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Monday, December 21, 2009

EDITORIAL 12.12.09

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month december 12, edition 000374, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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
























































There is nothing surprising about the clamour for separate States following the UPA Government's decision to proceed with the creation of Telangana. After all, if a fasting politician and a violent mob could together convince the Centre that the demand for Telangana, festering for nearly haf-a-century, can no longer be ignored, there is no reason why others too should not seek a similar short-cut to the creation of new States. From Coorg to Bodoland and from Gorkhaland to Kongu Nadu, raucous voices are being heard for immediate resolution of long-standing demands for separate States. There are other voices, too: Those of people opposed to the division of their States, most volubly heard in Andhra Pradesh where a backlash is rapidly building up against the creation of Telangana. In fact, faced with mounting hostility, including within the Congress, the Union Government is now groping for a way to buy time without being seen to be backtracking on its promise. Meanwhile, BSP supremo Mayawati has stolen a march on her rivals by reiterating her support for the trifurcation of Uttar Pradesh to create Bundelkhand and Harit Pradesh: If this were to happen, she would claim full credit for fulfilling regional aspirations within Uttar Pradesh as it exists now. On the other hand, the revived demand for Gorkhaland is bound to raise hackles in West Bengal where there is little or no support, across parties, for the separation of the three sub-divisions of Darjeeling district from the State. Then there is the demand for Vidarbha which will rouse parochial passions in Mumbai; neither the Shiv Sena nor Mr Raj Thackeray's MNS is likely to be a mute spectator to the carving up of Maharashtra — both will find support beyond their voters.

It would be futile to expect that the demand for separate States will fade away after the Telangana issue is resolved. On the contrary, any resolution, no matter when it happens, of the Andhra Pradesh crisis will only further fuel the demand for separate States elsewhere. Nor should we rule out the possibility of protagonists of separate States resorting to violence, or at least the threat of it, to push their demand vigorously. There is no percentage in the Union Government seeking to douse multiple fires through false promises or sweeping the problem under the carpet. It must act with clarity and political determination. The consequences of the delay in setting up the first States Reorganisation Commission were not entirely happy; the reluctance that was shown then to reorganise States should be avoided at all cost. The UPA Government would be well-advised to unilaterally announce the setting up of a second States Reorganisation Commission which will underake the responsibility of studying all demands, looking into the feasibility or otherwise of creating smaller States, and coming up with the criteria for dividing existing States. This is by no means an easy task. In 1956, the States Reorganisation Commission used the concept of linguistic States to redraw internal borders; that is unlikely to work this time round. It will have to look at issues related to governance and administration as well as the economic viability of any new State. Redrawing boundaries to please any section of the people, irrespective of whether or not their grievances are genuine, can at best be a temporary solution. The time for episodic responses is over. We need to relook at a long-term, long-lasting solution.






The demand of the Organisation of The Islamic Conference that the vote banning the construction of minarets in Switzerland be reversed is absurd to say the least. Obviously the OIC has little idea of how a popular democracy functions. Unlike most of the OIC member countries where people's views count for nothing, a democracy functions according to the wishes of the citizens it seeks to represent. And if Switzerland, which is one of the most vibrant direct democracies in the world, formally bans minarets it will not be because of the whims and fancies of a despotic ruler but on the basis of a popular referendum in which more than 57 per cent Swiss citizens voted in favour of the ban. Thus, the Swiss can hardly be faulted for being anti-democratic. What the Swiss vote does represent, and this is something that the OIC must reconcile with, is that there is a wide gulf separating despotism in OIC member states and enlightened, liberal democracies. Ignoring this fact will solve nothing.

The OIC and the Muslim world must also reflect on why there is a worldwide surge of opinion against Islamism; why is Europe standing up to defend its traditional values against what it perceives as alien culture. The fact that half of the French population wants a ban on the construction of new mosques and a majority are against the erection of minarets cannot simply be termed as Islamophobia. For, Norway — with one of the most accommodative societies — too thinks along similar lines. In England there are visible signs of an incipient backlash to the increasing assertiveness that sections of the Muslim community in that country have been displaying. In Italy there is an anti-mosque Bill pending in Parliament. All these facts simply cannot be wished away. Thus, to single out Switzerland and describe its vote on minarets as something against the ethos of European multiculturalism would be wrong. What we are witnessing in Europe today is symptomatic of a much larger phenomenon. It is the expression of a society that wants to protect its own culture and values in the face of an opposing — and not different — religio-political philosophy. What is required on the part of the Muslim world and its representatives is serious introspection as to why things have come to this pass. It cannot be that the whole of Europe is full of Islamophobes and is wrong in its thinking. In fact, it is precisely because institutions such as the OIC seem to be unable to get out of the all-Muslims-good-others-bad mentality that the problem has been exacerbated. Unless this kind of thinking is discarded by the Muslim world and objective analysis done of the issue at hand, the backlash against Islamism — and, eventually, Islam — will only get stronger.



            THE PIONEER



Speaking at a conference in Delhi this past week, Home Secretary GK Pillai warned of the threat from terrorism to India's flagship Information Technology companies. "We are world leaders in software," Mr Pillai said, "but the software industry is high on the threat list." Actually, there is a history to this targeting of IT companies that goes beyond conventional threats to locations of economic value. The story of Islamist Terror versus Information Technology — their IT versus our IT — begins, really, a year ago.

In the winter of 2008, a group of retired Generals, civil servants and strategic affairs wonks from India and Pakistan travelled to Washington, DC, for a war-gaming exercise hosted by an American think-tank. A conflict was simulated to determine how far — and how long — a conventional war could go before the Generals in Islamabad turned to the nuclear trigger.

The day's events began with the Indian team precipitating air raids on terrorist camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. It was expected that Pakistan would hit back in another theatre — outside the Kashmir zone — to enlarge the battle and invite international pressure on India. However, the nature of the Pakistani retaliation surprised the Indians in that room in the District of Columbia.

There was no move to send troops or planes into Indian Punjab or Rajasthan — as Pakistan had done in 1965, for instance. There was no attempt to bomb Delhi or Mumbai or even hurt India's prized offshore oilfield, Bombay High. Rather, Pakistani fighter-bombers flew halfway across India and destroyed the Infosys campus in Bangalore.

Later in the day, the two sets of armchair warriors got chatting and the Indians asked the Pakistanis about their strange choice. Given the nature of the IT industry, destroying the Infosys campus would do little lasting damage. The data was probably already backed up in computers at more than one location elsewhere in the world. Company operations would resume seamlessly. The buildings would soon be rebuilt.

Besides, the Pakistani planes would be travelling on a suicide mission. They were certain to be shot down on their way back home from deep in the Deccan, if they got there in the first place. It made no sense.

A Pakistani participant explained the decision. The Infosys campus — visited by corporate leaders and heads of Government alike — was an iconic symbol of India's IT prowess and of its economic surge. The Pakistanis were convinced that if it were destroyed, India's growth and its great power aspirations would be crippled. The gap between Indian and Pakistani projections that was beginning to show would again be bridged.

In purely military terms, the logic of the Pakistani contingent in Washington, DC, that day did not quite convince the Indian interlocutors. Perhaps, they concluded, this was a one-off.

A few weeks later, in the aftermath of the November 26, 2008, terror attack in Mumbai, discordant voices were heard again. As has now been accepted, the Pakistani establishment went out of its way to pretend an Indian attack was imminent, sought to scare the world with the spectre of a potentially nuclear war and played out an elaborate diversionary charade to shift attention from the complicity of elements within Pakistani territory in the planning and execution of the 26/11 terror strike.

It was left to Lt-Gen Hamid Gul, former chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence and a veteran of the jihad continuum that once spanned Afghanistan and Jammu & Kashmir, to put things acerbically but, grant him this, with a raw, tooth-and-claw honesty. "India's economy is moving ahead," he said, "and while I don't know what the targets of the Pakistani Air Force would be, India's Silicon Valley, in Bangalore … would be blown up in clouds of smoke."

Obviously the symmetry between war gamers in Washington, DC, and Let-Gen Gul wasn't coincidental. At a basic level, the Pakistani military-strategic establishment was distraught that India was pulling away — as an economy, as a society, as a nation. The assault on Mumbai — on India's business capital and its leading hotels, symbols of its intensifying relationship with the rest of the planet — was similarly explicable.

Yet, the selection of Infosys and of India's IT industry as enemy installations — and the willingness to use the Pakistani Air Force, not some freelance terror militia, to bomb what were patently civilian facilities — indicated something far more ominous: This was a new war. The conflict was no longer an anachronistic throwback to the mid-20th century or even earlier; it was a 21st century hostility, with a 21st century cause. It is crucial India recognises that.

For most of the past 60 years, the India-Pakistan dispute has been limited to what has been termed "the unfinished business of Partition". Jammu & Kashmir is, of course, the ultimate casus belli; and to be fair, in 1947, it was intellectually consistent for both nations, with their individual ideas of nationhood, to claim Hari Singh's kingdom.

There were other elements of the Partition storm that lingered — cartographic disagreements in the Rann of Kutch, sharing the waters of the Indus. There was revanchism derived from memories of the Indian "annexation" of Junagadh or, as writer Ramachandra Guha put it in an article after a visit to Lahore, of the "fall of Hyderabad". Finally, there were the crazed religious warriors, such as the ideologues of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and their benefactors in the Pakistani state, who saw a renewal of the Mughal Empire as their goal and spoke of raising the 'Green Flag' on the Red Fort.

All of these contested images and territories were redolent with meaning from the past, perhaps from an imagined past — and from a desire to somehow turn back the clock, undo the perceived wrongs of history.

Hate for the Infosys campus is far removed from this. It has nothing to do with religious war or any self-propelled extension of the two-nation theory. It is a secular form of hate, in every sense of that 's' word. An animosity towards India has been hardwired into the Pakistani military-strategic complex. It has become an open-ended cause, a raison d'être, an industry. It has long outgrown Jammu & Kashmir. It will not go away in our lifetimes.







We only want to look at something that is a source of joy, not at something that is likely to sadden us. If any one of the senses is missing, the entire dimension of that sense is lost. One who can't hear is bereft of the whole arena of sound. Similarly, he who can't see is deprived of all the beautiful sights and colours. So the sense is more important and much bigger than the object of the sense.

Each sense has a limited capacity to enjoy — after all, how much can one see, hear or touch? However beautiful a sight, one cannot keep looking at it. The senses get tired after a short period of time. The eyes close and we want to go back into ourself because every experience is an expense of energy.

Rated higher than the sense is the mind. The mind is infinite; its desires are many. But the capacity of the senses to enjoy is small. This imbalance in the system will remain. Greed is wanting more and more sensory objects. Even though a person can eat only so much, he wants all the chocolates in the world; though the amount of money that can be spent by an individual during a lifetime is limited, he wants all the wealth in the world. This is greed. This is what is prevalent in the world today.

Giving too much importance to sensory objects leads to greed and lust. Giving too much importance to the mind and its desires leads to delusion. We hold on to the concepts of the mind and want things to happen in a certain way. Thus, the concepts in our mind impede us from perceiving the infinite consciousness that is a part of us.

I am not saying that the senses and the mind are bad. But we must learn to discriminate between things and be aware of what is happening at all times. That is when clarity dawns on us. This is the first step towards the higher state of consciousness.

The fourth or the higher state of consciousness is somewhere in between the waking, sleeping and dreaming states; wherein we know 'we are' but we don't know 'where we are'. This knowledge that 'I am' but I don't know 'where I am' or 'what I am' is called 'shiv'. This state gives the deepest possible rest that one can experience. The mind becomes fresh, delicate and beautiful.

Hence, the fourth state, where we are awake and yet at complete rest, is worth knowing. It is the inward eye that we must strive to achieve and master. But we can enter this state only through intense meditation.








Copenhagen is buzzing with activity with representatives of 200 countries represented by their top diplomats, environmentalists, scientists, NGOs and world leaders who have gathered to work out a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol which expires 2012. Climate change, caused by increasing atmospheric build up of carbon dioxide from burning of fossil fuel largely by developed countries, is already causing severe droughts, flooding, rapid shrinking of glaciers, drying of rivers, incidents of extreme weather, rising sea level, loss of biodiversity and threatens food security and livelihood of millions of people.

All agree that global greenhouse gas emissions have to be reduced. But how much of a deep cut is required is major question to be resolved. The ambitions of countries today range from 'aspirational' to 'achievable' and from 'comprehensive' to 'not undermining global economic development.' Long term stabilisation targets range from between 450 and 350 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 equivalent or limiting global average temperature increase to 2 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels. This compares with current levels of 430ppm CO2. For achieving stabilisation of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, emissions have to be reduced between 25 and 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. This could be further matched by a longer term (2050) commitment to reduce emissions by 85 per cent from 1990 levels.

Most developed countries have made national commitments to reduce their CO2 emissions, but these are significantly less than what is required. The United States, being a major emitter, had consistently refused to join the Kyoto Protocol. It has now committed to its cut emission by 17 per cent by 2020 from the 2005 level, which amounts to 3-4 per cent only from the 1990 level. The European Union has agreed to cut emission by 30 per cent; Japan, Russia and Australia by 25 per cent each by 2020. The cuts announced by the developed countries are far too short than what is recommended by scientists for climate stabilisation. China and India have also announced voluntary reduction in their carbon intensity by 40-45 per cent and India by 20- 25 per cent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels. But scientists tell us that even if we stop carbon emissions growth immediately, the world would still warm up by 2 degrees. This would lead to significant changes in rainfall, water availability, flooding, food and public health. The impacts would be felt in both developed and developing countries. Developing countries and poor people are likely to be affected disproportionately more than others. Identifying these impacts and paying for investments require large resources.

Moreover, who's going to pay for the developing countries' work? Current mechanisms, such as the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), would not be sufficient to provide the scale of resources needed. Copenhagen must debate and deliver very significant progress on these matters. Finding a common framework for action acceptable to 200-plus countries with variegated vulnerabilities, fuel choices, political systems and histories of emissions remains a daunting task. The climate negotiations at Copenhagen have only just started, but already the recriminations have begun. The dropping of the Kyoto Protocol, Bali Action Plan, principal of common but differential responsibility, insistence on verifiable emission cuts and introduction of peaking year for developing countries — all represent serious road blocks to any agreement.

The leakage of the Danish draft which had the support of developed countries led to protests from the developing group. To counter it, South Africa, India and China jointly developed a BASIC Draft on behalf of the G77 nations. The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) headed by Tuvalu demanded a stronger agreement than the Kyoto Protocol to place emission reduction obligations on both developed and developing countries. The stand taken by AOISIS represents an additional hiccup for those working towards a unified stand by G77 and China. India is willing to accommodate concerns over the draft climate treaty. Developed countries want absolute near-term emissions caps from China and India, but they may not sign up for anything of the sort for at least another decade. And before they consider a deal of any kind, Chinese and Indian negotiators are demanding that developed countries commit to cutting their greenhouse gas emissions by over 40 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020, but the none of the western countries would even come close to meeting this goal.Developing countries would like see real action on climate change adaptation.

They are asking the wealthy nations to commit as much as one per cent of their collective GDP—-more than $300 billion annually — to a fund that would help the rest of the world reduce its emissions and adapt to climate change. The western countries have proposed a $10 billion per year climate fund for the next three years to help the developing nations. This amount is considered for too short of the expectation of the developing world. "This $10 billion, if divided by the world population, it is less than $2 per person," said Su, who then noted that such amount was not enough to buy a cup of coffee in the Danish capital or a coffin in destitute nations. "Climate change is a matter of life and death," he noted. China and India are vehemently opposed to any mandatory emission cuts or peaking year or to allow any international verification of their voluntary cuts supported by their own resources. Developing countries want strong a commitment from developed nations to contribute money and technology to help the developing countries with greener technologies to develop clean energy options. The focal point for possible deal -apart from the difficulty of agreeing to some sort of emission cuts for all parties involved — is the scope and implementation of the technology transfer and financing made available for mitigation and adaptation. India has been working to achieve a consensus on its proposal to share new technologies and the Indian negotiators have managed to gain support for creating climate innovation centre as a collaborative effort. Participating nations would share the funding and the use of new innovations.

Copenhagen is looked upon with great expectations for securing human welfare and sustainable development. However, if Copenhagen delivers a partial or a weak deal than more complex and thorny consequences may follow. Any shortfall in emission cuts from the level suggested by predictive scientific models will fail to curb climate change and is likely to create increasing complexities for reaching an agreement at a future date.

The agenda in Copenhagen is huge, but there is one key point that can make or break the deal: burden sharing! Unfortunately, going by the proceedings of the four days, the differences in perceptions and conflicts in expectations have only grown rather than narrowed. Time is running out and many issues remain resolved. The need to "seal the deal" can hardly be overemphasised. On the last day, US President Barack Obama and India's Manohan Singh, along with a host of other head of state of over 100 countries, are expected to turn up. Let us hope they succeed in removing last hurdles that block a bold new climate treaty.

The writer is former Dean, School of Environmental Sciences, JNU








The UN climate summit in Copenhagen was hailed as the last hope for a deal to save the earth from global warming. But the eleventh hour hacking of emails from the server of the British government's Climatic Research Unit, referred in the media as 'climategate', combined with over two years of failed negotiations among 'rich' polluters, cast sombre clouds over the event.

The controversy that began with the hacking of a server used by Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia in England reveals correspondence between British and American researchers. From the emails it appeared that the scientists were engaged in fraudulent reporting of data. They were deep in a conspiracy to misrepresent facts on global temperature variations in favour of establishing that the planet was warming up by dangerous levels. This came as confirmation to scientists who were always skeptical about the hypothesis put forth by establishment scientists that man-made causes were at the root of ice-cap meltdowns, unusual storms, warm winters and warmer summers. The decade-long debate between 'deniers' and 'doomsayers' reached an unseemly and inappropriate climax on the eve of the Copenhagen summit. To save face the CRU scientists stated that the emails had been taken 'out of context' as they 'merely reflected an honest exchange of ideas'.

However, The New York Times opined, "The evidence pointing to a growing human contribution to global warming is so widely accepted that the hacked material is unlikely to erode the overall argument." Climate change alarmists insist that 'climategate' does not deny the fact of global warming, but public concern about climate change due to anthropogenic reasons is waning.However, there were other voices that effectively took the fizz out of Copenhagen 2009. The NASA scientist who is regarded as the grandfather of global warming, James Hansen, said a couple of days before the summit's inauguration that he hoped it flopped. Back in 1989, Hansen had made history by being the first scientist to indicate that the unnaturally hot summers that the US was experiencing then was owed to 'global warming'. Now, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies told The Times (London) that the UN conference was seeking a counter-productive agreement to limit emissions through a cap-and-trade system. "They are selling indulgences there. The developed nations want to continue business as usual so they are expected to purchase indulgences to give some small amount of money to developing countries.

They do that in the form of offsets and adaptation funds," he said. The Copenhagen summit was conceived out of the impasse over the Kyoto Protocol. In December 2007, yielding to international pressure, the United States suggested this at a major UN conference on post-Kyoto climate policy held in Bali, Indonesia. Thus you had the Bali Action Plan, which sketched a two-year 'roadmap' for deciding on targets for cutting emissions, funding to help poor countries adapt to climate change, sharing of green technology and the future of forests. Bangkok hosted the next conference on the Bali roadmap in April 2008 but without any success.

Despite two years of unfruitful negotiations, there have been huge expectations from both the developed and the developing countries because some alarming facts were almost visible. A study by McKinsey & Co estimated that extreme drought caused by climate change could cause triple crop losses in northeast China to 13.8 million tonnes, or 12 per cent of the total yield, by 2030. The study said that Chinese grain production could drop 10 per cent for each degree Celsius rise in temperature. Another study by the International Organisation for Migration created fear among developed countries. The study released on the December 8 in Copenhagen estimates that between 25 million and 1 billion people could be driven from their homes to rich countries as a result of climate change over the next four decades. All this contributed to rising expectations of a binding treaty at the Copenhagen summit. But there are three major problem areas: difficulty in reaching a consensus on target emission cut, cap and trade clause, and most importantly demand for huge funds by poor nations.

The unwillingness of the per capita biggest polluter, the US, to commit to a meaningful global agreement to tackle climate change and fund developing economies has been a spoiler. The top African negotiator at the Copenhagen climate summit, Lumumba Di Aping of Sudan, called on President Barack Obama to live up to the world's expectations of him as a Nobel laureate. He repeated a call for the US to join the Kyoto Protocol, which Obama has already rejected earlier. It was the US' refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol that caused the Copenhagen conference to split into twin-track negotiations: one for the existing Kyoto Protocol and another for the track emerging out of the Bali Action Plan. But the developed economies feel that there is no point sticking with the Kyoto Protocol if the US is not willing to sign it.

The US does not want to allow a 'free ride' to economic competitors like China and India. In response to China's charge that "provision of financial support to developing countries is not act of charity... it is historic responsibility of developed countries", the chief US negotiator at the summit, Todd Stern, rejected the sense of guilt for its actions. India's dismissal of a draft climate change proposal by Denmark that expects developing economies to peak their greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 has failed to plug chinks in developing nations' bloc. With Tuvalu, a Pacific island state, calling for talks at the Copenhagen summit to put pressure on India, China and Brazil to commit to a binding emission cut, the developing economies would find it tough to turn the tide in its favour. It may be this development that Tuvalu held up proceedings at the conference on December 10 demanding a full discussion on a proposal for a two-track protocol. Similar is the case in the African union. Kenya's diatribe against the union for walking out of the UN climate talks in Barcelona has weakened the block's negotiating power.

Looking back at international global warming negotiations for the past two years, it would be unreasonable to expect a comprehensive deal to be inked at the Copenhagen summit. It was clear even at the last round of negotiations in Barcelona in November that what could not be negotiated in 24 months can't be inked in the 12-day summit. US negotiator and senior White House official Michael Froman considers the Copenhagen summit "an important step forward" rather than a definitive breakthrough. Similarly the Danish Prime Minister, Anders Forg Rasmussen, said, "We may not hammer out the last dots of a legally binding instrument. I do believe a political binding agreement with specific commitment to mitigation and finance provides a strong basis for immediate action in the years to come."

The writer is Deputy News Editor, The Pioneer







While the climate change summit is taking place in Copenhagen, there has been a controversy regarding manipulations and exaggeration of the emissions levels and their impact on the world's climate by the industrial countries in order to force the developing countries to agree to lower their emission levels and accept a lower level of industrial development. If this is true, it will affect countries like India.

As everyone knows, India's per capita emission level, is way behind those of China and the US. Even in India the two 'Indias' — or India and Bharat — have different rates of energy consumption, the rich consuming much more than the poor. Even though the rich consume larger amounts as compared to an average rural resident, they are not comparable to the average rich American consumer of energy. With India accepting a voluntary cut in emission levels, it would mean we are going to sacrifice rapid manufacturing growth which has the biggest potential for giving jobs to the poor. We shall also be slowing down the electrification programme for 400 million people who are without a regular source of power.


Agriculture is not an option, nor is the service sector because these may not be able to absorb large numbers of the jobless. IT and communications jobs require a minimum knowledge of English and at least secondary education which would disqualify millions. It would mean we shall have to invest in technology which is less polluting and buy the same from industrial countries which would hike up the cost of production and make Indian goods uncompetitive.Nuclear energy is hardly an option at present as it would be six times the cost of coal-fired plants. Nor is solar energy an attractive proposition because it is four to five times as expensive. Coal-based factories would also be severely affected in India and China, but China cleverly invested in renewable energy and has reached the premier position regarding wind and solar power generation. They are attempting to be purveyors of these technologies to the world in the future — a smart move indeed.

Can India control its energy consumption before it reaches an optimum level of development signified by much lower levels of poverty and equitable growth? Today India's per capita energy consumption is only 4.5 kw, whereas China's is 1316 kw and the US is 7,892 kw. With a faster rate of growth, our energy consumption per capita is bound to rise. The low carbon path offered by India does not reflect this change in energy consumption unless we go nuclear or solar which as pointed above, are not viable options in the foreseeable future. India has a lot of coal and it would be important to use it for electricity generation. A World Bank study has estimated that just the capital costs of setting up cleaner grid power could rise by 15 to 20 per cent and moving towards cleaner coal technologies would be a most expensive proposition. The Planning Commission disagrees and thinks India could look at a more ambitious target of emission cuts.

In any case, should India have to compromise her position when others with so much more per capita emission are behaving in an inequitable manner? The whole climate change debate seems to be driven by the developed countries' agenda. The Americans are calling the shots when they themselves have been hugely responsible for the problems created today and are forcing the emerging countries to accept large cuts in their energy consumption in order to lower emission levels. Global warming is affecting all but shouldn't the developed countries allow leeway to the developing countries' growth and control their own emissions more?

The whole debate on climate change seems to hinge on iniquitous cuts in emission levels by the developed countries as compared to the developing countries. The developed, industrialised countries have labelled India the fourth biggest polluter in the world. India's high ranking is not according to per capita emission but due to its large population. Indeed, the developed countries have been the biggest polluters and have caused nearly three-fourths of the historical stock of emissions and though they have one-fifth of the world's population, they still account for over half the current emissions. The US is the top polluter in the world, emitting 21 per cent of all greenhouse gases. Yet, the onus is on the emerging developing countries like India, China and Brazil. While the US has agreed to cut emissions by 17 per cent by 2020 from 2005 levels, India has agreed to cut emissions by 20 to 25 per cent by 2020 from 2005 level and China has agreed to cut the carbon intensity of its economy by 40 to 45 per cent below 2005 level by 2020. But there is no sign of the promised technology and finances promised — estimated at $ 200 billion per year — for transforming production processes in the developing world.








HOW many poor people are there in India? A simple question, with, one would have thought, a fairly straightforward answer — define what ' poor' means in the context of your society, and see how much of your population fits that description. Yet, that simple question has not been answered with any degree of authority by the government.


The latest attempt — by an expert group constituted by the Planning Commission, after strong and widespread criticism of its revised estimates showing a sharply reduced population of the poorest, may end up raising more questions than it answers.


The broad estimates of the expert group — that the actual percentage of the population below the poverty line is around 38 per cent, or 10 per cent over the current estimate, agrees with the general view of a majority of economists and other experts who have worked on poverty estimation in India. However, its methodology, as well as the manner in which its findings became public — via a media leak — raise questions.


The new methodology suggested by the committee— a complex set of criteria, and a completely revised poverty line consumption basket, as well as a revised methodology of data collection, will take the rural and urban consumption baskets closer to each other, and change the weightage allotted to various basics like food, clothing and energy.


This sounds reasonable, but the fact that the government has not taken the obvious next step— of accepting and implementing the report, suggests that media leaks are being used to test the air on the findings.


Could this be because doing so would make the current UPA combine's — during whose two tenures the most dramatic reductions in poverty levels are claimed to have taken place — make such claims ring hollow? We need some clear answers from the government on this, since this is not merely an academic dispute. Poverty numbers are crucial in determining the states' share of central resources, as well as the amount of money spent on poverty alleviation.


If the number of absolute poor has been severely underestimated over the past decade, as would appear to be the case, this is tantamount to have robbed a significant number of the poorest of the poor in the country of their access to even the basic poverty alleviation measures currently in place.


It is no coincidence that the states with the largest population of poor are also the worst affected by Maoist insurgency.






THE Municipal Corporation of Delhi wants to increase a slew of taxes in the city— property tax, a betterment tax for people living near the Metro, a professional tax for people earning more than Rs 30,000 and so on. In principle there is nothing wrong with this move, civic authorities do need resources to provide better amenities, after all.


But that is where the rub lies. The MCD has, over the years, gained a reputation for being one of the most incompetent and corrupt bodies in the country. There is, for example the problem of over 20,000 ghost employees who have drawn tens of crores of rupees as salary and allowances. Then, as a M AIL T ODAY report on Friday has revealed, there is the profligate stewardship of its own property. In this case some 70 acres of land was systematically sold off by land sharks to buyers, mostly poor and illiterate workers.


Such a thing could not have happened without the collusion of municipal authorities.


Unauthorised construction is another means through which MCD officials have made fortunes.


According to a Right to Information request, the MCD's Vigilance department has admitted that as many as 4,299 cases were pending against 3,350 officials. Out of the registered cases, 1,435 cases were by the anti- corruption branch of the Delhi Government, Police and CBI whereas 2,877 such cases were registered by its own vigilance wing. This staggering figure indicates the extent and depth of the rot.


There is no way out but to relentlessly pursue the corrupt in the organisation and to ensure that they get deterrent punishment.


The high pendency figures of cases indicate a need for fast track courts to deal effectively with the problem.








THE MIDNIGHT announcement of its intent to create a separate state of Telangana has come to haunt the Congress party. Its government in Andhra Pradesh is in jeopardy with legislators from the Andhra region resigning in protest. Even political parties which had come round to supporting the creation of the new state have turned against it because they were not consulted.


Many opposed to a separate Telangana have come out into the streets.


Although the situation may take a dangerous turn if the Centre does not handle it with care, it should not mean backtracking on the promise of Telangana. A credible political process for achieving that goal must be set in motion.


The Indian parliament has the authority under Article 3 of the Constitution to create new states and change the existing boundaries of the states if a democratic and popular demand exists for them. None of the Indian states can claim that their integrity is sacrosanct and that new states cannot be carved out of them.


The demand for the creation of Telangana existed even before the state of Andhra Pradesh was created.


Indeed, Jawaharlal Nehru was himself in favour of two states — Andhra and Telangana ( part of the erstwhile Hyderabad state) instead of the proposed Vishalandhra, later called Andhra Pradesh. The States Reorganisation Commission went into great detail about the pros and cons of having two states instead of one in the region now called Andhra Pradesh.



The arguments given by the Commission for Vishalandhra were that it would have a considerable hinterland with large water and power resources, adequate mineral wealth and valuable raw materials; that it would permit the development of the Krishna and Godavari rivers under unified control; the food deficit that existed in Telangana could be met by the agricultural surplus of Andhra; and that a new capital would not have to be created as " the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad are very well suited to be the capital of Vishalandhra". The Commission however noted that arguments for making Telangana a separate state could not be brushed aside lightly. Telangana, it argued, had higher per capita revenue, it was progressive from an administrative point of view and that unification was " not likely to confer any benefits on this area." Telangana, it noted, also feared that once unification took place it may not receive adequate consideration from Vishalandhra and it would lose its independent rights to the utilisation of the Krishna and Godavari waters. As outside of Hyderabad, Telangana was educationally backward, therefore there were apprehensions that in public services " the major partner will derive all the advantages immediately, while Telangana itself may be converted into a colony by the enterprising coastal Andhra." The States Reorganisation Commission opted for a unified state but also noted, " Andhra and Telangana have common interests and we hope that these interests will tend to bring the people closer to each other.


If, however, our hopes for the development of the environment and conditions congenial to the unification of the two areas do not materialise and if public sentiment in Telangana crystallises itself against the


unification of the two states, Telangana will have to continue as a separate unit." The fears of those opposed to a single unified unit have turned into ground truths over time. Telangana protagonists complain of inequitable sharing of river waters with only an 18 per cent share compared to more than 80 per cent for coastal Andhra and Rayalseema; literacy rates remain low despite half a decade of integration; lack of industrialisation outside of Hyderabad compared to massive investments in Vizag, Vijaywada, Kakinada, Nellore, Tirupati and Cuddaph in the Andhra region; less than onefifth of all government jobs going to those from Telangana, and inflow of ' migrants' from Andhra changing the demographic profile of the region, etc.


The sentiment for unification was never strong and the demand for a separate Telangana continued despite the creation of Andhra Pradesh. Way back in 1971, the Telangana Praja Samithi won 11 out of the 14 seats of the Telangana region on its single- point demand of a separate state. The same demand is represented today by K Chandrashekhar Rao's Telangana Rajya Samithi.


He formed the TRS in 2001 and in the 2004 election, the promise of a separate Telangana saw him winning five out of six Lok Sabha seats in the region and 24 out of the 42 he contested ( of the total 107 in Telangana) in alliance with the Congress. The betrayal of the Congress cost him dear, and ever since his party has been in electoral decline.



The Centre's initial statement about its readiness to create a separate state might give the impression that it acted under duress as K Chandrashekhar Rao was on a hunger strike and there was rioting in the state. Although the decision has angered both Congress allies as well as the Opposition in Andhra, it would be politically unwise for the Government to backtrack now.


Not only will the Centre lose credibility, but the movement for Telangana could slip out of the hands of democratic leaders. Rao may have his imperfections but he follows democratic


democratic means. Marginalising him now or cheating him of his achievements, could see the movement fall into the hands of extremists and turn into another insurgency.


The political mindset of the country about the viability of smaller states needs to be turned around. Unfortunately the impression is that the Congress agrees to new states only after bloodshed and violence — the separation of Haryana from Punjab saw a lot of violence and in the creation of Maharashtra, one only has to recall how the car of then Chief Minister of Bombay Morarji Desai actually ran over protesters who were demanding a new state.


The largest national party must realise that the nation does not lose by the creation of new states. If the United States of America with onethird the population of India can be strong with 50 states, India does not need to be scared of creating more states.



The British carved out administrative units as revenue districts. That was the requirement of the colonial government. Today, the administrative unit has to be a development unit — sharing common economic, environmental and geographical features.


Unlike the colonial government which sat in Calcutta or Delhi or even in London, today governance needs to go closer to the people. Bundelkhand has been suffering from drought for five years running and farmers' suicides happen at an appalling rate in Vidarbha. There is no way that these issues would have been neglected for so long had they been separate states.


In 1966 when Haryana was created, commentators on national affairs worried how the state would pay the salaries of its employees.

The state had one radio station at Rohtak and only one road worth its name — the G T Road. Yet, within six years, in 1972, every village in the state was linked with a road, had electricity and a school. In less than a decade, a virtual desert had been converted into fertile fields through innovative irrigation technology and Haryana Tourism became the byword for how to create tourism out of nothing. The case of Himachal Pradesh is similar. New states like Uttarakhand today try to replicate its development model.


The attitude of the political class however seems to be governed more by its own interests than that of the people. People must not be pushed to violence for securing better governance through smaller states. Smaller states are not going to opt out of India. Their formation will in fact make India stronger.







AFTER watching Virender Sehwag smash a humongous 293 in India's big win over Sri Lanka in the third Test in Mumbai last week, former Australia Test spinner Brad Hogg became an ardent fan of the swashbuckling opener. " Very dangerous batsman; very exciting; enjoy to watch — when he is not playing against Australia," the Chinaman bowler said with a laugh as he emphasised the last bit.


Hogg said Sehwag was a key component of the strong Indian batting line- up and he gives whirlwind starts, be it a Test match or an ODI or a Twenty20 game. " Sehwag is a very important cog in Indian cricket. He gets the ball rolling at the top of the order. Some days he's not going to come off. He is a match winner who can get a total on the board," Hogg told M AIL T ODAY after watching India climb to the No. 1 position in official Test rankings.


" But if he gets going, he puts pressure on the opposition. So, he is a very important cog, just like Adam Gilchrist was to Australian cricket. It's very hard; I don't like comparing cricketers because they are in different line- ups and some teams are stronger than others," he said, when asked to compare Sehwag with the retired hard- hitting lefthander Gilchrist and others.


Hogg predicted that four- time winner Australia would make it to the semi- finals of the 2011 World Cup in South Asia. " The boys are going to give it a good shake and the team that we have got is good enough to do it. Don't


be surprised if you see Australia among the top four during the World Cup as well," he said. The 38- year- old player from Western Australia recalled that Australia under Allan Border had won their first World Cup in 1987.


" Many years ago Australia won a World Cup in India. We have got a very good chance of winning in every other nation. In World Cup cricket, you've got to be on song on the day. You lose a match and you are [ at times] knocked out. I definitely think we've got a team that can give it a good shake." The Narrogin- born Hogg refused to accept that Australian cricket was going through a transitional phase.


" There is no transition period,


really. The players that are there now got a little bit of exposure of international cricket when the big guns were there. They've leant from the heroes of the past, like the Gilchrists, the Martyns, the Waughs, the Haydens, and the McGraths," he stressed.


" They [ youngsters] have been in and out of the system, but they've been around with these guys to know and to learn what international cricket and what Australian cricket is about.


I'm proud of what the team is doing now." Apart from television commentary, Hogg works for a company that helps foreign students find their feet in Australia. When asked about violence against Indian students in Australia, he dismissed them as insignificant occurrences.


" Well, it's like anywhere in the world. Look, they were very small incidents. I don't think they will happen again," he said.


" But that can happen anywhere in the world. I'm very sure it's going to settle down. Hopefully, it never ever happens again. I could be anywhere in the world and something could happen to me. So, it's one of those things.


We are working very hard to eliminate those factors."



FOR MANY years, before the stakes soared in Indian cricket with millions and billions starting to pour in, there was a practice of recording BCCI meetings. The system not only continues even now, but in the present context the recordings have assumed more significance in view of many cases that the board keep contesting— forced or otherwise — from time to time. " These audio recordings become important if a discussion over an important issue takes place in a meeting.


" Or if a BCCI member goes to the court, we preserve the audio recording because it might be needed during the course of the case," said a BCCI official. The board is also aware that if the tapes are kept for long they would catch fungus. " Once the minutes of meetings are made, we usually destroy the tapes. But if we feel that a meeting is important, we preserve the recording for a certain period," he said.



MUMBAI not only boasts of three Test venues, but all three of them are located very close to each other.


From Bombay Gymkhana, which hosted the first- ever Test match staged in India in 1933, to the Brabourne Stadium, the distance would be less than three kilometres, giving the ' cricket capital' of the country a special place in the world.


Interestingly, all three are on the same side of the famous Marine Drive.

In between the two stadiums is the under- renovation Wankhede Stadium, which has so far hosted 21 Tests and 15 ODIs and will host the 2011 World Cup final. The Brabourne Stadium has hosted 18 Tests and eight ODIs. Mumbai is truly the cricket capital of the country.



AFTER INDIA'S epochal win in the third Test against Sri Lanka, a mad rush for collecting souvenirs ensued. It was vividly evident at the Brabourne Stadium that when there is even a remote chance of laying hands on anything belonging to Indian cricketers even adults start behaving like school students.


In the melee that was witnessed in front of the Indian and Sri Lankan teams' dressing rooms, men and women vied for autographs and photographs of the players. Local hero Sachin Tendulkar was obviously the most sought after and he was the last member of the team to return to the dressing room after the prize distribution ceremony as he was surrounded by excited fans and security personnel.


A woman was probably the luckiest of the hundreds of people that thronged that area looking for souvenirs.


Beaming proudly, she showed an India team shirt that had a big signature of Tendulkar. " Ohhh, you have managed Sachin's shirt and his autograph too!" gushed her friend, even as the new owner of the shirt couldn't hide her excitement.


But a member of the television production team can rightfully claim to be luckier than her. Dhoni gifted him an entire kit, including shoes shirt and trousers that he wore during the match, making his day a memorable one.


Before all this happened, the Indian players had vied with one another to grab souvenirs, seconds after Harbhajan Singh had sealed the historic win.


Those who were fielding closer to the pitch were at a distinct advantage.


After taking last man Muttiah Muraliatharan's catch, Dhoni's first act was to snatch a stump, followed by others. Yuvraj Singh, fielding afar, managed the lone stump containing the expensive television camera.


The broadcasters don't part with the ' stump- cam', so someone soon changed that stump with one without the camera to keep the left- hander happy!


THE headquarters of the Board of Control for Cricket in India ( BCCI) may have shifted from the north stand of the Brabourne Stadium to the plush all- glass building inside the Wankhede Stadium nearby, but the board has still not fully vacated the old space.


Several almirahs containing hundreds of old files and other material are kept in the old, dilapidated room that you reach by climbing a narrow and winding staircase.


" We still have files and other things kept there while some of the almirahs have been brought to the new office and are kept in the parking area," said a BCCI official. " Actually, we are trying to eliminate paperwork gradually as neither the International Cricket Council nor the clients that we deal with want paper to be used.


All of us are trying to communicate more and more through e- mail." Although the new posh BCCI offices are housed in a large space on a couple of floors, old furniture is a problem as the outdated steel almirahs will not gel with the slick, wooden ones.







INDIA and the six other member countries of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi- Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation ( BIMSTEC) signed a pact on Friday on cooperation in combating terrorism, organised crime and drug- trafficking.


The pact was the highpoint of the 12th BIMSTEC ministerial meeting hosted by the new Myanmarese capital of Nay Pyi Taw.


Foreign minister S. M. Krishna said the convention would help dismantle terror infrastructure in the neighbourhood. " The convention ( pact) will send a strong message that the BIMSTEC region can no longer be used as terror safe


haven. The governments and the people are united in their response to threats posed by terrorism, organised crime and drug- trafficking. This will provide a legal framework for our law- enforcement agencies in combating these menaces," he said after the meeting.


This will also enable better intelligence- sharing between India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Thailand.


Indian insurgent groups were operating from their hideouts in Myanmar and Bangladesh territory over the past several decades. This apart, smuggling of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances into India's northeast from the opium fields of the so- called Golden Triangle — comprising Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand in Southeast Asia — has been rampant.


Naturally, India took the lead in adopting the convention.


The signing and ratification of the pact was approved by the Manmohan Singh cabinet.


The meeting also finalised a memorandum for setting up a BIMSTEC energy centre and a centre for weather and climate.


The ministers took note of the challenges posed by climate change and focused on transport and communication linkages between the member countries. " Bottlenecks in the region need to be tackled on a priority basis because connectivity for transport and communication is the basic building block of any form of cooperation," a joint statement says.


Another memorandum of understanding was signed by the seven foreign ministers to establish a BIMSTEC cultural industries commission along with an observatory.


Further, the text of the agreement on trade in goods and other provisions relatingto the rules of origin, operational certification procedures and the agreement on customs cooperation were also finalised.



The junta government in Myanmar has initiated counter- insurgency operations against Indian insurgent groups, including the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom ( Ulfa), operating from its soil.

It has been a longstanding request by New Delhi to the military leadership to crack down on Indian rebels. Foreign minister S. M. Krishna again took up this issue with his Myanmarese counterpart U. Nyan Win and Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein on Friday.


Sources said Myanmar already has launched military operations against Ulfa and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland ( Khaplang) in the Saigang division. There were reports that Ulfa " commander- in- chief" Paresh Barua was hiding in Myanmar's restive Kachin region.


His last phone call was traced there earlier this month.


Apart from these two groups, several outfits from Manipur and the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation have bases in Myanmar, which shares a 1,645- km border with the North- East.





HERE'S some news all Delhiites — especially women — will say cheers to.


Delhi excise minister A. K. Walia on Friday told the assembly that all liquor shops in the city's residential areas would soon be shifted to commercial complexes.


Many residents' associations have complained about liquor outlets in their colonies, saying people often drank right outside the shops. Apart from the general nuisance, the situation also posed a security threat to women and children.


Though the decision to relocate all such shops was made earlier, the government could not fulfil the commitment because of lack of viable retail spaces.


But on Friday, Walia assured the job would be done soon and also that all new liquor shops would be set up in commercial areas.


In another development, even as the Municipal Corporation of Delhi ( MCD) is carrying out an internal inquiry into the payment of salaries to nearly 22,583 ' ghost' employees, chief minister Sheila Dikshit said she would ask the municipal commissioner to submit a report to the government.


After BJP MLA Anil Bhardwaj raised the matter, Speaker Yoganand Shastri asked Diskhit to hand it over to the CBI. " The issue is a serious one. The government must conduct an inquiry and hand it over to the CBI if need be," Shastri said.


Bhardwaj claimed the matter has been pending for months with the MCD. He had sought a reply from urban development minister A. K. Walia on the status of inquiry.







UNION finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is said to be deeply exercised over the UPA's move on Telangana. It is not that Mukherjee is concerned over additional expenses that the Centre will have to bear. The senior minister had recently headed an AICC panel which had opposed the idea of creating smaller states. The document is now gathering dust at the backyard of 24, Akbar Road — the AICC headquarters.



THE departure lounge at Delhi airport came alive with a peel of laughter the other day from a section of passengers waiting for a Hyderabadbound flight.


Two former chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh were waiting in the VVIP lounge, talking in chaste Telugu.


The topic was obviously Telangana.


Somebody heard one of the CMs saying: " Sardar Vallabhai Patel united India, Sardar Manmohan Singh divided it." The other one nodded: " Potti Sriramulu united Andhra, Komiti Rosaiah divided it." Of course this was off the record, but a fly on the wall came out and narrated this to the fellow passengers.



DELHI Police commissioner Y. S. Dadwal strives to be a perfectionist when it comes to error- free drafting of official documents. Officers failing to meet his expectations are often hauled up. The same cannot, however, be said about the press releases that the Delhi Police regularly send out. The police chief is now trying to crack the whip on the press section as well. It is working wonders. When DCP ( outer district) Atul Katiyar spelt ' muscle men' as ' mussle men' in a statement, the press cell immediately sent a rejoinder correcting the error!



< BlackBerry the with afflicted are Sabha Lok in TIMERS FIRST->

They keep twiddling their thumbs on the keypad, Twittering away sweetnothings when the proceedings are on.


A similar situation prevails in the Central Hall of Parliament as well. In fact, two Union Ministers often rush for corner seats in the Central Hall so that they can enjoy their moments of untrammeled peace with their Black- Berry. Before this new pest, funny mobile phone ringtones and SMS alerts used to be the nuisance factors in the august House.


Expect more lawmakers hunched in their seats after the ministry of parliamentary affairs doles out a Black- Berry apiece with 3G connection to each MP.



SUNIL Dutt's daughter Priya religiously uses her own earphones to listen to debates in the Lok Sabha. It's not known if she despises the bulky earphones available in the House, but fellow MPs have deduced that she is scared of " communicable diseases" that these common hearing aids might harbour. Well, these earphones are used by all the 540 MPs, you know!








It once symbolised "Hamaara Kal, Hamaara Aaj" - the collective aspirations of a country taking tentative steps towards middle-class modernity. A staple sight on India's potholed roads through almost three decades, it carried not just families of four - or more, depending on the bravado of the rider - but gave wings to their dreams, of moving up in life. We're talking of the ubiquitous Bajaj scooter, which we now will have to bid goodbye. The company, which first introduced its iconic model, the Chetak, in 1972, will now make only motorbikes. Apparently, India has moved on. The scooter is no longer the stuff of dreams. The motorbike is now the entry point into middle-class luxury for millions of Indians.

In the 1970s and 80s, when Indian enterprise and aspirations were stifled in ways unimaginable now, the scooter's appearance was an Aha! Moment. But alas, like all other new world wonders of those times - the TV, phone connection, tape recorders and refrigerators - one could not buy what one wanted at will. The government did not want its citizens to be overcome by greed for material comfort; it went against our austere national ethos, you see.

And so, it set quotas of all kinds. It didn't just tell you how much foreign exchange you could take if you were lucky enough to afford to travel to alien shores, or to forgo eating one day a week to conserve food stocks (we're not cooking this one up), it also told the few companies brave enough to set up shop in that stifling business environment how much they could produce. And so people waited, sometimes for years, to lay hands on these new objects of desire. It was certainly the case with Bajaj, which was allowed to manufacture far fewer scooters than what the market demanded.

We are now turning a definitive corner, and the goal posts of aspiration are shifting rapidly. Ratan Tata anticipated this. Taking the cue from the balancing act of Indian families on two-wheelers, his company came up with the Nano. Mobiles, considered an impossibly expensive luxury till even a decade ago are now cheap necessities. Malls are forever packed, and gadgets and gizmos fly off the shelf with impressive agility. Foreign holidays are no longer the preserve of the well-heeled and family values have undergone a sea change. Oh! give thanks to the lord, for conspicuous consumption is not a sin anymore. "Buland Bharat Ki Buland Tasveer" is now transformed into the picture of a people in a hurry. They have no more time to waste on a slow ride.







Suppose a job applicant came to you and said that he was a 2nd class English graduate of Agra University. What does that convey? Can this person, for instance, write a two-page essay in English that has a structure and an argument with few grammatical errors? If not, what exactly can the person do that he could not have if he had simply stopped studying after high school? What skills has he learnt in the three additional years of education?

The answers to these questions speak to one of the most crucial challenges facing Indian higher
education: its quality. Whenever Indians think about quality in higher education they mentally jump to the IITs and IIMs, which have justifiably become international brand names. Yes, there are other names that also signal quality, be it the venerable IISc and ISI, the new National Law Schools, the dozen or so well-known medical schools and perhaps a score of what one might call liberal arts undergraduate colleges. There are some more enrolled in design, architecture and fine arts; add them all up, and its about 50-60,000 students out of a total of more than 12 million enrolled in higher education that we are talking about.

Let's double the number. That's still 1 per cent that attracts all the attention. Newspapers run breaking stories of who gets in and breathless stories of job placements and skyrocketing salaries. Intellectuals passionately argue the case for affirmative action in these institutions to advance social justice. And politicians of all hues lobby to get an IIT or an IIM located in their state.

Pity the remaining 99 per cent. How many newspaper stories have you read about just what jobs the graduates of the local college or agriculture university got? Or intellectuals getting as passionate for the social justice denied to the vast majority condemned to a mediocre education? Or politicians getting excited about the lack of a good agriculture university or nursing school in their state?

The 11th Plan has set ambitious goals for raising the quality of Indian higher education amongst which is the setting up of 14 "world-class" universities. It's a laudable goal, but what's puzzling is that somehow it is seen as something that needs to be done from scratch. In fact, in most of our major cities we have the nucleus of world-class universities. In Bangalore, suppose one had an umbrella that covered IIM-B along with National Law School, IISc and St John's Medical College. Right there India has a world-class university with excellent business, law, and medical schools and science and engineering. The same could be the case in Ahmedabad, if one combined, for example, IIM-A, with NID, PRL and SAC. In Delhi, if one could manage a creative merger of four-five of the best undergrad colleges with the Delhi School of
Economics, ISI, IIT-Delhi, NPL, AIIMS and National Institute of Immunology, for sure the resulting institution would be on any top 500 list. In Hyderabad, there's CCMB, NMRL, IIIT, the new IIT and NALSAR Law College - again their combined strength would be formidable. Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai also offer similar possibilities. That's seven possible world-class universities.

The essential requirements for quality higher education are basically three: concentration of talent, both students and faculty; financial resources that are substantial and stable; and governance, especially autonomy on teaching, research, admissions, hiring and pay. All great universities have these in abundant measure. India's best higher education institutions have them as well, with one major caveat: they are single-dimensional, rather than the multiple faculties that are the hallmark of a great university.


The proposal to create new "world-class" universities ignores a fundamental reality. The only way this can happen in the foreseeable future is if these institutions massively cannibalise faculty from India's existing high quality institutions. It was recently reported that a UGC study covering 14 central universities found that 42 per cent of posts at the level of professor, 29 per cent at the reader level and 34 per cent at the lecturer level are lying vacant. Further rapid expansion can only result in robbing Peter to pay Paul. And frankly any claims otherwise are simply farcical.

Combining existing institutions of excellence under a common umbrella may seem ludicrous - who ever thought of mergers and acquisitions in higher education? But the idea is less radical than it sounds. Great universities have strong federal structures that give their constituent colleges autonomy on most issues that matter. Yet the whole is more than the sum of its parts. If India spends Rs 500 crore to build common systems and infrastructure for each of the seven possibilities outlined above, there's a reasonable possibility that it could build seven world-class universities in a couple of decades. If, however, it persists with its existing blueprint, it has almost no chance and that too will come at the cost of existing institutions. And it still leaves the daunting challenge of how to improve the quality of the remaining 99 per cent.

(The writer is director, Centre for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania, US)








Muhammad Yunus had his heart in the right place when he suggested that by 2030 we should have a South Asian union, with people being allowed to travel across borders without a visa and a common currency for the region. Yes, how wonderful that would be. But unfortunately, that is not even within the realm of the possible.

The biggest stumbling block to such an idea would of course be India and Pakistan. Can we ever imagine a situation where relations between the two countries - first bitterly partitioned and then blighted by several wars - actually improve to the extent that people can move across borders freely and use the same currency. It's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to foresee such a situation.

Post-26/11, trust between the two countries has reached a new low. With terror attacks in India engineered by militants from Pakistan, in connivance with its security agencies, it would take someone very brave to suggest that people move freely across borders of the two countries. Besides the security angle, there is also the issue of India - perhaps the only stable economy in South Asia - getting swamped by people looking for better jobs and opportunities.

A borderless zone, such as the European Union, can work well when all the countries have reached certain levels of economic growth and stability. That is what EU started out as. But now that the EU has admitted many more members, it is facing tough questions related to jobs and migration. South Asia is a minefield compared to Europe. Besides India, the rest of the neighbourhood is composed of failed or flailing states. While things might be looking up in Bangladesh and
Sri Lanka, Pakistan and to a lesser extent Nepal are two of the more unstable countries in the world.

The lack of success of SAARC, which has really failed to achieve anything of significance in its two-decade existence, should be a grim reminder to people who talk of South Asian integration. Yunus has every right to dream about a South Asian union. But there are too many hurdles in realising that dream.







The conviction this week of Ajeet Singh Katiyar in Delhi in the notorious Dhaula Kuan gang rape case of a university student from Mizoram is good news. More important than the conviction is the 71-page judgement of the court, which admonished the defence for maligning the victim and maintained that the private life of the victim is irrelevant. "A lady who has lost her virginity is not unreliable," said the judge, whose verdict was primarily based on the victim's consistent testimony.


We seem to have come a long way from the 1979 case of 16-year-old Mathura, who was raped by two policemen within a police compound, when the court acquitted the policemen on the grounds that Mathura had eloped with her boyfriend and "was habituated to sexual intercourse". This case ultimately went to the Supreme Court, which sadly upheld the verdict. It became a landmark case, which went on to energise the women's movement in India.


There were echoes in this week's judgement of another historic case - that of Hanuffa Khatoon, who was gang raped in 1998 at the Howrah station by railway employees. In that case, the Supreme Court, in an unprecedented judgement, held rape to be a violation of the fundamental right to live with human dignity. The court said: "Rape is a crime not only against the person of a woman, it is crime against the entire society...Rape is therefore the most hated crime."


It is to literature that one turns to understand the human moral condition. The Mahabharata offers an amazing moment of insight about women's status. After Yudhishthira loses everything in a game of dice to Shakuni, queen Draupadi is dragged by Dushasana into the assembly of nobles to humiliate her. She cries out, "This foul man, disgrace of the Kauravas, is molesting me, and i cannot bear it." She reveals a right-wing conspiracy to steal her husband's kingdom in a rigged game of dice and looks to the elders in the assembly at Hastinapur for justice. But they fail her. Most disappointing is selfless Bhishma, who says "A woman and a slave are the property of others." In the end, as every Indian child knows, only her never-ending saree protects Draupadi from being disrobed. The attempted public disrobing of Draupadi is consistent with the moral paradigm of patriarchy. Karna's revolting remarks show that patriarchal culture divides women into angels and whores. Draupadi has become a 'whore' in Kaurava eyes after their 'defeat' of the Pandavas. Their big-chested masculinity does not allow them to think that this unhappy person could have been 'me'. Their wish to humiliate her is also related to the disgust that many men feel towards the sexual act. All cultures contain the seeds of violence when it comes to female sexuality. Tolstoy's famous novella, The Kreutzer Sonata, grew out of the Russian writer's own relationship with his wife, and it describes the events that lead to her murder. The husband has violent and humiliating sex with her, and he feels miserable each time he rapes her. Since she is merely an object of bestial desire, he decides that he must kill her to put an end to his misery. Only after her death does she become 'human' in his eyes.


It is tempting to believe in the cynical French saying that the more something changes the more it remains the same. In two areas, however, there has been dramatic advance in human equality. One is the almost complete elimination of slavery in the world and the other is the recent rise in the status of women, even in urban India. Indian law has done its bit in addressing the issues of property, dowry and domestic violence (and some claim that it may even have gone too far). But the real change has come with the dramatic rise in women's education and job opportunities in a rapidly growing economy. Two-thirds of India's women still live in villages, of course, and they have a long way to go but India is rapidly urbanising and they too will soon feel the change.










When Wen Jiabao calls Manmohan Singh has a definite view on the weather in Copenhagen. The two rapidly developing economies are on the same side of the negotiation table in climate change talks. There's one crucial difference though. China already has a large carbon footprint, India is poised to enlarge its.

The two countries will be discharging nearly half the world's greenhouse gasses 20 years from now, but it is more expensive for China to do anything about it. So Mr Wen needs Mr Singh more than the other way round next week.

India's larger interests are served by aligning with China, yet it has the flexibility to be more receptive to the West's proposals on saving the planet.


India's energy use per $1,000 of GDP has declined by 42 per cent between 1980 and 2006 and China's use by 71 per cent. Still manufacturing-intensive China needs 50 per cent more energy to produce an extra dollar than India where services are growing faster than industry. Both countries face the same scale effect of additional emission as their economies expand. India's energy use per capita has risen by 70 per cent in a quarter of a century and China has posted an eye-popping 136 per cent growth. However, the composition of consumption in India is ahead in the transition to a less fuel-hungry economy. And its relatively slower pace of growth allows India to gain from technological advances that lower emissions per unit of output.


The more proximate divergence arises from the state of infrastructure development in the two countries. China has already built significant power generation capacity and the UN estimates that if all Chinese power plants were to run on Japanese technology, they would emit 50 per cent less carbon dioxide. India has so far managed to put up a fraction of its required power capacity. It is cheaper to build green power plants than retrofit existing ones (a power plant typically has a life-span of 50 years). Likewise, in transportation. The Chinese road network is in place but the pace of highway development in India allows it leeway to explore fuel-efficient rail networks. A clutch of Indian cities is indeed in the process of acquiring rail-based mass transport systems. Summits are not needed to convince energy-starved China and India to seek efficiencies. The economics is compelling. It is just that they should be free to choose their paths to God.








After a battle with cancer, Dilip Chitre (September 17, 1938-December 10, 2009) is no longer with us. This is a fact, and yet it is untrue. Consider a verse from his poetry collection Immersions: "For me these poems are closures/ They sort of conclude me/ Though some of them like suicide bombers/ May explode in your vicinity."

Dilip is gone, but he has left a smouldering fuse behind. My mailbox is overflowing with his postings from the edge. His mails were not one-to-one communications but conversation-starters copied to many — like Facebook or Twitter posts, long before these services were born. And when they arrived, Dilip took to them like mother's milk. I'm reading a mail from this summer, in which he reflects on the passing of Ramachandra Gandhi and Tyeb Mehta: "The 20th century is over. It has now become distanced and appears momentous… any thoughts?" He even shared his rawest, most intimate thoughts shortly after learning of the death of his son Ashay, who was accidentally asphyxiated. Ashay had learned to live with lung damage suffered in the Bhopal gas tragedy decades earlier, and Dilip laid bare the process by which he and his wife Viju were accepting this irony.


Dilip Chitre was a powerful poet in two languages, English and Marathi. Says Tuka, his English rendering of the Marathi Bhakti poet Tukaram, is a benchmark of literary translation. He was one of the few people to win the Sahitya Akademi award for literature as well as for translation. Documentarist, director and scriptwriter, he contributed to cinema in other ways too — he wrote the theme poem for Ardh Satya, for instance. He was also a gifted painter, columnist and editor. But I will particularly miss his enthusiasm for making connections, for forging communities of people working in the arts, culture, academia and politics. He did this unselfishly, appreciating that culture is a collaborative work in progress. He was so different from contemporary writers who make a virtue of isolation, knowing their agents far better than their peers. Lonely people who run in packs only for fear of being run over by the competition if they walk alone.


Chitre was naturally at the forefront of the 'little magazine' movement in Maharashtra — publications which promote new writing and work which is culturally or politically important, but would not find place in mainstream media for commercial reasons. With Arun Kolatkar, another pathbreaking bilingual poet, he founded Shabda in 1954. New Quest followed in 1968, vanished for a while in 1980 but was resurrected in 2001, and is still in print. I am sure Dilip's friends will keep it that way.


Curiously, there are intimations of mortality even in Dilip's earliest poems from 1964: "I am asked: 'And what is the colour of orange juice?'/ It is grey. All is black and white, and falls within/ The spectrum. Everything is a shade from the black rainbow./ I wake up in the morning of my mortality." (The Second Breakfast.) Or consider this fragment from Homage to Pataliputra: "Come pock-marked poets,/ Join Tukaram and Chitre,/ For the song of heaven/ Is one helluva chant." Dilip is gone but the fuse he lit is still burning, a brand lighting the way for future generations of poetic suicide bombers.


Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine

The views expressed by the author are personal









I promise I'm not saying this just because I'm an addicted fan of '24' — the cult counter-terrorist American drama in which nothing is ever as it seems. But, I'm pretty convinced that there's something about the David Headley story that's hiding more than it's revealing. That may also explain why there is such a gap between the excitement around the Headley case in the media and the distinct cynicism within the security establishment about whether Indian intelligence officials will ever even get to meet Headley, leave alone interrogate him.


So far, the fact that Indian sleuths were snubbed and sent packing after a failed attempt at interrogating him has been dismissed as a procedural hiccup. When America charged Headley with aiding and abetting the Mumbai attacks this week, India played to form and made all the right noises about extradition and access. But while, "we want Headley" — has the rhetorical punch of a great evening news headline, frankly, it rings hollow in real terms. The US has already dismissed the extradition issue as "too premature". Really? Why is it too early for us to talk about wanting a suspect who scouted five Indian cities for potential terror targets and provided surveillance to the men who attacked Mumbai on 26/11? Curiously, when Headley's taciturn lawyer, John Theis, was asked about whether Indian investigators would get to question his client, he said he had received "no such request yet". Since then, even more puzzling reports have emerged in the American media about how David Headley is "cooperating with the prosecution". In any case, since he has pleaded "not guilty", he may well now "plead the Fifth."


Under American law, the Fifth Amendment provides defendants a sort of Right to Silence, operating on the principle that a citizen has the right to not incriminate himself in a trial. In other words, the law may provide enough shields to Headley against specific questions by investigators. Forget extradition; Indian investigators may not even get to visit Headley's prison cell in Chicago. Privately, many in the security establishment concede that the FBI has been distinctly cagey in sharing information about Headley.


The question then is: what is America hiding- and why?


The first missing piece in the puzzle goes to back the fact that Headley was on the FBI radar for over a year before he was arrested in October. In fact, he was already under surveillance one month before the 26/11 attacks. Why was this information not passed on to New Delhi at this time? How did Headley manage to make a trip to India in April 2009, five months after the Mumbai attacks, without India having a clue that the FBI was keeping a watch on him? It's clear that information was not shared with us in real time. But given that Headley's half brother has turned out to be an official in the public relations office of the Pakistan Prime Minister, was Islamabad given a thumbs up?


Or could it be that the reason that America has hugged the Headley case so tightly to itself is because Headley was an undercover agent who worked for them and then went rogue?


When the whisper campaign around this theory first erupted, it was dismissed as too fantastical to be the stuff of real life. Since then, however, both the New York Times and the Daily Beast website have chronicled how Headley crossed sides and worked for America's Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) after he was arrested for smuggling in heroin in 1998. The NYT report even quotes court documents to say that Headley knew Pakistan's narcotics underbelly so well that he was imprisoned for less than two years, after which he was sent to Pakistan to "conduct undercover surveillance operations for the DEA". In the post-9/11 world of American security, the lines between drug trafficking and terrorism have blurred. In other words, the CIA may well have been just one step away from the DEA.


This busts another myth in the Headley narrative. So far, we have been told that Headley abandoned his real name of Daood Gilani and embraced an American sounding, Christian name, so he could travel in India without attracting suspicion. But, if he was an informant for the US administration, isn't it more likely that he took on a false name so that he could whiz in and out of airports without popping up on security lists? Another investigative journalist, Gerald Posner, confirms this thesis, writing, that, "in a world of high security, Headley somehow managed to then move with apparent ease in and out of Pakistan. A convicted felon of Pakistani descent, making frequent trips back and forth to the US (there were apparently at least four in one year), would have been monitored by US tracking agencies."


Even more eerily, the FBI had warned India that Mumbai could come under attack in September 2008. Was their intelligence so specific because Headley had supplied the information to them as an informant within the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba before turning double agent on the US?


Not surprisingly, neither the FBI nor the DEA have commented on any of these reports. But whether Headley was an agent-gone-rogue or not, it is now an empirical fact that he struck a deal in the past with law enforcement officials in the US administration. Doesn't that fact in itself raise a whole new bunch of questions?


So, instead of playing out an official charade with statements on extradition (not likely to happen anyway), shouldn't India be focusing on the central question: who is David Headley? And isn't it time we get the fact that America may not want to answer that question for us. This is India's battle. And one we will have to fight ourselves.


Barkha Dutt is Group Editor, English News, NDTV

The views expressed by the author are personal








The Central government's precipitate cave-in has resulted, inevitably, in fissures in Andhra Pradesh breaking open. MLAs from the Congress, the Telugu Desam Party, and the Praja Rajyam Party have threatened to resign; scuffles have broken out between pro- and anti-statehood lawyers, and the entire state appears to be in for a period of tension. On one level, of course, this represents a political failure: the apparent "consensus" on the issue shared by those three parties before the last elections appears, in actual fact, to have papered over severe internal divides between party members from Telangana and those from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. Managing this politically will take some doing; instituting a process that allows all objectors to speak their mind, even if internal to each party, might help take some of the heat out of the process. But on another level, the open squabbling tells us something important about where India is heading.


The main issue that divides them is significant: Hyderabad. Throughout history, of course, territorial divisions have foundered on how to deal with the shared space, the capital. The 1946 Great Calcutta Killings were also about which half of Bengal would eventually get the city; the status of Jerusalem remains the major obstacle to peace between Israelis and Palestinians; and, decades after Haryana was split from Punjab, it is still unclear whether Chandigarh's status as a shared capital is permanent. But some factors peculiar to 21st-century India have exacerbated the problem. One is the over-dependence of a state's government on revenue drawn from that state's major city. This dependence — both official and unofficial — warps the politics both of the city and of the state, holds back the development of proper municipal governance and, as we can see here, causes state politics to struggle to divorce itself from claims on the city.


Another factor is yet darker. It is the inability of state-level politics to come to terms with a growing articulation of nativist sentiment. We've seen already, this week, simmering animosity between migrants and "residents" in Punjab. The subtext of the violent protests against Telangana statehood was simply the fear — not entirely unjustified — that people from coastal Andhra or from Rayalaseema would be made to feel like "guest workers" in a Hyderabad no longer theirs. The immediate solution to the Telangana crisis might involve taking the pressure cooker off the fire; but any longer-term perspective would mean thinking straight about cities and states. The best option? Build, promote and encourage more urban centres. AP should have more than one Hyderabad.







There have often been calls that separate legislation be enacted to tackle honour killings. The argument is that such crimes derive from a larger, and explicitly intolerant, social context — for instance, in many parts of the country the issue of honour in matters relating to marriage is settled by community or so-called caste panchayats. This July, a calling attention motion was moved on this in Rajya Sabha. In response, Home Minister P. Chidambaram argued against a separate law, but kept faith with the larger sentiment. Saying "we should hang our heads in shame when such incidents take place in India in the 21st century," he explained that in the end: "Whatever law we make, honour killing is murder. It would have to be tried as murder."


Given the frequency with which cases of honour killings and excommunication by these community panchayats are coming to light, this debate will remain hot. It is in this context that a Supreme Court ruling this week on an honour killing bears closer scrutiny. The case concerns a man, Dilip Tiwari, convicted for the killing of his sister's husband and two family members, who belonged to a "so-called lower caste". Upon studying the case, the court reduced the sentence from death penalty to 25 years of imprisonment without any option of release.


There is, however, bound to be disquiet over certain observations made by the Division Bench. Consider: "The psyche of the offender in the background of a social issue like an inter-caste community marriage, thought wholly unjustified, would have to be considered in the peculiar circumstances." As reported in this newspaper, the court said: "At times he (the brother) has to suffer taunts and snide remarks even from persons who really have no business to poke their nose into the affairs of the family. Dilip, therefore, must have been a prey of the so-called insult which his younger sister had imposed on the family." For reasons all too obvious, this case should re-ignite the debate within government and in legislatures on crimes committed in the name of honour.







The Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama was always pinned on the abstract hope he embodied rather than the concreteness of his actions. Much as the world had welcomed the October announcement about the prize, it had wondered, aloud, if the committee's decision had not come too soon. On Thursday, the US president accepted the prize in Oslo and made a speech that may turn out to be of strategic as well as academic interest as a foreign policy statement. It wasn't stuffed with the sweet platitudes for the Europeans about the certain advent of a harmonious world order. On the other hand, the public and politicians back home in the US — on both sides of the divide — would likely agree that he delivered the speech he should have while announcing the 30,000 troop enhancement in Afghanistan. For those with a stake in Afghanistan, there is reason to be assured by Obama's logical and rhetorical defence of his choice — even if his time-table be another debate.


If there was proof needed that Obama is a pragmatist, there is this speech which mixed humility with assertion. Being pragmatic does not preclude idealism; it is more about setting ideals in the perspective of reality. That reality is Obama's unapologetic declaration that "Evil does exist in the world." It cannot be gainsaid that just as Nazism could not have been defeated non-violently, the likes of Al-Qaeda or the Taliban are not likely to surrender their arms and negotiate.


If the original irony of the prize was Obama's status as a wartime president, its reception witnessed this speech about the imperative of peace, which defended fighting the "just war". To return to hope, it is increasingly unlikely that Obama will solve West Asia — the original aspiration of the Nobel committee perhaps — but Afghanistan and Iraq he can still secure. If the means to that end lie through more American troop presence, there may be nothing to do than just note the irony and hope for the peace.








NDTV's Buck Stops Here told a "dissenting" Indian negotiator for the Copenhagen summit that the government will be "thinking in two voices". This is an amazing concept, of course: Thinking in voices. It is also among the preliminary findings of my investigation into how news TV will analyse humanity's greatest challenge.


Other preliminary findings include the fact that there's a revolution on at CNN-IBN, a revolution that seeks the overthrow of the established intellectual order on not just climate science but social science as well. Face the Nation opened the climate debate by saying over 70 per cent of Indians live below the poverty line: a Bolshevik-like assault on pathetic bourgeois establishment estimates that vary between 27 per cent and 37 per cent. And who are the enemies of this incredibly poor country in climate talks? Western imperialists! Yes, they are back, and we heard it first on CNN-IBN. What is our —we meaning the English-speaking elite — responsibility after knowing this? We must ask, CNN-IBN told us, Jairam Ramesh whether he is being anti-imperialist enough. I deeply suspect he's not being. In fact, most of us are not being sufficiently anti-imperialist. Largely poor and largely pro-imperialist — what a country!


Also, from the same channel — and the same programme — a complete rehaul of climate science. Our cities are in grave danger, CNN-IBN said. We saw a clip of a Chennai housewife lamenting water shortage and, this is even more significant, I think, the fact that water trucks sometimes come at midnight. When you are out on the streets at midnight, bucket in hand, the end of the world seems imminent. One panelist mumbled that these problems — like city water shortages — may not have dramatic causal relationships with global climate change, that they have been longstanding issues. But thankfully no one paid him any attention. The revolutionary analysis continued — climate change talks are being influenced by politics and ideology, CNN-IBN pointed out, and not by real issues. Politics and ideology are clearly not real issues. And to think that most of us have spent our adult lives thinking otherwise. Largely poor, largely pro-imperialist and largely unreal — this is the nation CNN-IBN faces five times a week.


Times Now's anger can melt a few ice caps. Newshour asked: Why has Jairam Ramesh given in? Why are we in this position! What kind of a negotiation is this! You give in before you negotiate! Why, why are we doing this! To appease western imperialists, of course. But did Times Now spot it? India's carbon emission internal targets followed China announcing the same strategy. So, who intimidated China? Western imperialists? Do western imperialists do the same thing to China as Times Now says China does to us? That the broadcaster didn't explore this issue is a great loss to public discourse on climate negotiations.


Headlines shifted from Copenhagen to Telangana, but the spirit of intellectual audaciousness was undimmed at CNN-IBN. It asked: will there be an epidemic of identities all over India; will thousands of village republics confront the Centre? Wow. And while interrogating the viability of new states, the broadcaster reminded us that the "independent" states of Bihar and Jharkhand aren't doing too well. Yes, "independent" states, right in the middle of this very poor, pro-imperialist country.Little wonder then, as Headlines Today said, there is a "people's revolution of Telangana" going on.


Thinking in one voice, I think on news TV the country went to pieces this week.







Big cities have been the object of political greed and envy through the history of mankind. In older times, cities attracted conquering hordes who wanted to sack them for their riches. Now, in democracies, the political class knows that while their votes lie in the countryside, the real money sits in the cities and their real estate. For ordinary people too, big cities become objects of status and pride. That is why most of the argument following the Centre's sudden decision to allow the creation of Telangana has been confined — more or less — to the status of Hyderabad. Most Andhraites, it seems, won't mind the loss of the other Telangana districts, but Hyderabad? Similarly, most of those who belong to Telangana are not even willing to accept sharing Hyderabad as their capital with Andhra as, probably, a union territory.


Chances are, some "temporary" solution like that will be worked out for Hyderabad. After all, you can't suddenly create a new capital for either of the two states. Then, as often happens in India, that "temporary" status will continue to be extended indefinitely, through many spasmodic agitations, crises, loss of work days and life. This, in fact, will be the only immediate option. But in the long run, it will make both states, Andhra and Telangana, unhappy — and Hyderabad a crowded, run-down political orphan, hosting two governments, but getting very little in return. Could we, then, think of the unthinkable now? Let Hyderabad go to Telangana and help Andhra Pradesh build a brand new capital city. Of course their government will have its transit accommodation in Hyderabad until that happens.


It is the peculiarity of the division in Andhra Pradesh that makes the job of a commentator so difficult. How does one describe the two sides? Both are Telugu, both have the same caste mix, same ethnicity, culture and so on. The clamour for a separate Telangana is a regional aspiration, or a case of the "inland" districts wanting their own political space in a state where the power structure is dominated by their own ethnic brethren from the richer, coastal districts, or from the eastern grain bowl between the two great rivers, Krishna and Godavari. Telangana's districts are drier, poorer, have had only very limited benefits from the large hydel projects in the state, and see Hyderabad as their only real asset. The more entrepreneurial, energetic and richer coastal districts, on the other hand, believe that the buzzy new Hyderabad is both their reward and their creation. But it also distorts their perspective.


Andhra is essentially a coastal state, but the presence of Hyderabad on its western inland flank has forced its people, particularly its entrepreneurs, politicians and intellectuals to look inwards, rather than outwards to the sea and beyond where real opportunities and riches lie. Given the economic growth in its coastal districts, booming agriculture, and nearly $35 billion worth of under-construction irrigation projects, new ports and power plants, the natural inclination of Andhraites should be in that direction. But the mere presence of Hyderabad makes them look inwards. This, at a time when the second largest hydrocarbon discovery in the world after the Gulf of Mexico has been made along their own coastline. YSR knew this, and was therefore focusing on power and fertiliser plants in the coastal districts, to try and grab as large a share of this newly found energy for his own state, for its own consumption, as well as value addition and job creation. Maybe the loss of Hyderabad will now persuade coastal Andhraites to look at this zone of incredible promise.


India has always had an East-of-Kanpur problem. Generally, as you go eastwards from Delhi, economy, quality of life and governance decline. But the fall is precipitous as you cross Kanpur. Maybe it is because of poor politics, or just poor luck or, who knows, bad Vaastu! But the fact is that the entire eastern coast is failing to keep pace while the western seaboard has become India's engine of growth and prosperity. With the exception of Kerala, all its states are investment-friendly and a very large proportion of all new investment in India is being made there. It may be just a coincidence, but all the new, modern and grand private airports being built in the country are in cities that are generally closer to the western coast. The east, on the other hand, is inhabited by some truly moribund states, like West Bengal and Orissa, or one of relative status quo, like Tamil Nadu. Andhra, under YSR, had been emerging as the eastern seaboard's one rising state. Some of us bemoaned the fact that his death killed that new energy as well. This division, ironically, may help prevent that.


If the new Andhra can get over the loss of Hyderabad, use what it gets in compensation and its own enterprise to build a new capital city — hopefully closer to the coast — it has the opportunity to create both an asset its people can be proud of and a magnet of opportunity that looks outwards, across the Bay of Bengal, rather than inwards, as with Hyderabad. Besides, its politicians will figure soon enough that the money-making opportunity a new city offers is much greater than an old metro nearing saturation, howsoever energetic.


Like conquerors of the past, India's politicians love to rule, and plunder cities. But unlike the Mughals, they rarely build new ones. We only build a new city when it becomes necessary to provide a new state a capital. That is how Chandigarh and Gandhinagar came up and New Raipur will eventually be built. India needs great new cities, and Andhra enterprise — not for nothing are India's builder-contractors usually called "Andhrapreneurs" — can now build one for India, and themselves. And how desperately India — if it has to fix its East-of-Kanpur problem and its inter-regional growth imbalance — needs a booming state on its eastern coast which, like all growing economies, is focused seaward and beyond, rather than inwards.







Andhra Pradesh has always had a special relationship with the Congress. Its gonghura chutney and avakai has been vital to the Congress' scheme of things, and often dominated the flavour. The largest south Indian state, it was the bedrock for the party's national strength, with a Congress CM all the way till 1983. Even during the Emergency Andhra Pradesh remained loyal — so much so that along with the 'safe-seat' Chikamanglur in Karnataka, Indira Gandhi had zeroed in on Medak in Andhra Pradesh. Of all the four southern states, it is one where the Congress' national leadership, at least till YSR Reddy was alive, stood shoulder to shoulder with the state leadership and commanded votes. Ambulances with Rajiv Gandhi's smiling visage crisscross the state and 'Indiramma' is the name of the state's popular housing scheme.


Most recently, first in 2004 with 29 MPs and then in 2009 with 33 MPs, Andhra Pradesh contributed the basis for the Congress emerging as the single-largest party, and hence the UPA. The charismatic and wily Y.S. Rajashekhara Reddy batted on the frontfoot. One of the most audacious of his numerous 'schemes' was among the last he undertook — named Operation Aakarshan — with the explicit objective of swelling Congress ranks, wooing several opposition factions. YSR was careful not to woo the entire party — he allowed the semblance of a diverse opposition, so that any form of anti-incumbency could be absorbed by a variety of parties and no one group/alliance could polarise votes against the ruling party. Now, suddenly, in the absence of smart and aggressive tactics, the state is open to a 'vibrancy' of opinion which he had effectively stifled.


Before an opposition to the Congress could really emerge in the state, it was ironically exactly forty years ago that the state erupted over another hunger strike by a student in Khammam, on precisely this issue of a separate Telangana, citing discrimination by Andhra-Rayalaseema. For two years, the entire region was in turmoil, with M. Chenna Reddy emerging as the leader of the Telangana Praja Samithi, the party that appropriated the anger and the fireworks sparked by the hunger strike. In 1971, the CM, K. Brahmananda Reddy was asked to step down and a Telangana Congressman (one P.V. Narasimha Rao from Warangal) replaced him. At the time (as perhaps now) such moves had great symbolism. Then, with no other bit players or a powerful opposition, the Congress could allow things to "play out". There was damage in the state even then though — the two interim years threw the state in turmoil, academic years were lost in school and universities and people migrated, large-scale, out of Hyderabad. Many parallels may now be drawn between what Chenna Reddy did then and K. Chandrashekhar Rao possibly moving closer to the Congress, but that is where the similarities end.


Andhra Pradesh has been important in a larger sense too, to the idea of India. It was as a response to the Vishal Andhra (Telugu-speakers in the state of Madras) idea that activists like Potti Sreeramalu wove together the essence of an idea that became the blueprint of the basic unit of administration in the country. Using language was pragmatic and administratively feasible and also had a culturally robust rationale, and went on to define how a multi-everything Indian was to emerge. Subsequently, the idea of Samyukt Maharashtra (Marathi speakers) Aikya Kerala (Malayalam speakers) and eventually, Gujarat and Haryana also came into being at the behest of the State Reorganisation Commission that redrew maps in 1956.


At the time, language as an emotive concept had more powers to divide the country rather than to act as a cement. It was the far-sightedness of giving it full expression that ensured that India stuck together, and this despite Nehru's initial disagreement — he was in favour of the more anodyne 'ABCD' or administrative units. But on seeing how various language movements were a tinderbox for emotion and politics, he quickly adapted. He opposed the idea of a unitary Hindi which the Jana Sangh (forebears of the present BJP) backed, and made India's accommodative multi-lingualism the glue that held a huge and diverse nation together.

Of course, the 2000 idea of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand, which had 'administration' as a basis were a step in a different direction from what was envisaged in the 1950s. Over half a century after the idea of States Reorganisation, there may well be a case for a second look at aspirations of a less uniform kind — aspirations ranging all the way from Mithilanchal (language) to Gorkhaland (ethnicity) to Poorvanchal, Vidarbha, Marathwada and countless others (a regional or sub-regional sentiment) but does a ruling party like the Congress, now more keen on building its own strength, keen to 'get away' from even coalition politics centrally and govern in an unfettered sense as a generational shift is being contemplated, have the stamina for the splintering of sentiment and ultimately politics that can result in the medium-term, across the country ?


It can argue now, saying that things in the state must play out, and let there be a Telangana if the state wants one. But quick capitulations may just end up unleashing vast complications unthought of at midnight when the announcement was made to help break the TRS leader's fast. The Congress has been haunted by a jinx of being unable to handle positions of strength — Indira Gandhi's majority in 1971 led to the Emergency and then later, Rajiv Gandhi's dream-run of 400 plus seats seemed too hot to handle. Congressmen must be praying that complete control of Andhra Pradesh's hearts and minds until just this last May, does not go the same way.









This week, three successive bomb blasts ravaged major cities across Pakistan. While the modus operandi remains the same, the terrorists seem to be taking on diverse targets. Daily Times wrote in its editorial on December 9: "The spread and range of attacks seems to be widening... Attacks in three major cities highlight the reach of the militants. The terrorist network seems not only to be strengthening, its choice of targets too is widening. In Peshawar they targeted the judiciary; in Lahore they targeted civilians... while in Multan they targeted the security agencies... To execute attacks against the high-profile security apparatus takes more time and planning while targeting civilians is a far easier task. Now there is a generalised terror campaign against the public... For attacks in Peshawar and surrounding areas, it can be said there is an involvement of the local people or militants from FATA, but can the same be said about Lahore or Multan? For a long time now the authorities have not been very forthright about the seminaries in south Punjab... If we do not take steps to deal with them immediately... there might be another 'South Waziristan' on our hands very soon."



In an apparent attempt to divert attention from the turmoil caused by internal elements, Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik once again resorted to alleging Indian 'involvement' in Balochistan's upheaval. Dawn reported on December 8: "Malik has said concrete evidence of Indian interference in Pakistan has been provided to the Foreign Office, which it will take up at an appropriate forum. He said the issue would be taken up forcefully whenever composite dialogue with India resumed and the proof would be shared with the international community. He said arms and terrorists were entering Pakistan from Afghanistan and the matter had been taken up with President Hamid Karzai." The News dwelled upon this on December 10: "Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said 'information received by us in this regard is insufficient and more information... is needed to plausibly argue our case... We would have to be cautious and careful. If it is challenged in a court of law, then we will have to ensure it meets its logical end,' he added."



This week, India got flak from Pakistan not only on political matters, but also on environmental issues at the Copenhagen summit. Dawn reported on December 7: "Glacial lakes have started forming in the Siachen region because of global warming and Indian military presence, posing serious risk to Pakistan's food security, according to Pakistani experts. Director-General of Pakistan Meteorological Department, Dr Qamaruz Zaman Chaudhry said both countries should ensure the Himalayan glaciers were not disturbed. He said the presence of Indian army in the region was causing rapid melting, damaging the glaciers... Pakistan's agriculture was dependent on Himalayan glaciers and global warming and military presence could risk food security." The paper followed this up on December 8: "Pakistan will highlight the negative impact of glacier melting and trans-border pollution on its food and energy security at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and plead for mounting global efforts against climate change... Pakistan has a very limited role in increasing the atmospheric greenhouse gases and contributes almost 135th of what other nations are producing but is on 12th position in the list of most vulnerable nations in the world. Its closest neighbours, China and India...pose threats not only to Pakistan's agriculture, energy supply, settlements and infrastructure but also adversely affect its water supply, increasing temperatures, drought and flooding and population movements. Carbon emissions from the Indian side particularly cause heavy fog and smog in most areas of Punjab."








Dilip Chitre emerged on the horizon of Marathi literature within a decade and a half of B.S. Mardhekar's Some Poems, which had stormed literary circles in 1947. Dilip's first poem appeared in in the Diwali issue of 'Satyakatha' in 1954 when Dilip was still at school. His first collection of poems, published by a very prestigious publishing house, Mauj, appeared when he was 22. He married his cousin Vijaya the same year and left for Ethiopia to teach English. He defied middle class norms and mores in life, as he did in his poems.


The '60s proved to be a very productive decade in Dilip's career. He wrote short stories collected in Orpheus, as well as essays and criticism on seven modern European poets like Baudelaire, Mallarme, Rilke, Eliot, Hopkins, and Rimbaud, illustrating his analysis with translations of their poems. In fact, translation was one of his ways of entering their vision and techniques. From '63 to '67 he selected and translated Marathi poets for An Anthology of Marathi Poetry (1945-65) published in 1967. (He often used me as the sounding board for these translations). He also wrote three novellas in this decade, while still in his twenties. He began to be known as a new "Mardhekar" although very few understood his poems. His short story Kesaal, Kaalebhor Pillu was severely criticised for its bold sexual fantasy.


In the anthology he edited, he had included a few relatively unknown poets while leaving out some big names — again stirring the hornet's nest in the literary world. He continued this with 'Shabda', the little magazine he edited with Arun Kolhatkar and Ramesh Samarth. After breaking away from Mauj and 'Satyakatha', he stopped publishing poems in Marathi until 1978 although he continued to write them. His autobiographical travelogue of Ethiopia, Sheebaa Raanichya Shodhat (In search of Queen Sheba) was published in 1971. Because he reviewed Narayan Surve's first collection of poems, serious attention was drawn to Surve, which began the surge of Dalit literature in Marathi. Dilip translated Namdev Dhasal and took him to international book fairs.


Dilip believed that a poet's life and his poems are inseparable — or at least should be so. He argued that a poet has to be viewed in his totality, and not in "selections". He allowed his friend, Bhalchandra Nemade, to publish a second collection of his poems, Kavitenantarachya Kavita in 1978 but it was only in 1992 that all of his poems, entitled Ekuna Kavita began to be published by Popular Publications of Mumbai. From 1980 onwards Dilip was immersed the 17th century Marathi saint-poet , Tukaram and 13th century saint-poet, Dnyaneshwar. He studied Shaiva philosophy, the socio-economic history of the Maharashtra and gained insight into the intricacies of medieval Marathi. Eventually he published Says Tuka and Anubhavamrut — bringing these great Marathi poets to a wider readership. Dilip Chitre is considered an important Indo-English poet, travelling between English and Marathi with ease.


In the '60s he worked in the marketing-advertising department of a pharmaceutical company and in the art department of the Indian Express. He made a number of promotional films initially, and then documentaries and features. He wrote and directed Godam, and wrote dialogue and screenplay for Shashi Kapoor's Vijeta. He wrote two plays — Mithu Mithu Popat and Sutak. He was also a columnist — and his commentary was unpredictable, looking at Maharashtra and India in the global context. He travelled widely — first Ethiopia, then an international writers fellowship in Iowa, then Germany, Russia and Southeast Asia.


Dilip also worked as director of the poetry centre in Bhopal's Bharat Bhavan in 1983-85. The Bhopal gas leakage affected his only son Aashay, who passed away a few years ago in a tragic accident. Dilip seemed to face it stoically, but the emotional toll showed through in his painting (yes, he painted too.)


Dilip's lifestyle and poetry were not palatable to everyone in Maharashtra — critics tried to slot him as existentialist, as anarchist, and were puzzled by his addiction to Tukaram and Dnyandev. His acquaintances wondered why he never thought of "settling" anywhere — he always moved homes and cities until 1985, when he came to Pune. They failed to see the extent to which he defied the Marathi literary tradition and absorbed the influences of contemporary world literature. So while he has been translated into German, Spanish and a number of other languages, the Marathi literary world is likely to take much longer to come to terms with Dilip Chitre.


The writer is a former professor of literature and journalism, and was a friend of Dilip Chitre's.







So far, the journey of Michaele and Tareq Salahi from unknown arrivistes to notorious party crashers has focussed on the apparent slipups of the Secret Service and the White House social secretary. But to fully grasp the ongoing conniption inspired by the episode, you need to understand that when Ms. Salahi strutted onto the South Lawn in that bright red lehenga, she and her husband breached far more than a secure perimeter. They also trampled countless protocols that are the social, business and networking bedrock of official Washington. Essentially, the couple used the mixed martial arts approach to upward mobility in a town that still cherishes the Marquess of Queensberry rules. And it looks like the town will be spluttering about it for quite some time.


"Washington is a small 'c' conservative kind of society, in which people are aware of the traditions and boundaries of appropriate behavior," said Wayne Berman, a Republican lobbyist. "It's a city about rules, about conventions and if there's no keg at the party, it doesn't get crashed." Of course, if the Salahis had slipped past the bouncers at, say, P. Diddy's birthday bash , the feat would never have been noticed. But a magnetometer is not simply a velvet rope that beeps, and just because Washington has long been called Hollywood for ugly people doesn't mean that what works in Hollywood — or New York, or anywhere else, for that matter — will work in Washington.


Any number of social strategies that succeed elsewhere will fail catastrophically here. Like feigned closeness. In Hollywood, it's understood that when an agent says, "Tom is looking to take his career in a new direction," the agent might never have met Tom Cruise, let alone know him well enough to call him by his first name. In Washington, there are legions of people who don't even use the first or last name of the people who employ them.


"When I worked for Al Gore, I didn't call him 'Al' or even 'Mr. Gore,' " says Chris Lehane, a former spokesman for the ex-vice president. "He was Mr. Vice President. Even now I call him Mr. Vice President. There's an element of decorum and formality in Washington, that I think stems from the fact that these are elected officials. And I think the Salahi incident rattled that sense of decorum."


When Ms. Salahi sidled up to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., she was faking a friendship she didn't have. She was also cutting ahead of thousands of people who spend years trying to win entry into gatherings of Washington's elite.


"At most parties in New York or Los Angeles, a bouncer will make a snap decision about whether to let you in depending on your looks or some shtick that that sets you apart," says Juleanna Glover, a Washington hostess and a founder of the Ashcroft Group, a legal and consulting firm. "In Washington, there are no snap decisions. It's a lifetime of wise decisions that make it so that you receive a state dinner invitation."


At bottom, Washington's social economy is based on a currency all its own: power and the proximity to power. Unlike the currency of Manhattan (money) and the currency of Los Angeles (celebrity and or the ability to green light a project), the legal tender of the capital has more impact when displayed with a minimum of ostentation.


Equally offensive to local sensibilities, by draping herself on local luminaries, Ms. Salahi turned the city's eminences into red-carpet, flash-bulb fodder. That's different from the traditional grip-and-grin line at White House holiday parties, a ritual overseen by staff members and memorialised by an official photographer.


The Salahis are also eliciting gasps in Washington by embracing fame with unambivalent gusto. That's pure Los Angeles, a place where there is very little downside to showing up at a party, blog or gossip page. In Hollywood, famous people gravitate toward each other simply because they hope that by huddling up, their odds of being photographed multiply. In Washington, notoriety can be hazardous to your career and there are dozens of wise men with reputations built, in part, on their near invisibility. In short, the Salahis are the kind of spectacle that Washington is ill equipped to appreciate, other than as a tale of comeuppance.


It doesn't seem to matter that the couple were never a threat. Nor does it matter that the Salahis are now struggling with a fate so rich with irony it seems like something O. Henry scripted: A couple besotted with fame and media attention finally wins both, but by doing so lands in so much trouble that when every TV show in the country begs them to come on the air and blab, they have to say no. Seriously, Washington, think about how much that has to hurt the Salahis. Now, is that not punishment enough?






At the heart of the battle for a separate Telangana state lies the issue of better distribution of resources. Even a superficial look at the disaggregated numbers from Andhra Pradesh clearly shows that Telangana lags behind the rest of the state on almost all indicators—were it not for the prosperity of Hyderabad, it might even have been worse. In case of similar demands in other states, the issue may be reversed—Harit Pradesh, the heart of the green revolution in UP, probably has disproportionately more resources than the state as a whole. It may think it more worthwhile to spend the resources generated in that region within rather than distribute across the state. In a federal polity one can't simply dismiss these concerns. And in a democratic polity, movements for newer states are likely to come up from time to time. But in purely economic terms, what may be good for one state may not be good for another. So, if Andhra loses Hyderabad to Telangana, the state that remains will lose the economic fruits of hosting a big metropolis with excellent infrastructure. Similarly, some smaller states may not have a viable enough economy to attract enough investment and generate sufficient revenue.


But that discussion is confined to distribution between states. From the point of view of the country as a whole, perspectives may be quite different. One of the remarkable things about India is the relative strength of its political union co-existing with the relative weakness of its economic union. Conventional wisdom would suggest that an economic union is easier to achieve than a political one—look at Europe. But, in India, there still exist too many barriers to economic activity between states and differential indirect tax rates between states, which reduce the gains we could easily reap from completely free trade and a full economic union between states. VAT was supposed to address some of the problems, but it got hobbled up by exemptions. There is no reason states should be allowed to levy octroi on trucks when they cross borders. States also levy differential indirect taxes on goods—look at the madness in liquor tax regimes—and then restrict the movement of the goods across borders to prevent tax arbitrage. There are also restrictions on the inter-state movement of grain, surely unnecessary in times of shortage and food price inflation. All these combine to reduce the economic efficiency of the country as a whole. One hopes that GST will remove some of these inconsistencies, but indications are that states will insist on retaining exemptions. While we debate the issue of new states, let's then try and address establishing a closer economic union too—we need the efficiency gains to finance better distribution.






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?







If and when the Telangana state is formed, will Hyderabad become its capital? Will the rest of Andhra let go of its capital city, which was the showpiece of former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu? This and other issues will have to be resolved when dividing Andhra Pradesh. Hyderabad happens to be in Telangana, and it is the only developed part of the region. There is a very real fear that if Hyderabad was sliced off, it would face reverse migration, fail to attract investments, and decline and fade away.


When India became independent, Andhra Pradesh had three distinct regions—coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema belonged to the Madras presidency, and Telangana was part of the Hyderabad state, which was independent. Andhra Pradesh witnessed many struggles before it emerged as the first linguistic state on November 1, 1956. Most parts of Telangana were under the Nizam as part of the princely Hyderabad state. Hyderabad was integrated into the Indian Union. But the people of Telangana never wanted to be a part of Andhra Pradesh. There was a cultural divide between them and the others. It still persists. Telugu films have always sneered at the Telangana dialect. The Telangana people have never been shown as part of the mainstream Andhra. The States' Reorganisation Commission chairman, Justice Syed Fazl Ali, after hearing out many groups and people, recommended that Telugu-speaking districts of the erstwhile Nizam dominion be carved out to form a Hyderabad state, independent of the rest of Andhra Pradesh.


That did not happen, a unified Andhra Pradesh came into being, and there was a gentlemen's agreement to protect the interests of Telangana. Many promises were not kept. Various commitments on financial resources, water, jobs and so on were never fulfilled. The problem is that development in Andhra Pradesh has been lopsided. Districts in the Rayalaseema region are even more backward than those in Telangana. Coastal Andhra is more prosperous. Successive governments, including those headed by leaders from the region, have done little to remove the sense of cultural disconnect or deprivation among the people. The river Godavari flows through Telangana. However, the region is much above sea level. This makes irrigation difficult and low-cost options like canal irrigation are not feasible. Over 70% of irrigation is through ground water and deep tube wells in large parts of Telangana. Many more areas need to be irrigated. This requires huge investment.


Can internal boundary changes by creating a Telangana state solve its problems? Many of the smaller states have split away from large unwieldy states in the hope that they get a better share of their resources, more value-addition and good governance. Take Jharkhand, for example. Among the recent small states, it had everything going for it. Well-developed cities like Ranchi and Jamshedpur are in the state. It is mineral and resource rich. But it has had leaders like Shibu Soren and Madhu Koda.


K Chandrasekhara Rao, the hero of the moment who founded the Telangana Rashtra Samithi for the cause of a separate Telangana state in 2001, has had a roller coaster political career. KCR certainly brought the simmering Telangana issue to the limelight not only in the state but also at the national level. Within three years of forming the TRS, he was sharing power with the Congress, both in the state and at the Centre, having forged an alliance with it in the 2004 elections. He was a happy man till he came under pressure for ignoring the cause of Telangana. In 2008, Chandrababu Naidu, the Telugu Desam Party leader, till then a strong believer in united Andhra, declared support for the Telangana state. The TDP and the TRS came together during the 2009 polls, which was of course opportunistic. The alliance bombed. KCR is no longer a popular leader. Political observers say he may not even win elections in the Telangana state when it is formed.


TRS has never attempted to build a mass movement on issues concerning the region, whether it be projects taken up to benefit other regions by diverting water, which should have been earmarked for Telangana or repatriation of non-local government employees in accordance with a formula laid down several years ago. Rao has also failed in building the party through village, mandal and district committees. Like most politicians, he preferred his family members while allotting party tickets.


However, Rao could not have timed his agitation better. Former Congress CM Rajashekhar Reddy was a strongman who was completely against a separate Telangana. But the current chief minister, K Rosiah, is hanging on to his seat with many vested interests wanting to make Reddy's son Jaganmohan the CM. Sending the police into Osmania University and beating up students was a big mistake that turned the tide in favour of the agitation.


It will still be a long journey before Telangana becomes a reality. At the time of writing this column, many Andhra MLAs and MPs (belonging to Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra regions) were resigning, saying the decision was taken without consulting them. Battlelines are likely to be drawn. Will the split, when it happens, be friendly?







The global trade in carbon credits has taken off fairly well with the turnover going up from $11 billion in 2005 to $118 billion in 2008. Carbon markets investments planned have exceeded all expectations. But the resistance to the idea seems to be gathering steam with many in the developed countries pointing out procedural deficiencies and arguing that carbon trading will confer unfair advantages on companies in developing countries like China and India, the major sellers of carbon credit.


But despite growing opposition, the concept of carbon trading continues to soar steadily, boosting the number of emission-reducing projects in the pipeline from 490 in end-2005 to 4,782 in November 2009, and pushing up the total carbon credits supply from 704 million CERs to 2,820 million CERs during the period.


One reason the concept of carbon credits has gained popularity is its ability to create a political alliance of forces on opposing sides like Left-wing environmentalists and free market proponents. While the former believe that the polluters have no significant incentives for self-regulation and have to be curbed through government intervention, the latter believe that such command and control intervention would wreak havoc and that the market would eventually offer an optimal solution.


Carbon trading regulations helped break the impasse by providing a clear target that the environmentalists could embrace, while at the same time favouring the market mechanism over governmental regulation as advocated by the Right. An added advantage of the carbon credits is that it optimises investments in emission-reduction projects by encouraging projects in countries where the cost of reducing emissions is the least, which generally goes in favour of developing countries.


Countries like India have favoured carbon trade, as it offers a win-win situation for both entrepreneurs and the broader society. While innovative companies that help reduce emissions are provided with carbon credits, which they can encash to boost viability or earn profits, the gains to society accrue in the form of a smaller destabilising impact on the environment.


But the level of popularity of the carbon credit scheme in India has varied sharply across different segments and states. At the national level, the three most popular segments with the largest share of CERs in the pipeline come from HFCs (17.2%), wind (12.9%) and hydro projects (11%). This is largely similar to trends in China and at the global level. But the fourth-largest segment in India is biomass, which has a 13.7% share.


The larger gains made by the biomass segment in India compared to elsewhere is explained by its long history. The renewable energy programmes initiated in the 1970s promoted various programmes like its direct utilisation of fuel, conversion of woody biomass into fuel and methane gas reclamation. The biomass segment gained greater attention and popularity with the coming of bio-fuel projects like bio-diesel. The high fuel price scenario has helped India integrate its energy security strategies with more environment-friendly projects in segments like biomass and wind.


Data on popularity of the carbon credit projects in different states is however limited to 1,308 projects. Here the most recent numbers show that four states account for more than half the projects. These are Maharashtra (14.4%), Tamil Nadu (13.8%), Karnataka (13.5%) and Gujarat (10.6%). In all four states, wind projects constituted the largest segment. In the case of Maharashtra, close to half the projects were in the wind energy segment (90 of the 189 projects). In the case of Tamil Nadu, the share was even larger (108 of the 180 projects). The share was slightly smaller in Gujarat and Karnataka with their numbers being 61 out of 139 for Gujarat and 72 out of 177 for Karnataka.


In the case of biomass energy, the state that ranked at the top was Uttar Pradesh with 52 projects, followed by Andhra Pradesh (40), Maharashtra (37) and Karnataka (34)—an almost entirely different bundle of states with only Karnataka being the common link. This runs counter to the common belief that carbon companies usually diversify their business by investing in related areas, given that the location of new-generation wind power projects is almost entirely different from the states where biomass, with its long history, is located.


Of course, there are other factors such as the country's regulatory framework that influence the growth of different segments. But given that the framework is common to the country, it would not have any significant impact on the location of projects across the states. In contrast, it is more likely that the incentive structure linked to energy security efforts has given a boost to the carbon credit innovations in India.







Bajaj's announcement that it plans to stop manufacturing scooters at the end of this financial year ends a long journey that began in 1961 when Bajaj Auto began producing two-wheelers after bagging the Indian licensee for the making of Vespa scooters. An affordable vehicle, the company managed to sell 1,00,000 vehicles in a single financial year in 1977-78.


In 1995, it rolled out its 10 millionth vehicle, and produced and sold 1 million vehicles in a year. 'You just can't beat a Bajaj' was the company's marketing slogan. Ironically, that was not to be, as it was beaten by the entry of Japanese and Italian scooter companies in the early 1980s.


In 2001, a year after Rajiv Bajaj started actively participating in the business, he saw the company lose its market leadership. However, he transformed Bajaj from a scooter manufacturer to a hi-tech motorcycle maker in a bid to tackle the huge challenge posed by the competition and to garner more market share.


He successfully did that and won the hearts of youth by producing motorcycles in the above-125 cc segment. The youth could identify with the Pulsar range of motorcycles, a brand students would die to show off while parking in the college compound.


Incidentally, Rajiv's strategy to cash in on its popular brands is proving to be a fruitful measure for the company. In July this year, Bajaj chose the Discover brand to re-enter the 100cc space, ostensibly to leverage on the brand value, despite having an option of upgrading Platina, its existing offering in the 100cc space. Interestingly, the model is clocking decent numbers since August. This proves Rajiv right.


So what went wrong with Bajaj scooters? The company could not upgrade its scooters and match the styles and technology its rivals started to offer about 10 years ago. Its rivals like TVS, Suzuki, Honda and now Mahindra & Mahindra have proved very receptive to market unlike Bajaj. These companies will continue to introduce scooter models in the market.


But Rajiv Bajaj still begs to differ here. He wants to be a motorcycle specialist and so cannot make scooters.








"Very few things," United States counter-terrorism official David Benjamin said in a recent speech, "worry me as much as the strength and ambition of the Lashkar-e-Taiba." The arrest of Pakistani-American jihadist David Headley, alleged to have carried out the reconnaissance that enabled a ten-man assault team to kill over 160 people in Mumbai last November, could prove a significant step forward in delivering justice to the victims of the horrific attack. But the arrest has also underlined the reach of the Lashkar's transnational networks, which give South Asia's most dangerous jihadist group global lethality. British-born Dhiren Bharot, held in 2005 for attempted bombings in the U.S., had trained with the Lashkar and fought with it in Jammu and Kashmir. French national Willie Brigitte, held for planning terrorist attacks in Australia, was another product of the Lashkar's transnational operations. Lebanese national Assem Hammoud, held in April 2006 for planning to target Port Authority Trans-Hudson commuter trains running between New Jersey and New York, was preparing to travel to Pakistan to acquire the expertise he needed to do so. And just this week, five Washington, D.C. men were picked up in Sargodha, Punjab, where they had travelled to acquire military training.


Sadly, policy-makers across the world have been muddled in their responses to the threat. Like all violent crime, terrorism rests on two pillars: the intention to carry out terrorist acts, and the capabilities needed to do so. That the Federal Bureau of Investigation believes it arrested Mr. Headley on the eve of another attack in India demonstrates that Islamabad lacks either the influence or the will to rein in the Lashkar. The threat will remain until Pakistan finally acts to eliminate Lashkar capabilities, in the form of its training camps, recruiting tools, and finances. In the wake of the November attacks, Pakistan promised the United Nations Security Council that it would proscribe the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the Lashkar's parent organisation. It is yet to do so. Mr. Headley's upcoming trial on 12 terrorism-related charges, including the murder of six U.S. nationals in the Mumbai attacks, will cast substantial new light on the planning and conception of the carnage. The American trial is also likely to proceed with un-Indian speed. India would do well to facilitate the rapid progress of these legal proceedings, and to focus its investigative resources on discovering whether elements of the network, of which Mr. Headley was a part, are still active here. The wider challenge for New Delhi will be persuading the world to work with it to compel Islamabad to give up its rationalisation of inaction and deliver on its promise to dismantle the infrastructure of terror.







Tiger Woods' extreme obsession with off-course privacy has now been exposed, among other things, to be a cover for his serial, exploitative philandering and a pattern of personal behaviour that has inspired at least one British expert in instant psychology to publicly offer a diagnosis of 'sex addiction.' Even if you ignored the voyeuristic feeding frenzy in the global print, broadcast, and online media that Tiger's "transgressions" and betrayal of "family values" have set off, it is clear that this preternaturally talented golfer with his 14 Major titles has been living a lie. Unfortunately, the world's richest athlete cannot take cover behind this being a private affair, separate and a world apart from the magic he works on the golf course. It is well established that, in general, sporting, artistic, and literary reputations are little affected by knowledge and exposure of the private peccadilloes of the stars. The problem in the present case, aside from the involvement of the police, is that this one-man mega business has earned an estimated $1 billion largely by endorsing products targeted at young people and, in parallel with his game, seeming to live up to the ideal and values of a role model, a golden boy who, in his case, has overcome barriers of race, nationality, and class. So much so that the January 2010 issue of Golf Digest features on its cover "10 Tips Obama Can Take from Tiger."


The akratic story that emerged from the gated community of the rich and the famous in Isleworth, Florida, and the chain of allegations of sleaze it has triggered, has changed this. Nobody can take away from Woods his golfing genius, his magnificent fighting spirit, his gift for reinventing his game. A golfer's competitive playing life is much longer than that of any other sportsperson and the best of Tiger probably lies ahead on the world's golf courses. Not a single television channel in the United States might have aired an advertisement featuring him since news broke of his early morning car crash and his golf club-wielding wife. But it would be naïve to write off Tiger's huge endorsement value or the world of difference he makes to the game and to television ratings. The case of David Beckham, who rode out his troubles in a space of about nine months, does offer some kind of parallel. Then there is the estimable American belief in redemption that Woods can rely on. To redeem himself, he needs to reinvent not his game — but his persona. He can start by shedding the cloak of inaccessibility, the duplicitous intolerance of every attempt to glean his off-course life.










"Umm al-Qura Maintenance Company, LLC," read the sign outside the door. Inside the sparse office, named for the Lashkar-e-Taiba's main training base in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, the jihadist group's top military commander was having an increasingly heated argument.


Muzammil Bhat, who investigators say supervised the training and execution of the November 2008 terror strikes in Mumbai, had arrived in Dubai to meet with a long-standing asset he hoped would facilitate operations inside India. But the former Nizambad commerce student, Abdul Razzak Masood, flatly refused to cooperate, saying India wasn't the enemy. He demanded that the Lashkar, instead, focus its resources on targeting the United States, principal adversary of the Islamist movement.


Ever since the arrest of Pakistani-American jihadist David Headley — charged with carrying out the reconnaissance that enabled the carnage in Mumbai — intelligence services across the world have been revisiting the Masood case. Headley's case has made clear that the Lashkar possesses transcontinental networks of global reach and lethality. Masood's story helps to understand the complex ties that bind the Lashkar and the global jihadist movement.


First recruited by the Lashkar in 1998, Masood became a protégé of Arif Kasmani — a Karachi-based Partition migrant who is alleged to have financed the fire-bombing of the New Delhi-Lahore Samjhauta Express. Kasmani counted both al-Qaeda chief Osama bin-Laden and Taliban-linked cleric Nizamuddin Shamzai among his friends. He was among the key figures who persuaded the Lashkar leadership to sign a 1998 declaration by bin-Laden, calling for a global jihad.


In the wake of al-Qaeda's massive attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, the Lashkar came under intense pressure from its patrons in Pakistan's military establishment to sever the al-Qaeda links. But late that year, the Lashkar decided to support the jihadists in Afghanistan. By August 2003, Kasmani was running a dedicated front-organisation, Khairunnas, which funnelled funds, material and volunteers into Afghanistan. Later, as the fighting in Iraq gathered momentum, Masood travelled to Ilam in Iran, hoping to run a similar operation there.


The Lashkar, many experts have long claimed, is a product of the India-Pakistan contestation in Jammu and Kashmir and has little interest in targeting the West. Both assertions are ill-founded.



In 1982, a student of the Jamia Mohammadia seminary in Gujranwala volunteered to serve along with the mujahideen fighting against the socialist forces in Afghanistan. Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi, who went on to become the Lashkar's military chief, soon fell out with his group over theological issues. He set up a parallel organisation linked to the neoconservative Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadis sect.


Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, his brother-in-law Hafiz Abdul Rahman Makki and Zafar Iqbal, all teachers at Lahore's Islamic University of Engineering and Technology, separately set up the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, dedicated to religious campaigning. In 1986, Lakhvi suggested that they join forces, and the two groups merged into the Markaz Dawat wal'Irshad — the parent organisation of the Lashkar. Palestine-born jihadist Abdullah Azzam — best known as Osama bin-Laden's ideological mentor — also played a key role in setting up the MDI. Their objective, the MDI's website stated, was "to organise the Pakistanis participating in the Afghan jihad on one platform."


Far from focussing on Kashmir, the Lashkar's cadre joined in jihadist struggles across the world. For example, Lashkar units participated in the civil war in Tajikistan, which ran from 1992 to 1997. They also fought in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In a 1993 interview to the MDI magazine al-Dawa, Lashkar commander Abu Abdul Aziz — also known as Abdul Rehman al-Dosari — argued that the Bosnia campaign provided an opportunity to "make Islam enter Europe through jihad."


Kashmir, where the Lashkar mujahideen first began operating in 1993, was seen as a stepping stone for a global jihad which would re-establish a caliphate. In the Lashkar's conception, the jihad in Kashmir marked just one part of a worldwide contestation between Islam and kufr, or disbelief.


By late last decade, the Lashkar's transnational affiliations were evident. Pakistan's Urdu-language daily Jang reported in December 1998 that jihadists from more than 50 countries had attended the Lashkar's annual congregation at its Muridke headquarters. The invitation had proclaimed: "You can go to any jihadi frontline in the world and you will find Markaz Dawat wal' Irshad mujahideen crushing the infidels and destroying the fortresses of the devil."


The Pakistani state, the Lashkar leadership believed, was an ally in its jihadist project — not an enemy, as other Islamist groups increasingly came to believe. In the foundational Lashkar tract, Jihad in the Present Times, ideologue Abdul Salam bin-Mohammad argued that Pakistan's rulers "do not at least outwardly and apparently disown Islam though they do follow a policy based on hypocrisy." Saeed himself insisted that his organisation did "not believe in revolutionary change in Pakistan; rather we want a gradual reform."


Pakistan's establishment approved. In 1998, Punjab Governor Shahid Hamid, accompanied by a host of federal and provincial ministers, visited Muridke to "congratulate the Lashkar-e-Taiba on the martyrdom of their 418 mujahid in Indian-occupied Kashmir."


Saeed, the Nawa-i-Waqt reported on April 19, 1998, told journalists that the visit would help to dispel the impression that the Lashkar was a terrorist organisation.



Less than a week after the September 11, 2001 attack on the U.S., evidence began to emerge that the organisation was starting to make its resources available to jihadists from across the world who were seeking to fight in support of the Taliban.


Battered by the assault from the West, the al-Qaeda and the Taliban were under pressure. But the Lashkar, with its deep sources of patronage within Pakistan, turned its camps into factories feeding the global jihad. Cleric Ali al-Timimi tapped into those factories when he created what came to be known as the Virginia Jihad Network — a group set up to answer Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar's call to defend Afghanistan against invasion.


Virginia residents Randall Todd Royer and Ibrahim Ahmed al-Hamdi, both trained at Lashkar camps in 2000, began to recruit volunteers on al-Timimi's instructions. Four of the new recruits are known to have travelled to Pakistan to train with the Lashkar. One Virginia Jihad Network member, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, was eventually held in Saudi Arabia in 2003, on charges of participating in an al-Qaeda plan to crash hijacked aircraft into targets in the West.


Many of the Virginia Jihad Network members trained alongside Willie Brigitte — a French national who was arrested on charges of attempting to stage terrorist attacks in Australia. Brigitte is believed to have been given his instructions by Sajid Mir — the same Lashkar commander who is alleged to have handled David Headley. In interviews to French judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, Brigitte confirmed that the Lashkar ran at least one camp for foreign jihadists. French investigators established that another Paris-based Lashkar operative, Ghulam Mustafa Rama, had links with Richard Reid — the jihadist who attempted to blow up a Paris-Miami flight with explosives planted in his shoes.


British national Dhiren Bharot was held along with six other men in April 2005 for planning to bomb multiple targets in the U.S., including the headquarters of Citigroup, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Bharot, it turned out, had trained with the Lashkar in 1995, and then fought with jihadist units in Jammu and Kashmir. He became disillusioned with what he saw as a "secondary [sic.] rate jihad," and went on to work with the al-Qaeda.


Lebanese national Assem Hammoud was held in April 2006 for planning to target Port Authority Trans-Hudson commuter trains running between New Jersey and New York. Hammoud told the Lebanese police that he had planned to travel to Pakistan to train at a Lashkar-run camp to acquire the skills needed to execute the attack. Early in 2005, British troops in Basra arrested Dilshad Ahmad, a key Lashkar commander who earlier served in Jammu and Kashmir.


Meanwhile, the Lashkar's public posture became increasingly anti-West. On the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Saeed declared that the "western world is terrorising Muslims. We are being invaded, humiliated, manipulated and looted. How else can we respond but through jihad?" He called for a "fight against the evil trio, America, Israel and India."


By 2007, Saeed had become frankly hostile to the Pakistani establishment. In one speech reported on the Jamaat-ud-Dawa website, he demanded that Pakistan stop "trying to please the Christians and the Jews." Later, he argued that "Muslim rulers have disappointed the Ummah [worldwide Muslim community]. It is time to wage jihad against them. They are not Muslims. They are the agents of Jews."


Like it did before September 2001, the Pakistani state seems willing to overlook such language, perhaps perceiving the Lashkar to be of instrumental utility in pursuing its tactical objectives against India. But, the evidence suggests, the price for this policy will be increasingly paid across the world — not just in India.








Himalayan mountaineers were at sea-level in Copenhagen on Friday to bring the dire effects of climate change in Nepal to the world's attention at the U.N. climate summit.


Nepali ministers, who earlier this month held a Cabinet in the shadow of Everest at 5,252m, joined the Sherpas including Apa Sherpa who has climbed the world's highest mountain a record-breaking 19 times, and the WWF climate ambassador Dawa Steven Sherpa.


The march through the streets of Copenhagen was organised to coincide with International Mountain Day and a side event at the Bella Centre conference hall looking at the potential problems and solutions to glacial melt in the Himalayas, including changing crop patterns and innovative pest control. Some 1.3 billion people in Asia depend on water from glaciers in the Himalayas and as temperatures rise the supply of water could be seriously threatened.


In an interview with the Guardian en route to Copenhagen, Dawa Steven Sherpa said that he had seen great changes in Nepal.


"Nepal is one of the earliest victims of climate change and whatever is going to happen in the rest of the world is already happening in Nepal, for example forest fires, droughts, floods. They are all happening in Nepal already and this because of Nepal's extreme geographical circumstances. The average temperature rise in Nepal is twice that of the global average so we're already seeing everything that is going to happen in the world. But Nepal has a carbon emission contribution of 0.02% which is practically nothing. We are not to blame, yet we are the first victims," he said.


Glaciers have started to melt more rapidly in recent years, he said, which has made climbing more dangerous and threatened his own village, Khumjung, with the icy waters gathering at the base of the rapidly melting Imja glacier.


"The Imja lake is one of the most talked about at the moment. It is the fastest receding glaciers in the Himalayas. Some studies show it is receding by up to 74 metres a year and it is directly upstream from the homeland of the Sherpas, the Khumbu, if that glacial lake bursts and comes down, it's going to wash out everything in its path. It's said to be about 1.6km in length, and 92 metres at its deepest point. So that's a lot of water. And when it comes down it's going to wash away everything."


He said was travelling to Copenhagen to call on world leaders to commit to a strong deal. "The west should come in and help us with our problems. Not because it's charity or aid, but because it's justice," he said.


— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009








The U.K.'s first official recommendations for a diet that is both healthy and good for the environment are published today (Dec. 11), and they are likely to be seen as an assault on the current food system.


To fight climate change and tackle the growing crisis of diet-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, British consumers must cut down on meat and dairy produce, reduce their intake of processed foods and curb waste.


These are the three priorities identified in a report by the British government's independent advisory body on sustainability, the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), which calls for radical changes in patterns of consumption.


The report — which will dismay many in the livestock and processed food industries — will feed into all government departments and procurement agencies. Well-placed sources say it has created tension between government departments and advisers over its potential impact.


The study acknowledges that cutting processed food and reducing consumption of intensively-produced meat and dairy foods could lead to a shrinking of the U.K. food and drink industry.


The U.K.'s retail supply system would also be affected — the SDC report recommends people reduce energy consumption by shopping more on foot or over the internet and that they replace bottled water with tap water.


While about 18 per cent of the U.K.'s greenhouse gas emissions are related to food and drink consumption and production, the industry is the single biggest manufacturing sector in the U.K., accounting for 7 per cent of GDP and employing 3.7 million people. The recommended shift away from meat and dairy to more seasonal and field-grown (as opposed to glasshouse-grown) vegetables and fruit would also hit the U.K.'s already hardpressed livestock farmers.


The way that farmland is used would have to change. Grass-fed rather than grain-fed animals are a more sustainable use of resources, the report says. There should be "an increase in consumption of foods produced with respect for wildlife and the environment, for instance organic," it adds. The SDC also highlights soya and palm oil as "hotspots" of the sort of consumption that damages the environment while providing calories of low nutritional value. It estimates that 70,000 premature deaths in the U.K. could be avoided if diets matched healthy guidelines.


Figures released on Thursday by the U.K.'s health service's information survey showing that almost one in four boys and more than one in five girls in England are overweight or obese at the start of their school lives added urgency to the debate. SDC commissioner Professor Tim Lang said the recommendations represented the first coherent advice on a sustainable diet.


"So far we've had fragmented and contradictory thinking on what dietary intakes should be. Advice to consumers ought to change and stop compartmentalising issues. Cutting down on meat and dairy, eating only sustainably sourced fish, fruit and vegetables, would all help reduce the impact of our food system as well as improving health," he said.


The government's approach to addressing the priorities in the report has been "mixed," according to the SDC. Food waste and consumers' shopping have received high-profile attention but cutting meat and dairy and junk food has not, it argues.


— © 2009 The New York Times News Service







Fourteen years ago Nelson Mandela used the 1995 Rugby World Cup to unite black and white South Africans.


A film based on the historic event, Invictus, opened on Friday and has raised the question:


Has the dream of transformation lived on?


Both the film and the book on which it is based — John Carlin's "Playing the Enemy" — have a fairytale ending, but this is not necessarily the case for South Africa today. Today's racial tensions are a lot more subtle.


Most black and white South Africans have embraced each other's differences but every once in a while the country's apartheid past rears its ugly head. When political leaders fail to agree, they often accuse each other of being racists.


Elusive dream


But jobs previously reserved for white people are now accessible to blacks. White and black South Africans can socialise without fear of victimisation. There are no "whites only" or "blacks only" signs hanging in restaurants, on buses, on beaches or airports.


But in some areas, the dream of ending racial divisions among South Africans has not completely come true. While the new black middle class has moved into areas of Johannesburg previously reserved for whites, black faces are still rarely seen in some towns in Free State.


And few white people venture into rough townships such as Alexandra. Mr. Mandela used rugby to preach transformation and reconciliation to South Africans — it was one of the first fruits of his "rainbow nation."


But still rugby remains a predominantly white man's sport. And equally football remains a predominately black sport.


So have South Africans forgotten Mr Mandela's message?


Work in progress


South African actress Marguerite Wheatley, who plays the wife of former national rugby captain Francois Pienaar (played by Matt Damon), was 14 years old when South Africa played New Zealand in the momentous final.


She says she was "oblivious" to apartheid South Africa and what the rugby match meant to the dream of a "new South Africa."


"Then you knew that white is right and black is wrong, and then all of a sudden white is wrong and black is right so it was very confusing for me as a teenager," she says.


"For us young people it was easier to accept each other. I can't remember much about apartheid [but] I know that when apartheid fell, they were saying 'uur country has gone to the dogs.'"

Wheatley says although South Africa was brought together ``forcefully" most South Africans are looking at working together to continue building the nation. "We're figuring out, we're sorting it out," she says.


Hollywood star Morgan Freeman, who has visited the country a number of times, says there is still "energy" in South Africa reminiscent of the 1995 World Cup victory. "I made two visits here, one during the transition when it was so volatile and at Madiba's 80th birthday I came back and the place was absolutely electric with promise," says Freeman.


"You don't feel this electricity right now but you feel the energy, this feeling, sense of promise. You feel that there is still this sense of promise that now we can get moving."

Film critics are already predicting that the movie will earn Freeman an Oscar. The actor, who is also one of the film's executive producers, plays Mr. Mandela — a role with the potential to catapult any actor's career to world acclaim.


Freeman says he was "blessed" to have access to Mr. Mandela. "I studied him; I had close access to him," he says speaking about the man he describes "a friend."


"Not only was I able to look at tapes and get mannerisms and the walk, I was able to sit and hold his hand and talk to him."


Freeman says one of the challenges of accurately portraying Mr Mandela was learning how to speak like him. "Nobody else sounds like him; it's a very distinctive voice, so I had to work on that," he says.




The film is directed by veteran actor Clint Eastwood and includes a local and international film crew. In recent weeks, local actors' unions have complained about Hollywood actors playing lead roles in films portraying South African icons and say South Africans should play more prominent roles in big productions.


But producers argue that using well-known names draws in crowds and goes a long way to ensuring the film's success.


Invictus has a strong presence of local actors, although they are not playing lead roles. The name of the film is derived from a poem by William Ernest Henley which Mr. Mandela is said to have memorised during his years imprisoned on Robben Island.


— © 2009 The New York Times News Service







Like the university it springs from, Harvard Business Review has been all about sober tradition. Modernity? Pah! Harvard Business Review has remained fairly constant over its almost 90-year history, with long articles that gave frameworks for managing and understanding businesses. Like an academic journal, it listed its contents on its cover, and only in 1990 did it allow the first cover illustration.


Now — gird yourselves, Harvard deans! — the Review is getting a little more lively, beginning with the January/February issue.


That cover list of articles is gone; instead, the cover shows a photograph of a sculpture made from office chairs and a redesigned logo. Inside, the Review breaks up stories with sidebars and graphics, and is adding columnists and some lighter features. Iconic elements, like professors' articles and the case studies, will remain, with a fresher approach — the case study, for instance, now includes advice from online readers.


"The magazine in the past was sort of one 10-page story after another," said Adi Ignatius, who became editor in chief of Harvard Business Review Group early this year. "I think we've kind of insulted our readers' intelligence with the assumption that everything has to be serious, everything has to be long form."


He came from Time magazine, where he was deputy managing editor, and he is sprinkling a little of that magazine's culture into the Review.


The first part of that is making Harvard Business Review more current.


When the Review was founded in 1922, it dispensed Harvard Business School research to the public. Its scope widened over the years, but articles tended to be scholarly, rather than news driven. By January 2009, for example, "HBR had barely written a thing, even indirectly, about the economic crisis," Ignatius said. "There was a sense, in the past, that HBR should not be timely," he said. "It was the idea that research is ready when research is ready."


Mr. Ignatius changed the publication schedule so the magazine could close just three weeks before publication, rather than more than six weeks before. He is adding articles that reflect the times. For example, the January/February issue includes an argument from a top professor that shareholder-focused capitalism is ending.


The second part is adding standard magazine rubrics. The list of articles has been knocked off the cover (Ignatius actually removed it this year). "The problem was that people look at the table of contents, scan it, and say, no, I'm not interested in it."


He is adding columns by the strategy professor C.K. Prahalad and the economist Dan Ariely, a page on someone outside the business world called "Life's Work" (Condoleezza Rice is the first subject), and a recurring feature called "Defend Your Research," where academics are quizzed about their studies. And he is arranging a few articles in issues around themes like reinvention and strategy during a weak recovery.


None of this is revolutionary in the magazine world. "It's relatively late in the cycle of how to produce a magazine that we are introducing some of these elements," Mr. Ignatius acknowledged, but it is a shakeup for the staid Review. Of course, a redesign can lose what is classic and essential about a magazine.

Audrey Siegel, executive vice-president and director of client services at the media agency TargetCast TCM, cautioned that that was a particular risk for the Harvard Business Review.


"They need to be really careful about keeping their edge and keeping their value proposition both visually as well as editorially, because that's what people are paying for," she said.


Costanza Tedesco, the vice-president for global advertising and branding at SAP, who saw a preview of the redesigned magazine, said she was happy with it.


"I like it quite a bit, because I think it's added a level of dynamism that it didn't have before, and it's able to serve up what's critical and compelling about their content, but that got lost a bit in their academic and professional demeanour," she said.



The Harvard Business Review has not altered its pricing and does not intend to do so. It is among the most expensive American magazines as subscribers pay about $9 a copy, versus, say, $0.83 a copy for Fortune, according to the most recent filings with the Audit Bureau of Circulations. With the redesign, the Review will reduce frequency to 10 issues a year with two double issues from 12 issues.


The Review has a different model from the Fortunes of the world, though, depending much more on subscription revenue than advertising. About three-quarters of the company's revenue comes from consumers — people paying for the magazine, or for books or Web versions of articles, said Joshua Macht, the group's publisher.


Online, where almost every publisher has been weighing charging for content, the Review has been firm about requiring consumers to pay for many of its articles. Only blogs and a handful of articles are available free. Mr. Macht said he was not worried about the usual objections to charging. One is that it prevents publishers from making money on surprisingly popular articles because they would be hidden behind a pay wall.


"There's a bit of a fallacy about that," he said. "A lot of times something explodes, and they have more traffic than they ever had before, but they didn't anticipate it and they didn't sell the advertising." Besides, he said, if an article seems to be popular, the Review can and will pull it from behind the pay wall, allowing more consumers to see it, and then, potentially, showing more ads on it.


By mid-2010, will allow readers to see a few pages free, then it will require registration to see a few more pages, then it will require payment.


"The registration is really key," Mr. Macht said. "We can see who the person is and where they're going on the site, and over time you can target them with the best content, the best books, we have to offer."


With the changes, Mr. Ignatius expects a few readers to be outraged.


"A lot of loyal readers will say, 'What did you do with my HBR?' If you think a 10-page article on the age of consumer capitalism is dumbing down, O.K."


— © 2009 The New York Times News Service






The Paris-based International Agency of Energy (IAE) on Friday slightly raised its earlier prediction of global oil demand in 2009 and 2010.


In its monthly report, the energy watchdog forecast that this year's decline in demand would be less than previously thought, with a decrease of 1.6 percent on a yearly basis to 84.9 million barrels per day (bpd), up from the former prediction of a 1.7-per cent contraction. There would be an increase for 2010, the IAE said.

Demand will grow to 86.3 million bpd, with a rise of 1.4 million bpd from the 2009 level. A boost of oil demand in some Asian and Mideast countries, and the lasting effects of economic stimulus policies in some countries, caused the increase, the IAE said.

— Xinhua









The Congress party has the uncanny ability to bumble. The ambiguous midnight announcement about initiating the process towards the formation of a separate Telangana did not anticipate the fury it would unleashed in the political class and among students in the Andhra and Rayalaseema regions. There is a lesson for Congress leaders here, to shed their feudal ways where a small group deliberates and decides and the leader issues the directive. Even loyalist Congress members are not in a position to bend and obey. The mood of the people has changed. They want to be informed and they want a consultative process. The Congress with its durbar culture may not be sensitive to democratic norms, but the people are not willing to let it pass.

There is no inherent folly in declaring the intention to create Telangana. But there is need for an open, national debate about the validity of smaller states. Experts in the working of democracy and development believe that small is not only beautiful, but that it is also efficient. The contrary opinion is that small states  only encourage and intensify parochial loyalties and this undermines feelings of nationalism. There is the fear that balkanisation could prove to be disastrous for the idea of India. This is mainly the view of the metropolitan intelligentsia whose grasp of India beyond the big urban conglomerations is tenuous at best. There is the further argument arising from logic of economic liberalisation that scales of economy will improve efficiency and create opportunities for all. Though it makes logical sense, the political reality is that the backward regions did not receive their due in a larger unit. The examples of Telangana, Vidarbha, Bundelkhand stand out prominently. And if islands of backwardness persist, then the overall growth of the country would be impeded.

What has made the Telangana issue so stormy is the knee-jerk response of the Congress at the Centre to the crisis arising out of Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leader K Chandrasekhar Rao's fast-unto-death and his deteriorating health. There is no guarantee that Telangana will prosper once it breaks away from the larger Andhra Pradesh.

Telangana's political leaders do not inspire confidence. Small states do not always turn out to be successful — take Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. On the other hand, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh have moved into the fast lane of development and prosperity because by being small, they were able to manage their resources much better. The jury is out on the issue and there are no quick-fix solutions.












India may be a great power-in-waiting, but it lives probably in the world's worst neighbourhood. Whichever way India looks, it sees crisis across its frontiers. Add to the picture the risks from climate change, which has been correctly identified as a threat multiplier. Climate change, unfortunately, has become a divisive issue internationally before a plan for a low-carbon future has evolved. While it is easy to exaggerate or underestimate the likely impact of climate change owing to the continuing gaps in scientific knowledge, three broad strategic effects can be visualised in relation to India on the basis of studies so far.

First, climate change would intensify inter-state and intra-state competition over natural resources, making resource conflicts more likely. A new Great Game over water, for example, could unfold, with Asia as the hub, given China's control over the source of most of Asia's major rivers — the Plateau of Tibet. Accelerated melting of glaciers and mountain snows would affect river-water flows, although higher average temperatures are likely to bring more rainfall in the tropics.

Tibet's water-related status in the world indeed is unique: No other area in the world is a water repository of such size. Tibet's vast glaciers, huge underground springs and high altitude have endowed it with the world's greatest river systems. But China is now pursuing major inter-basin and inter-river water transfer projects on the Tibetan plateau, which threatens to diminish international-river flows into India and other co-riparian states.
Second, higher frequency of extreme weather events (such as hurricanes, flooding and drought) and a rise in ocean levels are likely to spur greater inter-state and intra-state migration from the delta and coastal regions to the hinterland. Such an influx of outsiders would socially swamp inland areas, upsetting the existing fragile ethnic balance and provoking a backlash that strains internal and regional security.

India could face a huge refugee influx from the world's seventh most populous country, Bangladesh, which is already losing land to saltwater incursion. In addition to the millions of Bangladeshis that already have illegally settled in India, New Delhi would have to brace up to the potential arrival of tens of millions of more.

Third, human security will be the main casualty as climate change delivers a major blow to vulnerable economic sectors. Disparities, already wide in Indian society, would intensify.

The Maoist rural insurgency in the poorest districts of India at a time when the country is economically booming is a testament to the costs of growing inequalities.

Against this background, India is likely to find itself on the frontline of climate change. To deal with the national-security implications, it needs, first and foremost, to frame the concept of security more broadly and redefine its defence planning and preparedness.

Unconventional challenges — from transnational terrorism to illegal refugee inflows — already have become significant in India's security calculus. India also needs to build greater state capacity — at federal, state and local levels — to tackle various contingencies and adapt to a climate change-driven paradigm.
Internationally, Indian diplomacy must ensure that the country is not saddled with unfair obligations that compound its challenges. Equity in burden-sharing has to be ensured. The challenge is to devise carbon standards that help protect the material and social benefits of economic growth in the developing world but without damaging prosperity in the developed countries.

But just as the five original nuclear-weapons states helped fashion the 1970 NPT to perpetuate their nuclear-weapons monopoly, countries that become wealthy early wish to preserve their prerogatives in a climate-change regime, despite their legacy of environmental damage and continuing high carbon emissions. This has raised the
danger that efforts to lock in the rich nations' advantages by revising the 1992 Rio bargain and re-jiggering the Kyoto Protocol obligations through a new regime could create another global divide between haves and have-nots — an NPT of climate change. An enduring international regime to combat global warming will have to be anchored in differential responsibility, a concept at the heart of the Climate Change Framework Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, but also embedded in international law through several other agreements — from the Montreal Protocol to the Maastricht Treaty. As the Copenhagen summit illustrates, climate change is not just a matter of science but also a matter of geopolitics.


The writer is professor of strategic studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi







I am comfortable travelling to any part of India when required. But, the very idea of going overseas makes me a bit nervous. No it's not the long flying hours, new people, places and cultures, but the eating habits in some of the foreign countries that drive me crazy. I can never forget what my grandfather went through searching for a decent vegetarian meal way back in the early '70s. He'd travelled to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan on a business trip. On one occasion, he was almost about to consume rice served with some non-vegetarian gravy. Thanks to his fellow traveller he was told well-in-time that the gravy was cooked in snake blood. Yuck! The very thought of it is disgusting.

So when my editor asked if I could travel to Hong Kong for four days to do a pre-cursor feature on Winter Fest organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB), I was in two minds. A strict vegetarian, I relish Indian cuisine and generally wash it down with ginger tea if it's lunch or a glass of milk with sugar and pinch of haldi (turmeric) in case of a dinner. I was dead sure that I could manage a day or two max (like my earlier international trips to Mauritius and UK) but four days was a little too much to live without my sabzi, roti, dal and chawal that too in an extended Chinese territory. My wife however convinced me that things are much better now and it won't be difficult to find vegetarian food there.

A week later I was onboard an early morning flight to Hong Kong with a mixed feeling of excitement and fright. As we prepared to land my eyes got glued on a statue like structure amidst a mountainous terrain. There was a certain feel good factor about sighting it first thing before landing.

I later learned from Vivian Wong (our Hong Kong tour guide) that the statue was the world's tallest seated outdoor bronze Buddha called the Tian Tan Buddha Statue. "We will be visiting there tomorrow morning. It's a picturesque 5.7 km cable car ride from Ngong Ping 360 located very close to the airport," said Wong. The 45-minute road journey to the hotel in Kowloon was a breathtaking one. I was amazed how a small territory like Hong Kong could boast of remarkable infrastructure including those meant for rail and road transport.

The next four days went off smooth and my concerns about not finding vegetarian food proved more of a myth than reality. In fact, Hong Kong now has a host of specialty restaurants that serve Indian cuisine in the most authentic manner. I couldn't ask for more.
It was very heartening to see a Cantonese (HK local resident) speak Hindi in bits and pieces while taking our lunch order at the Citygate Outlets' food court in Lantau Island.

While checking out the menu, I suddenly heard a voice, "Kahaan se hain sir?" I looked at the person's badge on the uniform which read Singh and answered, "Ji Bumbai se." We had a quick chat while he baked a couple of rotis for me in the Indian tandoor there. "Aap kahaan se hain," I asked to which he replied, "Main Chandigarh se hoon sir. Aapko kisi bhi tarah hindustani bhojan yahaan mil jaaega sir. Chinta karne ki koi jaroorat nahin hai," said Singh. That was good enough assurance for me to stop worrying about the unavailability Indian cuisine in Hong Kong.

Our lunch at Miu Fat Chai, a Chinese vegetarian restaurant was the most adventurous of the lot. While the restaurant used vegetarian ingredients like tofu, sweet potato, vegetables, rice etc for food preparation, the presentation made it appear as like non-vegetarian recipes. Innovative it was for sure.

On a serious note though, this trip was a major eye opener particularly for the infrastructure and quality of life HK offered. In September 2006, Indian PM Manmohan Singh spoke of transforming Mumbai in to Shanghai. After experiencing Hong Kong, I'd really want that dream to come true. Just in case the Shanghai transformation appears unachievable, I hope we'd come a tad closer to what Hong Kong offers it residents. Any comments Mr Singh?







About the same time last year I wrote about the first sommelier competition that my team and I organised in the country. It was quite an experience. Save for me and the judges, few knew what this was all about. The proceedings seemed so dull and quiet that it hardly felt like a competition, much like the chess player who calls himself a sportsperson.

This year was the second year running that we organised the competition at the International Food & Drinks expo in New Delhi, the only serious wine and food event in the capital, held every year since the last few years. The idea was to adjudge the best wine service personnel and see who can really convince us to spend an exorbitant amount of money on a bottle that is worth way less. In other words, we were looking for the ultimate selling weapon in the wine world. While it was still no bartending gala with hooting and heckling, it was definitely more fun than the graveyard on a moonless night!

We wanted to have fun but not at the cost of compromising the seriousness of the effort of destroying the calm, concentration and candour that wine both enjoys and requires.

We didn't have to look far. The three judges who gladly consented to help us with the proceedings are established eminent food and beverage aficionados and then professionals. Angelo De Ioia is the face of the Italian outlet Travertino, at The Oberoi, New Delhi. Kavita Faiella is perhaps the only woman in the profession of sommellerie in India, managing cellars at the prestigious Aman Resorts. And Dirk Reinhardt is the man who is single-handedly executing a much needed (food & wine) facelift at the Claridges hotel and with tremendous success.

Stephane, the only true French sommelier, who left India last year and is now working with the Raffles in Singapore, was missed. He had a way of bringing on the heat with the participants, asking surgically precise questions till they drenched themselves in sweat. The judges this year were much more lenient, asking friendly questions and keeping things rather fun yet with an air of seriousness.

The five finalists were put through three rounds. They had to suggest wines to go with a menu, then suggest food to go with three wines chosen at random and finally, they had to present a wine to the judges, proceed to open, taste it and do a live commentary.

Compared to last time, the participants were more prepared, more confident and quicker.

I too was surprised to see how fast the level of competence in this nascent field is rising and even as an organiser I can't wait to see what marvellous surprises next year will throw up. In fact, I am planning elimination rounds in at least four cities to help more people be a part of this. Watching each other in the same field, although competitive, always is the best way to gauge your knowledge and standing.

The winning trophy was lifted by Shubham of Aman Resorts (No, the results weren't rigged) and Rachna, the young lady from the Trident, Gurgaon, took second place. Third prize went to Gandhib of Aman Resorts (encore!? Maybe I should check the mark sheet...hmmm). I had managed to score chalice-like Arc glasses as trophies which, the winner, in his excitement to share the news with everyone else, managed to crash into a million pieces while leaving the venue. I replaced it in two weeks.









The political turmoil in Andhra Pradesh and the resignations submitted to the assembly Speaker by over 100 MLAs in the wake of the Centre's decision to support statehood for Telangana is unfortunate considering that this issue had been hanging fire for years and leading political parties had supported it at sometime or another. The Congress which conceded the demand in principle on Wednesday last had included it in the 2004 manifesto for the State assembly elections at which point there had been no serious objections from its members. It was on the basis of its support for a new Telangana state that the Telangana Rashtra Samiti had tied up with it for the 2004 assembly and Lok Sabha elections. The Telugu Desam, which had been opposing the demand, surprised commentators when it chose to reverse its stand on the eve of the last elections and entered into an electoral alliance with the TRS. The Praja Rajyam party of cine actor Chiranjeevi too had given in to this demand before the last elections earlier this year. Evidently, there is more to the resignations than the merits or demerits of statehood. Now that the Centre has accepted the demand for Telangana, it must work towards building consensus and making sure that peace is not disturbed in the State.


That the Centre's nod to Telangana has encouraged Gorkhaland activists in West Bengal, proponents of Harit Pradesh in U.P., and supporters of Vidarbha state in Maharashtra, is only natural. Renewed agitations for a separate Coorg state in Karnataka, for a Bodoland carved out of Assam, and a Bundelkhand state drawing areas from U.P. and M.P. are on the cards. Already, the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha has given a call for a bandh and the principal protagonist of Harit Pradesh, Ajit Singh, has renewed his demand more aggressively. In Vidarbha too there are fresh rumblings.


The portents are grim unless speedy action is initiated. It is imperative therefore that the Centre appoint a commission at the earliest to examine the various demands for reorganisation of states. Any loss of time would fuel unrest in these regions and encourage vested interests to take advantage of the climate of uncertainty. While the process for setting up a commission is initiated, peace must prevail and all political parties have a responsibility to ensure this.








Thursday saw more turmoil in the Punjab Assembly as the Congress, refusing to participate in the debate on Ludhiana violence, chose to target the Speaker, Mr Nirmal Singh Kahlon, who has reportedly been indicted by the CBI in a "cash-for jobs" scandal. The case pertains to Mr Kahlon's tenure as the Rural Development and Panchayat Minister (1996-2001). It was alleged that money had exchanged hands in the selection of 909 panchayat secretaries. The subsequent CBI inquiry into the allegations was challenged first in the state High Court and then in the Supreme Court and both courts gave a go-ahead to prosecution. For the past nine months the SAD-BJP government has denied the CBI the mandatory permission to prosecute Mr Kahlon.


Since his continuation in the august office of Speaker is no longer tenable, Mr Kahlon should have resigned on his own, thus avoiding the unpleasant happenings in the House over which he presides. In the past Mr Ravi Inder Singh had resigned when faced with a situation to uphold the dignity of the office he held. However, the quality of politics and politicians has deteriorated over the years. Ethical values and democratic practices, once respected, are abandoned for personal and political convenience. Leaders occupying high positions do not quit over mere filing of charges. The justification: everyone is innocent until held guilty by a court.


That is why, perhaps, the Badal government did not find it unusual to choose a person who was under investigation for the office of Speaker. By denying or delaying permission to the CBI the government is further harming the reputation of Mr Kahlon. If the case is allowed to proceed, Mr Kahlon will have an opportunity to explain his position and get exonerated if he is innocent. Alternatively, he would function under the shadow of an unseemly controversy not befitting the office of Speaker. 








While the rest of the world, except South East Asia, has achieved the UN goal of reducing measles deaths two years ahead of target, India has not only fallen short but continues to account for the bulk of measles deaths. As three out of four children dying of measles are from India, three-quarters of the 1,64,000 measles deaths in 2008 were from this country. That a large number of children continue to die of an easily preventable disease is shocking and a cause for concern.


Measles, a highly infectious disease characterised by symptoms like fever, cough, runny nose and rash is one of the leading causes of death among children. It can lead to several health complications even among healthy children and in vulnerable populations it becomes deadly. However, the disease can be prevented through two-dose vaccination. Measles vaccine was included in India's vaccination drive when the Expanded Programme on Immunisation was renamed Universal Immunisation Programme in 1985. Measles vaccine was included in India's vaccination drive when Expanded Programme on Immunisation was renamed Universal Immunisation Programme in 1985. Sadly, vaccination drives leave a large section of the underprivileged population out of their ambit. According to District Level Household Survey while only 54.1 per cent of the nation's children are fully immunised, nearly 11.3 per cent children have not received any form of vaccination. Shortage of vaccines makes matters worse. India is short of 17 crore vaccine doses, including 90 lakhs for measles.


India not only needs to step up its immunisation drives but also must adopt two-dose measles control strategy. Besides, it must focus on awareness campaigns. If massive vaccination drives worldwide could prevent an estimated 4.3 million measles deaths in 10 years and India could eradicate smallpox, there is no reason why children should still be dying of measles. An exporter of vaccines, the nation cannot allow its children to die for want of vaccine or gaps in its immunisation drives whose coverage as of now is rather dismal.










In 1981, the Supreme Court said in S.P. Gupta's Case (also known as the First Judges' Case), by a narrow majority of 4:3, that the Chief Justice of India's opinion in the judges' appointment was not constitutionally binding on the Centre. The majority of the justices consisted of Justices Bhagwati, Fazal Ali, Desai and Venkataramiah, and the minority consisted of Justices Gupta, Tulzapurkar and Pathak.


The majority decision may or may not have been correct in constitutional law (it probably was); but it was definitely not in accordance with constitutional convention. And it proved to be a disaster for "judicial independence" because it enabled governments to "manipulate" appointments. As for instance when in the case of some recommendations of the executive, the CJI stood firm, the Centre attempted to persuade the High Court Chief Justice concerned (in the case of appointment of a judge to a High Court).


When Justice P.N. Bhagwati, who delivered the majority judgment in the First Judges' Case (1981) became the CJI in July 1985, he was administered by the government some of the bitter medicine that he himself had prescribed when presiding over the Bench of seven justices in the First Judges' Case. Justice Bhagwati (who was CJI for 18 months) made recommendations of persons who deserved to be appointed as judges. But at the end of his tenure as CJI, Bhagwati chafed quite a bit at the government's refusal to accept the names proposed by him!


It was all this accumulated experience — as a result of the majority judgment in the First Judges' Case — that prompted the now new faces on India's Supreme Court to take a fresh look at the problem. The new faces were: Justices S. Ratnavel Pandian, A. M. Ahmadi, Kuldip Singh, J. S. Verma, M. M. Punchhi, Yogeshwar Dayal, G. N. Ray, Dr A. S. Anand and S. P. Bharucha. They came to the conclusion that it was time to review the correctness of the ratio of the majority decision in the First Judges' Case.


This is where I come in. I had led the main argument on behalf of the petitioner, Supreme Court Advocate-on-Record Association in the 
Second Judges' Case and we had succeeded. But the fallout was 
not as we had expected.


What the majority in the Second Judges' Case (1993) prescribed (7:2) was not the status quo ante but it was — as the Americans would call it — an entirely new "ball game"!


The CJI's primacy on which the whole edifice of an independent judiciary under our Constitution rested was a doctrine that had been sorely misused during the internal Emergency (1975-77) during which period Chief Justice A.N. Ray had got transferred judges from one high court to another not on the basis of the exigencies of work but solely because these judges had decided certain important cases which had political overtones against the Centre or the relevant state government. It was in this background that the majority in the Second Judges' Case said that they would not endorse the doctrine of the CJI's primacy.


Justice Verma, (who, in 1997, succeeded Justice Ahmadi as CJI) said (in the Second Judges' Case) that the reason given by the majority in the First Judges' case could not be supported, and was not in accordance with existing practice, and that the doctrine of primacy would henceforth mean the CJI's opinion after taking into account the views of his senior colleagues required to be consulted by him for formation of a collegiate opinion: the opinion of a collectively of judges was to be preferred to the opinion of the primus inter pares of that body viz. the CJI.


Subject to introducing the idea of a collegiums, the judges (7:2 in the Second Judges' Case) restored the pre-1981 position in matters relating to the judges' appointment in the higher judiciary with one caveat: if the government did not accept the collegium's recommendation, it would be presumed that the government had acted without bonafides. In the Second Judges' Case, the majority held that the court's prior decision of 1981 was erroneous and it was expressly overruled.


The truth is that although good competent honest men and women have been appointed to the superior judiciary under this judge-evolved procedure, many fit and competent persons have been passed over for unknown reasons simply because there is no institutionalised system for making recommendations.


Thus, when Justice Punchhi became the CJI in January 1998 and suggested that a list of five named persons be appointed in vacancies to the highest court (all strictly in accordance with the methodology laid down in the Second Judges' Case), the government, having genuine reasons to doubt the suitability of one or two of the names in that list, dragged its feet.


When the government suggested to the CJI that some of the names could be accepted but not all, the CJI said "no"; he was firm and there were apprehensions in the minds of the executive of possible "contempt" proceedings being initiated suo motu against the executive if the CJI's en bloc proposal was not accepted!


Ultimately, to avoid a possible ugly situation, a Presidential Reference was filed by the government for the advisory opinion of the Supreme Court for "clarification" of some dicta in the Second Judges' Case. In this Reference, only a few 'creases' were ironed out; and the collegiate was enlarged (by judicial decree) from three to five of the seniormost justices on the highest court on the (somewhat dubious) principle that there was greater safety in larger numbers!


As for the suggestion made in the Third Judges' Case (1998), which has been implemented, the criticism is that the system of recommendation for appointments by a collegium of five seniormost judges (like that of three went before) has also not been institutionalised. No mechanism has been prescribed (by the collegium itself) nor any criteria evolved as to which amongst the high court judges, all aspirants to a place in the Supreme Court should be recommended.


As a general rule, some, or perhaps many, of the recommendations of this five-member collegium have been "good", but some have been "not-so-good" and a few positively "bad": with the constantly changing combinations in the collegium (all Supreme Court judges having to compulsory retire at 65 years).


So nothing has worked well. Neither the system of appointments during 1981-92 (where the government had the veto) nor even the post-1993 system of appointments (where three and later five seniormost judges of the court) had the right to recommend judges for appointment.


But is the National Judicial Commission the right answer? Will there not simply be more confusion in even greater numbers? Perhaps there would. The answer to all this lies not in the number of persons who select nor in the range of persons entitled to select. There must be a greater transparency in the method and procedure of judges' appointment.


I do not imply that there should be publicity. Once the method and procedure is known, the confabulations within the judiciary must be left to the justices without the intruding eyes of members of the public or the media. The problem today is that not much care is taken by the collegium in recommending judges for appointment to the Supreme Court simply because they are otherwise too busy in deciding cases that come before them.


Today, for reasons I need not expand upon, I can only express my extreme anguish at the current state of ground realities. The extra-curricular activity (imposed upon five judges by a judgement of the court itself) that of recommending appointments to the highest court has not been conducted with the care and caution that it had deserved. There is too much ad hocism and no established process of selection for recommendation.


This article is excerpted from the writer's Annual Dr Kailash Nath Katju Memorial Lecture delivered at Teen Murthi House, New Delhi, on December 11, 2009








During the War of liberation of Bangladesh in December 1971, apart from aspects like politico-military synergy, grand strategy, thorough planning, excellent leadership at all levels and exemplary bravery of troops, local people's commitment to help to win the war was also a major contributory factor.


One example of spontaneous and voluntary help by them would suffice. Our advance in Jessore-Khulna Sector (then East Pakistan) was faster than expected. But suddenly the leading troops encountered unexpected and very heavy opposition. Also a counterattack was developing against a crucial locality. Both needed immediate and most urgent artillery fire support.


Most of our guns were on the move and those deployed on the ground were inadequate to the task. To provide additional and vital fire support to overcome the critical situation, "Quick Action" was ordered wherein normal procedures are cut short and guns deployed immediately even if the area may not be fully suitable. Accordingly, we decided to deploy battery wise, in the nearest areas available next to the road and those patches happened to be soggy.


Since the gun towing vehicles would have got stuck in the soft ground, the gunners started handling their guns to their firing positions (platforms). It so happened that we were close to a village and the locals gathered to see the spectacle of our deployment. However, the villagers voluntarily joined our gunners like a swarm and in no time the guns were put into action and started firing to the delight and amusement of those locals.


Those days our guns, the famous 25 Pounders, had only 32 rounds in their gun trailers and towing vehicles each. So great was the requirement of the fire support that those rounds were about to finish soon as the guns were firing at intense rates of fire.


A cry went for the fetching the ammunition from the lorries which were some distances away. The entire vehicles having been strung on the only narrow road available, those vehicles could not be brought closer to the guns. The road was on the raised ground, the rest of area being wet and low lying, it was not possible to move the other vehicles to make way for the ammunition lorries. Also, the ground being soggy, they could not have reached the guns even if they had come closer.


It was a crisis situation. How our Dogra gunners, who spoke only Punjabi, overcame the language barrier and communicated the gravity of the situation to the bystanders, remained a mystery but soon the villagers were carrying heavy ammunition boxes, and bringing them to the guns.


The artillery ammunition is amongst the heaviest components of all warlike stores. It was a sight to see those short and lanky Bengalis struggling to carry heavy boxes. But carry and bring them to the blazing guns they did, all the time shouting cheerfully. Guns were firing rounds directly fed to them from the hands of unknown Bengali villagers.


That day, the impoverished villagers who lived from hand to mouth in a nine-month-long civil war, helped scoring a great victory for the liberation of their country by feeding the guns from "Hand to breech". They felt it was not ours but their war, a "People's War".









The Pakistan Army Chief, Gen Ashfaque Parvez Kayani, demanded some time back that America "gives Pakistan and its interests a consideration and consult us when they design a new Afghan policy."


There is no reason to believe that President Barrack Obama ignored Islamabad before announcing the surge of another 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan. Nor is there any protest from Pakistan that "its interests" were not considered.


Whatever the truth, the induction of additional US forces – 20,000 are already there – is not a healthy development for the region. Afghanistan's Commander Stanley McChrystal reportedly remarked that "a tremendous amount of things are going to happen, and they are good things." He is leading the forces in the area.


It is too early for America to make such observations because the past experience tells us that the US forces, wherever they have gone – Vietnam, Iraq or elsewhere – they have left ruin and devastation in their wake. They have yet to prove their mettle.


The history of Afghanistan says that no power, neither Great Britain in the past nor the Soviet Union in modern times, has been able to discipline, much less suppress, the defiant tribals. Foreign troops are only grist to their propaganda that their religion, Islam, is sought to be curbed.


The uneducated masses, with limited avenues for gainful employment, are more driven towards fundamentalism than to the ways to oust poverty. The tribal people are in perpetual poverty because their overlords have accepted money to keep quiet. They do not inspire confidence in the future.


Pakistan is the only country which has the necessary credentials. But its problem is that it cannot forget that the Taliban, who also dealt with the wayward tribal people, were far more friendly and dependable than the Karzai government, which has again assumed charge at Kabul, by hook and by crook.


Another fear that eats up Islamabad is that India, through its economic programme, has a far more say with the people of Afghanistan than all others. Islamabad still has the dream that Afghanistan would one day give Pakistan "its strategic depth." Therefore, it is a matter of conjecture how far Islamabad would go to finish the tribal menace once and for all.


True, the Pakistan forces have driven the Taliban from Swat in the North Western Province and vanquished them in southern Wazirastan. Swat is part of Pakistan and the refugees who have gone back there are Pakistanis. Their loyalty cannot be questioned.


But the victory in Wazirastan may be difficult to sustain until local people rally behind Pakistan as the liberator. Probably the doubt on this point has made Islamabad realise that negotiations with the Taliban are a far better bet in dealing with them than the use of sheer force.


Also, the destructive manner in which the Taliban are blasting even the safest localities – Lahore is again the target – suggests that they have more collaborators all over than Islamabad or the West. It cannot be ruled out that some insiders are involved because of the ease with which they blast the most defended places.


And when President Obama says in the same breath that the forces inducted have a deadline of 18 months to quit – although in driblets – he is telling Pakistan to put its act together within that time-fame. That means building up Pakistan's capability to defend the area in the absence of American troops.


The Taliban have only to find ways to lie low till the deadline. That may be the reason why the American offensive is not finding any meaningful resistance. Pakistan or, for that matter, America knows that the tribal people who have defied authority for hundreds of years cannot be defeated within 18 months. This is particularly so when the war against the Taliban is not a popular war in Pakistan.


A survey conducted recently in Pakistan shows that democracy and the Shariat way of governance have an equal number of supporters – 30 per cent each. The public is not so much against fundamentalists as against America and the NATO powers.


This may not be to the liking of the US and Europe but this is becoming clearer as the days go by. People in Pakistan have a stake in economic development, not in hostilities, because they have found that their condition has not changed for years. In fact, they find more solace in pursuing the religion vigorously than in wasting money in what they consider the Western games.


That the sum of $750 billion in the next five years has counted with Islamabad while making its policy against the Taliban is clear. But what is not clear is the reason for accepting humiliating terms in getting the money. If this amount is to line the pockets of some high-ups, as has happened in the past, or to strengthen the arsenal and the armed forces, what stake the public has in what the rulers are doing?


It is difficult to imagine that the rulers of whatever party will give way to some type of welfare state in the next five years. To begin with, feudalism has to go. There is no sign that even the first step has been taken in that direction.


Still terrorism has to be eliminated because it has made people in the region, including India, insecure. They do not know how to live when they know that they can be a prey to terrorism anywhere at any time.


The approach should have been regional. All the three countries, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan should have agreed upon a common strategy and forced a joint front to combat terrorism.


It is unfortunate that India and Pakistan are not on talking terms. Islamabad may find New Delhi intransigent. But when the latter has a feeling that the Pakistan rulers use terrorism to further the state policy, they have to do more than issuing statements to convince New Delhi.


Therefore, there is a vacuum which the America is filling. Both New Delhi and Islamabad are allowing Washington to do so because their mistrust in each other has been deepening since Independence. Mistrust is the core of the problem, not Kashmir. Unless that mistrust goes, there would be yet another Kashmir to keep them distant even if they are able to solve the current Kashmir problem.









Every delegate to the Copenhagen summit is being greeted by the sight of a vast fake planet dominating the city's central square. This swirling globe is covered with corporate logos – the Coke brand is stamped over Africa, while Carlsberg appears to own Asia, and McDonald's announces "I'm loving it!" in great red letters above. "Welcome to Hopenhagen!" it cries. It is kept in the sky by endless blasts of hot air.


Yet the first week of this summit is being dominated by the representatives of the rich countries trying to lace the deal with Enron-style accounting tricks that will give the impression of cuts, without the reality. It's essential to understand these shenanigans this week, so we can understand the reality of the deal that will be announced with great razzmatazz next week.


Most of the tricks centre around a quirk in the system: a rich country can "cut" its emissions without actually releasing fewer greenhouse gases. How? It can simply pay a poor country to emit less than it otherwise would have. In theory it sounds okay: we all have the same atmosphere, so who cares where the cuts come from?


A study by the University of Stanford found that most of the projects that are being funded as "cuts" either don't exist, don't work, or would have happened anyway. Yet this isn't a small side-dish to the deal: it's the main course. For example, under proposals from the US, the country with by far the highest per capita emissions in the world wouldn't need to cut its own gas by a single exhaust pipe until 2026, insisting it'll simply pay for these shadow-projects instead.


It gets worse still. A highly complex system operating in the dark is a gift to corporate lobbyists, who can pressure or bribe governments into rigging the system in their favour, rather than the atmosphere's. It's worth going through some of the scams that are bleeding the system of any meaning. They may sound dull or technical, but they are life or death to countries like Leah's.


Trick one: hot air. The nations of the world were allocated permits to release greenhouse gases back in 1990, when the Soviet Union was still a vast industrial power – so it was given a huge allocation. But the following year, it collapsed, and its industrial base went into freefall – along with its carbon emissions. It was never going to release those gases after all. But Russia and the eastern European countries have held on to them in all negotiations as "theirs". Now, they are selling them to rich countries who want to purchase "cuts". Under the current system, the US can buy them from Romania and say they have cut emissions – even though they are nothing but a legal fiction.


We aren't talking about climatic small change. This hot air represents 10 gigatonnes of CO2. By comparison, if the entire developed world cuts its emissions by 40 per cent by 2020, that will only take six gigatonnes out of the atmosphere.


Trick two: double-counting. This is best understood through an example. If Britain pays China to abandon a coal power station and construct a hydro-electric dam instead, Britain pockets the reduction in carbon emissions as part of our overall national cuts. In return, we are allowed to keep a coal power station open at home. But at the same time, China also counts this change as part of its overall cuts. So one tonne of carbon cuts is counted twice. This means the whole system is riddled with exaggeration – and the figure for overall global cuts is a con.


Trick three: the fake forests – or what the process opaquely dubs "LULUCF". Forests soak up warming gases and store them away from the atmosphere – so, perfectly sensibly, countries get credit under the new system for preserving them. It is an essential measure to stop global warming.


But the Canadian, Swedish and Finnish logging companies have successfully pressured their governments into inserting an absurd clause into the rules. The new rules say you can, in the name of "sustainable forest management", cut down almost all the trees – without losing credits. It's Kafkaesque: a felled forest doesn't increase your official emissions... even though it increases your actual emissions.


There are dozens more examples like this, but you and I would lapse into a coma if I listed them. This is deliberate.


And the rich countries are flatly refusing to make even these enfeebled, leaky cuts legally binding. You can toss them in the bin the moment you leave the conference centre, and nobody will have any comeback. On the most important issue in the world – the stability of our biosphere – we are being scammed.


Our leaders are aren't giving us Hopenhagen – they're giving us Cokenhagen, a sugary feelgood hit filled with sickly additives and no nutrition. Their behaviour here – where the bare minimum described as safe by scientists isn't even being considered – indicates they are more scared of the corporate lobbyists that fund their campaigns, or the denialist streak in their own country, than of rising seas and falling civilisations.n


— By arrangement with The Independent









The southern part of Pakistan's Punjab is on the way to becoming another South Waziristan. This fear is now being openly expressed through newspaper columns. Some of the religious seminaries or madarsahs are believed to be providing raw material to make human bombs, which are being used to cause havoc in different parts of Pakistan almost daily. These Punjabi suicide bombers are more effective than those belonging to the tribal areas. As a result, most Pakistanis feel terrorised beyond belief.


According to Daily Times, "For a long time now the authorities have not been very forthright about the seminaries in south Punjab. There is a strong presence of jihadi outfits in south Punjab, and if we do not take steps to deal with them immediately, it would be too late and there might be another South Waziristan on our hands very soon. It seems as if the nexus between other jihadi organisations and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is getting stronger."


An editorial in Business Recorder has it "…the Punjabi Taliban, as these holy warriors are known, share a kind of camaraderie with the Taliban based in the tribal areas, straddling the Pak-Afghan border, but they are quintessentially remnants of a proxy war fought in Pakistan by the principal exponents of Wahabism and Shiaism….


Crippling price rise


The prices of essential commodities in Pakistan have been going sky high for some time. The depreciating rupee and the rising prices of essential commodities as also of power, gas and petrol are adding to the discontent among the people. But, unfortunately, with the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan quietly engaged in a war of supremacy, and the Establishment busy with fighting the war against the Taliban in the tribal areas, those who matter in the government have no time to concentrate on the price front.


 "In a country already marked by huge socio-economic disparities… the backlash of the rising popular discontent and frustration has, meanwhile, fast eroded the ratings of President Asif Zardari….", according to Business Recorder. "The present economic scenario, marked by galloping inflation, does not bode well either for the stability of the government or for the fixed income groups", the economic daily adds.


If no immediate efforts are made to arrest the rupee depreciation this will not only make it difficult for Pakistan to honour its loan repayment commitments but also further slow down the economy owing to a rise in the imported raw materials and machinery needed by industry.


The rejected Balochistan package


Almost all political parties in Balochistan have rejected Islamabad's 39-point package – Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan – presented on November 24 for removing the grievances of Pakistan's largest province. The remedy is not acceptable to the Baloch because it has been prepared without their involvement. As Daily Times says, "Baloch leaders eye the package with suspicion and have criticised it for disregarding certain aspects considered critical by the people of Balochistan."


In an analysis in The News (Dec 9), Tayyab Siddiqui, a former ambassador, expresses the view that "The package is an honest effort, but lack of trust in Islamabad has made Baloch leaders wary of the Establishment and the federal government, and hence more imaginative and realistic options need to be explored to meet the Baloch aspirations."


The Baloch have been fighting for the right of ownership of the province's natural resources and financial autonomy even since Pakistan was created. Nothing less than this is acceptable to them. The history of relations between Quetta (Balochistan's capital) and Islamabad has been marked by bitterness.








The acceptance speech of Barack Obama during the conferment ceremony of the Nobel Peace Prize was yet another reminder that today we have an American President who has his feet firmly planted on the ground. Earlier, when the Nobel Committee had announced that he was the recipient of the 2009 Peace Prize, there had been quite a controversy as to whether he deserved it. His candid acknowledgement in his acceptance speech about "the considerable controversy" the Committee's decision had generated "because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labours on the world stage" was reassuring testimony that here is a man who listens and reacts to public opinion and is in touch with the public pulse. Too often has the planet been saddled with American Presidents who, ensconced within the insulated environs of the White House with advisers, had completely lost touch with the public. With the globe catching a cold whenever the US sneezes, an American President who listens to a coterie of close confidantes rather than the people themselves imperils global peace and stability, the peccadilloes of Richard Nixon or adventurism of George W. Bush being stark examples of this. That, rather than skip over the main burden of attack launched by his baiters Obama chose to meet it headlong, also shows that the US President is a man who does not hesitate to call a spade a spade.

In what obviously was in reference to the criticism that he was awarded the Peace prize even as he was escalating the war in Afghanistan, Obama spelt out the circumstances when war was justified. "To say that force is sometimes necessary... is recognition of history," was his basic postulate, with reference to entities such as the al Quaida. Though he recognised the power of non-violence as embodied by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King and considered that he owed his Presidency to this concept, he was realistic enough to realise that non-violence would have been impotent against Hitler's army. While recognising that "the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace", he also emphasised the importance of diplomatic efforts in dealing with nations such as Iran and North Korea. His reiteration of positions on issues like poverty, nuclear disarmament and environment might have been dismissed as Award acceptance rhetoric had it not been the American President who had been the orator, and the Nobel award in question. All in all, Nobel Obama came across as an individual committed to "reach for the world as is ought to be" even as he strives to guide the richest nation in the globe from an isolationist and unilateral path. To a world perpetually reeling from the aftershocks of American intervention, this should be cause enough for optimism.






The Assembly witnessed uproar on Wednesday over the reported large-scale corruption in the implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), with the Opposition demanding an inquiry into the anomalies. Rather than denying the charges, the State Government would do well to institute a probe as there have been authentic media coverage on the irregularities vis-à-vis implementation of the job guarantee scheme under the NREGA. The corruption-riddled execution exposes how a well-meant welfare project funded by pubic money is being misused to suit the personnel interest of a few responsible for implementing the project. The NREGA had widely been hailed as having the potential to effect positive changes in the lives of millions of underprivileged but its tardy implementation has grossly undermined its efficacy. The charges levelled are many, and the most serious relates to showing of exaggerated figures for drawing more funds from the Centre that are never utilized.

While tardy implementation of the NREGA is a major concern in several States, the fact stands that it has been successfully implemented in many others, especially in South India. It can be an effective tool to address rural poverty provided the Government, administrations and voluntary organizations join their hands to ensure its foolproof execution. The urgent task before the Government is to eliminate the scope for corruption in implementation of the NREGA. The elected legislators can also play a crucial role in this because of their status as the heads of block-level vigilance and monitoring committees. The loopholes that lead to anomalies should be plugged and a mechanism put in place to ensure transparency and accountability. Since the entire project is funded by the Centre, it too has an obligation in ensuring proper monitoring. Voluntary organizations and the media can play a key role in checking corruption by exposing anomalies in its implementation. With the required sincerity and commitment, the success of South Indian States can be replicated in Assam and other parts of the North-East. The North-East has a high incidence of rural unemployment, and if properly implemented, the NREGA can go a long way in addressing rural poverty and empowering communities. The region has suffered a lot due to decades of neglect and even though some liberal Central assistance is coming now, the impact has not been visible at the ground level. Rampant corruption is largely responsible for this and unless we have a system that can ensure transparency and accountability in the execution of government schemes, the situation is unlikely to change for the better.







There is a frailty in human nature. We as human beings are more conscious and sensitive -- nay -- oversensitive to our immediate problems and issues which afflict or plague us from a very close quarter. These may vary from natural calamities like flood , cyclone and earthquake to such calamities like a train disaster or an air crash or nightmares and mayhems like terrorist attack in Mumbai or bomb blasts in our own State. There is however no absurdity in it. Rather it would be abnormal if we do not react to such events.

But without affecting us from close quarter something is happening remotely which may spell doom for the whole earth from which no man or animal or even the flora and fauna of the world will be able to escape. To be precise it may lead to extinction of us all – man, animal, plantation, vegetation, flaura and fauna. This in effect is more serious.

This new problem is no other than danger to the environment caused by reckless outrage perpetrated upon Nature by human beings through lavish and uncontrolled emission of Green House Gases (GHGs) consequent upon our running of factories, industries, automobiles, aero planes , engines, ships and many more such things which had been essential only to ensure our material and physical comfort and luxury. In the true sense, our outrage upon our mother Nature may be said to have started from the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain in the early nineteenth century and since then it has been going on endlessly with enhanced intensity every passing day.

Every day our demand for material luxury and comfort has been increasing. And more such demand increase there has been a corresponding increase in intensity of our outrage perpetrated upon our surrounding environment. This continuous and endlesss ravage upon nature and our environment has been creating a serious aberration in the balance of our nature which has been responsible for some serious vagaries of nature which is poised to spell doom for the whole planet of ours. The cumulative effect of these vagaries of nature has manifested in the form of Global Warming which however is one of the symptoms of the serious catastrophic problem we are heading toward. Although the common people may not be aware of this unseen catastrophic phenomenon but the scientists, environmentalists and statesmen and politicians world over had been seized with this problem and efforts are going on to find out ways and means to tackle this problem and this has been the silver lining to the otherwise gathering dark cloud hovering overhead. But to find out ways and means for an effective remedy of this imminent disaster of indescribable intensity and magnitude affecting the entire planet, a dispassionate and equitable approach of the world leaders and statesmen ungoverned by status and position of the countries represented by the leaders and politicians of these countries is required. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that without a consensus approach of the leaders and nations of the world this serious problem with its inherent prospect of extinction of the world will never be nearer solution.

What are the major aberrations that have come to the knowledge of the scientists and other nature scanners in recent time? These are, besides thinning down of the ozone layer which filters ultra violet rays before sunshine falling upon the earth, the apperance of a several kilometer thick cloud of acid revealed by a recent scientific study, rising sea and ocean level, melting down of the arctic and Himalayan ice sheets, severe drought in some regions and heavy and devastating rainfall in some other regions besides newly heard Tsunami and Aila etc. The cumulative effect of all these are too devastating to need any specific elaboration. There is hardly any benefit to think over the magnitude and intensity of this imminent catastrophe but these should prompt mankind to find out ways and device to mitigate the intensity of such a catastrophe without losing much time in settling down the differences that may crop up before settling difficult issues. Sooner a consensus is arrived at among the world leaders, statesmen and politicians on this problem the better it is for all.

Now the next question is how the leaders, politicians, scientists, environmentalists, social scientists, academicians are thinking to tackle this serious problem and how serious they have been in working out a consensus approach to tackle this problem? But here the key to finding out a consensus approach rests primarily upon the politicians, statesman and more precisely the heads of the governments of the nations of the world as the role of the scientists, environmentalists, social scientists, academicians and technologists, as usually is, will be only of advisory nature with no binding influence.

The emission of GHGs has been the main factor responsible for the present crisis known in general parlance as Climate Change or Global Warming. From this it is natural that share of responsibility of the different nations in this respect is not the same or equal as advanced industrialised countries have greater share in emission of GHGs thereby contributing more for creation of this global crisis. Hence in diminishing this crisis the advanced and industrialised countries must take a greater responsibility. And here in this area differences have cropped up between the developed and developing countries. The developing countries are not prepared to share equal burden of fund with the developed countries. Secondly, in cutting or reducing the emission of GHGs the share of cut or reduction of the developed countries should be greater as they had already enjoyed the greater benefit of industrialization than the developing and underdeveloped countries in many of which the process of industrialization is still at a nascent stage. There is a rationale behind this point raised by the developing underdeveloped countries. But the greatest snag lying in the way of finding out a viable consensus approach to tackle this global crisis is the stance of the US which is a most highly developed country in the world and which must share a greater burden of fund and also a greater share of cut or reduction in emission of GHGs.

The US administration had been totally callous to this global crisis as it did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 held under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Kyoto Protocol of 1997 and the subsequent Bali Action Plan (BAP) of 2005 under the UNFCCC accepted and incorporated the rationale of differentiation between the developed countries on the one hand and the developing and underdeveloped countries on the other.

Even the present Obama regime of US is showing the same lackadaisical approach. According to available indications Obama regime is averse to the concept of 'common but differentiated responsibilities' among the nations and it is in favour of total dismantling of Kyoto protocol and this stance of the USA by all standards is inequitable, unjust and untenable. The developed countries on the one hand have been categorised as northern countries and the developing and the underdeveloped countries on the other have been categorised as southern countries. The US has been totally opposed to the Kyoto protocol on climate change which is a binding international aggrement on climate change and also to any differentiated approach on 'developed' or 'developing and underdeveloped' parameter.

In this gloomy background the attention of the world is focused on the Meet of the Heads of the World Government (MOHOWG) being held at Copenhegen. It is expected that CHOGM at Copenheagen will spell out a consensus formula with equal priority on mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology. Much depends on how a consensus approach can be worked out at MOHOWG. No less a person than United Nation Secretary General Ban Ki Moon expects that success will not elude the MOHOWG conclave at Copenhagen.









A Guinness World Record was broken recently when 173 million citizens gathered at over 3,000 events in more than 120 countries, demanding that their governments eradicate extreme poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). "Stand Up, Take Action, End Poverty Now!" in its fourth year, has been certified by Guinness World Records as the largest mobilisation of human beings in recorded history. In India 23 million people showed solidarity and participated in the campaign; this is up by 14 million of last year.

Poverty is much more complex than simply income deprivation. Poverty entails lack of empowerment, lack of knowledge and lack of opportunity as well as lack of income and capital. Despite increased access to education, the poor, women, socially disadvantageous groups, the physically disabled, persons in remote regions – are often deprived of basic education. And when basic education is available, the poorest are unable to avail of it because the opportunity costs attached to it are quite high for them.

Poverty is thus both a cause and an effect of insufficient access to or completion of quality education. Children of poor families are less likely to enrol in and complete schooling because of the associated costs of attending school even when it is provided "free". The cost of uniforms, supplies and transportation may well be beyond the means of a poor family, especially when the family has several children of school age. This means that choices have to be made and the choice is often to drop out of school or, worse yet, to deny, schooling to girls while enrolling the boys thereby contributing directly to maintaining the inferior status of women. And as poor children who are enrolled grow older, the opportunity cost (their lost labour and the forgone income it may entail) becomes greater, thus increasing the likelihood of abandoning school. Furthermore, dropping out of school because of poverty virtually guarantees perpetuation of the poverty cycle since the income-earning potential of the child is reduced, not to mention overall productivity, receptivity to change and capacity to improve quality of life. Lack of education perpetuates poverty and poverty constrains access to schooling. Eliminating poverty requires providing access to quality education.

The relationship between education and poverty reduction is thus quite straight and linear as education is empowering, it enables the person to participate in the development process; it inculcates the knowledge and skills needed to improve the income earning potential and in turn the quality of life. Moreover, education of girls and women helps in improving the number of other indicators of human development.

Basic education empowers individuals. It opens up avenues of communication that would otherwise be closed, expands personal choice and control over one's environment and is necessary for the acquisition of many other skills. It gives people access to information through both print and electronic media, equips them to cope better with work and family responsibilities and changes the image they have of themselves. It strengthens their self-confidence to participate in community affairs and influence political issues. It gives disadvantaged people the tools they need to move from exclusion to full participation in their society. It empowers entire nation because educated citizens and workers have the skills to make democratic institutions function effectively, to meet the demands for a more sophisticated workforce, to work for a cleaner environment, and to meet their obligations as parents and citizens.

Education is a powerful tool for introducing members of a society to the system of government and the concept of governance. The school curriculum always includes considerable attending to the essential ideas of nationhood and government and to the operation and structure of government. Participation by children in classroom committees and school government lays the foundation for participation as adults in local government. Educated persons are more likely to vote and participate in local and national government. They are more likely to demand better and more accountable government, thus creating demand for improved governance. Education is linked to empowerment and a major manifestation of empowerment is the demand for better governance.

The continuing challenge for education is to ensure that all people have the knowledge and skills necessary for continuing human and economic development and for breaking the poverty cycle. The linear relationship between education, poverty and empowerment is, however, governed by the circumstances of a country and within a country in a particular region. Education, thus, influences and is influenced by the context in which it is developed. This synergistic relationship implies that education must be in a constant state of change as it responds to changing social and economic needs.

It is estimated that 1.3 billion people live on less than US$ 1 per day. This number is growing steadily as civil wars, loss of employment and restructuring of societies are creating newly poor groups. Respect for human rights, meeting basic human needs and more equitable distribution of wealth, are clear priorities for the eradication of poverty. Ultimate success, however, will be ensured when there is a willingness and commitment on the part of the non-poor to assist in the elimination of the human degradation which poverty creates. The United Nations Decade for Poverty Eradication (1997-2006) is a worldwide endeavour to confront the problem of human degradation caused by abject poverty. In this context, education plays an important role, however the question arises: "What can education do?" In response, UNESCO has initiated a programme on education that will contribute towards poverty eradication.

The role of education in poverty eradication, in close cooperation with other social sectors, is crucial. No country has succeeded if it has not educated its people. Not only is education important in reducing poverty it is also a key to wealth creation. Within this context, one of the pledges of the Dakar Framework for Action – Education for All: Meeting our Collective Commitments –was "to promote EFA policies within a sustainable and well-integrated sector framework clearly linked to poverty elimination and development strategies".

The role of education in this process is particularly one of achieving universal primary education and adult literacy. The report made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations within the context of the Decade for the Eradication of Poverty confirms that universal primary education is central to the fight against poverty.







Even while TV screens showed US President Barack Obama justifying war while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Indian news channels were showing Andhra Pradesh CM K Rosaiah appealing for peace with folded hands and pleading with protesters not to indulge in violence. Rosaiah may be 28 years older than Obama, but his heart is obviously in the right peaceful place at a time when mass protests for a separate state of Telangana are being followed by mass protests for an undivided AP. The Norwegian panel that selected Obama for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize should take note of all this and give Rosaiah the recognition he richly deserves! If Obama cannot be persuaded to return the Nobel Prize medal and money, the panel could even award a freshly-minted medal and an equivalent cheque to Rosaiah. The money (10 million Swedish kronor equals $1.41 million) could come in handy as seed capital to set up the required infrastructure for the capital city of what is left of AP if Hyderabad goes the Telangana way!

Obama impolitely turned down the King of Norway's luncheon-invite for the Nobel Peace Prize winner. Rosaiah knows how to respond to royal invitations since he has spent a lifetime reacting to the Congress high command. The only constraint could be if Rosaiah considers it lese-majeste for him to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize ahead of the Congress high command. However, Rosaiah can be counted on to make amends for this by stating in his acceptance speech that it is the Congress high command that has inspired him to plead for peace with folded hands even while protesters are paralysing normal life in Andhra Pradesh by stoning buses and storming banks! China's Chairman Mao may have once stated that "Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed", but Rosaiah will strike a positive note while accepting the Nobel by quoting peaceful sentiments uttered by the indigenous Congress high command!







The 10.3% rise in the index of industrial production (IIP) in October, year-on-year, would suggest, at first glance, strong recovery. But two qualifications take away some of the sheen of this double-digit growth. One, this growth was recorded on a low base — the index rose an average 0.6% a month in the second half of the last fiscal year. And two, the sequential growth from September's level is negative — the IIP was down 4.2% from a month ago (and down 1%, seasonally adjusted). In part, this drop can be attributed to the inventory build up in September — a normal practice ahead of the festival/marriage season — as well as holidays, followed by slack production in October, a yearly ritual. What is positive is the performance of the capital goods sector on a year-on-year basis, with the index rising 12.2% in October after climbing 13.3% in September. But here too, the sequential numbers disappointed: after a 31.8% rise in September, led mostly by machinery manufacturers who expected fresh investments in capacity, the index slipped 23% in October. Seasonally adjusted, the sequential change was less dramatic: 11% and –6.2% in September and October, respectively. Demand for consumer durables looks very encouraging compared to last year, with the index rising 21% in October and by 22% in each of the preceding three months. But there too, it is now evident, manufacturers were building inventory ahead of the festival season, as sequential growth was down 5.7% after rising 12.9% in September.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has a tough choice before it, confronted as it is with rising food prices and still shaky growth. While supply-side measures are primary when it comes to food price inflation, a signal that lax monetary policy will not allow wage-good inflation to feed into a generalised price rise is appropriate. At the same time, the RBI could use the huge slack between loanable resources with the banks and credit offtake to make sure that finance will not constrain growth.






Economist Suresh Tendulkar has estimated that 37% of Indians are poor, not 27% as we'd been led to believe by the Planning Commission, say reports. Apart from warming the cockles of leftist hearts, which have been skipping quite a few beats at the steady decline in the official poverty count over the past decade and a half of 'neo-liberal, anti-people' growth, this revelation means little. While we don't know the details, Prof Tendulkar's revised figures base themselves on a larger basket of consumption than the one used by the earlier, calorie-centric method. But dissimilarity of the consumption basket is not the only reason not to wax anxious over the higher poverty estimate. Economists have been measuring poverty for a long time. The point, however, is to remove it. And that is a task for politicians, not economists.

Whether poverty is 27% or 37%, the strategy to remove it is the same. The poor must be equipped with the minimal degree of political agency without which they are unable to prevent liberal central funds for high-minded poverty alleviation programmes from leaking away to sundry politicians, bureaucrats and contractors. They must have the minimal degree of political agency that will allow them to hold primary school teachers and primary health centre staff accountable, and prevent the local administration from acting in cahoots with powerful land-grabbers. They must have political agency to transform their elected representatives from rent-seeking power brokers into vocal champions of their cause. It is precisely this needed political agency that is missing in the country's poverty landscape. And it cannot be brought in by any department of the government or NGO. Political mobilisation of the poor is the job of political parties. Tragically enough, the only political party to mobilise the poor is the Maoists, who seek to overthrow the system, not make it work.

Investment in agriculture, rural roads, power, telecom, markets, schools and hospitals will raise both economic opportunity and the capacity to take advantage of them. The government has, indeed, been stepping up investment in these vital areas, pursuing its goal of inclusive growth. However, between the government's investment outlays and their desired outcome, there is a huge gap. And that gap is yet to be filled by our political parties.







The 20th annual World Diabetes Congress has determined that India is facing a diabetes explosion. The country has the largest number of diabetics, 50.8 million, and by 2010, this number is likely to reach 58.7 million. The economic burden is large: $ 2.8 billion annually, apart from lost productivity. Sedentary jobs (e.g. software professionals), spread of electronic entertainment, changing diet patterns and increasing dependence on automobiles have, to adapt an American phrase, "engineered activity out of Indians' lives".

The challenge is, therefore, to make a large number of people physically active, requiring intervention that impact the lives of a large population. Research indicates that moderate levels of physical activity gives life-long health benefits and that introducing five days of moderate levels of physical activity in the daily lives of adult people may be easier than, say, three days of vigorous physical activity. Second, evidence from the success of tobacco control has shown that behaviour modification of a large population through appropriate policies and environment changes is more effective compared to efforts to influence individual decisions. Accordingly, policymaking has shifted to induce moderate levels of physical activity in the daily lives of people through changes in the urban-built environment, and the ecological model is attracting increasing interest.

Generally, the health belief model, the theory of planned behaviour, the trans-theoretical model, the social cognitive theory and the ecological model are used to explain leisure activity. The health belief model, the theory of planned behaviour and the trans-theoretical model hold that physical activity occurs due to intra-personal factors; in contrast, inter-personal factors are the dominant determinants of physical activity, according to the social cognitive theory. The ecological model, on the other hand, holds that the physical environment and policies directly effect physical activity and that different types of physical activity is performed in specific behaviour settings (e.g. parks and bike trails). Some policies and practices to make people active during their day-to-life, based on the findings from trans-disciplinary research done by James Sallis and others, are given below.

Recreational resources such as walking and biking trails, parks and open spaces: In India, parks and open spaces have the greatest potential to make large groups of people reach the recommended 30 minutes each day of moderately-intense physical activity (60 minutes for youth). Some aspects that promote park usage are availability, accessibility (within walking distance = 1/3 mile distance), safety, attractive aesthetics, presence of water bodies, and availability of play equipment for children. On the other hand, visitors are more likely to engage in vigorous physical activity when using courts, paths and playgrounds in parks. Moreover, children are expected to be more active in parks with installed play structures than those in an open field.

Land use characteristics such as residential and employment density, land use mix, street connectivity and proximity of destinations: There is increasing evidence to support that physical activity levels can be increased through urban planning, of which zoning is one tool that regulates property use (land use) and design (urban form). Land use and urban form influence both physical activity and healthy eating. However, Master Plans, with their focus on physical planning, place a disproportionate emphasis on land use, ignoring the health challenges. Undertaking health impact assessment of proposed zoning changes is one way to address health challenges.

Neighbourhood form characteristics such as sidewalks and streetlights: Activity-friendly neighbourhoods are characterised by high residential density, mixed land use and short walking distances to destinations. Specifically, comprehensive planning, regulation and funding can accomplish a well-connected network of low-traffic neighbourhood streets, bike lanes networked with paths and bike boulevards, and local zoning regulations to promote mixed land uses. Moreover, people living in walkable neighbourhoods having safe, well-maintained sidewalks with streetlights are more likely to walk to shops or public transport destinations and meet recommended levels of physical activity.

Community environment characteristics such as aesthetics, cleanliness, traffic, safety and community support or cohesion: The community environment is especially important to encourage physical activity in the elderly, children and women. Senior citizens are more likely to be physically active and engage in community-based activity in neighbourhoods perceived to be safe and having greater social cohesion. Doing physical activity with a partner, seeing other people exercise and having less social strain are associated with higher levels of physical activity among women. Children and adolescents were more likely to walk for transportation if they lived in mixed-use neighbourhoods with parks, schools and shops nearby. Moreover, the number of children who walk to school increases with improvements to sidewalks and street crossings and traffic calming. Finally, parents visiting parks with children consider safety, availability of toilets, drinking water, lighting and shade to be most important.

Admittedly, physical activity is a matter of choice and is strongly driven by personal preferences. Therefore, efforts to increase activity have traditionally focused on individual-level interventions. However, the challenge is to make a large number of people physically active and create an activity-friendly environment that makes it easy to make the choice to be physically active, through planned activity or routine daily activity, holds much promise. One cost-effective way is to retrofit existing neighbourhoods to create walkable communities that give residents a variety of destinations within walking distance of home, and safe and connected pathways to get there.

(Author is an IAS officer. Views are personal)








The global economic meltdown has taught people and companies some hard lessons, the most important of which is: life will not be same as it was before the meltdown even with full economic recovery. For mid-size Indian software services companies in outsourced services, the implications can be grave. So, the market is moving towards niche offerings that are best offered by smaller and more agile companies with domain expertise, observes Shashank Samant, president of GlobalLogic, a $100-million outsourced product development company.

He should know, having restructured the company over the past 18 months and expanded its geographic reach. What has this restructuring meant? "We are now focused on just two business units, against eight we had. These are telecom, mobile and embedded, while the other is on the consumer side, what we call the front end, consumer enterprise side. Now, we either have domain knowledge or we build laboratories or manage captives that may have been set up that the client cannot manage."

The aim was to move away from the cost-based model and to an outcome-based model. The restructuring resulted in a loss of some customers. The economic downturn too ensured that customers walked away, leaving GlobalLogic to focus on its larger clients. But what about employees: did you let go? No, there were no layoffs. Instead, people were moved around into sub-verticals that the company was focusing on.

What about the trends that are emerging — not just due to the slowdown but also with new markets opening up? Mr Samant noted that there is a shift in markets, from the west to the east, but this shift pre-dates the slowdown. Consequently, companies are now developing products for each country and market for companies as diverse as Cisco, Avon and Nokia.

Now, the opening of new markets, each requiring specific products, necessitates companies such as GlobalLogic open more centres. Thus, after setting up an office in Argentina earlier this year, the company is looking at opening more in Chile and other South American countries. It has four centres in India — in Noida, Nagpur, Pune and Bangalore — where 45% of its staff is located. The Ukraine, where it has four centres, accounts for another 40% of its workforce.

"Our east European strategy means that we need to be present in more countries," says Mr Samant, adding that development of products with local needs requires local players. So, that defines the companies acquisition strategy: get into the local market.

There appears to be a view that everything is getting commoditised. Is there a danger of this happening to the research and development too? After all, it is becoming a service offering.

Mr Samant explains that for GlobalLogic too, research is now a service. The software company is looking to increase its presence in the R&D services segment three-fold. Product companies will create the need while other companies will build applications. Market saturation, in the form of multiple geographies and verticals, will require an engineering factory to develop tools for technology to maintain and manage the product for customer satisfaction. "We are targeting the lifecycle of the product as part of our R&D services."

Other trends indicate that traditional product companies are becoming platform companies, away from being software product companies. For GlobalLogic, this has meant the creation of the collaboratory model. How does this model work and what does it do?

"It allows us to have the culture of a small company that is innovative. We do not expect the customer, who is a product company, to invest in this, we do the skunk work as a small innovation-focused company. It is a business which is picking up." Although it is still early days for the collaboratory, GlobalLogic has customers and its investments are more in people: 10-15 senior people, initially.


This is leading to a trend of setting up development hubs as part of an R&D centre, with emphasis more on development and less on research. This will not require scale but an understanding of the domain, signifying a change for India, so far a large producer and exporter of raw talent. Once the country becomes a market, this will change, says Mr Samant confidently.








A herd of cows is shown gathering outside Nanda's palace in the Kangra miniature painting. The dark-blue Godchild, held up in his foster parents' arms, dominates the frame. "Look at the subtle shades and distinctive contours used to depict every individual cow," says noted art historian B N Goswamy. He's delivering a lively discourse on the presence of the Divine Cowherd in pichawais and miniature paintings in Mumbai: "As it gazes meltingly at the Lord, each animal seems to pulsate with a magnetic personality of its own."

The artist from the hills has, thus, caught an aspect of bhakti that seems to leap across all of creation. This has been often been lovingly described in our sacred texts.

According to the Shrimad Bhagvatam, for example, Krishna's foster father, Nanda Maharaj, had no less than nine lakh cows and the Godchild would herd all of them and play with his friends in the pasture grounds throughout the day. Just before sunset, he would come to the spreading tree known as Ter Kadamba and, from its top, call each and every cow by playing upon his divine flute.

That's when a miracle of enumeration occurs; what the distinguished art expert Umberto Eco calls 'ecstasies of the infinite' in a recent exposition on lists and their endless charms: as the Lord manifests his all-intoxicating ambrosial love through sound, each particular cow seems to hear Krishna personally and intimately calling her back to Him.

Every individual wavelet from the formless sound (anahata) of the Lord's flute seems to have been custom-made for each animal that comes running from the pasture grounds of Braj to meet its Master. Each animal perceives Krishna lovingly gazing only at itself. Imagine there were nine hundred thousand of them and they were divided into 108 different groups according to colour and attributes! Krishna also had a string of bejewelled cowherd beads on which he would count each of the 108 herds as they would appear.

Now, should any animal fail to appear, the Lord would personally go down from the tree to bring her back from the pastures, to join up with the totality of the rest of the herd. The entire odyssey has been compared by some commentators to the journey of the soul — from its emergence from the formless: from individual awakening to its return into the infinite.

All this is in response to the call of the Supreme. This reverberates in each ear by its own sacred name.








India is on a V-shaped track to recovery, but efforts should be made to ensure the growth is inclusive, says Asian Development Bank managing director general Rajat M Nag. The bank expects India to be an affluent country in 30 years, but it may have to play a proactive role in the region, he tells ET Bureau. Excerpts:

How do you see the economic recovery in India?

Clearly, the recovery is V-shaped, although there are two immediate concerns. There is the huge fiscal deficit, and then you need to start thinking about how soon to withdraw the fiscal stimulus without choking growth. But our view is that it is premature to withdraw the stimulus. The PM has talked about sometime next year, that may be appropriate. Inflation is the other important issue.

Overall, India has made some substantial and sustained recovery and needs to now start thinking exit policy on both on the fiscal and the monetary side. And it has to be also co-ordinated with the other countries in the region.

What is your long-term outlook for India?

We are very bullish over a 30-year horizon; we see India becoming an affluent society by then. But there are major challenges and, therefore, nothing is pre-ordained. Governance, infrastructure deficit, and inclusive growth are matters of concern. There is a huge disparity—the gulf between poor and rich, urban and rural. Thus inclusive growth is very critical. Environmental sustainability is another concern.

Our forecast of nine per cent-plus growth for the next 30 years is predicated on environment sustainability. Lastly, India cannot be prosperous if its neighbours are not. India has to play a leading role in the region.

Regional cooperation and integration in South Asia is critical for India's own future. In short, we are bullish on India, but... and these buts are ones we need to focus on because everyone gets carried away by the euphoria.

You said nothing is pre-ordained. What are the risks that may stop India from achieving its potential?

Infrastructure is a challenge and a risk. You have got to bring in much more private money into infrastructure. Private funds are not coming in not because there are not enough rules and regulation. They are not coming in because the rules and regulations are not getting implemented.

Governance is a major issue. When we say governance, we say implementation. Let's get down to grassroots of implementation. We have enough rules and regulations, but poor implementation. Can we hold people accountable? At ADB we have major focus on implementation. We have been holding tripartite review meeting to ensure speedy and proper implementation of projects. We need to get down to grass roots when it comes to project implementation.

What was the bank's total lending to India in the last calendar? Do you see it going up considerably?

Last year, the sovereign guaranteed lending to India stood at $1.8 billion. About $1.1 billion was the non-sovereign part of it, to the private sector, which was the highest in the region. We are looking at power, urban infrastructure and water. About 70 per cent of our public sector lending in India has been towards infrastructure.









For Rensil D'Silva, juggling his responsibilities as executive creative director at Meridian Communications, an Ogilvy & Mather company, and his commitments in the film industry is just a matter of sleeping a little less and working a lot more. No wonder he sleeps for only four hours in an average day. He has co-written several films including Aks, Rang De Basanti and Luck and his directorial debut Kurbaan hit the theatres last month. He tells
ET Bureau why its time for more admen to come to the film industry.


How has your experience in advertising helped in writing and directing feature films?

Firstly, it has helped a lot in the process of ideation. In the ad world ideation is almost an art and you are expected to come up with ideas in a short span of time because it is deadline driven. Secondly, I think admen are well versed with technology. We can apply the same sensibilities to films and craft a better look and ensure great styling. Thirdly, screenplay and script are the most important aspects and the experience of writing for ads helps in films too.

According to you, how different is ad-film making and feature film making?

Well, in both the script is the lord. In ad films you have to work within the budgets allotted by the client. In films too every director has an eye on the producer's budget because if you over-indulge you probably wont be making too many films anyway. In films there is a recovery figure which one has to work around. Advertising teaches you the discipline of working in sync with the cost. The budget must be kept in mind from the writing stage itself and then it has to be adhered to in the direction stage too.


How does the experience in advertising help while choosing the subject of a film? Did it make a difference while picking the subject for Kurbaan?

Most filmmakers today know the pulse of the audience well. But I think admen have an edge because we would know a few trends from the kind of research we are exposed to. Having said that Kurbaan was a film where we kind of bucked the trend because nobody's made such an expensive film on terrorism. Films on terror are usually considered to be multiplex films. A lot of money was spent only on the climax because we used the train stations and Dharma Productions had to reimburse Philadelphia City for the revenue it would lose out from passenger fare. We took a big risk but there was a lot of passion involved.

Do admen approach feature films in a different way? How?

Yes, I think admen see films as a product. So we know our target audience (TG) and we know what appeals to the TG. Also, we treat films just like any other product. Admen bring the innate ability to create as well as market a film. Both are important processes in filmmaking and so I think its time that more people from the ad world enter the film industry.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Food prices have been galloping by the week at their fastest in 11 years,. They have risen to an unprecedented 19 per cent from 17.47 per cent the previous week. The humble potato has shot up the most, by 102 per cent. This speaks volumes of the inefficiency, and callousness, of a country's government in that it cannot even grow enough potatoes so that scarcity of the item does not put it beyond the reach of the vast majority. The price of every commodity, from pulses to fruits and vegetables and wheat and rice, have gone through the roof. The cheapest, poorest quality of wheat available costs Rs 20 per kg, an amount that will last barely five days for a family of four. The government's disregard for the so-called below-the-poverty-line population is evident in the rotten quality of grain they are made to pay for under the public distribution system. The government should have by now tackled the rising food problem on a war footing as it has intensifying for some months. When it became known that the monsoon was erratic and there would be a shortage of food grains, the agriculture minister went out of his way to assure that there was enough stock in government warehouses so there would be no shortage in the market. In fact, Mr Sharad Pawar was pleased that they had a record buffer stock. But what good has it done? The food grain from the buffer stock is supposed to be utilised in times of shortage to calm prices down. Wheat prices have shot up by 30 per cent over the past year. And what did the government do? A Congress functionary from Mumbai wrote to the Prime Minster and the Congress president complaining about the wrong policies of the government on the wheat front, which has only helped unscrupulous traders. In the case of wheat, the staple diet of countless Indians, the government had procured wheat at a minimum support price of Rs 1,000 per quintal, which is why it was able to procure huge quantities of grain. Yet, under its open market sale scheme, it has released wheat at a high price of Rs 1,550 per quintal. The justification for this is questionable. The government spends Rs 40,000 crores on food subsidies. Where is the subsidy utilisation? There are no takers for grain at such high prices. And this is the wholesale price. The government has even allowed the state governments to charge up to Rs 200 per quintal as distribution charge. How does it expect prices to fall in the open market? The government, which is so concerned about GDP growth, probably feels that since agriculture contributes just 17-18 per cent to GDP, it's not worth worrying about. But food has a supply side problem that must be tackled because it concerns the stomachs, health and nutrition of the people. It cannot pass the buck of high prices and inflation on to the Reserve Bank of India. The RBI can take monetary measures to control inflation due to excess liquidity, and has been doing so admirably. But supply side shock cannot be tackled by monetary measures. It needs administrative measures, which only the government can take. It is, therefore, extremely surprising and disturbing that the government is not taking any measures. It almost seems as though electoral politics is involved. Last year, when food prices started to rise on the eve of the elections, the government took various measures, like imports, cutting import duties, curbing exports etc. Now that all major elections are over, it is not in a pro-active mood. This is what is so disturbing.









He: I'm not".


From Simply Naatak by Bachchoo


The confession may come as a surprise to those who know me as an accommodative, broad-minded, inclusive human being, but I was argumentative and stubbornly dogmatic as a child. My mother would often say, "So you think you are right and the whole world is wrong?" My answer would, since the argument was about the existence of God or perhaps whether karela cooked in the Parsi style is really purifying for the blood, would always be, "Er …yes!"


I admit I have mellowed with age and some of the dogmatic certainty has softened into strong scepticism — not, I might add, on the issues of the existence of God, virgin births, heaven, hell, ghosts, books dictated by the Almighty, burning spheres of gas in the cosmos determining human fortunes (I am still certain that I am right about these and very many people in the world are wrong) — but about political movements and the new orthodoxies such as global warming! I call myself a "strong sceptic", though others who express the scepticism I am talking about are often labelled "global- warming deniers".


The word "deniers" comes from or echoes the phrase "holocaust deniers", a justifiably pejorative description of neo-Nazis who maintain that Adolf Hitler and his Reich didn't systematically kill millions of European Jews. I insist I am not a denier, just a questioner who finds it difficult to arrive at the facts.


It is not a singular perplexity, there are others. I recently encountered a young documentary maker and saw his film about the children of Darfur. I have read a hundred news items and articles on the issue. I have "googled" Darfur in an attempt to find out who is doing what to whom and why. The answer comes there is none. The Janjaweed ride camels, dark-skinned villagers flee from their guns. Children die. The United Nations protests — to whom? Is it about oil, uranium, religion, racial feuds? The answer comes there is none. I ask my friends, reporters, television makers who have been to Darfur. To date I know more about why the banks collapsed than I do about Darfur.


And back to global warming: The big scandal in Britain today is the leaked emails from the environmental scientists of the University of East Anglia who are connected to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC.


The emails imply that these scientists, key to the accepted orthodoxy that the earth is getting warmer through the activity of humans burning fossil fuels and that this warming will lead to apocalypse, have fiddled their data, suppressed evidence which contradicts their theory and predictions and are determined to pass off "conclusions", which are far from conclusive, as the indisputable truth. They obviously know that this science and research are in their infancy. These "scientists" on whom the world's politicians, commentators and population rely, know that the data they undoubtedly have demonstrates that the planet has experienced global cooling for the last seven years after a graph of decades of warming. Carbon dioxide emissions have not shown any parallel dip in the graph. Emissions grow, temperature rises and then falls. The "science" is struggling to explain the anomaly and, apart from calling it a temporary blip in the process, has come up with no convincing explanation for it.

I am willing to believe that the planet, the environment and even everything we call civilisation are in danger from certain collective human beliefs and activities. For a few centuries now the collective rational activity we call "science" has been the torch in the tunnel. Man-made global warming, from the evangelical and faulted appeals of Al Gore, to the petty mendacity of the East Anglian scientists, is taking on the attributes of a religion. It sounds like faith, it seeks to generate faith: it describes sin, it creates guilt, it demands penance and sacrifice and it has its own heaven of wind farms and hell of melting ice caps, stranded polar bears, flood, famine and slaughter of the innocent generations to come.


The world has enough religions. The truths about and remedies for global warming should remain in the realm of science and that means dispassionate enquiry and allowing the debate between flat-earth-wallas and dissenters to proceed. Leave aside the inconvenient truth that the globe has been cooling for the last six years, what of the meteorologists who say the temperature of the globe is principally determined by the nuclear activity on the sun and not by greenhouse effects? What of the Americans Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt who observed that after the volcanic explosion of Mt Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, tonnes of sulphur dioxide were shot into the stratosphere and mingled with water vapour to create a sun-shield that caused global cooling for a period? Mr Dubner and Mr Levitt advocate the pumping of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, as the volcano did, and control global temperature by imitating nature at a very low cost. Do they have a place at the debating table? They are not freaks. Mr Levitt is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago where he has worked on the economics of eco-solutions; Mr Dubner is an award-winning journalist. I guess they believe in man-made global warming, only they present an alternative remedy.


There are other arguments, other contentions which the dominant orthodoxy and its followers treat as heresy. What of the fact that animals, including humans, put out hydrogen sulphide at both ends of their alimentary canals and that this is a very potent greenhouse gas?


If the world is warming up because I drive a car and that's going to kill my great-great grandchildren's global generation — or NOT — then it is time we suspended this new religion and returned the debate to the realm of science.


Last word from Prof Richard Lindzen, the world's leading atmospheric physicist and climate scientist in 2007, "Future generations will wonder in bemused amazement that the early 21st century's developed world went into hysterical panic over a globally averaged temperature increase of a few tenths of a degree and, on the basis of gross exaggerations of highly uncertain computer projections combined into implausible chains of inference, proceeded to contemplate a roll-back of the industrial age".


Try telling a congregation of Bishops that there is no God.


(Declaration: I am not in the pay of petrol companies, coal mines or, alas, anyone else.)








Ben Bernanke, the us 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 1,00,000 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 3,00,000 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 us 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 us President Barack 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 programme 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 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.








Recent studies have shown that for every one degree Celsius rise in temperature, wheat yield losses in India will be of the order of six million tonnes. There will be similar effects on rice and other food crops. The leaders of Group of Eight nations who met recently at L'Aquilla in Italy agreed to limit the rise in mean temperature to two degree Celsius. This will have disastrous consequences for our agricultural production and, thereby, for national food security. The consequences of global warming are multi-dimensional:


* Unpredictable deviations in monsoon behaviour

* Water scarcity and higher evapo-transpiration

* Receding glaciers

* More frequent coastal storms, tsunami, etc

* More frequent drought and flood

* More severe pest and disease epidemics

* Increase in the incidence of malaria and other vector- borne diseases


Thus, the adverse impact of climate change will cover every aspect of human life. Obviously, the poor nations and the poor in all nations, who have the least coping capacity, will suffer more. There is need for both anticipatory research and action to address issues relating to mitigation and adaptation. At the same time, there is need for participatory research with rural families in order to enhance their capacity to deal with calamities like drought, flood and higher temperature.


Action is particularly important in the following areas: Contingency plans, alternative cropping strategies and compensatory production programmes. India has about 127 agro-climatic regions.


We will have to prepare computer simulation models on different weather probabilities. This will help to formulate codes of action for dealing with drought, flood and sea level rise.


A good weather code should also be prepared to maximise production in favourable seasons. The impact will have to be studied not only on crops, but also on farm animals, fisheries and forests. Seed reserves of alternative crops will have to be built up at the local level. Just as grain reserves are essential for food security, seed reserves are needed for crop security. Local-level "gene, seed, grain, fodder and water banks" will have to be promoted so that the community itself will be able to adapt to new challenges.


The impact on women will be even more serious since they are traditionally in charge of gathering fodder, fuel wood, and water and also animal healthcare and post-harvest technology. Climate risk saviour crops will have to be identified and multiplied. Rice is one such crop since it can grow under a wide range of altitudes and latitudes.


In coastal areas, bioshields consisting of mangroves, salicornia, atriplex and other halophytes will have to be erected. Sea water farming will have to be promoted through the establishment of agri-aqua farms. This is important since 97 per cent of the total global water availability is from the sea. There is also need for below sea level farming since many coastal areas will have to practise agriculture below sea level as a result of sea water inundation. The latest technologies will have to be taken to fishermen, such as mobile phones providing information on wave heights and location of fish shoals. Farm animals will have to be protected, since livestock and livelihoods are intimately related in most parts of India. Also the ownership of livestock is more egalitarian. Emergency food supply arrangements will have to be made by enriching agricultural biomass with urea and molasses. Ground water sanctuaries will have to be set up which can be utilised whenever there is water shortage.


In the area of mitigation also, local communities can contribute through better farm animal management and conservation farming. Fertiliser trees like Faidherbia albida will have to be planted on a large scale. Finally, there is need for building a cadre of climate risk managers at the local level.


Such managers should be well versed in the science and art of managing climate aberrations. Every calamity also presents an opportunity and, therefore, steps should be taken to train vast numbers of community-level climate risk managers. While global thinking and action are essential, it will only be attention to local planning and anticipatory action that can reduce human hardship and save lives and livelihoods.


M.S. Swaminathan is the chairman of the National Commission on Farmers. He is considered to be the father of India's green revolution.








 Afghanistan is so last week. What with the NRO hearings, suicide bombings, drone strikes, talk of the Quetta shura and Al Qaeda's safe havens there really is too much going on for anyone to think about Afghanistan right now.


In any case, so much has been written and said about Afghanistan post-Obama's speech that it is difficult to imagine anything new or original being added to the debate.


Except, having digested much of what has been talked about here in Pakistan, there is a nagging feeling that the state has missed yet another chance. A chance if not for a fresh start, then to be creative or even add something positive to the mix.Like a churlish parent obsessed with the exercise of antediluvian rights over his child, the security establishment here continues to treat Afghanistan as its rightful ward that it should be allowed to do as it pleases with. Afghanistan is ours and the rest of the world better not forget that, that's the message we send.


Here's what the security establishment has told the Americans about their surge in Afghanistan. One, assure us that the military operations in the south, and even the east, of Afghanistan will not cause militants to start pouring across the border into Pakistan.


Two, fashion a state structure and institutions in Afghanistan that reflect the fact that the Pashtuns are a majority, or close to one. [Never mind that our love for the Pashtuns extends not to all Pashtuns, especially the ones who make irredentist claims to Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and parts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan. We only like the Afghan Pashtuns who want to stay on their side of the border.]


Three, get India out of Afghanistan — they have no business there and we really can't get down to the business of promoting regional security if they are trying to encircle us. And that's pretty much it.


To understand the poverty of our security establishment's thinking, look at what some of the other countries are doing.


Start with India. This from the Wall Street Journal in August: "From wells and toilets to power plants and satellite transmitters, India is seeding Afghanistan with a vast array of projects. The $1.2bn in pledged assistance includes projects both vital to Afghanistan's economy, such as a completed road link to Iran's border, and symbolic of its democratic aspirations, such as the construction of a new Parliament building in Kabul. The Indian government is also paying to bring scores of bureaucrats to India, as it cultivates a new generation of Afghan officialdom".


Turn next to Iran. This from a March 2009 backgrounder by the Council of Foreign Relations: "Iranian radio broadcasts fill the airwaves, Iran-funded road and building projects are under way, a new teacher training centre is planned for Kabul, and a Herat–Khaf rail link (Pajhwok) is being constructed to connect Afghanistan and Iran by train. Iran has also offered humanitarian aid to Kabul in the form of fuel and transport — as much as $500m since 2001, according to the US Congressional Research Service.'


Consider China. From a report in the Telegraph, UK, last month: "China's growing influence in the Afghan economy has been hailed by (Afghanistan's) mining minister, who has revealed that projects acquired to feed Beijing's industrial base will triple government revenues within five years… The Chinese firm developing Aynak (copper deposits near Kabul) plans to employ 20,000 Afghan workers".


And let's not even touch the vast amount of American aid that is being poured into Afghanistan. Though, if you're willing to listen, anyone in the security establishment here will pipe up with the fact that for every $30 America spends in Afghanistan, it spends one dollar here.


I get it. Pakistan is a poor country, we don't have an open cheque book, historical and cultural ties mean we don't have to "buy" influence in Afghanistan like others do, etc. But when was the last time you heard about Pakistan doing anything to help out ordinary Afghans — the same ones we claim to care so much about, or at least the Pashtuns among them?


Where are the schools we have built, the roads we have fixed, the policemen we have trained, the farmers we have given seeds to, the doctors we have trained, the micro-businesses we have funded, the… you get the idea.


I'm sure if I picked up a phone and called the Foreign Office or the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), they may be able to tell me the positive things we may be doing in Afghanistan — but whatever that positive stuff, it sure isn't easy to find in the media, online, at meetings or conferences.


In fact, the WSJ article quoted earlier also noted tartly: "In terms of pledged donations through 2013, India now ranks fifth behind the US, UK, Japan and Canada, according to the Afghanistan government. Pakistan doesn't rank in the top 10".


Elsewhere, too, Pakistan's record has been drab and uninspiring, grim even.


Politically, all we seem to do is whinge and carp and complain. Afghanistan is ours, ours, ours and you guys — the outsiders — have screwed up what could have been a good thing. You arrogant Americans shut out the Taliban at the Bonn conference, you foolish Britons refused to hand the Taliban a few token provinces and ministries in return for becoming a part of the Afghan government later.


Why can't we show some initiative instead? Why not call for a ministerial summit in Islamabad of the six-plus-two group? Hey, guys, here's what we think and here's a road map that we can lead on. And if the military guys don't trust the civilians here, why not drop the cloak-and-dagger stuff and all those "secret" meetings with top American officials?


Call all the big military players over to General Headquarters for a meeting and hold a press conference later — see, we aren't as diabolical or stubborn as the world thinks, we've got ideas and we're willing to listen and engage.


Again, I get it. All that the security establishment sees and talks about isn't made up; there are many real threats, few obvious opportunities and little room to manoeuvre in the regional context. But if we want to play with the big boys, we need to realise that the carrots can't all be theirs and the sticks ours.
For sure, the big boys have to take us seriously because of our political and military position in the region. But they will never want to take us seriously if all we do is curl up sullenly in the foetal position and lash out at others until we get our way in "our" Afghanistan.








So let's hear it for the real truth (as opposed to the political truth): is the retail market picking up with millions of shoppers thronging to pick up Christmas bargains or is the retail market shrinking like hemlines allegedly do during recession? The odd thing is that it all depends on whom you are listening to. With less than six months to elections in Britain, all figures are being twisted around to suit the agenda. Nonetheless, I decided to do an empirical survey and check out the shops for myself. This is quite a tough and distracting enterprise as instead of head-counting the crowds one tends to spend a longer time checking out the colourfully-packaged products on display, especially for Christmas.


This is really the best time to shop with three-for-two bargains bludgeoning your senses till you give up and walk like a zombie up to the sales counter, debit card in hand, hypnotised into thinking by marketing wizards — this is my last chance! Also what helps to further convince you are the glittering lights and reindeers stomping through the lampposts on Oxford Street — and then you wake up and realise that actually the UK economy has shrunk by 4.75 per cent this year and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, has just announced that there may be a growth of just one per cent next year… compared to India's 7.9 per cent.


I am already beginning to wonder if a developed nation can retain its status despite its negative growth? After all, won't all this finally begin to hit pockets and raise poverty levels? There was a time when Britain had to look overseas to grow its own economy and now that time may be coming around rather severely once again. But Britain is still a welfare state so there are cushions for the underprivileged which is more than what you can say for India.


So, despite the good news of growth from India, there is no doubt that poverty, especially amongst children, has persisted over the years. Thus when we decided to screen Mira Nair's brilliant film Salaam Bombay (which is now celebrating its 21st year) at the National Film Theatre in London, we were expecting a curious crowd with observant questions on Slumdog Millionaire. But instead the enthralled audience was sobered by the thought that in the last two decades very little has changed in India.


Mira Nair and Sooni Taraporewala, who were in London for the event, had actually worked with street children in Mumbai (then Bombay) and put them through a theatre workshop with the theatre guru Barry John before selecting the cast — which was a mix of street children and professional actors such as Nana Patekar. It was, nonetheless, a really talented ensemble with children performing in a much more natural fashion than the unbelievable "English speaking" slum kids in Slumdog.


During the question and answer session that followed the film, Mira recalled the time when she won the Palme d'Or at Cannes: She was barely 29 years old, this was her first feature film and she received a standing ovation lasting 30 minutes! Her most vivid memories are of going to the beach all alone to recover from the impact of the film's response and smoking a Ganesh bidi offered to her by a fellow drifter. It was also a time when everything began to move at supersonic speed as the film was sold rapidly all over the world… a fabulous debut for a deserving filmmaker! It propelled her definitively into the big league.


The evening with her and Sooni was actually a fundraiser for her charity, the Salaam Balak Trust (SBT), which runs more than 17 centres for street children in Mumbai and Delhi, including two centres for girls. The presence of Vicky Roy — one of the street children who have benefited from the Trust — added another poignant note to the evening. He was a street child growing up in Mumbai with no prospects till he finally discovered his real talent at the Salaam Balak Trust. Today Vicky is a photographer who travels all over the world and has even taken photographs of "ground zero" in New York.


The warmth at the post-film reception was truly inspirational and I will no longer complain about desis supporting only mandirs and not charities as friends donated money to SBT cheerfully and unusual posters of Salaam Bombay were auctioned to some lucky bidders. And so a movement that Mira started as an idealistic young woman 21 years ago still has the power to move all of us. Even in London.


It was definitely (for me) a week for women empowerment as I also attended the WFTV awards (i.e. the Women in Film and Television Awards) where the lifetime achievement award was given to the graceful Helen Mirren (her last memorable role was as the Queen in the eponymous film). It was a glittering afternoon and the only note of caution was struck by the worried gentleman sitting next to me, a producer in a film company, who kept insisting that in his experience of past WFTV awards, he had noted that women can drink more than men.


He was obviously overawed by the equality of women on this score as well! Unfortunately, I left long before his hypothesis could be seriously tested but I did feel that suddenly I was in an arena where the roles had been reversed. The banquet room was flooded with highly successful women with their arm candy of token partners — well-dressed men who knew that they were there basically on sufferance.


Yet, in the statistics which were announced during the welcoming speech, it was pointed out that in the over 5,000 media jobs which had been recently lost in the UK, most had been of jobs held by women. Which is why it is even more essential to still have separate awards for women. Because we need to celebrate the actual contribution of women, understanding that theirs are not to be the dispensable jobs but instead are jobs which add value and gender balance to a skewed market place.


The writer can be contacted at [1]








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.







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.







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?







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








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 )








Sex workers are not criminals. At least, not by virtue of sex work alone. The suggestion of the Supreme Court that prostitution be legalized may not have focused particularly on this truth, but legalization would make it official. The court has, in effect, suggested what sex workers' groups in various parts of the country have been demanding for years now. In principle, sex work can be regarded as any other kind of work; it is upto the individual whether he or she wishes to sell their body or their musical talent in order to make a living. The question becomes complicated, at least partly, because intimate sexual contact with the body is loaded with cultural and social significance, and is posited, ideologically, as shameful trade pitted against the 'sacred' institution of marriage.


Any approach to the legalization of sex work has to be freed of this baggage. But around the core issue of legalization, the questions are various and nuanced. One is the issue of decriminalization. Soliciting and procuring are both criminal activities in India at present, and the Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act is supposed to be implemented against these as well as against child prostitution and forced prostitution. In practice, however, PITA becomes an instrument of blackmail against the sex worker; it is she who pays, in cash and kind, not only the police and local musclemen, but also procurers and brothel-owners and a whole network of underworld figures who appear on her limited horizon. This is apart from the violence and insecurity to which she is routinely subject. Her client is never penalized. In some countries in which prostitution is legal, paying for sex is punishable. The details of the way legalization of sex work are worked out, therefore, reflect that particular society's moral thinking in interesting ways. But legalizing the profession may at least free sex workers from ceaseless harassment.


There is another argument for legalization. Bringing hidden activity out into the light is the surest way of ridding it of the aura of crime and illegality. It would close down routes of illegal income from sex workers, and grant them the freedom to be the determining agents of their own lives. Besides, it would have a hugely positive impact on the identification and treatment of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. At the same time, legalizing sex work — should India decide to do so — would need careful study of the systems and experiences of countries in which sex work is legal. Because of the unique status of the body in human culture and the burdensome associations of the sex act — from love, procreation, delight and worship to exploitation, coercion, violence, transgression and betrayal — there is no one perfect route that legalization can follow. India would need to evolve laws in such a way as to protect the newly lawful sex worker from the grasp of big criminal organizations, and to ensure that it does not become a favoured destination of human traffickers and sex tourists.









The inscribed photograph of C. Rajagopalachari in the Centre of South Asian Studies in Cambridge reminds us that "embedded journalism", which the West formalized while invading Iraq, has long been the norm in India. It is also a poignant coincidence that Rajaji's inscription is dated "12.12.47", 62 years ago today as his grandson packs his bags to relinquish the job his grandfather held.


The photographer's identity holds additional meaning for me. Ian Stephens, the most colourful and controversial of the British editors of the paper for which I worked for more than 30 years, took that picture of Rajaji at his desk. Though Stephens was at the centre of a maelstrom, my impression is that colonial British officials were more concerned than Indians at his views on Pakistan. I may be mistaken. Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel may have pressured Lord Mountbatten in ways of which I know nothing.


When Stephens died in 1984, Amartya Sen wrote approvingly in The Times (London) that in his last book, Unmade Journey, Stephens "had noted with some evident satisfaction that he was 'still respected in India, especially perhaps in Bengal, because of what we had done during the 1943 famine.'" Sen's conclusion is worth repeating. "In the subcontinent in which Ian Stephens spent a substantial part of his life, he is remembered not only as a great editor (with amiable, if somewhat eccentric, manners), but also as someone whose hard-fought campaign possible [sic] saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people."


Rajaji knew before moving to Calcutta of the special position The Statesman then occupied in Indian life, and of the prowess of the editor who favoured singlet, shorts and sandals. He probably also knew he had caused some discomfort between Stephens and Lord Linlithgow after Stephens called the viceroy's rejection of Rajaji's request to meet Mahatma Gandhi in jail soon after August 1942 "a mistake". Two or three months later, Linlithgow asked Stephens if he still maintained that view. Disconcerted, fearing that candour might spoil his interview, yet unable to equivocate, Stephens replied "flatly" that he did. Linlithgow liked honesty even when it went against him. "The stony face for a moment lit with a genial smile … The interview went well."


Stephens's sturdy integrity may have inspired Rajaji's inscription on the photograph. "A Government is protected by the vigilant care of the press. But who can look after the press except the conscience of the editor." There is no question mark at the end of that arresting sentence. Though phrased as a query, Rajaji was making a statement, expressing his profound conviction that it's the press that protects the government, not the other way round. Nehru eulogized press freedom as he did secularism and other idealistic principles of State policy. Patel proclaimed that since press support is only expected when the government is in the right, it's when the government is in the wrong that it needs loyal support. But Rajaji implied a detached corrective force whose vigilance and wise counsel saves the government from its own follies.


Harold Evans, the distinguished former editor of Britain's The Times and Sunday Times, backs that assessment in his recently published memoirs. "Government just cannot govern well without reliable independent reporting and criticism," he writes. "No intelligence system, no bureaucracy, can offer the information provided by free competitive reporting; the cleverest agents of the secret police are inferior to the plodding reporter of the democracy."


Rajaji rose above Nehru's abstraction, Patel's demand that the press should be authority's handmaiden and the unthinking mouthing of American jargon about an adversary role. His definition rules out trivia (Britain's press is now cogitating over Queen Elizabeth's plea to leave her family alone over Christmas) as well as publish-and-be-damned bravado. There is no scope either for the dependence of journalists in New Delhi or state capitals who, living in free or subsidized official accommodation, are as firmly embedded as any Fox News reporter accompanying the American invaders in Iraq.


Indebtedness does not end with accommodation. Not surprisingly, the long and lanky colleague who turned up in London on a government junket when I was based here produced a shopping list. What did surprise me was that it included a double-breasted suit for someone half his height and twice his breadth. He explained it was for the finance ministry official who had sanctioned the foreign exchange entitlement of a higher grade of journalist on the understanding that half the difference would be spent on a suit for him. The paper, of course, unknowingly paid the money.


Much bigger robberies are committed beyond my ken but it's through these small acts of collusive deception that the media are perverted, the soul of India corrupted and the ground prepared for the major crimes that are undermining the system. Lee Kuan Yew told the International Press Institute that it's a myth that a free press curbs corruption since "the media itself is corrupted" in many democracies. He exploded at my suggestion that Indian papers were exciting in their outspokenness. He had not found them "exciting in the sense of a vision of a new India and how to get there".


Apart from a multitude of obvious inducements, an American journalist — Tom Wicker of The New York Times — wrote that Henry Kissinger's practice of calling journalists by their first names (could the courtesy be reciprocated?) suborned their independence more surely than any bribe. Stephens obviously made an exception of Rajaji when he warned against getting too close to people in power because of the "peril in confidences". He wrote in 1945, "A journalist must guard against accepting any (confidences) that seem designed to curtail his scope for comment. Great men are not always scrupulous. Of late a publicity technique has developed for nobbling writers of integrity and conscience, by deliberately divulging secrets to them, reckoning that this will stop their writing about or around that subject." To quote H.L. Mencken, "Reporters come in as newspaper men trained to get the news; they end as tin-horn statesmen full of dark secrets and unable to write the truth if they tried." That's why so many senior (in years that is, not necessarily wisdom) political correspondents look so self-important and write so little of any consequence. They see themselves as officers of State.


A signboard in the film, War, Inc., reading "Coke presents the Implanted Journalist Experience" takes embedding a stage farther. This spoof on the Iraq invasion replaces the Lone Superpower with Coca-Cola because "in the 21st century great corporations will bestride the earth, replacing nations as the true creators of history, amassing powerful private armies to do their bidding". Remembering Chile, corporate imperialism is not quite such a novel idea but implanting — a jab behind the ear such as my farming friends in Cornwall inflict on their miniature ouessant sheep for bird flu — holds grim echoes of Huxley, Wells and Orwell.


Rajaji's thesis of inter-dependence means restraint and a consideration of consequences. "Every newspaper now asks itself with respect to every story: Is it news?" John F. Kennedy said after the Bay of Pigs fiasco: "All I suggest is that you add the question 'Is it in the interests of national security?'" In India, communal harmony is tantamount to national security. Haunted by childhood memory of Direct Action Day, I have twice as editor felt it necessary to temper editorial freedom with circumspection. I argued indignantly with the BBC interviewer who called me "craven" but without the benefit then of Rajaji's ultimate trust, though Dalmias and Goenkas stalked the horizon, in "the conscience of the editor". His grandson's incumbency in Raj Bhavan rekindled my interest in the twinkling old man with a wicked sense of fun who asked my age at our first meeting. "Twenty-eight," I replied. "It's a good age," Rajaji said. "You stick to it!"








The Central government's acceptance of the demand for formation of a Telangana state has given rise to a host of problems which the governments at the Centre and in the state, political parties and even the industry and business leadership of the prosperous state will find difficult to handle in the short term. The decision was a knee-jerk reaction to the fast of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti leader K Chandrasekhara Rao and gave the impression that the  government had succumbed to sentimental and political blackmail. The case for the state may be legitimate because the Telangana region has suffered from neglect and underdevelopment. The demand is also very old and similar ones with less justification have been conceded in the past. But the manner in which it was done has created a turmoil on many fronts.


The resignation of over 100 MLAs, including those from the Congress, has created doubts about the survival of the state government. The political storm may ease but the credibility of the political leadership of all parties has suffered a jolt. The state's leaders had taken an opportunistic stand on the Telangana issue, at times supporting the demand and at others opposing it. They have all been exposed now. The in-principle acceptance of the demand has to cross many hurdles like the passage of a resolution by the state assembly. Considering the present state of heightened emotions in the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions this will not be easy. The status of Hyderabad, which the Telangana loyalists want to be the capital of the new state, will be a difficult issue. It will be a moot point whether the frontline metropolis can be adequately supported by a backward region and can continue with its exponential growth of the last two decades.

At the national level the government's decision has given a boost to many other demands for separate states, like Gorkhaland, Vidarbha, Harit Pradesh, Bundelkhand and others. There has been a proposal to form a new state reorganisation commission which can study these demands and take decisions. Obviously the idea of linguistic states has suffered a setback with the break-up of many states and new criteria like development and administrative convenience coming to the fore. A decision based on such an initiative or on a consensus would have made the birth of Telangana more acceptable and peaceful.









The tightening of visa rules by the British government for Indian professionals, mainly those working in the IT sector, is the latest in a series of protectionist measures adopted by the country ostensibly to protect jobs and keep them for its nationals. Avoidance of protectionist actions has been an important recommendation made by economists and forums like the G-20 in the wake of the global recession of last year. The flow of goods, services and people across national borders with only the minimum restrictions has been accepted as an important condition for economic revival. But governments have only paid lip service to the idea and have often based their actions on narrow and shortsighted considerations. The new UK rules will make it extremely difficult for Indian IT professionals to go to Britain on inter-company transfers after this month. They are required to have 12 months' working experience before they can go to Britain and cannot settle down there after five years, as the present rules allow.

The racial bias in the new rules makes them specially abhorrent, and violative of the traditions of British society. The new rules are seen to be directed against Asians and non-whites. The reasons are claimed to be a combination of  economic and national security factors. Britain is in bad financial straits and has not recovered from the recession as many other countries have. It wants to prevent jobs from being taken away by others, as America also has also tried to do, but does not realise that the restrictions will only further damage the economy. The immigration authorities have also been found to be obstructive in the grant of visas to foreign students, and this too causes major losses to the British economy. Genuine students have been routinely denied visas on the pretext of preventing terrorists from entering the country. Foreign students, who have to pay much higher fees, actually  subsidise the education of British students. The universities are financially weak and need foreign students but the government policies and actions have made it difficult for non-white students to pursue higher education in Britain.

The Gordon Brown government is politically weak and feels that populist policies will help it in the next elections which are just months away. But it is harming the interests of the country and blotting its image by implementing a discriminatory policy on working and studying in Britain.









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.







I refrained from writing about Gulzar as I know next to nothing about cinema. At his invitation I did see his film 'Maachis', based on the 1984 anti-Sikh violence. I was impressed by his craftsmanship and the lyrics he inserted in the film. I knew no more about him till I received an illustrated and detailed biography from Dr Kafar Hassan, a Pakistani businessman.


'The art and achievement of Gulzar' gives a detailed account of Gulzar's life from his childhood to his triumphant rise in Bollywood with pictures of the broken down haveli in which he was born, Meena Kumari who was his lady friend for some years, his wife Rakhee and his daughter Meghna.

Gulzar's original name was Sampooran Singh Kalra. He was born in Dina (district Jhelum in Pakistan). He was the son of Makhan Singh through his second wife who died soon after giving birth to him. Sampooran spent his childhood with his step-brothers and sisters from his father's other two wives. The family were initially 'doodhwalas', selling milk door to door. Then they took to buying and selling cloth. They moved to Delhi.

Sampooran went to Bombay to stay with his step-brother. For a while, he worked in a garage patronised by film director Bimal Roy — then engaged in making 'Bandani'. He was having trouble with his music composer. He asked Sampooran Singh to compose lyrics. His first foray began with 'Mora Gora Ang Lai'. It became an instant hit. He realised he could not succeed as a poet unless be changed his name. So Sampooran Singh became Gulzar.

Looking at him, one would not think that Gulzar was a lady killer. But some of the most beautiful women of the time fell for him. The best known was the ravishing Meena Kumari.  Then came the equally beautiful Rakhee who bore him the lovely daughter Meghna, now on the way to becoming a mother herself. Women in Gulzar's life complained of his being aloof and seeking solitude. All poets and writes crave for solitude and make bad companions.

Hassan's biography does not touch upon Gulzar as a poet. For that I had to turn to Sandeep Sen's 'Aria'. One entitled 'Sketch' reads as follows:

Do you recall the day

You sat at my table...

On a cigarette pad.

A small sapling's

Sketch you had made

Come here  see....

On the plant now, flowers

The other entitled 'Ash' reads:

Behind bars, even the rebel's eyes

Ash has begun to shed

When coal embers remain

unfanned for long —

Then even in the flame's eyes

Pearl white cataracts start to appear

Punjabi Christians

The death of Uma Anand (nee Chatterji) on Nov 13 brought back memories of my Christian friends in pre-partition Punjab. Uma was the daughter of professor Chatterji of Government College, Lahore. She married film producer Chetan Anand and bore him two sons. Later, she married Ebrahim Al Kazi, producer and arts collector. Her brother Tiny Chatterji rose to become director general, All India Radio.

Punjabi Christians were divided into three classes which had little to do with each other. The aristocracy comprised the daughter of Dalip Singh, the last Sikh Maharaja who converted to Christianity in his early teens. The aristocracy included descendant of Raja Harman Singh of Kapurthala. His son and daughters included Maharaj Singh, later governor of Bombay, Sir Dalip Singh and Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, disciple of Mahatma Gandhi and minister in Pandit Nehru's cabinet.

The second class consisted of civil servants and educationists: Mangat Rai, the first Indian to become commissioner of income-tax, his daughter Priobala, who became the first Indian principal of Kinnaird College.

There was Professor Lal of Forman Christian College, his son Karl of the Railways, Arthur and John, both of whom got into the ICS and Rallia Ram, prominent figure in the Indian National Congress. My closest friend was Wilburn and his wife Usha.  Wilburn was an all India athlete working for an American oil company. One of their daughters was jailed by Indira Gandhi during the emergency.

The third category of Punjabi Christians were village folk, largely Dalits — who converted by the efforts of American, English and Indian missionaries. However, Sadhu Sunder Singh who was recognised as a saint was a land-owning sardar, who gave up his possessions to walk the Hindustan-Tibet road alone.  He was said to communicate with wild animals. He disappeared from the scene, no one knows when and where. And there was the Salvation Army (Mukti Fauz) often seen marching in formation around Lahore.

With the partition, the upper two classes of Punjabi Christians migrated to India. Village Christians remain in Pakistan, much discriminated and persecuted by the Mullah-minded Muslims. The history of Christian presence in Punjab is yet to be recorded.









Being a corporate trainer in a medical transcription company can have its mix of heady days when there is an overload of medical reports coming in from hospitals across America, which are sheer pleasure due to the humour involved in the training experience. Needless to say, the mirth generated by the trainees transcribing dictated reports, with words very different from what has been dictated, results in laughter being the best medicine and serves as a potent stress buster indeed.

Many a time when one is flipping through the 'Jaamt' ('Journal for American Association of Medical Transcription'), one comes across a range of topics which are important as they throw up several medico-legal issues. As a trainer, I always tell my trainees about the importance of referencing and documenting all medical terms and medications in order to produce error-free reports. Reports should be transcribed with application of one's greycells and inadvertence is apt to be considered with not much amusement by those offering dictation.

Whether the report is paediatric, gynaecological or orthopedic, one must see that the words make absolute sense. Thus, I almost did my nut when one trainee transcribed "Normocephalic and atraumatic", as "Normocephalic and automatic"!

Trainees have repeatedly been told to use their common sense while transcribing. As a trainer, however, I would say that using 'common sense', an uncanny intuitive ability, is not always common. The trainees are of two types, either they are perfectionists who go the extra mile to refer to reference books and periodicals, or the other category being those who are just plain lethargic. The latter would want to take short cuts to get words instead of exercising their brains and doing hard work. One of those bloomers, a trainee committed was to transcribe "The patient is a 73-year-old female", as "The patient is a 73-year-old e-mail!"

Another instance of lack of common sense I have come across relates to the use of capital letters, Roman or Arabic numbering, and in short, the style of medical transcription, as such. One of the trainees transcribed, "The patient has Pneumonia," with a capital P. Asked why he had done so, pat came the reply, "Ma'am, because it is the name of a disease!" I guess on some days you just don't win.







We didn't expect much from the first week of the global warming conference in Copenhagen. Countries need to do a little posturing before getting down to the hard work, which is supposed to start on Monday. But the belligerent talk from China seemed to go well beyond the usual positioning.


The best hope is that the talks will produce an interim understanding under which industrialized countries would commit to fairly precise targets for reduced emissions, and others, like China, to broader but measurable goals. The industrial countries would be expected to help poorer countries shift to less-polluting forms of energy.


That would set the stage for a legally binding deal in 2010. But there is no chance of even an interim agreement without the enthusiastic participation of China, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. China's absence would give other developing countries — and the United States Senate — an excuse to do less than needed.


Beijing's recent pledge to slow the growth in emissions seemed like a positive shift in attitude. Then on Tuesday, in a surprising show of defensiveness, China's top negotiator, Su Wei, said the greatest burden rested with the industrialized countries and jumped on the United States, Japan and the European Union for not being aggressive enough. Another Chinese official urged Washington to do "some deep soul-searching" and improve its proposal.


Todd Stern, the chief American negotiator, responded correctly: With emissions in many industrialized countries peaking or declining, just about all of the growth in greenhouse gases is expected to come from the developing world between now and 2030, half from China. Rich nations must still reduce emissions sharply, Mr. Stern said, but "there is no way to solve this problem by giving the major developing countries a pass."


China has also been demanding that rich nations contribute hundreds of millions of dollars a year to help poor countries address the threat of climate change. Again Mr. Stern was blunt. Washington is prepared to help those who need it, but given China's huge reserves and revved-up economy, he said he could not envision "public funds, certainly not from the United States, going to China."


The most positive development has been a pledge by the European Union to contribute $10.5 billion over the next three years to help poorer countries deal with climate change. The United States has said that it will make a contribution but has not said how big it will be.


Transparency is another difficult issue that must be resolved, at least in principle, this week. There is no point in setting targets, or threatening penalties for noncompliance, unless countries are required to report emissions accurately. Transparency has never been one of Beijing's virtues, and emerging countries generally need aid to create sophisticated monitoring systems.


Copenhagen's broadest challenge is finding an equitable way to distribute the burden of confronting climate change. Despite some differences, the industrialized nations have pretty much agreed to trim their emissions by 15 percent to 20 percent from 2005 levels in the next 10 years, and by 80 percent by midcentury. And all seem to be willing to make expensive investments to get there. President Obama will need help from Congress, no sure thing.


A host of developing countries — including India, Brazil, Indonesia — have put broad goals on the table, though in some cases they seem more aspirational than real. But the bottom line is that the hope for a meaningful deal is vanishingly small if China doesn't sign on.







When soldiers come home with invisible injuries — traumatic memories of things they have seen and done — professional therapy should help them heal. Far too many soldiers are unwilling to seek it and many others, as James Dao and Dan Frosch reported in The Times, are keeping too tight a lid on what they reveal in therapy.


That is not just because of the stubborn belief that real warriors can't show doubt or weakness. There is a strong and legitimate fear that a soldier who confesses horrible things to a therapist faces a serious risk of career damage, disciplinary action or even prosecution.


The military has rules governing the privacy of soldiers in therapy, but they contain more exceptions than the federal law protecting civilians. Experts told The Times that confidentiality doesn't exist. A former military lawyer noted that the rules allow confidences to be breached to ensure the success of "a military mission" — which could mean almost anything a unit does.


This is a serious problem, especially as more troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan struggle with post-traumatic stress. There is no easy answer.


The privilege that allows soldiers to consult chaplains in absolute confidence cannot be applied wholesale to their relationship with medical professionals. Commanders have a right to know whether a soldier is fit to serve. Therapeutic secrecy should not be a hideout for soldiers who pose a danger to themselves or others.


Still, rules should be more carefully drawn so that not every painful discussion opens a psychiatric file or medication list to the eyes of a commanding officer. Therapists could find creative ways to make treatment more effective for reticent patients. The military needs to keep chipping away at the stigma of therapy.


The Pentagon is trying harder to identify soldiers with emotional problems before and after deployment. More aggressive screening and evaluation — for everyone who deploys — could help reduce the historical phobia about psychiatric care. If counseling and other mental-health services became the rule, more soldiers would know that therapy was available and useful.


No soldier should struggle alone, without a plan for treatment, the right medication, a professional's guidance. A soldier needs to know that emotional problems need to be dealt with before they do lasting damage.






The real estate industry and some Louisiana politicians have been promoting the fiction that New Orleans has all the housing it needs and should be allowed to divert hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid from desperately needed affordable housing to projects like building roads and clearing abandoned buildings.


That would spell disaster for the tens of thousands of low-wage workers — full-time restaurant workers, home health care aides and maintenance workers — and the New Orleans economy that depends on them.


A new analysis by the nonpartisan Greater New Orleans Community Data Center shows that nearly half of the area's work force earns less than $35,000 a year. Nearly 9 in 10 of the households earning between $20,000 and $35,000 a year have been priced out of the private market in Orleans Parish, where the gross rents have jumped more than 40 percent between 2004 and 2008.


City officials should be especially worried by statistics showing that area residents are more likely to pay at least half of their household incomes on rent and utilities than renters in more expensive cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas and New York. Unaffordable rent hurts the economy. It forces people to skimp on health care, leading them to rely more on government-subsidized emergency rooms. Families struggling with high rents move more often, which leads to reduced productivity, high employee turnover rates and increased worker training costs.


With rents so high, no one should be surprised that the homeless population of the New Orleans area appears to have doubled since Hurricane Katrina. A startling census of the homeless by a local social services consortium, Unity of Greater New Orleans, estimates that nearly 6,500 people, many of them elderly and suffering from debilitating illnesses, are living in abandoned buildings.


New Orleans will never fully recover unless it builds more affordable housing. Doing so would require help from Washington. The Department of Housing and Urban Development can help by making sure that Louisiana does not divert disaster money to less important projects. Congress can do its part by extending the life of the federal Gulf tax credit program, which would give developers a strong incentive to build thousands of affordable apartments.


Louisiana must take responsibility by making sure planned affordable housing developments get built and by using Section 8 rent vouchers to make vacant, market-rate apartments affordable to low-income families.







Every once in a while, someone tells John Scirica they saw him in a documentary about Sept. 11. In a still photograph, they say, Mr. Scirica is pictured near the North Tower in his New York City Park Enforcement officer's uniform, helping a badly burned woman into an ambulance. That day doesn't feel like history to him.


It is with Mr. Scirica when he climbs a flight of stairs and grows short of breath. It is with him when he dreams about the black wave of debris that engulfed him and in the sensation of scraping dust off his tongue. And it is with him in regular visits with doctors who monitor three spots on his lungs. "They call it scarring," he says.


Mr. Scirica went back to work on Sept. 12, 2001, and for years afterward. It wasn't until May 2008, when he underwent spinal surgery after a traffic accident on the job, that he stopped working. Biweekly disability payments of $600 meant he and his wife were still able to pay their bills — until the beginning of 2009, when she was laid off from her job at a hair salon.


They now make up the difference with $156 a month in food stamps and occasional help from family. Recently, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens drew $300 from The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund to pay the couple's National Grid bill and prevent their service from being shut off.


"Sometimes I look out the window and see bill collectors on my neighbors' doorsteps, and I think, 'How do people survive?' " he said.


Donations to The Times's Neediest Cases Fund go to seven charities: the Children's Aid Society; the Brooklyn Bureau of Community Service; Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York; Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens; the Community Service Society of New York; the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies; and UJA-Federation of New York.








The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a report on Wednesday that is bound to stir conversation about the increasingly complicated cacophony of spirituality in America — a mash-up of traditional faiths, fantasy and mythology.


Entitled "Many Americans Mix Multiple Faiths," the report points out that many Americans are now choosing to "blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs" and that "sizable minorities of all major U.S. religious groups" said that they have had supernatural experiences, like encountering ghosts.


For the first time in 47 years of polling, the number of Americans who said that they have had a religious or mystical experience, which the question defined as a "moment of sudden religious insight or awakening," was greater than those who said that they had not.


(Question: Does the first time I saw Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video count?)


Twenty percent of Protestants and 28 percent of Catholics said they believe in reincarnation, which flies in the face of Christianity's rapture scenario. Furthermore, about the same percentages said they believe in astrology, yoga as a spiritual practice and the idea that there is "spiritual energy" pulsing from things like "mountains, trees or crystals." Uh-oh. Someone's God is going to be jealous.


Surprisingly, in some cases, those who identified themselves as Christian were more likely to believe these things than those who were unaffiliated. (It should be noted that unaffiliated is not the same as nonbeliever. Many are spiritual people who simply haven't found the right church, synagogue, mosque, coven, Ouija board club, or whatever.)


Furthermore, 16 percent of Protestants and 17 percent of Catholics said that they believe that some people can use the "evil eye" to "cast curses or spells that cause bad things to happen." I have to say that based on the looks my mother used to shoot me when I was misbehaving, that evil eye thing might have legs.


Since 1996, the percentage of Americans who said that they have been in the presence of a ghost has doubled from 9 percent to 18 percent, and the percentage who said that they were in touch with someone who was dead has increased by about a third, rising from 18 percent to 29 percent.


For those keeping political score, Democrats were almost twice as likely to believe in ghosts and to consult fortune-tellers than were Republicans, and the Democrats were 71 percent more likely to believe that they were in touch with the dead. Please hold the Barack-Obama-as-the-ghost-of-Jimmy-Carter jokes. Heard them all.


The report is further evidence that Americans continue to cobble together Mr. Potato Head-like spiritual identities from a hodgepodge of beliefs — bending dogmas to suit them instead of bending themselves to fit a dogma. And this appears to be leading to more spirituality, not less. Cue the harps, and the sitars, and the tablas, and the whale music.








Do you remember the scandal about the U.S. Embassy guards in Kabul, Afghanistan, who got naked and held wild hazing rituals?


I am bringing this up because I want to talk about government contracting. When you venture into topics like that, it's always a good idea to try to begin with an orgy.


The guards at the American Embassy in Afghanistan worked for a private contractor called ArmorGroup. A few months ago, a nonprofit watchdog organization reported that some of the guards were being pressured to have sex in a "Lord of the Flies environment." Whistle-blowers turned over pictures of men in various states of undress, fondling and urinating on one another.


In general, guards from countries like Australia, New Zealand and the United States were the ones involved in the bad behavior. Fortunately, the bulk of the workers were Gurkhas from Nepal who took their jobs very seriously. Unfortunately, the Gurkhas could not understand English.


So the American Embassy in one of the most dangerous spots on the planet was being protected by a combination of people who couldn't communicate with Americans and thuggish party animals.


`The biggest surprise was that the United States did not have its own soldiers guarding its Embassy in a war zone. We have been getting surprised like that a lot lately. Many of the worst stories involve Blackwater Worldwide, a private security contractor that changed its name to Xe Services after a series of mishaps in Iraq, one of which involved spraying bullets around a square in Baghdad and killing 17 civilians.


On Friday, James Risen and Mark Mazzetti of The Times reported that Blackwater employees had taken part in clandestine C.I.A. "snatch and grab" raids in Iraq and Afghanistan, in which suspected insurgents were abducted and taken away for detention and questioning.


This was, of course, in the past. In fact, on Friday, it was revealed that the C.I.A. director, Leon Panetta, had canceled a contract under which Blackwater loaded missiles on Predator drones in Pakistan — another activity that sort of came as a surprise when The Times first reported it last summer.


But Lord knows what Xe Services is up to.


What do you think Dwight Eisenhower would say about all of this? In his last speech as president, Eisenhower famously warned the country about "the potential for the disastrous use of misplaced power" if the military industrial complex got too big. That was back when defense contractors just sold the Pentagon fighter jets and wildly expensive widgets. Imagine how Ike would have reacted if they were driving the C.I.A. to snatch-and-grab dates.


When did we decide this was a good plan?


Let's pretend for a minute that it is not stupendously irresponsible to let private contractors stand in for our military in wildly sensitive and dangerous situations abroad. Even if it was a terrific idea, we would still have to ask whether huge government agencies, which frequently have a difficult time finding cost-effective ways to order a hammer, know how to purchase services that actually work.


These days, there's virtually nothing the government doesn't contract out. At the height of the war in Iraq, there were 190,000 contracted personnel taking part in the effort — 23 times the number of allied troops who were lending a hand. "What we created was not a coalition of the willing. We're relying on coalitions of the billing," said P.W. Singer, a contracting expert with the Brookings Institution.


This is the real surge, with a dwindling number of overseers riding herd. In 1997, Singer said, each defense auditor was responsible for overseeing about $642 million in contracts on average. "The last figures I saw, it was one auditor to $2.02 billion."


There's no reason to believe the government has the capacity to determine how well all these private contractors are doing their jobs. And it's doubtful that if the government did know, it could do much about it.


All of this brings us back to the Embassy in Kabul. Long before the news about the guards gone wild hit the media, the State Department had been issuing a long stream of warnings to ArmorGroup about contract violations ranging from sleep-deprived workers to corrupt managers. It demanded that the contractor meet its obligation to provide English-speaking guards and rejected several requests for more time to fix the problem.


None of which meant that the guards learned to speak English. It's just that they continued to not understand English without official permission.


Then word about the sex parties got out and everybody was embarrassed. The State Department announced that it was "seeing a very, very serious case made for termination" of the contract.


Which has not actually happened.


Officials decided to stick with the status quo because they couldn't figure out how to get anyone else to staff the Embassy.


But good news! A spokeswoman said the State Department is working on "preparation for solicitation of a contract that we expect to be awarded by June 2010."


Bob Herbert is off today.










THE recent revelation that the families of service members who are suicides do not receive presidential condolence letters created a stir, evoking questions of fairness and raising concerns about a lack of compassion from our leaders.


Yet the issue is far more complicated than that. Indeed, there is nothing wrong with stigmatizing suicide while doing everything possible to de-stigmatize the help soldiers need in dealing with post-traumatic stress and suicidal thoughts.


The key question is to what extent any action we take after a suicide inadvertently glorifies it. Early Christians realized that they were losing too many believers to the attractions of martyrdom. A halt to this epidemic of provoking martyrdom by suicide was brought about in the fourth century when St. Augustine codified the church's disapproval of suicide and condemned the taking of one's own life as a grievous sin.


Canonical law ultimately pushed civil law in too harsh a direction. Only in 1961 did England repeal its law making suicide a crime. As late as 1974 in the United States, suicide was still considered a crime in eight states.


Has the pendulum swung too far in the other direction? Now that first-rate treatments for depression and post-traumatic stress have evolved and are readily available, and people with emotional problems do not have to suffer quietly, are we taking away the shame of suicide?


For more than 30 years, we in the mental-health field have been aware of the prevalence of copycat suicides. Whenever the news of a well-known figure killing himself hits the front pages, a significant bump in suicides, reflecting copycat deaths, invariably follows in the next few days. Strikingly, there is no corresponding decline in suicides in the weeks after this bump — forcing us to conclude that the victims are people who would not have otherwise killed themselves.


The hard truth is that any possible glorification of suicide — even reports of suicide — make the taking of one's life a more viable option. If suicide appears to be a more reasonable way of handling life's stresses than seeking help, then suicide rates increase.


Certainly, a presidential condolence letter after one's death is not exactly the same encouragement for suicide as the purported Muslim promise of a gift of 72 virgins after death. But the increasing number of suicides in the military suggests that we need to find the right balance between concern for the spouses, children and parents left behind, and any efforts to prevent subsequent suicides in the military.


As a psychiatrist formerly working on college campuses, I, along with my colleagues, was concerned with how we handled the funerals and aftermaths of even accidental deaths of students. Compassion for those left behind arose naturally; at the same time, we did not want to glorify the death to a point that lonely, distressed students might consider death better than life.


A difficult balancing act, to be sure. For people under 30, suicide is highly correlated with impulsivity and suggestibility. Thus college campuses and military installations, with their young populations, must be particularly aware of the possibility of copycat suicides and the dangers of a veneration of death.


President Obama, as commander in chief, has to balance the wishes of families with the demands of public health. In light of the condolence-letter controversy, the administration is appropriately reviewing the policy that has been in place for at least 17 years — and may indeed want to consider leaving it as it is. But as a country, let's focus our energies on doing everything we can to diminish inadvertent incentives that might increase self-inflicted deaths.


Paul Steinberg, a former director of the counseling and psychiatric service at Georgetown University, is a psychiatrist.








The arrest of five American nationals in Sargodha indicates the existence of a hitherto unnoticed 'pull' factor. The men were reported as missing from their homes in North Virginia almost a month ago, and at least one had left a 'farewell' video that so disturbed his family that they passed it to the local police who passed it to the FBI. A representative of the Sargodha police interviewed on a private TV channel said that the men had been arrested after a surveillance operation which had been triggered by information coming from a neighbourhood watch scheme. Such schemes are relatively new and not yet widespread, but are suggestive of the police seeking to renegotiate their relationship with the communities they serve. It also suggests that some communities have an increased confidence in the police and are willing to work with them – all of which is good news.


Considerably less good is the 'pull' factor that led to the men being in Sargodha in the first place. They had allegedly come to Pakistan to offer their services to link up with Jaish-e-Muhammad and Jamaatud Dawa; but these miltant groups are believed to have shown no interest. Despite this, the police say they were arrested as they were on the verge of conducting an operation, but would not disclose the nature of it. There does not appear to be any evidence that they had been 'radicalised' whilst living in the US. They led unremarkable lives until they disappeared. A two-member FBI team is now in Sargodha and the men are said to have been granted consular access by American officials. What is profoundly unsettling is that these men apparently chose to come here and offer themselves for whatever purpose. Nobody forced them, they were not recruited by any terrorist organisation and were acting independently as far as may be ascertained today. If we can attract young American Muslims to come here and seek to engage in terrorist activity, then we may be certain that we attract young British, or French, or German or any other nationality. There is a vast global pool of the disaffected and for some Pakistan appears to be the destination. Let us hope that what is now a trickle never becomes a flood.







President Barack Obama's speech in Oslo, where he collected the Nobel Peace Prize controversially awarded to him, will bring frowns on many faces. Mr Obama spoke of creating a better world – but he also defended US-led wars around the world, including the one in Afghanistan. He argued that there was evil in the world which could be countered only by the use of force. In Afghanistan, and in Pakistan, the speech as well as the decision to award the US president the prestigious prize continued to be protested. We must ask if the declaration of good intent is sufficient to merit such an award. Mr Obama's true challenge will be to implement what he has said he hopes to deliver, and there is as yet no guarantee of any kind that he will be able to do so. Certainly, in the war on terror, Washington has struggled to devise a clear-cut policy. Mr Obama stated that even after the US pull-out from Afghanistan, in 18-month time, Washington would remain committed to the country. But there is question over what can be gained in this period. There is a deeply rooted conviction that the US presence in the region inflicts more harm than good and that peace would be easier to create if the US withdrew. But then it must also be said that the Pakistan government, or its counterpart in Kabul, has been unable to build much confidence in its own ability to offer effective governance. And good governance is in many ways the key to winning a war against terrorists who clearly lack all humanity.


Though Mr Obama's ranking of Al Qaeda as 'evil' is not inaccurate, it is perhaps simplistic. Just like Adolf Hitler, another figure whom the US president placed on his list of history's worst villains, Al Qaeda and its allies have exploited people's sense of injustice and deprivation as a way to advance their own cause. This is, without doubt, heinous. But this does not mean the factors that allow them to survive do not need to be tackled. These realities include the brutal happenings in the Middle East, the oppression of the Palestinian people and the policies that permit this to continue. Poverty and deprivation in many parts of the world, including Pakistan and Afghanistan, add to the desperation which breeds terrorism. It is these issues that Mr Obama needs to address.







Pakistan has come tantalisingly close to the eradication of polio but still it eludes us; and we are one of only four countries in the world where it is still endemic. The last two years have seen a spike in reported cases linked to unrest in some parts of the country and to negative propaganda and ignorance in others. For the last 15 years Japan has supported our drive to eradicate polio and on Wednesday announced a grant of $4.42 million to purchase 25.7 million doses or oral vaccine, or about 10 per cent of our total polio vaccine requirement for 2010. In 1994 when the Japanese first started their support for the polio eradication programme the disease was everywhere and up to 30,000 children were being paralysed every year. Some hospitals were reporting up to 250 new cases a month. Within a decade this number was reduced to less than a hundred nationally and it looked as if eradication was in our grasp. Sadly the rise in cases in 2008 and 2009 has delayed this, and this year we have 82 reported cases so far – with 117 cases last year.

Eradicating any disease is a daunting task but humankind has done well in its battle against the ills that beset it. Smallpox is gone and there is no reason why polio should not have followed it. That it has not is in large part down to the propagation of folk-myths and blatant untruths about the vaccination programme. There are those who speak of the eradication programme as a 'conspiracy' to limit the fertility of Muslims. Nothing could be further from the truth – a polio-free population is healthier and happier and the state and the families who make up the state do not have to bear the burden of care for those afflicted by it. Let us hope that the 'push' for eradication in 2010 is the last we have to make and that polio is, finally, banished from our land.






As was expected, a respite in terrorist attacks during Eid holidays proved to be temporary. A spate of coordinated gun, rocket and suicide attacks by the militants in the last few days have shook the nation. The bloodiest of them, and the most worrisome, was the one on Parade Lane Mosque, a stone's throw away from the General Headquarters (GHQ), killing 40 namazis.

Equally terrorising was the attack on a busy market in Lahore, claiming more than 40 lives, mostly women and children. The whole country, with the possible exception of Karachi, is under the attack of the militants. Ordinary citizens, including women and children, security personnel and the military elite, are like sitting ducks for the terrorists.

According to on estimate, more than 2,600 people have perished at the hands of the terrorists in the last two-and-a-half years and there is no end in sight to this bloodbath. Apart from serious ramifications for the country and its future, these attacks are sapping the morale of the ordinary citizen who is becoming increasingly despondent.

The enemy within is everywhere! Since there are no clear targets, no boundaries or a visible enemy to be undermined, our security and intelligence apparatus is faced with a conundrum. The attack on the GHQ a few weeks ago and now on a mosque in a high-security zone and on the ISI headquarters in Multan, obviously serious security lapses, vividly illustrates the capacity of the terrorist to hit his nemesis. If the protectors are not protected how can the ordinary citizen feel secure?

In the attack on the Parade Lane Mosque, apart from other military men six officers including Major General Bilal Omar, a brigadier and two lieutenant colonels and at least sixteen children met shahadat. These terrorists managed to evade high security by taking the less guarded convoy route and scaling the mosque wall using a ladder. As a result of proper training and planning they finished their job with impunity, several of them even reportedly making good their escape.

More serious in its implications was the attack on the GHQ a few weeks ago. Although successfully repelled it was reportedly masterminded by the personal assistant to the surgeon general, a lieutenant general by rank. Before the assistant deserted the army he remained for six years on this post. The obvious question that comes to mind here is whether the armed forces have a monitoring or surveillance system in place for retired personnel, especially for those who desert?

Many of those officers and jawans who served during the Zia era were influenced by his fundamentalist worldview and philosophy. Some of them developed a jihadist culture and mindset that was the norm rather than the exception till as late as 9/11. As political correctness demanded in those days, a sizeable number of them sported beards and espoused the Taliban cause as their cause celebre after retirement. According to some analysts these elements initially imparted training to jihadist outfits which proliferated in the eighties and the nineties,

It would be stating the obvious that targeting of the army and the ISI by the militants is a direct consequence of the recent military successes in South Waziristan and earlier in Malaknd and Swat. The Taliban and Al Qaeda bereft of their sanctuaries are on the rampage and have managed to spread their tentacles in recent weeks. As Shakespeare aptly wrote,' we have scorched the snake, not killed it.' In the meanwhile, the country and the people are suffering, immensely at the hands of the terrorists.

Unfortunately, despite the urgency which the situation demands Pakistan is yet to have a comprehensive and cohesive "anti-terrorism policy." Nor is there civilian ownership or overseeing of the policy being perused by our security agencies against terrorism. It is seen more as an ISI or "their problem." Every time a serious incident happens there are perfunctory statements by those at the helm of affairs followed by selective attendance of namaz-e-janaza and a must visit to the hospitals for photo-ops. Of course, statements blaming the Indians for our travails have a cathartic effect on the morale of our leadership.

A half-hearted attempt was made by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani to form an anti-terrorism body christened as National Counter-Terrorism Authority headed by the former FIA chief Tariq Pervez. Even though a budget was approved, since no proper structure was put in place it never got off the ground. The head of this stillborn organisation is seen running from pillar to post in the corridors of power in Islamabad these days to impress upon the stakeholders to have an effective body to give impetus and direction to efforts to combat terrorism.

Surely the Americans will be willing to lend a helping hand, not only to provide the cash but the expertise for Pakistan to have a Homeland Security of its own. We need to create, train and equip an antiterrorism outfit rather than deny ownership and leave the task merely to the ISI and to the ill-equipped, under- trained and underpaid police force.

There is no doubt that the nation is in a virtual state of war. However, there seems little realisation at the top of the gravity of the situation. Neither the squabbling politicians nor the government in Islamabad is on the same page on how to bring the country out of its present morass. As a result we lack a coherent policy to deal with terrorism, and if there is one it is certainly not working.

In order to effectively deal with terrorism, both short-term and long-term measures are required. For starters, we need an Afghan policy on which all the stakeholders agree. For the time being we have none. The top brass does not approve of the cosines between Zardari and the US, whereas Washington is increasingly viewing the civilian government as weak and vulnerable. The contents of President Zardari's reply to the terse letter written to him by Mr Obama to do more, although not known, hopefully spell out Islamabad's concerns.

It is axiomatic that a comprehensive Afghan policy should include a holistic approach to combat the menace of terrorism. For this to happen, the civilians should bring the military on board instead of persisting with their present detached approach. The military, on the other hand, should welcome such an initiative if and when it is taken by the president and the prime minister, instead of considering them a security risk. This will be an uphill arduous and time consuming task requiring the politicians from the ruling party and the opposition and the security and intelligence apparatus to bring their heads together. Even retired but highly respected military personnel with a broad world view and expertise in the field of counter terrorism and security can be involved in the exercise.

The terms of reference for such a body should be to propose ways and means to deal with the menace of terrorism, as well as to evolve Islamabad's own exit strategy from the Afghan imbroglio. Pakistan is facing the dual problem of incremental pressure from the US "to do more" and at the same time a sharp upsurge in the present wave of terrorism. The US is threatening Pakistan with an invasive attack within its borders if it does not deliver the Taliban and Al Qaeda to them, but simultaneously has announced a drawdown strategy of its troops from Afghanistan. Islamabad might be left in the lurch like after the earlier US abandonment of Afghanistan post the Soviets exit. Hence it needs to open its options to negotiate rather than merely try to militarily defeat the Taliban.

The writer is a former newspaper editor. Email:







Sitting here in the solitude of my room, on a cold night in Finland, I can't help but recall Uncle Shoaib, a wise, well-educated, aware and intelligent person with a great sense of humour. In fact, he was not an individual, he was very much a part of our lives. His death in the suicide blast in the Rawalpindi mosque has left a vacuum in our lives, like the death of a very close family member leaves. Such was his personality.

Major (r) Shoaib Khan was the father of my dear friend, Lozina. But he was just not a person I knew through our friend. His personality had such charisma and influence that every person who met him would share the same feelings that I have.

The heartless, insane terrorists don't realise that it isn't just those who die lose their lives. The families of the victims are scarred and shattered for life. I just can't comprehend such cruelty. My mind fails to come to terms with the idea of suicide bombers brainstorming over an imminent crime, nor with the rage, driven by conspiracy theories, that results in suicide attacks. We are losing our loved ones and our cities are burning, and there can be no explanation for the insane causes of this.

There is no doubt that he was a great asset to our country. Many will write about his professional accomplishments. But this impression of his that I am sharing is that of a fine human being. For me, his greatest attainment in life is his extraordinary daughter, whose courage is exemplary.

Lozina was born with many disabilities and doctors had given her very little chance of survival. Miracles do happen, however, and she did survive, to become a source of strength for others and an asset for the country. She suffered, and is still suffering from many physical challenges, like multiple congenital contractures (MCC), osteoporosis, rheumatic arthritis and cardiac problems. Until now she has undergone 20 major surgeries, including spinal fusion, and more are coming up. The family provided her with the best in life in everything, no matter what the circumstances, and with their best efforts made her not only successful in life but also inspiration for others.

Lozina Shoaib, now doing her PhD, received a National Youth Award last year from the prime minister. She has been appointed assistant director in the Ministry of Social Welfare and Special Education.

With her own radio show, she inspires many people. She is actively participating in social activities and running NGOs. On International Women's Day in 2008 she was named one of the most inspiring women of Pakistan, through a survey carried out by two extremely reputable organisations. She is creating awareness on the inclusive system in the general public, through talk shows and interviews, to induce self-confidence in people with disabilities. She often gives motivational lectures to students in schools, colleges and universities.

To return to the family, in their togetherness in adversity, Lozina and her parents had become each other's best friends. A close-knit family, they were loved by all, because of the love they showered upon others. In spite of all the pain and hardships they endured, one could always find laughter in their home. Uncle Shoaib was a pillar of strength for the family. He had immense love and affection for his talented and courageous daughter, which shone in his eyes every time he looked at her.

I have fond memories of travelling by car with Uncle. I remember the trip to Murree that our group had where my friends in his car. We laughed our heads off at Uncle's jokes.

The terrorists killed a fine Muslim. I remember him as an extremely pious man, never missing a single prayer. When I went to see him and Aunty the night before my flight to Finland, he was not home and had gone for prayers. The moment he came back home, he gave me his blessings and prayers.

I often sat back and marvelled at the strength and courage of the family in dealing with the hardships of life with smiles on their faces and love in their eyes. The fact that Uncle is no longer with us in this physical world has shaken us all. I remember Uncle's smiling face, his joke-telling, his affection and courtesy and his love for Lozina.

The death of Uncle Shoaib is a loss beyond words, and I cannot describe how deeply we mourn his passing away in that mad bombing. In Lozina we find Uncle Shoaib's message of inspiration and of the need to move on in life, no matter what the adversity. People like him should not remain unsung heroes of our nation. His life is an inspiration for us because in him we find a true patriot, a great Muslim and a gem of a person we are never to forget.

My heart goes out to Aunty and Lozina. As one of the friends said to them: "We have always marvelled at your courage and strength so we pray to Allah to give you patience and courage to go through this very hard time. You are all always remembered in our prayers and we are all always here for you. The loss is irreplaceable as we have lost someone who is our loved one too."

A fine person like Uncle Shoaib will live forever -- especially the way he brought up his daughter -- and be blessed in Heaven. He died as a martyr while offering prayers, and our faith tells us that martyrs live forever. It is this faith that helps us survive in difficult times. May Allah bless him with the highest place in Heaven and May Allah give the family patience and courage to bear the pain. Thinking of what Aunty and Lozina must be going through sends a shiver down my spine, especially since neither of them is in good health.

May Allah bring peace to our country.

The writer is pursuing her PhD in software engineering in Finland. Email: irauf







Wars are not won by contenders merely being greater in military might. This is possible only through adoption of a correct strategy at the right time. This is the point where the United States has totally failed. After eight years of the Afghan war, countless billions of dollars down the drain, the deaths of more than one thousand occupation troops and the slaughtering of thousands of Afghan civilians, the US remains even more clueless than before.

President Obama recently announced his much-awaited Afghan strategy at the US Military Academy at West Point. Giving in to the demand of the generals, he announced a decision to send 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, with the provision that after 18 months NATO troops will start returning from the war-torn country. However, some high officials in the Obama administration later said that June 2011 is not necessarily the final date for this.

In the past eight years the presence of NATO troops in Afghanistan has just aggravated the situation and emboldened the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. What extraordinary result will these additional 30,000 troops be able to achieve in the next 18 months? Many analysts have predicted that the troops surge will never enable the Americans to win the war. In any case, the Afghans have always abhorred foreign occupation, which is why the country is known as a graveyard of empires.

Some months ago the US sent 22,000 troops to Afghanistan but the outcome was only increased violence and lawlessness. The military escalation in southern Afghanistan will cause the spill-over of Afghan militants into Pakistan's tribal areas. In order to counter it the US may, in turn, expand the war theatre into Pakistan, which will serve no good purpose and NATO troops will continue to plunge themselves into the war.

William R Polk, a Middle East advisor in the Kennedy administration, recently wrote an article in the US magazine The Nation, in which he has said that "normalcy" can never return to Afghanistan unless the US and NATO troops leave the country.

Obama's new strategy rests on the assumption that in the next 18 months the Afghan National Army (ANA) will be strengthened to the point where it is able to take charge of the security situation in the country. But this is likely to remain a pipedream for a number of reasons.

There is much evidence indicating that Afghan soldiers are in collusion with the Taliban and nurture sympathies for them. No officer of the Afghan army has been killed in the battlefield so far. The Afghans' immediate concern is to get rid of foreign occupation. Recently reports have surfaced that some NATO troops have even been found bribing the Taliban so that their conveys do not come under Taliban attacks. Moreover, the recruitment of the majority of soldiers from non-Pukhtun population has widened the ethnic differences among various communities.

Some analysts have even said that Obama has sanctioned the troops surge because he did not want to appear a weak president. But the question that arises is whether the Afghan war is worth the amount of money and lives which will be spent during these 18 months. One argument in favour of the American presence in Afghanistan is that the US cannot leave this mess behind. But has the US done much to improve the situation in Afghanistan, in the past eight years it has been fighting there?

The surge will cost the US Treasury at least an additional $30 billion. Today, because of President Bush's imperialistic wars the US economy is in tatters. But President Obama is still treading the path of his predecessor. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the deficit for the 2009 fiscal year has come in more than $1.4 trillion, which is about 11.2 per cent of the US GDP, while so many citizens of the world's richest country are denied the basic necessities of life.

The war in Afghanistan is totally directionless and the US should think of withdrawing its forces from Afghanistan as soon as possible. President Dwight D Eisenhower once said: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed…"

The writer is a freelance contributor. Email:







The Balochistan package, the implementation of which the prime minister envisages finalising by December 15, has been received with views on both extremes of a spectrum. The ruling stakeholders term it as a significant milestone whereas the Baloch nationalists have rejected it outright.

A review of the package shows that the parliamentary and cabinet committee mandated with the task of developing the package has carefully gone over the various bones of contention and has made an effort to make some allowances without disturbing the current relationship between the federation and federating units. Hence, some additional space has been created for Balochistan in the administrative, economic and political realms, with commitments to pay outstanding dues on account of royalties -- a major concern in inter-provincial relationships -- and an affirmation that the parliamentary committee will review matters relating to provincial autonomy in the 18th Amendment.

If this package, as the name suggests, is the beginning of careful strategic thinking and long-term planning towards granting provinces the due share of autonomy, then it should be considered as a step in the positive direction. In isolation, however, each of its components have their limitations, as the objective intended to be achieved through the Balochistan package, deeply interlinked with the issue of provincial autonomy and the relationship of the federation with its federating units. In this equation, the federal government's mandate, the fate of the concurrent list, discussions around the National Finance Commission (NFC) award, matters relating to provincial prerogatives with regard to sharing of resources and taxation and other prerogatives assume great importance. These must be addressed in a coordinated and step-wise manner.

First, autonomy must be defined in the context of fiscal and political federalism in Pakistan. Over the years, many calls have drawn attention to the subject, most of them subscribing to an extreme notion of autonomy analogous to what was envisaged in the 1940 resolution, which defined Pakistan as "a federation comprising autonomous units, which shall be completely sovereign". Views articulated in the Declaration of Autonomy of the Federating Units signed on August 2, 1986, by the leaders of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy, also called for an extent of autonomy in which all, except four subjects -- defence, foreign affairs, communications and currency -- were to be delegated to the provinces. Many Baloch nationalists still subscribe to this view. The question is, do these four subjects guarantee a viable federation for Pakistan? What else is needed by way of the federal government's mandate to fulfill the concept of a unified Pakistan and promote equity in development across provinces? Can the desired level of provincial autonomy be granted by implementing the five-point constitutional changes articulated in the Balochistan package, relating to abolishing the concurrent list, the Local Government Ordinance (LGO) 2001 and Police Order 2002, and effective implementation of Articles 153-160 of the constitution? Or should we completely digress from the quantum of provincial autonomy as endorsed by the 1973 constitution? How can we achieve the dual goals of granting the people of Balochistan the right to self-rule and control while supporting national unity at the same time? These questions need careful thinking with a broad-based consensus on the directions to be pursued.

Second, the federal government's mandate must be clearly defined. Many believe that the current federal system has been designed on the legacy of centralised control -- a hallmark of the colonial period. In this arrangement, the federal government has been stretched thin with tasks that could better be taken in the provincial fold. Many also believe that there is a major disconnect between prerogatives to generate resources and expenditure responsibilities. It has been frequently cited that the federal government generates 93 per cent of the resources and has 72 per cent share in total expenditures; conversely, the provinces are left with seven per cent resources and account for 28 per cent of the expenditure. Of the five expenditure heads of the federal government, the two that are of direct relevance to the question of provincial autonomy are the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) and the cost of running the civil government. There are many subjects under the PSDP, which can better be assigned to the provinces. If there is a unanimous consensus to do so, the costs of running the civil establishment in Islamabad can be scaled down through structural institutional changes; the concurrent list can then correspondingly be pruned and the size of the National Finance Commission award for the provinces will therefore increase.

Third, the issue of the NFC Award is closely interlinked. Out of the seven NFCs since the 1973 constitution, only four have come up with additional measures. These although important in their own right, do not comprehensively address issues fundamental to the fiscal autonomy of the provinces, which center on taxation rights and mechanisms to assign permanent sources of revenue, particularly with regard to control over natural resources in line with what has been stipulated in Article 161.

Decision on the next NFC award is due later this week. Although there are inherent difficulties in balancing the varied demands of the provinces, there are ways in which provinces can be empowered to generate and retain their own revenue, whilst reducing concentration of revenue collection at the centre through major tax-heads, albeit without jeopardising the core functions of the federation. In addition, sensible revenue collection criteria, which indicate economic activity in the province and hence revenue distribution can be devised and given weights in relation to criteria for distribution from the divisible pool. This can be supplemented by other criteria -- indeed the provinces have a long-term demand to include criteria other than the sole criterion of population as a basis of provincial allocations from the divisible pool.

Fourth, let's not forget that the core purpose of provincial autonomy is to enhance public sector effectiveness. That in turn is closely linked to how the system of local governance will be shaped -- an area in which there is pervasive uncertainty.

It is evident, therefore, that the issue meant to be addressed through the Balochistan package needs a consensus-driven long term plan, which can be implemented in a coordinated stepwise manner. As this requires many institutional changes, immediate implementation of drastic and ad hoc measures should be avoided as it can lead to disenchantment in the administration particularly at the federal level, which can be detrimental at a time when the country is undergoing many different crises.

But at the same time, the issue of provincial autonomy should not be taken lightly. In fact, the determinants of the country's split in 1971 were rooted in negligence to the subject. It is imperative to devise a long-term solution acceptable to the provinces to ensure that the provinces have more space and control, whilst at the same time strengthening the foundations of the federal structure and inter-provincial harmony. However, in order to get things going in a coordinated fashion, long-term visionary thinking, strategic planning, and consistency of policy direction is needed over time. In tandem, careful and unbiased oversight has to be ensured so that capacity development and transparency-promoting reform is pursued in the provinces in parallel with granting of autonomy and responsibility. A package of measures, no matter how well-intentioned, has inherent limitations in achieving this long-term objective.

The writer is the founding-president of Heartfile. Email:







This past week was shockingly violent. The savagery witnessed at the Parade Lane mosque in Rawalpindi was exceptionally appalling. The spectre of militants ruthlessly killing people during Friday prayers in the name of Islam is so fundamentally opposed to our religious and cultural values and our self-perception as Pakistanis that it is tempting to swaddle ourselves in denial about the multifarious causes of violence infesting Pakistan.

One form of such denial produced by a misplaced sense of patriotism is the assertion that perpetrators of such depraved attacks cannot be Pakistanis and the increasing spate of terror attacks has to be the handiwork of our foreign foes. Another form of denial fuelled by our allegiance to our faith and our desire to shield it from slander is the assertion that these terrorists are inspired by political goals and not a defiled brand of religion perceived by them as true Islam.

It is imperative to define one's identity. Why should a bigoted, obscurantist and intolerant perception of our faith come to define what our religion stands for? Why should we allow the world to perceive us as a nation that breeds, accommodates or tolerates brutes practicing and preaching barbarism? But our desire to preserve our sanity and reduce the gap between Pakistan's growing perception as a problem place willingly hosting terrorists and our reality as a moderate nation waging a valorous struggle against violence that is hurting us most of all must not be founded in falsehood and self-deceit.

We must acknowledge and remind ourselves that the scourge of part-mercenary-part-religion-inspired merchants of violence that now infests Pakistan is a product of our own ingenuousness. The US and its allies conceived the jihadist project as a bulwark against the Soviets in Afghanistan and we volunteered to act as implementing agents.

Our fatal flaw was not that we viewed failure of the Soviet enterprise in Afghanistan as a vital national- security interest, but that we agreed to assemble the infrastructure required to plan subversive activities within Afghanistan on our territory and enticed our own citizens with considerations of faith, money and power to recruit them to fight the "good jihad."

The manner in which the national-security policy was defined was aided by the intolerant brand of religion practiced in state-sponsored madrasas that preached individualistic jihad against "infidels." It was this nexus between our national-security doctrine and an obscurantist form of Islam that continued to rear a brigade of militants who believed they were fighting a righteous war in the name of God, and not Pakistan. Like all clandestine activities, the infrastructure formed to create, sustain and operate the jihadi project could not be subjected to the kind of command and control structures under which an organised army functions.

While our jihadi project delivered in the immediate-term in Afghanistan, its sponsors neither contemplated any means to disassemble the jihadi infrastructure if need be, nor took cognisance of the menacing social and economic costs of having ideologically inspired gun-toting militias running amok in the country.

As an instrument of policy the jihadi project has been flawed since inception. For once put in operation, it acquired a life of its own and was not even in the control of its patrons: its operatives can neither be diffused nor reprogrammed in accordance with the changing national-security doctrine or state policy. The argument that it was the US war in Afghanistan and Musharraf's willingness to send the army into the tribal area that unleashed the menace of terror in Pakistan is therefore flawed. The US war in Afghanistan and Musharraf's decision to take a sudden U-turn vis-à-vis our Afghan policy certainly fuelled the fire now raging across Pakistan. But collecting the timber and sprinkling oil over it was our own doing. This war between the jihadi infrastructure and the security agencies would have kicked off in any event whenever the state changed its security or foreign policy in a manner that did not correspond to the jihadist worldview.

The terms on which Musharraf allied Pakistan with the US after 9/11 and his simultaneously two-timing the jihadists and the Americans certainly contributed to our misfortunes. But a conflict between our home-grown jihadists and the state was waiting to happen.

The root cause of our plight today is not that we withdrew our support for the Taliban government in Afghanistan under US pressure or that we decided to exercise control over the tribal areas. But that we formulated an ill-conceived national-security policy built on the premise that exercising direct control over Afghanistan would further our national interest, used jihadists as an instrument to implement this policy in the mistaken belief that we would have the sustained ability to control the genie even when it came out of the bottle, allowed distorted religious doctrines to be used for promotion of a flawed security policy and housed and trained the jihadists within a part of our country where we allowed lawlessness to fester for six decades.

The chickens have now come home to roost. According to one estimate Pakistan has lost almost 8,000 civilians and 2,900 soldiers in terrorism-related violence between 2003 and 2009. The armed forces, the police and the society are under attack on a daily basis. Agonising over our follies of the 80s and 90s or hatching conspiracy theories to blame India or the US for all our strife will not help, for flawed diagnosis will lead to bad prescription and not cure. People always come to fish in troubled waters. Unless we objectively analyse where we went wrong and plug our vulnerabilities, finger-pointing and self-pity alone will not make our problems go away. For now we need to throw all our support behind the security and law enforcing agencies and fight this extremely perilous war against terrorism with unwavering resolve.

While political approaches, sustainable structures of governance and developmental programmes are required to engender and sustain peace in the tribal areas, no number of political concessions will diffuse the human bombs that have already been created and launched.

The talk of finding political compromises to subside the present wave of violence is thus a non-starter. We are presently fighting anarchist groups inspired by an intolerant and violent brand of religion who seek revenge from the state and society for their allegedly turning sacrilegious. The Pakistani Taliban can thus not be compared with the Baloch separatists or similar ethnic groups in other countries primarily seeking political autonomy, economic empowerment or social justice, that turn to violence merely to realise such political goals.

The Afghan Taliban, for example, are more akin to such a force for they seek to end the occupation of their country by the foreign forces and wish to reclaim their government. The Pakistani Taliban have articulated no such political programme. If they have one at all, it is to impose their intolerant brand of religion on the rest of the country and acquire control of this state to wage jihad against the US-led western world. By its very nature, this is an anarchist group not amenable to political compromise.

The Obama plan for Afghanistan – the surge together with the exist strategy – has provided Pakistan with another opening to undo some of its past mistakes in its relationship with our western neighbour. While the Americans might be able to sustain another blunder in Afghanistan, Pakistan cannot change its geography and consequently has no room for error.

Instead of bending backwards to appease the US or itching to slip back into the godfather mindset of the 90s and offering unconditional support to the Taliban, we need to urgently reconfigure our national-security policy that is geared to protecting the internal security of Pakistan and is flexible enough to accommodate all possible outcomes of the US war effort in Afghanistan.








The Pakistan army may shun a coup; the US army may not. Or if the 17-member bench of the Supreme Court fails to trigger a government change, worry not, climate change can! According to the Pentagon and intelligence agencies, climate change can topple governments; feed terrorist movements and destabilise entire regions. Climate change is therefore the matrix for corruption and terrorism. Pakistan is being warned of the possibility of a US intervention. What's heat got to do with it? What's drought got to do with it? What's an inept ruler got to do with it?

"It gets real complicated real quickly," said Amanda Dory, the deputy assistant secretary of defence for strategy, working with a Pentagon group assigned to incorporate climate change into national security strategy planning. The prospect of famines, drought, floods, mass migration and storms caused by climate change can gun-trigger the American military to enter our territory.

Last August prophets of climate change warned the world that 'shaky' countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan will become a 'hotbed of terrorism,' if not the future headquarters of Al Qaeda, should drought, deluge, earthquakes, pestilence, mass migration (read population explosion) and various other natural disasters occur. The US military has been alerted and Las Vegas (of all the places!) is the epicentre of strategists getting exercised over Pakistan facing the prospects of famine, water crisis and pestilence. The military in America will respond.

Remember what Dick Cheney said: "If there's a 1 per cent chance that Pakistani scientists are helping Al Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response." The then vice-president spoke of a new type of threat from Pakistan: a 'low-probability, high-impact event.'

Senator Kerry is paying serious attention to the National Intelligence Council (the source of US security intelligence) warnings that scourges like 'poverty, environmental degradation and the weakening of national governments,' are hot button issues screaming for action.

America may have unilaterally given itself the authority for 'military intervention' should a natural or man-made catastrophe was to hit Pakistan. In the 2005 earthquake, the then American ambassador Ryan Crocker planned taking charge of relief efforts. He convinced Musharraf that the Americans could do a better job than the Pakistanis. Crocker and his team of army men landed at the Prime Minister's Secretariat to set up their disaster management headquarters. "Big beefy colonels toting their cell phones and walkie-talkies roamed the corridors barking orders at us," an eyewitness told me. "We were running like scared chickens trying not to get trampled." Fortunately, saner voices prevailed and the Americans were finally told to vacate the premises.

When the army action began in Swat this summer, the American embassy in Islamabad again approached Prime Minister Gilani. Ambassador Anne Patterson offered to help with the logistics. The NWFP government invited the US to help them with the IDPs (internally displaced persons). A junket was organised by the Humanitarian Dialogue for the politicians and non-governmental organisations from NWFP and FATA in Geneva.

The press release from Geneva said: "Participants were able to reach a consensus that effective humanitarian delivery depends on a transparent and structured dialogue with militant actors by humanitarian agencies with the full knowledge, support and agreement of the government."

Pakistan signed away its sovereign rights to the UN agencies, allowing them unhindered access to the militants.

Today the UN conference on climate change is taking place in Copenhagen as is the surge of US troops in Afghanistan. Connect the dots for a complete picture. 'Af-Pak' will pop out. That's target 2010!








IT appears that President Asif Ali Zardari is trying to establish his credentials as a pro-poor leader by focusing on initiatives aimed at improving the lot of the downtrodden sections of the society. On Thursday, he performed third draw of the "Waseela-e-Haq" scheme launched under Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) to provide loan of three hundred thousand rupee to the winners enabling them to start some self-employment scheme.

We appreciate this laudable initiative of the President as this is what the Government needs to do to address one of the most serious problems of the country i.e. poverty and backwardness. Though the monthly stipend of one thousand being provided to the families registered under the BISP is surely not enough keeping in view the abysmal poverty conditions and high inflation yet it is also a fact that this was just a good beginning and with the passage of time the President, who conceived the idea, is coming out with innovative plans to make it more relevant to our needs. If three hundred thousand rupees credit, repayable in fifteen years, is disbursed in a fair and transparent manner to the winners of the draw and the BISP ensures its proper and judicious utilization, then we can expect genuine improvement in the lives of the poor. A family can launch some productive scheme to generate necessary income to lead a respectable life but for this to happen they will have to be given necessary counselling for the intended business and how to make it fruitful. Now the President has taken the scheme a step further by asking the BISP to design it in a way to allow more than one beneficiaries to pool together their loan to launch a business that requires investment more than three hundred thousand rupees like acquisition of buses, wagons and tractor trolleys. This would be particularly beneficial for those families who don't have some mature member of the family to undertake any business venture on its own. We would also urge the President and the Prime Minister to launch comprehensive programmes to promote cottage industry and impart technical and vocational skills to our youth. We can overcome the problem of poverty and unemployment and even terrorism only when we are able to create more economic activities and jobs for our young people. We must not lose sight of the fact that our founding fathers were inspired by the State of Madina Munawwara and they struggled for a separate homeland for Muslims of South Asia to turn it into an Islamic, welfare and democratic State.








IT is extremely unfortunate and very disturbing that the US nationals are frequently trampling laws of Pakistan perhaps considering the country a US colony. There have been numerous incidents of moving around even in the vicinity of sensitive installations, carrying of arms in public, scuffle with personnel of law enforcing agencies, violation of traffic rules, use of fake vehicle number plates and release of the culprits under pressure from the US Embassy.

Such incidents are taking place for the last several months and their frequency is increasing with the passage of time. This clearly shows that their suspicious and condemnable activities are either being ignored by the quarters concerned or they have been given free licence by the high-ups. There have been scores of media reports about such incidents and people have been urging the Government to stem their activities but it seems the Government is reluctant to take up the issue with all seriousness with the US authorities. It is because of this confused approach that the US nationals are reported to be buying properties and that too close to nuclear sites and some of them are found spying. In one such similar case an American national, held on charges of spying for the US, was released on Wednesday by the authorities in Peshawar. A motorcyclist with fake number plate and claiming to be working for American Embassy was arrested in front of the Naval Complex before suicide bombing incident there. And in Sargodha, five American nationals were found with laptops and maps of sensitive installations and one doesn't know what their ultimate fate would be. It is tragic that all those found involved in objectionable activities were released on intervention of some 'high-up' and there are reasons to believe that he is no other than the Interior Minister. This is done on the pretext of diplomatic immunity but one fails to understand then why such people are not declared persona non grata. An army of Americans is present in Pakistan and especially in Islamabad and this presence is beyond any justification or explanation. Why and how Pakistan's Ambassador in Washington issued over fifteen thousand visas to Americans just in two months and where these visitors are? In Islamabad alone, according to official figures, Americans have 411 residences in different sectors of the capital but no one knows their exact status and the activities they are carrying out. The intelligence agencies that are supposed to counter such activities have been entangled into the mess of terrorism and most of their time is wasted in self-defence rather than moving firmly against those involved in anti-Pakistan activities. We apprehend that if the Government failed to take stock of the situation and did not curb such mysterious activities and movements then people would be forced to take the law into their own hands as was done by angry mobs in Karachi that torched robbers and dacoits.










THOUGH it doesn't appear to be very categorical policy statement yet Minister for Local Government Justice (Retd) Abdul Razzaq Thahim told Pakistan Observer on Thursday that the Local Government System would not be abolished as it was protected under Articles 32 and 140-A of the Constitution. He was of the view that the provinces could amend the system after December 31, 2009 but they cannot wind it up.

This, in our view, is a good development and a saner view of the entire scenario. There was widespread concern among people over moves during the past few months that were aimed at abolishing the system altogether. It was widely believed that these moves were politically inspired as the incumbent Governments were not ready to accept and accommodate Local Governments that were predominantly formed by supporters and sympathizers of the previous PML (Q) Government. We have been emphasizing in these columns that the tendency of carrying out experiments every now and then should be discouraged and it ought not to be made a practice to discard each and every initiative of the previous Government even if it was serving the interests of the people. One may have objections to the functioning and working of the new LG system evolved by former President Pervez Musharraf but the fact remains that it empowered people and helped bring about a positive socio-economic change. The system definitely needs improvements to make it more responsive to local needs but there was no justification to throw it to the dustbin. We would, instead, propose that some of the functions of the Members of Parliament especially those relating to developmental programmes should be assigned to Local Governments so that the worthy parliamentarians could concentrate on their real job of law-making.









Eight years of war in Afghanistan and still no victory in sight. Many predict that US will suffer the same fate as Alexander the Great, the British, and the Soviet Union. Perhaps Washington needs to reassess its strategy for winning this war. Like they say, an error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to correct it. This war is not yet Vietnam but could easily become so if blunders are not rectified. The Western powers must not overlook the fact that Afghanistan has contributed to fanning not only fundamentalism, terrorism and instability in the region but also opium cultivation and drug trafficking largely due to Karazi's weak government performance and corruption. Karzai's brother, head of Kandahar's provincial council is proven drug trafficker facilitating the transportation of heroin from Kandahar eastward through Helmand and out across the Iranian border.

Howler number one was to turn Afghanistan into a bastion of not only anti Pakistan activities but also a hub of corruption, widespread criminal activity and into a drug smuggler's paradise. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai at a news conference said, "all, drug production and trafficking goes hand in hand with terrorism, the money that's created from drugs feeds terrorism in Afghanistan and the rest of the world". Afghanistan is leading opium production in the world today but after the invasion of U.S. in 2002 Afghanistan is also attributed to have largest heroin production in the world as well. The Taliban are said to be raking in about $470 million a year from the heroin trade in Afghanistan that is estimated to be about 7 to 8 thousand tons of opium a year. The insurgent militant group gets the massive amount from direct drug trafficking and exacting 10% tax from Afghan poppy farmers. The money that is generated by drug smuggling is being used to purchase weapons and ammunition and also serves to finance separatist regimes. All this is happening under the control of champion of human rights U.S. and its intelligence setup mainly CIA. Profit gained by these drugs was main driving force behind all this trade and with heroin it was much more than what it was with cocaine. Ironically U.S. and Europe became biggest markets of heroin prepared and produced in Afghanistan. With money pouring left right and center would the drug-trafficking groups making millions and financing corruption and terrorism ever want the War on Terror to end? Therefore it's extremely important to put the jinni of drug growing, processing and trafficking back into the bottle.

Second the sensitivities of Pakistan's views on the presence of India in Kabul and its perceived fear of increasing Indian regional influence needs to be addressed. It's central to alter Islamabad's sensitivity that Afghanistan will not be used against Pakistan and India's presence in Kabul will not be to destabilize Pakistan. It's pertinent to remember that Pakistan had already remained a direct victim of the Indo-Soviet strategic alliance, which helped dismember Pakistan in December 1971. Pakistanis are convinced that the plan of RAW is to keep internal instability flaring up mainly to keep the ISI preoccupied so that Pakistan can lend no worthwhile resistance to Indian designs in the region. India has been using the Afghan card as early as 1962 Sino-Indian conflict; India urged the then Afghan government to deploy its forces along the Durrand line to dissuade Pakistan from any adventurism against India. Afghanistan sided with India during the 1965 and 1971 wars. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, India aided the Soviet secret service KGB and Afghan spy agency Khad to attempt to destabilize Pakistan through sabotage, subversion and acts of terrorism.

The Taliban Rule in Afghanistan constrained India to use Afghan soil to destabilize Pakistan. After the fall of the Taliban in 2001 India moved quickly to regain its strategic depth in Afghanistan. 9/11 provided an opportunity for India to subvert Pakistan. A quarter century of LTTE-led militancy and terrorism in Sri Lanka came to an end in May 2009. It's significant to note that peace returned in Sri Lanka only after India stopped interfering in Sri Lanka's politics and economy. Furthermore, it's no secret that Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has played games using India against Pakistan.

During his presidential campaign, President Obama publicly stated that peace in South Asia and Afghanistan would need to incorporate some kind of resolution on the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. The New York Times' Mark Landler reported Jan. 7, 2009 that Holbrooke would likely be named "a special envoy to Pakistan and India." President Obama intent was to appoint Richard Holbrook as a Special South Asia envoy and bring the Kashmir issue under his purview, integrated with the Pakistan-Afghanistan imbroglio. At an off-the-record Aspen Strategy Group meeting held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C. in December 2008, a high-level delegation from India told American foreign policy experts including three officials who were part of Obama transition team that India might preemptively make Richard Holbrooke persona non grata if his South Asia envoy mandate officially included India or Kashmir.

The powerful Indian lobby prevailed and Richard Holbrook was appointed only a Pakistan-Afghanistan envoy. When Richard Holbrooke, coined the term Af-Pak he explained the motivation behind the term, "We often call the problem Af-Pak, as in Afghanistan Pakistan. This is not just an effort to save eight syllables. It's an attempt to indicate and imprint in our DNA the fact that there is one theater of war, straddling an ill-defined border, the Durand Line, and that on the western side of that border, NATO and other forces are able to operate. On the eastern side, it's the sovereign territory of Pakistan. But it's on the eastern side of this ill-defined border that the international terrorist movement is located." This demeaning expression not only puts Pakistan on the same level as Afghanistan on the brink of total collapse but recognizes Pakistan as part of the Af-Pak problem. It also excludes the key player in Afghanistan, India and sidelines the problem of Kashmir. This only implies that the US wants to use Pakistan for its own interests rather than build a genuine partnership with the people of Pakistan.

The U.S. Congress on October 1, 2008, gave final approval to an agreement facilitating nuclear cooperation between the United States and India. It provides U.S. assistance to India's civilian nuclear energy program, and expands U.S.-India cooperation in energy and satellite technology. When Pakistan demanded that it be offered a similar nuclear deal the USA offered India, the US refused. Obviously Washington is not keen to maintain "balance" in the region.

The third blunder is to malign Pakistani's Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence ISI the very organization that was instrumental in driving the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Intensive efforts are being made by US think tanks, lobbyists and media that the ISI and the armed forces of Pakistan should be seen as the forces behind the Afghanistan mess. Washington cant' be oblivious of ISI and Pakistan Army's successes in capturing nearly 700 Al Qaeda operatives including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and their capture of Qaeda sanctuaries in the Waziristan area bordering Afghanistan. ISI is a professional organization, entrusted with the delicate task of securing Pakistan's safety. ISI is one of the strongest and patriotic institutions guarding national interests. Being the eyes and ears of Pakistan they are performing the same tasks as CIA, Mossad, RAW and RAAM, (Afghanistan's intelligence agency established with the help of Indian RAW.) It's now an established fact that RAW and RAAM are actively involved in fuelling unrest in Pakistan's tribal areas. Pakistanis are convinced that tarnishing the image of ISI purposely with a view to weaken Pakistan means that that CIA is altogether working on some different agenda.







There seems to be a belated realization on the part of US administration and also US military leadership that whether they decide to 'stay the course' or wish to have a graceful exit from Afghanistan, they need Pakistan's cooperation. However, since the time Pakistan has taken the stand that it will not take scathing criticism and bashing lying down, there is a visible change in Americans' attitude and they understand that without addressing Pakistan's concerns, they cannot achieve their objectives in Afghanistan and for that matter in the region. It is true that the US being a super power has its own compulsions, and to advance its global agenda it needs India, but it should not have been at the cost of Pakistan.

The US and western media have also been denigrating Pakistan and leveling allegations of ensconcing Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, though Pakistan helped in killing and arresting hundreds of militants. This should stop now. At least US military commanders seem to be on the same page. Admiral Michael Mullen, US chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said the US was aware of Pakistan's concerns in Balochistan and this subject was a constant part of his conversations with Pakistan's Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and his Indian counterpart General Deepak Kapoor. In an exclusive interview with local daily on Tuesday afternoon, Admiral Mullen also acknowledged the importance of Kashmir issue and said resolution of this longstanding dispute between India and Pakistan would have a positive impact on the overall regional stability.

In fact, the most significant part of Obama's speech was his acknowledgement that "success in Afghanistan was inextricably linked to Washington's partnership with Pakistan". Some analysts were of the opinion that President Obama resorted to rhetoric because Pakistan did not have pleasant experience of agreements and pacts with the US and the West in the past. However, there is no reason to disbelieve Obama, and at least on the surface it appears that he means what he says. His resolve to have partnership with Pakistan built on a foundation of mutual interests, mutual respect, and mutual trust is appreciable. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has more than once confessed that America is responsible in equal measure for the mess in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the past.

The day Obama delivered his speech at West Point, Hillary Clinton addressing Pakistan diaspora had said the US cannot achieve its objectives by ignoring Pakistan. During presidential campaign, Barack Obama, who was against invasion of Iraq in the first place, had vowed that if elected he would withdraw from Iraq but would put more boots on the ground in Afghanistan. Once he was at the helm, he observed that ground realities were different and situation was not that rosy as he was made to believe. In this backdrop, he wished to have an exit strategy, but he wanted it to be an honorable exit. The idea he has floated is that by training the Afghan army and giving them the responsibility for controlling various provinces and districts, the US can call the day. Since its ignominious defeat in Vietnam in 1970s, the US seemed to be very sensitive. Already, on 9/11, the invincibility of the present day America was shredded into smithereens.

In Iraq the US had made blunders, as there was a consensus among the analysts that had the US not sacked Bath Party loyalists indiscriminately from the army and Iraqi administration, it would have been able to control the situation within a shorter period. In Iraq, the things improved by addressing minority sunnis' concerns, and for bringing peace in Afghanistan the majority Pushtuns have to be taken on board.

In Afghanistan, the majority Pushtuns were pushed against the wall and the result was that after eight years the US, NATO and Afghan forces could not control more than 30 per cent of Afghanistan, whereas 70 per cent of Afghanistan is still beyond the writ of Kabul. The second part of the flawed strategy was that instead of relying on Pakistan, President Barack Obama wished to give greater role to India and provided the latter with opportunities to deeply entrench in Afghanistan. It is not being suggested to give a greater role to Pakistan but the US should have addressed Pakistan's concerns vis-à-vis Indian presence in Afghanistan. In response to Secretary Defence Robert Gates' Memorandum of 25th June 2009, Commander NATO/ISAF Stanley McChrystal had submitted his comprehensive report on 31st August 2009, in which he had The reason for American leadership being jittery was that the economic crisis in America has brought it on the verge of at least technical bankruptcy. It faces fiscal deficit, trade deficit and current account deficit, and this ominous situation does not allow its leadership to stretch its imperialist outreach because in ultimate analysis economic strength determines military strength of any country. In this backdrop, America cannot afford another adventure, and if hawks prevail to push Obama administration to extend its operation in FATA then it will be a sure recipe for disaster. It will not be wrong to say that status of America as a sole super power is at stake. In this backdrop, the US had hinted that it is willing to negotiate with the Taliban if they renounce Al Qaeda and violence. Earlier there were reports that Saudi Arabia was playing its role in indirect negotiations between the US and the Taliban.

Despite denials from both sides, there are indications that there are reports of indirect contacts between the US and the Taliban. If this is true it is sensible move, as unless the majority Pushtuns are taken on board, peace would remain an illusion in Afghanistan. America has spent more than one trillion dollars on these two misadventures, and financial meltdown and recession has brought America on the brink. It is in this backdrop that America has to look for the way out. In Iraq, the semblance of normality one witnessed today is due to the right mix – the majority is at the helm and ruling the country, whereby grievances of sunni minority have been addressed and this policy has helped isolate Al Qaeda in Iraq. Afghanistan was ruled throughout its history by the majority Pushtuns. After 9/11, America invaded Afghanistan and then onwards Northen Alliance dominated the government under Hamid Karzai, which is not acceptable to the majority. And unless that position is reversed there is not a speck of chance for peace in Afghanistan.







Obama announced the New Strategy for Afghanistan , and "has come to the determination through a series of deliberations, and getting a strategy for how to go forward in Afghanistan " with the intention "to finish the job." He has ordered a surge of 30,000 troops, increasing the total US commitment to about 100,000, bolstered by 45000 NATO troops. He hopes to finish the job in three years and then withdraw. He defines the objectives as under: "Our overarching goal remains the same: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan , and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future." The new mission will last at its peak for a period of 18 months after which "our troops will begin to come home. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan .

And then proceeds to say that nothing would succeed in Afghanistan without the help from Pakistan : "We will act with the full recognition that our success in Afghanistan is inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan ." And "there is no doubt that the United States and Pakistan share a common enemy." On the face of it, this strategy is flawed, because the surge of 30,000 troops will not help win the war. Rather, they would need ten times more troops to achieve a semblance of success. Since they cannot afford such a large mobilization of troops, therefore, they can, at best maintain the no-win-situation, with 30,000 troops; "to hold the existing important population and communication centres, while the airpower will be used to flush-out the Taliban." Paddy Ashdon, rightly comments: "We are not succeeding in this war, but failing at an accelerated rate. Failing both at political and military level."The second flaw in this policy is that of perception, that "we are fighting a common enemy." American and their allies are fighting Afghan freedom fighters, who are not our enemies, whereas Pakistan Army is fighting our own angry tribals, who are not our enemies and have fallen-out with us because of the wrong policies of our previous government.

We will be able to settle the issue with them, through dialogue and discussion. The third important part of the strategy is "to disrupt and dismantle Al-Qaeda," whose remaining strength is estimated to be about one hundred, according to their military advisor, Maj Gen ® James Jones. One hundred thousand American troops and sixty thousand Allied troops will be employed to disrupt and dismantle one hundred Al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan . What a big task to be accomplished! "May you live in interesting times" as the Chinese say.

In his recent visit to Washington , Man Mohan Singh has shown much concern and anxiety over Washington 's ties with Beijing , as well as ostensible importance accorded to Pakistan , which India considers as betrayal, "driven by the fear of a re-hyphenation with Pakistan and a threat to its global ambitions." India therefore, thinks, USA has "tended to use Pakistan as the fulcrum of South Asia, and sees India as one knotty strand in the Afghan tangle." – Indian Express. Indo-US relations since 2004 have come a long way, when they entered into the strategic partnership with declared objective "to contain and curb the rising threat of Chinese military and economic power and Islamic extremism." Therefore, the defeat of the Americans and their allies in Afghanistan would also mean defeat for India and its hegemonic designs over South Asia . One could call it as the 'defeat of all defeats' – Shikast-e-Azeem and the victory of the Taliban, Fath-e-Mobeen. It is a momentous event, and a turning point of history, which offers great opportunities to Pakistan. Sino-Pak relations stand out as a symbol of a model relationship between states with two strikingly different political ideologies and sociological set ups. The relationship symbolizes the height of trust, confidence, good will, and friendship between the two countries. There is a deadlock with India on the Kashmir issue. In fact India is on the retreat as it failed to recognize the geo-strategic shift and opted to join hands with the American hegemon, to establish influence over Afghanistan and South Asia , which betrayed its colonial ambitions. The resistance in Kashmir is growing rapidly and after the withdrawal of occupation forces from Afghanistan , it will assume new dimensions in support of the right of self-determination, which India cannot continue to deny for long.

The United States of America and their allies are faced with a situation in Afghanistan , similar to the one, Soviets faced in 1989. Having suffered defeat, the Soviets asked for a safe exit, which was provided by the Mujahideen and the Pakistan government. Obama's new strategy in fact, is a veiled request for their safe exit. "It is a gamble. The price of victory will be high and the price of failure is incalculable." Simon Tisdold. Exit they will, along with their allies and peace would prevail over the entire region. Thus foreign aggression, which has continued unabated, since 1979 – killing over six million Muslims in Afghanistan , Iraq , Iran , Somalia , Palestine , Lebanon , Kashmir and Pakistan will begin to wane. Times have changed and such brutal state terrorism against the world of Islam, must come to an end. And, to safeguard our interests, the first major step that must be taken is to form the Union of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan , as the bastion of power, to repel aggression and establish peace, as a gift of Unity - the Strategic Depth, of the Muslim World. It is surprising that, in a recent interview with Farid Zakria, Holbrook vehemently opposed the idea of Strategic Depth and suggested that Pakistan should first put its own house in order and then talk about creating the three nations union. It is rather a strange logic, working since 1989, creating dissensions and doubts and trying to forestall the movement towards union.

The 'institutional forces' in Pakistan , have emerged to correct the course of national security interests, threatened by the machinations of our enemies. The judiciary, supported by the lawyers, judges, media and the political opposition has regained its freedom and authority. The armed forces of Pakistan have corrected the course giving a strong message to the nation, that "the armed forces of Pakistan are fully conscious of the threat posed to national security and have the resolve and the capability to defeat such threats." The media has kept the level of awareness of the nation high, exposing the designs of our enemies and the waywardness of our power-brokers. Thus the job, which a sovereign parliament should have performed, has been taken-over by the institutions. However, corrective actions are in hand and ultimately the parliament would regain power and prestige to hold the fort.

Maulana Jalaluddin Roomi, the founder of the Whirling Dervishes, says: "Giants come forth from Afghanistan and influence the world" (extract from Idries Shah's famous book 'The Sufis'). His prophecy is coming true. He quotes Doctor Johnson, who was not favourably predisposed towards Islam, but had to acclaim about Roomi. "He makes plain to the pilgrims, the secrets of the Way of Unity and unveils the Mysteries of the Path of the Eternal Truth." The Unity is in the offing and in a quiet moment, one can hear the rustling sound of the wind of change of peace and unity.







Pakistan is one of the largest Muslim country in the world and its status as a declared nuclear power being the only Islamic nation to have this status plays in its international role. Insurgency in Pakistan is increasing due to terrorism. Terrorism is major problem of Pakistan and in Pakistan since the 1980s began primarily with to the Soviet-Afghan War. The war brought numerous fighters from all over the world to South Asia in th% name of jihad. US also had trained many extremists in this war against Soviet Union on the name of jihad this suggest that various terrorist's organizations are created as a result of CIA support they are not the product of religion.

In the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, President George W. Bush launched major military operations as part of a global U.S.-led antiterrorism effort. In this war US objectives are to protect the citizens of the US and allies, to protect the interests of the US and allies and disrupt the activities of the international network of terrorist organizations made up of a number of groups under the umbrella of al-Qaeda. Pakistan is an ally of US after Sept 11 and playing the role of frontline state in the war against terrorism. From the day one Pakistan has adopted a policy of peace, sovereignty, security, national interes4s and international cooperation. here discussion is not that whether the decision was true or not but after joining this Pakistan is still facing a very critical situation in her own country. Pakistan wants that terrorism should be eliminated with international cooperation as all countries should adopt a joint strategy to root out this common world facing phenomena because it is threat to all countries as all are facing a different form of terrorism in their countries so all should join hands with each others for the sake of peace in the world as there must be unanimous efforts for the eradication of terrorism. but here the case is different unfortunately , it is Pakistan who is doing all such efforts against terrorism and facing insurgency from different terrorist's groups, due to this there is severe internal instability as no one is their who is safe from such types of terrorist's activities in Pakistan. Every citizen is frightened and a victim of it because terrorists are targeting different civilian pla#es, Army personals, different security and government institutions and even though the educational institutions are also being targeted now. as every Pakistani is suffering and paying the price…as a result Pakistan is facing the 9/11 like situation every day….Along with this Pakistan is facing a lot of other problems like Pakistan has done an operation in swat recently and now doing in south Wazeeristan but using its own weapons, its own arsenals, its own resources as well. US are giving but only an economic not a military assistance to Pakistan. So Pakistan is doing all such on its own behalf. America says that Pakistan is a partner of America in war against terrorism but if we see the time from when Pakistan joins this there is no such active strategy or plane that has been shared by America with Pakistan even though they are using a drone attacks on Pakistan's territory and besides this says again and again that Pakistan should do more….But Pakistan's efforts are tremendous and should be appreciated at international level as we have seen Pak's army performance in swat and now successfully doing operation of Rah-e-Nijaat in south Wazeeristan. So we can't ignore the fact that Pakistan is honestly doing all such efforts for the elimination of terrorism but yet not receiving the positive response of the world community. So question raised here that why Pakistan is still being criticized at international level? Why Not they appreciated Pakistan for all such efforts against terrorism? Why they blamed Pakistan if any terrorist's activity happened in any of country? Although the proofs which were discovered by Pak's army in swat and now in Wazeeristan reveals the involvement of foreign hands because Sophisticated weapons are being used by these terrorist who indicates that other countries are supporting them. Pakistan's government has said again and again to world community that they should support to Pakistan in this war and if they will not do this then Pakistan will have need to decrease her development budget….so Pakistan is doing this now. Historically Pakistan has played a central role in War against terrorism and now playing with more effective efforts. American administration has passed the Kerry louger bill recently as America says that it is a kind of assistance for Pakistan because according to this America will give to Pakistan 1.5 billion dollars per year with so many conditions, however cost is much more which Pakistan itself is paying against terrorism even the citizens are paying the price in the form of their blood. Therefore, America has to pay the loss, which Pakistan is still facing.

I agreed with the British foreign secretary, David Miliband argues that the use of the "war on terror" as a western rallying cry since the September 11 attacks has been a mistake that may have caused "more harm than good". Foreign secretary says publishing documents against wishes of the US would have caused 'real and significant damage' to national security and international relations of UK. America should revisit her policies especially regarding to Afghanistan. Due to these American's policies, whole world is suffering. As David Miliband mentioned that, the war on terror is harmful for whole world. It is the outcomes of U.S. policies toward Pakistan since 9/11, while not devoid of meaningful successes, have neither neutralized anti-Western militants and reduced Religious extremism in that country, nor have they contributed sufficiently to the Stabilization of neighboring Afghanistan. On the other hand Domestic terrorism in Pakistan has become an increasingly serious problem affecting major Pakistani cities and different institutions. United state and it allies are in war and there are interests of US in Pakistan due its strategic location.Pakistan should learned lesson from the past experiences and leave all issues behind and all parties should join hands together for a sovereignty of Pakistan. Pakistan government should focus on different development programs for the stability of Balochistan province and balochi people should also cooperate with government. There must be check and balance system for different Deeni Madaaris because these steps are very important for the improvement of Islam and Pakistan image which has been badly effected after 9/11 incident. At the end Pakistan's efforts against terrorism are appreciatable but one thing is more important that if every individual along with our leaders think honestly and prefer national interests as compared to personal interests then there will be no need of any assistance or aid from any of country….because Pakistan is doing best with the available capabilities….May live long Pakistan.








President Obama has a Japan problem. I know, it's not an issue that keeps him up at night. But when U.S. ties with its most important Asian ally get ugly over security rather than semiconductors, the world must be changing. Certainly Japan is. Having voted out the shoguns of the Liberal Democratic Party who ruled for more than a half-century, and declared war on the bureaucracy that greased the pork-barrel deals of that long dominion, the Japanese are taking a new look at the power that wrote their Constitution and underwrote their assumptions: the United States. As a result there are troubles.

I find that normal in that Japan has just gone through a political change as dramatic in its way as any post-Cold-War demolition of a single-party dominated, American-backed status quo. Still, the troubles between the world's two largest economies are proving unexpectedly sharp. Ministers here shake their heads and mutter "really bad." On the face of it, Obama and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who guided the upstart Democratic Party to victory last September, have much in common, including change. Bad blood was not inevitable. Both leaders swept into office on the back of middle class malaise at falling incomes and job insecurity. The Japanese salaryman and the American working stiff have shared a lousy decade.

Both leaders hover in the center despite left-of-center inclinations and ideals. Both face the task of adjusting their countries' expectations to a world in which their relative power is eroding. True, Obama was the ultimate outsider whereas Hatoyama is the scion of a Kennedy-like political dynasty (and heir to the Bridgestone tire fortune). But shared concerns might have trumped differences of background. Instead, trust has dissolved faster than wasabi in soy sauce. The spark has been the future of a Marine air station in the southern island of Okinawa, where local feelings run high over the noise, crime and pollution many associate with the U.S. military presence.

The deeper issue is more complex: growing Japanese restiveness over postwar dependency on Washington of which the most visible symbol is the 37,000 American troops here. Hatoyama has given voice to that chafing. He campaigned with a pledge of greater assertiveness, questioning a 2006 deal to relocate the Futenma air station to a pristine site in the north of the island (environmentalists in his party are incensed), suggesting the base should be moved off the island or even out of Japan. He has also talked about a revision of the Constitution whose Article 9 denies Japan a full-fledged military. "We take the U.S.-Japan alliance very seriously, it's the heart of our foreign policy, although Hatoyama used to talk about an alliance without permanent bases and that may confuse our U.S. friends a bit," said Akihisa Nagashima, the vice minister of defense. "Now I believe Hatoyama does not think we should kick out U.S. troops — never, not at all."

But doubts have been sewn on the American side. They've multiplied through misunderstanding. When the president was here last month, Hatoyama appealed for trust, Obama said sure, but they never cleared up what the mutual trust was about. To Hatoyama, it was the future of the alliance. To Obama it was the implementation of the $26 billion 2006 Okinawa accord. That was a disastrous little ambiguity. Now everyone's unhappy. A high-level working group on the Marine base, announced by Obama, has fallen apart. My conversations here suggest Hatoyama's not going to make a final decision for months, perhaps not before upper house elections next July that could liberate him of his left-wing junior coalition partners. Richard Armitage, a former deputy secretary of state who's been running around town, is only the most visible expression of U.S. impatience. Obama shares it.

"I can't change the political situation here," Nagashima said, referring to the Okinawan anger and coalition pressure on Hatoyama. "I really want our American friends to accept and work with us despite these difficulties." That's sound advice. Having just taken 90-plus days over an Afghan decision, Obama can't dismiss Hatoyama as a ditherer. He's taken the reins after more than five decades of the L.D.P shogunate. He needs time — and the whiff of a campaign financing scandal is not helping him. The deeper forces behind Hatoyama's victory and the Futenma imbroglio are these. Japan, like Germany before it, wants to move out from under American tutelage. Unlike Germany, however, it inhabits a part of the world where a Cold War vestige — nuclear-armed North Korea — endures and fast-rising China with its growing military is just across the water.

In short, the need for the Japan-U.S. alliance is real even if the Japanese urge for liberation from its more demeaning manifestations is growing. That says to me that everyone should take a deep breath. U.S. impatience should be curbed along with the pie-in-the-sky "world of fraternity" musings of elements in Hatoyama's party. Be flexible on Futenma but unyielding on the strategic imperative binding America and Japan.








In a paradigm shift from a coordinated post-disaster response to a greater emphasis on prevention and reduction of risks and vulnerabilities, the extension of the Comprehensive Disaster Management Programme (CDMP) got off to a fresh start on Thursday for another five years. With the signing of a $50.75-million agreement between the Bangladesh government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the country's status as a global leader in dealing with disasters and climate change was also duly recognised. What is particularly satisfying is that the recognition comes at a time when representatives of the world communities are trying to reach a consensus on how to reduce the impact of global warming and save our planet at a summit now being held at Danish capital Copenhagen.

The confidence shown by our European partners such as the UK Department for International Development, the European Union and the Government of Sweden in our ability to deliver in times of crisis surely makes us proud. Institutionalised in the first phase of the CDMP, the risk reduction approach is now all set for further expansion and scaling up. The pilot projects taken up earlier have proved, barring minor hiccups, very effective. Yet, let us admit, in some areas like the rehabilitation of the worst victims of the super-cyclone Sidr and Aila, post-disaster programmes have a lot to do. Particularly the seawater that has since then inundated large areas at the coastal belt must be channelled back to the sea.

As for the second phase of the programme, the virtue of preventive measures aimed at reducing vulnerabilities and risks are the key to securing the country's future in the face of growing threat from climate change. No doubt, the fund made available for the second phase of the programme is not large but at least it can start the work in right earnest towards setting an achievable goal. There is no point leaving such things unattended when required money is unavailable, nor is there any rationale behind pursuing too ambitious a goal. The importance of the CDMP lies more in the recognition of our ability than in the amount of money at our disposal.   









At around this time every year, right across the country dense fog creeps up to paralyse movement. The resultant disruption of road, air and water communications causes tremendous suffering to the travelling public, whether it be by land, sea or air.  In the field of aviation, this mist prevents aircraft from taking off or landing but as fog can also be deceptive, pilots are sometimes fooled into thinking they can see the runway with a minimal amount of interference. But thick fogs are hazardous because the pilot may think that visibility is suitable for landing when it is not. Yesterday's fog was thick and at Chittagong port, loading and unloading of goods were also brought to a standstill while flights at Zia International Airport and at Shah Amanat were held up.
Not everyone understands what causes fog. It is actually a cloud that is in contact with the ground. The part suspended in the air above the ground is not considered fog, but the part that comes into contact with higher ground is. In other words fog is distinguished from mist only by its density. It begins to form when water vapour condenses into tiny liquid water droplets in the air. Since water vapour is colourless, it is actually the small liquid water droplets that are condensed from it that makes it visible in the form of fog. Fog formation requires all the elements that normal cloud formations do, the most important being condensation nuclei in the form of dust, aerosols, pollutants, etc. The coastline is not spared either because of the spray from breaking waves. In other words we are in no way short of any of the elements and can understand why we are suffering. Although the foggiest place in the world is the Grand Banks off the island of Newfoundland, sometimes we feel Dhaka is its nearest rival.









Something I hear very often, is that opportunity only knocks once, very true, but I've found quite sadly that temptation seems to pound on my door forever. Even opening up and letting it in doesn't seem to make it go away. More temptations come along and the beating goes on.


Those temptations that cause me the most problems are those that pull me away from being my best 'me'. Heard about the Swiss woman who was served dinner on a domestic American flight. She opened up her dessert - a delicious looking piece of chocolate cake - and immediately sprinkled a generous layer of salt and pepper
over it. A shocked flight attendant exclaimed, "Oh! It's not necessary to do that!"

"But it is," the woman replied, smiling. "It keeps me from eating it."

She found a way to drive temptation away from her doorstep, at least for a while. I wish I had such formula.

The most persistent temptations in my life are distractions thatkeep me from doing what is in my best interest.

I forgo some much-needed exercise because I "just don't feel likeit" today. Have you ever felt like that?

You may want to quit that yoga group, that aerobic class or those music lessons. It's easy to become distracted and get discouraged.

Or maybe we say we just "can't find the time" to spend with thoseclosest to us, such as family. We may want to do these things; it's just that sometimes we need a nudge.

Something a great cricketer once said can help out here. "My motto is to keep batting," he said. "Whether I am in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do is to keep batting."

Sometimes we all need to do just that. And if we tell ourselves that all we need to do today is to take one more swing at the ball that may be enough. We can always take one more swing. And who knows -- today we may hit a four or even a six!

I once heard a sermon I keep reminding myself that the worst enemy of discipline are 'moods' And since you need discipline to keep you out of temptation, when you get into a bad mood or someone does something to put you into a foul temper, what goes out of the window is firm resolve.

You need to tell yourself that whatever mood you are in doesn't stop you from batting. Have a frown on your face, but hit a six. Growl in anger or cry out in hurt but just go ahead and bat through life.

Suddenly you'll find those moods disappearing, those bad days going away and bereft of temptations you'll find yourself batting onto a century of a good, healthy happy innings called life.

The secret is to keep batting..!







Although international journalists were forced to leave Bangladesh by the military junta when the assault was launched, some reporters eluded the military hunt and collected information on March 25 - 26, 1971, and reported it for the international community. The Daily Telegraph, London, reported on March 30, - "By 11 PM firing had broken out and the people who had started to hastily erect makeshift barricades became early casualties as the troops rolled into the city. Mujib was warned that something was happening, but he refused to leave the house saying, 'If I go into hiding they will bum the whole of Dhaka to find me'." The paper further reported that led by America-supplied M--24 Second World War tanks, the column of troops moved in on the Rajarbag Police Head Quarters, the tanks opened fire and killed a lot of the police. In fact police launched the first armed resistance on March 25-26 night.

On April 9, three professors of Harvard University - Edward Mason, Robert Dorfman and Stephen Marglin - focused world attention to the cause of Bangladesh in a booklet. The substance of this articulation was: A major goal of USA foreign policy in this area has been the reduction of the debilitating confrontation between India and Pakistan. This goal will surely be advanced by the existence of an independent Bangladesh friendly to India. Most observers believed that the Awami League leadership would follow a neutral foreign policy, particularly if the USA and multinational aid agencies like the World Bank were the major aid donors. Independence of Bangladesh will be inimical to American interests only if by following short sighted policies we drive Bangladesh into the arms of another power - USSR or China.

On April 15, Jakarta Times reported: If Bangladesh ultimately becomes a sovereign state, which the world knows is bound to be, will the present crisis not be a concern to other Muslim states? If a future independent state of Bangladesh feels that the Muslim world did not support the right cause of the oppressed but lent support to the oppressors because of their powerful position, and refuses to sit together and talk to West Pakistanis in an Islamic forum, the Muslim world will be weak and a great blow will be given to Islam itself.
On April 24, the Daily Express, Malaysia reported: Washington and London are following a dangerously short-sighted policy, continuing to insist that the Pakistan military government's slaughter of the democratically elected leaders and repression of the majority of its population in Bangladesh is strictly an internal matter. The two capitals entirely forget that the blood-bath in Bangladesh has immediate and long term implica-tions which the world community cannot ignore. But it is their own internal politics that precludes the two nations to speak out. A particularly heavy responsibility falls on Britain which vivisected the sub-continent into two nations and yet remains head of the Commonwealth. We cannot but feel frustrated that Pakistan also considered the case of Bangladesh as its internal affair. What did Malaysia did? Nothing.On November 12, a few hundred teachers of USA universities in a statement urged upon President Nixon to put pressure on Pakistan to avoid the path of war and change the USA policy till settlement of the issue in the larger interest of international relationship - to (i) stop military help and economic aid to Pakistan, (ii) use the diverted aid for the refugees, (iii) inform Pakistan that USA would stop help to Pakistan, (iv) inform Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran and Turkey that USA would welcome political solution of the Bangladesh case. Earlier in Toronto, in an international intellectual assembly the following demands were made –

-(1) To stop arms supply to Pakistan,

(2) To stop economic aid,

(3) To collect aid for the people of Bangladesh,

(4) To send relief to Bangladesh for refugees,

(5) To interfere to save the life of Sheikh Mujib.

On September 13, of course, the British ex-Foreign Minister, Arthur Bottomly in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Society demanded release of Sheikh Mujib. On November 4, Peter Shore in the House of Commons declared that a political solution to the satisfaction of Bangladesh was the only course. The British Foreign Minister expressed hope that it was desirable that "both sides discuss the issue". Earlier on August 17, the International Law Society and on August 20, the World Peace Council sent request to Yahya Khan for release of Sheikh Mujib.

It was the view of some western countries that the aggressive diplomacy of India was possible because of the influx of refugees. So, General Yahya was advised by western countries to offer amnesty which would save separation of Bangladesh. But the refugees in spite of all sufferings did not respond to Yahya Khan's amnesty.


Yahya was not trustworthy to Bangladesh.

We must mention the tragic martyrdom of Zahir Raihan, an outstanding film director and an eminent literary personality, an independence activist in exile. He returned home after the victory. On December 30, he got an information that his brother Shahidullah who was abducted by collaborators from his residence was kept hidden in a house in Mirpur. On this information, he went out in search of his brother and never returned home. The fugitive collaborators supposedly killed him. The documentary film of Zahir Raihan - Stop Genocide - carried the news of Pakistan army's atrocities across the world. Police raided probable sanctuaries of the fugitive collaborators but could not track down any killer. One superior police officer was killed during the search operation. The killers were supposedly some of the non-Bengalee collaborators, but could not however be linked with the murderers with proper evidence.

We may further mention that Samar Das (who passed away just a few years ago), an eminent artist and BDR subedar late A. Hakim were sent to Kolkata to bring instruments for use by our band party which sang under direction of Samar Das the national song first in independent Bangladesh in honour of the Indian Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, during her visit to Dhaka in early 1972.


(The writer is Retired IG Police & Secretary)








When people decide to emigrate to countries in the west, they are least prepared for the cultural shock that awaits them. But as their children grow, they become engulfed in a quiet distaste for what they perceive to be a decadent society and thus try to save their daughters from what to them, maybe seen as a fate worse than death. By sending them back to the country of their forefathers, many hope to put "contamination by outsiders" to an end. The result of this can be seen today in the increasing number of girls, girls that have often been born and bred in countries like Britain, being spirited out of the country often while still in school, and despite laws to the contrary. Apart from the compulsion they feel to save their daughters, they also feel no remorse because this has always been the way in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh despite laws to the contrary, marriage before the legal age of 18 years is still in vogue, therefore they have no qualms about uprooting their children and returning them to their home country.

A recent UNICEF report emphasises how rampant the practice is because six out of ten women were married during childhood. Sixty-four percent of women between the ages of 20 to 24 years were married before the age of 18. And a study in Britain showed that as many as 8,000 cases of forced marriage was reported last year alone. The report by UNICEF published in Dhaka was in part to mark the 20 years of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), a convention ratified by Bangladesh along with 193 countries from all over the world. Bangladesh has managed to half its child mortality since 1990, ensured vitamin A supplement to almost all children and with more than 90 percent of children going to primary schools, it is important to add the abolishment of child marriages to its list of achievements. But the issue of child marriage cannot be conquered and is still one of the foremost challenges facing the government. A study published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families claimed that the overwhelming majority of victims of forced marriage are teenage girls from Pakistan or Bangladesh. Coerced into getting married to preserve "family honour" rather than allow them to form relationships with boys from another culture or religion, these girls leave their childhood behind and more often than not, are removed from Britain. The report also said some of these young brides are forced into marriage after being taken on a supposed holiday. Once they arrive in the home country their passports are taken away while others are sometimes drugged or subjected to violence or threats, if they dare to protest.

Although the Foreign Office's dedicated unit dealt with 420 cases last year - almost treble the 152 cases in 2005 - it has now issued guidance to health workers and teachers about how to spot potential victims. But try as they may, the government agencies have not been able to prevent these girls from leaving because many forced into marriages have been taken out of school for the purpose. Fortunately for those who wish to resist, the British government is alive to the problem and is trying to discourage it. As Chris Bryant, a junior minister in the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "Nobody should be forced into marriage against their will or without their free and open consent. It is depressing that this practice does still continue, for whatever reason, and as a Government we are determined to do everything we can to put a stop to it and to protect the vulnerable. There is no culture in which this is acceptable in a modern world." 

Maybe not but why does it still continue? What makes parents give their young children into marriage? Apart from the obvious one - economic necessity - this cannot be the sole reason and many girls continue to be forced into an unwanted marriage while still in their early teens or younger without anyone ready and willing to stand up in protest even though forced marriage of children is a violation of basic human rights. Moreover it is not confined to Bangladesh as estimates show 49 countries have a significant child bride problem. But breaking away from the tradition of young marriages is difficult at best, and impossible at worst and if these girls are born abroad, they do not receive any support from their families to be able to say no. The cultural, economic, and religious aspects of the communities in which they live make it virtually impossible for them to do so. A similar situation occurs in rural villages where many young girls are rarely allowed out of their homes unless it is to work in the fields, or to get married. Uneducated girls are often married at the young age of 11, and there are some families who allow girls of only 7 years, to marry. Even in the best of times it is very unusual for a girl to reach the age of 16 and not be married.

That the legal age for marriage is 18 is ignored is of concern as marriage under the age of 18 can threaten a child's human rights (including the right to education, leisure, good health, freedom of expression, and freedom from discrimination). The best way to ensure the protection of children's rights is, therefore, to set a minimum age limit of 18 for marriage. UNICEF opposes forced marriages at any age but where the notion of consent is non-existent, and the views of bride or groom are ignored, it is likely to continue. The issue of child brides has also reached the United States where secret illegal weddings are being performed on a regular basis. A study by the Centre for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) showed that marriages by teens in the United States jumped tremendously in the 1990s. In contrast a report issued by the United Nations says early marriage unions violate the basic human rights of girls by putting them into a life of isolation, service, lack of education, health problems, and abuse.

But 11 percent of all births in developing countries are to young women between the ages of 15 and 19. Many of the 13 million young women are giving birth to babies before their bodies have fully matured. As such young mothers are at increased risk of complications that include obstructed labour, fistulae, excessive bleeding, and infection during and after childbirth. Young mothers are also at a higher risk of pre-term birth and of having babies with low birth weights. For physiological and social reasons, women between the ages of 15 and 19 are twice as likely to die in childbirth as those in their twenties. Girls under the age of 15 are five times as likely to die as those in their twenties. And infants born to young mothers are also more likely to die and suffer from disease than those born to older women. So where do we draw the line?  Even when young age is not a factor, wide disparities in access to maternity care means women in many countries face intolerable risks throughout pregnancy and during and immediately after childbirth. More than 500,000 women die each year from pregnancy-related causes.

When taken altogether, these young girls represent a distressing flaw in our social fabric. As one victim said, "We are children ourselves having children" so this must be remedied. The United Nations Special Session on Children 2002 subsequently declared that reducing maternal and newborn illness and death among adolescent expectant mothers was a high priority, but this will not help to abolish the practice. And though in 2003, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Department of Child and Adolescent Health and Development held an international working group meeting with about 40 international experts to achieve consensus on key issues, best practices, research gaps, and recommendations for actions to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals of reducing maternal death and illness among adolescents, among which recommended priority actions were - to make existing safe motherhood activities more responsive and accessible to pregnant adolescents - including services for pregnancy prevention, pregnancy, emergency obstetric care, newborns, and abortion where not against the law, this too did not stop child marriages from taking place.

(The writer is an Independent staff writer)








The current economic crisis highlights the need for major changes at central banks. It is time for a return to some form of moderate monetarism but in a twenty-first-century mould.

The current crisis has clearly made central bankers jobs far more complicated. Over the last 30 years or so, many central bankers supposed that all they needed to do was keep their sights fixed on price stability. Every instrument they had at their disposal was to be used for that goal. From now on, however, central bankers will have to aim for financial stability as well.

Implicitly, central banks will also have to try to ensure that a new recession does not occur. But the current institutional set-up of today's central banks is highly inadequate to meeting these challenges. Central banks will have to get additional tools for their new tasks. And that is where things get very complicated.

The reason is simple: according to Tinbergen's Rule named for the Nobel Laureate Dutch economist Jan Tinbergen central banks must have one independent instrument for each task they perform,
 such as ensuring price stability. If they have more than one task, they will need an equal number of instruments.

The complicating factor here is that these policy instruments must be independent of each other. Consider interest rates. That instrument cannot be used for both price stability and financial stability, as the outlook for price stability could warrant higher interest rates, while ensuring financial stability might require a lower interest rate.

For example, if a central bank, in times of economic distress in the banking sector, floods the banks with additional, cheap liquidity, that will increase the supply of money on financial markets and push market interest rates down. If the inflation rate is set to increase in the near future, that will collide with the task of price stability. Central banks are constantly confronted with trade-offs between price and financial stability.
Finding new instruments that are effective, easy to use, and independent of the interest-rate instrument seems to be an impossible task. And yet there is a solution. Central banks should give the growth of (broad) money supply more prominence in their monetary policy strategies.

The European Central Bank, with its often criticised monetary pillar, may have a head start.

Many economists agree that the current financial and economic crisis is attributable, at least partly, to the fact that important central banks, such as the Bank of England and the United States Federal Reserve, kept their key interest rates too low for too long. That led to a long period of double-digit growth in money supply.
The ECB was more cautious. To be sure, the fall of the risk premium on financial markets, the development of all kinds of exotic derivatives, and these derivatives subsequent misuse sowed the seeds for this crisis, but those factors could not have caused the crisis without the plentiful rainfall that allowed those seeds to grow. That precipitation was the abundant growth in money supply in the US, the United Kingdom, and the larger emerging economies.

Of course, targeting the money supply is not without its drawbacks. Financial innovation has weakened the link between money growth and inflation, for example. But the relationship has not disappeared entirely. As the current crisis clearly shows, sooner or later too much money will lead to excesses, if not in consumer price inflation, then in asset price inflation and the disappearance of the risk premium.

Wherever too much money growth occurs, the consequences for price stability, financial stability, and even economic stability will be severe, as the current crisis shows. Preventing such outcomes requires central bankers to be able to juggle more than one ball and giving (broad) money supply far greater weight in monetary-policy strategies than is now the case would help keep central banks from dropping them all.


(Sylvester Eijffinger is Professor of Financial Economics at Tilburg University and a member of the Monetary Experts Panel of the European Parliament; Edin Mujagic is monetary economist at Tilburg University and economics editor at the Dutch weekly magazine FEM Business & Finance)

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2009









POLITICIANS, being more powerful than scientists, tend to use science for their own ends, glossing over -- or exaggerating -- the uncertainties as they make their case. Sometimes this can have disastrous effects, as in South Africa where a president's refusal to accept the facts about AIDS has led to a tragic spread of a preventable disease. Now we are in the midst of another clash of beliefs as the world's leaders debate in Copenhagen how to meld the science and the politics of climate change into action.


This should be no surprise -- the forces lined up on both sides of this debate have a lot at stake. Nor should it be a cause for alarm that science is being put through its paces. The airing of doubts about the certitude of climate science should be seen as an opportunity to increase professional rigour and improve the scientific literacy of mainstream media and the public. There has been little room for debate in this area in the past couple of years -- particularly since the extraordinary appeal of Al Gore's book and video An Inconvenient Truth. Anthropogenic global warming has become the orthodoxy and there has been peer-group pressure on more sceptical scientists to fall into line. But the marginalisation in the academy of some of those who have questioned the veracity of data is not a healthy development for science, which should put a high premium on doubt and testing the orthodoxies.


The relatively young -- and diffuse -- science of climate change has been given huge carriage of this issue as politicians and business leaders have demanded certainty. They have used science to close down the debate on the existence and causes of global warming. The political refrain in many countries has been that "the science" is settled. Prefacing science with the definite article is a new and unwelcome development that bestows an unwarranted degree of certainty on a discipline that should, by its nature, be contestable. Instead of a more measured approach that recognises the limits of research in this area, there has been a tendency to ignore the nuances. Such intellectual thuggery can backfire, making publics more suspicious when evidence of doubts emerge. By requiring certainty, politicians have encouraged some scientists to over-egg the cake and discourage critics within their own disciplines. For example, the recent hacking of emails from the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia in Britain, revealed a lack of transparency about data and a culture keen to minimise dissent. The pressure on scientists to toe the line is reinforced by a grants allocation system that can often reward fashionable fields of research, while competition for grants encourages scientists to overstate the value of their work.


It does not help that climate change science is often portrayed as a discrete discipline. In reality, assessing global warming requires work from a range of people from atmospheric scientists, solar physicists, biologists, and geologists, to name just a handful. Sceptics, such as geologist Ian Plimer, have argued that atmospheric scientists have wrongly been given the lead role in assessing global warming, with others, like earth scientists, sidelined. But even within an area like atmospheric science, whose practitioners dominated the International Panel on Climate Change report of 2007, there is a range of research findings. Again, this should not be cause for concern. The problem arises when the claims for certainty are overstated. The IPCC report -- which is the basis of the agreement being looked at in Copenhagen -- pulls together the work of more than 600 scientists in a heavily qualified document. Yet is has become the bible for politicians.


We live in an age where we commonly defer to experts. Getting to grips with the planet is, correctly, seen as a difficult task for the non-scientist. Yet this debate has revealed the shortcomings of relying on experts and allowing politicians to assert, rather than prove, the case for action. The Weekend Australian recognises the need for action because the planet must be given the benefit of the doubt. But science should always be contestable. It must be the catalyst for, not a gag on, debate.








WHAT next from Barnaby Joyce? Reintroduction of tariffs? Nationalising the banks? Or perhaps the government needs to take control of our mineral resources?


Judged on his comments of the past couple of days, the opposition spokesman on finance is happy to wander into areas once considered the domain of the lunatic fringe of Australian politics. It is a long time since we have heard frontbenchers from either side of politics articulate the economic conspiracy theories and Armageddon scenarios that Senator Joyce has indulged in this week. It is a worrying development in an opposition that must position itself in the middle ground of Australian politics if it has serious aspirations of regaining power. As a rabble-rousing National, Senator Joyce can be expected to pursue issues that are at the core of his constituents' concerns. But he risks losing credibility with the broader electorate and damaging the opposition with his wild attacks on Chinese investment; his irresponsible commentary on the risk of debt defaults by state governments and the US; and his ill-conceived notions about divesting our banks of assets.


The Weekend Australian had hoped that replacement of the more left-leaning Malcolm Turnbull by Tony Abbott as Opposition Leader would encourage Labor to the centre ground after its flirtation with interventionism and industry protection. But Senator Joyce -- with comments that are economically inept, politically dangerous and ideologically reckless -- risks pushing his party so far to the Right that it winds up merging with the economic ideologues of the hard Left. Mr Abbott needs to remind his finance spokesman of the market realities that have made Australia's economy the envy of the world.


In the process, the new Leader of the Opposition would do well to clarify his own economic framework and reiterate his party's commitment to small government. Mr Abbott is not greatly experienced in economics and his history so far has been of a proponent of high levels of welfare, a legacy perhaps of his early mentor B.A. Santamaria, whose National Civic Council argued for something akin to agrarian socialism along with its attacks on communism. Step back a little from Senator Joyce's comments and you can almost hear the rhetoric of the nationalist political party, the Citizens Electoral Council and its ideological parent, the LaRouche movement in the US. Mr Abbott should know that the long-term appeal of successive Howard governments, in which he served as a minister, was based on a talent for finding the centre ground in a range of issues, a point made cogently by Paul Kelly in his recent history of the Howard years.


Senator Joyce's comments so far suggest he has failed to accommodate the economic history of the past three decades in this country. The deregulation of the financial sector and the commitment to open markets and free trade have delivered unprecedented prosperity to Australia. His fear-mongering against global capitalism is extraordinary from an educated, mainstream politician, as are his ill-judged comments that the debt levels being carried by some state governments could cause them to default on their borrowings. His comments betray a commitment to ideology at the expense of political reality. There are valid concerns about the level of foreign ownership of our national resources, but Senator Joyce is allowing his belief in sovereignty to cloud the pragmatic reality that Australia needs Chinese investment and that our mineral wealth has been built on the back of engagement with China and Japan.


The political danger for Senator Joyce is that he could lead the opposition towards the cul-de-sac previously occupied by Pauline Hanson and her fellow travellers. As finance spokesman, his role must be to hold the government to the task of managing its debt and deficit and practising fiscal rectitude. The next election will be fought on the economy but indulging in Hanson-like rhetoric is not a constructive way for Senator Joyce to position the opposition as alternative economic managers to the Rudd government.


The Weekend Australian has been concerned for some time that the Rudd government -- with its regressive Work Choices legislation, its failure to continue the reform process, and a Prime Minister wary of free markets -- is going backwards on economic policy. The big risk now is that, far from pushing Labor towards the Centre, Mr Abbott and his finance spokesman will compete to see how they can assist in taking us back to the past.








A PARLIAMENTARY committee, dominated by Labor, has pointed to the issue which is at the heart of the legitimacy problem which vexes the current state government: planning. As one might expect of a committee dominated by the ruling party, it has done so in the most timid and anodyne of ways. Instead of making substantial findings in its own right, it has called for an inquiry into the planning system. But even that has been rejected by the Premier, Kristina Keneally. Ms Keneally is wrong.


Sydney will have to undergo a virtual building - and planning - revolution if the city is to grow fast enough to house the population planned for it. As we report today, a relatively high birthrate and record immigration will lift Sydney's population by 40 per cent over the next 25 years. That extraordinary increase must be housed somewhere and the traditional Australian housing ideal - the detached bungalow on a block of land in suburbs serviced only by cars - wastes too much space and energy to provide the solution. The fact that Australians now build the biggest houses in the world - to house fewer and fewer people in each one - only makes the problem worse, and the need for change more pressing.


But to change Sydney's wasteful habits will take planning, and the planning process in NSW is in need of radical reform. It is currently managed at two levels of government: local councils and the state government. Like many areas of government decision-making in this federation, the desire of politicians at different levels to get involved complicates and degrades the process.


Though councils may draw up their plans according to the rules established at state level, decisions which councils make in accordance with those plans can be overturned if a particular proposal is deemed to be of significance to the whole state or to a region. Sitting in Macquarie Street, the Planning Minister can thus undermine the integrity of the whole process, and developers have been known to go forum-shopping - submitting plans to the level of government they think most likely to approve them.


Yet there is reason for the minister to have sweeping powers. In Ku-ring-gai, for example, plans to increase the density of housing have encountered fierce resistance. Some of the opposition is justified, and some of the decisions made to demolish heritage-listed buildings and replace them with undistinguished blocks of flats are regrettable. But the direction of change is correct: suburbs close to transport corridors, particularly rail, must accept higher-density development. Local councils will find mandating such changes difficult; the process will often have to be controlled at state level.


The inquiry was also told how different state policies pull local planning practices in opposite directions. Central coast councils are told to increase population growth in the area on one hand, and the other to restrain it in areas subject to flooding from rising sea levels.


The theory of planning in NSW is thus already complex enough. The practice - as exemplified under this State Government - is still more complicated. Under Labor, the planning and approval of property development has become politicised and degraded into a form of fund-raising. Not only does this produce poor outcomes, but by tainting the whole business of land-use planning with the whiff of influence-peddling and even corruption, it destroys public trust in the entire planning process.


We believe that this gradual degradation of planning in NSW has been central to the public's loss of trust in this State Government. It has undermined confidence in the ability of the government to make decisions impartially for all. It is why the Herald is campaigning for a change to the NSW constitution. We believe the citizens of NSW should be given the right to recall governments elected for a fixed four-year term.


But though we believe the public should be given the right to reclaim their vote, and to bring an end to this period of confusion and misgovernment, that will not alter the planning system. We have described the upper house committee's main recommendation - a fundamental review of planning processes in NSW, or in other words, another inquiry, only a proper one this time - as timid and anodyne. So it is. But for Labor, too long addicted to sleight-of-hand deals with favoured developers in the guise of planning decisions, it would be a brave step towards setting up a better, more impartial system. It would be one sign that the party may be competent to govern after all. Labor should take it.







THE myth: testosterone is the hormone responsible for male aggression, and leads to violence, drug-taking, a preference for lowered suspension, mag wheels and doof-doof music played too loud at traffic lights. The reality: new research reveals testosterone is actually the hormone of choice for those seeking elevated social status. Scientists from Zurich and London have observed that it increases fair behaviour in humans - because fairness is less likely to be rejected by the group and so more likely to enhance status. This is good news, we suppose - although it does make the world a blander place. Only in rats do higher testosterone levels lead to aggression. The average rat, not being a particularly deep thinker, sees aggression as the way to raise its status. Rats, we are sure readers will agree, have appalling dress sense and are notorious two-pot screamers - and testosterone just makes them worse. One positive emerges from this research: science may inadvertently have found the explanation for what goes on in The Rocks every Saturday night








ON THE bookshelf in Senator Barnaby Joyce's Parliament House office, it has been reported, is a copy of Machiavelli's The Prince. Senator Joyce professedly admires the devious Renaissance manual of statecraft, but very little about his own political conduct suggests that he has taken its advice to heart. He is notoriously, aggressively, unreflectively and unrepentantly plain spoken. The potential consequences of his remarks - whether true, hyperbolical or just plain fanciful - have rarely seemed to trouble him, and never more so than this week, when he weighed into his new job as shadow finance minister with some bizarre, wildly inaccurate and dangerous speculation about the state of the US economy and the chances of the superpower defaulting on its foreign debt.


When Opposition Leader Tony Abbott announced his frontbench team, he said that they would give the Rudd Government the ''fright of its life''. If anyone was frightened by Senator Joyce's comments about US debt, however, it was almost certainly Mr Abbott. Government ministers were more likely to be chortling with glee that the National Party maverick had so quickly reverted to type. This is what the man whom Mr Abbott praised as ''probably Australia's most accomplished retail politician'' had to say about future economic prospects: ''The worse scenario is where the United States doesn't repay their debt - the $US2 trillion in debt they owe to the Chinese, the $US1 trillion in debt they have to the Japanese and the $US1 trillion in debt to others - and then we are really nailed.'' This ''real financial crisis'', he said, would ''mean this preamble we have just had pales into insignificance'', because ''if America collapses there will be no more sale of Chinese products to America and therefore very little purchase of Australian resources by China''. Australia, Senator Joyce said, needed a contingency plan to deal with this ''economic Armageddon''.


Not the least problem with this end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario is that the senator seems to be, as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said yesterday, shooting from the lip, with only the haziest grasp of the details. Other estimates of the $US debt to China place it at slightly less than $US800 billion, not $US2 trillion. Moreover, China's government could not accept the consequence that Senator Joyce predicts would ensue from an American default - a shift from the US dollar to the Chinese yuan as the currency of global trade. Beijing has made very clear that it will not expose the yuan to the vagaries of the market. And in any case, the disaster movie flickering across the senator's febrile imagination is just that, an imaginative construct. Despite the size of America's foreign debt, and despite the fact that the global financial crisis has made the problem of indebtedness more acute, there is no indication that the US is now a banana republic at risk of default.


The deeper problem with raising such a possibility, however, is that Senator Joyce seems not to have heeded the advice he was given during a Senate estimates hearing in October, when he asked Treasury Secretary Ken Henry about a US default. Dr Henry responded that public figures should be wary of discussing ''hypotheticals that are extreme'' because it could be misinterpreted in the community. In other words, you cannot play the part of retail politician if your desire to grab a headline is going to create panic.


Nor is it only the effect on the Australian community that Senator Joyce ought to consider before venturing to speak about Armageddon, economic or otherwise. He is the shadow finance minister, the holder of the second most senior economic policy portfolio in the alternative government of Australia. What signal does Senator Joyce's remarks send to Washington and Beijing about the ability of that alternative government to behave responsibly, or even to reason with consistency? Senator Joyce is worried that an American default would place Australia's trade with China at risk, yet he also called for a ban on investment in Australia by Chinese state-owned companies. A faster way of ending the economic relationship with China could not be imagined. There are occasions when governments should refuse particular foreign-investment proposals, for strategic reasons or considerations of national sovereignty. But these should be decided on a case-by-case basis, not by a blanket ban.


When Senator Joyce was appointed finance spokesman, The Age asked whether his National Party background would dispose him towards fiscal restraint. He has now shown that this is not the only sort of restraint he finds difficult. Mr Abbott should reconsider Senator Joyce's appointment, for the Coalition's sake and for Australia's.








It seems to be human nature to gather financial rosebuds while ye may, though not always with politically desirable effects. In his 1988 budget, Nigel Lawson ended the pooling of mortgage interest tax relief for couples but postponed the abolition of the perk for four months. The unintended result was a rush to buy houses and take out new mortgages before the deadline, which caused a big spike in house prices and gave an unexpected boost to inflation. This week, Alistair Darling more knowingly confirmed that VAT will return to 17.5% in the new year (and may have wanted to raise it still higher). One result, he hopes, is that consumers will spend more heavily while VAT remains low in December, thus boosting growth and helping to lift the UK economy out of recession for the last quarter of the year.


MPs, it seems, are no different from their constituents. In the spring of this year it was already clear that the permissive system of MPs' allowances and expenses would not long survive the furore that had already engulfed the system and led to the dethronement of the Speaker. Some sensible MPs tightened their belts accordingly. Others, however, seem to have reacted by going on what can only be described as a pre-clampdown spending spree, the results of which were published this week. MPs who for one reason or another are retiring at the coming general elections appear prominently on this week's lists. But so do many who hope to be back at Westminster. Either way, there has been a lot of milking of the system.


There are, we should all be clear, some positives amid all this mess. The triumph of transparency – thousands of new documents were put online this week – will not only allow constituents to judge their own individual MPs, it will mean that MPs as a whole will become more circumspect and self-protective. Speaker Bercow said yesterday that MPs were taking the public's anger on board and that claims were becoming more reasonable. The published documents bear that out. Nor have the transparency or the reform processes fully run their course. Final appeals against Sir Thomas Legg's audits of individual MPs' expenses must be submitted next week, and the issue may then explode again before Christmas.


Politicians must realise by now that this issue is not going to calm down until every last drop has been squeezed from the transparency process and until their system of salaries and expenses is placed on a basis which the public can live with. The indignation is indiscriminate between the parties and all of them are involved to some degree, but ministers who believed that the passing of the Parliamentary Standards Act earlier this year had laid the furore to rest and would allow the political argument to move on to other things have had a rude awakening this week. The coincidence of a pre-budget report which raises taxes, cuts spending and holds down wages alongside the MPs' revelations is terrible timing. Why should voters be prepared to live on thin gruel when MPs themselves seem to live like lords?


Not before time, government is facing up to some of this. The 2009 act is to be amended to put more of the Kelly report into statute. The powers of the independent standards authority will be beefed up, allowing it to deal with salaries and pensions as well as expenses, and to appoint its own enforcement officers, with powers to suspend or even expel.


The lesson of this week is that the expenses issue is here to stay. The general election will be shaped by it, no matter what the parties would prefer. The repercussions will continue in the new parliament too. Imagine the implications if MPs accept a large salary award in the current climate. Think of the effect of expulsions on the arithmetic in a hung parliament. There is unfairness here on all sides, of course. In the end, though, parliament has only itself to blame. Better to get used to it, even now.








Cash is the key to unlocking the grand climate bargain between the rich and poor world, as was apparent even before the brokering had got under way in Copenhagen. At the end of the first week of talking, this reality has become even starker, for a whole host of reasons.


For one thing, the first world is resisting moving things forward through the power of its own example. The European Council yesterday failed to make any immediate advance on its original offer of a 20% emissions reduction. This despite Gordon Brown's hope that Europe might soon firm up its more tentative talk of a 30% cut. In the absence of action, money will have to do even more of the talking. The indicative offers from developing countries are rather more encouraging – the environmental consultancy Ecofys suggests they are broadly in line with what the scientists demand – but these offers come with financial strings attached, making assistance still more important. Developing countries reject the rich world's tendency to brand such funds as aid, regarding them as reparations incurred by the globe's north for creating a problem which will do most damage in the south. The strength of the feelings showed, when a top negotiator on behalf of the poor countries dubbed Mr Brown worse than a climate-change denier for having squandered all the money on the banks.


It was thus a significant moment when the European Union put some real money on the table yesterday, even if it was not nearly enough in order to seal the deal. The first hurdle is to prove that the €7.2bn pledged over three years is genuine new money, and not – as so often happens when the west trumpets its virtue – the relabelling of existing funds. The second hurdle is persuading Japan and America to match the cash. Even after both obstacles are cleared, however, the bigger challenge will remain. Namely, establishing a funding stream that can be credibly banked on to increase its flow when the climate crisis tightens its grip.


Mr Brown, together with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, yesterday signalled this was understood by proposing a so-called Tobin tax on financial transactions to provide reliable transnational revenues for climate assistance. Paying the planet while throwing sand in the wheels of freewheeling finance is precisely the sort of imaginative leap that the moment demands. But asking the IMF to review the idea is a very long way from making anything practical happen. While the US treasury continues to oppose it, a new global tax is not going to happen. Either America must soften its stance, or it must devise its own means to raise the money. As so often before, an anxious world is warily casting eyes in the direction of Washington.