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Friday, December 11, 2009

EDITORIAL 11.12.09

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month december 11, edition 000373, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

http://editorialsamarth.blogspot.com

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

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

 

THE PIONEER

  1. CENTRE'S YES TO TELANGANA
  2. MOCKERY OF VALUES
  3. SECULARISM'S RAGE BOYS - BALBIR K PUNJ
  4. CAPITALISM AND CLIMATE CHANGE - DICK MORRIS
  5. WILL EUROPE PUT ITS FOOT DOWN? - HEGE STORHAUG
  6. KARUNANIDHI PLANS TO CALL IT A DAY - KALYANI SHANKAR

MAIL TODAY

  1. CENTRE HAS ACTED IN HASTE ON TELANGANA
  2. BE REALISTIC
  3. PREMATURE HONOUR
  4. WE NEED TO TAKE A HARD LOOK AT CLIMATE CHANGE - BY MANOJ JOSHI
  5. CRUNCH TIME FOR AF- PAK POLICY - BY NAJAM SETHI
  6. STUDENTS SUFFER AS STATES FIGHT NAXALS - BY KAVITA CHOWDHURY IN NEW DELHI

TIMES OF INDIA

  1. STORM OVER TELANGANA
  2. CLIMATE OF DENIAL
  3. OF MOUNTAINS AND MINARETS -
  4. 'HIMALAYAN RIVERS ARE CRUCIAL FOR HILL VILLAGES AND PLAINS'
  5. MANNING EVERYTHING -
  6. TELE PHONEY - JUG SURAIYA 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. HAMARA NOSTALGIA
  2. TELANGANA ISN'T SCARY
  3. NOT A KANGAROO COURT - LALITA PANICKER
  4. CLIMATE SHAME - PREETI SINGH

INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. SHOW US THE LOGIC
  2. PEGGED TO PATIALA
  3. AFTER CONGO
  4. BOUND BY OMISSIONS - DHIRAJ NAYYAR
  5. NO SUCH THING AS A FREE GLASS - YOGINDER K. ALAGH
  6. BIRTH OF A NATION - INDER MALHOTRA
  7. THE ENDGAME IN PAKISTAN - PRIVATE LIVES
  8. WHY IS INDIA AGAINST ISRAEL, BUT FOR SUDAN? - MANDEEPSTIWANA

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. OVERSEAS CEILING
  2. STATE OF CHAOS
  3. CHANGE THE RULES OF CLIMATE GAME - JEEVAN DEOL
  4. AGRICULTURE SLOWS, BUT DECOUPLES - MADAN SABNAVIS
  5. COUNTERINTUITIVE ON DEBT FUNDS - SAIKAT NEOGI

THE HINDU

  1. A TIME-TESTED FRIEND
  2. EVALUATING SUPPORT PRICES
  3. ILL-THOUGHT ANNOUNCEMENT & BACKLASH - S. NAGESH KUMAR
  4. TASKS FOR A PRIME MINISTER - V.R. KRISHNA IYER
  5. OCEAN ACIDIFICATION RATES ACCELERATING - SEVERIN CARRELL
  6. AND IN THIS CORNER, CLIMATE DOUBTERS - TOM ZELLER JR.
  7. WHAT HAS DISAPPEARED THIS DECADE - JOHN CRACE
  8. SCHOLARSHIP TO EUROPEAN VICTIMS OF HIJAB

DNA

  1. DANISH AMBUSH
  2. SMS 4EVER
  3. TELANGANA PART II
  4. MOHAN GURUSWAMY / DNA
  5. FEAR OF THE OTHER PROVOKES MINARET BAN - FARRUKH DHONDY 
  6. FREEING THE MIND

THE TRIBUNE

  1. STATEHOOD FOR TELANGANA
  2. NEW UK VISA NORMS
  3. HAMARA BAJAJ IS HISTORY
  4. A TRILOGY OF NATIONAL SHAME - BY INDER MALHOTRA
  5. "MA" MANIFESTED - BY SARVJIT SINGH
  6. PRISONERS TOO HAVE RIGHTS - BY SHALINI DEWAN
  7. BOOM, BUST AND BEYOND - BY HAMISH MCRAE
  8. HOPE FOR PHOBIA SUFFERERS - BY STEVE CONNOR

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

  1. BIRTH OF A STATE
  2. DEPORTATION OF ALIENS - SHIBDAS BHATTACHARJEE
  3. SURRENDER, ARREST AND SOVEREIGNTY - ABANI BARUAH

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. BETTERMENT, FOR WORSE
  2. TACKLING FOOD INFLATION
  3. WITH FOOD INFLATION
  4. SLOW ROAD TO TELANGANA
  5. FOREIGN INVESTMENT & BHOPAL TRAGEDY - MANOJ PANT
  6. COULD HE BE BOTH GOOD AND BAD? - MUKUL SHARMA
  7. HOW CAN PARLIAMENT WORK BETTER?
  8. MORE ACTIVE PARTICIPATION FROM MPS NEEDED - SANDEEP DIKSHIT
  9. YASH RAJ DEAL WILL HELP SET REACH TOP POSITION, SAYS MSM CEO
  10. AN ENTREPRENEUR HAS THE ABILITY TO INSPIRE PEOPLE DEEPAK PURI
  11. BRAND'S NEEDS HAVE TO BE LINKED TO SOCIAL MARKETING

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. POLITICS SURROUND NEW TELANGANA
  2. TRAIN THE AFGHANS - BY SRINATH RAGHAVAN
  3. THE NEW RULES OF POLITICAL SEX SCANDALS - BY GAIL COLLINS
  4. 'I CANNOT BE GUIDED BY GANDHI, KING ALONE' - BY BARACK OBAMA

THE STATESMAN

  1. RELENTING AT LAST
  2. IN POOR COMPANY
  3. 101 'WANTED OUT'
  4. CHILDREN AT RISK IN IMMIGRATION CAMPS - ROBERT VERKAIK 
  5. WIDOWS IN INDIA - BY ANUPRIYO MALLICK

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. SMALL PIECES
  2. SLOW COACH
  3. BEYOND THE OLD BOOKS - SWAPAN DASGUPTA
  4. IN A FAILING STATE  - MALVIKA SINGH

DECCAN HERALD

  1. A GIANT STEP
  2. HEED RULES
  3. JUDICIARY IN THE DOCK - BY KULDIP NAYAR
  4. LASHKAR-E-TAIBA'S US' CONNECTION - BY ARUN BHAGAT
  5. VIRU, THE PHILOSOPHER-BUTCHER - BY N NIRANJAN NIKAM

THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. FALSE ALTARS

HAARETZ

  1. WANTED: NATIONAL PRIORITIES
  2. NEEMAN'S SICKLY OLIVE BRANCH - BY SETH FARBER
  3. FOUR COMMENTS ON THE SITUATION - BY YOEL MARCUS
  4. WHAT NETANYAHU REALLY WANTS - BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER
  5. TRUST THE SETTLERS TO LOSE THE WEST BANK - BY BRADLEY BURSTON
  6. BYPASS THE PALESTINIANS - BY YEHEZKEL DROR
  7. BRACING FOR THE WORST - BY HAGGAI CARMON
  8. WHAT'S MAKING IRAN RUN? - BY EPHRAIM KAM
  9. SYSTEM CHANGE, NOT CLIMATE CHANGE - BY URI GORDON

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. PRESIDENT OBAMA IN OSLO
  2. EASING CONGRESS'S HEEL ON THE CAPITAL CITY
  3. THE SEASON SO FAR
  4. AN ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION PATCHWORK
  5. MILITARY TIME, CIVILIAN TIME  - BY NATHANIEL FICK
  6. ADVANTAGE: TALIBAN - BY AHMED RASHID
  7. JUST STICK TO IT - BY MARC LYNCH
  8. BERNANKE'S UNFINISHED MISSION - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  9. THE HANUKKAH STORY - BY DAVID BROOKS

I.THE NEWS

  1. THE BALOCHISTAN EQUATION
  2. BUILDING AN AWARD
  3. HUMAN RIGHTS
  4. THE SHARP HEAD OF THE TEMPEST BREWING - AYAZ AMIR
  5. WHERE IS CIVIL SOCIETY? - DR MASOODA BANO
  6. STORY OF A DUTIFUL DONKEY - AZIZ AKHMAD
  7. BLASTS - DR MUZAFFAR IQBAL
  8. FACING ADVERSITY WITH COURAGE - SHAFQAT MAHMOOD
  9. SIDE-EFFECT - HARRIS KHALIQUE

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. PM'S CORRECT APPROACH TO ADDRESS BALOCHISTAN ISSUE
  2. DISJOINTED HANDLING OF INDIAN INTERFERENCE
  3. US PUSHES INDIA CLOSER TO RUSSIA & CHINA - M D NALAPAT
  4. INDIA'S SOMERSAULT - SULTAN M HALI
  5. WOMEN IN ISLAM - PAKISTAN-INDIA RELATIONS - ZARQA SULTANA KHAN
  6. TRIM THE BRISTLES..! - ROBERT CLEMENTS

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. CLIMATE TALKS
  2. PERKS AND PRIVILEGES
  3. IN MY DICTIONARY..!
  4. NAZRUL ISLAM'S DECLINE - M SERAJUL ISLAM
  5. SELLING NEWS SPACE CULTURE CONCERNS JOURNALISTS - NAVA THAKURIA
  6. SWIMMING WITH SHARKS IN MEXICO - DENISE DRESSER

 THE HIMALAYAN

  1. GRIM REMINDER
  2. DOT ON TIME
  3. DECADE DEADLINE TO CUT CARBON EMISSION
  4. NEAR DERAILMENT OF PEACE PROCESS: STATE OF DESPERATION - BIRENDRA P MISHRA
  5. TOPICS: A SMILE GOES A LONG WAY - SUVECHCHHA POUDEL

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. THE CHALLENGE IS SUSTAINED GROWTH - AS WELL AS JOBS
  2. TOO FEW NO SO SUPER CLINICS
  3. MORE EFFORT, LESS AMBITION

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. OBAMA'S AWKWARD PEACE PRIZE
  2. THE ROUGH END OF THE SMOOTHIE
  3. FINDINGS WILL DENT PUBLIC TRUST IN POLICE PRACTICES
  4. LET COOL HEADS PREVAIL AT THE GLOBAL WARMING SUMMIT

THE GURDIAN

  1. IN PRAISE OF… IMOGEN COOPER
  2. EUROPEAN UNION: SARKO AND THE CITY
  3. PUBLIC SPENDING: THE CUTS TO COME

THE KOREA HERALD

  1. TALIBAN THREAT
  2. H1N1 IN N.K.
  3. A YEAR IN FINANCIAL CRISIS: WHO PAYS? - ANDREW SHENG
  4. WESTERN FEMINISM'S ACHIEVEMENT MYTH - NAOMI WOLF

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. THE CHILD ALLOWANCE
  2. EXPANDED STIMULUS PACKAGE
  3. CENTRAL BANKERS MUST FINESSE MONEY SUPPLY - BY SYLVESTER EIJFFINGER AND EDIN MUJAGIC
  4. AUSSIE REVOLT OVER CLIMATE - BY ALAN GOODALL

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. SWITZERLAND, MUSLIM COMMUNITY AND THE MINARETS - KHAIRIL AZHAR
  2. COINS FOR JUSTICE
  3. ISLAMIC LAW IS NOT AS PERFECT AS MANY MUSLIMS INSIST - ARIF MAFTUHIN

CHINA DAILY

  1. REALISM IN COPENHAGEN
  2. LEGAL PROPERTY RIGHTS
  3. QUALITATIVE CHANGE IS NECESSARY - BY SUN LIJIAN (CHINA DAILY)
  4. INCREASE EFFORTS TO TIGHTEN TOBACCO CONTROL - BY CHAN CHOI HI (CHINA DAILY)

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. THE RUSSIAN RUNAROUND - BY MICHELE A. BERDY
  2. THE ETERNAL MODERNIZATION OXYMORON - BY NIKOLAI ZLOBIN

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

CENTRE'S YES TO TELANGANA

BUT CONGRESS FACES VIRTUAL REVOLT IN PARTY


In finally agreeing to move a resolution in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly calling for the bifurcation of the State and the formation of a separate Telangana, the Congress has succumbed to public demand and the moral pressure of the veteran politician and Telangana Rashtra Samithi leader, Mr K Chandrasekhara Rao. Mr Rao, who had gone on a fast unto death and was willing to end his life unless his quest for Telangana was realised, has now started receiving nutrition much to the relief of his supporters. Thankfully, the tragedy of Potti Sreeramulu, who fasted to his death in 1952 and whose dream of a Telugu-speaking State was only realised only after he was gone, has not been repeated. The Telangana resolution must expeditiously be followed by Union Government action leading to the birth of a new province. No further delays or prevarication in the guise of seeking consensus can now be tolerated. The Congress, which has said all things to all people on the Telangana issue over the past few years, must now act seriously. It had gone easy on Telangana since 2004 primarily because, as Chief Minister, YS Rajasekhara Reddy was not willing to truncate his territory. Before him, Mr N Chandrababu Naidu who headed the TDP Government had similarly obstructed efforts to bring about Telangana. With YS Rajasekhara Reddy passing away in a helicopter accident and the new Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister a political lightweight, Mr Rao seized the opportunity and got what he wanted.


Politically, the promised creation of Telangana is a slap on the face of the Congress. Its Government in Andhra Pradesh, especially after the death of YS Rajasekhara Reddy, has proved ineffective and unable to control the breakdown of law and order in recent days. That the Chief Minister had to rush to New Delhi and plead with the Union Government and the Congress 'high command' to bail him out speaks volumes for his administrative acumen and grasp of popular sentiment. Whatever happens in the short run, in the larger reckoning the Congress will find it tough to claim it has facilitated the creation of Telangana. The public will undoubtedly give the credit go to Mr Rao. Pictures of the man, all frail and ailing and propped up on his hospital bed, have done the rounds of the country and will no doubt be the stuff of the next election campaign in Telangana. For the BJP, the original national proponent of Telangana, it will be a bit of a disappointment that it could not finish the job in the six years in was in power between 1998 and 2004. Nevertheless, the BJP is set to emerge as a strong contender in the new State, as and when it is created, and can soon add Telangana to Karnataka as among the provinces in the South where it has a weighty presence.


Meanwhile, it remains to be seen how swiftly or slowly the Congress moves to keep its promise. The backlash to its unilateral decision has been huge with more than 90 MLAs, the bulk of them from the Congress, 'resigning' from the Assembly. Will the Congress now play for time? Or will it brazen out the virtual revolt? The Centre's promise has also revived demands for several other new States, including Gorkhaland; the coming days could witness an upsurge in violent protests across the country. The Congress has only itself to blame for the situation in which it finds itself. Had it emulated the manner in which the NDA Government went about creating Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh, then needless strife could have been avoided.

 

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THE PIONEER

MOCKERY OF VALUES

INDIA IS NOT A LIBERTARIAN STATE


The query posed by the Supreme Court as to whether the Government could legalise prostitution if there was no way to curb the illegal flesh trade has sparked a fresh debate regarding the best way to tackle the problem. The Supreme Court's observation has come during the hearing of a PIL complaining about the large-scale child trafficking in the country. The apex court is of the view that by legalising prostitution, better control can be maintained over the trade as well as ensure the rehabilitation of sex workers and provide them with medical aid. It has also pointed out that punitive measures have hardly been successful in curbing prostitution in other countries. Though there is no doubt that the Supreme Court's observation is prompted by the need to find a practical solution to the problem of prostitution and not condone the trade in any manner, it would be fair to say that the suggestion, if implemented as law, would be antithetical to the Indian socio-cultural framework. For, one should not confuse the liberal, pluralistic state that India is with a libertarian state. A liberal state is one that accommodates different points of view but chooses to distinguish between what is moral and what is immoral, what is right and what is wrong. A libertarian state refuses to make this distinction. If one is to see the observation by the Supreme Court in the same context that Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code was deemed unconstitutional, it becomes apparent that we are moving towards a permissive, libertarian society. This is something that needs to be given serious thought. It is true that most of us would want to live in a liberal country, but certainly not in a libertarian society.


Even if we were to set aside the liberal versus libertarian debate, there are other problems with the Supreme Court's observation on prostitution. The biggest hurdle to tackling the illicit flesh trade is corruption. It is because our law enforcement authorities are corrupt that none of the measures to curb prostitution has worked. Even if we were to legalise the trade, it would still not be rid of corruption. And as long as corruption persists, prostitution can never be curbed. The other problem is that of poverty. Most of the sex workers are victims of circumstances who have been pushed into the flesh trade due to crippling poverty and destitution. Unless enough is done to mitigate poverty, girls and women will continue to fall prey to prostitution. Lastly, just because measures to check commercial sex have failed, it doesn't mean that the answer automatically lies in legalising the trade. If the existing measures have failed, the Government must look for ways and means to overcome that failure and make the law more effective. There is no other option.

 

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            THE PIONEER

SECULARISM'S RAGE BOYS

BALBIR K PUNJ


The dormant Ram Janmabhoomi issue is back in the limelight thanks to the Liberhan Commission's report. The report will of course be long remembered for its howlers and contradictions. But it has also brought into focus the warts that continue to distort the face of ageless, pluralistic Indian society in the name of 'secularism'.


For 'secularists', December 6, 1992, the day the disputed Babri structure was brought down by frenzied kar sevaks, was truly the darkest day in the history of independent India. The State Governments run by the BJP were sacked. Several Sangh Parivar organisations such as the RSS, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal were banned. Pulling down of a 500-year-old decrepit structure was, and still is, equated with the collapse of rule of law, rape of the Constitution and crumbling of the Indian secular edifice.


This contrived view of secularism was amply visible during the debate on the Liberhan Commission's report in the two Houses of Parliament. The gist of the passionate arguments put forward was that the demolition of the disputed structure was in fact demolition of all that is noble in Indian society.


Why are such hysterical responses reserved only for issues such as the demolition of the Babri structure, which appeal only to fundamentalist sections of the Muslim community? The rest of the problems plaguing the country are either met with deafening silence or at best muted responses on the part of the 'secularists'.


India, since independence, has seen many gloomy moments. In 1962 we suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chinese. One section of the 'secularists' (Jawaharlal Nehru and his Defence Minister Krishna Menon) let the country down through their sins of omission. First, the Nehru-Menon duo ignored all the warning signs about China's aggressive designs. The Army was deliberately deprived of proper arms and equipment. On the other hand, the other set of 'secularists' (read Communists) extended the invading Chinese their welcome and support.


Indian history is replete with such sordid examples. Mrs Indira Gandhi, with the help of the CPI, sought to extinguish the flame of democracy by promulgating Emergency in 1975 in the wake of an adverse judgement by the Allahabad High Court. Lakhs of innocent civilians were jailed and tortured. The Emergency, which lasted for 19 months, remains a blot on Indian democracy.


One of the most shameful chapters in our country's recent history is the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits and the destruction of numerous Hindu temples in the Kashmir Valley at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists. More than two decades have passed since the beginning of militancy in the Valley but half-a-million Pandits continue to be refugees in their own country. Nothing tangible has been done to rehabilitate them in their homeland. Could there be anything more scandalous?


Over two crore Bangladeshi Muslims have infiltrated into India over the past three decades. Barring a few deportations, all of them have made themselves comfortable and most of them have even managed to register themselves as Indian voters. As a result, the demographic character of several parts of the country has undergone a sea change. Does this "demographic invasion" (to quote from an Assam High Court judgement) prick the conscience of our 'secularists'? Is it not disgraceful that foreigners have a say in electing our members of Parliament and legislatures?


Maoists, financed, trained and inspired by the Chinese, with the help of self-styled civil society activists, are holding seven Indian States to ransom. Apart from carrying on with their senseless violence (including Taliban-style beheadings), they have managed to put all development activities on hold in the areas under their control. The poor, in whose name they claim to operate, are the worst sufferers. They are running an anarchic state within the Indian state. A part of the establishment has no shame in joining hands with such elements for political expediency. Are they embarrassed about their anti-national conduct?


For the last decade, Chinese-inspired terrorists groups have been calling the shots in Manipur and have nearly succeeded in alienating a State of 24 lakhs from the Indian mainstream. Mr Okram Ibobi Singh, the Congress Chief Minister of the State for the last seven years, has been charged by the Army of making heavy cash contributions to the separatists as a part of his private 'peace' arrangement. The writ of the terror outfits runs to such an extent that even the singing of the National Anthem and the National Song and the use of Hindi have been banished from the State. Has any 'secularist' expressed any remorse or concern over this reprehensible development?

Kerala and several other parts of India have fallen victim to what is being termed as 'Love Jihad'. Young Muslim men, fired by religious zeal and funded by Saudi money, are enticing young Hindu and Christian girls. Lured by the allure of a flashy lifestyle (which is used as bait), the innocent women fall in 'love', convert to Islam and end up as slaves of the terrorists. Last Wednesday, a Kerala High Court judgement brought out the details of this racket and called upon civil society and the Government to act immediately. Did one hear any echo of this scandal either in the media or in Parliament?


The list of such shocking instances where India has been put to shame is endless. It is borne out of divisive politics of minority versus majority which the Congress and other 'secular' parties practice.


The innate fear of the Hindu community among Muslims, which is fanned by a certain section of the Indian polity, has created congenial conditions for fundamentalist ideas to take root and grow. If a section of the Muslim community has gone on to embrace terrorism, should not the Congress accept part of the blame for following divisive politics?


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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

CAPITALISM AND CLIMATE CHANGE

DICK MORRIS


The worst nightmare of the Left is about to come true: The US is about to achieve the carbon emissions goals set by the 1997 Kyoto Accords. Once seemingly beyond reach, the US is already halfway toward meeting the stringent Kyoto goals for reduction in carbon emissions without a cap-and-trade law or a carbon tax or carbon dioxide being declared a pollutant.


Environmental nightmare? Yes. The goals of the climate-change crowd are not reduction in global warming but the enactment of a worldwide system of regulation that puts business under government control and transfers wealth from rich nations to poor ones under the guise of fighting climate change. Should the emissions come down on their own, as they are doing, the excuse for draconian legislation goes up in smoke.


The facts are startling. In 1990, the year chosen as the global benchmark for carbon emissions, the U S emitted 5,007 mmts of carbon. Kyoto specified that emissions must be reduced to a level six per cent lower than in 1990. For the US, that means 4,700 mmts.


American carbon emissions rose year after year until they peaked in 2007 at 5,967 mmts. But, in 2008, they dropped to 5,801. And, in 2009, the best estimate is for a reduction to 5,476. So, in two years, US carbon emissions will have gone down by more than 500 mmts — a cut of over eight per cent.


President Barack Obama has pledged to bring the US carbon emissions down by 17 per cent. He's halfway there. A combination of the recession and an increased emphasis on cutting emissions is working and may make onerous regulation unnecessary and even redundant.


How can the US achieve the other half of the hoped for reduction? If 60 per cent of American cars were electric, the net savings in carbon would be 450 mmts (even counting the coal burned for the higher levels of electricity required). And if one-third of the truck fleet ran on natural gas, the carbon savings would add another 150 to 200 mmts.


The point is that public education and increased environmental consciousness — the normal way Americans respond to challenges — may suffice without the need for Government regulation. And what persuasion fails to achieve, higher gasoline prices will do — move people to buy electric cars.


Good news huh? Not if you are a socialist banking on climate change as the banner to regulate all utilities and industries in the world.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

WILL EUROPE PUT ITS FOOT DOWN?

THE SWISS VOTE AGAINST THE CONSTRUCTION OF ANY MORE ISLAMIC MINARETS HAS FORCED EUROPE, INCREASINGLY AWASH WITH MUSLIM IMMIGRANTS, TO ASK ITSELF SOME DIFFICULT QUESTIONS: HOW MANY MINARETS CAN EUROPE TOLERATE BEFORE ITS STRONG SENSE OF COMMUNAL CONNECTION IS DISSOLVED? WHAT WILL HAPPEN, THEN, TO DEMOCRACY'S LIBERAL VALUES?

HEGE STORHAUG


Either Islam will be Europeanised, or Europe will be Islamised." In recent years this prediction has been made by many major experts, among them the American Bernard Lewis, the Syrian-born German Bassam Tibi, and the French Gilles Kepel. This is, without question, an uncomfortable and sensitive topic, but it's one that is very pertinent now that the Swiss have put their foot down and said that they will not accept another minaret within their borders.


In recent decades, Islam has exploded in Europe. You can see the changes with your own eyes from year to year —whether it's the increasing presence of hijabs on the street in a city like Oslo, or the bearded men with ankle-high baggy pants, or the new and resplendent mosques that are under construction. For my part, I've noticed an increasing insecurity and unease among 'ordinary' people who feel like aliens in their own country. People ask: What is the purpose of this project? Don't we, as a nation, have a right to pass our own cultural legacy, our traditions and values, on to our children and grandchildren? Should we, in the name of tolerance, give in to the demands made by 'others' whose influence is growing, and whose voices are becoming louder, as their numbers increase? Or as a Norwegian Labour Party politician said to me in a private conversation: "On the day that most of the members of the city council are Muslims, what do you think will happen to the right of Oslo bars to serve alcohol?" Another leading Labourite with over a couple of decades' experience in politics put it more bluntly when I asked him "What you think about immigration from the Muslim world?" The answer was so crisp, merciless, and genuinely felt that I gasped: "What have they contributed?" Period.


Let it be said that of course there are many Muslims in Europe who are getting along just fine and who get the same chills down their spines that other European citizens do when they think of sharia'h and the lack of freedom that accompanies classical Islam. But as a rule those aren't the Muslims who are the most prominent members of their faith among us; they aren't the ones who enjoy power in the Muslim community, and they aren't the ones who are best organised and who have developed exceptionally strong connections to our public officials.

No, it's not the secularised Muslims who are leading the way — far from it. Ayaan Hirsi Ali made this clear when I and a colleague of mine from Human Rights Service in Oslo met her at the Dutch Parliament in The Hague in 2005. As she put it, there most certainly are Muslims in Europe who want a Europeanised Islam — that is to say, a private, personal Islam without political and judicial influence. But these aren't the Muslims who are powerfully positioned in Europe's community organisations, Europe's corridors of power, and Europe's universities.


Here is an interesting point: Immigrants from Iran tend to be secular, well-integrated, and — very often — well-educated. In Norway, Iranians have generally integrated themselves into our culture, accepting Norwegian values even as they've maintained Iranian traditions that don't conflict with human rights, such as celebrating Iranian New Year. But Iranians are not the leaders of Europe's Muslim communities. Nor can I think of a single mosque in Norway, or anywhere in Europe for that matter, that has been founded by Iranians.


If Iranians, generally speaking, have been an immigration success story, enriching Europe and becoming fully participating members of European society, this isn't true of the members of many other major immigrant groups, whose origins are in traditional villages in other Muslim countries. It's precisely these people's unwillingness (or inability?) to assimilate with European society — indeed, to appreciate such typically European values as freedom, equality, social participation, and personal responsibility — that may be a major reason why Switzerland said no to more minarets. At some point, Europe must put its foot down if it truly wishes to continue to be the Europe we know today. There is a limit as to how many minarets a society can live with, how many hijabs and baggy pants the streets of Europe can tolerate, before the public space becomes as ideologically charged and as palpably unfree as the streets of, say, Pakistan. We need to stand up and preserve our culture — a successful culture that is itself the only reason why immigrants are streaming from the Muslim world to our continent rather than in the other direction.


Here's a specific example of how misguided our politicians have been in their handling of the challenge of Islam — an example that I think provides a very clear picture of grotesque weakness. In 1974, Muslim immigrants from Pakistan established the first mosque in Norway, the Islamic Cultural Centre. The name has a comforting, harmless sound: A 'cultural centre' sounds like something very different from a mosque. In reality, however, the ICC is a direct subsidiary of an extreme religio-political movement and political party in Pakistan, Jamaat-e-Islami, which was established by one of the leading Islamist ideologues of the last century, Abu Ala Maududi (1903-1979). When Pakistan's worst despot ever, Gen Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988), Islamised that country from top to bottom, his main inspiration was Maududi. Today Qazi Hussain Ahmad, who has been a top JI leader for several years, has been banned for security reasons from entering about 25 European countries, as well as Egypt. He has been under house arrest in Pakistan several times for having instigated violent riots that took human lives. Unsurprisingly, he's also a fan of Osama bin Laden. Yet he's not prohibited from entering Norway, and when he landed at Oslo Airport in August 2004, the arrivals hall was packed with Norwegian-Pakistani men and boys who openly cheered him.


The ICC, then, which has a grandiose new mosque with minarets in downtown Oslo, follows an ideology that is a carbon copy of Maududi's terrifying, violent creed. It doesn't just belong to a philosophically dangerous movement; it belongs to a movement which preaches that Muslims should not become fully integrated members of Norwegian society. This is exactly the same attitude that is preached at every mosque in Europe that has 'respect' for itself. And yet the ICC, like many other mosques that share its theology, was allowed to establish itself in Norway, and in Europe generally, without protest from anybody. And that's not all: Today it's one of the largest and most influential so-called faith communities among Norwegian Muslims and has, over the years, received tens of millions of kroner in Government support because it is regarded — absurdly — as a religious body.

But Europe's cultural elite is blind to this ugly reality. On the contrary, that elite, which lives largely off of the dialogue industry — exchanging endless amiable platitudes with Muslim leaders — is all bent out of shape over Switzerland: it views the ban on minarets as an assault on free speech and on freedom of religion; the ban, according to the elite, is an offence against cultural diversity, an expression of intolerance, prejudice, and extremism that will lead to a clash of civilisations. Not to mention that the ban violates international conventions.

Yet this same elite never gets worked up when Christians are murdered in Pakistan or when their churches and homes are burned down. Or when women and men are stoned to death in Somalia, or when burqa-clad women in Afghanistan are crammed together with goats in the backs of trucks. Nor do they pay the slightest heed to a woman walking through the streets of Oslo in a burqa — a garment that must be described as the clearest possible manifestation of antipathy to Western culture, a powerful statement of complete rejection of the society in which the woman lives.


It is not too much to say, then, that the elite is completely off-balance. And it's this lack of balance, this lack of sensible attitudes in the salons of the privileged, this lack of respect for their own culture and for the values on which that culture is founded, that the grass roots are reacting to. Simply put, ordinary people are sick of being told by their 'betters' what to do and think: They want with all their hearts to defend themselves and their own. Their message is: By all means, come to Europe and become one of us. But don't come here to turn our culture and our values upside down. The people have, in short, begun to wake up and to say no to the utopian multicultural dream. For they realise that Norway will no longer be Norway, and the West will no longer be the West, if the country's essential culture is not preserved; and Christianity is an indissoluble part of that culture. Whether one is personally religious or not, that's simply a fact. If Islam is going to place itself at the heart of our culture, most Norwegians understand that what we now consider Norwegian will be dead and buried. The only alternative would be a miracle: A revolution within Islam. Of course, such a revolution would also require an end to all of the violence and hatred preached in the Quran.

For about a millennium, Islam has failed spectacularly to pull off such a revolutionary project. It's precisely for this reason that people are pouring out of these failed states (yes, they're also failed on account of other kinds of ideological despotism, including socialist projects, which when combined with an authoritarian, oppressive religion produce something like gunpowder). The big question, however, is this: Why should we expect a form of Islam to develop in Europe that is entirely antithetical to the form of Islam found in the Muslim world?

Of course Norway, and Europe as a whole, should not embrace any and every kind of culture or religion that finds its way here. But where to draw the line? There is no one answer to this question. The answer will vary according to the nature of the culture or religion and the strength of the challenge that it represents. But if we sell out our mainstream culture, and relativise it, accept a watering down of our rights, we may end up with a set of supposedly democratic but in fact empty and meaningless ideals that fail to provide us citizens with a values-related map or compass. And what can happen in critical situations if the people don't share a sense of community? How can we ensure a sense of belonging if, for example, freedom of speech faces a major threat or if we suffer a terrorist attack? Can we risk having civil war-like conditions, as we is already the case in Europe's no-go zones? Democratic order is, above all, a technical and practical matter, and it can thus never replace people's need for a community, their need to be part of a common culture.


People must, then, have feelings —positive ones — about one another. Last winter I had a thought-provoking experience on the east side of Oslo on my way home after work. A thin layer of snow covered the icy streets. A Somali woman dressed in a tent slipped on the ice as I passed her. Instinctively, I grabbed her and thus managed to prevent what could have been a bad fall, and helped her back to her feet. I asked if she was okay, but she just hurried on with a completely expressionless look on her face. Not a single sign of human connection, not a single glance at me. I stood there feeling empty and alienated.


Awareness of a society's and a culture's need for a sense of community seems especially absent from the EU system. The kind of communal feeling I am talking about contrasts sharply with the multicultural mentality of the pro-EU and anti-national forces. They refuse to understand that a nation's culture — its folk songs, traditions, holy days, flag, and national anthem — is different from a broad-based Constitution based on ideals of equality. A text, simply put, cannot replace a feeling of community. A national community with strong survival instincts is founded not on a text but on matters that are close to the heart, on traditions, on things that are palpable, on things as obvious as a common language and a sense of belonging to a motherland. The principles that tie people together cannot be legislated by politicians; such bonds call for something more — trust between citizens, national loyalty, a high degree of agreement as to what freedom is and is not, and a broad sense of support for the obligations that a real community demands of its members.


The minarets, then, don't symbolise community in the European sense — they symbolise the ummah, the Muslim community. They don't represent loyalty to Norway or Switzerland or any other European country — they represent loyalty to Mecca and to the ummah. They don't signify freedom, but illiberalism (women's oppression, the punishment of apostasy with death). The minarets, in short, embody the antithesis of the Declaration of Human Rights (as is clear to anyone who has read the 1990 Cairo Declaration about so-called "human rights in Islam",which was formulated by the Organisation of Islamic Conference). Nor are they, one might add, a part of our architectural tradition or any other Western tradition. On the contrary, they bear witness to a state of mind that views us, the 'others', as strangers.


The policy of forcing oneself to tolerate something for which one has no sympathy whatsoever will, moreover, only erode the national culture. Pointing fingers and making moral judgements is not the way to enhance tolerance.

In light of the immigration from the Muslim world, it's very important for us to be aware of the history of our Western democracy. It's not true, after all, that we adopted democracy, with all the magnificent liberal values that accompanied it, and then developed a broad community of the people. On the contrary, our free society is a historical consequence of a communal society based on trust, a shared culture in which Christianity has naturally played a central role. Norway would not have managed to come together under our Constitution, signed at Eidsvoll in 1814, if the country that produced it had been split along cultural and religious lines. The people whose representatives met at Eidsvoll were a people who shared essentially the same culture and religion and who could hence agree on the text upon which their nation was to be founded. The same thing happened when the Puritans settled in New England and built a society that grew into American democracy. It is actually somewhat odd to think that America owes the liberal democracy enshrined in its founding documents to a group of original settlers whose strong sense of community was based on conservative religion and illiberal traditions. It is, then, shared cultural norms, and not theoretical or abstract ideals of equality or international conventions, that lead people to stand shoulder to shoulder and to find community together. A liberal democracy such as that of Norway or Switzerland is not and never has been self-sustaining.


The minaret case, then, can be very critical for Europe's future. How many minarets can Europe tolerate before our strong sense of communal connection is dissolved? What will happen, then, to our democracy's liberal values and to the social harmony we have enjoyed? These are questions that most of the political parties in Norway and in a number of other European countries do not wish to address. They absolutely refuse to recognise that Islam is an ideology and a social system, a religion of laws — a religion with a political orientation and with political ambitions. Yet Islam and Christianity are still treated by Norwegian (and European) officials as identical twins. This misguided way of thinking may end up costing us heavily. We must learn from the Swiss as quickly as possible — must learn, that is, to face up to, and respond appropriately to, the political and legal realities of the Islamic congregations in our midst.

 

This essay originally appeared in Norwegian on the website of Human Rights Service, www.rights.no, and was translated into English by Bruce Bawer.


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THE PIONEER

OPED

KARUNANIDHI PLANS TO CALL IT A DAY

BUT WILL THE DMK CHIEFTAIN STICK TO HIS DECISION OR IS IT JUST A PLOY TO INFLUENCE VOTERS BEFORE BY-ELECTIONS? IF HE WERE TO REALLY RETIRE FROM POLITICS, A FIERCE AND BITTER SUCCESSION BATTLE CANNOT BE RULED OUT

KALYANI SHANKAR


Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has hinted at his retirement at the end of his current Lok Sabha term. Expectations are that BJP leader LK Advani may call it a day soon. CPI(M) veteran Jyoti Basu and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee are already leading a retired life. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi is the latest to announce that he will retire in June 2010.


The 85-year-old DMK chief has had a successful public life for more than six decades. He worked with DMK founder CN Annadurai closely. He faced many challenges in his political career and is considered as one of the tallest leaders Tamil Nadu has produced. Kalaignar, as he is affectionately called, made his electoral debut in 1957, winning the Kulithalai Assembly constituency.


He was re-elected from Thanjavur in 1962 but soon shifted to Saidapet in Chennai in 1967. That was the year the DMK wrested power from the Congress in the State for the first time under the leadership of Annadurai. Mr Karunanidhi succeeded Annadurai and since then he became Chief Minister five times.


Mr Karunanidhi significantly said in a public meeting last week, "Brushing aside politics and power, I will come closer to the people." When will he do it? After the completion of the new Assembly complex, building a world-class library in memory of the DMK founder and holding the world Tamil Conference in June 2010. These three are his unfinished agenda.


Some see Mr Karunanidhi's announcement giving a cut-off date for his retirement as a pressure tactic to ensure a smooth succession. While the Opposition leaders see it as a political drama ahead of the two by-elections scheduled for December 19, some see it as a threat to his party and family to behave but the party downplays this.

The post-Karunanidhi scenario will be quite fascinating and also a little confusing as he is the only unifying factor at present. With the party ready to accept a dynastic rule, the sibling rivalry among his children may damage it. Trying to divide power within his family, he dispatched his son MK Azhagiri to Delhi as a Minister and his daughter Kanimozhi as an MP. His grand nephew Dayanidhi Maran is also a Central Minister. Above all, he anointed his son MK Stalin as the Deputy Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu hinting his desire that the latter should take over from him.


In the past six months, Mr Karunanidhi has already taken semi-retirement allowing his son to manage the show. Even in the Assembly he allowed more space for Mr Stalin and intervened only when required. It is both a signal and warning to the party and his family. The succession plan of Mr Karunanidhi may not be a smooth affair, as his politically ambitious children will fight for their space in the family and party. Various branches of the Karunanidhi family head the factions in the DMK and this announcement is bound to push these groups to become active.


Mr Karunanidhi is already facing tremendous pressure from Mr Azhagiri who is disenchanted with Delhi politics. He wants to get back to the State politics as he has a strong base in the southern Tamil Nadu and does not want to leave the State entirely to Mr Stalin. This is bound to create tension.

Second, there will be a vacuum as none in his family or in the party will be able to fill it. Mr Karunanidhi is known for his political acumen, shrewdness, political manoeuverings and administrative skills. He has worked with many Prime Ministers, including Mrs Indira Gandhi, Mr Vajpayee and now Mr Manmohan Singh. He has the loyalty of the bureaucracy.


Third, his retirement will have a huge impact on the politics of the State as well as the Centre. AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa, who is presently waiting and watching, is hopeful that the post-Karunanidhi scenario may be beneficial to her and her party. The two Dravidian parties, DMK and AIADMK, have dominated the Tamil Nadu politics for many decades now. The Congress has been riding piggyback since it lost power in 1967, alternatively aligning itself with the DMK or the AIADMK. Smaller parties like the MDMK, the PMK, dalit parties and the Desiya Murpokku Dravidar Kazhagam of film actor Vijay Kant have only cut into the votes of the DMK and AIADMK. Ms Jayalalithaa, being a shrewd politician, will try to make the most of the confusion and infighting in the DMK once Mr Karunanidhi is out of the picture unless the latter is able settle things to the satisfaction of all.


At the central level too, the DMK may lose its present relevance. Despite not speaking English, Mr Karunanidhi was able to manage the coalition politics effectively without sacrificing his party's interests. He had managed hefty portfolios for his party at the central level whenever the DMK was part of a coalition. He was able to play a role in the national politics even during the National Front and United Front regimes. His party shared power with almost all the coalition combinations at the Centre.


Fourth, the alliance politics in Tamil Nadu will also change with the Congress trying to occupy the central space of the DMK. Already AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi is talking about the Congress getting back its lost primacy in the State.


Fifth, the Left parties, which had been aligning with both the Dravidian parties, are keeping their options open. A clear picture will emerge only before the 2011 elections. After a brief honeymoon with the AIADMK in the 2009 polls, the Left has broken free of the AIADMK.


The DMK needs another Karunanidhi but will it get one?


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MAIL TODAY

EDITORIAL

CENTRE HAS ACTED IN HASTE ON TELANGANA

 

WHETHER the creation of Telangana is a good idea is something that history will decide. But what we can comment on is the shoddy manner in which the decision has been taken. A discredited leader of a party demanding the separation of the region from Andhra Pradesh goes on a hunger strike, his followers unleash violence in the state capital and the Union government caves in to the demand without so much as a consultation with its own partymen in the state. The consequences unfolding now, with scores of members of the legislative assembly resigning, could alter the political dynamics of the state adversely for the Congress party.

 

There is generally a sound logic in creating smaller states because they are, in the ultimate analysis, units of administration and in larger units some areas do not get the kind of attention they deserve. This was the logic of the creation of Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh. But such decisions need to be taken with a cool head and a steady hand. The resentment and violence that are attending the birth of the Telangana state could have consequences that will haunt it in times to come.

 

The sudden capitulation of the Congress government at the Centre has opened up a Pandora's box and one of the first plagues to venture forth will be the question: What is to be done about Hyderabad? Is it to be a union territory or the capital of the new state? Having been built with the labour and resources of all parts of the state, a decision in Telangana's favour is bound to stoke resentment. Then, there is the issue of other such demands — for Gorkhaland, Bundelkhand, Harit Pradesh and Bodoland. Should their leaders go on a hunger strike accompanied by massive violence?

 

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MAIL TODAY

BE REALISTIC

 

THE Supreme Court's poser to the Centre about legalising prostitution on account of the failure of the Indian state to check it is worth serious consideration. Unfortunately, the debate on prostitution is too often framed in ethical terms where subjectivity rules. But as the Supreme Court has rightly said, the issue needs to be seen from the viewpoint of the effectiveness of anti- prostitution laws in India, as also the rest of the world. On this the record is not very encouraging, even in countries that have far better law enforcement mechanisms. In India as we all know red- light districts — such as Kamtipura in Mumbai and Sonagachi in Kolkata — flourish right under the nose of the authorities.

 

While the anti- prostitution law does nothing to check the practice, there are several hazards stemming from its existence in our statute books. By criminalising prostitution, we deny sex workers the protection accorded to citizens. Trafficking of minors is rampant and hapless women are exploited by pimps and brothel owners and harassed by the police. Driving prostitution underground also hinders the drive against the spread of HIV/ AIDS which is rampant among sex workers in India.

 

It would be so much better if the state were to decriminalise prostitution and regulate it in a manner least harmful to individuals and society. What law enforcement agencies need to positively clamp down on is trafficking of women, which often involves minor girls. It is this part of the prostitution business that is an unremitting evil.

 

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MAIL TODAY

PREMATURE HONOUR

 

LONG after the Barack Obama presidency is over, there will be talk of what happened on December 10, 2009. US President Obama visited Oslo in Norway on Thursday to collect the Nobel Peace Prize, unarguably the pinnacle of human reward for work done to promote global peace and harmony.

 

Yet, doubts linger whether Mr Obama deserved the Nobel. If the Nobel committee awarded him the prize as a pre- emptive move to hasten the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, then it has failed miserably. There is no sign of any letdown in America's engagement in Iraq and for Afghanistan, Mr Obama announced a 30,000- troops surge just a fortnight ago.

 

Far from being a " peace" President, Obama is a war- time commander- in- chief.

 

This alone should have dissuaded the men in Oslo from awarding him so early in his presidency. Unfortunately, they did. And the Nobel Peace Prize may have just recorded one of its most controversial winners yet.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

WE NEED TO TAKE A HARD LOOK AT CLIMATE CHANGE

BY MANOJ JOSHI

 

IN THE late 1960s, the developed world discovered non- proliferation.

 

Suddenly, it became the issue of issues, signing the Nuclear Non- proliferation Treaty became the yardstick of good conduct among nations. The new climate deal being negotiated in Copenhagen has now assumed a similar status. For decades, the developed world spewed greenhouse gases.

 

Suddenly they have discovered religion, and they want everyone to convert to their new faith.

 

Despite being reviled and punished for it, India stayed out of the NPT which has become a universal treaty.

 

Perhaps that experience should guide our stance at the Climate Change Conference Copenhagen ( COP 15) as well: India should agree to only that agreement that relentlessly serves its national interests, and not one that panders to the latest whim of the developed world.

 

This could be our new NPT moment, when we may have to decide to walk alone. India is no outlaw, but it does have some unique requirements. This writer is an agnostic on the issue of climate change. Not on whether the climate is changing; we have a great deal of anecdotal evidence for that, but whether human activity is what is leading to this change.

 

Intensity

 

The science associated with climate change, as we have seen in the case of the recent email leaks, is in contention. There are something like 450 peerreviewed journal articles skeptical of man- made climate change listed on populartechnology.

 

net. Some 30,000 American scientists have put their names to a petition that notes that " There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate." The 1997 Kyoto protocol was not ratified by the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, the US. COP15 looked dead too, but President Barack Obama's announcement in late November that the US would move for 17 per cent cuts removed the final obstacle and opened the way for a deal. Within a day or so, China announced that it would cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP ( carbon intensity) by 40- 45 per cent by 2020, from 2005 levels. There is a bit of jugglery here. China's carbon intensity is already quite high; in 2006 it emitted 2.85 tonnes of CO2 for every $ 1,000 of GDP, compared to 0.54 tonnes for the US, with some European countries achieving far lower rates. ( India is about 1.82 according to 2005 figures).

 

This has generated pressure on India to do its bit.

 

Indeed, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who was not planning to go to the Copenhagen conference had to change his plans after a call from the US president. An informal new grouping has arisen, BASIC — Brazil, South Africa, India, China and New Delhi, too, has announced that it would be game for a 20- 25 per cent cut in its carbon intensity by 2020 and 37 per cent by 2030.

 

Looked at either through the filter of carbon intensity or per capita emission, India is in a class of its own when it comes to the issue.

 

The other three countries are actually developed in comparison to India. Perhaps the best indicator of this is the electricity consumption per capita.

 

India's is a pathetic 503 kwh, compared to China which is 2040, Brazil is 2060, South Africa is 4810. Going by the present trends, India could reach the Chinese/ Brazilian figures by 2030.

 

On paper 80 per cent of our population has access to electricity, but its quality is marred by poor supply, voltage fluctuation and is it a severe constraint on the country's economy. The problems are not only with generation, which suffers because of regulatory delays in approving new plants, but with its transmission and supply. Many of the state electricity boards are insolvent because power is

 

supplied at subsidised rates. While the government has eased rules relating to foreign investment in the sector, the financial infirmity of the state boards has prevented foreign investment from flowing in easily.

 

The fact of the matter is that India needs power, lots of it and from all possible sources that it can tap.

 

This is not an automatic invocation for stepping up carbon emissions in a mindless way. Coal currently meets more than half of India's energy demand — the electric power sector consumes 76 per cent of the country's coal.

 

Though India has 7 per cent of the world's total reserves, the quality of its coal is poor and its coal mines are unable to meet domestic demand which is climbing steeply as India races to meet its energy needs.

 

Opportunity

 

Coal and its resultant pollution is not where India's future lies. But, this is not the moment for us to take the lead in showing the alternate path. As a Mint report of a World Bank study revealed on Thursday, India would have to pay a substantial price for increasing generation of environment friendly energy. India needs to work on its own time and pace and with some help from the world community to

 

get on to the low carbon path. Part of the help is forthcoming through the path- breaking Indo- US nuclear deal, but more would be needed to take to a carbon neutral path.

 

The years 1990- 2010 have been China's years of historical opportunity, the period 2005- 2030 are India's. Unfortunately, they are now coinciding with the developed world's new received religion — the need to curb greenhouse gases. We have already tarried too long and too far from the high growth path and now there are indicators that we are on it. This is not an opportunity that will come our way again, in this century at least. These are the years of our demographic dividend, the years that will decide whether India will be a future world power or a failed state.

 

As Kaushik Basu has explained: In the year 2004 India had a population of 1,080 million, of whom 670 million people were in the age- group 15 to 64 years which is considered as the " working age population." The rest, comprising the very young and the old, some 400 million, were seen as the dependent population.

 

So the dependency ratio, or the proportion of the dependent population to the working age population works out to 0.6.

 

Today, India is not different from other developing countries like Bangladesh which is 0.7, Pakistan's 0.8 or Brazil's 0.5.

 

Survival

 

What is different about India is that the dependency ratio will see a sharp decline over the next 30 years or so. India's fertility rate — that is, the average number of children a woman expects to have in her life time — used to be 3.8 in 1990. This has fallen to 2.9 and is expected to fall further. Since women had higher fertility earlier, we now have a sizeable number of people in the agegroup 0- 15 years. And since fertility is falling, some 10 or 15 years down the road, this bulge of young people would have moved into the working- age category.

 

And, since, at that time, the relative number of children will be small ( thanks to the lowered fertility), India's dependency ratio would be lower. It is expected that, in 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years, compared to 37 for China and 48 for Japan; and, by 2030, India's dependency ratio should be just over 0.4.

 

This huge bulge of young people is both an opportunity and a threat. An opportunity if we are able to shift them to productive jobs; a threat otherwise.

 

And for this we need all the electric power we can generate.

 

This is not the time for us to save the world, but to save ourselves. We are not talking about the rich, but some of the poorest people in the world.

 

manoj.joshi@mailtoday.in

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MAIL TODAY

THE LAHORE LOG

CRUNCH TIME FOR AF- PAK POLICY

BY NAJAM SETHI

 

A DMIRAL Mike Mullen, Chairman, US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a meeting of foreign correspondents in Washington last week that solving the 62 year dispute of Kashmir between Pakistan and India was important for peace in S Asia. Significantly, he added: " In the long run, resolution of the border in the east in Kashmir is a very important outcome… I think this is a key part of what needs to happen in the future." The following day, The New York Times editorialised: " Presuming security needs can be met, President Obama should visit Pakistan so he can tell Pakistanis directly that their fears of abandonment — or domination — are unfounded. Mr.Obama also must keep nudging India and Pakistan to improve relations. That may be the best hope for freeing up resources and mind- sets in Pakistan for the fight against the extremists". The NYT also endorsed President Obama's view articulated " before a small group of journalists at a White House lunch last week that reducing tensions between the two nuclear rivals, though enormously difficult, is ' as important as anything to the long- term stability of the region.'" These statements support an earlier observation made by General Stanley McCrystal, head of NATO- ISAF in Afghanistan, that India should consider winding down its Consulates in Southern Afghanistan in deference to Pakistani worries about the role they may be playing in fomenting unrest in Balochistan and Waziristan.

 

Does this mean that the US has woken up to the fact that without helping resolve the Kashmir dispute and building trust and peace between the nuclear enemies, the US will not be able to fully co- opt Pakistan's security establishment behind its Af- Pak strategy because of Pakistani concerns about the " India factor" in Afghanistan?

 

WHATEVER the nature of the US understanding or resolve, the cold reality is that no solution on Kashmir is likely in the short term. One, India is currently focused on demanding Pakistan action against the Lashkar i Tayba before reopening the composite dialogue with Pakistan. But, for a host of reasons, this action is not likely to be forthcoming.

 

Indeed, if there is another Mumbai- type incident in India — which is what the terrorists want — the two countries could be pushed to the brink of war. Two, whenever the Kashmir issue is taken up between the two sides, it will have to move on from the realistic and flexible point at which it was abandoned by General Pervez

 

Musharraf and Dr Manmohan Singh in 2007 ( adjustments to the LoC and a step by step approach to a joint mechanism to administer the disputed area without it seceding from India or Pakistan). But this is not possible during the term of the besieged PPP regime of President Asif Zardari. The military establishment has already seized foreign policy- making from him because he is seen as being " soft" on India and America.

 

Indeed, only a military government a la Musharraf or one led by Nawaz Sharif, both bastions of the Punjabi ruling establishment, can ink any acceptable deal with India on Kashmir. But neither is on the cards in the short term. New Delhi's recognition of this fact is reflected in two ways: first, it wants to know who it should talk to in Pakistan, General Ashfaq Kayani or President Zardari; second, it has, with the backing of the other Kashmiri parties, started the process of thawing with the Hurriyat Conference directly by bringing it into the trilateral negotiation loop — the announcement of a troop reduction in Kashmir is meant as a confidence building measure in this regard. Therefore all this American talk about resolving Kashmir is no more than a sop to disgruntled Pakistan.

 

There is a second issue that merits a response. The NYT also reports that Washington has warned Pakistan that its forces will chase Taliban forces into Pakistan if the Islamabad government does not get tough with the insurgents.

 

This " blunt message" was delivered to Pakistan's military and political leadership in November when the US National Security Advisor, Gen James Jones, and White House Counter- Terrorism Chief, John Brennan, visited Islamabad. This is interpreted as meaning that the US would expand its Drone attacks beyond the tribal areas

 

and its Special Forces could put boots on ground and conduct raids in Pakistani territory against Al- Qaeda and Taliban leaders. " We've offered them a strategic choice", a high level source told the NYT, to do the job or let the Americans do it. " Our patience is wearing thin", " the Taliban sanctuaries ( in Pakistan) are a cancer in the region". If this threat materialises, what would be its consequences? Washington admits that Pakistan's position is ambiguous on this count. Certain Afghan Taliban groups led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Jalaluddin Haqqani and Mulla Umer are viewed as long term Pakistani assets in the region because they are disposed to be friendly towards Islamabad and hostile to India.

 

IT IS unlikely that the military establishment will help the Americans in eliminating them. Indeed, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has now said that he is ready to negotiate with Mulla Umer, and the Pakistanis and Saudis are part of a British sponsored back channel move to bring " moderate" elements of the Afghan Taliban into the loop and drive a wedge between them and Al- Qaeda.

 

The US will either have to go along with this strategy and establish a joint mechanism with Pakistan to focus on and eliminate Al- Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban who are attacking Pakistan's security establishment, or go after the pro- Pakistan Afghan Taliban with a vengeance and risk alienating Islamabad.

 

Certainly, if the Pakistani military is not on board any special operations aimed at these groups, we may see a military sponsored, media- fed anti- US protest movement seriously destabilise the Zardari government and sour US- Pak relations to breaking point. This would compel the US to back down or plunge ahead. In the former instance, this would undermine President Obama's 18 month deadline for starting troop withdrawals; in the latter case, India's help in " sorting out" Pakistan would be taken for granted. The stage would then be set for violent civil strife, war, anarchy and even dismemberment in the region.

 

Nuclear- armed, anti- US and anti- India Pakistan is a key " principal" in the region. Its views, concerns and interests regarding the future of Afghanistan can only be ignored at great peril to all the " principals" in the region.

 

The writer is editor of the Friday Times ( Lahore )

 

MONI MOHSIN ON FIVE THINGS ONLY JANOO AND I AGREE.

 

1. The earth goes around and around the sun.

2. Obama is Prime Minister of America.

3. Ice cream should be served cold.

4. Om Shanthi Om is the best film ever ( Janoo hasn't seen it yet but when he does, he'll agree with me).

5. All the khoon kharaba in Pakistan is fault of army.

 

How? Haw baba by giving the beardo weirdos safe heavens in Pakistan and by turning blind eyes to all their killing shillings and also secretly encouraging them to go and do bad bad things in India. And guess what? Instead of going after India, they've turned on us. As my maid, Basheeran, says, a sleeve ka snake bites you first.

I know everyone is saying America is doing it or India is doing it but they're all stuppids. The beardos are doing it. We saw it with our own two eyes in Swat.

 

And anyways why India and America should care if we listen to music or go to school or watch Bollywood? They tau should be happy we are dooling over their Angelinas and Ashwariyas. No, it's the beardos.

 

Look at the threats girls schools are getting ten ten times a day from beardos because their uniform is unIslamic. Stuppids! What can be more Islamic than a kameez that comes down to your uncles, and a shulloo that has more cloth in it than a three seater sofa? Cracks. Outside Kulchoo's school they found a car loaded with bombs waiting to go off. Imagine! After that the school closed and Kulchoo was home for a week. All he read was Facebook, with Janoo muttering about his disrupted education. But I said, he'll only get educated if he lives, na.

 

Anyways, schools have reopened but danger hasn't gone. Kulchoo goes to school with driver and guard and comes straight back and bus khatam. No roaming, no friends' houses, no Pizza Hut, no DVD shops, no nothing. Not even tuition. He shouts and screams and eats my head and drinks my blood day and night because he says I'm polaroid about the Taliban but I say better polaroid than dead.

 

And it's been two full months since I went to PC for my facial. Ever since Isloo's Marriott, I've tau stopped hotelling. The only thing I used to go for was my facial because they give the best. Now I get a girl to come to the house but she's not a thatch on the PC waali. And also she has BO. Honestly, what what the beardos have put us through! And if you're going to say it's the Americans again, I'm going to slap you.

 

Why Americans should care if I get a facial?

 

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MAIL TODAY

STUDENTS SUFFER AS STATES FIGHT NAXALS

BY KAVITA CHOWDHURY IN NEW DELHI

 

EDUCATION has become an unsung casualty in underdeveloped areas of Bihar and Jharkhand, which are caught in a crossfire between the state and Maoists.

 

While on the one hand the Maoists routinely attack schools, students are also afraid of security personnel occupying school premises.

 

Not only do the jawans take over classrooms and toilets, they also beat up students suspected to have Naxal links. Girls also fear sexual harassment.

 

This has boosted drop- out rates, noted the Human Rights Watch ( HRW) in its report, Sabotaged Schooling , released on Thursday.

 

" This conflict's impact on education and children is overlooked," HRW's Bede Sheppard said. According to the report, Maoists blew up 42 schools last year in Bihar and Jharkhand, including 14 in Jharkhand and two in Bihar last month.

 

" The Naxalites claim to be fighting for the poor. But their attacks on schools deprive these children of education," Sheppard added.

 

The security forces camping at school buildings make the students more vulnerable and traumatise them.

 

" Sometimes ( the forces) bring culprits back to the school and beat them up … It makes me feel bad," a 16- year- old student from Bihar said. His school was partially occupied by the State Auxilliary Police in June.

 

As the forces occupy school kitchens, students often have to go without mid- day meals. In many schools, girls can't access toilets. These factors take a toll on enrolment figures.

 

HRW visited 22 schools in Bihar and Jharkhand and interviewed over 130 people, including 48 children, parents, educators, the police and local officials.

 

The two states have education indicators which are among the poorest in the country: Bihar ranked 35th and Jharkhand 33rd among 35 states and Union Territories in a government survey.

 

The states' literacy levels are at 47 per cent and 54 per cent respectively.

 

HRW appealed to the central and state governments not to permit security forces to use school buildings for camps, outposts or police stations and deprive students of their right to education.

 

The Ranchi High Court has already ordered forces to vacate all occupied schools by the second week of January 2009.

 

kavita. chowdhury@mailtoday.in

 

KRISHNA IN MYANMAR TO TALK ANTI- TERROR TACTICS

EXTERNAL affairs minister S. M. Krishna arrived in Myanmarese capital Nay Pyi Taw on Thursday to participate in the BIMSTEC ministerial meet. The conference, scheduled for Friday, will focus on jointly combating terror.

 

The 12th ministerial meeting of the seven- nation Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectoral, Technical and Economic Cooperation ( BIMSTEC) will also focus on promoting free trade. A free trade agreement in goods is under consideration by the group that comprises India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

 

The ministers are expected to finalise a regional convention to expand counterterror.

 

A joint declaration on promoting mutual economic growth, connectivity and development is expected to be signed at the end of the meet.

 

Krishna said: " We have already identified 14 areas of cooperation which include health, energy, technology, human resource development, trade, tourism and culture." Counter- terror, including operations against Indian insurgents, working from Myanmar is expected to figure during Krishna's meetings with his Myanarmarese counterpart and Prime Minister on Friday. Ulfa chief Paresh Barua is reportedly hiding in Kachin state of Myanmar. His last phone call was traced to there earlier this month. Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao said India was in touch with neighbouring countries over Barua's handover.

 

The issue of hydro- carbon cooperation is also expected to be discussed during the Indo- Myanmar bilateral meet. Krishna is also expected to meet his counterparts from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.

 

BY DIPANJAN ROY CHAUDHURY IN NAY PYI TAW ( MYANMAR)

RAISINA TATTLE

 

THE MANNER in which Pranab Mukherjee and C. P. Joshi reacted to the Opposition in the current winter session of Parliament highlights the sign of the times.

 

Despite a slender majority in the Lok Sabha, the Congress's nonchalant stand bespeaks its confidence. With the Opposition in disarray, and the BJP still in the throes of a post- Advani upheaval, the Congress is in a TINA mode.

 

As the House was rocked by the Liberhan report, the Prime Minister chose to be feted in salubrious climes. The Crown Prince is busy in UP, battling for space. The one who holds the purse strings in the party is away on Haj.

 

Worse still, the officials were infected by the same attitude. At a parliamentary committee meeting, the mandarins chose to maintain a similar level of haughtiness. When asked about inflation, the answer put the blame on the " demand and supply theory". What about soaring sugar prices. The reply was lackadaisical: " It is a reflection of the rising international prices." How could it impact the local market when we import only three per cent of sugar? " We have the data but it will take time to analyse it." Can anybody beat that?

 

Power cricket

 

UNION rural development minister C. P. Joshi's victory as Rajasthan Cricket Association president has put state chief minister Ashok Gehlot in an awkward position. The Gehlot camp views Joshi as a rival and an ambitious politician who is keen on becoming the chief minister. Joshi supporters are busy reinforcing that threat and insist that the Union minister got the second- most important position in the state having defeated Lalit Modi. Gehlot wonders why Joshi opted for a cricket association when there is no link between rural development and an elitist game.

 

He should ask Sharad Pawar, Lalu Prasad and so on and so forth.

 

Payback time

 

HE CHOSE Darjeeling in the May Lok Sabha polls to steer his wavering political career away from the pits. And he got the all- powerful Gorkha Janamukti Morcha to propel him to Parliament despite flaunting a BJP ticket. He made promises too.

 

Polysyllabic pledges that he will fight for a separate state of Gorkhaland. The hill people said: " Okay we believe you." A damning book, expulsion from the BJP and many sundowners later, the time has come to keep the promise. There are people in the hill station who want their MP, Jaswant Singh, to do what KCR has done for Telangana — fast unto death. Will the former soldier shoulder this burden? Will he go without grubs for the Gorkhas?

 

Cloudy IPO deals

 

A NEXUS between promoters and merchant bankers helps IPOs get subscribed fully. The Indian IPO space have always seen a fair share of greedy promoters and underhand dealings. Issues are priced irrationally and some IPOs are listed at substantial discounts.

 

But what is more worrying are alleged instances of promoters doling out cash to arm- twisting merchant bankers. Other reports indicate merchant- bankers apply in huge volumes to IPOs where investor response is muted, keeping promoters at their mercy till the last date of the book closure. Not surprising that of 16 IPOs that have come up so far in 2009, only six are reportedly trading above the issue price. Case of history nay scandals repeating themselves!

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

STORM OVER TELANGANA

 

Now it seems to be the turn of legislators from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema to agitate on the issue of division of their state. Nearly 100 MLAs from various parties, including the Congress and the Telugu Desam, have reportedly resigned from the assembly to protest the formation of a separate Telangana state. The revolt could even reduce the Congress government in Hyderabad to a minority.


The present rebellion betrays the crass opportunism of various political parties on the Telangana issue. Barring the CPM, almost all major political parties have publicly favoured the formation of the Telangana state. These MLAs who are threatening to quit the assembly were surely aware of their parties' stand on the issue. Why did they seek party tickets if they disagreed with the view of the party? Or did they think that the consensus on Telangana was only a pre-election gimmick to fool voters?


A large share of the blame for the current crisis must go to the Congress. The failure of the Congress government in Hyderabad to act decisively on the issue is largely responsible for the ongoing politics of blackmail that started with the fast of Telangana Rashtra Samiti leader K Chandrasekhara Rao.


The Congress leadership repeatedly spoke in favour of a separate state, perhaps to appease voters and legislators from the Telangana region, but failed to keep the rest of the party in the loop. Its state leadership lacked the political authority to resolve the crisis and asked the central leadership to take a call on the issue. That a section of the Congress party sought to project the announcement for a separate Telangana as a party decision and a gift from Sonia Gandhi only weakened the much-needed political consensus on the division of the state. The Centre and the state government did not take the opposition parties in Andhra into confidence before announcing the momentous decision to divide a state that was founded on the emotional appeal of linguistic subnationalism.


Political parties must now desist from brinkmanship and work together to enable an amicable division of the state. The formation of a new state is a complex and cumbersome exercise. From personnel to finances, the assets to be divided are many. In this case both states want Hyderabad to be the capital, which has attracted large capital investment in recent times. With tempers running high, party leaders must rise above narrow partisan interests, sit together and sort out the contentious issues.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

CLIMATE OF DENIAL

 

The gloves are off. Climate sceptics, who deny that climate change is caused by human activity - and who are admittedly sponsored by Exxon Mobil, the oil corporation - are holding a parallel climate change meeting in Copenhagen. They're just down the street from the Bella Centre, the venue of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference whose goal is to come up with an alternative plan to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that is due to end in 2012. The Protocol made a clear distinction between developed and developing countries in preparing agendas, whether of mandatory emissions targets for the former or clean development mechanisms for the latter.


But what might replace the Protocol could bear little resemblance to it, if the Danish draft is taken seriously. Cloaked in secrecy, the host government has been lobbying among developed countries to support its draft that speaks nothing of either monetary help or technology transfer to developing countries. In fact, it recommends that the latter be also subject to targeted emissions cuts. Interestingly, developed countries have only increased their emissions since they signed the Protocol. That they are willing to confer secretly on the Danish proposal belies the spirit of the UNFCCC that is meant to be an open forum for discussion and debate.


There are several opposing camps in the climate change debate, making the issue more complex than it already is. Broadly, there are the climate change deniers and climate change activists; the developing world that wants the rich countries to accept their historic responsibility for industrial emissions and the developed world that wants emerging economies to promise emissions cuts; sceptists who attribute the current climate crisis to heightened solar activity (or other reasons) and scientists who blame it on human industrial activity. In the midst of all the crosstalk came 'Climategate' - leaked e-mails from East Anglia where scientists chatted about ways to bolster their climate change data.


While scientists may not agree on the exact degree of rise in global temperature if current trends in greenhouse gas emissions continue, that a process of global warming is underway is indisputable. This conclusion has been arrived at through numerous independent studies, all of which cannot have been rigged. In any case, scientific projections offer probabilities rather than certainties. While the lower estimates of projected temperature rise may be merely disruptive in future, the higher projections - of around 6 degrees Centigrade by the end of this century - will have catastrophic consequences. Shouldn't that consideration alone be enough to arrive at a deal that's viable and fair to all the residents of this planet, even as an insurance policy?

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

OF MOUNTAINS AND MINARETS

NEW YORK: Switzerland has four mosques with minarets and a population of 3,50,000 nominal Muslims, mostly Europeans from Bosnia and Kosovo, of which about 13 per cent regularly go to prayer. Not a huge problem, one might have thought. Yet 57.5 per cent of Swiss voters opted in a referendum for a constitutional ban on minarets, allegedly because of worries about "fundamentalism" and the "creeping Islamisation" of Switzerland.

Are the Swiss more bigoted than other Europeans? Probably not. Referendums are a measure of popular gut feelings, rather than considered opinion, and popular gut feelings are rarely liberal. Referendums on this issue in other European countries might well produce startlingly similar results.


To attribute the Swiss vote to ban minarets - an idea that was promoted by the right-wing Swiss People's Party, but by none of the other political parties - to "Islamophobia" is perhaps to miss the point. To be sure, a long history of mutual Christian-Muslim hostility, and recent cases of radical Islamist violence, have made many people fearful of Islam in a way that they are not of Hinduism, say, or Buddhism. And the minaret, piercing the sky like a missile, is easily caricatured as a fearsome image.


But if the Swiss and other Europeans were self-assured about their own identities, their Muslim fellow-citizens probably would not strike such fear in their hearts. And that might be the problem. It was not so long ago that the majority of citizens in the western world had their own unquestioned symbols of collective faith and identity. The church spires that grace many European cities still meant something to most people. Few people married outside their own faith.

 

Until recently, too, many Europeans believed in their kings and queens, flew their national flags, sang their national anthems, were taught heroic versions of their national histories. Home was home. Foreign travel was for soldiers, diplomats and rich people. "Identity" was not yet seen as a problem.


Much has changed, thanks to global capitalism, European integration, the stigmatisation of national feeling by two catastrophic World Wars and, perhaps most importantly, the widespread loss of religious faith. Most of us live in a secular, liberal, disenchanted world. The lives of most Europeans are freer now than ever before. We are no longer told what to do or think by priests or our social superiors. When they try, we tend not to take any notice.

But there has been a price to pay for our newly liberated world. Freedom from faith and tradition has not always led to greater contentment but, on the contrary, to widespread bewilderment, fear and resentment. While demonstrations of collective identity have not entirely disappeared, they are largely confined to football stadiums, where celebration (and disappointment) can quickly boil over in violence and resentment.


Populist demagogues blame political, cultural and commercial elites for the anxieties of the modern world. They are accused, not entirely without reason, of imposing mass immigration, economic crisis and loss of national identity on ordinary citizens. But if the elites are hated for causing our modern malaise, the Muslims are envied for still having faith, for knowing who they are, for having something that is worth dying for.


It is unimportant that many European Muslims are just as disenchanted and secular as their non-Muslim fellow-citizens. It is the perception that counts. Those soaring minarets, those black headscarves are threatening because they rub salt in the wounds of those who feel the loss of their own faith.


It is not surprising that anti-Muslim populism has found some of its most ferocious supporters among former Leftists, for they, too, have lost their faith - in world revolution, or whatnot. Many of these Leftists, before their turn to revolution, came from religious backgrounds. So they suffered a double loss.


There is, alas, no immediate cure for the kind of social ills exposed by the Swiss referendum. The Pope has an answer, of course. He would like people to return to the bosom of Rome. Evangelical preachers, too, have a recipe for salvation. Neoconservatives, for their part, see the European malaise as a form of typical Old World decadence, a collective state of nihilism bred by welfare states and soft dependence on hard American power. Their answer is a revived western world, led by the United States, engaged in an armed crusade for democracy.

But, unless one is a Catholic, a born-again Christian, or a neocon, none of these visions is promising. The best we can hope for is that liberal democracies will muddle through this period of unease - that demagogic temptations will be resisted and violent impulses contained. After all, democracies have weathered worse crises in the past.


That said, it would surely help if we had fewer referendums. For, contrary to what some believe, they do not strengthen democracy. They weaken it by undermining our elected representatives, whose job is to exercise their good judgement rather than voice the gut feelings of an anxious, angry people.


(The writer is a professor of democracy, human rights and journalism at Bard College, New York. Copyright:

Project Syndicate, 2009. )

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'HIMALAYAN RIVERS ARE CRUCIAL FOR HILL VILLAGES AND PLAINS'

 

Radha Behan , a senior Gandhian social activist and chairperson of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, has been coordinating several recent efforts to protect Himalayan rivers. Here she speaks to Reshma Bharti about these efforts as well as how these are linked to villagers' survival struggle:


How were you drawn to the movements for protection of Himalayan rivers?

Kumaon region has been the main area of my work for several years. More recently we have been hearing complaints from women in these villages about how they can't obtain water for sheer survival needs. On the one hand, water in the Kosi river has reduced considerably and recent research has warned that if the present trend continues then the river could dry up. On the other hand, village women told us that hotels were taking away such huge quantities of water that the basic needs of villagers could not be met. Similarly, police were sent in to ensure that urban needs would be prioritised. For us the protection of rivers is also tied up with the water rights of villagers as we feel that their essential supplies should be protected as a priority. Protection of Himalayan rivers is crucial not just for the hill villages but also for the vast plains below.


What steps have villagers taken to protect rivers?

Protection of Himalayan rivers is closely related to the protection of forests. Our mahila mandals in the Kosi river basin have been active in protecting forests. Starting with themselves, they are now careful that collection of fuel and fodder do not damage the forests. They are determined to protect forests from fires. At the same time forest officials have to change their management practices so that broad leaf species of trees get their due place in the Himalayas. Those tree species that are better for soil and water conservation and also provide more and better fodder to villagers should be planted.


How did such local struggles evolve into a wider movement to save Himalayan rivers?

Villagers in Uttarakhand have suffered greatly due to the dam-construction work. You can't imagine the enormous scale of the construction of dams, tunnel-dams and other hydel projects in remote villages. These have been undertaken without any prior consultation with the affected people. Villagers and their environment have been devastated by the blasting of the hills, takeover of their farmland, pastures and forests as well as disruption of community life. When villagers and activists from various parts of Uttarakhand met and exchanged notes on the situation of their area, a fuller picture of the devastation emerged and it was to check this devastation that we started a statewide campaign for protection of rivers.


This Nadi Bachao Abhiyan (campaign to protect rivers) has taken the form of yatras in affected areas and also led to a high-level dialogue with government representatives. But it appears that very powerful vested interests - and a lot of corruption - are involved in these deals.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

WOMAN POWER

MANNING EVERYTHING

A lady traffic constable was directing the traffic at the junction just as we drove out of Tulihal airport at Imphal in Manipur. I remarked at this sight, used to gender prejudices common to people from the cowbelt states of India and said, "Wow! good to see gender equality moving into the police force". My sister-in-law, a resident of Manipur for the last 37 years, smiled indulgently, as though silently intoning, forgive her for she knows not what she says. I was a little puzzled at her quiet indulgence but saw the same sight again just a kilometre down at another crossing and again until the novelty wore off. I realised that this was the norm in Manipur. Manipur's strong, spirited women take the lead in every sphere of life, social, political and economic. My sister-in-law took it upon herself to show me around. Our first stop was the Ema (mother) keithal or market where scores of women of all ages sell wares from vegetables to utensils to clothing displaying a business acumen born of years in the trade. Then we went to see handlooms and handicrafts, another area preserved by women. So, whether in the local market or in traditional arts and crafts or their organised role in public observances and protests, in this torn state it is the women who are visible and active.


Deceptively delicate and fragile looking, they have exhibited great strength, both physical and psychological, in times of tribulation. Way back in the 1900s when their men were taken away as bonded labour to harvest Burmese teak, it was the Manipuri women who banded together and bravely fought the British in what is known as the first Nupi Lan or war fought by women. Then in 1931, when the British decided to export paddy at a time when the state was facing a famine, they protested and fought fiercely to stop the export so that their own people did not starve. This strong sense of community continues to this day. Today, there are informal women's groups in every area. Known as Meira Paibis or torch-bearers, they spontaneously get together in large numbers to protest any perceived wrongdoing. Every morning the newspaper has pictures of women activists sitting in peaceful protest pressing solutions for a plethora of issues. Their areas of concern broadened, their struggle continues.

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TIMES OF INDIA

TELE PHONEY

JUG SURAIYA 

 

Ah mate mah threel/ Ohn Bloo-bairy Heel/ Ohn Bloo-bairy Heel/ Where Ah fownd yew. Bunny's phone is singing. It is singing Blueberry Hill to tell her that someone is calling her on it. I remember the time when phones rang, not sang. In those days phones did not have push buttons; they had round things with holes in them which went round and were called dials, as in Dial M for Murder. Most importantly, phones had a wire. This kept them in their place, in more ways than one. At one end of the wire was you, at the other end was the person calling you. People only called in case of dire emergency. If the dhobi had burnt a hole in Mamaji's new terylene pant while ironing. Or Dumpoo had vomited on the Kashmiri carpet after too much birthday cake. Or if Auntyji had been admitted. You never asked admitted to what. In telephonese, admitted always meant admitted to hospital. In terms of crisis rating, admitted was right up there with that most urgent of summons 'Come soon; Father serious'.

 

Then phones began to change. They lost their dials, which got replaced by push buttons. Then - like apes shedding their tails to become homo sapiens - phones lost the wire that kept them in one place. Phones became mobile. Wandering about hither and yon, with no fixed abode. Like that David Headley chap who seems to have visited more places in India than India knew it had places to visit.

 

Besides becoming footloose and fancy-free, phones began to do other unphony things. They began to sing. And play music. And take photos. And send text messages. And access e-mail, if they had something called a Bluetooth, or a Blackberry. What next? What happens when phones, through a process of Darwinian selection, develop a Pink Polkadot Tooth, or a Rainbowberry? Will telephonic dentistry evolve a Candystripe Tooth which will enable the next generation of phones to read our future through Tarot cards, quote the latest trading figures of the Oubangui-Chari Stock Exchange in the Central African Republic and via the Electronic Voice Lady read out Aunty Guddi's secret recipe for baigan ka bharta?There's another thing phones have learnt to do. They've learnt to breed, and are breeding faster than jackrabbits on Viagra. A mere couple of decades ago phones, mobile phones, were about as thick on the ground as a three-humped camel, or a pig with wings. You'd heard of people who were said to have seen one. But you'd never seen one yourself, much less owned one. Now it's not just that everybody has a mobile phone. It's that every mobile phone has a person dedicated to it, 24x7.

 

I went to a get-together the other day. Nice party. Great food, good booze, nice music. And lots of conversation. Everyone yakking their heads off. Not to each other, to their mobile phones. And who were they talking to? To people who were at another party, where everyone was talking on their mobiles to people who were at yet another party where... It's like those Russian dolls, one within the other, within the other. Or those never-ending stories in which someone tells a story about someone telling a story of a person telling a story, ad infinitedium.

 

Mobiles are breeding. And you can't vasectomise a mobile. They say that by 2020 there'll be more mobiles than people in India. You already see people with two mobiles, one stuck to each ear. Can you talk on two phones at the same time? You can't. The person is not talking on the phones. The phones are talking to each other. The final solution: mobiles have eliminated the middleman.

 

The End Call button has been hit on humankind. And the world of Endless Talktime has been rung in: Our 3G who art in Spectrum/ Helloed be thy number/ Thy Nokia be done/ Thy Motorola come/ In Sony as it is in Ericsson./ Give us this day our daily prepaid/ And deliver us from Voice Mail/ For thine is the Vodafone/ The Idea and the Reliance/ For ever and ever/ Airtel.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

HAMARA NOSTALGIA

 

Visitors to Delhi 50 years ago will have abiding memories of a family perched precariously on a bicycle alongside their meagre possessions. Twenty-five years later, it was the same picture, with only the cycle replaced by a scooter. Mostly a Bajaj. A couple of decades later the people-mover was the Maruti 800. Try spotting one of those in the capital today. What chance does the humbler Chetak have then? For much of its independent history, India has travelled on the scooter. News of it being consigned to the pages of history evokes nostalgia on a national scale. But it is time we moved on.

 

Rajiv Bajaj, great-grandson of a man who founded his industrial empire making light bulbs, announced the decision to stop producing scooters at the same time China said its people were buying a million cars a month. Indians bought 133,687 cars in November. With China opening its lead over the US as the world's biggest market, the centre of gravity in the automobile industry has decidedly moved to Asia. The scooter is an unfortunate casualty of this shift. It is no coincidence that the largest manufacturers of scooters — and bicycles — have at different points in time been Indian companies. The rest of the world had simply stopped using them on a grand scale. Horse carriage-makers painfully learnt the futility of their operations in the automobile age. Fortunately, both Bajaj and Hero have transited to the still-relevant motorcycles.

 

Yesterday's people mover is bowing out when tomorrow's mass carrier is rolling out of Tata plants. And the difference is not merely about purchasing power. The Nano is a product created for the Indian reality. The world can buy the solution off-the-shelf much in the way India took the idea of the scooter from post-war Italy. By interring the Vespa legacy, India is showing a new technological maturity where it can work around the challenges facing it.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

TELANGANA ISN'T SCARY

CONSIDER THESE EXCERPTS FROM A SET OF ESSAYS I HAVE BEEN READING:   

 

'The people of Telangana find themselves in an unenviable state. Their fellow countrymen outside the State of Andhra Pradesh, are unable to understand, much less appreciate, the significance of the revolt in Telangana'.

 

'The moment Telangana elected representatives dehypnotise themselves from the lure and pressure of the Andhra political bosses, and fall in line with the aspirations of their electors, the movement will reach its natural culmination'.

 

These words sound wholly of the moment, whereas they come from a book published 40 years ago. In the first weeks of 1969, meetings calling for a separate state were held in towns and villages in Telangana. As a result of the 'continuously rising tempo of the Telangana movement', the police came out in force, and 'lathi-charges, firings and the resultant violence became the accepted way of life in Telangana'.

 

In response to the crisis, 300 college teachers held a convention at Hyderabad on May 20, 1969. The proceedings of the conference were published in a book, now scarce, entitled The Telangana Movement: An Investigative Focus. I came by my copy on the pavement in Bangalore some years ago — it is time to share it with the world, since, as the excerpts show, it has a strikingly contemporary resonance.

 

In 1969, as in 2009, the campaign for Telangana was marked by a rhetoric of betrayal. On February 20, 1956, a 'Gentlemen's Agreement' was signed between the Congress leaders of the Andhra and Telangana regions respectively. This promised that the deputy chief minister of the united state would be from Telangana, that there would be a quota for Telangana people in government jobs, that an influx of Andhras into their territory would not be allowed. The complaint was that these safeguards had not been put in place.

 

Nor did the charges end here. Thus, while Telangana had 42 per cent of the state's cultivated area, it was allotted 30 per cent of the state's expenditure on agriculture, 27 per cent of the allocation of fertilisers and less than its fair share of canal waters and hydel power.

 

The convention also made the case for Telangana in positive terms. The state would be viable in size; bigger, for example, than West Bengal and Kerala. It would be viable in economic terms; its rates of food production were higher than the national average, and it had excellent mineral resources. More substantially, it would contribute to a deepening of Indian democracy. For 'smaller states can help [in] democratising our political process, which in turn will attract the larger sections into [the] developmental process…' Indeed, 'smaller states may herald a new and promising era in the political and economic life of [the] nation'.

 

The delegates to the Hyderabad convention met with the Union home minister to press their case. They failed then — now, 40 years later, their successors appear to have succeeded, with the government promising to pass a resolution in the Andhra Pradesh assembly calling for a separate state of Telangana.

 

In the 1950s, the map of India was redrawn to create states based on language. That process was likewise set in motion by a fast, conducted by Potti Sriramulu, for a separate state of Andhra Pradesh. Sriramulu, like

 

K. Chandrasekhar Rao, embodied the sentiments of millions of people. Since he was more obscure, and the prime minister of the day more powerful, it took his death (after 58 days without food) and the intensification of the street protests for the Centre to concede the new state. This then led to protests by Kannada, Marathi, and Malayalam speakers, in response to which a States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) was created, which, in 1956, officially mandated the principle of linguistic states.

 

In retrospect, it is clear that this reorganisation consolidated national unity, such that India did not go the way of Pakistan and Sri Lanka, which had to suffer bloody civil wars because of the unwillingness to grant linguistic autonomy. However, our nation-state is comparatively young, and still evolving. It now faces a second generation of challenges, these pertaining to the regional imbalances in social and economic development. A new SRC should be constituted, which would look dispassionately into the demands for Vidarbha, Gorkhaland, Harit Pradesh, Kongu Nadu, and other such. Its mandate should also include the granting of real financial and political autonomy to panchayats and municipalities.

 

To do its task fairly and honourably, a new SRC must draw its members not from political parties but from the law, the academy, and the social sector. The members of the first SRC were the jurist Fazl Ali, the author and diplomat K.M. Panikkar, and the social worker H.N. Kunzru. India today has a comparable set of distinguished and independent-minded people. Some names for a fresh SRC I might suggest are the jurist Fali Nariman, the economist Jean Dreze, the sociologist André Béteille, and the social worker Ela Bhatt — but there would be others, too.

 

One hopes the Centre has the courage to redeem a promise first made in the UPA manifesto of 2004 but quietly forgotten since. Meanwhile, expect Jaswant Singh to put aside his pen, thus to answer his constituents' demand that he make Gorkhaland the sole object of his attentions. Ajit Singh may also be stirred out of his present lethargy to lead the movement for Harit Pradesh. As for Rao, he certainly knows the parallels with the movement in the 1950s for a separate Andhra. Potti Sriramulu's fast was conducted in Madras; because he lived there, and because he wanted Madras to be the capital of Andhra Pradesh. In the event, Sriramulu's supporters got their state but not that city. Rao's greatest fear now must be that history would repeat itself in toto, such that they have their Telangana, but without Hyderabad.

 

Ramachandra Guha is the author of India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy  

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

NOT A KANGAROO COURT

LALITA PANICKER

 

The flurry of visits by Australian VIPs, from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd down in recent times was meant to offset all the bad press the country had been getting here following the repeated attacks on Indian students. But barely have these visits ended and an Indian student doubling up as a cab driver has been stabbed and a businessman found dead. The Australians, it would seem, can do no right in the eyes of India. Yes, maybe Indian students choose poorer, rougher areas in Australian cities to live in, and maybe they don't make enough effort to fit in. But surely, none of these can excuse murderous attacks on students who are pouring vast sums of money into the Australian exchequer for the privilege of studying there.

 

But, we understand there is Australia and then there is Australia. Michael O'Brien, minister for employment, training and further education and science and technology all rolled into one, chafes at the thought of all Australians being tarred with the same brush. On a trip to India recently, he sought to convince the Indian authorities that south Australia, particularly Adelaide, was cast in a different mould altogether. A multicultural and tolerant part of the continent, it has not seen any racially motivated attacks on Indians. In fact, that neck of the woods in Australia has been wooing young Indians to work there with promises of cheaper and safer living standards. "We are very tough about law and order," he says.

 

But O'Brien's protestations notwithstanding, Australia has taken a real beating in the education stakes, thanks to the boorish behaviour of its rednecks towards foreign students, particularly Indians. True, Adelaide has its own student taskforce to look into the problems of foreign students, but O'Brien and his special envoy Brian Hayes, himself of Indian origin, have their work cut out before people are convinced that there are two Australias — one welcoming and warm and the other where you are lucky to get away with your life.

 

Student issues apart, ties between Australia and India have never really taken off. It is not really a major part of our foreign policy perception, neither is there the level of interest about that country that there is in, say, France or the US. Trade between India and Australia is iffy and, of course, there is the red rag of uranium sales. The Aussies may tell us that they apply the same yardstick for uranium sales to all countries. But then the Indians don't feel that we should be bracketed with everyone else. South Australia sits on one of the largest uranium reserves in the world. O'Brien is almost apologetic about this across-the-board standard his country applies to those who have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. India feels, that given its growing stature in the world, it should be trusted as a responsible nuclear power and not be tied up in footling bureaucracy on proliferation.

 

The fault for India having such a negative perception about Australia lies with the latter, says O'Brien. He sees great economic opportunity in forging closer ties with India. And what better way than to woo students from here? The extent to which India has a blind spot about Australia is seen from the fact that the last prime ministerial visit to that country was when Rajiv Gandhi went calling in 1986.

 

It is a welcome sign that Australian leaders themselves are taking the initiative, as O'Brien has done, to dispel the myth that all Australians are allergic to Indians. Though Australia is still not the first port of call for most Indians when sending the children to study abroad, the economic downturn could make it an attractive destination given how much cheaper it is than the US and Britain. Language too is not a problem, as it would be in the European Union countries.

 

But one area, which is not so contentious and in which the two could work together, is renewable energy. The south Australians have been up and running with green technology on energy for quite a while and are looking to tie up with Indian partners like Suzlon. Hayes, himself a keen cricketer, predicts an upturn in ties in the near future. O'Brien's best man at his wedding was from Kerala. The tea leaves seem to be falling into place for south Australia, but the question that remains is whether the Indians will be able to discern these fine distinctions at the moment.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

CLIMATE SHAME

PREETI SINGH

 

I remember a cartoon, in which a severely bloated (and perhaps dead) cow is being lifted into an ambulance. Two bovine belles, dressed in trendy nightwear tsk tsk over the fate of the poor creature having been forced to hold in her methane-emitting belches, in fear of the environment brigade. I can't help but think of that poor cow now; may she rest in peace.

 

Perhaps it's all these dire predictions of doomsday, or the overwhelming sense of déjà vu attached to the cacophony on climate change, that I have the irrepressible urge to spray on some CFCs and go roast a pig. Or, maybe I'm just miffed at not being at the Copenhagen Carnival, and feel like raining all over this 'green' parade.

 

You see, we in Real India are shameless climate changers. So what if there's good news from Delhi — apparently our 'carbon map' doesn't look as bad as London's — it's still wedding season here. In fact, right this moment, dancing Delhi baraats are leaving messy carbon footprints in their wake. So what if Prime Minster Manmohan Singh is busy packing his hip bandgalas for a potential signing gala in Denmark, Dilliwallahs are already out on the town in all their environment-altering splendour.

 

Take the green cover-murdering wedding invites couched in plastic and foul SUVs causing mean jams in green environs. Add to that the destruction of a gazillion hectares of rainforest for gigantic pandals and the callous tampering with flora and fauna for phool-covered walls. Throw in diesel-hungry generators and hungrier guests wolfing down shameful amounts of kebabs roasted on smoky coal pits, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change could easily recover Copenhagen's costs by holding a carbon credits raffle outside each wedding venue.

 

Caught in a monster traffic jam outside a row of sparkling 'farms' last night, I couldn't help but wonder if perhaps we should have asked all those environment wallahs to trade their air tickets for a truly enlightening ride about town instead. But then, climate change is too serious a matter to be debated in the choked streets of suburbia. So... Denmark, ahoy!

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SHOW US THE LOGIC

 

The Centre seems to have given way on Telangana, after an 11-day fast by Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao and weeks of violent student agitation. It is regrettable that an act as significant as this, simmering for decades, should be decided finally by an electorally discredited KCR's passive-aggressive tactics and emotional blackmail. If in 1953 Potti Sriramulu undertook a fast-unto-death for the cause of Andhra Pradesh and linguistic reorganisation in the face of an evasive, uncertain Centre, we seem to be heading the same thoughtless way again by this abrupt caving in on the Telangana cause. This is not to minimise the long-held Telangana dream — crushed and co-opted for years.

 

After the communist struggle in the region in 1945-51, the Telangana Praja Samithi championed the cause for a few angry years in the late '60s, citing cultural grievances and systematic economic deprivation. However, the context isn't entirely the same now — after Hyderabad's ascension into the big league as an economic engine, the region is far better integrated into Andhra Pradesh. And, in fact, the location of Hyderabad bang in the middle of the region makes the separation of territory especially contentious.

 

The larger question is, on what basis has the government now accepted the Telangana rationale and how will it justify similar demands in nearby Rayalaseema, for example? For instance, there is a certain wisdom in the case for carving the large and unwieldy Uttar Pradesh into smaller, easier-to-administer states. In states where regions are proudly distinct, and have in fact settled on an adversarial equation because of the fact that they are forced to share the same boundaries and benefits, it often makes sense to address local demands for selfhood. But that is precisely why each of these demands should be addressed on the basis of neutral, objective criteria rather than whimsical politics. After all, there are nine such pending demands with the home ministry right now — what makes some valid and not others?

 

The Congress has long vacillated over Telangana, and this unconsidered action hasn't helped boost its credibility in either direction. While KCR emerges as a triumphant revolutionary, the Congress faces insurrection in its state unit. Instead, if they had addressed the cause in a level-headed way, it would have both clarified the Telangana cause and set up a clear grid to address further aspirations for selfhood.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

PEGGED TO PATIALA

 

The legend goes that George Brown, Harold Wilson's foreign secretary from 1966-68, early Europhile and incorrigible drunkard, on a trip to Peru, was rebuffed thus when he asked for a dance: "No, first you are drunk. Second, this is not a waltz. It is the Peruvian national anthem. And third, I am not a woman. I am the Cardinal Archbishop of Lima." That anecdote is apocryphal. And politicians and drink do not always a laughter-inducing narrative make (Remember the late Shoichi Nakagawa, former Japanese finance minister and his drunken G-7 press conference in Rome in February 2009?). There is, however, a thin line between killjoys and hypocrites. Conspicuous moralising might convince if what is preached is practised too by the pontificator. And hypocrisy in public life is not necessarily harmful; at times it is a handmaiden to protocol. Yet, there is something distinctly odd about the Punjab Congress's membership drive that requires all new members and those renewing their membership to declare that they do not "consume alcohol or any other intoxicant".

 

It is doubtful if anybody in the party's state unit takes the declaration seriously. But the danger in persisting with this kind of hypocrisy is that it is a recruitment drive being watched by many. With Rahul Gandhi's emphasis on recruitment and party democracy, the Congress's efforts could yet be a gamechanger across the political spectrum. It could be that the state Congress cannot reform without a strong signal from the "high command". But the dynamics of large-scale membership programmes do need to be reformed. This is not really about the consumption of alcohol or abstinence. It is about moving on and embracing the evolving maturity of the Indian polity, wherein the electorate does both think and vote, where the private life of a private citizen is her concern within the bounds of the law.

 

Can the public be faulted then for its impatience with such posturing? Amidst the clamour for political mileage,

the clarion call for a new politics equal to an aspiring India tends to get drowned often, preserving the shibboleths of a socialist-lite moral consciousness that the state Congress is otherwise unsure of being able to enforce.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

AFTER CONGO

 

Chaos in the Congo is a constant. That the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has recommended an extension in its mandate in the Congo by a mere six months rather than the usual yearly increase indicates all's not well on the ground. This development follows a warning by UN legal advisers prohibiting UN troops from participating in active combat alongside the Congolese army as the army has been held accountable for violations against its own people.

 

From the days of Belgian colonialism down to the proxy wars of the Cold War, Congo has played host to rivalries. As international forces scaled and eventually wound down their efforts, they were replaced by regional players. The most prominent presence is that of Rwanda which battled its own Hutu-Tutsi rivalry as did Burundi. Uganda too got pulled into the conflict to curb its rebels based in the Congo. Similarly, Angola's civil war played out in southern Congo and Namibia allied itself with Angola. The list doesn't stop there — rebellions from Sudan, Zambia, Tanzania and Burundi too have set up camp in Congo. Regional involvement has stalled and stunted attempts at peace as accords signed have been ignored by factions with loose allegiances. Ultimately, the Congo war is a war for Congo's riches.

 

The UN mandate is due to expire in 2010. This has been the first occasion where the body has called into question the role played by its own peacekeepers in active combat. Rather than the narrow guidelines and on-the-spot tactics employed by peacekeepers — as seen in Bosnia and Rwanda — more comprehensive strategies are required. As the debate deepens over new UN rules of engagement, Congo should serve as a case study for the body to be a legitimate and effective force on the ground.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

BOUND BY OMISSIONS

DHIRAJ NAYYAR

 

India's negotiations at the Copenhagen climate summit got off to the worst possible start with two senior negotiators expressing dissent, publicly, over the government's decision to move from per capita emissions to a moderate voluntary cut in emissions intensity of GDP. In the battle of attrition that international negotiations often turn out to be, a serious division of opinion in any negotiating team can end up being a major handicap that simply strengthens the hand of rival negotiators. That the official Indian delegation is a divided house (never mind the fact that the two dissenters have been "persuaded to join") is now well known. And it's not just the dissenters who are responsible for giving that impression.

 

The problems begin at the top. The government seems to have two lead negotiators rather than one, and no one is quite sure where the buck finally stops. There is the prime minister's special envoy on climate change, Shyam Saran, who has been leading the talks on climate since the tenure of UPA-I. In the absence of a weighty environment minister in UPA-I, that worked out well enough. However, once the undoubtedly clever and competent Jairam Ramesh took office in UPA-II, that situation was bound to change.

 

But the disarray and confusion in the negotiating team in Copenhagen is just the symptom of a bigger problem — the general disinterest in the establishment (at the political level) in dealing with this important issue. Somehow, the government has given the impression that either climate change was an issue on which India did not need to do anything at all (that would explain the continued insistence on the unsustainable and defensive per capita emissions as a target position until the last minute) or that at best it was an issue that should be left to bureaucrats and other "experts" to deal with.

 

What we seem to have completely overlooked is the huge political, diplomatic and economic opportunity for leadership on this critical issue. So even when the government made a sensible shift to emissions intensity of GDP, with Jairam Ramesh's speech in Parliament, it was probably too little, too late. The move just does not seem to have the kind of political support it deserves. Our position still appears defensive — why won't we even consider accepting international scrutiny of our voluntary targets? And everyone from the G-77 to the G-7 is pointing fingers at India for being a thorn in the side of a potential agreement. How did we land ourselves in such a bind?

 

First, the government should have accepted many months ago that climate change was a political issue, not a technical one. Once that decision was made, the government should have worked to persuade public opinion that it was in India's interest to do something about climate change. There is enough scientific research to show that developing countries like India are likely to suffer the impact of climate change disproportionately more than the rich world. It would have been even easier to convince public opinion and the wider polity that India had nothing to be defensive about on climate change.

 

Everyone agrees that the rich countries are largely responsible for the problem. And even among developing countries, China and Brazil have probably more to be defensive about. Unlike trade, where India once upon a time may have genuinely had reason to be defensive (we had amongst the highest trade barriers anywhere), on climate there is nothing to hide — if anything, our limited manufacturing base and underdeveloped infrastructure when compared with China and Brazil has meant that our emissions are much lower.

 

But winning public opinion and the political debate may not have been enough. There was bound to be opposition from industry. Ficci, in an unusual move from a chamber of industry, has officially opposed the government's emissions intensity of GDP target. Yet again, the government missed a chance to highlight the economic opportunity for Indian industry and the economy at large from an agreement on climate change. One of the key provisions of any agreement (or even national policies on climate change in rich countries) is for carbon offsets. These offsets which may be valued in trillions of dollars will essentially transfer to developing countries for mitigation efforts. China has already made use of offsets from the European carbon trading scheme to finance a number of renewable energy projects. There would be opportunity for Indian entrepreneurs in this too.

 

But that is not all. Despite all the doubts and problems, we can be reasonably sure that the world will eventually take action on reducing emissions. For this, technology is critical. And when the change of technology takes place, it will be critical to be at the frontier of the new technology. For Indian industry, climate change is a great opportunity to aspire to the technological frontier they have always trailed. The government ought to have been more forceful in pointing this out. By being defensive, China will beat us to this too.

 

Once the domestic political and economic constituencies were satisfied that there was enough to gain by being positive and aggressive on climate change, India could have taken the diplomatic lead in international negotiations. We could have finally emerged out of our conservative mentality that negotiations are only about giving — in climate, at least for us, there is more about taking. And we should have been aggressive in cornering the rich countries to make the major concessions while being flexible ourselves. Now, that leadership opportunity is faint.

 

Still, all is not lost. The negotiations will likely continue beyond Copenhagen to Bonn or Mexico City next year. For the second round, the government needs to put visible political weight behind our sensible position on emissions intensity. And rethink partnerships. On climate, we cannot ally with G-7. As an aspiring major power, and an economy growing at 8-9 per cent we should not automatically fall into G-77. Brazil and South Africa, with smaller populations (and in Brazil's case heavy forest cover), have very different interests from ours. So, how about a G-2 with China?

 

After all, we got our best idea, on voluntary emissions intensity cuts, from them.

 

The writer is a senior editor with 'The Financial Express'

 

dhiraj.nayyar@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

NO SUCH THING AS A FREE GLASS

YOGINDER K. ALAGH

 

We say all the right things and do the wrong ones. Young Viral Dholakia, who died in a lathi-charge on protestors against water hikes at Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation headquarters, possibly believed what we say — and probably paid for that with his life. We say loudly, including in the National Water Policy, that the first priority on available water is for drinking — and hardly ever enforce it. Industry, businesses, in rural areas powerful farmers groups, all muscle in the name of social priority. An occasional brave collector reserves stored water in years of drought for drinking purposes in the summer, raising the hackles of farmers and others.

 

The only priority we should enforce is for drinking water for the very poor; for water is life, as R. Ramaswami constantly reminds us, and cannot therefore be priced for the very poor. Everybody else — and that means everybody — must pay. Once we accept this, and also that water is in its supply also in the commons, the price of water has to be regulated. We don't have regulatory bodies for water apart from some exceptions. I track those, and in most cases the regulator is threatened to be established — but is actually not there.

 

Some experts argue that the poor also must pay. This follows a strong argument that they actually pay now — and as a number of studies show the private costs of water are high since they miss out on the great cost advantages of community-supplied or municipal water. As is well known, 24x7 water supply is cheaper, because it has to be on large-scale and also leads to less water demand, because there is no premium on storing water at home. So everybody should pay and get the advantages of large economies. For the very poor, these experts — and some are my best students so I don't take them lightly — would, when pressed, accept that maybe some subsidy can be given and we can work a dual pricing scheme. But there are very few such working dual-price schemes.

 

We need both large water supply schemes and highly decentralised delivery and revenue collection set-ups. Technologically, it is now possible to combine scale economies with efficiency at the mohalla level. Maintenance at lower-level systems should also be better. We don't do all this. For one thing, we hate large projects. Our cities can choke but the Luddites opposing a dam to supply drinking water which otherwise flows into the sea will prosper — and that too with American or Japanese NGO aid money, since those countries have built all their dams and nuclear power plants and can afford to scoff at us. I have not known of even a small-town abroad which does not have a large storage water supply scheme.

 

We also don't trust small communities, and so the thinking goes on. We don't even have, in most towns, a concept of what the solution is. Water will not come free; and the long-term marginal cost of supplying water will be high, particularly in some regions, although much less than what we spend now. In most habitations pumped ground water by individuals is usually at least thrice the cost of other ways of getting water.

 

But even the efficiency costs are high. In SSP, the activists criticised us for not working out the benefit cost ratio of drinking water. I kept on explaining that that was so because that gets into valuing life, as water is a basic human need — not that we can't work out the benefit cost numbers. But later we worked out the numbers, because of the sickening abuse. Of course the benefits went up in a big way, because in Kutch, for example, the alternative water supply schemes had a cost of around four rupees a kilolitre — now getting close to the costs of bottled water. There are no free lunches with a glass of water; it is reasonably certain that a good regulator can work out the price of water, one which will be less than what we actually pay now.

 

That price has also to be paid — because only then can municipal bodies borrow on the scale at which financing of real solutions is possible. A water revenue model can be escrowed, to aid non-sovereign guaranteed borrowing for real water solutions. A number of municipal bodies have made a beginning with CRISIL-rated non-sovereign guaranteed bonds. Others must follow.

 

The sad part of the current utter confusion? More and more, we see local-level violence over water. A town or a big industry will try and pump out groundwater and the villagers will surround it saying it is their water. The police will come, and there will be firing. In years of drought state governments are known to have asked the police to run water distribution, showing system collapse. While we develop long-term mechanisms, let us also try and douse the fires which erupt on the way.

 

The writer, a former Union minister, is chairman, Institute of Rural Management, Anand

express@expressindia.com

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

BIRTH OF A NATION

INDER MALHOTRA

 

On March 17, 1971 Indira Gandhi was sworn in as prime minister for the third time. By then she had established her supremacy in both the Congress and the country after a long, uphill struggle by winning hands down the Parliamentary elections she had called a year ahead of schedule. Exactly eight days later, she had a very difficult problem on her hands. A crisis of formidable magnitude, long in the making, had erupted in what was then East Pakistan and was soon to become the sovereign republic of Bangladesh.

 

Since its creation, Pakistan had been a geographical monstrosity — "a bird with two wings but no body", according to Salman Rushdie. To make matters worse there was nothing common between the two wings except religion. On most matters, especially language, their differences were profound. The really shattering blow to unity was delivered by West Pakistan-based, Punjabi-dominated military rulers who treated the more populous East Bengal with contempt and cruelty. No wonder this gave birth to a powerful movement for autonomy in the eastern wing. Its leader was the charismatic Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, better known as Sheikh Mujib, later to be founder-president of Bangladesh and later still to be assassinated by some of his disgruntled followers. Field-Marshal Ayub Khan's answer to the autonomy movement was to arrest Mujib and charge him with treason under what came to be known as the Agartala Conspiracy Case, Agartala being the capital of the Indian state of Tripura. Ironically, just before his own fall, Ayub had to release Mujib and withdraw the conspiracy case.

 

Ayub's successor, swashbuckling General Yahya Khan, refused to give Mujib any quarter even after the latter had won, in Pakistan's first general election in December 1970, almost all the seats allocated to the eastern wing and thus a clear majority in the National Assembly, entitling him to be PM without having contested a single seat in the west. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, whose party had won a much less impressive majority in the western wing, was even keener than Yahya to deny Mujib his due. The two indeed prevented the National Assembly from meeting in Dhaka whereupon, on March 25, Mujib declared independence of Bangladesh.

 

Yahyah's brutal crackdown, including a virtual massacre of the intelligentsia in the universities of Bangladesh, was so vicious as to put into shade even the war crimes of the Nazis. International public opinion was revolted and a tidal wave of hapless refugees, their number soon reaching 10 million, sought shelter in India.

 

For India, this cataclysm was unexpected. New Delhi did not have even a contingency plan for this possibility. Even so, the political class, including cabinet ministers and the Gandhian leader Jayaprakash Narayan, started clamouring for Indian military intervention. Indira Gandhi called in her army chief and sought his opinion. General (later Field-Marshal) Sam Manekshaw stated candidly that it was unwise to act militarily without proper preparation and certainly not just before rains that came earlier and were heavier in Bangladesh. The prime minister saw the point, though both knew that at some stage war would be unavoidable. However, Indira Gandhi did not want to act in haste. She also needed time to rouse world opinion. Her extensive tour of numerous countries made a major impact in all of them except the United States where the notorious Nixon-Kissinger "tilt" towards Pakistan was in full blast.

 

Quite some weeks before the prime minister left for foreign shores, political opinion at home started taking a bizarre turn. The party line was that Indian military intervention was no longer necessary because Bangladesh's Mukti Bahani (Liberation Army) was capable of defeating the Pakistani army of occupation. K. Subrahmanayam, this country's pioneering strategist, then director of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, put a corrective to this by advising the policy maker that the "lifetime opportunity to cut Pakistan to size" must be seized.

 

In July the global context of the South Asian crisis changed radically and dramatically. Henry Kissinger's secret flight to Beijing transformed erstwhile enemies, the US and China, into allies. Kissinger bluntly told L.K. Jha, then Indian ambassador to Washington, that should there be an India-Pakistan war over Bangladesh and China intervene in it, India mustn't expect any American support. Indira Gandhi's immediate response was to sign the Indo-Soviet treaty that the two countries had been discussing desultorily for two years.

 

It is generally known that the Soviet Navy had kept a close watch on the US Seventh Fleet when America decided to send a nuclear naval task force into the Bay of Bengal during the Bangladesh War. What is not known is that the USSR sent a very strong message to China and backed it up with the deployment of 40 divisions along the Sino-Soviet border.

 

At a public meeting in London in September, Indira Gandhi had said: "I am sitting on top of a volcano, and I honestly do not know when it is going to erupt". The eruption came just after sunset on December 3 when Pakistan attacked a number of Indian air force bases. It is no secret, however, that if Yahya hadn't acted that evening, India would have started the military action the next day. The lightning campaign lasted barely a fortnight. On December 16, in Indira's ringing words, Dhaka had become "the free capital of a free country".

 

Sadly, one must also record that among nations, as among individuals, gratitude is the least lasting emotion. After the initial warmth and friendliness came a time when Bangladesh started drifting away from India. Eventually a stage was reached, especially under the reign of Khaleda Zia, when Bangladesh became a happy hunting ground for Pakistan's ISI and thus a source of terrorist attacks on India.

 

Now, happily, things have changed. Sheikh Hasina, back in power, is combating terrorism and handing over to India insurgents of its Northeastern region that have enjoyed comfortable sanctuaries in Bangladesh for years. (On November 19, Mujib's killers were given death penalty.) Cooperation in other spheres, hitherto withheld, is also likely. By a coincidence Sheikh Hasina has won the Indira Gandhi Award for International Understanding. This makes the 38th anniversary of the Liberation of Bangladesh only five days away a welcome landmark.

 

The writer is a Delhi-based political commentator.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE ENDGAME IN PAKISTAN

 

Now that President Obama has recommitted the US to stand with Pakistan and Afghanistan in our common fight against terrorism, extremism and fanaticism, it would be useful for Americans and Pakistanis to consider what has brought us to this point — and what the conflict's true endgame must be.

 

Despite the noise created by an often hyperactive press in Pakistan (an essential and preferable alternative to the censorship that prevailed during my country's military dictatorships), and the doubts expressed in America, Pakistan's democratically elected government is unambiguously on the right path toward establishing a moderate and modern nation.

 

Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and I are working closely with our national assembly and our military and intelligence agencies to defeat the Taliban insurgency and the Qaeda-backed campaign of terrorism. Simultaneously, we are pursuing policies that will re-establish Pakistan as a vibrant economic market and finally address the long-neglected weaknesses in our education, health, agriculture and energy sectors.

 

Over the last weeks I have moved forcefully to re-establish the traditional powers of the presidency. Our Constitution was distorted and perverted by military dictators who usurped the legal powers of Parliament. Recently, I voluntarily handed back the chairmanship of the National Command Authority that exercises control over Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. This is not a sign of weakness, but rather a demonstration of the vitality of Pakistani democracy.

 

As President Obama has noted, Pakistan's military has courageously executed important actions in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan. Pakistan has paid an enormous price, but this is a price we are willing to pay. Every day across our land, cowards distort our religion of peace, Islam, by slaughtering innocent people. Three thousand civilians, including my wife, Benazir Bhutto, and 2,000 soldiers and police officers have been killed in the last eight years. Just last week 40 people died in a mosque while at Friday prayers, including 10 children. This is our war as well as America's.

 

Yet in both countries there is deep suspicion toward the other. Many Americans still wonder if Pakistan is doing all it can to fight terrorism. Some resent what they believe is an absence of gratitude in Pakistan for American aid. But consider the history as seen by Pakistanis.

 

Twice in recent history America abandoned its democratic values to support dictators and manipulate and exploit us. In the 1980s, the United States supported Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq's iron rule against the Pakistani people while using Pakistan as a surrogate in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. That decade turned our peaceful nation into a "Kalashnikov and heroin" society — a nation defined by guns and drugs. In its fight against the Soviets, the US supported the most radical elements within the mujahedeen, who would later become the Taliban and Al Qaeda. When the Soviets were defeated and left in 1989, the US abandoned Pakistan and created a vacuum in Afghanistan, resulting in the current horror. And then after 9/11, the United States closed its eyes to the abuses of the dictatorship of President Musharraf. For Pakistanis, it is a bitter memory.

 

Public mistrust of the US also stems from regional issues, specifically policies concerning India. I know it is the conventional wisdom in Washington that my nation is obsessed with India. But even to those of us who are striving toward accommodation and peace, the long history and the unresolved situation in Kashmir give Pakistanis reason to be concerned about our neighbour to the east. Just as the Israeli-Palestinian dispute cannot be resolved without accommodating the Palestinian people, there cannot be permanent regional peace in South Asia without addressing Kashmir.

 

The recent upset in Pakistan over the Kerry-Lugar legislation, which requires the secretary of state to report to Congress on military and civil progress in Pakistan, shows how sensitive many are to what they see as unfair treatment. It would be helpful if the US would scrutinise India and acknowledge that it has from time to time played a destabilising role in the region.

 

The perceived rhetorical one-sidedness of American policy often fuels the conspiracy theories that abound here — theories that blame the West for all of our ills. Pakistan's elected democratic leadership is itself a victim of some of these conspiracy theories, but our American partners must understand their origins and work with us to turn public opinion around. Although we certainly appreciate America's $7.5 billion pledge over the next five years, this long-term commitment must be complemented by short-term policies that demonstrate American neutrality and willingness to help India and Pakistan overcome their mutual distrust. It could start by stepping up its efforts to mediate the Kashmir dispute.

 

In recent days, I have thought often of something my wife, Benazir, wrote in the days before her death: "It is so much easier to blame others for our problems than to accept responsibility ourselves." The free world stands with President Obama in the effort to defeat the extremism that threatens us all. Pakistanis are on the frontlines in this battle. But we need help. We are not looking for — and indeed reject — dependency. We don't need or want (nor would we accept) foreign troops to defeat the insurgency, and we seek trade more than aid from you in the future. It is an economically viable and socially robust democratic Pakistan that will be the most effective long-term weapon against terrorism, extremism and fanaticism. This is the necessary endgame. And this is how history will judge victory.

 

The New York Times

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

PRIVATE LIVES

 

Groupies are the scourge of sportsmen's wives. They hang around outside locker rooms for hours and ooze availability. In a remarkably candid profile written for GQ in 1997, Charles Pierce revealed that even Tiger Woods took notice of the women who would "swoon behind the ropes" when he walked by. Pierce noted one woman in particular who was watching Woods was "dressed in a frilly lace top and wearing a pair of tiger-striped stretch pants that fit as though they were decals." Sartorial horrors aside, it's not difficult to imagine how hard it would be to keep your cool when married to a man constantly pawed, fawned over, and treated as a god. (Even Michelle Obama was reported saying she wanted to tell her husband's most physically ardent fans to "back off" and "get a life".)

 

Why do we even pretend that sports-people are models of propriety? They are physically gifted, driven, and disciplined. That's what you need to excel at sport. Not moral strength, courage, decency, or fidelity. Yet we continue to project an irrational desire for the physically perfect to be spiritually strong.

 

You'd think, from the response to Woods's plea, that the right to privacy no longer exists for anyone who dares to excel. Woods said in his statement that he regrets "those transgressions with all of my heart." He went on to insist "there is an important and deep principle at stake, which is the right to some simple, human measure of privacy." Privacy was a virtue, he wrote, that "must be protected in matters that are intimate and within one's own family. Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn't have to mean public confessions."

 

He is right. Privacy is a forgotten and important virtue. However, there are two caveats. First, you jeopardise your right to privacy somewhat when you muck around with women — like the delightfully named cocktail waitress Jaimee Grubbs — who will tell tales of skinny calves and "romantic" cuddles, and leak voice mails and text messages in a blink. You can't expect to maintain privacy if you share intimate moments with people who have no interest in privacy themselves.

 

The second is that sometimes respecting privacy can sound very much like ignoring and enabling. Steven Ortiz, an expert on marriages in sport, says sportsmen often expect to get away with infidelity because of a "spoiled athletes syndrome," where the talented are set apart, told they are special, and never held accountable.

 

At times reporters have protected them too. Even Pierce did not fully disclose what he knew — or believed — when he wrote his 1997 profile of Woods. Last week, he wrote that "one of the worst-kept secrets on the PGA tour was that Tiger was something of a hound. Everybody knew." It wasn't reported because it was none of our business, right? Now, because he is married, and because he hit a hydrant and a tree, it apparently is.

 

You should not have to earn a right to privacy. But there are many ways to make people think you have given it away.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

WHY IS INDIA AGAINST ISRAEL, BUT FOR SUDAN?

MANDEEPSTIWANA

 

The 61 st anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10 provides occasion to reflect on the attitude of various UN member-states towards one of the most important human rights institutions in the world — the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The UNHRC was created by the UN General Assembly on March 15, 2006 to replace the UN Commission on Human Rights which was viewed by many as a forum for selective fingerpointing by countries. Kofi Annan had hoped that the new body would help in winnowing politics out from the human rights agenda. Although the new Council has made some substantial gains, human rights concerns are being increasingly subsumed by realpolitik.

 

An important condition for being admitted to the 47 Council is that members "shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights". The experience so far suggests that a number of Human Rights Council members are observing the above requirement more in breach than in practice.

 

Two pressing and urgent issues that have come into sharp focus in 2009 are (i) the adoption of the UN fact-finding report on the violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the war in Gaza in 2008-2009 and, (ii) the continued scrutiny of Sudan through an independent UN expert. Although the Council has passed resolutions on both, events leading up to their final passage show how politics typically endangers human rights protection and promotion at the UN.

 

In April this year, Council appointed an independent fact finding mission mandated to "investigate all violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after". The high profile mission headed by Justice Richard Goldstone, an eminent human rights defender and anti-apartheid activist submitted its report in September. The members concluded that Operation Cast Lead, as the Israeli forces termed it, was a "deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability". The mission called upon the UNHRC to endorse its recommendations and urged the Israeli government to start criminal investigations in the national courts where there is sufficient evidence of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions as part of Israel's obligations under international law.

 

Despite its evidence based unequivocal findings of culpability, voting patterns on the resolution to endorse the mission's report revealed strongly politicised fault lines. France, the Netherlands and the UK are three countries that have been extremely vocal on the need to advance human rights at UN forums. But when it came to adopting the Gaza fact finding mission's report, the Netherlands voted against the resolution and the UK and France did not cast their vote. The US — the new era of engagement notwithstanding — challenged many of the report's conclusions, terming them "flawed". On the other side, Council members who are also part of the Organisation of Islamic Conference strongly supported the mission's findings — as expected.

 

The Gaza-Goldstone vote stands in sharp contrast to the equally important and pressing issue of rights violations in Sudan. Thousands of civilians have been killed in the civil war in Sudan between different ethnic and religious groups. Abuses by Sudanese government-backed forces and rebels have been extensively documented. The UN Security Council recommended that the International Criminal Court investigate the violence regardless of who perpetrated it. Western bloc Council members who did not support the imperative for justice for the victims of the Gaza operation have nevertheless stood united in their resolve to continue UN oversight of the events in Sudan. In June this year, they voted on extending UN special representative's mandate on Sudan. But Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia which have championed the need to address the violations of human rights in Gaza voted to protect the Sudanese regime from international scrutiny.

 

This across-the-board double standard at this new and important UN body has serious implications for the lives and rights of thousands of people. Sadly, what held true for the UN Commission on Human Rights and was pointed out in Kofi Annan's report titled " In larger freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all " now holds true for the UNHRC. "States have sought membership of the Commission not to strengthen human rights but to protect themselves against criticism or to criticise others". Routinely, governments seeking justice for victims in one region of the world are willing and able to obstruct justice in another.

 

Unlike Brazil, which has taken a consistent principled stand in the debates on both of these issues, India voted on the Gaza-Goldstone report but did not support continued international scrutiny of Sudan's human rights record by a special rapporteur. Every vote at the Council which is only 3 years old determines its credibility, builds or mars its reputation and pre-disposes its future directions. Since double standards bedevil all sides of every political device, the future of the Council remains uncertain. One can only hope for honest and moral leadership in the future, so that the founding values of the UN can become reality rather than distant aspiration.

 

It is time for the international community to hold up a mirror to governments that hav abandoned human rights issues to serve their narrow interests. It is vital that civil society exposes the double standards being practised at the UN and urges these governments to follow the examples of the few that have imbibed the founding values of the UN, in both word and deed.

 

The writer is the director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. Mandeep Tiwana is a human rights defender working with an international NGO in South Africa

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

OVERSEAS CEILING


There had been enough indications from RBI that it was planning policy action on capital inflows and easy liquidity. So, it doesn't come as a surprise that RBI chose to tweak external commercial borrowing norms on Wednesday—reintroducing the interest rate ceiling and closing the window on FCCB buyback—to make overseas borrowing harder for Indian companies. However, the wisdom of such a policy change at this point in time can be questioned. As our columnist on Thursday laid out in some detail, there isn't significant pressure on either the rupee or on asset prices because of a surge in capital inflows. Of the $36.5 billion of inflows expected in this financial year, at least $17 billion is necessary to cover the current account. That only leaves an excess of about $20 billion, insufficient to cause a massive appreciation of the rupee. What makes RBI's target of ECBs surprising in this context is the fact that overseas borrowings are just a small component of overall capital inflows. In fact, they are expected to remain weak for the remainder of the financial year. Companies may be seeking approvals from RBI but they aren't actually borrowing the money in significant numbers.

 

The larger picture is of course the gradual removal of stimulus by the central bank. ECB norms were liberalised in the aftermath of Lehman's collapse to enable Indian firms to access liquidity more easily. Clearly, RBI has signalled its intent to clamp down on liquidity now. What might this mean in the near future? Governor Subbarao has already hinted at the possibility of capital controls if inflows surge. However, the situation at the moment does not necessitate such a drastic measure. Perhaps what is of greater interest to industry is RBI's likely position on key policy rates: CRR, repo and reverse repo. Again, the indications from RBI are that an exit will be gradual, so it may be reasonable to expect quantitative tightening (CRR) before policy rates are hiked. Still, one hopes that in light of governor Subbarao's statement on the ineffectiveness of monetary policy against either supply side or asset price inflation, RBI will delay an exit on this front. It is still too early to squeeze credit to industry or to make it more expensive. So, overall while we disagree with RBI's move to make ECBs harder, we hope that this is only a move to control expectations of asset-price inflation (perhaps evidence of some firms using ECBs to invest in stock markets and real estate worried RBI on this front) and not an indicator of a more general stimulus exit.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

STATE OF CHAOS


Back in 2000, the Indian polity saw three new states come into being—Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand. Now it looks like a 29th state is on its way, with the home minister P Chidambaram having announced that the process of carving Telangana out of Andhra Pradesh will start soon. His announcement followed from K Chandrasekhara Rao of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti going on an indefinite fast-unto-death for the cause, which rallied popular support and drove the Centre to announce that it was finally giving in to a demand that has been around for decades. Whatever the arguments for and against the legitimacy of the Telangana cause, it's clear that by ceding to it, the Centre has stirred up a hornet's nest. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha has now called for a complete shutdown in the hills of Darjeeling—as well as a hunger strike—to push for its Gorkhaland demand. Rashtriya Lok Dal's Ajit Singh has also renewed his call for Harit Pradesh, to be carved out of the western part of Uttar Pradesh. Plus, let's not forget the competing demands for autonomy that have been raised from within Andhra Pradesh—MPs from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions, and different political parties, have been rushing to submit their resignations to the Speaker. Can such chaos really be justified?

 

Telangana supporters can spew off a spate of data to say that all they are asking for is simple justice. Whether it is the number of jobs in government or the setting up of major industries or allocation of river waters and so on, Telangana has been denied a proportionate share of the state's resources. Consider the private colleges admitted into grant-in-aid. Only 19.50% of these are from Telangana although it boasts 40.54% of the state's population. The key question is whether bifurcating, or perhaps trifurcating, the state really serves the interests of its people and industry. Granted the failure to fairly distribute resources so far, can these be more effectively harnessed by smaller states—whether the case is that of Telangana or Gorkhaland or Harit Pradesh? History offers a mixed bag of examples. The storylines of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand do not precisely overlap. The Andhra Pradesh case is particularly complicated by the Hyderabad question. This bustling capital, this cosmopolitan island of IT growth and infrastructural spurt and real estate zoom—one can keep piling up the adjectives—is located in the heart of Telangana territory. It takes a great imaginative leap to think of an Andhra Pradesh without a Hyderabad. But once one has done that, it's hard to see how the decoupling would benefit any of the concerned parties. How would it benefit India?

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

CHANGE THE RULES OF CLIMATE GAME

JEEVAN DEOL


The climate negotiations at Copenhagen have only just started, but already the recriminations have begun. Developing countries have accused the developed world of 'climate colonialism', and the negotiations seem unlikely to move beyond the tired frameworks established at Kyoto in 1997.

 

India's own stance has remained reactive to the West's proposals instead of laying out the country's interests in its own terms. Even worse, India now appears to be following others' agendas: the Prime Minister changed his mind about attending the talks as a result of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, and the government has followed China in pledging to regulate the economy's carbon intensity. India has missed a real chance at global leadership. The world's environmental problems will not be solved by tinkering with the details of the Kyoto framework: the real way forward is to change the terms of the argument. And that can only happen if there is a concerted effort to bring a broad bloc of developing countries together on a single platform. An India that seeks to become a world power needs to invest in the bilateral and multilateral diplomacy that would make this a reality—a new Bandung aimed at something bigger than just transcending an ideological divide.

 

The most important shift that this new diplomacy needs to engender is a move away from looking at environmental problems solely through the prism of carbon emissions. The variables that will determine India's quality of life in this century—pollution, availability of water, forest cover, flooding—are as key to a lasting global environmental settlement as are levels of carbon in the atmosphere. Both India and the world need to move towards a conception of costs and values that encompasses all of these instead of merely seeking to price carbon emissions.

 

India can begin to try to shift the consensus by seeking to put a price on pollution and waste: as a first step. It should seek agreement on an international regime that prices environmental protections into the mining of the rare-earth minerals that look to be crucial to the developed world's new green economies, particularly the production of electric and hybrid cars. It should also seek to change the economics of the electronics and high-technology industries by asking the world to compel countries that fail to recycle their own electronic waste to bear the full ecological costs of recycling it elsewhere.

 

The carbon problem itself will not be solved by arbitrary targets or carbon-trading markets: the incentives are too small, and the disincentive of high carbon prices is too far in the future to modify current behaviour. What the world needs is a new development dividend that allows urgent GDP-intensive growth in the developing world at the same time as it incentivises low-carbon solutions in the West. This is best accomplished through a scaled emissions exemption available to developed and developing countries alike for the construction of new-build mass-transit systems and high-volume, carbon-light freight transport networks .

 

This development dividend would enable the developing world to build the infrastructure it needs to seed GDP growth in the present while giving the West a real incentive to move away from resource-destructive road transportation. In exchange, India and other developing countries would offer a package of new energy-efficiency standards for infrastructure-related industries like brick-kilns, concrete plants and steel factories—not because they satisfy emissions targets, but because they make sense within a wider conception value in their domestic economies and eco-systems.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

AGRICULTURE SLOWS, BUT DECOUPLES

MADAN SABNAVIS


The 0.9% growth number in agriculture for Q2 of this year has spoilt the otherwise joyous party that spoke of growth in GDP of 7.9%. But, does this number matters? The answer is that the second quarter of the financial year is not agri-intensive, and while less than a fifth of the agricultural output emanates from this period, most of it is in the nature of residual farm output as well as forestry and fishing. Agriculture is basically a two-season phenomenon and would typically cover the third quarter (kharif) and fourth quarter (rabi). Therefore, the number of 0.9% is not startling even though it is lower than that last year (2.4%) which may be partly attributed to the base year effect.

 

It must be pointed out that the first two quarters contribute to just over 40% of agricultural GDP. Around one-third of our agricultural GDP comes from the third quarter while over a quarter comes from the fourth quarter. Hence, the performance in the next two quarters will really be more decisive.

 

The ministry of agriculture has already indicated that there are problems on the kharif front caused by the triad of late monsoon, drought and floods (in some regions). Rice output is to decline by 18%, coarse grains by 20%, pulses by over 7%, oilseeds by 15% and sugarcane by 9%. This virtually means a sharp decline in farm output in the third quarter. Considering that the kharif season accounts for around half of total foodgrains and 65% of oilseeds production, we are really talking of a double digit fall in farm output. We are also aware of the major fall in production of vegetables, which has led to the exorbitant increase in prices in the last four months or so. If the 'market guess' of 15% decline works out, then overall growth in this sector could slip to between -4% and -4.5% for the first three quarters. The disturbing aspect of this decline is that it spans all major products such as rice, jowar, bajra, maize, moong, 'other pulses', soybeans, groundnuts, sesame, sunflower, castor and sugarcane.

 

What does this mean for the full year? There is an increasing dependence on rabi and we have heard bold statements that the rabi crop will compensate for the loss in kharif even before the latter fructified. The rationale was that the late arrival of the rains would substantially add to the water table level that would aid rabi production. Further, it was felt that the farmers who lost their income would possibly sow early or grow more rabi crops to make up for the deficit. Also, it was argued that the floods in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh would assist the growth of rabi crops. All this may partly be true, but the more important question is whether or not this will help to alleviate the damage.

 

Given the relatively lower importance of rabi in oilseeds and an equal share in foodgrains, we need to have substantial growth in Q4. Can this happen? Wheat had reached a record of 81 million tonnes last year and to make up for this loss, would have to touch 93 million tonnes, which does not look realistic. The same holds for oilseeds that have to grow by 26% to maintain overall oilseeds production at last year's level. Even the more optimistic minds would not really take a chance with these numbers.

 

Therefore, it would be reasonable for one to expect a decline in overall production by the end of the year, notwithstanding the major rabi crops succeeding in the last quarter. Putting numbers on farm output is fraught with risk as no one really knows how the harvest will turn out to be. Very often such conjectures are based more on hope than conviction.

 

A positive development over the years is however a certain kind of decoupling between agriculture and the rest of the economy. The high growth in social and public services, which is the mirror image for fiscal stimulus, can make up for this loss of output. Industry, too, appears to be more urban-centric and is gradually getting divorced from the farm sector. Therefore, while at the margin the rural folk dependent on agriculture for an income may cut down on demand for industrial products, the urban class has made up for this loss, as it is supported by higher wages (already seen) and booming stock markets, (which provides liquidity to spend).

 

It will not, therefore, be surprising to have steady growth in real GDP coexist with a negative growth in farm output, high industrial growth, booming service sector and low WPI but high food inflation and higher poverty levels.

 

The author is chief economist, NCDEX Ltd. These are his personal views

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

COUNTERINTUITIVE ON DEBT FUNDS

SAIKAT NEOGI


An unusual trend is developing in the mutual fund industry after Sebi banned the entry load being charged by agents from August 1. Investors, mainly driven by banks, are opting for debt funds. The Association of Mutual Funds in India data for November shows that the total inflow into income and liquid mutual funds put together was Rs 46,230 crore as compared to an outflow of Rs 1,109 crore from equity schemes.

 

So why are investors parking their money in these debt funds when stock markets are showing a year-to-date return of around 80%? Banks are parking a large quantum of money because credit offtake is low. For the period April to November this year, bank credit growth is at 4.4%, down from the 11.5% seen during the same period last year. This is forcing banks to park their money with RBI and mutual funds.

 

In fact, RBI data for the fortnight ended November 20 shows that bank investment in MF schemes rose Rs 4,173 crore to Rs 1,64,656 crore. Many banks with ultra-floats, which are huge temporary surpluses, have also parked in liquid mutual funds rather than deploying in the overnight call money market.

 

Also, after the ban on entry load, agents are no longer finding it lucrative to sell mutual fund products to retail investors as they do not get any commission from them. As a result, equity-linked mutual funds, a favoured route for retail investors to put money in the markets, are showing a decline. Typically, bull markets see a lot of investments flowing into equity mutual funds and prolonged bear markets see redemptions. But this time around, with the change in the business model of distributors, the trend has changed .

 

Earlier, banks used to park excess money at the beginning of every quarter and then used to redeem at the quarter end. But this time around they are pumping back funds even after the end of every quarter. Even banks are borrowing money from the collateralised borrowing and lending obligation (CBLO) at cheaper rates and are parking money in mutual funds. To discourage such arbitraging, the central bank has now imposed a CRR of 5% for CBLO borrowings. This means that the banks will have to set aside more funds as cash to be parked with the central bank, which will reduce their investible surplus.

 

saikat.neogi@expressindia.com

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

A TIME-TESTED FRIEND

 

The inter-governmental agreement (IGA) on nuclear cooperation signed during the just-concluded visit to Moscow of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh further cements Russia's role as a vital and trusted partner of India and its civil nuclear energy programme. Although the details of the agreement have not yet been made public, Indian officials have confirmed that it provides the basis for broad cooperation across the full spectrum of the nuclear fuel cycle without any of the unreasonable conditionalities attaching to nuclear commerce with the United States. The '123 Agreement,' for example, provides for lifetime fuel supply guarantees for any American reactors sold to India but also allows Washington to demand the return of fuel stocks and even nuclear components in the event that it chooses to terminate cooperation for any reason. In contrast, the Russian agreement says the termination of cooperation would be without prejudice to the implementation of ongoing contracts. The crucial international relations principle involved here is that there shall be no unilaterally determined disruption of agreed fuel deliveries. The new IGA also grants India upfront and unqualified consent rights to reprocess spent Russian fuel so long as this is done under international safeguards. In contrast, while the 123 text speaks of upfront consent, the detailed arrangements and procedures, including the conditions under which the U.S. can suspend this consent, are still being negotiated, with the deadline only some weeks away.

 

The Russian willingness to accommodate Indian concerns about fuel supply and reprocessing is of a piece with Moscow's long-term strategic approach to nuclear cooperation with India. In 2001, Russia defied the U.S. by supplying low-enriched uranium to India for use at Tarapur despite being a party to NSG rules prohibiting this sale. This happened again in 2006, when the U.S. and India were still working through the fine print of the July 2005 nuclear deal. Though Russia lacked the confidence and heft to get the NSG to change its rules, its strong support for the lifting of sanctions allowed India to extract a better deal from the 45-nation cartel than Washington, and especially Congress, might like to have seen. Armed with the NSG waiver and the new IGA, not to speak of the equally advantageous Indo-French agreement, India knows nuclear cooperation with Russia and France will be more fruitful, predictable, and secure than what the U.S. offers. As New Delhi enters the final round of talks with the Obama administration on reprocessing, it should remind the American side that the more onerous and unreasonable its demands, the less likely India would be to buy American reactors. It would be foolish indeed on India's part to commit tens of billions of dollars on American nuclear equipment if there was even the slightest chance that fuel supplies or components or reprocessing consent would be suspended. Least of all when there are better alternatives in hand.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

EVALUATING SUPPORT PRICES

 

Recent government announcements on support prices for wheat, pulses, oil seeds as well as sugarcane may not have the beneficial effects on agriculture that a well thought-out farm price support system should ensure. All countries provide support to farmers either through subsidies or fixing minimum prices for important crops. This system guarantees a certain minimum earnings to the farmers and, to a large extent, reduces the uncertainty inherent in the market mechanism. It protects livelihoods and has a direct bearing on the availability of food articles in the public distribution system. Also, through price signals, the government can encourage farmers to grow a particular crop which is in short supply or environment-friendly. But all these benefits will accrue only if the support mechanism is operated efficiently. While extra-economic considerations can never be kept out of the decision-making process, attempts must be made to minimise them. The government has not been successful in this regard as the two recent price announcements on wheat and sugarcane show.

 

In India, price intervention has been in two forms. The government announces a minimum support price (MSP) for staples — wheat and rice — as well as oil seeds and pulses. This in effect is an open-ended commitment to pay a fair price for whatever quantity is offered. The other method that applies to sugarcane is for the Centre to fix a statutory minimum price (SMP) that sugar mills have to pay the farmers. The States have been fixing a higher price (SAP) which in practice becomes the floor price. The MSP mechanism has become inflexible. And this stands in the way of encouraging specific crops such as pulses over the water-thirsty paddy. This year, there has been just a token increase of Rs.20 a quintal for wheat, no doubt prompted by the fact that the Centre has adequate buffer stocks from last year's crop. The new MSP of Rs.1,100 is well below market prices and the private trade is expected to play a much larger role than last year. The government's policy towards trade has been inconsistent. The recent fiasco over sugarcane prices is due to an ill thought-out plan to shift the burden of state-advised prices to the States themselves.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

ILL-THOUGHT ANNOUNCEMENT & BACKLASH

THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT'S DRAMATIC ANNOUNCEMENT, WITHOUT ANY BROADBASED POLITICAL CONSULTATION, THAT THE PROCESS OF FORMING A SEPARATE TELANGANA STATE WOULD BE INITIATED HAS PLUNGED THE CONGRESS PARTY'S SOUTHERN STRONGHOLD INTO A DEEP POLITICAL CRISIS.

S. NAGESH KUMAR

 

A half-century-old controversy over the division of Andhra Pradesh, India's first linguistic State that was carved out from erstwhile Madras, has been sought to be settled by the Congress leadership through a bolt from the blue — a declaration that it was setting in motion the process of formation of a separate Telangana State. There has been a strong overnight backlash, with a 100 of the 175 MLAs from the two other regions of the State queueing up outside the Legislative Assembly Speaker's chamber to hand in their resignations and mass protests starting in Rayalaseema. With the resignations involving legislators belonging to all three major parties — the Congress, the Telugu Desam Party, and film star Charanjeevi's Praja Rajyam — south India's largest State, which has sent the largest number of Congress MPs to the 15th Lok Sabha, has plunged into a new political crisis.

 

When he announced the decision close to midnight on Wednesday after a meeting of the Congress party's core committee, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram overrode, in one swoop, the United Progressive Alliance's electoral commitment in its common minimum programme in 2004 that Telangana would be created through a process of consultations and consensus. There were no consultations outside the closed doors of the core committee, not to mention any broad-based consensus.

 

The phraseology of the Home Minister's terse statement came as a pleasant surprise to the agitating leadership of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) — and as a rude shock to State Congress leaders. Neither expected the Central government to go so far as to declare that the process of breaking up south India's largest State would be initiated through an appropriate resolution moved in the A.P. Assembly. By all accounts, TRS leaders would have been content with a pledge of friendly and open-ended talks, sweetened by the tabling of a resolution for discussion in the Assembly. This would have been sufficient to persuade a weakening K. Chandrasekhar Rao, who has political ambitions, to call off his 11-day fast. Chief Minister K. Rosaiah himself appeared fazed by the big news from New Delhi, although it could not be confirmed whether he was taken into full confidence before the Centre made the fateful announcement.

 

As political events unfolded dramatically in Hyderabad, it was clear that finding an amicable resolution to the Telangana issue could not be the preserve of the Congress to the exclusion of other political parties, mass organisations, not to forget the people of Telangana in whose minds the feeling of being left out of opportunities in education and employment has rankled for more than half a century.

 

The political perception in Hyderabad is that there has been a costly miscalculation in New Delhi arising from a gross underestimation of the political damage the ruling party was guaranteed to suffer in the two other regions that together send the majority of legislators to the State Assembly. En masse resignations overnight by Congress legislators have shown their lack of respect for the high command's decision — making it clear they feel no obligation to abide by the Congress Legislature Party's earlier resolution urging AICC president Sonia Gandhi to take an appropriate decision on Telangana to defuse the tensions in region.

 

In the absence of a democratic consultation process, the Centre's announcement left an impression that it was a case of loss of nerve in the face of violent protests and the danger of their escalation should Chandrasekhar Rao's health deteriorate further. Reminiscent of the 1970s, when important decisions concerning States were taken by the Delhi darbar, no attempt was made to study the political implications of separating Telangana from the other two regions — coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. Even Mr. Rosaiah, an uncontroversial veteran with long administrative experience, seemed to receive only grudging support after he took over as Chief Minister; he was obliged to seek the Centre's advice on all issues, big and small.

 

Left out of the decision making process and their aspirations ignored, most of the MLAs from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema seem to nurse a feeling of humiliation, which is likely to intensify under the impact of the mass mood in the two regions. Dispassionate political observers point out that in 1972 coastal Andhra witnessed a violent backlash after Kasu Brahmananda Reddy was replaced as Chief Minister by P.V. Narasimha Rao, who hailed from Telangana, under the impact of a tumultuous and prolonged agitation for a separate Telangana State.

 

If the Congress case is that its responses have not been knee-jerk, it must at least take the blame for short-sightedly trying to steal the TRS's thunder, pressured by its 14 MPs from Telangana who feared losing the loyalty of their constituents and threats to their personal safety. Its strategy was to project itself as a party that has 'given' (a loose translation of a Telugu word often used) Telangana and derive maximum mileage in the next general election. In this exercise in wishful thinking, a fallout from the game plan would be the marginalisation of the Telugu Desam Party — whose sudden support for separate Statehood has not carried much conviction — in both the Telangana and Andhra regions.

 

That the road to the formation of a Telangana State — should it eventually happen — will be long and bumpy, and that there are no short cuts for dividing big States, is a salutary lesson to be learnt from the complicated process of forming Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, and Jharkhand. The passage of an Assembly resolution proposed by Mr. Chidambaram, which now seems a remote possibility with the Assembly facing the real prospect of an exodus of the majority of its members, is only the first step, though not an essential one since new States can be carved out without going through this process. It needs an amendment to the constitutional provisions (Article 3) dealing with the formation of new States and alteration of areas, boundaries, or names of existing States.

 

But this does not exhaust the list of hurdles and political problems. In the event of a break-up of Andhra Pradesh, the status of Hyderabad — a bustling and dynamic metropolis, a hub of information technology and the pharmaceutical industry and a microcosm of the diversity of Indian cultures — will need to be settled. A highly contentious and emotive issue, the inclusion of Hyderabad in Telangana, a region comprising 10 out of the State's 23 districts, will make it extremely difficult for the political system to satisfy the Andhra region's aspirations for a first-rate capital.

 

Although the TRS, unlike Marri Channa Reddy's Telangana Praja Samithi, which asked Andhras to go back in 1969, has said people from other regions who have made considerable investments in Hyderabad were welcome to stay, the recent violence has not done anything to inject a sense of safety among those who have come to be known as 'Andhra Settlers.'

 

The people of Telangana deserved a better deal from the Congress leadership, which, despite being at the helm in New Delhi for the greater part of India's independent career, is accused by Telangana protagonists of allowing the problem to fester. Those standing aloof from the activities of political parties tend to view the issue not merely through the lens of economic development but as an issue relating to redemption of their self-respect, which suffered under feudalism in the past and through a denial of opportunities for employment and education in recent decades. Issues that have caused an erosion of this self-respect require a comprehensive examination, not merely by government-appointed committees but independently by well-meaning sections of the intelligentsia and sustainable solutions worked out.

 

Past experience suggests that quick-fix solutions like the latest announcement from New Delhi cannot possibly resolve the Telangana issue. Even the six-point formula evolved by Indira Gandhi in the wake of the separate Andhra agitation in 1973 for accelerated development of backward regions and preferential treatment to local candidates in employment failed to redress the grievances of Telangana. A more creative and democratic approach, bringing in all stakeholders and going beyond narrow party considerations, is an absolute imperative if the State is to be rescued from its deep political crisis.

 

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THE HINDU

TASKS FOR A PRIME MINISTER

IN SEARCH OF A PROGRESSIVE TRANSFORMATION IN INDIAN LEADERSHIP.

V.R. KRISHNA IYER

 

Life is never at a standstill since society is dynamic. Jefferson said every generation is a new nation. Therefore it has the right to change its Constitution and leadership.

 

Indeed, from its Vedic days and epic ages India has changed its culture and basic structure from age to age. When Bharat came under the British Crown it was subject to imperial governance. Finally a do-or-die struggle for independence was launched till the people of India gained swaraj and made a tryst with destiny to make the country a Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic under a Constitution.

 

Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation; Jawaharlal Nehru, the architect of Free India; Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, who drafted the Constitution; Subhas Chandra Bose, whose spiritual materialism and militant patriotism drove India to organise an army to struggle for Independence; Indira Gandhi, who implemented a socialist-secular constitutional amendment and divided Pakistan which invaded India; V.K. Krishna Menon, architect of non-alignment and adviser to Jawaharlal Nehru, and many other heroes and heroines, formed the backbone of swaraj. And now you, by giving a role for peace in a nuclear-terrorist, war- mongering world, is adding to that heritage. I salute you.

 

India is India, as Manmohan put it in chaste English. And paramountcy is our Constitution — not foreign investment, not nuclear terrorism. Peace with Pakistan on a morally, politically, realistically just ground is your next challenge. We are with you if you are with India as a world power, not as an international mendicant for arms.

 

Dr. Manmohan Singh, this century belongs to you, a leader of socialist India. It does not belong to privatisation or to any such global syndrome. Lead kindly light, amidst the encircling gloom, and never be with the Western brand and style of development.

 

Gandhian development was presented in The Third World Tomorrow by Paul Harrison thus: "The Gandhian concept of development rejected the idea that it should aim primarily at the creation of material wealth or the satisfaction of insatiable, endlessly multiplied needs." He added: "Insofar as we have made the modern materialistic craze our goal, so far are we going downhill in the path of progress."

 

This is our vision and mission till the last hungry Indian is safe in Bharat Mahan.

 

Max Mueller described India as the world's finest home of culture. The basic struggle of the Indian Constitution and culture were Socialist, Secular and Democratic. But by means of a silent operation, without the nation's active attention and accidentally, Prime Minister Narasimha Rao managed a new regime, departing from the fundamental principles of Bharat's bedrock of culture. He virtually hijacked Dr. Manmohan Singh from the World Bank, which is for all practical purposes governed by the U.S. Dr. Manmohan Singh was a great economist conditioned by America Incorporated.

 

Our national economy was rooted in the Indian goal of gram swaraj and agrarian development. It was shifted to step up foreign investment and exotic imports (and also more urban slums). The nation's basic lifestyle was changed. After Narasimha Rao, eventually Dr. Manmohan Singh became Prime Minister, reflecting in large measure Sonia Gandhi's programmatic-shrift. Dr. Manmohan Singh was considerably influenced by the White House.

 

As the nation changes, its ethos and leadership also does undergo a transformation, as from George W. Bush to Barack Obama. The people of the U.S. voted for a different ideology. It was a revolutionary event that affected the whole world. India is no exemption, and Dr. Manmohan Singh was inspired by the culture of swaraj and the stature of Mr. Obama. A new world emerged with Dr. Manmohan Singh adopting dynamic policies that were different from the past. And like Mr. Obama a new Indo-U.S. relationship and an Indo-Russian transformation came to the fore. This writer was conditioned by Nehru's policies, which were inevitably different from Dr. Manmohan Singh's.

 

Your challenge, a difficult one, is the frightful escalation of rents and commodity prices, which are making life dreadful for the ordinary person. The same is the case with primary education, hospitals and medicines. The right to life (as enshrined in Article 21) is in peril for the average Indian. We import rice and other basic living needs, and commodities are being sold at fancy prices, leaving the poor often to starve. During the Second World War the British administration, during seasons of scarcity, war-controlled prices of essential commodities and famine, arranged to distribute ration articles at controlled prices and saved lives. Why cannot Free India do what the imperial regime did? What has happened to our patriotism as our administration, at the Centre and in the States, have fundamentally turned anarchic and surrendered itself to the creamy layer?

 

The proprietariat can allow, but not extinguish, the proletariat's right to life. At least 20 crore independent Indians, we are told, live below the hunger line. Mr. Prime Minister, you have the power and the expertise to make India an egalitarian society. Herbert Spenser wrote: "No one can be perfectly free till all are free; no one can be perfectly moral till all are moral; no one can be perfectly happy till all are happy."

 

India, which was witness to the Buddha, made compassion to all living creatures a reality of governance. This country has countless gods and religions. Service to god is not obdurate obscurantism in the shrines. Theology cannot be allowed to become pathology. We are secular and therefore service to god is service to man. Vivekananda said: "I am socialist because half a loaf is better than none. No god is worth worshipping if He will not save life but slaughter it."

 

Unfortunately, the Indian economy necessarily involves a desideratum in favour of the poor and against the robber. Otherwise our law will not be a haven for those below the hungry line:

 

The law locks up both man and woman

 

Who steals the goose from off the common

 

But lets the greater felon loose

 

Who steals the common from the goose.

 

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THE HINDU

OCEAN ACIDIFICATION RATES ACCELERATING

LEADING MARINE SCIENTISTS AT COPENHAGEN SAY SEAS ABSORB DANGEROUS LEVELS OF CO{-2}.

SEVERIN CARRELL

 

The world's oceans are becoming acidic at a faster rate than at any time in the last 55m years, threatening disaster for marine life and food supplies across the globe, delegates at the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen have been warned.

 

A report by more than 100 of Europe's leading marine scientists, released at the climate talks on Thursday, says the seas are absorbing dangerous levels of carbon dioxide as a direct result of human activity. This is already affecting marine species, for example by interfering with whale navigation and depleting planktonic species at the base of the food chain. Ocean acidification — the facts says that acidity in the seas has increased 30 per cent since the start of the industrial revolution. Many of the effects of this acidification are already irreversible and are expected to accelerate, according to the scientists.

 

The study, which is a massive review of existing scientific studies, warns that if CO{-2} emissions continue unchecked many key parts of the marine environment — particularly coral reefs and the algae and plankton which are essential for fish such as herring and salmon — will be "severely affected" by 2050, leading to the extinction of some species.

 

Dr. Helen Phillips, chief executive of Natural England, which co-sponsored the report, said: "The threat to the delicate balance of the marine environment cannot be overstated — this is a conservation challenge of unprecedented scale and highlights the urgent need for effective marine management and protection."

 

Although oceans have acidified naturally in the past, the current rate of acidification is so fast that it is becoming extremely difficult for species and habitats to adapt. "We're counting it in decades, and that's the real take-home message," said Dr. John Baxter a senior scientist with Scottish Natural Heritage, and the report's co-author. :This is happening fast."

 

The report, published by the EU-funded European Project on Ocean Acidification, a consortium of 27 research institutes and environment agencies, states that the survival of a number of marine species is affected or threatened, in ways not recognised and understood until now. These species include:

 

— whales and dolphins, who will find it harder to navigate and communicate as the seas become "noisier." Sound travels further as acidity increases. Noise from drilling, naval sonar and boat engines is already travelling up to 10 per cent further under water and could travel up to 70 per cent further by 2050.

 

— brittle stars (Ophiothrix fragilis) produce fewer larvae because they need to expend more energy maintaining their skeletons in more acid seas. These larvae are a key food source for herring.

 

— tiny algae such as Calcidiscus leptoporus which form the basis of the marine food chain for fish such as salmon may be unable to survive.

 

— young clownfish will lose their ability to "smell" the anemone species that they shelter in. Experiments show that acidification interferes with the species' ability to detect the chemicals that give "olfactory cues."

 

The report predicts that the north Atlantic, north Pacific and Arctic seas — a crucial summer feeding ground for whales — will see the greatest degree of acidification. It says that levels of aragonite, the type of calcium carbonate which is essential for marine organisms to make their skeletons and shells, will fall worldwide. But because cold water absorbs CO{-2} more quickly, the study predicts that levels of aragonite will fall by 60 per cent to 80 per cent by 2095 across the northern hemisphere.

 

"The bottom line is the only way to slow this down or reverse it is aggressive and immediate cuts in CO{-2}," said Baxter. "This is a very dangerous global experiment we're undertaking here."

 

Written for policymakers and political leaders, the document is being distributed worldwide, with 32,000 copies printed in five major languages including English, Chinese and Arabic. Every member of the U.S. congress, now struggling to agree a binding policy on CO{-2} emissions, will be sent a copy.

 

U.S. Congressman Brian Baird, a Democrat representative from Washington state, who championed a bill in the U.S. Congress promoting U.S. research on ocean acidification, said these findings would help counter climate change sceptics, since acidification was easily and immediately measurable.

 

"The consequences of ocean acidification may be every bit as grave as the consequences of temperature increases," he said. "It's one thing to question a computer extrapolation, or say it snowed in Las Vegas last year, but to say basic chemistry doesn't apply is a real problem [for the sceptics]. I think the evidence is really quite striking."

 

— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

 

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THE HINDU

AND IN THIS CORNER, CLIMATE DOUBTERS

TOM ZELLER JR.

 

Their numbers were small and former Vice-President Al Gore was not among them.

 

But the climate sceptics who met inside a stuffy second-floor gallery near Copenhagen's Christianshavn neighbourhood on Wednesday displayed at least as much passion for their cause as the environmental activists who have flocked to Copenhagen to push for action on global warming.

 

"They've got us outnumbered," said Ian Plimer, an Australian geologist, who has interests in several mining operations. "But we've got them outgunned."

 

Sitting in tidy rows of chairs, the group's members — who included an atmospheric physicist, a gentleman farmer, a policy adviser and about 60 others — sipped coffee, shared PowerPoint presentations and discussed climate. Or rather, what they see as a world gone mad over global warming.

 

The scientific evidence for human-driven climate change may be widely accepted. But those who gathered in the tiny parlour offered a variety of alternative explanations. One presentation contended that volcanoes emitted far more carbon dioxide than human activities like the burning of fossil fuels. Another presentation disputed data suggesting that sea levels were rising. Still another asserted that solar activity caused climate shifts.

 

Speaking of the case made by scientists for global warming, S. Fred Singer, an atmospheric physicist, said: "They have no evidence. None."

 

The two-day event was organised in part to show that "climate realists," as they prefer to be called, are nothing if not diverse in their views.

 

But the contrarian spirit of the meeting was buoyed by the recent uproar over a trove of e-mail messages and documents stolen — or liberated, as the sceptics see it — from a renowned British climate research centre. The material, which mentions adjustments to data, has been seized upon by global warming doubters as evidence of a conspiracy to promote the idea of human-driven climate change. Many scientists, however, have said that the contents of the messages and documents do not undercut decades of peer-reviewed science.

 

Among the sceptics who assembled in the parlour, the prevailing theory about the e-mail messages was that they had been leaked by a whistle-blower who would eventually be celebrated as a hero.

 

"In my view, not only will he not be prosecuted, but he should not be prosecuted," said Christopher Monckton, a policy adviser with the Science and Public Policy Institute, a British group concerned chiefly with trying to debunk the notion of a climate crisis.

 

Monckton, like many at the meeting, was concerned about the economic effects of putting limits on emissions of greenhouse gases. Such restrictions, he said, would be devastating to the economies of all countries, particularly poor nations.

 

He added, "that's why it's necessary to allow them to burn plenty of fossil fuels, because that's the cheapest way to get the electricity that will help to lift them from poverty."

 

The participants at the meeting agreed that their views — as scientists, economists and passionate lay people — were not taken seriously enough.

 

"We're unified in the idea that these theories have not received a fair shake," said Craig Rucker, the conference chairman. Still, even at this meeting those theories did not go unchallenged.

 

John Vidal, environment editor for The Guardian in London, demanded that a panel's members explain why a variety of villages in India and Bangladesh were slowly being swallowed by the sea if, as the Swedish physicist and geologist Nils-Axel Morner had contended the day before, sea levels were not rising.

 

Morner, who has spent much time measuring sea levels in South Asia, said his most recent data pointed to plenty of erosion, but "zero rise in sea level."

 

Then, as debates over global warming often do, the discussion dissolved into incomprehensible shouting.

 

— © 2009 The New York Times News Service

 

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THE HINDU

WHAT HAS DISAPPEARED THIS DECADE

JOHN CRACE

 

From faxes to francs, let us look back at what we've lost this decade.

 

1. Western black rhinoceros: Excessive hunting in Cameroon saw numbers drop to just 10 in 2000. By 2006, it was officially declared extinct, with not even a single specimen in captivity. Still, a few rich people thought their sexual performance was enhanced by its horn, so no harm done.

 

2. The 120 % mortgage: Remember when you could borrow 120 per cent of the value of your property on a self-certified income? If so, you're probably sitting on thousands of pounds of negative equity.

 

3. George W Bush: Once the most powerful man in the whole universe to whom even Tony Blair bowed down, Dubya is now holed up in Texas, the forgotten man of Republican politics. Which would be good news, if Sarah Palin weren't the coming woman.

 

4. Woolworths: Once a stalwart of every high street, it was another victim of the recession. The last store closed in January this year and though it has retained an online presence, sadly the pick 'n' mix has gone for ever.

 

5. Lehman Brothers: The U.S. investment bank that went belly up in 2008 through overexposure to the sub-prime mortgage and above-average levels of greed. Not the only bank to go bankrupt, but the most high profile and the least mourned.

 

6. Printed maps: No more family rows over the page you want having been torn to shreds by the kids. Instead, you just turn on the satnav and hope a fox hasn't eaten the aerial. If it has, you will be directed across Tooting Common.

 

7. The French franc, the German mark, the Spanish peseta, etc: To the disappointment of many in Britain, the introduction of the euro in 2002 passed off with few alarms and the currency is now used by 16 countries. The only good news for Brits is that the euro has made it slightly easier for us to work out just how little the pound is worth when we go abroad.

 

8. Supersonic passenger air travel: The crash that killed all 109 on Air France flight 4590 in July 2000 was the beginning of the end for Concorde. Although later given a clean bill of health, the public's appetite for cheap flights and lower carbon emissions saw it taken out of service in 2003.

 

9. Everyone I Have Ever Slept with (1963-1995): Tracey Emin's tent was just one of many works of Modern Britart that were destroyed in a fire at a Leyton warehouse in 2004. People are still debating just how much of a loss this really was.

 

10. Paid-for porn: These days you need a strong firewall to fight off the porn stars trying to download themselves on to your desktop for free.

 

11. Personal cheques: Once the only method of transaction for high-value goods, anyone who tries to pay by cheque now is seen as a massive credit risk. Without plastic, you're no one.

 

12. The polar ice cap: Last seen heading towards Copenhagen in a tidal wave to drown the climate change sceptics.

 

13. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: The new state formed in 1992 by the republics of Serbia and Montenegro after the break-up of the old Yugoslavia only lasted 11 years. Its successor, renamed Serbia and Montenegro, only made it to 2006 and the country has now been split into the separate states of Serbia and Montenegro.

 

14. Smoking in pubs: Every citizen's right to kill everyone else by sparking up indoors was thankfully curtailed in 2007. Now if you want to get lung cancer you have to hang outdoors in the rain and get pneumonia too.

 

15. The cassette: Don't you miss putting on your favourite piece of music in the car and watching the machine chew it up and spit it out? Probably not.

 

16. Top of the Pops: Despite a radical overhaul in 2003 that introduced marginally hipper artists and the odd interview, it was finally consigned to the knacker's yard in 2006.

 

17. The floppy disk: USB flash drives and DVDs have superseded a disk that could only hold a miserable 200 MB of data. There again, you could only lose a miserable 200 MB of data at one time.

 

18. Saddam's weapons of mass destruction: The extensive hoard of chemical and nuclear weapons that were lying around every car park in Iraq in the first two years of the decade suddenly went missing on March 20, 2003, never to be seen again.

 

19. The Labour party: On death's door in the 80s, revitalised in the 90s and now heading towards self-immolation again. Only the Tories continued incompetence can guarantee its survival.

 

20. Fat TVs: The demise of the cathode ray tube means you can now have a TV any size and stick it on the wall. The downside is seeing Simon Cowell in HD.

 

21. Hope: No money, no jobs, no action on climate change, no end to unwinnable wars. 2009: the year all hope died.

 

22. The fax machine: The essential hi-tech piece found in every office in the 90s. Now extinct, apart from one in the Tottenham Hotspur ticket office to which season ticket holders have to send their renewal forms.

 

23. Jawoyn: The language of the Jawoyn people of Australia's Northern Territory, which disappeared for good this year with the death of the last known speaker.

 

Roughly 20 languages die each year a total of 200 for the noughties.

 

 © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

 

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THE HINDU

SCHOLARSHIP TO EUROPEAN VICTIMS OF HIJAB

 

An Iranian university awards a scholarship to Muslim women who have been banned from studying in European universities for observing the Islamic Hijab (headscarf), the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Thursday.

 

The scholarship to "European victims of Hijab" to be granted by the university of Iran's central city of Kashan is named after Marwa El-Sherbini, the report said without elaborating more on the award.

 

Marwa El-Sherbini was an Egyptian pharmacist and the mother of a young child who was killed during a hearing at a court in Dresden, Germany, by a man whom she had testified against for verbal abuse due to her wearing an Islamic headscarf. In Europe, France initiated a controversy in 2004 by adopting a bill banning Hijab and religious insignia in state schools and universities.

 

— Xinhua

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DNA

EDITORIAL

DANISH AMBUSH

 

The leaked 'Danish draft' is a loud and clear signal that it is politics as usual at the Copenhagen climate summit. It cannot be dismissed as a red herring because the implied strategy is pretty evident. The draft supposed to have been prepared by the US, the UK and Denmark, the host country, shows that the rich, industrialised countries are working hard to break the ranks of the developing countries, to arm-twist emerging economies like that of China and India to share the financial burden and accept carbon emission cuts to mitigate the climate change disasters and to provide sops to the least developed countries without offering any real help.


The other point that gives away the game is the role assigned to the World Bank to be the nodal point for climate management issues instead of the UN. The bank remains the monopoly of the rich countries, while the US reflects the democratic spirit giving greater voice, if not weight, to the majority of countries, which also happen to be poor, in deciding issues that affect all countries. The attempt made by the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Yvo de Boer to explain away the draft by saying that 'The only formal texts in the UN process are the ones tabled by the chairs of this Copenhagen conference at the behest of the parties" is feeble.


What is now needed is a cool strategy to counter all these Machiavellian moves by the developed world. As a matter of fact, it seems that there is greater need than ever for all developing countries to hang together. India and China will have to reach out to poorer countries and offer to stand up for their plight. Right now, the rich countries are making a case against India and China among the poor countries. The question is: how India will counter this campaign, and ensure that its interests are well protected and not sacrificed.


The impression that is gaining ground is that India and China are pleading their own case, and that they want to be seen among the big and rich countries rather than with the poor, and that they are not too interested in taking on the responsibilities of a leader. Apart from insisting that the rich industrialised countries, which have contributed most to the climate crisis, pay the bill, India will also need to put forward a plan that will make sense for the rich to pay for the poor. That is what deal making is all about.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

SMS 4EVER

 

Nothing, we are learning to our peril, ever gets scrubbed off the internet. That midnight mail sent after a drink or four under your belt cannot be withdrawn nor wiped out from the hard disk. It will remain there as evidence that can come in handy if ever there is need for it. And now it appears that cell phones are also signatories to this no-delete-clause deal. Whatever you send, write, type, say, podcast, whatever, is up there for eternity.


Cheating on your life partner or business partner, squealing on your boss, spying on your colleagues, moonlighting on your employer, sending that extremely offensive joke that sounded funny but is sexist to the core: everything is tracked, recorded and registered somewhere up there in cyberspace and everything can be retrieved to expose your perfidy, chicanery and unfortunate lack of judgment to say nothing of plain silliness.


This some might argue makes technology the biggest sneak of all. It first tempts you by making cheating easy —the anonymity of a text message or a cell phone call — and then traps you with its long memory. The fact is that technology has made us lose what was once a vital part of the civilised human discourse — discretion. People once went about their cheating quietly and politely and their collaborators were satisfied with a nudge-nudge wink-wink. Now we cheat with impunity because we find the new technology so convenient and the next thing you know, if you are Tiger Woods, is that mistress number 11 has sold your foolish text messages to a newspaper and added more mud to your already sullied reputation.


Of course, as more and more high profile people are trapped or exposed, more tech boffins will get to work to tinker with this problem of eternal imprint of every bit of human information. Perhaps high-end cell phones will offer a special delete application where text messages and call records will vanish within a specified timeframe. Perhaps expensive laptops will offer huge memories but only for movies and music for instance but will not retain the imprint of dodgy emails. Yet, there is something very temptingly egoistical about the idea of all our thoughts, ideas, indiscretions and foolishness being preserved for posterity. We are a species which thinks a lot about itself and the idea that we can live on with the help of technology cannot be tampered with just because a few relationships may falter or reputations get destroyed. This is one sure way it seems where what we do can live forever. Immortality of one kind, surely.

 

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DNA

TELANGANA PART II

 MOHAN GURUSWAMY / DNA

 

The second Telangana movement for a separate state seems to be in its final act now, with K Chandrasekhara Rao (KCR) ending his "hunger strike". This will see the culmination of the Telangana statehood movement that actually began way back in 1956 when the composite Andhra Pradesh was created by dismembering the old Hyderabad state and joining its Telangana region with the Telugu speaking areas of the erstwhile Madras Presidency.

At that time the people of Telangana expressed apprehensions about being forced into a shotgun marriage with the Andhra region. The Andhra region was much more developed and wealthier than Telangana, with the British having invested a good deal in education and infrastructure, while the Nizam of Hyderabad seemed more preoccupied with accumulating a huge personal fortune. He was reckoned to be the richest man in the world which took him to the cover of Time magazine well before Mahatma Gandhi's experiments with truth placed him there.


Hyderabad blossomed into a beautiful and well laid out city but the common people, like in other princely states, remained very poor.


Thus, in the aridness of the Deccan a fertile ground was created for a popular communist movement which morphed into India's first armed insurrection — the first Telangana movement, which was terminated on orders from Joseph Stalin himself. Stalin also saw in that Telangana movement the glimmerings of Maoist dogma which postulated that the villages will strangle the cities and take over the state. The Communist Party of India then reverted to trade unionism which was more lucrative than revolution in the hinterland. This was why Charu Mazumdar who spawned Naxalism in India, denounced the CPI and CPM and took to waging the Peoples War.

The apprehensions of the people of Telangana and the Hyderabad elite in 1956 were not entirely unfounded. At that time Jawaharlal Nehru assuaged them somewhat with safeguards like reservations in educational institutions and government for the locally born. But most of these assurances remained on paper and the people of Andhra gained ascendancy over Hyderabad's and Telangana's social and economic life.


By the mid 1960s things were hotting up again. College canteens reverberated with heated and passionate discussions on the desirability of a separate state. Many of the more ideologically committed joined the now resurgent Naxalite movement in the forests of Telangana, inspired by Communist ideologues like Vempatapu Sathyanarayana and Adhibatla Kailasam. When they were killed by Jalagam Vengala Rao's reign of terror, Kondapalli Sitaramiah took over and greatly expanded the Peoples War Group. In this manner the original Telangana movement revived and by the late '60s was seized by Congress dissidents like M Channa Reddy, a charismatic leader whose commitment to a separate Telangana was only exceeded by his concern for an office of profit. Under his leadership over 300 students lost their lives but the hacks of the Congress party were satisfied with the removal of Kasu Brahmananda Reddy and the promise of office.
But instead of Channa Reddy, Indira Gandhi found PV Narasimha Rao more convenient.


When the agitation revived it was in both parts of the state. The Andhra side too now wanted a separate state. But in reality all they wanted was the removal of Narasimha Rao. This done, the Congress Party went back to business as usual, till the advent of KCR, who was a deputy speaker under the Telugu Desam dispensation of Chandrababu Naidu. KCR fell out with Babu and guess what he took to next?


Separate Telangana!

After a good show in the 2004 elections he too settled down to a good life as a cabinet minister in the Manmohan Singh government, till cries of betrayal turned his party against him. But by now YS Rajasekhara Reddy was truly in charge and had marginalised all rivals. In the 2009 elections the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), now in alliance with the Andhra dominated TDP, CPM and CPI was reduced to a mere two seats in the Lok Sabha and 10 in the assembly. Then the TRS split once more. But the death of YSR and the elevation of Rosaiah, another PV Narasimha Rao kind of boneless wonder, gave Congressmen an opportunity to repeat history. So KCR was persuaded to go on a fast and the Congress national leadership was arm-twisted into bowing to the newly aroused sentiments of its Telangana leaders. Soon KCR will realise that he will not be the chief minister of Telangana, and a dyed-in-the-wool Congressman will take that position. And there will still be room for another Congress CM in the truncated Andhra state. But that still leaves us with the now resurgent first Telangana movement, only the Communists are now called


Naxalites? C'est la vie!

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DNA

FEAR OF THE OTHER PROVOKES MINARET BAN

FARRUKH DHONDY 

 

There are 300,000 Muslims in Switzerland, a county which  passes laws by holding referendums of its adult population. It recently voted by 57 per cent in such a referendum to ban minarets on mosques.


No, don't check that last sentence for spelling mistakes. It didn't say 'miniskirts with smocks' it distinctly said 'minarets on mosques'.


In the legislative history of Europe this may not seem all that odd. Britain still has an ancient law on its statute books which allows gentlemen to urinate out of the left hand door of a moving horse-drawn carriage. Since carriages in Britain drive on the left hand side of the road this would not cause any nuisance to the carriages of other gentlemen and ladies passing by on the right, but would merely inconvenience, startle with unwelcome sights and even splatter the passing pedestrian hoi-polloi who can't afford carriages.


But these minarets? What does it mean? In other countries where some practice serious religious dogmatism, they set Australian Christian missionaries and their families on fire in caravans; one sect of a religion invades and bombs or machine-guns the devotees of the other; holy places of unbelievers are demolished and their gold deities carried away as loot. But outlawing not whole mosques, not domes, not ugly green-painted buildings, not the practice of loud-speaker azaans, but minarets?


In my, admittedly inexpert, aesthetic judgement, the minarets I see in the urban landscapes of Europe are not in any way more garish or more obtrusive than some of the houses that municipal socialism builds for its working classes, or even some of the ostentatious architecture of the well-heeled. At the other extreme the Taj Mahal seems to me perfectly balanced by its four minars.


Which leads me to believe that this is not so much an aesthetic judgement on minarets as a symbolic gesture against the religion of Islam.


The debate that preceded this referred decision is evidence. Several feminist groups joined the debate with the public contention that Islam is a religion that doesn't allow its women even the shadow of the freedoms enjoyed by Swiss female citizens. Other political groups recalled the murder of the Dutch film-maker Theo Van Gogh for making a film critical of Islam and recalled the Danish cartoons incident.


With the growth of the Muslim population of Switzerland, mainly from Turkey, Bosnia and recently in very tiny numbers from Afghanistan and Iran, the Swiss population was expressing not its religious intolerance but an irrational fear.


France has made moves to ban the burkha and head-scarves in schools. This is said to be in the interests of the uniformity of secular education but the popularity of the measure is indicative of the widespread hostility to aspects of Islam. The same fear, the same disapproval, the same symbolic gesture. Banning head-scarves or minarets won't alleviate the lot of oppressed females anywhere. 


The minaret ban is a cowardly and symbolic gesture of something deeper, something that the Swiss with their deep liberal and democratic traditions should admit to themselves and express clearly. The Turks, Bosnians, Afghan and Iranian Muslims in Switzerland are by definition anti-terrorists, in Europe for work as immigrants or as refugees from the terrors of religious bigotry. What would such a migrant feel when the demolition squads come for the minarets of the mosque at which he worships? Isn't the gesture likely to cultivate antagonism and hatred where there is as yet none? Wouldn't the Swiss be better advised to integrate their Muslim population into their liberal democratic traditions and send their spies and police to detect, detain and deport the Islamist infiltrators who may be attempting to corrupt this population with un-Islamic doctrines and hatreds?

 

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DNA

FREEING THE MIND

 

Spiritual life is the emancipation of consciousness. Through it we find immediate response of soul everywhere. Before we attain this life, we see men through the medium of self-interest, prejudice or classification, because of the perpetual remoteness around us which we cannot cross over. When the veil is removed, we not only see the fleeting forms of the world, but come close to its eternal being, which is ineffable beauty. Some seek for the evidence of spiritual truth in the outside world. In this quest one may stumble upon ghosts or some super-sensual phenomenon of nature, but these do not lead us to spiritual truth, as new words in a dictionary do not give us literature.


Today is the special day of the yearly festival of our ashram, and we must make time to realise in the heart of this place the truth which is beauty. And for this we have lighted our lamps. In the morning, the sun came out brightly; in the dusk the stars held up their lights.


But these were not sufficient for us. Until we light our own little lamps, the world of lights in the sky is in vain, and unless we make our own preparations, the great wealth of the world preparations remains waiting like a lute for the finger touch. I need have no anxiety about the world of nature. The sun does not wait to be trimmed by me. In our everyday world we live in poverty; our resources have to be husbanded with care; our strength becomes exhausted, and we come to our God as beggars for our joy of life. On festival days, we display our wealth and say to Him that we are even as He is; and we are not afraid to spend. This is the day when we bring to Him our own gift of joy. For we truly meet God, when we come to Him with our offerings and not with our wants. Life's highest opportunity is to be able to offer hospitality to our God. We live in God's world and forget Him, for the blind acceptance which is onesided never finds its truth.


An excerpt from Rabindranath Tagore's Thought Relics

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

STATEHOOD FOR TELANGANA

POTENTIALLY GOOD BUT ROADBLOCKS AHEAD

 

The Centre's decision to concede in principle the longstanding demand for a separate state of Telangana carved out of the present Andhra Pradesh is abrupt but deserves a cautious welcome insofar as it sets out to meet the aspirations of the people of a region that has been characterised by lack of development, social backwardness and poor education opportunities. While the immediate provocation for the decision to work towards statehood for Telangana was clearly the deteriorating health of fasting leader of Telangana Rashtra Samiti handrashekhara Rao, and the snowballing agitation in his support, the demand has had a degree of legitimacy that goes back to the days when the States Reorganisation Commission recommended it in 1956. With both the Congress and the Telugu Desam drawing much of their support from the upper castes, the predominantly lower caste-based Telangana has not reaped the benefits of development as much as coastal Andhra and Rayalseema regions.

 

Despite the Manmohan Singh government's declaration of intent, statehood for Telangana still has to cross many hurdles, the first of which will be the passage of a resolution in the State Assembly before Parliament takes up the issue. Some legislators drawn from the Congress, the TDP and the Praja Rajyam Party are up in arms fearing that the electorate in coastal Andhra and Rayalseema would not take kindly to any move that divides Andhra Pradesh. Some Congress MPs are also unhappy with the move. It would require no ordinary skills for the Congress high command to bring its partymen around to the division. At the same time, with the Congress enjoying a slender majority in the assembly with 155 members in a House of 294, failure to carry a resolution through could predictably lead to the fall of the Rosaiah government. Conversely, any backtracking on the move for Telangana would doubtlessly lead to a mass agitation in the region.

 

The situation is exacerbated by the fact that Hyderabad falls in the Telangana region and while the rest of the state would not like to lose the model capital, Telangana would not settle for a state in which Hyderabad is not included. The roadblocks indeed are manifest but if statehood is achieved, there is real hope that backward Telangana, where social and economic backwardness have bred Naxalism, would benefit from it the way Haryana did when it was carved out as a separate state from Punjab.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

NEW UK VISA NORMS

INDIAN IT PROFESSIONALS TO SUFFER

 

An important feature of globalisation is a free movement of talent, goods and services across the borders. After 9/11 Western countries have become more cautious in opening their doors to Asians. Last year's financial meltdown has given them another reason to stop foreigners from grabbing local jobs. Britain, the slowest to emerge from recession, has toughened the visa rules for Indian IT professionals going to Britain on intra-company transfers. They will need to have 12 months' experience before they can be sent to the UK from next January. They will not be able to settle in Britain even after the mandatory five years' stay.

 

Though Prime Minister Gordon Brown is not as vocal about the loss of jobs as is President Obama, Britain is quietly and selectively shutting its borders to non-whites. That the Brown government is keen on keeping British jobs for Britons is understandable. But why target Asians only? The UK immigration rules are being tightened to keep off not only job-seekers or prospective illegal settlers, but also students from Asian countries. Indian students desirous of pursuing higher education in Britain have been denied visas despite their having deposited large amounts as fees with British universities. They have been left in the lurch. Faced with growing financial constraints, British universities woo foreign students, who pay three to four times more than their European or local counterparts.

 

This is the unfortunate fallout of 9/11. After the London blast, the British government seems to have become paranoid about terror. It believes that terrorists could enter Britain by taking student visas. Every country is within its rights to protect itself from terrorists, but Britain is going overboard and is discriminatory in its approach. It is harming its own interests by turning away foreign students who help it subsidise education for its own citizens.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

HAMARA BAJAJ IS HISTORY

PRODUCTION ENDS FOR ICONIC TWO-WHEELER

 

Bajaj scooters will no longer be made in India — the company that manufactured them is shifting all its energy to motorcycles. Motor scooters have a long history, and basically they are motorcycles with a step-through frame and a flat floorboard for the rider's feet. They thus protect the rider from wind and road dirt.

 

Since the 1960s, when Bajaj imported and then manufactured the aircraft-inspired Vespa 150 under the licence of Piaggio of Italy, it dominated the scooter market with its low-cost products that practically became family vehicles for the middle class in India. The Bajaj Chetak that came in 1972 and the Bajaj Super in 1976 were successful spin-offs of the original, and people waited years to get their vehicles. The Hamara Bajaj slice-of-life commercials and print advertisements too helped to make the brand iconic. The company dominated the scooter market in India in the 1980s and 1990s and set many records.

 

Liberalisation, change in consumer attitudes and expectations, and lack of innovation eventually cut into the scooter market and Bajaj finally stopped production of Chetak and Super in 2006 as sales declined. It concentrated on the expanding market for motorcycles, except for a tentative foray into the scooter market in 2007 when it launched the Kristal, the assembly line of which will be shut down now. Bajaj is the top exporter of motorcycles in India. It sold over 20 lakh units last year. Ironically, while Bajaj shifts gear to its motorcycle line, Honda, the company that is the top manufacturer of motorcycles in the country, is also now the number one in scooters. It sold over 6.5 lakh of them in the financial year 2008-09. Scooters have their place, but not in Bajaj's stable.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

A TRILOGY OF NATIONAL SHAME

WILL POLITICAL CLASS LEARN NOTHING?

BY INDER MALHOTRA

 

WITH striking unanimity the media and public-spirited organisations in the country described the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal gas leak tragedy as a "day of national shame". No fair-minded person can disagree with this. For, though the country remembers the ghastly catastrophe only once a year, the unbearable pain inflicted on hundreds of thousands of mostly poor people persists. Nor would it go away any time soon. Families of many of the victims have not been compensated after even a quarter of a century, and those that have been have received a measly sum of a little over Rs. 12,000 each.

 

Dominique Lapierrre — whose book "Five past Midnight in Bhopal" gave a vivid and heart-rending account of what the people living around the Union Carbide factory suffered in 1984 in one of the worst man-made disasters — has summed up the ghastly situation as it exists: The leak "continues to affect victims even today; children born are malformed; women suffer from cancer; there are people who cannot breathe; people go blind."

 

Horribly, the impact of the leaked gas is "akin to nuclear radiation in that it enters the genes of the victims … No one knows how many generations transmission of the affected genes will continue". Moreover, nearly 100 tonnes of effluents have been left on the site and have never been cleared. Consequently, half the water supply to the inhabitants around the site is virtually poisoned. Dow Chemicals that have taken over from Union Carbide have washed their hands of the 1984 outrage, and neither the Congress-led Central government nor the BJP ministry in the state seems to care.

 

Whether by coincidence or otherwise this year's remembrance of the Bhopal tragedy was accompanied by anger also over the second tragedy of that year occurring barely a month before the gas leak — the reprehensible anti-Sikh riots in the nation's capital following Indira Gandhi's assassination by her Sikh security guards. The newly elected Akali member of the Lok Sabha, Mrs Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who is the wife of Punjab's Deputy Chief Minister, Mr Sukhbir Singh Badal, made a moving speech in the House expressing both anguish and anger over the dismal fact that 25 years after the butchery many of those responsible had not been punished and were unlikely to be brought to book. She wanted the treasury benches to state whether any action would be taken even at this late stage, but no answer was forthcoming.

With both the grim tragedies under discussion, it was perhaps inevitable that comparisons were drawn between the final compensation paid to the victims of the Delhi riots — about Rs. 7 lakh per family — and the pittance given to the sufferers in Bhopal. Some have insinuated that this was due to the fact that the victims in Delhi were Sikhs and those killed and maimed in Bhopal Muslims. Even if there is a grain of truth in this belief, it is a huge exaggeration. The reality, as always, is more complex.

 

Originally, the number of people killed in Delhi and Bhopal was roughly the same, about 3,000 in each case. But while the casualties in the riots remained stationary, the unending tragedy of Bhopal took a much heavier toll of 20,000 lives. Moreover, over the succeeding two-and-a-half decades, the number of those suffering from breathlessness and other diseases added up to nearly five lakhs. The Government of India had sued Union Carbide — while letting its guilty honchos escape scot-free — for $3.3 billion. But for reasons unknown, it settled with the killers for just $ 470 million that had to be disbursed to nearly half a million sufferers.

 

A week before the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal outrage was the first anniversary of another infamy — the terrorist attack on Mumbai from the Pakistani soil on November 26, 2009. Instead of observing it with due solemnity and dignity, this country acted in a way that was shameful. Instead of mourning those who were felled by Pakistani terrorists, honouring the security personnel that fought the invaders valiantly, and demanding of Pakistan to punish the perpetrators of the horrifying attack and its masterminds, Indian Parliament turned itself into an arena of unbecoming acrimony. There was a particularly angry exchange between Mr Pranab Mukherjee, leader of the Lok Sabha and the second most important man in the Manmohan Singh government, and the outgoing Leader of the Opposition, Mr L. K. Advani. Once again the bone of contention was inadequate and tardy payment of compensation to bereaved families. Of the more than 4,000 sufferers, only a fourth had been given compensation so far, alleged Mr Advani, Mr Mukherjee lost his temper.

 

As if this was not enough, nearly 30 MPs disgraced themselves and exposed the House to ridicule by putting down questions on the day's order of business and absenting themselves from the House. The question hour had to be dispensed with. Later, it transpired that the number of members who habitually stay away from the meetings of the standing committees of which they are members had risen embarrassingly. What happened during the Home Minister's reply to the debate on the Liberhan Commission's report only underscrores that parliamentary standards have reached rock bottom.

 

In the city of Mumbai things were no better because two factions of its police force, one of them led by the Commissioner of Police at the time of the attack when the force was found wanting, embarked on a war of words. Nor could anyone in the state government explain why important parts of the R. D. Pradhan Committee's report had been wilfully suppressed and its recommendations were not being implemented.

 

The third item in the trilogy of national shame is the indifference, nay callousness, of the ruling establishment towards the cruelly soaring food prices that are causing enormous hardship to the bulk of the Indian people. The irony is that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance goes on paying lip service to aam aadmi. In my worst nightmares I had never expected that daal, the poor man's protein, would cost Rs 100 a kilo. A very large number of lower middle-class families can no longer afford either lentils or vegetables, but the well-fed minority is not bothered.

 

Doubtless, there is a shortage of lentils and foodgrains in the world market. But the wide world knows that hoarding and profiteering also plays havoc with prices. Has any action been taken anywhere in the country against hoarders and profiteers as it used to happen in the much decried past? Can anything be more shameful than that?

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

"MA" MANIFESTED

BY SARVJIT SINGH

 

Ma has emerged from beneath the ground in a house in Sunam and people are pouring in from all directions", announced Rajvinder, the seasoned telephone operator of the DC residence, his mellifluous voice dripping with faith. "And that the Superintendent of Police had called up to position an Executive Magistrate there to oversee law and order."

 

In the few preceding days, I have had couple of those small 'experiences', like someone appears after a long gap whom one had remembered the same morning. So the day started with me and the police chief travelling to the site. As we reached the spot and stepped out of the car we were welcomed by a dozen policemen, half pot bellied and all eager to brief their chief about the curious development in a house that was 200 meters into the street, not wide enough for a car.

 

The crowd was parted and pushed to the walls by cane wielding men in uniform, some of whom did look to be the direct descendents of the Ravana, Kumbhakarna, Meghnad trio.

 

Jostling against a sweaty arm here and a taut belly protruding there, we made our way to the house where 'Mother' had manifested. Part dumb-founded, part mesmerised and definitely thankful to be the 'chosen ones', the members of the family received us with folded hands and covered heads.

 

Standing in the small central courtyard of the house, the middle aged, turbaned head of the family then narrated the experience, "We were shaken out of sleep around 2 in the night with a loud blast that blew off our blankets. Dumbstruck, we looked into the courtyard from the window. A huge ball of blue flames rose from the floor and made its way to the sky above. Before we could push ourselves back, another ball of fire arose from the cracks in the floor and vanished into the skies."

 

The floor was definitely cracked as were the wooden panes of the traditional doors blown off with precision and the door of the small refrigerator sunk in as if with a divine push. A battery of saffron robed priests looked at us through the corner of the eye, the lines on their brows exuding impatience to start the ceremony to turn the place into a temple.

 

While everybody was quizzing everybody else, curiosity drew me to the kitchen. The gas cylinder was intact. Though slid aside, the utensils were in place on the shelves. "What could it be?" Suddenly then, my eye fell on the rubber tube of the LPG that had loosened and detached itself from the gas stove; then I shook the gas cylinder and it was empty.

 

Triggered by a spark in the relays of the voltage stabiliser of the fridge, three blasts had to take place as there wasn't enough air in the small closed space to consume the gas spilled over the floor in one go.

 

Speeding back to the office in the official car, I was somewhat elated on having solved the mystery and somewhat pensive that my faith had a long way to go before I could hope to see a true miracle.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

PRISONERS TOO HAVE RIGHTS

THE DENIAL OF BASIC FACILITIES IS COMMON

BY SHALINI DEWAN

 

In prisons around the world, the denial of basic health facilities, sanitation and even adequate food, all compound human rights violations of prisoners and undertrials. Add to this lack of access to legal recourse, lack of recreational facilities and entertainment, curtailed visitation rights, and you begin to get a taste of the pitiable plight of those in prison.

 

Human Rights Day (December 10) is an opportunity to squarely face up to this sorry global state of prison affairs. While imprisonment implies the enforced loss of an individual's right to liberty through containment in a closed environment, keeping individuals in custody should not, however, have a deleterious effect on them.

 

As far back as 1955, the First UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders established the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, setting out detailed guidelines on the entitlements of prisoners ranging from the right to proper accommodation, medical services and nutritious food to the right to exercise and sport and proper clothing and sleeping facilities.

 

The Minimum Rules also called for every institution to have a well-stocked library and for prisoners to be allowed to communicate with their family and friends.

 

And in 1990, reflecting the change in both sociological thought and human rights sensitivity, the UN General Assembly adopted some basic principles for the treatment of prisoners which called for all prisoners to be treated with the respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings, without discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

 

The principles also called for efforts to abolish solitary confinement as a punishment, or to restrict its use, and for all prisoners to have the right to take part in cultural activities and education aimed at the full development of the human personality.

 

All member countries of the United Nations unanimously approved the principles but they are yet to become a reality in many parts of the world, including South Asia, and are observed more in the breach! The continuous upgrading of prison facilities must be accorded priority as a human rights issue.

 

The past decade has no doubt witnessed an increasing consciousness about the desirability of prison reforms. It is now recognised that a reformative philosophy and a rehabilitative strategy must form part of prison justice. This must happen within the context of ensuring the human rights of prisoners, whether they are held in Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai or Guantanamo Bay!

 

In India, some estimates put the number of prisoners at 800,000 undertrials and 200,000 convicts. And the conditions in jails often fall short of international standards. The slogan of all human rights for all perhaps evades this group entirely.

 

The effacement of their human rights reflects perhaps the low utility that prisoners have because basically they are not a vote bank. At least, not yet! But, the larger irony is that prisoners in India – criminals even – can stand for elections but they cannot vote!

 

Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla at a recent seminar stated that there was a need to provide the right to vote to undertrials as part of the proposed electoral reforms. "The present system needs reform as undertrials are eligible to contest elections. However, they are not allowed to vote which I consider to be a denial of their natural right", he added.

 

Despite an impressive legal and institutional framework to prevent it, torture is still widely tolerated or even practised by governments, and impunity persists for the perpetrators. Significantly, India, although a signatory to the 1984 UN Convention against Torture, has yet to ratify it.

 

According to a report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights, 1,184 deaths in police custody were reported to India's National Human Rights Commission between 1 April 2001 and 31 March 2009. An overwhelming number of these deaths took place as a result of torture, and most of them within 48 hours of the victims being taken into custody by the police.

 

Despite several orders by the Supreme Court of India, guidelines enunciated by the national and state human rights commissions and official sanctions, police personnel and paramilitary forces remain undeterred and torture continues to be inflicted on those in custody.

 

Of course, there are some good practices too. In Tihar Jail, several NGO initiatives have made the prison a place where prisoners can express themselves through creative pursuits and are also taught a variety of skills to make them feel productive members of society.

 

Earlier this year, I was at a seminar in Kolkata on the rights of prisoners which was held within the walls of the Presidency Correctional Home, with the participation of about 50 prisoners as well as prominent lawyers and jurists. This was probably the first such initiative but this was not all.

 

Later that evening we were treated to a spectacular dance drama at the prestigious Rabindra Sadan theatre. What was unusual was that all the "actors" were prisoners currently lodged in Kolkata jails who had been granted special permission to venture out of the prison walls and present the show.

 

A group of about 60 prisoners – both men and women – performed  Valmiki Pratibha, which traces the journey of Ratnakar from a dreaded dacoit to the holy sage Valmiki who went on to author the Ramayana.

 

Through art, dance, music and theatre, this innovative "culture therapy" programme, offered to the inmates across the state of West Bengal, aims to bring about a psychological rehabilitation of prisoners and enhance their feeling of self-worth.

 

Initiatives like these – in human rights terms – are invaluable – and definitely achievable.

 

The writer is the Director of the United Nations Information Centre for India and Bhutan

 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

BOOM, BUST AND BEYOND

BY HAMISH MCRAE

 

There were two huge economic stories – stories that when historians look back at this decade they will recognise determined the shape of the world economy for the first half of this century. One is cyclical, the other structural.

 

The cyclical story is blazingly obvious: we have come through two recessions, the second an extremely serious one, the costs of which will be evident for a generation. The structural story is less so, at least to those of us in the established developed world, but on balance is even more important.

 

It is the shift of economic power from West to East, from North America and Europe to Asia, from the Group of Seven developed economies to what are dubbed the "emerging" countries and most particularly to China and India. If you want one fact that captures the seismic scale of what has happened, it is that China started the decade as the world's sixth or seventh largest economy and has ended it, in all probability, as second only to the United States.

 

There are other stories of course, some of which are encouraging, such as the reasonable progress made by the world's poorest continent, Africa. Sadly, some are less so; for example, though inequality has in general fallen between countries, it has continued to rise within them. More of this in a moment; first the two great tales, cyclical first.

 

It is impossible to get any perspective on the current economic downturn. We are slap-bang in the middle of it and cannot know how speedy or secure the recovery will be. What we do know is that the first decade of the century has been framed by two "busts" with – for the developed world at least – a fragile boom in between.

 

The beginning of 2000 saw the peak of the 1990s "dotcom" boom, what we now recognise was unsustainable growth fuelled by enthusiasm for, and over-investment in, the new communications technologies. The world has been transformed by those technologies, but for a lot of the participants – and investors – it was a commercial and financial disaster.

 

The world recession of the early 2000s was not particularly serious and some countries, including the UK, escaped altogether. But for investors it was a catastrophe; though the world economy bottomed out in 2001, share prices had peaked at the beginning of 2000 and continued to fall until 2003. Even now, at the end of 2009, the major world markets have yet to regain their levels of early 2000. Retired people through most of the developed world have lower pensions as a result.

 

If share prices slumped, house prices boomed. With a couple of exceptions, most notably Germany and Japan, the developed world saw rises in the price of residential property on a greater scale than at any time in recorded history. Obviously the experience varies from country to country, but in very broad terms between 2000 and 2008 house prices in most countries doubled relative to people's incomes. Since incomes were rising, the actual increases were higher. Then the bubble burst, with consequences that we are still grappling with right now.

 

The house price boom was enormously important, for two main reasons. It supported a boom in consumption, as people felt richer and borrowed more against the value of their homes. That in turn drove the long boom through most of the decade. But it also was associated with excesses in the banking industry, as banks scrambled to lend more and more to home-buyers and created all sorts of complicated financial instruments that they thought would spread the risks they were taking on.

 

Everything was fine while prices continued to climb. But when US house prices started to plateau two things became clear. One was that many of the loans would never be repaid; the other was that these loans had been parcelled up and sold all over the world and that investors buying them had no idea how little these loans might really be worth. What became known as the "sub-prime crisis" undermined the global banking system and helped plunge the world into what has become, in many countries, the most serious recession since the Second World War.

 

There is still no clear consensus on the balance between the significance of the various things that went wrong. We are still in the blame game. We can see there were several elements to the failure, including:

 

– Excessively low interest rates in the US and some other developed countries;

 

– China's willingness to lend the US money to support the consumer boom;

 

– Poor management decisions in many large banks, fuelled in part by the way they paid their staff;

 

– Weak, or at least misdirected, financial regulation in several countries;

 

– Rating agencies that gave prime or AAA ratings to what were really junk debts;

 

– The familiar human response that when things seem to be going well we expect this to continue forever.

 

It will be for the economic historians to grade those factors, and doubtless some others, into a league table of shame. It will be for the politicians, central bankers and financial regulators to reconstruct a system to try to prevent anything like this happening again. Meanwhile we have to live with the consequences.

 

What we do know is that in autumn 2008 the world banking system came closer to collapse than at any time since the 1930s.

 

The full facts have yet to emerge but a couple of lessons are already clear. One is that the weakness of the world financial system was a central cause of the plunge in world trade towards the end of 2008 and during the early part of 2009.

 

Another is that there is an inherent financial and economic cycle from which it is very hard to escape. We seem to be prisoners of this cycle and one of the great challenges of the next few years will be how to curb the booms as well as supporting people during its slumps. And leading on from that, we have learnt that when things go seriously wrong, only governments are big enough to be able to pick up the pieces.

 

— By arrangement with The Independent

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

HOPE FOR PHOBIA SUFFERERS

BY STEVE CONNOR

 

Fear has been eliminated from the human mind for the first time in a series of pioneering experiments that could open the way to treating a range of phobias and anxiety disorders with behavioural therapy rather than drugs.

 

Scientists have selectively blocked thoughts of fear by interfering with the way memories are "reconsolidated" by the brain. It could lead to new ways of treating the thousands of people whose lives are crippled by fear and anxiety relating to phobias and memories that go back many years.

 

The research, funded by the US National Institute of Mental Health, may offer an alternative form of treatment to the current use of drugs, which have side-effects. The study suggests that it may be possible to permanently eradicate an overwhelming fear by relatively simple behavioural therapy.

 

"Previous attempts to disrupt fear memories have relied on pharmacological interventions. Our results suggest such invasive techniques may not be necessary. Using a more natural intervention... allows a safe way to prevent the return of fear," said Elizabeth Phelps of New York University, who led the study published in the journal Nature.

 

Conventional behavioural therapy involves exposing people to a phobia – such as showing a spider to arachnophobes – under "safe" conditions. The new research goes a step further by deliberately triggering a fear memory and then trying to interfere with the way it is restored or "reconsolidated" by the brain within the critical minutes or hours after the memory was revived.

 

Dr Phelps said that it was very similar to conventional treatments of phobias but the key difference was that the timing was critical. "By paying attention to the way memories are stored and restored we can perhaps target the therapy by changing the timing of the interventions," she said.

 

The idea is not to create a new memory saying that the phobia in question is safe, but to retrieve the original memory and manipulate it when it is being restored, or reconsolidated, to show that it is no longer dangerous, the scientists explained.

 

"Our research suggests that during the lifetime of a memory there are windows of opportunity where it becomes susceptible to be permanently changed. But understanding the dynamics of memory we might, in the long run, open new avenues of treatment for disorders that involve abnormal emotional memories," said Daniela Schiller, the study's lead author and a post-doctoral fellow at New York.

 

The findings came out of previous work on laboratory rats showing that it was possible to eliminate the fear of a particular sound associated with an electric shock. This could be done by "extinction training", in which the rats were exposed repeatedly to the tone without any electric shocks.

 

However, the timing of this training was crucial. Fear of the sound was only erased in those rats that were trained after an interval of a few minutes but no longer than a few hours after the fear memory was revived.

 

The latest study, on human volunteers given electric shocks when shown coloured cards, was based on the rat tests. Only those people whose retraining took place within a certain time window after a fear memory was revived showed signs of fear elimination.

 

— By arrangement with The Independent

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

BIRTH OF A STATE

 

The Congress has again been coerced into the role of playing the midwife to the birth of yet another State. After a spate of violence in Andhra Pradesh which saw anarchy in the streets of Hyderabad and the State Assembly being put on siege by an unruly mob, as well as a fast unto death threat by the Chief of the Telengana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), K. Chandrasekhar Rao, the Centre has finally conceded the long standing demand for a separate Telengana State. The decision, taken after due consultation between the central and regional Congress leadership in response to an increasingly volatile law and order situation, is being initiated in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly, thereby bringing the curtains down on a prolonged struggle to achieve it. Clearly, Rao and the others have brought about something of a coup by reiterating their statehood demand at the right moment. The death in a helicopter crash of the charismatic Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Y.S Rajasekhar Reddy, had thrown the Congress in the State into utter disarray, with the new CM, K. Rosaiah, unable to wield effective control over all his party's MLAs, including the 51 from Telengana. It maybe recalled that Reddy had stymied during his tenure all efforts to revive the Telengana statehood demand, his immense popularity with the masses enabling him to do so without incurring a political backlash.


Though the Telengana issue enjoys immense mass-backing, with even the majority of Congress MLAs and MPs from the region clamouring for it, what finally brought about the decision was the Maoist threat looming over Andhra Pradesh. Continued political uncertainty would have been playing into the enemy's hands at a time when the Centre is preparing to launch a decisive blow on the Maoists in the State. The fact that Telengana is a relatively backward and underdeveloped area as compared to coastal Andhra Pradesh would have been added grist to the Maoist mills in getting mileage, from the prevailing situation. Also, the decision to grant statehood shows that the inbuilt defensive instincts of the Congress have come into play, for signs were apparent that it was losing ground to the TRS in traditional strongholds. Naturally, there is some way to go yet in getting the decision implemented. It has first to be passed by two-thirds majority in the State Legislature, the ruling Congress and the TRS combine leading another 32 legislators for the purpose. More hurdles will have to be confronted in Parliament where the Bill will have to be backed by two-third MPs before the President can give her assent. Yet, given the prolonged struggle to achieve it, a separate Telengana State is just reward for its proponents, notwithstanding the reality that it might galvanise other agitators such as the ones for Gorkhaland into intensifying their demands.


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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

DEPORTATION OF ALIENS

 

The revelations by the Minister in charge of Assam Accord Implementation, Dr Bhumidhar Barman in the Assam Assembly on December 8 once again proved that the process of detection and deportation of foreigners from the State remains a farce. Dr Barman informed the House that during the period from 2001 to October this year, more than 10,000 persons were declared as foreigners by the tribunals set up under the provisions of the Foreigners' Act, but only 105 of those could be deported. Though the scrapping of the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act by the Supreme Court removed a major hurdle in the way of detection of foreigners, the situation has not improved as the Government has not yet been able to clear the hurdles in the way of deportation of foreigners. One of the major hurdles is that the Government of Bangladesh often refuses to accept those sought to be deported as its citizens and the Government of India should take up the issue forcefully with Bangladesh without further delay. In recent times, the Government of Bangladesh, in an attempt to improve ties with India, started taking action against the leaders of the militant groups taking shelter in that country and even the chairman of the ULFA, Arabinda Rajkhowa was detained and handed over to India. The Government of India must take advantage of the change of heart of the neighbouring country and take up the issue of deportation of Bangladeshi nationals living illegally in India.


The discussions in the Assembly also highlighted the slow progress of construction of fencing along the border with Bangladesh, forcing a few opposition members to express fear that the very existence of Assam would be threatened if the slow progress continues. It is a fact that fencing alone cannot totally prevent infiltration of foreign nationals and elements of groups inimical to India, but fencing can definitely improve border management and pose hurdles in the way of those seeking to enter India illegally. The Ministry of Home Affairs, which is the nodal Ministry for implementation of Assam Accord, should closely monitor the progress of construction of fencing to ensure that the work is completed within a specific time frame. The Government of India should also initiate talks with the Government of Bangladesh to settle the border disputes and problem of adverse possession to pave the way for putting up the fencing in such areas. On its part, the State Government should also keep a close watch on construction of border roads and fencing to ensure the quality of work even as the fencing in most parts is now being constructed by two Central Government agencies.


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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

 SHIBDAS BHATTACHARJEE

 

Ahead of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's proposed India visit, Home Secretaries of the two countries recently met to finalise three bilateral pacts. Issues related to terrorism, border management, curbing activities of militants in North East, infiltration and enhanced cooperation between the law enforcement agencies of the two countries were high on the agenda of the three-day Home Secretary-level talks. The pacts finalised during the talks are:, mutual legal assistance on criminal matters and extradition treaty; transfer of sentenced persons! and one on combating international terrorism, organised crime and illegal drug trafficking. The talks assume significance in the backdrop of the arrest of two US-based terrorists of Pakistani origin David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which arrested the two on charges of plotting fresh attacks in India on behalf of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant outfit, has also alerted Bangladesh about their alleged plans to attack the US Embassy and Indian High Commission in Dhaka. The Bangladesh police had arrested several LeT operatives after FBI inputs based on the interrogation of Headley and Rana. India expects cooperation from Bangladesh on cracking down on militant groups and north eastern insurgent elements operating from its soil. New Delhi always expects Dhaka to take steps to hand over jailed north eastern militants like ULFA general secretary Anup Chetia. Illegal immigration from Bangladesh has always been a major issue between the two countries and quite expectedly was taken up during the 10th Home Secretary level talks and the two sides signed a joint statement in this regard. The closer relationship between the two countries has enabled the detention and subsequent surrender of two top ULFA leaders in Bangladesh in early November.


All these are certainly positive developments as far as the counter-insurgency policy of New Delhi is concerned. But there is hardly anything new in this regard as India several times in the past reached such agreements with other countries to intensify the counter-insurgency mechanism. In fact, the issue of intensifying the counter-insurgency mechanism has been at the top of India's foreign policy priority list for a long time. But so long it was Kashmir-centric, whether it be the Ramadan ceasefire or engagement with Pakistan, the problem of insurgency in India has so long been seen as an issue somewhat isolated from Kashmir. But since the terrorist outfits began to execute subversive activities in other parts of the country, particularly in the metros like Mumbai, Ahmedabad and at the heart of national capital New Delhi or Indian Parliament, the government began to see it from a broader perspective. It brought to the fore the grimness of the situation on the one hand, and the all-pervasive presence of this menace throughout the country.


But the menace called insurgency caught international attention only after 9/11. Before that India made several initiatives to convince the successive US administration regarding the cross-border terrorism sponsored from Pakistan as a state policy. Unfortunately the United States and other major players of international politics ignored it so long their own houses did not catch fire. But the US did not take time to react and attacked Afghanistan followed by Iraq even without having adequate evidences. The rest of the world was only silent spectator, including the UN. Significantly Pakistan , the epicentre of global insurgency, had to admit the fact and act against it hand in hand with the FBI of the United States. But this also proved little helpful for India as US deals the issue of terror infrastructure in Pakistan with only strategic point of view. This lacks the broader aspect of regional security of the sub-continent.


So long Indian foreign policy to deal with the issue of terrorism had been Kashmir-centric. It either negotiated with Pakistan or relied on US assurance. As a result the issue of insurgency in a large part of the country, the North East was neglected. But it is an irony that the history of separatist movement in independent India started from the North East and not from Kashmir. One may argue that the event of joining Kashmir to federal India was a matter of extensive debate since the beginning and the separatist movement started there at the very outset as it has since then been considered a disputed land, the bone of contention between India and Pakistan. But as far as the armed struggle to get separated from federal India is concerned, it got initiated from the North East. Who can deny the armed struggle of Nagaland or Manipur in this context?


But the Government of India so long considered the issue of north eastern insurgency only as internal security concern. So the issue of insurgency did not have a place in the country's foreign policy priority list. Very recently New Delhi began to admit the fact that north eastern insurgency has international implicatioms. In fact, the issue of north eastern insurgency has always been an issue of economnic and international implications. But it is really a pity that the government has realized it when the water went above the shoulder. But during these long years of negligence, this became more critical the ultimate outcome of which is that this part of the country got detached from the mainstream development. Same is the case with Naxalism and Maoism that at present have proved to be new menace for the security mechanism of the country. On the other hand, the issue of illegal immigration has always been considered by the government and the political parties in the country from vote-bank politics. The ultimate outcome of it is very evident before us that indigenous people of the region, particularly Assam are facing the grave threat of becoming minority or getting marginalised in their homelands.


The most unfortunate reality of the foreign policy of democratic India is perhaips that it always failed to make its neighbours listen to the language they understand. Be it Pakistan or China, Bangladesh or Nepal. The principle of peaceful co-existence should not give a wrong message that India lacks the strength to act strongly against anti-India activities operating from these countries. So also, the foreign policy objective can be better served when a country succeeds to establish its dominance in the region. Enough has been seen what the US or other Western powers can do for us. It is time we renegotiate our foreign policy priorities. Excluding Pakistan the negotiation with countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and all the SAARC nations as well as ASEAN can always be fruitful. Particularly all the SAARC nations except Pakistan and Maldives are dependent on India somehow or the other. India should manipulate this advantage and give clear message to them which will better serve foreign policy expectations as well as issues like militancy, internal security and development. In fact, this is the only way of giving the issue of militancy the deserving place in the country's foreign policy priority list.


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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SURRENDER, ARREST AND SOVEREIGNTY

ABANI BARUAH

 

The news that Arabinda Rajkhowa, chairman of ULFA was willing to negotiate had excited the people of Assam. Then the near certain thing that he would be soon in Assam made most sceptical of us (who believed that this is not possible in our life time) hopeful.


But suddenly this change of a life time has become dependent on two words– 'surrender' and 'arrest'. This is really sad. If we are to believe the story published in the Indian Express the presence of Rajkhowa and Raju Barua here is neither the result of arrest nor a surrender. To the people of Assam who have fervently prayed for some settlement of this catch 22 situation, there was a thin line of demarcation between the approach perception of Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and that of Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.


Even before this controversy arose, Union Home Minister, Union Home Secretary and even National Security Advisor Narayanan wanted to emphasis that the ULFA leaders had surrendered and they were not arrested. Perhaps they wanted to show that ULFA is weakened so much that there is no alternative for their leadership but to surrender. But on those fateful two days prior to Rajkhowa and Raju Barua reaching Guwahati, Assam Chief Minister was much more discreet. Without going into a confrontational mood, he was bold enough to say that the Centre did not want to initiate the peace process, but his persistent prodding had made them move. More significantly he spoke of safe passage to Rajkhowa and Barua. He even hinted of facilitating the meeting between jailed ULFA leaders and Rajkhowa.


But having said this, ULFA is also making too much fuss about the word "arrest". They have seen that person like Mamoni Raisom Goswami has openly come against handcuffing of Arabinda Rajkhowa but that does not mean that Mamoni Raisom Goswami or for that matter the people of Assam will give ULFA and its leaders licence to go on a killing spree. The bottom line here is that we in Assam have accepted the proposition that they created or joined ULFA thinking a sovereign Assam will be a paradise for the people of Assam. But ULFA should remember that when the government talks of peace, their response needs correction.


Similarly the word "Sovereignty" should not be the bone of contention for talks. As in the case of negotiation with NSCN let the word "unconditional talks" replace the word sovereignty by either side. By agreeing to that it does not mean that Indian Home Minister or his overzealous bureaucrats would have compromised anything.


As it appears today the movement of peace process hinges on the Centre and ULFA's ego. Another fact that needs mention is the recognition of Naga rebels' demand in the State Assembly of Nagaland, where even Congress legislators did not oppose. It is simple common sense, one cannot have two different yard-sticks for two rebel outfits of two neighbouring States.


Now a second incident has given rise to wrong priority. A few people had shouted slogans like "Arabinda Rajkhowa Zindabad, ULFA Zindabad" in the court premises. But this fact has been blown totally out of proportion by the electronic media and then by the print media. Now, analysing that particular incident, following probabilities may arise: They are ULFA Cadres or ULFA supporters. They are delighted that Arabinda Rajkhowa has come and they support Arabinda Rajkhowa for the peace process. They are supporters of anti-talk faction of ULFA and they wanted Rajkhowa to stick to his acclaimed statement that he was not surrendering. But more significantly they may be agents to disrupt the peace process and wanted to create a situation where they might have been able to do some mischief. Now let us discuss the response of the administration to this incident. The way a section of media reported the issue is sad. But they expect? Should the police try to arrest the persons? The focus of the police was to safely produce Rajkhowa and Raju Barua and their safe return. Any wrong steps of trying to arrest those slogan mongering people would have created chaos. In future if the police bring such sensitive persons to the court they should limit the access only to accredited media.

Another, sad development was the statements of two different political bigwigs of Assam. One was of Bhubaneswar Kalita who said he saw nothing sinister in the slogans: "Arabinda Rajkhowa Zindabad, ULFA Zindabad". His contention is that Arabinda Rajkhowa has apparently come for peace. Next day the Chief Minister said that hailing ULFA is anti-national. I beg to differ. Mere shouting a slogan does not make anybody anti-national. People have thousands of reasons for shouting slogans. We should remember that during the recent action against LTTE hundreds of people in Tamil Nadu shouted slogans hailing the rebel outfit.


However, the common perception in Assam is that since ULFA was born in 1979 the present Chief Minister has sincerely tried for a negotiated settlement with ULFA and other rebel groups in Assam. But the people of Assam will surely join me in expressing gratitude to Seikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh for facilitation of peace in Assam and North-East.


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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BETTERMENT, FOR WORSE

 

The denizens of Delhi, living in the heart of our babudom, have more reason to often gripe about the mysterious workings of those babus. Or, more precisely, about the non-working nature of things. Granted, things may have somewhat improved in certain areas of the Capital by now, mostly in the area of public transport. There's the plethora of flyovers, the much-liked low-floor buses and the metro rail that has, for those living nearby, made commuting an experience that can, at long last, start to resemble decency. But most Delhiites, given the civic services, always had reason to mutter darkly each time someone mentions the MCD. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi, that is. For some, indeed, that is as much of an oxymoron as Military Intelligence. Or the official acronym for corruption and inefficiency. And when the same august body proposes things like a 'professional and betterment' tax, people tend to turn apoplectic. The MCD has come out with plans of raising Rs 100 crore annually by taxing all professionals earning more than Rs 30,000 per month. For sure, a plan of taxing the better-off citizens is neither new nor a bad idea. But, just as reported in our sister paper, The Times of India, when an agency that admits it has been paying 22,000 non-existent 'employees' Rs 200 crore of the taxpayers' money every year since 2002 comes up with such a plan, don't blame people if they tend to foam at the mouth.


It isn't just the money part. The reasonable assurance that the extra cash will eventually wing its way into the pockets of the BCs (babus-contractors, that is). But rather that most people in Delhi would probably laugh their heads off at mention of the words 'civic services'. While 'MCD accountability' would probably cause paroxysms. The agency also spoke of levying a new tax on those living near the metro rail lines as betterment tax. Which caused a critical government functionary to query if wearing a new suit would also qualify, or whether living in unhygienic conditions would lead to a rebate. But then, all forms of the sarkar are mai baap. A tad like Kafka's Before the Law. Better or not, just get ready to shell out more.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TACKLING FOOD INFLATION

WITH FOOD INFLATION

 

edging dangerously close to 20%, choices narrow before the government. But act it must to shield the poor. Tightening monetary policy may not ease what is essentially a supply-side problem, but can help at the margin by making funds dearer for hoarding and speculation. And when potato prices are 102% higher and pulses 42% higher than a year ago, even second-best solutions are worth trying. So far, the RBI, wary of upsetting a nascent economic recovery, has been hesitant to act tough. A clear signal of tighter money supply, combined with a crackdown on hoarders and black marketers and open market sales could help prevent prices from rising further, even if it does not bring down prices overnight.


In the medium to long term, the government needs to identify those items where we have a chronic or structural problem like pulses and focus on increasing output, whether through a technology mission or through aggressive procurement operations that incentivise farmers to increase production. The success of Operation Flood in turning India from a chronically milk-deficit country to the largest producer of milk is a salutary example of what the government can do if it is determined. Unlike edible oil, where we have been able to tackle our chronic shortage through imports, the supply of pulses in the world market is limited. So, we will have to look for an internal solution. Today, faulty input-pricing of water and power, combined with distortions on the output side, courtesy the minimum support price/procurement policy, have turned large traditionally pulse-growing areas to sugarcane cultivation. This must change and, for that (and many of the other ills of the agriculture sector), the only lasting solution is to unleash the same animal spirits here as were unleashed in industry back in 1991 through wholesale reform.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

SLOW ROAD TO TELANGANA

 

The Centre's announcement that the Andhra Pradesh assembly would move a resolution to form a separate state of Telangana has diffused the immediate crisis building up in the wake of K C Rao's fast. However, the government would be well advised to proceed with caution on formation of a new state. For, it could well be the beginning of a new series of problems, of which renewed demand for separate states — of Vidarbha in Maharashtra, of Saurashtra in Gujarat, of Bodoland in Assam, of Gorkhaland in West Bengal, of Coorg in Karnataka, of Jammu in J&K — would not be the least. The demand for separate states stems from stunted development. Tackling that, of course, should be the main challenge. And it is far from clear that small states guarantee generalised prosperity. It is not just the break-up of larger states that is at stake, but also the principle of linguistic states. Ironically enough, the states' reorganisation on the basis of language had been precipitated by the fast to death of a Telugu leader, Potti Sriramulu in 1952, forcing a reluctant Nehru to agree to the formation of Andhra Pradesh and to fulfil a 1920 Congress demand for states organised on the basis of language. The only major political party that does not support linguistic states is the BJP, for which all non-religious identities subvert its preferred basis of nationalism, Hindutva. It would like to view states purely as administrative divisions and so has been a champion of small states. Most other parties see linguistic states as consolidating essential cultural identities that constitute rather than erode the Indian national identity.


Clearly, there are factors other than a common language that go into deciding the size of a state: we do not have a 45-crore-strong single Hindi-speaking state. A lineage of regional cohesion arising from geographical peculiarity, cultural or ethnic commonality and administrative convenience, all these are legitimate determinants of size. Based on these, it is difficult to rule out the formation of a separate Telangana. However, there must be clarity on the viability of such a state as well as popular support for it in the Telangana region: after all, the late Andhra chief minister YSR, whose support for a separate Telangana had been lukewarm at best, had swept elections at all levels of government in Telangana, time and again, trouncing KC Rao's party.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

FOREIGN INVESTMENT & BHOPAL TRAGEDY

MANOJ PANT

 

December is a crazy month. There is the 'anniversary' of the demolition of the Babri mosque which has left the BJP torn between two possible Shakespearean responses: 'to be or not to be' and 'what's in a name?'. There is the Copenhagen summit on climate change where the contours of a future global policy will, to a large extent, be decided. Here the environment minister has seen fit to declare publicly possible emission intensity targets for India without (I think) being certain about the exact implications for sectors like agriculture, power generation, etc. Reminds one about the lack of preparedness of the Indian government when they first set out to negotiate the contours of a WTO in 1995. The minister says these public declarations will not be legally binding. He ought to read similar statements by irresponsible politicians before the WTO ministerials in the past. Fortunately the public statement does not necessarily imply an official commitment.


And then there is the 25- year-old Bhopal tragedy. While the other two issues will receive plenty of media attention in the years to come, concerns over the Bhopal disaster will soon die a natural death to be resurrected at the end of the year. At least in the national media. I have had occasion to travel to Bhopal over the last decade or so and was amazed to note that I did not meet anyone not affected by the tragedy. These were not the immediate victims but a lecturer who finds his eyesight getting progressively worse, a bureaucratic who feels his breathing significantly affected after 1984. Not life threatening problems. But what then of those directly affected? Yet much of the media discussion seems to be about what we should have done then (put Anderson in jail, more compensation, etc) rather than how to look ahead. Here I will talk about the Bhopal tragedy and lessons for our foreign investment policy.


From the point of view of foreign investment, the first thing to remember is that in 1985 we were just opening up to foreign investment. At that time the foreign investment policy was largely ad hoc and guided by considerations of encouraging technology rather than equity flows. A well-defined policy only came in the industrial policy of 1993. The rather hasty attempts by the government in the '80s to decide a compensation package and keep out the 'ambulance chasers' was probably guided by concerns of the impact on foreign investment. So keep the regulatory system weak. But is that wise?


The fact is that a weak regulatory system does not encourage foreign investment. Foreign investment is guided more by the transparency, clarity and certainty of a policy. This is why the US is still the primary destination of foreign investment. A weak regulatory environment only encourages what we now call 'footlose' investment: one that is guided by short-run considerations. The government response to the Bhopal tragedy may well have been the typical response of a developing nation to a big TNC. But it did nothing to encourage foreign investment.


Second, should issues raised by the Bhopal tragedy be again raked up? I think so. But with maturity. The principal message of this would be to make it clear that the Indian foreign investment regime of today is different from that of 1984. That no company or individual is above the law. Consider a few issues that still come up.


For one, Dow Chemicals cannot be considered liable for the Bhopal disaster simply because they bought out Carbide. The takeover was determined by Dow's global restructuring of its operations almost a decade after the Bhopal tragedy. If the merger document ruled out its liability for the Bhopal tragedy, one cannot simply repudiate the document today. Especially as the Supreme Court itself put an end to litigation in the final settlement of 1989. Witch hunting in a country with a well-defined legal system is as detrimental to investment as a weak regulatory policy. In any case, this is a legal and not political issue.

What about future liability of foreign companies ? There seems to be some discussion of limited liability provisions for foreign companies. This would be disastrous. Foreign investment does not require special laws but only assurance that the same law applies to all companies. This is the counterpart of what is called 'national treatment' in the GATT. There seems no reason to go beyond national treatment.


Finally, what about Mr Anderson? The way he was sneaked out of the country is well known. Does he have criminal liability? I think he does. Despite the extradition request of the Indian government I doubt if he will be ever brought back to India. But the efforts must continue: the message is important.


If the Bhopal tragedy taught us the dangers of an ad hoc policy on foreign investment it would be a lesson well learnt.

(The author is professor of economics at the Centre for International Trade and Development, School of International Studies, JNU)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

COULD HE BE BOTH GOOD AND BAD?

MUKUL SHARMA

 

Delving into ourselves — when and if we find the time to do so, that is — we can discover either a depth of moral authenticity or a body of deceit. Or both. And there lies the rub in that very dichotomy. For if the former, it must consist of values such as truth, goodness, honour, honesty, etc, and, if the latter, then it has to encompass lies, pretence, double standards, dishonesty and the like. Also, where do thoughts of stuff like this originate if all life can be reduced to a chemical accident in an accidental universe governed by the overarching laws of mathematical physics? For that matter, what does it even mean to be able to delve? Animals don't.


So we're told we can do that now since we've become mindful entities because our brains have evolved exponentially faster than other creatures of the Earth. And that this has resulted in our basic altruistic attitudes which originated only for the protection of the grouping and species to advance in increments till they now form the bedrock of societal sustenance for its greater benefit. A genetic parallel is often drawn comparing us, for instance, to bees that function in collective swarms for the well-being of their hive, eggs or queen. But bees don't delve.


The word means to search deeply and laboriously. The concept of crime, therefore, has to be examined a little more carefully. There is no intentionally aforethought wrongdoing among animals as seen in thieving monkeys, rogue elephants, man-eating leopards or mate-devouring mantises which seem to violate a pre-existing natural order.

Each and every one of these actions can be attributed to an almost exact pinpoint of cause without anything like untruth, pretension or hypocrisy playing a role. Yes, we know they don't have the brains for all that whereas we do but where did our brains tap the stuff out from if evil was never inherent or evolutionary?

It seems it must originate from good as good means nothing unusually different from neutral without the existence of an antithesis. And of course the other way around. Meaning, when our brains evolve further and it becomes possible to delve even deeper than most of us can at present we might find that the twin principles actually arise out of a middle ground which is neither. So if a god exists it should be either good and evil combined, or none of them — else how would we have ever known the difference between the two?

 

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

HOW CAN PARLIAMENT WORK BETTER?

MORE ACTIVE PARTICIPATION FROM MPS NEEDED


The key factor here would be to inculcate a better sense of participation among parliamentarians. The role of a parliamentarian and Parliament itself is little known and even less acknowledged and assessed by our constituents, the citizens we represent, and often even ourselves. Parliamentarians are held responsible for, and judged much more on, roles and actions that are often not in their domain and for which the local bureaucracy should be held accountable. Thus, many parliamentarians feel that what they do inside the House is irrelevant.


The basic premise of an active parliamentarian is a sense of duty towards one's role in Parliament. The first step is to have the necessary self-motivation and interest about what happens in Parliament.


It is then important to understand and grasp the functioning of the house — the question hour, raising issues of importance, raising issues in zero hour, or about one's constituency, using debates to put across your points of view based on your party's ideology et al.

A newcomer to Parliament would, thus, do well to carefully observe and study the more senior colleagues. We don't always get the chance to speak on issues most familiar to us. So, it becomes important to take the initiative and intervene whenever one gets the opportunity. This would assist in developing the ability to handle different topics in the House. The more one participates, the more skilled one gets. There is no substitute for being keen to take every opportunity one gets to raise important issues. Second, one must also do one's homework — by reading material from Parliament's own research support and using other sources of information — it is important to study inputs from different sources and then apply one's own experience in absorbing it, and when relevant, contextualising your constituency in it.

Another factor is to be receptive to what is being said by others — one's own speeches are a statement of personal understanding as well as response to other speakers. All that would make for effective intervention, which will surely make Parliament work better.

Institutional reform can cure absenteeism

A major irritant is the issue of abysmal attendance in Parliament. The absence of 216 MPs on Monday in the Lok Sabha and the collapse of Question Hour should occasion little surprise. Much literature shows that over the last decade — apart from a small core of regular members — the number of sittings and attendance has been falling first in the state assemblies and more recently in the Lok Sabha. Attendance is poor both during Question Hour, the most important parliamentary device to control the executive, and in subject committees where bulk of policymaking takes place. The reasons lie in rise in members with a criminal background disinterested in governance, film stars for whom attending is not a priority, rapid turnover of membership at each election with little stake in membership, and weak/ fragmented political parties and a divided opposition. More important, having spent huge sums of money to get elected, the average MP views the House as a place for political brokerage. Consequently, interest in devoting time and effort to the affairs of the nation characteristic of the immediate post-Independence period has declined.


A solution mooted worldwide is institutional reform: constitutionally-fixed number of annual sittings, compulsory attendance, warnings and fines, reports to MPs' constituents, cut in salaries/ office expenses or daily fee for absenteeism, to even members proving their attendance through an electronic 'clocking on' system. However, a more enduring solution though, difficult to implement, is reform undertaken by political parties: choice of capable, honest candidates leading to professionalism, stronger discipline within parties and stricter floor management through whips, better House leadership through ministers attending regularly and adoption of both individual and collective responsibility by members leading, hopefully, to a collective institutional identity among members. Supported by electoral reforms such as debarring until cleared by courts persons chargesheeted for offences of five years or more, auditing of accounts of political parties, and regulating by law the process of democratisation in the internal working of political parties. The key lies in cleansing our decadent electoral and party system rather than changes in the procedural rules/regulation governing institutions.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

MORE ACTIVE PARTICIPATION FROM MPS NEEDED

SANDEEP DIKSHIT

 

The key factor here would be to inculcate a better sense of participation among parliamentarians. The role of a parliamentarian and Parliament itself is little known and even less acknowledged and assessed by our constituents, the citizens we represent, and often even ourselves. Parliamentarians are held responsible for, and judged much more on, roles and actions that are often not in their domain and for which the local bureaucracy should be held accountable. Thus, many parliamentarians feel that what they do inside the House is irrelevant.


The basic premise of an active parliamentarian is a sense of duty towards one's role in Parliament. The first step is to have the necessary self-motivation and interest about what happens in Parliament.


It is then important to understand and grasp the functioning of the house — the question hour, raising issues of importance, raising issues in zero hour, or about one's constituency, using debates to put across your points of view based on your party's ideology et al.


A newcomer to Parliament would, thus, do well to carefully observe and study the more senior colleagues. We don't always get the chance to speak on issues most familiar to us. So, it becomes important to take the initiative and intervene whenever one gets the opportunity. This would assist in developing the ability to handle different topics in the House. The more one participates, the more skilled one gets. There is no substitute for being keen to take every opportunity one gets to raise important issues. Second, one must also do one's homework — by reading material from Parliament's own research support and using other sources of information — it is important to study inputs from different sources and then apply one's own experience in absorbing it, and when relevant, contextualising your constituency in it.


Another factor is to be receptive to what is being said by others — one's own speeches are a statement of personal understanding as well as response to other speakers. All that would make for effective intervention, which will surely make Parliament work better.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

 

YASH RAJ DEAL WILL HELP SET REACH TOP POSITION, SAYS MSM CEO

 

The year 2009 started off on a difficult note for Multi Screen Media (MSM), earlier known as Sony Entertainment Television. At the centre of its strategy for 2010 is its long-standing relationship with Yash Raj Films (YRF), which will soon launch its television production division. MSM, which holds rights to a large number of YRF movies, will have exclusive access to its television content. In a chat with ET Bureau, Man Jit Singh, CEO, MSM elaborates on the company's strategy and what the deal with YRF could mean. Excerpts:


How did the YRF deal materialise? What is it all about?

We've had a long relationship with YRF and we were keen on partnering them in their television production venture. This is an exclusive arrangement with Sony Entertainment Television (SET). We're slotting the 8-10 PM slot on the weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) for this. It is done in the hi-definition format with very high quality standards.


How do you see YRF's ideas shifting to the small screen?

Films and television are distinct from each other. The team at YRF has spent a lot of time in learning the medium apart from investing in infrastructure. Their story-telling ability will be a huge plus point and this was clear when we heard their concepts for the first time.


Could you outline the importance of this deal in MSM's strategy in the time to come?

Our strategy is to make SET the number one channel in the next 12-18 months. The YRF deal is very much a part of this strategy. It will strengthen our position over the weekends. The deal with YRF is at the core of our strategy to get to the number one position.


What is the status of MSM's plans to launch a sports channel?

We're evaluating all the global rights available today. The Indian Premier League (IPL ) will be the backbone of the channel but other rights are also crucial since we will need content throughout the year. While cricket will be core, we will also have soccer and wrestling. If we have rights that are good, we will launch in the next six months. A large part of the Set Max team come from a sports background, which means there is already a lot of talent.

Could you recap MSM's performance in 2009?

The year started off as a tough year because we were way down in the ratings. It is gratifying to see the way we've progressed. Ratings of SET, our flagship channel, have progressed from 70 gross rating points (GRPs) to 190 GRPs. We are on a stronger platform now and doing a lot more research also. SAB is the fastest growing channel. It skews the older demographic and brings in male viewers giving our advertisers a larger portfolio of viewers. We're also doing new movie runs on Sony Pix now, while Set Max is the number one movie channel.


In your opinion, what went wrong with SET?

I think we confused our viewers. We changed strategy and were not consistent. We did not quite understand the small town audience. As TAM peoplemeters moved out of the big cities and started tracking the small towns, this became crucial.


What are the targets for 2010?

We want to be in the top three slot and ensure that we have a strong fiction line-up on weekdays. In 12-18 months, we want to be the number one channel. Fiction programming ensures stickiness of the audience. We'd like to see SAB move up to the number four position with the continued focus on comedy. We'd like to being in more new movies on Pix. For MAX we'd like to keep acquiring new movies and ensure it is the number one movie channel.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

AN ENTREPRENEUR HAS THE ABILITY TO INSPIRE PEOPLE DEEPAK PURI

 

An early mover in the data storage business two decades ago, Deepak Puri, CMD Moser Baer India, has taken his floppy disk manufacturing firm into new emerging areas like solar photovoltaic cells, IT peripherals, home entertainment and consumer electronics.

Which entrepreneur do you take inspiration from?

I am inspired by serial
entrepreneur Sherman Fairchild and J Louis Reynolds of the Reynolds Metals Company in the US.

What is an entrepreneur to you?

Someone with vision, passion, an appetite for risk and the ability to inspire people.

What is your business mantra?

Marry belief and action and always stay faithful.

What was the turning point of your career?

Labour troubles in Kolkata in the late '70s and '80s after which I closed the aluminum and metals business and moved to Delhi.

What is your contribution to society as an entrepreneur?

I am passionate advocate about finding ways to mitigate the risk posed by climate change and believe harnessing the sun's energy holds the key to our future.

What do you do when you're not at work?

I am passionate and daring about international cuisine.

Puri's advice to startups

Your heart needs to be in the business you start

Persevere—don't let failures deter you

Hire talented people and empower them

Motivate and energise your people

Celebrate successes, forget failures

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BRAND'S NEEDS HAVE TO BE LINKED TO SOCIAL MARKETING

 

Media has had a big influence on Ravi Kiran all his life. In fact some of the biggest turns in his life came as a result of one book he had read or another. From joining and then leaving med school (Coma/ Robin Cook) after a year to an aspiring automobile engineer (Betsy/ Harold Robins) to finally settling down in advsertising (Mirror Makers: A history of American advertising and its creators/Stephen Fox).


As CEO, South Asia, of Starcom MediaVest Group, Ravi and his team are responsible for Rs 2,200-crore of media planning and buying.

He spoke to Rakhi Mazumdar on the changing role of ad and media agencies, amidst ever-changing consumer interests. Excerpts:


What are the weaknesses of popular media spend?

Advertisers have been more clued on to building awareness. This does not always get translated into purchase at the retail end. Take for instance, Nihar. It had tremendous brand recall since people in rural areas were asking for Nihar by name when they went to buy cocunut hair oil. It would be the ultimate dream of every marketer. But for the fact that there were some 80 variants of it in the market all doing brisk business at the cost of it.


In that case, what is the way out for a marketer?

The brand's needs have to be linked to social marketing. District-wide initiatives were taken up to convince people to buy Nihar based on hygiene at the consumer and retailer levels. In that sense, we are going back to the old days to create a direct experience between the brand and the consumer to convert awareness into purchase. A personal interaction between the brand and the consumer is the key factor in such cases.


So, it is back to basics?

Precisely. If we look at the path to purchase .. our basic step is to think of the category and then come to a decision.As a industry we have frontloaded our efforts. We do a lot of activity upstream to expect results downstream. In some categories we have noticed 70-90 per cent awareness levels. The figure is 15 per cent when it comes to actual buying. It is time we focused on increasing share of this 15 per cent rather than raising the share of the 90 per cent. We have been pumping money and making noise on creating awareness. It is necessary but not sufficient. And agencies now want to bridge the gap between awareness and behaviour.


How do you plan to go about it?

If we look at the linearity of the process from awareness to attitude to intent to behaviour, it becomes clear agencies need to find a way to measure 'intent' to be able to predict behaviour. Since January 2007, we have been investing in proprietary research that measure consumer intent week after week. In mobile telephony for instance, we can predict behaviour within in a range of five per cent. Every agency is now moving from awareness to measuring intent.


So, the challenge is how do you create intent?

Agencies thus need to know how to develop skills around the brand story. Brands now need entertainment. It needs to be placed in the context of entailment. The content and the brand need to be integrated within that story in such a way that the brand adds to the story, like 'in-script branding'.


Can you explain that with an example?

Consider the usage of brands in Bond movies. Take Sony phones, Omega watches or Ashton Martin cars. They form a part of the storyline and take it forward. 'Evolution', a sci-fi movie on aliens vs humans theme, used the Head & Shoulders brand very effectively. In the heist film, 'Italian Job', the Mini Cooper automobiles was superbly used in a six-car chase sequence. In India, we did a similar thing with WorldSpace radio in Lage Raho Munnabhai.

What are the other new techniques being used to convert awareness to intent?

In small towns we are increasingly using entertainment, retail and sports marketing. Tracking intent is serious business. Where consumers create intent these questions need to be addressed.


How are clients responding to it?

Our clients realise the need to move from pure exposure to sales. Accordingly we are developing intent-centric solution for clients. New clients insist on creating awareness buzz and mileage.


A marketing executive may stay on a job for 2/ 3 years before moving on. He ends up spending money on awareness. We have seen owner driven companies are more focused on doing things that target and drive sales. In the name of impact we often end up wasting money. Our intent is to make money run harder. The faster we measure intent, the more productive it will be.


What are the new trends emerging in media?

The success of T20 has shown short, interactive entertainment is in. We are seeing a morphing of media. Consumers are moving from one medium to another, from malls to movie halls for example. We need to strategise around it so brands can also move from medium to medium.


Out of a Rs 20,000 crore annual media spend, digital, for example is stuck at around Rs 700 crore. We are just beginning to exploit the power of blogs. The power of social media and networking is immense. Word of mouth is a key marketing tool since it can transfer an individual experience to a bigger, one-to-many platform. 'Tweets' are faster, shorter and more direct.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

POLITICS SURROUND NEW TELANGANA

 

Union home minister P. Chidambaram's midnight announcement on Telangana on Wednesday took the country by surprise. The announcement brooked no delay, the minister clarified to Parliament the following day. Was there a serious apprehension in the government about the state of TRS chief K. Chandrashekhar Rao's health that led to the government going public late at night while Parliament was in session? Or were there reasons of politics connected with salvaging the situation and keeping some of the initiative after KCR precipitated the crisis through his fast? The answers will doubtless emerge in due course, but the big question for now is: has a new state of Telangana been sanctioned in principle? In his tantalising Wednesday night statement, Mr Chidambaram noted that the process of formation of the new state of Telangana would be initiated soon with the passing of a resolution in the AP Assembly. This doesn't sound like a done deal yet, and leaves open the scope for political consultations and negotiations all around, possibly leading to a new state being created if the surrounding politics are favourable. The home minister's statement had the merit of getting KCR to end his fast and the agitation that had gathered steam and appeared to be menacing. This was necessary to stop matters getting out of hand, and pave the way for discussions with the TRS. Its chief has been invited to Delhi for confabulations by the home minister. That indeed was necessary. When KCR was for a while a minister in the UPA's first government, the issue of studying the feasibility of a Telangana state had been entrusted to Pranab Mukherjee, the government's chief troubleshooter. That report is not yet public. It is likely more will be known about it when KCR enters the discussion process. But the real battle will no doubt be witnessed in AP. It is to be seen if an agitation will be mounted to counter the Telangana demand. This had happened in 1972 when the "Jai Andhra" movement had been launched to checkmate the Telangana agitation. Chief Minister K. Rosaiah has said a resolution on Telangana will be moved in the Assembly only after a consensus is evolved among the political parties. This will by no means be easy. Already a very large number of Congress MLAs, as well as legislators from the main Opposition party, the TD, and others have submitted their resignations to protest against any move bifurcation of the state. Indeed, only a small fraction of Andhra MLAs appear in favour of a separate Telangana state at present. This underlines the sense that the issue is wide open. TD chief N.

 

Chandrababu Naidu, who converted to the cause of Telangana after tribulations, appeared cautious on Thursday, saying TD's support to the prospective resolution on Telangana in the Assembly would depend on the nature of the resolution. Clearly, there is a lot of politics to be played out before we can tell for sure about a new state. No less contentious is likely to be the status of Hyderabad. Telagana protagonists, of course, cannot conceive of statehood without this capital city. But neither can the backers of Visalandhra or a united AP. The Chandigarh model is no doubt on the table — a UT which is the state capital for two states. That is doubtless contingent on the new state of Telangana coming into being. Can another possibility be ruled out at this state — converting Hyderabad into a UT? We shall know as the politics churns on. The overall situation should be handled in a way that gives no impetus to divisive movements elsewhere, such as Gorkhaland.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

TRAIN THE AFGHANS

BY SRINATH RAGHAVAN

 

U.S. President Barack Obama's recent speech announcing a troops "surge" in Afghanistan contained few surprises. But it underscored his concern about the domestic political aspects of the decision. Immediately after stating that 30,000 additional troops would be sent to Afghanistan, he added that withdrawal will commence after 18 months — in July 2011. This is understandable. Since the end of the Vietnam War, American interventions abroad have always been influenced by the mood and rhythm of politics at home. Think of Bill Clinton's startling announcement prior to the Kosovo war of 1999 that no American ground soldiers would be committed to the fight. The idea of escalation followed by a quick withdrawal has a precedent too. After the death of 18 US Marines in Somalia, Mr Clinton adopted this very strategy.


As with Somalia, this decision does not augur well for Afghanistan. The nature and quality of the Taliban insurgency suggests that an Iraq-style "surge" will be difficult to pull-off in the time frame envisaged. In this context, India must start seriously contemplating its options.


For a non-traditional donor, India has made a generous contribution of $1.2 billion towards reconstruction and development of Afghanistan. New Delhi is Kabul's largest regional donor and its fifth-largest global donor. Nearly 4,000 Indians are at work in Afghanistan, constructing roads and buildings, creating schools and hospitals, helping with sanitation and agriculture. As India has expanded its reconstruction efforts, Taliban attacks on Indian nationals have escalated, raising costs and delaying projects. In response, New Delhi has stationed paramilitary personnel to protect its workers.


As American forces prepare to drawdown, attacks on Indian installations are bound to increase, so jeopardising our existing effort — never mind further progress. If India persists with its current policy, it will, by the summer of 2011, have to make some tough choices: either increase the security presence in Afghanistan, or accept a gradual atrophy of its developmental efforts. The former option is likely to be self-confounding: the presence of foreign troops invariably breeds ill-will with the local populace. The latter scenario would be unfortunate. Successive opinion polls show that a great majority of the Afghans, including the Pashtuns, welcome India's activities in their country.


The best way to insure India's efforts and demonstrate its long-term commitment would be to contribute to the training of the Afghan National Army (ANA). And there is a significant role India can play.
Currently, the ANA stands at about 91,000 soldiers organised into 117 battalions. The existing plans for its expansion are ambitious. The initial plans to develop an independent, fully-capable Afghan military by 2010 were scrapped and replaced by plans to field 134,000 ANA troops by 2014. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) recently revised this projection upwards, calling for 134,000 troops by December 2011 and 240,000 by 2014. This would mean that by 2011, 122,000 troops would be on active duty and 179 total battalions would have formed.


However, the Western coalition has not allocated sufficient trainers, equipment or resources to increase the ANA by 40,000 soldiers in the next two years. ANA manpower levels are challenged not only by a high desertion rate — indicative of poor training as well as morale — but also by a chronic shortage in ANA trainers. The ANA may technically reach its 2011 manpower goals, but is likely to suffer from a lack of competent, well-trained troops.


Even as the ANA seeks to expand, it has fallen behind in combat readiness. The original projection was that the ANA would be an independent force as early as 2009 or 2010. Revised estimates of its capabilities are more conservative although still too optimistic. In 2008, Nato asserted that the ANA had led 50 per cent of all military operations, while the US defence department claimed that seven of 42 (17 per cent) ANA infantry battalions had achieved "full operational capability" and autonomy. However, these assessments have been dismissed as misleading and even disingenuous by independent analysts. Recent assessments by the US Government Accountability Office have concluded that only 40 per cent of Afghan National Army units were capable of conducting operations with coalition support. Clearly there is a lot to be done vis-à-vis the ANA, and quickly.


The Obama administration has reportedly broached the idea with New Delhi. But the Indian government is understandably reluctant to respond to a suggestion from the Americans. A request from Kabul might evoke a different response. In any case, the Indian government's unease is not ill-founded. A prolonged military effort, however narrowly conceived, is unlikely to be palatable to Indian opinion. The influence of the abortive intervention in Sri Lanka in the late 1980s continues to be strong. An alternative that New Delhi should consider is to train the Afghan forces in India. Officer cadets from Afghanistan have been training in Indian military academies for several years now. This programme can easily be reconfigured and the intake scaled up. The Indian Army already has a variety of officer training programmes of different lengths, which can be adapted for this purpose.


Training in the Indian model might also be more appropriate to the demands of commanding troops from diverse ethnic backgrounds. After all, the Indian Army is a classic example of multi-ethnic national force.
Similarly, India can take on training of non-commissioned officers and recruits. The infrastructure for the latter in particular is quite strong. Each of the Indian Army's 29 infantry regiments has its own centre for training recruits. Simultaneous training at a few of these regimental centres can substantially enhance the size and quality of ANA forces. Finally, the Indian Army has several counter-insurgency schools, which can be used for more specialised training.


In short, our capacity to train the ANA is not in doubt. But the clock has already started ticking. Getting our act together after the American pull-back or an appreciable worsening in the security situation in Afghanistan may be too late. India's experience of supporting the anti-Taliban forces in the 1990s should serve as a stark reminder of this fact. The stance that India adopts in the coming months may well prove decisive in the long run.

 

Srinath Raghavan is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE NEW RULES OF POLITICAL SEX SCANDALS

BY GAIL COLLINS

 

It's time for political sex scandals to reclaim their rightful place in America's national discourse. The way things have been going lately, you'd think extramarital sex only happened to professional athletes.
Consider the case of Senator Max Baucus of Montana. We learned last week that the recently divorced Baucus had nominated his girlfriend, Melodee Hanes, to be a US attorney without warning the White House that they were an item. You would expect this to create quite a buzz. Particularly since Baucus is a major player in the healthcare debate, which makes it possible to talk about his sex life while pretending to be discussing the prospects for a public option.

 

But, no, it's been Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods. How much can you say about a guy who golfs? A politician with

a compulsively wandering eye is not just a hound dog with a famous name. He's a commentary about our judgment as voters, and the viability of our social standards. Plus, gossiping about him almost brings some useful information about the political process into the conversation. What would any of us know about how impeachment works if it hadn't been for Monica Lewinsky?


I just cannot get excited about sexual misbehaviour that is never going to be investigated by a legislative committee. To be fair, although the Republicans instantly called on the Senate ethics committee to look into the Baucus affair, Max and Melodee are not likely to actually get investigated. Hanes, who was one of three nominees being considered for the US attorney post, withdrew when she and Baucus moved in together. If the story lives on in memory, it may be for a statement issued by the senator's office, which began: "Senator Baucus is currently in a mature and happy relationship with Melodee Hanes".


This is a turn of phrase that could be put to good use on so many sensitive occasions, the Baucus press office should really go for a copyright. Joe Bruno, the former majority leader of the New York State Senate who was convicted of corruption this week, is in a mature and happy relationship with Kay Stafford, the chairwoman and president of CMA Consulting Services. (Actually, the relationship is really, really mature, since Bruno is 80.) When Bruno resigned from the Senate last year, he quickly got a great job as CEO of CMA. A guy who was being investigated by federal prosecutors for his consulting activities would not normally be regarded as a perfect hire for an information technology consulting business, particularly when he seems to know as much about information technology as he does about quantum physics. Still, it was nice to finally see a woman on the powerful, job-dispensing side of these stories. One of the positive aspects of recent political gossip is that the women seem to be getting tougher. Jenny Sanford, who won public acclaim for refusing to stand by her husband, South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, during the Appalachian Trail debacle, was just named one of the "10 Most Fascinating People in 2009" on a Barbara Walters special. On the show, she repeated her contention that even if her husband had asked her to stand next to him during his confessional press conference, she wouldn't have complied. We can probably look back on 2009 as the year that finished off the loyal-wife-photo-op, even though in the Sanfords' case, having Jenny in the room would have helped. She might not have looked all that supportive, but when the governor promised to give the assembled press corps "way more detail than you'll ever want", she probably would have slapped her hand over his mouth.


A subcommittee in the state legislature voted on Wednesday not to impeach Sanford and merely censured him for bringing "ridicule, dishonour, disgrace and shame" to his state. A great victory! Sanford will be able to finish his term and perhaps go on to a rewarding career as an adventure vacation guide, or professional wrestling referee.

That leaves Senator John Ensign of Nevada as the current holder of the Most Likely to Be Turned Out of Office title. The ethics committee is investigating efforts Ensign made to help his ex-aide, Doug Hampton, get a lobbying job after Hampton found out that his boss was sleeping with Mrs Hampton.


Hampton, you may remember, first told his story with the remark: "All of those tentacles were birthed because John needed things to go down like this". Obviously not the easiest guy to place.


This could be a new rule of political sex: Never have an affair with the wife of an employee. But if you do, make sure you are not the only person in the world who would hire the cuckolded husband.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

'I CANNOT BE GUIDED BY GANDHI, KING ALONE'

BY BARACK OBAMA

 

Following is the edited text of US President Barack Hussein Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, delivered on Thursday in Oslo, Norway:

 

I receive this honour with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations — that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.


And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labours on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this Prize — Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela — my accomplishments are slight. And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organisations to relieve suffering; the unrecognised millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women — some known, some obscure to all but those they help — to be far more deserving of this honour than I.


But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this Prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by 43 other countries — including Norway — in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.


Still, we are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict — filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.


These questions are not new. War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man. At the dawn of history, its morality was not questioned; it was simply a fact, like drought or disease — the manner in which tribes and then civilisations sought power and settled their differences.
Over time, as codes of law sought to control violence within groups, so did philosophers, clerics and statesmen seek to regulate the destructive power of war. The concept of a "just war" emerged, suggesting that war is justified only when it meets certain preconditions: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defence; if the forced used is proportional; and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.


In the span of 30 years, such carnage would twice engulf this continent. And while it is hard to conceive of a cause more just than the defeat of the Third Reich and the Axis powers, World War II was a conflict in which the total number of civilians who died exceeded the number of soldiers who perished.
In the wake of such destruction, and with the advent of the nuclear age, it became clear to victor and vanquished alike that the world needed institutions to prevent another World War. And so, a quarter century after the United States Senate rejected the League of Nations — an idea for which Woodrow Wilson received this Prize — America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace: a Marshall Plan and a United Nations, mechanisms to govern the waging of war, treaties to protect human rights, prevent genocide and restrict the most dangerous weapons.

In many ways, these efforts succeeded. Yes, terrible wars have been fought, and atrocities committed. But there has been no Third World War. The Cold War ended with jubilant crowds dismantling a wall. Commerce has stitched much of the world together. Billions have been lifted from poverty. The ideals of liberty, self-determination, equality and the rule of law have haltingly advanced. We are the heirs of the fortitude and foresight of generations past, and it is a legacy for which my own country is rightfully proud.
Moreover, wars between nations have increasingly given way to wars within nations. The resurgence of ethnic or sectarian conflicts, the growth of secessionist movements, insurgencies and failed states have increasingly trapped civilians in unending chaos. In today's wars, many more civilians are killed than soldiers; the seeds of future conflict are sown, economies are wrecked, civil societies torn asunder, refugees amassed and children scarred.

 

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.


We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.


I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago: "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: It merely creates new and more complicated ones". As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr King's life's work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak, nothing passive, nothing naive in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.


But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince Al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason... So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace. And yet this truth must co-exist with another — that no matter how justified, war promises human tragedy. The soldiers' courage and sacrifice is full of glory, expressing devotion to country, to cause and to comrades in arms. But war itself is never glorious, and we must never trumpet it as such.

 

I believe that all nations — strong and weak alike — must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I — like any head of state — reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards strengthens those who do, and isolates — and weakens — those who don't.


The world rallied around America after the 9/11 attacks, and continues to support our efforts in Afghanistan, because of the horror of those senseless attacks and the recognised principle of self-defence. Likewise, the world recognised the need to confront Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait — a consensus that sent a clear message to all about the cost of aggression.


Furthermore, America cannot insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves. For when we don't, our action can appear arbitrary, and undercut the legitimacy of future intervention — no matter how justified.
This becomes particularly important when the purpose of military action extends beyond self-defence or the defence of one nation against an aggressor. More and more, we all confront difficult questions about how to prevent the slaughter of civilians by their own government, or to stop a civil war whose violence and suffering can engulf an entire region.


I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later. That is why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace.


America's commitment to global security will never waver. But in a world in which threats are more diffused, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. This is true in Afghanistan. This is true in failed states like Somalia, where terrorism and piracy is joined by famine and human suffering. And sadly, it will continue to be true in unstable regions for years to come... Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe that the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honour those ideals by upholding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard.


First, in dealing with those nations that break rules and laws, I believe that we must develop alternatives to violence that are tough enough to change behaviour — for if we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price. Intransigence must be met with increased pressure — and such pressure exists only when the world stands together as one.


One urgent example is the effort to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, and to seek a world without them. In the middle of the last century, nations agreed to be bound by a treaty whose bargain is clear: All will have access to peaceful nuclear power; those without nuclear weapons will forsake them; and those with nuclear weapons will work toward disarmament. I am committed to upholding this treaty. It is a centrepiece of my foreign policy. And I am working with President Medvedev to reduce America and Russia's nuclear stockpiles.
But it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system. Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted. Those who care for their own security cannot ignore the danger of an arms race in the Middle East or East Asia. Those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war.


The same principle applies to those who violate international law by brutalising their own people. When there is genocide in Darfur, systematic rape in Congo or repression in Burma — there must be consequences. And the closer we stand together, the less likely we will be faced with the choice between armed intervention and complicity in oppression.


This brings me to a second point — the nature of the peace that we seek. For peace is not merely the absence of visible conflict. Only a just peace based upon the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting.


It was this insight that drove drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the World War ii. In the wake of devastation, they recognised that if human rights are not protected, peace is a hollow promise.
And yet all too often, these words are ignored. In some countries, the failure to uphold human rights is excused by the false suggestion that these are Western principles, foreign to local cultures or stages of a nations development. And within America, there has long been a tension between those who describe themselves as realists or idealists — a tension that suggests a stark choice between the narrow pursuit of interests or an endless campaign to impose our values.


I reject this choice. I believe that peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please, choose their own leaders or assemble without fear. Pent up grievances fester, and the suppression of tribal and religious identity can lead to violence. We also know that the opposite is true. Only when Europe became free did it finally find peace. America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens. No matter how callously defined, neither America's interests — nor the world's — are served by the denial of human aspirations.


So even as we respect the unique culture and traditions of different countries, America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal. We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran. It is telling that the leaders of these governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. And it is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear to these movements that hope and history are on their side.


Third, a just peace includes not only civil and political rights — it must encompass economic security and opportunity. For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want.


It is undoubtedly true that development rarely takes root without security; it is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine they need to survive.


And that is why helping farmers feed their own people — or nations educate their children and care for the sick — is not mere charity. It is also why the world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, famine and mass displacement that will fuel more conflict for decades. For this reason, it is not merely scientists and activists who call for swift and forceful action — it is military leaders in my country and others who understand that our common security hangs in the balance.

 

As the world grows smaller, you might think it would be easier for human beings to recognise how similar we are, to understand that we all basically want the same things, that we all hope for the chance to live out our lives with some measure of happiness and fulfilment for ourselves and our families.


And yet, given the dizzying pace of globalisation, and the cultural levelling of modernity, it should come as no surprise that people fear the loss of what they cherish about their particular identities — their race, their tribe and, perhaps most powerfully, their religion. In some places, this fear has led to conflict. At times, it even feels like we are moving backwards. We see it in the Middle East, as the conflict between Arabs and Jews seems to harden. We see it in nations that are torn asunder by tribal lines.


Most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint — no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one's own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but the purpose of faith — for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.


Adhering to this law of love has always been the core struggle of human nature. We are fallible. We make mistakes, and fall victim to the temptations of pride, and power, and sometimes evil. Even those of us with the best intentions will at times fail to right the wrongs before us.


We do not have to live in an idealised world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place. The non-violence practised by men like Gandhi and King may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached — their faith in human progress — must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey.


For if we lose that faith — if we dismiss it as silly or naive, if we divorce it from the decisions that we make on issues of war and peace — then we lose what is best about humanity. We lose our sense of possibility. We lose our moral compass.

 

"I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the 'isness' of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal 'oughtness' that forever confronts him".


So let us reach for the world that ought to be — that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls. Somewhere today, in the here and now, a soldier sees he's outgunned but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protester awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, who believes that a cruel world still has a place for his dreams.


Let us live by their example. We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of deprivation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that — for that is the story of human progress; that is the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

RELENTING AT LAST

CENTRE NEVER HAD AN OPTION ON TELANGANA 


BY asking the state government to introduce a resolution in the state assembly to begin the process of giving Telangana statehood, the UPA has sent out a signal that it only acted under intense pressure after widespread violence brought the state to breaking point. The Telangana Rashtra Samiti chief threatened to die for the cause in the manner that Potti Sriramulu had more than half a century ago for the creation of a Andhra state. None of this need have happened; the demand ought to have been taken seriously when other smaller states had been formed, even earlier. Vested interests had prevailed all along. Even now there are voices from coastal Andhra that are attempting to throw a spanner in the works by raising demands for more states within Andhra and for creating a Union Territory out of Hyderabad, a city which should rightfully fall within the proposed Telangana state. The Centre now has the task of living up to its word after the horrendous memories of more 300 lives having been lost in police firing in 1969 and 40 suicides taking place during the current agitations. It is now up to the UPA to take it forward in Parliament where it needs a two-thirds majority; the emergence of a broad political consensus suggests that may not be difficult. More important, it needs to avert any recurrence of the unfortunate events.


While the Congress would claim to be redeeming a pledge made in 2004 when it entered an alliance with the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, the fact is that the party had always dragged its feet on the Telangana demand, and the region despite having sent to Parliament two persons who became Prime Minister continued to languish. It was only when a major conflagration loomed and the real danger of the TRS chief becoming a martyr emerged that the party felt compelled to act. Even then it had tried to contain the damage by deputing Veerappa Moily to manage the situation until elected representatives cutting across party lines, government employees, students and other groups threatened to bring the state to the brink. The UPA and its apologists tried to argue until late on Wednesday that Telangana would pave the way for other, similar demands. The Telangana issue had to be decided on merit; an earlier decision would have saved many lives. It ought to have been done with grace, but that is a quality lacking in public life.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

IN POOR COMPANY

CLB ARREST MUST LEAD TO REFORM


A fortnight has passed since the Central Bureau of Investigation arrested the acting chairman of the Company Law Board, allegedly whilst taking a bribe from one of the parties to a dispute. Reports had said that a company secretary and a lawyer were also involved. The first was arrested. The lawyer was said to have left the country, and then to have returned to join the investigation although there is no report of his arrest. And after the initial reports, the matter appears to have receded to the back burner, notwithstanding the fact that any suggestions of impropriety ~ and here the CBI said it had caught persons red-handed – in a body that decides the fate of corporate disputes ought to occasion greater public and media interest. There are two aspects that deserve examination.


The first is the case against the acting chairman and others. The matter involves powerful media interests and perhaps that explains the lukewarm response of newspapers and television channels. But why is the institute of company secretaries silent? And why has the Delhi bar not reacted to the alleged conduct of one of its members? Do these bodies accept that bribery is generally a facet of life for their members and that therefore silence is the best way to condone transgressions? If professional bodies do not clean up their act, they will soon be treated with contempt. But it is the larger question that calls for greater inquiry. Has the Company Law Board been available for sale? The Board decides knotty issues relating to corporate governance, minority shareholder rights and compliance of Company Law. Clearly the stakes are high, very high. Are we to conclude that determination is an outcome of commerce, not of the facts of the case? The Minister for Corporate Affairs patted himself on the back for the alacrity with which a new chairman of the CLB was appointed. He might like to ensure a greater degree of integrity in its functioning, and would do well to begin with scrutiny of a group of lawyers who are considered CLB specialists for reasons that may be quite distant from their knowledge of company law.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

101 'WANTED OUT'

SYMPTOMS OF DEEPER MALAISE


RESPONSES to parliamentary queries are crafted to be so specific that they offer only minimal information. Yet there can be no underestimating what has been revealed by the defence minister to the Rajya Sabha, that in the past one year 101 pilots sought premature retirement from the air force. It would be fair to assume that an equal number, if not more, also desired to quit but were hesitant about taking the plunge and "putting in their papers". Which in both financial and trained-personnel terms is a drain on national resources. True, if assessed in percentages the figure would not appear alarming, but if information for similar release-pleas from the army and navy were made available and viewed in the context of there being over 12,000 vacancies in the officers cadre grim would be the picture projected. Dismay over revised pay scales, limited promotion opportunities and a perhaps mistaken belief that each of them would find top appointments in civvy street all contribute to the lack of job-satisfaction. It is another matter that if all the perks and back-up provided were added up in the "cost to company" practice of the corporate sector defence officers would not be inadequately "compensated", even if their several hardships were taken into account. Yet the disgruntlement is palpable.


It is so typical of the national indifference to military matters that only piecemeal, fire-fighting solutions have been sought. Some, like upward revision of posts, have actually complicated the command and control structure, and the reports of various committees are so limited in focus that implementing all recommendations would render confusion worse confounded. The time for reform could be running out; it is advisable that a professionally-constituted commission undertakes a thorough review of all personnel-related issues in the defence services, pay-scales and manpower-levels obviously being top priorities. Yet the forces will also have to look within ~ the stress on honour, sacrifice, discipline, regimental tradition will have to "take in" the officers as never before. It is a tragic reality that what constitutes the much-vaunted military ethos begins to dissipate soon after the passing-out parade. And a prime cause of that is poor, far-from-exemplary leadership. Does the current "brass" have the moral courage to ask itself if it is upholding the legacy of Cariappa, Manekshaw, Arjan Singh, Ronnie Pereira?

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

CHILDREN AT RISK IN IMMIGRATION CAMPS

ROBERT VERKAIK 


LONDON, 10 DEC: The detention of hundreds of children in Britain's immigration camps is harmful and ministers should change the policy, medical experts will warn today. The call for a new approach to the treatment of young refugees and their families follows a report which found that their detention in the asylum system was linked to serious physical and psychological harm.


Today, the Royal Colleges of paediatricians, GPs and psychiatrists described children seeking asylum in the UK as among the most vulnerable in our community who required special and humane treatment. In a joint statement, the three Royal Colleges and the UK Faculty of Public Health said that children and young people in immigration detention should be recognised as "children in need" and given the same safeguards.


They also called on the government to transfer the responsibility of healthcare in detention from the Home Office to the NHS. "Primary and secondary medical care for children and their families should be provided on the same in-reach basis as in the prison service," they said. "Mental health services for children and young people in immigration detention should be provided based on their current mental health need and not on their immigration status." Every year the UK detains 1,000 children in immigration removal centres (IRCs). They are from families identified for enforced removal from Britain, who are detained under administrative orders without time limit and without judicial oversight, said the report. The Independent

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

WIDOWS IN INDIA

NEED FOR BASIC RESPECT AND RIGHTS

BY ANUPRIYO MALLICK


Widows in India face multiple, often conflicting, social expectations. Their status is defined by a complex and diverse host of religion-based personal codes, regional, jati, kin-based customs, and government laws. The condition of widows in different groups, cultural areas and classes is, therefore, vastly different. There is an unusually large number of widows in India ~ over 33 million, or eight per cent of the female population.

Widowhood confers a peculiar new struggle on women: they are expected to conform to an enormous burden of restrictive customs that marginalise them from their community and family while at the same time they often end up as the sole source of material and emotional support for their children and other family members. These constraints make it exceedingly difficult for women to effectively function as legitimate breadwinners and household heads, commanding enough income to take care of their family's needs.


Hindu women were historically considered responsible for ensuring the physical and moral salvation of males, especially in their role as wives. As such they were ideally expected to integrate values like eternal devotion and service to their husbands in order to gain long life, health and spiritual benefits. According to some of these Brahmanical authorities, a wife's primary purpose was to be auspicious for her husband. If she was responsible for the quality and length of her husband's life, then conversely she was also seen as responsible for his death. The demise of her husband translated into the loss of any approved cultural identity for a widow and constituted, for all practical purposes, the end of her social identity.


A husband's death resulted in the "social death" of his wife, and thus the beginning of her life as an inauspicious widow. Her qualities should be restrained through the imposition of restrictions on food, dress, and ritual participation. However, it is important to recognise that we still do not know what proportion of Hindu widows were actually treated in conformity with these supposedly authoritative codes of religious law.
Little leverage
THE range of impediments continue ~ neglect, bureaucratic harassment and social alienation, limited freedom to remarry, insecure property rights, social restrictions on living arrangements, restricted employment opportunities and lack of social support. They have little leverage to negotiate on their rights to property, land and other types of inheritances. With reference to employment, opportunities for paid work outside the place of residence are limited owing to lack of access to the assets owned by the deceased husband's family. She has weak bargaining power vis-a-vis male partners in economic transactions, limited access to institutional credit and has to bear the burden of domestic work. Permissible participation in the paid work sector is, paradoxically, restricted to upper caste women. There are fewer prohibitions placed on working widows in the lower strata not because the demands of subsistence are more urgent (since the social elite may belong to the same income group as disadvantaged females) but because the same norms guaranteeing a higher caste status for some women also can function as limits on their mobility and freedom.


This differential treatment is directly related to a widow's value in terms of productive and reproductive labour. For instance, "the defacing of widows is particularly marked among the upper castes such as the Havik Brahmins of Karnataka where women have no socially valued role other than their reproductive role. Among the lower castes, such as the Chuhras in Uttar Pradesh, where women are valued for their productive as well as reproductive role, widows are allowed to remarry and remain incorporated in the social and economic order".
There have been arrangements made by different groups to deal with the panic that ensues when, in the eyes of patriarchal authority, a woman becomes a widow, and therefore becomes a potential bearer of independent status with regard to family property as well as her sexual life. Jat families in Punjab reflect on the practice of the widow's remarriage to her husband's brother. This custom was a means of keeping wealth and property undivided in addition to controlling the woman's reproductive life and labour. The crux of the problem is: "whatever may be their legal rights, actual legal ownership of land by a widow is a rarity, and even where use rights have been established, control lies elsewhere". Women are usually disempowered from claiming a personal entitlement to land, but they generally have to rely on their male children and other male relatives to procure and maintain their hold on it. In most of rural India, widows with children face the fewest obstacles in justifying their right to land use, while it is nothing short of an ordeal for childless widows to stake their claims.
It may be deduced that the precarious situation most widows face would be greatly eliminated if they managed to establish independent land and property rights. Land control is the most significant factor influencing a woman's social position in rural India. Female control over land can take place only if customary law is overhauled in accordance with the rules of gender equality since "statutory laws cannot be easily enforced and customary law still prevails across most regions and social groups in India". It is striking that, having failed to implement a protective regime for a widow's basic survival rights, the state has also failed to provide adequate welfare coverage for them although a number of mostly token social security schemes have been designed towards that end.


Poor women kept ignorant

Thanks to an apathetic, corrupt and ineffectual bureaucracy, poor women are often kept ignorant about even these limited welfare programmes which hold some potential for addressing their needs. We can cite a plethora of reasons why social security plans fail: lack of public awareness, narrow eligibility criteria, inadequacy of and discrepancies in, the amount provided, unrealistic rehabilitation and training objectives and problems in implementation. The amounts granted in the few state pension schemes might allow widows to barely support themselves but cannot be stretched far enough to provide for additional dependents. And given the rather rigid criteria under which widows can qualify for various welfare plans, it is no surprise that millions end up living as destitutes. 


A frightening indication that these handicaps often prove deadly is that widow mortality rates are 85 per cent higher compared to married women in the same age group ~ confirmation that "widows in India experience particularly high rates of deprivation". However, a sign of hope is offered by a number of voluntary organisations. The Self-Employed Women's Association has pioneered an insurance scheme (Karya Suraksha) where, for an annual payment of Rs 45 or a lifetime premium of Rs 550, female members receive financial compensation for hospitalisation, damage to homes and tools required for work, maternity expenses and death of their spouse. Thus, widows have some recourse to insurance coverage in times of need.

 

In the aftermath of the Kargil war, images of widows were exploited to extract political mileage for the party in power. Widows are conveniently transformed into icons of national suffering and grief ~ "war widows" and "partition widows".


The fundamental flaw in the law's treatment of widows is the bias that exists towards women's protection rather than women's independence. Widows are left marginalised as the legal system assumes a paternalistic stance. Widowhood has to be seen as a public interest issue without being confined to the personal, domestic domain. Finally, the trappings of a housewife that keep defining women as dependents need to be overcome. Widows in India need to be given basic respect and rights and be allowed to incorporate their demands for a better life.

(The writer is professor, Eastern Institute for Integrated Learning in Management, Kolkata )

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

SMALL PIECES

 

The speed at which the Centre has conceded to the formation of a separate Telangana must have come as a surprise even to K. Chandrasekhar Rao, the founder-leader of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, whose fast-unto-death precipitated the current crisis in Andhra Pradesh. What compelled the government to act was apparently the desire to forestall bloodshed in the state. The TRS had planned a mammoth march to the legislature on December 10 which created apprehensions of more violence. However, violent rallies and prolonged bloodshed have not worked similar wonders elsewhere when demands for state formation have been raised. Had the TRS not resorted to such open blackmail and the handling of the matter by the state government inspired more confidence at the Centre and in the ruling party, the events would have unfolded differently. But now that the concession has been granted, the government cannot hope that the matter will be resolved by less threat of violence. Already, about 60 MLAs, cutting across political parties, have resigned or threatened to do so in protest against the Centre's decision. This means that the resolution for a separate Telangana will not have a smooth passage in the assembly. There are far too many issues hanging in balance to be resolved by one night's brainstorming. First, the status of Hyderabad, which is technically part of Telangana but is also the state capital. This is an unprecedented problem not confronted when the bifurcations of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh had been decided. The dividing of water and economic resources also promises to be acrimonious.

 

Even if the dust settles on Telangana, questions will be raised about the Centre's hurried decision, and will lead inevitably to the indecisions over Gorkhaland, Bodoland, Vidarbha, Harit Pradesh and many other demands. Each of these regions is fighting for the status of a separate state as a means to ensure better governance. But does size, per se, ensure that? Is Goa any better governed than Rajasthan? The political experience in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttaranchal should convincingly dissuade proponents of fragmentation. Since their formation, many of these new-born states have set a record in corruption and political instability. The answer to challenges such as Telangana does not lie in fragmentation, which does not guarantee efficient administration.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

SLOW COACH

 

Those who ask for petty politics are condemned to getting it. There is thus no surprise that the land acquired in Singur for setting up an industrial unit has only become a playground for Bengal's politicians. The latest episode in the Singur saga continues the same trend. The proposal for a railway coach factory on the land in Singur, therefore, is seen not as an economic opportunity but as a political ploy. The railway board's response to the offer raises old debates about the land acquisition but offers no hope of a coach factory coming up there. The board cannot be unaware of the fact that there is no line of demarcation between 'undisputed' and 'disputed' land in Singur. Nor can it be ignorant of the fact that there is no legal provision to return the 'disputed' plots of land to their former owners. The board's response is thus a thinly veiled rejection of the state's offer. The moral of the story is simple — whether it is for a Tata small car or a railway coach factory, the road ahead is blocked by politics. But the charade must go on with both political camps claiming to have the best deal for a new Bengal.

 

However, future chroniclers of Bengal may see in Singur a symbol of how politics ruined the state. They may see the feud between the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Trinamul Congress only as a footnote to a larger story of failure. The big picture that Singur continues to unfold is that of politicians sacrificing the state's future to their small games. It is not simply a question of stalling industrialization or opposing the acquisition of farmland for setting up industries. The big failure is their inability to grasp the basics of modern economic development. The politicians are sworn to their votebanks and farmers outnumber any other social constituency. Farmers in Singur and elsewhere in India have their grievances over land acquisition. But economic development is all about reducing the farmers' age-old dependence on land and offering them opportunities in industries and in other sectors. If its politicians are proving to be enemies of West Bengal's promise, they are also a threat to democracy. The atmosphere of bitter political confrontation makes discussion, let alone consensus, almost impossible. But then, this is not the first time that the state's economy has fallen prey to its politics.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

BEYOND THE OLD BOOKS

MODERN INDIA AND THE DISCOURSE OF FAITH

SWAPAN DASGUPTA

 

Among the few quirky sidelights of the parliamentary debates on the maverick report by Justice M.S. Liberhan on the events in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, was the speech by the Bharatiya Janata Party president, Rajnath Singh. Opening for his side in the Lok Sabha, the MP for Ghaziabad, Singh was predictably outraged that the report had named the legendary Devraha Baba as one of the 68 persons culpable of spreading communal disharmony 17 years ago.

 

As someone with roots in eastern Uttar Pradesh, the BJP president's indignation was warranted. It was known that the Baba died in June 1990, well before kar sevaks turned the 16th-century shrine into rubble. To that extent, his inclusion in the commission's rogue's gallery was a travesty. Equally needless and unsubstantiated was the commission's observation (para 69.22) that Devraha Baba issued "open threats by exhorting…dacoits to take to arms for Ram temple".

 

A fierce reverence for Devraha Baba was among the few points of convergence between the BJP and the Samajwadi Party in a debate that was otherwise polarized on familiar lines. The Baba, who commanded a wide following and was regarded as a living deity, was a legend in his long lifetime. According to his devotees, the Baba, who was normally perched on either an elevated platform or a tree and blessed his devotees by touching his foot to their head, had supernatural yogic powers and was 250 years old at the time of his death.

 

Regardless of his exact longevity, celebrities flocked to secure his blessings. As Rajnath informed Parliament, President Rajendra Prasad, accompanied by the Uttar Pradesh governor K.M. Munshi, chief minister Sampurnanand, Lal Bahadur Shastri and C.B. Gupta, conducted a puja of the Devraha Baba during Kumbh Mela. Indira Gandhi too met the Baba and was said to be a devotee. Before beginning his election campaign in Faizabad on November 6, 1989, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, accompanied by the home minister Buta Singh, UP chief minister N.D. Tiwari and K.Natwar Singh, spent 40 minutes with the Baba, a move presumably linked to his bid to gazump the BJP.

 

Having established the bipartisan appeal of the Hindu seer, Rajnath went one step further. He made the astonishing claim, on the strength of "old books", that "King George V went for darshan of Devraha Baba in 1911".

 

Whether the King-Emperor departed from his dreary routine of being showered with expensive gifts by the Indian princes and attending grand dinners to confer a Royal Charter on a holy man who, in 1911, was either 170 years old or a mere child, hasn't been documented in detail. The "old books" that Rajnath alluded to must contain details that historians have been unwise to ignore for so long. Regardless of the veracity or otherwise of George V's darshan of Devraha Baba, Rajnath's injection of this unknown and somewhat questionable factoid points to a larger malaise of a section of the BJP: the patent inability to blend the discourse of faith into a modern idiom.

 

To the BJP president who, by common consensus, had a limited target audience of his speechwriters and his "appointing authority", a euphemism for the bigwigs of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, there was nothing unnatural in embellishing the documentation of the Devraha Baba's spiritual and Hindu credentials with his transnational appeal — the paradoxical nationalist quest for foreign certification. To a less committed audience, it was further evidence of an inability to distinguish between legitimate history, conspiracy theory, mythology, bazaar gossip and plain banality.

 

This became somewhat more pronounced during his bid to debunk Liberhan's suggestion that the mobilization for the kar seva was contrived and achieved through money-power and the misuse of state resources. What others would have substantiated by casually citing the election results of 1991, which elevated the BJP from a fringe player to the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh, Rajnath tried to do with a foreigner's certificate. In his speech, he went on to claim that in November 1990, BBC Radio had claimed that popular participation in the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation was greater than that witnessed in the 1942 Quit India movement.

 

The claim, despite its inherent heresy, wasn't incredible. L.K. Advani's Somnath to Ayodhya rath yatra of September-October 1990 drew spectacular crowds and certainly redefined Indian politics. It is entirely possible that the numbers of those who turned up to chant Mandir wahin banayenge were greater than those who took part in Mahatma Gandhi's least successful movement in 1942. Yet, the belief that the mass appeal of the Ayodhya movement could be demonstrated by invoking a BBC programme was laughable. It was reminiscent of an earlier age when village tea-shops were abuzz with titillating news allegedly originating from the BBC. All of us who covered elections in the pre-TV age recall being told by local pundits that BBC had forecast a victory for such-and-such candidate. In rural India, BBC was often the shorthand for the bush telegraph — in an age when the official media lacked all credibility. For Rajnath to invoke the same BBC is very revealing. It is also a bit incongruous in the context of his declamation against the "colonial mindset" of the report.

 

Equally, Rajnath was quite unfazed and bereft of any squeamishness when he approvingly referred to "genetic engineering", a term suspiciously reminiscent of eugenics, and to DNA tests to argue that the genetic pool of India differed from that of Central Asia. This sudden burst of science was aimed at demonstrating that Babur, a Chagtai Turk, had nothing in common, at least genetically, with local Muslims who were converts from either the Hindu or Buddhist faith.

 

Ever since Nazi Germany used race and physical anthropology to perpetrate some of the worst crimes against humanity, the invocation of race and genetics in history and the social sciences have been viewed with considerable suspicion. These sensibilities were absent from Rajnath's speechwriters, who are still bound in a ghettoized world of like-minded individuals. Their detachment from a new India that has become cosmopolitan and more Western was marked. They have become a caricature of the celluloid Borat from Kazakhstan whose pathological aversion to Jews and unfamiliarity with the social mores of America made him both funny and unacceptable.

 

The Liberhan report presented the BJP a handy escape route from the embarrassment of a misadventure 17 years ago. The shoddiness of the findings, its blunders and howlers and the absurdity of its recommendations made it difficult for even the 'secular' parties to use the report as a weapon of self-righteousness. The BJP just needed to ridicule the commission's clumsiness, indicate its lack of even-handedness and hone in on Liberhan's record of freeloading to get over an event best left to history to judge. L.K. Advani wisely chose to stay out of the firing line; and Sushma Swaraj in the Lok Sabha and Arun Jaitley in the Rajya Sabha did effective demolition jobs of Liberhan without simultaneously provoking a secularist backlash. The two politicians blacklisted by the RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, discreetly signalled to the country that 17 years and two generations separated the past from the present.

 

Rajnath's certitudes appealed to the fanatically faithful, but seemed comic to those for whom the Ayodhya years are a hazy memory. He showed quite conclusively why any BJP that chooses to be bound in ghettoized Hindutva will invariably hit road bumps in 21st-century India. Unwittingly, he also demonstrated why another BJP with a more contemporary idiom has a future as the rallying point of anti-Congressism.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

IN A FAILING STATE

BONA FIDE - MALVIKA SINGH

 

Blackmail seems to have become an essential ingredient of politics and political play in India. Wherever you turn, 'leaders' are demanding responses based on fast-unto-death or gun-to-the-head and suchlike. We have taken on the rather unfortunate identity of an anarchic, very 'loosely' governed, rapidly failing State. For a great and resilient civilization to have descended to this level because of a selfish political class is indeed sad.

 

Where is that dedicated and committed national leadership that India could, once upon a time, boast of on the international stage? The tragedy is that the average babu has used this moment of political weakness to tie up his inappropriate political masters in tight and complicated knots. In turn, the masters are content to abdicate their electoral mandate, and hand over responsibility to the babu in return for a productive personal life. Retired babus living off government sinecures, old minds carrying the worst bureaucratic baggage, are also stalling change, blocking all fresh thinking, being unable to operate outside their failed little boxes.

 

We need to be led. Committee baazi — a legitimate way of passing the buck and delaying all decision-making — has killed this country and poisoned the baton that has to be passed to the next generation. When the baton was passed in the early Sixties, it was not polluted. Today it is diseased. Where is the commitment to the national interest? If our leaders and their manipulating advisers are playing spinmasters for both sides of the troubled games, making money on the future of their children, then how can we talk of pride, patriotism and intelligent nationalism? The legacy we are leaving behind is far worse than what we had inherited in 1947. Our own people have betrayed India.

 

YOUNG LEADERS

Dialogue and discussion, give and take, intelligent, well-reasoned, carefully thought-out arguments, and dignified consensus are all fundamental to policy-making and to good, transparent governance. We have lost these socio-political values and therefore, clean ethics. We have become a bungling, crude and corrupt State where probity has no place. Bureaucrats run amok, exploiting all those who work to generate wealth for this country. They have legitimized corrupt practices and their masters — the leaders of modern India — condone their wrong-doings. Indians have had enough of this humiliation. The despicable behaviour of some senior elected representatives, who happen to be sitting in the Opposition benches in Parliament and in some legislative assemblies, have degraded India in the eyes of all Indians.

 

There has been a generation-shift and Indians do not want to be embarrassed by the attitude of their 'leaders'. They want intelligent action and delivery on the ground. They are sick and tired of the old and unacceptable politicking that has besieged us for the last 30 years. The 'play' of politics has to be reversed if we are to become a strong global entity.

 

For India and Indians, the recent speeches in the Lok Sabha on the Babri Masjid debate by P. Chidambaram, Salman Khurshid and Pranab Mukherjee, all from the treasury benches, made one proud of the emphatic and undiluted positions they took. That is contemporary, emerging India. Small wonder then that parochial posturings lost out in the last election. There are lessons to be learned by archaic politicians — India has changed. India wants a leader to bring dignity back to the public domain. India is humiliated with the ongoing shenanigans in Andhra Pradesh on the Telangana issue, most of which is manipulated by operators in Delhi who give warped advice to those who call the shots. We need a strong leader to transcend self-centred and manipulative politicians.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

A GIANT STEP

''THE PRESENT SYSTEM OF TREATMENT WILL CHANGE.''

 

The success of Indian scientists in decoding the human genome is an important step towards deciphering the biological destiny of individuals. India has joined an exclusive group of five other countries — the US, Britain, Canada and China and South Korea — with this breakthrough which has major implications for public health policy and practical measures to deliver medical assistance to the people. Genetic sequencing will help to throw light on the pre-disposition of individuals to diseases and will help in early diagnosis and administration of preventive and predictive medicine. The present system of treatment and management of diseases, based on investigation of symptoms and the state of the various organs of the body at the moment, can undergo a shift in future to one based on a knowledge of how the body and mind behave. As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure in terms of effort, costs, the mental energy and stress that go into the treatment of ailments.

What the scientists at the Delhi-based Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology of the CSIR did was to map the genome of an individual in about a few weeks' time at a cost of $30,000 and discover the diseases that he is susceptible to. When the first mapping of the genome sequence was done by other countries six years ago, it had taken years to complete the project and had cost millions of dollars.


Advancement of knowledge and use of better technology has reduced the cost and time. The trend will only continue and the facility can soon be expected to become a common medical tool, available and affordable for large numbers of people. India has a large diversity of people and an understanding of the genetic profiles of groups based on geography, caste, race and kinship will be of great use because many strengths and vulnerabilities tend to be common to such groups.


Much more research has to go into reading the Book of Life which has 3.1 billion characters in the form of DNA base pairs. India has to step up its efforts and investment in the field. It has the necessary scientific talent for that, as evidenced by the achievements of scientists in genetic studies and related areas. This century is expected to be the century of biology and the country cannot lag behind others in unravelling the mysteries of the human body.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

HEED RULES

''POLITICIANS MUST SHOW GREATER RESPONSIBILITY.''

 

There have been far too many close shaves involving helicopters carrying the country's VIPs in recent months. In the most recent incident on Wednesday, the rotor blades of a helicopter President Pratibha Patil was travelling in hit a shed while it was taxiing in towards the parking bay at Bhubaneswar airport. Patil was lucky.

 

Had the president's helicopter hit one of the three choppers parked in the vicinity, there could have been a bigger mishap. This is the second time in less than a year that the president has had a narrow escape. In February, an Indian Air Force helicopter of the presidential fleet almost collided with an Air India aircraft that was readying for take-off at Mumbai airport. Thankfully the AI pilot swerved and avoided hitting the chopper. Some months ago, an aircraft carrying BJP president Rajnath Singh took off from an unlit airstrip in Dumka in Jharkhand in light guided by only the headlights of jeeps. More recently, a helicopter carrying Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi landed after sunset in clear violation of rules that require take-off or landing of choppers before sunset.


Pilot error is often blamed when things go wrong. Indeed, in several cases, pilots ignore safety procedures. The joint probe into the near-collision of the president's chopper and the AI plane at Mumbai airport found that the chopper landed on the runway without clearance from air traffic control. However, it is not fair to blame the pilot alone for breaching rules. Often politicians pressure the pilot to fly or land in adverse conditions in brazen violation of aviation rules.


Stern action must be taken against pilots who violate procedures. But politicians who fly in these aircraft too should be taken to task as often it is they who force pilots to break rules. Politicians must bear in mind that the government is pouring millions of rupees to keep them safe. Their irresponsible behaviour is unacceptable as they are putting at risk their own lives and that of other personnel on board the aircraft. Moreover, they are treating with utter contempt tax payers' money that is being spent on their security. They are accountable to the public and must conduct themselves with greater responsibility. They should realise that rules apply to all and they are not above established procedures.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

JUDICIARY IN THE DOCK

THE WORKING OF JUDICIARY IS UNDER A BLANKET OF SECRECY. THE POLITY LOOKS HELPLESS WHEN THE SC STALLS A CASE PERTAINING TO ITS CONDUCT.

BY KULDIP NAYAR


During the World War II when Great Britain was losing on every front, Winston Churchill, then prime minister, wrote to Lord Chancellor, the chief justice, to ensure that the judiciary delivered justice. Surprised Lord Chancellor frantically asked Churchill why he had expressed such a fear when his attention was focused on how to stop the advancing Nazis. Churchill replied immediately to observe that as long as people were sure to get justice, they would fight for the country even in the midst of reverses.


Today that type of confidence among the Indian people has been shaken. Two things have happened. One, the judiciary is found wanting, and two, the justice is delayed. Take the first. Retired CJ P N Bhagwati said some two decades ago on the eve of his retirement that judicial corruption was growing by leaps and bounds. Not long ago, another retired CJ S P Barucha also alleged that 15 per cent of the judiciary was corrupt. Judges and other luminaries have accepted the charge without murmur because they know that it reflects the general impression.

Leading lawyers have come out in the open to point a finger at certain judges. Bars have passed resolutions to that effect. A dominant public opinion is that it would not get fair judgment. Media has given specific instances that so and so among the judges was not above board. Whether it is Punjab, West Bengal or Karnataka, the protest against corruption of judges is open and loud. The supreme court itself is in the dock because of allegations at the highest level.


The question is who should oversee whom. Obviously, the executive cannot do so.
Even otherwise, its own image is not without tarnish. If parliament were to step in, the judiciary would be up in arms. The constitution gives the latter the right to legal scrutiny of legislation to ensure that parliament does not violate the basic structure of the constitution.


There is a proposal to have an ombudsman to look into the charges of even the serving prime minister. The successive governments have promised to set up such an authority but they have shied away from giving it any concrete shape because of the fear of some independent authority assessing their acts of omission and commission.

The working of the judiciary is under a blanket of secrecy. Even when the Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the supreme court to disclose complete correspondence and file notings on the recent appointment of three judges, but SC has stayed the CIC order. Transparency is necessary for the functioning of a democratic system. How helpless the polity looks when the highest judicial body stalls a case pertaining to its conduct.

Centre's role

In fact, there is a question mark against many appointments to high courts and the supreme court. All this is done by the supreme court collegium, a body of three senior most judges of the SC. If one were to go back in history, one would find that the Central government was party to the messy situation that the country faces today.

The case of Karnataka Chief Justice P D Dinakaran has brought the point to the boil. He is alleged to possess government land through encroachment. The collegium has recommended his elevation to the supreme court. But the government has refused to accept the recommendation. It has asked the collegium to reconsider its decision.
As per the convention, justice Dinkaran's elevation is binding if the collegium re-endorses its recommendation. Were it to do so, the country would face a constitutional crisis. Reports are the collegium would not press its recommendation.

This would, no doubt, avert the crisis. But this is not a permanent solution. Willy-nilly, the government will have to implement the proposal for the constitution of judicial council comprising judges and outsiders to give the selection of judges a proper balance. Coming specifically to the case of justice Dinakaran, a motion for his impeachment in parliament is already in the air. If impeachment proceedings are initiated, the whole matter would come before the public for debate. It would do a world of good to the judiciary as well as the executive. One thing can lead to another when the facts are there for all to see.


The second thing is that judgment is delayed for years. It amounts to denial of justice. Arrears of cases is around 30 million. A person has to wait some 15 years for the judgment. In some cases of murder, the verdict is yet to be pronounced even after the hearing was over more than a decade ago. The Union cabinet has cleared a scheme to appoint 15,000 retired judges or those who make the grade to clear the arrears. Yet much would depend on how quick the pronouncement of the verdict is. Too much time is wasted on dilatory methods that a litigant adopts to stall the judgment.


Starting from the lower court to the supreme court, it is a long legal haul. There's scope for cutting the procedures, debates,  and paper work so that the pace is fast, without compromising on what the justice demands.

Judiciary is one of the pillars on which the edifice of democracy rests. The pillar is showing cracks. Parliament, representing the will of the people, needs to repair the pillar, not to make it still weak because of the taint that the judiciary has come to acquire. Some remedial steps need to be taken. Only then will the judiciary sparkle once again.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

LASHKAR-E-TAIBA'S US' CONNECTION

PROPER TRAINING AND AWARENESS IS NECESSARY FOR ALL PERSONNEL ENGAGED ON SECURITY DUTIES.

BY ARUN BHAGAT


David Coleman Headley born Daood Salim Gilani and Tahawwur Hussain Rana who have been arrested by the FBI for conspiracy to commit terrorist acts of killings and maimmings in foreign countries were targeting India and the Netherlands. Two separate 45 to 50 page complaints have been filed in a Chicago court by the FBI against each of the two accused.


Both the complaints state that a newspaper office and employees of a newspaper which had published cartoons of the Prophet were their primary targets in the Netherlands. The endeavour code named Mickey Mouse and was referred as such in their communication with persons based in Pakistan.


The complaint states that the two were working for the banned Islamic organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba. Some messages exchanged between Headley and his handler in Pakistan have been reproduced in the complaints. There are a number of references to India and to one Rahul in the messages. No specific target in India was mentioned but in one series of e-mails indicate that a city near Mumbai was being targeted.


Mumbai link

Headley was arrested at the O'hara airport, Chicago, before he could take a flight to Philadelphia en route to Pakistan. Based on this information and other inputs which probably had been given to the Indian team which had gone to Washington after the arrest of the duo, the National Investigating Agency has registered a case against Headley and Rana and unnamed members of the L-e-T. Apart from the conspiracy to commit crimes of terror in the country the NIA would be investigating the involvement of the two schoolmates in the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in November, 2008.

The fact that Headley made as many as nine visits to India in the last 2/3 years and is said to have opened an office in Mumbai and issued advertisements has raised genuine concerns about the efficacy of our security mechanisms and capabilities to prevent terrorists and their supporters easy ingress into and egress out of the country.

The names of Headley and Rana were apparently not on any list of wanted or suspicious persons. They had valid travel documents issued by their countries of naturalisation. All instructions and rules were apparently adhered to in granting them visas to visit India between 2006 and 2009. Headley had deliberately changed his name to a Caucasian one not to disclose his origins. This is exactly what he succeeded in doing as far as Indian officials were concerned. His birth place as entered in his passport was Washington DC. It is not known whether he was questioned about the difference of his and his father's name.


While his Pakistani origin could not and should not have been held against him, the  purpose of his many journeys to India needed to be clarified. The immigration checks on reaching India were similarly cursory. Here as well the difference between his and his father's name was not taken note of.


Lacuna
Foreigners on reaching their destination in India and checking in at a hotel or hostel of their stay are required to fill up and sign a form for scrutiny by the immigration authority. It is the responsibility of the management of the establishment to get the forms filled up and ensure their submission to the town/city immigration authorities along with the passport of the individual. Headley's passport would have been scrutinised in over 12 towns during his nine visits and passed through the hands of at least three dozen officers but not one of them found anything unusual in it.


Immigration control is now computerised in most parts of India. It should be easy to develop software applications to draw the attention of the operator to a large number of facts recorded on passports. Alerts would be sounded automatically by the system. Obviously such programmes have not been introduced except for those on the wanted lists.

While new software should be introduced, proper training and regular briefings are necessary to raise the levels of awareness and competence of all personnel engaged on security duties. Terrorists are always adopting new methods and subterfuges to evade detection.


New higher levels of skills, expertise, motivation and dedication are required along with a more imaginative approach if terror has to be contained in the country. Nothing should be treated as matter of routine in the present dangerous environment.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

VIRU, THE PHILOSOPHER-BUTCHER

VIRU IS A 'STITHA PRAGNA', WHO TAKES SUCCESS AND FAILURE WITH EQUANIMITY.

BY N NIRANJAN NIKAM


The whole nation was disappointed on Friday, Dec 4, when Virendar Sehwag got out for 293 runs. The newspapers had gone to town about his breathtaking innings and what does our Viru do the next day? Pats the ball back to Muralitharan and returns to the pavilion just seven short of a third triple century and a place in the history books.


How truly cricket reflects life and how truly Sehwag reflects life! At the press conference later, querried about his getting out for 293, the calm Viru's replay showed the philosopher in him. "I am happy that I at least scored 293 runs. Still I made a record that after two triple centuries I am able to score 293. I am extremely happy and proud of this. It was a missed opportunity, but there will always be a next time," he said.


Every die-hard cricket fan knows that the game reflects the vagaries of life. You are on top of the world one day and the next, you hit the ground with a thud. This is exactly what Viru was speaking about. He was satisfied with that explosive innings though we as watchers and admirers were heart-broken about him not getting the third triple ton. He also sent out a warning to all the other Test playing nations when he spoke of "there will always be a next time."


He also said that he was an entertainer. This is so true in this day of television. His philosophy is simple, "ball is there to be hit, you hit it". Viru said that comparing him to Vivian Richards is an honour. Viv played his first Test match in Bangalore and was out early when Chandra picked up his wicket. Then he scored an unbeaten 192 in Delhi where Chandra did not play. We have all seen how Viv destroyed fast bowling attacks around the world. His swagger to the wicket showing the dominance of the blacks was something that we all cherish to this day.

In comparison to the powerfully built Viv, Viru is really small sized. But the way he destroys bowlers is a sheer reflection of his mental strength and uncluttered approach to the game. He makes everything look simple.


Viru can be remarkably candid about his lack of knowledge about the game too. He frankly admitted some years ago that he was not aware of Vinoo Mankad and Pankaj Roy's world record opening partnership which he and Dravid were on the verge of breaking. He had no regrets about missing that record either.


Viru is a 'stitha pragna' in its truest sense. He takes success and failure with great equanimity. This could be seen when the television cameras panned on him sitting in the dressing room: wearing shorts and teeshirt after getting out missing a triple century with not a trace of regret on his face.


In its over 130 years of history, the game has seen many greats, both batsmen and bowlers, but rarely one has seen a philosopher-cricketer and we are all fortunate that he is an Indian and one the world should be proud of.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

FALSE ALTARS

 

Thursday's main headline in The Jerusalem Post captured some of the best news of the week: "Thousands rally peaceably against building freeze."

 

Some 30,000 demonstrators, many of them young people, turned out on a chilly evening near the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem to protest the security cabinet's November 25 moratorium on new settlement construction.

 

The assembly was a celebration of democracy. There was neither incitement nor violence. It could easily have been otherwise. Fortunately, as our Herb Keinon wrote yesterday, the Yesha Council leadership recognized that a rancorous demonstration - with depictions of Binyamin Netanyahu wearing a keffiyeh or an SS uniform - would alienate the majority of Israelis.

 

National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari did cross the line when he asserted, "If there is a people that has to be evacuated and should not be here, it is not the Jewish people." It was a clever sound bite, but a tactically unwise and morally untenable argument.

 

We much more respect the tone set by Ma'aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel who addressed the premier from the podium: "We worked together for 18 years. And for 18 years you instructed me to build the land. Do not change your path today. We will be by your side to help you withstand American pressure."

 

This newspaper has questioned the value of a settlement freeze that is so wide as to include strategic settlement blocs such as Ma'aleh Adumim, yet is barely appreciated in Washington and has been utterly dismissed by the Arabs. MK Arye Eldad (National Union) was correct when he told the crowd that the freeze could potentially lead to a disengagement from much of the West Bank. Thus a moratorium which includes areas Israel intends to retain under a permanent accord sends highly problematic signals.

 

Of course, the main obstacles to the emergence of a demilitarized Palestinian state are the Palestinians themselves. Fatah's ineffective and intransigent "moderates" refuse good faith bargaining; Hamas's ruthless rejectionists seek permanent "armed struggle."

 

LEADING UP to Thursday's rally, we've been deeply troubled by the claim of settler leaders that their grievances take precedence over the decisions of Israel's security cabinet. Yesha Council head Danny Dayan urged his constituents to forcibly prevent inspectors with stop-work orders from entering settlements. He labeled the government decision "illegitimate" and a "White Paper" - a crass reference to the betrayal by British Mandate authorities of the Balfour Declaration.

 

Sure enough, there have been clashes up and down the West Bank between settlers - including high-school girls - and authorities. Radical settlers have even sought to "exact a price" by igniting Palestinian violence; others reportedly slashed tires on a quiet Jerusalem street.

 

The atmosphere of intimidation reached such levels that the IDF reportedly suspended training exercises because it needed personnel to assist the civil administration.

Radical settler Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, of the Har Bracha hesder yeshiva pre-army academy, instructed national-religious recruits to disobey orders that run contrary to the Land of Israel ethos. Though his institution is funded by the Defense Ministry (and Diaspora donors), Melamed let it be known that government officials would have to come to his mountain if they wanted to parlay; he would not come down to them.

 

In contrast, Rabbi Haim Druckman, another leading hesder rabbi, has written against exploiting the army to make political capital.

 

The establishment of the state means that competing centers of authority cannot be tolerated. There can be no false altars.

 

Settler leaders are being disingenuous if they think they can turn to the High Court of Justice, appeal to public opinion and lobby members of Knesset yet retain the "right" to violently confront the state if they don't get their way.

 

WHILE INSISTING settlers work within the law, we are not oblivious to the often dysfunctional nature of Israel's political system or the possibility of individual corruption. That is why we support Wednesday's Knesset vote to expedite legislative consideration of a bill that would require a national referendum prior to any withdrawals from the Golan Heights or east Jerusalem. Consideration might be given to a similar requirement for substantial withdrawals in Judea and Samaria as well.

 

In this way, decisions about Israel's permanent boarders would benefit from the unassailable legitimacy of the body politic. For now, however, the security cabinet's settlement freeze decision deserves the absolute allegiance of the governed.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

WANTED: NATIONAL PRIORITIES

 

Both the government's support for the referendum law and its proposed new map of the country's national priority zones, which will be brought to the cabinet for approval on Sunday, raise questions about our leadership's national order of priorities. What do economic benefits for 110,000 settlers, most of whom live in dozens of settlements outside the major blocs, have to do with the vision of two states for two peoples? What does a political roadblock in the form of a requirement for either an inflated majority in the Knesset or a referendum have to do with the desire to resume negotiations with the Palestinians and Syrians, which are based on the principle of land for peace?


These two recent moves appear to be an attempt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to appease his colleagues in the extremist wings of his Likud party and his coalition, and to compensate the settlers for the limited, temporary freeze on construction in the settlements. As in his previous term, Netanyahu is taking one step forward and then immediately two steps back. The decision to attach a ball and chain to the peace process in the form of a referendum lessens the value of his speech at Bar-Ilan University last June. Encouraging settlement in the heart of the West Bank by giving economic benefits to settlers increases suspicions among both the Arabs and the international community that the settlement freeze was not intended to do anything but repulse pressure from the U.S. administration.


Yuval Diskin, the head of the Shin Bet security service, briefed the inner cabinet on Wednesday about the Palestinian security services' success in reducing terror in the West Bank. But the meager harvest they have reaped from the Oslo process is increasing popular Palestinian support for players such as Hamas, who insist that violence is the way to end the Israeli occupation. These players derive encouragement from every Israeli move that contradicts a solution of dividing the land and recognizing Palestinian rights.

 

Even the most pragmatic elements of the Palestinian leadership such as Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are losing faith in the possibility of reaching an agreement with Israel through dialogue. At the same time, the referendum law - which has been nicknamed, and not for nothing, the "Law to Safeguard the Golan" - raises doubts about Israel's willingness to pay the price of peace with Syria.


The erosion in this government's credibility regarding the diplomatic process - and in the credibility of each coalition member, including the Labor Party - is exacting a heavy price from Israel on both the domestic and international fronts. The diplomatic vacuum is being filled by Arab and European initiatives designed to advance a unilateral solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The latest evidence of this is the European Union's decision this week on the status of Jerusalem. And it is doubtful that the United States can for long (or would want to) save Israel from the slippery diplomatic slope onto which it is being dragged.

The prime minister must decide where he is headed: toward an agreement that will assure Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state, or toward a perpetuation of the occupation at the price of turning Israel into either a binational state or an apartheid one. It is impossible to woo the settlers while seeking a compromise with the Palestinians. The Israeli public has a right to know where its elected leadership is taking it.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

NEEMAN'S SICKLY OLIVE BRANCH

BY SETH FARBER

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman's comments this week at the rabbinical judges conference, in which he suggested that he would like to see a "return" to the Torah litigation system (ostensibly in place of Israeli law) are understandable. But they are also indefensible.


Prof. Neeman, himself an Orthodox Jew and a long-standing important figure in both the legal profession and in public service, has worn his Orthodoxy on his sleeve since he entered public life. He has always maintained relationships with the senior Orthodox rabbinical leadership, and in recent years, has made little secret of the esteem in which he holds the Sephardi chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, the ideological heir to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Neeman's comments reflect his general identification with the conservative branch of Orthodoxy, which sees halakha (Jewish religious law) as dynamic and capable of providing solutions for every modern problem.

But a closer look at Minister Neeman's comments indicates that they were more political in nature than substantive. A number of times, in an attempt to explain why Jewish law should reign supreme, he cited the phrase "lehahzir atara leyoshna" ("to return the crown to the days of old"). This wording is identical to the electoral slogans of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, with which many of the current rabbinical court judges identify.

I don't believe that Yaakov Neeman is a champion of theocracy, nor that he believes that every section of the Shulhan Arukh code of Jewish law should be implemented in today's society. Rather, I would conjecture that his formulations were an attempt to hold out an olive branch to the rabbinical court judges, with whom he has had several brush-ups in recent years. Seen in this context, one can understand - if not excuse - Neeman's error.

On the macro level, the last 10 years have seen considerable enmity between the rabbinical courts and the corridors of justice in Israel - both the Supreme Court and the Justice Ministry. The rabbinical courts have been stripped of much of their power (particularly when it comes to monetary disputes), the secular courts have ruled countless times in favor of a more pluralistic view of Israeli Jewish society, and increasingly, Orthodox rabbis (including myself) are using those same courts to pressure the rabbinate to uphold the law even when it conflicts with their understanding of Jewish law. A believer in the relevance of halakha, Neeman may have seen his speech as an opportunity to relieve some of the tension between the rabbinical courts and the secular legal system he represents. By "speaking their language," he may have sought to rein in the radical elements within the rabbinical courts.

 

But on the micro level, the minister may have had a more specific goal. For the past decade, Neeman has championed another cause in which the rabbinical courts have been a thorn in his side. Since 1998, he has been an outspoken advocate for reforming the process of conversion here, and has crafted coalition agreements to that end. He has stated publicly that the demographic challenge faced by the state in the presence of at least 300,000 immigrants who received citizenship under the Law of Return, but are not Jewish according to Orthodox halakha, represents a threat to Israel that is no less significant than Iran's missiles.


Particularly because the Neeman commission - which created a government-sponsored conversion program - has been accused of recognizing the Reform movement, most of what Neeman has done in this area has been considered suspect by rabbinical court judges.


Most importantly, he has been personally involved in the selection of conversion court judges and has reportedly lobbied for appointing additional "volunteer" judges for the task. He was personally attacked, and spoke out in the Knesset when conversions were annulled in rabbinical courts three years ago. In the last two weeks, the Knesset called upon him to impose sanctions on marriage registrars who refuse to register converts who have completed the national (Orthodox) conversion program.

In short, as justice minister, Neeman wants to move his concept of conversion forward, but realizes that he needs the support of the rabbinical courts to do so. Perhaps he was thinking he could earn credibility by making a peace offering - at least a theoretical one - to their judges.


But all this doesn't justify the comments he made this week. The secular press has cited Neeman's remarks ad absurdum, highlighting ancient texts that have no relevance - according to anyone - today. Jewish tradition and halakha have been made - once again - to look foolish and outdated, and rather than bringing a message of tolerance and tradition to the general community, Orthodoxy has been made to look like something out of the 16th century (or perhaps earlier).


If Neeman was indeed trying to offer an olive branch to the rabbinic world, he may well have succeeded. But at the same time, he has alienated himself from the world in which democracy and modernity inform halakha, as much as they clash with it. Little was gained from his foray, for the ultra-Orthodox continue to bask in their newfound power, without having to cede anything along the way.


Rabbi Seth Farber is the director of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center (www.itim.org.il) and the rabbi of Kehillat Netivot in Ra'anana.

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

FOUR COMMENTS ON THE SITUATION

BY YOEL MARCUS

 

1 In the days when he served as finance minister, Yaakov Neeman would begin his day by studying a page of Talmud with people from his office. I don't know whether he has maintained this custom as justice minister but something much worse has happened to him. After failing to split the duties of the attorney general he returned to the headlines this week, saying publicly that "the glory of the past must be brought back and Jewish law must be binding in the State of Israel." Now that the ultra-Orthodox are stepping up their takeover of Jerusalem, that was all we needed to add fuel to the fire in the legal system. Neeman is a clever man and a successful lawyer, so it is not clear how he could have used the banal defense that his words were "taken out of context." What context, whose context? That timeworn excuse is obsolete in the age of radio, television and Google, when every word he said was recorded. And everyone heard what he said. It is impossible to say today, "My words were distorted." Anyone still in doubt about which camp his remarks were meant to serve had only to listen to Army Radio the next day, when that most righteous and upright of men, Aryeh Deri, came out in Neeman's defense. Rest assured that his words were not taken out of context.


2 When the United States began influenza vaccinations in 1975, there were several incidents of heart attack, paralysis and sudden death, and a number of lawsuits were filed against the government. The following year all civil servants were vaccinated at federal expense. I was Haaretz's Washington correspondent at the time. The Jerusalem Post correspondent in D.C. (Wolf Blitzer, today a CNN star) approached me and said: "Let's go to the nurses' room; journalists need to be vaccinated, too."


While we were standing in line a health official handed out a form letter saying that if something happened there was no need to sue - the injured party would automatically receive compensation in accordance with a fixed scale. With typical American efficiency it stated that such and such a sum, close to $1 million, would be paid for immediate death; such and such a sum would be paid for total paralysis, and so forth.


Blitzer read it and said he wasn't getting vaccinated. I, on the other hand, called my wife and told her there was a possibility she would be a millionaire within a day. Both of us are still alive. I would expect a modern state to stop turning the issue of the swine flu vaccine into a lottery. Decide already: Is it safe or isn't it? Should we get it or not? Don't drive everyone crazy.


3 Like the cherry trees in Washington that bloom every year for just a few days, the subject of an agreement with Syria has bloomed annually for decades now, like a balloon that stays inflated for a few days until the air escapes. First we were dealing with Hafez Assad. Once he sat with Henry Kissinger for hours, arranging the seating at the first peace conference in Geneva, and when they parted, after Kissinger nearly burst his bladder, Assad informed him that Syria would not participate. Another time Assad went to Geneva and surprised Bill Clinton with a personal announcement that he was no longer interested in negotiating with Israel. Every time the talks with the Palestinians reach a stalemate our leaders remember that we have to reach an agreement with Syria. Now the initiator is Bashar Assad, the son. We are receiving direct messages from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The price is known and has not changed. And there is a plethora of proposals for possible long-term arrangements. But there is nothing so simple that Israel cannot make complicated. Now there is a proposal for a referendum. In real democracies there are no referendums and it is important that a golem of this kind not replace the cabinet and the Knesset.


4 Photographs of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his wife Nili Priel are once again on the news pages. Dressed to perfection in the latest fashions, with expensive watches and jewelry, they look pleased with themselves and the good life they lead. But for heaven's sake, leave them alone. Ever since he ended his successful army career and began rubbing shoulders at fancy events with Israel's wealthy, he would ask himself: Can't I do it too? In between he consulted the rich and asked them how to make a million in a year. Finally he found his niche and grew rich. He has an ostentatious apartment and is growing fat from overeating and self-satisfaction. All the heads of government in Israel lived in luxury; they, their wives and entourages took entire floors in luxury hotels and the state paid. The Rabins also enjoyed living well. What is the difference between Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak? Rabin would ask his close aides what was okay and what was not, and would listen to their advice. Barak has no close aides - that is why he employed an illegal cleaning woman and why he will not be prime minister again.

 

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 HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

WHAT NETANYAHU REALLY WANTS

BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to Syrian President Bashar Assad and can't contain himself. Here is the hostile neighbor from the north that for so many years worked so hard to fill the role of cruel and dangerous enemy. And now it's suddenly becoming a peace-loving country. Assad doesn't stop offering Israel negotiations; this week he even dropped the demand that Israel give up the entire Golan Heights in advance. This is causing Netanyahu sleepless nights. He realizes that the price of peace is giving up the Golan, and this is precisely what he is not willing to pay.


Netanyahu also knows that such a move would endanger his chair - and that's the last thing he wants.


It's also the reason he didn't block the decision by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation and the vote in the Knesset this week that approved the bill requiring a withdrawal from the Golan or East Jerusalem to be approved in a referendum. Now it's quite clear to Assad and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that there is no one to talk to, because how can you sit down to talks when the deal is not final but dependent on the votes of "Big Brother" participants Shifra Kornfeld and Maayan Hodeda?


The decisions by the government and Knesset teach us that Israel prefers the Golan Heights without peace to peace without the Golan heights. Proof of this can be heard in the cries of joy by right-wing Knesset members and the heads of the Golan settlers. They understand very well that the need for a referendum destroys any possibility of negotiations.


Netanyahu doesn't want to give up an inch. Anything else is mere tactics and maneuvering vis-a-vis U.S. President Barack Obama. This can clearly be seen in his decision to "freeze" construction in the settlements at a time when the number of building permits for the freeze's 10 months stands at many thousands and the budget for isolated settlements - those outside the settlement blocs - is being increased.


The prime minister is slavishly devoted to targeted killing via referendum. It was he who proposed in 2005 to hold a referendum on the disengagement - in order to torpedo it. He figured then that the right and religious public would go from door to door and invest millions in propaganda, while the center and left would doze quietly, expecting that the government would do the work for them. Netanyahu also understood that until the referendum question was formulated and the appeal processes completed, many months would pass and Ariel Sharon would lose his momentum, status and majority. Thus the withdrawal would be thwarted.


But then Netanyahu had to face a real leader who was not afraid of his party rebels and did not consider holding onto his chair the be-all and end-all. Sharon contemptuously rejected the idea of a referendum and carried out the withdrawal that extricated Israel from the treacherous and bloody quagmire of Gaza. That's how David Ben-Gurion acted in the 1950s when he rejected pressure to hold a referendum over reparations from Germany.


The idea of a referendum is mistaken because Israeli democracy is a representative democracy, not a direct one. The public elects its parliament, which elects its government. The task is to make tough decisions and not roll the ball back into the public's court. We elect a leader so he will change reality, take chances and make unpopular decisions, with a view to the future, not someone who decides things based on public opinion. If we wanted such a leader, we would appoint as prime minister a computer that calculates public opinion and makes decisions using text messages.

Every prime minister has realized that a peace agreement with Syria would be a strategic asset for Israel. So Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert held talks with the Syrian president, contacts that did not ripen into an agreement. All these prime ministers were aware that Israel's most dangerous enemy is Iran, which is developing a nuclear capability. They were aware that Syria is that country's strategic ally.

So it is clearly -in Israel's interest to separate Syria from Iran. A peace deal under an American umbrella would be the start of such a separation. That's what happened with Egypt in the wake of the peace agreement with Anwar Sadat.


Moreover, Israel's basic struggle is against Muslim fundamentalism and religious fanaticism; against groups like the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood. Syria is a natural ally for this because it has a secular (Alawite) regime that is fighting against those same forces.

 

Israel is a strange country. If a rival attacks us and conducts a war of attrition, we say we must not sit down to negotiations until it puts down its weapons. But if the rival maintains calm on the border, as is the case on the Golan Heights, we say we should not rush to make concessions because things are quiet.


The danger is that Assad could one day conclude that he has no hope of getting back the Golan through negotiations and will turn the Heights (and perhaps our entire country) into an arena for terror, attrition and losses, like Sadat did in the Sinai.


But Netanyahu is not concerned. Because until that happens, he will achieve his central aim - to keep his chair.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

TRUST THE SETTLERS TO LOSE THE WEST BANK

BY BRADLEY BURSTON

 

U.S. President Barack Obama cannot and will not compel Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and free up land for a Palestinian state. Neither will the international community, nor Hamas, and certainly not the Palestinian Authority, nor what remains of the Israeli left.


Trust the settlers, though. They alone will make it possible. Sooner or later, they'll lose the West Bank all by themselves.


There's no one else to do it. The president faces a congressional mid-term election less than 11 months from now. The world huffs, puffs and blows nothing but smoke. If past experience is any guide, only the settlers themselves are capable of doing what is needed to bring about a pullout. And if present indications hold, at some point, they will do just that.


The settlement enterprise has a fatal weakness for Greek tragedy - not unlike the Palestinian national movement - in which the main character alone has the power and the fiery, headstrong determination required to thwart its own most cherished goals.


Fittingly, for a culture so steeped in loss - withdrawal from 89 percent of the land captured in 1967, removal of 43 settlements in Sinai, Gaza and the West Bank, expulsion of more than 10,000 settlers - the settlers' behavior tends to follow this pattern:


1. Denial. In case after case, settlers have refused to take seriously the signs that a pullout was impending, waiting much too long to launch their fight against withdrawal. "There will be no evacuation," read the stickers before Sinai was ceded. "Sharon doesn't really mean it," the right told itself before the disengagement. The irony is that the settlers and their allies on the hard right may be the only Israelis who still listen to the Israeli left. When prominent doves in academia and the media now declare that it's too late for a two-state solution, and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is merely going through the motions of seeking a future peace, only the settlers breathe a true sigh of relief.


You can bank on their denial. You can bank on their failure to recognize that a majority would agree to withdraw from the West Bank under a peace deal. Just as you could bank on their willingness to believe that a Likud leader would never agree to such a thing.


They believed it when they elected Menachem Begin, who ceded Sinai, and when they elected Yitzhak Shamir, who set the precedent for a total withdrawal when he returned Taba, and later, when in full confidence they elected Ariel Sharon. Now they have elected Netanyahu. The pillars of the right - Avigdor Lieberman, Benny Begin and Moshe Ya'alon - have all voted for the first settlement freeze since Oslo 1993. The result:


2. Anger. From the standpoint of achieving their aims, the settlers' vocal fury over the unfairness, the racism, the injury to human rights implicit in a settlement freeze - let alone a future expulsion - is liable to boomerang.


Blocking intersections, refusing orders in the Israel Defense Forces, calling soldiers Nazis, leading the fight to foil a deal for captive soldier Gilad Shalit - the grounds for backlash go on and on. And the anger, the settlers are always shocked to discover, is a two-way street.

3. Bargaining. Here is where the settlers' battle is typically lost. Activists actually believe that they triumph if only they are proactive enough; for example, if they block major intersections, assault government officials and security forces and brand them Nazis - or, if they are just religious enough, a sure way to alienate the consensus.



4. Depression. The more messianic the faith, of course, the more cataclysmic the disappointment. Again, in this context, the settlement enterprise has begun to show the stresses and creaks of an aging, perhaps dying revolution. Not for nothing has the settlement movement begun to wonder whether the sad fate of the kibbutz enterprise might point the way to its own demise.


5. Acceptance. At this point, many in Israel seem to see a more urgent need for a Palestinian state than do many Palestinians. The jury is still out, but Netanyahu may be one of them. If past experience holds, the majority will back him - and the 80 percent of settlers to be annexed in blocs will, in the end, swallow the pill.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

BYPASS THE PALESTINIANS

BY YEHEZKEL DROR

 

Minister without Portfolio Benny Begin was right when he wrote that there is no chance to reach an agreement with the Palestinians in the foreseeable future ("What else can we concede?" December 4). Missing from his op-ed piece is the conclusion that stems from this assessment.


Indeed, the various Palestinian leaderships, including the Palestine Liberation Organization, Fatah and Hamas, are incapable of showing the kind of statesmanship that can lead to an agreement. This is the case for a number of reasons: a misunderstanding of reality, a sentimental fixation that binds them to both a baseless "vision" and a warrior culture, a lack of courage to tell the Palestinian public the truth, and personal interests based on the link between the continuation of the conflict and their staying in power. They have no chance to receive more than what Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert offered. Their refusal to accept these proposals is a historic error. There is no basis to the assumption that Israel will disappear from history.


The result is that the Palestinians find themselves in a historic trap of their own doing that precludes any chance of holding serious negotiations. To this we should add that an agreement with the Palestinians per se (or a deal with Syria) does not meet Israel's needs: Israel must be compensated by having its standing in the Middle East upgraded. It would thus not be prudent for Israel to give up the limited bargaining chips it holds to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, even if such a deal could happen.


Begin is also correct in saying that our future in our land does not depend on the Palestinians. But our future depends on whether we act wisely. So we need to carefully consider the conclusion that stems from the useless negotiations with the Palestinians. The key to a solution lies in three geostrategic realities.


First, the Palestinians do not pose a serious threat to the State of Israel. They are not capable of substantially harming our security if we are smart enough to develop a doctrine that befits the various scenarios of confrontation. The threat of "one state for two peoples" is nothing but a hallucination or an attempt to strike fear in Israel. In diplomacy, it is obvious to every serious player that Israel is not a "suicide state" and that it would quash such a nasty idea.


Second, the situation as it is today is not sustainable. The various conflagrations, which are inevitable given the lack of extensive change in current historical processes, boost radicalism in the Middle East, strengthen the Iranian axis, endanger the stability of moderate Arab states and harm the vital interests of the main powers, including the United States. All these factors stoke fears that Israel will face increasing pressure to make far-reaching concessions without receiving anything substantial in return. So a policy of "conflict management" is untenable and liable to exact a huge price from Israel.


Third, and most important for the long term, Islam's increasing global power will supplant the geopolitical weight of Israel and the Jewish people. It's quite likely that this power will be directed against Israel if the current state of affairs continues in which Islam's holy places in Jerusalem are under exclusive Jewish control amid occasional outbreaks of violence that ignite public opinion in Muslim countries.


So indeed, there is no chance of negotiations with the Palestinians in the foreseeable future, as stated by Begin. But we shouldn't accept the conclusion - even if Begin did not intend to raise it - that we must continue treading water. A series of symbolic band-aid measures have been taken, such as a painful construction freeze in the settlements, some of which will obviously remain in Israel; proposals to establish a provisional Palestinian state in parts of Judea and Samaria; "economic peace"; and ill-advised vacillating between talks with Syria and talks with the Palestinians. None of these address a basic problem: the need to stabilize Israel's standing in the Middle East in the age of rapid transformations that do not necessarily work to our benefit.


The right solution is an Israeli initiative that bypasses the Palestinians and works directly toward a comprehensive Mideast arrangement, one that relies in part on the Arab peace initiative. Such an agreement would include peace treaties with the key Arab and Muslim states. These treaties would call for a Palestinian sub-state that would fall under a mandate of moderate Arab states, all with good reason to be concerned about the establishment of a "rogue" Palestinian state.


A comprehensive deal for the Middle East would require many concessions from Israel, yet the return would be valuable: normalization of its standing in the region and, as a result, bolstering its national security for the long term.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

BRACING FOR THE WORST

BY HAGGAI CARMON

 

While the world eyes Dubai's failing economy with great concern, across the bay, Iran sees opportunity. Dubai is the only oil-free city-state of the United Arab Emirates. Until mid-November, it was best known for its spectacular economy and luxurious high-rises.


Intelligence services the world over, however, have long regarded Dubai as a rat's nest of money launderers, smugglers and arms dealers, teeming with mobsters - Indian, East Asian and Russian thugs, Arab terrorists and Iranian government agents. Dubai's underground banking system was used to transfer money to the 9/11 terrorists and Hezbollah. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist, used a Dubai shell company to distribute Malaysian-made centrifuge components, used for uranium enrichment.


The emirate turned a blind eye to these activities. With no oil, its economy was dependent on trade - of any color. Under growing U.S. pressure, however, official Dubai had to remove its blinders; it was that or sanctions.

 

Thus in 2007, Emir Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum vowed to honor UN Security Council sanctions against Iran.

 

And at least on the surface, Dubai did initially work to comply. Most of its banks announced they would no longer be dealing with Iranian banks. Even worse for Iran, Dubai started cooperating with the United States to uncover shell corporations used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and other groups to import embargoed goods. It became harder for an Iranian citizen to get a work visa for Dubai. The West's pressure had good reason: a nuclear one.


For Iran, Dubai had been a logical playground. There are more than 500,000 Iranians living in the Gulf, most of them in Dubai. Many are employed by the more than 4,000 Iranian-owned businesses. This made it easier for Iran to secretly place orders in Europe and Asia for materials that could be used for dual civil and military purposes. Once in Dubai, they were openly shipped across the bay to Iran.


When Dubai started complying more strictly with UN sanctions, however, Iran's embargo-bypass methods started faltering. In one case, the Iranians unsuccessfully attempted a circular transaction from a European company, through China, to purchase vacuum pumps that could be used in civil industry, but are also essential for uranium enrichment. Another transaction, by Aban, an Iranian firm, involved the purchase from China of 30 tons of tungsten, which is used in the aircraft industry, but also for missiles. The emirate stopped that shipment in 2008.


Obviously, this and similar decisions by Dubai enraged the Iranians, who were not prepared to give up their stronghold there. The emirate's financial crisis, which erupted in mid-November - Dubai has an estimated $140 billion in debt - provides a golden opportunity for Iran to renew its grip. First, Iran, which has plenty of undercover operatives in Dubai, is trying to identify foreign intelligence agents investigating embargo violations. Some could even be in mortal danger, should Iran start planning "accidents" for them.


Iran has spent the last three decades weaving a secret network of sleeper cells in the Gulf States. Adel Assadinia, who was Iran's consul-general in Dubai until his defection seven years ago, told the Daily Telegraph in 2007 that these cells include well-trained agents working as teachers, doctors and nurses at Iranian-owned schools and hospitals. If his claim is true, then the agents could now be waiting for an Iranian order to "wake up" and destabilize Dubai's regime. Their network was probably told to prepare itself to hit American interests and instigate civil instability in Dubai if the United States or Israel attack Iranian nuclear installations. Even before that, however, these sleeper cells could seize the opportunity created by the financial crisis to increase Iranian control.


Iran can rock Dubai in several ways, covertly and overtly. Iran owns about $300 billion in Dubai assets. Withdrawing substantial amounts of money from the emirate's banks would make them - and Dubai's economy - collapse in a matter of days. This would be just the beginning. Below the surface, Iranian agents could incite strikes: With Dubai's failing economy and growing unemployment, this too would not be difficult. Iranian agents could also sabotage government installations such as the airport and power stations.


However, these steps may not be necessary. The emir is facing a serious dilemma. It is one thing to comply with U.S. demands and UN resolutions to avoid sanctions. But it is something else to put his emirate and his throne in jeopardy. He could confront the West's sanctions and yield to Iran, or he could become Iran's puppet. Dubai and Iran are economically interdependent, and therefore, without an immediate bail-out, Dubai would quake not just financially, but also politically. Unless financial assistance comes from fellow emirates, or the West, Dubai will fall into Iran's hands.


Iranian control over Dubai could spread across the rest of the largely pro-Western Gulf region, in a domino effect. Such a scenario of Iranian control is likely to happen only years from now, when Iran becomes nuclear. Then, the West's ability to prevent Iran from forcing the oil-rich Gulf States to yield to its regional hegemony would be significantly diminished. The unavoidable conclusion is that a Western bailout of Dubai will only delay, but not prevent, Iranian control. With Ahmadinejad's hands on the oil spigots of the UAE, which has the world's sixth-largest reserves, the West's economy should brace itself for the worst.


Haggai Carmon is an international lawyer and an author of four intelligence thrillers.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

WHAT'S MAKING IRAN RUN?

BY EPHRAIM KAM

 

In recent weeks, the Iranian regime has made almost every possible mistake. First, it rejected the uranium deal offered by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany (P5+1). Under its terms, Iran would have transferred to Russia 75-80 percent of the uranium it has to date enriched at a low level of about 3 percent, and would have received it a year later via a third country in the form of nuclear fuel rods for the small research reactor in Tehran.


True, this entailed one disadvantage for the Iranians: Giving up the uranium would have delayed by a year their capability to produce the fissile material required for a first nuclear bomb. But the advantages implicit in the deal outweighed this disadvantage: It did not oblige Iran to stop enriching uranium and therefore tacitly legitimized efforts to make up the shortfalls in its uranium stockpile within a year, even enlarging it. Moreover, had it accepted this arrangement, Iran would have shown responsibility and would have appeared to be a regime with which it's possible to reach agreements. Also, in such circumstances, it would have been impossible to impose further sanctions.


By rejecting the P5+1 offer, the regime has placed itself in a difficult position and played into the hands of the American administration. Clearly, Iran's terms leave no room for further negotiations on the deal. The country is perceived as having torpedoed the dialogue initiated by Washington, thereby signaling that reaching an agreement with it on its nuclear program is out of the question. Rejection of the deal by Iran has also made an opponent of Russia, which had previously blocked efforts to impose sanctions on the country, but has now expressed readiness to join those efforts. The timing too was wrong, as while the terms of the proposed deal were being worked out, Tehran was obliged to disclose the existence of its hitherto secret enrichment facility at Qom, and the reasons it gave for its construction were far from persuasive. Even the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is usually cautious about criticizing Iran, raised questions about the existence of other such secret facilities there, and its board of governors called on Tehran to suspend construction of the plant at Qom and to elucidate its purpose.

 

To make matters worse, as the level of international confidence in Iran's behavior was steadily sinking, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proceeded to pour fuel on the fire with the publication of a number of harsh statements: Iran would not take part in negotiations on its nuclear program, it would enrich its own uranium up to a level of 20 percent, it would soon start building 10 more enrichment facilities, it would not announce in advance the construction of new nuclear installations, and it would reduce its cooperation with the IAEA. Iranian spokesmen even signaled that the country would withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.


What is making Ahmadinejad behave in such a blatantly provocative manner? There are two possible explanations: First, there is evidence that in the wake of the country's domestic crisis, disputes have arisen within the leadership over the nuclear issue, and that Ahmadinejad, who at first tended toward accepting the P5+1 offer, found himself the target of criticism from both conservative and reformist quarters. As a result, in order to mitigate internal pressures, he hastily took a tougher, uncompromising position. The dominant mood within the Iranian leadership at present is one of a lack of faith in the intentions of the Obama administration, a reluctance to enter into a genuine dialogue with it, and suspicion that Washington would not have carried out its part in the uranium deal if Iran had adopted it.


The second possible reason for Iran's recalcitrance touches on the message that Iran wants to convey on the nuclear issue. There is a definite chance that the Americans will mobilize international support - including that of Russia and China - for the imposition of a new round of sanctions against Iran, but the prospects are that they will not be very far reaching, and in such circumstances Iran sees no need to give in. Instead, it would be ready to pay the price of standing firm, as long as it attains its strategic goal: achieving nuclear weapons capability. Accordingly, it is important for Tehran to show the world that its efforts will be in vain, that the Iranian nuclear project is a fait accompli, and that no pressure or sanctions will make it give up that project.


If Iran is to be stopped, two conditions need to be met: Much harsher sanctions must be imposed, and the Iranians must believe they truly face the threat of a military operation if they do not suspend their nuclear program. At present, neither of these conditions sufficiently exists.


Col. (res.) Ephraim Kam, Ph.D., formerly of the IDF Military Intelligence research division, is deputy head of the Institute for National Security Studies. He wrote this article in advance of the INSS annual conference, December 14-15.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

SYSTEM CHANGE, NOT CLIMATE CHANGE

BY URI GORDON

 

As the first week of the world climate summit in Copenhagen draws to a close, all hope seems lost for immediate steps to prevent a global warming catastrophe. Already in the run-up to the summit, officials were doing their best to lower expectations, with both the Danish prime minister and the UN secretary-general saying that the best that could be expected from Copenhagen was a "politically binding" agreement - a very diplomatic term, but empty of real content.


Negotiations so far have revealed an unbridgeable chasm between rich and poor nations. Caribbean countries and small island states are using terms like "ecological debt" in their calls for more severe emissions cuts by the rich countries, and demanding that any agreement be geared toward global equity. On the other hand, a proposal drafted in secret by Denmark, Britain and the United States (and leaked to The Guardian newspaper) would allocate to rich countries almost double the emissions quotas of poor ones, and hand over effective control of climate change finance to the World Bank, which would condition adaptation funds for poor countries on their acceptance of further privatization of their economies and cuts in social spending.


Given these gaps, it appears that no binding legal agreement will replace the Kyoto Protocol, which will expire in 2012 amid a general failure to meet its targets. Instead, what is likely to emerge is a patchwork of country-specific policies with fundamentally inadequate goals. Thus China has declared it will reduce its economy's "carbon intensity" - the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of GDP - by 40 percent by 2020. Yet this figure represents only a continuation of China's current rate of improvement in carbon efficiency. With its GDP projected to grow by around 400 percent in the same period, its emissions will more than double.

 

President Barack Obama, for his part, has declared that the United States will reduce emissions by approximately 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, in line with the bill passed by the House of Representatives in June. Yet this is only equivalent to a 4-5 percent reduction from 1990 levels, the baseline established in Kyoto, and far less than what the United States would have had to reduce had it signed the protocol.

As for Israel, without a new agreement, it will retain its abnormal status as a developed country with no binding reduction targets. Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan will arrive next week in Copenhagen with a promise that Israel's emissions, instead of doubling by 2030, would grow by "only" 37 percent. And even this goal has not been approved by the government, which in the meantime presses on with plans to construct a new coal-fired power station in Ashkelon.


Such measures are hardly in step with present public concern about climate change. A recent survey of 4,400 citizens from 38 countries found overwhelming majorities supporting an urgent deal in Copenhagen, one that would include substantive reductions by developing countries.


Locally, a poll by Ben-Gurion University last month found that no less than three-quarters of the Israeli public demand "significant and urgent" steps to confront climate change, and want to see the country commit to a 90 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.


To be sure, such expectations are often not backed up by a willingness to make the required lifestyle changes. But the rich countries' reluctance to re-divide the pie is sending precisely the wrong message, with their insistence on maintaining current patterns of inequality and over-consumption.

Ultimately it is the capitalist system's need for constant economic growth that continues to trump the long-term concern for future generations. Political and business elites may privately agree to the inconvenient truth - that there can be no infinite growth on a finite planet. But they also understand that turning away from the precipice would mean abandoning much of their own power. This is the facile but honest explanation for the continuing failure to address global warming.


Scientists generally agree that we are rapidly approaching the tipping point in terms of irreversible destabilization of the world's climate. The current rate of growth in carbon emissions already exceeds the worst-case "business-as-usual" scenarios of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. At this rate, this century will see a permanent loss of Arctic ice, unprecedented flooding and droughts, massive species extinction and a threat to half of the earth's fresh water supplies.

To preserve a stable climate, the global concentration of carbon dioxide must be reduced from its current 385 parts per million (ppm) to 350 ppm at most, and probably lower. This means a reduction of at least 80 percent in global emissions by 2050. Such a reduction is entirely achievable - but only if rich countries let go of some of their power. A just transition to a sustainable world will indeed require us to slow down and consume less - but it would also guarantee us a healthier and more democratic future.


This coming week, as the summit enters its ministerial stage, the streets of Copenhagen will be taken over by mass demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience reminiscent of the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle 10 years ago. On Monday, thousands of people will attempt to enter the summit premises and turn the proceedings into a public forum, where delegates will finally have to listen to their demands for climate justice.


Copenhagen may yet turn out to be a defining historical moment - the moment when citizens took change into their own hands.


Uri Gordon is a lecturer at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

PRESIDENT OBAMA IN OSLO

 

Accepting the Nobel Peace Prize on Thursday, President Obama gave the speech he needed to give, but we suspect not precisely the one the Nobel committee wanted to hear.

 

Mr. Obama was appropriately humble. He said that "compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize," his accomplishments "are slight" and suggested that he had been chosen not so much for what he had done but for what he is expected to do.

 

He then acknowledged that most of what he called "the considerable controversy" surrounding his selection came from the fact that he is "the commander in chief of the military of a nation that is in the midst of two wars." He made no apologies for that.

 

In a speech that was both somber and soaring, he returned again and again to Afghanistan, arguing that the war was morally just and strategically necessary to defend the United States and others from more terrorist attacks.

 

In a moving passage, he invoked the memories of Mahatma Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., saying that without Dr. King's vision, leadership and sacrifice, he never would have been standing at that lectern in Oslo.

 

But he said he could not be guided by their examples alone. "For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince Al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms."

 

In his introduction, the chairman of the Nobel committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, made only a brief, forbearing reference to Afghanistan. He made clear that Mr. Obama was chosen because of his commitment, and early steps, to unwind the worst policies and abuses of George W. Bush's presidency. He pointed to Mr. Obama's embrace of "multilateral diplomacy," his offer to negotiate with Iran, his decision to ban torture, his efforts to revive arms control negotiations and address global warming. "President Obama is a political leader who understands that even the mightiest are vulnerable when they stand alone," Mr. Jagland said.

 

It is a great relief to hear an American president described with such hope and respect. In his speech, Mr. Obama recommitted himself to those policies and principles, warning that "we lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend."

 

What struck us most is how often Mr. Obama used the war in Afghanistan to make his points. He said that even as the United States confronts "a vicious adversary that abides by no rules," this country must remain "a standard-bearer in the conduct of war."

 

While he reserved the right to act unilaterally in a world where threats are "more diffuse and missions more complex," he said, "America alone cannot secure the peace. This is true in Afghanistan." And he directly challenged the widespread ambivalence and aversion toward the war in the United States and in Europe. "The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it," he said.

 

When he announced his plan to send an additional 30,000 troops last week, Mr. Obama's speech was well argued but sounded more like a legal brief than an exemplar of presidential oratory. At the time, he was coming out of months of difficult internal debates and girding himself for the skepticism and disappointment of many members of his own party.

 

On Thursday in Oslo, Mr. Obama argued his case far more eloquently.

 

We'll leave it to the philosophers to debate what is and what is not a just war. But we agree that this war is a

very difficult but necessary one.

 

We also know that there is no chance at all of winning it, and the broader fight against terrorism, unless the United States hews to international standards and upholds its own ideals. That is Mr. Obama's promise and his challenge going forward.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

EASING CONGRESS'S HEEL ON THE CAPITAL CITY

 

Congress is on the verge of enacting a sea change for self-government in the District of Columbia that would at last allow the district to finance abortions for the poor, permit medical marijuana and end the ban on using federal funds for city workers' domestic partner benefits.

 

Proponents are cheered that the changes — long sought by the district but denied by Congressional diktat — are tucked away in a mammoth multi-issue spending bill that is proving difficult to amend or defeat.

 

The House approved the measure Thursday, but abortion opponents and other critics promise a fierce fight in the Senate. It's imperative that majority Democrats fulfill their vow to smash these fetters placed on the district by past conservative-dominated Congresses. Historically, national lawmakers have too often meddled restrictively in the district's business. The omnibus bill carries the promise of a freer day, including a provision for a more liberal use of needle-exchange programs to combat the spread of H.I.V.

 

The encouraging proposals hardly expunge Washington's second-class status. The district continues to be denied a voting representative in the House for its 600,000 citizens. But passage would at least make the district less a point of embarrassment before critics who note that, for all the talk of democracy in Congress, the host city has never been allotted its full share. "Taxation Without Representation" bedecks license plates of residents who properly decry Congress's "plantation mentality."

 

The omnibus proposals would end the Congressional ban on using local tax dollars for abortions by low-income residents, just as states do. They would also put back on track the plan for doctor-prescribed marijuana approved in 1998 by 69 percent of district residents, but then blocked by Congress. It's time for the Senate to reverse Washington's role as Congress's pocket colony and restore vital home-rule initiatives.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

THE SEASON SO FAR

 

Yes, it is not winter yet. Which means yes, it is technically autumn. But that's the beauty of December: It can go either way, and now we know which way 2009 has been going.

 

An enormous portion of the country has been scraped and glazed and numbed by several storms conspiring to act as one — a kind of dry-ice express bringing harsh temperatures, extreme windchills and lots of snow. It has flash-frozen the Rocky Mountains, hit-and-run its way through the Midwest and brought a characteristically complex mix of precipitation to New England, where complex precipitation is regarded as a sign of character.

 

It's rare for so much of the country to be so besieged at once by an early winter. The southwestern plains — parts of Texas and New Mexico — have been put out of commission temporarily. The Grapevine — the highway over the Tehachapi Mountains in Southern California — has been shut down, and there was ice on the roadways in North Carolina over the weekend.

 

But the worst of this early winter has come in the places that are used to the worst of it — the Rocky Mountain and Midwestern states, where windchills dropped into the minus-40s and true blizzard conditions of high winds and heavy snow prevailed on Wednesday.

 

It's hard not to read an evolutionary imperative into a storm like this. One as simple as: stay indoors if you can. Storms like these are an occasion to go nowhere, to settle in and listen to the howling outside. Dangerous as a hard, early winter can be — none of us ready yet to re-enact the hard winters of the past — it is also the pretext for a quiet contentment, when you give up any ambition of going out, when nature sets its limits and you have no choice but to obey.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

AN ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION PATCHWORK

 

States and localities have been taking immigration enforcement into their own hands out of frustration over Washington's failure to enact comprehensive reform, over misguided and ineffective federal enforcement of existing rules and over a sense that America has lost control of its borders. Numerous states and towns have enacted harsh laws seeking to regulate the employment of undocumented workers, and, in some instances, keep them out of housing.

 

The troubling result is a growing patchwork of punitive statutes bound to spawn unfairness to businesses and employees while undermining the federal government's proper authority over immigration.

 

The Supreme Court is now weighing whether to consider a challenge to Arizona's immigration law. Before deciding, the justices have asked the solicitor general, Elena Kagan, to provide the views of the Obama administration. This is a chance for the court to weigh in against the improper splintering of national immigration policy, and Ms. Kagan should urge the court to seize that opportunity.

 

At issue is a problematic ruling last year by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The ruling upheld Arizona's state-based employer sanctions law, which provides for the suspension or revocation of business licenses when firms are found to have knowingly hired illegal immigrants.

 

The state's approach may not sound unreasonable. But like the more extreme Hazleton, Pa., ordinance struck down by a federal judge in 2007, the Arizona scheme has a crucial legal flaw. It usurps the federal government's right to set immigration policy.

 

Arizona has broad authority to regulate companies doing business within the state. But that authority does not include the right to penalize firms for immigration violations that have not been determined by the federal government nor to impose penalties vastly harsher than Congress intended when it created the current employer sanctions system more than 20 years ago.

 

When the Hazleton decision was handed down, then-Senator Barack Obama hailed it as a "victory for all Americans" that underscored the need for national immigration reform. In that same spirit, President Obama should now want the Supreme Court to grab the Arizona case to vindicate the nation's interest in having uniform immigration policies, and to stop the spread of local laws that can make achieving real worthwhile national reform harder.

 

The Arizona statute was signed into law by Arizona's former governor, Janet Napolitano, who now leads the Department of Homeland Security. But that awkward fact should not prevent the administration from taking a principled stance in favor of Supreme Court review.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

MILITARY TIME, CIVILIAN TIME

BY NATHANIEL FICK

 

Washington

THE problem with public military timelines is that if they are too short, your enemy will wait you out, and if they are too long, your enemy will drive you out. President Obama has come under fire for saying that United States forces would begin their withdrawal from Afghanistan in July 2011. Was this a good idea?

 

From a purely military perspective, announcing a timeline makes no sense. It gives our adversaries insight into our plans, dulling the edge of strategic ambiguity. But changing the trajectory of this war requires much more than killing and capturing Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

 

Progress depends on two political developments: inducing the administration of President Hamid Karzai to govern effectively, and persuading Pakistan that militant groups within its borders pose as great a threat to Islamabad as they do to Kabul. A limit to America's commitment may actually help us meet these goals. (The Democratic victories in the 2006 midterm elections, for example, convinced Iraqi Sunni leaders that the United States was on its way out, inspiring them to join the Awakening movement that led to better security across the country.) The strategic benefits of setting a timeline, in this case, may outweigh its tactical costs.

 

Whether these political objectives are met will be the best measure of the effectiveness of the administration's plan. President Karzai must be held to the commitments he made in his November inaugural speech to build security forces that can secure the entire country within five years, reduce civilian casualties and enact laws to fight corruption.

 

And the Pakistani Army must crack down on militants in its country who operate in Afghanistan, namely the Quetta Shura Taliban and the Haqqani network, with the same commitment it brings to the fight against more direct threats like the Pakistani Taliban. This is increasingly important as NATO forces in Afghanistan focus more on securing cities, and less on the border with Pakistan.

 

Announcing the timeline was risky, and it could turn out to be our undoing. The president delivered two intertwined messages in his speech at West Point outlining his Afghan policy: one to his American audience ("I see the way out of this war"), and one to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the Taliban ("I'm in to win"). The danger of dual messages, of course, is that each may find the other audience, with Americans hearing over-commitment and Afghans hearing abandonment.

 

The only way to reassure both is to show demonstrable progress on the ground. A credible declaration of American limits may, paradoxically, be the needed catalyst.

 

Nathaniel Fick, the chief executive of the Center for a New American Security, was a Marine Corps infantry officer in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2001 and 2002 and trained Afghan Army and police officers in Afghanistan in 2007.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

ADVANTAGE: TALIBAN

BY AHMED RASHID

 

Lahore, Pakistan

WHILE President Obama deliberated three months before releasing his new Afghan surge strategy, his decision actually muddied the waters as far as American credibility in Afghanistan and Pakistan is concerned, and created misapprehensions in Europe.

 

Many NATO allies were thunderstruck at the deadline announcement. The British, who have the second-largest contingent in Afghanistan, have said their 10,000-troop presence in Helmand Province will not be affected by any timeline. Senior administration officials have spent the last week in Europe and in Afghanistan and Pakistan rowing back on what the president said, insisting that the plan is flexible.

 

In the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, most people are of two minds. They would like the Americans to leave soon, but don't want to lose their front-line status in the war on terrorism, which brings vast amounts of American aid. Despite widespread anti-Americanism on the streets, the ruling elites are nervous about being dumped by America, as they were in 1989 after the Soviets withdrew.

 

Much of the confusion was the fault of President Obama himself. He should have devoted far more time in his West Point speech to thoroughly explaining the 18-month timeline. It seems almost as though his speechwriters got no input from the Afghan experts working for Richard Holbrooke, the American envoy here, who could have told them how poorly it would play in the region.

 

On the battlefield, there is no doubt that extra troops deployed in the east and south of Afghanistan will help in retaking areas now held by the Taliban. But the fear is that the Taliban will melt into the north and west of the country, where NATO troops operate under caveats that limit their ability to go on the offensive. Meanwhile, President Hamid Karzai has contradicted the Obama plan by saying that the Afghan Army and police will not be ready for five years.

 

Nor has President Obama outlined exactly what the civilian surge hopes to achieve. He has ruled out nation-building, but that is precisely what Afghanistan needs. Most important is building a functional Afghan economy with permanent jobs in place of the temporary positions provided by the present donor-driven development projects.

 

Pakistan remains the biggest problem. While President Asif Ali Zardari has said all the things Washington wants to hear, there is no agreement as yet from the Pakistan military to go after the Afghan Taliban strongholds in Baluchistan and the North-West Frontier Provinces. The Pakistan military is unlikely to act unless there is a parallel movement by the Americans to defuse Indo-Pakistani tensions over Kashmir, and unless India is more willing to reduce its forces on Pakistan's eastern border.

 

We can understand the president's serious domestic constraints — the economy, health care and Congressional elections next year. But this is all the more reason to make sure that the United States and NATO can deliver success in the next 18 months and get all the nations in this region to back their efforts. All this could have been done without an arbitrary timeline.

Ahmed Rashid is the author of "Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia" and "Descent Into Chaos."

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

JUST STICK TO IT

BY MARC LYNCH

 

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S critics argue that his plan to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan starting in July 2011 signals a fatal lack of resolve, inviting the Taliban to wait out a feckless America, or else has no credibility. In fact, the deadline is crucial to the strategy. Yes, there are many reasons to be skeptical of the prospects for the new plan, from the hopeless corruption in Kabul to the difficulties of state-building. But a clearly communicated timeline increases the odds of success.

 

The July 2011 date should be understood as an inflection point, not as the end of the American military mission. There is no "mission accomplished" here. The American commitment to Afghanistan and Pakistan will continue. The pace and location of withdrawals will be dictated by conditions on the ground and, indeed, the date itself was carefully chosen based on the military's best calculations of improved security and political conditions. It was not drawn from a hat, or determined by the domestic political calendar.

 

The deadline is essential politically because it will provide the necessary urgency for Afghans to make the institutional reforms that will ensure their own survival. An open-ended commitment creates a terrible moral hazard in which Afghan leaders, assuming American troops will always be there to protect them, may make risky or counterproductive decisions. A limited, conditional commitment creates the leverage needed to generate the institutional transformation necessary to cement any gains made by the military.

 

Just as in the Iraq debate, hawks who insist on an open-ended commitment to "victory" misunderstand the strategic incentives created by an unconditional military promise. Contrary to prevailing myths of the Iraq surge, Iraqi politicians began to make serious moves toward overcoming their political and sectarian divides only in mid-2008, when it became likely that an Obama electoral victory would lead to an end of the unconditional American commitment.

 

President Obama's deadline will not compromise the military mission. The surge of troops is meant to blunt the momentum of the Taliban, establish security and provide space for the spread of governance and legitimacy. Should the Taliban choose to retreat and wait out the American mission, this would be a blessing, not a curse. It would allow America to establish control more easily and help build effective local and national governments.

 

The greater problem for the Obama administration will be to make the commitment to the drawdown credible. Many expect that the military will come back in a year asking for more troops and time. The blizzard of conflicting messages coming from Washington this week did little to diminish the expectation. This is troubling, because the political logic of the deadline works only if Afghans on both sides believe in it.

 

Skeptics among the public and in Congress can provide an essential service by carefully monitoring progress and supporting the strategy while making it clear that there will be no tolerance for future escalations or open-ended commitments.

 

Marc Lynch, the director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University, writes the Abu Aardvark blog for Foreign Policy magazine.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

BERNANKE'S UNFINISHED MISSION

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

 

Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, recently had some downbeat things to say about our economic prospects. The economy, he warned, "confronts some formidable headwinds." All we can expect, he said, is "modest economic growth next year — sufficient to bring down the unemployment rate, but at a pace slower than we would like."

 

Actually, he may have been too optimistic: There's a good chance that unemployment will rise, not fall, over the next year. But even if it does inch down, one has to ask: Why isn't the Fed trying to bring it down faster?

 

Some background: I don't think many people grasp just how much job creation we need to climb out of the hole we're in. You can't just look at the eight million jobs that America has lost since the recession began, because the nation needs to keep adding jobs — more than 100,000 a month — to keep up with a growing population. And that means that we need really big job gains, month after month, if we want to see America return to anything that feels like full employment.

 

How big? My back of the envelope calculation says that we need to add around 18 million jobs over the next five years, or 300,000 jobs a month. This puts last week's employment report, which showed job losses of "only" 11,000 in November, in perspective. It was basically a terrible report, which was reported as good news only because we've been down so long that it looks like up to the financial press.

 

So if we're going to have any real good news, someone has to take responsibility for creating a lot of additional jobs. And at this point, that someone almost has to be the Federal Reserve.

 

I don't mean to absolve the Obama administration of all responsibility. Clearly, the administration proposed a stimulus package that was too small to begin with and was whittled down further by "centrists" in the Senate. And the measures President Obama proposed earlier this week, while they would create a significant number of additional jobs, fall far short of what the economy needs.

 

But while economic analysis says that we should have a large second stimulus, the political reality is that the president — faced with total obstruction from Republicans, while receiving only lukewarm support from some in his own party — probably can't get enough votes in Congress to do more than tinker at the edges of the employment problem.

 

The Fed, however, can do more.

 

Mr. Bernanke has received a great deal of credit, and rightly so, for his use of unorthodox strategies to contain the damage after Lehman Brothers failed. But both the Fed's actions, as measured by its expansion of credit, and Mr. Bernanke's words suggest that the urgency of late 2008 and early 2009 has given way to a curious mix of complacency and fatalism — a sense that the Fed has done enough now that the financial system has stepped back from the brink, even though its own forecasts predict that unemployment will remain punishingly high for at least the next three years.

 

The most specific, persuasive case I've seen for more Fed action comes from Joseph Gagnon, a former Fed staffer now at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Basing his analysis on the prior work of none other than Mr. Bernanke himself, in his previous incarnation as an economic researcher, Mr. Gagnon urges the Fed to expand credit by buying a further $2 trillion in assets. Such a program could do a lot to promote faster growth, while having hardly any downside.

 

So why isn't the Fed doing it? Part of the answer may be political: Ideological opponents of government activism tend to be as critical of the Fed's credit expansion as they are of the Obama administration's fiscal stimulus. And this has probably made the Fed reluctant to use its powers to their fullest extent. Meanwhile, a significant number of Fed officials, especially at the regional banks, are obsessed with the fear of 1970s-style inflation, which they see lurking just around the bend even though there's not a hint of it in the actual data.

 

But there's also, I believe, a question of priorities. The Fed sprang into action when faced with the prospect of wrecked banks; it doesn't seem equally concerned about the prospect of wrecked lives.

 

And that is what we're talking about here. The kind of sustained high unemployment envisaged in the Fed's

own forecasts is a recipe for immense human suffering — millions of families losing their savings and their homes, millions of young Americans never getting their working lives properly started because there are no jobs available when they graduate. If we don't get unemployment down soon, we'll be paying the price for a generation.

 

So it's time for the Fed to lose that complacency, shrug off that fatalism and start lending a hand to job creation.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE HANUKKAH STORY

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

Tonight Jewish kids will light the menorah, spin their dreidels and get their presents, but Hanukkah is the most adult of holidays. It commemorates an event in which the good guys did horrible things, the bad guys did good things and in which everybody is flummoxed by insoluble conflicts that remain with us today. It's a holiday that accurately reflects how politics is, how history is, how life is.

 

It begins with the spread of Greek culture. Alexander's Empire, and the smaller empires that succeeded it, brought modernizing ideas and institutions to the Middle East. At its best, Hellenistic culture emphasized the power of reason and the importance of individual conscience. It brought theaters, gymnasiums and debating societies to the cities. It raised living standards, especially in places like Jerusalem.

 

Many Jewish reformers embraced these improvements. The Greeks had one central idea: their aspirations to create an advanced universal culture. And the Jews had their own central idea: the idea of one true God. The reformers wanted to merge these two ideas.

 

Urbane Jews assimilated parts of Greek culture into their own, taking Greek names like Jason, exercising in the gymnasium and prospering within Greek institutions. Not all Jews assimilated. Some resisted quietly. Others fled to the hills. But Jerusalem did well. The Seleucid dynasty, which had political control over the area, was not merely tolerant; it used imperial money to help promote the diverse religions within its sphere.

 

In 167 B.C., however, the Seleucid king, Antiochus IV, issued a series of decrees defiling the temple, confiscating wealth and banning Jewish practice, under penalty of death. It's unclear why he did this. Some historians believe that extremist Jewish reformers were in control and were hoping to wipe out what they saw as the primitive remnants of their faith. Others believe Antiochus thought the Jews were disloyal fifth columnists in his struggle against the Egyptians and, hence, was hoping to assimilate them into his nation.

 

Regardless, those who refused to eat pork were killed in an early case of pure religious martyrdom.

 

As Jeffrey Goldberg, who is writing a book on this period, points out, the Jews were slow to revolt. The cultural pressure on Jewish practice had been mounting; it was only when it hit an insane political level that Jewish traditionalists took up arms. When they did, the first person they killed was a fellow Jew.

 

In the town of Modin, a Jew who was attempting to perform a sacrifice on a new Greek altar was slaughtered by Mattathias, the old head of a priestly family. Mattathias's five sons, led by Judah Maccabee, then led an insurgent revolt against the regime.

 

The Jewish civil war raised questions: Who is a Jew? Who gets to define the right level of observance? It also created a spiritual crisis. This was not a battle between tribes. It was a battle between theologies and threw up all sorts of issues about why bad things happen to faithful believers and what happens in the afterlife — issues that would reverberate in the region for centuries, to epic effect.

 

The Maccabees are best understood as moderate fanatics. They were not in total revolt against Greek culture. They used Greek constitutional language to explain themselves. They created a festival to commemorate their triumph (which is part of Greek, not Jewish, culture). Before long, they were electing their priests.

 

On the other hand, they were fighting heroically for their traditions and the survival of their faith. If they found uncircumcised Jews, they performed forced circumcisions. They had no interest in religious liberty within the Jewish community and believed religion was a collective regimen, not an individual choice.

 

They were not the last bunch of angry, bearded religious guys to win an insurgency campaign against a great power in the Middle East, but they may have been among the first. They retook Jerusalem in 164 B.C. and rededicated the temple. Their regime quickly became corrupt, brutal and reactionary. The concept of reform had been discredited by the Hellenizing extremists. Practice stagnated. Scholarship withered. The Maccabees became religious oppressors themselves, fatefully inviting the Romans into Jerusalem.

 

Generations of Sunday school teachers have turned Hanukkah into the story of unified Jewish bravery against an anti-Semitic Hellenic empire. Settlers in the West Bank tell it as a story of how the Jewish hard-core defeated the corrupt, assimilated Jewish masses. Rabbis later added the lamp miracle to give God at least a bit part in the proceedings.

 

But there is no erasing the complex ironies of the events, the way progress, heroism and brutality weave through all sides. The Maccabees heroically preserved the Jewish faith. But there is no honest way to tell their story as a self-congratulatory morality tale. The lesson of Hanukkah is that even the struggles that saved a people are dappled with tragic irony, complexity and unattractive choices.

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE BALOCHISTAN EQUATION

 

More gestures towards Balochistan have been made. The prime minister has announced a troop pull-out from Kohlu and Dera Bugti, with control of Sui to be handed over to the FC. Mr Gilani has also suggested he is willing to meet Baloch 'elders', an apparent reference to estranged nationalist leaders Ataullah Mengal and Khair Buksh Marri. He has also urged Balochistan's youth to 'join the mainstream'. All this is important in many ways and it would not be wise to dismiss it as rhetoric alone. Given the chasm that has opened up between Balochistan and the centre, every gesture made is important. The focus on troop withdrawals indicates too that the government has correctly identified a core reason for the disquiet in Balochistan. Quite beyond wider, ideological issues, people in many areas are simply fed up with the checking they must endure at posts and the harassment they are subjected to. Hostile attitude from some soldiers does not help. In this respect the army's agreement to move out of the province, in a display of respect for the civilian setup's decision, is also welcome. There had been rumours that the military favoured an operation in Balochistan. This would have been unwise.


It is, however, futile to hope for too much too soon. The government must also recognise that it needs a great deal of patience. Some within its ranks are reported to have been 'disappointed' by the initial response from Baloch nationalists to the government's package. What they need to understand is that building peace will invariably be a long and slow process. No swift results can be expected. The hostility and distrust that has built has grown gradually, from year to year, from decade to decade. It will not melt away overnight. The important thing is to keep up the effort. For the sake of the Federation, Balochistan needs to be brought back into the equation. A consistent demonstration of sincerity on the part of the central government is necessary to achieve this. The people of Balochistan have seen too many promises made and broken to believe all that they hear. Individuals within the province can also play a part. Suggestions on what steps the government will take could help provide direction. A hand of friendship has been held out. Both sides now need to continue walking towards each other so that hands can be clasped and a future built together.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

BUILDING AN AWARD

 

Punjab and Sindh have not yet been able to reconcile their differences over the NFC award. The main issue now is whether revenue collection, as sought by Sindh, or revenue generation, as sought by Punjab, should be the criterion for the award. Differences along such lines are not unexpected. Indeed it would have been a miracle had they not occurred. There has after all been a 19-year gap since the provinces thrashed out the last award. Bitter differences over the allocation of resources have since divided them. Even after the revenue issue is sorted out, the process of deciding what weight is to be given to each of the four criteria that are now to constitute the award will also take time. Already, different interpretations have emerged from NWFP and Balochistan on how poverty levels should be determined.


However, despite the bickering, just the fact that representatives of the four provinces have sat together to try and work towards consensus on an award is welcome. The process is an important one. The widening of the basis for the award beyond the single basis of population is in itself an achievement. The finance minister and each of the four chief ministers deserve a round of applause for their efforts. The spirit which saw Punjab agreeing to the demand from the smaller provinces to take into account a number of factors – including under-development – as the basis on which to decide resource distribution must be continued. A degree of flexibility from all sides is necessary for this. There can, for instance, be an agreement to include both revenue generation and collection on the criteria. More innovative proposals are also required so that an award can emerge from the meetings underway and the problems that exist thrashed out sensibly.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

HUMAN RIGHTS

 

December 10 has once more been marked. Candles have been lit, speeches made and demands raised for human rights to be respected. This year, people indeed are more despondent than before about the way things are going. Many suffer from the dull, unrelenting pain caused by inflation and unemployment. Others have become victims of the different toll taken by terrorism. Desperation grows everywhere. People can find no relief from misery and the rate of suicide is rising. The abuse of vulnerable people which has grown in scale and dimension as 'qabza' groups snatch land from slum-dwellers or small children are sold into slavery by impoverished parents continues unchecked. The government has, in the year and a half since it came to office, made no meaningful effort to intervene in the lives of people. As a consequence their plight has worsened. There is a sense of emptiness too, with people unable to find help from any quarter.


How is this cycle to end? There are no easy answers. We have all seen the situation worsen before our eyes. Most of us have developed a greater degree of callousness or indifference as a means to cope with the horrors that fold around us on a regular basis. News of gang-rapes or negligence in hospitals no longer shocks us. Those who buried women alive in Balochistan many months ago remain free. Other cases involving terrible atrocities never surface. But if we are to save our country from all this, citizens need to become more involved in events that take place within it. A collective social consciousness that has all but vanished needs to be woven, replacing the selfishness we now see everywhere. All of us must become advocates of human rights – both our own and those of others. Only when a louder, common voice is created will it be possible to make any kind of difference and perhaps end the misery that currently hangs over our country and most people who live in it.

 

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I. THE NEWS

THE SHARP HEAD OF THE TEMPEST BREWING

AYAZ AMIR


There's a storm gathering and when it breaks the central pillars of the temple we call the government of Pakistan will crack, throwing out some incumbents and heralding a period of uncertainty and disorder from which something good, after all our years of despair, may yet emerge.


The NRO of black memory is just the thin edge of the wedge. The hearing of the NRO case in the Supreme Court has already taken an interesting turn -- an interpretation which the Presidency is sure to dispute because from its point of view the turn is anything but interesting.


And as the case proceeds more and more vistas are coming into view. Fresh horizons are breaking forth and where it all comes to rest -- and, respecting the SC's directions, I shall be the last person to comment on a sub judice matter -- we don't know. But the opening salvoes indicate where, if we are lucky, things might be headed.

We are already in a state of disorder but it is still not enough to merit the Maoist injunction (or was it a desire?) that when there is great disorder under the heavens the situation is excellent. Ours is a rotting state of affairs and rotting fruit is no good unless it falls to the ground, to be trampled under foot and provide space for fresh buds to emerge from the naked branch -- if the rites of spring, when the time arrives, are to be properly celebrated.

I stand converted (for what my conversion is worth). Democracy is not an abstract virtue to be embraced in any form or shape it may assume. Weimar democracy in Germany led to the rise of Hitler. Neville Chamberlain's democracy led to the surrender at Munich and encouraged Hitler to test the will of the western powers. French democracy on the eve of the outbreak of the Second World War contributed immensely to the dissipation of French national morale.


Hitler was eventually overcome not by the democracies alone, his armies encountering their most decisive defeats in the endless wastes of totalitarian Russia.


If the face of Pakistani democracy reflects the shine of Swiss bank accounts, and villas in Spain and rural houses in England, then there is something seriously wrong with both that democracy and our destiny. Let's face it: this democracy is breeding disillusionment and killing national hope.


Our army gave a good account of itself in Swat. Our officers and men are fighting valiantly in the harsh, nay cruel, terrain of South Waziristan. But where is the political direction of this war? Who is providing the inspired leadership and direction without which the army's efforts, and the huge sacrifices being rendered, will come to naught?

The idea that someone accused of stashing away laundered millions abroad can provide any kind of leadership is laughable, testing the limits of absurdity. So unless some of the pillars of Islamabad -- whose founding as our capital marks the time from where our misfortunes began -- begin to shake, and something like a dramatic exit starts shaping up, we are lost.


Innocents like me wondered where the push would come from. Centcom Commander, Gen Petraeus, has declared before a congressional panel that there seemed to be no sign of the Pakistan army having any desire to imperil civilian rule.


The traditional push leading to the ouster of civilian rule has always come from the direction of Rawalpindi. This time the aim is not civilian rule as a whole but just one aspect of it in the shape of the tallest and supposedly strongest pillar of government. But Triple One Brigade, for much of our history our highest constitutional authority, is not moving anywhere. The ordnance likely to come into play (as already indicated) is deployed on a different ridge.


Not that -- and let me hasten to add this -- there is any design, any calculated aim, behind this deployment and the fireworks likely to ensue. The new dynamic whose first outlines are already visible to eyes which can see is being beaten into shape by circumstances.


Storms gather not because of any conspiracies. They gather because they must, because so the weather gods have decreed. In the NRO case one thing is leading to another. Much of it is haphazard, fortuitous. But great changes when they occur often have fortuitous circumstances behind them.


Another cruel thing to note: this democracy whose coming was greeted with so much hope and enthusiasm just two years ago has lost steam and direction in just this short period. It is waddling along but it is sick at heart and its place, on current form, is on a hospital bed -- to be given a transfusion of blood and vitamins before it can rise again and be of any use to man/woman or beast.


We have seen the bankruptcy of military rule on four successive occasions. Musharraf was the ultimate doctor who cured us of any delusions we may have had regarding the efficacy of the military solution to our troubles. We are now seeing the bankruptcy of democracy. It is not a pleasant sight but perhaps it is useful in the sense that it is concentrating Pakistani minds to think of things which democracy must deliver if its altar is to be honoured and worshipped.


Our major problems are two: governmental ineffectiveness (which we can also call corruption) and the increasingly noticeable lack of direction as regards our war against the Taliban. For both these problems our current democracy has failed to come up with any answers.


Government at the centre is in a state of paralysis. National Assembly and Senate are debating societies and not very good ones at that either. The prime minister's tailor (or designer suit provider) seems to be the most effective member of his team, deserving the Nishan-e-Imtiaz for always turning him out smartly. If clothes alone could make a man we would have a Churchill for a prime minister. Enough said.


And where is our Taliban war headed? The resort to arms in Swat was inescapable, the growing audacity of the Swat Taliban leaving the army no other choice. In South Waziristan the army so far has been very successful, going into that harsh region and capturing tough positions more quickly than anyone had expected. But if this operation is not to end in stalemate and eventual fatigue it should not an open-ended, spreading to the entire tribal belt. One Vietnam is enough, in Afghanistan. Circumstances should not be created where a mini-Vietnam is recreated on this side of the Afghan border.


So on the shoulders of the military success achieved thus far some sort of political victory has to be built, or we will keep on fighting with no end in sight. And our cities, as has been happening in recent weeks, will continue to be the target of terrorist strikes. This war is spreading. We need to contain it.


Defeatism? No, rather a call to realism. We cannot afford to be tied to America's apron strings the way we are at present. We have to fight this war on our own, within our borders, without being seen as an American appendage. It is time to loosen, not tighten, the American connection.


Afghanistan should be none of our headache. Our generals who dedicated themselves to the doctrine of strategic depth deserve a long stay in a re-education camp. What are the internal processes in the army which lead to the production of such geniuses? The Americans and the Taliban, and Al Qaeda, should be left to their own devices. But such a course of action will only command credibility if we show zero-tolerance to our home-grown Taliban.


A farewell to Zia-style jihad: we have suffered enough because of the illusions it bred and the follies it led us into. The time to rethink and reinvent Pakistan has come. And it is arising from the throes of our present troubles, from this great disorder and confusion which surround us. Hope amid the ruins: that's more like it, but only if courage and wisdom are our companions.

 

Email: winlust@yahoo.com

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

WHERE IS CIVIL SOCIETY?

DR MASOODA BANO


This week has again witnessed a string of deadly attacks. In addition to routine attacks in the NWFP, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan also faced deaths and violence. At one level, it appears that there is acceptance within society that one has to live with this new reality. The expectations from the government to address the causes of militancy remain very low. The impression is that people have embraced themselves for this instability for the immediate future, hoping that this phase will pass eventually. While the inability of the state to curtail militancy and accusations against elements within the intelligence agencies for supporting militancy are much-debated subjects, there is little dialogue about the lack of initiative within the civil society to contribute towards addressing the problem.


If the government is failing to make sense of the militant behaviour, the think tanks and NGOs are failing too. In fact, there is little evidence that any of the civil society groups are actually trying to engage, study and explain the causes of the militancy or its impact on Pakistani society. This is quite disappointing, as given the spiral of militancy in Pakistan since the Sept 11 attacks, civil society organisations, including research think tanks and NGOs, should be making more active attempts to understand the causes of a phenomenon which is threatening the very survival of the country. To-date government claims remain the only source of dominant discourse on the causes of militancy in Pakistan. This clearly does not represent a vibrant civic or organisational culture.

The impact of the militancy and the government's counter-militancy programmes are always at the heart of human-rights debates in any country. While human-rights groups condemn militant acts that harm ordinary people, they also condemn counter-militancy programmes, such as targeted killing by government agencies or refusing the suspects a fair trial. However, in the current context in Pakistan, the civil society, which has come to be represented through NGOs, think tanks and liberal intellectuals, has struggled to defend its core values. The Islamic label of the current militant has made many representatives from the NGOs and liberal intellectual circles to either justify outright the use of all means to crush these groups, or they have refused to engage too actively in the debate.


This has led to the sorry situation where the civil society in Pakistan has no voice on the issue of causes of current militancy and no suggestions on how to deal with it. The country is steadily slipping more and more into violence, but there is no voice from within the civil society that is based on solid facts and sound reasoning to either support or counter the Pakistani or US governments' claims about the causes of the current violence in the country. The result is that the same circular debate on causes of militancy in Pakistan continues to dominate the domestic and international agenda, blocking any move towards an alternative perspective to resolve the problem. The US think tanks are more active in producing reports on Pakistan, even though they are often based on very weak evidence, and shaping public policy vis-à-vis the country. The Pakistani intellectuals and think tanks are hardly showing any sense of responsibility towards contributing to this discourse and help bring some sense to it based on reliable research and data.


The only movement that has become visible during the recent years is that run by the families of the missing people. Even here the mainstream NGOs have played little role in supporting these families advance their claims or in putting pressure on the government to stop such a practice. Apart from the HRCP, few NGOs or human rights groups have tried to systematically record the excesses to which these people have been exposed. The civil society actors need to seriously consider the role they should be playing in finding facts and possible solutions to the problem of militancy, which threatens the life of each and every Pakistani. The current quiet is definitely very disappointing.


The writer is a research fellow at the Oxford University. Email: mb294@hotmail. com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

STORY OF A DUTIFUL DONKEY

AZIZ AKHMAD


We, in Pakistan, tend to do things in binges or sprees. "We" includes the media, administration (local, provincial and federal) and other institutions, both public and private.


For example, the media, a few months ago, discovered Brigadier 'Jackal'. (How else would you describe him?) He revealed nothing new. What he said was already known to most people but still he was everywhere on TV shows for a month. He came to the shows, armed with this bagful of rotten eggs, which he flung at the proverbial fan. The stink and slime spread far and wide, splattering many faces, including his. Then suddenly, everything went quiet without any consequences. Everyone wiped his face clean and came back smiling to the shows dispensing opinions, advice and wisdom. That was the Month of the Jackal.


Then we went on the Kerry-Lugar binge. Everyone, who was anyone in the country, was discussing the Kerry-Lugar Bill (KLB). Again, the discussion suddenly ended, without any visible consequences. Probably, this time, Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, also helped end the binge by throwing a bucket of cold water over the heads of TV hosts who, though full of fury but short on facts and figures, confronted her in a collective interview. The curtain fell on the month-long show without helping the audience decide if it was a tragedy or a farce. The binge syndrome is not limited to media and politics alone. It extends to other areas of life, too Suddenly, somewhere the idea of beautifying our cities dawns on someone. Most cities of the world have architectural monuments placed in the city squares. Why shouldn't we? So, we go on a binge of beautifying the city squares. But defying all principles of aesthetics, the monuments we choose are plastic or tin replicas of Ghauri and Shaheen missiles or some other odd pieces of discarded armament. Like in domestic architecture, where common folks tend to emulate the rich, the monument virus, too, spreads to district and tehsil towns, and soon you have these beauties sprouting all over the country.


Last time, when I traveled from Islamabad to Balakot, I counted three such monuments in Haripur alone placed one after the other on a one-mile stretch of the road that passes through the town -- a discarded fighter plane, torpedo and a tank, in that order. Further north, Havelian had its own Ghauri planted at the entrance to the town collecting dust and posters soliciting hides and skins.


Mansehra, the last of the major towns on the fabled Silk Route and gateway to beautiful mountains and valleys, always greeted tourists with a large signboard that said: "Welcome to the land of pines". But someone discovered a discarded fighter plane somewhere and planted it in concrete at the entry point to the town -- a monument to bad taste and lack of sensitivity to the surroundings. This binge of beautifying the city squares lasted for a couple of years or more.


And the biggest of all binges is renaming towns and schools or colleges, especially those that were named after non-Muslims. Layallpur comes to mind immediately, which was named Faisalabad. King Faisal was a good king, generous to Pakistan. We named and renamed a lot of places after him. But when he died, we forgot him altogether.

Bhoolay tau yoon keh goya kabhi ashna na thay (We forgot him as if we never knew him).


They once tried to change the name of Lawrence College, Ghoragalli and there was even talk of changing the name of Abbottabad -- both names rooted in history. Mercifully they didn't succeed. There were powerful lobbies to defend these names.

Then there are these little, obscure places whose names, rooted in some local tradition or legend, get changed when someone goes on the name-changing binge. Like, this little road junction on the out skirts of Islamabad called Trambri Chowk since the days Islamabad was being built. They sold trambris here (the wok-like iron platter used by masons to mix cement and sand). They still do along with other hard ware, but the name has been changed to Milad Chowk. People still prefer to call it by its old name.


There is this little place on the Karakoram Highway, about 6 miles short of Abbottabad. It is precisely where the road starts to climb into the mountains. Truck drivers usually stop here to top up the radiators with cold water from a nearby stream to ready their vehicles for the climb ahead. The place had a curious name, Khota Qabar, meaning, donkey's grave.


Google gives the following information about this place:"Latitude 34.09; longitude 73.17; elevation 3,251 feet." Enquiries by this writer uncovered a fascinating story about the origin of this name.


On their way to Balakot to fight the Sikhs, Syed Ahmed and Shah Ismail, who had come all the way from Breli, India, to wage jihad and liberate the area from Sikh control, had camped where Abbottabad is today. This was in 1831. They had brought a small army of mujahideen with them and some joined them locally. (Incidentally, this is the first time one comes across the word 'jihad' and 'mujahideen' in this part of the subcontinent.)

The Sikhs, in order to choke the mujahideen's supply lines, posted troops on the hills overlooking the road that led through the gorge. The mujahideen, sensing the risk of sending supply convoys through the gorge cleverly hired the services of a donkey without a handler to do the job. Yes, just one donkey.


Even though the donkey has, for some odd reasons, become a metaphor for stupidity in our part of the world, it is not stupid at all. In fact, it has an excellent memory and uses it very intelligently. One of the unique traits of a donkey is that once he carries a load to a destination, he memorises the route and does not need a handler to be able to go back to the same place. Just a light kick in the back sends him trudging quietly to his destination.

So unknown to the Sikhs, this dutiful donkey trudged back and forth, night after night, carrying supplies from down below to the mujahideen's camp. It wasn't long before though that the Sikhs found out who the mysterious courier was and shot the donkey dead one night.


The mujahideen mourned the loss of the donkey and buried him in a grave rather than letting him rot in the open, as often do. The place came to be called Khota Qabar. The battle of Balakot ended in disaster for the mujahideen, but that is different story.


The grave of the donkey may not have survived but the name did. Ever since, people of the surrounding areas, old and young, know the place by that name. Ask any taxi, bus or truck driver and he will know where Khota Qabar is.

But recently, a road sign quietly sprouted at the precise spot announcing a new name for the place -- Muslimabad ! There was no one to defend the poor, dutiful donkey. However, the people of the area still know the place by its old name. And so does Google.


Next time, when we have the urge to do something, instead of going on a binge, let's stop for a minute and think through what we are going to do.


The writer is human resource consultant currently based in Philadelphia. Email: aziz akhmad@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

BLASTS

DR MUZAFFAR IQBAL


One must simply admit that there is no end in sight; that those who have decided to turn Pakistan into a country where random killing of innocent civilians is a norm, rather than an exception, will continue to attack. And having admitted this, one must proceed with understanding the reasons and consequences of this kind of terrorism, for the sickening routine of condemnation by government officials, followed by more blasts, followed by more condemnations is a zero-sum game that is not going to take us anywhere. This much is clear: those who have taken the route of indiscriminate bombing and suicide attacks are not following the message of the Quran and therefore, each act of random killing that takes lives of non-combatants brings an eternal damnation to them.


This is based on the Quranic verse: "And whoever kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell to abide therein, and the wrath and the curse of Allah are upon him, and a great punishment is prepared for him" (Q. 4:93) and the fact that suicide is an utterly unacceptable act in Islam. The Noble Messenger said, "Indeed, whosoever kills himself, he will certainly be punished in the Fire of Hell, wherein he shall dwell forever" (Bukhari, 5778; Muslim,109 and 110). Therefore, anyone who thinks that these acts are in the service of Islam or a form of jihad, is utterly confused about the teachings of Islam.


Let us also admit that no government in Pakistan is going to be able to stop these random atrocities; Pakistan is simply too porous for a strict administrative control which can prevent this kind of terrorism. Such prevention is not possible even in countries much advanced in their administrative controls such as the UK where borders are far more protected and state data on persons who live in that country is far more accurate and useful. The sate of Pakistan has no way to control who enters its porous borders to the north, it has limited records, and its law enforcing agencies are simply not equipped to deal with this kind of terrorism.


This failure of the system is accumulative and even if the government starts to setup a specific rapid deployment force to protect its citizens from terrorism of this kind, it will take a few years before such a force is fully operational. And although there is an urgent need for the establishment of such a rapid, well-trained and force in possession of advance technical equipment and the ability to use that equipment, a state in denial--as Pakistan is today--cannot even think of this option. Thus, what is left for ordinary citizens is to live in a state of psychological terror and for the state agencies to remain a target of these attacks with increasing frequency.

Still, there are some gains in an objective exploration of the relationship between what is happening in the Punjab now and the military operation in FATA. There are clear links between the two. The state claims of winning the war against terrorists notwithstanding, it is obvious that the theatre of operation is not limited to Swat and FATA, that those who have been bombed in their own homes and villages have not vanquished. It is also obvious that the operational skills and capabilities of those who have decided to bring this war of terror to major cities of Punjab far exceed the limits of state acknowledgment. The bombastic claims of uprooting the terrorists simply do not match ground realities. What we have is an expanding theatre of operation and the price of war in Swat and now in FATA is being paid by ordinary citizens in Rawalpindi, Lahore, Multan, and other cities.

This is, indeed, a very serious situation, but the failure of the state to fully admit its seriousness is almost greater than the callousness of those who have brought this random act of violence to the homes of ordinary citizens. This is so because in this failure lies the failure to tackle this situation. As long as the government and its agencies remain in a state of denial, there is no solution possible. The first need here is, thus, simply to acknowledge what is written on the wall: those who are being attacked in Swat and FATA have the will, the means, and the operational skills to attack state and semi-state agencies anywhere in the country and such attacks cannot be prevented by deploying more soldiers and guards and police and by establishing more check points. Because of the callousness and cowardice of those who are willing to kill ordinary citizens, there is no way to prevent suicide bombings.


Then there is a psychological price being paid for these loathsome acts of violence by Pakistani citizens. Even those who are not directly attacked are paying this price. And those who lose their loved ones have their bereavement and suffering. All of this must be admitted openly, publicly and boldly at the highest level of state and government. Only after this admission, the state and the government will be able to face the next stage of this nightmare: what is to be done to stop these acts of terrorism.


Once acknowledged openly with courage, the step will be to develop a national consensus on how to tackle this situation. There are several possible solutions. Some of these have been tried in other situations and other countries. None of the tried and proven solution, however, involves lack of admission and nauseating statements after every act of violence. To tackle a very serious situation, the state needs to be serious and one cannot think of steps needed to resolve the crises until one admits ground realities.


The writer is a freelance