently and unknown tomorrow) coupled with recession and gold prices touching 29 years plus high level, among the glaring existence of poverty, inequality and regional imbalances. The global financial turmoil has brought before the global economy newer challenges as the degree of insulation has proved to be very low. Though India is not presently vulnerable to the extent some biggies are, yet India is definitely not immune from what is happening in the outside world. Though our economy has been maintaining, an upward trend since 1994; achieving 9.6 per cent and 9.24 per cent during, 2005-06 and 2006-07, respectively, and that the growth rate between 2003-04 to 2007-08 had been on an average 8.9 per cent; the question of complacency is simply cannot be there keeping in view the fast changing global scenario. To what extent the ongoing global scenario notwithstanding the Indian economy can achieve commendable rate of growth is a point to see. Challenges in the form of inflation control, cushion from financial turmoil still hover around and remain a major worry before the entire economy coupled with tackling the existence and menace of black money!


Side by side it is also important to note that at a time when the entire world has been reeling with uncertainty and the global trade almost set to register an all time low, WTO (World Trade Organization) has rightly adjudged India as an opportunity and China a threat. Economic growth in India is perceived logically as an opportunity whereas China is viewed as a threat. In the recently published WTO report amid poor growth in the US and European nations, both India and China continued to post high economic growth.


Montek Singh Ahluwalia has rightly said that as India's farm sector has not been doing well it is necessary to shift 3.5 per cent of the population out to achieve growth rate of 4 per cent (the same is the target also for the 11 Five Year Plan). Simultaneously, the need is there to enhance growth of services and manufacturing sectors to absorb those taken off from agriculture sector. Shifting of workforce, in turn, to the urban sector is all set to aggravate the problem of over-urbanization, especially putting pressure on existing age-old urban infrastructure.


On the foreign trade sector too there still exists huge gap – exports continued to slide and to what extent sliding dollar would further hit the export earnings is still not exactly measurable. It is good that the new foreign trade policy has been on the table (2009-2014) and the policy this time is more practical in as much as it has recognized some of the prevailing gaps well (geographical diversification / sectoral expansion). Large foreign remittances from abroad from Indian / other sources) obviously are also another point to take note of. However, the foreign exchange position has been on the rise. Still, the question arises encircling the same as to why not to use a significant portion of the same for infrastructure development as Nobel Laureate Professor Stiglitz has pointed out. The crucial task today for the emerging economies is to go ahead with the optimally planned manpower deployment process having environmental nod –both in the urban and rural context. If China can register GDP growth year after year, we cannot simply lag behind in as much as the resources are yet to be appropriately utilized. Grow more food, create surplus, invite the industries (look at Brazil where almost in every quarter sugarcane processing units are coming up; Malaysia partially tackled the East Asian crisis fall out) and ensure overall growth. Too much of dependence on services sector cannot locate the escape route from poverty.

Time is ripe to focus on the behaviour of the key national economic aggregates through measurement and analyses of these aggregates as well as the variables that are responsible for governing them. Flation, unemployment and poverty belong to the group of the central endogenous variables in as much as a gentle positive rate of inflation may be desirable (RBI lakshmanrekha being 4.5 per cent) high as well as negative values of it pose undoubtedly serious economic problems. In fact the cost of unemployment is heavier viewed from the point of not only loss of income and output, but also in terms of human psychology.


Especially, in the planning field (national-district-block level) urgent requirement is there (through realistic functioning of planning bodies / trained personnel) to ensure that the growth efforts trickle down, micro-level planning gains momentum and socio-economic-development actually takes shape via assets generation over time so that economic and social inclusion becomes a reality, which, in turn, could ensure mitigation of poverty in the urban-rural context.


It should not be lost sight of that as one of the fast emerging economies, India requires a pool of skilled personnel, who could effectively fill in the vacuum currently in existence. This, in turn, calls for specific devotion to the field of regional development especially keeping in view the multi-disciplinary approaches that are fast coming up for fostering environment-friendly and risk-countering development efforts at the micro, meso and macro-level. Works in the proble-mridden-areas like: over-urbanization,' chaotic urban growth; social unrest; coupled with regional imbalances largely remain unattended yet, especially in view of giving practical shape to Vision 20 dimensions.


Simultaneously, development in the banking Ifinancial world can be positively linked to the development process in order to ensure that the trends in macro and micro-economic variables are duly dealt with – sources of funds and deployment thereof being properly planned ensuring added value to social benefits over and above social cost. Social welfare challenges thus could be met through making use of personnel /having requisiteskill / expertise attitude. Such an in-depth look will be of -much use from practical point of view. The development challenges, which the country has been facing vis-ta-vis skill required to counter the same, call for proper understanding of the problems backed by adequate implementation skill keeping in view the risks which threaten to destabilize the development efforts.


Plan implementation and development financing aspects could be seen from an unconventional angle. Governance aspects, renewed development-oriented marketing -drive (in the urban-rural context), duly taking care of WTO goings, financial biggies' operational -experience –sharing, could be found to be more useful when the country would be entering into the final years of the ongoing Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-12 ) vis-a-vis skill shortage.


Simultaneously, the micro-economic foundations to various macro level economic functions are to be scanned in an appropriate manner. The economic fluctuations and the stabilization policies to counteract these fluctuations are to go for a thorough check up so that the major concerns of the economy get an adequate coverage while planning for rest of the current fiscal. In fact, the various approaches which are brought into action are complementary rather than competitive. A restrictive demand management policy may well be combined with relaxations in the administered prices and the socio-economic–specific carrot and stick policy – the mix which could help minimise the recession that often arises when inflation is under attack from all quarters.

The immediate crucial need is to boost the pace of growth of agriculture and infrastructure. It has been estimated that over the next five years an amount of $320 billion would be required to upgrade the infrastructure sector as a whole. The country can fund $200 billion from its own resources leaving a gap of $120 billion to be filled up by foreign investment. It is crystal clear that the country which could win the growth race in future would be the one which would achieve the excellence in technical progress. Therefore, tough challenges lie ahead!

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY - AN INDUSTRIAL CATASTROPHE

BABUL TAMULI

 

December 3, 1984 is regarded as the darkest day in the history of Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh in central India. About 10,000 innocent people died and more than a lakh people injured in an industrial disaster occurred on that fateful night. The accident took place due to the leakage of a poisonous gas called methyl isocyanide (MIC) from the main plant of Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) situated at Chola in the south-west suburb area of Bhopal.


Union Carbide India Limited, an USA based multinational company established an insecticide manufacturing factory at Bhopal in 1959. Using MIC, it produced two insecticides in the brand names Sevin and Sevimol extensively used for the agricultural development in India. MIC was stored in a number of specially designed steel tanks. Each tanks had a capacity of 55 tons. When temperature inside the tanks rose to 27°C, MIC was converted into gaseous state. Pushing two safety valves situated at the upper part of the tanks, the gas than entered into a scrubber through a pipe. There it reacted with caustic soda and burnt at the flare tower kept for burning. But on the fateful night of December 2,1984, the persons at the control room observed that the pressure at one of the MIC storing tanks rose abnormally due to some technical snag. By 1 1pm it was observed that the pressure inside the tank reached 40 psi. Breaking the lid of the safety valve, gas then rushed out to the air. Immediately MIC gas mixed with air and engulfed the entire city within an hour.


MIC is a very toxic and reactive gas. It reacts vigorously with hydrogen and oxygen gas present in the air. It was later found that MIC was somehow mixed with another poisonous gas called phosgene and spread in the air. Phosgene is a fatal gas which was used by the Nazi Armies in the second World War to killed their enemies. It makes bad affect upon the respiratory, alimentary and reproductive system of human body. It affects the cornea of the eyes causing irritation and finally the affected person may lost his eyesight. The gas also damages the alveoli of the lungs. As a result, haemoglobins present in our blood fail to carry oxygen to the different parts of our body. Causing pulmonary oedema the affected people become unconscious and finally died.


As soon as the gas leaked from the MIC storing tank, it contaminated the entire air of Bhopal city. The city immediately turned into a gas chamber. The people of the city were in deep sleep as the accident took place at midnight. Suddenly they felt difficulty in breathing. Their eyes were burnt severely as like chilli powder were sprayed in the air. Without knowing what actually had happened they fled to safer places. All roads of the city, open spaces and fields jammed with lakhs of people comprising men, women and children. But the gas spread faster than them. Hospitals were crowded with thousands of patients suffering from eye burning and respiratory problems. Doctors were become helpless with many people suffering from same kind of disease. Before undergoing any treatment, thousands of people died at the hospitals, some on the roads, some at homes and some inside the rooms in sleeping condition. Within an hour, Bhopal city turned into a ghost city with thousands of dead bodies lying on the roads, hospitals, railway tracks and railway stations. Mass cremation was held next day to clear the dead bodies. Those who survived in the carnage left the city to safer places. The city with a population of 10,00,000 – 12,00,000 became a deserted place within a night.

 

Bhopal gas tragedy is the worst kind of industrial disaster in the history of human civilization. It was occurred due to negligence of UCIL authorities. The authorities gave much emphasis upon the profit of the company, but it did not at all concern about safety of its workers, labourers and the environment. The accident could have been averted if UCIL authorities had taken timely action immediately after detecting the technical snag in its safety valves.

After the incident everybody accused UCIL, for its failure in protecting human lives and the environment. Demanding adequate compensation cases were registered both in the courts of India and USA on behalf of about 1,50,000 victims. On May 29,1985 the Parliament of India passed the Bhopal Gas Disaster Act, 1985 holding the Government of India as the sole representative of the Bhopal gas victims. Claiming 3 billion US dollar as compensation, the Government of India filed a case in USA on June 18, 1985. In 1986, India tried to shift the case from the US court to India. On September 9, 1986 another case was filed by the Government of India in the Court of the District Judge, Bhopal claiming 3 billion US dollar as compensation. But after about 25 years, the Bhopal gas victims not yet get adequate compensation and many cases are pending at different courts.


Bhopal gas tragedy taught us a lesson regarding safety of lives and environment. Without considering safety of our environment haphazard growth of industries may become disastrous for us. Industry is must for our development. But development at the cost of environment is quite meaningless. Safety should always get preference to industrial growth. 

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE LONELINESS CONTAGION…

 

"Loneliness," said John Milton, who knew a thing or two about things theological, "is the first thing which God's eye named, not good." A few cheery types might quibble with that, but others of a more sceptical frame of mind might aver to the essential solitude of the human condition. Man, it is said, was born to be condemned to a state of loneliness. And in the modern world, it mightn't have much to do with reasons of original sin, but more as a reality arising out of the hurly-burly of urban life. And, apparently, it is contagious.


Researchers at the universities of Chicago, California-San Diego and Harvard have just concluded that loneliness, though unquantifiable, is somewhat akin to a virus, perhaps a touch more bothersome than the common cold variety. The findings of the team, published in an article titled Alone in the Crowd: The Structure and Spread of Loneliness in a Large Social Network in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has it that lonely people are rather prone to sharing their loneliness with others, afflicting them, as it were, in the process till a bunch of the morose ones moves to the fringes of social networks. And the whole miserable process, apparently, has a new phrase to describe it: emotional contagion.


Now, as is often the case with such epiphanic tidbits on modern life, one wonders if that scenario is universally applicable. Or more precisely, would this hold good for Indians? The whole point of urban life in the west, for example, seems to be one of wanting to be left alone, and being allowed to do so by society at large.


Whereas often in our own land, people struggle just to have some momentary respite from others. Our everyday lives, being suffused by characters ranging from the doodhwala to noisy-pesky neighbours and those emanating from our habitually-tentacled families, can, in fact, be too full of others. Not for nothing is the search for that elusive moment of privacy a critical component of our lives. Loneliness, in our well-populated, garrulous land, could well be an alien concept for most of us. And that unique thing called Indian reality might well again trump blasé claims of universally-applicable theories.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

DECLINE OF MULAYAM

 

The wrestler of Mulayam Singh Yadav's past was totally absent when he made peace with belligerent lieutenant Amar Singh, who blamed the dominance of the Yadav family in the affairs of the Samajwadi Party for Mulayam's daughter-in-law Dimple's recent defeat in the Ferozabad Lok Sabha by-election. Mr Yadav's calculations had begun to go awry when the BSP wrested Uttar Pradesh from it.


The failed attempt to befriend the ruling UPA in the fag end of its first term and the subsequent Lok Sabha poll jolt sustained the trend. Mulayam Singh's rise and decline map the obverse trajectory of the decline and resurgence of the Congress. A product of the anti-Congress Lohia movement, Mulayam emerged as a tall regional satrap in the late 1980s. He showed superb skills in manoeuvring the post-Mandal empowerment of other backward castes in UP, post-Babri rise of Hindutva and Muslim disillusionment with the Congress to create a formidable 'Muslim-Yadav' vote-bank and a 'Maulana Mulayam' brand for himself.


Mulayam's success rested on four factors: his image as a rooted leader of the downtrodden, a marginalised Congress, the BJP being perceived as a party on the rise and insecure Muslims turning to the SP, their only viable option. These props have come tumbling done, some at Mr Yadav's own hands.


His last reign in UP showcased contempt for the rule of law, patronage of criminals, and promotion of family and new friends from among industrialists, socialites and celebrities. With the BJP declining and the Congress still comatose, Ms Mayawati smartly tapped into the people's craving for change.


But once the BSP regime revealed its preference for monuments over governance, and Mulayam making no effort to mend his ways, a totally unexpected player stepped in — Rahul Gandhi, with a seemingly impossible mission: the revival of the Congress in the state. And he has met with a measure of success, with Muslims drifting to the Congress. Mulayam Singh's current utter vulnerability was on display when he swallowed Mr Amar Singh's barbs.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CONCLUDE DOABLE DOHA

 

It is now increasingly apparent that concluding the long-running Doha Round multilateral trade negotiations without further delay, with the tariff and subsidy reforms already agreed to, would mean substantial gains globally. Note, for instance, that at the recent Geneva ministerial of the World Trade Organization, commerce minister Anand Sharma reiterated that on industrial goods, India considered the issue of bringing down tariffs and improving market access more or less settled.


There may still be some country-specific issues of flexibility that need to be negotiated for industrial goods, labelled non-agricultural market access (Nama). But given that Nama accounts for over 90% of world merchandise trade, we need to conclude Doha and pocket the gains substantially agreed to. The move would lower tariffs, ban industrial country subsidy for farm exports and purposefully reduce distorting domestic support: by 70% in the EU and 60% in the US. Further, average tariffs on farm produce that exporters face would reduce to 12% (from 14.5%) and those for Nama to less than 2.5% (from about 3%). There would be other gains as well.


The way ahead is to conclude the Doha Round on the basis of the consensus already built, and to leave the contested issues involving sectoral exemptions, etc, for future negotiations and narrow the differences in a time-bound manner. There would be clear environmental benefits as well, in having such a twin-track approach. The move would, say, lower tariffs on capital equipment that can help mitigate global warming; subsidy reform in the North would also discourage over-fishing, over-grazing and other untoward practices.


Besides, as negotiations on trade facilitation are well advanced, follow through and formal agreement would slash red tape, reduce procedural delays and, generally speaking, expand trade opportunities. Additionally, the least-developed countries would gain greater market access that is 'duty free and quota free', and their ability to take advantage of new opportunities will be enhanced by the aid-for-trade initiative. Completing Doha would create 'space' for multilateral cooperation too.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

FAMILY TREE OF BHOPAL GAS DISASTER

KAVERI RAJARAMAN

 

The Bhopal gas disaster made headlines 25 years ago as the world's largest chemical disaster, a deadly leak of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas from a Union Carbide pesticide plant injuring half a million people, killing 22,000, disabling another 1,50,000. Subsequently, it was largely remembered as a tragic, but isolated event.


But disasters proliferate. They reproduce. Every famous disaster has its less-famous parents, it has offspring that are yet to hit the big time.


Three years before the great gas leak, on December 25, 1981, the same chemical plant in Bhopal leaked enough phosgene to kill one worker at the plant and grievously injure two. A month later, on January 9, 1982, a second leak put 25 more workers in hospital. But worker deaths are never taken seriously. On October 5, 1982, the immediate parent of the big gas disaster manifested itself as a leak that released enough MIC, hydrochloric acid and chloroform to hospitalise many members of nearby residential communities.


Union Carbide's response to these disasters was to fire workers who highlighted this issue, ignore the finding of 61 safety hazards by its own internal safety audit team, and rewrite its safety manuals to permit more lax standards.

Union Carbide's documents demonstrate that the company designed the plant with 'untested' technology and compromised safety in order to save up to $8 million. While comparable factories in Europe were equipped with automatic safety devices and computerised early warning systems, the plant in Bhopal relied on manual detection and had no emergency planning measures in place. When Union Carbide's cost-cutting led to its laying off more than half its staff and drastically reducing the duration of safety training, that element of manual oversight was dangerously weakened.


In addition, Union Carbide was saving on the costs of refrigerating the tanks, a necessary measure to contain this highly volatile liquid. Finally, one night, a leaky pressure valve enabled a deadly reaction between water and MIC, whose toxic gas products burst through the undersized tanks and on to half a million residents of Bhopal. None of the six safety systems that could have prevented a leak were functional that night, and the factory's alarm had been turned off. The history of the Bhopal gas disaster is a shocking reminder of the human and monetary costs of corporate strategies of maximising short-term profits.


The overnight toll was estimated to be 8,000-15,000 deaths. It is estimated that exposure to the gas on that deadly night kills a person every day in Bhopal even these days, 25 years later, and that at least 50,000 people are still too disabled to earn a living. People have suffered from chronic respiratory, digestive and circulatory ailments over the years. The community has an extremely elevated rate of cancers, menstrual disorders and birth defects. The Journal of the American Medical Association recently reported the effects of toxins on the children of those exposed to the gas, including being born with fused fingers, splayed limbs, spina bifida, respiratory weakness, skin disorders and a dizzying array of symptoms of mental damage.


After an initial claim that the gas leaked was merely tear gas, Union Carbide changed its stance and refused to reveal information on the composition of the leaked gas to avoid associated liabilities, making treatment of victims tricky and hazardous. More unfortunately, a doctor employed by Union Carbide recommended a treatment that had been proven effective in double blind clinical trials, only to withdraw that recommendation in the presence of Union Carbide's lawyers, upon which widespread use of that treatment ceased.

Meanwhile, the Bhopal gas disaster gave birth to a Bhopal water disaster. Union Carbide turned tail and abandoned the factory after the accident, leaving behind tonnes of toxic material held within the factory that added to the deadly chemicals it had already been dumped into the soil in and around the factory. Assorted poisons and heavy metals were found in samples of soil and water.


Legally speaking, Union Carbide's strategy has been to dodge all liability and claim that an unnamed saboteur played mischief in the factory. Although the Indian government settled its civil suit against the company, Union Carbide and its CEO at the time of the disaster, Warren Anderson, are to this day considered absconders from justice by the government for ignoring court summons and refusing to face criminal charges of culpable homicide.

In 2001, Dow Chemical acquired Union Carbide. While it set aside $2.2 billion for Union Carbide's liabilities for asbestos exposure in the US, it refused to even acknowledge its liabilities in Bhopal. A denial of its liabilities goes against Indian, US and international corporate laws. The monetary and logistical responsibility for a full clean up of the factory site, just compensation and medical monitoring for the survivors of all of Union Carbide's toxic waste, as well as legal responsibility in the criminal case in India now lies with Dow Chemical.


(The author has just obtained a doctoral degree from Harvard University in computational neuroscience)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

COPENHAGEN NEEDS A STRATEGIC RESPONSE

MUKUL SANWAL

 

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh got it right when he said that we can no longer go on saying no in the climate negotiations. However, the government will get it only half right by agreeing to voluntary emission cuts in terms of reducing the carbon intensity of growth. The National Action Plan on Climate Change focuses on demand-side energy management, and not on decarbonising energy.


Copenhagen should not be seen in terms of responding to a perceived sense of isolation, but rather in terms of an opportunity to lay out our own unique perspective to the issue. We must actively shape the emerging shared vision and global goal for dealing with climate change.


While the emphasis in developed countries is on the carbon market for reducing costs, the preferred option for developing countries is active industrial and agriculture policies to impact on the activities that generate emissions and develop mechanisms for transfer of technology, that do not depend on carbon pricing. Recent analyses also conclude that market-based mechanisms will not drive innovation at the pace or scale required to prepare the world for longer-term, deeper emission reductions. Seeing everything in terms of carbon oversimplifies a complex situation.


For example, recent analysis suggests that mitigation costs for the developed countries for the most optimistic 17% emissions reduction would not exceed 0.01-0.05% of GDP. This is insignificant compared to a 42% increase in GDP that is assumed between now and 2020 for these countries. At the same time, with fairly lenient targets, the carbon prices would remain low and developing countries would not benefit from offsets, which are also being considered as essential in reducing costs.


The approach adopted by China and India for sustainable development, on the other hand, has taken the first steps for an alternate policy framework. Their focus on activities that generate global change, placing resource conservation, environmental protection and economic development on equal footing is showing good progress in making real reductions in emissions.


The 11th Five-Year Plan of China (2006-10) has set a target to reduce energy use per unit of GDP by 20% by 2010 compared to 2005. China has more efficient coal-fired plants than the US and is becoming the major world market for such plants, as well as for renewable energy. On World Environment Day, June 5, 2009, China issued a nationwide call for a "low carbon lifestyle".


The National Action Plan on Climate Change developed by India, in 2008, also seeks shifts in development growth pathways to achieve sustainable development through demand-side management, renewable energy and conservation of forests and water resources. India has also made a unilateral pledge that its per-capita emissions will not exceed those of developed countries.


However, there are significant differences between our two countries. The recent announcement by China that it would use 40-45% less carbon per unit of GDP by 2020 compared with 2005 levels implies that it is taking responsibility for one quarter of the reductions in emissions the world needs to limit planetary warming to 2° Celsius. Emissions from manufacturing in China already exceed those of the US, and China has added power generation capacity in the previous year equal to the total generating capacity in India.


What is even more significant is that since 1990, the reduction in energy intensity has been triple in China, and only double in India, compared with Europe. India's carbon intensity is bound to rise as it builds up its infrastructure: power plants, roads, railways, ports and industry. Any voluntary target to curtail the use of fossil fuels will reduce our policy space.


FOR us, much more than for China and the US, the inter-related nature of global risks also means that effective adaptation to climate change will be needed to make us less vulnerable to other risks such as energy, food and water security, infectious diseases like malaria, displacement, political instability and even conflict. In combination, these risks reinforce one another and threaten to undermine our efforts for poverty alleviation. The situation is even more dire for other developing countries.


Therefore, we need to focus on sustainable development and transformation of the global economy and human activity. This will require international cooperation for deep reduction of energy consumption and carbon emissions defined as technology-oriented strategies, and not as targets.


This shared vision for low carbon sustainable development has three key elements. First, with the growing importance of the services sector and consumer demand in the major economies, it points to the need for all countries to modify their consumption patterns, and for the developed countries to immediately reduce their emissions from the services, household and transportation sectors down to the global average. These sectors are projected to account for more than half of all global emissions in 2050.


Second, it focuses on avoidance, rather than on imposed limitations on activities in developing countries, by their adopting a different growth path focusing on demand-side management and adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change. The strategic shift or modification of longer-term trends, in all countries, should be the subject of global dialogue to arrive at the global goal.


Third, to meet the concerns of the large majority of the global population for eradication of poverty, it suggests that the bio-physical limits to growth require action in the industrialised countries for meaningful technology transfer to those who bear little responsibility for causing this problem. These actions should be measurable, reportable and verifiable for all countries.


Since the dialogue is taking place in the context of climate change at Copenhagen, in addition to laying out a new vision, we must also suggest development of comparable methodologies that will determine the aggregated effects of the measures in terms of reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases and patterns of natural resource use, for international comparison of the national efforts.


(The author has worked at the policy level in the government of India and the UN Climate Change Secretariat, and is associated with the South Centre at Geneva. Views are personal.)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

RELIANCE INFRA BETS BIG ON HIGHWAY SECTOR

 

Reliance Infrastructure, that bagged an order worth Rs 1,725 crore from NHAI on Friday, is on its way to build a road portfolio of Rs 20,000 crore over the next three years. In an exclusive interview with ET Now, Rel Infra CEO Lalit Jalan shares his blueprint to take his company to the next level of growth


The company has emerged winner for its eighth road project. Can you give us an indication of the size, the cost and the concession period of the project?

This is on the NH4 which is on the Bombay-Poona road connecting to Bangalore and Chennai and this is 142-km six-laning project. This is one of the largest projects that has been bid out so far. The total project cost for us would be Rs 1,725 crore and the moment we get the concession agreement done and we can start the construction, the total time that should be taken by us should be in the region of two to 2.5 years.


Do you have any partners for executing this project?

In this project we have a partner, which is JTEG, one of the largest road construction companies in China. Since we got into the road business in 2006, we have always tried to incorporate the best processes, systems and technologies from across the world. And for this project, we have JTEG to partner us.


With this project, your company will be managing almost 650 km of roads in India. What kind of investments can we expect from the company in this sector in the next few years.

We are serious about our road portfolio. Currently, the company is developing eight road projects totalling a length of 655 km with investment of over Rs 6,500 crore. We plan to have a road portfolio of over Rs 20,000 crore by FY 2012.


Are we also likely to see similar investments in the power and urban infra segments?

We have presence in all three segment of power sector, that is generation, transmission & distribution. Generation is being focused by our group company Reliance Power. In transmission, we have three projects in construction phase, totaling worth Rs 4,300 crore. The company is participating in REC and PFC coordinated projects with approximate cost of Rs 6,200 crore under central schemes.


We are also actively looking for opportunities under state schemes in Haryana and Rajasthan. We have been participating in every profitable opportunities coming up in this sector. In distribution, we are participating distribution franchisee opportunities and also looking for privatisation opportunities in line with Delhi Model.


In addition to this, Rel Infra has been empanelled as the IT implementation agency with PFC for implementation of IT in the state electricity boards. The company is participating in IT implementation projects coming up from SEBs.


In urban infra segment, Rel Infra is the only private sector player developing three metro projects totaling Rs 16,200 crore in Mumbai and Delhi. The company is also the sole bidder for Western Freeway Sea Link projects, worth Rs 5,100 crore. We are participating every profitable opportunity coming up in this segment.


What is the size of total Infrastructure projects your are developing ?

Total 14 projects are under development across ventricles like roads, metro, transmission worth over Rs 27,000 crore. Two projects are operational, seven more projects will be operationalised by next year.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

BE FIRM, DON'T LET ULFA OFF THE HOOK

 

Dramatic developments have lately occurred in the context of the United Liberation Front of Asom, arguably the most dangerous terrorist outfit in India's Northeast. It is thought to have live links with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and Bangladesh's HuJI, the jihadist group which is used as a sword by the ISI to attack targets in India. The Assamese terror group has also shown the ability to move nimbly across borders in countries on our eastern and northeastern periphery, including Bangladesh, Burma and possibly China, obviously not without the host authorities turning a blind eye, if not actually conniving and offering sanctuary. Ulfa could carry a punch, as demonstrated by the level of weapons it had access to. Among swirling rumours for the past two days, its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa was picked up by the BSF on the Bangladesh border Friday morning, where he was said to have been found loitering. Evidently, the helpful Bangladesh government headed by Sheikh Hasina Wajed had him picked up and pushed across the border for the Indians to collect. Ulfa had prospered in Bangladesh under the earlier government headed by Begum Khaleda Zia, which enjoyed the backing of fundamentalist elements. The Ulfa chairman is now being subjected to the judicial process in Guwahati after being handed over to the state police. This clearly is no magical development, and can only be an integral part of the process orchestrated by the Centre to secure the return of the Ulfa's top leadership to Indian soil. With Mr Rajkhowa in custody, among the terrorist group's top leadership only Paresh Baruah, Ulfa's chief military commander, now remains out of the net. It would be a pity if the context is sought to be turned into a political outing by Tarun Gogoi's Congress government in Assam, who could just be tempted to play the regional card in a bid to outflank a proto Assam-chauvinist group such as the AAGSP, which had risen on the back of the so-called anti-foreigner movement in Assam. After all the spilling of the blood of the people of Assam for 30 years in the name of fighting for Assamese "sovereignty", Ulfa today can fairly be said to enjoy little popular following. There has been no public outcry against the prospect of Mr Rajkhowa and other senior Ulfa leaders being brought to trial, although efforts might be on to whip one up. Part of this incipient campaign involves the demand made in certain quarters that Mr Rajkhowa be given "dignified" treatment, offered "safe passage", and be invited for talks, rather than be subjected to the rigours of the law. It is to be hoped that the chief minister does not fall prey to this: there is a sense among leaders of various parties in Assam that Ulfa's blessings can help in election season. The Congress should show the good sense to rise above such feelings, specially now when Ulfa cannot lay claim to much public sympathy. Much of the reason for this is its demand for "sovereignty" and secession, which does not resonate with most people in Assam. Even if almost all the top leaders of the terrorist outfit have been captured, the group is likely to have a fair number of foot-soldiers, both inside Assam, other states in the Northeast as well as in neighbouring countries, who may be scared to come in from the cold for fear of prosecution and long jail sentences on account of the violence and killings they have resorted to.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

TAJ AND THE TEARDROP

BY FARRUKH DHONDY

 

 "When they blow off your head

You have no cheek left to turn"

From Theological Ripostes of Bachchoo

 

Ask any child "who built the Taj Mahal?" and he or she will say Shah Jahan. Ask the same child to reflect on whether this person built it all on his own and after a moment the metaphorical connotations of "built" will become evident.

 

The Taj Mahal was designed by architects, its foundation, walls and dome erected by masons, its surfaces adorned by craftsmen who worked in sculpting semi-precious stones. The story goes that thousands of workmen had their hands amputated to forestall them building such a wonder again. Again, a little reflection will demonstrate that workmen's hands may be irreplaceable, but workmen are not. Any despot could gather the same number of skilled and unskilled slaves together and get them to make another — if he had the armies to compel them to so do.

 

My father used to tell a more fascinating story, also undoubtedly untrue, that the real architect of the Taj was a young man whose design surpassed that of all the other competitors assembled by the Emperor to try their hand at what he wished would be the enduring monument to his earthly love. The young architect, whose name has been erased by history (but remains in the story my dad told me), produced the design and built the tomb.

 

It was only when it was completed that the Emperor summoned him and decreed that the architect be given a stupendous reward and pension, but in an act he could not in faith avoid, he would also, as part of that reward, have his eyes put out. Blinding him, the Emperor reasoned, would stop him from designing any such wonder of the world again.

 

In the dialogue that follows the Emperor gets a hint, then suspects and then fully realises that this fellow could not have designed such a uniquely beautiful monument of love without its inspiration. He asks him who inspired him and answer comes there none.

 

And then through interrogation and the evidence supplied by the envious, it is discovered that the young architect was in love with Mumtaz herself, she to whom the monument has been erected. Did the Queen know? The answer is that she did! And then, the twist of the knife, did she reciprocate? No reply. Did she, when he, the Emperor, was with his concubines or other wives, seek solace in the arms of the young architect?

 

We don't know with what defiance the architect answered but the sentence was passed. Jealousy calls it treason. The sentence is carried out and the young man, weeping blood, smiles. Why? Because he has a secret, a provision to last till eternity. He has designed the dome with a tiny but deliberate fault in it, so that each time it rains, just one drop of water will seep through the dome, gather into an oval pearl and fall as a forlorn tear on Mumtaz's grave.

 

I admit I have contrived to visit the Taj during the monsoon and circling the inner chamber have strained my sight to spot the teardrop on the inside of the dome, but have inevitably been pushed or hustled along by parties of American and Japanese tourists who may have read reams on the quality of marble and lapis lazuli, but don't know about my teardrop.

Myths grow around monuments and around people and are constantly reinvented. The Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington, London, is hosting an exhibition called Maharaja, the Splendour of India's Royal Courts. The theme of the exhibition is summarised in its subtitle and is an attempt to sell a myth. The exhibits, from Art Nouveau howdahs and shields with Western heraldry to a Rolls Royce and the most elaborate necklaces and brooches made by French and American jewellers in the '30s, are meant to give the viewers the impression of the "power and independence" of the "Maharajas".

 

A few well-spent hours at the exhibition defeat any such contention. I came out thinking that the Maharajas were as powerful and independent as ventriloquists' dummies. The exhibits themselves revealed their secret: A painting from Tanjore, circa 1797, depicts a procession of Amar Singh, the Raja, in a large chariot, preceded by his nephew Sarfoji II in a smaller chariot. Their soldiers surround, and follow them. Behind Sarfoji's chariot is a contingent of East Indian Company troops in uniform, carrying bayoneted muskets. The Tanjore soldiers carry spears and symbolic sceptres. History relates that soon after the painting was complete, the Company's Armies deposed Amar Singh and placed Sarfoji on the Tanjore throne.

 

In another large portrait we see the then Mughal Emperor Akbar Shah II (1806 to 1837) and his sons (one of whom is Bahadur Shah Zafar) with an Army of his soldiers. On the last elephant in the procession rides Sir Charles Metcalfe, the British "Resident" in Delhi, with a few of his staff. His expression tells us who really runs the show whereas the poor Emperor looks, even in expressionless Mughal portraiture, bewildered by the intrigue that surrounds his impotence.

 

All the pictures in the exhibition are either portraits by Western painters (my favourite an eight-feet painting of Madhu Rao Narayan with Nana Phadnavis and attendants by the Scotsman James Wales, who was invited in 1792 to Poona by the British resident) or processions in the reverse-perspective Mughal style in which walls and courtyards get wider as they recede.

 

There are no pictures of battles — all that is over after 1818 when the British, defeating Holkar, are clearly the masters. No conflict for the "kings" except in the harem; no courage except the little required to shoot animals. Their processions and durbars are parades of impotence.

 

The mutiny of First War of Independence against the East India Company in 1857 attempted to place Bahadur Shah Zafar on the throne of Delhi — or because he was already on it, sought to bring some authority and power to that throne.

 

The defeat of their insurrection was also the defeat of the idea of any Indian monarchy — Victoria became Empress to be succeeded by her lineage and Indians began the progressive demand toward democratic self-rule. No one needed Maharajas. The Raj sustained them for its own administrative convenience but they were no more kings than those in Tenniel's brilliant illustrations in Alice in Wonderland. The Victoria and Albert (the perfect place to house it) displays their toys and their empty vanity.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

REFORM OR BE PREPARED FOR FISCAL CALAMITY

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

 

U.S. Healthcare reform hangs in the balance. Its fate rests with a handful of "centrist" senators — senators who claim to be mainly worried about whether the proposed legislation is fiscally responsible.

 

But if they're really concerned with fiscal responsibility, they shouldn't be worried about what would happen if health reform passes. They should, instead, be worried about what would happen if it doesn't pass. For America can't get control of its budget without controlling healthcare costs — and this is our last, best chance to deal with these costs in a rational way.

 

Some background: Long-term fiscal projections for the United States paint a grim picture. Unless there are major policy changes, expenditure will consistently grow faster than revenue, eventually leading to a debt crisis.

 

What's behind these projections? An ageing population, which will raise the cost of Social Security, is part of the story. But the main driver of future deficits is the ever-rising cost of Medicare and Medicaid. If healthcare costs rise in the future as they have in the past, fiscal catastrophe awaits.

 

You might think, given this picture, that extending coverage to those who would otherwise be uninsured would exacerbate the problem. But you'd be wrong, for two reasons.

 

First, the uninsured in America are, on average, relatively young and healthy; covering them wouldn't raise overall healthcare costs very much.

 

Second, the proposed healthcare reform links the expansion of coverage to serious cost-control measures for Medicare. Think of it as a grand bargain: coverage for (almost) everyone, tied to an effort to ensure that healthcare dollars are well spent.

 

Are we talking about real savings, or just window dressing? Well, the healthcare economists I respect are seriously impressed by the cost-control measures in the Senate bill, which include efforts to improve incentives for cost-effective care, the use of medical research to guide doctors toward treatments that actually work, and more. This is "the best effort anyone has made", says Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A letter signed by 23 prominent healthcare experts — including Mark McClellan, who headed Medicare under the Bush administration — declares that the bill's cost-control measures "will reduce long-term deficits".

 

The fact that we're seeing the first really serious attempt to control healthcare costs as part of a bill that tries to cover the uninsured seems to confirm what would-be reformers have been saying for years: The path to cost control runs through universality. We can only tackle out-of-control costs as part of a deal that also provides Americans with the security of guaranteed healthcare.

 

That observation in itself should make anyone concerned with fiscal responsibility support this reform. Over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office has concluded, the proposed legislation would reduce, not increase, the budget deficit. And by giving us a chance, finally, to rein in the ever-growing spending of Medicare, it would greatly improve our long-run fiscal prospects.

 

But there's another reason failure to pass reform would be devastating — namely, the nature of the Opposition.

The Republican campaign against healthcare reform has rested in part on the traditional arguments, arguments that go back to the days when Ronald Reagan was trying to scare Americans into opposing Medicare — denunciations of "socialised medicine", claims that universal health coverage is the road to tyranny, etc.

 

But in the closing rounds of the healthcare fight, the GOP has focused more and more on an effort to demonise cost-control efforts. The Senate bill would impose "draconian cuts" on Medicare, says Senator John McCain, who proposed much deeper cuts just last year as part of his presidential campaign. "If you're a senior and you're on Medicare, you better be afraid of this bill", says Senator Tom Coburn.

 

If these tactics work, and health reform fails, think of the message this would convey: It would signal that any effort to deal with the biggest budget problem we face will be successfully played by political opponents as an attack on older Americans. It would be a long time before anyone was willing to take on the challenge again; remember that after the failure of the Clinton effort, it was 16 years before the next try at health reform.

 

That's why anyone who is truly concerned about fiscal policy should be anxious to see health reform succeed. If it fails, the demagogues will have won, and we probably won't deal with our biggest fiscal problem. So to the centrists still sitting on the fence over health reform: If you care about fiscal responsibility, you better be afraid of what will happen if reform fails.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

DANGLING BETWEEN SHOCK AND AWW

BY SHOBHAA'S TAKE

 

Some copywriters just have it! I don't know the identity of the person who came up with that marvellously emotive line for Montblanc ("The power to write your own destiny…"), but it sure worked for me. In fact, every aspect of the TV commercial managed to access my sentimental side in those few, magical seconds. That's called the power of good advertising. Take the script and the actor/models. The commercial starts with Slumdog Anil Kapoor seated at a handsome desk in an impressive study. He talks about his father wishing him luck just before Anil embarks on his movie career. The wise dad tells him bluntly he has nothing to give him but a pen (cut to a close-up of a Montblanc nib), with which to write his own destiny. Very nice. Especially if you happen to be a movie buff and are aware of Anil's early struggles to make it. Next sequence shows Anil as the dad, recreating a similar scenario featuring his actor/daughter Sonam. The sense of continuity is delicately maintained and the mood is evocatively captured. The protagonists stay in character and audiences are swept away in a tidal wave of nostalgia. I know several people who get weepy each time they watch the commercial. Nobody cares about logic when the emotional graph is this strong. I mean, a Montblanc is a Montblanc — a pricey pen. Nobody cares that just a month or so prior to the premiere of this commercial, there was a mini storm in India over Montblanc launching a special edition Mahatma Gandhi pen. In India, public memory is short. Which is a good thing. And a bad thing. Right now, we are hyperventilating over the Liberhan report and its not-so-startling findings that consumed 17 long years of Justice Liberhan's valuable time (it consumed a lot of paper as well, but we won't bring in carbon print at this point).

 

Are Indians such sentimental fools? On many levels, the answer is, "Yes". All we need is a mushy, gooey speech to make us go weak in the knees and rush to forgive our worst enemies. If even a single Pakistani celeb praises us, we instantly return the compliment and go overboard gushing over our neighbours. Nothing wrong in that… but like any award winning ad, it's all about the timing. We have the incredible knack of getting ours consistently wrong. I remember how overwhelmed we were by US President Barack Obama's Diwali party. We couldn't get over the lighting of the diya in the White House. That was pretty powerful stuff, in terms of milking a nation's emotions. It worked big time, too. Never mind that just a few weeks later Mr Obama was busy cosying up to the Chinese and leaving us feeling marooned. He quickly fixed that problem by greeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with a namaste at the state dinner and serving mainly vegetarian food at the banquet. How cute, we sighed. Now we know America really, really cares for us!

 

That gesture was no different from the Montblanc commercial. Viewers know the emotions are faked, the lines scripted, and the set carefully designed. But so what? These things appeal to the marshmallow in all of us. We all go "Aaaawww" over something at some time. And maybe the world really does need more "Aaaawww" moments to make us all feel a little better, a little less cynical. At least speaking for myself, I can tell you I could do with more cheesy, smarmy stuff where that came from. Which may explain why I love the cheesiest, smarmiest Hindi films. The ones that ooze sentimentality in every second scene and really overwork our tear ducts. I can't get enough of them! I even cry in utterly rubbishy films like De Dana Dan (okay, I'm fibbing about this one, but it's just to illustrate my point). Our world looks sinister without these filters and safety valves. I do not exaggerate even a bit when I say I lie awake most nights going over the horrific 72 hours of the 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai. A year has gone by. I should be over the trauma. But that has not happened. There are thousands like me.

 

I have a regular on my blog who keeps reminding me about what happened to the Sikhs after Indira Gandhi's assassination. He was a little boy at the time, but he is seething silently so many decades later. His memory is not short. And I don't know whether or not he'll enjoy a movie like Rocket Singh.

For most of December, I shall be out of the country. My first stop is Australia. I am very keen to know the mood of the average Australian towards us and, more importantly, the feelings of Indian students who call Australia their home. Clearly, a salve is what the doctor must instantly order, before the wounds turn gangrenous. Like the Americans, the Aussies too seem to be more tuned into courting China. Our "Incredible India" pitch has not done the trick so far. We need to change it to something that touches the right chords and makes better music Down Under.

 

But what? Maybe, we could hire the Montblanc copywriter and come up with a similar concept that tugs at countless heartstrings. Maybe the power to write our own destiny is up for grabs. What are we waiting for?

Readers can send feedback towww.shobhaade.blogspot.com [1]

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

BRITAIN'S HIGH-FLIERS

BY KISHWAR DESAI

 

Flying back to London, this time on Air India, made me realise that there are certain times of the day when perhaps getting a comfortable ride even in economy class (as we are all following Sonia Gandhi's footsteps, of course!) is if you fly in the afternoon. Though, now the big question is whether flying economy can be ennobling anymore, given the fact that the Indian growth rate is back to 7.9 per cent? This is an argument that Indian bureaucrats and politicians, who have been deprived of an automatic upgrade, now want to push forward. Hmmm…

 

But let me tell you, it wasn't bad at all. There were hardly any passengers, and as a result we could all convert our three seats across into a business-class style lying down. The fabulous lack of passengers also made for a cleaner aircraft. Unlike the outbound Air India flight from London which has detailed instructions (following the normal spiel about security) on how to use the washroom, (yes!—this is a toilet roll, and this is a tap, and this is the toilet and this is the sink, and please put the water on before you wash your hands, etc) the inbound flight to London, I was surprised to note, has no such thing.

 

Obviously the passengers flying out of London have not been properly toilet-trained while those coming from India have been. This rather unusual assessment by Air India is mystifying. Maybe the tapes of the aircrafts have got mixed up?

 

Meanwhile, while clearing security at the Delhi airport I was nice and relaxed till I reached the aircraft and looked at the stamp on the tags they had attached to my hand baggage. The date of the fresh security stamp was not December 3, 2009, which was the date that it should have been — but November 3, 2009. Surely the zillions of sleepy security personnel who frisk you like you were Osama bin Laden's mother know that they are living one month behind in time. But being a cautious Indian I decided not to think about it till I reached London — the existing bizarre Indian security service may have been immediately galvanised into pushing us all through the security gates once more. Obviously, they would have assumed that we had all stolen the tags one month before en masse and put them on our luggage. But I do hope someone will adjust the dates on those security stamps. At least before the New Year, before some poor fool is thrown out of an aircraft for no fault of his — or hers.

 

Security at the London end, however, is much more grim and dramatic. In fact, there is now a prime-time TV serial about the "Border Control" police and it features mostly real-life cases of those who are trying to somehow slime the law and enter the country illegally. And every time one lands at Heathrow, my heart sinks when I spot yet another sweet, and hopefully innocent fresh-from-the-Punjab couple standing uncomprehendingly in front of a border control desk.

 

This time round, matters were finally sorted out by a smartly dressed Punjabi-speaking girl who appeared and frankly looked the Jat in the eye and said in thet Punjabi, "Come on, whats the story you were trying to give my colleague? Who exactly is this woman with you and how long do you plan to live here?"

 

Luckily the airports are full of Punjabis and so communication for these fresh migrants (legal or otherwise) is not a problem — but often what they want to communicate may not exactly be the truth. And so there is always tension in the air with the interrogation of a hopeful migrant by someone whose parents migrated to the UK many moons ago.

 

One wonderful point of an island country is that whenever you return, the world has not changed. Gordon Brown is in Downing Street and all is still not well with the world. But with Christmas round the corner what has changed, surprisingly, in the world of publishing is the decline in the sales of celebrity memoirs. Of course, these were never big in India (most of them end up as a rather self-indulgent carefully censored narratives anyway) — but in the UK we have had some real bestsellers — especially of big-busted but lightweight authors such as Katie Price aka Jordan. She had initially been turned down by all the publishers — till John Blake gave her a £10,000 advance and turned her into a bestselling celebrity author. She sold over 7,20,000 copies and set the trend. Other publishers jumped onto the bandwagon handing out £1 million advances left, right and centre — but many of those memoirs have dropped by the wayside. For instance, the young, newly-turned father Wayne Rooney was paid £5 million for his autobiography which it seems has already been kicked into the long grass by the publishers and not the footballer.

 

So what are the chances that there will be celebrity memoir in your Christmas stocking? Most book publishers don't think that's a real fear at all: there has been either a decline in the celebrity culture or perhaps celebrities have run out of things to say. And so sales are down by around 25 to 30 per cent of celebrity memoirs.

 

Unbelievably, then have we really stopped finding these celebrities (most of whom come out of TV reality shows and become instant stars) inspirational? One can only hope that perhaps good sense will prevail and we will finally see these celebrities for what they are: dressed up by ghost writers to be more enticing than the pieces of fluff they actually consist of!

 

But there are a few indications that this assessment may be too hopeful: the news is already out that Russell Brand has already signed a reported £1.8 million two book deal with HarperCollins following the success of My Booky Wook, a bare-all memoir which sold more than one million copies. So if a man with a dodgy hairstyle and an even more dodgy sense of humour can prove so attractive to the reading public, is there any reason why we should give up on other celebrities?

 

After all — they are willing to do anything to be famous — even write books!

 

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

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

ANALYTIC MODE

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

Many Democrats are nostalgic for US President Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign — for the passion, the clarity, the bliss-to-be-alive fervour. They argue that these things are missing in a cautious and emotionless White House.

 

But, of course, the Obama campaign, like all presidential campaigns, was built on a series of fictions. The first fiction was that government is a contest between truth and error. In reality, government is usually a contest between competing, unequal truths.

 

The second fiction was that to support a policy is to make it happen. In fact, in government power is exercised through other people. It is only by coaxing, prodding and compromise that Presidents actually get anything done.

 

The third fiction was that we can begin the world anew. In fact, all problems and policies have already been worked by a thousand hands and the clay is mostly dry. Presidents are compelled to work with the material they have before them.

 

The fourth fiction was that leaders know the path ahead. In fact, they have general goals, but the way ahead is pathless and everything is shrouded by uncertainty.

 

All Presidents have to adjust to these realities when they move to the White House. The only surprise with President Obama is how enthusiastically he has made the transition. He's political, like any president, but he seems to vastly prefer the grays of governing to the simplicities of the campaign.

 

The election revolved around passionate rallies. The Obama White House revolves around a culture of debate. He leads long, analytic discussions, which bring competing arguments to the fore. He sometimes seems to preside over the arguments like a judge settling a lawsuit.

 

His policies are often a balance as he tries to accommodate different points of view. He doesn't generally issue edicts. In matters foreign and domestic, he seems to spend a lot of time coaxing people along. His governing style, in short, is biased toward complexity.

 

This style has never been more evident than in his decision to expand the war in Afghanistan. America traditionally fights its wars in a spirit of moral fervour. Most war Presidents cast themselves as heroes on a white charger, believing that no one heeds an uncertain trumpet.

 

Obama, on the other hand, cloaked himself in what you might call Niebuhrian modesty. His decision to expand the war is the most morally consequential one of his presidency so far, yet as the moral stakes rose, Obama's emotional temperature cooled to just above freezing. He spoke on Tuesday night in the manner of an unwilling volunteer, balancing the arguments within his administration by leading the country deeper in while pointing the way out.

 

Despite the ambivalence, he did act. This is not mishmash. With his two surges, Obama will more than double the number of American troops in Afghanistan. As Andrew Ferguson of the Weekly Standard pointed out, he is the first Democratic president in 40 years to deploy a significant number of troops into a war zone.

Those new troops are not themselves a strategy; they are enablers of an evolving strategy. Over the next year, there will be disasters, errors and surprises — as in all wars. But the generals will have more resources with which to cope and respond.

 

If the generals continue to find that stationing troops in the villages of Helmand Province leads to the revival of Afghan society, they will have the troops to do more of that. If they continue to find that order can be maintained only if social development accompanies military action, they will have more troops for that. We have no way of knowing now how those troops will end up being used. And we have no clue if it will be wise to withdraw them in July 2011.

 

The advantage of the Obama governing style is that his argument-based organisation is a learning organisation. Amid the torrent of memos and evidence and dispute, the Obama administration is able to adjust and respond more quickly than, say, the Bush administration ever did.

 

The disadvantage is the tendency to bureaucratise the war. Armed conflict is about morale, motivation, honour, fear and breaking the enemy's will. The danger is that Obama's analytic mode will neglect the intangibles that are the essence of the fight. It will fail to inspire and comfort. Soldiers and Marines don't have the luxury of adopting President Obama's calibrated stance since they are being asked to potentially sacrifice everything. Barring a scientific breakthrough, we can't merge Obama's analysis with George Bush's passion. But we should still be glad that he is governing the way he is. I loved covering the Obama campaign. But amid problems like Afghanistan and healthcare, it simply wouldn't do to give gauzy speeches about the meaning of the word hope. It is in Obama's nature to lead a government by symposium. Embrace the complexity. Learn to live with the dispassion.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

VISITING IN VAIN

ROUND ONE TO THE LEFT


Between Trinamul's early triumph in making the Centre act on the unending violence in Hooghly and the Left's success in stalling the central team's visit to the disturbed areas, the much hyped intervention by the UPA turned out to be a non-event. The point of interest was whether the representatives would in fact make an on-the-spot assessment and come up with shattering revelations to embarrass the state government. Mamata Banerjee would have scored a point over the Left if the team had performed the ritual of visiting Khanakul and other areas if only to prove that her party's demands on imposition of President's Rule were justified. She has reason to be sorely disappointed when Mr Chidambaram was suddenly pressed into a jugglery with the language ~ that the team had been despatched to "assist'' the state, not "assess'' the conflict situation on its own. Seen in the context of the earlier intention to obtain a first-hand report, based on which more decisive steps may be considered, the final act was a belated, and somewhat glaring, exercise in balancing the conflicting demands. Cynics would even suggest that if the Union home minister, on the prodding of the Trinamul leader, had taken a brave step forward, the denouement was a pathetic surrender in the face of combined resistance in Parliament. The BJP's adoption of the CPI-M's cause may not be all that surprising when both have suffered heavily in recent elections and have a common concern about application of Article 356. More to the point was the manoeuvring in Delhi and Kolkata that devalued the whole exercise.


It was perhaps a coincidence that Miss Banerjee was in Delhi, swallowing the insult, while the team restricted its movements mainly to Writers' Buildings. They did not have to take the trouble of coming down to Kolkata simply to get reports from district magistrates, superintendents of police and rival parties. Nor did they have to hold extensive consultations with the chief secretary so that the bureaucrat could echo Alimuddin Street's satisfaction that the real objective was to talk about how hi-tech equipment could be used and more funds allotted to deal with Maoists. All this was calculated to suggest that Trinamul had been given a resounding rebuff. It will be interesting to see what sense the team makes of all the reports which, except for the Trinamul's submission, can be expected to be loaded in favour of the administration while Mr Chidambaram finds his hands tied. In other words, Round One has gone to the Left. But with Miss Banerjee otherwise on a roll, the last word may not have been spoken.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

TROOP DRAWDOWN 

WORTH THE RISK IN J&K 

 

THERE will be many keeping their fingers crossed following the home minister's telling Parliament that a "significant" number of battalions will be withdrawn from Jammu and Kashmir, and their security duties turned over to the state police. For doubts must linger if the police, admittedly in much better shape than a few years ago, can continue to hold the upper hand that appears to have been gained over the militants. The onus on the army to prevent infiltration will be higher now, for should the militants slip through they might find things relatively easier in the interior of the state. Maybe the fact that the winter snows will soon block the passes has influenced the decision, though some might suspect that already enough trouble-makers have been inducted to keep things simmering. Yet who can deny that there has been a perceptible decline in violence levels, that major festivals and processions passed off with no serious incidents. So if a risk had to be taken, this was not a bad point in time to take it, and there would be no better opportunity to test the capacity of the state forces to maintain a counter-insurgency grid. Realising the implications of the action underway, P Chidambaram rightly declined to disclose numbers, so it would be fair to assume that contingency plans are also in place to re-induct the forces ~ not that they are being totally withdrawn ~ should the situation take a turn for the worse.
Given the home minister's generally competent handling of internal security affairs it would also be fair to assume that it has been a decision taken after balancing the views of the security forces with the political demand to "de-militarise" the state. Certainly a downsizing of force levels will help attract more to the unpublicised talks with some groups ~ it would be premature to describe them as "negotiations" and raise expectations or set targets. The man in the street, certainly in urban areas, will feel relieved that there will be less-visible activity or presence of the central forces. For the past two decades life has been difficult for the people, reduced "security" will foster a sense of normality. It was worth noting that the Opposition did not react adversely when the minister announced the troop-cut. Sure a risk is being taken, yet a worthwhile one. The security forces have done their bit, now the leaders must take over.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

GREEN VERGE

DWINDLING AT AN ALARMING RATE


Much as it insists that binding emission cuts will not be acceptable to the developing world, the dwindling forest cover must be a cause for concern to India on the eve of the Copenhagen climate control summit. This is a reality over which neither Mr Jairam Ramesh nor Mr Shyam Saran appear to be overly concerned about.

 

While curbs on CO2 levels come within the remit of policy ~ over which there are intra-establishment differences - the progressive denudation of forest wealth mirrors the forest and environment ministry's callous indifference towards Nature's bounty. As much is clear from the 2009 survey conducted by the Forest Survey of India. It isn't a nitpicking NGO but a reputed official entity that has been fairly blunt with the truth, based on data gleaned from satellite imagery and ground observations. The fact of the matter is that the country has lost its dense forests; the jungles that have sprouted are qualitatively inferior in terms of natural resources. The green verge is palpably under threat if the extension of the forest cover over the past two years is only half the size of Bengal's Howrah district. It is a commentary on conservation if the present canopy density is below 40 per cent. It is cause for alarm too when the union minister for environment and forests admits that "about 40 per cent of our forests are degraded with no significant green cover." Mining, encroachment and shifting cultivation have been identified as the factors that apparently defy a solution. At this rate, India's forests may in due course of time cease to be an effective safeguard against climate fluctuations. Nay more, it may cease to be a wondrous showcase of flora and fauna.


The overwhelming failure will have to be accepted by the government. This isn't a subject for the furtherance of which the country can demand a matching contribution from the developed world. Like carbon emission it is a home-grown problem, the difference being that the solution will have to be entirely devised at home. The impact of forests on the weather can be profound precisely because trees have the potential to absorb carbon dioxide. India may be on a weak wicket in Copenhagen.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

JAW-JAW IN COPENHAGEN

THIRD WORLD SUFFERS AT THE ALTAR OF THE ENVIRONMENT

BY M RIAZ HASAN


AS the UN conference on climate change in Copenhagen approaches, both the developed countries and the Third World are still arguing about the possible outcome of this much-talked-about meeting. The Third World keeps reminding the developed bloc that they are the primary cause of climate change and should do everything feasible to arrest the phenomenon. In response, the developed world explicitly tells the Third World, notably India and China, that they should accept binding limits on their CO2 emissions. There are reports that the Kyoto Protocol would be diluted to satisfy the US. It may even be dumped. The necessary legislation to define the US position on climate change has not even been introduced in the Senate. Meanwhile, the poorest among the Third World countries have been in economic retrogression long before the present financial crisis and credit crunch hit the rich countries. According to the latest Human Development Index of the UN (HDI Report, 2009), the HDI of the poorest nations has remained either static or declined in the last two decades or so.


STRINGENT CRITERIA

AT the same time, the stringent criteria for sustainable development that apply to the developed world are being applied to the Third World by international funding agencies. As a result, important development projects to alleviate poverty in the poorest countries of Africa, Asia and South America continue to be sacrificed at the altar of environment. While fast-developing countries like China and India can afford to build such indispensable mega projects like the Three Gorges Dam or the Sardar Sarovar Dam despite opposition from environmentalists, the poorest countries do not possess the same economic strength or clout to emulate them. Addressing a conference of environmentalists, Indira Gandhi had once declared: "Poverty is the biggest enemy of the environment." Some of the development economists and environmentalists in the West are now realising the truth of what she said nearly three decades ago. In his classic book, The Politics of Climate Change, Anthony Giddens writes: "Poorer countries must have the right to develop economically, even if this process involves a significant growth in greenhouse gases." In his comprehensive critique of Gidden's book in The Observer, Will Hutton, a noted British economist, went further than Giddens to assert: "(The words), sustainable and development, should not be used so loosely. Poor countries such as China and India can develop unsustainably. They must burn coal. To ask the entire world to commit to sustainable development is to damn the less developed world to poverty."


The UN's HDI report divides the countries into four broad categories: very high (0.9-1.0), high (0.8-0,9), medium (0.5-0.8) and low (<0.5) human development. The first category is then referred to as developed countries and the last three are grouped together as developing countries. Among the developing countries, the poorest (low development) total 24 and 22 of them are in Africa. Their HDI varies from 0.499 to 0.340. The three important factors that determine HDI ~ life expectancy, adult literacy and GDP per capita ~ are the lowest in these countries. Life expectancy is as low as 37 years, adult literacy only 17 per cent and GDP per capita $470. No African country appears under the "high human development" category.


A joint study at the turn of the century by the African Development Bank, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the World Bank and other international organisations, appropriately entitled "Can Africa Claim the 21st Century", paints a bleak picture of African agriculture and infrastructure. It calls for fundamental policy shifts to improve Africa's prospects.


During my 20 years as a UN/World Bank consultant, I had the opportunity to visit and work in most of English-speaking Africa. The penury, dire poverty and destitution I saw left an indelible mark on me. I saw children suffering from acute malnutrition in many countries. In Gambia, some 40 to 50 hungry toddlers were huddled together in a 15ft x15ft room while their mothers went to work as farm labourers. The only source of sustenance of these children was a glass of milk provided by the World Food Programme. In Ethiopia and many other countries ~ including India ~ women walk 10 to 20 kilometres each day to fetch highly polluted water from a well or river for drinking. In Somalia people drink water containing extremely high proportions of sulphates which can cause abdominal disorders. In Zimbabwe, the British colonial legacy of Tribal Trust Lands is still causing serious environmental damage. The absence of basic infrastructure or the extreme dilapidation of existing infrastructure in many African countries has added to the daily hardships of the people.
Abject poverty also exists in such fast-developing countries as China, India and Brazil. Some of their poverty alleviation plans, which are invariably financed by indigenous resources, are not often sustainable. However, the poorest countries cannot follow this example. They should resist the pressure from international funding agencies, led by the World Bank, to apply stringent environmental guidelines to their modest development activities and make them sustainable. If the USA, richest and most developed country in the world, can reject the Kyoto Protocol in order not to harm its economy, then this rejection bestows on the Third World the right to tell the funding agencies not to sacrifice further their development projects at the altar of environment. The adherence of funding agencies to sustainable development is becoming unsustainable. Important development projects are being rejected on flimsy and spurious grounds, sometimes under pressure from international NGOs.

In Laos, a least developed country in South Asia which is struggling to recover after the ravages of internal conflicts and the Vietnam war, development is threatened because of immense opposition from international funding agencies. Mini hydropower schemes, which are vital to the Laotian economy, were not financed because they were displacing some 30 to 50 households or 150 to 250 people. A development scheme in Vietnam, a country which still suffers from the toxic after-effects of such lethal chemicals as Agent Orange and where unexploded mines still kill people daily, was not funded as it was going to affect a protected forest and a few bird sanctuaries. This scheme was located in a drought stricken area of Vietnam where people are without food for three to four months each year. In power-starved Uganda, a major hydroelectric project was almost scuttled because of objections from water-sport enthusiasts who used the affected stretch of the river for a few months each year. It appears that sustainable development has now become synonymous with protection of birds and flora and fauna and the preservation of water sports rather than the survival of hungry and thirsty humanity.


Failure in Africa

IN a report in early 2001, the World Bank admitted that its policies in Africa had failed. It wanted to turn a new page in the continent. Similarly, several schemes funded/ supervised by various UN agencies in Africa and elsewhere failed to achieve their aims and some of them were even abandoned for lack of funds or trained manpower.


A World Bank consultant, who was sent to Tamil Nadu for three months, shut himself up in his office for the entire period and hardly spoke to his Indian counterparts. There is a long catalogue of missed opportunities and missed targets by the World Bank and the UN agencies.


The World Bank and other funding agencies should adopt a more pragmatic and beneficiary-targeted approach to development in the Third World. In the last 50 to 60 years they have injected billions of dollars of aid into Africa and other poor regions of the world in the so-called development projects which precluded human resources development. If a tap leaked in Africa, then the funding agency would send a plumber ~ mostly from Europe or North America ~ who would fix the tap without training his/her African counterparts. The funding agencies should revamp this approach and focus on manpower development in the Third World before undertaking any development project. It is the lack of trained manpower that plagues Africa and the Third World today. The Third World, on its part, should not depend entirely on Western technology and manpower for its development. It should look at countries like China and India, which have kept their development costs down by utilising indigenous human resources in conjunction with technologies appropriate to their needs.

The writer, an NRI living in the UK, is a retired UN/ World Bank consultant on water resources and irrigation

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

POISON AND POWER

 

Not many Indians, it would appear, are as resistant to industrial toxic waste as their Union environment and forests minister is. On a recent visit to Bhopal, Jairam Ramesh picked up a clump of earth from the Union Carbide factory premises and said, "I held the toxic waste in my hand. I'm still alive and not coughing." Twenty-five years ago, more than 8,000 people had not been as lucky. Tonnes of methyl isocyanate, stored in the factory in utter disregard of safety norms, had leaked out on the night of December 2-3, 1984, killing or maiming thousands in a few hours. Since then, the death toll has reached 20,000, and the number is rising. Survivors continue to suffer from severe health problems, babies are born deformed or develop life-threatening conditions. Few have received adequate compensation, if at all, and the guilty — Dow Chemicals, which bought out Union Carbide, and the State, which has shown little more than apathy — have not been brought to book.

 

Tragedies of this scale are not unusual in India. In fact, they are so common that they fade away in no time from public memory and that of the State. In spite of being recognized as the world's largest industrial disaster, the Bhopal tragedy has not been an exception. Even after receiving years of sustained attention from activists, toxic waste remains stockpiled inside the factory, causing lingering health hazards to the neighbouring communities. The water and soil in the adjacent areas remain badly polluted, while the victims continue to suffer for want of medical attention. In 2005, the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Madhya Pradesh had announced a grand plan to beautify Bhopal when its people were dying every day. This year, the former chief minister, Babulal Gaur, now demoted to heading the Bhopal gas tragedy relief and rehabilitation ministry, proposed opening the factory to the public. He wanted to prove that there was no contamination. Mr Gaur's view — no surprise — is supported by the Defence Research and Development Establishment's report. But the Centre for Science and Environment, an independent body, has discovered a shockingly different story — toxicity not only affects areas far off from the site but has also percolated into the groundwater.

 

These conflicting 'empirical' facts reveal a familiar plot: the State can, by the sheer force of denial, emerge as the most powerful player, even in a free and fair democracy like India. For instance, in spite of massive protests, the government has ceased all epidemiological studies in Bhopal since 1994. When the Prime Minister's Office tried to revive the project in 2006, it was rebuffed by the Indian Council of Medical Research, citing inadequate funding. So, while aspiring young architects dream up a Rs 100-crore memorial project for the victims, ministers crack poor jokes and activists cry themselves hoarse, people are going to die quietly in Bhopal. At least until the next big anniversary.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

OUR ATOM STATE

INDIA'S NUCLEAR INDUSTRY IS NEITHER PROFITABLE NOR ACCOUNTABLE

POLITICS AND PLAY RAMACHANDRA GUHA

 

The most secretive institution in India is the Atomic Energy Commission. Although its power plants profess to produce goods for the benefit of the public, they are not judged by the standards of profitability and accountability that the market imposes on other industries. Nor, like other government-owned and managed firms, do they have to report to the parliamentary committee on public undertakings. In fact, by an act of Parliament they have been made exempt from the scrutiny of the Parliament itself.

 

No ordinary citizen can get anywhere near an atomic installation, and even the most well-connected historian cannot get anywhere near the records of the AEC or its associated bodies. But by a stroke of luck I once stumbled upon snatches of correspondence connected with this otherwise closed and inward-looking organization. When I found these documents, a decade ago, I xeroxed and filed them away. They bear exhuming today, since they speak directly to the controversy relating to the recent leak in the Kaiga nuclear plant.

 

The documents date to the year 1967, when the Congress had just won its fourth general elections in a row. Among the new entrants to the ministry was M.S. Gurupadaswamy, who was appointed the minister of state for atomic energy. Gurupadaswamy had previously been a member of the Praja Socialist Party, an organization known for cultivating both intelligence as well as independence of mind. In keeping with this tradition, he took his new job rather seriously.

 

He visited the plants then in operation, and spoke to a cross-section of scientists and staff. What he found was not altogether to his liking. He wrote to the prime minister, Indira Gandhi, that the work of the AEC "appears to be on [a] low keel"; that there were serious delays; and that there was a loss of morale among the staff. He recommended that a set of procedures "be evolved to achieve greater accountability [as] to the time-schedule, production, cost, technical performance, etc" of our nuclear power plants.

 

Having alerted the prime minister to the deficiencies within the AEC, the new minister of state then took up the matter with the chairman of the commission, the physicist, Vikram Sarabhai. He asked him to supply details of project costs, expenditure incurred over the past few years including the foreign exchange component, the reasons for delays, and the impediments faced in the execution of their work. These details were important in themselves, but Gurupadaswamy further added that they might be used in "a comparative study of the Atomic Energy Commission, the Railway Board, and the P&T Board". (That he thought of these comparisons is testimony to the minister's intelligence, for the railways and postal service were the two government agencies that provided tangible and mostly positive services to the citizens of India.)

 

These (very reasonable) suggestions provoked panic and paranoia in the AEC. The chairman wrote to the prime minister insisting that he report only to her, since there was "no provision in the constitution [of the AEC] for a Minister of State for Atomic Energy to concern himself with the formulation of policy or with the implementation of decisions". He believed that "it would be most unfortunate" if the "existing relations between the Commission, its Chairman and the Prime Minister" were to be altered "through the nature of information and consultation that is required at the Ministerial level and the frequency of reporting" that Gurupadaswamy had asked for.

 

In a handwritten note to her secretary (a copy of which I possess) Mrs Gandhi enclosed this correspondence with the comment: "Shri Gurupadaswamy is full of zeal. Dr Sarabhai thinks it is misplaced zeal!" Four decades on, I think that we can safely conclude that the zeal was in fact well directed. For studies by independent researchers strongly suggest that our atomic energy programme is an economic failure as well as an environmental disaster. Nor does the charge-sheet end here, for, by the very nature of its functioning, the AEC has undermined the democratic ideals of the nation.

 

Take the environmental question first. The construction of nuclear installations often involves the loss of green cover — in the case of Kaiga, the loss of some of the best rainforests in the Western Ghats. In the extraction of thorium and uranium, health hazards are imposed on the communities which live near the mines. In the normal operations of these plants further health costs are borne by surrounding communities. (A study by Sanghamitra and Surendra Gadekar demonstrates that those living near nuclear installations in India are exposed to very high levels of radiation.) Then there is the ever-present threat of nuclear accidents. Finally, there is the question of the disposal of the wastes, which remain radioactive for thousands of years.On the economic side, work by the distinguished energy scientist, Amulya Reddy, has shown that nuclear power in India is more costly per unit than coal, hydel, solar or other available options (see http://www.amulya-reddy.org.in/Publ_427_E_NE.htm). Reddy based his calculations on official statistics, those contained in the annual reports of the AEC (the only information about the organization that ever becomes public). However, if one was to take into account the hidden subsidies that the commission enjoys, the comparison would be even more damaging to its interests. Remarkably, despite contributing a mere three per cent of the country's energy needs, more than 60 per cent of the total research budget on energy goes to this sector. How much better served would we and the nation be if the priorities were reversed, with clean technologies like solar and wind power provided the assistance that nuclear energy currently obtains?]Finally, nuclear energy is a technology that is inherently anti-democratic. It erects a wall of secrecy between itself and the ordinary citizen. It is not subject to the scrutiny of elected legislators. It refuses even to submit itself to the peer-review of the scientific community. In response to public pressure exerted over a number of years, the government set up an Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, only to staff it with former employees of the AEC. No credible or independent scientist serves on it. Naturally, the AERB sees its job as merely being to whitewash the errors of its paymasters.

 

To these very serious limitations has now been added a new and perhaps still more serious one — that the industry is peculiarly vulnerable to terror attacks. In seeking to deflect criticism of the recent accident at Kaiga, the chairman of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited told a television channel that this may have been sabotage by a "foreign hand". The claim only dropped more egg on his face, for if, despite all the secrecy and security, the AEC or NPCIL cannot prevent contamination of a single water tower, who is to say that they can ever thwart a suicide bomber or a plane flying low into one of their plants?

 

The Atomic Energy Commission in India is both a holy cow as well as a white elephant. Because it can, in theory, deliver atomic weapons to the State, successive prime ministers are loath to interfere with its workings. As a result, the taxpayer has been forced to sink billions of crores into an industry that has consistently under-performed, that after six decades of pampering still produces a niggardly proportion of our energy requirements, and this at a higher cost and at a far greater risk than the alternatives. It is past time that the industry and those who control it were made to answer for their actions. The Kaiga accident may yet help in reviving, albeit 42 years too late, M.S. Gurupadaswamy's public-spirited demand that we seek to "achieve greater accountability [as] to the time- schedule, production, cost, technical performance, etc" of our much cossetted and grossly overrated nuclear industry.

 

ramachandraguha@yahoo.in

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

HEAT IS ON

"NOW IT'S FOR THE DEVELO-PED COUNTRIES TO RESPOND."

 

 Four days ahead of the Copenhagen climate summit, India has announced that it will voluntarily reduce carbon emission intensity on 2005 levels by 20-25 per cent by 2010.


India, which, had hitherto refused to quantify its commitment to cutting carbon emissions has for the first time spelt out a figure  to address the concerns. If in the past its commitment to reduce carbon emissions was unclear and seemed airy, the statement clarifies what India is willing to do. It has sent out a strong signal that it is serious about taking action. Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has indicated that if the agreement coming out of Copenhagen is equitable and the rich would provide required financial and technical help, India was willing to go even further. He has clarified that the targets are not legally binding but a voluntary, domestic commitment. He has said that the reduction of carbon emission intensity will be achieved by using clean coal technology in power stations, improved emissions targets and better building standards. India's announcement follows those by China and the United States. China, which is the world's biggest polluter, has said it would cut carbon emission intensity in 2020 by 40-45 per cent from 2005 levels, while the US, the second largest polluter, offered to cut by 17 per cent in the same period and Brazil by 38-42 per cent.


Some have pointed out that India's announcement has come under international pressure. With China, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa and other peer group countries coming out with figures, it was compelled to do the same. Experts have pointed out that the voluntary cuts approach adopted by several countries, including India, could work to the US favour. Washington is opposed to legally binding commitments and prefers voluntary targets. It is said that India's announcement on a voluntary emission cut could have come at the US behest. Will the US use this escape route to avoid doing a deal at Copenhagen?


With all the main players in the developing world having quantified their commitment, the ball is now in the court of the developed countries. They are under pressure to show how far they will go. India and China have turned up the heat. Can the developed world muster the political will to respond positively? The success of the Copenhagen summit depends on them stepping up their financial and technical support to help developing countries make the transition to clear technologies.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

BLOOD ON ROADS

"INDIA ACCO-UNTS FOR 10 PC OF DEATHS ON ROADS."

 

An important meeting held under the auspices of the UN in Moscow last fortnight to draw the world's attention to the worsening problem of road accidents passed unnoticed in India. It is also hardly known that every year the world commemorates road traffic victims on the third Sunday of November. The meeting, which was attended by ministers from 70 countries and representatives of governments and non-governmental organisations from 140 countries should have been of special significance to India because it leads the world in road accidents and fatalities from them. But there was no ministerial representation from India at this first global summit on road safety. The meeting ended with a Moscow Declaration and recommended to the UN general assembly that a Decade of Action for Road Safety be declared from 2011 to 2020. It called for better coordination of efforts to tackle the problem of deaths and injuries on the roads.


India has only one per cent of the world's vehicles but accounts for over 10 per cent of deaths on roads. About 1.3 lakh deaths occurred in the country last year. The global tally is about 1.2 million deaths and 50 million injuries. The summit termed this as a desperate situation that called for urgent remedial action. According to WHO 90 per cent of these deaths are in developing countries. While the number of deaths is declining in many countries including China which once led the world in this respect, the count is rising in India. Last year the increase was as high as seven per cent.


The reasons are well-known. Roads are bad and poorly maintained. Traffic rules and regulations are not obeyed and enforced. The Motor Vehicles Act is not implemented properly and safety precautions like wearing of seat belts and helmets are not taken seriously. Penalty for bad or drunken driving and for offences is not stringent and exemplary. Accident relief and trauma care facilities are not readily available most of the time. Roads and highways are not designed with safety as the first consideration, and pedestrians and vehicles of low standing like bicycles get a poor deal. There has to be improvement in all these areas and a commitment on the part of the government and the people to greater safety if there is to be less blood on the roads.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

NEED FOR PRAGMATISM

THE BENEFITS OF THE FDI INFLOWS ARE ONE TIME, WHEREAS THE POTENTIAL FOREIGN OBLIGATIONS ARE PERPETUAL AND LONG TERM.

BY SUVROKAMAL DUTTA

 

Since the launch of 'Manmohanomics' by the Narasimha Rao government in 1991 the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has been touted as the magic wand that will transform 'under-developed' India into an advanced nation with a 'modern' infrastructure. Every government that has followed has dutifully talked of taking steps to encourage and expand FDI.


It's true India lately is receiving a lot of FDI as well as FII investments. So far India has received a record $16 billion of FDI investment in 2006-07. Is the picture of foreign investments as rosy as projected by the players of World Bank lobby here in India? The answer is probably not so positive.


There is definite danger of the uncontrolled FDI and FII in our economy. Critics like Jayati Ghosh have been warning of the potential dangers associated with FDI. They have pointed out how the majority of FDI has come in the form of speculative investments in India's stock market, where select scrips have seen phenomenal jumps in their stock prices, while stocks of some major Indian manufacturing companies have languished at very low valuations. They have also warned that such speculative investments could leave just as easily as they came, leading to greater instability in India's financial markets.


Others have pointed out how FDI flows have simply enabled trans-national giants like Coke and Pepsi to set up monopolies in highly profitable sectors where Indian business concerns were already meeting the requirements of the market. Coke and Pepsi, with their monopolistic stranglehold on the bottling and distribution chain have wiped out niche producers; consumers have less choice than they did before, and must pay more. Neither of these companies has brought in any valuable new technology.


Moreover, the benefits of the FDI foreign exchange inflows are one time, because they are being consumed, while the potential foreign obligations are perpetual and long-term. FDI may not have a contractual payback as loans, but it is not a free lunch. In fact dividend payments on FDI are usually very high, to account for the higher risks.


Advocates of globalisation have often made the claim that globalisation rather than destroying Indian industry would instead accelerate the growth of new industry and cause India's economy to grow faster. But a detailed analysis of FDI in the last few years indicates that a sizeable portion of this investment has not gone into the creation of new productive capacities.


Much of the investment has simply gone into the takeover of existing Indian enterprises or towards speculative investments in the Indian stock market. Moreover, other than India's 'hot' IT companies and select MNCs — the vast majority of Indian stocks have not benefited from such highly volatile FDI flows.



Hawala transactions

Besides, time and again questions have been raised by various critics about the channel of funding which is coming through the FDI and FII investments. Many have argued that a large chunk of FII investment from West Asia could be via the hawala transactions as well as funds from various terror outfits. Such a danger cannot be ruled out and India needs to be very cautious about this aspect.

"Formulating and implementing an effective FDI strategy requires above all a development vision, coherence and coordination. It also requires the ability to decide on trade-offs between different objectives of development," says Rubens Ricupero, secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in World Investment Report 1999.


"The challenge," says UNCTAD, "for TNCs and developing country governments — and the international community — is to devise ways in which a transfer of environmentally sound management practices and clean technology into the domestic industry can be encouraged."


Clearly for countries like India such policies at the government level is still missing and a lot more needs to be done. Our environmental laws and technical laws need wide reformations and review so as to put a cap on dangers of MNCs taking advantages of obsolete laws and bypassing them without any environmental and technical safety standards in their rush for investments into the Indian economy.


Another sector where danger looms large is the FDI in retail sector. Already huge problems have arisen with the opening up of this sector. FDI in retail will amount to job losses in the thousands as well as thousands more small businesses and 'kiranas' being forced to close. It will continue the race to the bottom in wages and working conditions that Wal-Mart and other multinational mega-retailers have spread across the globe.


Multinationals look at India, with its 1.2 billion people, as a vast, untapped market, but we do not want to become the next country to have our cultural traditions, worker's rights, environment, and independence destroyed. On the heels of the announcement of the Bharti-Walmart joint venture, thousands of traders, hawkers, farmers and workers protested across India.


Thus dangers of uncontrolled FDI and FII investments for a country like India is multi prone. Besides the economic dangers, there is also a security, strategic and social dangers in it. The government should not shut its eyes towards them.

 

(The writer is chairman of Global Council for Peace)

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

POLITICAL GIMMICKRY

OUR POLITICIANS WHEN THEIR FORTUNES ARE ON THE DECLINE SAY SOMETHING OUTRAGEOUS ABOUT A CELEBRITY SO THAT THEY CAN BE BACK ON THE FRONT PAGES OF NEWSPAPERS.

BY KHUSHWANT SINGH

 

No one resorts to this trick more than Bal Thackeray of the Shiv Sena and his nephew Raj Thackeray of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. The elder Thackeray clad in saffron with a 'rudraksh mala' round his neck should have taken Sannyas many years ago. But his ego stood in his way and wanted to see his name and photographs appear in papers other than his own 'Samna', which not many people bother to read.
He was also smarting under the slap his ungrateful nephew Raj gave him by winning 13 seats to Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. So the old Bala Saheb hit on the bright idea which would both steal the thunder from his upstart and get everyone in the country talking about him.


He chose his target well. The cricketer Sachin Tendulkar has become hero number one of the entire country including those who take little interest in cricket. He also happens to be a Mumbaikar and a 'Marathi manoos'. What he said is what anyone in his position would have said — that he is, above all other things, an Indian, plays for India and is proud of being an Indian.


Only the now senile Bala Saheb found an opportunity to go for him and at the same time score over his nephew. And he did. Right across the country, leaders of all parties condemned him. That is all he wanted — and got.

Now it is for Raj Thackeray to chalk out a plan to get even with his uncle and get back into the front pages. I don't know what he has in mind but can suggest another national icon he can go for because Sachin described her "like my mother". It is Lata Mangeshkar; she is Maharashtrian, India's most loved singer and a Bharat Ratna.
How dare she allow Sachin to touch her feet and greet her as if she was his real mother! It sounds silly but the Thackerays are a silly trio. Don't take them seriously. Have a hearty laugh at their antics. One thing silly people can't take is being laughed at.


Eunice De Souza

I was aware of the existence of Eunice De Souza as quite a few of my friends like the poets Nissim Ezekiel, Adil Jussawalla and my son-in-law Ravi Dayal, then head of the Oxford University Press in Bombay, spoke well of her poetry. She was professor of English at St Xavier's College during my years in Bombay.


I had not read any of her poems till the publication of 'A Necklace of Skulls' (Penguin). I read all she has chosen of her compilations. There is a freshness and irreverent candour which makes her eminently readable. I had some difficulty in selecting one as a sample to whet the appetite of my readers. Ultimately I chose 'Poem For A Poet' because it makes a tasty appetiser:


It pays to be a poet

You don't have to pay prostitutes.

Marie has spiritual thingummies.

Write her a poem about theHoly Ghost. Say:

Marie, my frequent sexual encounters

represent more than an attempto find more physical


fulfilment.
They are a poet's struggle to

transcend the self

and enter into

communion

with the world.

Marie's eyes will glow

Pentecostal flames will

descend
The Holy Ghost will tremble inside her.

She will bable in strange tongues:

O Universal Lover

in a state of perpetual erection!

Let me too enter into

communion with the world

through thee.

The eternal question

Sona: Which came first? the chicken or the egg?

Mona: It was obviously the egg.

Sona: Then who laid the egg?

Mona: Some hen must have laid it. Chickens don't lay eggs.

a a a

Sohan: Which came first? the chicken or the egg?

Mohan: Give me the dates on which that particular chicken was hatched, and the date on which the concerned egg was laid, and I will give you the answer.

(Contributed by Rajeshwari Singh, New Delhi)

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

POWER OF WORDS

ONCE THE WORDS ARE SPOKEN, THERE IS NO OPTION OF WITHDRAWAL.

BY C SUBRAMANYA

 

Words when spoken, seem to wield enormous power, impact the listener and trigger a range of emotions, set of responses and actions. Whether the impact created is positive or negative, desirable or undesirable depends upon the choice of words, type and depth of relationship between the speaker and the listener, context, their mental make-up, level of perception, prejudices if any with regard to the person and or the subject matter of the talk, the body language  and so.


But the choice of words, tone and body language play a major part. Even if the talk is over the phone or through a medium of non-verbal communication, words have the power of impacting.


Right from the tender age of 1-2 years, we start speaking and continue to do so till we die. Probably when we get into our teens, we start realising the power of words and this understanding matures with age. When indiscreet, harsh and thoughtless words are used, even without any malice, the impact is likely to be negative and may result in loss of valuable relationships nurtured for years. It instantaneously creates bad blood and breeds animosity.


Once words are put out, there is no option of withdrawal. No matter how hard we try, toothpaste once out of the tube, cannot be squeezed back. May be we make amends later by apologising. But it still leaves a scar. It is because intent, to begin with is judged by the words we speak. And words can hurt and hurt very badly. Every human being yearns for comfort and ease and looks forward to it when in the company of other humans.

We, the human beings are the only species gifted with the power of speech. Words are powerful enough to resolve hardcore disputes and can bring people closer. It can spread cheer and happiness all around. Are we discreet enough in using this power to promote friendship and to create warmth, peace, harmony and bliss? A penny for your thoughts!

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

AFGHANISTAN'S ARMY

 

Even as he announced plans to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, President Obama said his goal is to quickly drive back the Taliban, hand over control to the Afghans and begin to withdraw American forces.

 

For that to happen, the Pentagon will have to do a much better job of recruiting, training and retaining effective Afghan security forces. After eight years and more than $15 billion spent to train the Afghan National Army and police, neither is anywhere near ready.

 

The top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, recognizes that there is no hope of defeating the Taliban without significantly improved security and governance. Army training has been reorganized and is broadly headed in the right direction. Current plans call for increasing the Afghan Army from 90,000 troops to 134,000 by next fall. General McChrystal wants 240,000 a year later.

 

Highly critical reports this fall by American officials showed why this is so hard: 90 percent illiteracy levels for Afghan troops; desertion rates so high that thousands must be recruited each year to keep the force from shrinking; broken logistics; and, most tellingly, "a lack of competent and professional leadership at all levels."

 

Better American military management, a large infusion of qualified trainers and President Obama's new strategy of sending newly trained Afghan forces into the field in partnership with American and NATO combat units can start to bring about the needed changes.

 

Training programs have been given their own command structure, and counterinsurgency lessons learned in Iraq have been adapted to different geographic and ethnic terrain. The American command structure is motivated by a new sense of urgency and a blunt recognition that the timing of America's exit is directly tied to the training of more effective Afghan forces.

 

American officials have not said how many of the 30,000 added troops will be devoted to training; between 10,000 and 15,000 more trainers are needed. With forces still badly overstretched by Iraq and Afghanistan, combat commanders have been reluctant to detach trainers. General McChrystal must overcome their reluctance.

 

Afghan soldiers get about $100 a month, a third of what some local warlords pay fighters, a major reason for desertion. This is a false, dangerous economy. The United States has spent nearly $60 billion on Afghanistan this year, and Mr. Obama's troop increases would add at least $30 billion. Adding 30,000 Afghan Army soldiers at triple their current pay costs under $1 billion.

 

Most Afghan soldiers are paid in cash, which means that they often have to return home to deliver money to their families, sometimes going AWOL. A modest investment in wire or digital money transfer systems could ease that problem, reduce the desertion rate and make it harder for corrupt commanders to steal recruits' pay.

 

While we have some hope for the Afghan Army, we fear the police, with members recruited from warlord and anti-Taliban militias, may have to be rebuilt almost from scratch. Too many officers have been implicated in kidnappings, burglaries and shakedowns.

 

In 2002, the United Nations delegated much of the responsibility for creating an effective police force to Germany. The program was poorly conceived and executed and under-resourced. It has had little impact outside Kabul. The United States, the United Nations and the European Union must press the Germans to do better.

 

The Pentagon has stepped up its own police training programs. But too much of that effort has gone into developing paramilitary units to fight the Taliban, and not enough to regular policing. Afghans won't dare to turn against the Taliban until they know that they can trust their government to protect them rather than abuse them.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

PHOTOS AND FREEDOM

 

In a sad but unsurprising denouement this week, the Supreme Court tossed out a federal appellate court ruling that would have required the government to release photographs of soldiers abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan during the Bush administration.

 

The vacated ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, was based on sound precedent and principles of government openness and accountability. With help from Congress, President Obama managed to void those principles and poke a large retroactive hole in the Freedom of Information Act.

 

Mr. Obama had originally supported the release of the photographs. Then, in May, he flip-flopped and decided to resist court orders to make them public. He then threw his weight behind a bill giving Defense Secretary Robert Gates the authority to withhold pictures relating to "the treatment of individuals engaged, captured, or detained after Sept. 11, 2001," by American troops.

 

The law was passed in October. Mr. Gates exercised the power in November. And the justices cited the law in sending the case back to the appellate court, which must now rethink its ruling.

 

As a practical matter, this phase of the legal fight is all but over. But it is worth toting up the considerable cost to democracy wrought by Mr. Obama's insistence on suppressing evidence of wrongdoing.

 

The photos are of direct relevance to the ongoing national debate about accountability for the Bush-era abuses. No doubt their release would help drive home the cruelty of stress positions, mock executions, hooding, and other "enhanced interrogation" techniques used against detainees and make it harder for officials to assert that the improper conduct was aberrational rather than the predictable result of policies set at high levels.

 

We share concerns about inflaming hostility to American soldiers. But disclosure is the best way to demonstrate that this nation has truly broken from the Bush administration's shameful policies. Letting officials decide not to release evidence of those policies is a dangerous step. Under the new law's perverse logic, the more outrageous the government's conduct, the greater the protection from disclosure.

 

Allowing the executive branch to hide an important category of information without any real review also ignores the core purpose of the Freedom of Information Act. For a president who rose to the White House on promises of transparency and reasonable limits on executive power, this is not a legal victory to be proud of.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

A LITTLE PENSION REFORM

 

Lost in the hoopla in Albany this week over the rejection of same-sex marriage and a flimsy budget fix was an important change in pension laws. Following Gov. David Paterson's lead, lawmakers finally scaled back overly generous pensions for many new employees. It was a small but important step.

 

Nobody wants to deprive state workers of a comfortable old age. But in the last 25 years, New York politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, have padded workers' pension plans. It was a way of pleasing the workers (who vote), while shoving the real costs of their political largess into the future.

 

Some of that cost is landing too heavily on budgets for New York State and many local governments, and the situation will only get worse. The New York State comptroller has made public more than 100 employees who earn more than $140,000 a year in pensions, some of them using rules that drastically increase postretirement paychecks by increasing overtime in their last years.

 

Last week's action was modest: new workers after Jan. 1 will have to work 10 years to be vested in the pension plan instead of the five most have now. They must be 62 to retire, up from 55. Only $15,000 in overtime in the last year would apply to the pension calculations.

 

Critics argue that the pension rules for new workers do not go far enough since the law carves out exemptions for many workers in New York City. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who negotiated some of these same pension changes with the United Federation of Teachers in June, rightly sees this as an opportunity to make pensions fairer and more affordable for all city workers and for taxpayers.

 

Savings in the pension plan will not make a big difference to state and local budgets until this new group of employees retires. And there is always the danger that in better financial times, Albany's easy politicians will go back to their old ways. New Yorkers can afford to give their workers good pensions not excessive ones.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE HONDURAS CONUNDRUM

 

There is wide agreement that last week's presidential election in Honduras, won by the conservative leader Porfirio Lobo, was clean and fair. But it doesn't settle the country's political crisis, nor the question of how the world should treat Honduras.

 

The military ousted President Manuel Zelaya in June. At the time of the vote, Mr. Zelaya was hiding in the Brazilian Embassy. He still is.

 

The Obama administration started off strong. It resisted the importunings of some Congressional Republicans who considered democracy far less important than Mr. Zelaya's cozy ties to Venezuela's Hugo Chávez.

 

Then Washington faltered. Its effort to broker a deal to return Mr. Zelaya to power, if only briefly, was filled with mixed messages (at one point the top American negotiator said Washington would accept the vote with or without Mr. Zelaya's return). Over all, it betrayed a disturbing lack of diplomatic skill.

 

There is little point in ostracizing Honduras — one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere. Rather, the United States, other countries in the region and Europe should take the election as a starting point to try to patch back together a democratic government.

 

Two aspects of the proposed deal, which have also been ignored so far, could help heal some of the wounds and restore some legitimacy. It called for the establishment of a unity government until the January inauguration and the creation of a truth commission to investigate events around the coup. The de facto government of Roberto Micheletti and other coup supporters must step down and be replaced by a unity government that includes high-level appointees from Mr. Zelaya. That unity government should create the truth commission. Civil liberties must be restored, including freedom of the press. And when the Lobo government takes office, it must clearly demonstrate its commitment to democracy.

 

Until then, donor countries and the United States should not fully restore aid to Honduras. The Organization of American States, which expelled Honduras, should hold off on fully restoring its membership.

 

Despite all the missteps, Honduras's military and militaries across the region need to know that coups will not be tolerated. Hondurans need to be able to move on and rebuild their democracy.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE LOST WEEKEND

BY GAIL COLLINS

 

The Senate is going to be in session all weekend, debating the big health care bill and arguing about which direction the cost-curve is heading. This is a positive development on two counts. It keeps senators off the streets while providing much-needed employment in the chart-making sector of our economy.

 

Or we could just lock them in a basement until they're done squabbling. Either way is good, but the basement option would have the advantage of covering some of the less-active debaters with an attractive coat of mildew. In any case, I guarantee you that the number of normal Americans who will pay attention can be numbered in the low single digits.

 

So as a public service to the nonlistening audience, let me give you a summary of the important action so far:

 

ROUND ONE Republicans: Let's get rid of all the Medicare savings in the bill. Think of the seniors!

 

Democrats: Yettaruttayetta.

 

ROUND TWO Mammograms! Everybody loves them. Can't have enough.

 

ROUND THREE Republicans: Let's get rid of part of the Medicare savings in the bill. Think of the seniors!

 

Democrats: Ruttayettarutta.

 

Is that perfectly clear? Good. Now we will return to our regularly scheduled conversation. Did you see that hot reality show "Hoarders" on A&E the other night? What about that lady who hoarded her dead cats? If "Hoarders" gets superpopular, do you think lots of people will start putting dead cats in their living room just so they can get on TV and be famous? Maybe somebody will try to bring dead cats to a state dinner at the White House! Does the Secret Service have a plan to avert this?

 

Sorry. I'll behave. Back to the health care bill.

 

The Republicans are the fiscal conservatives in Congress, at least in the years when they aren't actually in power. They were never going to rally around an expensive new government program that fails to provide a single new market for corn-based products.

 

But you would expect them to try to push the whole project in the most economical direction possible.

 

For instance, the bill would establish an independent commission on Medicare payment rates. This is a very big deal and you are going to have to take my word that health care economists fall over with excitement when it comes up.

 

But the Senate Democrats' current version of the bill would only allow the panel experts to act when Medicare spending rises at a faster rate than other health care spending. Since health care spending has been going through the roof, we're talking about waiting until Medicare spending goes through the ozone layer.

 

Obviously, this is an area where the Republicans would want to swing into action. And they did. They prepared an amendment eliminating the Medicare panel entirely.

 

In fact, G.O.P. senators appear to have amendments aimed at wiping out virtually all the cost-cutting the Democrats have put in the bill, including productivity adjustments and incentives for innovation in health care delivery.

 

If they can't kill the bill completely, Republicans who are not from Maine seem intent on raising its price tag. While terrifying senior citizens in a cynical attempt to influence their vote in the next election cycle. Although I'm sure Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma just misspoke when he said: "I have a message for you: You're going to die sooner."

 

On Friday, much of the debate was directed at Medicare Advantage. This is a program that flourished during the privatization craze. And like many attempts to save money by shoehorning private businesses into government programs, it wound up costing a ton. The Medicare Advantage policyholders cost the government 14 percent more than regular Medicare recipients, although they do often get extra benefits, sometimes including free Band-Aids or gym memberships.

 

Now let us be fair. There are some good services in the Advantage mix, and gym memberships are in and of themselves a fine thing. But you would think the political party that eviscerated the Clinton stimulus plan over an appropriation for late-night basketball programs would really be ticked at the idea that we're providing a 14 percent subsidy to some Medicare recipients so they can have access to Stairmasters.

 

Au contraire. In fact, on Thursday Senator Orrin Hatch proposed an amendment that would eliminate the entire $120 billion in Medicare Advantage savings from the bill.

 

There is no sane explanation for all this other than crass political calculation. On Thursday, Senator Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat who's up for election next year, introduced an amendment specifically promising that Medicare recipients would not lose any of their current guaranteed benefits. It passed 100 to 0. Meanwhile, Colorado voters were getting robocalls from John McCain warning that the health care bill was going to cut their "vital Medicare coverage."

 

Now, about those dead cats.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

BLACK IN THE AGE OF OBAMA

BY CHARLES M. BLOW

 

A hundred and fifty years ago, Charles Dickens opened "A Tale of Two Cities" with the now-famous phrase: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. ..."

 

Those words resonated with me recently while contemplating the impact of the Obama presidency on blacks in America. So far, it's been mixed. Blacks are living a tale of two Americas — one of the ascension of the first black president with the cultural capital that accrues; the other of a collapsing quality of life and amplified racial tensions, while supporting a president who is loath to even acknowledge their pain, let alone commiserate in it.

 

Last year, blacks dared to dream anew, envisioning a future in which Obama's election would be the catalyst for an era of prosperity and more racial harmony. Now that the election's afterglow has nearly faded, the hysteria of hope is being ground against the hard stone of reality. Things have not gotten better. In many ways, they've gotten worse.

 

The recession, for one, has dealt a particularly punishing and uneven hand to blacks.

 

A May report from the Pew Research Center found that blacks were the most likely to get higher-priced subprime loans, leading to higher foreclosure rates. In fact, blacks have displaced Hispanics as the group with the lowest homeownership rates.

 

According to the most recent jobs data, not only is the unemployment rate for blacks nearly twice that of whites, the gap in some important demographics has widened rapidly since Obama took office. The unemployment rate over that time for white college graduates under 24 years old grew by about 20 percent. For their black cohorts, the rate grew by about twice that much.

 

And a report published last month by the Department of Agriculture found that in 2008, "food insecurity" for American households had risen to record levels, with black children being the most likely to experience that food insecurity.

 

Things on the racial front are just as bad.

 

We are now inundated with examples of overt racism on a scale to which we are unaccustomed. Any protester with a racist poster can hijack a news cycle, while a racist image can live forever on the Internet. In fact, racially offensive images of the first couple are so prolific online that Google now runs an apologetic ad with the results of image searches of them.

 

And it's not all words and images; it's actions as well. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's 2008 hate crimes data released last week, anti-black hate crimes rose 4 percent from 2007, while the combined hate crimes against all other racial categories declined 11 percent. If you look at the two-year trend, which would include Obama's ascension as a candidate, anti-black hate crimes have risen 8 percent, while those against the other racial groups have fallen 19 percent.

 

This has had a sobering effect on blacks. According to a Nov. 9 report from Gallup, last summer 23 percent of blacks thought that race relations would get a lot better with the election of Obama. Now less than half that percentage says that things have actually gotten a lot better.

The racial animosity that Obama's election has stirred up may have contributed to a rallying effect among blacks. According to a Gallup report published on Nov. 24, Obama's approval rating among whites has dropped to 39 percent, but among blacks it remains above 90 percent.

 

Also, this hasn't exactly been a good year for black men in the news. Plaxico Burress was locked up for accidentally shooting off a gun in a club. Henry Louis Gates Jr. was locked up for intentionally shooting off his mouth at his own home. And Michael Jackson died after being shot full of propofol. Chris Brown brutally beat Rihanna. Former Representative William Jefferson was convicted. And most recently, the "personal failings" of Tiger Woods portray him as an alley cat. Meanwhile, the most critically acclaimed black movie of the year, "Precious," features a black man who rapes and twice impregnates his own daughter. Rooting for the president feels like a nice counterbalance.

 

However, the rallying creates a conundrum for blacks: how to air anxiety without further arming Obama's enemies. This dilemma has rendered blacks virtually voiceless on some pressing issues at a time when their voices would have presumably held greater sway.

 

This means that Obama can get away with doing almost nothing to specifically address issues important to African-Americans and instead focus on the white voters he's losing in droves. This has not gone unnoticed. In the Nov. 9 Gallup poll, the number of blacks who felt that Obama would not go far enough in promoting efforts to aid the black community jumped 60 percent from last summer to now.

 

The hard truth is that Obama needs white voters more than he needs black ones.

 

According to my analysis, even if every black person in America had stayed home on Election Day, Obama would still be president. To a large degree, Obama was elected by white people, some of whom were more able to accept him because he consciously portrayed himself as racially ambiguous.

 

In fact, commiserating with the blacks could prove politically problematic.

 

In a study to be published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences this month, researchers asked subjects to rate images of the president to determine which ones best represented his "true essence." In some of the photos, his skin had been lightened. In others, it had been darkened. The result? The more people identified him with the "whiter" images, the more likely they were to have voted for him, and vice versa.

 

The Age of Obama, so far at least, seems less about Obama as a black community game-changer than as a White House gamesman. It's unclear if there will be a positive Obama Effect, but an Obama Backlash is increasingly apparent. Meanwhile, black people are also living a tale of two actions: grin and bear it.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

IN SEARCH OF EDUCATION LEADERS

BY BOB HERBERT

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.

 

For me, the greatest national security crisis in the United States is the crisis in education. We are turning out new generations of Americans who are whizzes at video games and may be capable of tweeting 24 hours a day but are nowhere near ready to cope with the great challenges of the 21st century.

 

An American kid drops out of high school at an average rate of one every 26 seconds. In some large urban districts, only half of the students ever graduate. Of the kids who manage to get through high school, only about a third are ready to move on to a four-year college.

 

It's no secret that American youngsters are doing poorly in school at a time when intellectual achievement in an increasingly globalized world is more important than ever. International tests have shown American kids to be falling well behind their peers in many other industrialized countries, and that will only get worse if radical education reforms on a large scale are not put in place soon.

 

Consider the demographics. The ethnic groups with the worst outcomes in school are African-Americans and Hispanics. The achievement gaps between these groups and their white and Asian-American peers are already large in kindergarten and only grow as the school years pass. These are the youngsters least ready right now to travel the 21st-century road to a successful life.

 

But between now and the middle of the century (which is closer than you might think) such youngsters will likely hold an ever more important place in the American work force. By 2050, the percentage of whites in the work force is projected to fall from today's 67 percent to 51.4 percent. The presence of blacks and Hispanics in the work force by midcentury is expected to be huge, with the growth especially sharp among Hispanics. If America is to maintain its leadership position in the world and provide a first-rate quality of life for its citizens here at home, the educational achievement of American youngsters across the board needs to be ratcheted way up.

 

It's in that atmosphere that the Harvard Graduate School of Education is creating a new doctoral degree to be focused on leadership in education. It's the first new degree offered by the school in 74 years. The three-year course will be tuition-free and conducted in collaboration with faculty members from the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. The idea is to develop dynamic new leaders who will offer the creativity, intellectual rigor and professionalism that is needed to help transform public education in the U.S.

 

This transformation is a job the U.S. absolutely has to get done, and it won't get done right without the proper leadership. Kathleen McCartney, the graduate school's dean, explained one of the dilemmas that has hampered reform. "If you look at people who are running districts," she said, "some come from traditional schools of education, and they understand the core business of education but perhaps are a little weak on the management side. And then you've got the M.B.A.-types who understand operations, let's say, but not so much teaching and learning."

 

The degree to be offered (initially to just 25 candidates) is a doctorate in education leadership (Ed.L.D.). The fact that the program is tuition-free, thanks in large part to an extraordinary grant by the Wallace Foundation, is important. Harvard is trying to reach out to the broadest possible field of potential candidates. "We can't do that unless we remove all the barriers to studying here," said Dean McCartney.

 

The chance that one of the next great leaders in education will be missed because he or she could not afford the high cost of a Harvard doctorate is not one the school wants to take.

 

When I mentioned how American students are being outpaced academically by their peers in many other countries, Ms. McCartney said, "I think it's scary. We don't have national standards, which is something Arne Duncan is working on." Mr. Duncan is the U.S. secretary of education. Ms. McCartney added, "We're competing with countries that have a ministry of education where they're trying to bring good ideas to scale. This is a real challenge for us."

 

Students will spend the third year of the doctoral leadership program in a "field placement" at some organization or agency — say, a large urban school district or educational advocacy group — to gain practical experience. School officials likened this aspect of the program to a medical residency. Instead of doing a dissertation, the students will lead an education reform project in that third year.

 

The overall goal, said Ms. McCartney, is to produce a cadre of highly skilled educational leaders who are committed to reform of the profession, knowledgeable about the way children learn and well-grounded in the real world of practical management and politics.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

SWITZERLAND'S INVISIBLE MINARETS

BY PETER STAMM

 

Winterthur, Switzerland

THREE years ago I was invited to the Tehran International Book Fair; afterward I traveled around the country. The mosques I visited were so empty as to give the impression that Iran was as secular as Western Europe.

 

It wasn't until I took a trip to a place of pilgrimage in the mountains that I saw large numbers of the faithful. The traffic started piling up even before my group reached the town of Imamzadeh Davood. A few of the pilgrims were making the trek on foot, together with the sheep they intended to sacrifice. The narrow streets were bustling just as at Christian places of pilgrimage: booths crammed with junk, groups of teenagers taking pictures of each other, every nook and cranny packed with candles lighted by believers in the hope their wishes would be fulfilled.

 

I was received by the mayor and invited to dinner — the first Swiss he had ever met. He showed me the mosque and led me to the tomb of the saint. I, the unbeliever, was allowed into places where even pilgrims were not permitted. During my three weeks in Iran, my faith, or rather the lack thereof, was never an issue. However bellicose the political face of Islam often appears, in everyday practice what I experienced was a religion of hospitality and tolerance.

 

Switzerland, on the other hand, appeared alarmingly intolerant last weekend, when 58 percent of our voters approved a ban on the building of new minarets. When the minaret referendum was proposed by the rightist Swiss People's Party, no one really took it seriously.

 

Some consideration was given to having it declared invalid on the grounds that it was unconstitutional as well as a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, but in the end the government agreed to allow the referendum to go forward, probably in the hope that it would be roundly defeated and thereby become a symbol of Swiss open-mindedness. So certain were the politicians of prevailing that hardly any publicity was fielded against the initiative. As a result, the streets were dominated by the proponents' posters, which showed a veiled woman in front of a forest of minarets that looked like missiles.

 

Minarets have never been a problem in Switzerland. There are four in the entire country, some of which have been standing for decades. (One of them is in my city but I've never seen it.) And only two other minarets were being planned. Most mosques are in faceless industrial districts where no one notices them. But perhaps that is exactly the problem. Islamic immigrants don't live with us but beside us, just as French, German, Italian and Romansch-speaking Swiss live alongside each other without a great deal of animosity — or interaction.

 

The average Swiss citizen has no real contact with Islam. Headscarves are seldom seen on the street, and chadors are practically nonexistent. Moreover, when young proponents of the ban talk about problems with Muslims, they almost exclusively mean young men from the Balkans, who come across as male chauvinists but are almost never active members of Muslim communities. Most people encounter Islam only through the news media, which don't report on the Muslims in our country but focus on terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Iranian plans for an atomic bomb and Muammar el-Qaddafi's absurd proposal to abolish Switzerland.

 

It's hard to find one overarching explanation for why the Swiss voted as they did. Similar referendums have brought surprises: 35 percent of voters wanting to do away with the army, for instance, or 58 percent approving of same-sex partnerships. The prevailing Swiss attitude is both conservative and liberal: on the one hand everything should stay the way it is, on the other everyone should be able to do what he or she wants.

 

What's most conspicuous in these referendums is that we are a nation of pragmatists, inclined to our dour obstinacy, and we owe our success not to grand ideas but to problem-solving. So focused are we on getting things done, it almost doesn't matter if the problem isn't a problem, or if the solution risks sullying the country's reputation. We Swiss sacrificed our good standing as a multicultural and open-minded society to ban the construction of minarets that no one intends to build in order to defend ourselves against an Islam that has never existed in Switzerland.

 

Perhaps Muslims here are more Swiss than the rest of us might think. They too will solve the problem we've made for them: they are likely to swallow the results of this referendum, do without their minarets and continue to assemble for prayer, unnoticed and unperturbed.

 

Peter Stamm is the author of the novel "On a Day Like This." This essay was translated by Philip Boehm from the German.

 

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

 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

TOLL OF CORRUPTION

 

With the NRO scandal the issue of corruption has been focused on in depth. But while all eyes have been directed in one place – that palatial presidency on the hill – occupied by a man widely perceived as corrupt, the fact is that corruption is a curse that is far more deeply rooted. Over Rs100 billion has, according to a report in this newspaper, been written off over the last decade. The trend was well-entrenched over the Musharraf government's tenure, with the Chaudhrys in Gujrat emerging as the biggest beneficiaries. But during the two years of the PPP government, a sum of at least Rs15 billion has already been written off. From what we can see, more loans are probably being handed out each day – the beneficiaries confident they can simply use influence to have them written off. There is of course nothing especially surprising about this. We all know it happens. Reports have appeared before in the media, anecdotes are told each day, talk-show hosts discuss the matter with guests who all, virtually without exception, shake their heads and exclaim loudly over the tragedy of the situation. Lately we have also begun hearing comments from those who maintain that corruption is so deeply entrenched, and as such so much a 'normal' occurrence that it should not even be discussed as an issue.


That we are encountering such attitudes is a reflection of what amounts to a complete failure to address the issue. Simply because problems have been there a long time doesn't mean they should be ignored. Indeed it is all the more imperative that they be tackled before further harm is inflicted. Corruption takes away from people more than the mere resources of the state. It takes away trust and breaks that vital social contract that binds a state and its citizens. The knowledge that the most privileged political families are corrupt acts, in many ways too, to build the idea that corruption is acceptable. Everywhere people argue that small-scale corruption is acceptable because, after all, it exists on a mega-scale as well. As citizens we need to find a way to take a stand. Studies from other countries show that corruption also means that the resources of a state – its oil, its gas, its crops – are not used in the interest of the people. The ministers and government functionaries who control them are too busy taking off the cream for their own use. Active watchdog groups in society can play some part in combating corruption. We need laws that can bring transparency in various facets of official life. Until we all decide to act, corruption will continue to erode valuable resources and leave us with rulers who consider their own good above that of all the 165 million people who make up Pakistan.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

MASSACRE IN THE MOSQUE

 

Just as we tentatively take a few deep breaths, hoping that the worst days of terror are over, the militants strike back, demonstrating that they remain capable of organising the most audacious of attacks. Certainly the one on the mosque located not very far from the GHQ in Rawalpindi ranks among these. Seen from behind the ugly, distorted lenses through which the militants see the world, this act counts as among their most successful. From any other point of view the most awful human tragedy imaginable folded within that mosque. Eye-witnesses have described scenes that are heart-wrenching. Fathers – some of them serving senior military men – wept as they searched for slain sons among the bodies that littered the floor, surrounded by blood-spattered walls. There were children were among the dead. The assailants, said to number seven or eight, clearly intended to create maximum mayhem. They succeeded. Multiple suicide attacks took place inside the mosque, portions of which collapsed as a result. The fact that the terrorists succeeded in entering it is in itself telling. The mosque is reported to be one frequented mainly by military personnel with tight security routinely in place. Those allowed to enter it were restricted; names had to be registered and identity cards made. Despite this, the terrorists seem to have been able to enter with their grenades and bombs. People were reported to have been grabbed and shot at close range. Grenades targeted others. It was unclear at the time of writing how many terrorists had managed to flee.


In the immediate aftermath of the attack the toll is being put at 30. It could rise. The awful events that have occurred give rise to important questions. Did the militants have links that made their task possible? How did they have so much information about the layout of the mosque? How were they able to get past the security shield reported to have been in place? These queries have come up before – most notably after the siege of the GHQ. This latest massacre resembles that attack. Perhaps it could have been averted had we tried harder to honestly answer the questions that had come up previously. The attack comes just a day after the attempted bombing of the Naval Headquarters. The bombing that killed an MPA in Kabal in Swat seems to have been a part of this new wave of terrorism. Some link it to the announcement of the US troop surge in Afghanistan. Others believe it is simply a continuation of the pattern we have seen for months. What is clear is that amidst us remain persons willing to unleash the most fearful violence. They are capable of the most organised of actions. The operation waged in FATA has apparently not weakened them – and it seems we are no closer than before to engulfing the Hydra-headed monster that threatens to consume our nation.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

OBAMA OFFERS AN OPENING TO PAKISTAN

MUSHAHID HUSSAIN


Caught between competing constituencies, President Barack Obama has chosen the best of a bad bargain. Having inherited a weak hand, he is treading the middle ground between open-ended escalation and an immediate exit.


The right -- Republicans, conservatives, the military establishment -- urged a heavy-hitting, long-staying strategy woven around a massive use of force. Conversely, Obama's core constituency -- Democrats, liberals, minorities -- sought a total change of course from the Bush years that saw the United States isolated and bogged down in an unwinnable war without end.


Using the 'patriotic' platform of the US military academy, President Obama played his last card on Afghanistan -- conceding to a surge but coupling it with an 18-month time frame of withdrawal, coinciding with the beginning of his re-election campaign in the summer of 2011. He is smart enough to know that 30,000 troops will not reverse the wrongs of eight years of occupation by the 100,000 already present there, but he does not want to come across as a 'weak' president, especially when the right is baying for his blood.


Obama has lowered his sights and limited his goals. No longer a quest for military victory, nation-building for Afghanistan has been discarded and the desire of a long-drawn military occupation has given way to a hard-nosed reality check. A majority of Americans now feel the Afghan adventure is an exercise in futility, the US economy has put finite limits to spending on foreign wars and the military situation in Afghanistan is more favourable to the Taliban rather than the 43-nation 'coalition of the willing' that has put in boots on the ground in Afghanistan.


Shorn of the verbiage, Obama's fundamental goal is to put enough military pressure on the Taliban to enable them to come to the conference table for a negotiated, face-saving 'dignified' US military exit from Afghanistan.


What's new in the Obama strategy? He has taken the first tentative steps to wind down the post-9/11 era. His timeline puts pressure on his generals to deliver while concurrently, offering some solace to his anti-war constituency that he is keen to extricate the US from the Afghan quagmire.


Obama is also the first to draw a linkage between the war and the economic crisis. Liberal economists like the Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz had already made this connection, talking about the 'trillion-dollar wars' long before the economic collapse last year.


The focus has shifted to Pakistan, now publicly acknowledged as the pivotal player which holds the key to durable peace, stability and security in this troubled region. Since 1979, the region has been wracked by internecine conflicts through civil wars, invasions and occupations that spawned a nexus between militarism and militancy.


In the process, an American narrative was born post-9/11, part mythology and part fact. This narrative, which mirrors similar conspiracy-theories in the minds of Muslims, essentially sought a scapegoat for failure and a rationale for continued wars in the region. Three ingredients of this American narrative are vital, starting with the myth about Al Qaeda's capacity. The 19 hijackers who committed the crimes of 9/11 were neither Afghans nor Pakistanis -- they were all Europe-based, US-trained Arab Muslims. The theory of 'Al Qaeda safe havens in Pakistan' was largely promoted to deflect attention from the American failure to nab Osama bin Laden and Dr Ayman Zawahiri. The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee's report of November 30, 2009, about their escape from Tora Bora in December 2001 makes it evident that it was facilitated courtesy American incompetence (the task to capture Osama was outsourced to greedy Afghan warlords) and bad planning (lack of military manpower on the ground). And even the best intelligence estimates put Al Qaeda's hard-core at 100 in Afghanistan and 200 or so in Pakistan, essentially a hotch-potch of Chechens, Uzbeks, Arabs and Uighurs with differing, local agendas.


Al Qaeda's world view is certainly not shaped by Afghanistan or Pakistan. Rather Palestine is their primary grievance, a fact conveniently overlooked by most western policy makers and commentators. Are the 130,000 troops from the world's most powerful armies the answer to 'dismantle, disrupt and defeat' these 300 terrorists holed up in the caves of the Hindukush?


The second part of the post-9/11 American narrative saw the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as 'nation-building' exercises meant to bring western-style democracy to these Muslim lands via secular constitutions, women's rights and 'modern values'. Well, that mythology now lies thankfully buried too. Iraq was about oil, encouraged in a large measure by the pro-Israeli neo-cons, while Afghanistan, an easy target, was to assuage the American anger and humiliation over the brazen audacity of the 9/11 attacks. Both Iraq and Afghanistan are worse off than before, as the 150,000 dead civilians can testify.


After eight years of occupation, according to the eminent US author Phyllis Bennis, Afghanistan ranks second to last in the United Nations Human Development Index, UNICEF places Afghanistan as one of the three worst places for a child to be born and the country has the second highest level of maternal mortality in the world. And to think that in 2010, the United States will be dumping $100 billion just for the war in Afghanistan, which comes to roughly $2 billion every week or $11 million every hour!


Finally, the American narrative mobilises its public opinion by conjuring up unholy fears of 'enemy designs'. It's the ultimate doomsday scenario: Al Qaeda captures the Islamic bomb. And since Pakistan is the world's sole Muslim nuclear power, the cocktail couldn't be more volatile. If the US really knew where Al Qaeda leaders were, they would have taken them out by now without the formality of asking Pakistan to 'do more'.


Such mythology spreads to other would-have-been Muslim nuclear powers as well. The US went to war on the plea that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (an outright lie), while Israel and its friends in Washington are pushing for a new war against Iran on the same ground although the US National Intelligence Estimate (a joint effort of 16 American intelligence outfits) proclaimed in 2007 that Iran had ceased its quest for the bomb way ack in 2003. No new evidence to the contrary has as yet been unearthed.


Notwithstanding such self-serving conspiracy theories, a positive aspect of the Obama strategy is the president's approach towards Pakistan -- a welcome tone of respect for the country and a genuine expression of empathy for Pakistanis.


Pakistan finds itself in a fortuitous position thanks to a confluence of geopolitics and American strategic necessity. And unlike Bush, Obama has relegated India to the second tier after China and Pakistan. In fact, in again underlining his belief in a nuclear-free world, there may be a hint in Obama's speech of a dilution of his commitment to pushing the Indo-US nuclear deal through.


Over the years, Pakistani leaders have developed a bad habit of whining all the time, dependent on dole and overly suspicious of every gesture, even one which may be friendly. Obama says he wants to help Pakistan. Well, let's take him at face value; his extended hand should be grasped, not spurned.


Ultimately, we alone will have to clean up our own mess. The opening offered by Obama provides another opportunity to do so.


The writer is a senior political analyst. Email: mushahid.hussain@ gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

ARIF NIZAMI


President Barack Obama's unveiling of the long-awaited Afghan exit strategy based upon sending 30,000 additional US troops by next summer and the announcement of the withdrawal of forces in July 2011 will be worrisome for policy-makers in Islamabad. Although it is widely acknowledged that Pakistan is the key to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the region its frantic demand for being consulted in framing of the strategy was not met.


Mr Obama's 40-minute address at the United States Military Academy at West Point was focused on Afghanistan but he made it clear that Pakistan's cooperation was pivotal for the US. Although Islamabad was assured by Mr Obama that the US would not cut and run leaving Pakistan vulnerable to the Taliban there was a clear warning that safe havens for Al Qaeda and the Taliban within its borders would not be tolerated.

The US is also worried about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of the jihadists and this concern was reflected in President Obama's speech. In this context President Zardari's handover of the command of the National Command Authority (NCA) to the prime minister on the eve of the address will be seen as an attempt to satisfy critics worried about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear assets.


President Zardari finally received a phone call from Mr Obama just hours before his West Point speech. Islamabad's concerns that the envisaged surge will exacerbate its already precarious position in its tribal belt by compromising its counterterrorism efforts were virtually ignored. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's demand for a dialogue on the issue just on the eve of the announcement was seemingly for public consumption rather than a serious plea for being taken on board. It is clear that Mr Obama means business so far as his allies, Mr Karzai and Mr Zardari, are concerned. On the one hand he is not willing to hand over any more blank cheques to the corrupt Karzai regime and on the other Mr Zardari, whom the US now considers politically weak and vulnerable, is being put on notice to 'do more'.


Understandably the new US strategy poses a serious dilemma for Islamabad. Washington no longer considers making a distinction between the good and the bad Taliban relevant. As is evident from the letter written by Mr Obama to President Zardari almost a fortnight ago and personally delivered by National Security Adviser James Jones, the US wants to browbeat Pakistan to fall in line or face the consequences.


This virtual ultimatum to Pakistan puts its civilian government, armed forces and intelligence apparatus on notice to go all-out for Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban . Their job requirement is to dismantle the so-called Quetta Shura and at the same time withdraw support for, and apprehend, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Pakistan army's successes in rooting out the Taliban in the Swat valley and more recently militants' rout in South Waziristan, although duly acknowledged by Washington, are not considered enough by the US administration.

Nothing short of a putsch by the Pakistan army against the bulk of Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban holed up in South Waziristan will mollify Washington. In the past Islamabad has been reluctant to oblige its US mentors. But now Washington has raised the ante by committing additional troops starting to be deployed as early as next month, mostly concentrated in Southern Afghanistan in the Pakhtun belt.


By putting a timeframe for the withdrawal by July 2011 just when the US presidential election campaign kicks off Mr Obama wants to demonstrate to his domestic audience that by then at least some of his goals in Afghanistan will be met. But it sends the wrong message to all other stakeholders in the conflict.

The Taliban could simply wait out this period and why would the Pakistan army stick its neck out to destroy the very force which would, in all probability, be the future rulers of Afghanistan? Certainly Mr Karzai should be a depressed person being asked to fend for his own within the next eighteen months. A feat he has not been able to achieve in the past eight years of US occupation.


Mr Obama has exhorted that Pakistan and the US share a common enemy in the form of Al Qaeda and the Taliban and that support for democracy and security of Pakistan will endure even after the guns are silent in the Pakistan-Afghan arena. But what is the guarantee that history will not repeat itself once the US forces have withdrawn from Afghanistan? Pakistan has been reluctant to shift its strategic paradigm despite pressures to the contrary. The Pakistan army still considers India as its principal foe and Afghanistan its strategic depth and that a precipitate withdrawal by the US will leave a vacuum that will be filled by New Delhi. In this context the Afghan Taliban are viewed as long-term strategic allies who cannot be alienated for short-term US goals.


As for Islamabad's strategic goals it is an open secret that the army and the civilian government are not on the same page. Mr Zardari is perceived to be too close to the US favouring a detente with India. This does not sit well with the army, which sees itself as the guardian of Pakistan's national and strategic interests. Also the leader of the main opposition party, Mian Nawaz Sharif, although not close to the US or anti-Taliban a la Zardari, prefers cordial relations with New Delhi.


It looks increasingly difficult for the present weak civilian dispensation to force its agenda on the most powerful institution of the country. However, the stage is not set yet for a military takeover. For Pakistan still trying to deal with the negative fallout of nine years of Musharraf, any extra-constitutional change is not a realistic option. In any case, the military has its hands fully embroiled in dealing with a full-scale domestic insurgency which did not even spare the GHQ.


The US, which is providing $1.5 billion per year assistance to Pakistan, is also backing its fragile economy through the ongoing IMF bailout. In addition to this the Pakistani military is being provided with assistance.

CENTCOM chief Gen David Petraeus, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen and the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, are frequent visitors to the GHQ where they meet Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Hence Washington has considerable leverage both with the civilians and the army in Pakistan.


In the evolving scenario Islamabad's biggest strategic dilemma is to stick to its present policy in the region without incurring the wrath of the US. President Obama has a lot at stake in Afghanistan and after announcing his new strategy it is no longer Bush's, but Obama's war. With the resurgence of the Taliban at its height and the heavy casualties being suffered by NATO forces his political future and that of the Democratic Party is at stake. The war costing $3.6 billion a month is also a huge drain on the US economy already in deep recession.

A desperate US administration could possibly authorise incursions, including boots on the ground, into Pakistan's war-torn tribal areas. According to US media reports, the CIA has been authorised to increase drone attacks over Balochistan. A majority of Pakistanis, despite being subjected to a constant and consistent wave of suicide terror attacks by the Taliban, views Pakistan's fight against the Taliban as America's war. Hence any overt incursion by the US will have disastrous consequences for the already fragile political and security situation within Pakistan. With options running out, Pakistan will be inexorably sucked into a war of attrition with Al Qaeda and the Taliban of all hue. Islamabad is between the rock and the hard place as it is becoming virtually impossible for its strategic stakeholders to resist the pressure to change.


The writer is a former newspaper editor. Email: arifn51@hotmail.com

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

ET TU, CANADA?

DR MUZAFFAR IQBAL


When 'Democracy Now!' host Amy Goodman and her two colleagues arrived at the Douglas border crossing (which separates Canada from the United States), to go to Vancouver, where they were going to speak at the public library, they were flagged, told to pull over and go inside the hangar-like building of the Canadian Border Security Services. Surprised, they went inside the almost empty building since they didn't have a choice. Amy went to the counter and the guard asked for her notes. He already knew why she was coming to Canada. "I want your notes," he said.


"My notes?" she asked in surprise.


"The notes for the talk tonight."


She was taken aback, but went out to the car, and brought a copy of her new book of columns, Breaking the Sound Barrier, and handed it to the guard.


"I want the notes," he repeated.


"Well, these columns are my notes."


"So, what are you talking about?" He asked.


Thus started a two-hour-long ordeal of the veteran journalist, who was now dealing with a group of custom agents and armed border guards. She later described the situation in that room: a border guard was now reading my book, another was writing everything I said and handing it to yet another man who would go to the computer and type it in.


Finally, she was asked to have a seat. Then the guards went out, combed through her car, one of them took out her colleague's computer as if it was his, turned it on and started to go through the hard drive. She saw this from the glass door and went out, but was told to go back in. Goodman complied.


A while later, the guards came in. By now, they had been in that situation for over an hour-and-a-half. Goodman was taken into a back room and the border guards took her pictures. Then they called her colleagues into that room and took their pictures. Finally, they handed her a control document, which stated that she must leave Canada by Friday.


Goodman later went on air to describe her experience: "I felt completely violated, I mean, personally and professionally you know, and for journalism overall. Because this is not only a violation of freedom of the press, you know, the idea that, you know, the state is going into your papers, your documents, your sources, everything -- but also a violation of the public's right to know. Because if journalists feel there are things they can't report on, that they'll be detained, that they'll be arrested, or they'll be questioned, they'll be interrogated; this is a threat to the free flow of information. And that's the public's loss, that is democracy's loss." The officials of the border security services refused to talk to the press when contacted by various media outlets. The story made a few ripples and then the news fiddled out.


This is nothing new. Under the conservative government of Steven Harper, Canada has been gradually shifting toward a police state; violation of human rights is becoming a norm, rather than an abhorrent exception. The Harper government has consistently, and so far, successfully blocked the return of Omar Khadr, the young Canadian who was arrested in Afghanistan by the Americans and sent to that outpost of humanity called Guantanamo Bay -- a name that will forever blacken the American book of deeds; it has brought Canada to its first active post-second world war military involvement in Afghanistan; and it has tarnished the reputation of a country that was known for its peace-keeping efforts. The Harper government has solidly stood behind George W Bush and his jingoism.


All of this is new to Canada, yet there is hardly any opposition or public outrage against these radical policy changes. Other governments have also made numerous policy changes in the post-9/11 era, but in most European countries there has been at least some degree of resistance against human rights violation. Not Canada, however, where the two opposition parties are splintered, weak, and mired in their internal disarray, leaving for the ruling party a carte blanche on which it is recording all that goes against the spirit of what Canada has been so far.


In addition to his pro-American policies, Mr Harper has also shown a marked preference for the state of Israel at the expense of the Palestinians. When Israel was indiscriminately bombing the large concentration camp called Gaza, Harper refused to condemn the act, stating instead that it was Israel's right to defend itself. Last month, when he arrived in Mumbai, Harper went straight to the Jewish centre that was attacked by the terrorists to show his sympathy. Harper's dislike for Iran has been especially obvious in statements he and his ministers have issued during the last few years. All these personal traits have reversed numerous state policies and turned Canada into a state where human rights are being increasingly violated.


In fact, it seems that all that was built by the charismatic Pierre Elliott Trudeau, (October 18, 1919-September 28, 2000), the 15th prime minister of Canada -- from April 20, 1968 to June 4, 1979, and again from March 3, 1980 to June 30, 1984 -- is being destroyed: from Canada's healthcare system to its unique international role in the world as a nation deeply concerned about justice and peace.


The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: quantumnotes@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

MUDDLING THROUGH THE CRISIS

TALAT MASOOD


As though Pakistan's challenges were not already overwhelming, the lapse of NRO has triggered another major crisis and introduced a paradox and high level of uncertainty. We have, by accident of circumstances and misdeeds of the past, a highly fragile political structure and a flawed president along with many important members of the cabinet. But the president, despite his shortcomings, is a key political figure and seems to be holding the PPP together with no viable alternate leadership in sight at least in the immediate future. In any case, it is not easy to remove the president unless he is impeached which is unlikely so long as the party supports him or he resigns. There is, however, a distinct possibility that President Zardari, owing to pressure from the establishment and media, could genuinely agree to the repeal of the 17th Amendment, surrender powers to the prime minister and be content with retaining the party chairmanship and a less powerful presidency. In this way, the system could also survive and we could avoid returning to the military rule.


The other side of the argument is that the consequences of carrying a heavily tainted president with such poor credibility in these trying times could be disastrous. His image continues to suffer as he surrounds himself with a coterie of advisors and friends who don't have much to offer in terms of intellect, experience or integrity. It was expected that he would erase his poor reputation by conducting himself in a very transparent and honest manner. This is why he has failed to instill confidence in state institutions or the public at large. Even if he continues to enjoy the immunity that the presidency provides him, there will still be serious internal and external pressures. The frequency and extent of the allegations of kickbacks and corruption cases streaming out from the media have already destroyed his image. In this scenario, foreign powers will exploit this weakness and extract more concessions. At the same time, international concern will increase about Pakistan's ability to combat militancy. With Musharraf, foreign powers were taking advantage of his lack of legitimacy and with President Zardari, they are exploiting his weak credibility and his reputation of being corrupt.


The way that the Enhanced Partnership Act (known as the Kerry-Lugar Bill initially) is worded clearly demonstrates the lack of trust and confidence in Pakistan's leadership and government functionaries. Micro-managing the aid and governance functions and ensuring accountability through this act are a direct reflection of how corruption destroys the country's image.


Despite Pakistan's fairly successful operations in Swat, Malakand division and currently in South Waziristan, the demands to do more continues. The motive behind applying sustained pressure on Pakistan is to compel it to reorient its strategic posture and fully align itself with the national objectives and interests of the US at a time when the country's leadership is already weak. The US desire to retain a manipulated power structure rather than an independent free flowing one is typical of a super power. This has given rise to major differences between the military leadership and President Zardari, and is creating problems in our relations with the US. The sudden transfer of the chairmanship of national command authority to the prime minister was to ease the tension and to buy time to stay on as president.


On the domestic front, prolonged litigation against the president and government ministers could become a major distraction in counter-insurgency operations. Above all, it will have an adverse effect on governance and our democratic institutions. Education, health, agriculture, industry and other social sectors that should have been given highest priority will continue to remain neglected.


President Zardari has tried to benefit from Bhutto's legacy but that can only take him that far, beyond which it is becoming counter-productive. People are looking for leaders that are result-oriented. The civilian government and political leadership will not have the professional competence and moral standing to assert itself and assume its constitutional role of exercising control over the military. As a result, the predominance of the military in the state structures will continue and adversely affect the development of democratic institutions. Moreover, the military leadership expects the civilian government to ensure transparent and effective governance, economic progress and socio-political stability, because it wants to ensure that the defence system of the country is not compromised.


The media and the civil society are also building pressure on President Zardari and as the general awareness in the country is high, it is not feasible to brush this force aside. Granted that the media has overplayed its hand and at times has been unfair and personalised in its criticism of the president and the PPP-led coalition government but in principle, it is their duty to inform the public of the wrong-doings of the government functionaries and act as a bastion against corruption.


The demand for the resignation of the president and the ministers are slowly picking up and could gain momentum. It is common practice in democratic countries that ministers resign when there is a major failure of governance or if there is any allegation of corruption against them personally or within their ministries. The idea behind this is to prevent any distraction from governance, and to defend their person or position without using undue influence of the government. This is also to set an example to others that politicians in power are not above the law of the country.


The best and most honorable course for President Zardari is to move fast on the promises that he has made, repeal the 17th Amendment, and ask the ministers who have corruption cases against them to resign and defend themselves. If acquitted, they should be allowed to rejoin the cabinet. In this way, he can save the system, improve his credibility and strengthen democracy.

 

The writer is a retired lieutenant-general. Email: talat@comsats.net.pk

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

BLIGHTED DEMOCRACY?

BABAR SATTAR


The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.


Asif Zardari's reputation, his performance in office and his disposition towards rival political actors, as well as the media, is blighting the future of the PPP and democracy, we hear. But an unpopular and misdirected president leading a mal-performing government cannot single-handedly "derail the system."


That, together with our collective impatience with the political process and rule of law, and our proclivity to readily accepting illegal doctrines of necessity is what jeopardises the future of democracy in Pakistan. Our eagerness to contrive any means to hasten Zardari's exit from the Presidency cannot be a measure of our allegiance to democracy and constitutionalism. What will reflect our fidelity to the foundational principles of our Constitution and democracy is our commitment to due process (in the realm of politics and law) in dealing with a head of state who has come to personify all that is wrong with our politics and society.


The ascent of Asif Zardari to the office of president of Pakistan was a historical accident. A man of no political following and a thoroughly sullied name, Zardari assumed leadership of the country's largest political party upon the demise of his wife. It was the name and legacy of Benazir Bhutto that led the party to electoral success in 2008. Once the electoral numbers had been secured, Zardari certainly brought into play his skill in political deal-making to sidetrack the PML-N and get elected as head of state. Since then the PPP has chosen to formulate policies and adopt positions on national issues that are against overwhelming public opinion in the country. The party position against the restoration of the judges, the unconditional defence of the Kerry-Lugar law and the no-holds-barred effort to get the NRO stamped by the parliament are obvious examples.


The unfortunate lesson that Zardari seems to have learnt from the manner in which he elevated himself to the presidency is that one does not need genuine political support resulting from an attractive agenda and the ability to implement it effectively in order to sustain oneself in office. What is required instead is the unconditional loyalty of cronies and superior skills in wheeling-dealing, together with active support from the US and acquiescence of the army.


Only such a myopic mindset can explain the Zardari-led PPP's apathy to expounding a consensual vision and agenda for the future of the country, unconditional adherence to US diktat, continuing reliance on inept and tainted buffoons to run key government departments, and further entrenchment of our corrupt political ethic of "making hay while the sun shines," while denouncing the deafening calls for accountability and transparency in government as conspiracies against democracy.


Asif Zardari has been controversial from day one, not just for those opposed to the PPP but also within the party. One set of his detractors within and outside the PPP believed that he could never change. Others were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in the hope that his years in jail and exile and the experience of losing his wife and having leadership thrust upon him might have reformed him.


But deceitful political deals, un-kept promises, growing corruption scams, blatant cronyism combined with resentful self-righteousness and nauseating tales of victimhood seem to confirm that our quintessential Zardari is his old self. His detractors are now convinced that his presence in the Presidency is baneful for democracy and, with its ISPR release over the Kerry-Lugar issue, the army is making no bones about the fact that it doesn't see eye-to-eye with the commander-in-chief.

As for the security establishment, there are at least three obvious reasons why it dislikes Zardari: one, his approach to peace with India and insistence that Pakistan perceives no threat from its eastern neighbour is in conflict with the country's strategic and operational defence policy; two, his offer to adhere to a no-first-use nuclear policy contradicts Pakistan's doctrine of minimum nuclear deterrence in relation to India; and three, his eagerness to interfere with the working and control of the ISI and willingness to subject the functioning of the army and the state to greater US scrutiny.


There is absolutely no reason why the military should have a monopoly over how we perceive, define and secure our national security interests or why our intelligence-gathering machinery should not be subjected to effective civilian oversight. Our civil-military imbalance and the absolute autonomy traditionally enjoyed by our army high command are inimical to both democracy and constitutionalism in Pakistan.


But readjustment of this balance in favour of civilian institutions will have to be incremental. A prerequisite for such change is not just continuity of the political process, but also uncompromised performing political governments that enjoy widespread public support for their reform agenda. Thus, in order to succeed, any change sought by the elected civilian leadership in our national approach towards India, the nuclear policy, and the command, control and functioning of intelligence agencies will have to be the product of a deliberative process that is backed by the public.


No matter how desirable an instant shift in our lopsided civil-military power equation, a president with a credibility deficit as high as the K2 can never usher such change. Zardari's clumsy attempts to interfere with strategic and operational matters have alienated our khakis that are presently reluctant to interfere directly with politics (not out of their commitment to democracy but to focus on the war in the tribal areas and rehabilitate the loss of reputation suffered during the Musharraf era). His trickery has offended his political allies and adversaries alike. And the rudderless PPP-led government under his command has extinguished the flame of hope amongst ordinary people that the return to democracy had ignited across Pakistan.


But notwithstanding the widespread desire to see Zardari go, let us remember that there is no legal mechanism to oust a president other than through the impeachment process laid out by our Constitution. Let us also remember that, despite the 17th Amendment and the powers it vests in the president to sack the government and make some crucial executive appointments, the president does not even have the legal authority to summon a federal secretary to brief him on the functioning of a ministry.


The fact that Zardari is able to run the government from the Presidency is because the prime minister has willingly surrendered his legal authority to Zardari, the party head. This, in turn, highlights an ill larger than Zardari, Gilani and the ruling regime: the autocratic nature of our political parties and the peremptory political culture they instil where disagreement with the top party leader is tantamount to disloyalty.


Zardari might be an undesirable president, but his incumbency will not result in the sky caving in and his removal is not an elixir likely to prolong our life and prosperity as a nation. In the immediate term we should amend Article 248 of our Constitution and rid the president of the extraordinary protections afforded to him against legal liability and bring pressure to bear on the prime minister to take responsibility for the exercise of powers that he has outsourced to the presidency. In the long term, we need to establish effective civilian control of the military, undertake reform of our political institutions and strengthen our legal processes to sustain and strengthen democracy.


But none of this is possible if we circumscribe the political process, the continuity of which is desirable not because it comes with the promise of instantly transforming compromised politicians into angels, but because it provides a mechanism to rid ourselves of such politicians over time and nurture and groom better ones.

If we value democracy, rule of law and constitutionalism, we do not have the luxury to get impatient with due process, even if that means enduring Zardari for an extended period.


Email: sattar@post.harvard.edu

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

BUGGED!

ANJUM NIAZ


Tick-tock, tick-tock goes the grandfather clock standing sentinel over President Zardari. The noise is meant to drown out the presidential sound bytes not meant for any prying ears, including the bugs planted in the palace. But our spy agencies have an ear for eavesdropping whenever the president picks up his secro-phone to talk to his two "fixers," Husain Haqqani in Washington and Wajid Shamsul Hasan in London.


Surely, street-smart Haqqani must have known that he's being snooped upon while in a long-distance conversation with Zardari on how to clip the military's wings with the Kerry-Lugar Bill? Unnamed "military officials" have confirmed the phone tapping. An anonymous senior Pakistani official is quoted as saying, "The reaction (from the military) was not so much to what was in the bill but to the thought that the government was trying to create a civilian-to-civilian dialogue (with Washington)."


While Haqqani has earned the ire of the military after he got wiretapped, High Commissioner W S Hasan being caught red-handed on camera with boxes containing damning proof of alleged corruption against his boss is even more humiliating. By now the whole of Pakistan and Britain have seen the shock and awe on Hasan's face as he stepped out of the office of the prosecutor general in Geneva whisking away the "proof" in a Pakistani embassy car.


The PML-N also has a reputation of appointing "fixers" as envoys. Their phone conversations with their bosses back home have been bugged. Their deeds are a matter of public record. But still we easily forgive and forget the past and re-elect the same discredited leaders who, in turn, send the same dishonoured, second-hand and mediocre stuff as ambassadors to foreign capitals.


Wajid S Hasan hit the headlines in the Surrey Palace scandal. Hasan, as our envoy in London during Benazir Bhutto's first reign, received the cartons containing antiques smuggled out of Pakistan for the £4.5 million Rockwood Estate purchased by the first couple. The ambassador, who is adept at handling cartons containing contraband material (how else to describe bootlegged antiques and secret files whose rightful owner is the state of Pakistan), says the NAB sent him. They deny it. His Swiss tour of duty, therefore, should be footed by the person who sent him on this errand.


Apart from planting bugs and embarrassing our envoys, the military's intelligence has anted up its intimidation of media people openly critical of the army. A columnist claimed in his column that his house had been fired upon, supposedly by "professional hit-men," followed by a phone call from a woman crudely warning him of frightening things happening to him. The columnist immediately left a message for President Zardari and Nawaz Sharif. Both phoned him within 15 minutes after receiving the news. Additionally, the Punjab government has provided him and his family with the "best security it can," he said.


The Nation Magazine, a US weekly, alleges secret links between the nefarious Blackwater security company and our military. "The selective outrage of [our] media and the public enables military men to remain immune from accountability," laments a columnist who also wonders why the military intelligence agencies have been empowered to investigate the oil and gas scandals unearthed recently. "To whom is the ISI/MI team going to present its findings?" Ummm…


Samina Ahmed of the Islamabad-based International Crisis Group defended Ambassador Haqqani over KLB, saying that the attacks against him were "carefully orchestrated by the military to weaken the government he represents." She told The Boston Globe that more will come. "These are the first rumblings of the storm. This is the beginning of the military trying to take down this civilian government."


What has she to say now after the ambassador got bugged?

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

GILANI RIGHTLY SEEKS CLARIFICATION

 

THE Afghan strategy announced by President Obama and subsequent statements emanating from Washington and London indicate not only the centrality of Pakistan in the whole plan but also smacks of possible foul play in the region. It is in this perspective that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at his press conference with British Prime Minister Brown in London openly stated that Pakistan wants more clarity on the new US war strategy in Afghanistan.


The Foreign Office too in its initial reaction stated that Pakistan has taken careful note of the important announcement by President Obama and looks forward to engaging closely with the US in understanding the full impact of the new strategy to ensure that there would be no adverse fallout on Pakistan. Diplomatic and defence analysts and commentators in Pakistan have also pointed out that the policy, like the Kerry-Lugar Bill, has certain serious implications for peace in Pakistan. There is no doubt that Pakistan is committed to uprooting terrorism from the region and in advancing the cause of peace and stability in Afghanistan yet it cannot allow its sovereignty to be violated or dictated by any power at the cost of our national honour, peace and stability. Reports in the American media have already indicated that there would be more presence of CIA in Pakistan and increased drone attacks against what the Americans call possible safe havens of Taliban and Al-Qaeda in border areas along Afghanistan. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates made a very alarming statement during hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Al-Qaeda would try to provoke a war between India and Pakistan with the aim to destabilize Pakistan and gain access to its nuclear arsenal. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also gave a similar statement while Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Committee observed that if the safe havens persist on Pakistan side of the border any strategy in Afghanistan would be substantially incomplete. These statements by the American leaders leave no doubt that Pakistan would be at the centre of America's new war strategy and there could be dangerous implications to our security. American defence chief Admiral Mike Mullen and Commander in Afghanistan General McChrystal will be in Islamabad in the next few days to talk with our leadership on the strategy and its consequences for Pakistan and it is essential to convey them Pakistan's policy in black and white. While the Prime Minister has rightly stated that Pakistan would seek clarification about the strategy, there is a need for serious deliberations in Islamabad about the negative fallout of the US strategy. For this all the political leaders including Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif should be taken on board and a consensus response should go to the Americans from the political and military leadership that safeguards Pakistan's national interests.

 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

FO RE-EXPOSES INDIAN HAND

 

IT is now an open secret that the current wave of suicide blasts and incidents of terrorism in the country are being carried out with the backing of foreign intelligence agencies including India's RAW to destabilize Pakistan. There is also no doubt that every bullet, every rocket launcher and other sophisticated arms recovered by the security forces from the hideouts of militants in South Waziristan had come from across the western border and all the leads go to one direction i.e. Indian Embassy in Kabul, Consulates on the Afghan side of the border and the terrorist training camps established by RAW agents on the other side of the Durand Line.

Due to this glaring Indian interference, Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit again stated that Indian elements remain present in Balochistan and FATA. Such categorical statements are given when there are hard evidences of foreign involvement and Pakistan has repeatedly been stating this. However the Indians as usual are denying it despite the fact that they know well of their backing to terrorist activities in FATA and Balochistan. Young PPP Minister Nabil Gabol while talking to media persons the other day also stated that Indian High Commission in Kabul had turned into RAW headquarters and Pakistan had evidence of Indian involvement in acts of terrorism in the country. While the FO Spokesman was within his right by saying that Pakistan will make a sovereign decision of who to share with the evidence of Indian interference, we are of the opinion that time has come to expose the real face of India before the international community because New Delhi continues to befool the world powers that it is interested for peaceful relations with neighbours. Time has come that the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Interior, which has the evidence, should share the facts with Ambassadors in Islamabad as well as with the media about New Delhi's interference in our internal affairs. If need be, Pakistan should also not hesitate to raise the matter at the UN Security Council as only international pressure could prevent India from following the policy to weaken Pakistan to pave the way for imposing its hegemony in the region.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

NEED FOR A NO GO ZONE BETWEEN KSA & YEMEN

 

WHILE skirmishes between troops of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Yemeni rebel Houthis continue, there are indications to establish a broad no go zone on either side of the Saudi-Yemeni porous frontier to stop the militants. The trouble started when, the Yemeni Houthis crossed the Saudi border to set up havens there from which to target the Kingdom.

 

Saudi troops very appropriately and successfully thwarted the attacks as no State worth the name can tolerate intrusions. The rebellious Yemeni tribe not only killed the Saudi Guard but a large number of people living along the border left their homes for security reasons. It must be encouraging and morale boosting for the Saudi troops that King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz himself thought it appropriate to personally visit the area and have an on the spot assessment of the situation. On this occasion the King, who cares the most for his people's welfare, also ordered the construction of ten thousand new homes for those displaced in the Province of Jizan where the Saudi forces have been battling the rebels for the last about four weeks. The new houses would provide a secure environment to the displaced people from cross border attacks by the rebels. However it is appropriate that a no go zone be established on both sides of the Saudi-Yemeni border to check future incursions by the rebels and we hope that the two countries would implement the proposal as that would help avoid such recurrences in the future.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

WINDS OF CHANGE NOWHERE TO BE SEEN!

NOSHEEN SAEED


Since independence the hapless people of Pakistan have been unable to quench their thirst for democracy, good governance and credible leadership suited to the demanding needs of Pakistan. As a result Pakistanis developed a general feeling of despondency, disillusionment, disgruntlement and mistrust of political leaders and have come to believe that political leaders seek power only to further personal interests and not as means of rendering selfless service, to improve their quality of life; neither do those at the helm of affairs possess a burning sense of mission to rectify mistakes of the past. Ironically every successive government became bound to the mistakes the previous governments made. They need to understand that one is bound to make mistakes, but one doesn't have to be bound to the mistakes one makes. Since Pakistani leadership always aspires to follow and never to lead, they spent time complicating the simple instead of simplifying the complex thus setting the stage for never ending turmoil that has stuck to Pakistan, like glue.


The theory of modern democracy was not formulated until the Age of Enlightment (17th/18th centuries), when philosophers defined the essential elements of democracy; separation of powers between the institutions of the state ( legislature, judiciary, executive) basic civil rights, human rights, religious liberty, freedom of opinion (speech, press and mass media) general and equal right to vote, good governance ( focus on public interest and absence of corruption) and separation of church and state. The term democracy comes from the Greek language and means "rule by the (simple) people". Its government of the people, by the people, for the people as President Abraham Lincoln aptly phrased. A pertinent question that haunts Pakistanis is whether true democracy or sham democracy prevails in their country. The current democratic experience came at a phase of popular feelings of discontent with past military and civilian administrations. Undoubtedly the public had high expectations of "change." But it seems that while every government in Pakistan claims to support and love democracy, there is no consensus on what it means. It's hard to define democracy, yet we toss it around as if we all agree on, and understand its meaning. A democracy is not merely a country where elections somewhat representative of the people's will are held from time to time. A democracy is about freedom to choose, and the freedom to change. It's all about overturning the status quo. Democracy is ultimately predicated on the idea that in a changing world, the country and its government must likewise change. Unfortunately democracy in Pakistan is understood only as an end to military rule and not as a means for the establishment of responsive and responsible political institutions, which promote a government, where authority and its institutions are accountable, effective and efficient, participatory, transparent, responsive, consensus-oriented, equitable, prevent corruption, respect human and civil rights and ensure popular sovereignty.


World leaders at the 2005 World summit concluded that good governance is integral to economic growth, the eradication of poverty and hunger and sustainable development. Almost one-third of Pakistan's population lives below the poverty line. It has become impossible for the poor to get even two square meals a day. Such is the misery of the poor in Pakistan. Unfortunately even democratic governments behave like authoritarian regimes innately opposed to any sort of change because it undermines the authorities' grip on power. The status quo is virtually always satisfying and governments avoid the process of discussion and debate which serves the ends of political, social and economic problem-solving. Ordinary citizens are faced, at present with inflation, unemployment, high utility bills and exorbitant rates of essential items like sugar, atta and ghee etc. Other troubling factors are non-access to social amenities such as water, electricity and gas, unemployment and non-availability of sound education for our youth and jobless, neglected healthcare, rampant corruption, contaminated drinking water, unhygienic sewage system and complete break down of law and order. No serious attempts have been made so far to lessen the burden of the masses or to improve their well being and security.

Over sixty years of neglect and mismanagement was mainly because governments in power conveniently forget that democracy is all about people's participation in running the affairs of the state. True democracy is rule by the masses, where everyone has a voice; where every individual has a chance to participate in deciding the direction of his country and the ultimate decision is made on the basis of popular support; where the views of all oppressed groups including women, youth, labour and the poor are heard and considered by governing bodies as they are the ones most negatively affected by bad- governance.


Citizen's fundamental rights, improvement in the rule of law, transparency and accountability can only be guaranteed within the ambit of good governance. Good governance requires fair legal frame works that are enforced impartiality and the full protection of human rights particularly those of minorities; it requires participation of both men and women working side by side, it means an independent Judiciary and an impartial incorruptible police force; it means decisions taken and their enforcement done in a manner that follows rules and regulations; it requires information freely available and directly accessible and institutions and processes to try and serve all stake holders within a reasonable timeframe. In a democracy, the laws formed by the institutions are to be enforced and pursued, regardless of whether the majority benefits or is harmed by it. When the courts interpret the law, they are supposed to have only one thing in mind, what the law says.Good governance ensures that all members of the society feel that they have a stake in it and do not feel excluded from the mainstream. This requires all groups especially the most vulnerable to have opportunities to maintain or improve their well being. It also requires a long term perspective for sustainable human development and how to achieve the goal of such development. For a robust economy, energy, telecom, infrastructure, water management, population control, food insecurity, manufacturing sectors, education, healthcare, and largely for the nation we require good governance in order to maximize our potential, improve the general welfare of the Pakistani people and even development in geo-political terms.


Unfortunately public institutions still conduct public affairs and manage public resources with uncontrolled corruption and without due regard for the rule of law, worse then before. Obviously nothing has changed. Status quo has stuck like a bone in everyone's throat. We continue operating a political economy of state robbery rather than popular democracy. The dearth of credible governance has unquestionably been the bane of Pakistan's democratic experiment since its birth. The common practice in Pakistan has been, "we hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office," as Aesop appropriately puts it. Pakistan has been run by the whims and fancies of their rulers not according to the statute books. It has always been about the will of the majority or the powerful, never about the will of the constitution. The end to gain and to maintain power justified the means; and conceptions of morality, justice and truth mattered little. As a result Pakistan faces an uncertain future. The former US national security advisor, Robert C. McFarlane Pakistani rightly stated, that the democratic system in Pakistan comprises of "a few families struggling with one another to achieve absolute power and are inevitably, in Lord Acton's phrase, corrupted absolutely." No doubt in Pakistan democracy has often been reduced to a shallow exhibition of personalities.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

NRO: GOD, LORDS & MY LORDS

 

Had politicians been scared of God there would have been no NRO in the first place. Otherwise also, rulers use God more to scare the masses into (their) subservience than serving the public. After all, what good is politics without its pomp and show? Christopher Marlowe's infamous character Dr. Faustus sold his soul to Devil in return for the worldly gains? Morality is not an issue in NRO because it draws its strength from religion and amoral modern democracies are based on the separation of state and religion. NRO rejects the constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan which envisages "Sovereignty on Earth belongs to Allah Almighty alone" and rulers under the doctrine of "collective responsibility" act as God's "Trustees". NRO and its likely future forms will continue to challenge its critics while its beneficiaries enjoy worldly gains. There is no dearth of NRO like deals in the west. Allegedly, Watergate Scandal tainted Hillary Clinton withdrew from 2008 presidential race in exchange for Democrat Party assurances for writing off her campaign expenses, save the party from split and an important position in the government.


Obama administration allegedly secured support of senate Republicans for confirmations to public offices in exchange for "understanding" that US Justice Department will not prosecute former government officials for gross violations of torture laws in the name of national security (Bush Doctrine Stalls Holder Confirmation, January 25, 2009, A8, The Washington Post). Indonesians demanded resignation of their president Yudhoyono for his alleged complicity in a series of major corruption scandals. In his Monday address to the nation president advised country's fact-finding team not to bring cases to court because it posed threat to "social unity". Anti-graft activists criticized Yudhoyono for abrogating his duty and his election promises to fight corruption (November 25, Arab News). Lords are the individuals, nations or both who use NROs and NRO like deals to serve their vested stakes. Experts are of the view that western lords use NRO like deals to make or break world governments for their vested stakes. Like Japan, Afghanistan, Philippines for that matter UK's corruption infested ruling elite are allegedly "bewitched" into compliance. The leaders or the nations that fail to serve vested stakes of the lords are turned into "horrific examples". Pakistan is an example of western lords meddling in country's political, economic and security affairs. It can be argued that only NRO tainted credibility deficient weak government would have accepted infamous Kerry-Lugar Bill (now renamed as Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act 2009) without the approval of Parliament. Reportedly, First aid package of black Kerry-Lugar Bill is ready to be delivered to Islamabad in December (US to transfer funds next month: Patterson. Nov. 26, the Dawn).

Independent experts are of the view that Washington has used NRO to change Pakistan political landscape by replacing American backed dictator with so called democracy (which in fact is continuation of one-man rule instead of transfer of power to parliament as mandated in country's 1973 constitution). In exchange America with help of Islamabad is on its way to enforced black K-L bill on Pakistan to achieve its strategic objectives in the region. Independent experts are of the view that acceptance of K-L Bill will bar Pakistan government to fund country's indigenous nuclear program which is equivalent to country's denuclearization to help India regain superiority in conventional forces over Pakistan and turn Pakistan into a western military outpost against China in the region. West's mafia like support of corrupt repressive regimes in Africa, Americas, Asia and Europe to protect its vested stakes are cases in point. America and its western allies must understand that Pakistan supports democracy but not at the cost of country's independence, security and foreign policy. The failure of President, PM, Parliament, Cabinet and Individual politicians to scrap the black NRO law have brought the ball back to My Lords. It is their constitutional and democratic duty to protect the constitution to help state function effectively in a political decision making void resulting in undermining of good governance and threat to national security.

The law lords have to address reports about scrapping of NRO record and rule out deliberate failure of government to establish credible independent anti-corruption accountability setup to protect individuals of tainted credibility and allegiance holding key position in the current government. It is opined that lingering on of NRO and other constitutional issues including 17th amendment are part of political parties' infamous deal with America to protect continuation of Musharraf era policies at the cost of parliamentary form of government. It puts in perspective PPP and PML (N) avoiding vote of confidence in the parliament which is a fundamental democratic benchmark to measure public's support for the government and its policies. The experts of the view that law lords intervention in NRO cases could have been avoided if the PML (N) had played its democratic role effectively in the parliament as the opposition party and government in waiting. Instead PML (N) is kotowing PPP's anti-state policies as part of the infamous deal which is undermining country's very existence. The cases in point are PML(Ns) Nawaz Sharif's support for so-called presidential form of one-man "democracy", refusal to support mid-term election (a natural part of democracy), failure to openly reject K-L Bill, call for stopping of illegal drone attacks and accountability of Americans including Obama for their involvement in drone-attack deaths which UN has called extrajudicial killings, policy on missing persons including legal action against those responsible, failure to force the government to give a definite date for ending its support for America's so-call war against terrorism (SWAT) and make public government's expenses on SWAT which have resulted in derailment of country economy, deepening unemployment, minus nine percent industrial growth and undermining national security. Undoubtedly, PML (N) put Pakistan on nuclear map.

Finally, black NRO law reflects the state of rottenness in country's politics, shows character of our politicians and political parties. The alleged underhand support of west for NRO affected politicians and political parties' exposes its double standards for democracy and the rule of law. Obama's authorization and continuation of Bush's Cowboy justice through drone attacks in Pakistan and Hillary's Berlin Wall address supporting right to human rights shows America's Social Darwinism. The law lords are thus facing a historic quagmire of immense political, economic and security magnitude in the form of NRO, K-L Bill and controversial allied bilateral agreements like size of US embassy in Pakistan, drone attacks, mercenary forces, their operations and Pakistan's nuclear program to protect national, constitutional and public interests. Pakistan must also seek international support to end third world abuse at the hands of powerful west conniving with corrupt individual politicians to secure its vested stakes through tailored bilateral understandings circumventing constitutional and international protections of public against such abuses.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

NRO, CRISES MAY DESTROY NATIONAL UNITY?

ALI ASHRAF KHAN


When the infamous NRO was promulgated in 2007 already many voices hade been commenting on we had expressed our concern over extra ambitiousness shown by the US in it that General Musharraf has failed to mobilize popular support in favour of War against Terror, hence they reached a deal with Benazir Bhutto to do the rest, which Musharraf could not do. This open interference in assigning Richard Boucher and John Negroponte, when PPP and government wizards failed to draft an agreement, this augured well as a warning that this law would provide another opportunity to robbers to take control of the driving seat of the statecraft as a charter to all crooks and remove the last hurdles of Pakistani conscience which might have survived the decades-long onslaught of corruption, money laundering and cheating of the different kinds.


The powers that were at that time did not want to annoy their masters and the NRO and with it its main beneficiary BB came. And today we see the outcome: The highest beneficiary of this ordinance is the president of the country, a coterie of 34 further beneficiaries have high jacked the government and all important posts, the country's economy is on the brink of collapse, systematic disunity is being promoted, the Americans are freely interfering into the affairs of Pakistan starting from make us fighting their war which they can not manage up to the Kerry Lugar Law through which they are aspiring to get hold and control of Pakistan's nuclear assets. To say it with one word, a complete American messiah been created by the supporters of this NRO. How did we end up in such an awful situation? The reason for that is probably the fact that all of our political leaders in the frenzy of acquiring power stoop so low that they agree to American conditionality to broker a deal for power with a so-called hidden establishment, which some time even stood like a wall of steel behind their autocratic puppets or a troika, our experience from 1977 has been this bitter fact that even the authors of charter of democracy failed to comprehend or understand the difference between their personal interests and the requirements of our national interest.


General Musharraf who had come into power with the support of the US had lost his credibility with them and already started losing his grip over the situation and instead of drawing the consequences from his political mistakes and quitting he tried to keep his seat in power and even sold his soul for it. The US wanted BB back who had promised to fight now their so-called war against terror much more powerfully and promised to give even access to A.Q. Khan and perhaps the nuclear assets of Pakistan. The NRO was designed to bring her back to Pakistan which meant that all corruption cases against her had to be squashed first. Musharraf sent General Hamid and Tariq Aziz to meet PPP team with Rehman Malik and Farook H. Naek to work to finalize a draft for such a legislation to Dubai and when the success of those proceeding was not quick enough the US sent Richard Boucher and John Negroponte who under the guidance of Condoleezza Rice worked to draft the NRO. It was this unfortunate piece of drafting, which gave a free hand to all corrupt people. Thousands of cases regarding the embezzlement of billions of rupees were squashed and the perpetrators given a clean slate. The "democratic" elections of 2008 taking advantage from the popular sentiments following the assassination of BB which again was masterminded and organized by the American intelligence- brought the current dispensation into power. The NRO and its outfall had done away with its god father general Musharraf and now it is in the process of doing away with its beneficiaries. Though until now the PPP and its high command tries to close their eyes on these facts the day is not far when this truth will be brought home to them. While the PML (N) and Nawaz Sharif have played their cards much more intelligently to avoid write-off's of bank loans with hardly any name of theirs in the recently published list of NRO beneficiaries and the projection of resignation of Saeed Mehdi the party stands relatively clean. PM Gilani had promised to step down if his wife was on the list which promptly happened. Whatsoever the reason behind the inclusion of her name into a list which otherwise does not include the names of bank defaulters, the PM and his colleagues are now facing repeated demand of resignation; that concerns the President and all those political position holders who are named in the list.


The Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira on Monday said the NRO beneficiary ministers will not resign, as they were accused and not convicted, terming the demand unjustified. The man seems to be unaware of the fact that everywhere else in the world such an accusation would be more than enough and any politician in his right mind finding himself accused like this would resign instantly in order to prevent further damage for himself and his party. But what does all this count for a party like PPP which is alleged of corruption and its members are facing hundreds if not thousands of corruption cases.


But they will be sacrificed for a good purpose and God will be pleased with them while the common men suffering due to misgovernance will continue to suffer more because of political expediency of big players in the game, our agriculture, oil gas and mineral resources will also be lost if the Blauchistan package tabled before parliament is promulgated with consensus and not bulldozed as we normally do to please our foreign masters. Pakistan has to take a stand to get rid of foreign yoke and try to live within its own resources, get rid of thousands of parasites who are eroding the foundations by exploiting the resources and drawing millions in salary packages, while poverty is increasing every day at higher speed. Time is slipping out of our hands, so let us tighten our belts to save the country.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

RESPONSES TO UPHEAVALS, US DUAL STANDARD

ASIF HAROON RAJA


Tens of 9/11 in USA , 26/11 in Mumbai, and 7/7 in London have taken place in Pakistan during the last five years. From last October onwards, there was hardly a day when Peshawar was not struck by terrorists. Unlike paralytic and revengeful responses of USA , India and Britain , Pakistan response to never ending upheavals has been composed. Pakistanis have and still are weathering the onslaught bravely. While the terrorists working upon foreign agenda are wreaking havoc on innocent people in their mad drive to scare the people, weaken the resolve of government and to force it to stop military operation in South Waziristan, the people, army, paramilitary forces, police, agencies and administrators are displaying extraordinary grit and resolve to beat the designs of anti-Pakistan elements.


Knowing full well that RAW helped by other agencies stationed in Kabul are fully behind acts of terror and are working on a set piece agenda to harm Pakistan, they have neither got frightened nor have they lost their sense of composure. They have refrained from hurling wild accusations. An odd muffled protest is casually made when the pain becomes unbearable. The media has not created any hype to whip up emotions of the people or raise a war cry.


In contrast to this, recall the jingoism of Bush led Administration, US media and people of America on the occasion of 9/11. While the whole country got paralyzed, Bush who had stolen presidential elections swore to teach a lesson of life to the perpetrators of unforgivable crime in which less than 3000 Americans, mostly Asians, died. B-52 stealth bombers, daisy cutters and cruise missiles rained bombs on an impoverished and militarily weak country and reduced it ruins for no fault of theirs. Eight years have lapsed and tens of thousands killed and maimed for life but instead of time blunting the edge of anger, fire of retribution still burns in the hearts of policy makers in Washington with undiminished intensity. Obama has pumped in 21000 additional forces and has now given approval for dispatching 30,000 more as requested by Gen McChrystal since the resilient Mujahideen are combating occupation troops with even greater tenacity and fervor and have gained an upper edge on 80% of Afghan territory.


Obama led Administration is sticking to the highly censured policy of Bush despite knowing that it has been amply proven that 9/11 was a manufactured drama to fulfill economic agenda of neo-cons and Jews. International team of scientists who studied dust samples produced by twin towers destruction in New York for 18 months, reported presence of nano-thermite in dust. Samples were collected from three sites. Access to this material is strictly controlled by US military and possibly Israel and none else. Physicist Steven Jones produced overwhelming evidence that explosives were used to bring down the buildings. No importance has been attached to these findings despite the fact that tens of thousands of New Yorkers have signed petitions that require the State to set up independent commission to probe the matter.


Coming on to India , its leaders starting from Jawahar Lal Nehru have always worked behind smokescreen of deception, falsehood and treachery. Worst is that they not only tell blatant lies but add insult to injury by fabricating dramas and blaming others for crimes they commit and getting away with it. They are always eager to have an oar in another's boat and suffer from xenophobia. They have managed to hoodwink the world for such a long period since they sit firmly in the lap of a super power and become their loyal cronies. All their crimes were covered up by former Soviet Union and now USA is doing the same. Since Pakistan is arch enemy of India , it is subjected to never ending intrigues to keep it politically destabilized and economically impoverished. India took full advantage of its alliance with USSR to keep Kashmir dispute on the back burner, to truncate Pakistan in 1971 and to emerge as a strong military power in South Asia . It is now milking USA with both hands to become the pre-eminent power of South Asia and to attain big power status. On one hand it is drawing maximum benefits and on the other in collaboration with its chief patron, Israel and Britain , it is busy undermining Pakistan through covert operations.


After India 's uncontrolled fury in December 2001, the next bout of frenzy was witnessed in the wake of 26/11. To overcome fear psychosis of the Indians, Indian forces once again dashed towards Pakistan 's eastern border and remained in hostile posture for months. They receive full encouragement and support from US officials and media to turn their dramatics into a reality. Each and every word uttered by Indian leaders is taken as gospel truth while whatever is said by Pakistani leaders is haughtily spurned. Till recent Indian leaders used to blubber in anguish after the incident took place but of late they have started to snivel in anticipation to a perceived terrorist attack. It looks as if they see a scary dream and going by Hindu mythology they transform the dream into a reality and share it with their well-wishers in western world to draw comfort. Encouraged by their response, they begin to flex their muscles and hurl jingoistic statements against Pakistan , viewed as the chief source of all their anxieties and insecurities.


The saddest part is that no note has been taken of the uncompromising stance taken by Indian leaders with regard to recommencement of composite dialogue that had been arrogantly put off in November last or the threat of nuclear war hurled by Gen Kapoor. Whatever allegations made against Pakistan are applicable to India but it has never been questioned what to talk of chastisement. India might have been justified to adopt a hostile posture in case Pakistani leaders had behaved aggressively and delivered threatening statements. On the contrary, Pakistan has been pursuing a dovish policy from January 2004 onwards when it signed peace agreement with India and has gone an extra mile to keep India in good humor. The two pledged to resolve all outstanding disputes through dialogue and to live as peaceful neighbors. India 's intrigues, broken promises, double dealing and stabbing in the back were ignored. Pakistan maintained a defensive and apologetic stance even when India went on a rampage after 26/11.


Pakistan did not lose its cool when India stopped the flow of water of River Chenab causing huge damage to standing crops. It retained self-control even after accumulation of foolproof evidence of involvement of RAW in Balochistan, Swat and FATA. India has been raising its defence budget phenomenally and Indian army; navy, air force and air defence have been acquiring latest state-of-art weapon systems from all over the world and upgrading the nuclear capability to radically swing the military balance in its favor. Pakistan has not made any hue and cry but India on the contrary hits the roof when some items urgently required to fight terrorism are sought by Pakistan . India made a mountain out of a mole in case of Mumbai incident which hinges on lone captive Ajmal Kasab and drew spontaneous sympathetic responses from western world but Pakistan having collected heaps of evidence during Rah-e-Nijat of Indian involvement did not ruffle the feathers of any. Manmohan was not questioned on this issue by the media during his visit to USA ; nor did any western official air dash to New Delhi to quiz Indian leaders as they have been doing in case of Pakistan .


Simple reason for such brazen dual standards is that USA considers India , Israel and Britain as its natural allies and chips of same block while Pakistan is only a tactical partner taken on board out of sheer compulsion for the accomplishment of its objectives.

 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

THE ANALYTIC MODE

DAVID BROOKS


Many Democrats are nostalgic for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign — for the passion, the clarity, the bliss-to-be-alive fervor. They argue that these things are missing in a cautious and emotionless White House. But, of course, the Obama campaign, like all presidential campaigns, was built on a series of fictions. The first fiction was that government is a contest between truth and error. In reality, government is usually a contest between competing, unequal truths. The second fiction was that to support a policy is to make it happen. In fact, in government power is exercised through other people. It is only by coaxing, prodding and compromise that presidents actually get anything done.


The third fiction was that we can begin the world anew. In fact, all problems and policies have already been worked by a thousand hands and the clay is mostly dry. Presidents are compelled to work with the material they have before them. The fourth fiction was that leaders know the path ahead. In fact, they have general goals, but the way ahead is pathless and everything is shrouded by uncertainty. All presidents have to adjust to these realities when they move to the White House. The only surprise with President Obama is how enthusiastically he has made the transition. He's political, like any president, but he seems to vastly prefer the grays of governing to the simplicities of the campaign. The election revolved around passionate rallies. The Obama White House revolves around a culture of debate. He leads long, analytic discussions, which bring competing arguments to the fore. He sometimes seems to preside over the arguments like a judge settling a lawsuit. His policies are often a balance as he tries to accommodate different points of view. He doesn't generally issue edicts. In matters foreign and domestic, he seems to spend a lot of time coaxing people along. His governing style, in short, is biased toward complexity.


This style has never been more evident than in his decision to expand the war in Afghanistan. America traditionally fights its wars in a spirit of moral fervor. Most war presidents cast themselves as heroes on a white charger, believing that no one heeds an uncertain trumpet. Obama, on the other hand, cloaked himself in what you might call Niebuhrian modesty. His decision to expand the war is the most morally consequential one of his presidency so far, yet as the moral stakes rose, Obama's emotional temperature cooled to just above freezing. He spoke Tuesday night in the manner of an unwilling volunteer, balancing the arguments within his administration by leading the country deeper in while pointing the way out. Despite the ambivalence, he did act. This is not mishmash. With his two surges, Obama will more than double the number of American troops in Afghanistan. As Andrew Ferguson of The Weekly Standard pointed out, he is the first Democratic president in 40 years to deploy a significant number of troops into a war zone. Those new troops are not themselves a strategy; they are enablers of an evolving strategy. Over the next year, there will be disasters, errors and surprises — as in all wars. But the generals will have more resources with which to cope and respond. If the generals continue to find that stationing troops in the villages of Helmand Province leads to the revival of Afghan society, they will have the troops to do more of that. If they continue to find that order can be maintained only if social development accompanies military action, they will have more troops for that. We have no way of knowing now how those troops will end up being used. And we have no clue if it will be wise to withdraw them in July 2011.


The advantage of the Obama governing style is that his argument-based organization is a learning organization. Amid the torrent of memos and evidence and dispute, the Obama administration is able to adjust and respond more quickly than, say, the Bush administration ever did. The disadvantage is the tendency to bureaucratize the war. Armed conflict is about morale, motivation, honor, fear and breaking the enemy's will. The danger is that Obama's analytic mode will neglect the intangibles that are the essence of the fight. It will fail to inspire and comfort. Soldiers and Marines don't have the luxury of adopting President Obama's calibrated stance since they are being asked to potentially sacrifice everything.

 

Barring a scientific breakthrough, we can't merge Obama's analysis with George Bush's passion. But we should still be glad that he is governing the way he is. I loved covering the Obama campaign. But amid problems like Afghanistan and health care, it simply wouldn't do to give gauzy speeches about the meaning of the word hope. It is in Obama's nature to lead a government by symposium. Embrace the complexity. Learn to live with the dispassion. —The New York Times

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

SICK INDUSTRIES

 

Finance Minister AMA Muhith has made it clear that his government has been working on a policy aimed at dealing drastically with sick industries. However, he hinted that his government is in favour of considering 'bailout measures' for only those losing concerns that have the potential to turn around. But the government would be pleased to see industrial units remaining sick for more than 15 years put their shutter down. Sure enough, industries failing to take off after a long time or attain viability for mismanagement or similar other reasons are a drag on the government exchequer or the country's economy and the conventional wisdom is in favour of their closure. But then there are other considerations as well which often make it incumbent on the government to continue with them till they reach a break-even point or actually turn profitable.


Here the issues that count are the retrenchment of employees and the duration of government subsidies. Timing for closure or retrenchment is also very crucial. In this country, quite a few industries like Adamjee Jute Mills and Khulna Newspaper Mills were either closed down at a wrong time or for lack of efficient management. The role of partisan politics, which created collective bargaining agencies (CBAs) at an intolerable proportion, also had a role to play in the fall of those industries. Introduction of state-of-the-art technology and some radical policy decisions could save those concerns but the administration went for a simple solution because that served its own interests.


This time we surely do not want to see a repeat of what happened to a few jute mills in Khulna. In fact, this government had laudably declared it would open those industrial units. Clearly, there is no point in closing any industry without giving a last try in a country where unemployment has so many negative impacts.

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

AFGHAN STRATEGY

 

Afghanistan has always been something of an enigma: an unconquerable land. Mountainous and hazardous terrain, it is like a blind tunnel from where there is no honourable exit. Most analysts think Barak Obama's plan to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan cannot succeed as it depends on a number of factors, the corruption of the Karzai government being a major one. Thus the nationwide speech of the US President at the West Point Military Academy in New York was not well received either at home or abroad. White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, did not mince words when he said that Karzai and his government must change their ways if they want to be beneficiaries of the new strategy.


A lot, however, depends on Pakistan which Obama says provides a refuse to the Taliban and other insurgents attempting to overthrow Karzai's government. When a statement is made to the effect that the US cannot tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known, it surely puts Pakistan with its back to the wall.  We should not forget the Taliban was Pakistan's creation and it was encouraged by the US in the fight against the USSR.


The President's 18-month deadline is likely to backfire as it might encourage the Taliban to wait until the American forces leave. Under present circumstances the Taliban cannot afford to leave the battlefield while the Karzai government expands its control.  And at one and the same time, the new US strategy asks Pakistan to endanger itself by attacking Taliban groups. With Pakistan's armed forces already stretched to the limit, it will take more than reassurances to make Pakistan whole-heartedly jump into the fray.

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

BOB'S BANTER

WATER..!

ROBERT CLEMENTS

 

"…Protest over water cut turns violent…" Hindustan Times, Dec 4th

Water, or rather the lack of it turns men into beasts! I have heard of friends becoming enemies, riots happening,

itched battles taking place, women screaming, men punching, even killing each other over a bucket of water.

Water, or rather the lack of it turns men into beasts!

"Pump man!" shouts the owner of the ground floor; who owns all the flats and has even occupied the colony

arden, "There's no water in my tap!"

"Sir there's a water cut and you've used all the water, watering your garden!"


"Quick! There is an emergency here!"


"What emergency sir?"


"My wife is in the bathtub, and she needs fresh water in the tub before she steps out!"


And the pump man rushes to the person in charge screaming, "Water problem!" Water problem!"


Most often when I think of a water shortage I imagine some poor wanderer lost in a desert, parched throat, eyes bloodshot, searching for a drop of water, as he gasps for breath and looks into the distance, where he sees a mirage, of fountains, lakes and gushing springs.
I think this is also the mirage people see when they fight for water.
"I see water flowing from my tap, I see my staircase being thoroughly swabbed, my car being washed, my lawns evergreen!"


"But there's no water in the lakes sir!"


"So?"
"There's no water for your staircase and car and lawns!"


"But I can see it!"


"It's a mirage sir!"


"You dare call what I see a mirage?"


"Sir the monsoons were weak, the lakes are dry!"


"So what do you expect me to do?"


"Stop looking at your mirage sir, stop dreaming! You've got to stop washing your car with a hosepipe sir, stop cleaning your staircase and watering your lawns!"

 


"Next you'll tell my wife to stop using the bathtub!"

"Eeeeeoooow!"
"What's that sound sir?"


"It's my wife, she's run out of water! Quick! Quick put on the pump, get water across to her. What? There's no water? I'll kill you!"


Like I said water, or the lack of it, turn men into beasts..!


It's not more water we need, but more discipline in it's usage, otherwise lives will be lost as we pursue a mirage our politicians will surely exploit..!


bobsbanter@gmail.com

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN: AN OVERVIEW

MOSTAFA SOHEL

 

Corrupt practices are widely talked about in most countries these days and few countries deny they suffer from these. Which is a good thing, since it provides politicians, business and labour leaders, journalists and civil society with a rare opportunity: that of agreeing on the urgency of stamping it out. But agreeing on what exactly is meant by corruption is another matter. Even the most widely used definition, which is "the abuse of public office for private gain", may err on the side of over-simplification.


The early 1990s witnessed a proliferation of initiatives aimed at fighting corruption - on the national, regional and international levels. Fighting corruption has engendered an unusually high degree of international co-operation, leading to an armory of international instruments, such as the OECD's Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, or indeed, the Council of Europe's Criminal Law Convention on Corruption. The reason the international community has mobilised to fight the problem is simple: corruption respects no borders, knows no economic distinctions and infects all forms of government.
In the long run, no country can afford the social, political or economic costs that corruption entails. It erodes public confidence in political institutions and leads to contempt for the rule of law; it distorts the allocation of resources and undermines competition in the market place; it has a devastating effect on investment, growth and development. Furthermore, corruption exacts an inordinately high price on the poor by denying them access to vital basic services. A whole host of conditions can influence corruption, its different manifestations, its pervasiveness and, indeed, its perception by ordinary citizens.


Understanding the multifaceted dimension of corruption is essential in order to identify workable ways of dealing with it. Corruption comes in many guises. Bribery, extortion, fraud, trafficking, embezzlement etc. Even the most straight-forward acts of bribery need not always involve the exchange of money. Other gifts or advantages, such as membership of an exclusive club or promises of scholarships for children, have been used as "sweeteners" to clinch deals. Whatever form it takes, corruption is always a two-way transaction; it requires a supply side (the briber) and a demand side (the one who receives the bribe). That is why measures must be designed to hit both sides of the corruption equation. (Source: Oced Observer)
Undue Engagement:


Another aspect of corruption is that it can occur in many different sectors of the economy. A commonly cited and morally reprehensible form is when government officials abuse public trust by accepting bribes from private businesses. However, the distinctions between the private and public sectors have been blurred by privatization, and corruption within the private sector is not without pernicious consequences as well. While not as common, bribes happen between public officials too. And a recent bribery scandal involving government representatives and officials of the International Olympic Committee in a bid to influence the choice of venue for the Olympic Games is a reminder that propriety is something to be maintained between public officials and respected non-governmental organizations as well.


There are different degrees of corruption too. Some would distinguish between "petty" corruption and "grand" corruption. The former usually involves small sums paid to low level officials to "grease the wheels" or cut through bureaucratic red tape. The headline making cases of large multinational companies paying millions of dollars to government leaders or politicians to obtain lucrative business contracts are examples of corruption on a grander scale. The distinction should not imply that some forms of corruption are worse than others. Indeed, petty corruption which can interfere with the delivery of basic education and healthcare programmes can have very serious consequences, even to the extent of causing many more years of grinding poverty for the worlds economically disadvantaged.


When corruption permeates a country's political and economic institutions, it is no longer a matter of a few dishonest individuals, but rather institutional, systemic corruption. It is a phenomenon which thrives where institutions are weak or non-existent. And it is strongly related to poor governance. Systemic corruption happens most where adequate legislative controls are lacking, where there is no independent judiciary or oversight, and where independent professional media and civil society agencies are absent. Reforms aimed at providing greater transparency and accountability of public institutions and government operations are urgently needed to redress such corruption.


There is much to be done. And let it not be forgotten that wherever corruption occurs and at whatever level, the ultimate victims of corruption are ordinary citizens and society at large. That is why fighting corruption is so important. Finding effective, credible and enforceable measures to stamp out corruption and to hold those guilty accountable is more than a noble objective. Our economic, political and legal institutions may depend on it.
Campaign of Anti- Corruption in Bangladesh-2008
Motivation, Awareness and Advocacy Programme on Social Issues (MAAPSI)   have undertaken a series of awareness campaigns to combat corruption in Bangladesh. In this connection the organization  formed a number of 20 study circles (7 to 10 person per circle) on anti corruption in Narail  and Jessore district of Bangladesh where participants tried to find out the real definition of corruption, role of  teachers and guardians, role of civil society, journalists and social activists to prevent corruption.


Local partner organization Nobanno in Narail and Swapno Sahajjyo Shongstha in Jessore (SSS) have been implemented the programmes.


The participants were also trying to make some recommendations which will take place in to the policymakers to resolve these problems.

 

Recommendations
1. An effective coalition could be built to fight corruption at institutional, local and national level.
2. Find out the ways to raise awareness and mobilize people at  grassroots level.
3. We should find out how existing resources, mechanisms institutions can be used as tools for combating corruption.
4. MAAPSI could work with other Civil Society actors in these areas
5. MAAPSI could identify and understand the "nature" (petty or grand) and dynamics (local, national, global) of corruption.


6. The local civil society should get more information about corruption so that they will be able to combat corruption.


7. Local leaders could act as a catalyst to improve the situation
8. A national reliable database should be produced where they could depict the real scenario of corruption in Bangladesh.


Meanwhile a number of 10 study circles formed at Jessore from 18 March to 25 March, 2008 with a group of women, teachers, farmers, students, civil society, youth and development activists. 
These participants made some recommendations which as follows:
* A reader friendly manual on anti-corruption should be prepared immediately
* From this study circles a teacher/team leader should be identified for orientation
* A number of 5  secondary schools should be identified and introduced an orientation (1/2 hours)  on anti-corruption from the manual* MAAPSI should started a campaign like 'My parents does not take bribe' (amar baba ma gush nei na); It would be a little forum comprising school/college students who will be confident at least that their parents are not involved in any malpractices.


* To create a social movement against anti-corruption


* MAAPSI should form community based committee who will conduct a bunch of yard meetings on anti-corruption


* There should be a link at district administration and Anti Corruption Commission to identify intuitional  corruption and should have a mechanism to resolve them* National and local media should come forward to take this issue into their consideration seriously.


Country-wide Anti-Corruption Campaign-2009

Motivation, Awareness and Advocacy Programme on Social Issues (MAAPSI) started country-wide campaign to make people more aware and responsive on the issue of Corruption. In this connection MAAPSI organized a series of Seminars on Anti-Corruption to engage young people to act as a catalyst against all sorts of corruption in the society.

 

(To be continued)

 

(The author writes on development issues)

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

LIBYA WINS, JAPAN MAYBE LOSES, INDONESIA IN-BETWEEN

DR. TERRY LACEY

 

As Indonesia launches the second term government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, with a bright new Foreign Minister,  Dr. Hassan Wirajuda, the Indonesian multinational PT Medco Energi Internasional has teamed up with the Libya Investment Authority, while another deal between Medco and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) is in danger of going down.


In a joint venture with  Libya'as sovereign wealth fund, Medco will help develop the potentially lucrative onshore Area 47 gas and oil field in the Ghadames Basin, scheduled to start production in 2013.
The deal was struck by the Libyans buying out Meco´s previous partner in the field, Canadian Verenex energy.
Medco and its Libyan joint venture partners will share 13.7 percent of the Area 47 revenue while the Libyan government will reportedly pick up 86.3 percent of its. (Jakarta Globe 24.11.09).


Previously Medco and Verenex had shared a 50:50 stake in the Area 47 having purchased the rights in 2005 for 30 years.


Hilmi Panegoro, president commissioner of Medco  confirmed  production could reach 50,000 barrels per day and Area 47 was estimated to contain reserves of 2.15 million barrels per day.


The announcement by Hilmi Panegoro indicates Medco has speeded up the Libyan project  in the light of uncertainties in Indonesia over other energy developments, notably the Medco involvement in a proposed large LNG project in the Dongi-Senoro oil and gas block in Central Sulawesi.


This is held up by a last-minute decision of the outgoing Indonesian government, when previous Vice President Jusuf Kalla intervened in what was to have been a major Japanese investment and insisted the gas field should supply the domestic market.


This reflected a growing Indonesian energy crisis, with power cuts holding back development in the Indonesian provinces and hitting Jakarta the capital city.


Indonesia has to balance limited gas supply, relative to burgeoning demand, and the need to get away from oil, whilst keeping up with export obligations and demand, with underdeveloped downstream gas infrastructure holding back Indonesian domestic development.


At the recent 10th Indonesia-Japan Energy Round Table incoming Indonesian Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Darwin Zahedy Saleh and super-efficient Director General for Oil and Gas Evita Legowo were both under pressure from a strong Japanese delegation, backed by the financial leverage of JBIC.


Japan had been prepared to be the majority lender for the estimated $3.4 billion Dongii Senoro LNG project for both upstream and downstream development provided initial sales agreements went ahead with two leading Japanese power companies Kansai Electric Power Co.and Chubu Power Inc, each of which were to get 1 million tons of LNG per year for 12 years starting 2012.


Whilst the decision of Jusuf Kalla, prompted by growing domestic energy pressures, was not the end of the world (as in the famous 2012 movie) it was a shock and the Indonesian energy team and Medco are trying to rescue their deal and keep the Japanese in.

Takayuki Ueda, Japans director general for natural resources and energy said in Jakarta " The project is very much important for both sides [Indonesia and Japan] and yes [we still hope to get LNG supply from the project]." (The Jakarta Post 24.11.09).


Mitibushi Corporation hold 51 percent of PT Donggi Senoro LNG, while Indonesian state oil and gas company Pertamina, led by another new-style pushy woman executive, Karen Augustinian, owns 29 percent and Medco owns 20 percent.


Kansai Electric Power Co has dropped out of the deal and JBIC may not provide loans unless the reconfigured deal is seen as suitable for Japan.


Chubu is still in alongside Mitubishi, but Medco and Pertamina need a new domestic LNG buyer, probably a State Owned Enterprise (SOE).


Indonesian state-owned banks, may not be able to pick up the tab to back an SOE as buyer, if domestic prices are lower than for exports. Also state firms don't have heavyweight blue-chip financial credentials, unless the state compensates with sovereign guarantees.


There in a nutshell is the Indonesian energy crisis, with escalating regional demand from Japan, China and South Korea, and burgeoning domestic demand, but dependent on the outside for heavy investment.
ASEAN+3 is the world oil distribution and energy choke-point at the moment as Asia drives world recovery. 


But for Indonesia this makes for an impossible triangle summating international , regional and domestic energy shortages.


Meanwhile Indonesia pushes into the Middle East and Maghreb where it can get energy alongside finance and maybe growing empathy with Muslim economic partners, with the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) pushing trade between member states.


This time Libya wins and Japan maybe loses, and Indonesia comes somewhere inbetween.

 

(Terry Lacey is a development economist who writes from Jakarta on modernization in the Muslim world, investment and trade relations with the EU and Islamic banking.)

© Copyright Cooperation for Development(Europe) www.c4d-info.org

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

GENDER ATROCITIES

MARYAM ELAHI

 

The violence in Congo is unspeakable. But, if the horror of Congo's recent wars - which have killed more people than any war since World War II - is to end, the unspeakable must be spoken.


Across the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo, government soldiers, members of renegade government military units, and myriad militias are gang raping untold thousands of women. They are making sex slaves of some women, branding some victims like cattle, and maiming and mutilating women and girls, some as young as three years old, by destroying their vaginas and other internal organs.


Sometimes, the gunmen force their victims' fathers, brothers, and husbands to rape them, or the women to eat the flesh of their murdered relatives. Afterward, many of the women find themselves utterly alone as they suffer the physical and psychological effects of trauma and cope with destitution, unwanted pregnancies and children, HIV/AIDS, and ostracism by their loved ones who shun them as "diseased" or "tainted."


Who are these killers and rapists, these men who have committed appalling crimes for more than a decade with complete impunity? Many are the so-called "genocidaires" who fled from Rwanda into Congo after participating in the massacre of 800,000 Tutsis in 1994. Others are Rwandan rebels and members of Congo's army. Still others are men and boys recruited and press-ganged into militia units.
Violence has displaced more than 350,000 people in eastern Congo since the beginning of 2007. Recently, thousands more fled fresh outbreaks of fighting between local militias and supporters of Laurent Nkunda, a renegade general of Congo's army, who has rejected a call to begin disarming his troops. A United Nations peacekeeping force deployed in eastern Congo was supposed to have protected the region's civilians; the peacekeeping force's failure to safeguard the women has gone unremarked, in part, because a veil of silence surrounds what is occurring.


Women in the eastern Congo have no say in the decision-making that drives the conflict consuming so many of their lives. They have no access to political and economic power in a society that considers them of scant value.
Congo's government has undertaken no significant effort to bring those responsible for these gender atrocities to justice; new laws have paid lip service to sexual violence, but no one has been prosecuted. The international community, too, has failed. The International Criminal Court in The Hague, which is investigating the crimes in eastern Congo, has only this week indicted the first Congolese militia commander for gender-based crimes.
The Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Ocampo Moreno, should be urged to accelerate his investigations and, once the evidence is sufficient, bring charges against those who have committed these crimes or failed to discipline or prosecute the perpetrators. The local authorities should be assisted in efforts to pursue, arrest, and prosecute accused perpetrators before new local tribunals that enjoy significant prosecutorial and police powers. Support should be given to courageous local women's groups that are providing care to the victims. Medical and other assistance is needed to treat the overwhelming numbers of victims.
If the people with the power to end the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo maintain their silence and continue to do nothing, the perpetrators will grow only bolder in their destruction of women's lives. When impunity for unspeakable acts goes unchallenged, those acts become even more unspeakable.

(Maryam Elahi is chair of the International Human Rights Committee of the American Bar Association and director of the International Women's Program at the Open Society Institute in NY.)

— Project Syndicate

 

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THE HIMALAYAN

EDITORIAL

TEMPORARY TRUCE


The last minute syndrome is one of the most fascinating aspects of the way the Tribhuvan University functions. However, their latest attempt to do away with the Proficiency Certificate Level in its campuses have not worked out the way TU authorities had wanted. The decision in this direction met with stiff resistance, not only from the students affiliated to various student unions, but also from the minister concerned. Of course, the fickle minded officials ought to realize that their effort was not totally undesirable, but that the government ought to have prepared the groundwork, that is making 10+2 education accessible both in terms of economic viability and the choice over a wide range of subjects offered to the students. In fact, it is mostly the private colleges that have gone in a big way for the higher secondary curriculum and in the process have levied a very exorbitant tuition and other fees on the aspirants. With the access to cheap 10+2 education nowhere down the pipeline, the students were bound to protest. In the past decade several attempts were made to make PCL redundant, but they proved to be unsuccessful, including the latest one.


TU has valid reasons for wanting to phase out the PCL. One of them is related to it is that the world over it is not given the due recognition which lands many aspiring students wanting to study abroad in a dead end. The other reason floated is that the university has to foot a heavy bill for running the PCL classes in the campuses funded by it. These motivated TU to announce that no admissions would be undertaken from this year. They were adamant on not revoking their decision. But with the heavy pressure brought on by student unions, the decision could not hold. And now the PCL studies will continue as usual this year. There are some other reasons for vested interest in continuing PCL, besides the extremely low financial burden on the students, and that is related to the politicisation of education. The interest of all the political parties also seems to be working through their student wings to keep intact their vote banks.


As usual, the government that has to make concrete decisions on either retaining or scrapping PCL had to bow down to extreme pressures of the protest that turned violent with a number of cases of vandalism. Maybe, the law and order element saw the government giving the thumbs down to TU to revoke its decision to phase out PCL. For the time being the row has been settled with the students jubilant over making their voices heard. But, the road ahead clearly leads to making PCL redundant very soon considering the requirement criteria accepted in many foreign countries where Nepali students might want to continue their higher studies. In this regard, the welcome move is for the formation of a commission to mull over and recommend the process through which the PCL will be discontinued. The thrust now should be on capacity building of the government schools to include 10+2 in their academic activities which also means that the government also has to increase its investment at this level both for creating the infrastructure and skilled manpower. It calls for commitment and the political will to act.

 

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THE HIMALAYAN

EDITORIAL

MAKE THEM SAFE


Nepal was once regarded to be one of the safest destinations for tourists. However, this is no longer the case with many tourists being attacked and cheated or their belongings stolen. Things have gone so out of hand that some foreign countries do not recommend this country for their citizens to include in their itinerary. The implications are far reaching for a country that largely relies on earnings from tourism which is providing the means of livelihood for many Nepalese. Besides, much of the investments made in building the tourism infrastructure are going unutilized as the country is seeing fewer visitors. Not that attempts have not been made to provide extra security to the tourists, but they appear to have so far failed.


Thus, the Hotel Association of Nepal has submitted a memorandum to the CDO of Kaski to provide stronger security in the Lakeside area and other tourist destinations in Pokhara where there is growing insecurity. Thus, there should be provisions for special security for the visitors peculiar to their needs. This may require creating a new security apparatus and provide training to security personnel.

 

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THE HIMALAYAN

EDITORIAL

INDIFFERENCE SPEAKS


With the scheduling of the election for the Constituent Assembly Constitutional Committee chairman for August 17, all the tall talks for consensual choice has fallen flat. The major political players—UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress, and CPN (UML)— have all been adamant regarding their choice to receive the approval stamp. None of the parties have budged from their stance creating the necessity for CA Speaker Subas Chandra Nembang to announce the election as a way out to fill the vacant seat. To go to the backdrop, the CC chairman seat fell vacant with Madhav Kumar Nepal becoming the Prime Minister. It was indeed a matter of great concern that no attempts in the genuine sense had been made to get a new man in the prestigious and responsible post. It was all because of the bickering between the major parties that created the obstacles and the delay that is one of the reasons for the statute drafting task lagging behind schedule. And, of all the surprises that the people have been subjected to, every party wants its own nominee to be steering the CC. This is all queer as the CC has the representation from all the parties and the chief acts as a facilitator rather than decide the whole show.


The Constitutional Committee is supposed to be the most important of the CA committees as it is directly has to deal with the concept papers submitted by the thematic committees and after perusal and thorough study has to prepare the draft of the new constitution. It is unfortunate that such an important committee was left to languish for months without the head. With the CA still dogged by the UCPN (M) bent on not letting it function smoothly, the whole mission of readying the constitution within less than ten months from now would not be possible. However, a headway seems to have been made with all the parties agreeing to hold the election for the CC chief. There is still hope left for the political parties to decide on a single candidate, which would set an example of consensus for which they have been making the attention-seeking rhetoric.


This particular issue has brought to the fore the petty partisan interests that still holds sway among the parties. None of them have been able to overcome their party interests and work in the interest of the nation. Whatever that may be, even if an election is to be held it would pave the way for the CC to function in the manner that it has been designed to. However, if the Maoists do not give up their House stalling tactics then there will be further delays in the already cramped up time space for the constitution writing task. The question is high on the agenda if the Maoists are interested in getting the new statute prepared, finalized, approved and enforced at the earliest or not. But, all that it is doing is creating hurdles so that the CA remains a hostage unable to carry out the tasks that are urgent with the days and weeks passing by rapidly. It is the single largest party in the CA that is playing with the mandate of the people who remain bewildered, silent observers only. Maybe some sense comes to the working of the major parties when constitution drafting at the earliest is at stake.

 

New findsThe eastern Himalayas are considered to be one of the biologically richest regions in the world. As many as 353 new species have been discovered here in the past ten years. The eastern Himalayas consist of swathes of territory from Nepal, Bhutan, north-eastern India, Tibet and far-north Myanmar. In Nepal alone 94 species has been discovered. Discovering new species is a laborious process and those who have discovered these deserve gratitude for they are contributing to the conservation efforts, especially considering that much of the flora and fauna are being threatened by the growing population, the increasing demand for them in the global market and also the dreaded phenomenon of global warming and climate change.


More studies should be carried out about

them and also the habitats as studies show that only 25 per cent of the original habitat in this region is now intact. So that more species do not become extinct, all efforts should be made in conservation drives and for this the role played by the conservation experts could prove crucial. Again they deserve the credit for discovering more new species, and there are certainly more waiting to be found.

 

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THE HIMALAYAN

EDITORIAL

CREDOS;CREATE A WINNING ATTITUDE — II

ROBERT KNOWLTON

 

There is a science to creating a positive attitude of achievement. It is made up of very specific elements. They are presented here in a sequence, but it is the simultaneous interaction of them working together that creates the chemistry for a winning attitude and success in just about any endeavor.


Read over this list. Then, follow the exercise at the end. For a start you have to set your inner motivation. Inner motivation happens when you are clearly motivated toward a very specific goal and away from the unpleasant consequences of not achieving it. You must realize the value of high standards. Set your own high standards. This means achieving anything less is unacceptable. Dedicate yourself to this level.

 

Get your goal into chunks. Break down your goal into manageable, bite-size chunks. The benefits are:


a. You'll focus on small tasks you can and will do.


b. This creates a sense of satisfaction in completing each small step towards achievement.


The time frames of the present and the future have to be combined. Think vividly and fully in the positive future. At the same moment you are concentrating on achieving the task at hand, you can also see the big bright picture of your future accomplishment drawing you forward.


What step can you take right now to reach your next milestone? Fully experience the present and take action toward your future.


Personal involvement is of utmost importance. Get involved in your own success. Don't wait for it to happen to you. When you participate, you influence what's going on. It increases your commitment, focuses your intensity, and makes you more determined. Personal involvement leads to owning a bigger stake in your own future. —icbs.com

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

REALISTIC, RATIONAL COPENHAGEN

DON'T BEGRUDGE THE SCEPTICISM, IT CAN ONLY HELP THE DEBATE

 

CONSPIRACY theorists on both sides of the climate change debate could do worse than have a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down ahead of next week's Copenhagen summit. That should give them time to realise that the atmospherics around global warming have shifted dramatically. The planet may still need attention but its citizens are no longer quite so sure what that should involve. In just a couple of weeks here -- and abroad -- the language and temper of the debate has changed.

 

This ought to be seen as good news, even by those momentarily stunned by the dilution of their case for taking strong political action at the Denmark summit. For the first time in the 17 years since the "Earth summit" in Rio de Janeiro, there is a chance for more questioning of the science of global warming. Scepticism is no longer out of order -- and thanks to the political debates around the world, people have a more sophisticated understanding of the issues.

 

The second thoughts on climate are coming from both sides. In the past couple of weeks, we have had a glimpse of the zealotry of the believers -- and the gaps in their data -- thanks to the exposure of emails from the University of East Anglia. We have seen the parliament of a Western nation state like Australia vote against a scheme to reduce carbon emissions, while James Hansen, the guru of global warming, has denounced Copenhagen as a farce. Yet none of these were as seminal to Australians as the moment three weeks ago when our highest-profile, "green" scientist, Tim Flannery, told ABC TV's Lateline that scientists did not pretend to perfect knowledge. Instead, he said, they "work with models, computer modelling (and) when the computer modelling and the real world data disagree, you have a problem". His statements were obvious yet would have seemed heretical to advocates anxious not to allow any doubt in the campaign for carbon cuts.

 

For too long, the debate on climate has mirrored the debates in this country in the 1990s, when any challenges to multiculturalism or the narrowly defined version of Aboriginal reconciliation were labelled right-wing or racist. Scientific sceptics, such as Ian Plimer, know how difficult it is to advance an argument against the quasi-religious fervour of climate change believers. That the passion and dogmatic belief that once defined organised religion have been replaced for some people by a commitment to reversing climate change is not surprising. As a response to what some see as excessive materialism in the West, fighting for the planet has become a way to scale back development, restrict free markets and redistribute wealth across the globe. But it is misguided and dangerous to conflate economic policies on global warming with attempts to reduce the poverty of Third World countries. When arguments for reducing carbon become a shield for interfering with industrial growth they risk harming the economy without helping the climate. Often, the rational arguments around carbon capture in soil or through biochar have been dismissed as pie-in-the sky by activists who have taken a doctrinaire position against coal.

 

The Weekend Australian has always aimed for a rigorous debate on these issues, even though we have well understood that it has been unfashionable and politically incorrect to question the extent of man's contribution to climate. Yet the science has always allowed room for interpretation. The 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which underpins the draft Copenhagen treaty, is a heavily qualified document that found a 90 per cent certainty of anthropogenic warming. This paper has held to three key points -- that the planet may be at risk and action is needed; a preference for a market-driven solution; and an awareness that an early entry into a low-carbon economy would give Australia a first-mover advantage.

In democratic societies, political action often demands a certainty science cannot deliver. The excessive and uniform arguments made for action have backfired but we now have a chance for a debate that will not bury climate change but excavate the real issues surrounding it. Free speech could be the real winner at Copenhagen.

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

TWO NEW LEADERS WHO ARE GAME TO HAVE A RED-HOT GO

TONY ABBOTT AND KRISTINA KENEALLY WILL FIGHT HARD TO WIN

 

COMETH the moment, cometh the man, or woman. This week the factionalised government of NSW and the divided federal Liberal Party changed leaders and in the process transformed the state and national political landscapes. Seven days ago Tony Abbott was not even a candidate in the anticipated contest to replace Malcolm Turnbull as opposition leader. Last weekend then premier Nathan Rees seemed as secure as any denizen of the bearpit that is NSW parliament ever is, having dealt with yet another plot to remove him, in which his planning minister, Kristina Keneally, was not mentioned. But Mr Abbott is now the alternative prime minister and Ms Keneally is the first woman to be premier of NSW. That they have managed to transform their careers in just a few days says significant things about them both--that they have the political skill to beat more fancied rivals and the strength of character to seize unexpected opportunities. It now seems certain Mr Abbott and Ms Keneally will lead their parties to the polls and while a great deal could happen before Kevin Rudd calls the next election and NSW votes in March 2011, on what we saw this week the two new leaders will make races of both campaigns. Both Mr Rudd and NSW Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell will underestimate their two new opponents at their peril. Mr Abbott is a much clearer communicator than previous opposition leader Brendan Nelson and has more popular appeal than Mr Turnbull. And Ms Keneally will win points for working hard as Premier, especially if Mr O'Farrell continues to act as if he believes Labor's unpopularity will hand him victory.

In a political environment where spin doctors seek to sanitise everything politicians say, it is easy to dismiss Mr Abbott's habit of speaking his mind as a dangerous indulgence and assume that his conservative social views, born of his Catholic faith, make him unelectable. But unlike Mr Rudd, the new Opposition Leader does not do media interviews as he leaves church. Mr Abbott also knows how to speak his mind while acknowledging community sentiment is not always with him. And his ministerial career makes it impossible to underestimate Mr Abbott. He did well in the employment portfolio, defying the industrial thuggery of unionists opposed to the Cole inquiry into the construction industry. And he managed the health portfolio well, proposing reforms in hospital administration far ahead of the Rudd government, which is yet to respond to its own inquiry on hospital reform.

 

Ms Keneally is also a conviction politician who matches a strong Catholic faith with an understanding of what the Labor Party is supposed to stand for. In her first statement as premier-elect on Thursday night, she pledged herself to work for the disadvantaged, demonstrating her ethical attitudes and political nous. There was no better way to separate herself from allegations that the NSW cabinet is a collection of chancers, more interested in their own perks than policy. While her ministerial record is not long, she managed the planning portfolio with a commitment to process. This was important given the common perception that developers with powerful friends have too much influence over planning in NSW. And it was essential to the way she rebutted baseless media allegations in the past few months that state officials were too close to associates of murdered standover man Michael McGurk.

 

But while both new leaders are people of principle, who understand how to explain themselves to the electorate, they start a long way behind their opponents. In abandoning Malcolm Turnbull's bipartisan support for an emissions trading scheme, Mr Abbott has pleased most in his party but now has to demonstrate to the majority of the electorate that wants something done about global warming that he can quickly create a credible alternative. And despite the debt Mr Rudd has run up there is no doubting many voters believe Labor's make-work programs saved us from recession. Mr Abbott will have to work very hard, very fast to present his new team as a credible economic alternative and to convince voters this week's squabbling is over forever. Ms Keneally faces an even harder battle. As the third premier in a little over a year she must counter the understandable idea the do-nothing ministry she has inherited is divided and exhausted. Ms Keneally must stamp her authority and rapidly roll out credible new policies that force Mr O'Farrell to abandon his small-target strategy. Both new leaders face enormous tasks but they will ensure their opponents face hard-fought election campaigns, not coronations.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

KENEALLY MUST SHOW SHE IS NOT ANOTHER LABOR ROBOT

 

THOSE who voted at the last election expecting Morris Iemma to remain leader of the Labor Party may perhaps be feeling a little cheated by now. Remember the reassuringly ordinary, suburban family man advertisements? Eighteen months after Iemma's nice-guy campaign reversed Labor's poll decline and won that election, Iemma himself was supplanted by Nathan Rees. Fifteen months on, Rees has been shouldered aside in favour of Kristina Keneally. The door to the Premier's office revolves quickly these days.

 

Keneally certainly looks like someone who could present a new face for old and haggard NSW Labor. Young, female and hitherto relatively unknown, she has been elevated to the premiership in an attempt to mitigate the electoral disaster the party knows awaits it at the election. This is an old Labor ploy: Carmen Lawrence in Western Australia and Joan Kirner in Victoria both got the job when the party in those states believed it was headed for defeat. Both were impressive women individually and both did their best but they were unable to change the result.

 

The problem Keneally faces is not that she lacks talent, or does not look the part, or has shown she cannot do the job. She may lack long experience, but that is not necessarily a disqualification if she can learn fast. Her central problem is that, fresh-faced and all, she does not look like a force for renewal. She looks like, in her predecessor's immortal words, a puppet of Eddie Obeid and Joe Tripodi, the backroom boys who run Labor's dominant faction. Labor's power brokers never looked like losing control, and through the medium of Keneally, they have reasserted themselves. The rise of Keneally to the top job is not Labor renewal, but Labor reverting to type.

 

This makes the Premier's task doubly difficult. She must first lift the Government out of its long malaise - the slough of despond it has been wallowing in since it won the 2007 election. That will be hard enough. Keneally said yesterday she wanted to focus on jobs and investment, and then on public transport, health and education, and caring for the most vulnerable in the community. That list covers most of what state governments do, so there can be no argument with it. But looming over all her efforts, the failure to sell the power industry assets and continuing sluggish economic growth have placed the state budget in an awkward position. Big-spending projects must be chosen carefully, and once chosen, carried through. Before political events overwhelmed him, Rees was going to launch his promised transport strategy yesterday. It was always a rush job, intended to cover the embarrassing incoherence of recent transport announcements. Keneally might consider revising it to see if the Rees government's wilder flights of fantasy, such as the short but eye-wateringly expensive CBD Metro, really do fit into a city-wide plan.

 

But raising the standards of Labor's administration is only the first part of her task. The second - much harder –

part is to raise standards within the party itself. Rees may have had a patchy record as a politician, but in his analysis of Labor's problems on the day of his sacking, he was absolutely correct. NSW wants what Rees promised: a government that is modern, ethical and progressive. A government in which the people of NSW can have confidence, trust and respect. Labor in its current state, run by the powerbrokers for the powerbrokers, cannot deliver any such thing. Keneally can protest as much as she likes that she is beholden to no one, but nobody will believe her, nor will they, in the absence of action to prove it, respect her for trying to convince them otherwise. The public is simply sick of Labor and all that it represents.

 

Keneally has said she will proceed with legislation proposed by Rees to eliminate political donations from developers, to depoliticise planning decisions and introduce public funding for elections. That is good. But more is needed if Labor is to clear its reputation. Lawrence, brought into power as West Australian Labor's best chance to clean up after the Brian Burke years, set up a royal commission into WA Inc, which led eventually to the party's renewal there. Keneally might do the same for Labor in NSW. But that would be a long-term project and she needs to act quickly to turn things around. We believe Keneally should ensure NSW Labor ends the malign influence of Tripodi and Obeid. She should move for their expulsion from the party. That would certainly show she is ''nobody's girl''. But does she have the ticker for it?

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

TAKE THE PORK FOR A WALK

 

SCIENTISTS in the Netherlands have grown pork in a test-tube. This is a wonderful advance, we are sure readers will agree, although its wonderfulness is tempered somewhat by the news that, because it has been lying around doing absolutely nothing in a test-tube all day long, the pork in question is watery, with the consistency of wasted muscle. But the researchers know they have to get the pork off its fat behind and into the gym, to firm up the flab.

 

A couple of hours on the treadmill or in a spin class under the tutelage of a personal swineherd will do it wonders. Soon we will all be tucking into test tubes full of buffed, ripped and toned pork.

 

If test-tube pork involves no suffering, will vegetarians eat it? We suspect some will, but others will steer clear. After all, one test-tube of pork could be the first step on the slippery slope to a roast dinner. For them, science's new frontier must be the test-tube carrot.

 

Are you listening, CSIRO?

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

ABBOTT PITCHES CLIMATE POLICY FROM LEFT FIELD

A REGULATORY REGIME TO CUT GREENHOUSE-GAS EMISSIONS IS LIABLE TO BE MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE THAN EMISSIONS TRADING.

 

WHAT a week of marvels. First, the Liberal Party chose the least popular contender to lead the Coalition to the next federal election. Then, in the wake of the Senate's rejection of the Rudd Government's carbon pollution reduction scheme, newly anointed Opposition Leader Tony Abbott sketched out an alternative that made him sound like anything but the conservative he is known to be. ''The Coalition will not be going to the election with a new tax, whether it's a stealth tax - the emissions trading scheme - whether it's an upfront and straightforward tax like a carbon tax,'' he said.

 

That much would have been on message for the Opposition's core supporters. But what does Mr Abbott - who now avowedly accepts that climate change is real, and that human beings contribute to it - suggest would be a better way of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions? Government regulation, apparently. Mr Abbott has committed the Opposition to the same minimum target proclaimed by the Government - a 5 per cent cut in emissions, on 2000 levels, by 2020 - to be achieved through better land management, carbon capture and storage, and greater energy efficiency measures in construction and daily life.