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Monday, December 7, 2009

EDITORIAL 07.12.09

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Editorial

month december 07, edition 000369, 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. STRIKE A RIGHT BALANCE
  2. TERROR GETS PERSONAL
  3. RUSSIA IS A TRUSTED ALLY - ILYA KRAMNIK
  4. RETHINKING CARBON CUT - CAROLINE BOIN
  5. COPENHAGEN TALKS SHOULD FAIL - GWYNNE DYER
  6. REGULATING THE REGULATORY SYSTEM - VINAYSHIL GAUTAM

MAIL TODAY

  1. UPHOLD TRANSPARENCY IN APPOINTMENTS
  2. PLAYING WITH FIRE
  3. INCOMPLETE CATHARSIS
  4. POWER & POLITICS - PRABHU CHAWLA

TIMES OF INDIA

  1. ENGLISH ENDURES
  2. FOOD FOLLIES
  3. IT'S A QUESTION OF SPIRIT -
  4. 'SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT IMPLIES A NEW WAY OF DOING BUSINESS'
  5. MORPHEUS RELOADED -

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. REVEL WITH A CAUSE
  2. THE PAKISTAN WE CAN TALK TO
  3. LOSING TOUCH WITH REALITY - PANKAJ VOHRA
  4. NO JET LAG ON CLIMATE - LALITA PANICKER
  5. MIND CONTROL - PANKAJ KUMAR
  6. DON'T CALL THE POLICE - SYLVESTER DA CUNHA

INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. COURTING RESOLUTIONS
  2. AGREEING TO AGREE
  3. RANKING TESTS
  4. OLD FRIENDS, DIFFERENT TIMES - C. RAJA MOHAN
  5. BETTER LEFT UNSAID - JEREMY CARL
  6. 'I FOUND OUT THAT I WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO COULD EXPLAIN OUR MUSIC, GIVE A COMPARATIVE IDEA OF WESTERN AND INDIAN MUSIC'

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. READY, STEADY IN COPENHAGEN
  2. TRADING PLACES
  3. POLITICS OF INTENSITY VS PER CAPITA - MK VENU
  4. WE MOVE TO A SUPERPRIME CRISIS NOW - MEGHNAD DESAI
  5. BUZZ IN PHARMA BIZ - MG ARUN

 

THE HINDU

  1. PEACE PROSPECTS IN ASSAM
  2. TACKLING A JOBLESS RECOVERY
  3. TROUBLE IN THE SA'ADA MOUNTAINS - ATUL ANEJA
  4. FOOD FOR THOUGHT AT COPENHAGEN - JAY NAIDOO
  5. WHERE FAMILY AID OFFERS ALTERNATIVE TO ORPHANAGES - CELIA W. DUGGER
  6. A NON-PROFIT NOW, WITH FOR-PROFIT DREAMS - STEPHANIE STROM

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. CRICKETERS DO INDIA PROUD
  2. THE PARADOX OF THE STUFFED AND STARVED - PARANJOY GUHA THAKURTA
  3. PRICE RISE NEEDS CHECK - JAYANTHI NATARAJAN

DNA

  1. MEGA HOAX
  2. FOR TRANSPARENCY
  3. VAJPAYEE, ADVANI AND THEIR TRUE COLOURS -  ANIL DHARKER
  4. TRANSFER OF POWER - A LEH-PERSON'S VIEW

 THE TRIBUNE

  1. DANGEROUS DESIGNS
  2. MIGRANT FURY
  3. CHINA-PAK MILITARY NEXUS
  4. THE DINAKARAN EMBARRASSMENT - BY K. N. BHAT
  5. ELLIPTICAL TONING - BY SUDHAMAHI REGUNATHAN
  6. QUESTION HOUR SANCTITY LOST - BY KAMLENDRA KANWAR
  7. IMPORT OF HAZARDOUS WASTE - BY BHARAT DOGRA
  8. CHATTERATI - BY DEVI CHERIAN

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

  1. CONFUSING SCENARIO
  2. POSITIVE STEP
  3. INDO-ASEAN TRADE
  4. WAGING WAR AGAINST THE PEOPLE - PRAFUL BIDWAI
  5. THE COPENHAGEN MEET ON CLIMATE CHANGE - DR MANASMANI DEV GOSWAMI

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. GUESS WHO'S COME TO DINNER?
  2. A WELCOME MOVE IN FINANCE
  3. BASICALLY RIGHT
  4. MANAGING THE COUNTRY - SUMANT SINHA
  5. EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT: A LEADERSHIP PRIORITY - R GOPALAKRISHNAN
  6. THE SAD WORDS: 'IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN' - K VIJAYARAGHAVAN
  7. OF INNOVATION AND GROWTH - JAIDEEP MISHRA
  8. A STITCH IN TIME SAVES NINE - MYTHILI BHUSNURMATH
  9. RELIANCE INFRA PLANS TO HAVE ROAD PORTFOLIO OF RS 20K CR BY 2012
  10. 'CALL ON BANKING STOCKS, RIL WILL HOLD KEY TO PERFORMANCE OF MFS' - SANTOSH NAIR
  11. LOOKING FOR GOOD OPPORTUNITY FOR ACQUISITION: IFFCO-TOKIO - MAYUR SHETTY
  12. COMPETITION FROM CHINA ENABLES US TO DO BETTER: ERICSSON  - JOJI THOMAS PHILIP
  13. WE'LL BUILD SANTOOR AS ONE OF THE TOP BRANDS: WIPRO - SARAH JACOB
  14. 'YOU CAN'T KEEP THE DOOR HALF SHUT ON PORTFOLIO INFLOWS' - SHAJI VIKRAMAN & SANTOSH NAIR

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. CRICKETERS DO INDIA PROUD
  2. PRICE RISE NEEDS CHECK  - BY JAYANTHI NATARAJAN
  3. MAY ALL AMERICAN DREAMS COME TRUE! - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  4. OUR PLANET CRIES FOR ATTENTION - BY JONAS GAHR STORE
  5. CANCER FROM THE KITCHEN?  - BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
  6. AFTER LIBERHAN WHAT?  - BY KHUSHWANT SINGH

the statesman

  1. HALL OF SHAME
  2. CAMBRIDGE RELEASES RARE RECORDINGS OF BRITISH RAJ
  3. AT FULL STRETCH
  4. WORLD VS CHINA ON TIBET~II - RAJINDER PURI
  5. A DESPERATE GESTURE

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. STRANGE NATION
  2. NEUTRAL CHILL
  3. LESSONS YET UNLEARNT - TAPAS MAJUMDAR
  4. DEALING WITH DISASTER - GWYNNE DYER

DECCAN HERALD

  1. DESERVED CHAMPS
  2. TOO MANY DELAYS
  3. A DATE WITH THEOCRACY - BYLINE M J AKBAR
  4. A BAD START TO THE NEW CENTURY - BY ROBERTO SAVIO, IPS:
  5. THE HEALING TOUCH - BY NAVARATNA LAXMAN

THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. COPENHAGEN CONCERNS
  2. THE REGION: EXCUSES, EXCUSES - BARRY RUBIN
  3. A LITTLE (POLITICAL) COMMON SENSE - YITZHAK KLEIN
  4. MUBARAK'S VIRTUAL ENEMIES - DAVID KEYES
  5. SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN THE STATE OF DENMARK - DANNY HERSHTAL

HAARETZ

  1. ISRAEL MUST DO ITS PART TO STOP GLOBAL WARMING
  2. NETANYAHU IS MAKING US MISS OLMERT - BY AKIVA ELDAR
  3. THE SILENCE OF THE LEFT - BY NIVA LANIR
  4. A SPHINX IN THE HIGH COURT  - BY ZE'EV SEGAL
  5. THE MILITARY THREAT - BY MERAV MICHAELI

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. BEYOND COPENHAGEN
  2. A BISHOP'S WORDS
  3. EUROPE'S MINARET MOMENT - BY ROSS DOUTHAT
  4. AN AFFORDABLE TRUTH - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  5. CAP AND FADE - BY JAMES HANSEN

I.THE NEWS

  1. SHINE A LITTLE
  2. MIND THE GAP
  3. AGE AND CHANGE
  4. THE COMMON EDITORIAL ON CLIMATE CHANGE
  5. INDIA'S REALITY CHECK - ASIF EZDI
  6. INCONVENIENT TRUTHS - IKRAM SEHGAL
  7. A TRUST DEFICIT - CHRIS CORK
  8. PERILS OF OBAMA'S SURGE - DR MALEEHA LODHI

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. GEN. KAYANI INSPIRES ARMY, NATION
  2. NRO TAINTED MINISTERS SHOULD QUIT
  3. MURTAZA BHUTTO DEATH TOO WAS VERY TRAGIC
  4. OBAMA TOO BLOWS HOT & COLD - M ASHRAF MIRZA
  5. THE POLITICS OF  TERRORISM - NAZIA NAZAR
  6. NEW STRATEGY: OBAMA'S AFGHAN ENDGAME - GEN MIRZA ASLAM BEG
  7. TERRORISM AGAINST ISLAM - LT COL ZAHEERUL HASSAN (R)
  8. THE JOKE'S ON US...! - ROBERT CLEMENTS

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. CLIMATE REFUGEES
  2. DWINDLING WILDLIFE
  3. SAY IT LIKE IT IS..!
  4. E-PASSPORT RECOMMENDED BY PARLIAMENTARY BODY - DR SYEDA SHARMIN ABSAR
  5. FEASIBILITY OF A GOLDSMITHS BANK IN BANGLADESH - PROF. M. SADEQ
  6. INDONESIA TO BE A NUCLEAR POWER ! - DR. TERRY LACEY

THE HIMALAYAN

  1. PROBABLY, A FORERUNNER
  2. THE NECKTIES
  3. TOPICS: CRAFTING CULTURAL VALUES - PRABHA THACKER
  4. BLOG SURF: STITCHES - BRYAN KAPLAN
  5. COMPREHENSIVE LAND REFORM: DEBATING THE CURRENT SITUATION - JAGAT BASNET
  6. PENSION OFF CORRUPT JUDGES- JUSTICE SHARMA

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
  2. THE ROT STOPS AS LIBERAL BASE EMBRACES MR ABBOTT
  3. THE REALITIES OF ENERGY EXPORTS

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. THE CHALLENGE OF COPENHAGEN
  2. GIRL POWER PROVES ILLUSORY
  3. WHEN LABOR WALKS AWAY FROM A FIGHT, OF COURSE THE LIBERALS WILL BENEFIT

THE GURDIAN

  1. IN PRAISE OF… CELERIAC
  2. PRIVACY LAW: ROYAL PREROGATIVE
  3. PRE-BUDGET REPORT: FAIR'S FAIR

THE KOREA HERALD

  1. LONG WAY TO GO
  2. BEHIND GROWTH
  3. CLAN-BASED VIOLENCE IN MINDANAO - W. SCOTT THOMPSON
  4. GREEN CONSTRUCTION'S BOTTOM LINE - MARK L. CLIFFORD

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. REWORKING THE BOTTOM LINE
  2. JAL'S CRUCIAL TASK
  3. AGRICULTURE MUST BE REBUILT AHEAD OF OIL'S 'NOBLE' LIMITS - BY TAKAMITSU SAWA
  4. INDIA LAGS BEHIND SECURITY THREAT - BY HARSH V. PANT

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. GLOBAL DUTY IN COPENHAGEN
  2. CREATING LOW-CARBON PROSPERITY - AGUS PURNOMO
  3. SCHEME FOR REDUCTION OF FERTILIZER SUBSIDIES - TATANG SOPIAN
  4. GLOBAL CRISIS AND THE BLAME BUBBLE - PAUL DONOVAN

CHINA DAILY

  1. GROWTH WITH GREENERY
  2. STAY TRUE TO WHAT'S GOOD
  3. TIME FOR ECONOMIC RESTRUCTURING - BY CHI FULIN (CHINA DAILY)
  4. 'MADE IN CHINA' PRODUCTS COME OF AGE - BY ZHANG ZHENGFU (CHINA DAILY)
  5. CHINADA AND CHINADARICA - BY VICTOR ZHIKAI GAO
  6. PLANNING STRATEGIES FOR 2010-2020 - BY MARCOS FAVA NEVES
  7. MANAGING INFLATION EXPECTATIONS SMARTLY - BY MA JUN

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. IN SEARCH OF A RUSSIAN ATATÜRK - BY ALEXEI BAYER
  2. RUSSIA SHOULD INSOURCE HIGH-TECH IMAGINATION - BY VLADIMIR FROLOV
  3. CREATING A SMART ECONOMY - BY MATTHEW H. MURRAY
  4. MEDVEDEV'S NEW SECURITY VISION - BY VLADIMIR YEVSEYEV

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

STRIKE A RIGHT BALANCE

JUDICIARY AND THE RTI ACT CAN COEXIST


The confrontation between the Central Information Commission and the Supreme Court has the potential of ballooning into a massive and avoidable controversy. It could embroil two of India's most respected public institutions in a bitter and very public conflict. At the root of the battle is the issue of whether or not the office of the Chief Justice of India comes under the purview of the Right to Information Act and if so to what extent. That matter is being heard by a bench of the Delhi High Court. Bypassing the High Court, the apex court recently moved a petition before itself — playing both plaintiff and judge — that placed on hold an order of the CIC requiring it to make public information related to the appointment of three judges to the Supreme Court and the superseding of other judges. It also stayed another CIC order that sought the disclosure of communication between the Chief Justice of India and Justice R Raghupathy of the Madras High Court. Justice Raghupathy had apparently received a phone call from an unnamed Union Minister who had sought to influence the course of a corruption case the judge was hearing. He spoke about the call in an open court but did not reveal the Minister's name. RTI advocates argue the identity of a Minister — or any individual — who attempts to coerce or persuade a judge cannot be kept secret. They also call for a greater transparency in, and public scrutiny of, the manner in which judges are appointed to the higher courts. This is not to say that the current system is necessarily flawed or not above board. Even so, if the entire process is visible to other institutional stakeholders and the people at large, it will only serve to strengthen the credibility of India's judiciary. By moving an appeal before itself and blocking the CIC's recommendations, the Supreme Court must be mindful of the constitutional conundrum it is throwing up.


In recent weeks, the judiciary has come under increasing pressure on a number of counts: Declaration of assets of judges, process of appointment and responsiveness to RTI legislation, for instance. In each case, there has been a wrenching struggle. Even within the judiciary there has been no unanimity on the issues, with some judges seemingly more open to change than others. On the annual declaration of assets, the Supreme Court has finally ceded ground but it is unwilling to do so when it comes to RTI measures. There are inherent dangers in treating these issues individually and subjecting each of them to piece-meal, long-drawn debate and discussion. Perhaps it would make sense for the Chief Justice of India to put together a committee to draw up an expansive protocol for the process of appointment, entitlements and obligations of judges, especially in the light of the RTI Act. The committee could comprise judges, jurists, civil society representatives as well as, perhaps, two parliamentarians nominated by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. Frankly, the onus is on the apex court and the Chief Justice. Taking a more enlightened approach and actively promoting greater openness will only enhance the stature of the judiciary. India is remarkably proud of its judiciary and measures it against its own very high standards. Once more, it is for the Supreme Court to raise the bar.

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THE PIONEER

TERROR GETS PERSONAL

WILL PAKISTAN WILT OR FIGHT BACK?


The daring terrorist strike on a mosque near the Pakistani Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Friday shows how personal the war on terror in that country is getting. At least 40 people were killed and more than 80 injured in the attack, most of whom were serving or retired Army officers and their family members. According to sources, 17 children were among the dead. There appears to have been at least four terrorists involved in the fidayeen strike. They stormed the packed mosque, firing indiscriminately and lobbing grenades before engaging security personnel in a gun battle, which ended with the terrorists blowing themselves up. Given the way the strike was executed and that a mosque frequented by Pakistani Army personnel and their families was the target, it is clear that it was a well-planned attack that was carried out with a specific purpose: To break the morale of the Pakistani Army fighting the jihadis in the north-west tribal areas of that country. The message from the Taliban is, 'You kill one of ours and not only will we repay you in kind but come after your family as well.' That the only son of a Lt General was killed in Friday's attack highlights this point.


If trends are anything to go by, clashes between the jihadis and the Pakistani Army are only going to get more personal. Especially so after the announced American troop surge in Afghanistan. In such a scenario there are two possible outcomes: Either the Pakistani Army's resolve to destroy the terrorists will strengthen or it will completely disintegrate and the security establishment will look to a 'political solution' to extricate itself from the mess it is in today. The latter is possible given the high intensity and frequency of the terror attacks in Pakistan in the last few months. At least 400 people have been killed in these attacks since October and hundreds more maimed for life. However, if the Pakistani Army is to become demoralised in this war, the consequences will be devastating for the entire region. It is true that the daily suicide bombings are bound to take a psychological toll on the people of Pakistan and that country's security forces. But it must be remembered that the jihadis are a creation of the Pakistani state itself. All these years Pakistan has been using them to carry out a proxy war against India and ensure that Afghanistan remains under its de facto control. With the monster turning on its master, Pakistan is paying for its sins. Atonement for the Pakistani regime lies in fighting the terrorists tooth and nail and exterminating every last jihadi. Now that Pakistanis are witnessing the horrors of terrorism up close, it should only steel their conviction and stir that nation into action to hit back at terrorists as hard as it can. To step back at this stage would be suicidal.


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            THE PIONEER

COLUMN

RUSSIA IS A TRUSTED ALLY

WHEN PRIME MINISTER MANMOHAN SINGH AND PRESIDENT DMITRY MEDVEDEV MEET IN MOSCOW, THEY WILL REAFFIRM THE TRIED AND TESTED TIES BETWEEN INDIA AND RUSSIA. A NEW MILITARY TECHNICAL COOPERATION PROGRAMME FOR THE NEXT 10 YEARS WILL SET THE TONE FOR FUTURE BILATERAL RELATIONS

ILYA KRAMNIK


Russia and India intend to sign a new military technical cooperation programme for 2010-2020. The agreement is expected to be signed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev when they meet today (Monday) in Moscow. The programme itself will become a worthy follow-up to 50 years of military cooperation.


Deliveries of Soviet arms to India began in 1962, during the first conflict betweenIndia and China. The Soviet Union was already providing India with substantive economic aid at that time, and arms supplies came as a natural continuation of Soviet policy, especially in view of increasingly sour relations between Moscow and Beijing.

After a time, the supply of arms was supplemented with their licenced production. The first to be produced were MiG-21FL fighter planes, whose production began in 1966. Soon India became the Soviet Union's main partner in military technical affairs. It was taking delivery of a wide range of military equipment and weapons — from small arms and lightly armored vehicles to submarines and combat planes.


Towards the late-1970s, three-quarters of India's requirements in arms for land forces were met by the Soviet Union or by licenced production. Similar figures were soon reached for the Air Force.

 

Unlike many other Soviet partners, India received state-of-the-art arms from the Soviet Union, on a par with Warsaw Pact members. The 1971 war between India and Pakistan, during which the Soviet Union supported India diplomatically and with a squadron of warships in the Bengal Gulf for demonstration purposes and to watch any possible activity by US naval forces, ultimately sealed the partnership between the Soviet Union and India.

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, relations between the two countries hit a low point: Deliveries, including military deliveries, were upset, causing problems in supplying Indian armed forces and complicating the manufacture of licenced products (MiG-27 planes, T-72 tanks, etc,). Cooperation had to be organised from scratch. In 1993, Russia and India signed a new treaty of friendship and cooperation, as well as a number of bilateral agreements regulating arms supplies among other things. A programme for military technical cooperation between Russia and India followed the treaty and is still in effect.


A point to note: India prefers technology to finished products and likes to organise its own production. But its munitions industry is not yet fully independent, and India still has to go to foreign partners, Russia first, for the latest developments.


Among the current types of arms produced in India under Russian licences and with Russian help, are: T-90 tanks, Su-30MKI fighters, Brahmos antiship missiles and other systems. Already, the Su-30MKI is the most common fighter in the Indian Air Force, and will account for the bulk of the aircraft fleet towards the end of the next decade.

The Brahmos project deserves further mention. Developed from Soviet blueprints for the Onyx/Yakhont antiship cruise missile, it became one of the most successful undertakings by Russia and India in armaments. Current deliveries include sea- and surface-launched supersonic missiles. Air-launched missiles are expected to be supplied shortly. In addition, the Brahmos has been used to develop a new and hypersonic missile, which is to be adopted as standard in the next decade.


Russia and India are also engaged in other joint development projects — for example, a fifth generation fighter, which is to join the air forces of the two countries in the next decade. Another major project may be a tender to supply 126 light fighter planes for the Indian Air Force. Russia has tendered its MiG-35 fighter plane, and has a good chance to win the bid.


The aircraft which impressed Indian specialists at many air shows and during tests, is a fundamentally new development based on the well-known MiG-29 platform. It has advanced flying characteristics, especially maneuverability, which is achieved by thrust-vectored engines, competitive avionics, and a lower price than American rival models.


Another factor in favour of the MiG-35 is that the Indian Air Force is already using MiG-29s. Also, MiG-29KUBs were ordered for Indian naval aviation, and the country is building an infrastructure to maintain and repair aircraft of this type, which will make the mastery and operation of a technically similar plane easier.


India also continues to buy finished products. One of the largest projects in this respect is a contract to upgrade and deliver to the Indian Navy the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, the former Russian heavy air-capable cruiser Admiral Gorshkov. The ship, built in the 1980s and withdrawn from service for economic reasons less than five years after it was commissioned, is currently undergoing a major refit at the shipyard in Severodvinsk. The former cruiser, designed to carry vertical take-off and landing aircraft and helicopters, is being reconfigured with a through flight deck plus a ski jump ramp at the bow. The upgraded MiG-29K deck-based fighter will be the main aircraft of the renovated ship. The same type of aircraft will be used on the planned Indian aircraft carrier ADV whose blueprints have been prepared with Russian specialists. The ship is to join the navy in the middle of the next decade.


Apart from technical cooperation, Russia and India have exchange experience in training armed forces during joint drills and exercises involving naval, air and ground forces. The Indra-2007 exercise stands out in this respect. Russia also trains large numbers of Indian officers.


The Indian market is one of the most attractive and at the same time one of the most challenging for arms manufacturers vying with one another. In this market, Russian weapons must prove their operability and serviceability and be able to compete with the best American and European equipment. Russian contract proposals must be no less profitable than those offered by the Western world. Of course, Russia is unlikely to get three-quarters of all orders put out for bid from the Indian armed forces as the Soviet Union once did, but Russian developers and manufacturers will never give up such a promising market. At the same time, India itself will not part with a tried and tested partner, as is clear from its intention to sign a forward-looking programme of military technical cooperation.


The writer is a military affairs columnist based in Moscow.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

RETHINKING CARBON CUT

MERE REDUCTION IN CARBON EMISSIONS WON'T HELP

CAROLINE BOIN


Cutting carbon emissions will not cut death and suffering. More than 75 world leaders meet in Copenhagen over the next two weeks to attempt an agreement on climate change. They should start by admitting the political and economic failure of the Kyoto Protocol: Its prohibitive costs will prevent us from addressing other, more pressing problems.


The current Kyoto agreement expiring in 2012 committed countries to reducing their collective greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 per cent from the 1990 level by 2008-2012. But major countries like Australia and Canada are expected to miss their targets. And many will only meet them through so-called 'additional measures,' which are of dubious efficiency and subject to abuse. For example, the Clean Development Mechanism allows rich countries to invest in low-carbon projects in poor countries instead of cutting their own emissions.


The European Union, with by far the most developed climate mitigation system, will meet its Kyoto target — but not its own target of 20 per cent by 2020: It expects to reach only 14 per cent, which translates to a paltry 6.4 per cent cut in its own emissions once you take out the 'additional measures'.


These failed arbitrary caps have created vested business interests that profit from subsidies and regulations — and they desperately want an extension beyond 2012: The global low-carbon economy was worth nearly $ 5 trillion last financial year, according to a report for the British Government. And even if everyone met Kyoto targets, the result would be an insignificant dent in temperature.


Emission caps have high costs and unclear benefits. There is a better way: Enabling people to deal with a changing climate through economic growth holds a dual promise. It will allow us to address urgent problems that afflict the poor today, like malaria and hunger. And it will also empower people to deal with those problems in the future, should they get worse because of climate change.


There is a lot of discussion about the predicted effects of climate change. Will diseases like malaria rise? Will there be water and food shortages? Will extreme weather events like Hurricane Ida become more frequent?


In fact, these problems could hardly be worse for the majority of the world's people right now — simply because they are poor. Malaria kills about a million people every year. Diarrhoea from dirty water kills 1.5 million children every year. The United Nations has just dropped its target of halving hunger by 2015 as the number of hungry people rises.


It was economic growth that allowed now-wealthy countries to rid themselves of hunger and diseases like malaria. Wealth means health, potable water and a wide array of life-saving technologies, from hybrid seeds that increase crop yields to vaccines that protect us from once-deadly diseases.

 

Similarly, economic growth and technological development allow us to overcome events like droughts, floods and storms. In fact, deaths from extreme weather events have fallen 95 per cent since the 1920s. Hurricane Ida tragically killed 192 people in El Salvador recently but that number pales in comparison to hurricanes that used to kill thousands just decades ago. Extreme weather events disproportionately affect the poor because they do not have robust dwellings, early-warning systems, flood defences or good roads.


To build that infrastructure, the poor need, once again, economic growth. This will not come from increased foreign aid or subsidies for 'clean' technologies — all too often, these have simply enriched ruling cliques and interest-groups, allowing little development.


As the climate changes, Governments need to accept the reality that growth is good. They need to trust their people with economic freedoms, such as the right to own property. Growth would enable people to invest in robust buildings and get technologies that would drastically reduce their exposure to climate extremes.


They must also get rid of the subsidies, taxes and regulations that undermine economic growth and encourage waste. It is not climate change but Government policies, such as prohibitive tariffs on medicine, subsidies to farmers for water-use and restrictions on food exports, that cause poverty and poor health.


Drastic reduction of carbon emissions will stifle the very economic growth that is needed to reduce poverty and vulnerability. Governments must stop blaming their mistakes on climate change: They must empower people to fight poverty today and whatever the climate brings tomorrow.


The writer is a Project Director at International Policy Network, London, an independent think-tank working on economic development.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

COPENHAGEN TALKS SHOULD FAIL

IF THE SUMMIT SUCCEEDS, RICH COUNTRIES WILL GET THE RIGHT TO GO ON EMITTING GREENHOUSE GASES BY SUBSIDISING CLEAN POWER AND FORCING EMISSION CUTS ON POOR COUNTRIES. THIS WON'T DELIVER RESULTS

GWYNNE DYER


Sometimes the best is the enemy of the good — and sometimes 'good enough' is the enemy of all mankind. That is why Mr Jim Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the world's leading climate scientists, wants the global summit on climate change in Copenhagen to fail.


The summit is supposed to work out a successor to the Kyoto accord, which expires in 2012. In theory, the follow-on treaty would mandate deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, and find some way of bringing the developing countries into the process as well. But for Mr Hansen, the methodology is so flawed that the new treaty is not worth having.


"I would rather it not happen," he told The Guardian recently. "The whole approach is so fundamentally wrong that it is better to reassess the situation." In diplomacy, 'good enough' solutions predominate because of the need for compromise, but in this case, Mr Hansen argues, it is better to have no deal than the wrong deal.

"This is analogous to the issue of slavery faced by Abraham Lincoln or the issue of Nazism faced by Winston Churchill," he said. "On those kind of issues you cannot compromise. You can't say let's reduce slavery, let's find a compromise and reduce it 50 per cent or 40 per cent."


He's right — and most of the negotiators at Copenhagen know it. It's surprisingly common in international negotiations. Almost everybody involved knows what the one really fair and effective deal would look like, although they feel doomed to settle for something much worse. In this case, the fair and effective deal would take full account of the history, and it would look like this.

 

It would require the rich, industrialised countries to take really deep cuts in their emissions: 40 per cent by 2020, say, and another 40 per cent by 2035. The developing countries would cap the growth in their emissions at a level not much higher than where they are now — but they must be allowed to go on growing their economies, which means that they will need more energy.


All that extra energy has to be clean, or else they will break through the cap. They will therefore have to get their new energy from wind farms or solar arrays or nuclear plants, all of which are more expensive than the cheap coal-fired power plants they rely on now. Who pays the difference in the cost? The rich countries do, by technology transfers and direct subsidies.


What makes this lopsided deal fair is the history behind it. Emissions in the developed countries have stabilised or declined slightly (except for Canada, where they continue to soar), but they are still at a very high level. Indeed, what has made these countries rich is burning fossil fuels for the past 150-200 years — and in doing so, they have taken up almost all the available space.


In the early 19th century, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air was 280 parts per million. It is now 390 ppm, and four-fifths of that extra CO2 was put there by the ancestors of the one billion people who live in the developed countries. The point of no return, after which we risk runaway warming, is a rise in average global temperature of two degrees Celsius. That is equivalent to 450 ppm of carbon dioxide.

All we have left to play with is the distance between 390 ppm and 450 ppm, and on a business-as-usual basis we'll cover it in less than 30 years. All the economic growth of rapidly developing countries like China, India and Brazil — 3 to 4 billion people — has to fit into that narrow band of 60 ppm that the developed countries left for them.

 

That is why the post-Kyoto deal must be lopsided — but it is still politically impossible to sell that deal to people in the developed countries, most of whom are (wilfully) ignorant of that history. What we have on the table instead at Copenhagen is a bastard version of the deal in which the rich countries buy the right to go on emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases by subsidising clean power and other emissions reductions in the poor countries.


"This is analogous to the indulgences that the Catholic church sold in the Middle Ages," said Mr Hansen. "The bishops collected lots of money and the sinners got redemption. Both parties liked that arrangement despite its absurdity." And everybody goes to hell together.


The Copenhagen summit will certainly fail to deliver the right deal. The danger is that it will lock us into the wrong deal, and leave no political space for countries to go back and try to get it right later. Public opinion is climbing a steep learning curve, and the assymetrical deal that cannot be sold politically today might be quite saleable in as little as a year or two.


So the best outcome at Copenhagen would be a ringing declaration of principles, and an agreement to get back round the table and do the hard negotiations over the next 12 to 18 months. Since the US Congress has still not mandated any reduction in American emissions and Canada will do its best to subvert the proceedings, that is also a quite likely outcome.


The writer is a London-based independent journalist.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

REGULATING THE REGULATORY SYSTEM

OUR FRAGMENTED REGULATORY STRUCTURE NEEDS TO BE REPLACED WITH A WELL-COORDINATED ONE

VINAYSHIL GAUTAM


When it comes to dealing with the financial system, so much attention is paid to the capital market and the working of intermediary institutions that it is difficult to imagine how reforms would work without a fully-developed and healthy regulatory system.


It is important to realise that whereas business is an enterprise-level issue, providing the framework of reference for the business is an issue of governance. It is important to get this structural relationship in perspective for transactions to work smoothly. As is known, Securities and Exchange Board of India was created in 1992 and it acquired a fresh incarnation with the amendment of the Securities Contract and Regulations Act in 1999.This amendment paved way for creation of exchange traded derivatives. According to the contract law in India, Section 30 provides that wagering contract is not legal. Any sort of wagering is not permitted and that is why this law provides that if trading is happening on exchange (exchange trading means that one party does not know who is the other party), it is anonymous order driving and on the screening. So that is allowed. So exchange trade derivatives were allowed and this lead to the creation of index futures followed by single stock futures, index options and single stock options.


Interest rate derivatives on the exchange were launched in 2003 but they failed primarily because of turf issues between SEBI and the Reserve Bank of India. RBI did not allow banks to participate in it because it wanted to regulate them. So did SEBI. The experiment was, therefore, designed for failure. The commodity future exchanges at the national level came out in a big way around 2003. But the law or the amendment of the commodity futures has taken a long time in Parliament while trading in agri-commodities is forbidden.


There is a commodity called guar grown in Rajasthan, used for binding material for toothpaste and other products. It is an industrial product produced in a small way. In 2005-06, the total trading in guar gum was 50 times more than the production of guar gum in the country. All it means is that the risk management system as designed in the commodity futures exchange needs serious review and is promoting speculation. Perhaps trading in wheat and rice needs to be allowed because banning is no solution. It is the risk management system that needs improvement. May be if handled properly, this could even reduce the commodity prices and the farmers would be more protected. Similarly, currency futures started in 2008 with organisations like NSE and BSE getting into it. In fact, corporate bonds are still very ill-equipped.


A report in 2006 delved into developing corporate bond market thereby trying to plug a serious problem in our financial instruments. The time has come to have a liquid corporate bond market. There is considerable disagreement on this but the problem needs to be resolved. To sum it up, exchange traded vs OTC is an issue which also needs attention. In exchange trade primary regulators are self-regulating organisations and stock exchanges. Clearly, the stock exchanges are supposed to have a regulatory function also. They are primary regulators. SEBI is a secondary regulator. However, the multiplicity of regulators complicates the situation.

The RBI is regulating banks, non-banking financial companies' primary dealers and foreign exchange dealers. SEBI is regulating stock exchanges, mutual funds and brokers. IRDA is regulating insurance companies. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs regulates all the companies. BFRDI is supposed to regulate pension. The Forward Market Commission is supposed to regulate commodity features; the State Government can regulate or they are supposed to legislate on issues of developments like chit funds. The truth is that the whole regulatory structure is so fragmented that it needs to be replaced with a well-coordinated system or else there could be serious trouble.

Many actions fall between various regulators, consider the 2000 scam. The bewildering situation is that even the concerned Joint Parliamentary Committee pointed it out yet much remains to be done. The case of AIG in the US is an important illustration of what could happen if the matter does not get its due attention.


The question is not whether there should be one regulator or multiple regulators but rather who is watching the regulator and monitoring what they are doing or should be doing. Perhaps a consortium of intermediary institutions with sufficient independent members is an answer.


-gautamvinay@hotmail.com

 

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MAIL TODAY

EDITORIAL

UPHOLD TRANSPARENCY IN APPOINTMENTS

 

THE Supreme Court's order staying the decisions of the Central Information Commission to bring about transparency in the appointment of judges, and to open to public scrutiny communication between judges will surprise few people.

 

The initial response of the Supreme Court registry to the CIC's directives had made it amply clear that it was determined to be obstructive on the matter.

 

Had this not been the case then the registry would have challenged the CIC's directives in the high court — the appellate authority in RTI cases. This was what had happened in the earlier CIC order case on the disclosure of judges' assets.

 

But since a single judge had, in that case, rejected the apex court registry's stand that the office of the Chief Justice of India did not come under the ambit of the RTI Act, it chose to bypass the high court altogether.

 

In fact, the apex court registry has been brazen enough to admit this fact. This is questionable on more than one count.

 

The registry says it filed the Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court to preserve the ' independence' of the judiciary but what it will really do is to demoralise sections of the institution. Second, the single- judge's order in the assets case is the law of the land for now, because the appeal before the division bench of the Delhi HC is still pending.

 

The SC's stand, therefore, subverts the sanctity of that judgment.

 

The Chief Justice of India is opposed to information relating to appointment of judges being disclosed since he thinks he holds it in a ' fiduciary capacity'. There is every reason to criticise this view. The appointment of judges is a matter of public interest and how the ' fiduciary capacity' clause of the RTI Act can provide it a shield is a matter for wonder. To take a concrete example, the people have a right to know how the Collegium appointing judges approved the elevation to the Supreme Court of a judge with questionable credentials like Justice P D Dinakaran. And, on the other hand, why someone like the present Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court — whose integrity and ability has been vouched for by jurists — did not make it. The apex court must keep these considerations in mind when it ' meticulously' examines the case before it.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMENT

PLAYING WITH FIRE

 

THERE is no better way of putting this across than saying it bluntly — Mamata Banerjee is playing a dangerous

game by supping with a man the Indian government calls a Maoist. The Left parties may have gathered evidence against her, but the wily Trinamool Congress supremo and railway minister should well know by now that going into the next assembly elections in West Bengal by befriending Chhatradhar Mahato is not exactly a good idea.

 

Ms Banerjee may well argue that she met Mr Mahato in February 2009, much before she became the Union railway minister.

 

But once she became a member of the UPA government she should have come clean on her dealings. After all, the same cabinet has branded the Maoists as the biggest internal security threat to the country and the Union Home Ministry has planned a major offensive against them.

 

It is no secret that West Bengal politics has degenerated into possibly the worst kind of violence among all the states in India, with constant clashes between the CPM and Trinamool cadres, and both sides crying murder. So, the support of a militant organisation that controls large tracts of West Bengal is seen both as a security blanket as well as a potent political force within the state for the elections.

 

It is unfortunate, though, that neither the Left nor Ms Banerjee's outfit sees the Maoists as a common enemy given the number of people they have executed.

 

If indeed the links between Ms Banerjee and the Maoist organisations are established, then the UPA must have the political courage to dump her. While we are not calling for the arrest or detention of Ms Banerjee just yet, there is need for someone to drill some political sense into her head. Political ambition is laudable, but there is also something called political morality, and Ms Banerjee should be clearly explained as to where the line that divides them lies.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

INCOMPLETE CATHARSIS

 

The Babri Masjid demolition was symptom of alarger breakdown but Indians have rejected agendas of hate

THE RUMPUS over the report of the MS Liberhan commission will occupy centre- stage in the coming weeks. Much of the debate has focused on what the Sangh Parivar and its associate outfits did or did not do on that fateful day. There has been equal emphasis and rightly so on how the then Congress government in New Delhi failed to act in time to prevent the demolition.

 

But these issues, vital as they are, do not help answer a pricklier question. What is it about the political contours of India in the decade prior to the demolition that led to the virtually unchallenged assault not so much on a mosque but on the very idea of the rule of law in this open manner? Ayodhya on 6th December 1992 was a challenge to the idea of India as a country founded on respect for law as a means to settle disputes

 

In common with other extremist movements and currents of whatever creed or community, stripe of colour, the movement sought to remake political India. The movement to demolish the mosque — make no mistake that is what it was — succeeded in its first task.

 

It played, most of all its prime spokesman LK Advani did, on the sense of "Hindu hurt" and "Hindu pride". The rath yatra of 1990 involved more than a fringe and struck a chord in many with no previous sympathies with his party or faction.

 

'Hum Mandir wahin banayenge', the twin slogan of a temple and on that very spot, gave the Hindutva idea a wider base than any symbol in its decades long past

 

Backdrop

 

Many factors fuelled its rise. Terrorism in Punjab gave Congress the handle to play on Hindu sentiment.

 

Insurgency in Kashmir seemed poised to prise the Valley away from India.

 

Economic crises of 1989- 91 set the stage for middle class angst with the older economic order. The defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan also looked like signal that religion based politics was the wave of the future.

 

Yet, in the first set of byelections held after the demolition, a new combine of Mulayam and Kanshi Ram trounced the party. A year after the tragic event, the coalition of the Backward Class and Dalit parties actually came to power.

 

Party workers chanted another slogan and no one could stop them from doing so. ' Mile Mulayam Kanshi Ram, Hava main ud jaye Jai Shri Ram.' The joint forces of the two leaders of the lower social orders would rout those rallying behind the temple movement. The latter, it might be pointed out, dissipated in energy and focus after the demolition.

 

It was almost as if in being a success, it sowed the seeds of its own downfall.

 

There is little doubt it was the failure of centrist politics that enabled the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and then its political partner to mount such a successful mobilisation. Few of the major parties come out in flying colours.

 

The Congress government facilitated the cause at every key stage, right from opening the locks of the masjid till the foundation ceremony in November 1989. Its challenger VP Singh, despite his old roots in the Lal Bahadur Shastri era, preferred to ally with rather than oppose in a principled manner the politics of Advani.

 

And, as a prescient observer noted at the time, the meeting of the National Integration Council in Madras in November 1992 did little to strengthen the PM's hands. It simply said it stood by whatever he felt was necessary. In other words they washed their hands of the case and let him face the music. It may have been good party politics but it did not serve the country.

 

Congress

 

Yet, it is the decade of the Eighties, a time of Congress dominance in the polity, that saw the ground slip under the pluralist cause. Not just once and not merely in one arena of political life, the country's oldest party played the communal card. Indians might divide but if enough could vote for it, the party saw no reason not to play the role of agent and handmaiden to sectarianism.

 

This was in contrast to its record in the past. The early years of independence now under increasing historical scrutiny saw leaders divided on a host of issues unify in containing sectarian currents that could undermine a fragile unity. Both Nehru and Patel were one on using state machinery to ban Hindu extremist groups after Gandhiji's assassination.

 

It was Home Minister Sardar Patel and not Nehru who saw to it that the dispute at Ayodhya was frozen and locks placed on the structure. It was the breaking of the locks on magisterial order in 1986 that was a symbol of the Congress' wafer thin commitment to pluralism.

 

The magistrate claimed ' heavens will not fall'. He was right. It was hell that broke loose.

 

The backdrop to the opening of the locks lay in a steady and unremitting retreat of the forces of law and order when riots and massacres occurred especially in north India. Aligarh, Moradabad, Hashimpura and Maliana set the stage for Delhi 1984 and the post demolition massacres.

 

In this, there was a sharp contrast with the long Nehru and early Indira periods.

 

It is true that the Congress since its return to power in 2004 and well before that has taken note of this record.

Distancing itself from the Rao period is easy, given that he does not figure in its pantheon of icons. And there is little reason to doubt the demolition was for him a colossal failure.

 

But to go further and make pluralism more than mere slogan, justice is a must. Justice has to come in the form of criminal proceedings against those who broke the law. In this respect, the Liberhan report does little to show the way.

 

Harmony

It also requires deeper attention to the kinds of social fissures and educational droughts that underlie tensions. The Sachar Report did a first class job in pointing the way forward in the latter regard.

 

Unlike in the time the demolition took place, the larger situation bodes well for such sustained efforts at giving peace a firm foundation.

 

The appeal of militant Islamism is on the wane in the Valley; terrorism in Punjab has given way to the routine of party based democracy. Even the special powers of the armed forces are being scrutinised afresh with curbs on the anvil. Identity politics has given way to daal and roti based issues.

 

The demolition was a symptom of a larger breakdown of the political order.

 

It is a tribute to the maturity of the Indian voter that hate agendas have been short lived and unable to effect larger changes in the body politic. But the task of creating the basis for harmony is still an unfinished one. It is a pity that the Liberhan Commission did not do more to aid this historic endeavour.

 

The writer teaches history in Delhi University

 

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MAIL TODAY

POWER & POLITICS

PRABHU CHAWLA

WASTED WISDOM

 

THERE is no better way to lose one's faith in parliamentary democracy than watching Lok Sabha TV. The chaos, bedlam, frayed tempers on display and the frequent fisticuffs would make the most conscientious of citizens skip his next date at the polling station. In the last fortnight, we saw our parliamentarians at their best and their worst. One day, the ruling and the opposition benches were going for each other's throat over the Justice Liberhan report on the Babri Masjid demolition. A few days later, the Lok Sabha witnessed the dubious spectacle of Question Hour being suspended because most of the members who put up questions were not present in the house. I can't remember the last time something like this happened and am not surprised that Sonia Gandhi sent a stinker to her partymen warning against such truancy.

 

In the midst of such delinquency, it was refreshing to see a very, very courteous, civil and meaningful session in which our MPs were seen living up to the word " honourable" prefixed to their names. The debate on Climate Change and the impending Copenhagen Summit in the Lok Sabha last Thursday was a revelation in more ways than one.

 

But what really took me by complete surprise was something that I saw for the first time: tucked away in the back benches of that high domed hall, was a bundle of young talent. That's something that augurs well for our political parties.

 

The 15th Lok Sabha has as many as 82 MPs who are under 40, the highest ever.

 

Jayant Chaudhary is one of them but you have probably never heard of him because he is not part of the " official" babalog setup.

 

He is the grandson of the former Prime Minister Charan Singh, son of the Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh and holds a Masters in Accounting from the London School of Economics. 36- year- old Jyoti Mirdha, granddaughter of Congress veteran Ram Nivas Mirdha is a doctor by profession. The two were among the nearly 25 MPs who were listed to speak during the debate. It's a different matter that nearly a dozen of them were content merely laying copies of their written speech on the table of the house. The debate was initiated by the BJP's Murli Manohar Joshi, but it was the younger lot — Chaudhary, Mirdha, the east Delhi MP Sandeep Dikshit and Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule, to name just a few, who stole the thunder.

 

While the senior MPs could not resist the occasional chance to score brownie points, the jun- Supriya Sule iors chose to be assertive, yet non- combative. Earlier too on the same day, there was an occasion when younger MPs showed a maturity that should make many of their senior colleagues sit up and think. Anyone who has watched zero hour will admit that it is a truly rambunctious moment when Parliament resembles an overcrowded railway station where all the trains are running late. But last Thursday, you could hear a pin drop on the green carpet as members sat in silence when Harsimrat Kaur, the first term MP from Bhatinda and wife of the Punjab Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal spoke on " giving justice and dignity to the victims of the anti- Sikh 1984 riots". So effective and so moving was her brief speech that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee who is the Leader of the House later responded to her saying " all of us are ashamed of what happened.

 

While we can't bring back those dear lost ones, we can take a vow that it doesn't happen in the future". It used to be said that there is so much sleaze in politics that the new generation abhors it and stays away. The very fact that there are 82 MPs, many of them first timers, aged under 40 implies that this notion now stands dispelled. Still the fact that many of these young MPs are not given their due makes me think that some see in them potential threats to their own ambitions. For far too long, our Parliament and legislatures have been exclusive clubs for geriatrics, sticking to their outdated dogmas and narrow partisan politics and refusing to hand the baton over to the next generation.

 

Chaudhary, Mirdha, Dikshit, Sule and so many others hold out so much hope. We can only hope their leaders — the old and the not so old — allow them to fulfill their promise.

 

FOES UNITE AGAINST BELLARY DUO

YOU couldn't find three political parties or combinations as far removed from one another as the Congress, the BJP and the Third Front but the three are meeting in a lot of interesting ways of late. N Chandrababu Naidu, the former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam chief came to Delhi last week to petition prime minister Manmohan Singh to call an all party meeting to discuss the " activities of the mining lobby which is looting the country's wealth in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka". He met CPM's Prakash Karat, the CPI's AB Bardhan, HD Deve Gowda, Sharad Yadav, Ajit Singh and enlisted their support.

 

According to capital grapevine, Naidu also met Karnataka's BJP chief minister BS Yedyurappa over dinner at a 5- star hotel in the capital.

 

Was it just a courtesy dinner or did it also have to do with mining politics? More likely the latter. Yeddy, as we know, had a pistol held to his head by the mining mafia which even forced him to drop his favourite minister from his cabinet. Naidu on the other hand had been carrying on a relentless campaign against the former AP chief minister YS Rajashekhara Reddy for allowing the Bellary brothers — as the mining mafia is called — to " plunder" forests and use the money to influence politics in the two states.

 

I suspect K Rosiah, the Congress chief minister of AP has a private treaty with Naidu since he too is calling for a CBI probe into the activities of the mining mafia. Meanwhile, the rap on the knuckles from the High Command seems to have made Jaganmohan Reddy, YSR's ambitious son, realise his own limitations.

 

Why, Jagan's subsequent acquiescence suggests he thinks that his political career may be better served by staying on the straight and narrow path. The cross- party convergence of interests also proves one thing: when their interests are threatened, they sink their differences to fight the common foe.

 

WHAT'S COOKING FOR SONIA'S BIRTHDAY BASH?

ON WEDNESDAY, Sonia Gandhi will turn 63 and much as she abhors public displays of pomp and celebration, the Congress party is planning a big party. There will of course be the ubiquitous drumbeaters and dancers outside 10 Janpath and the adjacent 24 Akbar Road headquarters. Though there are no plans to call all Congress chief ministers to the capital to join the celebrations, most of them are likely to arrive on their own. Just another show of characteristic Congress sycophancy? Maybe not.

 

Some Congressmen expect a surprise gift. that could give this very social occasion immense political significance.

 

I understand that a Tamilorigin minister and a caste mate of the AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa, has been trying to persuade the imperious lady of Poes Garden to join the party. You don't need a long memory to know that the last time Jayalalithaa attended a similar party in Delhi, the Vajpayee government fell and most political parties were wooing new bedfellows.

 

Ordinarily, I would have credited such rumours to a hyperactive prankster, but what lends credence to these is the mysterious silence of the AIADMK's 15 MPs in both houses on the many occasions in recent times when the opposition sought to pin the government down on the mat. The lie- low approach isn't surprising. After losing two Lok Sabha and an assembly election in a row, the AIADMK's morale is at its lowest.

 

JJ's last chance for redemption isn't far away.

 

The state assembly elections are due in 2011. For the Congress, the DMK is proving to be an albatross.

 

Most of its ministers are absentees in office and those that turn up are neck deep in sleaze. True, Rahul Gandhi's mission to revive the Congress in Tamil Nadu is yielding results, but it will be a while before the Congress reaches the commanding heights where it can afford to go it alone as young Rahul wants. Until then, he will have to depend on one of the Kazhagams. The consensus in the Congress is that, as of now, a unipolar Kazhagam with a central authority is preferable to a multipolar one with competing power centres.

 

THE SUCCESS of a minister is intimately linked with the officials he gets to assist him in running the ministry. For the past two weeks, the department of Personnel has been desperately looking for replacements for three secretaries in the ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of Official Languages and the Department of Drinking Water Supply. Two of the three — HRD and DDWS — are flagship departments of the UPA government. HRD secretary RP Aggarwal demitted office on November 30 and Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrashekhar stuck to routine and circulated a panel containing a few names but since the Prime Minister was abroad, no final decision could be taken. Both the Prime Minister and HRD minister Kapil Sibal prefer someone who can ensure speedy implementation of the process of education reforms, but as no final decision could be taken on the selection of fresh secretaries, the responsibilities of all three departments was passed on to other secretaries " until further orders". This in turn has led to heartburn among many senior bureaucrats who had been eyeing these jobs which would have also brought them promotions.

 

Their grouse is that if the leadership is really serious about effective implementation of its reform agenda, it must first reform its personnel policy which should place a premium on merit and not pliability as the primary consideration for filling top posts. No argument there.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

ENGLISH ENDURES

 

The march of the Chinese in the global marketplace has led those with long-term vision to start leaning Mandarin. After all, if one wants to do business with the world's fastest growing economy, one better learn to speak its tongue. Meanwhile, though, the Chinese are pumping in massive amounts of resources to acquire English-speaking skills. For it is quite clear - from several studies, trends and by logic - that English will remain the language the world does business in for at least a few decades to come.


From Hungary to Egypt, Russia to Korea, teaching English is getting top billing in schools. Catch them young, and watch them succeed seems to be the mantra at work here. Compared to most other countries which do not speak English as a native tongue, India is well-placed in terms of the number of its people who speak the language. According to the 2000-01 census, about 10.7 per cent of our population speaks some English. In terms of absolute number of speakers, this pool is next only to the United States. However, the proportion of those who speak fluent English is lower.


A British Council report titled 'English Next India' suggests that India is falling behind China where absolute number of English speakers are concerned. Thanks to new educational policies being adopted in China, it is adding about 20 million new English speakers each year. This is as good a wake-up call as any. A skilled workforce with English-speaking abilities is one of India's economic advantages. This is the main reason why it ranks as the top BPO destination in the world, despite competition from countries like China and the Philippines, which offer similar services at lower costs. If India were to maintain its edge in the knowledge economy stakes, English holds the key.


There is a great demand for English education in India. And this is not just a middle-class longing. Those from poor backgrounds also view learning the language as a passport to better economic and social prospects. They often go out on a limb to secure access to English-medium schooling for their children. Fulfilling that demand could unlock a floodgate of talent that will serve well our collective aspirations to progress. Government must incentivise the teaching and learning of English in both public and private schools right from the primary school level. This could be by offering instruction in the English medium or by promoting a substantial component of English learning in the curriculum. At the same time, parochial politics - which has led some states to shunning English teaching at the primary level in government schools - must be slapped down hard.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

FOOD FOLLIES

 

Whatever overall inflation figures might say - and those have been encouraging, remaining at a record low - rising food prices have been a problem for several months now. From poor monsoons to a problematic Wholesale Price Index (WPI) measure that failed to accurately reflect the problem, the issue has gathered enough momentum to become a political hot potato. The latest food inflation figures show why. Wholesale food prices have risen an eye-watering 17.5 per cent in the past year, substantially higher than the 10.75 per cent inflation in the same period last year. The talk now is of monetary policy measures to control the problem. But controlling inflationary pressure by ratcheting up interest rates is a scattershot approach which will hurt overall growth. As WPI figures and the food price rise have shown, there is a disconnect between general inflation and food price inflation. Besides, the problem here is primarily on the supply side.


The poor monsoons are part of the reason here, of course, with 141 of the country's 626 districts affected. But the situation has highlighted structural problems as well. The perception of scarcity has outstripped the reality, leading to speculators cashing in and pushing prices up further. Inadequate supply management and storage facilities have meant that huge stocks of foodgrains have remained - and sometimes rotted - in government warehouses instead of being routed to the market. And inadequate state capacity when it comes to the public distribution system, coupled with corruption, have not helped.


There are some short-term measures that could be taken to alleviate the problem. Increasing imports of food grains is one. Another one is releasing excess food stocks in the open market. Stringent action against hoarders and a political effort that goes beyond the usual blame game are also called for.


But these can work only temporarily. Unless long-term initiatives are undertaken as well, this will remain a recurring problem. The basic building block of food security is increased yield. To this end, incentivising private investment in the agricultural sector and the move to collaborate with US land institutes are both important. Likewise, investing in cold storage infrastructure and removing roadblocks to organised retail are musts. Ways must also be found to shelter the landless poor from rising food prices. Unless the public distribution system is strengthened, a large section of the population will continue to slip through the cracks every time the market is fickle.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

IT'S A QUESTION OF SPIRIT

In Nobel laureate Toni Morrison's elegiac and tremendous novel, Beloved, Baby Suggs, a slave woman lays in her bed and chooses to observe colours "changing leaf; dusksky" until she dies there. This happens after Baby Suggs has been freed; freedom, it seems, is a space for her to reel from its life-long absence. The African-American poet, Maya Angelou, once remarked that black people suffer a "daily wearing out of the spirit", which she deemed worse than public slur or overt vandalism. I suspect that this everyday wearing out of spirit broke Baby Suggs.


As a student, 10 years ago, AIDS was the subject of my master's thesis in California. Although it was somewhat uncomplicated to write about the physical impact of AIDS, or even embark upon locating stigma and discrimination, I was more interested in how AIDS wears out the spirit. Because I knew most people living with AIDS peripherally, I could do the next best thing: I could try and imagine their spirit under duress not only of disease but its attendant prejudice, often worse than the disease itself.


At the heart of my novel, The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay, is a pianist, Samar Arora, whose best friend is shot dead at a bar. The ensuing murder trial evaporates into political complicity. His friend's murderer is acquitted. Then Samar discover she is HIV positive, probably infected by his partner, who later abandons him. Although there were drugs to treat HIV - now widely considered manageable for those with access to medication - Samar, rather like Baby Suggs, lies down on a bed that will become his grave. What made Samar, who starts out at the novel's onset as a tap-dancing party boy and an unlikely comrade in a murder trial, surrender to AIDS?

To answer this, i had to revisit the factual edification of non-fiction. At the time of writing Lost Flamingoes, i was approached to contribute to an anthology, AIDS Sutra. I wrote about Bombay-based film-maker, Murad, who quite possibly would have liked FABULOUS etched in kitsch pink on his gravestone. Popular and promiscuous, Murad chose to insist his HIV was a myth. He refused medication and died in his mid-thirties, devastating his family and friends. One conceivable reason why Murad chose not to treat himself: his film-making career refused to take off, and a man with a genius for self-mythologising was sequestered to the footnotes of societal biography. In effect, his failed dream of himself was larger than HIV, or, in fact, anything around him.


What distinguished these two men were not their similarities, which were many, but their differences, of which there is a key one. While Samar's tragedy was partlysociological "the daily wearing of the spirit" Murad's was chiefly psychological - "he had inflicted this on himself". Simply put, Samar's spirit wore out, but Murad's spirit wore him out. I wrote, in both instances, of middle or upper middle-class men with HIV. I did so because I wanted to write about how this condition pervades India's Obama-observed minority - "the manic depressives from Mangalore, the Pune reality show audiences, the postmodern obesity epidemic in Surat". Too frequently in urban, educated India, AIDS is considered a condition of the other, the sex worker, the drug user, the truck driver. This epidemic is like air, invisible but undeniable. And omnipresent. (My father's GP was telling me he sees any number of men every week who are positive. He just doesn't know how to tell their fiancees.) Researchers say the HIV epidemic in India is "highly heterogeneous". This means the banker on the bus, the goth chick at the nightclub, the bearded uncle on 2nd floor could all be a statistic you never dared to imagine. So why do we blind ourselves from HIV spread and sphere? Why do we oscillate between denialand ignorance?

AIDS as the punishment for sex, or worse, a specific sexuality. AIDS as Plague (as Susan Sontag articulated in AIDS and its Metaphors). AIDS as karmic reprisal. These are the irresponsible cliches we swing from, like apes on jungle vines. In examining AIDS in defiantly middle-class circumstances within my novel I wanted to take something purposefully invisiblised, or forcefully, naively ascribed to another 'lesser' demographic, and reveal it as a condition of the times: a symptom of our own lives, as it were, rather than of disease. (Although a 2009 WHO study showed the epidemic has stabilised in India, a further 20 per cent Indians now live with HIV than in 2000. Epidemic stabilisation, therefore, is a relative phrase.)


There are 2.4 million HIV positive Indians. That's twice the population of Mauritius. Numbers and figures give us a map of HIV. But traversing its geography is a different kettle of fish. What's lost within data and public argument is how profoundly HIV defeats individual spirit. This is the spirit not only of those who live with it, who endure its appalling stigma, but also those who know the positive and, most achingly, cannot protect them from losing what brings each one of us alive: spirit.

 

The author is a Mumbai-based writer.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT IMPLIES A NEW WAY OF DOING BUSINESS'

 

Ricardo Young, president of Brazil's Ethos Institute that focuses on initiating companies into a culture of corporate social responsibility (CSR), tells Nandita Sengupta that new ways of doing business must be explored to meet the challenge of climate change:


Your take is CSR is not a part of business, but its core. How?

The issue is what climate change means in terms of sustainable management, which can't be developed without CSR. Sustainable management implies a systemic understanding of your business, from your suppliers to how you tackle the waste. It's neither charity nor philanthropy. It's a new way of doing business.


Brazil seems to have no problems when compared to the challenges India faces. India has to balance development with social inclusion. To do this in a sustainable way will require the most advanced technology and innovation ever. It requires a completely new understanding of what development means. India should fork out much more in infrastructure so that you can retain people in their villages and minimise migration to cities. In a sustainable world, there is no solution to big cities.


We redefine development?

Sure. Cities are old-fashioned. New Delhi, Mumbai, Sao Paulo... they are already impossible. Quality of life is more important than the traditional concept of being rich or having lot of things to consume. India knows, and Gandhi's words are now more contemporary than ever before, quality of life is not equal to number of things you can consume. You must invest in things that provide at least potential quality of life: infrastructure for sanitation, health and education.


This is at least what we're doing in Brazil, where 98 per cent population lives in 2.5 per cent of territory. What happens to the rest of the land? Take out the Amazon and we still have 60 per cent land on machine-intensive agribusiness. Vast parts of land, farms the size of Belgium have one or two owners. That's ridiculous. We are discussing how we can rethink agribusiness to promote inclusion and retain people in their villages providing them with education, internet, healthcare, sanitation. There's no point providing goods without infrastructure.

How does business values alter in a sustainable world?

The major challenge business faces is to develop the technology needed to compete in a sustainable market. Building trust in the whole value chain and with customers is the second big challenge. Transparency and accountability is essential. The consumer will be increasingly aware of what companies are doing. We live in a transparent world where everything is online. Any poor experience will be on Twitter within minutes. And third, businesses have to understand the meaning of collaboration. Business, government and civil society need to collaborate. These new values are not easy to understand because now we work in vertical value chains but we'll have to move towards more networked systems, an ecosystem of business.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

SUBVERSE

MORPHEUS RELOADED

"Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans...move to an area and you multiply...until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area." Ergo, the human race is a "virus". Thus spake Agent Smith, virtual villain in The Matrix (1999), one of the slickest Hollywood sci-fi flicks ever made. The Machine - artificial intelligence - keeps humanity's suicidal folly in check, Smith derisively tells Morpheus, leader of the Resistance against the Matrix's simulated world. Delicious irony, for self-replicating humans who think they can beat everything from Malthusian hypotheses to the climatic tipping point.


Protesting enslavement by virtual reality, we humans back Morpheus. We cheer his Saviour-elect in battle galactica: Neo versus the Con. Smith's comeuppance - his body electric becomes a light-emanating cross - excites us especially. But why does this celluloid baddie disturb us? Is it simply his ability to project the power of an alternative reality as seductive as it's fake? Yet when Morpheus famously tells Neo, "Welcome to the real world" outside the Matrix, that human world's nothing but scorched Earth. 'Emancipation', then, is awaking to war's detritus, remains of a fateful day when man blacked out sun and sky. If Morpheus incarnates freedom as the courage to 'see' a seemingly unchosen human predicament, shape-shifting Smith complements him. Antithetical mirror, he reflects truths humanity proactively circumvents.


Cut to the visiting alien in the shoddy sci-fi, The Day the Earth Stood Still. He doesn't come in peace either: he's to rid Earth of humans, a species on self-destruct mode. But we prefer him to the implacable Smith. He's an entity with an 'open mind' about us. Seeing how humans mourn loss and families feel love and other squishy emotions, he's persuaded they need saving. Moral of the story: only at world's end can dysfunctional humans redeem themselves. So, planetary collateral damage notwithstanding, give the poor dolts a chance.

Many Copenhagen-bound personages today or WMD-disarmers tomorrow will agree. We earthlings aren't outsiders circumstantially drawn into the complex web of our strengths and failings. We're insiders, clinging to life-belts from assumed dominance over nature to post-doomsday biospheric bailouts. Besides, when our hubris breaches tolerable levels - nuclear threat, ecological damage or a spot of genocide here and there - we renew multilateral vows to stop walking down suicide alley.


To what end? Whether you herald man's annihilation (Smith) or redemption (Morpheus), either way you need unsentimental lucidity. Whether you back the pessimist's take on humanity or the optimist convert's, objectivity vis-a-vis human nature can only be had from vantage points.


Extrapolate from the thought experiment of physicist Schrodinger, whose famous cat has a 50-50 chance of life or death inside a sealed box. Poisoning or survival being quantum probabilities, the feline's fate is revealed only when the observing eye looks into the experimental box to find reality collapsed into one state or another. But though 'entangled' in the sense of forcing an outcome, the dispassionate eye has no stake in the aliveness or deadness of the thing observed. In contrast, the protagonist in the box, contingently implicated, can't but live as if his hair's on fire, as the Buddhist saying goes. Even if he wants to save the cat (read: humanity), he can't but act as if his hair's on fire.


Lucidity demands distance. Rationally speaking, we can't but apprehend the finite, transitional and - some say, anomalous - nature of the human species. Given the additional evidence of its destructiveness, it may even be argued that the only possible philosophical counter is reduced stakeholding in humanity's fate even as we work for the best outcome. Far from a moral cop out, that's an intellectual imperative if we're to arrive at the courage to 'see', to contextualise human life as one random pirouette in a larger cosmic dance. Our true redemptive powers lie in recognising that we're part of a vast universe of abiding generosity - and inhuman resilience. More, this macrocosm preceded us, escapes us and will one day wink at our passing. Realising this doesn't diminish us. To use Morpheus-speak, it sets us free.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

REVEL WITH A CAUSE

 

As Copenhagen gets off the ground, many across the world are finding new meeting grounds. The Nepal cabinet has chosen the lofty elevation of 18,192 feet in the Himalayan range to hold a meet — following the opposite altitude that the Maldivian cabinet took when it dived to the ocean floor for a conference last month. The purpose of taking such high and low grounds is to draw attention to the perils of climate change from melting glaciers (for Nepal) to rising sea levels (for the Maldives). So, can we, as the big wheel around these parts, be left out?

 

In India's case, we're spoilt for choice. If it's mountains, well, there is no dearth of high places. If forests are your fancy, what better place than a meeting in Maoist-infested woods? If we want to really highlight the environment, a Cabinet natter in the Union Carbide factory could show the world that we are not put off by a bit of toxic shock. Or move to the banks of the Yamuna where the river foaming with chemicals languidly trickles past.

 

India should show the world that even with our environment falling apart, we can cock a snook at those with their snouts in the trough at Copenhagen. We editorial writers, too, are considering moving to a vantage point from which to bring you our gems highlighting our concerns that should be yours too. We'd prefer the Bahamas or somewhere on the Mediterranean coast line.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE PAKISTAN WE CAN TALK TO

 

Pakistan, as is becoming increasingly obvious to the world outside, is a prime victim of Islamic terrorism. This hardly makes the observation of Pakistan being a prime conduit of jihadi violence redundant. It merely makes the 'Pakistan constant' in the equation of Islamic terrorism — and the way the world deals with Pakistan — more complex. If Friday's attacks on mosques in the military headquarters town of Rawalpindi is a further confirmation, jihadis on Pakistani soil have reached the stage that all revolutionaries do after a point: that of turning on their own benefactors. For India, Pakistan has been for the last one year two nations: its civil society and civilian government trying to make sense (if nothing more) of the fundamentalist rage swirling around them; and its military establishment, spearheaded by the Inter-Services Intelligence, continuing to cherry-pick 'good jihadis' for strategic reasons. This two-nation theory of Pakistan has now become dated.

 

The Pakistani military establishment, with its own cabals and huddles, is itself under attack from Islamic terrorists. The military operations in Swat and Waziristan were not, thanks to American refereeing, shadowboxing. In such a setting, the issue of India talking to Pakistan in 'good faith' is no longer an option of diplomatic manoeuvring; it is necessary. Demanding cooperation at a time when Pakistan is facing an existential crisis is more fruitful than doing what New Delhi has always done when it alone has been the target: simply rail against an uncooperative Islamabad. But for India, the question is, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh put it in Washington recently, whom do we talk to? Islamabad is living a hand-to-Big Mouth existence with no coordinated decision — let alone one involving neutralising elements bent on destroying the Pakistani State — being made. US President Barack Obama understands this and thus his comments about America being forced to 'do their job' if the Pakistanis can't.

 

With a Federal Bureau of Investigation team scheduled to visit New Delhi this week to share information on Pakistani-American David Headley's and Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana's involvement in planned terrorist attacks on India soil, India must push the envelope. As of now, jihadi agents like Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafeez Saeed  are roaming about freely in Pakistan despite India providing 'enough evidence' for his arrest for his role in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. With terrorist attacks within Pakistan unlikely to go down until the country's military establishment bites the leather to shed its schizoid approach towards jihadi terror, New Delhi has the advantage of telling Islamabad — Rawalpindi, actually — that it's high time Pakistan helps us to help them to help both of us against an increasingly obvious common enemy.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

LOSING TOUCH WITH REALITY

PANKAJ VOHRA

 

The winter session of Parliament will go down as one of several dubious distinctions. First, Parliament had to be adjourned during question hour last Monday due to lack of quorum and because most of the members whose questions were listed were absent. But, more important, for the second time in this session the Prime Minister chose to go on a foreign visit, though it was fixed much earlier. This goes to show that the executive needs to review its future relationship with the legislature. Both the Prime Minister's Office and Ministry of External Affairs officials must ensure that, in future, such foreign visits should not take place in mid-session unless they are unavoidable.

 

The Prime Minister was away for eight days to the US and the Caribbean in late November and will be in Russia on a three-day visit when the Liberhan Commission report is discussed in the Lok Sabha on Monday and Tuesday. And when he goes to Copenhagen for the climate change meet, this will be the third time he will be absent.

 

Manmohan Singh is a man of great integrity and intellect. But as the PM, he must be present when serious issues are discussed. The prices of essential commodities have gone through the roof and no amount of explanations regarding the rise in the sensex or projection of a higher growth rate can take away from the problems people are facing.

 

On the price issue, one would have expected that Singh, a top economist along with his aides such as Montek Singh Ahluwalia and his most experienced minister Pranab Mukherjee would be thinking of solutions. He must realise that within six months of his government taking over for the second tenure, its image is rapidly plummeting. The increase in prices of essential food items is bad news for the aam aadmi and this year alone, the hike has been phenomenal. Sugar has gone up from Rs 24 per kg to over Rs 40. Some of the pulses are more than Rs 100 per kg, atta and rice are also up and milk prices keep moving upward. The government has to step in.

 

The gigantic Madhu Koda scam, the National Thermal Power Corporation scandal and the suspected havala transactions of Emaar MGF all point a needle of suspicion to influential people in the government, and outside it. The Satyam controversy is still fresh in everyone's mind. The Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the affairs of the Bellary brothers has not been ordered without reason.

 

The Opposition is in total disarray. The Left has suffered reverses in both Kerala and West Bengal, its bastions. The BJP is paralysed by the civil war within the Sangh parivar. The Mulayams and Lalus are busy getting over their electoral humiliation and Mayawati is consolidating her position within her own state.

 

Given the kind of casual manner in which the government is trying to face the new challenges, people will lose all faith in it. In our democracy, people are supreme and through them Parliament as well. The Prime Minister is answerable to the people through Parliament. He must never forget this. Between us.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

NO JET LAG ON CLIMATE

LALITA PANICKER

 

The only element of humour in the never-ending pre-Copenhagen meets was when someone asked how much jet fuel, with all its attendant damage to the environment, it would take to cart all the thousands of participants
to the Copenhagen talkfest that kicks off today. Otherwise, the business of greenhouse gas emissions brings out the unsmilingly serious side of most people, notably officialdom. And perhaps nowhere more so than in France where the government and its ancillary bodies feel more has been done to save the planet than anywhere else.

 

And they wouldn't be too far off the mark. France leads the world in nuclear energy, read clean energy, and, therefore, feels it has the right to be a bit preachy. But, this has not clouded its sense of realism about the outcome of the Copenhagen summit. Laurent Stefanini, Ambassador of France for the Environment, is clear that no treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol will emerge in Copenhagen. The best-case scenario is an agreement that could eventually become legally binding. This, he feels, might just get the notoriously reluctant Americans on board. The very fact that US President Barack Obama plans to drop by in Copenhagen signals that the US might be a little more bendy than in the Bush era of 'emitter takes it all'.

 

France, meanwhile, has arrived at a joint position with Brazil on the climate change issue and as Phillipe Leglise-Costa, Permanent representative of France at the European Union puts it, would be more than glad to do the same with India. But with the developing countries and least-developed countries still sticking to variations of the polluter pays principle, the financial architecture of a new climate change regime becomes a problem. The French position is that whatever a new global fund on the environment notches up must go on a priority basis to Africa and other poor countries that have no capacity to deal with the problem themselves. That money should come from the carbon market, he feels.

 

India's position that it would undertake mitigation and adaptation measures internally has received a cautious welcome in France. This is because New Delhi has made it clear that none of these would be open to international scrutiny. The ebullient Minister for Environment Jairam Ramesh has said as much. There is some logic in opposing this position. If the greenhouse gas emissions are a collective problem, there have to be international yardsticks on assessing reduction measures. It cannot be that any one country decides on the parameters of reduction unilaterally.

 

Christian Masset, Director-General of Global Affairs, Development and Partnerships in the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, is more clear in his stand. "There can be no free riders on the issue of the environment."

 

He is obliquely critical of developing countries. He is aggressively pushing for a world environment organisation that will ensure compliance with whatever comes out of Copenhagen, coordination and framing a compendium of rules. Today, there are 500 conventions on the environment. There are many which overlap each other. The idea is to bring them under one umbrella body and make sure that the rules apply to all countries.

 

Underlying all this is the threat that a carbon tax could be imposed on those who don't play ball. Could this mean sanctions for those who don't fall in line? In that delightful obscure French way, the answer would seem to be that this could be a possibility in the future but how it would hurt to have to hurt others. And we can see how that would go down with countries like India and China. The old dictum of trust but verify would be desirable though in environmental jargon, it sounded so much nicer when it was put as 'we need a multilateral surveillance'.

Leave aside the developing countries, the countries of the EU are in different states of development. With 27 nations, the EU has its own share of problems. While France is clear that the EU will not adopt a business-as- usual policy, it acknowledges that countries like Poland that have a long way to go cannot be held down to high emission targets.

 

The same applies to India and China, given the latter's headstart in industrialisation and its vastly greater polluting capacity. Here the Chinese seem to have played their cards better than the Indians in showing greater willingness to undertake emission cuts. Whether they do so or not is a moot point. But whereas in China, the monolithic state is taking the initiative, in India private companies seem to have left the government behind in their zeal for green technology.

 

This is because many of them have studied the European model, especially that of France, and seen that green technology actually enhances the bottomline in the long-run.

 

But as with the Kyoto Protocol, at the end of the day, the position still remains that even if the whole world bends over backwards to enforce cuts, the threat to the environment remains as long as the US continues its flagrant lifestyle. The only difference now is that the rest of the world seems determined to go ahead and leave the US to its own devices if it continues its intransigence. The idea seems to be that a US in recession will have to come to its senses if it wants to keep its head above the water. Which explains why Obama has gone to Copenhagen.

 

There is a sense of slight unease at India's shifts in position from time to time. But also the belief that unlike an inflexible US, India has understood that while poverty is its prime preoccupation, it will not put off trying to
implement emissions' reductions at this stage of industrialisation.

 

While India might not buy the theory that it must pay its way, as France seems to suggest, it does seem to acknowledge that it cannot wait for full industrialisation to take place before it catches the emissions' reduction bus. Which would suggest that all that jet fuel may not go to total waste after all.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

MIND CONTROL

PANKAJ KUMAR

 

"For the mind is very restless, O Krishna! It is hard to curb as the wind," Arjuna complains to Lord Krishna in the Gita. The Lord advices him that his mind can be curbed by constant effort and dispassion.

 

Our mind is restless because we have many desires.

 

Swami Sivananda says: "If you want to check the wandering mind, you will have to renounce all sorts of desires and control the indriyas (sense organs) first."

 

Mantra meditation is a good way to control the mind. We sit down in a quiet place, close our eyes and repeat the name of God or a mantra for 10-30 minutes. Initially the mind wanders but   with practice, the mind gets under our control. This exercise should preferably be done at least two hours after meal.

 

When the mind is filled with a variety of thoughts (called mind chatter), then it is helpful to write down whatever comes to mind for 10-30 minutes. The thoughts get out of our system and we are able to concentrate on the task in hand.

 

Yogis have found that pranayama (breathing exercise) makes the mind "one-pointed" or concentrated. Pranayama checks the mind's tendency to think too much.

 

 If we are distracted, we cannot read. In such a situation, it is easier to control one's actions than one's mind. Our actions are more under the control of our will. So, if we are unable to control the mind, we can take up some physical activity and gradually the mind  too gets under control.

 

It is difficult to control the mind when we are under the sway of baser emotions like lust and anger. Fasting and prayer keep lust under control while observing silence is beneficial to curb anger. It is helpful to take simple food when we are in distress.  Alcohol is dangerous because it loosens the hold of that part of the mind (called the superego by Sigmund Freud) that keeps under control our desire to pursue pleasure.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

DON'T CALL THE POLICE

SYLVESTER DA CUNHA

 

The first contingent of Anti-Terror Commandoes stood at ramrod attention on the parade ground. All fighting fit and superbly trained to protect citizens from bombs, rockets and Diwali crackers. The Police Commissioner mounted the stage to announce his 'call to the colours'. 

 

He announced and announced and announced and announced. Suddenly, one commando fainted. Minutes later, another went down.

 

What had happened? Were they over-awed by the momentous occasion — these same men trained to withstand water-boarding, electric shocks, prolonged starvation, standing on one leg for a day and-a-half?

 

 I visited them in hospital, seeking answers. The first patient explained: "We have been trained to bear pain, thirst, loneliness but not this." "What?" I asked. "Boredom — extreme, unremitting boredom. It was suffocating. I wanted to yawn, but that would have meant a court-martial. To shut my ears I would have had to drop my weapon and face a firing squad. So I hung on desperately hoping that the noise would stop. But it didn't. Then everything went blank. I woke up in hospital." I gave the commando his get-well-soon card and moved to the next bed.

 

 A voice from under the sheet said, "No more speeches, please! I give up. I confess." After being convinced that he was talking to a sympathetic friend, he opened up. "I listened to the Commissioner sahib and got totally confused. Sahib was saying: 'I am from IPS batch of 1983, three weeks senior to the fellow you are considering to supercede me. Please, please provide me the justice I deserve.' He was reading from his 108-page letter to the Home Minister sahib. When this was pointed this out to him by a Chicago Radio boy, he found the right papers and declared: 'Force One, this is your passing out parade'. So I passed out."

 

Our Police has been constantly in the news — for the wrong reasons. First the well-known IG charged three of his senior officers with funking the fight on 26/11. Then a book by the widow of a slain hero exposed the guardians of the law as being always off-guard. The head priest of the Home Ministry, Reverend Chidambaram, has assured the nation of a total revamp in staffing and state-of-art weaponry. An independent defence expert however raises doubts. Here's what the police claim and the expert's published comments. 

 

 Police: We have ordered "the sophisticated M4 Colt 5.56 Carbine which fires 700–950 rounds per minute."

 

Expert: "The M4 5.56 is being phased out by NATO and other current users in Europe because of problems including jamming and heavy component wear and tear." 

 

Police: "We have purchased the M107 Special Application Rifle, the world's most powerful small arm."

 

Expert: "Mumbai does not have experts familiar with the complex computerised equipment needed to optimise the M 107's use in varying climatic and wind conditions. Three officers were responsible for weapon selection. None have experience in special weapons technologies. Instead, representatives of a Hong Kong-based firm which made the sale acted as advisors and also provided for short-term training."Funny business, this.Sylvester da Cunha is one of India's pioneering admen whose agency creates the widely-loved Amul ads

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

COURTING RESOLUTIONS

 

Reports suggest that the law ministry has asked the Supreme Court collegium to reconsider its recommendation to elevate Karnataka High Court Chief Justice P.D. Dinakaran to the country's highest adjudicatory body. The law ministry move follows much uncertainty over the fate of Justice Dinakaran, given that a report by the collector of the district in which the judge is alleged to have grabbed land is believed to be adverse and that his proposed elevation has invited caution by senior jurists. This is not the first time that the Supreme Court collegium has been requested to reconsider its recommendation. For instance, in November 2008, the prime minister's office reportedly objected to three recommended judges — Justices H.L. Dattu, A.K. Ganguly and R.M. Lodha — since they were not the seniormost. But the collegium stuck by its recommendation, and as convention dictated, its decision was heeded.

 

While it is unclear what the collegium's response will be, it is a testament to the responsiveness of the system that many dissenting voices have been given a considered hearing. Apart from eminent jurists, former Chief Justice J.S. Verma argued in these pages that even the hint of scandal was enough to decide against appointing a judge to the Supreme Court; he, in fact, suggested the executive's intervention. The law ministry, thus, has the opportunity to end this sordid saga that, left unaddressed, could end up doing the reputation of the apex court no good.

 

Whatever the conclusion may be in this case, the long-term questions highlighted need to be urgently addressed. Ever since the Second (1993) and Third (1998) Judges Cases, the five seniormost judges of the Supreme Court self-appoint. Suggestions for a third party — either an ombudsman or a government official — to also have a say in appointments have so far not moved forward. Besides, the exercise in appointing judges is shrouded in secrecy, as witnessed by the recent Supreme Court decision to stay a Central Information Commission order directing the release of documents concerning the appointments of Justices Dattu, Ganguly and Lodha. Of course, any move to increase transparency in appointments and expand the pool of decision-makers must be done in a way that preserves the independence of the judiciary. It is within this framework that the larger questions thrown up by the Justice Dinakaran episode need to be addressed.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

AGREEING TO AGREE

 

After much will-he-won't-he suspense, it turns out that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will attend the final stages of the Copenhagen summit which starts today. Barack Obama and Wen Jiabao have also confirmed their attendance. Why does their presence matter so crucially?  Because it has been understood for a while now that Copenhagen will not throw up a "legally binding" clincher; thus, the best that can be hoped for is an agreement on a roadmap to a legally binding agreement at some unspecified future point, probably next year. In other words, Copenhagen is expected to carve out a never-before international "political agreement" — and for such an agreement to carry any weight in the world, it must be solidly backed up by important heads of state.

 

Copenhagen — or more precisely, COP15 (the 15th Conference of Parties), attended by 193 nations — is likely to be a long and arduous haul. Starting today with negotiators' meetings, and then moving on to ministerial-level discussions, it will be capped by the world leaders meeting on December 18. Over the course of the summit, there is likely to be much friction as different nations strike off each other to get the best deal domestically. However, they must remember that public opinion will watch for the outcome. This should not be an arena where countries clash with cardboard swords to impress the folks back home — it must be undertaken with the awareness that coming to a common, consensual workplan is absolutely vital.  Unlike trade talks, much more stagey, and where one dramatic exit doesn't really scupper global economic integration, the Copenhagen climate summit is a much more sensitive, delicate affair. It tests the very possibility of international collaboration around a contentious and difficult set of measures that are nonetheless imperative to our security and survival. So while walking out in a huff might be emotionally satisfying, India must be extremely careful in how it deploys that threat.

 

The Lok Sabha debate showed how political opinion here has begun to coalesce around climate action and India's responsibilities. Our negotiators must translate all that parliamentary support offered to the government into a meaningful agreement that we can all live with.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

RANKING TESTS

 

We can argue endlessly whether India are deserving enough of the number one ranking amongst Test teams. The mantle came with the big win over Sri Lanka at Mumbai this weekend, with Virender Sehwag's almost-triple century keeping the record keepers interested. But rewind to the three matches of this Test series, and another debate intertwines with this one about India's eminence. It is this: how preeminent amongst the different formats of cricket is Test now? And putting that another way: if it be the case that Indian spectators and television audiences embraced one-day and Twenty20 cricket upon winning world championships (in 1983 and 2007), will this year-end ascent in the Test rankings rewrite the obituaries recently trotted out for the five-day game?

 

That there is alarm in the air is evident from the fact that even in what turned out to be a 2-0 series win (in a series of only three Tests), even the players were vocal about the nature of the tracks being prepared not being, perhaps, conducive to keeping the audiences interested. After all, just a few decades ago a five-match series of four draws could be considered riveting. Certainly, the nature of the game has changed, and not just because audiences are impatient with both draws and the finer points of the game. It is also because Tests have been speeded up, arguably by a generation of cricketers who have brought to the five-day matches a tendency for haste and improvisation from the one-day and more recently T20 formats. It is not that the leisurely ways of Tests are under threat, it is that Tests are not considered by their exponents now to be leisurely affairs.

 

So, look again at the series and a sense of optimism is valid. Three of India's long marchers asserted themselves, and showed that as long as cricketers like Dravid, Tendulkar and Sehwag rise to the potential of Tests, the potential for winning the case for Tests by the overwhelming quality (and quantity) of their performance, the audiences will come.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

OLD FRIENDS, DIFFERENT TIMES

C. RAJA MOHAN

 

As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh holds consultations with the Russian leadership today, India should get a first-hand assessment of Moscow's thinking on the rapidly changing great power relations and what they mean for the balance of power in Eurasia.

 

A decade ago when annual summitry between India and Russia began, Moscow was driven by the need to limit the dangers of perceived American unilateralism. Russia, like everyone else in the world including India, must now come to terms with the dramatic rise of China and the new direction of Sino-American partnership.

 

A decade ago, disappointed by the meagre results from Boris Yeltsin's attempts to integrate Russia with the West through the 1990s — the immediate aftermath of the Cold War — a new generation of Russian leaders led by Vladimir Putin sought to reaffirm Moscow's standing as a great power.

 

This did not mean Putin wanted a renewed confrontation with the US. Hardly. Putin offered unconditional cooperation to the US in the wake of 9/11, and President George W. Bush declared that he could do business with Putin.

 

Throughout this decade, Russia focused on the creation of a "multipolar world" that would limit America's "hyperpower". This in turn set the stage for Russia's major strategic initiative of the current decade — the institutionalisation of the so-called strategic triangle with China and India, and drawing in other emerging powers such as Brazil.

 

Russia also extended support to China's initiative to build the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Both Moscow and Beijing had a common interest in preventing the United States from meddling too much in Central Asia, which abuts Russia's soft underbelly and China's volatile western flank.

 

This framework, of course, is coming apart amidst the shifting balance among Washington, Beijing and Moscow. As he copes with the challenges of a rare financial crisis at home and the unfinished costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ameican President Barack Obama has chosen to "reset" ties with Russia and reach out to China.

 

Delhi must expect that Putin and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev would want to take full advantage of Obama's offer. At the same time Moscow has also reasons to be wary about the growing pressures on Washington to accommodate Beijing.

 

Like India, Russia has no interest in seeing a Sino-American condominium over Asia. Obama's visit to Beijing last month has generated as much anxiety in Moscow as it has in Delhi. It has revealed the new imperatives for India and Russia to draw together amidst the new flux in great power relations.

 

It might be worth recalling that it was Sino-US rapprochement in 1971 that pushed India towards a de facto alliance with the Soviet Union. Unlike in the 1970s, Delhi and Moscow should have no desire to direct their partnership against either Washington or Beijing. After all, Russia and America are recrafting their relationship; and Moscow's ties with Beijing are becoming thicker than Indo-Russian relations.

 

Meanwhile, India's own fledgling strategic partnership with America has been reaffirmed during Dr Singh's visit to Washington last month; and for all the difficulties in Delhi's ties with Beijing, there is no way of ignoring the importance of a peaceful Sino-Indian relationship.

 

What Dr Singh and his Russian interlocutors are looking at is a new Eurasian equilibrium, in which Delhi's ties with Moscow do not remain the weakest link. At the core of any attempt to restructure the Indo-Russian relationship must be the recognition of the fact that a multipolar world is already at hand — thanks to the rise of China and the weakening of American power.

 

As Delhi and Moscow recognise that the creation of a multipolar Asia is as important as the construction of a multipolar world, an agenda of cooperative bilateral action presents itself. The following is an illustrative list of what India and Russia can do together in the coming years. 

 

India's growing hunger for natural resources and Russia's need to modernise its massive mineral sector provides a synergy that needs to be fully developed. Indian capital, managerial talent and manpower can, for example, help Russia develop its resource-rich far eastern regions.

 

India and Russia could think big about developing bilateral industrial collaboration between Russian defence firms and the Indian private sector that has now ventured into arms manufacture.

 

Delhi and Moscow can both learn from Beijing which has become a major exporter of arms in Asia, Middle East and Africa and is in a position to tilt the military balance of power in many sub-regions of the world.

 

On the nuclear front too India and Russia must focus on the objective of jointly offering the full spectrum of nuclear products and services to the rapidly expanding global market for atomic electricity generation.

 

Even more important is the need for Indo-Russian collaboration in advanced atomic science and technology — from nuclear fusion to high energy lasers — that contributes to their own national security as well increases their contribution to the promotion of global arms control and non-proliferation.

 

Finally, India and Russia must consider very visible and bold high technology ventures that will capture the spirit of new possibilities between the two countries. The establishment of a joint centre for advanced space research in India could be one way of going about it.

 

Such a facility could focus on a range of new opportunities in outer space — from colonising the moon to the development of cheaper launch technologies, from developing small nuclear reactors for space travel to development of new legal principles to govern growing human activity in the heavens, and from training Indian astronauts to developing space-based solar power.

 

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

 

express@expressindia.com

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INDIAN EXPRESS

BETTER LEFT UNSAID

JEREMY CARL

 

Sometimes in diplomacy what is not announced is more revealing than what is. Such is certainly the case in India's recent climate and energy negotiations with the US, as both countries prepare to head to global climate talks in Copenhagen. The occasion of Manmohan Singh's state visit to the US brought the announcement of a flurry of energy and climate-related initiatives. These initiatives were a combination of substance and political theatre, with potentially important initiatives on environmental and regulatory capacity-building and technology partnerships buried under a deep layer of bureaucratic niceties.

 

What was more noticed was what was not announced: any agreement for India to have a binding target for CO2 emissions reductions, something US and European environmentalists have long claimed is necessary as part of a global effort to stave off severe climate change. And while the Indian government has eventually announced a targeted reduction in what is known as "emissions intensity", CO2 emissions per unit of GDP, that wasn't a big stretch, given India's current annual efficiency improvements. Furthermore, Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh has made it abundantly clear in Parliament that such targets would be voluntary and not part of a binding international agreement.

 

With more than 60 world leaders in attendance, we can be assured that Copenhagen will not end in public failure. But the better question is whether the announced success in Copenhagen will have any practical meaning other than determining that diplomats can spin a "success" out of any actual events. Some Indian commentators have seemed to hope for a "success" of that sort — fretting about India being outmanoeuvred on the public stage by China and other developing countries that may be able to strike a more cooperative posture.

 

While from a tactical standpoint, such concerns are understandable (there is little reason for India to not commit to doing things it would like to do anyway, such as developing more efficient power plants or cars), from the perspective of actually taking leadership in addressing the climate problem, they mean little. In some ways, India is emulating the example of the US from the previous Kyoto climate round: while the US certainly should have been more proactive and engaged, at least the Americans had the integrity not to ratify an agreement that they couldn't keep. Many other nations could not claim that; they either missed their targets entirely, or resorted to bogus accounting tricks to meet their goals.

 

That India is showing its seriousness by not making climate commitments it won't live by should actually be seen as a mature and responsible decision, not an intransigent one. Does anyone think that China won't walk away from its promise if they have trouble meeting their emissions reduction goals?

 

As an alternative to the hot air that is likely to come out of Copenhagen, it is instructive to look at the potentially useful energy and climate agreements the US and India did sign during the PM's recent visit. The fact that clean energy was the second item listed behind security issues in the joint communiqué announced by Singh and Obama is clear evidence that both India and the US place a high importance on this aspect of their relationship.

 

India and the US announced numerous programmes, from the joint deployment of solar electricity in Indian cities to the strengthening of India's environmental regulatory and monitoring capacity — which is sure to be a critical step if India is to make serious and verifiable long-term commitments to emissions reductions. Perhaps most important, at least symbolically, was the announcement of joint scientific R&D work for renewable energy technologies. The Indo-US Clean Energy Research and Deployment Initiative, which promises joint development of new energy technologies and the development of a joint research centre with a public-private funding model, is one such initiative.

 

Ultimately, despite the bluster of diplomats in Delhi, Washington or Copenhagen, the solutions to the climate change problem must come through a technological revolution in the world's energy infrastructure. And it is here that India, with its burgeoning corps of bright young engineers, could make the biggest impact on climate change mitigation. Circumstances may not permit

 

India to lead the deal-making in Denmark, but if the Indian government gets serious about turning more of India's brightest young minds towards solving the clean energy problem, then India's contribution to solving the climate change conundrum may be significant indeed.

 

The writer is a research fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute of International Studies at Stanford University, where his work focuses on India

express@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

'I FOUND OUT THAT I WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO COULD EXPLAIN OUR MUSIC, GIVE A COMPARATIVE IDEA OF WESTERN AND INDIAN MUSIC'

 

Pandit Ravi Shankar, world-renowned sitar maestro, grew up with Western teaching and culture before making the painful transition to the austere gurukul system of learning. In the first part of an interview with The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV 24x7's Walk the Talk, Ravi Shankar talks about his early years and his guru, the legendary Allauddin Khan.

 

Hello and welcome to Walk the Talk. I am Shekhar Gupta and let me tell you that there are days in my life when I really love my job and this is one of those. My guest today is none else than Pandit Ravi Shankar. It's so wonderful to meet you. I think those who can get this close to you are blessed and I get to speak with you.

God bless you. I have been seeing your thing also. It's an interesting and new way of an interview. I appreciate it.

 

Thank you very much. But guruji, it is always a challenge when one is conversing with someone like you because I am a philistine. Hum log kahan jaante hain art, culture… to dar lagta hai ki aapse baat bhi kar payenge ya nahi.

Haan ye to hai. And especially you have done a few musicians also, which is very interesting.

 

Yes, some.

And have you done painters and different artistes?

 

Some, but it is always a challenge because one has to learn. Politicians, diplomats, economists, anything that is not complex. Art is simple and also complex.

Absolutely. And for artistes, I can say for myself that I can only speak through my sitar. And that is where I can express all my feelings and everything. But I am not a very good speaker as such. (laughs)

 

You have done very well. This is your centre. Ravi Shankar Institute of Music and Performing Arts in Chanakyapuri, Delhi, that you set up almost like a museum as well. If you look at all these pictures, I can see that you can speak in any language with anybody.

That's true. That has been a blessing.

 

From Rajiv Gandhi to George Harrison to Dalai Lama… and that looks like S D Burman.

And here you can see my son, who unfortunately died. And that's my grandson… and grandson is grown up in this one... And this is Norah, my other daughter. I am blessed with two wonderful daughters.

 

Two wonderfully talented daughters.

Fantastic, yeah. This is also my son. This is Ali Akbar Khan and myself in moustache. I was a Maratha and he was a baniya in this.

 

Well, I hope these moustaches weren't pasted with Fevicol so they would not come off for 50 years (laughs). But tell me sir, from the joy on your face, how do you defy age? May you continue to defy it forever.

I don't know, I mean I have been very lucky in my life. I have suffered many a time through different things. But you know, I consider it all my guru's blessings. I was lucky enough to have Baba Allauddin Khan as a guru…

 

Yes, you had a brilliant guru.

He was more of a father to me actually and his blessings and whatever training he gave is so unique that I could bring it out, not only in India, but all over the world. I feel very honoured.

 

But a very tough father figure…

Oh, yeah.

 

Tell us a bit about your training under him.

Well, he had a violent temper. But I hold the record of being the only one who has not been beaten by him. And the first time he got angry with me was when he was giving me a lesson and it was a very difficult passage with the left hand and the right hand combination. So I could not produce it. So he slowly got angry, so when I saw that I also felt really… 

 

Nervous?

Not nervous. In fact I felt rather angry because I was very spoilt. I could not take any anger from anyone.

 

Or criticism?

Yeah. So what happened was that it became worse. So all he said was that "jao jao jake chudi pa lo" which means that jake chudiyan pehan lo. Tumhara haath itna nazuk hai ki tum ye nahi baja sakte ho. And that was all. I went home. I packed. I wanted to go back.  

 

You decided to run away?

Yeah, and next day he just embraced me. Also I saw for myself that there were students, dumb ones, who were beaten up and they would run away. Ali Akbar Khan ko ped se baandhkar teen teen din tak maara.  

 

Apne bete ko hi?

Yeah, he was really violent.  

 

And someone as talented as Ali Akbar Khan?

Yeah, and when he used to get angry with me he would tell me, go and practise. And he would go and beat up some dogs or some other student.  

 

To take out his anger.

He was absolutely violent. But the love that I got from him and the taleem …  

 

But did he figure out early enough that he had a star in his hands and did he tell you that?

Well, When we were touring… you know I went out when I was about 10 years old...  

 

Yes, to Europe with your brother to dance…

Baba toured with us for one year when I was 15 and that time he had already started teaching me and I was more of a dancer. I used to fiddle with all the different instruments. But he said do one thing. He said that ek saadhe sab saadhe, sab saadhe sab jaye, so you know that was…  

 

Yes, so focus on one thing at a time instead of doing too many things at the same time.

Jack of all trades and master of none. So, it took me one year. Because after one year he left and came back to India and me and my brother were still touring with the war and all till 1938. But by then his words and whatever I learnt had such importance that I did not want to become a dancer, which my brother wanted me to.  

 

Right. Uday Shankar…

He wanted me to take over his work, you know. So I decided to go to Baba. So from 1938 for the next seven and a half years I was there.  

 

Also you already had a glamorous life in Europe…Everybody in France would dote on you.

Absolutely. By 18, you know, I saw it all, I did it all. But he changed everything, you know.  

 

18 to 90… there has been nothing to stop you... Seeing it all and doing it all. So you sacrificed all that to come to a tiny place like Maihar?

Absolutely. No cinema, no entertainment.  

 

And a gurukul environment...

Yes, a gurukul environment. And we would play for almost 13-14 hours a day.

 

And a guru who would tie his own son to a tree and beat him up.

He used to do that. By the time I went, Ali Akbar bhai was already ready. He was younger than me. What a pity that he has gone before me. This happened a few months ago. Very sad. We were brothers. Very unfortunate.

 

I also hear stories or I read stories of you taking your guru to churches and he sort of picking up these spiritual tones there.

Absolutely. It was fantastic because I used to interpret everything for him. From bringing food to him to taking him to a church or any musical concert, and specially in a place like Tel Aviv or Cairo where he had some Arab music or Jewish music. He would go and participate with them.  

 

I see.

Or somewhere in Budapest where we had some gypsies, he would go and join with them because he could play the violin with the left hand also. He was so unlike other Ustads who are very orthodox and very serious. He was more like a child.  

 

He had fun and you have learnt that from him? You have had fun all your life doing creative stuff.

Absolutely and yes, I got that from him.  

 

I also read that when you took him to a church, I think in Brussels …

Yeah, he broke down standing in front of Virgin Mary and started calling out Ma Ma….and I did not know what to do because in a church you have to be silent. But then with great difficulty…  

 

He actually started crying?

So emotional, and he was such a staunch Muslim. Five times namaz, did Haj but at the same time if you would go to his house you would be surprised. Pictures of Rama, Krishna, Kali, Shiva, Ganesh… I mean he was so well-versed. He knew Mahabharata, Ramayana as he was born in a Hindu village in East Bengal, which is now Bangladesh. But he was so open and respectful towards all religions.  

 

That's what I heard from Bismillah Khan sahib also. Because he said that all music is spirituality. When the maulvi calls out to Allah, he says it in a musical manner because no God would listen to you if you did not speak to him or her musically.

That's true. Musicians have never been staunch anything. They believe in all religions, love and humanity as such.

 

So music is spiritual and also a unifier?

Absolutely. That's what I believe very strongly.  

 

So, your training and then your rediscovery of the West, first as a dancer and then as a sitar player.  

Exactly. I started from 1954 in Soviet Russia. That time I went with the group that Mrs Gandhi sent. And that was Eastern Europe only. But that gave me the impetus, or rather I found out that I was the only one who could speak, mind you, and explain our music, give a comparative idea of western and Indian music, etc. So from 1956 onwards I started going myself and touring.  

 

Because I think that has been one of your great contributions. You became an ambassador not just for Indian music but also for India and Indian culture or what is today called 'soft power'. You know, in the '50s, '60s and '70s, nobody talked of soft power.

Absolutely. I really was lucky because my childhood experience with my brother, having toured all over the world, knowing the western mind, their attitude or their lack of understanding of Indian music, I had known all that and I could explain it to them immediately. I had this advantage over all these musicians at that time. Now, of course, things are different.  

 

But tell me… two Bengali boys brought up in Varanasi land up in Europe in the thirties. How do you adjust to food, lifestyle, climate…?

Well, when you say two, you mean my brother?  

 

Right.

Well, he was 20 years older to me and he had an experience of being in the West for almost 15 years. My father was already there. So he actually taught us how to… I mean, I could not stand spaghetti and things like these on the boats. I threw up immediately. But you know he was such a wonderful trainer.  

 

But tell us about your experiences, your early experiences in the Western world. You know, adjusting at that young age.

It was so interesting, believe me. I only went to two years of school in Benares and one and a half years in Paris to learn French. But my whole learning was from travelling and seeing the world. I had a few lessons from my brother, of course. You know, a little English, arithmetic and algebra. But it was also to do with my tremendous passion for reading.  

 

So formally, you learnt French before you learnt English?

No, no. English was simultaneous. But French, I had to learn in Paris.

 

So tell us some, if you remember any, experiences of early days in France.

Well, we had a wonderful house there. Big mansion. My mother had come with us and we had regular Indian food at home but my mother came away after two years. So I grew up so fast because I was always with elderly people, travelling a lot. I went at the age of 12 to America. By boat at that time. And in the morning, through the fog, I saw the new Empire State Building and all the other sky-scrapers. It was an experience that I will never forget. So we went four times till 1938.  

 

And dealing with people... suddenly a new culture, new people?

Being very young, you adapt quickly. So I was all the time learning, listening to jazz, western classical. In fact, when we were there in Paris, Andrew Segovia was our neighbour and Fris Chrylser and all these people… a young Yehudi Menuhin, we met them all the time.  

 

So that friendship started with Yehudi Menuhin then?

Not friendship. Then, it was just knowing him. We met again in India when Pandit Nehru invited him. This was in 1952 and it was then that we became such wonderful friends and he was completely bouleversant by Indian music. He heard a lot of Indian music. He went to the South also. And then we became friends. Then I went to Europe and I composed two-three pieces. We recorded together and that record got me my first Grammy. He was a wonderful human being, not just a musician.  

 

But you were a little bit of a rock star, even as a teenager in Paris. I can see the smile on your face.

Well, not a rock star. I would really not say that. I was a young man, loving life and having good friends. I enjoyed myself very much but then the moment I met Baba (Ustad Allauddin Khan), things changed for me, really. And I took music so seriously that everything goes, according to him.  

 

You mean almost Brahmacharya?

Yes, that is exactly the thing which I could not follow, of course, for a very long time. But after I met him and when we went to Maihar to learn from him, it was a different life. It was absolute torture in the beginning. It was so difficult. Living there for the first time, after all the top class hotels and comforts. Sleeping in that room, with flies and mosquitoes, bichhu, saanp bhi chale jaate they kabhi. You know, rassi ki khatiya. But then I had the will power. I really wanted to…  

 

I think you really wanted to learn because it is one thing to start to learn celibacy when you are 12 but it is another thing when you have tasted life and then to go back to celibacy because then you know what you are missing.

Yes, really. It is almost like play action but it's after some time that you become serious. That was a very difficult period for me.  

 

(To be continued)

 

Transcribed by Suanshu Khurana.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

READY, STEADY IN COPENHAGEN


If one believes that the fight against climate change is a serious race against time, one has to further admit that some countries play hares, others tortoises and still others non-starters in this race. At Copenhagen, it's the hares who will obviously grab the headlines. That's been certain for some time. That's the nature of global power play. What's remained uncertain is exactly who's in the lead, although the picture has become clearer over the past couple of months. Historically, it's the EU that's moved the fastest on the matter, whether it's on matters relating to adoption of green technology, setting up carbon credits markets or pushing the Kyoto Protocol forward. This year too, the bloc moved off the block fastest and furthest, agreeing to lower greenhouse gas emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020 (equivalent to a 14% cut from 2005 levels), and promising deeper cuts if other countries promise increased commitments too. But there is no doubt that the bloc has now become sidelined. A Denmark draft proposal suggesting that the world cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 from 1990 levels has been dismissed by environment minister Jairam Ramesh as one that will lead the Copenhagen talks to a dead end. China's special envoy on climate change has also attacked European announcements, citing EU's failure to honour previous commitments to cut emissions and deliver technology transfer to poor countries.

 

India and China—the world's fastest growing economies—have obviously sprung to the frontlines of Copenhagen. This represents a long road travelled since Kyoto, which exempts them from having to curb carbon emissions. It's an exemption to which they are holding fast. And given how the world can ill afford to see India and China's growth narratives fade away, they have found a magic elixir that promises the best of both worlds—carbon intensity cuts that won't compromise growth but will deliver it with greater energy efficiency. Shyam Saran, the Indian PM's special envoy on climate change, is fond of reiterating that this country has delivered an average 6% economic growth since 1990, with energy consumption rising only 3.8% a year. This is a picture that will only get prettier once the carbon intensity cuts announced this week are stroked in. China has sketched out even more ambitious intensity cuts. By such brushwork have India and China turned the tables on those that were pasting their attachment to the per capita argument till just a month or so ago. Given that the EU cards have all been on the table for some time, the pressure from all this is really directed at the US. If Copenhagen fails to yield an agreement, more blame is likely to rest with the US than with us.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TRADING PLACES


The fall in India's merchandise exports (on a year-on-year statistical calculation) has now continued into the 13th month. The only consolation is that the rate of decline has decelerated from the peak level of 33.3% in March 2009 to just 6.6% in October 2009. But the overall scenario remains disconcerting as trends in export earnings have now reversed after registering some early gains. The total value of India's goods exports, which picked up from a low of $10.7 billion in April 2009 to $14.2 billion in August 2009, has once again dipped in the most recent two months to touch $13.2 billion in October. One may attribute a part of this decline in exports to the depreciation of the dollar in relation to the rupee. Interestingly, India's largest export markets are importing more. The total merchandise imports by OECD countries have steadily picked up from a trough level of $615 billion in April 2009 to $667 billion by August 2009. This increase has been reflected in individual member countries of OECD. For instance, monthly imports by the US have steadily gone up from a low of $119.3 billion in May 2009 to $137.9 billion in September. The trend was similar in other major Indian export markets like the UK and Germany.

 

A more extensive investigation shows that lack of buoyancy in Indian export markets can be at least partially explained by the trends in Asian markets, which seem to have lost traction in recent months. For instance, statistics from China show that merchandise imports into that country have dropped from the peak level of $103 billion in September 2009 to $86.8 billion in October, sharply pushing down imports from India from $1.4 billion to $0.9 billion during the period. Similarly, Singapore's imports from India have also declined from $845 million in August to $781 million in October. All these show that while Indian exports may not have been able to gain sufficient traction from the improving markets in OECD countries, the real problem is the continued fluctuations in the Asian markets. There is, of course, no reason to panic as the current account position remains well within manageable limits. Still, the government may want to review its export-related policies in this overall context. But the government first needs to be able to collect more accurate trade data with the smallest possible time lag if policy responses are to be rational.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

POLITICS OF INTENSITY VS PER CAPITA

MK VENU


As our negotiating team prepares itself for the CO2 battle at Copenhagen this week, there is some good news for all those exasperated souls who have been wondering what exactly would be India's position at the climate change talks. Are we with G-7 or G-77 or somewhere in between? Are we okay with undertaking emission cuts? These and other questions have been dogging us for a while. The good news is that some clarity has finally emerged about India's stance. The clarity came with the announcement last week that India will voluntarily undertake a reduction of 20-25% in the emission intensity of GDP by 2020, from a base of 2005. What is even more significant is India, like China, clearly intends to make carbon intensity of GDP, rather than per capita emissions, as the basis of future negotiations. This is a very important development and must be seen in the right perspective.

 

Indeed, there appeared to be some method in the obfuscation caused lately by statements coming from environment minister Jairam Ramesh that India must show flexibility by moving away from her traditional stance of using only per capita emissions as a bargaining ploy with the developed world. The per capita emission formulation, even though valid by itself, was losing its value as a durable negotiating point. Probably it had been flogged for far too long and India needed to demonstrate she was willing to evolve beyond the per capita argument.

 

So Jairam did the right thing by setting the cat among the pigeons some weeks ago when he wrote to the Prime Minister saying India must become more flexible and stop being obsessed with G-77 unionism. This created a scare among the traditionalists for whom the per capita emission model was inviolable. Members of the Prime Minister's advisory group on climate change, some of whom are part of the negotiating team, privately told journalists that they did not really know whether Jairam Ramesh's statements fully represented the thinking at the PMO. There was a lot of confusion followed by media gossip, all of which is so typical of the way debate happens in our country on critical issues.

 

However, in hindsight, it seems Jairam was playing according to a well thought out script. This is evident from his statement that India's latest offer stems from an empirical study done by the Planning Commission. Obviously, this study was in the works and could not have sprung overnight.

 

The Planning Commission deputy chairperson, Montek Ahluwalia, confirmed to FE that the Prime Minister had indeed endorsed the strategy paper, which showed India could actually reduce its emission intensity of GDP by up to 37% by 2020, by simply following the current growth path with routine technological change. So, India's offer of cutting emission intensity of GDP by 20-25% is really no big deal. It will happen in the normal course, without making any special effort towards mitigating emissions.

 

The strategy paper prepared by the Planning Commission says India's elasticity of emissions, which was 0.83 in the period 1990-2000, came down substantially to 0.59 during 2000-2005, due to routine improvements in technology, energy mix and energy efficiency in the latter period. If this elasticity of emissions achieved with normal technological change is projected forward for 2005-2020, the emission intensity of GDP will fall by 37%.

 

Perhaps it is this piece of researched data which enabled India to take the decision that it must pitch emission intensity of GDP as its new bargaining plank at Copenhagen. India was also emboldened by the fact that China, after doing its own intensive research, had made the offer of reducing its own emission intensity of GDP by 43% by 2020 from a 2005 base. The Chinese have apparently shared the basis of such research with Jairam Ramesh and that too might have played a role in India moving towards emission intensity of GDP as a new basis for negotiating with the developed world.

 

Simply put, emission intensity of output is nothing but the total quantum of emissions (in kilogrammes) divided by the dollar value of GDP. So what you get is the quantum of emission per unit of GDP. It makes sense for China and India to shift to this model because with their GDP (denominator) rising much faster, the carbon intensity will drop rapidly. This will be further aided by the falling emission elasticity on account of normal technological changes like shifting to nuclear power, gas and biomass as new sources of energy. The GDP of the Western economies will grow very slowly so they will find it difficult to reduce carbon intensity unless these nations invest heavily in breakthrough technologies.

 

This new model affords countries like India and China enough carbon space for their development because the emission intensity of GDP reduces without undertaking any development retarding carbon mitigation action.

 

Politically, India can argue with the developed world that she has moved away from the per capita emission stance to a new one, which is supported by China. The West cannot quarrel with the carbon intensity of GDP model as they too have a stake in driving global growth.

 

However, it is not yet clear how the carbon intensity model can be made consistent with the larger objective of cutting global emissions to the required level. Copenhagen will most likely postpone that big question for another day!

 

mk.venu@expressindia.com

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WE MOVE TO A SUPERPRIME CRISIS NOW

MEGHNAD DESAI

 

Was Dubai a surprise to many people or only to those who were gullible enough to lend it money? The gamble Dubai was taking was transparent to anyone who could see. It has no oil. So it decided to exploit the only other asset it has—location. Since few think of the deserts of the Middle East as inviting, the pill was coated with glamour. Artificial cities were to be created that were oases of luxury with hotels, golf courses, islands and greenery in the middle of sand dunes. All workers had to be imported as well as most of the consumables. This was a completely invented, manufactured paradise.

 

I guess one could call it a super-prime rather than a sub-prime bubble. Many moderately rich people near retirement age were tempted to buy property and the examples of football stars like David Beckham and Michael Owen were displayed for this purpose. The gamble was a big one. But it hinged on the availability of cheap credit for a long enough period for Dubai to sell all the properties even as new ones were being created. The trick in these bubbles is to manage the building and selling period to be shorter than the period over which cheap credit lasts.

 

Alas, even the long seven year period of the Chinese flooding the market with surplus dollars and shoving them down the throats of Western borrowers was not long enough. Partly it was the lack of a precise plan. Dubai World went beyond its own local plans and began to buy up properties around the world since it could always borrow. One glamorous project finished, another had to be launched to keep buyer curiosity whetted. The property buyers are small fish. They will take a loss in terms of capital values. They could always wait for the bubble to return.

 

It is the bigger lenders—banks and pension funds and hedge funds—who are worried. They just assumed that Arabs were rich and somehow Dubai World was part of the Dubai princedom. This was never clarified and only now the Dubai authorities are denouncing all the fuss as naïve. Some may also have been given to understand with a nod and a wink that Abu Dhabi stood behind Dubai World or that the UAE federal government itself will step in if needed.

 

Not so, alas. The UAE central bank protected the local banks against any run, but that was all. Neither the Dubai government nor Abu Dhabi nor the UAE is standing behind the debts of Dubai World. The creditors will have to wait patiently till the smoke clears and grab whatever fraction they can get. It is entirely their fault. They walked into a gamble with open eyes. They did not read the fine print of the contracts they were signing though most of these are hundreds of pages in length. They were taken for a ride and are now fuming, but surely at their own stupidity more than anything else.

 

That said, it must also be added that the manner in which the debt default (for that was what it was) was announced was spectacularly bad PR. To go public on the day before markets were to be shut in the US (Thanksgiving) and the Middle East (Eid) looked like deliberate double dealing. This meant that London and Asian markets took the brunt of the shock. Someone should have advised the top leadership that this is not the way honest people do business. Even if all the debts are cleared, the trust in Dubai World has now vanished. Unfair though it may sound, the entire region will find it hard to borrow with the same ease.

 

It is too early to say whether this shock will delay the recovery. There have all along been two parallel crises—real output recession and financial market dysfunction. Massive re-capitalisation of banks in the US, the UK and EU stemmed the bleeding from the financial dysfunction. Many banks are repaying what they were lent if only to escape close surveillance of their bonuses. Real output cycle has turned up, output growth is no longer negative and unemployment may have reached its peak.

 

The impact of Dubai would be on the financial markets that are still fragile. The actual losses will be manageable but there will be echo effects. Government debt of countries such as Greece, Ireland and Iceland will become costly and this may extend to even sounder economies in the OECD. If debt became difficult to market, then the output recovery will be weakened.

 

It is a delicious paradox that the safest markets are in the so-called 'emerging' economies and the risky ones are in the developed ones. And this is just the beginning of the long rebalancing of the world's economic power that will mark the early decades of this new millennium.

 

The author is a prominent economist and Labour peer

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

BUZZ IN PHARMA BIZ

MG ARUN


On Friday, shares of Cipla touched a 52-week high of Rs 360.80 on the BSE following its management saying early this week that the company is in talks with 'multiple global companies' for a drug research and supply agreement. The company has neither confirmed nor denied that it is talking to Pfizer, the world's largest drugmaker, for an alliance on this front.

 

This comes months after a licensing pact between the US company and Hyderabad-based Aurobindo to sell 70 generic drugs in emerging countries as well as in the US and Europe. Collaborations with MNCs are not something new for Indian companies. For instance, Piramal Healthcare has a drug development agreement with US-based Eli Lilly since 2007, and Advinus Therapeutics, promoted by the Tatas, has a discovery and clinical development collaboration with Merck & Co. However, there is a new buzz around India and other emerging markets as strategic destinations for global pharma companies. According to a McKinsey study, over the next five to six years, emerging markets will contribute nearly half the growth in the global pharmaceutical industry. Of these, five markets—Brazil, China, India, Russia and Turkey—will account for as much as 70% of this growth.

 

Why is India an attractive destination for pharma MNCs? Big Pharma is compelled to seek innovative approaches to R&D to reduce the cost of drug development and reduce lead times. Their profitability is under pressure owing to patent expiries, challenges in pricing and falling R&D productivity. While India has traditional advantages of competitive manufacturing, R&D cost structures and a high growth domestic market, experts say it is now time to leverage the latent innovation skills of the country and market it as a centre for experimentation in business model innovation. They say India has the potential to test, incubate and export business models in branded generics and medication for chronic diseases to other emerging markets.

 

But challenges remain, including worries on production quality, poor government funding in healthcare delivery infrastructure, and shortage of specialised skills in biology, clinical research and health delivery. Addressing these would be key to tapping the full potential of the 'Indian advantage' in the days to come.

 

mg.arun@expressindia.com

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

PEACE PROSPECTS IN ASSAM

 

"Frankly", Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram told the Rajya Sabha last month, "in my assessment of the situation, talks with the United Liberation Front of Asom are leading nowhere". Part of the reason for that, he explained, was that the group's three key leaders — Paresh Baruah, Arabinda Rajkhowa, and Raju Barua — were based overseas, and, moreover, divided on the way forward. But just days after Mr. Chidambaram's speech, events have raised hopes that a new peace initiative could be possible. On Friday, ULFA chairman Rajkhowa, and the group's deputy military chief, Barua, were held on the Bangladesh-India border in Mizoram. India claims the ULFA leaders surrendered along with their families. But the ULFA chairman, Mr. Rajkhowa angrily rejected the suggestion of talks, insisting that he and his colleague Mr. Barua had been arrested. Whatever the truth, many observers believe the men could now conceivably be persuaded to join in negotiations on the terms laid out by Mr. Chidambaram in the Rajya Sabha: "give up violence, give up arms, give up any claim for sovereignty."

 

How likely is it that such talks will come about — and what might their ground level impact be? No one knows for certain. Dialogue with leaders like Mr. Rajkhowa could help marginalise ULFA hardliners. But many in ULFA are bound to see such a dialogue on Mr. Chidambaram's conditions as a sell-out. Like other pro-dialogue ULFA leaders, Mr. Rajkhowa and Mr. Barua have little influence over their organisation's military assets. These are controlled by its still-fugitive military chief, Mr. Paresh Baruah. A former Dibrugarh University soccer player, Mr. Baruah says he is willing to hold talks, but only if they are focussed on securing a sovereign state — something the Government of India is not prepared to discuss. India's intelligence services believe Mr. Baruah, who is claimed to be hiding out along Myanmar's border with China, has been making efforts to reorganise and re-equip his cadre. If talks do begin, they could precipitate a determined terror offensive by these forces. There are also difficult ethical issues to be considered in granting amnesty to ULFA leaders, a likely precondition for a dialogue. Mr. Raju Barua, for example, is alleged by the Assam Police of personal involvement in several terrorist attacks, including an attempt to assassinate the State's Revenue Minister, Bhumithar Burman. Nonetheless, any movement forward on ending a conflict that has consumed thousands of lives since ULFA was born in 1979 can only be welcomed. It must be hoped that all the key actors will display more wisdom — and concern for human life — than they have in the past.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

TACKLING A JOBLESS RECOVERY

 

Even as the Obama administration pushes forward with its Af-Pak and healthcare reform policies this month, joblessness in United States will increasingly dominate the attention of the President, Congress and the ordinary Americans. Unemployment may have fallen marginally in November after touching a 26-year high of 10.2 per cent in the month before, but the Federal Reserve has projected that even with positive economic growth it will hover around 8.3-8.7 per cent during 2010. Over the coming months, President Obama will worry that four states that are all Democratic bastions — Michigan, Nevada, Rhode Island, and California — will see the highest rates of unemployment. He will have to also struggle with the limited room for manoeuvre in public finances implied by staggering levels of public debt and the overall budget deficit. Given the elevated spending commitments in the Af-Pak region and subsidies for the proposed healthcare reform, there is practically no fiscal leeway to tackle America's jobless recovery through further stimulus-like measures.

 

Yet the deterioration in labour market conditions for middle-class Americans is an ominous threat to President Obama's already-falling popularity. With the entire House of Representatives and a part of the Senate facing elections next year a decisive strategy to create jobs quickly has become imperative, even urgent. The government has a range of relatively inexpensive policies to choose from. For example, the House will soon pass a bill that may include an extension of transport-related spending, a tax credit for expanding company payrolls, and incentives for credit to small businesses. Some Senators have proposed a plan, at an estimated cost of $600 million, whereby the government could share employers' labour costs temporarily in a bid to avoid layoffs. If a financial transactions tax is introduced to address the issue of excessive risk-taking by financial institutions, the additional revenue could be productively deployed via local government to create new jobs. Public services such as education would benefit from this type of support. Additionally, policies of the last one year are likely to begin producing results: literally thousands of job-creating projects financed by the $787 billion stimulus package are still in the pipeline. Even the flourish of fiscal dexterity may not, however, save President Obama from politically motivated accusations of profligacy, typically from conservative lobbies opposing big government. The President needs to hold his nerve and soldier on regardless, only ensuring that he is transparent in outlining his plans to those who stand to gain from them.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

TROUBLE IN THE SA'ADA MOUNTAINS

YEMEN, LIKE AFGHANISTAN, COULD EMERGE AS A FLASHPOINT, AND THAT CAN HAVE FAR-REACHING REGIONAL AND GLOBAL CONSEQUENCES.

ATUL ANEJA

 

As fighting in the rugged Sa'ada mountains draws rapid speed, a variety of conflicting forces, internal and external, are posing a serious threat to the very survival of the Yemeni state, and to the region as a whole. This is a region that is already struggling to cope with the challenges posed by Islamic extremism and terrorism.

 

Given the strategic location of Yemen, which borders energy-rich Saudi Arabia to the north, Oman to the east, and significantly to the south, the Gulf of Aden — one of the principal gateways of international trade and energy transit — it is inevitable that turbulence in this country would attract serious international attention and possible intervention on a matching scale. Also in close proximity is Somalia, from where Islamic radicalism is permeating into Yemen, though it is unclear as to what extent it is influencing the insurgency in the country's south.

 

Yemen is part of an ancient land. It is located on the southern edge of the vast Arabian peninsula, most of which is desert, with copious reserves of oil and gas underneath. The country has regularly witnessed spasms of violence, whenever conflicting social forces have collided with one another, before settling into periods of relative calm when rivals have agreed to share political and religious space.

 

The genesis of the present conflict, which has pitted the Zaydis, a sect within the folds of Shia Islam, against the regime led by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, can be easily traced to the Cold War when winds of change swept across West Asia and parts of the African continent. In 1962, a group of Egyptian-backed military officers dismantled a 1,000-year-old Imamate, but only after encountering stiff resistance in the Sa'ada region. That resistance lasted several years.

 

Over the years, the Zaydis continued to build their educational institutions in these mountains. In parallel fashion, Salafi institutions, linked to sections of the country's Sunni majority, also came up — resulting in the emergence of a fine sectarian balance in the area.

 

However, in the light of their turbulent relationship, defined broadly by the forces of republicanism and tradition, tensions between the Zaydis and the presidency have always existed. . Though Mr. Saleh traced his ancestry to the Zaydis, the latter never accepted the President as one of its own. Its detachment has been elaborately rationalised in religious discourse. Unlike the Houthi family that currently leads the rebellion, President Saleh is not a Sayyid. This means he does not trace his ancestry to Prophet Muhammad through his grandsons Hussein and Hassan.

 

This absence of familial credentials has undermined the President's legitimacy among his ilk. Consequently, when the Zaydis accused the President of being against the revivalist Believing Youth Movement in the area, it resonated powerfully within the rank and file of the community.

 

The war on terror was another factor that contributed significantly to the present revolt. The Zaydis were deeply offended when the President took sides with the Americans. In the aftermath of Yemen's realignment with the Americans, the group reinforced its demand to worship in accordance with its rather unique religious traditions.

 

Fighting has continued since then, with several failed attempts by the government to forge a ceasefire. Abruptly, in 2008, on completion of 30 years of his rule, President Saleh declared an end to the war in Sa'ada.

But the hiatus in fighting proved short-lived and it was followed by an explosion of violence since August 11 when the Yemeni government launched a massive military operation in the area.

 

These attacks have coincided with a campaign in large parts of the Sunni Arab world that the Zaydis have been receiving support from Iran. Commenting on the fighting, a recent article in the Saudi- owned Al Hayat daily said: "Iran is attempting to sow discord and to destabilise the security of the countries in the region, especially in the Arab Gulf States, after having had their way in Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine." Fears of the re-emergence of the Imamate system, this time backed by revolutionary Iran, have never been far away from recent local political perceptions. However, the jury is still out on whether Iran has indeed been providing material backing to the present revolt. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Iranian political and religious institutions have been extending ample moral support to the Zaydis.

 

The Society of the Seminary Teachers of Qom has already appealed to the Muslim world and the international humanitarian organisation to prevent "ethnic cleansing" in Sa'ada. "The direct interference of certain Arab regimes in the ethnic cleansing of Shia and the silence adopted by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and international human rights establishments about this atrocity leaves room for thought," it said in a recent statement. Iran's Parliament went on to accuse Saudi Arabia of interfering in the war. "How can the custodian of the two holy mosques of Islam bring himself to permit the killing of innocent Muslims in the forbidden months?" Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani asked, referring to Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz. Saudi Arabian involvement in the war has shown itself in a rather dramatic fashion. Early in November, Saudi F-15 and Tornado jets bombed rebel positions, following the killing of an officer and the wounding of 11 others on the Saudi Arabian side of the border. The Zaydis said on their website that the Saudis had bombed some of their strongholds with phosphorous bombs. Saudi officials maintained that their planes had targeted rebels who had seized Saudi parts of an area called Jabal al-Dukhan.

 

The Saudis say they aim to neutralise a 10-km zone inside Yemen. They justify their intent on the ground that their control along a cross-border segment is vital in order to deny the Al-Qaeda a sanctuary in close proximity to the Saudi frontier. It is well-known in international counter-terrorism circles that Abu-Basir Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the head of the Arabian Peninsula branch of Al-Qaeda, operates from Yemen.

 

His presence is a reflection of the presence of Islamic extremism which has taken deep roots in the country in organisational and ideological terms. Believers in the cause of global jihad occupy a vast trans-national spread, cutting across the borders of Saudi Arabia, Yemen and permeating further south into Somalia and Sudan. It is widely suspected that jihadi operatives in Yemen are the beneficiaries of a criminal economy associated with well-entrenched gangs engaged in gun-running, drug-smuggling and human trafficking across the Sa'ada mountains.

 

Saudi Arabia has other reasons to worry about the Zaydi consolidation in Yemen. It fears that the group's success in Yemen can radicalise sections of the Ismaili Shias living in the Asir province that borders Sa'ada. The Shia population is also concentrated in highly sensitive locations in Saudi Arabia, such as the oil-rich eastern provinces that border Bahrain. There is the apprehension that success in Sa'ada would have its echo right across the energy-rich countries in the Persian Gulf. Bahrain has a highly politicised majority-Shia community. Kuwait, the world's fourth largest exporter of oil, also has a significant Shia population.

 

According to Al Quds Al Arabi, an Arab newspaper published from London, Saudi operations provide a glimpse of the emerging transition of political leadership that has become visible in Saudi Arabia. The daily points out that Prince Khalid bin Sultan is handling the operations along the border with Yemen. He is the son of the ailing Defence Minister and Crown Prince, Sultan bin Abdulaziz. Prince Khalid's performance in the conflict is likely to play a role in determining his position in the royal pecking order that would emerge after King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz advances with great deliberation the process of handing over the reins of power to the generation-next.

 

Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, son of the aging Interior Minister Nayef bin Abdulaziz, is also in the spotlight. The Prince, who recently escaped an assassination attempt, is in charge of countering the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula operating out of Yemen.

 

The war in Yemen is drawing greater international attention as the fighting in the north and the insurgency in the south begins to threaten the survival of the Yemeni state. The escalation in international interest is, in turn, generating a dynamic that is energising regional players such as Iran and Saudi Arabia to deepen their entrenchment in Yemen.

 

In the midst of such high politics, the conflict in north Yemen is generating a humanitarian crisis on a growing scale. The United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said the world has largely ignored Yemen's "humanitarian emergency." It said that an appeal for $23 million to aid some 150,000 internally displaced people escaping the war in Sa'ada has resulted only in a tepid international response.

 

Unless fighting gives way to a serious and complex diplomatic initiative, it is likely that Yemen, like Afghanistan, will emerge as another flashpoint of a bloody and unresolved conflict. That will have far-reaching regional and global consequences.

 

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THE HINDU

FOOD FOR THOUGHT AT COPENHAGEN

GOOD NUTRITION IS THE NEXUS POINT WHERE FOOD SECURITY, PUBLIC HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION MEET.

JAY NAIDOO

 

As world leaders in Copenhagen struggle for an ambitious deal, let us not forget that it is the future of our children that is at stake. Hurricanes, floods, heat-waves and droughts wreak havoc when they strike, but in the desolation they leave behind it's relatively easy to reconstruct a road or a house. A human life is lost forever. Malnutrition is a major consequence of the disasters associated with climate change. According to the latest FAO figures, malnutrition is still rising, killing a child every six seconds. When crops fail and farmland and fisheries are wiped out, food becomes scarce, and then it's the same old sad story: the most vulnerable, in the world's poorest countries, suffer the most.

 

The world's inability to curb harmful greenhouse gases and to find alternatives to fossil fuels will drive people further into poverty. Those affected will be trying to survive on a diet from which meat and other expensive protein and nutrient-rich foods have disappeared to be replaced by cheaper, starchy staples. A new generation will contribute their names to the shameful roll call of 1.02 billion people around the world who already don't get enough of the right kind of food to eat.

 

Malnutrition stunts physical and mental development and damages immune systems. Children become ill or fail to thrive, unable to develop to their full potential at school and later at work. The economic cost to populations weakened by disease and hunger can scarcely be measured, but it is small in comparison to the human cost. If temperatures rise by more than 3°C, calorie availability in 2050 will decline back to the 2000 level thus increasing child malnutrition by 20 per cent. Climate change will eliminate much of the improvement achieved so far in child malnourishment levels.

 

At GAIN, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, we are fighting back. Good nutrition is the nexus point where food security, public health and environmental protection meet. By bringing together governments, businesses, NGOs and private donors, we have been rolling out programmes around the world, fortifying everyday foods with a range of essential vitamins and minerals. Our task is all the more urgent today in the wake of the global economic recession and with the growing impact of climate change.

 

One of our approaches is to encourage companies to add micronutrients to staple foods such as wheat, maize and vegetable oil and to condiments such as salt and soy sauce. Food fortification works and it is a cheap intervention. It costs just a few cents per individual per year to add iodine to salt and up to 25 cents to add more complex vitamins and minerals. According to a recent World Bank report, the benefits from iron fortification of staples and salt iodization alone are estimated at $7.2 billion per year. And the leading economists at the Copenhagen Consensus 2008 conference called vitamins for undernourished children "the world's best investment."

 

In my own country of South Africa the results of adding folic acid to maize meal and wheat flour have been spectacular. The nation saw a 30 per cent drop in neural tube birth defects while spina bifida was down 41.6 per cent. In China, data collected from sentinel surveys in 21 health clinics showed that anaemia dropped by approximately one third following the fortification of soy sauce with iron.

 

In another GAIN initiative, sachets of 'sprinkles' are delivered directly to families through large retailers and market stalls in Bangladesh. The powders, rich in vitamins and minerals, cost little and are easily added to any meal to boost its nutritional value. And here in India we are supporting the Naandi Foundation to fortify children's food — reaching 800 000 school children each day in Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh. Our food fortification programmes are cheap, simple and cost-effective; they are also efficient and sustainable.

 

These programmes are just part of the solution and we need to scale-up: time is pressing. Hunger and malnutrition kill more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined yet donors invest less than $300 million a year. And to put this in perspective, low-income countries spend 2.6 per cent of their GDP on the military compared to one per cent for public health.

 

Priorities must change. Global food security has deteriorated since 1995, and already efforts to reduce childhood malnutrition are moving too slowly to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Already in India, close to 75 per cent of children under 5 are iron deficient, 50 per cent are vitamin A deficient and close to 1 in 2 children are underweight. Such vitamin and mineral deficiencies will reduce India's GDP by 3 per cent. Meanwhile flooding, increased precipitation and higher temperatures, all set to occur more frequently with climate change, are likely lead to more malnourished children.

 

Climate change will increase malnutrition for the world's most vulnerable people. We need an ambitious deal in Copenhagen to protect the well-being of an increasing proportion of the world's population, particularly women, children and low-income families in India and around the world. Meanwhile, the programmes developed by GAIN and its partners have already started to give them real hope for a better future. But we must do much more.

 

(Jay Naidoo is Chair of the Development Bank of Southern Africa and Chair of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition — a global NGO dedicated to tackling malnutrition. Jay is a well known political figure in South Africa, having served in Nelson Mandela's cabinet in the country's first democratic government where he was principally involved in the nation's reconstruction projects post-apartheid. For more information about GAIN: www.gainhealth.org)

 

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THE HINDU

WHERE FAMILY AID OFFERS ALTERNATIVE TO ORPHANAGES

IN A COUNTRY AS DESPERATELY POOR AS MALAWI, CHILDREN PLACED IN INSTITUTIONS ARE OFTEN SEEN AS THE LUCKY ONES.

CELIA W. DUGGER

 

The Home of Hope orphanage in Mchinji District, Malawi, provides Chikodano Lupanga, 15, with three nutritious meals a day, new school uniforms, sensible black shoes and a decent education.

 

Her orphaned cousin Jean, 11, who balked at entering the orphanage and lives with her grown sister, has no shoes, raggedy clothes and an often-empty belly. Repeating third grade for the third time, Jean said she bitterly regretted that she did not grow up in the orphanage where Madonna adopted a boy. Had she stayed, she whispered, "I would have learned to read."

 

In a country as desperately poor as Malawi, children placed in institutions are often seen as the lucky ones. But even as orphanages have sprung up across Africa with donations from western churches and charities, the families who care for the vast majority of the continent's orphans have got no help at all, household surveys show.

 

Researchers now say a far better way to assist these bereft children is with simple allocations of cash — $4 to $20 a month in an experimental programme under way in Malawi — given directly to the destitute extended families who take them in. That programme could provide grants to eight families looking after some two dozen children for the $1,500 a year it costs to sponsor one child at the Home of Hope, estimated Candace M. Miller, a Boston University professor and a lead researcher in the project.

 

Experts and child advocates maintain that orphanages are expensive and often harm children's development by separating them from their families. Most of the children living in institutions around the world have a surviving parent or close relative, and they most commonly entered orphanages because of poverty, according to new reports by UNICEF and Save the Children.

 

"Because there's money in orphanages, people are creating them and getting children in them," said Dr. Biziwick Mwale, executive director of Malawi's National AIDS Commission.

 

The Home of Hope's founder, the Reverend Thomson Chipeta, 80, said children needed the orphanage because their families were so poor. "If the children can be given the privilege of a home like this one, it's much better," he said.

 

Madonna's charity, Raising Malawi, pays for most of Home of Hope's operating budget and also supports community centres where orphans who remain with their families can go for food and services, said the charity's executive director, Philippe van den Bossche. He said orphanages were not the best solution but were needed when families could not or would not care for children.

 

In Madonna's video on AIDS orphans in Malawi, I Am Because We Are, she says she was drawn to the country when she was told such children "were everywhere, living on the streets, sleeping under bridges, hiding in abandoned buildings, being abducted, kidnapped, raped."

 

But across Africa, demographic data show that even the poorest extended families usually take in children whose parents have died. And while AIDS has worsened the orphan crisis in Africa, the United Nations recently estimated that of 55.3 million children in sub-Saharan Africa who have lost at least one parent, AIDS accounted for 14.7 million of them.

The Joint Learning Initiative on Children and HIV/AIDS, which brought together dozens of international experts to review hundreds of studies, this year strongly endorsed programmes that give the poorest families modest financial support, including cash transfer programmes like Malawi's.

 

More than a billion dollars in foreign aid has been spent over the past five years for orphans and vulnerable children, but some major donors cannot break down how their contributions were spent. Researchers say donors need to weed out ineffective, misconceived programmes, scrutinising those that are managed by international non-governmental organisations but that rely on volunteers in villages to do the work.

 

"An enormous amount of money is going into these efforts with very little return," said Linda Richter, who runs the children's programmes at South Africa's Human Sciences Research Council.

 

Here in Malawi, hundreds of community groups have won small grants to start small labour-intensive businesses and are expected to donate all the profits to orphans. Pauline Peters, a Harvard University anthropologist, and Susan Watkins, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, who have independently done years of field work in Malawian villages, say orphans have received few benefits from the millions spent.

 

"The donors have fantasies of the way things work — that you can mobilise villagers to care for children who aren't theirs without paying them to do it," Watkins said.

 

In Kandikiti, where Jean Lupanga's family lives, a group of 20 villagers won a $4,000 grant last year to start a pig farm to help orphans. The group bought nine pure-bred hogs, built them a residence nicer than those of most people and posted volunteers to guard it round the clock. They also bought 10 bicycles, vaccines for the pigs and paid their members to attend training sessions.

 

More than a year later, they have not sold a single one of the white, floppy-eared, European-bred pigs. In a village where scruffy local pigs trot freely among the huts, the group's leader fell silent when asked who could afford such expensive pork.

 

"We've never done this before," said Selina Sakala, 47, chairwoman of Mmasomuyere Orphan Care.

 

Malawi's cash transfer experiment, financed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and supported by UNICEF, directly helps destitute families who care for many children or have no able-bodied adult to earn a living. Children whose families got the grants were healthier, better fed and clothed and more likely to be in school than children in families that got none, according to a randomised community trial conducted by Boston University and the University of Malawi and paid for by UNICEF and the U.S. government.

 

Miller said the programme had yielded "fabulous benefits" but cautioned that the country needed better safeguards to prevent corruption and fraud in the future.

 

Throngs of Malawians gathered one recent day under shade trees to collect the cash. Many grandparents walked miles on bare feet as cracked and parched as the earth. Officials in plastic chairs checked photo identity cards. Recipients unable to read or write left an inky thumb print, then twisted the precious bills into the hem of a skirt or tucked them in a pocket.

 

Families who have been collecting the grants for a year or two say they have made a difference. Velenasi Jackson spends the $20 she gets each month on staple foods and clothes for the 10 orphaned grandchildren who share her two-room mud hut in the village of Nyoka. They no longer go whole days with nothing to eat, she said.

"A gift is never too small," she said.

 

The Home of Hope looks after 653 children, from infants to teenagers. Its founder, Chipeta, leaning on a hand-carved wooden staff, gestured to each building on a tour of the grounds and proudly named the donor who paid for it. Among them were churches and individuals from the United States, Canada, Britain, the Netherlands, South Korea and Germany.

 

In a letter Chipeta gives visitors, he says the home needs their prayers, love and support — with the phrase "See Our Budget" in parentheses.

 

Chikodano Lupanga has lived at the home since she was six. Her house mother, Enelesi Chiduka, 59, said she was responsible for looking after 80 girls, making sure they showered twice a day, attended daily prayer sessions and did their chores.

 

Quiet and serious, Chikodano said her family could never have afforded to send her to high school or to give her a diet that included chicken and fish. "I have lots of friends, and the other needs not met at home are met here — school fees, clothes, shoes," she said.

 

Nine years ago, Chikodano's cousin Alice, now 31, took her and Jean to the Home of Hope. Chikodano went quietly, but Jean, only 2 or 3 years old and deeply attached to her big sister Alice, sobbed inconsolably and remained with Alice. The family has recently started getting the monthly cash grant, but it is too soon for it to have made much impact.

 

Jean, a shy, expressive girl with a heart-shaped face, lives the arduous life common to poor rural children across Africa. She fetches water, pounds maize and cooks over smoky fires. At last glance, she was scrubbing Alice's little boy with soapy well water sloshed from a plastic bucket.

 

— © 2009 The New York Times News Service

 

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THE HINDU

A NON-PROFIT NOW, WITH FOR-PROFIT DREAMS

STEPHANIE STROM

 

Zeus Energy Movement is a charity established last year by four engineers in Texas to develop devices to harness various forms of alternative energy, like a gadget that turns the energy from ocean waves into electricity.

 

Dennis J. Gray, one of the founders, said the group decided to establish itself as a non-profit organisation because it had trouble attracting federal grant money to support research and development. "We've got no revenues, we're poor, and we're trying to access funding for these types of devices," Mr. Gray said. "If we had revenues or some means of income, then we'd be a for-profit."

 

He added, "Right now, we're a scientific group spending our own money and time developing solutions to energy needs and problems that the world has got to figure out."

 

It took four or five months to get tax-exempt status approved for Zeus, Mr. Gray said. Eventually, the hope is that Zeus will develop products that will attract interest from major companies, which would buy the patents, Mr. Gray said.

 

But a pending application for a patent on the wave device makes it clear that Gray, not Zeus, would hold the patent. "Who owns it is irrelevant until someone deems it of value," he said.

 

Asked how Zeus differed from Apple and Microsoft when they were just garage operations, Mr. Gray said the comparison was flawed. "Bill Gates and Steve Jobs aren't good examples of businesses doing social good," he said, "because computers are not a charitable thing." — © 2009 The New York Times News Service

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

CRICKETERS DO INDIA PROUD

 

India's crushing two-nil victory over Sri Lanka in the just-concluded Test series in Mumbai and the accession of Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men to the top of the heap will be vigorously and loudly celebrated by their myriad fans. And with good reason. The feat - climbing to number one in the International Cricket Council's ratings - is the culmination of a sustained and well-planned campaign, and it is only fitting that the country that virtually drives cricket worldwide should earn its place at the apex of the game - even if it is for a short while. In itself, the ICC's system of rating Test and ODI teams and individual players is no more than a clever marketing gimmick, Yet in these days of instant gratification, rankings and charts, it has some merit. And as much as anything else, it gives India's fans a chance to bask in reflected glory, besides giving the bean-counters yet another platform to market yet more aspects of the game. Having said that, India's topping the table in Test rankings had been the outcome of some effective - and attractive - cricket. In doing so, they have taken on and beaten the best. Many of the victories that carried Team India to their newfound status may have come on home soil, but these include wins over Australia, Pakistan, England, South Africa - whom India incidentally displaced on the ICC's table - and now Sri Lanka. None of these teams are pushovers by any stretch of the imagination and the iconic figure of Dhoni's team summed it up very neatly minutes after Harbhajan Singh dismissed last man Muttiah Muralitharan on the fifth and final day of the Brabourne Stadium Test. Said Sachin Tendulkar proudly: "We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. This is a reflection of what we have been able to achieve in the last 20 months or so. It is a special day for me, and for all Indians." Added his skipper: "I think the real tough task from now on is to maintain this performance. The real tough job starts from here."

 

Dhoni was not even on the radar when the process of seeing India to the top of the rankings first began - on a winter's day at Kolkata's famed Eden Gardens against the all-conquering Australia with Venkatasai Laxman and Rahul Dravid spearheading the charge. Yet the Ranchi-born fighter is in every way a fitting successor to the man who set India on this path, Sourav Ganguly. The Prince of Kolkata's reign is when India first, truly, began to believe that they could take on and beat the best and Dhoni - India's captain with the golden touch - has shaped and carried that momentum further than many would have thought possible. India's newfound status is also fitting tribute to a generation of legends, many of who are still part of the squad. Had it not been for the likes of Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Virender Sehwag and Anil Kumble, this day - howsoever fervently hoped for -would have continued to remain a dream. From now, as Dhoni said, the hard part of the job - maintaining Numero Uno status - really begins. As does the rebirth of yet another long-cherished dream, a World Cup victory in two years' time. Six years ago, India came agonisingly close, balked at the death by Ricky Ponting's Australia. Come 2011, the Men in Blue will once again be among the favourites for the title. More so since a bulk of the World Cup will be on home soil, in familiar conditions and with the hopes and wishes of close to a billion Indians.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

THE PARADOX OF THE STUFFED AND STARVED

PARANJOY GUHA THAKURTA

 

At a time when food prices in India are going up at an extremely rapid rate, thereby sharply eroding the real incomes of the poor and pinching the pockets of the middle classes, a recent study has indicated that in the world's richest country, the United States, an increasingly higher proportion of the food that reaches the table or the refrigerator is not eaten but gets thrown into the rubbish bin.

 

This criminal waste of food in America is paradoxically associated with growing levels of obesity in that country. In India as well, home to the world's largest population of diabetics (including children), bodies are ravaged because too many are eating too much of the wrong kinds of food. As for the obvious difference between the world's two largest democracies, at least one out of four Indians goes to sleep empty stomach while in the US, two out of three are obese.

 

As Raj Patel wrote in his book Stuffed And Starved: What Lies Behind The World Food Crisis (Harper Litmus, 2008): "Today, when we produce more food than ever before, more than one in 10 people on earth are hungry. The hunger of 800 million happens at the same time as another historical first: that they are outnumbered by the one billion people on the planet who are overweight.

 

"Global hunger and obesity are symptoms of the same problem and, what's more, the route to eradicating world hunger is also the way to prevent global epidemic of diabetes and heart disease, and to address a host of environmental and social ills. Overweight and hungry people are linked through the chains of production that bring food from fields to our plate. Guided by the profit motive, the corporations that sell our food shape and constrain how we eat, and how we think about food.

 

"A perversity of the way our food comes to us is that it's now possible for people who can't afford enough to eat to be obese… The way we eat today also engenders systematic cruelty to animals. It demands unsustainable levels of energy and water use. It contributes to global warming and provides fertile ground for disease. It limits our compassion. Perhaps most ironic, although it is controlled by some of the most powerful people on the planet, the food system itself is inherently weak. Depleted levels of fossil fuels, soil fertility and water are the sinking foundation of today's foodsystem."

 

Until recently, it was estimated that people in rich countries throw 25-30 per cent of the food that they purchase into the trash can. Now there is reason to believe this proportion could be higher. Dr Kevin Hall led a team of researchers from the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, located in Bethesda, Maryland, that analysed official data on nutrition and compared these figures with recorded levels of food production, exports and imports. The study, quoted in the Economist (November 26) in an article entitled A hill of beans, found that the average American wastes 1,400 kilocalories a day or around 40 per cent of that country's food supply.

 

The study, reported in the "Public Library of Science", added that the wasted calories consumed over a quarter of the consumption of fresh water in the US besides 300 million barrels of oil a year.

 

Dr Hall and his team suggested that growing wastage of food and higher incidence of obesity are connected. More food is trashed and more food enters people's stomachs — the less expensive the food, the more likely it is to be thrown away, even before it is sold. Supply chain wastage is built into prices and makes "economic sense" since throwing away leftovers can make better business sense that risking running out of stocks.

"Waste not, want not". That was an adage that was dinned into my head as a child. Born to parents whose families were refugees from what is now Bangladesh, me and my siblings were told time and again that we should never put on our plates more than what we could eat. Take as many helpings as you want to, but never waste food, every child was told.

My mother recounts a story about how she would wipe and lick her stainless steel plate so clean and shining that a Brahmin cook in her family mistook the plate in front of her as a clean one. When he realised that the platter had actually been "used" and that by picking it up he had "polluted" his upper-caste self, he promptly dropped the utensil on the floor with a clang.

 

When I visited the US for the first time in the mid-1980s, I was shocked when I saw people leaving uneaten half or more of the food on their plates that was then nonchalantly put in the trash cans by restaurant waitresses. Was that indeed the difference between a "developed" and a "developing" country, I wondered.

 

Between the middle of 2007 and mid-2008, international prices of wheat and rice doubled. For the first time after decades, there were food riots in at least 40 countries across the globe. As crude oil prices skyrocketed to touch a peak of nearly $150 a barrel in July 2008 before coming crashing down to below $40 a barrel before the calendar year was through, for the first time in human history, one-third of the maize grown in the US did not go into the stomachs of either human beings or animals but got converted into ethanol to fuel automobiles.

 

After mad cow disease, we had bird flu and now, swine flu. This is indeed a weird world in which we as individuals, and as societies, do not, cannot — and refuse to — distinguish between our need and our greed.

 

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is an educator and commentator

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

PRICE RISE NEEDS CHECK

JAYANTHI NATARAJAN

 

Recently there has been considerable media discussion about the issue of rise in prices of essential commodities and the problem of food inflation. In a country like India, where the cost of food forms major part of the monthly or daily expenditure incurred by an average family, this is a debate which acquires poignant significance. This is a government that came into power based on a concern for and commitment to the welfare of the common man and this is a government which is constantly tuned to the need to make our democracy more inclusive and transparent.

 

It is no secret that there has been a severe global economic crisis over the last several months and it is a matter of quiet satisfaction that our economic, financial, banking and regulatory policies have been so strong and firmly grounded that our economy remained insulated from the worst effects of that crisis.

 

Further, despite the world economic crisis, the country managed to record 6.7 per cent growth in 2008-2009 and the projections for the latest quarter show even more encouraging signs of 7.9 per cent growth, something that even the greatest optimists did not expect.

 

The core sector of the economy has sent clear signals of recovery and growth in the infrastructure doubled to 4.3 per cent this year. Even electricity generation jumped to six per cent in April, as against 1.4 per cent for the same month last year.

 

Production of cement, steel, coal, has all gone up. There has been phenomenal growth in the services sector, and transport and communications. All of this shows that the installation of a stable government at the Centre, under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has led to clear and productive economic policies which have insulated the nation against the financial storms that have devastated many economies in the world.

 

However, two crucial sectors, namely agriculture and the manufacturing sector, have not performed as well as expected. Agriculture, particularly, has been hit by a series of crises and while 27 out of 36 meteorological districts in our country experienced moderate to severe drought, and states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu reeled under the onslaught of terrible floods, which destroyed everything in their path, wreaking great damage on food production, and livestock apart from loss of lives and livelihood.

 

As a result of these natural disasters and also as a result of world recession and various other factors, the anomaly of higher than expected growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) accompanied by rise in food inflation has begun to confront policymakers. While we may be justifiably proud of our GDP growth, there can be no question that the government has to urgently address the question of rising prices.

 

Clearly, the priority of the government, and should be to moderate inflation, to ensure inclusive growth, to give substantial impetus to agriculture and, above all, to insulate the weakest and most disadvantaged sections of society from the travails of rising prices.

 

In this context, the attempts made by some Opposition parties to create an atmosphere of fear and panic is thoroughly reprehensible. The media too cannot be absolved of a kind of breathless sensationalism in projecting a picture of gloom and doom and flashing doomsday scenarios on the food front. These are approaches that are not just contrary to the facts on the ground but also are liable to be condemned for being an irresponsible attempt to trigger alarm and panic in society by politicising the food situation.

The facts need to be considered in perspective. Despite all the problems mentioned above, there is not even the remote possibility of food shortage in our country.

 

We continue to have buffer stocks of 153.49 lakh tonnes of rice, as against the prescribed norm of 52 lakh tonnes, while our wheat buffer stock stands at 284.57 lakh tonnes as against a norm of 110 lakh tonnes. Therefore, the question of shortage does not arise. Again despite all the problems of drought and flood, our procurement has been the highest ever, with 33.1 million tonnes of rice being procured, as also 22.57 million tonnes of wheat.

 

The social security net of 35 kg of rice at Rs 3 per kg and wheat at Rs 2 per kg under the Antyodaya scheme of the Central government is going strong and as observed by the finance minister Pranab Mukherjee the issue price of rice, wheat, sugar kerosene and edible oil have not increased, ever since the UPA government came to power in 2004.

 

The government has taken pains to dramatically increase the minimum support price (MSP) of rice by 79 per cent from Rs 560 to Rs 1,000. The MSP of wheat has been increased by 72 per cent from Rs 640 to Rs 1,100. Farmers have received other support from the United Progressive Alliance government by means of a massive loan waiver and the government is constantly looking at ways in which the agriculture sector can be supported. On the administrative side, future trading in the four vital items namely rice urad dal, tur dal and sugar etc have been suspended and export of non-basmati rice, edible oil and pulses has been banned.

 

Thus, the Central government has taken all possible steps to curb the rising prices of food and has left no stone unturned to fulfil its responsibility. However, the spirit of cooperative federalism demands that the state governments must do their bit as well. The all-important strengthening of the Public Distribution System (PDS) has to be monitored by the state governments. Statistics show that many states do no take serious action against blackmarketers and hoarders. Also even in the few cases where raids are launched, prosecution rarely follows. This is nothing less than dereliction of their duties on the part of the state governments. If price rise is to be curbed the most basic issue to be addressed is the implementation of the Essential Commodities Act, prevention of black marketing and hoarding and proper implementation of the PDS.

 

The states have to swing into mission mode and carry out their role effectively if the people are to have sustainable relief from the vagaries of price rise. Concerted action has also to be taken by all concerned to bridge the unacceptable dichotomy between the wholesale and retail prices with stern deterrent action being taken against profiteering middlemen.

 

Price rise is a national issue and can only be controlled if everyone comes on board and swings into decisive action.

 

Jayanthi Natarajan is a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha and AICC spokesperson. The views expressed in this

column are her own.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

MEGA HOAX

 

India is at that very seminal crossroads between becoming urban and remaining rural. Our economy is growing and changing, but when the chips are down it is agricultural growth which gets us out of the woods. However, the number of urban poor is growing. The darker side shows that we are suffering the ills of every kind of economy — industrial, services, agricultural, global and protected.

 

Yet, in all that, it is certain that the way forward is through urbanisation. This is a natural progression in human history and old wives' tales about bucolic paradises are just that — stories. Dr Ambedkar, whose 52 death anniversary was observed on December 6, believed that a village was "but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow-mindedness and communalism".

 

While the great man was undoubtedly correct, sadly the same can be said to be true today of Indian cities as well. Not only are we seeing resistance to social progress and change, we are also seeing narrow identity politics raising its head everywhere, even in our most progressive cities.


However, the biggest hoax which is being played on India today is in the unbridled, unstructured and unplanned growth of its cities. Last week, Mumbai was rated as the best mega city in the country. The award was given under the aegis of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, which hands out money to cities to improve their infrastructure. Mumbai presumably wins because it has taken the most money from the government. But the infrastructure growth in Mumbai is currently chaotic, uncoordinated and extremely slow. Quality of life is abysmally low and we cannot compete on any international parameters. Mega city this may be in size, but not in the way it looks currently or how it forces people to live.


Most Indian cities mirror this chaos, with some exceptions like parts of Hyderabad and the National Capital Region. Interestingly four locations in Maharashtra — Greater Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Nagpur — won awards. The rest were shared by Ahmedabad, Visakhapatnam, Surat, Chandigarh and New Delhi.

Clearly, we need to rethink our urbanisation strategies and understand that what we require is coordinated and planned growth. We have to rescue ourselves from the nexus between politicians and developers and the impossible restrictions of bureaucratic bullheadedness. Otherwise, we might hand ourselves any number of awards, but they will all be empty and bogus.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

FOR TRANSPARENCY

 

Union law ministry has done the right thing. It has returned the file recommending the elevation of Karnataka chief justice PD Dinakaran to the supreme court. Dinakaran's nomination has been under a cloud because of allegations of land encroachment in Tiruvallur district in Tamil Nadu. Apparently, the district collector's report and inquiries by Intelligence Bureau (IB) about the controversy left little option for the government but to turn down Dinakaran's elevation to the apex court. The government's refusal should allow the collegium to drop the issue quietly.

 

That is not the end of the controversy. The questions that it has raised remain to be answered. Why did the collegium persist with Dinakaran's name despite the fact that allegations were made against the judge? The best way to have dealt with it was for the Supreme Court to seek information in the matter and decide whether there was any substance in it or not. If the court is convinced that there is no substance in the allegations, then it will have to state its case openly and firmly. The collegium will have to state the reasons supporting each of their nominations. The court has however been fighting shy of making the selection of judges an open process.


The other important question is that if judge Dinakaran is being denied his elevation to the Supreme Court because of the charges made against him, then it becomes untenable for him even to remain in his present position. A judge under cloud remains one whether he is in Supreme Court or not. It also becomes obligatory for government to pursue the case. That is, impeachment proceedings against the judge should be initiated in the Lok Sabha. Of course, it is for 100 members of the Lok Sabha or 50 of the Rajya Sabha to get the ball rolling.

This is of course a huge embarrassment to the government as well as for the Supreme Court. Chief justice KG Balakrishnan had said it was for the government to decide, while law minister Veerappa Moily argued that government would not interfere in the matter. The observance of norms and conventions with regard to independence of judiciary is admirable but if it remains following the literal adherence to the rule book and nothing more, then it needs to be questioned. There is need for an open debate on the issue of selection of judges so that cases like that of Dinakaran do not recur.

 

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DNA

VAJPAYEE, ADVANI AND THEIR TRUE COLOURS

 ANIL DHARKER

 

Why is everyone dismissing the Liberhan Commission report? Because it didn't come out with any startling new findings? Because it merely confirmed what all of us knew all along? Surely that is the purpose of a commission — to confirm through evidence what is hearsay, to put an official stamp on what is generally known through anecdotal evidence? After its many hearings and sifting through voluminous evidence, did the Warren Commission set up to investigate president John Kennedy's assassination come up with anything new? It merely confirmed what everyone suspected.


You can only blame the Commission for the ridiculous 17 years it took to bring out its report. That's something future governments must guard against; you can't have retired judges extending their working life at public expense. The significant thing about the report though is that even the BJP has not disputed its findings.


Did any of us doubt that Kalyan Singh as chief minister of UP at that time was one of the principal villains of the Babri demolition? Let alone deny his role, he has been crowing about it to the media, calling it his finest moment. Other members of the saffron brigade have been equally brazen, secure in the knowledge that no legal action will be taken against them. Only two people have kept quiet about their own roles in the Babri demolition, though at least one of them was its main architect (can you call someone who brings down a structure an architect? One should call him an anti-architect). It now turns out that Lal Krishna Advani, when he made the famous statement about the day being "the saddest of my life" was not talking about the demolition, but his sorrow that the movement he started with his infamous rath yatra had got out of his control. 


(A small aside here. People have said that the Babri Masjid was a disused monument and Muslims should therefore have not bothered about its demolition. This argument overlooks two important points. The first is that when Babri Masjid was demolished it didn't just bring down a useless building; what it brought down was a vital idea, the idea of a secular India, the idea that has made our country far, far greater than many of our bigoted neighbours. The second point is the importance of imagery. Those jubilant young men waving their flags and hammers on the dome of the masjid were conveying a message of victory and defeat which was potent and has remained vividly in our collective consciousness to this day).


The one 'revelation' of the Liberhan Commission has been about the role of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, hitherto the acceptable face of the BJP. Again, is this a surprise? As PM of this country, he presided over one of our country's saddest chapters, the carnage of Gujarat in 2002. Narasimha Rao at least had the fig leaf of an excuse that UP state was ruled by an opposition party. Vajpayee had no such excuse: Narendra Modi was the BJP's man, yet Vajpayee did nothing. All he did was visit Gujarat after nearly two weeks had passed and hundreds of innocent people had been killed and then give a high-sounding lecture on the need for a moral government.

The recent video tape of Vajpayee's public lecture on the eve of the Babri Masjid demolition, shows him in his true colours. He was exultant, chortling with undisguised delight at the destruction that was to follow the next day. This is the real Vajpayee, the Mr Hyde his Dr Jekyll has skilfully hidden from public view for so long.

These are the two men whose guilt has kept them quiet about the Liberhan Commission, one an unapologetic communalist, the other a hypocritical secularist. Advani, the man single-handedly responsible for destroying the social fabric so carefully nurtured after Independence. And Vajpayee, the wolf in sheep's clothing. The BJP should thank its lucky stars that the two are now quietly fading away into the oblivion they so richly deserve.

 

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DNA

TRANSFER OF POWER

 

Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari is in trouble. His days might not be exactly numbered because the two Pakistan Muslim Leagues, Nawaz Sharif and Qaid-e-Azam are reluctant to topple him at this moment in time, but the countdown has begun.


The decision to shift the nuclear command to prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was a clear indication that Zardari has run foul of the military and the United States who have been closely monitoring Pakistan's nuclear assets. The reasons given out by Pakistan officials in select briefings to the local media range from fears that the president will be liable for prosecution on criminal and corruption charges now that the National Reconciliation Ordinance providing him immunity has lapsed, to whispers that he is suffering from dementia and insomnia and is under serious medication.


The political point remains that Zardari was no longer trusted by the US and Pakistan's military to remain in charge of the National Command Authority, set up by his predecessor general Pervez Musharraf in 1999 to manage and the nation's strategic nuclear assets. The transfer also took place without a murmur of protest and was quickly cleared by Pakistan's defence standing committee. President Zardari has since lashed out at his critics, spoken of "conspiracies" and yet again evoked the martyrdom of his late wife Benazir Bhutto to re-state his credentials as a true, sacrificing democrat.


It is no secret that Zardari is extremely unpopular in Pakistan and becoming increasingly so with every passing day. Stories of corruption are rampant and he has never enjoyed the confidence of the army that remains a major player even today. In fact, Pakistani officers have repeatedly pointed out to the media that he has few links with the military and has not made any effort, as the Supreme Commander of the armed forces, to forge a new relationship with them. He is also accused of not visiting the soldiers injured in the ongoing war against terrorism or the families of the victims.


At the same time there appears to be a slight reluctance by the military to convert the push to a shove as it does not want to add to the chaos and uncertainty in Pakistan. The army is aware that public sentiment remains in favour of civilian rule and any attempt to get back to power is going to matters even more difficult domestically. PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif has also recently indicated that he is not going to make matters more difficult for Zardari, as he does not want army rule. This, of course, is part of the reason, the second being that the US remains wary of Sharif and the PML-N and is not prepared to allow him to become president of Pakistan. The army is more favourably inclined, but not sufficiently so to thwart Washington on this issue.


The Pakistan army has become increasingly dependent on the US for its arms, ammunition and spare parts. It can no longer take decisions independent of Washington for this very simple reason. The US knows that any attempt to impose military rule in Pakistan at this stage will be disastrous, and is also reluctant to allow Sharif with his uncertain politics to come to power. There is no other alternative at this point and hence while Zardari is unpopular now with all sections, he will be allowed to continue until a credible face appears on the scene. Until then the process to trim the powers of the president will continue, with help from sections of the PPP and supporting PML-N.


Prime minister Gilani is at best a lightweight in government and the party, although he is more pliable and seen as more useful by the military in Pakistan. It is thus, not without reason that India's army chief of staff general Deepak Kapoor expressed concern about the decision to pass the control from the president to the prime minister of Pakistan saying, "it is more important to have proper control over nuclear weapons and ensure that it does not go into wrong hands." This was commented upon immediately by the Pakistani media that said that Kapoor's was the sole voice in the world to question the decision. In actual fact he had not questioned it, just expressed natural concern. But it is true that there was hardly any reaction from the US and the P-5 in the United Nations Security Council despite the fact that the security of Pakistan's nuclear assets has remained a major issue of concern.


Zardari has responded to the public humiliation by lashing out at all opponents, political and within the media. For he knows as well as his colleagues in the PPP that while circumstances might have helped him survive this round, he does not have the support or the ability now to stop the countdown mid number. As a former diplomat in Pakistan said, "the question is no longer of an 'if and a when', but of 'how soon'".

— Seema Mustafa, is a Delhi-based journalist.

 

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DNA

A LEH-PERSON'S VIEW

 

December 7 is no festival, no special day, no holiday marked on any calendar, much less Indian. But that's the day fixed for a small meeting in a little country called Denmark.

 

A meeting in its capital Copenhagen that will see every country that matters, send its best arguers and bargainers — each one trying to negotiate over who has how much right to pollute in today's warmed world. Developing economies will talk across the table to industrialised nations — If you can, why can't I? Well I did, but you shouldn't. You know what, I want to cut emissions, but I can't. That sort of a debate will happen between countries in what has come to be famously known as the COP15, the climate negotiation talks.

 

Miles and miles away from Copenhagen, at a height of 12,000 ft above sea level in Leh, one of India's coldest districts, Lobzang Martup sits atop a mud wall outside his house. Lobzang has the guileless full smile that the hilly people are famous for, so it's tough to guess he is 71 years old until he says so. Lobzang tells me he has no clue what global warming is all about, or even GHGs — greenhouse gases, that is. Carbon emissions? No, no! He gives a toothy grin again. But he will tell you how the glacier near Stakme — his village, 40 km from Leh town — is now down to a trickle. There used to be less rainfall, but there would be lots of snow. But now, the snow is going, and so is the water.

 

 So, is this climate change? Are the Himalayan glaciers indeed melting? These are the questions I ask myself while driving through one of the coldest and yet starkly beautiful regions of the world, on an expedition to Leh with over 20 other climate journalists from South Asia, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the US.

 

Climate change impact is always tricky to tell, just the same way as it is to attribute North Karnataka's worst-ever floods recently, or the deluge in Delhi, to effects of global warming. But this was a little easier. Travelling through minus 6 degree C in Leh's low oxygen atmosphere can numb the brain cells of a regular South Indian journalist, yet it didn't need an expert to say that the glaciers are melting. Lobzang will tell you that he is the witness. "And if the Himalayan ice disappears at this rate, my grandchildren won't know how a glacier looked," he laughs.

 

Syed Iqbal Hasnain doesn't think so. Glaciers, he says, won't disappear overnight. As one of India's premier glaciologists, Prof Hasnain says that at the current rate of warming, the Himalayas are likely to see a 43% decrease in glacial area — by 2070. The professor, who too like Lobzang is in his 70s, has studied climate vagaries and its effect on the Himalayan region for close to half a century. But what worries Hasnain more are black carbon aerosols, considered the next big thing in the global warming dictionary. These aerosols, he says, directly warm the atmosphere, reduce rainfall, darken snow surface, and are responsible for one half of the current Himalayan glacier melt.

 

Whatever the cause of the great meltdown Ladakh suffers, there is already a water crisis in the region, thanks to less rainfall and untimely snowfall. With precipitation decreasing by over 50% in the last 35 years, winters are now shorter, and what little water comes along is hardly enough for sowing barley, the staple food of locals.

 

Lobzang's daughter-in-law Thelma tells me how she and her neighbours walk further and further to get water. As ever, it falls upon the women to manage with less. The Ladakhis this far are already trained by nature to cope with harsh terrain and demands of the desert in their own ingenious ways.

 

Houses are traditionally built with mud and local wood to withstand sub-zero temperatures that can easily go below minus 20 degree C, toilets use the 'pit' system and sand, that totally eliminate the use of water. But the influx of urban Indian tourists has inspired many locals in Leh to go for water-intensive buildings, fancy fittings, expensive toilets and flushes, and, therefore, for the first time ever, Ladakh now has borewells that further endanger the groundwater levels in the cold desert.

 

Now is this climate change? Sure, the climate of tourism has changed the landscape of Leh. But there is at least one change old Lobzang speaks of, that may bring a smile or perhaps a scrunch — what used to be barley farms are now apple fields! Apple cultivation in the district has increased over the years. But the farmer isn't amused. "It was so tough this time; if it doesn't rain next time also, how will I sow wheat or barley? I will become a refugee in my own land..."

 

The superpowers that wrangle over numbers in carbon emissions this week in Copenhagen may not discuss Lobzang or his Ladakhi apples, but what's a climate debate if it's not about people?

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

DANGEROUS DESIGNS

PAK POLICY ON TERRORISM IS TO BLAME

 

NO one can dispute US Defence Secretary Robert Gates's observation that Al-Qaida is doing all it can to gain control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal so that it becomes invincible. And there is no better way than using the most well-oiled terrorist machine called the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) to create chaos in Pakistan which will make it easier for Al-Qaida to achieve its unholy objective. A military conflict between India and Pakistan also suits the terrorists' designs as that will render Pakistan incapable of taking on the extremists. What happened in Mumbai in November last year might have been part of this larger game-plan. Terrorists did not succeed in causing a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours mainly because of India's mature reaction as a responsible power.

 

The alarming scheme of things of Al-Qaida cannot be in the interest of Pakistan. Yet it is surprising that the ISI provided all kinds of help to the LeT to carry out the 26/11 massacre. There is enough evidence to nail the Pakistani lie that the Mumbai terrorist attack was the handiwork of non-state actors. The audacious act of terrorism, using the sea route, could not be possible without the involvement of state actors. What the US Defence Secretary has stated shows that terrorists have become smarter than the Pakistani authorities, as it is the LeT which is using the state apparatus of Islamabad to help Al-Qaida realise its dreams. The LeT has been functioning as an offshoot of Al-Qaida despite the fact that it was floated by the ISI as part of Pakistan's ill-thought-out policy of using terrorism to achieve its objectives in the region.

 

The spate of suicide bomb blasts in different parts of Pakistan for some time is a product of Islamabad's own adventurist policy. Terrorism, as we all know, is like a two-edged weapon. Now the country that provided them sustenance is at their receiving end. Even mosques are not safe in Pakistan, as the killing of over 40 persons, including senior army officers, in suicide bomb blasts in Rawalpindi on Friday proves. It will be suicidal for Pakistan if it is still wedded to the idea of using terrorism to "bleed India through a thousand cuts" and to keep Afghanistan "insecure and unstable" for providing strategic depth to Islamabad.

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

MIGRANT FURY

LUDHIANA PAYS FOR AUTHORITIES' INDIFFERENCE

 

The police refusing to act against a bikers' gang that targeted migrants is a routine development for those familiar with the working of the men in uniform in Punjab. That a routine happening like this could lead to large-scale arson and damage to public property, resulting in a curfew in Ludhiana, comes as a surprise and points to rising social tension in Punjab. If official agencies fail to address grievances, public anger tends to flare up. Poor law enforcement contributes to the growing incidents of lawlessness. Blocking roads and railway tracks, stoning and burning passing vehicles have become common for protesters since they get away lightly.

 

Unlike Maharashtra, Punjab has been warm to the migrant labour, mostly from Bihar and UP. Farmers vie with one another to hire migrants for paddy transplantation and harvest. Local labour is either expensive or unavailable. Farm workers have shifted to cities or abroad for greener pastures. Barring sporadic incidents, Punjabis and migrants have got along well. A Punjabi University survey has revealed that 73 per cent of the labourers from outside the state have chosen to settle in Punjab and 77 of the men lived away from their families. In 2007 there were about 10 lakh migrant workers in Punjab of whom 4.50 lakh lived in Ludhiana alone.

 

Being an upcoming industrial and commercial hub, Ludhiana has attracted migrant labour in large numbers. It is essentially a consumption-driven city for people with deep pockets. More than other Punjabis, cash-rich Ludhianvis love to splurge. They have coexisted in harmony with those who have to come for work in Punjab. If migrants went on the rampage in Ludhiana on Friday, their anger was directed more at the police than locals. It was only the attacks on passing vehicles and public that invited retaliatory action. The failure of the civil and police administration is self-evident. Effective governance and ensuring the rule of law can avoid the recurrence of such unpleasant incidents.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

CHINA-PAK MILITARY NEXUS

ANTONY'S DEEP CONCERN IS JUSTIFIED

 

Defence Minister A.K. Antony's observation that the increasing nexus between China and Pakistan in the military field is an area of serious concern reflects the growing wariness of India over China's sinister bid to encourage Pakistan to confront India. Considering that India has been extremely cautious and mindful of Chinese sensibilities in the past, this statement as also some others in recent weeks show the extent of governmental exasperation over China's designs of arming India's recalcitrant neighbour to its teeth. To that extent, the new Indian assertiveness is welcome. Mr Antony has aptly pointed out that China has helped Pakistan build two nuclear reactors and is working to disturb the strategic balance in South Asia. Earlier this year, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had told journalists in Islamabad after President Zardari's Beijing visit that China was all set to help Pakistan build two more nuclear reactors. Recently, the Washington Post quoted a secret note of Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan as saying that China had provided Pakistan with a "do-it-yourself" kit and weapons grade uranium for making two nuclear bombs in 1982.

 

Significantly, China is Pakistan's largest defence supplier, making available to it short-range ballistic missiles, fighter-aircraft, frigates with helicopters, T-85 tanks, jet trainers, besides arms and ammunition. In July last, days after India launched its first nuclear-powered submarine, China handed over the first of four warships that it is building for Pakistan. While three warships are being built at a Chinese port, one is being built in Pakistan. The Pakistanis are also buying 36 J-10 fighter aircraft which is China's most sophisticated combat aircraft.

 

The arming of Pakistan, the increasingly shrill Chinese claims to Arunachal Pradesh and the Chinese assertion of its naval clout in the Indian Ocean add up to a formidable challenge posed to India's security interests. It is indeed a matter of relief that India is speaking against a China-Pakistan nexus. There is certainly a need to step up India's military preparedness and diplomatic activity in response.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

THE DINAKARAN EMBARRASSMENT

HOW TO AVOID SUCH SITUATIONS IN FUTURE

BY K. N. BHAT

 

Is the Indian judicature a club of the judges, by the judges and for the judges? Apparent impertinence apart, the question is a serious one. Yes, the judiciary is by definition an institution "of the judges" with occasional platitudes thrown at the Bar on ceremonial occasions. The power of appointments and posting of judges of the subordinate judiciary — for all practical purposes — has always been with the judges of the high courts under the Constitution. And since 1993 the Supreme Court, through a process of interpretation, has assumed the responsibility of making appointments to the higher judiciary, including the highest Court. No other agency is involved in this formally or even informally in the process of appointments and transfer.

 

As reportedly admitted by the Chief Justice of India, the collegium of judges has no machinery to make any investigation into the suitability or otherwise of a candidate. Naturally, they are guided by their personal knowledge and opinion about men and matters. Sometimes they go wrong by ignoring good ones and by selecting not-so-good ones as perceived by the members of the Bar, who have a closer exposure to the prospective appointees. Occasional error is inevitable. The management of the justice delivery system is thus "by the judges". So much is silently tolerated because of the fear that if reverted to the pre-1993 regime the judiciary will suffer more.

 

However, is the administration of the justice delivery system solely or predominantly "for the judges" only? Let us take the case of Dinakaran, CJ. There can be no dispute about the proposition that public confidence is the foundation on which the judiciary stands. Many great men have stated and re-stated this truth in different words. After every thing that has been said and published about the present Chief Justice of Karnataka, his induction surely will not enhance the public confidence in the Supreme Court, or in the judiciary as a whole. As everyone is aware, there is no machinery to expeditiously and conclusively establish the truth or otherwise of the allegations against Justice Dinakaran or anyone else. If, indeed, he is innocent his suffering the loss of a career and reputation is unfortunate. If, however, even part of the allegations against him is true, by his induction the institution will surely suffer serious damage. The choice has to be made without delay.

 

Here rises the query whether the judicature is "for the judges" or for the people. However, the efforts of the collegium to find out someone who can give a clean chit to the judge in trouble — be it the Survey of India, or even a food inspector — will lead to a well of quick sand; the more one struggles to get out, the deeper one sinks. Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily is too seasoned to bite the bait. Therefore, he did the only right thing — asking the collegium to withdraw the tainted name.

 

"What is needed is the appointment of really able persons who can rapidly and satisfactorily deal with the accumulation of work." is the prescription for the ills of the system by revered men like Chagla CJ, Krishna Iyer J and M.C. Setalvad. Does the collegium claim to make even a semblance of an effort to appoint able persons to the Supreme Court? Unless ability and seniority always go hand in hand — a proposition not accepted in any field of life — it will be hard to appreciate how and why the zone of selection to the apex court is restricted to the Chief Justices of the High Courts. Does the collegium take into account the neglect of judicial work by the "seniors" during their tenure in the High Courts?

 

There is no performance audit in operation, but surely the members of the Bar in the High Courts would name the lazy and even the corrupt lot. The collegium may thereafter ascertain the facts more carefully before sending its recommendation to the President. Perhaps, the Dinakaran embarrassment — either to the judge or to the collegium — would not have arisen had the object of search was merit. But if the judiciary is only "for the judges" all the suggested troubles are not needed.

 

Only a few days ago we read with astonishment about a judge swearing in to uphold the Constitution of India as the Chief Justice of a High Court for three days. There have been many other instances of short-term CJs in the states as well as at the apex court — inevitable where seniority is the rule —, read it as selective seniority. During the last few weeks four CJs were elevated to the Supreme Court — two more are in transit. This means six High Courts are without permanent CJs for varying interregnums. There can be no dispute that the CJs of the High Courts play a pivotal role in the administration of justice in the states. They can be effective if they have long enough tenure. Remember the names like Chagla, Rajamannar and Dasgupta, belonging to an era when the judges of the High Courts retired at the age of 60. The question once again is for whose benefit these constitutional offices exist? For the judges? Or for the people?

 

Only with the utmost reverence one can quote Krishna Iyer J, who in a recent article wrote, "The unknown collegium, judges expanding their own breed, creating arrears more than anywhere else in the world, and other pathologies promoting a self-operated system… It is time we had an effective executive, which will call the bluff when judges invent alibi to explain away their incompetence and absence of integrity. An investigation into the entire higher judiciary may well weaken our faith in the integrity and incorruptibility of their lordships."

 

The collegium as a body deserves our sympathy — may be unsolicited. Its composition keeps changing with inevitable retirements of judges. No one but it itself can create any machinery because it was its own creation – a "swayambhu". However, the task of selecting judges for over 20 High Courts with a judge strength about to touch 900 and vacancies recurring round the year is indeed daunting. And the government appears to be in no hurry to replace the contraption of 1993 invented as a temporary measure.

 

The ultimate solution lies in the executive taking the initiative to ensure comprehensive constitutional amendments to bring the retirement age of judges of the High Courts on a par with that of the Supreme Court judges, set up an independent commission — a National Judicial Commission — working whole time with its own secretariat, have a provision for the participation of the executive at the highest level alongside the representatives of the judiciary for making appointments and transfers and deal with complaints by and against the judges. How to deal with the problem, in the meanwhile, without conceding defeat even by implication is the immediate issue.

 

The collegium should formulate a scheme for its own guidance. That scheme will provide for inviting views from the chosen members of the Bar concerned about the names that they would or would not recommend for reasons stated. These confidential communications can be kept out of the purview of the RTI Act. The secretariat would then process the information and place dossiers before the collegium, which would periodically meet and, if needed, hear the candidate concerned or the informer in in-camera proceedings about the adverse reports. The burden taken on themselves by the judges is too heavy for them to carry. They should share it with the Bar before the system collapses under the weight of its own creation. The tragedy should be averted.

 

Once the Bar is taken into confidence, there will be no dearth of cooperation. A few motivated false alarms may be inevitable, but timely detection will deter their tribe. More importantly, the "we" and "they" concepts will disappear and the problems will be "ours" — of "we the people of the legal fraternity".

 

The writer is Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

ELLIPTICAL TONING

BY SUDHAMAHI REGUNATHAN

 

In this age of workouts and health consciousness, the new machine called the elliptical came with lots of promise. Of course, more than that there were several stories the salesman told us about how many kilos who had lost and how soon. I could see myself giving Aishwarya Rai a run!

 

The machine designed to tone the body began working on my mind though. Some error in the manufacture. I guess, but we had bought it and now had to use it.

 

The very first lesson was harsh and straight. It was probably not programmed on the advice, satyam brooyat, priyam brooyat...speak the truth, but speak it sweetly. I could no longer say, "Oh I walked very long today, maybe two miles, maybe three?" In bright blue figures it showed me that I barely managed half a mile at a time.

 

It taught me everything comes only with effort. Udhyamena hi sidhyante... only hard work yields result. Even into a lion, the ruler's mouth, his prey does not walk in, he has to hunt.

 

And then there is this belief I have nurtured that if I walk even a hundred yards, flab falls off my body! So every time I get back from a short walk my mirror tells me I have become slim! This elliptical had no such reflective qualities. It could not reflect the state of your mind. After half a mile of running when you literally place your heart on the anvil, you lose just 100 calories.

 

The elliptical was giving me a direct lesson. "Control the tongue. Eat with restraint. Our desires will never be consumed, we will ourselves be consumed by them," it said quoting Bhartihari. It told me the story of the pigeons which were flying high when they saw some grains strewed under a tree. The wise one warned that temptations of the tongue lead us to naught, so let us not be led by the palate. But nobody listened and we all know a hunter caught them in his net.

 

Lessons were not so simple or few. If you watched the calorie count or the distance count, they refused to move. The pulse rate moved with great speed and so did the speed count, though not so frantically. "Everything in life is relative. When a pig and sheep were picked up by the butcher, the pig cried and made a fuss whereas the sheep kept quiet. The latter was to be killed the former only to be sheared. So each one responds as the stimulus given to him or her. The numbers on the machine are working along similar rules," it said as the last piece of advice.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

QUESTION HOUR SANCTITY LOST

THIS HARDLY BOTHERS PARLIAMENTARIANS

BY KAMLENDRA KANWAR

 

THE recent collapse of Question Hour in the Lok Sabha when a shocking 31 of the 38 members who had starred questions listed against their names absented themselves from the proceedings while another was busy sloganeering in the well of the House, was a sad commentary on the rot that has set in progressively in the House of the People.

 

Ironically, these MPs were not in a boycott mode. Though the Left parties, the SP and the BSP had tried to stall the proceedings, the Speaker had firmly indicated that Question Hour would go on. The absenting MPs were drawn from various political parties and, as it happens, had given to the Speaker their names for asking questions.

 

Plainly speaking, this was a classic case of indifference by elected representatives towards their duty and a betrayal of the people who elected them. While Congress President Sonia Gandhi at least reprimanded her party's MPs who were absent when the Speaker called out their names, other parties did not even do that. There was not an iota of regret expressed to the Speaker, Mrs Meira Kumar, a sign of how the august office of Speaker has lost the moral authority that it commanded in yesteryears.

 

While such adjournment of Question Hour half way through it was unheard of in the past, disruptions due to protests which are common in today's Parliament are not alien to even this crucial hour.

 

Disruption of parliamentary proceedings was a rarity in the early decades after independence but even as late as 2004 the time lost to disruptions during Question Hour was at a more manageable 23 per cent, as against the much-enhanced 42 per cent last year.

 

When the opposition disrupts the first hour in Parliament, it actually results in the loss of an opportunity to keep a check on the government through that crucial hour because the time on Question Hour once lost is never made up, even with Parliament sitting late.

 

But this hardly seems to bother parliamentarians whose level of seriousness is on a declining curve for the last several years.

 

The whole approach to Parliament by its members has undergone a major change and it is small wonder that there has been a steady erosion of public faith in politicians and the political system in recent times.

 

A certain degree of cynicism has crept in among people at large which is a result of loss of faith and disillusionment in the elected representatives. This bodes ill for democracy but the blame lies squarely at the door of the MPs who betray the mandate of those who elect them.

 

The malaise of general apathy of parliamentarians is reflected also in the number of days the Parliament sits every year. It used to be over 100 in the early decades after independence. Following a progressively declining path, last year it was down to 42 for both Houses.

 

The 'Citizen's Report on Governance and Development 2008-09', collated by National Social Watch Coalition – a conglomerate of civil society groups – has brought out that between 2000 and 2007, the average hours of working of Parliament was not even 50 per cent of the total time. It noted that slogan-shouting, walkouts, boycotts and adjournments were increasing over the years.

 

The 11th Lok Sabha lost 5.28 per cent of its time due to pandemonium while the same was 22 per cent in the 14th Lok Sabha.

 

The year 2008 even witnessed the virtual abrogation of a whole session of Parliament, John Samuel, Convenor of the Coalition, told the media while releasing the report which also found increasing absenteeism among MPs. On examining the attendance records of the 11th and 12th sessions of the 14th Lok Sabha, it was seen that more than 75 per cent of the MPs were below the median point of 16 or more days of attendance, according to the report.

 

 The report said several key bills like the Special Economic Zone Act were passed after less than two hours of discussion. The budget worth of Rs 700,000 crore was passed with only 6-10 hours of discussion in the last Parliament, it pointed out.

 

Considering that the budget is a complex statement of accounts, it is inconceivable that justice could be done to a meaningful discussion of it in such a short time.

 

Records of the last (14th) Lok Sabha show that only 173 MPs actually spoke on legislative issues while the House passed nearly 40 per cent of the bills with less than one hour of debate.

 

There is another aspect of the composition of the Lok Sabha that raises concern and needs to be deliberated upon with far greater seriousness than is being currently done.

 

 Data prepared by the India chapter of 'Social Watch' which has former and sitting MPs on its committee, shows that in the 14th Lok Sabha, 125 of the 538 MPs had criminal cases pending against them. While 62 of these MPs have been named in minor cases, mostly of a political nature, the rest were booked for serious crimes that could lead to jail terms of five years or above.

 

The Election Commission had recommended sometime ago that persons accused of serious criminal offenses where the court is prime facie convinced about their involvement in the crime be banned from contesting elections till they were cleared of such charges. A parliamentary committee that went into the issue rejected the worthy recommendation to the chagrin of many well-meaning commentators.

 

While dissent is a legitimate democratic tool, disrupting parliamentary proceedings and bringing legislative activity to a halt negates the essence of democracy. A Parliament session is indeed a time to discuss and debate, to put the Government on the mat so that it may not smuggle in questionable legislation stealthily. Instead, it has become a pattern for the Opposition to waste precious time in disruptions and walkouts and thereby unwittingly let the Government off the hook on contentious issues.

 

The malaise needs to be controlled if parliamentary democracy is to be run in the spirit in which it was intended by the founding fathers of the Constitution. It is sad that the rot has set in also in the State legislatures where too serious business is transacted on a diminishing scale and theatrics are on the increase.

 

It is not as though there are no well-meaning parliamentarians and State legislators. But they need to assert themselves within party fora and shame those who have made it their business to disrupt proceedings. The leaders of various political parties must also introspect in the right spirit so that Parliament is restored to its old glory in the eyes of the people.

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

IMPORT OF HAZARDOUS WASTE

BY BHARAT DOGRA

 

ON November 15 a huge explosion in Kota (Rajasthan) killed three persons and inflicted serious injuries on many others. Several buildings near the explosion site were damaged. The explosion occurred when some blacksmiths were trying to process iron scrap.

 

This, moreover, was only the latest of several such incidents in which accidents occurred during the melting, processing or transport of iron scrap. A common factor in several of these accidents was that the iron scrap or waste had been procured from West Asia.

 

A lot of waste, particularly iron scrap, is available for cheap disposal in the war-ravaged areas and so it is not surprising if a lot of iron scrap is imported from Iraq as traders would like to buy from a cheap source.

 

Unfortunately, however, the waste from war-ravaged zones is also likely to be highly hazardous. This is particularly true of any waste from Iraq as in the attack on Iraq cluster bombs as well as depleted uranium weapons were used on a large scale.

 

Cluster bombs explode in the air just before touching ground. Each cluster bomb contains about 200 'bomblets'.

 

Many of these bomblets contained in a cluster bomb do not explode immediately. They continue to cause a lot of civilian deaths later.

 

The US/British forces have admitted to the use of depleted uranium in shells fired at tanks or concrete bunkers – this is supposed to increase the ability of shells to penetrate heavy metals and concrete. Depleted uranium arsenal was also used by the US in the Gulf war of 1991.

 

An epidemiological study undertaken in Iraq by Dr. Alim Yacoub shows a direct correlation between the rise in childhood cancer and leukaemia and the high exposure to depleted uranium dust in certain parts of Basra. The rise has been 384 per cent and 300 per cent respectively.

 

According to Joanne Baker, coordinator of the Pandora Depleted Uranium Research Project, many babies in Iraq are now born with serious genetic defects, sometimes without limbs or head and with misformed internal organs. Neural tube defects have substantially increased, as have Down's Syndrome births. Many young children now have cancer or leukaemia.

 

The US soldiers who used DU weapons and other hazardous weapons also suffered from their hazardous impacts over a long time.

 

A secret report prepared by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority in April 1991 (later published in a leading British newspaper The Independent) described the alarming possibilities of radioactive dust getting into the food chain and water.

 

This report warned that 40 tonnes of radioactive debris left from D.U. weapons can cause around half a million deaths. However, the actual debris left behind by the 1991 war and certainly the 2003 invasion is likely to be much more.

 

Dr. Jawad Ali-Ali, a member of the Royal College of Physicians, UK was quoted as saying (after the 1991 Gulf war)? "Studies indicate that 40 per cent of the population around Basra will get cancer."

 

Keeping in view the much higher use of DU and other destructive weapons in 2003, the health hazards now existing in Iraq can be imagined. These can increase enormously for those soldiers who may be asked to clean up some contaminated sites or engage in other high-risk activities.

 

As a former Army officer (medical) of the US army told the editors of a US magazine, when he and some other soldiers were assigned "to clean up the DU" they started getting sick within 72 hours – "respiratory problems, rashes, bleeding, open sores started almost immediately."

 

Similarly when the iron scrap of tanks, trucks, other defence vehicles etc. is sold as waste material, these hazards travel to whichever place the waste material is taken.

 

When some of this waste came to India, this resulted in several explosions. This hazard is now at least known. But the potentially much more serious hazards of depleted uranium is not even known to several people who may be exposed.

 

Therefore, the impact of waste material from the war zones should be carefully monitored and as far as possible such imports should be banned in the interests of safety.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

CHATTERATI
UNRULY BEHAVIOUR IN PARLIAMENT

BY DEVI CHERIAN

 

Parliamentarians' reputation has reached an all-time low. We are all now used to the unruly behaviour in Parliament. Without any respect for themselves or the House, they disrupt the House. They come to blows and exchange abuses leaving the dignity of the House in tatters.

 

They thoroughly enjoy the perks, the salary and other benefits of being MPs. The cost of one hour is around Rs 14 lakh. They waste the taxpayers' money.

 

The worst was when parliamentarians listed to ask questions from ministers were missing from the Lok Sabha, forcing the Speaker to adjourn the all-important question hour. The question hour was robbed of its sanctity. It is high time a no-work, no-pay scheme for these worthies is launched.

 

And also it is high time that the heads of political parties tame their MPs. Running to the well of the House, waving money in Parliament and taking money for asking question – we have been witness to all this. But now MPs playing truant should be punished and strict action should be taken by the Speaker.

 

Sonia Gandhi may sit in the House till evening but only a couple of ministers and a handful of MPs are there. Obviously, the high command orders are not being obeyed.

 

No austerity for some

 

Pranab Mukherjee's austerity drive, it seems, is not being taken seriously. The Congress ministers staying in five-star hotels did shift out to government bungalows but after spending lakhs on renovations.

 

Mamata Banerjee, known to all for her own austerity drive, has a minister who till now was staying at a five-star hotel. Mamata is the simplest politician one can come across. Her house in Kolkata has the most basic furniture and kitchen utensils. She mostly cooks her own one-dish meal and is always clad in a simple dhoti.

 

The Railway Minister has always travelled in economy class. She has not even asked for a government bungalow and continues to live in the MP quarters in the capital. She does not have a government car or guard. She still is driven by her old driver in her old Maruti. So, one fails to understand how a minister belonging to her party could even think of staying for so long in a five-star hotel. Anyway, Mamata has asked him to pay from his own pocket.

 

The Congress chief and her senior ministers may be flying economy class but three general secretaries chartered a plane to fly to Chandigarh to attend a CLP meeting just before the swearing-in ceremony of the Hooda government. Obviously, leading by example does not work.

 

This brazen misuse of taxpayers' money should be stopped by the Prime Minister. Perhaps, the time has come to implement moral guidelines in Indian politics. In any liberal democracy ministerial impropriety is looked down upon and those responsible are asked to demit office.

 

Bonding with youth

 

That Rahul Gandhi has a soft corner for the young is known to all. His visits to colleges and schools around the country always make news. Last week some school kids from Punjab visited the Parliament House. As Rahul was leaving Parliament he spotted them and asked his driver to stop. He then got off and chatted with the excited teenagers. He posed for pictures.

 

Rahul has never been able to curb his temptation to bond with the young. He asked them about their views on politics and went off happy as they said they were not averse to joining politics.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

CONFUSING SCENARIO

 

The way the State and Central Governments handled the arrest of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and other senior leaders of the outfit created confusion in the minds of the people and talks between the Government and ULFA now seem unlikely, at least in near future. One fails to understand as to why the Central and State Governments failed to come up with a clear-cut statement on the fate of the ULFA leaders immediately after they were detained in Bangladesh. Immediately after the news of detention of Rajkhowa appeared in the media, the Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram gave a statement in the Rajya Sabha claiming that the Government was expecting a positive statement from the ULFA on the issue of talks within a short time, which raised hopes for a political dialogue for a permanent solution of the problems. Again, after the ULFA leaders were handed over to India by the security forces of Bangladesh, the Union Home Secretary GK Pillai came out with a statement that Rajkhowa and the Deputy Commander in Chief of the ULFA, Raju Baruah had surrendered. During the same time, the State Government failed to clarify its position because of the reasons best known to it. However, Rajkhowa and Raju Baruah clarified their position while they were produced in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kamrup on December 5 when they asserted that they had not surrendered but were arrested.


The assertions by the ULFA leaders made it clear that the possibility of talks, at least in near future, is remote as they made it clear that talks would have to be held only on the issue of sovereignty, while, on the other hand, the ULFA commander in chief, Paresh Baruah also asserted that there is no question of talks without addressing the core issue of sovereignty. But at the same time, the Government of India made it clear that talks on sovereignty are not possible and under the circumstances, there is very little possibility of talks. It is a fact that with the arrests of the senior leaders, the ULFA suffered its worst ever crisis, but the all powerful C-in-C of the outfit along with the militants on the ground are still at large and they still have the potential to indulge in subversive activities and in the present circumstances, the possibility of the ULFA striking back to take revenge cannot be ruled out. The Police and Security Forces must keep a very close watch on the situation to prevent loss of lives of innocents and on its part, the Government should come out with a clear cut statement on its stand to clear doubts in the minds of the people of the State.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

POSITIVE STEP

 

It is one of the best steps ever undertaken to tap the tourism potential of the Brahmaputra riverfront. After a long wait the ropeway project over the river Brahmaputra in Guwahati finally got the start with the Chief Minister laying its foundation stone on Friday. The ropeway when complete would connect Kacharighat in the city with Doulgovinda in North Guwahati. The ropeway project would go a long way in easing the communication between the city and North Guwahati. It would cut the transportation time from one and a half hour by road to six minutes. Time apart, from the ropeway the passengers would get a breathtaking view of the mighty river along with the Umananda temple on the Peacock Island. The project is designed to carry nearly 250 passengers per hour. The total length of the ropeway would be 1,820 metres and the project is expected to be complete within 18 months. Along with passengers, patients on stretcher could also be carried in the ropeway cabin.


Unplanned development and haphazard growth have already had its toll in the gateway of the North East. The once beautiful city has almost lost its scenic charm and now it is bursting on its seams. Lack of foresight and will have stood in the way of developing Guwahati into one of the best and beautiful cities of the country. The hills have been encroached while the water bodies are fast disappearing. The rapid unplanned growth has robbed the chance of promoting the tourism potential of Guwahati. Ushering in development does not necessarily mean that the unique natural beauty of the city should be destroyed. In this context the ropeway project which can be aptly termed as a showpiece of the city would help in development without damaging the environment. The project when completed would be of a great help to the residents of North Guwahati. Their connectivity to the main city would be improved and travelling time would be reduced. It in turn would make the wheels of development in North Guwahati rotate faster. The tourism sector of North Guwahati would also witness growth once the ropeway project gets into motion. The authorities should also chalk out such projects which would not only enhance the beauty of this premier city of the North East but would also help in its proper development.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

INDO-ASEAN TRADE

 

India and ASEAN have signed a Trade in Goods Agreement recently which is envisaged to come into force with effect from Janyary 2010. During ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations, domestic consultations were held through various rounds of inter-ministerial meetings and stakeholder dialogues. India and ASEAN member countries have offered to eliminate tariff on specific tariff lines listed in the schedules of the Trade and Goods Agreement.


The Agreement will lead to growth in bilateral trade and investment resulting in economic welfare gains to India. Indian exporters of machinery and machine parts, steel and steel products, oilcake, wheat, buffalo meat, automobiles and auto components, chemicals, synthetic textiles, etc would gain additional market access into the ASEAN countries. Indian manufacturers would be able to source intermediate products and competitive prices frm the ASEAN markets for further reprocessing and export.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

WAGING WAR AGAINST THE PEOPLE

PRAFUL BIDWAI

 

If the media is right, former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda amassed a mind-boggling Rs 4,000 crore in just three years, and has invested it in assets the world over, including shipping, hotels and Swiss bank accounts. Much of this was reportedly collected as bribes for clearing mining projects in Jharkhand, one of India's three minerals-richest States. Many of the projects were illegal and involved mining beyond the licensed period or area. Some would intrude into the land of the Adivasis, Jharkhand's original inhabitants, who have progressively lost control over their habitat.


Koda's rise from a daily wager to riches through corruption must be condemned without ifs and buts. But his culpability should not divert attention from the Elephant in the Living Room–the scandal's business dimensions, and its consequences for the exchequer. If businessmen paid Koda Rs 4,000 crore in bribes, their profit from the approved projects must be at least Rs 10,000 crore. This would correspond to a minimum business turnover of Rs 50,000 crore assuming a 20 per cent margin. This staggering figure is three times higher than the entire revenue of Jharkhand!


If Koda alone plundered, as alleged, a sum equalling one-fourth of Jharkhand's annual budget, then it would be utterly unsurprising if the State doesn't provide the barest minimum of public services. That's indeed the case. Jharkhand has the lowest Human Development Index among all Indian states. It has failed to invest in roads, drinking water schemes, schools, primary health, sanitation and other services that matter to the people. Jharkhand desperately needs investment in roads and irrigation. But it returns a huge chunk of these programmes' budgets unspent. Last year, it only spent Rs 132 crore of the Rs 640 crore earmarked for roads, Rs 197 crore of the Rs 1,021 crore allotted to rural development, and Rs 93 crore of the Rs 460 crore earmarked for irrigation.

The State of Jharkhand is not only super-corrupt, kleptocratic and dysfunctional. It is illegitimate in the eyes of the people. It cannot protect the citizen's life and limb or his/her land, which it's busy handing over to mining and industrial interests. The State machinery has been suborned by entrenched interests. The police are inimical to the people and harass them. No mainstream political party defends poor, underprivileged, marginalised Adivasis.

The spread of Naxalism is a logical response to this situation. The Naxals, with all their faults, are the only organised political current that defends underprivileged and exploited people against the depredations of the powerful and who offer resistance to the mineral-grabbing mafia which is denuding Jharkhand of its valuable resources. The Naxals' influence has grown because the people have no one else to turn to. The context for Naxalism is set by Jharkhand's counter-development, pillage and loot, coupled with collapse of the rule of law.

What's true of Jharkhand is also true of Chhattisgarh, tribal Orissa and parts of Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. Public resources are being looted in the entire Adivasi belt. In Orissa, a Rs 16,0000 crore mining scandal has just broken out. Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh admitted (November 4) to a "systemic failure in giving tribals a stake in modern economic processes that inexorably intrude into their living spaces" and said the "alienation built over decades" is "now taking a dangerous turn...". He said the "systematic exploitation and social and economic abuse of our tribal communities can no longer be tolerated.... the criminal justice system has become a source of harassment and exploitation" through the registering of false cases. He recalled that the Jharkhand government recently withdrew "over one lakh such cases", as did Madhya Pradesh.

Dr Singh also bemoaned the "losses suffered by tribals displaced as a result of acquisition of land for various purposes ...". He also said: "It cannot be said that we have dealt sensitively and with concern with these issues ... It is not just the displacement and disorientation caused by separation from the land that is at issue. One can only imagine the psychological impact of seeing the cutting down of the vast forests that have nurtured ... these communities for centuries."


Dr Singh isn't the only government functionary to admit to "systemic failure". The Bandopadhyay committee appointed by the Planning Commission holds the government squarely responsible for the growth of Naxalism. Another committee recently appointed by Union Rural Development Ministry speaks of the Chhattisgarh government's role in "the biggest land grab ever". Tata Steel is building a Rs 19,500-crore steel plant on 5,000 acres in Chhattisgarh, which will empty out 10 whole villages. Essay Corporation is muscling its way into Chhattisgarh's Bastar tribal heartland.


The Adivasis have suffered depredations for decades. But what's new is pressure from investors in minerals and extractive industries, who want free access to the tribal belt. The State governments have signed hundreds of Memoranda of Understanding with Indian and foreign corporations for leases on minerals, land and other resources. They want to enforce these by any means, including–indeed, preferably–violent means, which will terrorise the Adivasis into submission.


The judiciary is largely complicit in this and some top corporate lawyers would like the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution–which gives tribals statutory protection–to be scrapped so that destructive "development" projects can go through and investors prevail.


That's the rationale of Operation Green Hunt, a large-scale military offensive being launched to "sterilise" and "pacify" the tribal belt. In reality, this is a war waged by the State against the people. The Naxalites are a only proxy or surrogate target. The offensive will be launched in Bastar, and last five years. It will Involve up to 60,000 armed personnel including 27 battalions of the Border Security Force and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. It will be aimed at a thickly-forested 4,000 sq km area called Abujhmarh (the unknown forest) in Bastar. The Indian Army will set up a brigade headquarters at Bilaspur which could participate in future anti-Maoist operations. The Indian Air Force will deploy helicopter gunships manned by its special forces, called GARUDS.

This is the first time that India's regular armed services, meant to protect us from alien enemies, will be deployed in a large-scale offensive against Indian citizens in the heartland. New "rules of engagement", typical of armed invasions like in Iraq and Afghanistan, are being worked out. There's some resistance within the IAF to the idea of firing upon civilians. But the Home Ministry is trying to counter the resistance.


This offensive operation will brutalise innocent civilians on an unimaginable scale and exacerbate their privations and pain. All sensible citizens who respect elementary human values must feel distressed and anguished at this terrible development. We must make a stand against Operation Green Hunt not because we support the Maoists, but because fundamental democratic values are at stake. The Maoists' obsession with violence cannot be defended. They have cynically exploited tribal discontent to narrow ends.


The whole idea of the State waging war against its own people as a form of collective punishment (say, for harbouring Naxalites) is obnoxious. Collective punishment is prohibited under international law even during wars declared in the cause of justice. The Indian State will diminish itself and undermine its claim to being minimally civilised if it resorts to organised, large-scale and deliberate violence in which civilians will be the main casualty.


However, there is an alternative. We must draw up an agenda to tame and civilise the State and fulfil the Adivasis' rights to their land, habitat, way of life, and collectivist values based on the sharing of the commons. This means scrapping projects which are imposed on them–even if that displeases investors. India offers many opportunities for non-invasive and non-destructive investment. The agenda must promote genuine development by providing public services and real entitlements to food, safe drinking water, healthcare and education to help people realise their human potential.


Only such a transformative agenda will allow the participation of tribals in decisions that vitally affect their life–and eventually help isolate the Maoists. Its implementation cannot follow Operation Green Hunt, which will only aggravate injustices and make participatory development impossible. Right since Independence, the Indian State has given a raw deal to the Adivasis and undermined both development and democracy in the tribal areas. It must undertake course correction and make a qualitatively new, different gesture. If it fails in its duty by its citizens, it will demolish its own legitimacy There must be no Operation- Green Hunt.


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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

THE COPENHAGEN MEET ON CLIMATE CHANGE

DR MANASMANI DEV GOSWAMI

 

Expectation is high that the world will emerge new, clean and green, after the 15th United Nations' Conference on Climate Change at Copenhagen, Denmark, on December 7. The generation next shall have the world under fragile ecology today, developing in pleasing and sustainable manner. The preparations for the Summit reveal a satisfactory mass-awareness and all in-house debate on the climate change issue and propaganda for treading the route for innovative activities and services to meet the challenge of livelihood and a possible change in work procedures and environment. With the Copenhagen meet will begin the transition to a low-carbon sustainable economy which is cleaner, quieter and more secure, will endure the most dynamic period of technologically driven growth in economic history.


Many countries want an outcome from the Copenhagen-Summit which is not a partial accord or a political declaration but rather an accord that covers issues in the negotiations, and one that has immediate operational effect. Denmark's premier Lars Loekke Rasmussen has stated that most of the developed countries have supported proposal for a sweeping political deal covering all essential elements, including commitments by industrial countries to reduce carbon emissions and to provide funds for less developed countries to fight the effects of global warming. However, it will be not an easy conclusion at Copenhagen to agree on a legally binding green house gases emission cuts, but it is hoped that political leaders would be able to arrive at an agreement on a fair and effective legal commitment. It may be noted that none of the developing nations had committed to or indicated any specific gas emission cuts and the cut-off year at the G-8 meeting at La Aquila recently though the developed nations had agreed on targeted cut. Anyway, some countries have made domestic commitments to cut down on green house gases which could be made as a binding commitment at the international forum. India, the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, has an impressive role to provide a clear plan to cut the growth of its carbon emissions. The India's National Action Plan in Climate Change, which made some ambitious commitments on the domestic front, is one initiative in this respect. China has already reduced its carbon emissions per unit of Gross Domestic Product by 49.5 per cent between 1990 and 2004.

After Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change in 1997, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's effort is to make a political framework that would lay out the basics: that all countries have common but differentiated responsibilities, the world needs to cut emissions sharply to stay under a 2º C rise; that rich countries will have to pay poor ones to bear the expense of clean technologies; and the rich must help the poor to adapt since the majority of the poor populations reside in tropical regions vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In addition, efforts will be there so that the climate issue should in no way stop developing countries from raising living standards, and fast enough to narrow the gap with the richest countries. It is hoped that the rich countries would make it clear that their financial commitments for economic development – made in the UN Summit in 2002 in Monterrey, Mexico and at the G-8 Summit in 2005 in Gleneagles, Scotland – will still be met, and that the extra costs of climate change mitigation, adaptation and technology transfer will be additional to the promised developmental aid.


The Copenhagen summit may foresee uncertainties and a dwindling situation in existing industries of various nations. Experts opine that while urgent actions for programmes and funding processes for developing renewable-services will be initiated, nations could be locked into high carbon energy and transport technologies carried out for decades, inflating another unsustainable economic situation. Many countries have to make decisions now onwards where they are going to invest in, say, coal-fired power stations or renewable energy sources which have a premium up front, and the situation are being influenced certainly by uncertainty on a price on carbon. There is every possibility that Asia might lead the charge of a new technology to meet the demand of clean energy in near future. Though the prices for developing new technology may go up and even cost of electricity may be up by 20 to 30 per cent immediately, yet the green energy which will mitigate the climate risk would deliver profusely, provided appropriate price protection for poorer consumers are taken care of.

A domestic consensus first on carbon emission cuts is therefore much more important than any legally binding agreement at the international level. Not only at national level, action must be initiated at State level too. There will be a drastic change in measures and practices in almost all areas such as power generation, transmission, lighting, building practices, transport, forestry, water, land development and so on. There will be a high demand of energy from wind, water, sun etc. Businesses and production will be changed over to wind and water turbines, motors. fuel cells. batteries, solar cells, etc. The challenge before the poor nations will be how to switch over to new technology programmes and practices.


(Published on the occasion of Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change).

 

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

GUESS WHO'S COME TO DINNER?

 

It is a reversal of roles. In the 1967 movie Guess who's coming to dinner?, Sidney Poitier plays the role of an Afro-American whose white girlfriend invites him home so that she can introduce him to her parents as their prospective son-in-law. The white parents are shocked. What happened on November 24 at the White House state dinner in honour of the visiting Indian PM was quite different. Neither the host nor the guest of honour was white. The dinner was shockingly gatecrashed by the white Michaelle Salahi and her Asian hubby Tareq, without anyone realising it.


The Salahis have reportedly gatecrashed quite a few dinners, none of them as prominent as the first state banquet at the White House since Obama was sworn in as the USA's 44th president. Lying under oath is an offence. Trespassing is an offence. However, if the Salahis, decked in their finest, had been stopped at the entrance to the White House and then stated that they had been invited, no records would have been maintained of their response to the query. The American media, especially FOXNews which is not on the best of terms with the Obama Administration, has been making the point that the blame rests not so much with the Salahis as with the US Secret Service and the White House social secretary's office, both of whom should have worked in tandem to ensure that gatecrashers did not enter.

 

If the Salahis had attacked not just the chicken tikka masala but the hosts or the guests with fork and knife, that would have been a cognizable offence! Photographs of the smiling Salahis being graciously greeted by Michelle and Barack only go to prove what another American president from Obama's home state of Illinois once said: "You can fool some of the people all the time." The Salahis have merely proved Abraham Lincoln right even while the US Congress is now enquiring into this breach of security!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

A WELCOME MOVE IN FINANCE

 

The Reserve Bank's move to liberalise the market for distressed assets is welcome. However, the full benefit of this reform awaits removal of the present legal and procedural hurdles to swift dissolution of a sick company and sale of its assets to service its creditors.


Amid a credit crunch and surge in delinquency last year, the RBI allowed lenders to `restructure' their sticky loans and even those assets which showed signs of stress. While most banks sensed a chance to dress up their books, they knew it was a one-time relief as bad loans couldn't be masked forever.


If the road to recovery is a long one (and fears are it is), bad loans will resurface in the banks' books. A way out is to palm these loans off to asset reconstruction companies, entities which buy bad loans by paying a fraction of the asset value to banks in the form of a special paper called security receipts (SRs). To quicken the clean-up process, the central bank is reportedly considering a hike in the FII holding limits — from 10% to 24% for a single investor and from 49% to 74% for the combined FII stake — in a specific SR pool. Specialised foreign funds like ADM Capital, Clean Water, Spinnaker, WL Ross and Avenue Asia have entered the Indian distressed asset market by taking large exposures in troubled local firms. But not many registered FIIs have bought SRs backed by a basket of bad loans that banks auction periodically.

 

This fledgling market may take off once FIIs have greater investment headroom in SR pools. Foreign funds that have the appetite for such assets and understand how these are priced may turn active, since higher holdings will bring with it greater control that dominant creditors typically enjoy. While the proposal may be resisted by corporates, many of whom will be uneasy to see foreign creditors call the shots, it's the only way the market can work.

As foreign investors pick up slices of the sticky asset pie by subscribing to SRs, ARCs can pay more cash upfront to banks, who in turn will be encouraged to offload more NPAs. Cash deals and multiple players will create a secondary market for such little-understood bonds and give buyers an exit route, a prerequisite to investors, particularly foreign investors.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

BASICALLY RIGHT

 

India's negotiating position at the Copenhagen summit on climate change that starts today, as outlined by environment minister Jairam Ramesh in Parliament, is fundamentally sound. India will voluntarily offer to slash the average amount of greenhouse-gas emissions required to produce one unit of economic output by 20-25% by 2020, from the 2005 levels.


Such voluntary cuts in emission intensity have been offered by four major developing countries acting in concert at Copenhagen: Brazil, South Africa, India and China, who form a BASIC group. Such offers of voluntary measures to reduce the impact of their inevitable and desirable growth on the climate form a strategy far superior to sticking mulishly to an earlier stand that a country like India, with a very low level of per-capita emissions, need not do anything, and that the burden of arresting/ reversing climate change should fall exclusively on the present-day developed countries whose emissions over the last couple of centuries have brought things to their current pass.


Cutting emission intensity as promised has triple advantages. One, it is entirely doable — in fact, there are some indications that India can cut emission intensity much more without changing the current pace of adopting energy efficiency and cleaner technologies.


Two, it is entirely in India's domestic interest, on non-climate counts as well, to make our growth more energy-efficient and environment-friendly. Three, it turns the atmosphere at the climate negotiations far more favourable for reaching an accord, as compared to a stand that essentially says that our past record has been so good that we refuse to do anything to save the climate now.


The BASIC group is also asking for funds and technology transfer from the developed countries to implement abatement/mitigation measures. This is how it should be. Growth that hurts the environment is also growth that hurts the poor, who are most vulnerable to pollution and have the least capacity to remedy its impact on their health. To argue that India should continue to grow without concern for pollution and climate change is to worsen the lot of the poor even as the rich grow richer, without making an extra effort to reduce the damage they cause to the environment while making their riches.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

MANAGING THE COUNTRY

SUMANT SINHA

 

Imagine, as John Lennon said, if the country was managed like a company. There would be a chairman/CEO — the prime minister, a board of directors — the Cabinet perhaps — a set of shareholders — the people, regulators — the Parliament, employees — the bureaucrats, and so on. The key difference is that for a government, the people are both the customers as well as the shareholders. A government works primarily 'for' the people (customers), and is 'of' the people (shareholders).


Of course, managing a government, any government, is more complex than running a company. A company's mandate is pretty straightforward — create value for all its stakeholders — and in case of conflict among interests of the stakeholders, the shareholders as the owners of the business get precedence. Therefore, value creation in financial terms tends to be pre-eminent among objectives. In a government, there are too many competing interests, too many shareholders — in the case of India, 1.2 billion of them, and prioritising the interests of so many often leads to some falling right to the bottom of the heap.


Often this happens to those who have no voice, no influence, no visibility in the mainstream and, often, even no vote. It is the job of the government to identify these dispossessed and give them succour. Particularly in this regard, a government is very different from a corporation.


Now, let's come to the crux of the issue. Despite all the differences, why can't a government be run more like a company with similar management principles? For example, when a new government comes in, we do not really know its agenda and policies with any degree of specificity. The best we have is a wishful, catch-all manifesto that almost nobody reads before or after the elections. Ministries do not have clear priorities and action plans other than some very basic and overarching ones.


But none of the ministries has a well-defined action plan for a five-year period. I have not seen a minister putting out within, say, 100 days a clear set of objectives, a five-year roadmap, a statement of the basic challenges and issues, and how the minister intends to resolve them and move forward. And what support and cooperation he or she needs from fellow ministries and the PM. If such a plan were to exist, there should be regular monitoring of these targets with report cards on performance, and may be annual discussions on the priorities and targets themselves.

 

I cannot imagine that this is too much to ask for. It may be argued that when a new minister takes over, the person may be unfamiliar with the ministry but isn't that where our bureaucrats are supposed to come in? This sort of target-setting and monitoring mechanism should be part of each and every ministry's regular way of functioning. Based on his party's requirements and manifesto, a new minister should simply have to tweak the priorities and roadmap that already exist.


Surely, this cannot be that complicated? It just requires a mindset change by those in government to hold themselves accountable to a higher standard. The need for a roadmap needs to be driven by the prime minister, aggregated at the end of the 100 days, and a collective set for government as a whole needs to be put out. This can then be thoroughly discussed and debated, conflicts can be resolved, and then it becomes a transparent action plan with clear visibility for all stakeholders.


Similarly, the opposition parties need to offer their own roadmaps of governance over the same five years. As in the UK, there should be a shadow cabinet with shadow ministers for each area. This way, the enlightened voter/shareholder/customer will be in a position to do her own what-if analysis and, at the end of five years, have two competing visions to choose from.


Unfortunately, Indian politics and our governance machinery have become thoroughly degraded and corrupt over the years. To address the quality of governance, we need better clarity on governance objectives, and as voters, we need to actively monitor the performance of governing political parties against targets they should be compelled to set at the beginning of their terms — targets that are clear, measurable and achievable. Much as we set Key Performance Indicators in the corporate sector.


Second, the problems of this country will not be addressed unless we have fundamental reform in the way our political parties are financed. Unless this happens, every political party, and politician, will use public office to finance their continued incumbency, and the bureaucratic machinery is unfortunately suborned in the process. Recent examples show the absolutely staggering amounts of money that can be made by corrupt politicians. Politics has, therefore, become the first refuge of those seeking a lucrative profession, rather than being a calling for those truly interested in public service.


Unfortunately, the issue of corruption has pervaded all aspects of Indian life and goes beyond politics. To combat this, we need to reduce the complexity of government and the many touch points it has with the people as the more points of interaction, the more is the scope for extraction. For example, we could set up a really independent Ethics Commission comprising apolitical persons whose integrity is absolutely above board. And we need to implement laws to punish the corrupt much more speedily.


By infusing some pretty basic management principles and ethics into our politics, we can create a better system of accountability and performance. This can help ensure that our political class put aside their personal aspirations for the gain of the hundreds of millions of hard-working and voiceless Indians — who also happen to be the government's customers and shareholders.


(The author is chief operating officer at Suzlon Energy)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT: A LEADERSHIP PRIORITY

R GOPALAKRISHNAN

 

A leadership priority is emerging — how to improve employee engagement within companies: There have been disquieting developments in recent times. All over the world, good employee policies exist in the manuals. However, the management capability to engage with the workforce and to implement the policies humanely is under pressure.


In his book The Idea of Justice, Prof Amartya Sen refers to the two Indian philosophical concepts of Niti and Nyaya. Niti relates to the policies, principles and institutions of justice while the Nyaya refers to the actual delivery of justice. The former is committed to better justice, while the latter is deeply concerned with the prevention of injustice.

Prevention of injustice is very different from pursuit of perfect justice. They are two sides of the same coin, but their value perception is different. So far as the Indian legislative framework is concerned, laws pertaining to worker relations have for long needed to be updated. Labour reforms have been widely discussed, but the subject remains on the pending agenda.


However, at the firm level, managers can act on remedying the nyaya perceived by the employees in the employee-employer relation; its practice can be modernised by forward-looking managements. This requires special effort by company leaders.


Evidence of pressure: Consider the evidence that employees do suffer from a feeling of unfair treatment, resulting in desperation and depression among employees of both developed and emerging markets.


Well-known French companies such as France Telecom, Renault, Peugeot and EDF have experienced increasing suicides among workers in the last two years. The cynic may observe that the French suicide rate is generally high compared to Britain, Germany and the US. That is true. However, even in the US, the rate of suicides has increased by 28% in the last two years.


Employees feel that they are expected to offer loyalty to their employer, but they do not receive an equal commitment from the employer to protect their jobs. Managers are so focused on corporate survival that they seem to have a limited bandwidth to attend to the employees' feeling of injustice. Employees everywhere say that they are 'in distress' or that they are 'stressed out'.


Surveys in the US over the last few years show that indices like 'loyalty' and 'trust' have collapsed from the 80% levels to 30% levels. More than half the respondents feel a sense of stagnation and disinterest in their work. The recession has increased uncertainty simultaneously with a perceived 'onslaught' by managers to increase workforce productivity.


All in all, in the developed countries, permanent workers are unhappy and are disenchanted with both their work and their employers' attitude. Temporary workers too have their own grievances. In South Korea, industrial action by temporaries has been experienced at Ssangyong and Donghee. In Japan, the president of Rengo has stated his disapproval of "temporaries being treated the same as robots".


In India too, we have witnessed hyper cases of industrial action recently. After many decades of relative labour tranquillity, company executives have been killed at Grazino in the north and Pricol in the south. Strikes have occurred at Gurgaon-Manesar, Chennai and Coimbatore.


Employees in the emerging markets are deeply concerned about inflation, food and security. Prices of essential commodities have already increased sharply. Food experts predict that the rise in food prices is only the beginning of a serious, new threat. Richard Henry, chief economist at IFC's agribusiness department, believes that "last year's food crisis was a fairly small one — and was cut short by the global financial crisis — the next one is bound to be more prolonged". In emerging countries, such forecasts cause very deep concerns.


Universally, employees are a worried lot. All of these are alarming trends and need to be taken seriously. Solutions must be found and implemented at the firm level. Within the firm, it must be focused upon at the departmental level and at the level of the individual relationship. Employees feel engaged or disengaged at the transactional level within departments.


A firm-level approach: Managers must consider a four-pronged approach:


l First, the subject of employee engagement needs to be driven down the company by the CEO. I think there is a general lack of awareness of the problem down the line. It is also mixed up with the general economic downturn. Poor employee engagement, it must be clearly understood, is a precursor to some other problem which is brewing. That is why there needs to be top-level engagement. If enough employees feel disengaged, the consequences will certainly be disruptive. Operating managers have to act. It cannot be left to the HR department.

l Second, there must be the action to measure and track employee engagement. Techniques are available and excellent companies already track their employee engagement scores. However, the extent to which such companies act on the results is unclear. Further, I suspect that very few companies measure employee engagement and prefer to get a qualitative feel; so their agenda to respond is also too general. The general approach may have worked in the past, but will not be good enough for the future.


l Third, operating managers need a refresher training on empathy and listening skills. Unions have been quiet for over two decades now with the passing of labour leaders like Datta Samant and Kuchelar. A whole new generation of managers has taken leadership roles without any direct experience of dealing with employee discontent. Listening skills are difficult to develop especially when a manager's career thus far has not required him to do much of it. There need to be powerful conversations at the operating level, where employees feel they have been listened to even if all their suggestions have not been accepted.


l Fourth, and last, the top leadership of the company must institutionalise ways to connect directly with the lower levels of employees. Many Tata companies practice a monthly dialogue or a two-way webcast. Many formal and informal models of listening downwards have been practised. These need to be brushed up and implemented earnestly.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE SAD WORDS: 'IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN'

K VIJAYARAGHAVAN

 

John Whittier narrates the story of Maud Muller, a poor farm lass "of simple beauty and rustic health". One day, as she worked, she sees the young Judge of the village riding up to her. Both are drawn to each other. She dreams of the riches that would be hers if she were to marry him, while the Judge too longs for joyous living with nature, freed from "the doubtful balance of rights and wrongs" and the "weary lawyers with endless tongues".

John Whittier narrates the story of Maud Muller, a poor farm lass "of simple beauty and rustic health". One day, as she worked, she sees the young Judge of the village riding up to her. Both are drawn to each other. She dreams of the riches that would be hers if she were to marry him, while the Judge too longs for joyous living with nature, freed from "the doubtful balance of rights and wrongs" and the "weary lawyers with endless tongues".

The two, however, are not destined to unite, as the Judge weds a "wife of richest dower" and Maud marries "a man unlearned and poor", as "care and sorrow and child-birth pain left their traces on heart and brain".


Nevertheless, Maud and the Judge, even in the midst of their allotted lives, continue to dream of each other. These vain dreams are epitomised by Whittier thus, "God pity them both! and pity us all,/ Who vainly the dreams of youth recall." He also notes, "For all sad words of tongue or pen,/The saddest are these: 'It might have been!' " A remarkable similarity to this is to be found in a touching Tamil short story, Kadithamum Kannerum, of late 'Kalki' Krishnamoorthy, which originally appeared in Ananda Vikatan in 1938, with the published English translation (Penguin) by Gowri Ramnarayan.


The story is about Annapurani. She explains to her colleague how love can inspire one to high levels of creativity. Widowed at the age of nine, after child marriage, Annapurani had gone, while yet in her teens, to a wedding, where she observes a young man staring at her. Later, he gives her a letter. Overcome by love and helplessness, Annapurani spends many days crying. Illiterate thus far, she learns to read and write. She then comes to know that the man, who had known that she was a child widow, had asked her, in this letter, to marry him, suggesting she come to the evening ceremony, just holding a piece of flower in her hand, to signal her consent. Alas, in view of Annapurani's illiteracy then, the union never, therefore, takes place!


Spurred by a will to help the deprived, lest they too miss out on opportunities for sheer want of right upbringing, Annapurani founds a remarkable institution for women and the destitute. However, like Maud Muller, she too, now aged, carries eternally the weight of the regretful longing for what could have been hers, if only...
Indeed, it takes immense dynamism, resourcefulness and presence of mind to sail on in life, never ever troubled by the feeling, "...it might have been".

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

OF INNOVATION AND GROWTH

JAIDEEP MISHRA

 

Without continual growth and progress, noted the practical-minded savant, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning. That was then, when economic growth as we know it today was just not tracked continually with data, figures and regular projections. Fast forward to the here and now, and the mavens seem optimistic about growth prospects of the Indian economy. "We expect strong growth in the second half of the current fiscal," they aver. Clearly, more could be said about growth and development.

From a growth accounting perspective, there are really two main causes of the dynamics of growth. One is the increase in factor inputs like capital and labour, and the other is innovation, technological change or, in technical terms, increase in 'total factor productivity'. The phrase denotes the increase in productivity of both capital and labour, considered together. But of the two sources of growth, which is more important? It was Solow who showed in the late 1950s that for the US, it was innovation rather than input increases that led to additions to output over time. In fact, what was revealed then was that the vast bulk of growth was actually on account of productivity improvements.


The basic insight of Solow was later backed by other studies, and for various economies. Yet, there have since been path-breaking developments in the 'field'. After all, when it comes to figuring out what determines innovation, Solow's model simply assumed it as 'manna from heaven', largely outside the scope of policymaking. It was posited that there could be modest influence by way of government-funded research and incentives for R&Din industry, but the pace of innovation was essentially seen as 'given'.


Note that the new growth literature has had strong impact on modern macroeconomics texts. Until about the mid-1980s, most works in macroeconomics either relegated economic growth to a marginal role or generally neglected it altogether. Things now seem very different, as a cursory glance would reveal. Modern texts devote more than a third of their contents to the intricacies of economic growth, and top economic journals devote a substantial amount of space to the important topic.


In the last two decades, researchers have shown, using sophisticated techniques, that a panoply of variables do influence innovation and proactive policy can indeed boost productivity. The growth-enhancing policy initiatives include openness to trade and investment, spending on R&D, skill development and thriving entrepreneurship. There seem other institutional factors as well that positively affect growth. When it comes increasing per-capita incomes, the expert suggestion is to focus on productivity improvements. The most important economic policy question then is how to increase the trend rate of growth of output by way of innovation and efficiency gains. It implies that productivity growth ought to be the object of .


Yet, the current focus at the Centre seems so much more on tax cuts, consumption subsidies and extended fiscal support. The last Budget did allow for weighted tax deduction for all spending on R&D, and not merely in particular favoured sectors. But the new growth models of technological progress seem to suggest that when it comes to R&D policy, it is not quite obvious whether the government should intervene, what form this potential intervention should take and, more important, whether it should involve R&D subsidies, write-offs and giveaways. Now, the popular notion is that nations tend to underinvest in technology and that governments ought to do something about it in policy terms.


The new growth models do emphasise a number of distortions, but subsidising R&D may not necessarily be the best way to rev up innovation. For instance, one distortion commonly addressed across models is that prices tend to be above marginal cost and the 'quantity of ideas' formed tend to be sub-optimal. The optimal policy solution to offset this distortion need not be R&D subsidy but, say, tariff and regulatory reform to source overpriced capital goods. There may be other distortions going unaddressed. Now, it can be reasoned that if the invention of a new product affects the cost of invention of a whole generation of products, then there is a valid role for policy intervention, apropos, say, the new Rs 2,000-crore corpus to fund R&D in pharmaceuticals.


However, it may not be quite clear whether a new invention will increase or decrease the cost of future inventions. While it can be argued, generally speaking, that the cost of R&D declines with the number of products and formulations already developed and repackaged — for example, by way of new dosage forms — a case can also be made that the 'easy inventions' are pursued first, and that R&D costs may well increase with the number of innovations.


If the cost anyway declines, then the corporates involved in R&D may not internalise all the benefits of their inventive steps — they may not take into account the fact that future innovators will benefit from the decline in R&D costs — so they could very well underinvest in R&D. Notice our lowly R&D spending.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

A STITCH IN TIME SAVES NINE

MYTHILI BHUSNURMATH

 

You could call it a quixotic case of the working of the law of unintended consequences. When the Centre decided to switch, mid-October, to a system of monthly reporting of the wholesale price index (WPI) with only food and fuel inflation being reported weekly, it could never have foreseen the consequences.


The decision was made purely to ensure a more accurate measure of inflation as the existing system often entailed repeating the previous week's data for many manufactured items. This adversely impacted the quality of the numbers and, more importantly, the appropriateness of any policy action based on them.


That was the intent. What has happened, however, is that the new system has made food inflation — buried till now in the minutiae of the WPI, where primary articles have only 22% weightage — much more stark.


In the past, newspaper headlines usually reported the WPI inflation rate with the accompanying story detailing the rate of inflation for different commodity sub-groups. As a result, even when food inflation was rising — as it has been for a while — it did not grab the headlines since it was offset by the much lower rate of inflation in manufactured goods and fuel and power.


Not any longer! With WPI no longer released on a weekly basis, even as inflation numbers for primary articles and food are released weekly, food inflation is now brought home to consumers far more dramatically.
And there lies the rub for policymakers. With weekly numbers cementing inflationary expectations, the battle against inflation has become not only that much more urgent, but also tougher.


No wonder the normally-unflappable finance minister lost his cool and lashed out at state governments. "The Centre and states need to work collectively in a spirit of cooperative federalism to address the problems on the price rise front," he said, replying to a debate in the Lok Sabha. Cooperative federalism does not only mean that states would take their share of taxes; it also means effectively discharging their responsibility for distributing essential commodities through the public distribution system (PDS).


Well said. In what is primarily a supply-driven inflation, where supply falls far short of demand, the remedy lies primarily in better management of supply.


But does that mean there is nothing the Centre and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) can do at the macro level to contain food inflation? No!


There is much they can do. While the scope for fiscal policy — which is directly in the government's domain — to curb inflation might be limited, the same is not true of monetary policy. Monetary policy has an important role to play in keeping aggregate demand at a reasonable level. Inflation in one part of the system does not stay confined to that part. It is only a matter of time before second-order effects kick in, whether through the demand for higher wages or through inflationary expectations.


The problem is prices respond only with a lag to a change in money supply. Consequently the impact of any tightening in money supply, even if it is done today, is likely to be felt only after a couple of months. Hence, monetary policy must always be proactive, not reactive. Monetary authorities cannot wait for inflation to cross some threshold level of tolerance before they act.

Also, as far as the public is concerned, there is never a 'right time' to tighten monetary policy (who doesn't like a free lunch?). Worse, the final verdict of whether the moment was opportune or not can only be known in hindsight, never before, as the travails of the US economy, presently paying the price for Greenspan's failure to call right, show.


Monetary expansion may stimulate growth in the short run, but in the long run, there is no trade-off between growth and inflation. Empirical evidence suggests the adverse impact of inflation on growth tends to rise at a non-linear rate with increasing rates of inflation and beyond a threshold level, rises dramatically.
There could be some debate on what is this threshold rate of inflation for India. But it can be nobody's case that food inflation of 17.5% and consumer price inflation of 13.73% for agricultural labour and 13.51% for rural labourers is below an acceptable threshold.


Agreed the only long-term solution to the underlying structural problem of shortage of pulses, for instance, is to increase production, if necessary by active government intervention through incentives like procurement based on a realistic minimum support price. Unlike in the case of sugar, where there has been gross mismanagement of the sugar economy and there is no chronic shortage, production of pulses has remained virtually stagnant in the last 50 years or so.


In such a scenario, tightening money supply will not bring prices under control overnight. But it will help at the margin by making credit tighter, making hoarding and speculation more costly. Agreed, inflation is not a purely monetary phenomenon and supply shocks, as in the present instance, can trigger a large sectoral price increase. But this can spill over into an overall increase in prices if monetary expansion is excessive. And when, as now, money supply increases far more rapidly than the real rate of growth, it is only a matter of time before it spills over and shows up as rising inflation.


If measures to reverse inflation are initiated only when inflation becomes too high for government comfort, not only is it often too late but it also requires the spigot to be turned much tighter than if it had been done earlier. The old maxim, a stitch in time saves nine, holds as much in the context of monetary policy formulation as any other.

Monetary policy is technically the domain of the RBI. But in the Indian context, the RBI takes its cues from the government. As long as the government indicates — by a nod and wink, maybe? — that it would like the easy money policy to continue as part of the stimulus package, it will require extraordinary courage on the part of the central bank to stick its neck out and take a contrary stand. But remember what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and former governor of the RBI, once said about the job of the RBI governor? It's the loneliest job in the country, he said. So there, governor, you have your cue!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

RELIANCE INFRA PLANS TO HAVE ROAD PORTFOLIO OF RS 20K CR BY 2012

 

Reliance Infrastructure is now 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, Reliance Infrastructure CEO Lalit Jalan shares his blueprint on how he wants to take his company to the next level of growth. Excerpts:


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


This is the eighth road project that has been won by Reliance Infrastructure. This is on the NH4 which is on the Bombay-Poona road connecting to Bangalore and Chennai and it is a 142 kilometres, 6 laning project. This is one of the largest projects which 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, we can start the construction. It should take us 2-2.5 years.

With this project, your company will be managing almost 650 kms of roads in India. What kind of investment 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, totaling 655 kms with an investment of over Rs 6,500 crore. We plan to have a road portfolio of over Rs 20,000 crore by FY12.

With the company going big on roads, can we also expect similar investments in the power and urban infrastructure segments?

We have presence in all three segment of power sector, which is generation, transmission & distribution. Generation is being focused by our group company Reliance Power. In Transmission, we have three projects in the construction phase totaling Rs 4,300 crore. The company is participating in REC and PFC coordinated projects with an approximate cost of Rs 6,200 crore in the central sector. We are also actively looking for opportunities in the state sector ie: Haryana and Rajasthan. We have been participating in every profitable opportunity coming up in this sector.


In distribution, we are participating in distribution franchisee opportunities and also looking for privatisation opportunities in line with the Delhi Model. In addition to this, RInfra has been empanelled as the IT Implementation Agency with the Power Finance Corporation for implementation of IT in the State Electricity Boards. In the urban infra segment, RInfra is the only private player developing three metro projects totalling Rs 16,200 crore in Mumbai & Delhi. The company is also the sole bidder for Western Freeway Sea Link projects — project cost of Rs 5,100 crore.


What is the size of total infrastructure projects that you are developing?

RInfra is the largest Indian infrastructure and utility company in the country. Total 14 projects are under development across verticles like roads, metro, transmission, worth over Rs 27,000 crore. Two projects are operational, seven more projects will be operationalised by next year.


The company has been indicating at a future listing of the energy vertical. By when can we expect the company to go ahead with the IPO?

As per demerger scheme, verticals like transmission, distribution, roads, etc are 100%-owned subsidiaries of RInfra. We are currently developing each of these verticals. At a later date, if required we can consider listing of this vertical.

The company has distribution of power in Mumbai and Delhi. Which are the places where the company is looking to widen this distribution base.

Many states are actively evaluating the Delhi privatisation & franchisee options. We are committed to participate in every such opportunity which suites our benchmark of size & profitability.


States like MP, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh are going ahead with the 'Input Based Franchisee Model' in distribution. Madhya Pradesh has already floated the RFP for Guna & Ashok Nagar districts which are expected to come up for bidding in near future. They have also floated EOI for Rewa & Narsinghpur. MP is expected to come up with more urban areas in the next round of bidding. Maharashtra had been in forefront of 'Input Based Franchise'. We understand that they have shortlisted a number of urban areas for franchise and are likely to come out for bidding in the next few months. We expect the franchise route to gain momentum in the coming few months and spread to other states as well.

 

The current orderbook of the company in the EPC business is around Rs 19,600 crore. Is the company the lowest bidder in any project and which are the internal orders that the company is expecting?
Associate company RPower is developing power projects over 33,000 MW. We will be actively participating in EPC opportunities that come out of this. We are also looking for power EPC opportunities from outside group companies. Over the last few years, we have developed skill sets in roads, metro. We are looking for EPC projects in this segment also. Infact, we already have EPC of GF toll road, which we have won on competitive basis.

The company has emerged as the preferred bidder for phase 2 of the Bandra Worli Sea Link. What is the update that the company has heard from MSRDC?

We are waiting for LOI from MSRDC. The process got delayed due to election in the state.


When is the financial closure expected for Mumbai Metro phase 2?
Financial closure is expected in next 4-5 months.

 

The company will also receive 1.2 million sq feet of real estate development along with the metro. What is the location of the land and what type of development is expected to come up there?
This 1.2 million sq ft of real estate is available at stations & depots. The flexibility of deciding development size across locations is with the developer. Primarily, the development expected would be retail and some office space. The mix would be decided at a later date.


The company is looking to set up 20 million tonne cement capacity in the next 5 years. The company is setting up 5 mt plants in MP and Maharashtra. Has the company identified other locations for the business and what is the investment that will go into this business?

RInfra is setting up a 5 mt capacity cement plant each at Satna (MP) and Yavatmal in Maharashtra. We are aiming for over 20 mt capacity in the next 5 years with an investment outlay of Rs 10,000 crore.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'CALL ON BANKING STOCKS, RIL WILL HOLD KEY TO PERFORMANCE OF MFS'

SANTOSH NAIR

 

Getting the call right on banking stocks and Reliance Industries will be the key to the performance of mutual fund portfolios in near term, said Anoop Bhaskar , head (equity), UTI Asset Management. In a free-wheeling chat, Mr Bhaskar said infrastructure stocks are fairly valued at the moment, and further upsides will depend on clarity on the government's infrastructure policy. Excerpts:


What is the portfolio theme you are looking to play in the short term, say 3-6 months?

We are closely looking at the balance sheets of companies, and trying to classify them on the basis of which ones can survive with the existing balance sheets, and which ones need to raise capital, and what is the quantum of capital they will be able to raise. Also, we are careful about the beta (a measure of volatility) in our portfolios. To give you an example, we chose not to take exposure to a certain blue chip company, which surprisingly managed to raise more capital than we thought it would have been able to. Instead, we chose to back another blue chip, with an equally-stressed balance sheet, but where we expect a consistent revival. There is underlying nervousness in the market, as the reaction to the Dubai debt crisis shows. But, nobody wants to sell as the stream of data coming from economies globally is positive.


Are you saying that a correction does not appear to be on the anvil anytime soon?

It is still hazy at the moment. We are trying to figure out a few trends. For instance, the rise in 10-year yields from the bottom to the peak of a stock market cycle is usually 500 basis points. In the current cycle, yields have already risen by 250 points so far. Will the market correct after the yields have risen to 350 basis points, or more? Similarly, during the period from July to September this year, the Nifty was trading at a 30-35% premium to its 200 day moving average. That premium has narrowed down to 18-19%.


Typically, a trend reversal happens when the index is 40% above or below the 200 DMA. What we think holds the key to near term performance is figuring out where the interest rates are headed in the short term, and how the banking stocks are likely to react. Since banking stocks have a 21% weightage in the main indices, that call will be crucial. The second crucial call will be Reliance Industries. The entire industry is underweight on RIL at the moment. But, if the stock does well, contrary to general perception, there is a huge risk of underperformance. Getting these two calls right will hold the key to near term performance of the portfolio.


What about infrastructure stocks, which most fund managers are bullish on?

Capital goods shares are trading at 20-25% forward earnings. Further upside in these stocks is unlikely till the government comes out with a coherent policy on infrastructure. Power utility are trading 3-4 times their book value. Given the amount of fresh paper likely to come in (this sector), the stocks are likely to trade in a narrow band, as investors shuffle their (power utility) portfolio. The big moves will come only from concrete government action and investors should be convinced of its willingness to spend on infrastructure.


Which are the key triggers you see driving stock market performance in near term?

We are bearish on FII flows. Lot of overseas money has come in over the past few months, a significant amount of it through exchange traded funds investing in Indian equities. Much of these flows are hot money, and we are not sure about the longevity of the investors coming through this route. The flows into ETFs are mainly driven by month-on-month performance. If the performance lags, you could see a sudden outflow of funds.


The government's numbers on how it is able to balance growth and fiscal deficit will be closely watched. At some point, the focus will shift to third quarter earnings. That could give the market a clue as to the timing of the withdrawal of the stimulus measures.


What is your outlook on the earnings for the current quarter?

We expect the numbers to be good. Year-on-year revenue growth should be strong, as the base for the same period last year was low. However, the topline growth may not be fully reflected in the profit numbers. That is because, over the past couple of quarters, input costs have risen steadily. We expect a steady rise in the number of earnings upgrades.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

LOOKING FOR GOOD OPPORTUNITY FOR ACQUISITION: IFFCO-TOKIO

MAYUR SHETTY

 

Tokio Marine Holdings is the holding company for the Tokio Marine Group, which has a net worth of $18.4 billion (about Rs 92,000 crore) and revenues of $39 billion (Rs 195,000 crore) for FY09 and operates across 36 countries. The 130-year-old Japanese insurer has had a presence in non-life in India through a joint venture with fertiliser manufacturer IFFCO. The company has recently tied up with Edelweiss for a JV in life insurance. In an interview, Hiroshi Endo, MD, Tokio Marine Holdings, speaks of his views on the industry.


In recent JVs, the foreign partner has paid a premium. How about you?
We can just say that together, we (Edelweiss Capital & Tokio Marine) will bring in Rs 550 crore. At this moment, we are not talking about who will bring in how much and as the business expands, we will make additional infusions.


With IRDA's present charge structure when do you expect to break even?

epends on the scenario, if we focus on growth strategy, we will have to wait for a very long time. If we focus on profit, the break even will be sooner we are trying to balance between. The possibility is three to four years to seven to eight years, depending on the strategy. In China, we managed to break even in seven years as we focused on profitability while some of the Chinese players focused on volume. The other factor was the investment income. Just like in India, the Chinese markets have also been favourable.


What kind of persistency ratio will you be comfortable with?

The 13-month persistency ratio would vary from country to country. In some, it would be 90% in others it would be 70%, depending on the situation in those countries. Basically, I think mid-80s is the desired persistency ratio.


Has the global financial crisis affected Japanese insurance companies?

We started our life insurance business in Japan from 1996. Before that, the insurance laws did not allow Tokio Marine to be in life. Since 1996, Tokio Marine's life business has grown five-fold. It is the fastest growing life insurance company in Japan where the life market has actually shrunk. Ours is the 10th-largest insurance company in Japan among 54 life insurance companies. We have entered the market a little late, but we analysed the customers' need very carefully and developed good products to match the market needs that helped us get good market share. Around 2004, we acquired a variable annuity life insurance company in Japan that was very successful. Our group has been affected a bit because we also invest in financial instruments such as credit derivatives. If you pick up the world-wide situation, insurance is not as affected as banking and the Japanese market is even less affected by the economic crisis, on the whole. So we are a very sound group with a double A rating from S&P and A++ from AM Best.


Given that you are open to expanding through acquisitions, have you looked at AIG's business which is believed to be on the block?

It is very hard to understand AIG's business and very difficult to evaluate the real value. Of course we are always looking for good opportunity to acquire. But for AIG, it is not so easy. It is impossible for anybody to acquire all of AIG group but again it is very difficult to separate a country's operation from AIGs group. That is why no one could acquire a part. Their capital structure is too complicated and only Hank Greenberg (former chairman of AIG) could understand.


How do you see life insurance distribution evolving?

Although it takes time to create a very strong agency channel, the agent is the basic channel for distribution of life insurance. After this channel is created it is a very viable model. Of course, bancassurance is another good way of distribution, but the agency channel is more solid. There are other channels, including internet and corporate channels. In Japan, agency is the dominant channel, bancassurance channel is strong but agency channel is stronger. In Singapore, too there are the agents and financial advisors. All the markets I have seen agency is the predominant channel.


Are you happy with the way non-life insurance is going?

In India, non-life is going through a very hard time after detariffication. But we are very happy with our JV partner IFFCO. We are trying to focus on areas that are more profitable rather than volumes.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

COMPETITION FROM CHINA ENABLES US TO DO BETTER: ERICSSON

JOJI THOMAS PHILIP

 

For Ericsson, the world's largest telecoms equipment vendor, India is among its top-five markets. Despite the Sweden-based company having a significant foothold and dominant market share here, it is now confronted with increasing competition, especially from Chinese vendors who have bagged a bulk of the latest equipment deals in India. ET talks to the Ericsson's newly-appointed global CFO Jan Frykhammar on the company's plans and future prospects for the Indian market. Mr Frykhammar is also set to take over as Ericsson's executive VP from January 1, 2010.


How important is the Indian market for Ericsson?

India is among our top-five markets and about 7% of our revenues come from here. At present, after the United States and China and our home market Sweden, India is next crucial market. We have an R&D centre, manufacturing hub and a global network operating centre here that supports Ericsson's operations in 23 different markets. We are making India as one of our global competence hubs and over the next few years, Ericsson will have four large employee bases around the world, of which one will be based here. About 12% of our global employee headcount are already based out of India.


You think the worse is over? Do you see demand picking up?

We do not provide guidance, but looking at the long term, the fundamentals for the industry are positive. The short-term forecasts may vary, but mobile communications are only set to increase and mobile broadband will soon take off in a big way. There are other opportunities — as mobile networks provide more features for faster data access, they will act as a replacement for travel. We also see a big potential for device-to-device communication, which will be over mobile networks.


How big is the threat posed by Chinese vendors such as Huawei and ZTE?

For some of the recent contracts in India, we did not even bid. So, it is not that we have been beaten by them. We welcome competition as this will enable us to do better. There is not a huge difference in the price points between different vendors, but there are different commercial strategies. So, if a commercial strategy does not suit us, we will not participate in that deal. Our strategy for India is very clear — we are here to stay and grow a strong local presence. Yes, Chinese vendors may have changed the game, but it has only got us to work harder and be more cost efficient.


What else are you doing in India?

We have tied up with 12 universities here and will expand this to more education centres. The aim is to cultivate a group of engineers who are trained to step into the telecom arena. We are also conducting large scale trainings on campuses so that they can bring out technical professionals who are employable.

 


THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

WE'LL BUILD SANTOOR AS ONE OF THE TOP BRANDS: WIPRO

SARAH JACOB

 

The personal care arm of Wipro may account for less than 10% of India's third-largest software exporter's revenues, but Wipro Consumer Care and Lighting (WCCL) has emerged a serious contender in its line of business with a number of powerful brands such as Yardley, Santoor and Unza. Its acquisitions of the Yardley brand and business from UK's Lornamead and Singapore-based Unza Holdings have given WCCL a foothold in the international market. The company is now looking to further enrich its product portfolio for both local and international markets and spread its wings across Afro-Asian markets, Anil Chugh, the firm's senior VP for sales & marketing, said in an interview. Excerpts:


What's your marketing strategy for consumer care segment?

We operate in the personal wash, skin, baby, hair, fabric care and wellness segments, and have a three-pronged approach to strengthen these segments. While the focus will be on introducing more products from Unza's portfolio into skincare, we will also evaluate which of our existing brands' equity can be leveraged across other categories. For instance, Santoor could be extended from personal wash to cut into skincare as well. Thirdly, we will also go for acquisitions, which will boost our presence in associated categories.


How is the acquisition of brands such as Unza and Yardley expected to alter your FMCG play?

WCCL was more of a mass-branded company starting with Vanaspati, and now Santoor, Shikakai and Chandrika. Our strengths were largely among grocers across tier-II cities. This means that our presence in urban centres and modern trade (including chemists) was weak. We saw this both as an opportunity and a weakness, and attempted to plug it with Unza and Yardley. Besides being premium, it allows us to enter high-growth categories such as moisturising creams and deodorants, which are largely urban-centric products but are gradually becoming popular even among the lower population strata and smaller cities.

 

What is your go-to-market strategy with regard to Yardley?

Yardley has a trusted British legacy. It stands for elegance with its lingering floral fragrance and has very premium imagery. We intend to safeguard these features by positioning it in the mass-premium segment in India. Our focus will also be on strengthening its penetration from fancy stores (cosmetic counters) to modern retail in India. Though Yardley has introduced deodorants, the bigger goal for us is to make the brand relevant to the youth.


Santoor has emerged as the biggest soap brand in south India. What are the challenges for it in taking on brands such as Lifebuoy and Lux?

Our aim is to build Santoor into one of the top 20-30 recalled brands in India. To achieve this, we have to increase the number of touch points for the consumer. We cannot exist in only one category such as soaps. Since we have greater contribution coming from rural areas, we have to overcome the challenge of being relevant to the urban consumer too. At the same time, in order to increase our market share, we have to be more proactive than our competitors through speed of execution and ability to deliver value, particularly across certain states where we have low penetration.


Will Chandrika be expanded into an end-to-end ayurvedic personal care brand?

Chandrika has a very strong ayurvedic equity and our attempt is to unlock this value through as many categories as possible. To begin with, we have expanded it from soaps to handwash to facewash and now sanitiser as they cater to a specific niche within such categories. We realised that some consumers didn't opt for Chandrika because it is a hand-made soap and wears off very fast. To address this, we have rolled out a machine-based variant called Chandrika Forever in Andhra Pradesh.

How much does WCCL invest in advertising? How do you perceive commodity pressures in the next few months?
WCCL invests around 12% of the turnover into advertising, which is largely through the mainstream mediums. Traditionally, when palm oil prices drop, companies pump in this value into increasing trade margins or advertising or consumer offers. In the past 8-10 weeks, the palm oil prices have been firming up and are likely to remain in the next few months. This is linked to crude appreciation, dollar pricing as it is mostly imported as well as the substitution of the corn crop which failed in Argentina and Brazil. Companies adopt various options to meet this challenge, but we believe that at the current palm oil prices there is room to balance it out by either reducing trade margins, advertising or consumer offers without increasing consumer pricing.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'YOU CAN'T KEEP THE DOOR HALF SHUT ON PORTFOLIO INFLOWS'

SHAJI VIKRAMAN & SANTOSH NAIR

 

A year ago, India's stock market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India along with Reserve Bank of India was hard at work trying to contain the spillover impact of the global financial crisis on the country's financial markets. However, the tide changed from the early part of this fiscal — portfolio flows have become strong and markets have rebounded. So it's time now to look at the business of unfinished reforms in the primary and secondary markets for Sebi's chief CB Bhave . ET caught up with him to discuss the regulator's views on a range of issues. Excerpts:


Foreign fund flows into the stock market this year have been close to the record levels seen in 2007. This has again opened up the debate on controlling portfolio flows even as countries like Brazil introduce measures to curb inflows. What is your view on this?

Regarding portfolio flows, you can't have the door half shut... either you allow portfolio flows or you don't. If you tell investors they can bring in money, but they can't take it out, they won't come in at all. As far as this year's portfolio flows are concerned, we need to see them in the context of what happened last year. In the past 17 years, we have seen net outflows, only in 2008. $20 billion came in this year, but $10 billion was the net outflow last year. $10 billion of inflows in the past couple of years is not such a huge amount.


Do you think this is an opportune time to look at the quality of flows? Is there a need to review the policy on participatory notes?

When you say quality of flows, the regulator can only ensure that the necessary KYC norms have been adhered to. There is no way of saying that flows must stay for a specified time. With regard to participatory notes, there were some issues about KYC norms, which were tightened some time back. The FII issuing the P-note must ensure proper KYC, and the entity to which the P-note has been issued has to be a regulated entity. If there is laxity in this, Sebi will take appropriate action.

 

Are there any moves to further ease FII registration norms?

No, there aren't any more issues that need further relaxation, and the feedback from the participants is that they are comfortable with the current process.


A significant chunk of the money flowing into mutual funds continues to be from institutional investors despite indications from the regulator that asset management companies have to broaden the retail investor base. Is this a cause for concern?

If you see, most of the institutional money is flowing into debt schemes. In the case of equity schemes, the investor base is predominantly retail but the penetration levels are low. Now that investors can subscribe to mutual funds through stock exchanges, this issue will be partly addressed. Among the issues we discussed at the recent mutual fund advisory committee meeting included the concentration requirement, such as the 20-25 rule (minimum of 20 investors and no investor holding more than 25% in a scheme). We are examining if this norm has to be made more stringent. In fact, some of the mutual funds want this rule to be tightened after last year's experience, when they realised that retail investors offer a more stable base.


Will you do it through a fiat?

I think we will have a combination of regulations and doing it through developmental efforts, by helping the industry, by nudging them to do certain things, like spreading investor awareness.


What are the key primary market reforms that Sebi is considering at the moment?

One of the issues that we are looking at is: why does it take such a long time for listing after the closure of the issue. In a year's time we should be able to shrink that time to seven days from 20 days at present. To help retail investors get speedier refunds, we had introduced ASBA. But it does not have a bidding feature. We have asked banks to introduce a bidding software, so that high net worth individuals and institutional investors too can bid through ASBA. This should be in place by the beginning of next year... sometime in January.


Is this a precursor to 100% margin for institutional investors at the time of applying for IPOs?

Hundred per cent payment for institutions needs to be done. Two things have to be put in place before that. One, the ASBA facility should be available for institutional investors, and two, the time taken to list from the day of issue closure has to be reduced. Institutional amounts are huge, and if you keep them blocked for a considerable period of time, there will be issues.


Any plans to further tighten margin requirement for issuing warrants to promoters?

We will see what the experience with the current rules is. If there are any complaints, we can have a relook at the norms.

 

Is Sebi considering revision of the various quotas for different classes of investors in a public issue?

Nothing is on the anvil. The two big changes we have introduced recently is allowing the allotment of shares to select investors before the issue opens, and in the case of follow-on public offers, allow the institutional portion of the book to be subject to an auction process. We have received representations from some quarters saying the auction process should be extended to IPOs as well. Let us see what the initial experience is, before extending it.

What about secondary market reforms?

A key area which Sebi is examining at the moment is the nature of investor complaints against brokers, relating to secondary market transactions. The regulator is finding difficulty in addressing cases where the broker has got the client to sign a power of attorney (PoA), and those relating to running account authorisations, which again overlaps with the PoA issue.


What's your opinion on a delivery-based settlement in the equity derivatives segment?

e have been discussing it with the stock exchanges, but have not been able to arrive at a consensus. Some players feel a physical settlement is not possible till we have a robust stock lending and borrowing mechanism (SLB) in place.


Some players feel the margin norms for SLB have to be relaxed if it has to take off. Has there been any representation on this front?

Margin is something we don't want to relax if the feedback of the stock exchange is that it is necessary for risk management. Introduction of any product is not a desirable goal if you have to sacrifice risk management. .

Extension of trading hours is turning out to be a contentious issue. Will Sebi intervene if required?

There are no regulatory issues in terms of the timing being between 9 and 5. So why should Sebi be dictating to the market that it should be trading only between this hour and that hour. Let the market decide for itself. Interestingly, when the issue of extended trading hours first came up, one exchange, which I shall not name, actually produced a letter signed by many brokers, saying they all wanted extended timings. And now (laughs), the brokers forum and ANMI say their survey shows that members are not in favour of extended hours. So let the industry decide, we are not getting into it.


What about norms on self-listing by stock exchanges?

Self-listing is an issue where we are yet to take a view. But no exchange is yet up for listing. We are making efforts independently to look into the governance of stock exchanges, because it is related to the issue as to what happens when bourses change into pure commercial entities; what happens to their regulatory role.


Indian Depository Receipts have not found any takers yet. Are anymore supportive provisions needed to popularise the product?

I think not. Companies have to be interested in the product.

 

On the issue of disgorgement, does Sebi have to make it explicit by amending the Sebi Act, to pre-empt any legal issues questioning the regulator's authority to issue such orders?

It can be made explicit, that will be even better. In many of the IPO disgorgement cases, while many entities came in for consent, a few went to SAT, challenging the disgorgement orders. SAT has upheld Sebi's authority to issue disgorgement orders. There are no legal hurdles there.


So how soon will the investors who suffered in the IPO allotment scam be ?

Two things are needed. One, we need sufficient amount to be disgorged from the concerned entities after following the legal procedure. Second, we need to identify which investor has to be paid how much. That is yet to be done.


Is there any rethink on the pricing formula for QIPs ?

Many market players have been asking that companies be given the freedom to price their issues on the basis of that day's price or even at a discount to such price. We think the average stock price of the past 15 trading sessions is a fair benchmark. It (the QIP) cannot be sold at a discount. We need to balance such demands with interests of existing public investors as well.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

CRICKETERS DO INDIA PROUD

 

India's crushing two-nil victory over Sri Lanka in the just-concluded Test series in Mumbai and the accession of Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men to the top of the heap will be vigorously and loudly celebrated by their myriad fans. And with good reason. The feat — climbing to number one in the International Cricket Council's ratings — is the culmination of a sustained and well-planned campaign, and it is only fitting that the country that virtually drives cricket worldwide should earn its place at the apex of the game — even if it is for a short while. In itself, the ICC's system of rating Test and ODI teams and individual players is no more than a clever marketing gimmick, Yet in these days of instant gratification, rankings and charts, it has some merit. And as much as anything else, it gives India's fans a chance to bask in reflected glory, besides giving the bean-counters yet another platform to market yet more aspects of the game. Having said that, India's topping the table in Test rankings had been the outcome of some effective — and attractive — cricket. In doing so, they have taken on and beaten the best. Many of the victories that carried Team India to their newfound status may have come on home soil, but these include wins over Australia, Pakistan, England, South Africa — whom India incidentally displaced on the ICC's table — and now Sri Lanka. None of these teams are pushovers by any stretch of the imagination and the iconic figure of Dhoni's team summed it up very neatly minutes after Harbhajan Singh dismissed last man Muttiah Muralitharan on the fifth and final day of the Brabourne Stadium Test. Said Sachin Tendulkar proudly: "We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. This is a reflection of what we have been able to achieve in the last 20 months or so. It is a special day for me, and for all Indians." Added his skipper: "I think the real tough task from now on is to maintain this performance. The real tough job starts from here." Dhoni was not even on the radar when the process of seeing India to the top of the rankings first began — on a winter's day at Kolkata's famed Eden Gardens against the all-conquering Australia with Venkatasai Laxman and Rahul Dravid spearheading the charge. Yet the Ranchi-born fighter is in every way a fitting successor to the man who set India on this path, Sourav Ganguly. The Prince of Kolkata's reign is when India first, truly, began to believe that they could take on and beat the best and Dhoni — India's captain with the golden touch — has shaped and carried that momentum further than many would have thought possible. India's newfound status is also fitting tribute to a generation of legends, many of who are still part of the squad. Had it not been for the likes of Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Virender Sehwag and Anil Kumble, this day — howsoever fervently hoped for —would have continued to remain a dream. From now, as Dhoni said, the hard part of the job — maintaining Numero Uno status — really begins. As does the rebirth of yet another long-cherished dream, a World Cup victory in two years' time. Six years ago, India came agonisingly close, balked at the death by Ricky Ponting's Australia. Come 2011, the Men in Blue will once again be among the favourites for the title.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

PRICE RISE NEEDS CHECK

BY JAYANTHI NATARAJAN

 

Recently there has been considerable media discussion about the issue of rise in prices of essential commodities and the problem of food inflation. In a country like India, where the cost of food forms major part of the monthly or daily expenditure incurred by an average family, this is a debate which acquires poignant significance. This is a government that came into power based on a concern for and commitment to the welfare of the common man and this is a government which is constantly tuned to the need to make our democracy more inclusive and transparent.


It is no secret that there has been a severe global economic crisis over the last several months and it is a matter of quiet satisfaction that our economic, financial, banking and regulatory policies have been so strong and firmly grounded that our economy remained insulated from the worst effects of that crisis.


Further, despite the world economic crisis, the country managed to record 6.7 per cent growth in 2008-2009 and the projections for the latest quarter show even more encouraging signs of 7.9 per cent growth, something that even the greatest optimists did not expect.


The core sector of the economy has sent clear signals of recovery and growth in the infrastructure doubled to 4.3 per cent this year. Even electricity generation jumped to six per cent in April, as against 1.4 per cent for the same month last year.


Production of cement, steel, coal, has all gone up. There has been phenomenal growth in the services sector, and transport and communications. All of this shows that the installation of a stable government at the Centre, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, has led to clear and productive economic policies which have insulated the nation against the financial storms that have devastated many economies in the world.
However, two crucial sectors, namely agriculture and the manufacturing sector, have not performed as well as expected. Agriculture, particularly, has been hit by a series of crises and while 27 out of 36 meteorological districts in our country experienced moderate to severe drought, and states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu reeled under the onslaught of terrible floods, which destroyed everything in their path, wreaking great damage on food production, and livestock apart from loss of lives and livelihood.


As a result of these natural disasters and also as a result of world recession and various other factors, the anomaly of higher than expected growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) accompanied by rise in food inflation has begun to confront policymakers. While we may be justifiably proud of our GDP growth, there can be no question that the government has to urgently address the question of rising prices.


Clearly, the priority of the government, and should be to moderate inflation, to ensure inclusive growth, to give substantial impetus to agriculture and, above all, to insulate the weakest and most disadvantaged sections of society from the travails of rising prices.


In this context, the attempts made by some Opposition parties to create an atmosphere of fear and panic is thoroughly reprehensible. The media too cannot be absolved of a kind of breathless sensationalism in projecting a picture of gloom and doom and flashing doomsday scenarios on the food front. These are approaches that are not just contrary to the facts on the ground but also are liable to be condemned for being an irresponsible attempt to trigger alarm and panic in society by politicising the food situation.

The facts need to be considered in perspective. Despite all the problems mentioned above, there is not even the remote possibility of food shortage in our country.


We continue to have buffer stocks of 153.49 lakh tonnes of rice, as against the prescribed norm of 52 lakh tonnes, while our wheat buffer stock stands at 284.57 lakh tonnes as against a norm of 110 lakh tonnes.

 

Therefore, the question of shortage does not arise. Again despite all the problems of drought and flood, our procurement has been the highest ever, with 33.1 million tonnes of rice being procured, as also 22.57 million tonnes of wheat.


The social security net of 35 kg of rice at Rs 3 per kg and wheat at Rs 2 per kg under the Antyodaya scheme of the Central government is going strong and as observed by the finance minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, the issue price of rice, wheat, sugar kerosene and edible oil have not increased, ever since the UPA government came to power in 2004.


The government has taken pains to dramatically increase the minimum support price (MSP) of rice by 79 per cent from Rs 560 to Rs 1,000. The MSP of wheat has been increased by 72 per cent from Rs 640 to Rs 1,100. Farmers have received other support from the United Progressive Alliance government by means of a massive loan waiver and the government is constantly looking at ways in which the agriculture sector can be supported. On the administrative side, future trading in the four vital items namely rice urad dal, tur dal and sugar etc have been suspended and export of non-basmati rice, edible oil and pulses has been banned.


Thus, the Central government has taken all possible steps to curb the rising prices of food and has left no stone unturned to fulfil its responsibility. However, the spirit of cooperative federalism demands that the state governments must do their bit as well. The all-important strengthening of the Public Distribution System (PDS) has to be monitored by the state governments. Statistics show that many states do no take serious action against blackmarketers and hoarders. Also even in the few cases where raids are launched, prosecution rarely follows. This is nothing less than dereliction of their duties on the part of the state governments. If price rise is to be curbed the most basic issue to be addressed is the implementation of the Essential Commodities Act, prevention of black marketing and hoarding and proper implementation of the PDS.


The states have to swing into mission mode and carry out their role effectively if the people are to have sustainable relief from the vagaries of price rise. Concerted action has also to be taken by all concerned to bridge the unacceptable dichotomy between the wholesale and retail prices with stern deterrent action being taken against profiteering middlemen.


Price rise is a national issue and can only be controlled if everyone comes on board and swings into decisive action.

 

Jayanthi Natarajan is a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha and AICC spokesperson. The views expressed in this

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

MAY ALL AMERICAN DREAMS COME TRUE!

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

The United States President, Mr Barack Obama, certainly showed leadership mettle in going against his own party's base and ordering a troop surge into Afghanistan. He is going to have to be even more tough-minded, though, to make sure his policy is properly executed.


I've already explained why I oppose this escalation. But since the decision has been made — and I do not want my country to fail or the Obama presidency to sink in Afghanistan — here are some thoughts on how to reduce the chances that this ends badly. Let's start by recalling an insight that President John F. Kennedy (JFK) shared in a September 2, 1963, interview with Walter Cronkite:


Cronkite: "Mr President, the only hot war we've got running at the moment is, of course, the one in Vietnam, and we have our difficulties there".


Kennedy: "I don't think that unless a greater effort is made by the (Vietnamese) government to win popular support that the war can be won out there. In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them; we can give them equipment; we can send our men out there as advisers. But they have to win it, the people of Vietnam, against the Communists. We are prepared to continue to assist them, but I don't think that the war can be won unless the people support the effort and, in my opinion, in the last two months, the (Vietnamese) government has gotten out of touch with the people. ..."


Cronkite: "Do you think this government still has time to regain the support of the people?"
Kennedy: "I do. With changes in policy and perhaps with personnel I think it can. If it doesn't make those changes, the chances of winning it would not be very good".


What JFK understood, what Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) lost sight of, and what Barack Hussein Obama (BHO) can't afford to forget, is that in the end it's not about how many troops we send or deadlines we set. It is all about our Afghan partners. Afghanistan has gone into a tailspin largely because President Mr Hamid Karzai's government became dysfunctional and massively corrupt — focused more on extracting revenues for private gain than on governing. That is why too many Afghans who cheered Karzai's arrival in 2001 have now actually welcomed Taliban security and justice.


"In 2001, most Afghan people looked to the United States not only as a potential mentor but as a model for successful democracy", Mr Pashtun Atif, a former aid worker from Kandahar, recently wrote in the Los Angeles Times. "What we got instead was a free-for-all in which our leaders profited outrageously and unapologetically from a wealth of foreign aid coupled with a dearth of regulations".


Therefore, our primary goal has to be to build — with Karzai — an Afghan government that is "decent enough" to earn the loyalty of the Afghan people, so a critical mass of them will feel "ownership" of it and therefore be ready to fight to protect it. Because only then will there be a "self-sustaining" Afghan Army and state so we can begin to get out by the President's July 2011 deadline — without leaving behind a bloodbath.


Focus on those key words: "decent enough," "ownership" and "self-sustaining". Without minimally decent government, Afghans will not take ownership. If they don't take ownership, they won't fight for it. And if they won't fight for it on their own, whatever progress we make will not be self-sustaining. It will just collapse when we leave.
But here is what worries me: The President's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said flatly: "This can't be nation-building". And the President told a columnists' lunch on Tuesday that he wants to avoid "mission creep" that takes on "nation-building in Afghanistan".


I am sorry: This is only nation-building. You can't train an Afghan Army and police force to replace our troops if you have no basic state they feel is worth fighting for. But that will require a transformation by Karzai, starting with the dismissal of his most corrupt aides and installing officials Afghans can trust.


This surge also depends, the president indicated, on Pakistan ending its obsession with India. That obsession has led Pakistan to support the Taliban to control Afghanistan as part of its "strategic depth" vis-a-vis India.

 

Pakistan fights the Taliban who attack it, but nurtures the Taliban who want to control Afghanistan. So we now need this fragile Pakistan to stop looking for strategic depth against India in Afghanistan and to start building strategic depth at home, by reviving its economy and school system and preventing jihadists from taking over there.


That is why Mr Obama is going to have to make sure, every day, that Mr Karzai doesn't weasel out of reform or Pakistan wiggle out of shutting down Taliban sanctuaries or the allies wimp out on helping us. To put it succinctly: This only has a chance to work if Karzai becomes a new man, if Pakistan becomes a new country and if we actually succeed at something the President says we won't be doing at all: nation-building in Afghanistan. Yikes!


For America's sake, may it all come true.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

OUR PLANET CRIES FOR ATTENTION

BY JONAS GAHR STORE

 

The figure of our planet — a shining blue-and-white orb silhouetted against the stars, the swirl of clouds with the blinding white of polar ice caps set against ocean blue — is an image almost every human carries inside as the symbol of our common home.


But for how long will future generations see that blinding polar white anchoring the only place of human existence? While climate negotiators gather in Copenhagen to address global warming, speaking in terms of 2020, 2030 or 2050, the future of the global climate system may be determined not in these decadal timelines, but by our actions — or inaction — of the next few years, determined instead by the speed of melting ice.
The cryosphere — the regions of our earth covered by snow and ice — has long been considered the "canary in the coal mine" for global warming. We have known ever since the very first report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1990 that the Arctic was warming more rapidly, twice as fast as the rest of the globe. We have seen the glaciers topping Mt Kilimanjaro slowly disappearing, 85 per cent gone in the past century. We watched the 12,000-year-old Larsen B ice shelf of Antarctica collapse in a few weeks' time in 2002.


We already knew things were bad. We now know the future of snow and ice on our blue-white planet is actually much worse.


Last April, former US vice-president Al Gore and I charged an expert panel of scientists to summarise the state of the globe's ice sheets and snow. Those scientists have completed their work, and we will hand that report over to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen on December 14. We expected sobering reading. What we have is a loudly ringing alarm from every corner of the cryosphere, an alarm bell of melting ice:

 

* Loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet has increased threefold just in the last decade.

 

* Snow cover is decreasing, and land glaciers from the Himalayas to the Alps disappearing at rapid rates, with greatest loss in the Andes and American Northwest.

 

* Once apparently immune to the ice loss affecting other regions, even mighty Antarctica is showing signs of overall ice loss now as temperatures rise.

 

What does this mean for the people of the world, most of whom live nowhere near ice and snow? It just might mean everything, in terms of our future:

 

* The latest (2007) IPCC estimates of 0.5 metres sea level rise by 2100 are now considered bare minimum. Because of accelerated melting on Greenland and elsewhere, the anticipated rise by 2100 may reach 1.5 metres, impacting hundreds of millions of people.

 

* Loss of snow and sea ice is decreasing the reflectivity of the earth's surface, and thaw of permafrost releasing more methane and CO2 than anticipated. Both these changes will lead to much faster warming of the entire globe.

* Land glacier loss may lead to widespread water shortages. Around two billion people today depend on water from the Himalayan Plateau alone, the earth's "Third Pole".

Melting ice, therefore, is not just about those who live in the mountains or in the Arctic. It is about the future of all of us.


What does this mean to the nations of the world, gathering now in Copenhagen? More than anything else, world leaders need to agree to strong and aggressive cuts of CO2 emissions. Nothing else will stay the melting of ice and snow in the coming centuries; and because CO2 is so long-lived, to have any hope of preserving the cryosphere we need to begin those cuts today, not next year, not post-2020... now. Our climate negotiators have gone as far as they can on their own. What is needed in Copenhagen are visionary leaders: those willing to look beyond narrow national interests, or issues of blame and compensation, to the threatened future of our increasingly fragile planet. We also need an emergency plan for the cryosphere, acting now to preserve as much global ice and snow cover as we possibly can. That means reducing short-lived climate forcers not currently covered under any climate agreement, such as black carbon and ozone, and more focused attention on short-lived climate gases such as HFCs and methane.


Black carbon contributes as much as 12 per cent to overall global warming; and even more in the cryosphere, where it darkens snow and ice to vastly increase melting. Recent studies show that much of the black carbon falling in the Arctic comes from springtime crop burning in the US, Canada, and Russia: we all need to do our part to stop this harmful practice immediately. Globally, smoke from old-fashioned cookstoves not only produces black carbon, but kills millions of women and children each year. Replacing dirty stoves with cleaner ones, especially around the Himalayas, will save lives and help the cryosphere at the same time. Methane — a Kyoto gas responsible for at least 25 per cent of global warming, and more at the poles in springtime —— also needs more urgent attention. Even as levels of methane from greater permafrost melting keep rising, we need to cut human sources of methane all we can.


The Copenhagen agreement needs both mid-term and long-term goals, for 2020 and 2030 and 2050; and certainly, these need to be aggressive ones. But we should not be fooled by those dates into thinking our margin for action to save the cryosphere is equally long. The time to act is here, and now. Our planet, shining white and blue among the stars, may not get a second chance.

 

* The Copenhagen global climate summit begins on Monday

 

* Jonas Gahr Store is the Norwegian foreign minister

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

CANCER FROM THE KITCHEN?

BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

 

As we rethink health care, let's not forget the chemicals around us.


The battle over health care focuses on access to insurance, or tempests like the one that erupted over new mammogram guidelines.


But what about broader public health challenges? What if breast cancer in the United States has less to do with insurance or mammograms and more to do with contaminants in our water or air — or in certain plastic containers in our kitchens?


What if the surge in asthma and childhood leukaemia reflect, in part, the poisons we impose upon ourselves?
This last week I attended a fascinating symposium at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, exploring whether certain common chemicals are linked to breast cancer and other ailments.


Dr. Philip Landrigan, the chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai, said that the risk that a 50-year-old white woman will develop breast cancer has soared to 12 per cent today, from 1 per cent in 1975. (Some of that is probably a result of better detection.)


Younger people also seem to be developing breast cancer: This year a 10-year-old in California, Hannah, is fighting breast cancer and recording her struggle on a blog.


Likewise, asthma rates have tripled over the last 25 years, Landrigan said. Childhood leukaemia is increasing by 1 per cent per year. Obesity has surged. One factor may be lifestyle changes — like less physical exercise and more stress and fast food — but some chemicals may also play a role. Take breast cancer. One puzzle has been that most women living in Asia have low rates of breast cancer, but ethnic Asian women born and raised in the United States don't enjoy that benefit.


At the symposium, Dr. Alisan Goldfarb, a surgeon specialising in breast cancer, pointed to a chart showing breast cancer rates by ethnicity.


"If an Asian woman moves to New York, her daughters will be in this column," she said, pointing to "whites".
"It is something to do with the environment," she added.


What's happening? One theory starts with the well-known fact that women with more lifetime menstrual cycles are at greater risk for breast cancer, because they're exposed to more oestrogen.


For example, a woman who began menstruating before 12 has a 30 per cent greater risk of breast cancer than one who began at 15 or later.


It's also well-established that Western women are beginning puberty earlier, and going through menopause later. Dr. Maida Galvez, a paediatrician who runs Mount Sinai's paediatric environmental health speciality unit, told the symposium that American girls in the year 1800 had their first period, on average, at about age 17.
By 1900 that had dropped to 14. Now it is 12. A number of studies, mostly in animals, have linked early puberty to exposure to pesticides, PCBs and other chemicals. One class of chemicals that creates concern — although the evidence is not definitive — is endocrine disruptors, which are often similar to oestrogen and may fool the body into setting off hormonal changes.


This used to be a fringe theory, but it is now being treated with great seriousness by the Endocrine Society, the professional association of hormone specialists in the United States.


These endocrine disruptors are found in everything from certain plastics to various cosmetics.
"There's a ton of stuff around that has oestrogenic material in it," Goldfarb said. "There's makeup that you rub into your skin for a youthful appearance that is really oestrogen," she added.


More than 80,000 new chemicals have been developed since World War II, according to the Children's Environmental Health Centre at Mount Sinai. The removal of lead from gasoline resulted in an 80 per cent decline in lead levels in our blood since 1976 — along with a 6-point gain in children's IQs, Landrigan said.
I asked these doctors what they do in their own homes to reduce risks. They said that they avoid microwaving food in plastic or putting plastics in the dishwasher, because heat may cause chemicals to leach out.

By arrangement with the New York Times

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

AFTER LIBERHAN WHAT?

BY KHUSHWANT SINGH

 

Since everyone is talking or writing about Liberhan Commission's findings on the destruction of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, I too have the right to air my views on the subject.

 

To start with, I ignore the furore being made over it being "leaked"before being presented in Parliament. It is the duty of the media to ferret out news by whatever means it can. Two media organisations did their professional jobs and deserve to be congratulated. It can be assumed that it was not leaked by the government because it could have chosen a more appropriate time on the eve of elections to get mileage out of it. Nor could it have been leaked by Justice Liberhan.

 

Seventeen long years and eight crore rupees of our money it took to tell us something we already knew because most of us had seen the entire drama enacted before our eyes on our TV sets. Only we were not sure of the exact roles played by the actors; now we are.

 

Narasimha Rao did not discharge the duties expected of a Prime Minister in a crisis situation: he believed in the policy of masterly inactivity. He could have prevented the tragedy but allowed the tragedy to take place. History will never forgive him. I was uncertain of the role of Atal Behari Vajpayee and had given him benefit of doubt. Liberhan has not and held him equally guilty.

 

Perhaps he is, as Govindachari described him as Mukhota — double-faced. About the rest of the names including Murli Manohar Joshi (Jyotishiji), Uma Bharati, Kalyan Singh, Vinay Katiyar et al. I have no doubt of their being involved. It can no longer be doubted that all the saffron parties — the RSS, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and most of all, the BJP were parties in the nefarious plot as one.

 

If the law were to take its own course, all these men and women should be charged for wanton and criminal act of vandalising a place of worship. But as things are in our country, that would only make heroes of people who in fact have tarnished the secular image of India. They have let down Bapu Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Azad, Ghaffar Khan, Sheikh Abdullah, Bhagat Singh, Jayaprakash Narayan and others who strove to make India a model of communal and social harmony.

 

The most appropriate punishment then would be to ostracise them from society and tell them we will not share with you till you atone for the sin you committed.

 

Nobel winner

 

This year's Nobel Prize for literature went to the young German writer Herta Muller. I had not heard of her name. Not many people outside Germany had read anything about her. No matter. If she got the most coveted award for literature, she must have a lot of talent. Consequently, when our prize-winning novel The Land of Green Plums (Granta Books) landed on my table, I put aside other work to devote a couple of days to good reading.

 

The first few pages baffled me. Her sentences did not follow each other, her vocabulary was strange and I felt I was missing something she was trying to say. Perhaps they were symbolic of things I did not know. To start with, the title of the novel The Land of Green Plums foxed me.

 

Did green plums stand for unripe fruit which can create stomach problems? Some of her characters keep chewing green plums. I was not sure. From the blurb I gathered she was writing about a German community living in a region of Romania, bordering Germany.

 

During Second World War they were loyal to anyone ruling Germany. Though they knew little about the Nazi ideology, they regarded Adolf Hitler as their Fuhrer and their men served in the German Army. At the end of the war they found themselves in Romania under the Communist dictatorship of Causcescu. It was worse than the Nazi dictatorship. Every citizen was under surveillance all the time. Attempts to escape were thwarted by border guards and dogs along the Danube, separating Romania and Germany. Those taken captive were tortured. Some committed suicide. Some lost their minds. They devised codes writing to each other, enclosing a hair from their heads — red, grey or white.

 

For more intimate communication they enclosed a hair from their pubics in the envelope. Everyone is famished. Men who work in a slaughter house drink blood of animals they slaughtered, and if the boss was not looking, they threw limbs of slain animals over the wall to be collected by their relatives to take home and cook. And so it goes on page after page. They have cold-blooded sex simply to get rid of the urge.

 

Many times I thought I would give up half-way, but I persisted to the bitter end. And still wonder what made the Nobel Prize Committee decide to give this year's award to Herta Muller.

 

Honeymoon leave

 

"How much leave will you need?

Is there no end to your greed?"

Putting his fist on his application, the boss growled

This time he was very angry indeed.

"The first time, I took leave for my engagement

The second time, I had to make arrangement

And marry," said the employee.

"And this time, I need a few days' more leave, sir

Because my wife is going on honeymoon

And she wants me to accompany her."

(Contributed by Kuldip Salil, New Delhi)

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

HALL OF SHAME


IN a state where a surprise visit to a prison finds a high-profile convict holding a durbar, it is not surprising that dummies are seen serving sentences while the real culprits use their illegitimate freedom to go about their normal business. Bihar has institutionalised the tradition of criminals holding the system to ransom on the strength of links at the highest level ever since Lalu Prasad, main accused in the several hundred-crore rupee fodder scam, led a victory procession into jail. He later claimed endorsement by sending tainted colleagues to the UPA cabinet. Fortunately, the fractured relations between the Congress and RJD have spared the Prime Minister the embarrassment of reappointing those with cases of murder, extortion and rioting hanging over their heads. This has not changed the climate of crime, complicity and corruption in Bihar even after Lalu has been voted out of power. Jail officials who allowed notorious anti-socials to enjoy the luxuries they desired behind bars are still around claiming a case of "mistaken identity'' when a man with the same name as the real culprit, convicted in a case of massacre of 11 villagers, is lodged in jail for two years. One would have to be incredibly naive to believe that the police are all that innocent or just incompetent. Their brand of competence is the key to the evil.


This is a state where institutions of governance have all but collapsed. Where the system has been hijacked, there can only be false claims to an alibi. The poison has struck deep roots and challenges any kind of cleansing operation. The solution, if any, lies in organisations outside the government acting as watchdogs. The NGO that has brought frightening evidence of a young man undergoing hard labour for five years while the actual crook used his loot to pay the family a monthly allowance only underlines the need for exemplary punishment if indeed the National Human Rights Commission can bring those who aid and abet to book. But where the combined curse of crime and complicity mocks the rule of law, one can only hope for miracles. More so, when this may be just the tip of an iceberg that contains more alarming secrets.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

CAMBRIDGE RELEASES RARE RECORDINGS OF BRITISH RAJ

 

London, 6 DEC: A unique collection of hundreds of interviews with people who witnessed India's independence and the final days of the British Raj is being made available for free by the University of Cambridge.


The oral history archive, held at Cambridge University, features more than 300 recordings, including first-hand accounts of meetings with Mahatma Gandhi and testimonies by freedom fighters whose acts aimed to force an end to British rule.


Alongside the campaigners, freedom-fighters and assassins, ordinary people such as doctors, missionaries, farmers and police officers give intimate reminiscences of Empire, Indian independence, and of partition.
The collection is owned by the University's Centre of South Asian Studies and contains more than 500 hours of audio material and 10,000 pages of interview transcripts.


The entire collection is being made available in full, for free, as streamed audio at http://www.s-asian.cam.ac.uk.


The recordings were made in the 1960s and 70s as part of a wider project to preserve the memories of the British in India, members of the Indian independence movement, and people who had known Gandhi.
The original cassettes and reel-to-reel tape had become unusable because of fears that playing them regularly would cause irrevocable damage.


"From the time they were first captured, the use of this invaluable resource has had to be severely restricted to prevent the tapes from deteriorating through wear," Dr Kevin Greenbank, archivist at the University of Cambridge Centre of South Asian Studies, said. The collection includes first-hand accounts of Gandhi's civil disobedience and non-cooperation campaigns from people who knew and helped him. Some reveal how fragile those efforts often seemed. ;PTI

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

AT FULL STRETCH

 

EVEN as expectations mount of increased anti-Naxal operations when the Jharkhand elections conclude, and the home minister talks of an "intelligence-based" drive against them, comes a worrisome revelation: the Central Reserve Police Force, which is increasingly playing the lead role in internal security duties, is fully stretched. That the force of 210,000 personnel ~ 210 battalions ~ presently has just three companies (100 men each) and one women's company not committed to active duty is bound to have an impact on its functioning. For at least 150 battalions are deployed in J&K, the North-east, and the Naxal belt ~ all demanding duties. Security-force personnel are human, when subjected to sustained strain their efficiency suffers, at times that causes them to act with vengeance.


Tiredness apart, their re-training suffers. Particularly when there are major differences in the objectives, strategy and tactics in each theatre of operations. Election duty one day, patrolling a mountain trail another is a tall order. All this has to be viewed in the context of the taxing conditions in which they serve, the minimum creature comforts provided to them. For the record, quite a few contend that the mosquitoes out there in the "field" are as much an adversary as terrorists, Naxals etc.


Relief is not on the horizon; although another 30 CRPF battalions are due to be raised that is not an overnight exercise. It is a pity that the state governments continue to back off from committing their police to duties that might incur political disfavour, and deliberately keep their forces understaffed so that they have an "excuse" to seek reinforcements from the Centre. The home ministry has asked Naxal-affected states to recruit an additional 100,000 personnel, but what has been the response? As unimpressive as the police modernisation drive for which central financial assistance has been made available for several years. Though New Delhi has spoken of a system whereby it will provide only matching force-levels to the states, conditions on the ground often make that difficult. A situation fully exploited by most states. The depressing reality is that while state governments vociferously trumpet the Constitutional provision that law and order is a state subject they shamelessly decline to shoulder the consequent responsibility. In the process, and by consistently shunning their duty, they imperil the federal structure of the Indian state.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

WORLD VS CHINA ON TIBET~II

RAJINDER PURI


WHY have the Chinese succeeded in bringing the rest of the world to its knees? It is because the world is dominated by what I described in 2004 as the Real Axis of Evil comprising corporate America and China. Arpi's book recalls the closed door dialogues between the Americans and Deng Xiaoping when relations were thawing. The contemptuous references to India was what bonded the two sides. Kissinger was nauseatingly cloying as he sucked up to the Chinese. President Gerald Ford, not the brightest President, intervened in the talks with no impact. Ridiculing him Lyndon Johnson once said: "Ford needs both hands to find his ass!"
The architect of the evil axis on the American side was Henry Kissinger, once described widely as a war criminal but ending up as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. A little after Sino-American trade blossomed following Deng's reforms, Kissinger Associates Inc. took birth.

 

A consultancy

IT was a consultancy that acted as facilitator of deals between China and corporate America. Kissinger became the central adviser for the Business Coalition for US-China Trade which has 1000 of the largest American corporations as its members. Kissinger helped set up China International Investment Corporation (CITIC), the Chinese government's banking merchant for doing business with the US. Kissinger Associates roped in top level former officials including Alexander Haig, former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, international economist Alan Stoga, and investment banker T. Jefferson Cunningham III. No wonder fierce public protest blocked Bush from appointing Kissinger to head the 9/11 Commission. Kissinger was forced to back out. CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked Kissinger: "Kissinger Associates… has not… detailed the work it does. There is the possibility of a conflict of interest?"
Kissinger replied: "No law firm discloses its clients. I will discuss my clients fully with the counsel of the White House…" Kissinger was comfortable with the White House regardless of which administration governed America. For instance, President Obama's trusted Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner worked for three years with Kissinger Associates before occupying his current post. Over the years Kissinger Associates has grown exponentially with a reach in all continents. Among other giants the American International Group (AIG), condemned for squandering millions as executive bonuses, is a strategic partner with Kissinger Associates. Kissinger is reputed to be one of the key benefactors of the stimulus bailout after the recent economic meltdown. Kissinger Associates is the shadowy centrepiece of corporate America and business partner of China.


Totalitarian China is opaque for foreigners. But it has free access to democratic nations. It creates strong vested interest in their biggest business firms. In democracies big business influences politics. Ergo, China influences policy in democratic nations. With a five to one adverse balance of trade with China, with trillions of dollars held as US Treasury bills by China, is America in any position to confront Beijing ? Why, the US dare not confront even China's proxy, Pakistan !


Truth about Tibet

Claude Arpi at the conclusion of his book expresses hope that China will change. He points to individuals in China who speak the truth about Tibet, such as Phunwang, the Tibetan communist who led Chinese troops into Tibet. Subsequently he spent years in jail because he tried to faithfully follow Marxism. He was released and was invited to administer Tibet. He refused. He knew how that would end. He stayed on in mainland China.
There are Chinese intellectuals like Zhang Boshu and Wang Lixiong who speak objectively and constructively about Tibet . One begs to differ with Arpi. China will not change unless it is compelled. Given the Axis of Evil little hope might be placed on America. Only if India summons the will to detach itself from the coattails of Uncle Sam can China be compelled.


After 1962 only once did India assert itself against China. In 1986 Chinese troops encroached into Sumdorong Chu in NEFA, now Arunachal Pradesh. Army Chief General Sundarji airlifted an entire brigade in what was called Operation Falcon to counter the Chinese. Deng Xiaoping warned that China would "teach India a lesson". War seemed imminent. Sundarji was criticized. The General stood firm and was prepared to quit. The government buttoned its lip. The Chinese backed down. Today there are effective ways of calling China's bluff to enforce its climbdown without resort to military action. It is futile to outline them given a government incapable of independent action. Until India summons the will to act independently it must live with a reality that is worse than pathetic. It is tragic.


(Concluded)

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

A DESPERATE GESTURE

 

By asking district magistrates to concentrate on welfare schemes without considering the political affiliation of beneficiaries, the chief minister is liable to raise the question of how such discriminations were allowed to begin with. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has never acknowledged the truth about partisan district administrations or his party's stranglehold on vital sectors like health and education. Even now, there is no indication that he speaks with endorsement of the power centres that dictate government policy. Or whether the evil institutionalized over 32 years can be eliminated after a routine meeting at Writers' Buildings. The chief minister has seen his ideas of a new Bengal ~ from a car factory at the expense of farmers to a chemical hub ~ being regarded as ill-conceived by a disillusioned electorate and has now settled for basics. The real danger of being dislodged has compelled him to reassess his priorities and return to the grassroots. But the more he plunges into emergency action, the more questions he may have to answer on both non-performance as well as the distortions that allowed the poison to grow. The failure to prepare accurate BPL lists, create mandays under the central schemes, implement housing and drinking projects and step up rural electrification programmes have been failures stretching over decades. He cannot hope to correct them with a few miraculous strokes. The simmering discontent is now out in the open and has grown to unmanageable proportions. It will need much more than tentative signals of being free and fair to make a real difference.


The chief minister has been too absorbed in his own pet projects to be concerned about basics. By all accounts, local committees of his party have been hand in glove with officials to decide on beneficiaries of schemes such as the Indira Awas Yojana and paddy procurement. The panchayat election two years ago provided the first hint of a popular protest and this was confirmed in subsequent elections. Mr Bhattacharjee's hopes of a miraculous change in fortunes appear to have dimmed. Hence the frenzy of rushing from chamber of commerce meetings and deals with foreign investors to the rural constituencies that will decide where he will be after 2011. If he puts in a near-superhuman effort, Mr Bhattacharjee may just have enough time to effect change in the lives of people. Or else, he will go down in a history as a Chief Minister who talked a lot but did little.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

STRANGE NATION

 

There has been another eruption of cheer all over India. The latest figure of growth in the gross domestic product is 7.9 per cent. That would hardly be news in a dynamic country like India, which is used to scoring success after success. But a little problem had cropped up recently. After clocking nine per cent and more for three successive quarters in 2007, growth had slipped. By the beginning of this year, it had come down to 5.8 per cent. Cheerleaders still boasted that it was the second highest growth rate in the world. They did their best not to show it, but they were worried. What if it went down further? What if it became 10th or 20th highest growth rate in the world? That was no way for a country destined to be a superpower to behave. Now they can sleep well. For India is close to eight per cent again; it cannot be long before it resumes the Chidambaram growth rate.

 

But statisticians have a favourite trick to spoil the fun of simple cheerleaders: the base effect. Is it responsible for the spectacular perking up of the growth rate? A year before the two quarters which registered the embarrassing growth of 5.8 per cent, they showed a growth of 9.3 and 8.6 per cent. With such high growth in the base, the growth rate was bound to slump. Growth had come down to 7.7 per cent in the third quarter of 2008; so the base effect has pushed up growth somewhat. And it will do so even more in the next two quarters, whose base grew at only 5.8 per cent. Cheerleaders would be quite safe if they bet on growth exceeding eight per cent, perhaps even nine per cent, in the next two quarters. After that they had better go to sleep for a while, for the base effect will be reversed, and growth will start coming down again.

 

While the Central Statistical Office cannot and should not be accused of errors of commission, it has omitted certain information in its press release, namely the growth of gross domestic expenditure. Till the middle of 2008, it used to exceed the growth of the GDP; since then it has fallen short. In the second quarter of 2009, it was only 6.7 per cent. The difference between GDP and GDE is the deficit in the balance of payments. International prices have fallen, while domestic prices have not. So people have started importing the goods that they earlier used to buy in the country. Because import prices are so much lower than domestic prices, the shift in expenditure has not blown up the payments deficit. But the impact on domestic production has been considerable. It would be wrong to say that statistics lie; they just do not tell the whole truth

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

NEUTRAL CHILL

 

How can a country known for some of life's most reassuring necessities — watches, chocolate, cheese, neutrality, assisted suicide and bank accounts — put up with something as aggressively Other as minarets? This seems to be the logic behind most people in Switzerland wanting, and managing, to push through a ban on the construction of minarets in the country. The Swiss People's Party (SVP), largest in the parliament, had campaigned for such a ban, urging the people to vote on the issue, as they can in Switzerland. The campaign poster, in the shrillest red and black, has a woman in a burqa ominously standing in the foreground. Behind her is a number of minarets, looking like bayonets, piercing through the Swiss flag. Optimists in the country's political and religious establishments, together with members of the Swiss business community and civil society, were sure that the referendum would decide against such a ban. But 57 per cent of voters, and 22 out of the 26 cantons, have voted for the ban. There are exactly four minarets in Switzerland, none of which is allowed to broadcast the call for prayers to the 400,000 Muslims who make up 4 per cent of the country's population. The government has accepted the decision — as it would have to, according to the principles of direct democracy that this officially secular nation upholds. This, then, is the triumph of democracy, of what most people want.

 

What is most shocking to those who understand and practise democracy as well as secularism along somewhat different lines is the symbolic force of the ban. To most Swiss Muslims, nothing could be a clearer signal of the fact of their being unwanted in their own country, particularly if they chose to make themselves visible. In Switzerland, the minaret stands for what the hijab has become in France — the symbol of a form of oppression and danger, against which enlightened Europe must make a concerted effort to unite. Right-wing and centre-right parties in Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands have all supported the ban. What increasingly unites Europe is a fear whose chilling logic finds its clearest — and most ironic — expression in something as unimpeachable as the rule of democracy.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

LESSONS YET UNLEARNT

TO BE A GOOD UNIVERSITY, PRESIDENCY MUST RECAPTURE ITS PRIME

TAPAS MAJUMDAR

 

As I heard the long-awaited good news that a bill to make Presidency College into Presidency University was in the offing, what came to mind was my 20 years at Presidency as teacher in the Fifties and Sixties and then barely keeping in touch from distant Delhi in the decades following. The Fifties to the Seventies was when Presidency's economics department was in full bloom. I was recently going through (with some self-satisfaction and pride too) what some of our students spreading over almost 30 years — not all Economics honours students — have been writing about us. They, in many cases, have been attributing the undeniable good health of the department over that period to a body of good teachers who were bunched together and stayed together in the economics department. To set the record absolutely right I must add here one rider to an implicit proposition that went with such an assessment. Presidency in my time had several highly distinguished professors in physics and other science departments. There were great teachers in the other Arts departments too. I am talking here only of my own experience in the department of economics (or rather economics and political science).

 

Those of our teachers found bunched together were assembled more by accident than design, and they were bunched, at least in economics, together with students of astonishingly high academic ability and great academic ambition. They contrived their own self-teaching plans sometimes taking the teacher into confidence. Our credit, as Bhabatosh Datta often used to warn me, lay not so much in teaching them high theory but in not leading them astray. In course of my rather longish life in teaching youngsters I have learnt that what Bhabatoshbabu said was absolutely right but it was a very tall order to follow.

 

I deny nothing to the participants of those exceptionally successful teacher-student joint ventures. But had that phenomenon in the case of economics and the cases of several other departments just happened, without premeditation? My answer would be yes, but with the rider I have already hinted at. The undeniable success stories were not necessarily destined to be one-off cases: there was a method to what was happening over that period which we have not fully worked out. We the professors, and the students who came out and rose to be professors in their turn, somehow, somewhere, failed to carry on business as usual when we found, as the Americans say, it was too hot in the kitchen. To change the metaphor, we simply missed the bus. But I like to think it may not be too late to recapture the habit of producing students like yesterday again. In any case, even the lessons not learnt should be interesting to the builders of today.

 

All this is mere prolegomena to what I really wanted to say. Some of us at the Presidency of that period had been trying to say this to the rest of the world over a period of at least three decades. How and when does a good college with good teachers become a good university? The answer to the question has to be uncompromisingly unequivocal. A good college is not necessarily in the same state in all its departments. The teachers of some of its departments might be accepted by the academic fraternity as equals of well-known university teachers. But this is a recognition that cannot be doled out officially by any designated authority even of universities or recommended to the government by the University Grants Commission (whatever its act might say under Section 3).

 

Great teachers like a Susobhan Sarkar or a Bhabatosh Datta were accepted as great by their students first. Then the good news spread and they were talked about within the teaching communities that some of their students had joined as teachers after college. Else they migrated to other universities in the country or abroad. Their reputations within the international academic community were mostly gained not only through publications, citations and so on. The legend grew with the passage of time.

 

We have to remember that authentication by students and fellow academics did not always depend on the publication of books and papers — important as these are. In our own department, I remember Nabendu Sen was universally regarded as one of the very best in the area we called Indian economics — without his publishing many significant papers. He was shy and also not a great orator. But some of our students who had travelled to MIT or Harvard or other centres of academic distinction and were, in my perception, choosy and even highbrow, reported again and again that they had met none better than Nabendu Sen in his field. I also remember how very firmly Bhabatosh Datta had to speak in front of the Public Service Commission before they conceded and Nabendu was selected as an assistant professor at Presidency. I do not blame the government for this. I only blame the system that set down that a government or a commission composed mostly of non-experts was best suited as an agency to dispose of academic matters and decide who should be given a university teacher's status and who should be left out.

 

There is a second question involved that has to be squarely faced. If Presidency does not want to shift gear and turn from being a very good undergraduate college (remember once it was India's best) into another easy-going and indifferent university, it will have to introspect and take a number of hard steps — otherwise the whole point of the exercise and of our dreams will be lost. I will end by mentioning one step that I consider to be absolutely crucial. Presidency must use its autonomy and whatever money it can lay its hands on to revive undergraduate teaching and take it to the highest level possible. To be a world-class university at the postgraduate level in all subjects will remain a distant dream for a long time. To be one of the world's better universities with a very strong undergraduate section engaged in basic studies and laying the foundations of basic research in the arts and sciences for the country as a whole is not an impossible task for Presidency.

 

There is no reason why Presidency cannot be as good as Trinity or King's or the London School of Economics in its undergraduate programmes under the best and the highest-paid professors it can recruit. Postgraduate studies and research will come as a consequence and gain attention from the rest of the world in its own good time. The fame of LSE, Cambridge and Oxford is still basically built on undergraduate teaching in their BA or BSc programmes.

 

I will end by another of my usual anecdotes. Professor Dipak Banerjee was noted for championing the "Presidency University" cause. It was also he who pointed out to me once that we wrongly thought our system of university education was based on the British pattern: we never followed the pattern of Oxford, Cambridge or London with their great colleges. I remember when I was a member of the UGC I too had strongly advocated university status for Presidency. One day, I heard him say quietly, "I hope you and I are not fighting for turning the best college in the country into its worst university." He had been talking, of course, before the days of the hundreds of "deemed" universities.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

 

DEALING WITH DISASTER

FIFTH COLUMN - GWYNNE DYER

 

Sometimes, the best is the enemy of the good — and sometimes, 'good enough' is the enemy of all mankind. That is why James Hansen, director of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the world's leading climate scientists, wants the global summit on climate change in Copenhagen to fail.

 

"I would rather it not happen," he told The Guardian recently. "The whole approach is so fundamentally wrong that it is better to reassess the situation." In diplomacy, 'good enough' solutions predominate because of the need for compromise, but in this case, Hansen argues, it is better to have no deal than the wrong deal.

 

He's right — and most of the negotiators at Copenhagen know it. Almost everybody involved knows what the one really fair and effective deal would look like, although they feel doomed to settle for something much worse. In this case, the fair and effective deal would take full account of the history, and it would look like this. It would require the rich, industrialized countries to take really deep cuts in their emissions: 40 per cent by 2020, and say another 40 per cent by 2035. The developing countries would cap the growth in their emissions at a level not much higher than where they are now — but they must be allowed to go on growing their economies, which means that they will need more energy.

 

All that extra energy has to be clean, or else they will break through the cap. They will, therefore, have to get their new energy from wind farms or solar arrays or nuclear plants, all of which are more expensive than the cheap coal-fired power plants they rely on now. Who pays the difference in the cost? The rich countries do by technology transfers and direct subsidies.

 

What makes this lopsided deal fair is the history behind it. Emissions in developed countries have stabilized or declined slightly, but they are still at a very high level. Indeed, what has made these countries rich is burning fossil fuels for the past 150-200 years. And in doing so, they have taken up almost all the available space.

 

Another time

 

In the early 19th century, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air was 280 parts per million. It is now 390 ppm, and four-fifths of that extra CO2 was put there by the ancestors of the one billion people who live in the developed countries. The point of no return, after which we risk runaway warming, is a rise in average global temperature of two degrees Celsius. That is equivalent to 450 ppm of carbon dioxide.

 

All we have left to play with is the distance between 390 ppm and 450 ppm, and on a business-as-usual basis we'll cover it in less than 30 years. All the economic growth of rapidly developing countries has to fit into that narrow band of 60 ppm that the developed countries have left for them.

 

That is why the post-Kyoto deal must be lopsided. But it is still politically impossible to sell that deal to people in the developed countries, most of whom are (wilfully) ignorant of that history. What we have on the table instead, at Copenhagen, is the version of a deal in which the rich countries buy the right to go on emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases by subsidizing clean power and other emissions reductions in the poor countries.

 

The Copenhagen summit will certainly fail to deliver the right deal. The danger is that it will lock us into the wrong deal, and leave no political space for countries to go back and try to get it right later. So the best outcome at Copenhagen would be a ringing declaration of principles, and an agreement to get back round the table and do the hard negotiations over the next 12-18 months. Since the US Congress has still not mandated any reduction in American emissions and Canada will do its best to subvert the proceedings, that is also quite likely an outcome.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

DESERVED CHAMPS

"GETTING TO THE TOP IS NOT AS DIFFICULT AS STAYING THERE."

 

No longer will Indian cricket be synonymous only with financial clout. The Indian team has been a powerhouse in world cricket for a while now without getting the due it deserves. Now, by comprehensively reaching the number one ranking in the ICC Test Championship table, India have provided official, conclusive proof of their standing in the international community. The climb has been steady rather than spectacular, gradual as opposed to overnight, a tribute to the team's consistency over an extended period of time and to its ability now to perform as well overseas as at home. It has entailed broad vision from the coaching staff and complete commitment from the men out in the middle, because without total focus and single-mindedness of purpose, it is next to impossible to move ahead of the likes of Australia and South Africa, until Sunday the top-ranked Test team.


It isn't merely in Test cricket that India are a formidable force. Twice this year, even if briefly, they reached the pinnacle in the one-day format, and could have held the number one position in both formats simultaneously had they overcome Australia during last month's home series. One of the primary reasons for India's progress has been the presence of an influential, impressive core group that has survived the test of time, that understands each other brilliantly, that has learnt to enjoy each others' success but, most significantly, has realised the importance of putting team above self. Individual accomplishments are still celebrated with abandon, but nothing delights the team more than collective success, a tribute to the leadership group of the last few years that extends beyond the man at the helm.


For Mahendra Singh Dhoni's India, Dec 6, 2009, will forever be a red-letter day, but it won't be the end in itself. The big challenge now is to build on the gains of the last few years, because getting to the top is nowhere near as difficult as staying there. It won't help that India don't have too many Tests lined up in the next six months, but while as a nation we are obsessed with numbers, the men who make up the team themselves attach more significance to concentrating their energies on their cricket, not unaware that if they continue to play well, the rankings will take care of themselves. That's in the future. For now, it's time to salute Dhoni's warriors, because not often have we had opportunities as a country to toast team successes.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

TOO MANY DELAYS

"TRYING TERRO-RISTS IS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF PAKISTAN"

 

With Pakistan indicting the seven people accused of planning and facilitating the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, the stage has finally been set for their trial. Charges have been framed against them and all seven have pleaded not guilty. Since the registration of the case against them in February, the process of bringing them to justice has been moving at an excruciatingly slow pace with the process being delayed on one pretext or another. There have been only 20 hearings over the past 10 months. During this period the court has been changed once and the judges twice. The case was adjourned seven times over the past two months. It is obvious that powerful interests were keen to ensure that the case did not reach the trial stage. The indictments are therefore important achievement. The trial is expected to begin in a few days.


Still, this could amount to nothing. If the court is convinced there is lack of 'sufficient evidence', the seven accused, who include Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, operations commander of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), could walk free as did Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, leader of the Jamaat-ud-Dawah.  Much will depend on how the court will view the eyewitness account of Ajmal Kasab who is standing trial in India. The defence has asked for his presence in the court during the trial. Will Pakistan seek his extradition? And will India agree? What emerges from the trial might not paint the Pakistan establishment in a positive light. Yet it is in the country's interest that the trial is taken to its logical conclusion. Pakistan's war against extremism and terrorism can be won only if the military operations against the terrorists are accompanied by the battle waged through the courts. The trial will be an important test case for Pakistan.


In India, a year after the attacks, Kasab's trial in Mumbai grinds on. And just when it seemed the trial was entering its last lap, a complicating new angle has emerged following the arrest of David Headley and Tawwahur Rana. Reports suggest that the defence might raise this in court, delaying the trial. Meanwhile, the court has sacked Kasab's lawyer Abbas Kazmi on charges of non-cooperation. Kazmi was said to be engaging in endless time-wasting tactics in court. But his sack itself might slow the trial further. The court must bear in mind that justice delayed is justice denied.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

A DATE WITH THEOCRACY

BARACK OBAMA IS CLEARLY A POST-MODERNIST COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF. HE ANNOUNCED THE DATE OF DEFEAT IN THE AFGHAN WAR ON THE DAY HE SENT MORE TROOPS IN THE HOPE OF VICTORY.

BYLINE M J AKBAR

 

The day American forces begin to leave Afghanistan in 2011, as promised by President Obama, the Taliban will begin its countdown to Kabul.


It is now clear to the Taliban what has been obvious to many observers. Obama is not interested in an American victory in Afghanistan by 2011. He is interested in an Obama victory in America in 2012. He wants to campaign as the President who brought the boys home without giving the impression that he has been weak in the process. He inherited an Afghan war with some 10,000 American soldiers in combat. That figure has been short-tracked upwards to 1,00,000, partly because Obama purchased his way into the muscular pro-war segment of the American vote by criticising Iraq and upgrading Afghanistan into the war of necessity. He is paying his dues to that section of American opinion by fighting a cosmetic war. The Taliban have often said that while NATO has a clock, they have time. In 2011, irrespective of ground conditions, the NATO clock will go into reverse sweep.


The enigma of this Afghan war, the fifth against a western power since 1840, is located exactly where it was in the other four. It lies in the meaning of victory and defeat. For the occupier, victory means subjugation of the ruling authority to its will. For the defenders, it means the departure of foreign troops from Afghan foreign soil. Afghan fighters in the 19th century did not want to shape the way the British Raj should be run, and they resented the idea that they should be told how Afghanistan should be run. In the 20th century, the jihadis did not want to destroy communism in Moscow (that they played a great role in actually doing so is incidental). They simply did not want communist soldiers in Kabul and Kandahar and Mazaar-i-Sharif.


The Afghan war of the 21st century could have been, and should have been, different, because a terrorist group with sanctuary from Taliban provoked America. Eight years later, roles are getting reversed for the Taliban and its allies have, increasingly, in the Afghan mind, begun to occupy nationalist space. Washington made a basic error at the outset, when it confused al-Qaeda with the whole of Afghanistan, gradually shifting the focal point of the war. This was understandable in the heat of 2001, but less so with the passage of time. Privately, Pervez Musharraf would surely have suggested this but subtleties were lost on the Bush White House.


Obama may be erring in the other direction. He has announced the three pillars of his Afghan policy: a strategic partnership with Pakistan empowered by finance and weapons; the creation of a 'military condition' within 18 months that will enable 'transition'; and "a civilian surge that reinforces positive action". The third is the kind of gobbledygook that bemuses friends and consoles office-bearers of the speechwriters' union. Does Obama expect Hamid Karzai to surge towards Kandahar in 2011, wafting on doves of peace?


The biggest problem may lie in the first proposition. Pakistan does not have the good fortune of being 8,000 miles from Afghanistan. Islamabad's ruling elite, including the armed forces, will display full commitment in the war against al-Qaeda, where and when it can be found, and against the Pak Taliban, because both are serious threats to the Pakistan state and system. But it will have unexpressed reservations about America's war against the Afghan Taliban, since the latter have been and will continue to be Pakistan's ally in the geopolitics of South Asia. Pakistan's war within its own country has become, willy-nilly, America's war, but America's war in Afghanistan has not become Pakistan's war. Washington, for reasons unknown and incomprehensible, does not get this.

In fact, America's primary partner in the war against the Afghan Taliban should be India, not Pakistan, since both nations have an ideological commitment against the forces of theocracy, as well as a strategic interest in keeping Taliban out of Kabul. Pakistan has no such motivation. The best period in the troubled history of Pak-Afghan relations was when Taliban was in power, since the Taliban looked at foreign policy through the prism of Islamic brotherhood rather than just the compulsions of national interest.


The real war in Afghanistan is between modernity and theocracy, but the wrong side is winning that battle. In the last eight years, for many Afghans, modernity has become synonymous with corruption, cronyism and non-Pakhtun warlords — the three hallmarks of the Karzai regime — while the Taliban has revived its image as god-fearing, honest, clean and able to offer stability and security in the villages. It is an American tragedy that while it seeks friends across the world who reflect its own values, it makes friends with those who ruin its reputation.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

A BAD START TO THE NEW CENTURY

RAPID DETERIORATION OF THE EARTH LEAVES EVERYONE, RICH AND POOR, IN THE SAME BOAT.

BY ROBERTO SAVIO, IPS:

 

Sadly one would have to agree that the first decade of the new century is not a cause for optimism. Not only have we not solved the problems that we had, other even more difficult ones have been added to the list.


There is no improvement in the standoffs with Iran and North Korea. The Palestinian situation is getting worse as Israel openly defies Barack Obama, building new settlements on Arab land, knowing that no American administration will dare stand up to the pro-Israeli lobby.


While predictions about Iraq are difficult, this is not the case in Afghanistan where, according to the Pentagon, each soldier deployed costs one million dollars per year, in a war that is probably unwinnable and is likely to go on for at least five years.


The Mandela Miracle is fading is South Africa, there is no change in Zimbabwe, and, according to Transparency International, corruption in Africa, and the rest of the world, is on the rise. In Latin America, the exit in December 2010 of President Lula da Silva, the great mediator, will mean a rise in regional tensions.
Asia is the only area of growth, with China unstoppable, and the other economies generally rebounding.


In addition, the new century has seen the emergence of problems previously unknown at the global level. We are in a phase of full-on globalisation but do not know how to control it.


Rise in poverty

The crisis set off by financial speculation has created another 100 million poor, according to the World Bank. However, the powers that be have learned no lesson from this, choosing to save the current flawed system at any cost rather than reform it to make it more responsible; the price tag was $18 billion, equal to all aid to the Third World over the last 150 years. The decision was made —by omission — to make no changes other than a few cosmetic adjustments.


The banks have eliminated only 50 per cent of the toxic assets that caused the crisis, while the quantity of derivatives, which also played a significant role, is now six times larger than the Gross World Product.


All that is certain is that the states that intervened, and  the US most of all, are now staggering under massively larger deficits and unprecedented unemployment, while the experts predict the US housing crisis will get worse and cite the insufficiency of the programmes introduced by Obama for the millions of Americans who have lost or are losing their homes.


One of the central challenges in the age of globalisation is creating formulas for governing. Europe, though it is a region in decline, had the opportunity to give itself leadership commensurate with the times. The approval of a new constitutional treaty after long years of negotiations finally provided for designation of a president and a foreign affairs representative for the European Union. Unfortunately the squalid power play among the 27 member countries resulted in the naming to the new posts of  inexperienced figures hardly capable of giving the EU the leadership it needs.


The painful drama of petty egotism in Brussels followed another major failure of the international community: the Rome Conference on World Food Security. Almost no high-level figures attended and no effort was made to formulate an agreement to reduce hunger, which now affects one of every six people, according to the most optimistic sources. Reducing hunger is one of the fundamental Millennium Development Objectives adopted unanimously by heads of state at the 2000 UN General Assembly.


Meanwhile the rapid deterioration of the earth leaves everyone, rich and poor, in the same boat.


The Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change, which begins on Dec 7, promises to achieve even less than the Food Security meeting. We already know that it will not produce an agreement equal to the current challenges; all that is expected are a few positive declarations that can form the basis for future meetings — and no concrete decisions. Meanwhile more and more scientific evidence emerges each day on how we are heading off a cliff. One day we see photos of the Kilimanjaro without snow; then we read that champagne producers are buying land in south England, or that Greenland is becoming an exporter of cabbage, or the Mediterranean is infected with tropical fish. The oceans are losing their capacity to absorb carbon because they have absorbed too much already.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

THE HEALING TOUCH

I RESOLVED TO MEET HER AND UNDERTAKE THE SUBTLE TASK OF MAKING AMENDS.

BY NAVARATNA LAXMAN

 

 "Are you not Radha's mother Seetamma?" I asked her impulsively as we came face to face at the supermarket. The icy look she gave me was startling, her bitter reply even more so: "No! I am Radha, can't you see? How is it that you don't so much as recognise me?"


I could see pain and despondency in her tired eyes as she walked away from me, deaf to my meek apologies. Stunned by this sudden jolt, it struck me that I had hurt her feminine pride. I cursed myself for my lack of sensitivity towards one who had been my close childhood friend, though I was seeing her after nearly 40 years. I spent the rest of the day pondering over the reason behind such a drastic change in her once charismatic and attractive personality, making her look far older than she really was. Whatever be it, I felt terrible that I had hurt a dear friend.


What I learnt from her close relatives whom I managed to contact saddened me immensely: She had been tricked into marriage with a person of questionable standing and character, and to make matters worse, had been tormented by her dowry-hungry in-laws. When her husband died of a self-inflicted malady, she was thrown out of house along with her autistic son. Cruel fate had snuffed out all her dreams leaving her physically and mentally shattered.


I resolved that I should meet her somehow and undertake the subtle task of making amends, thereby giving her some consolation. More than three months passed during which the thorn of guilt remained stuck deep inside me.
My prayers were answered one day when I saw her at the wedding of a friend's daughter. The moment she spotted me she quickly turned her face away. Undeterred I walked up to her, and as she turned towards me I asked her with all the earnestness I could muster, "Are you not Radha's younger sister Sudha?" That did it. My words instantly switched on the light in her eyes!


"Can't you see I am Radha herself, you baboon!" came her cheerful retort as she thumped my shoulder with her fist. We had already flown back to our childhood days. The next hour saw me balming the wounds of her misfortune with kind words before we parted.


She is no more now. I feel relieved that I could give a healing touch to the injury before it was too late.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

COPENHAGEN CONCERNS

 

If a colossal meteorite were hurtling toward earth and scientists unanimously agreed that humanity faced imminent extinction, it's safe to assume that nations and peoples would set aside their differences to save the planet.

 

Or - human nature being what it is - maybe they wouldn't.

 

The situation is infinitely more complicated when it comes to global climate change. As a two-week summit begins today in Copenhagen, the debate rages on between a majority working feverishly to forestall planetary cataclysm and a minority that says there is nothing to be alarmed about.

 

A 2007 survey found 54 percent of Israelis believed global warming was a pressing problem. A new poll found that only 48% still felt so. A recent Gallop poll found that one percent of Americans think the environment is the No. 1 issue. The number of Americans who "believe in" global warming has dropped to 57%.

 

And an EU poll found that just 50% of Europeans see climate change as the biggest issue facing humanity.

 

Who can blame Israelis - worried about jobs, social cleavages and the pending release of 1,000 terrorists, not to mention the prospect that Iran will detonate a nuclear device over Tel Aviv - for not putting global warming at the top of their concerns?

 

THAT THE globe is heating up is pretty widely accepted. Ice caps are melting; sea levels are rising. A relatively small increase in temperatures can cause massive environmental catastrophe. The earth needs just the right amount of gases in the atmosphere. Too little and the temperature would plummet; too much and greenhouse gases could cause global warming.

 

What is disputed is whether humans burning fossil fuels are to blame for climate change.

 

So it comes down to this. Wager that the prevailing thesis about planetary warming is correct, that contamination by humans is responsible for global warming, and you're morally obligated to do something about it. Fifty percent of anthropogenic global warming is carbon based, while the other half results from other man-made sources like burning of cow dung.

 

We think it is prudent to gamble on the side of those who would sensibly but systematically reduce emissions. Working for more breathable air and a reduced dependency on the oil cartel is not a bad thing, even if it turns out to have no impact on climate change.

 

The problem remains human nature. Some countries will exploit the crisis or try to catch a "free ride" on the sacrifices of the well-meaning. In 1997, industrialized nations agreed to emission targets in a pact known as the Kyoto Protocol, but these goals have not actually been implemented. The post-industrial European Union has pledged to cut its emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

 

If the problem is indeed man-made, industrialized and post-industrialized countries are inadvertently responsible for the bulk of heat-trapping pollutants. But it is the denizens of bottom tier countries who will suffer the most if the worst forecasts about global warming come to pass. Meanwhile, rapidly developing countries such as China and India want the economic benefits of industrialization, but not its political responsibilities.

 

It does not instill a sense of "we're all in this together" to watch some leaders in the non-industrialized world salivating at the prospect of a massive redistribution of wealth - actually economic and environmental reparations - to help them cope with the crisis ahead.

 

<1>The Economist argues that greenhouse emissions can be reduced without impoverishing humanity. We don't see how, unless countries stop playing the blame game and observe a "from each according to their ability" motto.

 

THIS COUNTRY will be represented in Copenhagen by technocrats, MKs, ministers and environmental campaigners. Like many world leaders, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is waiting until the last minute before deciding whether to attend.

 

Israel is too tiny a country to have much of an impact on global emissions. Still, successive governments have committed to voluntarily adhere to international emissions targets. The State Comptroller's Office, however, has complained that a consolidated national plan remains overdue. In Israel, 87% of total greenhouse gas emissions are energy related. So we need to very substantially cut the growth of emissions by 2020.

 

From electric cars, solar energy and wind-power to safe nuclear energy, Israel is capable of leading by example on alternative energy. It should.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

THE REGION: EXCUSES, EXCUSES

BARRY RUBIN

 

The Arab-Israeli, or Israel-Palestinian, conflict is the most misrepresented subject in the entire world. The most basic facts are often distorted and the most fantastical of narratives provided, even in college classrooms, about what has actually happened.

 

On the most single important issue in this framework - why isn't there peace, who wants and doesn't want peace and how can peace be achieved - there is a common set of arguments against Israel.

 

It goes like this: How can the Palestinians make peace when they are suffering so much and when Israel builds settlements, or Israeli leaders make statements saying they want to keep some of the territory or won't give up east Jerusalem, or do a variety of other things? The idea that the Palestinians don't yearn for peace, are eagerly trying to make some kind of agreement, but are only stopped by Israeli intransigence seems completely self-evident to the point that any challenge of this idea is ridiculed, ignored or treated as some kind of dishonest manipulation.

 

By the way, many of the things said are factually wrong. Israel has neither constructed new settlements nor expanded their boundaries for 15 years. But for the moment let's leave aside the factual issues.

 

Nothing could be simpler than to answer these claims.

 

If the Palestinians are miserable and want to get rid of settlements they have and have had a very simple solution: make peace. Their "interest," in the framework of these claims, would be to make a good deal for themselves as fast as possible.

 

Yet they have refused to do so on numerous occasions going back decades. In fact, this is the 30th anniversary of the Egypt-Israel agreement at Camp David which first opened the door to a Palestinian state. Then there was the Reagan plan and US-PLO dialogue of the 1980s, followed by the peace process of the 1990s, the Camp David II and president Bill Clinton offers of 2000, and the offer of prime minister Ehud Olmert (who was absolutely desperate for a deal to save his political career) and most recently the Israeli cabinet's peace plan.

 

If the Palestinians made a deal, they would get an independent state with its capital in east Jerusalem. They would enjoy tremendous sympathy in the West to help them get the best possible terms. What wouldn't they get? They'd have to swap, say, 3 percent or 4% of the West Bank in exchange for an equal amount of Israeli land and they wouldn't get all of east Jerusalem.

 

That's about it. Oh, and they'd also get many billions of dollars in compensation.

 

What else would they have to give up? They'd have to agree that a peace treaty ended the conflict, which makes sense. They'd have to resettle Palestinian refugees in Palestine, which also makes sense. They might well have to accept security guarantees for Israel and some limits on their own armaments. But, okay, they could bargain on that and get the best deal possible.

 

Again, though, there would be no Jewish settlements on Palestinian state soil, though some would become part of Israel due to the land swaps.

 

NOTE THAT right now the Palestinian Authority is refusing to negotiate at all, nominally because Israel is building a few apartments in Jerusalem. So what? That should be an incentive to negotiate faster so that the construction doesn't go on and on, becoming even more irreversible.

 

Why is it so hard for people to understand these basic points? Of course, they have been misinformed and nobody's pointed these things out to them. To some extent, the demonization of Israel has distorted their comprehension.

 

But the truly fundamental problem is that understanding that the solution for the Palestinians is to make a peace agreement - and that Israel isn't blocking this outcome - is that it leaves them with a paradox to resolve: Why, if the Palestinians are suffering so much, won't they make peace?

 

The answer: The Palestinian leadership wants total victory and Israel's elimination. It is willing to go on letting its people suffer for a century in pursuit of that goal. It hopes that the world will give it everything it wants without having to make any concessions. It realizes that saying "no" and letting the conflict continue gives it more - not less - leverage internationally because this makes Israel look like the guilty party and, consequently, is punished through European policies.

 

So the arguments being made by Westerners who think they are being sympathetic to a suffering people just don't make sense. In fact, they make things worse. Indeed, they are part of a Palestinian strategy to avoid making peace and encourage such intransigence.

 

Again, the calculation goes something like this: The longer the Palestinians refuse to make peace, the more people will blame Israel, turn away from it and pressure it into unilateral concessions. This is a masochistic-based approach, a willingness to suffer in exchange for gain, and a gain that partly comes from many onlookers' inability to believe that anyone could use such tactics.

 

And yet the truth is right out in the open. Don't like settlements? Don't like "occupation?" Then make peace and get rid of these things.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

A LITTLE (POLITICAL) COMMON SENSE

YITZHAK KLEIN

 

Elected leaders of local authorities in Judea and Samaria (West Bank mayors call their own freeze," December 2) are calling on those of their constituents who are Likud members to "freeze" (whatever that means) their membership in Israel's governing party while Binyamin Netanyahu's building freeze continues. By calling for some kind of boycott of the Likud, they are displaying breathtakingly poor political judgment and doing their own communities a signal disservice. They have hit upon the one idea that, more than anything else, will make it likely that Netanyahu buckles under American pressure in 10 months and extends the freeze indefinitely.

 

Like any political leader, Netanyahu cannot govern in splendid isolation. To stay in power, he has to command the allegiance of a coalition that enjoys the confidence of a majority of the country. From his perspective, he's done very well. He has sold his freeze policy to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as well as to alleged hawks from his own party, notably Bennie Begin and Moshe Ya'alon. It's the acquiescence of these so-called hawks, who might have opposed the freeze, that gives the freeze policy critical political legitimacy.

 

Of the 11 members of the security cabinet who voted for the freeze, five are Likud MKs: Gideon Sa'ar, Begin, Ya'alon, Yuval Steinitz and Dan Meridor. There is no reason to doubt that in voting for the freeze these men honestly tried to serve Israel's national interests as they perceive them. But these men are in the Knesset and the cabinet because the Likud rank and file voted for them in the Likud primaries (the Likud is the only party on the so-called right that chooses its MKs in open primaries). Sa'ar was the high scorer in the primaries, a position he will want to keep in the future. Ya'alon and Steinitz came in near the bottom of the Likud's "top 10" MKs, those with a claim to a prominent cabinet seat. Meridor barely made it into the Knesset; if he had gained 3,000 fewer primary votes, he'd still be practicing law.

 

Ten months from now, these politicians (along with Likud MK Silvan Shalom, who was abroad when the vote on the freeze took place) are the ones Netanyahu will have to carry with him if he wants to extend the freeze. All of them have a lot to lose in the next Likud primaries. If any of them suffers a significant decline in his ranking on the Likud list for the Knesset, his political career will be damaged severely. Of course, some of them can try their luck in Kadima, but the ranks in Kadima are pretty crowded, too.

 

ONCE THEY come to their senses, the mayors of communities in Judea and Samaria will be spending a lot of time lobbying these ministers, hoping to convince them to end the freeze in September 2010. What's hizzoner going to say? Is he going to spin a tale of woe to the minister about how his community is suffering and young couples have to move away? He'll get lots of sympathy, but also lots of explanations: Obama, you know, and Iran, and international pressure and all that.

 

But what if every mayor of a town or regional council in Judea and Samaria were to bounce into every Likud minister's office with a big smile on his face and say, "You know, we've signed up a thousand new Likud members since November 2009! And people are joining the Likud in our town at the rate of a 50 a week! Isn't it wonderful that the Likud is so popular out our way?" He'll be met with silence, while the minister does sums in his head. And the silence will be more expressive than a hundred expressions of sympathy.

 

So if I were the mayor of a town or village in Judea and Samaria, I wouldn't spend my time bellyaching to the press or threatening a counter-freeze. I'd hold town meetings and explain to my constituents the political facts of life. Then I'd go door to door among all the residents of my town, and I'd send all the members of my city council - whatever their party affiliation - to do the same, each with a sheaf of blank Likud membership forms in hand. After all, over the next 10 months the planning and construction committees of local councils in Judea and Samaria aren't going to be terribly busy. Their members will have lots of time on their hands.

And next time I visited a Likud member of the security cabinet, I'd walk into his office with the political equivalent of a loaded gun in my pocket rather than a water pistol.

 

The writer is a member of Likud. He also heads the Israel Policy Center.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

MUBARAK'S VIRTUAL ENEMIES

DAVID KEYES

 

At 8 p.m. on October 21, approximately 60 Egyptian policemen surrounded the Nour Center in the Bab el-Shairia neighborhood of downtown Cairo. This event was to be the founding conference of Poets Against Succession, a subgroup of Egyptians Against Succession, a campaign launched one week prior by Ayman Nour, a leading opposition figure, to prevent the transfer of power from President Hosni Mubarak to his son Gamal. Though both father and son officially deny the rumors, there is widespread speculation that the president is "grooming" his son for leadership after three long decades in power.

 

Police stormed the hall and arrested Ahmed Abdul Jawad, an assistant to Nour, who had spent the last four years in prison on spurious charges. In fact, the reason Nour was silenced was his relatively successful run for the presidency of Egypt in 2005. He challenged Mubarak's regime and was stripped of his freedom because of it. After police confiscated Nour's laptop and detained his assistant, the conference continued in a show of defiance, with only two poets remaining.

 

Minutes after the arrest, one of Egypt's leading bloggers frantically contacted me, seeking help. She was en route to the conference when she heard the news. Having been repeatedly harassed by the security forces, she requested that I keep her name anonymous, but hoped that I could spread word of the crackdown. "The Egyptian regime wants to send a message to all activists and opposition that they will not tolerate anything that annoys Mubarak junior," she said.

 

The regime is taking a more sophisticated approach this time around, she added. "When Dr. Nour held the founding conference of the larger campaign on October 14, the security did not show up at all, which is completely unusual. But now we know why. They will not hit the bigger group directly, but will hit the subgroups instead. It is clear that the security forces are trying to swat down these campaigns."

 

Authoritarianism is always dirty business, but its implementation can often be refined, even sophisticated, as my Egyptian friend observed.

 

CONSIDER EGYPT'S latest stunt as the host of the UN-sponsored Internet Governance Forum. Human rights groups rightly pointed out the absurdity of having one of the Middle East's worst Internet oppressors - a distinction not without stiff competition - posing as a friend of open communication. Once again the fox is guarding the henhouse and the world remains utterly indifferent. Rather than being condemned by the UN, Egypt is bestowed with the honor and esteem of hosting such a forum.

 

Meanwhile, the Egyptian regime showed its true face again this month when the official telecom body threatened legal action against those who text "inappropriate words." What exactly constitutes "inappropriate words" is anyone's guess, but young Egyptians are not exactly emboldened when student bloggers such as Kareem Amer are sentenced to years in prison for criticizing Mubarak. Under the guise of moral concern, the regime implements one of the most immoral of actions - the suppression of liberty.

 

But few things are as resilient as the human soul; it is incredibly difficult to crush. As in all unfree societies, a brave few fight back with a vengeance. For example, two weeks ago 28-year-old Egyptian blogger Hani Nazeer commenced a hunger strike to gain back his freedom. Nazeer is a Coptic blogger who authors the "Love Cherries" blog; he has been held without charge for over a year. Nazeer's family members have also been detained. As is so typical of tyrannical regimes, an unlucky few are made examples of to intimidate the rest. The idea is not to silence every blogger, but rather to instill just enough fear in society so that people censor themselves.

Intimidating Arab Internet activists will not be easy. Out of a core group of approximately 35,000 active Arab blogs, Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society observed that Egypt has the largest and most active blogosphere. Though a good number of bloggers promote Islamist and Muslim Brotherhood agendas, Egypt also has a very active secular and pro-democracy Internet discourse. Nearly half of Egyptian bloggers are women. It can safely be said that the fate of Arab bloggers and the fate of the Arab world are one and the same. Empower them and the region will prosper; suppress them and the region will continue to languish.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN THE STATE OF DENMARK

DANNY HERSHTAL

 

Question: Which of the following will be completely frozen this week?

 

a. Building in Judea and Samaria.

b. Carbon emissions.

c. Temperatures in Copenhagen.

The answer, of course, is:

d. The debate over climate change data.

 

As many of you surely know, this week the UN will hold a massive conference on climate change, for which the world's leaders and environmental jet-setters will all fly to Copenhagen on their chartered airplanes to decide what punitive taxes to impose on commercial airlines, for those of us who cannot avail ourselves of taxpayer-funded chartered airplanes.

 

The basis for taxing and restricting air travel and other carbon and carbon dioxide output activities (breathing?) is the anthropogenic global warming theory or AGW. AGW theory claims that the Earth's surface and ocean temperatures are steadily rising and that this rise has been caused by the increase in man-made carbon pollution since the onset of the industrial revolution. It should be noted that even the maximalist proponents of the theory only attribute a 0.75 degree temperature rise over the 20th century and only a portion of this is anthropogenic - man caused.

 

However, in 1988, the UN empanelled the International Panel on Climate Change or IPCC, to address the issues of AGW and make recommendations. Since then, the IPCC has released four key assessment reports.

 

Interestingly the term "climate change" was adopted by the IPCC so as to remain neutral about the global warming. However, the first assessment report was said to have "settled the science" and proven AGW to be true. It was a good thing, too, because, as if on heavenly cue, surface temperatures immediately began to cool. The current decade has been significantly cooler than its two predecessors. The "settled science" came into question.

 

In 2005, hurricane expert Christopher Landsea resigned from the IPCC before the fourth assessment report was released. He viewed the process "as both being motivated by preconceived agendas and being scientifically unsound." A large amount of environmental climate research has been conducted at the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK. Last month, someone hacked into its e-mail accounts and posted a number of them on-line at http://www.eastangliaemails.com.

 

The running thread through these e-mails was that the CRU scientists knowingly contorted data, violated IPCC standards, suppressed skeptics and manipulated the peer review process.

 

The scientists who wrote the e-mails confirmed that they were factual but disputed the interpretation. For instance they say that using a "trick" to "hide the decline" in global temperatures is not a deception but a proven scientific technique. They were more hard-pressed to explain why they would rather delete hard research data than allow it to be reviewed by other scientists, especially when they were asked by the media to produce the raw data and admitted that it had been deleted. I encourage everyone to use the search tool on the Web site to skim through as many e-mails as possible.

Scientists not directly related to the CRU work could not deny that the CRU had been fudging some results and suppressing others. However, environmentalists like Dan Esty have justified the misdoings by stating that by massaging the data, the scientists helped the average person understand the problem, without exposing us to piddling, annoying contradictory facts.

 

IN ALL seriousness, the e-mails, while damaging, do not debunk AGW. However, they do require returning to scientific principles and reopening debate to truly determine whether or not carbon emissions have a significant detrimental effect on the planet.

 

However, even as the CRU e-mails have moved from the blogosphere into mainstream news, world leaders and delegations to the Copenhagen conference have refused to reopen the discussion. The only topic on the agenda will be which extreme measures can all governments agree upon to punish their citizens for releasing carbon and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Strangely, the majority of the people who propose raising taxes to discourage carbon output are many of the same people who insist that raising corporate taxes won't discourage business growth.

 

I am an environmentalist. I believe that we should maintain a clean society and that local governments have a responsibility to dispose of waste in a sanitary and responsible way. I also appreciate the preservation of green spaces and conservation of natural resources. But I also appreciate the quality of life that progressive industry and technology have provided us. Before our society is forced to curtail its progress and the conveniences, such as air travel, which facilitate business, investment and leisure, we must have an open and honest debate on the veracity of AGW and evaluate the risk/benefit ratio before taking drastic steps.

 

Israel already has a reputation as a contrarian state in the UN. If Environment Minister Gilad Erdan were to call for a cautious reevaluation with fair and open debate, based on raw data available to all parties, it would only be to Israel's and the world's benefit.

 

In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote: "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." The solution to the problem appears in the same play: "This above all, to thine own self be true."

 

The writer is head of the Israel Beiteinu Anglo division and ran for Knesset in the 2009 elections.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

ISRAEL MUST DO ITS PART TO STOP GLOBAL WARMING

 

The international debate on global warming has garnered only minor interest in Israel, and as revealed in yesterday's State Comptroller's report, Israeli authorities have not yet made even basic attempts to address the climate crisis.


This indifference should not diminish the severity of the situation. The earth is growing dangerously warmer, a result of the continued use of hydrocarbon fuels and the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Saving the earth and mankind depends on international cooperation to gradually reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Until now, the action taken has been too little, too late.


Today the United Nations Climate Change Conference meets in Copenhagen, where the representatives of 192 countries will try to reach an unprecedented agreement over the division of greenhouse gas emission caps. Their success depends on the willingness of representatives of countries rich and poor, from East and West, to cooperate for the greater good rather than sliding into recriminations and petty rivalries.

 

The commitment of U.S. President Barack Obama, who has taken the lead in confronting the climate crisis, unlike his predecessor, is cause for hope, even if months will likely pass before a accord can be reached.

 

Such an agreement will obligate industrialized countries to assist developing ones in reaping the benefits of economic growth without raising greenhouse gas emissions.


Israel has only a peripheral role to play in negotiations between the world's major economic players. It is not currently required to reduce emissions, and in any case has limited ability to do so - it has virtually no heavy, polluting industry, and its water system is dependent on the construction of treatment facilities which consume tremendous amounts of energy.


For economic, political and security reasons, Israel is also hamstrung in its ability to forgo the use of oil and gas. It is still too early to predict if and when the plans of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for developing clean energy will come to pass.


Still, Israel should do its part to encourage the use of solar energy, develop green building methods and make transportation, electricity and water usage more efficient.


The government can influence this process by educating the public and offering incentives for such development. The State Comptroller's report on the government's haplessness thus far should motivate it to act, and soon.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

NETANYAHU IS MAKING US MISS OLMERT

BY AKIVA ELDAR

 

Who would have thought that the son of Benzion Netanyahu would utter the words "two states for two peoples"? Who would have believed that Benjamin Netanyahu would get the settler minister Avigdor Lieberman to agree to a settlement freeze? Ever since Netanyahu replaced Ehud Olmert as prime minister, there has been a significant decrease in the number of roadblocks in the West Bank. Peace Now reports that Housing and Construction Ministry tenders for housing beyond the Green Line are at a low. So why are the Europeans now plotting to divide Jerusalem (even though they never recognized its unification)? Why have the Russians vetoed the Quartet proposal to issue a statement of support for the freeze Israel has imposed? What do they want from Bibi?


The answer lies in statements Netanyahu made Thursday to settler leaders protesting the temporary settlement freeze. "This move makes it clear to key players around the world that Israel is serious in its intentions to achieve peace, while the Palestinians refuse to enter negotiations for peace," the prime minister told the anxious guests. And to remove all doubt, he added: "There is a side that wants [to talk] and another that does not. This move has made clear who is refusing peace." In other words, we want to get out of the occupied territory, but the Palestinians insist that we stay.


Netanyahu has in essentially confirmed that he knew in advance that a limited settlement freeze wouldn't bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. He could have bet that Abbas wouldn't accept less than what the road map gave the Palestinians more than six years ago: a total freeze that includes natural growth and the immediate dismantling of all outposts established since March 2001. You don't have to be the head of Military Intelligence to expect that no Arab leader would take part in a move that recognizes, or even implies, Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem. That's just what Abbas needs before Hamas celebrates the expected release of 980 "heroes" in the streets of the West Bank and Gaza.

 

Netanyahu apologized to the settlers by explaining that the cabinet made the decision because of the "complex diplomatic situation" - meaning the freeze was meant to shake off U.S. President Barack Obama. As a bonus, it will get the Labor rebels to stop pressuring Defense Minister Ehud Barak and will improve the government's ability to survive. What we have, therefore, is another episode of the "No Partner" show (have we already mentioned that the Palestinians don't miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity?). We got a good deal and managed to roll the ball into our rival's court. Hallelujah!


What has Israel gained from freezing settlement construction? The perpetuation of the conflict with the Palestinians, another round in the battle with the settlers, and bitter disappointment for Obama.


For the first time, the Quartet has disagreed with American support for Israel, while Europe is making East Jerusalem a priority and the United States is failing to demand that Arab countries take steps toward normalized ties with Israel as compensation for the settlement freeze.


The freeze (if it does indeed go into effect) will harm thousands of citizens, mostly young couples, who purchased apartments in settlements on the seam line that are supposed to fall under Israeli sovereignty in a land swap. As always, taxpayers will bear the cost of compensation payments.


The cabinet resolution has renewed public awareness of the Green Line and shunted aside former U.S. president George W. Bush's recognition of the legitimacy of Jewish population concentrations in the West Bank. Abbas himself has ignored construction in the settlement blocs and even outside of them.


The Palestinian Authority president was convinced that the Israeli prime minister was genuinely interested in reaching a suitable final-status agreement.


Had Netanyahu invited Abbas to continue negotiations from the point at which they were halted a year ago, contractors would have been able to build in Ma'aleh Adumim today.


Had Netanyahu genuinely committed to a two-state solution, he would have formed a new government on the basis of the roadmap and a regional peace plan.


Had the prime minister been a visionary statesman, he would have invited Kadima's Tzipi Livni for a heart-to-heart talk, instead of inviting the Yesha Council's Pinhas Wallerstein for a reconciliation meeting. It's difficult to believe that after less than a year in office, Bibi is making us miss Olmert.

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE SILENCE OF THE LEFT

BY NIVA LANIR

 

Forty-one years after it declared that it is incumbent on Israel to recognize "the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people" and that "the territories held by Israel will be a bargaining chip in peace negotiations," the Israeli left has fallen silent.


Its political frameworks have collapsed. Its protest has all but ceased to exist. Whether it concluded its historic role, or passed before its time, the Labor Party collapsed, taking with it the entire left.

 

One by one, its leaders have also disappeared. They have ensconced themselves in research laboratories, libraries, writing desks, boardrooms and classrooms. They have sentenced themselves to self-imposed political exile in their homes. They have found consolation in a good book, in their children and in their grandchildren.

It was the left that outlined the principles and paved the way toward an agreement with the Palestinians. Now, as Israel reaches a crossroads between two states for two peoples on the one hand and a bi-national state on the other; between a democratic state with borders and an apartheid state; between an agreement and yet another conflagration in the Middle East, this same left remains silent.


It is silent to the extent that one needs to peer closely to see whether it is even still breathing. Perhaps this does not bother Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. It might even be convenient for them, but it is bad for Israel. Because when the left is silent, what needs to be said once we have reached that crossroads is not heard.


How long will it take before international organizations and institutions that clung to the Israeli voice of reason make the decision to push us into the margin of the international community?


It was not easy, to say the least, to demonstrate 30 and 40 years ago against Golda Meir's "there is no such thing as a Palestinian people." The tyranny of settler leader Rabbi Moshe Levinger and Co. against the Arabs of the West Bank, the theft of their lands and the torching of their crops and the policy of successive Israeli governments, all were difficult to challenge.


The only blows I absorbed in my life were from the batons of police officers during protests in Hebron, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as well as from the fists of two individuals who ambushed me in front of the entrance to my apartment in Tel Aviv. They left behind pamphlets which read "Down with the traitors."


This struggle, which was inevitable, exhausting and devoid of any hint of martyrdom, is without a doubt the longest and most difficult struggle waged in Israel from 1968 to the present day.


One would need a whole series of articles to explain the discrepancy between the acceptance of the slogan "two states for two peoples" into the national consensus and the attendant collapse of the left; between Labor's capturing 44 Knesset seats under Rabin, while Meretz got 12 seats when headed by Shulamit Aloni in 1992, and the fiasco of the recent elections in which Labor mustered just 13 seats while Meretz captured just three.

The left has not survived the "war of attrition" it has waged since 1968. Its claim that its positions won the day do not hold water. It doesn't matter who is more left-wing, be it Ehud Olmert or Haim Oron or Yuli Tamir.


What matters is whether there is a decision. And it has yet to be made. Until there is an agreement stipulating two states for two peoples, there are no winners. Not the left, not Israel, and not the Palestinians.


In the meantime, what we have is something that may yet endure. Maybe it is an examination. Perhaps the removal of outposts. Maybe a settlement freeze. Perhaps a jumpstart of settlement construction. Maybe a process.

All of these represent a huge question mark - which way will Netanyahu and Barak turn at the crossroads? Toward two states or toward a bi-national state? In the fourth quarter of the game, the left is floundering on the sidelines. What a pity that it is not summoning what is left of its strength in order to call on the Israeli government and the Palestinians (yes, also the Palestinians) to return to negotiations. These are our lives and theirs as well. Does anyone else have a better option?

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

A SPHINX IN THE HIGH COURT

BY ZE'EV SEGAL

 

As with every sensitive issue on our public agenda, the deal with Hamas over the release of Gilad Shalit also reached the doorstep of the High Court of Justice last week, following the military censor's decision to bar publication of the names of the prisoners due to be released in the exchange.


In October, the court made its position clear in connection to the decision of the security cabinet to release women prisoners in exchange for a video confirming that Shalit was still alive. The issue was clearly political in nature, said the justices, and the decision as to the reasonableness and wisdom of the deal was up to the sole discretion of the government, and the court thus had no reason to interfere.


The most recent case involving Shalit related to freedom of expression and the public's right to know. The court was called upon to instruct the military censor to stop invoking the authority to bar publication by the media of the prisoner exchange, including details regarding those due to be released.

 

This difficult and sensitive case gave the court an opportunity to rule on the issue of censorship pertaining to security matters - a topic which has not been dealt with in a comprehensive way by the High Court in about 20 years. In 1989, it handed down a ruling in a very important, precedent-setting case involving a petition by the weekly newspaper Ha'ir. The case involved publication of a report by Aluf Benn about the head of the Mossad espionage agency. In its verdict, the court said that only "near certainty of actual damage to the security of the state" can justify limitations on freedom of expression.


Since then, that legal position, articulated by justice Aharon Barak, has taken root as the standard according to which censorship is to be conducted. Disputes between the media and the defense establishment are thus aired as was agreed upon, in committee, and therefore censorship issues almost never reach the doorstep of the High Court.

The current petition before the court could have been the basis for a thorough examination of what has become the customary approach in such cases. Adoption of a different standard with respect to the issue of the censor's authority - allowing censorship only in cases of a "clear and immediate danger" to the security of the state or the public - could have been included in a comprehensive ruling.


However, the High Court justifiably saw the need to rule immediately with respect to the Palestinian prisoners, and this is indeed what court president Dorit Beinisch did. The importance of the ruling lies in its confirmation of the standard that dates back to the Ha'ir case, primarily with respect to the recommendation by the Winograd Commission in connection with the Second Lebanon War, according to which it is also appropriate to allow censorship to be imposed in cases where there is solely "a reasonable fear" of harm to state security. Such a position is not consistent with the law on freedom of information, however.


The High Court's current stance is also important in the context of efforts to impose a stricter blackout on security-related documents beyond the already-lengthy periods stipulated in the law relating to public archives.


With respect to the case involving Shalit, the justices ruled, that "it is not in our hands to intervene in the exercise of discretion, inasmuch as we have been convinced of the clear security considerations that exist in the details that are being kept confidential."

The High Court reached its conclusions, with the agreement of the petitioners, after it held a hearing that was closed to the public, in which it was addressed by "an authorized person knowledgeable about the facts relating to the negotiations and the intended 'deal.'" The justices also said that it was made clear to them that human life was hanging "in the balance, in the clearest and most concrete sense."


As this is a verdict that involves confidential matters, it is not possible to assess it intelligently. Such a state of affairs is reminiscent of the ruling by justice Moshe Landau in the 1950s, which restricted immunity on security-related grounds, in which he said "it is not possible to argue with the sphinx."


At the same time, it is still possible to argue with the recent ruling, which is based on the declaration by the state that at least 48 hours' notice will be given from the time the names of the prisoners and information about their deeds are published, and the time their release is actually carried out.


The court agreed that it was a short amount of time, but stressed that the decision on the timing of the publication of the details is within the purview of the authorities, "depending on the circumstances."


In principle, the High Court is backing a prior court ruling, in which Justice Edna Arbel said that it is "proper" that in deals relating to the release of terrorists, longer time periods should be permitted for consideration of any reservations, but that ultimately such decisions should be made by the security authorities, as they see fit.


In any event, and out of respect for the bereaved families, those authorities should decide on their own initiative on a more reasonable time period prior to the release of terrorists, so that in practice, the right to object is not denied, even though the High Court of Justice itself refrained from setting a time frame, as it could have done.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE MILITARY THREAT

BY MERAV MICHAELI

 

Revelations of the pension that Kadima MK and former IDF spokesperson Nachman Shai will receive from the army - an example of the generous and hidden conditions doled out in the Israel Defense Forces - only lend validity to the cliche that we are an army that has a country.


Thus one may also add the tongue-lashing delivered by Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi against the prime minister during the discussions surrounding the state budget, when the government ventured to broach the issue of raising the retirement age for army officers in service.


The defense establishment is, for all intents and purposes, a distinct sector.

From the defense minister to the army, its senior officers who serve in the standing army to those who leave the service, to the Shin Bet security service and the Mossad; all of these entities comprise a group which operates with full autonomy.

 

The defense establishment has a hierarchy, institutions, services, media outlets and its own legal system. It has nearly unlimited resources in the form of real estate (close to half of the land in the state is in the hands of the army and is managed exclusively by the army), personnel (Israeli citizens within a wide range of ages stand at its disposal without pay and are used as the army sees fit), and the largest budget in the state, a budget of which no one outside of the defense establishment really knows the details.


This is a community of the privileged, a vast majority of whom are men enjoying bloated salaries, pensions and generous employment benefits in addition to unblemished reputations as individuals who "risk their lives for the security of the state."


They also enjoy immunity from criticism and others meddling in their affairs because, after all, they protect our very existence. There is no more symbolic indication of this group's superior status than the fact that the chief of staff earns a salary nearly twice that of the prime minister.


Those who truly risk their lives are in the minority, and most of them do not belong to the highest strata of the group. The clique itself - like every clique - is preoccupied with first and foremost preserving its own security: its interests, its standing, its benefits and those of the individuals comprising it.


As the benefits improve, the interest to preserve them grows further. The power wielded by the security establishment grows whenever Israel finds itself in a situation where it faces "an existential threat" and "a security danger."


It is then that it pours money, its best people, its energies and its skills into defense. This is what happens when the interests of the defense sector diverge from the interests of the state which subsidizes it and which it purports to defend.


The interests differ to the point where they run opposite each other. Israel wants to provide its citizens with a life of serenity; to develop education, welfare, health, science and the arts.

 

It wants to end the conflicts and the wars and live in peace with its neighbors.


Yet without threats and wars, the defense establishment loses the rationale for its existence and the individuals comprising it lose their substantial clout, which is also worth a great deal of money.


In its behavior vis-a-vis the state, the defense sector is similar to the Haredi community. Both of them use the state and its resources in order to nurture and aggrandize their people, their way of life and their worldviews. The only difference between them is their religion.


The citizens, the land, and the money in the hands of the army can be of great benefit to the state in a number of areas. It would also be possible to prevent environmental and humane hazards if the state started to run the army, and not vice versa.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

BEYOND COPENHAGEN

 

Nobody should expect a planet-saving agreement from the negotiations that begin this week in Copenhagen aimed at reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases. But the talks were in real danger of blowing up not long ago. Now there is a good chance for at least an interim deal, mainly because the United States and China, the world's two biggest emitters, have promised to reduce or slow their emissions and their two leaders have agreed to attend.

 

An interim deal would still leave a great deal for President Obama to do, starting with getting Congress to deliver on the promises he is taking to Copenhagen. Mr. Obama has pledged a modest cut of 17 percent over the next 10 years and more aggressive cuts in later decades. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's proposal to slow the growth in China's emissions is considerably less ambitious because energy efficiency measures that China has already put in place should be enough to do the job.

 

Still, neither country has offered specific goals before. Their 11th-hour willingness to do so could be just enough to persuade the other 190 countries in Copenhagen to take the first step in what is now seen as a two-stage process. It would start with a nonbinding political agreement to reduce emissions and give aid to developing countries. This would be followed by a legal agreement next year with firm targets, enforcement mechanisms and specific dollar amounts for poorer countries.

 

In other words, the tough slog lies ahead. Copenhagen is all about attitudes and aspirations. Next year will be about results. And there can be no meaningful outcome without the leadership of the United States — second only to China in overall emissions and the biggest emitter by far in terms of per capita emissions.

 

The president's proposed reductions are in line with a bill approved by the House last summer. A Senate committee has approved a slightly stronger measure calling for a 20 percent reduction in the next decade and an 83 percent reduction by midcentury. But its approval on the Senate floor is far from certain. Most Republicans are opposed. There are deep doubts among Democrats from Rust Belt states with energy-intensive industries. Getting to a filibuster-proof 60 votes will require every bit of Mr. Obama's persuasive powers — and a real push by the Senate's often-passive Democratic leaders.

 

The challenges on the foreign front are no less formidable. The consensus among mainstream climate scientists is that the world must cut emissions in half by midcentury. The rich countries cannot do it alone. Even if they cut their emissions by 80 percent by midcentury — a goal endorsed by the Group of 8 highly industrialized nations — the world would fall short of its target unless the developing countries pitched in.

 

Brazil, Indonesia and India have put offers on the table; others may come forward now that China has agreed to act. But the divide between rich and developing nations, let alone very poor countries, remains great. Further progress may depend on how much countries that have already reaped the benefits of industrialization — and contributed hugely to global warming — will be willing to ante up to help others adapt to climate change and reduce emissions. Brazil, for instance, has said it will protect its rainforests from clear-cutting and burning only if rich countries "pay the price."

 

European leaders have urged the creation of a global climate assistance fund for exactly that purpose, with a minimum annual contribution from wealthy countries of $10 billion. The White House announced late last week that the United States would pay its "fair share." That is good news. But here again the president will need Congress's consent. He has a huge selling job ahead if he expects to seal a comprehensive deal.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A BISHOP'S WORDS

 

In the end it was not the power of repentance or compassion that compelled the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., to release more than 12,000 pages of documents relating to lawsuits alleging decades of sexual abuse of children by its priests.

 

It was a court order. The diocese had spent seven years fighting a lawsuit brought by The New York Times and three other newspapers to unseal the records in 23 lawsuits involving accusations against seven priests. The diocese, which settled those cases in 2002, was ready to battle all the way to the United States Supreme Court to keep the archive secret. It lost in October, when the justices declined to hear its appeal.

 

Much about those cases was known, and the documents do not greatly revise our knowledge about the scandal that engulfed the entire church after erupting in Boston in 2002. The accounts of priests preying on children, being moved among parishes and shielded by their bishops while their accusers were ignored or bullied into silence, are a familiar, awful story.

 

But still it is hard not to feel a chill reading the testimony from two depositions given in 1997 and 1999 by Edward Egan, who was then bishop of Bridgeport and later named a cardinal and archbishop of New York. As he skirmishes with lawyers, he betrays a distressing tendency to disbelieve accusers and to shuck off blame.

 

He responds to accounts of abuse not with shame but skepticism, and exhibits the keen instinct for fraternal self-protection that reliably put shepherds ahead of the traumatized flock.

 

Referring to the Rev. Raymond Pcolka, whom 12 former parishioners accused of abuses involving oral and anal sex and beatings, Bishop Egan said: "I am not aware of those things. I am aware of the claims of those things, the allegations of those things. I am aware that there are a number of people who know one another, some are related to one another, have the same lawyers and so forth."

 

Absent in those pages is a sense of understanding of the true scope of the tragedy. Compare Bishop Egan's words with those of the archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, who, after the release of a recent report detailing years of abuse and cover-ups in Ireland, said:

 

"The sexual abuse of a child is and always was a crime in civil law; it is and always was a crime in canon law; it is and always was grievously sinful. One of the most heartbreaking aspects of the report is that while church leaders — bishops and religious superiors — failed, almost every parent who came to the diocese to report abuse clearly understood the awfulness of what was involved."

 

Bishop Egan, with institutional pride, looks at the relatively low rate of proven abuse cases as a sort of perverse accomplishment.

 

"It's marvelous," he said, "when you think of the hundreds and hundreds of priests and how very few have even been accused, and how very few have even come close to having anyone prove anything."

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EUROPE'S MINARET MOMENT

BY ROSS DOUTHAT

 

They toasted to progress in Europe's capitals last week. On Tuesday, the Treaty of Lisbon went into effect, bringing the nations of the European Union one step closer to the unity the Continent's elite has been working toward for over 50 years.

 

But the treaty's implementation fell just days after a milestone of a different sort: a referendum in Switzerland, long famous for religious tolerance, in which 57.5 percent of voters chose to ban the nation's Muslims from building minarets.

 

Switzerland isn't an E.U. member state, but the minaret moment could have happened almost anywhere in Europe nowadays — in France, where officials have floated the possibility of banning the burka; in Britain, which elected two representatives of the fascistic, anti-Islamic British National Party to the European Parliament last spring; in Italy, where a bill introduced this year would ban mosque construction and restrict the Islamic call to prayer.

 

If the more perfect union promised by the Lisbon Treaty is the European elite's greatest triumph, the failure to successfully integrate millions of Muslim immigrants represents its greatest failure. And the two are intertwined: they're both the fruits of the high-handed, often undemocratic approach to politics that Europe's leaders have cultivated in their quest for unity.

 

The European Union probably wouldn't exist in its current form if the Continent's elites hadn't been willing to ignore popular sentiment. (The Lisbon Treaty, for instance, was deliberately designed to bypass most European voters, after a proposed E.U. Constitution was torpedoed by referendums in France and the Netherlands in 2005.) But this political style — forge a consensus among the establishment, and assume you can contain any backlash that develops — is also how the Continent came to accept millions of Muslim immigrants, despite the absence of a popular consensus on the issue, or a plan for how to integrate them.

 

The immigrants came first as guest workers, recruited after World War II to relieve labor shortages, and then as beneficiaries of generous asylum and family reunification laws, designed to salve Europe's post-colonial conscience. The European elites assumed that the divide between Islam and the West was as antiquated as scimitars and broadswords, and that a liberal, multicultural, post-Christian federation would have no difficulty absorbing new arrivals from more traditional societies. And they decided, too — as Christopher Caldwell writes in "Reflections on the Revolution in Europe," his wonderfully mordant chronicle of Europe's Islamic dilemma — that liberal immigration policies "involve the sort of nonnegotiable moral duties that you don't vote on."

 

Better if they had let their voters choose. The rate of immigration might have been slower, and the efforts to integrate the new arrivals more strenuous. Instead, Europe's leaders ended up creating a clash of civilizations inside their own frontiers.

 

Millions of Muslims have accepted European norms. But millions have not. This means polygamy in Sweden; radical mosques in Britain's fading industrial cities; riots over affronts to the Prophet Muhammad in Denmark; and religiously inspired murder in the Netherlands. It means terrorism, and the threat of terrorism, from London to Madrid.

 

And it means a rising backlash, in which European voters support extreme measures and extremist parties because their politicians don't seem to have anything to say about the problem.

In fairness, it isn't clear exactly what those leaders could offer at this point. They can't undo decades of migration. A large Muslim minority is in Europe to stay. Persisting with the establishment's approach makes a certain sense: keep a lid on prejudice, tamp down extremism, and hope that time will transform the zealous Islam of recent immigrants into a more liberal form of faith, and make the conflict go away.

 

 

Or least keep it manageable. Caldwell's book, the best on the subject to date, has a deeply pessimistic tone, but it shies away from specific predictions about the European future. Other writers are less circumspect, envisioning a Muslim-majority "Eurabia" in which Shariah has as much clout as liberalism.

 

But even a decadent West is probably stronger than this. The most likely scenario for Europe isn't dhimmitude; it's a long period of tension, punctuated by spasms of violence, that makes the Continent a more unpleasant place without fundamentally transforming it.

 

This is cold comfort, though, if you have to live under the shadow of violence. Just ask the Swiss, who spent last week worrying about the possibility that the minaret vote might make them a target for Islamist terrorism.

 

They're right to worry. And all of Europe has to worry as well, thanks to the folly of its leaders — now, and for many years to come.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

AN AFFORDABLE TRUTH

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

 

Maybe I'm naïve, but I'm feeling optimistic about the climate talks starting in Copenhagen on Monday. President Obama now plans to address the conference on its last day, which suggests that the White House expects real progress. It's also encouraging to see developing countries — including China, the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide — agreeing, at least in principle, that they need to be part of the solution.

 

Of course, if things go well in Copenhagen, the usual suspects will go wild. We'll hear cries that the whole notion of global warming is a hoax perpetrated by a vast scientific conspiracy, as demonstrated by stolen e-mail messages that show — well, actually all they show is that scientists are human, but never mind. We'll also, however, hear cries that climate-change policies will destroy jobs and growth.

 

The truth, however, is that cutting greenhouse gas emissions is affordable as well as essential. Serious studies say that we can achieve sharp reductions in emissions with only a small impact on the economy's growth. And the depressed economy is no reason to wait — on the contrary, an agreement in Copenhagen would probably help the economy recover.

 

Why should you believe that cutting emissions is affordable? First, because financial incentives work.

 

Action on climate, if it happens, will take the form of "cap and trade": businesses won't be told what to produce or how, but they will have to buy permits to cover their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. So they'll be able to increase their profits if they can burn less carbon — and there's every reason to believe that they'll be clever and creative about finding ways to do just that.

 

As a recent study by McKinsey & Company showed, there are many ways to reduce emissions at relatively low cost: improved insulation; more efficient appliances; more fuel-efficient cars and trucks; greater use of solar, wind and nuclear power; and much, much more. And you can be sure that given the right incentives, people would find many tricks the study missed.

 

The truth is that conservatives who predict economic doom if we try to fight climate change are betraying their own principles. They claim to believe that capitalism is infinitely adaptable, that the magic of the marketplace can deal with any problem. But for some reason they insist that cap and trade — a system specifically designed to bring the power of market incentives to bear on environmental problems — can't work.

 

Well, they're wrong — again. For we've been here before.

 

The acid rain controversy of the 1980s was in many respects a dress rehearsal for today's fight over climate change. Then as now, right-wing ideologues denied the science. Then as now, industry groups claimed that any attempt to limit emissions would inflict grievous economic harm.

 

But in 1990 the United States went ahead anyway with a cap-and-trade system for sulfur dioxide. And guess what. It worked, delivering a sharp reduction in pollution at lower-than-predicted cost.

 

Curbing greenhouse gases will be a much bigger and more complex task — but we're likely to be surprised at how easy it is once we get started.

 

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that by 2050 the emissions limits in recent proposed legislation would reduce real G.D.P. by between 1 percent and 3.5 percent from what it would otherwise have been. If we split the difference, that says that emissions limits would slow the economy's annual growth over the next 40 years by around one-twentieth of a percentage point — from 2.37 percent to 2.32 percent.

 

That's not much. Yet if the acid rain experience is any guide, the true cost is likely to be even lower.

 

Still, should we be starting a project like this when the economy is depressed? Yes, we should — in fact, this is an especially good time to act, because the prospect of climate-change legislation could spur more investment spending.

 

Consider, for example, the case of investment in office buildings. Right now, with vacancy rates soaring and rents plunging, there's not much reason to start new buildings. But suppose that a corporation that already owns buildings learns that over the next few years there will be growing incentives to make those buildings more energy-efficient. Then it might well decide to start the retrofitting now, when construction workers are easy to find and material prices are low.

 

The same logic would apply to many parts of the economy, so that climate change legislation would probably mean more investment over all. And more investment spending is exactly what the economy needs.

 

So let's hope my optimism about Copenhagen is justified. A deal there would save the planet at a price we can easily afford — and it would actually help us in our current economic predicament.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

CAP AND FADE

BY JAMES HANSEN

 

AT the international climate talks in Copenhagen, President Obama is expected to announce that the United States wants to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to about 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. But at the heart of his plan is cap and trade, a market-based approach that has been widely praised but does little to slow global warming or reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. It merely allows polluters and Wall Street traders to fleece the public out of billions of dollars.

 

Supporters of cap and trade point to the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments that capped sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from coal-burning power plants — the main pollutants in acid rain — at levels below what they were in 1980. This legislation allowed power plants that reduced emissions to levels below the cap to sell the credit for these excess reductions to other utilities whose emissions were too high, thus giving plant owners a financial incentive to cut back their pollution. Sulfur emissions have been reduced by 43 percent in the two decades since. Great success? Hardly.

 

Because cap and trade is enforced through the selling and trading of permits, it actually perpetuates the pollution it is supposed to eliminate. If every polluter's emissions fell below the incrementally lowered cap, then the price of pollution credits would collapse and the economic rationale to keep reducing pollution would disappear.

 

Worse yet, polluters' lobbyists ensured that the clean air amendments allowed existing power plants to be "grandfathered," avoiding many pollution regulations. These old plants would soon be retired anyway, the utilities claimed. That's hardly been the case: Two-thirds of today's coal-fired power plants were constructed before 1975.

 

Cap and trade also did little to improve public health. Coal emissions are still significant contributing factors in four of the five leading causes of mortality in the United States — and mercury, arsenic and various coal pollutants also cause birth defects, asthma and other ailments.

 

Yet cap-and-trade schemes are still being pursued in Copenhagen and Washington. (Though I head the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, I'm speaking only for myself.)

 

To compound matters, the Congressional carbon cap would also encourage "offsets" — alternatives to emission reductions, like planting trees on degraded land or avoiding deforestation in Brazil. Caps would be raised by the offset amount, even if such offsets are imaginary or unverifiable. Stopping deforestation in one area does not reduce demand for lumber or food-growing land, so deforestation simply moves elsewhere.

 

Once again, lobbyists are providing the real leadership on climate change legislation. Under the proposed law, some permits to pollute would be handed out free; and much of the money actually collected from permits would be used to pay for boondoggles like "clean coal" research. The House and Senate energy bills would only assure continued coal use, making it implausible that carbon dioxide emissions would decline sharply.

 

If that isn't bad enough, Wall Street is poised to make billions of dollars in the "trade" part of cap-and-trade. The market for trading permits to emit carbon appears likely to be loosely regulated, to be open to speculators and to include derivatives. All the profits of this pollution trading system would be extracted from the public via increased energy prices.

There is a better alternative, one that would be more efficient and less costly than cap and trade: "fee and dividend." Under this approach, a gradually rising carbon fee would be collected at the mine or port of entry for each fossil fuel (coal, oil and gas). The fee would be uniform, a certain number of dollars per ton of carbon dioxide in the fuel. The public would not directly pay any fee, but the price of goods would rise in proportion to how much carbon-emitting fuel is used in their production.

 

All of the collected fees would then be distributed to the public. Prudent people would use their dividend wisely, adjusting their lifestyle, choice of vehicle and so on. Those who do better than average in choosing less-polluting goods would receive more in the dividend than they pay in added costs.

 

For example, when the fee reached $115 per ton of carbon dioxide it would add $1 per gallon to the price of gasoline and 5 to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour to the price of electricity. Given the amount of oil, gas and coal used in the United States in 2007, that carbon fee would yield about $600 billion per year. The resulting dividend for each adult American would be as much as $3,000 per year. As the fee rose, tipping points would be reached at which various carbon-free energies and carbon-saving technologies would become cheaper than fossil fuels plus their fees. As time goes on, fossil fuel use would collapse.

 

Still need more convincing? Consider the perverse effect cap and trade has on altruistic actions. Say you decide to buy a small, high-efficiency car. That reduces your emissions, but not your country's. Instead it allows somebody else to buy a bigger S.U.V. — because the total emissions are set by the cap.

 

In a fee-and-dividend system, every action to reduce emissions — and to keep reducing emissions — would be rewarded. Indeed, knowing that you were saving money by buying a small car might inspire your neighbor to follow suit. Popular demand for efficient vehicles could drive gas guzzlers off the market. Such snowballing effects could speed us toward a pollution-free world.

 

The plans in Copenhagen and Washington have not been finalized. It is not too late to trade cap and trade for an approach that actually works.

 

James Hansen is the author of the forthcoming "Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity."

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

SHINE A LITTLE

 

The calls to 'do more' come at us from all sides. One of the calls to 'do more' emanating from the east relates to the Mumbai attack and our alleged failure to respond appropriately to it by prosecuting in Pakistan those said to be involved. But prosecute we have, and seven people are now on trial in an ant-terrorist court being held in a high-security prison facing charges filed on November 25. In one sense at least the Indians are right. The 'do more' we seem to be failing to do is to tell the people of Pakistan what it is that we are doing, and specifically what it is that those now on trial are charged with. It is a foreign news agency that has obtained details of the charges and published them on its website – and they make interesting reading. Far from being wishy-washy or ill-defined the charges are detailed and highly specific and run to ten pages – and what is perhaps more interesting is that the government prosecutors would not have gone ahead with the case unless they thought they could make the charges stick.


Among other things the seven are charged that… "By your aforesaid acts of terrorism, you disrupted the trade between two neighbouring countries, that is Pakistan, India and also disrupted normal civil life of people of the two countries..." Further they are charged that they were… "active members of defunct proscribed organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba". The seven accused are alleged to have trained and instructed, sought and provided funds and hideouts, rented houses in Karachi and finally launched the 10 men used in the Mumbai attack. They are said to have provided equipment, satphone SIM cards and a mass of other logistical and material support. On the one hand the charge-sheet makes uncomfortable reading for those in Pakistan who denied that we had anything to do with the Mumbai attacks, whilst on the other hand it is an acknowledgement of a hard reality backed with the desire to tackle it. The government deserves our support in their pursuit of terrorists, but by the same token the government does itself and us no favours by hiding its light under the bushel and keeping us in the dark about what is being done – and rightly done – in our name. We should not be learning of these charges and proceedings from foreign sources, and would therefore suggest that the government shine a little.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

MIND THE GAP

 

Unlikely as it may seem the London Underground system provides a salutary lesson in foreign policy making for America. Commuters are loudly warned to 'mind the gap' when about to board a stationary train. The warning tells them to be careful of something that is clear and obvious – the gap between the train and the platform - but which familiarity and inattention may render invisible. Falling into the gap can have dire consequences. For the Americans in the wake of President Obama's speech outlining what purports to be a new strategy for Afghanistan there is a yawning gap, a gap that has existed within US foreign policy for decades, and a gap that is going to engulf us if we are not careful. The gap has a name, and it is 'nation-building.' As a war-fighting nation America has few equals. It does not win every war it fights – Vietnam – but it wins most of them. It wins by sheer force of numbers and firepower, by the ability to project its power globally and, if need be, by some not-so-subtle arm-twisting. What it has consistently failed to do is win the peace by investing in nation building.


That the Obama strategy has been poorly received here and is increasingly the subject of criticism in the US should be no surprise – indeed Hilary Clinton has said that our reaction is more muted than she expected. That may change because our reaction is informed by the fact that we can see the gap and have a sensible aversion to falling into it. The injection of 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan and the start of their withdrawal less than a year later are predicated on their success not in defeating the Taliban, but creating the breathing space in which the Afghans can prepare to shoulder the task themselves. America and the western coalition in Afghanistan has just presided over one of the most corrupt elections in the history of democratic process; and kept in power a man long-past his sell-by date and hostage to the deeply conflicted tribal forces that bind him. The entire country is mired in corruption and if anybody believes that 30,000 troops are going to do anything transformative to Afghanistan, they need to think again. The failure to create the space in which the peace may be won is going to widen the gap into which we will find ourselves dragged.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

AGE AND CHANGE

 

A recent poll by the Gilani Research Foundation and conducted by Gallup (Pakistan) tells us that there are fundamental shifts in our attitudes to the elderly. Two-thirds of us believe that respect for our elders has decreased. Elder respect is comparatively higher in rural areas, and 52 per cent of elders who were polled themselves thought that respect for them had declined. The role of elders in the education of the younger generation was also explored with 44 per cent saying that elders played a vital part in the imparting of wisdom to children, whilst 37 per cent felt it was a combination of books, school and elders that produced a rounded young person.


Surveys such as this may be seen as signposts on the road of change. We are a youthful population and will remain so for thirty years or more. That youthful population is more mobile than it ever was and travels far and wide in the quest for elusive jobs. Rural populations are falling and villages across the land are home to the elders who are left behind, increasingly having to fend for themselves. The shape of our traditional joint family is changing as well, and the care that elders might have expected to receive from their offspring in their declining years is no longer a certainty. The first 'elder homes' have opened as a reflection of this change, where old people live either from choice or because there is no one to look after them. That trend towards elder care can only increase and we need to look to more innovative ways of caring for our elders than merely warehousing them. 'Respect' is one of the bedrocks on which our society and culture are predicated. The change in patterns and depth of respect for elders that we now see is probably linked to the shift from a rural to an urban society. Elders are repositories of wisdom, but if fewer are listening to them then the pool of wisdom will shrink – and wisdom is something we can ill-afford to lose.

 

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I. THE NEWS

THE COMMON EDITORIAL ON CLIMATE CHANGE

 

Below is the text of the common editorial on climate change. Fifty-six newspapers from around the world have committed to speaking with a single voice on the eve of the Copenhagen conference by running identical editorials on December 7. The News op-ed pages have been a proud participant in the preparation of this call for politicians and states to transcend parochialism and deliver a meaningful deal for the world.


Today 56 newspapers in 44 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.


Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year's inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world's response has been feeble and half-hearted.


Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.


The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea.


Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.


But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm timetable for turning it into a treaty. Next June's UN climate meeting in Bonn should be their deadline. As one negotiator put it: "We can go into extra time but we can't afford a replay."


At the deal's heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided — and how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tonnes of carbon that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels.


Rich nations like to point to the arithmetic truth that there can be no solution until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.

Developing countries can point out they did not cause the bulk of the problem, and also that the poorest regions of the world will be hardest hit. But they will increasingly contribute to warming, and must thus pledge meaningful and quantifiable action of their own. Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent commitments to emissions targets by the world's biggest polluters, the United States and China, were important steps in the right direction.


Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions. The architecture of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring, fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of "exported emissions" so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much poorer than "old Europe", must not suffer more than their richer partners.


The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.


Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.


But the shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognized that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels.

 

Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.

Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature".


It is in that spirit that [56] newspapers from around the world have united behind this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too.


The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history's judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

INDIA'S REALITY CHECK

ASIF EZDI


The visit of the Indian prime minister to the United States last month had been planned as a show of American support for India's great-power aspirations. The expectation – or at least the hope – in New Delhi had been that Obama would build on his predecessor's legacy and use the occasion to signal a commitment to continuing the tectonic policy shift towards India initiated by him in 2005. The centrepiece of that policy, in the words of then-Secretary of State Rice, was to "make India a major world power in the 21st century" – as a counterweight to China – and to de-hyphenate US relations with India and Pakistan.

 

In the event, not all of India's expectations from Manmohan Singh's visit were fulfilled. Although Obama was full of praise for India's leadership role in Asia, he carefully stopped short of suggesting that it could be equated with that of China. The message was clear: the emphasis the Obama administration has placed on relations with China, with which India likes to be seen as competing for influence in Asia, will not go away. Obama also recognised the importance of Pakistan's stabilising role in Afghanistan, a matter of the highest priority in Washington as it struggles to devise a strategy to deal with a war that looks increasingly unwinnable.


This less than resounding success of Manmohan's US trip will reinforce concerns in Delhi that the strategic priority given to it by Washington during the Bush administration is diminishing, and that Obama does not share his predecessor's belief in building up India as a counterweight to China. In fact, Obama has shown a marked preference for a greater Sino-American role in addressing a range of global and regional issues, from the financial crisis and climate change to the nuclear programmes of North Korea and Iran. Not only that, Obama shocked the Indian foreign-policy establishment shortly before Manmohan's Washington trip by suggesting that China and the United States work together for a resolution of Pakistan-India differences.


From the Indian perspective, the steps taken by Obama to enlist Pakistan's support for his Afghanistan policy are a further cause for concern. Fareed Zakaria, the Indian-born editor of Newsweek, expressed these worries in an article in The Washington Post. The danger, Zakaria wrote, was that the Obama administration will look at South Asia largely through the prism of the war in Afghanistan. "Since Washington desperately needs Pakistan's cooperation in that conflict, it is tending to adopt Pakistan's concerns as its own, which is producing a perverse view of the region."


Delhi is unhappy that Washington has not been consulting it enough on the Afghan policy, as it had been promised when Obama announced his strategy last March. At that time, India was named as the member of a new contact group on Afghanistan, prompting India's special envoy on Afghanistan to make the boast that without India it would not be possible for the Western countries to have a solution in Afghanistan. Matters have also not been helped by Gen McChrystal's warning that "increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures."


Besides its misgivings over Washington's engagement with Pakistan on the Afghanistan issue through frequent consultation and increased economic assistance and military aid in the fight against terrorist groups, Delhi has been wary of what it calls the "re-hyphenation" of relations with Pakistan and India.


Delhi and Washington have been negotiating an agreement on the reprocessing of US-origin spent nuclear fuel. India wants to conclude the agreement before taking the final steps to "operationalise" the Indo-US bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement. There are two main snags. First, India has been resisting Washington's demand for reporting and certification requirements under US law which Delhi regards as "intrusive." Second, Delhi has been unwilling to accept the US demand for a limit on the number of such reprocessing facilities. As a means of pressuring Washington, Delhi has delayed passing legislation granting civil-liability protection to US firms, without which they cannot sell nuclear reactors to India.


Against this background, the US invitation to Manmohan to pay the first state visit of the Obama administration, complete with a glittering dinner, was aimed at reassuring India that it remains a key strategic partner. But the big party for Manmohan was spoiled even before it began. During a visit to Asian counties less than two weeks before hosting Manmohan,


Obama committed two cardinal sins in the eyes of the Indians. First, he failed to even mention India in a major speech delivered in Tokyo on Nov 14 on US policy in Asia. Second, in a joint statement issued three days later, on Nov 17, after a meeting with Chinese president Hu Jintao, the US and China said they were "ready to … work together to promote peace, stability and development in [the South Asian] region."


The Tokyo speech, which was focused on the Asia-Pacific region and the emerging Asian order, did not cover South Asia. But New Delhi was angered that Obama did not refer to Indian aspirations to be a major player in the Asia-Pacific region, something which the Bush administration had encouraged. The omission amounted to saying that India was just a South Asian power, an indirect repudiation of India's regional and global ambitions. The second blow was even harder. Indian officials and commentators were stunned at what they saw as US encouragement of a Chinese role as a watchdog or mediator between Pakistan and India. Together, the two "missteps" were seen as relegating India to a second-tier country.


In a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, Manmohan tried to correct this perception. Besides highlighting India's contributions to Asia-Pacific security, he said that although China's development has been faster than India's, there were other values – which he implied India subscribed to and China did not – that were more important than economic growth. But as The Washington Post reported, Manmohan's not-so-subtle swipe at China sent titters through the crowd, hardly a sign of endorsement by the audience.


Manmohan's visit produced a long joint statement in which the two sides duly reaffirmed their global strategic partnership, but they were unable to finalise their bilateral nuclear reprocessing agreement. The joint statement also castigated Pakistan for harbouring "terrorist safe havens" in the country and demanded "resolute and credible steps" for their elimination. Regrettably, our foreign ministry has not reacted to the implicit accusation of the Pakistan government's complicity or to the joint statement's failure to recognise the sacrifices that the Pakistani armed forces are making to eliminate the terrorist threat.


Delhi blames Washington's current preoccupation with the war in Afghanistan and – less convincingly – with the global financial crisis for the fact that India has slipped down the US foreign policy agenda under Obama. Nicholas Burns, under-secretary of state under Bush and one of the architects of the upgraded relationship with India, has also spoken of the difficulty of balancing the short-term need for progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan with Washington's long-term ambitions with India, and has urged the Indians not to view every American initiative through a zero-sum lens.


But a more plausible explanation is that the Bush initiative on India ignored two hard geopolitical realities. First, that India is not in the same league as China and is not getting there anytime soon. Second, that Pakistan-India rivalry is the most fundamental and tenacious fact of life in South Asia, around which much else in the region revolves. The hyphen will not go away just because it might be inconvenient for some.


The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service. Email: asifezdi@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

INCONVENIENT TRUTHS

IKRAM SEHGAL


Taking cognisance of the requirement for more boots on the ground as recommended by his commander in Afghanistan, US President Obama commissioned an exhaustive review of the situation. He has now given the go-ahead for a "surge" of 30,000 more US troops, about half that asked for by Gen Stanley McChrystal. In the face of both domestic political circumstances and the prevailing international situation, this is the limit to which he was prepared to go. More importantly for the first time, the US has given a timeline to an exit strategy. The US policy is unambiguous, this is not going to become an endless war.


Speaking to cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point last Tuesday. Barack Obama spelled out a compelling strategy to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat" the prime source of terrorism in the world today. He outlined three key measures to accomplish the mission, viz (1) a military surge within Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban; (2) a civilian surge to build up the capacity of all-round governance in Afghanistan; and (3) an effective partnership with Pakistan.


Nations always hold their own interests uppermost, only rarely will they compromise on their own principal goals, and that too in exceptional circumstances. For Pakistanis to believe that the US will tailor its own "national security strategy" to dovetail Pakistan's core interests is naïve, and dangerous. Similarly, for the US to believe otherwise would not be correct. I