Google Analytics

Monday, December 21, 2009

EDITORIAL 15.12.09

Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at:


media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month december 15, edition 000376, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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













  4. FROM 28 TO 45? - BIBEK DEBROY











































With the CBI formally providing details of its findings in the 'mysterious' deaths of two women at Shopian in the Kashmir Valley, hopefully the focus will now shift to the prosecution of those accused of twisting facts and fabricating 'evidence' to implicate innocent individuals with the intention of pandering to anti-national forces. It may be recalled that the bodies of a 17-year-old teenager and her 22-year-old sister-in-law, who went missing, were found in a river on May 30 this year. There were allegations that the two women had been raped and murdered. This understandably inflamed passions, which were further fuelled by botched-up post-mortems, contradictory statements by doctors and outrageous claims by Opposition politicians — especially those belonging to the PDP — fishing in troubled waters to embarrass the State Government headed by Mr Omar Abdullah. Curiously, a special investigation team set up by the High Court implicated four policemen in the sordid episode — they were sent to jail and denied bail for two months. Meanwhile, violent protests raged for 47 days even as lurid details, which in hindsight were manufactured with the ulterior motive of provoking public disquiet, were put out almost on a daily basis. The women, protesters insisted, had been raped and murdered by the police and the State Government was trying to protect the guilty. Expressing lack of confidence in the State Police and other agencies of the State Government, the relatives of the two women and those clamouring for 'justice' demanded that the case be handed over to the CBI; the High Court concurred; and a full inquiry followed. The bodies were exhumed with the permission of the women's families, samples were collected in the presence of witnesses and sent for forensic tests. During the course of the investigation, the CBI discovered that the doctors who had conducted the post-mortem had done a shoddy job, swapped slides of vaginal swabs and literally fabricated 'evidence' to prove the women were raped and murdered.

Now that the CBI has completed its investigation and forensic experts have given their verdict, it seems the women were neither raped nor murdered: They died of drowning. The 'screams' that were allegedly heard from a police vehicle were no more than an evil mind's concoction to mislead the women's relatives and the people of Shopian, as were the post-mortem reports making out that the women had been raped. The CBI says that it has sufficent evidence to believe that doctors, lawyers and malcontents within the State Police colluded to spin a sinister yarn with dangerous consequences. The Central agency has charge-sheeted 14 people in the designated court; their trial will establish the veracity of its findings, which prima facie appear convincing. It is only natural that the grieving relatives of the two women should be reluctant to accept the CBI's findings; after all, the manner in which the case was handled till the Central agency stepped in was sufficient to shatter confidence. By using the tragedy to further their political agenda, certain individuals have neither helped the cause of justice nor protected the dignity of the dead women. These individuals have now sought the intervention of the UN Human Rights Council. That's a laughable demand, not least because had it not been for them, there would have been an honourable closure long ago.






The world of economics lost one of its greatest stalwarts on Sunday as Paul Samuelson passed away at his Belmont, Massachusetts residence at the age of 94. Samuelson is credited with having provided the study of economics with the mathematical tools that have become indispensible to economic analysis today. In that sense, he is responsible for transforming economics from an essentially theoretical field of study to a practical science. His defining books Economics and The Foundations of Economic Analysis, changed the way academicians, politicians and the general public looked at economics. Most of what is taught in economics at the high school and undergraduate levels across the world today is fundamentally based on Samuelson's books. In 1970, Samuelson became the first American to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics for doing, according to the Swedish Academy, "more than any other contemporary economist to raise the level of scientific analysis in economic theory". Apart from his academic achievements, Samuelson also had a significant role in shaping American economic policies during the Kennedy era. It was on the basis of his advice that John F Kennedy used to formulate his economic agenda.

But Samuelson's lasting legacy is his propagation of the Keynesian model of economics. It is because of Samuelson's efforts in popularising Keynesian economic principles among academicians and politicians alike that the world at large has dumped the concept of an absolutely free market economy with no Government control. As a result, even the most capitalist economy today is one that is regulated to a certain degree. This has held the world in good stead, something that can be gauged from the way Governments around the world have handled the recent economic crisis. Unlike the Great Depression of the previous century, this time around Governments responded by undertaking a slew of financial stimulus packages. The response has been rooted in Keynesian philosophy and has stemmed the freefall the global financial system seemed to be stuck in. Hence, had it not been for Samuelson and his work, the latest financial crisis would have been far more devastating than it turned out to be. Finally, no tribute to Samuelson can be complete without acknowledging his contribution to the economics department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was through a lifetime of hard work that Samuelson turned MIT into a leading institution for economic studies. It would be apt to say that it was due to Samuelson that MIT was able to attract brilliant students such as George A Akerlof, Lawrence R Klein, Paul Krugman, Franco Modigliani, Robert C Merton and Joseph E Stiglitz who in turn went on to win Nobels themselves. With Samuelson's death, the world has lost a brilliant mind.



            THE PIONEER




Ever since the Union Government signalled its readiness to consider the demand for a separate Telangana State, demands for new States have erupted like a rash across the length and breadth of India. The political class is stunned by the sudden burst of parochial sentiments in all regions of the country and is desperately groping for a way to contain the conflagration. While some demands for new States can be traced to crass opportunism, there are others like Telangana and Vidarbha, which seem to have greater legitimacy because of the recommendations of States Reorganisation Commission which considered these demands 54 years ago. However, whatever the merits of each case, the country's political leadership will have to scrupulously avoid knee-jerk responses if it wishes to douse the provincial bushfires triggered by Telangana and address the demands on the basis of well-accepted principles.

The broad principles laid down by the SRC in 1955 for creation of new States holds good even today. It favoured the creation of linguistic States, but language was not the only criteria. It said national unity, linguistic and cultural homogeneity, geographical compactness and economic and administrative considerations must be factored in.

Fears of neglect within a linguistic region must be taken note of and a "balanced approach" should be evolved. This "balanced approach" meant recognition of linguistic homogeneity as an important factor "but not to consider it as an exclusive and binding principle, over-riding all other considerations, administrative, financial or political". It also meant rejection of the "one language, one State" theory "because there can be more than one State speaking the same language" (as in the Hindi belt). Yet another consideration was that the decision in regard to new States should inject "deeper content to Indian nationalism". It is perilous to overlook these principles, whether in the 1950s or now. If petty politics overrides well laid down international standards, it could weaken national unity, governance and economic growth.

The creation of linguistic States has its origins in the fast unto death undertaken by Potti Sriramulu, a Gandhian and freedom fighter in October 1952 to press for a separate Telugu-speaking State to be carved out of the state of Madras. Jawaharlal Nehru's Government misjudged the situation and failed to intervene in time. Sriramulu died on December 16 that year, leading to riots in the Andhra region. Such was the scale of the violence that Nehru was forced to concede the demand for a Telugu-speaking State in Parliament three days after Sriramulu's death. The State was formally inaugurated on October 1, 1953. But the point to note is that Telangana, which was part of the princely state of Hyderabad, was not part of this State. After conceding the demand for a separate Andhra, the Government constituted an SRC headed by Justice Fazl Ali. KM Panikkar and HN Kunzru were its members.

The commission considered the conflicting demands for a composite Telugu State and for a separate Telangana. It said Vishalandhra would bring the development of the Krishna and Godavari rivers under a unified command and also solve the problem of finding a permanent capital for the State, "for the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad are very well suited to be the capital of Vishalandhra". However, Telangana "may be converted into a colony" by the enterprising people in coastal Andhra. On the other hand, from a fiscal point of view, Telangana would be a "stable and viable unit" with higher land and excise revenue. It, therefore, concluded that "it will be in the interests of Andhra as well as Telangana if, for the present, the Telangana area is constituted into a separate State, which may be known as the Hyderabad State", with provision for its unification with Andhra later, if by a two-thirds majority the legislature of the residuary Hyderabad State favoured unification". The intervening period could be utilised to allay apprehensions and achieve "consensus of opinion necessary for a real union...". However, "if 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 commission said the leaders of Andhra were willing to offer safeguards to Telangana in case of integration but it was not possible to dispel the fears in Telangana via constitutional devices like the 'Scottish devolution' in the UK. The Union Government, however, rejected the recommendation and merged Telangana with Andhra to create a unified Telugu-speaking State on November 1, 1956, the date on which several more linguistic States were inaugurated.

The same argument of linguistic homogeneity was advanced before the commission by those who demanded that eight Marathi-speaking districts of Madhya Pradesh (known as Maha Vidarbha) must be part of Maharashtra. Here too the commission found that revenue-surplus Vidarbha could suffer if it was part of revenue-deficit Maharashtra. Nagpur would be overshadowed by Bombay and land and tenancy laws would be altered to its disadvantage. It, therefore, recommended creation of a separate Vidarbha State, which would be "stable and prosperous". This recommendation was rejected and Vidarbha was merged into the composite Marathi-speaking State of Maharashtra. The persistent cries for statehood that have emanated from these two regions over the last 50 years seem to indicate that the issues that warranted separateness remain alive even 50 years after the reorganisation of States.

This is a testing time for the country's politicians. This is also the time for statesmanship, not one-upmanship. Instead of scoring petty political points to embarrass one another, national parties like the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties need to work towards a common goal — the formulation of objective criteria for division of existing States or the formation of new States and reference of all demands to a new SRC. Seasoned players like Mr Pranab Mukherjee and Mr LK Advani will have to take the initiative to evolve a national response to the developing situation, if we are to preserve our hard-earned unity. In short, if there are any statesmen in our midst, this is the time for them to stand up and be counted.






Reading US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's December 10 interview with Al Jazeera, it is striking how much she is speaking in a completely American psychological and political context. Perhaps it is always like that. But when an Administration claims it is multi-cultural, open to the world, and seeing the other side's viewpoint, it is noteworthy that it still sounds like a bunch of Americans who don't quite seem to grasp what other parts of the world are like.

What better example than Afghanistan and Pakistan, countries about as different from the United States as you're going to get. She states:

"We've admired the way Pakistan has pulled together to go after those elements of the Taliban that are directly threatening them. And I think that the people of Pakistan are so unified now in support of this military action." Consider the bizarrely self-subverting first sentence there. Isn't it great, she says, that Pakistan is fighting those Taliban types who are trying to take over the country and kill them. Well, of course they are! Is it hard to understand that they wouldn't like being murdered? But the problem, of course, is that Pakistan isn't going after those elements of the Taliban that are not "directly threatening" them.

In fact, as most recently attested by a freed New York Times reporter who the Taliban had been holding hostage, the Pakistanis are helping the Taliban and other terrorists who want to kill Americans or Indians!

It is a bit remarkable that the Secretary of State can put the issue in such a backwards manner. Tens of thousands of American soldiers are about to be risked in Afghanistan, depending on Pakistan to guard the back door and help stop terrorists who want to kill them. Pakistan will do the minimum possible, thus placing those troops and their mission at risk. Meanwhile, the Administration that is sending them there is pretending the problem doesn't even exist.

And with all due respect, the idea of Pakistanis as "unified" and ready to be "pulled together" sounds like a rather out-of-touch way to describe an incredibly divided nation full of anti-Americanism, packed with many thousands of radical Islamists, mired in corruption, hovering on the verge of anarchy, and where armed factions shoot at each other daily. It is a fantasy Pakistan packaged like some slightly exotic version of a Hollywood film set.

This is the kind of thing that people make fun of today when they describe how innocent Americans once thought about a country named Vietnam.








The Federal Bureau of Investigation has made public a 43-page complaint against Abdur Rehman and a 17-page Criminal Information Report against David Coleman Headley alias Daood Gilani in the Chicago conspiracy case.

The 43-page complaint against Abdur Rehman makes for interesting reading for its detailed notes on e-mail exchanges and transcripts of recorded phone conversations between him and Headley. Three revelations from the complaint stand out. The first is that Abdur Rehman was generally referred to as Hashim. The second is a reference to Lady Naipaul highlighting Abdur Rehman's links to those behind the assassination of Gen Faisal Alvi days before the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai. The third and perhaps most significant revelation is on the inter-jihadi political dynamics once again exposing the mutual tension between Lashkar-e-Tayyeba's Sajid Mir and Abdur Rehman who presumably belonged to the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and Al Qaeda's 313 Brigade.

The 17-page Criminal Information Report against David Headley, while mostly reiterating what was already made public, stands out for charging Headley with providing material support to Lashkar dating as far back as 2002. Specifically the report notes Headley attended Lashkar training camps in February 2002, August 2002, April 2003, August 2003 and December 2003.

It is interesting to note that both in February 2002 and August 2002 there were extensive reports of Lashkar training camps in the Indian media.

It is also interesting to note that on April 2, 2003 Hafiz Saeed, the Lashkar's founder and subsequently of Jamaat-ud-Dawa'h, who was in Islamabad to address the Defence of Muslim Fraternity Conference, spoke to Mohammad Shehzad in a public interview, portions of which appeared in the Frontline magazine's April-May 2003 edition. Speaking for the first time in three years he explicitly acknowledged a Lashkar-organised jihad training camp being underway. It is tragic and comic to note that in the same interview Hafiz Saeed also volunteered to share the phone number for contacting the jihad training camp.

In August 2003 there were also extensive reports of up to 40 youth from Gujarat having been sent to Lashkar training camps. One of the most extensive accounts of life in the Lashkar training camps comes from a December 6, 2003 interview by Syed Saleem Shahzad in the Asia Times. The interview with a former Lashkar described as 'Dr Ahmed' notes in great detail his personal experiences in a jihad training camp and of a specific incident of cross-border infiltration in Kashmir.

As the Indian agencies begin to piece together David Headley's antecedents they must focus specifically on those in India who may have trained with David Headley in the Lashkar training camps and their role in attacks of mass terror that followed.

This insight into Headley's jihad training in Pakistan also comes as news trickles from Pakistan and the US of five missing American Muslims being arrested at Sargodha in Pakistan.

The December 11, 2009 interrogation report by PSP Abbas Majeed Khan Marwat, ASP/UT Sarghoda of the five American Muslims makes for interesting reading. The 10-page interrogation report has detailed profiles of all five men including photographs, photocopies of US passports. The fifth Umar Farooq interestingly is reported to have been born in Sarghoda itself with no passport details listed.


The interrogation report goes into great detail on how one of the five arrested was recruited via YouTube through comments praising jihadi videos. The alleged recruiter used a YouTube handle 'Saifullah'. The report itself lists a video from Al Jazeera on YouTube channel as one of the avenues were comments were exchanged as the first step in jihadi recruitment. The interrogation also reveals another wellknown technique used by jihadis for e-mail communication where no e-mail is actually exchanged while messages are saved merely as drafts in the inbox for the other party to read, in this case the e-mail service in question was Yahoo.

The interrogation report also highlights the Pakistani establishment's ambivalence towards jihadi groups once sponsored by it when it goes on to provide a clean chit to Jaish-e-Mohammad and Jamaat-ud-Dawa'h saying they refused to help the budding jihadis from America.

From Headley to the five aspiring American jihadis the use of Internet and YouTube for jihadi recruitment is a wake-up call for India. In the past eight weeks there has been an unusual spike in anti-India jihadi videos being uploaded on YouTube. Specifically one YouTube channel has reproduced Lashkar content that was previously disseminated by Ansarullah. Over the last four weeks nine videos have been uploaded to this channel with four videos in the last two days including earlier videos that feature the Indian Mujahideen's Abdul Subhan Tauqeer and the many SIMI arrested who languish in Indian jails. The latest video uploaded has visuals recorded on April 27, 2008. Another YouTube channel with anti-India jihadi content that has become active in the past few weeks leads to a familiar file sharing site e-snips while also listing a gmail account.

It is time the Indian security agencies paid particular attention to how YouTube and other social networking sites are being used by agents of Lashkar under the pseudonym Ansarullah to disseminate jihadi content and to potentially recruit budding terrorists.

The writer tracks terrorism in South Asia.







India's security environment is impacted by developments in Pakistan and Afghanistan and this is the reason why New Delhi should seriously examine the real implications of US President Barack Obama's address on December 1 at the US Military Academy at West Point. His policy statement is the first authentic elaboration of America's thinking on security issues concerning the whole region of South Asia.

The real focus of Mr Obama's policy statement was primarily on Afghanistan and Pakistan. But American actions in these two countries have a direct bearing on the security of India.

Mr Obama said that it was in the national interest of the US to send 30,000 more troops in addition to the 100,000 coalition forces that are already stationed because "US security is at stake in Afghanistan". Further, the US cannot undertake 'cleansing' of Al Qaeda or other Muslim fundamentalists like the Taliban without the full cooperation of Pakistan. Hence, Mr Obama in his speech maintained that both Afghanistan and Pakistan are under threat from Al Qaeda, and this is the reason that the US has established a partnership with Pakistan. It is not without reason that Mr Obama's first major foreign policy decision, just after assuming power in January 2009, was to approach the Congress to sanction heavy military and economic aid to Pakistan. The hefty American aid to Islamabad was justified on the basis of the argument that Pakistan was a special 'strategic partner' of the US in the fight against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Mr Obama motivated his soldiers at the US Military Academy by advancing philosophical justification for his commitment to the war against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. He also told them to take Pakistan along in this 'joint venture'.

America's unilateralist foreign policy of military intervention was justified by Mr Obama by stating that "…we must draw on the strength of our values for the challenges we face may have changed but the things we believe in must not. That is why we must promote our values…". This statement clearly asserts America's self-defined goal of playing the role of a global leader and 'remake' the world in its own image. This is a goal of an imperialist power; to export its 'values of democracy' with the power of the gun.

Washington, DC, may be arming Pakistan on the basis of 'mutuality of interests'. But for India, the latter is the epicentre of terror activities perpetrated against it. Indo-Pak relations continue to be in a trough as Islamabad is not acting against the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks despite the evidence provided by New Delhi in six dossiers.

The indictment of David Coleman Headley for conspiracy in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the naming of a retired Pakistani Army Major in the plot have clearly indicated direct involvement of Pakistan-based militants who are supported by the ISI in perpetrating global jihad.

Therefore, despite having legitimate interests in the development of Afghanistan, India's role is being obstructed by the great Indo-Pak divide. Apart from providing development aid worth more than $ 1 billion, India is helping train Afghan Army officers, non-commissioned officers and medical personnel.

However, under the present India-Pakistan-Afghanistan situation, New Delhi should keep in mind that its role in Afghanistan is quite limited, even unpredictable, in the near future. It is not surprising that the reason the US has been strengthening the Pakistani Army and calling it a 'dependable ally of America' is that India is not relevant in Mr Obama's strategic approach towards Afghanistan and Pakistan.

However, India cannot be unmindful of American activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan because the withdrawal of American and allied forces from Afghanistan will mean collapse of local political authority in that country. In such a scenario, Pakistan will make every effort to fill the power vacuum in post-America Afghanistan. Hence, India should concentrate on its foreign and security relations with Pakistan and leave Afghanistan to the Americans. The West Point speech of Mr Obama clearly reveals that he is looking at Afghanistan and Pakistan from the perspective of national interest. Therefore, it must be realised that America's military stakes cannot be India's stakes too.

While Pakistan is getting militarily strengthened by receiving American aid, there is no evidence that it has shown any consideration for India after Mr Obama came to power in January 2009. Hence, India has to deal with Pakistan on the basis of its own resources and its own judgement about latter's attitude.

India must reject Mr Obama's revised AfPak strategy which is solely aimed at strengthening the Pakistani Army and involving India in an arm race with Pakistan. A militarily strong Pakistan, supported by the Americans, has less commitment towards Mr Obama's goals in Afghanistan than its own goals against India. Hence, the policymakers should focus on the Indo-Pak relations and not on India's role in Afghanistan.







As we approach the climate change negotiations in Copenhagen, one thing is clear: For millions of people around the world climate change is not simply a future threat, it is a current reality.

In my role as the United Kingdom's International Development Secretary, I've met people around the world who are living with the consequences of climate change — from families in Bangladesh forced to leave their flooded homes, to women in parts of Ethiopia who are walking further each year to collect water for their families. In Kolkata this August, I saw the vulnerability of people living in low-lying slums.

These people are the least responsible for climate change, yet they are already most affected by it. As we look to the future it is clear that climate change will increasingly hit poor people hardest.

By 2020, some countries across Africa could see the yields from rain-fed agriculture fall by a half. By 2035, parts of the Himalayan glaciers, which provide water to 1.5 billion people across Asia, could have disappeared. By 2080, an extra 400 million people could be exposed to the threat of malaria.

Climate change threatens to make poverty the future for millions of people. That is why the Government of the United Kingdom believes that the world has not only a common interest, but also a moral responsibility to people in the most vulnerable countries, to secure a fair deal on climate change.

To keep global temperature rises below 2 degrees centigrade will mean nothing less than a 50 per cent reduction in global emissions by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. This will require a firm commitment from rich nations to significant cuts in emissions — for developed countries do bear the greatest responsibility for the emissions we have seen over the past century. A deal will also need to involve developing countries — because the greatest growth in emissions over coming decades will be in such countries.

At the same time we must agree a strong deal on climate finance, to help developing countries both adapt to the now-inevitable effects of climate change, and get their economies on a low-carbon path to growth.

The British Prime Minister, Mr Gordon Brown, has led the way in calling for around $ 100 billion per year by 2020 — drawn from a combination of public finance and carbon markets — to help developing countries develop clean energy, adapt to the effects of climate change and protect forests.

Some of this climate finance can legitimately come from official development assistance, where investment helps to both fight poverty and tackle climate change. But a ceiling should be placed on the proportion of development assistance that goes towards climate funding.


Without such a commitment, there is a risk that Governments will divert a large proportion of aid budgets to fulfil their commitments on climate change, diverting money away from healthcare, education and humanitarian assistance. We cannot allow a choice to exist between fighting poverty and tackling climate change, and that is why the UK has set a limit of up to 10 per cent of development assistance that can be invested in climate funding.

Our support is already helping communities to lift themselves out of poverty. For instance, in rural Orissa the UK Department for International Development is helping to train and equip tribal women as 'barefoot' solar engineers; and to increase the productivity and resilience of poor farmers in drought-prone areas. In Bihar, we have helped introduce a new information system for managing floods. In Madhya Pradesh, we have helped two in five of the most excluded people move out of poverty, and helped three quarters of those in agriculture to increase their yield by a third.

In the run-up to the Copenhagen meetings, we have also provided support to ensure that developing country negotiators have a strong, coherent voice at the table. And through our support of Oxfam's climate witness programme, we have worked to ensure that the voices of people living with the impacts of climate change across India will be heard in Copenhagen. The next few weeks represent not a window of opportunity, but a window of necessity in our efforts to strike a climate deal to protect the lives and livelihoods of this and future generations.

The writer is Secretary of State, Department for International Development, UK







On December 7, tens of thousands of students marched at universities across Iran, in the most significant anti-Government protests in the country for months. The Associated Press asked a 20-year-old philosophy undergraduate at Tehran's Allameh Tabatabei University to record his thoughts and experiences in a diary before, during and after the protests. He provided the AP the diary on condition of anonymity, because some of his friends have been arrested or suspended for contacting the foreign media.

The student has been suspended this semester for taking part in protests. More than 100 other students, including friends of the diarist, have been arrested in recent weeks, some sentenced to long prison terms.

They charge that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the last election by fraud, and many are supporters of Opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. The Iranian Government considers the students misguided and says they have been tempted into counter-revolutionary activities by Iran's foreign enemies.

The diary entries have been translated from the Farsi by AP correspondent Scheherezade Faramarzi.

Thursday, December 3:

Today I received a warning from the herasat (the university moral police) to "watch out." Yesterday, my friends and I disrupted a speech by Parliament member Alireza Zakani in the university's Azodi Amphitheater.

Zakani claimed that Mousavi was only good at making up stories that his supporters are ready to become martyrs for the cause.

We shouted slogans. Then a Basiji student (a member of the hard-line, pro-Government Basiji militia) went to the podium. Using shameless, foul language, she claimed the Opposition had been violent in its protests and had pulled the scarves off women's heads. I got really angry and interrupted her and went to the podium saying she was lying.

(The head of the herasat's) message, relayed verbally by a friend, was: "Tell him that I had no issue with him, but it seems he has some unfinished business."

Friday, December 4:

Friday is a holiday for every student, but there's no holiday these days with what's going on. From the moment you wake up in the morning, you're anxious about your friends in jail and you are also afraid that you might be next. That's how the day started for me. I started studying for my English language test, because when you have been suspended, you study English so you can leave this country, a country whose rulers have denied you your right to education. I went to see a friend in the afternoon ... my fellow student at the university.

We talked a lot about philosophy. We also agreed it isn't rational to participate in such a dangerous day on the 7th because we would pay a high price. There's been a great deal of sacrifice since November 4 (the last major Opposition demonstration) and the back of the student organisations has almost broken.

Anyhow, in our view December 7 is going to be a scary day.

Saturday, December 5:

In the afternoon, went to Cafe Prague. This cafe opened recently and two friends who were also suspended are running it. We drank coffee and talked about December 7. Again, I insisted on being wise and prudent in our actions. I said we shouldn't pay a high price.

In the evening, I went to see a friend who's not particularly political. We were talking about various things, philosophy and social issues, when my mobile phone alerted me of an incoming SMS. I opened it.

It was from a friend. "Mohammad has been released." Nothing has made me so happy in recent months. Mohammad Nik-khah. My classmate and a friend since elementary school. We spent hours laughing the night before he was arrested nearly three weeks ago. It was as if I had been freed of the grief of his imprisonment. His mobile was shut down all through the night and I have not yet been able to speak to him.


My Saturday was a happy one.








THE Congress party would be wrong to term UP Chief Minister's call, in her second letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the past few days, for a Bundelkhand and a Poorvanchal state as a gimmick.


Her demand for the trifurcation of Uttar Pradesh is equivalent of flinging a political gauntlet to the Congress which has of late displayed pretensions of being a power of sorts in the state.


While the essence of Ms Mayawati's challenge is political, the logic of her argument for the two new states to be carved out of UP are faultless. She says that the creation of the smaller states would ensure better administrative management and help remove regional imbalances.


The Congress may see Ms Mayawati's stands as an act of opportunism arising out of the United Progressive Alliance's blundering ways in Andhra Pradesh, but the fact is that the Bahujan Samaj Party leader has been advocating a trifurcation of UP for some time now and had actually written to the Prime Minister several times in the past urging the Union government to divide the state.


There is a method in Ms Mayawati's madness. An analysis by Mail Today shows that going by current trends, the BSP could end up heading governments in all the new units. What is more important, however, is that unlike the Congress and the Samajwadi Party, the Dalit leader is ready to stake her fortunes in a forward- looking move, rather than offer lame excuses to maintain the status quo.


There is nothing sacrosanct about the physical boundaries of UP, which was essentially the United Provinces of Agra and Awadh till 1947. Though the Agra sub- unit took up western UP, Awadh was north- central UP and excluded what is now Bundelkhand and Eastern UP.






IT has almost become a cliché to the call Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi " incorrigible". His sexual escapades and foot- in- the- mouth statements are legend.


But, even the forgiving Italians would not have imagined that their favourite son ( or grandpa, depending on your perspective) would ignore the world's pressing problem of global warming and instead try to titillate fellow EU leaders by doodling the evolution of women's undergarments.


We are not privy to images of Mr Berlusconi's hand at drawing, but surely he is now bound to play a smaller hand in determining the fate of the planet?






THE admission by former Sri Lankan army chief Gen. Sarath Fonseka in The Sunday Leader , a newspaper in Colombo, that three top LTTE leaders were killed even after they surrendered to the armed forces earlier this year is shocking, but perhaps not surprising.


It is no secret that the Sri Lankan Army was ruthless to the point of being barbaric in their elimination of the LTTE. Several independent news reports pointed to the direct domination of defence secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa, who also happens to be the younger brother of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, over the armed forces.


Gen. Fonseka's admission has only lent fuel to the war crimes fire.


The Sri Lankan government could argue that Gen. Fonseka's statement is politically motivated as he is competing with the senior Rajapaksa in a battle for the presidency.


But then, the same government had promoted him to be the country's first chief of defence staff and first four- star general.


Since there is very little that can be expected from the government in Colombo, what is needed is a UN Security Council intervention, following which the case could be referred to the International Criminal Court, set up precisely to handle such charges in 2002.


The state has a far greater responsibility in maintaining the dignity of the armed forces, and the surrender offer of LTTE's Pulidevan, Nadesan and Ramesh in May this year gave the Sri Lankan government a great opportunity for reconciling with the minority Tamil community. If Gen. Fonseka's allegation has even an iota of truth in it, then it transpires that the Rajapaksa brothers as well Gen. Fonseka are complicit in the crime which is bound to leave a long trail of bitterness unless addressed by the ICC.









THE JOINT declaration issued on December 7 on the occasion of the latest India- Russia summit commits both sides to " raise their strategic partnership to the next level". The declaration's content, however, does not adequately reflect that undertaking.


The India- Russia strategic partnership is strikingly evident in the defence sector. Between 50 and 70 per cent of equipment with the Indian armed forces is of Russian origin. For India this dependence is overwhelming. For Russia, India remains a client, albeit privileged.


This creates some functional problems.


While the earlier unsatisfactory situation with regard to product support for the Russian equipment has improved, the inordinate delay in delivering the aircraft carrier Gorshkov — seriously upsetting Indian Navy plans — and demanding more than double the originally agreed price has seriously dented Russia's credibility in honouring contractual obligations. The recent summit did provide the impetus to settle the final cost at $ 2.3 billion, but delivery will still be almost four years behind schedule.


During the PM's visit, India's participation in the joint development of the multi- role transport aircraft and the T- 50 fifth- generation fighter were reconfirmed. India will derive real value from this collaboration if the promise of access to Russian design institutes and laboratories is realised. The formalisation of the decision to extend the programme for military- technological cooperation for another 10 years — from 2011 to 2020— signals India's commitment to long term defence cooperation with Russia.


To some extent Russia has been taking its defence relationship with India for granted and ignoring US competition. But Russian nervousness about the outcome of the international tender for 126 multi- role combat aircraft in US favour is now palpable, as it believes India will take a " political" decision in awarding the contract. India revised its initial decision to procure 126 French Mirages, and by opting for international tendering for a project with such political and security implications, it has invited a political headache for itself, unless it can still go in for a European option on merits.


In the strategic area of civilian nuclear cooperation, Russia has ambitions to supply 12 to 14 nuclear plants to India.




During the PM's visit, a new framework agreement was finalised for intensifying broad- based nuclear cooperation, including in such areas as joint scientific research, implementation of projects and fuel supply arrangements, though for this " specific instruments' will be signed. The Indian side has let it be known that this agreement is superior to the 123 Agreement as it does not contain many restrictive provisions relating to right of return, reprocessing and technology transfer.


However, depreciating the very agreement against which all criticism was rejected earlier seemed a curious way to boost the success of the PM's visit.


In the energy sector, the Russians, despite positive political level signals, have held back in practical terms. After obtaining a stake in Sakhalin 1 in 2001, India's expectations to obtain a foothold in this sector have not been met despite strenuous efforts. Russia's push for obtaining a large share of the nuclear power pie in India could be linked to opportunities for India in Russia's hydrocarbon sector.


At $ 7.5 billion, bilateral trade between India and Russia is low, and this is a glaring weakness in our strategic ties. The areas in which there is growth potential — pharmaceuticals, diamonds, IT, etc. — are routinely identified but without significant progress. The joint declaration, surprisingly, omits any mention of the need to enhance trade exchanges. The target set during the summit of raising the two way trade turnover to $ 20 billion by 2015 seems unachievable in the light of the severe recession in Russia whose GDP is expected to fall by eight per cent this year, and more importantly, the structural problems in India- Russia trade, including in banking ties.


The unstable situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the rise of religious extremism, and the spread of the related phenomenon of terrorism are issues of concern to both India and Russia. In the latest enunciation of his AfPak policy, Obama has signalled the beginning of the withdrawal of US forces in Afghanistan from July 2011 onwards and a potential deal with the Taliban.


India and Russia have in their joint declaration rejected a key element of the western strategy of drawing " false distinctions" between the " good" and " bad" Taliban.


The developing scenario demands closer concertation between India and Russia as the fallout on both countries of the US strategy can be highly negative. On terrorism, for Russia to merely express solidarity with India over the terrorist attacks in Mumbai last November and underscore with us the need to bring the perpetrators to justice is insufficient. In all the paragraphs devoted to the terrorism issue, Pakistan has not been mentioned once by name. Just as in the case of the joint statement with the US on the occasion of the PM's visit there in November, Russia too cannot bring itself to identify Pakistan by name in a joint document with us as a source of terrorist activity against India This underlines the limits of Russian receptivity to our Pakistan problem.




Though the expansion of the permanent membership of the UN Security Council is not on the horizon, Russia has discarded the equivocation that had crept into its formulations on supporting India's candidature, and the clarity of the joint declaration on this point is welcome. Russia's support for India's full membership of the Security Council in the joint declaration is an advance, too.


The doint declaration describes BRIC and RIC as core elements to shape a multipolar world, with BRIC now superseding RIC in importance, judging by the content of the paras devoted to each of the two groupings.


Russia probably believes that the persistence of India- China tensions has reduced the potential of RIC to develop into a credible grouping.


The inclusion of Brazil fits in with Russia's renewed diplomatic effort in Latin America and the larger format cushions India- China diplomatic friction better. With all these references to China, a formulation to counter the US- China declaration during President Barack Obama's China visit on an oversight role for China in South Asia could have been usefully included in the joint declaration.




For India relations with the US and with Russia are not a zero sum game. India has on past occasions unilaterally extended assurances to Russia that strengthening our relations with the US will not be at Russia's expense. This message was conveyed again when President Pratibha Patil visited Russia in September this year. The joint declaration addresses this issue de novo by stating that the deepening India- Russia strategic partnership " is not impacted in any way by the engagement of the two countries with the rest of the world". A strategic partnership does not mean an exclusive relationship. The Russian leadership today swears by pragmatism in policy making — in a rejection of the Soviet ideological past — that also applies to India. The same pragmatism also requires India to make a proper evaluation of the substance and importance of its ties with Russia. The practice of regular summits with Russia contributes to keeping our strategic partnership in good repair.


The writer is former foreign secretary and ambassador to Russia ( sibalkanwal@ gmail. com)








THE recent violence in Ludhiana involving migrant workers from Bihar has once again underlined the need for protecting the interest of lakhs of poor people who leave their native state in search of livelihood.

Most of the migrants from Bihar are illiterate, unskilled workers who fan out in different parts of the county to work as daily wagers in agricultural fields, construction sites or firecracker factories without any support whatsoever from any government to safeguard their interests. As a result, they are often exploited by their employers who hire them for salaries much less than the minimum wages prescribed under the laws.


Low wages are not the only problem these Bihari migrants have to contend with. In many states, they have been the prime targets of violence perpetrated by the activists of the some selfstyled organisations claiming to champion the cause of the locals.


Far away from their native place, the Bihari workers bear with the atrocities stoically.


Recurring assaults on them across the country have not resulted in reducing the number of migrants from their state.


But then, they do not have any other option left. With no job opportunities available in Bihar — thanks to the dearth of industries and the flood- ravaged agrarian economy — they cannot afford to stay back home and let their children starve. Willy- nilly, they have to move out of the state, sweat it out elsewhere and support their families with whatever little they save after a hard day's work.


The Bihar government, for its part, is trying to safeguard the interests of its people. It is talking about introducing mandatory identity cards for the migrant workers to keep track on their movement. It is also engaging the panchayats for registration of the migrants moving out of their villages to work in another state.


It also has plans to set up a helpline in all the states to come to their rescue in the event of their exploitation. Besides, the government is trying to create employment opportunities under different welfare projects to hold them back.


But nothing has materialised so far. The government, as a matter of fact, has no idea about the number of its migrant workers working outside the state. It was estimated to be around 12 lakh at the time of last census eight years ago but the figure is believed to have crossed 60 lakh now.


The state government claims that their number has come down considerably in the past couple of years because of enhanced job opportunities in the state. But it will be a wishful thinking to assume that the people will stop moving to outside the state in near future.


With no signs of industrialisation in Bihar, job opportunities are likely to remain scarce and will not help prevent the exodus of its work force altogether.


The government, therefore, must take effective steps in collaboration with other states to provide a sense of security to its people wherever they work— until it is able to stop their exodus.



RESIDENTS of Patna seem to dread nothing more than a VVIP visit.


Every time a ' highly protected' dignitary lands in the city, they have to put up with unmitigated hassles for several hours. It happened again on Saturday last when vice- president Mohammed Hamid Ansari visited Bihar to deliver a memorial lecture at the famous Khuda Bakhsh library. Hours before the vice- president was to arrive in Patna, all the main roads leading to the venue were sealed to facilitate smooth passage to the visiting dignitary.


The roads were barricaded leaving thousands of commuters stranded for nearly five hours in different parts of the Bihar capital.


School students on their way back home were the worst- hit, as their buses remained stuck in the traffic jam for hours. This was not for the first time when Patna had to endure such a chaos.


Despite signs of modernisation, Patna remains an old city with narrow roads which look awfully crammed with buses, cars, motorbikes, cycle- rickshaws and stray cattle during daytime.



VETERAN Ghazal singer from Pakistan Ghulam Ali kept his promise by performing at the Rajgir Mahotsav, a two- day cultural festival organised by the Bihar Tourism department, in the holy city of Rajgir near Nalanda. Last year, Ali's programme at the same festival had to be cancelled at the eleventh hour because of the 26/ 11 terror attack on Mumbai, leaving his fans sorely disappointed.


But this year, Ali compensated amply for his last year's absence by rendering some of his best- known ghazals in the presence of chief minister Nitish Kumar and other VIPs of the state. But Ali was not the sole attraction. A woman IAS officer of Bihar cadre N. Vijayalakshmi surprised everyone by presenting Bharatnatyam on the occasion to steal the limelight. Vijayalaskhmi, who is posted as IG ( Registration) at present, put up a thoroughly professional display of her dancing talent to enthrall the connoisseurs of classical Indian music and dance. The culture department would do well to engage her services more often in future.



THE Bihar police had an unusual motivator in their midst last week. Master Del Pe, the mentor from Houston who has achieved fame as a corporate trainer and a spiritual trainer across the world. The US- based ' guru' first addressed the students of a media college on ' how to be a transformational leader' and then held a ' healing touch' session for the people suffering from some ailment organised by a charity organisation. But it was his interaction with the cops of the state that seemed to be the ' need of the hour'. MDP, as he is popularly called by his followers, tried his best to bring the state cops out of their ennui by giving a pep talk on maximising performance and balancing life. The healing guru, who has synthesised martial arts with yoga, also gave the policemen some tips to bust their stress in their duty hours. He said that laziness was a big disease across the world but it was not recognised as one. He opined that both the rich and the poor were afflicted with laziness which could be cured only through yoga.


Master Del Pea talk may or may not have inspired the Bihar's policemen to get into the alert mode but we at least know what is the root cause of their below par performance now.








Telangana has let the genie out. The clamour for new states is increasing by the day. Politicians across the country have jumped onto the Telangana bandwagon to push their claims for separate states. The latest to join issue with the Centre is Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati who has written to the Centre seeking trifurcation of her state.


Some of the demands may be reasonable, but not all are based on logic or need. Since it is impossible for the Centre to deal directly with each of these demands, the government must announce a new states' reorganisation commission to deal with the claims and forge a consensus on redrawing state boundaries wherever it is justified. The primary aim of the exercise must be to create manageable administrative units. Economic viability and geographical and cultural unity ought to be the determining factors in the making of new states. A large and poor state like UP is a prime candidate to be split into three or four administrative units. Uttar Pradesh was created by joining disparate regions and a specific UP identity doesn't exist. So the task to reconstituting UP into more units is unlikely to evoke too many passions.

That could, however, change if any single political party tries to appropriate credit for the creation of a new state. One reason for the present chaos in Andhra is the failure of the government to build on the political consensus that existed in favour of Telangana prior to the hunger strike by Telangana Rashtra Samiti chief K Chandrasekhara Rao. If Mayawati is serious about introducing a resolution in the assembly towards the division of UP, she must reach out to the opposition including the Samajwadi Party and build a consensus in its favour. The political class, in UP as well as elsewhere, will have to rise above partisan interests for the reorganisation of state boundaries to be a smooth exercise.


That's why any new states' reorganisation commission too must strike a note of caution in the creation of new states, giving its assent only where there are clear and justifiable objective criteria in their favour. Not all statehood demands are driven by the logic that smaller units make governance easier. Ethnic concerns and perceptions of discrimination are behind some of the separatist claims. But uneven development in a state can be addressed if appropriate policy measures are adopted. In short, governance is the key to development. Even small states are unlikely to take off in the absence of a qualitative change in governance. Those pressing for new states must not forget this elementary lesson in statecraft.







The bottom of the pyramid in India is where the next big growth story lies. And Indian companies are waking up to this fact. The latest low-cost offering of high-end durables targeted at households in small-town and rural India is a water purifier from the house of Tatas, which revolutionised the domestic automobile market by rolling out the Nano. The new water purifier blends indigenous and advanced technologies and is priced at below a thousand rupees. Other players in the water purifier business like Eureka Forbes and Unilever have also come up with low-cost, non-electrical versions priced below a couple of thousand rupees. It makes good business sense: while the water purifier market is growing at 17 per cent per annum country-wide, it is growing at a whopping 60 per cent in rural India. And this high consumption pattern in rural India is not limited to water purifiers alone.

Contrary to popular perception, it is not just SEC A or B (jargon used by marketing professionals to mean the elite and more affluent sections of our society) but also the semi-urban and rural markets that are fuelling demand in India. Rural India accounts for almost two-thirds of India's domestic market and about 60 per cent of its income, according to the Rural Marketing Association of India. Which is why companies are tailoring their products to fit non-urban specifications. Innovation is the key to success as the products and services must take into account the differentiated needs and conditions of rural and semi-urban consumers, who are both brand and price-conscious.

There are examples of such enterprise already. The sachet concept for shampoos, detergents and tea opened up a whole
new market for FMCG companies. Attractive pre-paid mobile schemes have added millions of subscribers to the cellular community. Smokeless chulhas, washing machines without driers, customisable TVs have boosted the bottom lines of consumer durable giants. Even in the retail segment, be it food or clothing, companies have gained by altering their non-urban offerings.

But these initiatives are few and far between. Indian companies need to speedily ramp up production capacities, and come up with fresh ideas across various categories of products and services to profitably unleash the potential of the rural and semi-urban segments of our economy. This would, in turn, buoy India's overall economy and have positive implications for our employment and poverty-reduction goals. The god of small things promises big gains.








This week the world has an opportunity to herald perhaps the most exciting era of international cooperation in human history. As leaders gather in Denmark at the Copenhagen climate change summit, an accord on a way forward on this most critical issue could lay the foundations for a period of incredibly dynamic development and economic opportunity. But we will need to adopt 21st century ways of thinking and doing if we are to rise to the challenge before us and to make the most of the opportunities it presents.

While climate change has recently emerged as a clear priority for policy-makers in many countries, in many others the focus has quite understandably been elsewhere especially on development and the alleviation of poverty. While the focus on ending poverty must remain and be sharpened, it seems to me that we must guard against falling into the trap of seeing the protection of the environment and development of the economy as alternatives. I believe they are, in fact, two sides of the same coin.

No longer can any country or city pursue its interests in isolation. Today, the emphasis is very much on interconnection, interdependence and cooperation. While history reveals that humans sometimes struggle to succeed in these respects, we must not be deterred from seeking a better future. One challenge that has been on my mind a lot for the last couple of years, and which is relevant to many developing countries, is the question of how to save what remains of the world's tropical rainforests.

These incredible ecosystems harbour more than half the earth's terrestrial biodiversity, on which, whether we like it or not, human survival depends. They generate rainfall; they are home to many of the world's indigenous peoples; and they help meet the needs of hundreds of millions of other people. They also hold vast quantities of carbon, and their clearance is causing massive greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for about a fifth of the total.

While some countries, including India, have achieved many environmental gains through their ambitious afforestation programmes, the science also tells us of the urgent need to also stop forests being cut down in the first place. This is precisely why my Rainforests Project has expended so much effort during these last two years to help facilitate a consensus on increasing international cooperation to cut deforestation. And happily agreement is beginning to emerge.

A new working group of more than 30 governments has set out proposals on how it would be possible to provide countries with financial rewards for their positive performance in cutting deforestation. New financial incentives could be used in rainforest nations to implement strategies for sustainable development without having to rely so heavily on the kind of economic activities that cause deforestation. At the same time, money would be available for new health and education programmes, as well as genuinely integrated rural development models. In return, the world would sustain the vital ecosystem services upon which we all rely for our economic, physical and spiritual survival.

The idea that the world should pay in some way for the essential utility services provided by the rainforests (after all, we already pay for our water, gas and electricity) is not a new one. But there does, at last, appear to be agreement that this is one way we can quickly begin to reduce emissions and, thus, buy urgently needed time in the battle against catastrophic climate change.

While initiatives like this will need to be a part of the solution, they are not, i believe, the whole answer. As we have become progressively more separate from nature, and more reliant on technological inventiveness to solve our problems, we have become less able to see our predicament for what it really is namely as being utterly out of balance, having lost any sense of harmony with the earth's natural rhythms, cycles and finite systems.

Forging a reconnection with nature and reintegrating our societies and economies with her capacities is very much a part of the challenge to which we must rise. The Copenhagen summit will, i hope, contribute to a shift at this deeper level, as well as set out the plan for transition to a low carbon economy and the means to ensure that those countries least responsible for this problem can be helped to adapt to what is already inevitable change.

While time may not be on our side, our ability to cooperate and innovate to find solutions is still with us. We have in the past faced huge challenges and prevailed. I would like to conclude with a thought from one of the great leaders of the 20th century. His words seem more relevant than ever in the 21st. Mahatma Gandhi observed how ''The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems''. I hope that in Copenhagen we will be able to rise to this challenge, and show our children that what we could do is what we did.

( The writer is the Prince of Wales.)








Some people hate to keep things pending or to be late and thus remain anxious all the time, which may be a good trait, except that it can also land them in odd situations at times, such as arriving at a wedding venue even before the hosts. These people live life by the motto 'better do today what you intend to do tomorrow'. There is another set of people who believe that haste makes waste, however, and thus tend to defer taking action as long as possible.


Their philosophy of life says, 'don't do today what you can do tomorrow', because, if you put it off long enough, you may never have to do it! The first category is the type that believes tomorrow never comes. However, as each day is limited to 24 hours, and human capacity to work non-stop is also limited, how much can a person pack in for completing in a single day? Certain things are bound to remain pending. This becomes a matter of great concern for the anxiety strung who want things done and settled today.

A dear relative, an ex-defence personnel now residing in Pune, is very punctual, but also anxiety-prone by nature. He was in New Delhi recently and had duly booked his return to Pune by train well in advance. On the scheduled day of return, he got ready and got his bags packed well in time and arranged for a taxi to drop him at the railway station at least half an hour before the departure of the train, which was at 11 a.m. So he bid us goodbye at 9.30 a.m., keeping a safe margin of one hour to drive through Delhi's chaotic and slow moving traffic.


We were, therefore, amazed to see him back at our door at around 12.30 p.m. It turned out that when he tried to board the train at the station, he could not find his name anywhere in the list displayed outside the reserved compartment. So he approached the railway official to find out what had gone wrong. He was told that he was booked on the train leaving the next day and he'd reached 24 hours in advance! Rather than spending a day at the station to avoid being laughed at by all, he had decided that it was better to stay in the cozy comfort of our home and bravely face some teasing.







This year, as you may have noticed, has been one long party in honour of Charles Darwin. That's now drawing to a close. But don't put away your glad rags. Next year is also slated to be one long party; this time, in honour of biodiversity. Yes, 2010 is to be an international knees-up for the other species on the planet.

It's not clear to me what, in practice, this celebration is going to mean. But the prospect of it has led me to get out some picture books books like The Deep, which is full of incredible photographs of strange beings. Looking through these books, it's hard not to be struck by the immensity of the planet it's home to all these life forms! And we haven't even met them all yet. We still don't know the planet all that well. On the one hand, this is exciting: there's so much more to learn! Millions of new species may await discovery; and discovery is only the first step. Once an organism has been identified, we can learn about its lifestyle: its mating habits (if any), what it eats, how long it lives, what weird genetic quirks it has and so on. On the other hand, our lack of knowledge is a bit worrying. Although we often behave as if we're the only ones who live here, we depend on other organisms in all manner of ways.

Some of these are obvious. We hunt fish to eat them; we grow cows for meat, milk and leather. We cultivate silkworms to make clothes. We grow a large number of plants for diverse purposes to eat, or to use as drugs, timber or paper. But much of our dependence is less obvious. Worms, fungi, insects and microbes consume dead bodies and fallen branches. Some organisms consume dung; others move seeds. Many organisms make soil richer and more fertile. Plants around streams and rivers filter the water and make it cleaner. Plants also take carbon dioxide from the air, and thus affect the composition of the atmosphere; their roots help prevent soils from washing away. Some bacteria may play a role in making clouds; the list goes on.

By and large, we do not pay for any of this: our economics does not, for the most part, include paying for nature. But we pay when it is lost. Less fertile soils make it harder to grow crops. Dirtier water is more expensive to make fit for human consumption. The collapse of fisheries leads to unemployment. The loss of mangroves increases the impact of tsunamis. The loss of animal species increases the risk that humans will catch diseases such as Lyme disease. Again, the list goes on.

The other beings that live here with us are, like us, descended from ancient lineages. In and of themselves, they are marvels to be wondered at. But they are also precious: they make our planet what it is today. Still, as the great American environmentalist Aldo Leopold once said, when something vanishes, "We grieve only for what we know. The erasure of Silphium from western Dane County is no cause for grief if one knows it only as a name in a botany book." Yes: if we don't know something, we don't care if it goes.

This, then, is what the International Year of Biodiversity should be about: it should be about conveying the excitement of discovery in biology, coupled with an intimate knowledge of the majesty of nature. For we must start cherishing our fellow life forms, and treating them well: we need them, in more ways than we probably imagine. Their loss makes the planet and ourselves poorer. So please be up-standing, raise your glasses and join me in a toast to: "Other Life Forms!" And let's make sure that in the years ahead, we don't need to change it to "Absent Friends''.








Conspiratorial webs, strands of speculation and the plotlines from various spy thrillers are being spun around the trial of Lashkar-eTayyeba (LeT) member David Coleman Headley. These lines, however, have done little other than muddy the waters as to what is India's primary interest in the case. It is less about what Headley knew about the Mumbai 26/11 terrorist attacks or whether he is a litmus test for counter-terrorism cooperation between India and the United States. India has long made the claim that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of the Pakistan military actively directs and supports the terrorist activities of the LeT. The Headley trial is the first time that this `thesis' is being tested by the strict rules of evidence of a Western court of law. This would provide irrefutable evidence of the nature of Pakistan's military and further help push that country into accepting its own reality: a rogue State being consumed by its own trickery.


Despite many exciting reports about Headley's interactions with the LeT cell that masterminded the 26/11 attack, the truth is his own statements need more tangible corroboration to survive a contemporary Perry Mason. It is telling that, so far, the strongest connection between the LeT and the ISI lies in the indictment of Yousuf Raza Gilani, a retired Pakistani officer, and the assistance he provided Headley in plotting a terrorist strike not against Mumbai but against Denmark. Ultimately, the target of the plot is less important than the proof of the plotting itself and which organisations the conspirators represent.


One can be almost certain Headley will not be extradited to India. It is for a government to send one of its own citizens to another country for trial. It is also unclear if Indian officials will get to speak with Headley. However, already the degree of cooperation between US and Indian law enforcement agencies in this case is unprecedented.

The truth remains that even now most governments are less than helpful when it comes to sharing intelligence -and that this problem continues to plague even agencies within the same government. The real focus of the Headley case is not the legal minutiae but the possibility of exposing the bloodied khaki hand that lies inside the Lashkar puppet.








Habit is a bad thing. Ask our squatter netas. Seven months after losing power, 14 ex-MPs are still refusing to give up what they see as rightfully theirs: their official residences. It's another matter that some of the new entrants to Parliament are waiting on the sidelines, also eyeing what they think should be rightfully theirs: their official residences. No matter how much the authorities plead or push the recalcitrant ex-MPs, they remain unmoved.

Even the unsavoury incident involving BJP Rajya Sabha member Nand Kumar Sai, who was evicted from his official residence and had to spend a night on the road a few months ago, have failed to have any impact.


The excuses for not leaving the official residences have been flowing freely. The old chestnut was used by Shiromani Akali Dal's S.K. Dhindsa when he said that he wants to stay in his once-allotted Delhi house for "health reasons". At this point, however, we are unable to confirm whether Mr Dhindsa is seriously looking for another career as an exponent of vaastu shastra or not. Not to be undone by Mr Dhindsa's creative excuse, an aide of the Congress' Pappu Yadav said that his leader was paying the market rate (read: heavily subsidised rent) so he has no clue why all this hullabaloo. Mr Yadav should be told very quietly the real market rate of Lutyens' Delhi -- that, we have a feeling, he is well aware of. Meanwhile, another Congressman, Sajjan Kumar, continues to remember that he suffers from amnesia. He went on record to say that he can't "remember" why he still hasn't vacated his official residence.


This situation is not new. Every time a new government walks into the house called Parliament, MPs tumble over each other for official houses, the biggest of the freebies offered to them. MPs should be paid an allowance to look for that perfect accommodation themselves. A realty check will surely do them a world of good.









we learn about the events of 26/11, the ess we know. We are aware now of who perperated and planned the attacks -- thanks largely o Ajmal Kasab -- but we know less than we should about other aspects of 26/11. Whatever new information is emerging shows the Bombay Police in a very poor light. There is, first of all, Hasan Gafoor's claim that, as police commissioner, he found that four of his officers refused to risk their lives that night.

And now there is Vinita Kamte's deeply moving book, To The Last Bullet (Ameya Prakashan).


All of us know that Ashok Kamte, Hemant Karkare and Vijay Salaskar were killed on the night of 26/11. The version we have been fed is that these two top officers (Salaskar was not from the IPS) behaved like headless chickens driving around recklessly on the streets of Bombay and that they were easy pickings for the terrorists.


Vinita's book proves the opposite: their colleagues let them die.


First of all, Ashok Kamte was not merely driving around.

He was in charge of the East Zone so the attacks were outside his area. He was specially called to the Special Branch Office near the spot where the terrorists were.


Secondly, Kamte and Karkare were not together. Karkare had heard about the firing at VT Station and reached there independently. Witnesses told him that the terrorists had left and had now reached Cama Hospital.


Karkare radioed the Central Room at 23.24 hrs (11.24 pm): "We need to encircle Cama Hospital. We are near SB2 Office Side.

Send a team to the front side of the Cama Hospital.

Request the army for their commandos." So, at 11.24 pm, the Chief of the state's Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) had (a) already worked out that this was a terror strike when much of the police force was confused, (b) had asked for commandos and (c) had planned to encircle Cama Hospital to flush out the terrorists.


But all his requests were ignored. No reinforcements reached Cama Hospital. Nothing he said was passed on. And police headquarters are only two minutes from Cama Hospital! As it turned out, because there were no policemen at the front gate of Cama Hospital, Kasab and Ismail, his partner, simply strolled out of the hospital. They walked into the nearby Rang Bhavan Lane. On their way in, they shot at a passing Honda City, hitting the driver in his finger. Two constables from the Azad Maidan police station saw the incident clearly and informed their Control Room at 23.45 hrs. Residents of Rang Bhavan Lane who had seen the shooting also called the Control Room.


Nobody in the Control Room either sent cops or even, informed Karkare of any of this. He still believed that the terrorists were inside the hospital and that reinforcements had reached Cama Hospital -- after all, he had radioed for men half an hour before. He decided to go to the front of Cama Hospital and took Kamte (who had an AK-47) and Salaskar (an encounter specialist) with him.


At 12.01 am or so, the vehicle containing Karkare, Kamte and Salaskar entered Rang Bhavan Lane. The officers thought they saw something moving in the bushes. So Kamte got out of the car and opened fire with his AK-47. He hit Kasab in the arm. But Ismail then returned the fire with his assault rifle and in the gun battle, the three men (Kamte, Karkare and Salaskar) were injured. (As, of course, was Kasab).


The terrorists pulled them out of the vehicle, threw them on the road and hijacked the car. They lay there from 12.04 am to 12.49 am! Were they dead? Probably not. Salaskar was alive when they took him to the hospital. He died there. Kamte bled to death from a scalp injury. If he had not been left to bleed on the road for over 40 minutes, he might still be alive today.


So why did the Bombay Police let their best men bleed to death on a road two minutes from headquarters? They knew they were there.

The residents of Rang Bhavan Lane kept phoning the Control Room. Many called repeatedly, describing the terrorists, and informing the cops of the fire fight. Nobody responded.


At 12.04 am right after the gun-battle involving Karkare's team, a policeman reported the firing to the Main Control Room. At 12.25 am, Arun Jhadav, who had survived the attack, called the Control Room and told them about the incident.

Nothing happened.

Just after the officers were shot, a police vehicle sped by -- eyewitnesses are quite clear. But neither did it stop nor did it inform the Control Room. Another police vehicle passed at 12.33 am. It told the Control Room "three people are lying in the St Xavier's Lane. We need a stretcher." But it did not stop. And no help arrived for another 16 minutes! The Control Room let the terrorists get away and let three brave officers bleed to death like dogs in the street.


And then, there are the lies and the politics within the force.

One theory for the fiasco of 26/11 is that the Crime Branch officers who manned the Control Room were unwilling to help Karkare because of internal politics. Certainly, the way in which the police tried to conceal the fact that it was Kamte who injured Kasab (making it easier to capture him later) is truly contemptible.


When Vinita Kamte tried to find out how her husband had died, the Bombay Police did everything to stop her from finding out the truth.


Eventually, the State's Chief Information Commissioner forced the police to part with the logs and the audio records under the Right To Information (RTI) Act. That's how we now know what happened that night.


That goes to the credit of this brave woman and to the RTI, which has changed the equation between the citizen and the government.


But it says very little for the Bombay Police. The officers who sent her husband to his death are still in positions of authority.


The next time the terrorists strike, the police force will fail again. Brave men will lose their lives. And Bombay will pay the price for the politics within its police force.


The views expressed by the author are personal








Demands for new states continue to pour in. The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh last week wrote to the prime minister demanding that Bundelkhand and western UP be carved out as separate states, and followed that up with yet another demand. Just two days later, on Sunday, she wrote to him again, seeking statehood for Purvanchal in UP's east. She is at least consistent, having recommended division of UP many times since gaining power in 2007. But across the country, demands for reorganisation are bubbling up. Congress MP Vilas Muttemvar has brought up with the PM the subject of a separate Vidarbha, tying it somehow with farmers' suicides. The Darjeeling hills have been tense at the prospect of long bandhs to press for Gorkhaland. And in Andhra Pradesh, stricken by intensified agitations for and against Telangana, the state assembly was adjourned sine die on Monday, almost 10 days before the session was scheduled to end. The status of the more than 130 MLAs from Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra who had submitted their resignations in protest against a Telangana state, however, remains uncertain.


By all indications, politicians across the country are still sizing up the opportunities and challenges unleashed in the aftermath of the Telangana moment. But it is far from clear that our politics is up to taking a principled position on the idea of statehood and states reorganisation. In an odd way, these past days have clarified AP's politics. Just over six months ago the state voted in assembly and Lok Sabha elections, with all the key players, including the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party, committing themselves to Telangana. The aftermath of K. Chandrasekhar Rao's fast has made them less glib. But the essential takeaway is this. If statehood is a demand in many parts of India, as the past few days have shown, can our politics work through the paces of scrutinising these demands? In 2001, for instance, the Congress Working Committee accepted a resolution for a new states reorganisation commission. The Central government, then of the NDA, rejected it. Today, top BJP leaders are votaries of Telangana, while the Congress is cautious on a new states reorganisation commission.


India today is different from what it was 50 years ago, and so are the axes on which statehood is being sought. Development and administrative needs of the newly proposed state and the original one — and not necessarily issues of language or regionalism — are key. To take on board or to reject each such demand in a coherent way, a more nuanced politics is necessary.







Many of the UPA's ideas to convert government outlays to outcomes are still in the outlay stages. These include quarterly report cards on the Bharat Nirman schemes, yearly reports on key sectors, personal monitoring of flagship schemes by the prime minister's office, and a fancy administrative revamp, the Performance Monitoring and Evaluation System (PMES), envisaging clear goals and performance markers for government ministries. Now comes another idea, one aimed at improving the delivery of government services. The proposed Service-Level Agreements will mandate timeframes and identify dealing officials responsible for delivering services such as birth certificates, ration cards and driving licences. Delays will result in the salaries of these dealing officials being cut. How efficient will this efficiency-inducing scheme end up being?


As anyone who has stood in line for a passport or spent a day at the RTO for a driving licence will know, the system needs reform.


Imperilling the official's salary could, in theory, give her some stake in your convenience. But it remains to be seen how the SLAs will be implemented, and how exactly citizens could obtain relief. The other worry about the SLAs is: even if successfully implemented, to what extent will they induce responsibility up the chain of command? Providing services depends on a long line of officials; the "dealing official" is only a window. It is unclear how the SLA will cover, in its net, this entire chain. If the SLA only ends up penalising the "dealing official" without putting equal pressure through the administrative chain, it will be less effective, and perhaps even unfair.


India desperately needs better evaluation schemes to grade its army of bureaucrats and improve its leaky delivery systems. One of the reasons the Right to Information Act has enjoyed the moderate success that it has is that it identifies the nodal officer within each department, has a clear set of penalties and, most importantly, creates a complex adjudicatory mechanism that empowers citizens. Guaranteeing services is that much harder than guaranteeing information; the accountability mechanism must be that much more sophisticated.








With some lives, facts aren't enough. You need stories. Like how legendary economist Joseph Schumpeter turned to a fellow-member of a dissertation committee examining a bright young student, and asked: "Well, gentlemen? Did we pass?" That story isn't about Schumpeter, of course, but about the student, Paul Samuelson. Few fields of inquiry have been as closely associated with any one person as was modern economics with Samuelson, who died on Sunday, aged 94. And so the facts pile up. That he received the first economics Nobel not awarded by the Bank of Sweden to fellow Nordics, the proud centrepiece of most lives, is but a footnote in his.


For generations of students, the textbook he wrote was their meeting with economics: written with warmth and wry humour, with examples — the trade-off between guns and butter, the market for widgets — that have become cultural touchstones. For his peers in academia, Samuelson churned out, for decades, the kind of theoretical groundwork that they loved, and that's essential to the social science: theorems that explained consumer behaviour, how generations interact. For everybody else, he dominated the policy-intensive, public side of economics — both through the various positions he held in Washington, and through his weekly column in Newsweek, where he regularly locked horns with fellow columnist Milton Friedman.


But, in the end, perhaps his greatest achievement was MIT. He revolutionised how academic work thought about itself: after him, no economics department in the world could think of itself just as a source of research, and not a public resource. At a time when nobody Jewish was hired elsewhere, he broke discrimination by hiring the bright Jewish economists nobody else would — and getting a better department than any other. And, most of all, to Indian eyes, he achieved the impossible: the institution he created will thrive long after he is gone.





FROM 28 TO 45?



Bagelkhand, Bodoland, Bundelkhand, Gondwana, Gorkhaland, Harit Pradesh, Kamtapur, Kodagu, Koshal Ladakh, Maru Pradesh, Paschimanchal, Purvanchal, Rayalaseema, Saurashtra, Tulu Nadu, Vidarbha — after Telangana, these are only a few of the names figuring in India's so-called Balkanisation. Some propositions are beyond dispute. First, India's present organisation into states (and UTs) isn't


rational, if rationality is interpreted as delivering better governance. The word governance is much abused and different people mean different things when they use it. Governance is a process and it is also about delivering public goods and services (law and order, primary health, school education, roads, drinking and irrigation water, electricity). These are still areas characterised by some degree of market failure. In addition, there are anti-poverty programmes. In all these, trading off economies (of scale and scope) with diseconomies, there is an optimal level of administration at which these can be delivered. While there is a case for centralisation for defence and national security, there is a case for decentralisation for public goods. As a rough rule of the thumb, at least in India's heartland, optimal governance requires population sizes smaller than 50 million (25 million is more like it) and geographical expanse less than 35,000 sq km.


Second, there is an empirical proposition. Across India's 28 states and its UTs, work co-authored with Laveesh Bhandari shows smaller states perform better than larger states — on an average. Small states perform better than large states on physical infrastructure, social infrastructure, law and order and anti-poverty programmes. However, this is on an average and isn't a finding specific to Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand or Uttarakhand. Nor is it the case that administrative restructuring alone solves all governance problems. For instance, the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir have issues that administrative restructuring alone cannot solve. What of the three newly-formed states? A long enough data time-series doesn't exist. Subject to that, the answer depends on indicators used. Across indicators, Uttarakhand performs better than UP. The Chhattisgarh-MP comparison is iffy, with Chhattisgarh performing better on some indicators and worse on others. For Bihar-Jharkhand, Bihar generally performs better than Jharkhand. If an argument about optimal administrative level is accepted, the question shouldn't only be about carved-out states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand. Governance should also improve in what remains — MP, Bihar, UP. Since one cannot control for other variables, there is a post hoc ergo propter hoc danger. With this caveat, governance (however defined) has improved in MP, Bihar, UP. Third, the British system of governance was unduly centralised, driven partly by land revenue considerations. This comes out in India-China comparisons, with China much more decentralised even before 1978-79 reforms. For growth and development, we need greater decentralisation and devolution and local bodies (urban local bodies as well as panchayats) are only perfunctory preliminary steps, despite euphoria. But mindsets of control and centralisation die hard. Subhas Kashyap made a profound observation. Why do we use the expression Centre-state relationships when the word "Centre" is never used in the Constitution? The use of "Centre" rather than the constitutionally-correct "Union" underlines this mindset of centralisation and second-class peripheries.

But this mindset isn't one for Centre-state alone, it spills over into intra-state relationships. Witness state reluctance to contemplate devolution/ decentralisation, diversion of funds meant for backward regions, cavalier attitudes towards State Finance Commission recommendations. When there has been decentralisation of sorts (PMGSY, NREGS), efficiency of public expenditure has improved. There is a corruption cum leakage issue that needs flagging too. Rajiv Gandhi spoke of 15 per cent of government funds reaching target beneficiaries and this is interpreted as 85 per cent leakage. That's not true. 85 per cent represents both administrative costs and leakage.


In principle, transparency and accountability should improve with smaller states. But even if this doesn't happen, there is a geographical shift in location of administrative costs and leakage. They occur in Darjeeling rather than Kolkata, with consequent multiplier benefits also changing geographically. Since Planning Commission (including Central sector and Centrally-sponsored schemes) and Finance Commission transfers have failed to develop backward regions, backward region development through localisation of administrative costs and corruption is hardly unmitigated disaster.


Fifth, other than British systems of governance being unduly centralised, the legacy of state formation was irrational, both in terms of initial categorisation into three types (Parts A, B and C) and subsequent formation of states on linguistic grounds. There were colonial and historical reasons why this was done in 1950 (the Constitution) and 1956 (States Reorganisation Act), such as the existence of princely states. But there are no reasons why 1950 or 1956 developments should be cast in stone. Indeed, states have been formed after 1956 too. However, what one needs is another States Reorganisation Commission to devise an optimal number of states. With the kind of benchmarks that work for good governance, we would then probably end up with something like 45 states. Had one gone about the exercise rationally, this is what UPA-II should have done.


Sixth, in any federal set-up, efficient inter-state dispute resolution and coordination mechanisms are needed. There are gaps in what was constitutionally provided and what was constitutionally provided has been imperfectly implemented. However, this shouldn't be interpreted as a higher administrative hierarchy for delivering public goods. These are distinct issues.


Seventh, the decision about Telangana was ad hoc, arbitrary, non-transparent and politically motivated. There cannot be any dispute about that either. Had fasting been the trigger, Manipur's draconian laws should have changed first. This ad hoc decision has now opened up a can of worms. Occasionally, irrational decisions can catalyse stock-taking and review that lead to rational examination. In the muddied waters of Telangana, there is no evidence yet that this will happen. But as the demand for newer states snowballs, perhaps we will eventually have that elusive second States Reorganisation Commission and break away from linguistic and ethnic categorisations in forming new states. The more homogeneous the entity, the easier governance becomes and tautologically, smaller states are less heterogeneous.


In this controversy over Telangana, there is an impression that there is a great deal of controversy. However, if one thinks about it, there should be complete consensus on these seven propositions. Unfortunately, in its preference towards setting up commissions right, left and centre, the UPA didn't set up the one it should have and the whirlwind is being reaped now.


Perhaps there is a moral there too. Governments are reluctant to delegate decision-making to commissions. Instead, there is a preference for arbitrary exercise of centralised power, exactly the opposite of what the Constitution intended.


The writer is a Delhi-based economist







After the furore created by the Supreme Court ruling in 1985 which upheld the rights of divorced Muslim women for maintenance under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), and the subsequent enactment of the Muslim Women's Act of 1986, the idea gained ground that a divorced Muslim woman's rights had been extinguished. The popular notion which prevailed at the time, that a Muslim woman is stripped of all rights against her husband beyond the iddat period (three months after the divorce), continues despite several rulings to the contrary. This is because the myriad and unpredictable ways in which the economic rights of Muslim women were reaffirmed during the last quarter-century have not received the attention that they deserved.


The latest in this series is the Supreme Court verdict pronounced by Justices Deepak Verma and Sudarshan Reddy on 4th December, 2009. Shabana Bano approached the court for maintenance of Rs 3000 per month; her plea was that when she was pregnant, her husband left her in her natal home with a warning that she would not be allowed to


return after her delivery unless his demands for dowry were met. Hence she was constrained to file a petition for maintenance under Section 125 in the family court at Gwalior. Since the husband pleaded that he had divorced Shabana and hence he is not entitled to pay her maintenance, the court awarded her Rs 2000 per month for the four months between her petition and her divorce. The MP high court dismissed her appeal. It is against this background that the SC upheld her rights.


The gains of this ruling are twofold: it upheld the rights of divorced Muslim women for maintenance under Section 125 and it also upheld the jurisdiction of family courts over maintenance issues of divorced Muslim women. Where social legislations enacted to secure the rights of needy women are concerned, the Supreme Court commented that adherence to rigid rules of procedure and evidence should be avoided. The judges relied upon two earlier rulings: the historic constitutional bench ruling in Daniel Latifi in 2001 and the more recent Iqbal Bano in 2007.


The Daniel Latifi ruling upheld the divorced Muslim woman's right to a fair and reasonable settlement as per Islamic principles — which would entitle her to claim a lump sum at the time of her divorce. After this ruling, every Muslim woman became entitled to a lump sum at her divorce. The judgment in turn validated several rulings of various high courts which awarded lump sum amounts ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 5,00,000 to divorced Muslim women in the intervening years — after MWA was enacted in 1986, till the verdict was pronounced in 2001.


It also relied upon the Iqbal Bano ruling of 2007, which held that proceedings under Section 125 are civil in nature. Hence even after the divorce, the woman would be entitled to claim maintenance under Section 125, considering the beneficial nature of the legislation.


Reading these three Supreme Court rulings together, one can surmise the following: first, a divorced Muslim woman's right to maintenance (or economic settlement) from her husband is not extinguished upon divorce; second, she has dual claims — under Section 125 for recurring main-tenance, or for a lump sum settlement under MWA. Third, while the jurisdiction for MWA is in magistrates' courts, where family courts have been set up, divorced Muslim women are entitled to claim maintenance in family courts.


While these are significant rulings capable of a far-reaching impact, unless they are used in trial court litigation and are used to change social norms within communities they will remain merely ornamental snippets in law journals. Unless all those who are committed or are statutorily bound to protect the rights of Muslim women — lawyers, women's groups and social workers — are aware of these gains, the judicial pronouncements will cease to have an impact upon their lives, as was the case with Shabana Bano.


Rather ironically, Shabana was married in 2001, after the Daniel Latifi ruling. She had filed for maintenance in March 2004. But sadly, both the family court of Gwalior and the high court did not apply the principles laid down in Daniel Latifi to her case. This resulted in grave economic hardship, and delay in accessing her basic right of maintenance. If ignorance of law is no defence for an ordinary citizen against commitment of a crime, ignorance of accurate legal provisions protecting the rights of the vulnerable and marginalised cannot be a defence for lawyers, judges and conciliators who are duty bound to protect their rights.


The writer is director of Majlis, a legal centre for women, located in Mumbai








The couch relaxed into its cushions.


"So, how does it feel?" a stentorian female voice demanded.


"Good." replied the couch.


"Why are you here?"


"Because I hate thin people, I should love them because they don't weigh me down, so why do I shudder each time they sit on me?"


"Let's examine your past and see what we find there. Concentrate on thin people,' the voice continued.


The couch concentrated. Suddenly, a very large object came into focus.


"What do you see?"


"A very fat potato."


"Do you know the potato?"


"Yes, it's me. I was a potato in 1857."


"What happened to you as a potato?"


The couch-potato shuddered. It saw itself in a charcoal fire. It had been roasted for supper in an Englishman's home. It was trying to hide its girth behind the other potatoes. A very thin man with a brush moustache was being served.


"That one," he ordered, pointing to the couch potato. "A thin man needs big potatoes to fatten him up!" Everyone laughed at the table and the next moment..."why, he was munching me," whispered the potato-couch.


"Calm yourself, return to being just a couch," the woman's voice yanked him back into 2009.


"How do you feel?" asked host Ravi Kissen, badshah of Bhojpuri films.


There was a spring in the couch now.


"Good, now I know why I hate thin people!"


Welcome to Raaz Pichchle Janam Ka (NDTV Imagine) where every evening, something akin to the above happens to the lucky guests. Consider Shekhar Suman. He had come to make contact with his son Ayush who died tragically young. Suman was transported back to 1870s where he encountered himself as a British Army officer who lost his beloved wife and son when his home was burnt down by enemy soldiers. Grief-stricken, he had jumped to his death.


Suman saw his son' face in the sky. He was smiling, he told Shekhar he was happy. "I know I will meet him when I leave this world...he is waiting." A tear emerged from the corner of his eye, his wife began to cry uncontrollably.


"Calm yourself, relax and return to your body" Dr Tripti Jain's snapped at him like a sergeant major. Suman returned, looking understandably tired from his journey but relieved, perhaps, to find that in this life he was still alive.


Ravi Kissen, obviously an ardent fan of Hindi news asked: "So how are you feeling?"


Suman sighed.






After all that?


Shweta Shukla was more fortunate. When Kissen asked her, "How are you feeling?" she replied enthusiastically, "Very good!" That was before she journeyed into her past. It was downhill thereafter. Shweta discovered she had been a he. If that wasn't bad enough, she had beaten a snake to death. Later, the snakes returned the compliment, attacking her with mouths open as wide as the TV screen.


All of this is part of regression therapy as practiced by Dr Tripti Jain on the new show where you visit your earlier lives to feel better about this one. Past events are picturised so you look into the snake's mouth as it is about to attack — aaaargh!


While Jain is a stern schoolmistress, host Kissen, uncomfortable in a tight suit, smiles throughout as though he enjoys torturing people with their pasts. He's tried to model himself on Sach ka Saamna'sRajeev Khandelwal — and failed. Indeed, the entire show is a kind of sach ka saamna pichle janam ka! This might be unkind and untrue, but frankly, everyone seems to be acting ... it's like watching Zee's popular supernatural series, Aahat. It's not believable. Who's to know if there's any truth to it the past lives, or not?


Meanwhile, Sa Ra Ga Ma Pa (Zee) celebrated 1,000 episodes. Of all the song talent shows it is the best simply because its contestants are the best. You can close your eyes and the singing is so beautiful, you're soon dreaming. You see yourself as a nightingale...oh dear, better get off that couch.








On December 14, India's new Ambassador to China, S. Jaishankar, spoke at Sichuan University on managing tensions in the Indo-China relationship. Excerpts of the speech are given below:


My first few months as Ambassador in China were more than a little perplexing. Rarely a week went by without an alarmist or negative story about India-China relations. Conversations with my diplomatic colleagues in Beijing indicated that they also were obviously influenced by this turn of events. Yet, when I put down the newspaper or logged out of the computer and went to work, I was confronted with a very different picture of our ties. The challenge, in fact, was to keep up with the increasing engagement between the two nations.


So, the question that I ask myself is how can there be such disconnect between the substance of the relationship and its projection. Is one real and the other a concoction? Is something getting "lost in translation"? Let me attempt an answer, however tentatively. To me, one seems to reflect our hopes and aspirations, taking into account the enormous strides we are making daily in our engagement. The other appears more rooted in our fears and anxieties, possibly derived from past history, and prone to exaggerating our divergences. It is easy to dismiss the latter as lacking a sense of responsibility. But its persistence and intensity is difficult to ignore. The lesson for those of us charged with building this relationship, therefore, is to pay greater attention to public perceptions of its state. With that in mind, I thought that it would be appropriate to discuss in a spirit of candour how we can better serve our interests.


A starting point may well be the question what does China mean for India today. I would be safe in asserting that most Indians regard China with respect for its achievements over the last three decades. Beyond that, for some, let me be honest, China could be a source of anxiety. For others, it could well be an opportunity. Whichever way, China's remarkable progress has been a strong inspiration for reform and change in India itself. It is not an easy relationship to describe, characterised as it is by both similarities and distance. Whatever the sentiment, there are two sharp realities about the relationship that cannot be ignored. One, we are seeing the parallel but not congruent rise of China and India which makes an already complex matrix even more dynamic. Second, and again this too has a time differential, we are witnessing changes on a scale that has not been seen since the rise of the US and the USSR. The past, therefore, cannot serve as a guidance for the future. Ideally, we should be shaping our ties; at the least, we should managing them; clearly, we do not have the option of neglecting them.


What could be a viable strategy in this regard? I would venture to suggest a three-pronged strategy not just to build stronger ties but to create at the same time wider public support for that endeavour:


i) Enhancement of trust and understanding is the most urgent requirement. We need more contacts at every level, between the bureaucracies, the military, business, academic institutions, the media and in mass perception.


ii) Differences where they exist, such as on the boundary issue, will have to be managed and not allowed to impede either functional bilateral cooperation or convergence on global issues. In other words, activities like trade or hydrological cooperation in forums like Doha or Copenhagen should go forward on their own merit.


iii) Given the progress in our ties, we must ensure that third parties do not come in the way of further improvement. When I came to China for the first time last year, I was questioned at length about Indo-US relations. This seemed strange coming from a country whose own relations with the US were more advanced. But it does tell us that there are still doubts to be addressed and changes to be explained. I am sure the Chinese side would appreciate that there are similar questions about its policies in India too.


It is important as well to keep reminding ourselves that India and China continue to have a substantial convergence of interests. The Chinese economy may be much bigger, its reforms began earlier, its per capita income is higher and its international profile larger. My conversations with policy-makers in Beijing have underlined their developmental priorities. It goes without saying that India 's focus too is primarily on enhancing growth and raising standards of living. It is even stronger than China's, precisely because we are behind. Therefore, let us not get carried away by alarmist interpretations of each others' ambitions. If we pursue our priorities undisturbed for another generation, a natural relationship at a higher level will come into being between us. What are Indian expectations of China at this stage? I would sum it up as displaying sensitivity on what matters most to Indians, while accepting that we cannot agree on all issues just yet. Today, combating terrorism ranks foremost among the concerns of the Indian public. This is not about religion or territorial concerns. It is India's pluralism that is being attacked and China, as a pluralistic society itself, should perceive a common threat. Second, to achieve its developmental goals, India requires a stable and harmonious environment. China can contribute to that. Third, just like China , India too has international aspirations and expects that its historical sympathy and understanding for China 's would be reciprocated. A wise approach to international relations requires coming out on the right side of history.








While dealing with a PIL filed by Bachpan Bachao Andolan about large scale child trafficking in the country, a bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice A.K. Pattnaik are reported to have advised the Solicitor General, "You say it is the world's oldest profession and when you are not able to curb it by laws. Why don't you legalise it?"


It is noteworthy that the judges were not dealing with those women who take to this profession as a choice but children who are abducted, trapped, bought and sold by criminal mafias to be inducted into the flesh trade. I am left wondering whether the Hon'ble judges of the Supreme Court intend to legalise child trafficking as well — all because our government agencies are unable and unwilling to curb the criminal mafias who are pushing vulnerable children from impoverished families into the flesh trade. There are compelling reasons to decriminalise prostitution for the following categories of persons: a) Those that enter the sex trade voluntarily — as do many high society call girls — simply because if a person wishes to enter into a demeaning relationship with another for monetary or other favours, there is no way the government can stop the practice because it is enacted in private; b) Those that gravitate towards this profession due to poverty-related reasons or abusive family circumstances because such victims of circumstances ought not be treated as criminals.


It is well acknowledged that arrests and rescue operations by the police are mostly a theatrical exercise to keep the terror alive so that the sex workers and pimps dare not resist paying bribes. Therefore, draconian laws put in the hands of the police add to the problem instead of curbing prostitution. However, no self respecting society can afford to "legalise" the dehumanisation of millions of those who have been coerced into flesh trade through force, fraud, abduction or violence.


Till the early 1990's, the defense of the right of prostitutes came mainly from feminist groups and those gender sensitive men who argued that laws penalising prostitutes amounted to punishing the victims while letting off their male clients who exploited their poverty and vulnerability. Many of them demanded laws that punished men who trafficked in women as well as men who live off prostitutes as pimps and those who visit them as clients. However, in recent years the discourse on the subject has undergone sea-changes due to the scare of AIDs in first world countries. This has led billions of dollars, pounds and Euros as well as other resources being directed towards "safe sex practices", with special focus on condom use among sex workers. Some Western governments and major donor agencies as well as celebrities like Prince Charles and Bill Gates have joined the campaign to legalise prostitution because they feel that is the only way condom use, regular health checkups including HIV tests can be promoted among sex workers and their customers.


Earlier, sleazy lawyers helped sex workers get bail when arrested. Today, with the availability of massive international grants for this work, some of the best lawyers in India have emerged as defenders of the rights of prostitutes. While some still stay with the old-fashioned view that sex workers are trapped in the profession due to poverty related circumstances, many argue that renting out one's body to a customer for a few hours is no different from a doctor, teacher or an architect renting out his intellectual skills to an employer for a monthly salary. Therefore, they demand that sex work should be legalised and treated with the same dignity and respect as any other profession. However, those who demand that prostitution should be "legalised" and treated with "respect and dignity" at par with all other professions and occupations need to answer a few basic questions:


What does the term "legalise" actually imply? Does it mean that a prostitute can open a sexshop anywhere she likes and advertise her services? Does it mean men or women supplying call girls should be able to set up an office in any neighborhood they like, just as doctors set up their clinics, proclaiming that call girls are available between such and such hours? How many of us are willing to let our young children grow up amidst an atmosphere where renting a woman's body for sex is considered a perfectly legitimate activity?


If people come to know that a mafia don has set up a call-girl racket in their neighbourhood, do they have the right to seek its removal or does it mean other citizens have to suffer the presence of such activities in the name of "respecting" the rights of sex workers to an occupation of their choice and thereby endanger their own lives?


Those who demand that sex work be given the same "respect" as any other profession, need to explain whose duty it is to give or ensure "respect" for prostitutes and pimps? Is the government expected to enact a law requiring people not to shun prostitutes, as for instance it did to ban the practice of untouchability? One can prove that one does not practice untouchability by freely intermixing and inter-dining with castes condemned as untouchables. How does one prove one's "respect" for a prostitute? Do we have to send our children to brothels to intermix with the children of sex workers or do we hold special functions to socially honour the most successful among them? If prostitutes cannot win the respect of the clients they service, how can the rest of society be made to respect them?


We are told that at least feminists have a duty to respect women for making this choice. If feminism is about respecting each and every choice women make, then why are we not willing to respect women who choose to worship at sati shrines or those who abort female foetuses because they prefer being mothers of sons rather than daughters? Countries where sex work is legal are not free from dehumanising forms of sex slavery and prostitutes do not command social respect. Therefore, copycat solutions will not work. While there is need to decriminalise this activity and free sex workers from the terror and the extortionist grip of the police, to make it respectable and socially acceptable would mean turning a blind eye to the dehumanising circumstances through which the vast majority of children and women are trapped into trading their bodies.


The writer is professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and founder editor 'Manushi'







Paul A. Samuelson, the first American Nobel laureate in economics and the foremost academic economist of the 20th century, died Sunday at his home in Belmont, Mass. He was 94. His death was announced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which Samuelson helped build into one of the world's great centres of graduate education in economics. In receiving the Nobel Prize in 1970, Samuelson was credited with transforming his discipline from one that ruminates about economic issues to one that solves problems, answering questions about cause and effect with mathematical rigour and clarity.


Samuelson wrote one of the most widely used college textbooks in the history of American education. The book, Economics, first published in 1948, was the nation's best-selling textbook for nearly 30 years. Translated into 20 languages, it was selling 50,000 copies a year a half century after it first appeared. "I don't care who writes a nation's laws — or crafts its advanced treatises — if I can write its economics textbooks," Samuelson said. His textbook taught college students how to think about economics. His technical work — especially his discipline-shattering Ph.D. thesis, immodestly titled The Foundations of Economic Analysis — taught professional economists how to ply their trade. Between the two books, Samuelson redefined modern economics.


The textbook introduced generations of students to the revolutionary ideas of John Maynard Keynes, the British economist who in the 1930s developed the theory that modern market economies could become trapped in depression and would then need a strong push from government spending or tax cuts, in addition to lenient monetary policy, to restore them. Many economics students would never again rest comfortably with the 19th-century view that private markets would cure unemployment without need of government intervention. That lesson was reinforced in 2008, when the international economy slipped into the steepest downturn since the Great Depression, when Keynesian economics was born. When the Depression began, governments stood pat or made matters worse by trying to balance fiscal budgets and erecting trade barriers. But 80 years later, having absorbed the Keynesian teaching of Samuelson and his followers, most industrialised countries took corrective action, raising government spending, cutting taxes, keeping exports and imports flowing and driving short-term interest rates to near zero.


In the classroom, Samuelson was a lively, funny, articulate teacher. On theories that he and others had developed to show links between the performance of the stock market and the general economy, he famously said: "It is indeed true that the stock market can forecast the business cycle. The stock market has called nine of the last five recessions." His speeches and his voluminous writing had a lucidity and bite not usually found in academic technicians. He tried to give his economic pronouncements a "snap at the end," he said, "like Mark Twain." When women began complaining about career and salary inequities, for example, he said in their defense, "Women are men without money."


But beyond his astonishing array of scientific theorems and conclusions, Samuelson wedded Keynesian thought to conventional economics. He developed what he called the Neoclassical Synthesis. The neoclassical economists in the late 19th century showed how forces of supply and demand generate equilibrium in the market for apples, shoes and all other consumer goods and services. The standard analysis had held that market economies, left to their own devices, gravitated naturally toward full employment. Economists clung to this theory even in the wake of the Depression of the 1930s. But the need to explain the market collapse, as well as unemployment rates that soared to 25 per cent, gave rise to a contrary strain of thought associated with Keynes. Samuelson's resulting "synthesis" amounted to the notion that economists could use the neoclassical apparatus to analyse economies operating near full employment, but switch over to Keynesian analysis when the economy turned sour.


Paul Anthony Samuelson was born May 15, 1915 in Gary, Indiana, the son of Frank Samuelson, a pharmacist, and the former Ella Lipton. He left high school at age 16 to enter the University of Chicago. The University of Chicago developed the century's leading conservative economic theorists, under the later guidance of Milton Friedman. But Samuelson regarded the teaching at Chicago as "schizophrenic." This was at the height of the Depression, and courses about the business cycle naturally talked about unemployment, he said. But in economic-theory classes, joblessness was not mentioned. "The niceties of existence were not a matter of concern," he recalled, "yet everything around was closed down most of the time. If you lived in a middle-class community in Chicago, children and adults came daily to the door saying, 'We are starving, how about a potato?' I speak from poignant memory."







A good year-end entertainment is the third 'national' bank strike of 2009, slated for tomorrow. Banks here, of course, mean public sector banks. Both officers and employee unions are striking. This class unity will, however, leave the government unimpressed, as did the earlier two strikes. State-owned banks are numerous, and they may control over half of the nation's banking assets, but it's the portion that sarkari banks don't own that makes the difference. Private banking has made public sector bank union threats seem fairly benign. And if unions try to push the envelope by calling for long, indefinite strikes, union leaders know the government response will be quick and determined. So, it's all a bit of entertainment, a bit of ego boost for bank union leaders. However, what needs to be asked seriously is whether union leaders actually represent their members' best interests. One of the demands for the strike tomorrow is that bank consolidation not be pursued. This is a very strange demand. To begin with, this is no new thing. The banking industry has seen consolidation since 1961; the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, empowers the regulator with the approval of the government to amalgamate weak banks with stronger ones. A majority of the mergers in India have been crafted to bail out weak banks to safeguard depositors' interest and to protect the financial system. So consolidation is not some evil, free market design.


Second, duplication of functions doesn't help any professional in any economic activity. One of the weaknesses of sarkari banking is the presence of a large number of banks with similar networks. Of 611 districts in the country, 375 are under-banked. Without mergers, this can't be addressed. And mergers will mean more business for banks. An Ernst & Young report estimates the country will require 11,600 branches by 2013 and an additional 20,300 branches by 2018 in order to achieve the desired penetration levels of 74% and 81.5% in 2013 and 2018, respectively. Mergers are also necessary for Indian banks to compete globally for fund mobilisation, credit disbursal, investment and providing financial services. Financial products offered by banks in India are similar across the industry with no distinctive features. This leads to inefficient battles. Also, many banks have not been able to raise capital as the government shareholding in most banks is over 50%, and in some banks it is even 100%. Mergers can help banks in raising capital from public markets at a later stage. Smaller banks, given their net worth and total capital funds, cannot play a vital role in large individual projects. The other advantage of bank consolidation will be an improvement in valuations. Despite banks having stronger return-on-equity, they do not necessarily get valuations similar to their larger peers because of the relatively low free float. These are all good arguments that speak for a better future for bank employees. Maybe on strike days, employees can be productive and think about this.







Paul Samuelson, who died on Sunday at the age of 94 was widely credited as the man who gave economics its scientific, quantitative foundation—his Nobel citation in 1970 cited that very contribution. But that never led him to approve of the kind of quantitative economics and finance of the 1990s and 2000s, which created the many complex derivatives that lay at the base of the global financial crisis. He was sure that these derivatives created by 'people like him' were beyond the comprehension of the CEOs who used them. But Samuelson, perhaps the only economist who lived, learnt and commented on the two biggest economic crises of the last 100 years was too smart to blame it on derivatives alone. A longstanding critic of supply side economics, he was sharply critical of the era of huge US deficits first unleashed by President Ronald Reagan and then exacerbated by George W Bush, a deficit he warned was unsustainable without precipitating a crisis. In fact, in an interview in 2008, he predicted a future collapse of the dollar if deficits were not reined in. Even into his 90s he was right on the pulse diagnosing the causes of the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression.


Two things always stood out about Paul Samuelson in his long career as an economist, both of which provide important lessons to newer generations of economists. One, he was perhaps the last of the great economists who was a 'generalist'—he wrote extensively on a diverse range of issues: macroeconomics, microeconomics, trade, finance etc. Perhaps that's one of the reasons he was able to put together the best book on the principles of economics—called just Economics, the book has probably been read by every student of undergraduate economics in all corners of the world. But because he had such a broad intellectual range, he had the kind of understanding and instincts that more specialised economists often lack. Second, he was never easily pigeonholed into a particular ideology. Even though a lifelong Keynesian and a critic of monetarism, he was hardly suspicious of the market. In fact, he made his name in academia by marrying Keynes with classical economics to evolve the mainstream neoclassical school. And he never sought a position in government—he only advised Presidents Kennedy and Johnson without joining the system. He was thus able to maintain his academic integrity without sacrificing even a bit at the altar of political expediency. At a time when the economics profession is going through its worst low in terms of credibility, the life and work of Paul Samuelson provides a path to regeneration.







Environment minister Jairam Ramesh has done well to assert that India would not agree to any concept of 'peaking emissions' that is being sought to be introduced in the official draft at Copenhagen. As per this concept, developing nations will be asked to ensure that their overall carbon emissions would peak at some mid-point between now and 2050. Though no time frame has been discussed, the mid-point could technically fall around 2030. This could be a trap, especially for a country like India.


India cannot possibly agree to this because it has a massive backlog—much more than China—in meeting the energy requirements of some 700 million poor who live predominantly in rural areas. While India and


China appear to have similar demographic profiles and development imperatives, China is way ahead of India in terms of meeting the basic needs of the poor. As per the global development indicators brought out by the World Bank, China has only about 10% of its population living on less than $1.25 per day. In India, over 55% of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day, calculated on a PPP basis.


The gap between India and China in this regard is quite big. So it makes sense for India not to make any peaking commitment until it meets the backlog of providing basic energy needs to the majority of the poor. China is in a relatively better position to make a peaking commitment as it is about 15 years ahead of India in basic development indices. This reality must be recognised even as India makes common cause with China at present in terms of offering voluntary cuts in the emission intensity of GDP.


India has voluntarily offered to cut the emission intensity of GDP by 20-25% by 2020 from a 2005 base. This strategy is precisely aimed at retaining a minimum emission space needed to meet the energy and other development needs of the poor. As per a Planning Commission study, India can continue its current development path of 8% to 9% GDP growth over the next ten years and yet lower the carbon intensity of GDP by over 20%. Thus, there is no emission peaking commitment here.


However, India cannot become complacent. While it can retain its minimum emission space, it will come under increasing pressure from the developed world to give a peaking commitment at a later stage. For this a national strategy needs to be put in place immediately to ensure that we follow rational domestic policies to optimise our aggregate emission space for the benefit of the poor. For this the political class and the urban middle class, which has a large carbon footprint, will have to take hard decisions and drive a new consensus in national interest.


Just to illustrate with an example; the US, which is at the high end of the consumption cycle, emits a total of 6,200 million tonnes of CO2 every year. More than half of this is accounted for by energy used by appliances and transport. The energy consumption of households thus dominates the carbon footprint in the US. In India, households still account for only 12% of its current aggregate CO2 emission of 1,200 million tonne per year. India must see the relatively low share of households at this stage as an opportunity and evolve a future development path that does not replicate the pattern followed by the US in terms of carbon intensity of GDP.


Some obvious policy changes will have to be made—and within the next few years—to ensure optimisation of carbon space. The Centre and the states will have to work together in doing this, as many such initiatives will fall in the domain of the states. A national strategy will also require a consensus across political coalitions. For instance, one of the obvious ways to reduce carbon intensity faster will be to rationalise over $40 billion of annual energy subsidies given in the name of the poor. Will the political class have the courage to end this hypocrisy by telling the growing middle class that it will have to give up large parts of these subsidies, which it receives in the name of the poor?


Similarly, will the middle class be willing to pay higher electricity costs on account of setting up coal washeries at the mining pitheads to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power? The super-critical power plants will also help in reducing the intensity of emissions, but could cost more. The overall reform of the coal sector is a must to optimise carbon space for the benefit of the poor. Urban transport will have to be restructured with a much greater accent on mass transport. Will the middle class help build a political consensus on this? Taxes and other policy measures may have to be imposed to discourage use of excessive private transport. These are all critical questions that cannot be answered unless a national strategy based on a broad political dialogue between various constituencies emerges. The UPA, therefore, has a critical task at hand and does not have much time going by the trajectory of the climate change negotiations. We don't even have the luxury of debating these issues endlessly, as is our wont.


There must be a focused national debate on how the next 700 million people will consume a minimum required quantum of electricity, cooking gas, diesel, petrol etc. For India, climate change negotiations are largely about how it manages the energy intensity of future growth.


According to a minimal required growth scenario projected by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), the following will be the installed electric power capacity by 2032: 3,00,000 mw of coal-fired power, 40,000 mw of nuclear power, 1,05,000 mw of combined cycle gas turbine generated power, and 90,000 mw of hydroelectric power.


To support this capacity, India will need to annually import 300 million tonnes of coal (in addition to producing 1,000 million tonnes of domestic coal), 400 MMSCMD of natural gas (if domestic production remains at 100 MMSCMD because of no major finds), 5.3 million barrels per day of crude oil (88% of total), in addition to domestic production of 0.7 million barrels per day, and uranium for about 25 gw of light water nuclear reactors.


To secure the energy supplies as projected above, India will need $0.7 trillion in capital investment for new generation capacity over the next 23 years, about $1 trillion for transmission and distribution infrastructure, and about $234 billion per year to import fuel by 2032. Given these enormous tasks, India cannot give emission peaking commitments at Copenhagen at this stage. However, it has no option but to proactively transform its own national strategy to move towards a carbon optimal economy, which is fair and equitable within the domestic context. This cannot wait for another day.






Mingled with suggestions to raise the cap on FDI in defence production have been reports of inter-ministerial differences over the change to FDI policy brought in through Press Note 2 earlier this year in February, on the grounds that it provides a backdoor entry to FDI beyond the prescribed sectoral caps (26% in case of defence). This opposition reflects not just a basic misunderstanding of this Press Note, but also a distrust of FDI in this crucial sector.


Press Note 2 has clarified that any downstream investment by an Indian company that is owned (equity holding of more than 50%) and controlled (right to appoint majority directors) by resident Indian citizens (RICs) will be deemed to be domestic equity and hence any FDI in such a company will not be treated as indirect FDI in the downstream company. Accordingly, a foreign investor can invest up to 49% equity in an Indian investing company, which can then hold 74% equity in a defence equipment manufacturing company (with balance 26% equity being held directly by the foreign investor). This is what is being objected to on the grounds that the foreign investor in this case ends up with a higher than 26% equity interest in the defence manufacturing company. It is rather ironic that the opposition is based on what is actually a benefit of Press Note 2—facilitating foreign funding of capital intensive sectors such as defence, while at the same time ensuring that the ownership and control remains in the hands of RICs.


We now turn to the second issue: the cap itself. There is an urgent need to allow FDI in defence beyond 26%. This was also recommended in the Economic Survey 2009. A cap of 26% discourages original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) from bringing in proprietary technology. OEMs are reluctant to license their proprietary technology to a company in which their equity is restricted to a minority of 26%.


It also limits foreign capital inflows into the sector and thereby increases the corresponding fund requirements of the Indian partners. This is particularly relevant in the current environment in which risk-averse banks are reluctant to lend, particularly to SMEs who will constitute the bulk of Indian companies that will enter this sector. Besides, there is also a serious issue whether Indian industry will be able to absorb/match the capital investments that this cap would imply. Assuming that capital acquisitions of just $30 billion (against a budgeted $50 billion) take place in the next 5-6 years, with a minimum 30% offset obligation ($10 billion) and assuming only a third of that is met through FDI, the 26% cap would impose a domestic fund requirement of $10 billion (Rs 50,000 crore). Do we really think that capital to fund investment of this magnitude is available domestically?


There is a view that the 26% cap should be retained as it provides Indian companies greater leverage in negotiations. This is a specious argument as the real handicap Indian companies have is a lack of technology and capability in logistics and project management, none of which is met because of this cap. Besides, the benefit of leverage in negotiations is really available only to a handful of large companies as they have more resources than the bulk of the SMEs that work in this sector.


Increasing the FDI limit would facilitate (from India's perspective) better compliance of the offset obligations as OEMs would be able to make significant investments in high technology projects. This would in turn serve the objective of 70% indigenisation of defence procurement as more domestic companies, particularly SMEs, would be able to partner with Tier 1 and 2 vendors of OEMs.


It is important to note that from the Companies Act perspective, increasing the FDI limit to up to 74% would not give the foreign investor any additional rights over and above the rights associated with an equity stake of 26%. This is because a special resolution of shareholders requires three-fourths majority.


A final bogey is regarding security, of foreign control over defence manufacturing. My response is to quote the defence minister who has publicly said that with "70% of our defence equipment being imported, we are extremely vulnerable". We surely have greater control over a manufacturer who has brick and mortar investments in India. The US, EU and UK allow 100% FDI in this sector. Security issues are addressed through verification and clearance procedures and export controls.


FDI in defence manufacturing was first allowed in 2001. Since then, less than five joint ventures have been approved. There is, therefore, a strong and compelling case to increase the FDI cap to at least 49%. This will give a boost to much-needed investments in this sector, promote indigenisation and help in building capability .


The author is executive director of PWC's Aerospace & Defence practice. Views are personal







Investment bankers are upfront when they say that there will not be a flurry of activity in the overseas acquisition markets for some time to come. They indicate that the managements that made acquisitions are now focusing on integrating their activities so that the fruits of the strategic move are realised. While that might be the case, there are other startling factors coming to the fore.


And, clearly this is about the huge value loss that has taken place through the acquisitions made by Indian companies overseas. Indian companies were especially gung-ho in 2006 and 2007 when they chased acquisitions all over the globe. In many situations it was sheer peer pressure that forced them to look for acquisitions. Readily available cash and a liberalised environment helped. Not to mention that there were some genuine acquisitions made for smart strategic reasons to reach out to newer markets, gain access to raw material sources or even access to technology.


However, in hindsight it seems that the price paid for most acquisitions was a tad expensive, while integration of operations also remains an important factor. Hence the success rate of the acquisitions has been low. According to a study carried out by Padmakshi Financial Services, of the 50-odd acquisitions made by Indian companies, around 81.25% of them have lost money. Hence, only around 18.75% of these companies have managed to see the value of their acquisitions grow, and the average return on investment is around 6.83%. And this return on investment is much lower than what these companies would have got had they invested their monies in safe domestic debt, or definitely the equity market. The study cites that there are only three companies that have recorded worthwhile returns on their acquisitions and these are Tata Tea, Crisil and Bharat Forge. One of the main reasons analysts reckon, for their success, is that they all were done in 2003 when the valuation norms were reasonable and the integration has been strong. So now, a large portion of India Inc, which made overseas acquisitions, would indeed have to work on integration, and justify the high price they paid. Others will remain wary.








It is too soon even to second-guess the outcome of the Copenhagen climate summit. The re-set goal is to produce an 'operationally binding political agreement' on how and under what terms the actions needed to prevent dangerous global warming will be distributed globally, across 192 countries. The hope is that such an arrangement, which needs to be a major advance on the Kyoto protocol within the parameters set by the United Nations Framework Convention on Clima te Change (UNFCCC), will eventually lead to a fair, just, and workable legal instrument. Unfortunately, the signs and indications from the first few days of Copenhagen have not been auspicious.


What needs to be done was succinctly presented in the common editorial published on December 7 by 56 newspapers, including The Hindu, in 45 countries. To reiterate its key argument: Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone. The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. At the deal's heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided.


It stands to reason that the key principle that should guide the settlement must be the UNFCCC formulation of "common and differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities." The majority of developing nations continue to push for a legally binding agreement in which the developed nations would lead with drastic emission reductions (25-40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020) and significant efforts to provide financial assistance (well above the $10 billion a year that is on offer) and technology transfer to the developing nations. But the prospects of such an agreement do not seem bright at all. There is frustration over the experience of the past two years, when developed nations focussed substantially on shifting an unjust share of the global mitigation burden to the developing countries. The major developing economies have sought to meet, at least partially, the legitimate concerns of developed nations. Several, including India, have announced voluntary mitigation actions with quantified targets in the form of significant deviations from business-as-usual growth rates in emissions or as reductions in the emission intensity of their economies.


There are however indications that the developed nations, instead of reaching across the trust divide, are contemplating the imposition, through political arm-twisting, of a solution that safeguards their key interests while overriding developing country concerns. Faced with an impasse in the negotiations, the developed nations, in a move initiated by the United States, have begun working towards an operationally binding political agreement that has the potential to be converted into a legally binding agreement at an unspecified future date. Promoted ostensibly as a means to ensure some kind of positive outcome at Copenhagen, the move has also been justified by arguments that global climate action need not await the ratification of U.S. commitments by their domestic legislative process. Media leaks of the contours of such an agreement, known to be promoted by the Danish Prime Minister, suggest that the idea is to saddle developing countries with legally binding obligations through conditionalities on climate finance and to leave developed nations with no comparable legal commitments. The parallel process, also initiated by the host nation, to ensure the presence of a large number of world leaders at Copenhagen in the final ministerial phase has come under a cloud. Given the prospect of no agreed text emerging from the hard-nosed negotiations, the stage would be set for the introduction of new texts at the political level. Such a move, based on formulations that have not been vetted by experienced negotiators or discussed in broad consultations, could set the stage for the extraction of substantial concessions to the detriment of developing country interests.

The major developing economies have done well to anticipate such a biased outcome while adopting a forward-looking attitude themselves. The draft text agreed to by China, Brazil, India, South Africa, and other developing nations gives them a reasonably strong negotiating hand. India, which in the Bush years used to be comfortable about bringing up the rear in the international debate and action on climate change, went through a phase of confusion during the run-up to Copenhagen. The policy disarray that framed the government's announcement of a projected cut in emission intensity by 2020 suggested political unpreparedness and uncertainty. Crucially, sections of the government did not seem to grasp the fact that if there was 'flexibility' in the emission reduction targets for developed countries, the burden of mitigation action on developing countries would increase significantly and inequitably. In the climate arena, it is coordinated, not unilateral, action that holds the key to the realisation of the global common good. Smaller nations do and can influence the course of the negotiations but a great deal will depend on the kind of role the U.S., the European Union, China, and India end up playing in the negotiations and the high-level political parleys. President Obama especially needs to walk his climate talk with a new multilateral vision. Whatever be the Copenhagen outcome, India's climate policy must do what a country with the world's second largest population needs to do: reorient itself towards a green path of economic growth in a much more earnest, ambitious, and internally equitable way than the National Action Plan on Climate Change envisages.









As a victim of terrorism, much of which has emanated from across the border in Pakistan, it is hardly surprising that India should confuse diplomatic strategy with counter-terrorism strategy and believe that "toughness" on the external front hardens the country internally and insulates us from terrorist attacks.


For the better part of a decade, India's politicians and pundits have bought into the fallacy that diplomacy and security policy are one and the same thing, effectively handing the terrorists who would harm us a double bonus. Our complacency-induced vulnerability allows them to strike fairly easily; and our predictable tendency to suspend diplomatic engagement with Pakistan and rattle our sabres every time there is a major incident gives them an added incentive to target us.


When the Parliament complex in New Delhi was attacked by terrorists in December 2001, the erstwhile government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee responded by mobilising the army and downgrading diplomatic, commercial and people-to-people relations with Pakistan. This coercive diplomacy initially yielded results, as Pervez Musharraf banned the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-Taiba and placed their leaders under house arrest. But the longer India persisted with its hard line diplomatic tack, the more meagre were the returns. And eventually they became negative. The prospect of triggering an Indo-Pakistan war encouraged the terrorists to up the ante with an attack on the army cantonment at Kaluchak. Western chanceries began to issue travel advisories urging their citizens to steer clear of India because of the danger of conflict with Pakistan. Eventually, the international pressure that ought to have been applied on Islamabad ended up being redirected towards Delhi. The situation only began to change when Mr. Vajpayee recognised the limits of coercion and turned towards engagement. The Siachen and Line of Control ceasefires of 2003 were concrete achievements of this period that have stood the test of time. And then came the Vajpayee-Musharraf meeting of January 2004, which led to the resumption of the composite dialogue.


While there is no denying the political significance of General Musharraf's commitment of not allowing terrorists to use the Pakistani territory to stage attacks against India, the Indian strategic community erred in believing that what was an obvious diplomatic achievement was also a gain on the counter-terrorism front. As far as homeland security was concerned, in fact, such an assurance was meaningless because the measures India needed to take to protect itself ought to have been based on the worst case scenario of Pakistan not delivering on its promises. In the event, no special measures were taken.


If the government's hard line diplomacy allowed a sense of complacency to creep in on the counter-terrorism front from 2001 to 2004, our belief in Gen. Musharraf's good intentions from 2004 to 2006 further strengthened that tendency. Most importantly, our policymakers did not foresee the consequences that the metastasis of terrorism in Pakistan from 2006 onwards would have as groups once nurtured by the Inter-Services Intelligence started targeting Pakistani cities and institutions, including the army. The fact that the territorial United States has not been attacked by terrorists since 9/11 has led some analysts to conclude that this is because America struck back militarily, taking the war to the terrorists, as it were, rather than allowing them to retain the initiative. Israel's tendency to lash out at the Gaza strip or Lebanon also finds favour with some armchair Indian strategists who dream of "surgical strikes" against terrorists based in Pakistan. While U.S. military action has certainly disrupted the al-Qaeda's ability to mount the kind of operation it did in 2001, American territory has remained protected because of geography and a professional, well-functioning police force and intelligence gathering system. India, unfortunately, has none of these advantages.


If the country continued to remain vulnerable to Pakistan-based terrorists even after the December 2001 attack on Parliament, it was because none of the systemic improvements needed to ensure better intelligence gathering, border and coastal security, investigative and forensic skills was even considered, let alone implemented. Armed with the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the traditional permissiveness towards third-degree methods, effective counter-terrorism came to mean rounding up the usual suspects, getting them to confess to crimes they may or may not have committed, planting stories in the media about how major incidents were averted in the nick of time by our clever intelligence "sleuths," and organising the odd fake encounter for that added touch of authenticity. Needless to say, none of this actually strengthened our national capacity to deal with the threat of terrorism, native or foreign.


India's vulnerability to terrorism was proved once again last November in Mumbai, when 10 terrorists arrived in rubber dinghies and staged a devastating series of attacks at a railway station, hospital, café, Jewish cultural centre and two five-star hotels. We now know this particular operation was at least two years in the making and involved numerous reconnaissance trips to the city and its harbour by Lashkar operatives. One of these alleged operatives, David Headley, is now in the custody of the American police and has been formally charged with being a part of the terrorist conspiracy.


There is nothing surprising or extraordinary about the fact that the Mumbai police and the Intelligence Bureau were unaware of Headley's movements and agenda. What is shocking is the fact that no one bothered to examine the registers of not just the Taj Mahal and the Trident hotels going back a few years but also other hotels that might have been potential targets in order to try and discover whether the LeT had sent operatives on a recce mission. Prima facie, any guest who provided a false name or address ought to have been treated as an accomplice. But this kind of basic police work wasn't done. Here, again our investigative efforts fell into a depressingly familiar pattern. With Ajmal 'Kasab' being apprehended and the Pakistani origins of the attackers and conspirators firmly established, the powers that be presumably saw little sense in using the police and the IB to see whether the Mumbai plot involved a wider set of conspirators. Our counter-terrorism strategy boiled down to a single-point agenda: demanding that Pakistan act against the LeT and its odious chief, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed.


That demand is a valid one and there is no harm in India pressing it. Similarly, no one can fault the Indian government for demanding that Pakistan swiftly prosecute and convict those LeT men whom it has already indicted for their involvement in the Mumbai attacks. Even if the big fish have not been caught there, the prosecution of small fry can also affect the ability of LeT and its backers to mount operations. Where the Indian strategy has gone wrong, tragically wrong, is in treating diplomacy as a sign of weakness and assuming that any form of engagement would be tantamount to making concessions to the Pakistani military establishment. Despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh repeatedly emphasising the need for remaining engaged, there has been no visible progress on the bilateral front. Earlier, Indian officials let it be known that they were waiting for the trial in Pakistan to begin; now some are saying, on background, that India will wait for the LeT men to be convicted before considering the resumption of any form of dialogue. Next, we may insist that all appeals the convicted men file are dismissed, or that they be hanged before we are ready to talk.


At the time of the Sharm el-Shaikh summit in July, there was hardly any international sympathy for India's position that dialogue had to await meaningful action by Pakistan on the terrorism front. Today, when some of the suspects are on trial and jihadi terrorists are massacring innocent people in Lahore, Peshawar, Rawalpindi and other cities and towns almost daily, the world and Pakistani civil society are asking themselves what kind of a callous place India is for not trying to help its neighbour deal with a common enemy. This diplomatic vacuum also provides excellent fodder for the deranged conspiracy theorists in Pakistan, who say India is behind the series of bomb blasts there.


As India examines its options, it must take as a given that the Pakistani military continues to harbour hostile intentions. And of course that the ISI continues to have links with the LeT, the Afghan Taliban and other groups. The correct Indian response should be a better counter-terrorist strategy. Not talking to Pakistan's civilian government is hardly effective counter-terrorism. Nor is it effective diplomacy.







Mira Sinha Bhattacharjea was one of the world's leading scholars on China, a political scientist who skirted the minefield that her subject's often fraught relations with India laid before her peers with integrity, wit and an objectivity of consideration rare in the field of Sinology.


Taking to academia at a time when India was recovering from its traumatic war with China in 1962 and emotions ran high, Mira Sinha, as she was known prior to her marriage to veteran journalist Ajit Bhattacharjea, was capable of being objective even in the most trying of circumstances. And though it may be tempting to conclude that with her passing, an era of balance in Indian analyses of China has come to an end, the tradition of scholarship she pioneered has more than a few adherents within academia, the media and also government, thanks in large measure to the work of the Institute of Chinese Studies which she helped to found.


Born in 1930 and selected for the elite Indian Foreign Service in 1955, Mira Sinha's first posting was to the Indian Embassy in Beijing. She worked there for nearly four years when she fell victim to a bizarre government rule of those times that forced women officers to quit if they got married. She resigned from the IFS – the service to which her first husband also belonged – and soon began teaching post-graduate courses on Chinese politics at Delhi University.


In a conversation with The Hindu, one of her students, former foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, recalled the trying circumstances under which she set up the Department of Chinese Studies at Delhi University in the 1960s. Sinophobia was at its peak "There were four of us in one batch and there were more teachers than students. But she persevered and even at times when Sino-Indian ties went through tremendous emotional upheaval, she retained her capability of being objective. To do so consistently is a tribute to her calmness, grace and dignity."


A founder member of the China Study Group and the Institute of Chinese Studies, of which she was the first director, Mira Sinha Bhattarchjea was consulting editor of the journal, China Report. After retiring from Delhi University in 1995, she continued as an emeritus fellow of the ICS. She was the author of numerous scholarly papers, a book, 'China, the world, and India', and co-editor of 'Security and Science in China and India' along with Manoranjan Mohanty and Giri Deshingkar. Besides China, Mira was also a scholar of Gandhi and was working on a major work on the Mahatma at the time of her death.


She would often warn of the dangers of viewing China through the British colonial construct. "Why stick to the 19th century concept that we must always be at loggerheads with our neighbours and that we need some sort of buffer state? If we don't change our attitude, we will just become the tools of the Americans," she wrote. She was a regular contributor to Frontline over the years.


Never one to discount the boundary dispute, she also took a swipe at the boundary-centric news reports covering high level Sino-India summits to the exclusion of everything else. "No matter how the outcome of the recent visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is assessed, it would be difficult to deny that the centrepiece of the summit was the festering boundary problem. In fact, judging by the substance and thrust of the three political documents signed, this appears to have been the real purpose of this visit, as indeed it seems to have been of every prime ministerial meeting since 1954," she wrote in Frontline in 2005.


With the border dispute still being sorted out, Mira believed that the "economic prospect" would play an important diversionary role and would help "advance the process forward on this most knotted problem of boundary settlement."


In perhaps the only clear headed analysis of how the boundary talks have made progress including what amounted to a no-war pact, she pointed out the achievements so far — a stated and shared agreement on the nature of the problem, reaching a single comprehensive settlement covering the entire stretch, wrapping this up in a package that should shape the form and nature of the future relationship and an agreement not to use force by any means, which can be interpreted as amounting to a no-war pact. Both sides have also largely demilitarised the borders and set in place a border management system to encourage easy cross-border movement of goods and people.


Mira Sinha recognised the strong national emotions over the border dispute but felt the time had come to change the images and fears of the 'other' in the public mind. She incisively examined even the blandest of statements and pointed out the "unexpected bonus" from the agreement to open an additional point for border trade via Nathu La in Sikkim. "This agreement appears to be politically innocent but actually has great political significance. It masks the diplomatic achievement of the seemingly impossible. It is being interpreted as a confirmation of the existing realities, namely, that Sikkim is part of India as Tibet is of China though both will continue to assert that this is not so. That is the way of diplomacy and there is no way of simplifying this," she wrote.


During her last visit to the ICS, when the media was generating hysteria over the alleged increase in the number of Chinese "incursions", she expressed dismay over the "madness of looking at things by the hour," reminiscences Dr. Alka Acharya. "Her passing away has dealt a blow to the voice of sanity on India-China relations."


(Mira Sinha Bhattacharjea died in New Delhi on December 13 after a brief illness. She is survived by her husband, Ajit Bhattacharjea, and her daughter, Namita Unnikrishnan.)







Paul A. Samuelson, the first American Nobel laureate in economics and the foremost academic economist of the 20th century, died Sunday at his home in Belmont, Mass. He was 94.


His death was announced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which Samuelson helped build into one of the world's great centres of graduate education in economics.


In receiving the Nobel Prize in 1970, Samuelson was credited with transforming his discipline from one that ruminates about economic issues to one that solves problems, answering questions about cause and effect with mathematical rigor and clarity.


When economists "sit down with a piece of paper to calculate or analyze something, you would have to say that no one was more important in providing the tools they use and the ideas that they employ than Paul Samuelson," said Robert M. Solow, a fellow Nobel laureate and colleague of Samuelson's at MIT.


Samuelson attracted a brilliant roster of economists to teach or study at the university, among them Solow as well as others who would go on to become Nobel laureates like George A. Akerlof, Robert F. Engle III, Lawrence R. Klein, Paul Krugman, Franco Modigliani, Robert C. Merton and Joseph E. Stiglitz.


Samuelson wrote one of the most widely used college textbooks in the history of American education. The book, Economics, first published in 1948, was the nation's best-selling textbook for nearly 30 years. Translated into 20 languages, it was selling 50,000 copies a year a half century after it first appeared.


"I don't care who writes a nation's laws — or crafts its advanced treatises — if I can write its economics textbooks," Samuelson said.


His textbook taught college students how to think about economics. His technical work — especially his discipline-shattering Ph.D. thesis, immodestly titled "The Foundations of Economic Analysis" — taught professional economists how to ply their trade. Between the two books, Samuelson redefined modern economics.


The textbook introduced generations of students to the revolutionary ideas of John Maynard Keynes, the British economist who in the 1930s developed the theory that modern market economies could become trapped in depression and would then need a strong push from government spending or tax cuts, in addition to lenient monetary policy, to restore them. Many economics students would never again rest comfortably with the 19th-century view that private markets would cure unemployment without need of government intervention.


That lesson was reinforced in 2008, when the international economy slipped into the steepest downturn since the Great Depression, when Keynesian economics was born. When the Depression began, governments stood pat or made matters worse by trying to balance fiscal budgets and erecting trade barriers. But 80 years later, having absorbed the Keynesian teaching of Samuelson and his followers, most industrialised countries took corrective action, raising government spending, cutting taxes, keeping exports and imports flowing and driving short-term interest rates to near zero.


Samuelson explained Keynesian economics to American presidents, world leaders, members of Congress and the Federal Reserve Board, not to mention other economists. He was a consultant to the U.S. Treasury, the Bureau of the Budget and the President's Council of Economic Advisers.


His most influential student was John F. Kennedy, whose first 40-minute class with Samuelson, after the 1960 election, was conducted on a rock by the beach at the family compound at Hyannis Port, Mass. Before class, there was lunch with politicians and Cambridge intellectuals aboard a yacht offshore. "I had expected a scrumptious meal," Samuelson said. "We had franks and beans."


After the 1960 election, he told the young president-elect that the nation was heading into a recession and that Kennedy should push through a tax cut to head it off. Kennedy was shocked.


"I've just campaigned on a platform of fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets and here you are telling me that the first thing I should do in office is to cut taxes?" Samuelson recalled, quoting the president.


Kennedy eventually accepted the professor's advice and signalled his willingness to cut taxes, but he was assassinated before he could take action. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, carried out the plan, however, and the economy bounced back.


Samuelson provided a mathematical structure to study the effect of trade on different groups of consumers and workers. In a famous theorem, known as Stolper-Samuelson, he and a co-author showed that competition from imports of clothes and similar goods from underdeveloped countries, where producers rely on unskilled workers, could drive down the wages of low-paid workers in industrialised countries.


The theorem provided the intellectual scaffold for opponents of free trade. And late in his career, Samuelson set off an intellectual commotion by pointing out that the economy of a country like the United States could be hurt if productivity rose among the economies with which it traded.


Advocate of open trade


Yet Samuelson, like most academic economists, remained an advocate of open trade. Trade, he taught, raises average living standards enough to allow the workers and consumers who benefit to compensate those who suffer, and still have some extra income left over. Protectionism would not help, but higher productivity would.


Paul Anthony Samuelson was born May 15, 1915 in Gary, Ind., the son of Frank Samuelson, a pharmacist, and the former Ella Lipton. His family, he said, was "made up of upwardly mobile Jewish immigrants from Poland who had prospered considerably in World War I, because Gary was a brand-new steel town when my family went there."


But after his father lost much of his money in the years after the war, the family moved to Chicago. Young Paul attended Hyde Park High School, where as a freshman he began studying the stock market. At one point, he helped his algebra teacher select stocks to buy in the boom of the 1920s.


"Hupp Motors and other losers," he remembered in an interview in 1996. "Proof of the fallibility of systems," he said.


He left high school at age 16 to enter the University of Chicago. "I was born as an economist on Jan. 2, 1932," he said. That was the day he heard his first college lecture, on Thomas Malthus, the 18th-century British economist who studied the relation between poverty and population growth. Hooked, he began taking economics courses.

After receiving his bachelor's degree from Chicago in 1935, he went to Harvard, where he was attracted to the ideas of the Harvard professor Alvin Hansen, the leading exponent of Keynesian theory in America.


Among Samuelson's fellow students at Harvard was Marion Crawford. They married in 1938. Samuelson earned his master's degree from Harvard in 1936 and a Ph.D. in 1941. He wrote his thesis from 1937 to 1940 as a member of the prestigious Harvard Society of Junior Fellows. In 1940, Harvard offered him an instructorship, which he accepted, but a month later MIT invited him to become an assistant professor.


Harvard made no attempt to keep him, even though he had by then developed an international following. Solow said of the Harvard economics department at the time: "You could be disqualified for a job if you were either smart or Jewish or Keynesian. So what chance did this smart, Jewish, Keynesian have?"


During World War II, Samuelson worked in MIT's Radiation Laboratory, developing computers for tracking aircraft, and was a consultant for the War Production Board. After the war, having resumed teaching, he and his wife started a family. When she became pregnant the fourth time, she gave birth to triplets, all boys.


Marion Samuelson died in 1978. Samuelson is survived by his second wife, Risha Clay Samuelson; six children from his first marriage: Jane Raybould, Margaret Crawford-Samuelson, William and the triplet sons, Robert, John and Paul; and 15 grandchildren. Samuelson is also survived by a brother, Robert Summers, a professor emeritus of economics at the University of Pennsylvania and father of Lawrence H. Summers, director of President Barack Obama's National Economic Council and former secretary of the Treasury under President Bill Clinton and former president of Harvard. — © 2009 The New York Times News Service










In many ways Fazal Haq Qureshi, the Kashmiri separatist leader who was shot at last Friday in Srinagar, represents the realities of modern day Kashmir.


His struggle for life in local hospital chillingly symbolises Kashmir's own dilemma — the idealistic armed insurgency that promised freedom is rapidly degrading into kidnapping and other criminal activities, and bold promises for a better future are not in Kashmir's horizon.


Qureshi was one of the first armed insurgents in Kashmir after Independence, starting in the mid-60s and carrying on through until the early 90s. He was also one of the first separatists to be convinced that peace is a far more powerful weapon than IEDs.  More importantly, he came out in public and pursued peaceful negotiations with New Delhi even when many of his compatriots dithered.


The attack on him also symbolises how Kashmir has been let down by New Delhi, Islamabad and militants. Despite efforts of a handful of popular separatists over the past several years to pursue peace talks, Indian political leadership has let them down, leaving the task of untangling history's curses to India's insipid bureaucracy. Militants are increasingly turning to crime. Given the turbulent geopolitical situation in our neighbourhood, the forecast for Kashmir is grave.


The affable Qureshi lived in a modest house unlike most other leaders. He was hungry for peace, but not at the cost of the dignity of Kashmiri people. He was determined to pursue negotiations, but didn't care much for his personal safety. While fellow separatists in Hurriyat and others accepted detailed security cover from the very Indian state they perpetually condemned, Qureshi preferred to roam like an ordinary man.


Not that he was unaware of the complex web of terror that he helped seed in some parts —   the armed militants, the Pakistan-sponsored terrorists, the state-sponsored Ikhwanis, and even shadowy terror groups whose allegiance and existence is yet not assessed comprehensively. He was one of the interlocutors appointed by the Hizbul Mujahideen in 2000 for its peace talks with the Centre. But that was not to be.


As New Delhi pussyfooted and Islamabad mounted pressure on Hizbul's Pakistan-based chief Syed Salahudin, the ceasefire collapsed in a matter of few days.  Majid Dar and other armed insurgents disappeared. New Delhi's field operatives pretended to be in command, feeding their masters misguided information about getting the Hizbul back to the negotiating table. Those confident claims were, of course, wrong.


In 2003, Majid Dar fell to anonymous bullets. Now, six years later, his friend Qureshi is attacked. Since 2005 there has been visible and drastic reduction in all parameters of violence in J&K, but officialdom did not let the political leadership grasp the opportunity.


The prime minister's call for out-of-the-box thinking was stifled by a concerted effort of the security complex that often distorted facts and figures to exaggerate the situation in Kashmir. The 'Kashmiri bureaucracy' of New Delhi did not let UPA government have its way. Nor did the political leadership try to free itself from the iron grip of bureaucracy. Thus insipid political leadership has only contributed to maintaining the status quo.

Qureshi's struggle for life mirrors the reality of Kashmir's quest for peace. With historically low violence levels, enough indicators of abysmal morale of the insurgents, it is time for New Delhi to make a breakthrough proposal.


Over the past two decades, India has made major strides in liberalising its administrative and decision-making mechanisms. The question before the UPA government is if it would exhibit a similar boldness to 'liberalise' its Kashmir policy and give it over to a set of men and women who would not bury compassion in a heap of absurdities.







The controversy over the events on the nights and days of the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai last year, the various allegations made by police officers against each other and by grieving families as well as the reluctance of the government to disclose the findings of the Ram Pradhan committee appointed to look into those events has now assumed farcical proportions.


The Maharashtra home minister RR Patil stated in the assembly that action would be taken against former Mumbai police commissioner for some remarks which he made to a magazine. On the other hand, comments made against police officer Rakesh Maria by Vinita Kamte, widow of police officer Ashok Kamte, slain during the attacks, will not be considered.


In this itself, it is clear that the internal political bickering of the Mumbai police continues to rule the day. Gafoor is being targeted for some apparently off-the-record remarks to a journalist. The fact that he was the police commissioner at the time is being ignored. At the same time, there are rumours that those close to politicians will get off scot-free.


The loss of face of this once premier force is practically complete and our political class is unable to stem the rot — not least perhaps because they have contributed to it. Pleas have been made from many quarters — including by senior police officers in this newspaper — that the police and administration move on and get on with it. By taking sides, however, the home minister has shown that this is not possible.


Meanwhile, the fact remains that despite valour shown by individual officers during the attacks, our force was not equipped — with either processes or equipment — to deal with the attacks. Unfortunately for the police, the persistent presence of television cameras and the media exposed their inadequacies. Sadly, a year later, even as the threat perception remains, we are no better informed about what went wrong.


And we are unlikely to be, any time soon. The home minister has assured the assembly that the Pradhan report will be tabled by next week. But experts have pointed out that the committee itself did not follow procedure and so its conclusions are open to question. In any case, we are well aware that such reports will just as soon gather dust as they will be acted upon.


What we need is an end to the infighting in the police and a strong administrative effort to get the Maharashtra and the Mumbai police back on track. Yet, recent events show that such expectations are misplaced.






Defence minister AK Antony did well to make it clear that women will not be inducted into combat units of the armed forces at the moment. He did not rule it out for all time to come. He argued that women were given permanent commissions in the forces only in 2008 and it would take time before the next big step will be taken.


He also said that trends in other countries' armed forces are also being watched. It is both tempting and easy to lampoon the minister, the government and the establishment in the armed forces for their reluctance, resistance to treat women on par with the men. This could become another general debate about gender discrimination and women's rights.


There are enough compelling arguments to go in for a complete changeover. If you admit women in some wings of the forces, then do so for all the others as well, including combat units. That would mean infantry in army and fighter planes in the air force. In principle, this is also the right thing to do. But societies, including women, need time to adapt to changes and a transition period is not such a bad thing.


It is interesting that BJP deputy leader in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj while striking the rhetorical note by invoking warrior princess Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi should also demand the creation of separate women battalions with women commanders. This is where the rhetoric hits the wall of reality. If women are to be part of the combat operations, there cannot be compartmentalised units marked out for women.


Women will have to march with men and work under commanders who would be men. There could come a time when a battalion of men could be commanded by a woman. That is what equality is all about. Women who want to get into the forces would be only too willing to work in any conditions and under anyone. It is the ideologues who would be creating the obstacles.


It would be helpful if the question of women in the forces is taken out of gender politics and handled in a pragmatic manner. The young women who are keen to become soldiers want to do it for reasons other than that of proving a feminist point. They love the country and they enjoy the challenge of being a soldier. It is necessary to keep the doors open for them and create conducive conditions for them to do what
they want.







Craning my neck over the crowded counter, I stretched to hand my coupon for chole bhatura at the shopping mall one afternoon. My mobile phone rang. It was my friend calling from the other end of the food court to find out if I wanted sugarcane juice. I refused.

Sitting on the table with a pile of shopping bags, I watched as busy mallrats stopped to grab a bite. They carried plastic trays with plastic containers with food wrapped in paper or transparent foil. Their drinks were in tall plastic cups with straws jutting out.

I had said no to the sugarcane juice without even giving it a thought. The sugarcane juice that came in the plastic cup, somehow, didn't appeal to me as much as the cane juice I used to drink as a child from the vendor near my house.

During summers, especially, it used to be an everyday affair. Just when the sun would begin to set, a bunch of my neighbours would gather and we would walk to the "sugarcane juice shop" (it was a tiny room, but had no name). The high point of the experience was watching the vendor first choose the stalks from the pile at the corner.

With a sharp knife, he would shave the skin off each stalk. About 4-5 stalks would then be fed into the hand-driven grinder while a junior operated the crankshaft. The juice was collected and the used stalks spilled out of the other side of the grinder. He then poured the juice through a big strainer and topped it with a dash of lemon and a cube of ice. This was served fresh in glasses.

Nothing compares to this experience of drinking ganne ka ras. Today, you just pay for the sugarcane juice, state your preference — with ice or without; ginger, lemon or masala flavour — and it is delivered to you packed in a plastic cup across a glitzy counter.

Videos of a vendor making sugarcane juice are sometimes used as décor at the newer sugarcane juice centres. Call it pseudo-nostalgia — holding on to memories because our roots are there and we "just have to" — or my stubborn unwillingness to try the same product in a new package. Either way, I wanted to "protect" the experience of "walking up the road for some sugarcane juice".

I believe this memory is worth holding on it. So I'm clinging to it. When the time to let go arrives, I'm hoping I'll somehow just know.

 —The writer is an editor with DNA







We believed when we grew up that big movements come out of little publications. Now wide-eyed and dazzled by the explosion of information media and modes — newer and brighter dailies, 24x7 TV news channels, blogs, search engines, FM radio, mobile news and entertainment — we must bury the romantic notion. The little magazine is no longer significant, not any more.

The little magazine was once the universe that counted. It looked for and found the new poem to publish, the best way to clean your carburettor and lyrics of an Eagles' hit.

The little magazine found and nurtured a Gopalakrishna Adiga or a Lankesh, took Shakespeare and Sophocles to a middle-school library and enthused a group of young people to organise an international film festival in their small town.

It was possible because the small shop owner read the magazines he hung up outside and the publishers lived on subscriptions, not on advertising; content writers earned their livelihoods from professions other than journalism and the world of information was less crowded. It was a world where local did not always mean small, nor did global always mean important. Not any more.

This is the new marketplace, where size matters, where quantity determines quality and not the other way round and it is all about the survival of the fattest. Here is a world where more means not variety, but more of the same; where every channel is breaking the same story, sourced from the same place, the same time and, often, the same person. Only the reporter is different, not what is reported and they all want YOU.

To start with, the makers of the little magazine, that band of passionate and committed content creators devoted to a niche interest are hard to find. They are even harder to retain. Then follow the serious issues of economics and logistics. Small magazines bring disproportionately smaller revenues. If the magazine is a non-English publication, then forget advertisements.

And then comes the question of distribution. Book and magazine stalls, inundated with newer and bigger mainstream publications, will not host the little journals that bring few buyers to the shop and smaller margins and commissions. Without the means to match the marketing and promotion of big publications, the little publisher is forced to seek subscriptions from a small and faithful circle of friends, associates and well-wishers. That circle is growing tighter, choking the publisher.

But it is not the end of the day for niche content creators. Once they get over the wistful craving for the smells of ink and newsprint, the web is available to them, yielding more tricks of personalised space, editing and graphics than they could enjoy before and possibly more readers than the hard copy could ever find.

But when the big bang of the media marketplace cools down to inertia, will the Internet remain immune to market realities? Will it continue to allow access from and to the particular expression?

The answer is with the demands of specialisation: niche publications must find experts in a particular field who will get the information, analyse and edit complex ideas and deliver packaged knowledge to a particular readership that is interested in the topic. And as technology supplies better and cheaper modes of access, little could become big again.

Digital appliances like netbooks, e-books and fancy hand-held gadgets, access modes like WiMax and 3G and common digitalised platforms for all data could make it possible.

Niche content on the web and speciality websites are apparently finding fantastic readership globally.

US researcher Comscore declared that over 10 billion videos were watched online in 2008 while another, eMarketer, reported that nearly a 100 million  people read about 25 million the year before.

The digital then need not divide, but integrate. It has delivered the power of production and distribution to the content creator. Microblogging site Twitter is already delivering more readers than the biggest TV networks.

Globalisation has delivered the strangest results: private cable and satellite TV channels and FM radio stations that had ramped up the wrong horizon have dramatically turned around to deliver their fares in local flavours.

Technology and globalisation then have not really proved to the monopoly makers their masters want them to be. Perhaps the monoculture of content — in news, reality shows and soap operas on TV, for instance — is actually a problem in transit, like TV screens in airport and train terminals that you watch helplessly as you wait to get away to where you want to be.

And that place, to dream a dream, will have technology to deliver the content of your choice — going out and coming in. So it need not be goodbye to the niche content creator. It just seems to be the beginning of the end of the niche journal — in the hardcopy.

The writer is a journalist and filmmaker






I am not a Buddhist, as you have heard, and yet I am. If China, or Japan, or Ceylon follow the teachings of the Great Master, India worships him as God incarnate on earth.

You have just now heard that I am going to criticise Buddhism, but by that I wish you to understand only this. Far be it from me to criticise him whom I worship as God incarnate on earth. But our views about Buddha are that he was not understood properly by his disciples.


The relation between Hinduism (by Hinduism, I mean the religion of the Vedas) and what is called Buddhism at the present day is nearly the same as between Judaism and Christianity. Jesus Christ was a Jew, and Shâkya Muni was a Hindu. The Jews rejected Jesus Christ, nay, crucified him, and the Hindus have accepted Shâkya Muni as God and worship him. But the real difference that we Hindus want to show between modern Buddhism and what we should understand as the teachings of Lord Buddha lies principally in this: Shâkya Muni came to preach nothing new. He also, like Jesus, came to fulfil and not to destroy. Only, in the case of Jesus, it was the old people, the Jews, who did not understand him, while in the case of Buddha, it was his own followers who did not realise the import of his teachings. Again, I repeat, Shâkya Muni came not to destroy, but he was the fulfilment, the the logical development of the religion of the Hindus.

The religion of the Hindus is divided into two parts: the ceremonial and the spiritual. The spiritual portion is specially studied by the monks.

In that there is no caste. A man from the highest caste and a man from the lowest may become a monk in India, and the two castes become equal. In religion there is no caste; caste is simply a social institution. Shâkya Muni himself was a monk, and it was his glory that he had the large-heartedness to bring out the truths from the hidden Vedas and through them broadcast all over the world.

Teachings of Swami Vivekananda






Politicians destroy and debase language more effectively than globalisers and imperialists can ever hope to do. This is an issue that linguists in the country have not dared to explore because they feel that it is the political struggle of each linguistic group that has helped to prop the language. It is a lie, which needs to be nailed. If anything, the linguistic fanatics who used language as a political weapon are the very people who debased it. For example, the many Dravidian parties — DK, DMK, AIADMK et al — have been a curse and a disaster for Tamil.

Excepting Tamil Nadu chief minister Karunanidhi, who is an acknowledged litterateur in his own right, all the others have tried to choke the language with mindless linguistic antiquarianism. They tried to purge the language of Sanskrit words. It is the kind of a blinkered movement witnessed in the English language, when some poets and writers wanted to write in English which did not have any Latin words and who tried to revive the long-dead Anglo-Saxon words and phrases. The other example of fanatics wanting to misappropriate a language is that of the Shiv Sena. Cultivated as well as simple Marathi speakers will not endorse the language used in the Sena mouthpiece, Saamna. Thankfully, creative writers in Marathi have been much too distinct and powerful to fall in line with the crass quality of the Marathi used by the political vendors. Compare this with the Dalit literature in Marathi. They minted the language afresh in the foundry of protest and creativity.

Politicians pretend to be lovers of their respective languages but their inarticulateness in it is embarrassing and depressing. It is no wonder then that Indian languages flourished without political patronage. Marathi again provides a good example. The foundations of Marathi language starting with the wondrous writings of Jnaneshwari in the 12th century was laid hundreds of years before Marathas became politically dominant during the 17th and 18th centuries marked by the rise of Shivaji followed by the rule of the Peshwas.

Similarly, the variants of Hindi in northern India were nourished by Kabir, Surdas, Tulsi and Mira and other saint-poets, far away from the Turkish courts and the official Persian used there.India provides the classic example of a country where languages endorsed by political masters could not outlast languages of the people. Roughly, there have been three influential, dominant languages in India's history — Sanskrit, Persian and English corresponding to the so-called ancient, medieval and modern periods in the country.

While Sanskrit has almost become a comatose language in the last 200 years, it has managed to impact and influence other languages over the last two thousand years. To a lesser extent, Persian too has percolated most of the languages in the country though this has not been documented in detail. The same is true of English. At the present moment, it is the media including cinema, and not the politicians, who are keeping the languages alive in the face of globalisation. The TV entertainment channels in each language go to show that English is indeed the marginalised language.

It is then worth asking the question as to whether the linguistic re-organisation of states in the 1950s was such a great idea. Of course, cosmopolitan Nehru opposed it but for the wrong reasons. He thought that this would weaken the pan-Indian identity. Gandhi who had an ear to the ground most of the time thought that use of peoples' language was one way of empowering the weak, the poor and the majority politically. He should not have worried. People negotiate political power not necessarily through language alone. Indians, including Gandhi, fought and edged out the British through the English language. Politics is not needed to boost language. Politicians can only muddy the waters.






Government of India has been sanguine in the knowledge so far that the number of people in India who live below the poverty line has been dropping. The current accepted number is at about 27 per cent of the population, down from the earlier accepted figure of 30 per cent. Both the figure and the methodology have been cause of debate and confusion, with the inherent question of where to draw the poverty line remaining half-answered. Was it income, the dollar-a-day principle or calorific value of food intake? But now the Suresh Tendulkar committee has come up with a new and perhaps more understandable method by which to measure poverty.

Taking a comprehensive look at consumption and spending patterns, the committee has found that 41 per cent of people in rural areas and 27 per cent in urban areas live below the poverty line. Together, these push the figure up by 10 crore people to 37 per cent overall. This may not make the government happy, but that is hardly the point. It provides a realistic look at the condition of the people which is the only way that any alleviation is possible.

Interestingly, the committee has revised the monthly income figure from Rs356 per person per month to Rs446 in rural areas and yet has found that the poverty figures have grown.

In urban areas, the figure is at Rs578 per person per month. Both these are dismal figures and it is staggering that over a third of the country's population has so little recourse to our apparently vast resources and our burgeoning arc of progress. Indeed, if current inflation rates are taken into account — where the staple pulse tur/arhar dal sells for Rs 100 a kg — then we are looking at malnutrition of staggering proportions.

It is vital that these millions of people do not get left behind in our journey towards becoming a superpower: in another sense, we cannot become a superpower unless we improve their lives.

Of course, in that light, whether the figure stands at 30 per cent or 40 per cent, it is equally horrific. And none of this is a surprise. Even if we choose not to use empirical evidence and look around us for proof of poverty, we know that we fail on every major human development indicator. Our malnutrition, infant and childbirth morbidity rates are abysmally low — at par with the worst in the world. The Tendulkar committee puts it all in stark perspective once more.






Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati has always played the political game with a certain ruthlessness. The announcement she made on Friday agreeing to the formation of the separate states of Bundelkhand and Harit Pradesh to be carved out of India's largest state Uttar Pradesh, followed by the offer for the creation of Poorvanchal by the additional chief secretary in the state government on Sunday, is just a quick move to stump her main rival, the Congress party. If pressed to explain, one of her aides - she does not waste much time in thinking out ideas - may argue for the virtues of smaller states. But she is not bothered. She is focused on the power stakes. The cavalier declaration about splitting the state is to be seen as a tactical move rather than an expression of principled intent.

There is not much disagreement about the need to slice backward and troublesome UP into governable slices. Mayawati herself admitted that the state is too big to administer. It is not hard to guess that she has others things on her mind. She is thinking a few steps ahead of the Congress, which wants to use the credible image of party general secretary and the Nehru-Gandhi scion, Rahul, to put the party in the saddle of power once again.

Congress has not been in power in the state for more than a decade.

During the 2007 state assembly election, Congress leader and minister Kapil Sibal had described it as the 14 years of exile for the Congress, trying to give it the Ramayana resonance where Lord Ram is away from Ayodhya for the same period. The Congress did not make much headway then. It has performed creditably well in this summer's Lok Sabha election. This has given hope to the Congress leaders in the state of recapturing power in Lucknow.

By asking for the splitting of the state, Mayawati is daring the Congress, which is heading the coalition government at the Centre. It is difficult for anyone to envisage the political fallout of Harit Pradesh, Bundelkhand and Poorvanchal. It is sure to throw up new power and caste equations which dumb-witted and slow-footed Congress can never hope to master. Will Mayawati stand to gain from this? She may not whatever the caste arithmetic she may work out. That does not deter her because she feels that what is crucial is an aggressive approach more than anything else. She understands the advantages of mind games.









Gopal Krishna Gandhi, who demited office as the Governor of West Bengal on Monday, has set a new benchmark for people holding constitutional posts. At a time when politicians are normally loath to give up trappings of power and some governors continue to accept the hospitality of Raj Bhavan even after their terms have ended, Gopal Gandhi has set an example. Not only did he refuse to accept an extension but he also chose to leave Raj Bhavan the same day he demited office. He has truly been an extraordinary governor at the helm of West Bengal during a particularly turbulent and bloody period, when he was often the only source of light and sanity in the state racked by political violence.


He did not wear his lineage on the sleeve. A grandson of not one but two great men of our times, Mahatma Gandhi and Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, the latter being the first Indian Governor of West Bengal in 1947, Gopal Gandhi forbade his aides from even mentioning his paternal and maternal grandfathers. A career bureaucrat, who took voluntary retirement from the Indian Administrative Service in 1992, he later served as the first Director of the Nehru Centre in London and as India's High Commissioner in South Africa and Sri Lanka before being appointed the Ambassador to Norway. Even as a bureaucrat, he served two Presidents, R. Venkataraman and K.R. Narayanan, at Rashtrapati Bhavan and was Secretary to the Governor of Tamil Nadu earlier in his career. A self-effacing man of letters, who has written a novel and a play, besides translating into Hindi Vikram Seth's "A Suitable Boy", Gopal Gandhi would gently remind visitors that he was neither a novelist nor a playwright because writing "one novel or a play makes you neither".


He will be remembered for the dignity he brought to his office, for reaching out to ordinary citizens and for speaking out against the state government more than once for its omissions and commissions. Austere and spartan, Gopal Gandhi voluntarily opted for a power-cut in Raj Bhavan when the state reeled from a power shortage. Invariably polite but never one to mince his words, his timely parting message reminds feuding politicians that the choice is not between "the wrong-doing of one and the counter wrong-doing of another" but between "chaos and civility, between disorder and decorum". Hopefully, they will take his words seriously.








The National Human Rights Commission's report that Uttar Pradesh has recorded maximum custodial deaths in 2009 is cause for serious concern. This also shows the state police and jail authorities in poor light. According to the NHRC figures, 232 people have died in the state's police stations in 2009 alone. Equally alarming is the fact that as many as 1180 people died in custody in Uttar Pradesh in the last four years. Maharashtra comes next with 1184 cases. The situation in Punjab is no better. According to the figures supplied by the Punjab government in an affidavit before the Supreme Court Bench consisting of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, and Justice P. Sathasivam, custodial deaths rose from two in 2004 to a whopping 80 in 2006 and 63 in 2007. Surprisingly, Jammu and Kashmir, often criticised for its poor human rights violations record, has reported only three custodial deaths in 2009. Even during 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09, Jammu and Kashmir recorded only one, eight and one deaths in custody.


The increasing number of custodial deaths proves that the state governments are not enforcing the directives of the Supreme Court and the NHRC properly. Part of the problem is the refusal of the police to shed its colonial mindset. Most policemen behave like beats in khaki and adopt questionable methods — often crude and obsolete — during interrogation. The victims usually hail from backward sections most of whom with little or no means to seek legal help. While some succumb to pain, others carry the scars throughout their life.


Though the Supreme Court has issued clear-cut directions and guidelines, the police use cruel ways to snuff out life of an accused. One way of checking custodial deaths is to sensitise the policemen on human rights through suitable training and orientation. The cops found guilty of torturing the accused need to be given stiff punishment including dismissal from service. No leniency should be shown towards policemen who refuse to respect the human rights of the prisoners, including undertrials.








It is every citizen's right to get documents like the ration card and the driving licence within a reasonable time frame. But all these years, these "luxuries" have been doled out as a favour by the so-called public servants, who are actually masters of the public. Those with influence may be able to get these in a jiffy even if they do not qualify for such certificates. But as far as the man on the street is concerned, he considers himself lucky if he can get these at all without greasing palms. This sorry state of affairs can change if a new scheme being launched by the PMO next year fructifies in the right spirit. Under it, penalties will be deducted from the salaries of dealing officials if there are delays in providing citizens services like ration cards, voter identity cards and driving licences.


The scheme will bind government departments to time commitments for the services they seek to provide. It will initially be launched in April 2010 in Delhi and then extended to union territories. Here is hoping that the states will also take up the initiative whole-heartedly because many of the services fall under their area of responsibility.


A novel feature is that to make sure that the blame is not put on the applicant, the onus to help him complete and submit the form will also fall on the officials of the department concerned. To ensure that the officials do not delay the submission of forms unnecessarily, officials accepting the forms would be separate from those who will deal with the case. Since the whole procedure will be monitored electronically, an amount will be automatically deducted from the salary of the official responsible as penalty. The public will be able to benefit fully only if forms are made user-friendly and needless documentation is done away with. Essentially, the babus will have to look at their work from the citizens' point of view.









The Telangana crisis reveals the panicky nature of the late night decision of the central Congress leadership to begin the process of granting a separate state and the inevitable repercussions of the move on state parties and politicians and on other demands for carving out new states. The Congress leadership's mind was so concentrated on averting a tragedy — doctors were warning that the fast of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TSR) leader, Mr K. Chandrashekhar Rao, had left him in a critical condition — that it took even its own supporters by surprise.


Has the wheel then turned full circle? It was the movement of Telugu-speaking people for a state to be carved out of Madras that led to the creation of the States' Reorganisation Commission and to Andhra's formation. The erstwhile Hyderabad state of the Nizam was later added to Andhra state in 1959, contrary to the recommendation of the States' Reorganisation Commission. The fast led to a dramatically changed situation because the TSR did rather poorly in the last election.


The crisis could not have come at a worse time because the Congress-ruled state had been undergoing turmoil after the untimely death of Y.S. Rajashekhara Reddy, with his son's supporters making a peremptory demand for the chief ministership on the hereditary principle. The Congress leadership expended much energy on pacifying Mr Reddy Junior and the senior-most minister, Mr K. Rosaiah, was anointed in office.


Perhaps the timing of Mr Chandrashekhar Rao's move to begin his fast for Telangana was determined by the turmoil in the Congress party after the sure-footed touch of Chandrashekhara Reddy was gone. Mr Rosaiah had barely managed to retain his office and the ranks of the late chief minister's son remained restive. There was thus a leadership vacuum and the Congress leadership was left without shrewd local advice on how to handle the situation.


The Congress has since then been engaged in a damage-limitation exercise, with its man for all seasons, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, rejecting calls for carving out Gorkhaland and other new smaller states. Second, the process of forming Telangana will be a slow deliberative process. Initially, the Congress leadership is fighting shy of accepting the logic of a second states' reorganisation commission that could frame rational guidelines for carving out new entities.


The UP Chief Minister, Ms Mayawati, has added her own twist by seeking the trifurcation of her state. And the redoubtable former Bharatiya Janata Party leader and member of Parliament, Mr Jaswant Singh, has found a new cause in promoting Gorkhaland to repay the votes the Gorkhaland constituency of Darjeeling gave him for his unlikely win in the state of West Bengal. Ironically, Ms Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress, set on her one-point programme of unseating the state Marxist-led government, has found common cause with her adversary in rejecting Gorkhaland.


Despite Jawaharlal Nehru's opposition, the pull of linguistic states proved too powerful for him to resist. The unity of the country has to be balanced with people's linguistic aspirations, which can take such entities into excessive forms of local patriotism. But even with the forms the Shiv Sena and its splinter organisation have taken in Maharashtra, Nehru's fears have largely proved unfounded.


In rational terms, the Telangana demand and other agitations for smaller entities pose two kinds of problems. How often must India change its state boundaries to satisfy local aspirations? Second, will a second round of carving out smaller states help in better governance and poverty alleviation? While a new commission of eminent experts and public men can go into these questions, a few answers are self-evident.


For one thing, the state of Uttar Pradesh is too big to be governed effectively and its size and the seats allotted to it in the key lower House distort the country's political profile. While Ms Mayawati might have her own political calculations to propose the trifurcation of the state, any commission studying the issue afresh must grasp the opportunity with both hands.


The reverse of the coin is the cost involved because each new state means a whole new set of chief ministers, legislatures, Raj Bhawans and other accoutrements of power and pelf in a country that has more than its share of protocol expenses. But in the ultimate analysis, these costs must be balanced with the benefits of greater local initiative, particularly in programmes that serve the poor.


A state is a living organism as much as languages are and just as English language dictionaries are regularly revised to take in new words and expressions, state borders can be altered for rational, and sometimes sentimental, reasons. The sooner the central Congress leadership reconciles itself to the need for a new states' reorganisation commission, instead of putting Telangana on the slow track and dismissing other demands until they become too insistent, the better it will be for the party and the country.


Critics have decried the use of fasts, hallowed by the Mahatma, to achieve political ends once India achieved Independence. But the fast as a weapon remains in the political armoury to press individual and collective causes. It is up to the country's leadership to remain sensitive to people's grievances to prevent fasts escalating into tragedies.


However slow the transition to a Telangana state might be, Mr Chandrashekhar Rao has become a hero to his people because his fast was the trigger to the initiation of the process. Whether Hyderabad remains the exclusive preserve of a future Telangana state or not, he can be reasonably confident that he will occupy a pre-eminent position as and when the new entity is formed. He has plucked victory out of his defeat in the last election.


Other parties, including the Congress and the Telugu Desam, are now having to make adjustments to the new reality. Other areas, particularly coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, are angry and politicians are now having to balance the benefits of endorsing Telangana with its adverse consequences in the rest of Andhra. Mr Chandrashekhar Rao will probably have the last laugh.








A hungry man is an angry man and an angry man is a savage. Josephine Licciardello warns us saying, "Anger is just one letter away from danger!" Anger is an emotional state from minor irritation to intense rage making one to punish oneself with other people's mistakes. It is a part of fight or flight response to certain real or perceived threats.


Phil Barker describes anger as a natural and potentially productive emotion. It can serve positive functions when expressed properly. A certain amount of anger is in fact necessary as it allows us to defend ourselves and can be useful in expressing how we feel to others. Expressing anger makes one feel more powerful than the other. At times it can even help to solve a problem. But venting anger does not always work.


Anger can be suppressed by focusing it on something else. Well-wishers often advise us to count ten before saying or doing anything. It has been rightly said, "Never reply a letter when you are angry!" If you are prone to violence then walk away from the provocation before pressure builds up.


You can calm down by taking a deep breath and relaxing. You may not get what you want at all, and yet in remaining calm, you may discover something else that you need even more than what you thought you wanted.


People who become social doormats do not admit feeling hurt about anything, but usually have resentment underneath their calm appearance. Whining, as said by Al Franken, is anger through a small opening. Apathy is a veiled form of anger with deep sorrow for all humanity. People get angry when their expectations are not met.


Personal biases and emotions take over leading to aggression. Anger is the wish for harm to come upon someone that one believes has injured one. Often an angry person hurts innocent persons by manipulating circumstances.


Remember that when the boss slams his fist on the table and yells, "I'm the BOSS!" — he no longer is! Anger takes him off his rockers, thereby sending him up the air to hit the ceiling! He starts going bananas and beats his breast in anger, crying out aloud. This makes him lose his cool, his blood begins to boil and most likely he would have burst a blood vessel by looking daggers at someone! Nevertheless the best form of revenge is to forgive and never allow the sun to go down on your anger so that you can balance your stress.


Angry people commit many mistakes in life. But mistakes that lighten your mood can be real fun. For example, a furious teacher says, "Write down your name and father of your name!" Yet another one shouts, "Why are you looking at the monkeys outside when I am in the class?"


May God increase such angry people's tribe! After all, like laughter, anger is also nature's gift to us!








US President and Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama was acutely aware of the apparent inappropriateness of his receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace even as he was inducting an additional 30,000 troops into the Af-Pak theatre of war.


In his Prize acceptance speech, he said, "I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict – filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other".


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


He had always acknowledged his admiration for Gandhi and Martin Luther King. He said: "I am a living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak, nothing passive, nothing naïve in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King".


He then proceeded to outline his point of departure. He said: "But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake, evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda leaders to lay down their arms. To say force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason".


Obama obviously is not aware, when subjected to the same dilemma Gandhi in 1947 advised to the Government of India the same course of action that he had chosen It is a supreme irony of history that Obama has to face the choice of war and peace in the same Af-Pak region and the causation of the dilemma for both Gandhi and Obama is the same mindset which uses terrorism as an instrument of policy .


Obama can rest assured that if Gandhiji had been alive he would have his blessings as Brigadier Sen had, as he left to command the Indian force trying to save Kashmir valley from the terrorists from the same FATA region, at that time led by 'General' Akbar Khan of the Pakistani Army.


Pyarelal, Gandhiji's private secretary, has vividly described Gandhiji's attitude towards the use of force by India against the tribal raiders from the same FATA region. In his book "Mahatma Gandhi, The Last Phase" he records that when the Kashmir invasion by the tribesmen was at its height and the invading army composed of Afridis and the like, ably officered, was advancing on Srinagar, burning and looting villages all along the route, Gandhiji remarked in one of his prayer addresses, "It was difficult to believe that this intrusion could take place without some kind of encouragement from the Pakistan Government"


He could not escape the conclusion, he said, that the Pakistan Government was directly or indirectly encouraging the raid. The Chief Minister of the Frontier Province was reported to have openly encouraged the raid and had even appealed to the Islamic world for help. It was therefore right for the Union Government to save the fair city by rushing troops to Srinagar. He would not shed a tear if the little Indian force was wiped out bravely defending Kashmir like the Spartans at Thermopylae nor would he mind if Sheikh Abdullah and his Muslim, Hindu and Sikh comrades died at their post in defence of Kashmir. That would be a glorious example to the rest of India. It would make the people of India forget that the Hindus, the Muslims and the Sikhs were ever one another's enemies.


Some people were shocked by Gandhiji expressing his appreciation of the Indian Government's action in sending troops in defence of Kashmir. His exhortation to the defenders to be wiped out to the last man in clearing Kashmir soil of the raiders rather than submit was even dubbed churchillian".


When General Cariappa asked Gandhiji to tell him how he could teach his soldiers the spirit of non-violence without endangering their sense of duty to train themselves professionally as soldiers Gandhiji replied that he was still groping in the dark for an answer and he would find it and give it to him someday. That day never came since the Mahatma was assassinated next month.


Gandhiji and Martin Luther King were leaders who changed the status quo and in their offensive operations to change the status quo they very effectively used non-violence. So far the world has not seen non-violence used to preserve the status quo against an adversary who is on the offensive to change the status quo according to his values...Therefore, non-violence is not effective against Hitlers, Stalins, Maos and bin Ladens and their patrons. In such circumstances a just war becomes inescapable.


There is a continuity from Operation Gulmarg of Akbar Khan in 1947 through Operation Gibraltar of 1965 to the terrorism perpetrated by the associates of al Qaeda in Kashmir from 1989 onwards, the Kargil infiltration, 9/11 and subsequent threats posed by al Qaeda and its associates to various democratic, pluralistic and secular societies.


The origin of this threat is the mindset associated with the belief in holy war and in the manifest destiny of one's faith to prevail over others.


Obama pointed out in his speech that no holy war can be a just war and elaborated "For if you truly believe that you are carrying out the divine will, then there is no need for restraint – no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic or even a person of one's own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace but the purpose of faith – for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us".


But the US initiated, sponsored and sustained a holy war (in the words of author John Cooley, an unholy war) from 1979, triggering the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan followed by nine years of unrestrained carnage in that country.


Those who enthusiastically participated in that holy war are today accusing the US of having deserted them and in contradiction to the values expressed by Obama, the US administration feels defensive about having discontinued its association with the warriors of the "holy war" of the eighties during the period 1990-2001.


If, according to Obama, holy wars are not just wars then the war in Afghanistan in the eighties, which was a war of choice for the US, cannot be a just war. It was a costly cold war aberration like the support to dictatorships during that period. The present war is a just war, which in all likelihood would have earned Gandhi's approval.








Recently, the London-based Legatum Institute's Prosperity Index placed India well ahead of China. In domestic institutional maturity, India was ranked 36th to China's 100th. And then in the social capital sub-index India was ranked 5th and China, 70th.


Thus, India was supposed to have beaten China. But could it be true? I had doubts. Today's report – 'US cos prefer China for investment' seems to give the correct picture.


The 2009 China Business Report released by the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai shows that 'a large majority of American firms operating in China the continue to see revenue and profit growth even as elsewhere they face downturn.' China is the world's 'fastest growing economy.' Not surprising. May I share a personal experience?


Last summer, I had taken the Alaskan cruise. On board the 'Radiance of the Seas.' It is a big ship with excellent facilities. In the midst of an unfamiliar luxury, what struck the patriotic cord was the fact that almost everything one saw on board the American ship was 'made in China'.


In the cabin, the toiletries, towels, linen and water flasks were from China. In the dining hall, the crockery and cutlery carried the Chinese label. The position persisted in the shopping area. Even a small battery 'charger' needed to energise the camera, though labelled 'Kodak,' had actually come from China. It seemed that the ship was flooded with Chinese goods.


After about 36 hours of leaving Vancouver, we had anchored at Ketchikan. It is a small but beautiful town in the state of Alaska. It is popularly known as the 'salmon' city. Has a total population of about 13,000. There are shops within almost a hundred yards of the port. One may walk into any shop. Each one is stuffed with all kinds of winter wear and small souvenirs. The caps, shirts, sweaters, chinaware and knives. Everything except the knives, which are a purely local product, was from China.


During the week, I had visited a number of shops in different cities. After repeated queries, it was only in one shop that the salesman was able to locate just one T-shirt with the label – 'made in India.' I tried to tell him that India grows good cotton and makes good items of apparel like shirts, T-shirts and hosiery etc. But the polite response was - 'Most of the things here are from China. Very good finish. Above all, moderately priced. These are not expensive.' And this was not confined to clothes. Whatever one looked at, the chinaware or children's toys or even the electronic gadgets, all had the Chinese label.


In one of the shops, there were some good-looking leather products. In almost all sizes. I looked at the shelves with an expectant optimism. I saw a small bag. Indeed small. But on checking I found that it had lot of space. For everything - like the passport, credit and visiting cards, cash, pen, spectacles, travel tickets and on the outer side for the boarding pass etc. It seemed handy. It was well made. But inevitably this too was from China. Not from India.


The position was not peculiar to the ports that I touched during the cruise. Or to some places in America. It was the same in Canada. Be it Vancouver or Toronto. The airport or the town. In fact, there is a 'China town' in Vancouver. This 'town' has shops, eateries and even a park named after Dr. Sun Yat - Sen. Actually, it appears that China has invaded every nook and corner of America and Canada with its cuisine and products. There were glimpses of China all over.


At the end, I felt convinced that we, in India, only brag. We boast of our art and artisans. We talk of the wonderful native workmanship. We claim that there is growth and rise in exports. Actually, it is difficult to find an item from India in the world's shops. Be it the airport or the city, it is the same story. An Indian product is a rare sight. It arouses a suspicion that we actually fiddle with the figures and make unfounded claims.


Why can we not be really enterprising? Or make things which would find space in the show windows of the world? Why do we lag behind China or other countries of the world? What do we lack? Do we not have the manpower and the materials? Or do we not have the will to do well, excel and take pride in producing quality goods? Worse still is the fact that no one seems to feel concerned or embarrassed. It does not seem to hurt our sense of national pride. There is a total indifference that defies all logic.


Today, I feel sure that China easily outperforms India. It is well ahead of India in industrial output and exports. Also 'in health, education, general safety sub-indices.' And then, what can 'domestic institutional maturity' or 'the social capital sub-index' mean to any Indian living on an empty stomach?


Why do we lag behind? Because, we are not honest and hard working. We are inefficient and indisciplined. And if our 'governance' and 'social capital' were actually good, we shall not be undoing what Patel had done. We shall not be burning buses or trying to divide the country on petty parochial considerations. We shall not be saying 'no Bihari in Bombay' or talking of 'Maharashtra for Marathi Manoos only.' Actually, we are opportunists. We have a long way to go. We have to fight greed. Eradicate illiteracy, indiscipline and poverty.


Till we do that, China would probably continue to grow economically. But we shall only multiply numerically.








It was the birthday time in Parliament last week with members busy holding out flowers for the ones they wanted to wish well. On top of the priority list of Congressmen was UPA chief Sonia Gandhi, who turned 64 last Wednesday.

Despite the Telangana sword hanging on her head, the Congress president managed to accept floral greetings from most party men who had queued up in the galleries to wish her.


Soon after Sonia had her day, it was Congress crisis manager Pranab Mukherjee's chance to get into her shoes. On December 11, his birthday, he turned up in the Lok Sabha Nehru-style, sporting a red rose on his coat and smiling uninhibitedly.


A day before that, Trinamool Congress' chief whip in the House Sudip Bandopadhyay celebrated his birth day, which incidentally coincided with the World Human Rights Day on December 10.


Last but not the least was BJP MP Shahnawaz Hussain, who also managed good attention on December 12, which saw hoardings all across the town, wishing him a very happy birthday!


A Rahul admirer


Rahul Gandhi naturally has a large fan following among his party MPs, specially the young ones. So it is no surprise to see them crowd around him in the Lok Sabha and try to chat with him every now and then.


The other day when Trinamool MPs, egged on openly and defiantly by Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, were disrupting the House proceedings to take up some Bengal issue as they do each day, an unconcerned Rahul Gandhi sat in his far corner, swarmed by Congress MPs, unmindful of Mamata's angry outbursts.


And lo and behold who joined the Rahul star struck gang? None other than India's former Union Minister of State for Home and L.K. Advani's trusted lieutenant, Harin Pathak.


In the last elections Advani had a hard time forcing Narendra Modi to allow Harin Pathak to contest from Ahmedabad. And now with the RSS preparing to send Advani on a sabbatical, wonder whether Harin Pathak is looking across the BJP fence!


Legal luminaries fight it out in RS


It was a lively debate among top legal luminaries in the Rajya Sabha last week when it discussed the Liberhan Commission report on the demolition of Babri Masjid.


The Congress fielded party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi while the BJP used Arun Jaitley, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House, as its main weapon to tear apart the findings of the commission.


Another legal expert, Kapil Sibal, the suave HRD Minister, intervened during the debate while Home Minister P. Chidambaram replied to the debate.


And Chidambaram pointed this out in his speech in the House. The debate provided members of the legal fraternity an opportunity to test their skills in Parliament, he remarked as he sought to demolish each and every argument made by Jaitley, virtually turning the House into a courtroom.


Contributed by Aditi Tandon, Faraz Ahmad and Ashok Tuteja








The Central government's hasty decision to create a separate State of Telangana by bifurcating Andhra Pradesh has opened the Pandora's box of dormant statehood demands in various parts of the country. From the country's heartland of Uttar Pradesh to the hills of Darjeeling and to the hills and dales of Brahmaputra valley in Assam, statehood demands of various ethnic groups which were in suspended animation have suddenly received a new lease of life.The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's decision has already been greeted by separate State demands for creation of Gorkhaland in Darjeeling ,Purvanchal in Uttar Pradesh andBodoland, Kamatapur and Dimaraji in Assam.Bandh calls in support of statehood have already been called in Bodo inhabited areas of Lower Assam and in the hills of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills.Delegations of Statehood protagonists have already left for Delhi to put pressure on a beleaguered Congress leadership who have been caught on the wrong foot by the turn of events. That the Congress High Command was completely out of touch with the ground realities in Andhra Pradesh has been vindicated by the division among the Congress MLAs , MPs, Ministers and the party rank and file over the creation of Telangana in Andhra Pradesh. The backlash in Andhra and the revival of the other statehood demands should serve as a lesson for the Congress High Command to tackle such sensitive issues with more care and deliberations.

For a sensitive and problem-ridden State like Assam, the Centre's decision on Telangana could not have come at a more inopportune time. At a time when the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government in the State was savouring the success of nabbing a number of top leaders of the United Liberation Front of Asom(ULFA), including its chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa,and even as the leaders of the ultra groups of the State based in Bangladesh were on the run, the Telangana decision of the Centre has come as a bolt from the blue.Ironically for Gogoi, even his coalition partner in the government, the Bodoland People's Front (BPF) has thrown in the gauntlet by demanding separate Bodoland inside the State Assembly.Protagonists of the old demand for creation of a separate Dimaraji State in North Cachar Hills and an Autonomous State under Article 22(A) in Karbi Anglong have also thrown in their hats alongwith the Koch Rajbongshis for Kamatapur. Though Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has firmly ruled out any further division of Assam appealing to all sections of people to live within the State, the old fissures which had been put on the backburner during the last few years in lieu of greater local autonomy have overnight come home to roost.Senior Congress leader and Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee from West Bengal responding to the Gorkhaland demand in the Darjeeling Hills has ruled out the creation of any other state in the country.The Congress which is hoping to oust the ruling CPI-M in the next Assembly elections in the State has suddenly been placed in a Catch-22 situation .Notwithstanding the announcement of the Union Finance Minister , the volatile situation in Assam which had attained a semblance of peace in recent days is likely to be vitiated in coming days as statehood protagonists unleash another round of agitations . For the different ultra groups which have been on the defensive in recent times, the statehood stir would come as a shot in their arm.






This tiger is not burning too bright though metaphorically it is deep within the bleak forest of the night! As Alice would have put it, the case of golfing legend Tiger Woods is getting curiouser and curiouser. At the very beginning it had seemed to be nothing more than a car accident, with the details spiced up by the heroic saga of a spouse rescuing the trapped golfer by smashing the car window with a golf-club. But very soon, as questions about the incident began to be asked, the worms began to squirm out of the woodwork. Apparently, the November 27th accident had occurred due to the frantic endeavour of Woods to escape an infuriated wife who, as reports would have it, might have otherwise used him for a golf-ball after learning of his infidelity! Since then Woods has confessed to having affairs with other women and, as is the norm, been apologetic about his indiscretions. Also, true to such tales, his wife Elin has been very understanding and supportive never mind the fact that each day brings fresh news of some woman or the other claiming to have had a fling with the golfer. In fact, if reports in the gutter press were to be believed, the current tally of his conquests would make this tiger the Casanova of his generation apart from being the greatest golfer of the same!

Given the permissive nature of Western society, some might find it difficult to comprehend what the hoo ha is all about. It needs to be pointed out that there is a puritanical streak in the collective American conscience which comes into play the minute "indiscretions" by celebrities are uncovered. It is a different scenario altogether in Europe, which explains why the Italian Prime Minister is still at his job despite his all too many affairs. But in the US the puritanical streak enables society to adopt a holier than thou attitude even as it empowers the gutter press to make mincemeat out of 'stars.' Woods is not the first celebrity to have fallen a victim to this typical American syndrome nor will be the last. His 'clean' image having been irrevocably shattered, he has quite understandably decided to take an indefinite break from golf while trying to thrash out his domestic problems. In every sense this tiger's tale is in the nature of a tragedy, for what should have been a private affair has been converted into a matter of global concern. Apart from Woods and his family, another victim has been the golf, confronted as it has been with the spectre of losing its greatest star and the sponsorship potentials his presence on the greens entails. In the context of the crass commercialism that has gripped the sporting world it is moot which would be deemed the greater tragedy!







That the situation in Manipur is tense should not take any knowledgeable person by surprise because the militant violence almost everywhere in the State is continuing as always. There are a little over a dozen insurgent groups in the State; and, alarmingly, all are actively involved in terrorising the people through unlawful activities such as abductions, extortions, forceful collection of goonda taxes, besides heinous crime like killings. Considering the downswing in their hair-raising activities we noticed for the past couple of months, the most elusive-peace would revert to the violence-weary State sooner than later, that was crucial to the resumption of the normal life by the affected people. But, the situation has once again turned worse due to a sudden upswing in militant violence over the past few weeks. Incidents of lobbing of bombs or grenades targeting the residences of high-ranking government officials or high-profile businessmen and kidnappings besides killings that have spread fear and anxiety among the people, therefore, have once again become a routine affair. The recent abduction of two engineers from the State power department who have not yet been traced, till writing this piece, and the frequent extortion notice served by the militant groups to even the doctors and nurses of JN Hospital in Imphal, are themselves a pointer to the extent to which they have regrouped their cadres and to which extent the situation has worsened.

Should we do a careful perusal of world history of revolutions, it is understandable that wherever the liberation movement was launched using peaceful methods and without perpetrating any atrocities on the people of their own, it was successful. One among several reasons for the success of the Haganah-led historic freedom movement, it may be recalled, in Palestine was the spontaneous support it had received all along in their struggle with the Arabs. But, here in Manipur, as in other States in the Northeast, the story of the insurgency movement for a sovereign State of Manipur, surprisingly, differs from that of a national movement from ideological point of view. Though some of the home-grown insurgent groups are launching the movement following some principles and ideologies, there are many others in the State who are like ragtag bands of rebels rather than nationalists because they lack in them an ideology to win public support and the urge of coming together under one umbrella for a peaceful movement for a common cause of sovereignty or autonomy whatsoever.

But, they are involved in all acts of violence. If they continue to indulge in illegal activities such as abduction of innocent people, extortion and, above all, killings, they will only infuriate them, as they have done already, and, in the absence of their support, they will hardly be able to succeed in their struggle for an independent Manipur. Devoid of any laudable ideology worth noting, and an able leadership, they are continuing with their one-point agenda of terrorising the people, irrespective of possible negative implications on society, and their goal of a separate or sovereign States out of the country. It is because of this reason that many people in the State including noted human rights activist Khaidem Mani, have termed their movement as a "goonda movement" rather than "liberation movement".

That these groups believe more in turning their guns on the civilians than launching campaign against the authorities is amply clear from the incidents of violence of the recent times. A report says that the number of civilians killed in the last eleven years due to militant-related violence in the State is much higher than that of militants or security personnel killed. It also says that since 1998 till September this year, close to 3,123 persons were killed in Manipur, and, of them, 1,325 were civilians, many of whom died in extremist violence.

Manipur's economy was never viable or resilient. It always was in a State like taking one step forward and two steps back. Even though a majority of the population in the State largely hinge on agriculture for their livelihood, it is confined to a mere 10.48 per cent of its total geographical area being 22,327 Introduction of HYV seeds during the post-Green Revolution phase has no doubt contributed to boosting its output. Even then, the State is far from self-sufficient in foodgrains. The State always makes up for the shortfall in foodgrain production through import from mainland India and even from Myanmar too. For Manipur, one of the worst fiscal years in the post-Look East Policy – initiation phase of 2002-03 when its foodgrain shortage was a staggering 30 per cent. Though its set target of total foodgrain production in 2005 was 571.5 metric tonnes, but it managed a meagre 426.85 mts.

The system of irrigation is, so to say, almost non-existent, stymying the process of multiple and inter-cropping in Manipur. Another aspect of the problem in the agrarian sector is that farmers are involved in debts. As a result, investment in land is negligible. All this has created a major hurdle in the development of the primary sector. The industrial scenario is also far from rewarding. To be upfront, it is nowhere on the industrial map of India. By contrast, pervasive presence of products from mainstream Indian industries, and, of the goods raging from clothing to electronic items from countries like China, Taiwan, Thailand etc, has largely crippled the State's fledging small-scale industrial units.

At a time Manipur is in urgent need of an early return of a congenial atmosphere for speedy development initiatives, unabated militant violence has only aggravated both the economic and security situation. In 1980 when the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958, was imposed in Manipur intended to contain the blood-letting by the militants, it was thought that if the legislation is put to proper use, it might decline to a large measure. But, experience says that the decision to promulgate the Act in Manipur was far from well-considered. Failing to keep the militants at bay, the security forces in disturbed areas did torture innocent civilians during the periodic counter-insurgency operations over the years by misusing its controversial provisions. This action is no less responsible for the volatility of the situation. There are many allegations on record of their implication in excesses and atrocities committed on civilians resulting in deaths of a number of them. The latest in the series was the July 23 alleged fake encounter in Imphal in which a former insurgent Sanjit and a pregnant housewife Rabina were killed by police commandos besides injuring five others. Of late, they even allegedly threatened to kill two local scribes at Khwairamband bazar in the town.

From the chain of unsavoury developments, one thing is clear as daylight that the security situation in Manipur today is not at all satisfactory and that it may worsen in the days ahead if the State actors continue to ignore it and do not keep a vigil eye on the activities of some law-enforcing agencies and the home-grown insurgent groups. It is indeed a matter of grave concern that despite the ruling Secular Progressive Front (SPF) government under Ibobi Singh having been in power in the State for two successive terms, it has not been able to introduce an effective, workable regime of policing in the past few years to bring about a minimum resemblance of normalcy in Manipur, and, in absence of it, the government has almost lost control over the situation. That is borne out by the fact that it is yet to show its firmness to open schools that have been closed for three months following the class boycott campaign by three students' organisations demanding nabbing those who were involved in the July 23 fake encounter at Imphal.

Whatever it might be, the fact of the matter is that the situation in Manipur is explosive. Therefore, the Government should do something positive at the earliest before it reaches a point of no return.








In India, tens of thousands of deprived men and women are trapped in jails often for many years, without trial or conviction. These under-trial prisoners constitute as many as two-thirds of the country's overcrowded jail populations. Most of these unfortunate incarcerated men and women are very poor, and from socially disadvantaged groups. It is by no means a fact that most crimes in India are committed by very poor people. It is just that these dispensable and forgotten people are too powerless to free themselves from the vice-like grip of the law : they lack the money, education and political clout to walk free. They cannot muster the resources to afford bail and lawyers, and overburdened courts do not find the time to try them.

An individual who is charged with grave offences is arrested, and a magistrate has the discretion to either release him/her on bail, or order his/her detention in the custody of the police or prison. An 'under-trial' prisoner is one against whom there is a charge of violation of law, but the charge has still not been proved in a court of law, and who has, for whatever reason, not been released on bail. Persons who cannot access bail remain in prison until they are discharged or acquitted, or convicted and sent to jail, or released after completing their sentence.

In India, an estimated 66 per cent of all prison inmates are under-trials, but in some States the proportion goes up to as high as 80 per cent. The total prison population as on December 2006, for all categories of inmates was 3,73,271. Of these, 2,43,244 were under-trials. An overwhelming 96 per cent of these are men. Uttar Pradesh reports the highest number of under-trials, followed by Bihar.

As far back as in 1978, KF Rustamji, Member of the National Police Commission, observed compassionately in his report on under-trials that 'prisons are a system which is slowly grinding thousands of people into dust.' He found hundreds of under-trial prisoners to be 'dumb, simple persons, caught in the web of the law, unable to comprehend as to what has happened, what the charge against them is, or why they have been sent to jail. These are the people without a calendar or a clock, only a date in a court diary, extended from hearing to hearing.... There are many charged with ticket-less travel, possession of weapons, or illicit liquor or some minor infraction of the law....." Rustamji found to his dismay that several of them have been under-trials for more than five years.

It is important to remember that under-trial prisoners are incarcerated for these long period even though no offences has actually been proved against them. It is possible that at the end of the trial they are discharged, but nothing can bring back their irretrievably lost years spent behind jail walls, and the stigma, separation and abuse they suffered as did their loved ones. Even more tragic is that many of these under-trial prisoners are not even charged with any offence. They are picked up under preventive detection sections of the code of Criminal Procedure, like Section 109, which enable State authorities to detain people when they consider this to be necessary to prevent crimes. These sections are widely used against impoverished and destitute people, including those who are homeless, uprooted and mentally disturbed. As observed by Rustamji : ... "Some of them looked as if they have been youngsters wandering over the country, drop-outs from schools, and the law had picked them up because the number of cases had to be brought up to the specified figure."

Significantly, the Supreme Court of India observed that "an alarmingly large number of men and women, including children are behind prison bars for years awaiting trials in courts of law. The offences with which some of them are charged are trivial, which, even if proved would not warrant punishment for more than a few months, perhaps for a year or two, and yet these unfortunate forgotten specimens of humanity are in jail, deprived of their freedom, for periods ranging from three to ten years without even as much as their trial having commenced." The Apex Court also notices that "a large number of remand and under-trial prisoners are languishing in prison because of their poverty. They are there because they are not able to furnish the bail, whereas the affluent can afford to do so." In another case, the Supreme Court observed : "Some of the under-trial prisoners have been in jail for as many as 5. 7 or 9 years and a few of them even more than ten years, without their trial having begun. What faith can these lost souls have in the judicial system which denies them a bare trial for so many years and keeps them behind bars, not because they are guilty, but because they are too poor to afford bail and the courts have no time to try them...."

The immediate task, therefore, is to identify those who are eligible for bail and ensure their release. Under the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act 2005. those accused of offences for which death penalty is not prescribed are entitled to be released if they have been in detention for more than half of the stipulated period of imprisonment. Already, the Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan had asked the Chief Judicial Magistrates to identify such cases and it is imperative that this exercise is carried out expeditiously so that these under-trial prisoners can be released on personal bonds.

Meanwhile, addressing the joint conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices of High Courts in New Delhi on August 16, 2009, Prime Minster Dr. Manmohan Singh called upon the judiciary and the executive to work together to eliminate the 'scourge'. Dr.Singh regretted that despite the pronouncements of the Supreme Court and the High Courts, a large number of under-trial prisoners were still languishing in jails, many of them for periods longer than they would have served had they been sentenced. Dr. Singh said that the "Gram Nyayalaya Act" enacted in January 2009, was yet to be implemented. "Once the Act is fully implemented, we will have more than 5000 courts at the intermediate Panchayat level. These will bring justice to the doorsteps of the common people of the country."

(The writer is former Principal, Mangaldai College)







Adjourning the Andhra Pradesh assembly sine die, amidst chaos in the House and continuing street protests, the state government has taken probably the sole, though ignominious, option left to it in an impossible situation. The breathing space this move provides the Rosaiah government will be meaningful only if the central and state governments now strive to lower passions and initiate an extensive, inclusive dialogue with political leaders across party and regional lines.

The Centre must also appoint a second States' Reorganisation Commission forthwith to consider the case for splitting existing states. That said, the crisis in Andhra Pradesh, which has reinvigorated similar demands in other states, is foremost a case of the Congress comprehensively shooting itself in the foot. The ill-considered announcement that a separate Telangana would be created has not only led to masses of MLAs across parties resigning, but also split the state Congress — and the Cabinet — down the middle.

But given the way the crisis erupted, it also posits the deplorable volatility of Indian politics, where a fast to demand a separate Telangana by the leader of a party that had actually been routed at the polls suddenly led to an escalation. If TRS chief Chandrasekhara Rao's fast was a desperate — and successful — attempt to regain relevance, ensuing events also laid bare the extent of crass opportunism all around.

Except for the CPI(M), almost all other parties have publicly stated their support for a separate Telangana. Yet, witness the sudden passionate espousal of opposition to the move by these parties. One doesn't have to dig too deep to find strands of chauvinism here, regional in this case, even though the whole state of Andhra Pradesh itself was formed on an emotive linguistic basis.

There could well be merit in the argument that smaller states can allow for better governance and can help mitigate the sufferings of regions that feel consigned to backwardness. Indeed, there is a global propensity towards forms of local governance. Yet, such crises, therefore, also mean that our own policies on devolution of power and local governance have not delivered. All that can surely be debated. But without being prone to the politics of fissured identities.







Recurring reports of water shortages and municipal supply cutbacks in Mumbai point at turbulence in the country's water economy. What's required is proactive policy as an immediate supply booster and a medium-term strategy to purposefully address the infrastructure deficit. After all, there's growing evidence of plain inability — certainly routine inefficiency — of the state water machinery to deliver; there's a huge financing gap as well.

The fact that water supply in upcoming high-rises in the country's commercial capital is dicey does suggests warped policy. But then user charges are negligible, there's a general lack of accountability and the generation of revenue is usually not enough to even cover operations and maintenance. Worse, the investment backlog is large and fast rising. There are structural rigidities right across the board.

On the supply side, there are really only two sources of financing-budgetary outlays and user charges, and both heads in the water sector have been declining and falling, for years. Hence, the real dearth of recources for quality supply and delivery.

On the demand side, there's perverse incentive to rely excessively on groundwater, given the poor quality of public irrigation and water supply services. It shores up costs, is thoroughly unsustainable and leads to a panoply of distortions too. One recent study estimated just the running costs of privately-tapping groundwater to be six times more than municipal supply. Nevertheless, over 80% of domestic water usage pan-India is groundwater, given the inefficiencies — or the sheer lack of piped delivery — in everyday supply.

Another study found that although per-capita water availability in Delhi is more than that, say, in Paris, there's as high as 40% leakage along the pipe network in the former because of lack of maintenance, feeder pumps, etc. Hence, the need for regulatory oversight and proper corporate structures for water utilities, certainly in the metros to begin with. And the medium-term policy objective ought to aim at replacing the command-and-control structures in water bureaucracies with a flexible, transparent allocation system. Proper pricing and reform in the water sector can no longer remain on the backburner.






In the wake of what a loyal Congress factotum termed as Sonia Gandhi's December 9 birthday gift to the people of Telangana, a youth who was for the creation of the new state told a TV channel that the US had one-third the population of India but had 50 states, as compared to 28 for the world's most populous democracy. The youth forgot to mention that the newer states in the US were add-ons to the original 13 and not carved out of existing entities!

A more logical analogy would have been the creation of new railway zones. In 1996, the then-railways minister Ram Vilas Paswan recommended that the number of railway zones be increased from 9 to 15. The recommendation was subsequently implemented, with the headquarters of one of the new railway zones being Hajipur, which Paswan represented in the Lok Sabha! The politicians were happy as were the railway officials since each new zone meant many more top-level posts to which they could be promoted.

The local MLAs were also happy since new zones meant more contracts to be awarded for everything from the construction of new railway headquarters to maintenance works. Railways are like children's toys when compared with the opportunities opened up by the creation of new states. It need not be a coincidence that one of India's richest politicians is the former CM of India's newest state of Jharkhand.

The Rs 4,000-crore scam that Madhu Koda allegedly perpetrated in a few years as, first, Jharkhand's minister for mines and, then, as CM was catalysed by the fact that he retained the power to sanction leases for mining, the going under-the-table rate reportedly being Rs 12 crore for recommending a single mining lease.

Jharkhand's then-mines secretary reportedly cleared 47 leases in just one day! Multiply Rs 12 crore by 47 and you cease to wonder why smaller states make for richer politicians and wealthier bureaucrats. Small is not just beautiful but bountiful!






As the political storm that followed the Centre's move on Telangana rages, nobody in the Congress wants to reveal who tilted the decision in that memorable Congress Core Committee meeting. Sonia Gandhi loyalists aver she goes by her advisors. Congressmen who want to shield the PM say he has a cultivated aversion for the nuts and bolts of political matters. Beneficiaries of Ahmed Patel swear their man only swims with the current. Pranab Mukherjee's backers want everyone to know he was not present at that meeting.

P Chidambaram's admirers assert how he is meant to stay focused only on non-political administrative matters. Fans of A K Antony say his instinct has always been to duck the bullet at the high-table. Those who care for Veerappa Moily reflect on how he made it big without taking any major decisions. As for poor Rosaiah, his few sympathisers want critics to get one thing right: he owes his CM post to his proven inability to take firm decisions. Be sure, the Congress 'credit hunt' will be inconclusive till the mess is managed.


What prompted the timing of TRS chief K Chandrashekhar Rao's fast unto death is shrouded in mystery. After all, only a fortnight ago, he chickened out from demonstrating his battered TRS' popular standing by deciding not to contest the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation polls. As Rao is hoping to emerge as the Telangana hero from being an electoral zero, an interesting back-room detail has emerged. A few days before Rao's fast, six of the 10 TRS MLAs reached Delhi and secretly met an influential AICC general secretary with experience in handling AP politics.

The MLAs wanted to join the Congress and pleaded with the party heavyweight to facilitate their urgent meeting with Sonia Gandhi. They said their attempts to reach out to 10, Janpath, via the PCC set-up and AICC managers had been futile given the post-YSR leadership confusion. Even as the MLAs were being guided on how to cut through the infamous Congress red-tape, came the news of Rao announcing his fast. Some Congress leaders now wonder if Rao took the plunge after getting a whiff of the plot to split the TRS legislature party as well.


Natwar Singh might have blown his political career on the Volcker oil scam. But this diplomat-turned-former union minister knows how to spend his forced retirement in a meaningful way by reading avidly and writing articles and books. It is also known in top Congress circles that Singh wants to return to the party as a selfless Congressman and is hoping that 10, Janpath will, one day, entertain his wish. Meantime, despite the bitter experiences, 78-year-old Singh seems in great spirits. How does Third Eye know? Well, by his mobile phone ring-tone: "Dil kho gaya, ho gaya hai kisi ka/ab rasta mil gaya khushi ka..." The film: Singh is Kinng. Touché.


After his initial aggression against the Congress on being kept out of the UPA-II, RJD chief Lalu Yadav has realised the pitfalls of being in a combative mood when he is without a power perch in Delhi and Patna. Mulayam Yadav's plight, some say, has also been a persuasive factor for Lalu to pipe down. So, the RJD chief is keeping a low profile in the current session and is hoping against hope for a hung verdict in the Jharkhand assembly elections so he can do business with the GoP in Ranchi and then work his way through Delhi's corridors.

But then, railway minister Mamata Banerjee could be the real reason for the detente. The lady is threatening to table in the Lok Sabha the promised white paper on railway finance. Insiders say Mamata's move could undo Lalu's painstakingly built PR image as the railways reformer. So, mum's the word.








MUMBAI: The decision of many companies to buy back their shares appears to have paid off, as valuations have improved substantially subsequent to the purchase of the shares from the open market. An analysis of returns offered by the 33 companies which bought back shares in 2009 shows that most of the stocks are currently quoting much higher than their respective offer prices.

The list includes DLF, Patni Computer, Bosch, Reliance Infrastructure, EID Parry, HEG and SRF. The overall bullish mood in the market and hopes that the reduced equity base will improve the earnings ratios of these companies have boosted the stock prices, say analysts.

Most of these companies had initiated buyback programmes during late 2008 and early 2009 when valuations were near rock-bottom. This allowed them to stabilise the stock price through open market purchases, and at the same time, reduce the equity base without over paying.


The top five spenders among the 33 companies bought back shares worth Rs 793 crore in the current year, which is almost half the current value of the same shares.

According to analysts, companies that buy back shares in a weak market generally outperform in bullish conditions. A company buys back shares either through tender offer or directly from the open market, if it feels that the market price is lower than the intrinsic value. The objective behind the move is to support the price and it also shows the management's confidence in the prospects of the company, say analysts.

"When a company buys back shares, it leads to improvement in the fundamentals, as the company's equity capital is reduced to the extent of the shares purchased," said Ajay Parmar, Emkay Global Financial Services, head of institutional broking. For instance, the same earnings get divided among lesser number of shares, thus boosting the earnings per share (EPS).

Leading the pack, IT company Patni Computer Systems bough back 1.1 crore shares for Rs 237 crore. The average acquisition price worked out at Rs 216.3 per share against the offer price not exceeding Rs 325. The stock closed flat at Rs 459.9 on Monday.

In October, auto ancillary company Bosch closed its buyback programme under which the MNC acquired 6.5 lakh shares for Rs 200 crore. The average purchase price was Rs 3,069.2 against the offer price and current market price of Rs 4,500 and Rs 4,625.5, respectively. Delhi-based realty major DLF also figures among the current year's top spenders, buying back 76.4 lakh shares for Rs 141 crore. The average acquisition price, offer price and the current market price were Rs 184.2, Rs 600 and Rs 382.7, respectively.

As valuations started recovering from the second quarter, some companies have found it difficult to go ahead with the buyback plans because of the narrowing gap between the offer price and market price. This prompted them either to stop buying from the open market or discontinue the programme. GTL, Apollo Tyres, India Infoline and Indiabulls Securities are a few companies whose buyback offers were impacted by the sharp recovery in the stock market in mid-2009.








MUMBAI: Traders and investors will soon have more scope to use stock options to hedge their cash market holdings or bet on an event, after the


National Stock Exchange's (NSE) move to revise the intervals for strikes of stock options. The exchange said, last week, it would widen the range for stock options contracts in a trading session for traders from January 29.

The exchange will also permit options traders to invoke new strikes for stock options, till a limit, within trading hours. This move is of importance, as traders will be in a better position to use stock options to capture sharp movements in a share on the back of a news event. Now, exchanges introduce fresh strikes in stock or

index options at the start of a trading session.

"It's a positive development, especially the move will help invoke strikes during trading. But for improving volumes, we need to widen investor participation like allowing insurance companies to trade in derivatives," said Vijay Kanchan, VP-derivatives, Dolat Capital.

Buying options is like an purchasing an insurance, where a buyer pays to premium to a seller to bet on the direction of a stock or index. But the exchange-imposed restrictions on the number of strikes available during trading hours prevented traders from invoking contracts of strikes that are distant from where the stock or index is trading.

This difficulty was experienced after the Satyam accounting scandal broke out last year, which triggered a sharp in the stock over the next couple of days. Brokers had complained to NSE that clients could not trade Satyam options, as the drop was sharper than the number of strikes that were available. They had demanded invoking strikes during trading hours even for index options, but the exchange is yet to provide this facility.

Currently, the number of contracts for stock options available in a day are three strikes above and below the market rate. But the intervals in strikes vary on the basis of the stock denomination. For instance, the strikes available for a stock at Rs 1,000, other than 1,000 itself, has been 1,100, 1,200 and 1,300 on the upsides and 900, 800 and 700 on the downside. For a stock, with lower denomination, say Rs 50, the intervals have been 50, 52.5, 55 and 57.5 on the upside and 47.5, 45 and 42.5 below.

After January 29, the number of contracts for stock options in a day are five strikes above and below the market rate, an exchange release said. So, a stock at Rs 1,000 would have strikes available till 1,500 on the higher side and 500 below the market rate.

Further, the exchange, at its discretion, may allow traders to invoke up to 10 strikes on either side, during market hours.

Analysts said the move is unlikely to boost activity in stock options, which lags volumes in index options, stocks and index futures.









Over the past three quarters, India Inc has enjoyed the comfort of low raw material prices, which helped companies post healthier bottomlines after suffering the burden of high commodity prices 18 months ago. However, the party may soon end. In fact, for some companies, it's already over.

An analysis of the last nine data points (on a trailing four quarter basis) shows that India Inc's raw material costs closely follow the trajectory of commodity cycles. The prices of raw materials started rising from mid-2007 and peaked in the subsequent year. Thereafter, they have been steadily declining. The trend tracks the bull and bear runs in the commodity sector.

However, commodity prices in the past three-to-four months have again started moving up globally. Be it energy, base metals, precious metals and food commodities – the prices of all the basic raw materials required for manufacturing industry are climbing up. The UBS Bloomberg Commodity Index has risen by 36% in the past three quarters. Earlier it had dropped by 50% between the September-2008 to March 2009 quarters. Similarly, the Rogers International Commodity Index has moved up by 32% during the same period after registering a drop of 57% earlier.

Manufacturing companies in India can hardly stay insulated from the action happening in the global commodity markets. With inflationary pressures in the Indian economy, commodity prices are yet again climbing up to record levels.

In the past three quarters, companies reported savings in their raw material costs compared to the corresponding periods in the previous year. However, the current quarter is unlikely to see a repeat performance. Savings, if any, are expected to be small — with companies likely to complain of a cost-push due to rising raw material prices. Many may well caution their investors to expect a possible blip in raw material costs, going ahead.

And the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) may be the worst affected. While large companies have economies of scale and enjoy a higher credit period from their suppliers, that is not the case with small- to mid-sized firms. They are likely to face a working capital crunch and their credit requirements may again be higher.

For a good part of this fiscal, there was a surge in the fortunes of smaller players in most industries — this emerging trend may soon wither away in the face of a rising raw material bill.








In his latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth, Richard Dawkins refers to an incident in the life of British evolutionary biologist J B S Haldane when he was approached by a lady who didn't believe in evolution. Apparently she said something like "Even with billions of years of evolution available how is it possible to go from a single cell to a complicated human body with trillions of cells organised into bones, muscles and nerves, a ceaselessly pumping heart, miles of blood vessels and a brain capable of talking, thinking and feeling?" To this Haldane is supposed to have replied: "But madam, you did it yourself. And it only took you nine months."

The larger point Dawkins is trying to make is that in developing from a single cell to giant whales or towering redwoods, the genes are not following a pre-planned architecture or design (which would imply a designer) but are actually undergoing self-assembly. That is, all living things may look like the result of deliberate planning but, in fact, each individual cell inside them, when it's growing, is only following a set of local rules which do not apply to the whole of the organism.

Just like when thousands of starlings flock in assembly, they flock as a tight-knit coherent group with no starling straying. In the process they often form myriad different and wonderful shapes that appear to emerge miraculously out of that movement. Yet, again, each individual bird is just following its own set of local rules that apply only to itself depending on its position in the flock — what distance to keep from the bird in front, when to turn, which speed to maintain, etc. No central planning, no choreographer, no group mind at work. Just self-assembly.

As coherent as this argument is, it raises two questions. The first is, aren't the billions of neurons in our brains also following their own set of local rules? Each neuron is firing when required and processing its little bit of information, or not firing when not required and not processing that bit. Yet when they work together we get this most amazing organ which is capable of, to quote Haldane's questioner, "talking, thinking and feeling." How did this group mind suddenly start working?

And the second, more important, question: where are the "local rules" emerging from? Designs may not necessarily imply a designer but rules are different. In order to be followed, someone has to make them.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




There is something pathetic about Pakistan's attempt to prettify itself when it reveals its identity to the outside world. In a recent New York Times article, the President, Mr Asif Ali Zardari, says that his country's "democratically-elected government is unambiguously on the right path toward establishing a moderate and modern nation". This is likely to be received with shock and scepticism because Mr Zardari's statement seeks to give the impression that his country is a normal sort of place in respect of which it is policy slants that are a matter of discussion, not the survival of the state and society. On her first official visit to Pakistan in late October, the US secretary of state, Ms Hillary Clinton's object was to close the so-called "trust gap" between the two countries, and to offer aid and psychological succour to Pakistan's much-derided civilian side as well, not just the military-wallahs. But the occasion turned out to be edgy. Her arrival coincided with the worst terror strike in two years, which killed over 100 people in Peshawar. In a Dawn interview on the eve of her trip, Ms Clinton expressed doubts about the way US-supplied military hardware was being used. She said a lot of the equipment was "fungible" and mobile, and could be used in different places. Her hosts were upset, surmising their guest was indirectly suggesting some of the stuff was being stealthily transferred for use against India. This was a fair enough summation as the US authorities had explicitly spoken of such transference a little earlier. In the course of her three-day stay, the secretary of state also told a gathering of editors: "I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they (Al Qaeda leaders) are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to." The Pakistanis were upset. But do they have reason to be? New developments suggest that, according to information transmitted by the American FBI to the Indian authorities, Dawood Gilani or David Coleman Headley was a Lashkar-e-Tayyaba operative who was deeply involved in the November 26 attack on Mumbai, and was in touch with several serving Pakistani military officers. If Mr Zardari is seeking to establish a "moderate and modern nation", will he take steps to punish those officers? The answer is self-evident. In his article, he says his country is upset that under the Kerry-Lugar Bill, US aid of $7.5 billion over the next five years will come with conditions attached. One of these is that military aid to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda must not be diverted to target India. Bringing this up is clearly intended to patch up with the Army and the political right, which has got after Mr Zardari for some time. But the meaning is clear enough — that the US will be seen with hostile eyes in Pakistan if Washington didn't join the Pakistan military's cohorts to target India politically and publicly. The Pakistan President was reasonably explicit when he noted that the US must give Islamabad relief on "regional issues, specifically policies concerning India". He pointedly asked the US to "scrutinise India" in view of (the latter's) "destabilising role in the region". "It could start by stepping up its (America's) efforts to mediate the Kashmir dispute", Mr Zardari recommended. India will be within its rights to view such supplication with wariness. Initially, Richard Holbrooke's AfPak mission did give the impression of taking in Kashmir as well. A measured coolness on India's part brought an end to that approach.








Tomorrow, December 16, is Vijay Diwas, when India commemorates the 38th anniversary of the 1971 victory in the Bangladesh War. It is a saga of valour, a military classic scripted and presented to the Indian people by Indian commanders and troops. In the abiding shame of defeat in Mumbai's 26/11 (2008), the glory of Bangladesh 16/12 (1971) serves to rekindle hope in the people of India, especially the younger generation.


On that day, Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi, commander of Pakistani forces in then East Pakistan, capitulated before his Indian counterpart, Lt. Gen. J.S. Aurora, GOC-in-C of the Indian Army's Eastern Command, and signed the Instrument of Surrender at 4.31 pm at the Dhaka Race Course grounds. Pakistan's forces in erstwhile East Pakistan surrendered unconditionally and laid down their arms before the Indian forces, yielding 90,000 prisoners of war. The new nation of Bangladesh was created.


Victory and defeat both carry their own lessons. In the context of Bangladesh, it is the vanquished who have seriously studied and absorbed the lessons from their defeat more than the victors from their triumph. The Pakistan Army, disgraced by its enforced sojourn in prisoner-of-war camps in India, swore vengeance for its defeat at the hands of the despised "kafirs", however, long it might take, and set to work to achieve this aim. "Badla for Bangladesh" became the watchword for dealing with India, and indeed the basis of Pakistan's India policy.


In post-conflict negotiations with Pakistan in Shimla in 1972, India once again reverted to the traditional misplaced generosity that has been this country's trademark blunder through history, right from the ancient times of Prithviraj Chauhan and Mohammad Ghori. With 90,000 Pakistani soldiers and civilians in its custody as prisoners of war, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the ruthless "iron lady", nevertheless let Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto off the hook without extracting any reciprocal commitments on Kashmir. As with its misguided United Nations initiative on Kashmir in 1947, India had again won the war, but lost the peace.


Unlike India in 1950 after reassertion of Chinese control in Tibet, Pakistan did not tamely throw in the towel after the loss of East Pakistan, but reacted proactively to reestablish its influence there.


Propagation of Islamic jihad against a traditional enemy was applied as a time-tested strategy to revive anti-India sentiments and reestablish fraternal ties through the common platform of Islamic solidarity. Fundamentalist elements in Bangladesh, who had gone underground after the 1971 liberation, were resurrected and nursed assiduously back to life as surrogate jihadi entities, to recreate a pro-Pakistan constituency in the country which was naturally anti-Indian. Bengali military and civil officers and personnel recently repatriated from West Pakistan and reinstated in equivalent positions in the Bangladesh armed forces and civil services were incorporated to spearhead the campaign, which achieved results in a fairly early timeframe, with the assassination in 1975 of their chief opponent Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the political and physical liquidation of the Awami League as the dominant political entity. To dominate the resultant political vacuum in its place, Pakistan supported the quasi-military Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), initially under Gen. Zia-ur Rahman and subsequently under his widow, Begum Khaleda Zia, to capture political power in the country, and gave Pakistan back its earlier foothold and influence. All in all, Pakistan has good reason to be satisfied with the success of its strategic response to the military debacle in Bangladesh in 1971.


The fallout of victory for India has been different. Unlike Pakistan, which lost the war, India, the victor, has been less than successful in winning the peace, and even with the initial advantage of a friendly Awami League establishment at the helm of affairs in the newly-established state, the grand design of replacing East Pakistan with a friendly government withered away after an optimistic beginning. The military task was carried out by the Indian armed forces with élan in a lightning blitzkrieg. As far as wars go, it was an almost flawless performance, but the non-military follow-up was less so. India remained content for an appreciable time to bask in the glory of its epic military victory, but the diplomatic, political, economic, and — most important — cultural effort to consolidate the results proved inadequate. The single catastrophic event which abruptly tipped the scales against India was the assassination of Sheikh Mujib in 1975 and the virtual elimination of the Awami League leadership. India's strategic advisers and planners had no contingency plans for such unforeseen emergencies, and there were no ready responses available for such a sudden and calamitous regime change. As a result, after a comparatively brief honeymoon period with the Awami League, Bangladesh passed under almost continuous military/BNP governance and reverted to the intransigence and truculence traditionally associated with pre-liberation East Pakistan.


Indian influence was all but eliminated, and Bangladesh readily offered its support to Pakistan as its "frontline state" in the east. It became a willing ally in the proxy war against India, functioning as a sanctuary for anti-Indian insurgencies, terrorism and illegal immigration to destabilise the entire eastern and northeastern region of India.


Another consequence of the traumatic amputation of Bangladesh, which had a direct fallout on India, was the determined escalation of Pakistan's bid to acquire nuclear weapons at all costs. A "nuclear jihad" under rogue scientists like A.Q. Khan was launched to exploit all available sources and channels for procurement of nuclear technology and materials, whether through theft by expatriate Pakistani scientists or through illegal nuclear and missile proliferation by strategic allies like China and North Korea.


Pakistan's strategic nuclear capability is totally India-centric and, according to speculation in the media, these might as well now be superior to that of India. Thirty-eight years after 1971, Vijay Divas 2009, is an appropriate time to reflect and ruminate on India's Bangladesh saga, one of the most significant episodes in the post-Independence history of the republic. It is a complex narrative of success and failure, of inspirational military victory as well as a cautionary parable of the pitfalls of peace. The nation needs to rediscover and cherish these glories. With Ms Sheikh Hasina's return to power for the second time, the recent dramatically-enhanced cooperation with India holds out cautious hopes for the future. Perhaps the tide is indeed turning. Only time will tell.


Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former Member of Parliament








When I first began writing for the Times, I was naïve about many things. But my biggest misconception was this: I actually believed that influential people could be moved by evidence, that they would change their views if events completely refuted their beliefs. And to be fair, it does happen now and then. I've been highly critical of Alan Greenspan over the years (since long before it was fashionable), but give the former US Federal Reserve chairman credit: he has admitted that he was wrong about the ability of financial markets to police themselves.


But he's a rare case. Just how rare was demonstrated by what happened in the House of Representatives, when every single Republican and 27 Democrats voted against a quite modest effort to rein in Wall Street excesses.


Let's recall how we got into our current mess.


America emerged from the Great Depression with a tightly regulated banking system. The regulations worked: the nation was spared major financial crises for almost four decades after World War II. But as the memory of the Depression faded, bankers began to chafe at the restrictions they faced. And politicians showed a growing willingness to give bankers what they wanted.


The first big wave of deregulation took place under Ronald Reagan — and quickly led to disaster, in the form of the savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s. Taxpayers ended up paying more than two per cent of GDP, the equivalent of around $300 billion today, to clean up the mess.


But the proponents of deregulation were undaunted, and in the decade leading up to the current crisis politicians in both parties bought into the notion that New Deal-era restrictions on bankers were nothing but pointless red tape. In a memorable 2003 incident, top bank regulators staged a photo-op in which they used garden shears and a chainsaw to cut up stacks of paper representing regulations.


And the bankers — liberated both by legislation that removed traditional restrictions and by the hands-off attitude of regulators who didn't believe in regulation — responded by dramatically loosening lending standards. The result was a credit boom and a monstrous real estate bubble, followed by the worst economic slump since the Great Depression. Ironically, the effort to contain the crisis required government intervention on a much larger scale than would have been needed to prevent the crisis in the first place: government rescues of troubled institutions, large-scale lending by the US Federal Reserve to the private sector, and so on.


Given this history, you might have expected the emergence of a national consensus in favour of restoring more-effective financial regulation, so as to avoid a repeat performance. But you would have been wrong.


Talk to conservatives about the financial crisis and you enter an alternative, bizarre universe in which government bureaucrats, not greedy bankers, caused the meltdown. It's a universe in which government-sponsored lending agencies triggered the crisis, even though private lenders actually made the vast majority of subprime loans. It's a universe in which regulators coerced bankers into making loans to unqualified borrowers, even though only one of the top 25 subprime lenders was subject to the regulations in question.


Oh, and conservatives simply ignore the catastrophe in commercial real estate: in their universe the only bad loans were those made to poor people and members of minority groups, because bad loans to developers of shopping malls and office towers don't fit the narrative.


In part, the prevalence of this narrative reflects the principle enunciated by Upton Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it". As Democrats have pointed out, three days before the House vote on banking reform Republican leaders met with more than 100 financial-industry lobbyists to coordinate strategies. But it also reflects the extent to which the modern Republican Party is committed to a bankrupt ideology, one that won't let it face up to the reality of what happened to the US economy.


So it's up to the Democrats — and more specifically, since the House has passed its bill, it's up to "centrist" Democrats in the Senate. Are they willing to learn something from the disaster that has overtaken the US economy, and get behind financial reform?


Let's hope so. For one thing is clear: if politicians refuse to learn from the history of the recent financial crisis, they will condemn all of us to repeat it.







The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and East Asian Summit (EAS) earlier this year, and US President Barack Obama's more recent visits to Japan, China, Republic of Korea (ROK) and Singapore for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (Apec) have lifted the fog from the multiple proposals for the structure of East Asian regional governance that are on the table.

There are three competing visions of Asia-Pacific regionalism that are in contention. The only existing one is the EAS, consisting of the 10 Asean countries, the three members of the Asean+3 (Japan, China and ROK), plus three more Asia-Pacific countries i.e. India, Australia and New Zealand. It was established in 2005 in an effort to make the Asean+3 more inclusive. Inclusiveness in the Asia-Pacific context is the codeword for diluting the preponderance of China. Membership requirements for EAS involve being an Asean dialogue partner and being a signatory of the Asean Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC). The US, which had not signed the TAC till very recently, did not accordingly qualify for membership of EAS, though its footprint in East Asia, with an extensive network of military alliances and bases, is evidently more prominent than that of India.

In 2008, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had put forward a proposal for an Asia-Pacific Community (APC), a sort of concert of major regional powers, reflecting the shift in the centre of gravity of power towards the Asia-Pacific. They would meet annually at summit level, set up formalised institutional structures and develop a collective sense of broad regional strategic understanding. The countries initially mentioned were US, China, Japan, India, Russia and Indonesia, with perhaps some others (such as of course Australia, the initiator of the proposal).

The Australians have been rocked back with the attack, made adjustments to their proposal, and tried to massage Asean's hurt ego. But good pugilists that they are, they have not given up. They have continued to reiterate their proposal at the Asean and Apec summit level gatherings, and more recently during Mr Rudd's visit to India. They have now organised a high level brainstorming of stake holders in Australia in December 2009. It is, however, difficult to imagine them getting more than a polite hearing for the APC.

The latest has been Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's proposal for an East Asian Community (EAC) which has seen many avatars in the past. Hatoyama's proposal focuses on regional economic integration and soft security and includes principally the current EAS members. The initial articulation was ambiguous about the inclusion of the US, and was seen as part of the Democratic Party of Japan's (DPJ) policy platform of reorienting regional priorities and alliance relations with the US. Hatoyama's proposal seems to have alienated the US and found little purchase at the recent trilateral summits of Japan, China and ROK. Japan needs to take a second look at the consequences of DPJ policy priorities. A relative distancing from its traditional alliance with the US, and seeking closer relations with China, at a time when the Chinese economy is about to overtake Japan, and Chinese political weight is already much greater, will inevitably result in Japan having eventually to kowtow before China, a position in which Japan has never been in history. It would also turn on its head the direction of advancement of Indo-Japanese relations in past years.

Mr Obama's new approach to Asia has been a game-changer, with Hillary Clinton's assertion that "the United States is back", with more active dialogue with regional leaders and the visible presence of US leaders at regional gatherings. The US has signed the TAC and has indicated during Mr Obama's Japan visit its intention to seek a closer association with the EAS. China will not welcome this, but is unlikely to be able to resist. The Japanese have clarified that the way is open for the US to take part. US entry into EAS will bring in Russia sooner. If the US is able to resist its tendency to try to dominate, the EAS looks set in time to become the premier component of an inclusive regional architecture. It should not be too difficult then to find a formula to subsume the Australian APC and Japanese EAC into the EAS, with honourable face saving arrangements for both.

This will still leave a dichotomy between the EAS and Asean+3, which came into being due to China's proactive helpfulness during the Asian financial crisis. China ensured that the Asean+3 would remain at the heart of Asean policymaking on regional cooperation as the price for the dilution of its voice in the EAS. The Asean+3 has come a long way over the years and retains considerable brand equity among Asean countries which benefitted the most from China's markets during the financial crisis. But it seems likely that the force of gravity due to greater weight and inclusiveness will eventually tilt the balance in favour of the EAS.

Since India's inclusion is envisaged in all three arrangements, we are comfortably situated with respect to any future evolution. The Australian APC has some obvious attractions for us.

India's dialogue partner status with Asean and membership of Asean Regional Forum (ARF) before China was more due to the push by Asean and Asean+3 members like Singapore, Indonesia and Japan than an accomplishment of Indian diplomacy. The intention was to balance China in the indirect Asean style.

It is important for India to nurture this constituency. The inclusion of the US need not create doubts for India, despite the thoughtless and undiplomatic reference to South Asia in Mr Obama's joint statement with the Chinese.

Another Asia-Pacific institution — Apec — has been in the doldrums for some time, but there are expectations for its reactivation with Mr Obama's attendance at the recent Singapore Apec Summit and expressed intention to refocus on the region. India is expected to be taken in as a member when the current moratorium expires in 2010.

Dilip Lahiri is a former ambassador to Japan







DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

The morning after the United Arab Emirates turned 38, the streets were deserted but for the foreign workers dressed in orange coveralls. They swept the confetti from Dubai's beach road, wiped Silly String from the lenses of the traffic cameras and retrieved the carcasses of rockets. Long gone were the crystal-encrusted Hummers and Escalades that had paraded up and down in their finery. A cacophony of horns and cheers and firecrackers had filled the night; now everything was quiet.


Abandoned near a bus stop, one SUV still bore the signs of December 2's celebration: Heart-shaped green stickers peppered the hood; streamers in the national colours fluttered at the rear window; the windshield was plastered with an image of Dubai's ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum. His hundred-yard stare is meant, one imagines, to convey the impression of a man gazing at the glorious realisation of his vision. But as the emirate teeters on the brink of economic meltdown, Sheik Mohammed's enigmatic expression seemed more like the look of a man who is seeing his dream rapidly turn sour.


At 38, the brashest, and best-known, of the seven emirates is facing something of a mid-life crisis. She has lost the blind optimism of her youth, when the oil rush brought Mercedeses and McDonald's drive-throughs to the desert, but she has yet to gain the wisdom of old age. Despite constant, furious reinvention and desperate attempts to direct the world's focus to her door — Come see the world's tallest tower! A fountain visible from space! A shopping mall that sprawls across 12.1 million square feet! — this city is in danger of losing her oxygen.


We all come here for the money. Some choose to stay for the lifestyle, some for the lack of a better alternative. Many see life in Dubai as a welcome break from civic responsibility; the expat can skim the surface, cream off the good, ignore the bad, live the dream. As long as there's an economy to speak of. If that fails, you have to leave. No work, no visa, goodbye.


All summer there were reports of cardboard-box shortages and serried ranks of dusty vehicles abandoned at the airport's international terminal; there were telephone calls from concerned friends and family: "Are you OK?" "When are you coming home?" In the air hung the expectation that thousands would leave to ride out the global recession back in their country of origin. Surely, with the end of the academic year, families would pack up their possessions and head off.


But the fact is, many Western expatriates are less capable of escape than they like to believe. They now consider Dubai to be home, for better or worse. They have opened bank accounts and started businesses; they have mortgages on houses in incongruously named developments like the Springs, the Lakes, the Meadows. They are tied to the fate of Dubai as a viable business hub, and if they leave, they stand to lose everything.


All countries have financial problems. America's debt is bigger than Dubai's. Britain's economy is in free fall. What we need to do is be optimistic. Abu Dhabi, Dubai's wealthier, more conservative neighbour, will bail out the prodigal son. And where are you getting your turkey from this year?


Yet there are, behind the glittering facade of marble and the bright masses of bougainvillaea, signs of change that are getting harder and harder to ignore. The for-rent signs that last year would have vanished in a flash as thousands came to set up a new life here now hang askew from villas and apartment blocks. Twelve months ago, you paid what you had to even if the landlords were doubling the rent overnight, but if you're looking to move now, you can haggle, get the bathroom fixed, update the kitchen, knock thousands of dirhams off the asking price.


Only a matter of months ago, whole swaths of the city — the older parts, some dating back a whole 10 years — were destined for destruction; now dowdy bungalows are being repainted, reappointed and put back on the market. What has undeniably changed is the relationship between the local population and the expats. It has always been an uneasy one,


Part of this strain is surely growing resentment that the boom, in which Western expats played such a pivotal role, is now over.


For the locals, there is no alternative, no moving on, not ever. The next generation of Dubaians stands to inherit a ruined legacy.


The emirate's Islamic identity has also suffered over the past decades. How could it be otherwise? Dubai welcomed expatriates from Jersey to Japan, Ethiopia to Estonia — but turned a blind-eye to the ills that such a multicultural, transitory mix can spawn. The locals complain, rightly in some cases, of a lack of respect for their religious sensitivities, while simultaneously openly embracing many of the less desirable elements of the secularised West.
So we, the foreign workers, are now chastised for our failure to integrate, to engage with local culture and heritage. We are urged to assimilate as best we can. "With what?" is the question. There is no need to speak Arabic in daily life; there is little indigenous culture to explore. What exactly is local cuisine? If this were a wedding it would be roasted camel hump.


Dubai has become what it is today partly through defiance of normal expectations: Here are islands shaped like palm trees, the world's only seven-star hotel, the world's richest horse race. But the result is a place that lacks coherence, both physically and psychologically. In many ways, it resembles a glorified film set, awaiting the arrival of the swashbuckling hero to tie all the loose strands together and give this fantasy some credibility.


But this most unconventional of places is not immune to reality. How Dubai negotiates this rite of passage will determine whether it will ever be taken seriously.


Meantime, the malls are decked with Christmas trees and tinsel. We are reminded to dress modestly as we shop for artificial snow at the indoor ski slope before stopping to watch the roller-skating penguins. The malls still hum on the weekends and if the shops are offering discounted items, who is to say whether it's a seasonal affair or a barometer of economic collapse?


Claudia Pugh-Thomas is a writer








If you're a governor with presidential aspirations, you should never, under any circumstances, pardon a convict or reduce a sentence. That's the lesson everyone seems to have drawn from the dreadful case of Maurice Clemmons, an Arkansas native who murdered four Lakewood, Washington, police officers over the Thanksgiving weekend — nine years after Mike Huckabee, then governor, commuted his sentence and the Arkansas parole board set him free.


Even before Clemmons was shot dead the following Tuesday by Seattle police officers, a chorus of pundits had declared Huckabee's presidential ambitions all but finished. His prospective 2012 rivals — Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Sarah Palin — hastened to suggest that they never considered issuing a pardon while governor. And even observers sympathetic to Huckabee's decision (Clemmons's original 108-year sentence was handed down when he was only 16, and for burglary and robbery, not murder) tended to emphasise its folly. Joe Carter, who handled rapid-response for Huckabee's 2008 campaign, acknowledged that the "prudent tactic would have been to simply refuse to grant any leniency — ever".


This calculus has recent American history as well as crude political logic on its side. Without conservative lawmakers willing to "err on the side of punishing" (as Palin put it after the Clemmons shooting), America might still be swamped by the crime wave that engulfed the country in the 1960s and '70s.


The surge in crime rates, which lasted until the early 1990s, was driven by a variety of factors — the demographic bulge created by the baby boom, the crisis of authority in the late '60s, and the heroin and crack epidemics that followed. But it was abetted by a soft-headed liberalism that emphasised rehabilitation to the exclusion of retribution and deterrence. (Across the Great Society era, as crime rates started to take off, America's prison population actually went down.)


The case of Willie Horton remains the exemplary instance of rehabilitative folly. In 1986, a furlough programme in Michael Dukakis' Massachusetts enabled Horton to commit rape and battery midway through what was supposed to be a life sentence for murder. Liberals remember the Horton story, which Republicans used to derail Dukakis's presidential bid, as an example of Right-wing race-bating. But they rarely recall the damning details — from Dukakis's veto of a bill exempting first-degree murderers from furloughs (it would "cut the heart out of efforts at inmate rehabilitation", he claimed), to the self-parodic way his administration responded to the tragedy.


There are superficial resemblances, much cited in the last two weeks, between the Horton case and the tragic parole of Maurice Clemmons. But the political context is completely different. Their approach has worked.


Our prison system tolerates gross abuses, including rape on a disgraceful scale. Poor communities are warped by the absence of so many fathers and brothers. And every American community is burdened by the expense of building and staffing enough prisons to keep up with our swelling convict population.


Mass incarceration was a successful public-policy tourniquet. But now that we've stopped the bleeding, it can't be a permanent solution. This doesn't require a return to the liberal excuse-making of the '60s and '70s. Nor does it require every governor to issue frequent pardons. Instead, it requires a more sophisticated crime-fighting approach — an emphasis, for instance, on making sentences swifter and more certain, even as we make them shorter; a system of performance metrics for prisons and their administrators; a more stringent approach to probation and parole. (When Brute Force Fails, by the UCLA law professor Mark Kleiman, is the best handbook for would-be reformers.)


Above all, it requires conservatives to take ownership of prison reform, and correct the system they helped build. The Democrats still lack credibility on crime policy. Any successful reform requires the support of the law-and-order party.


But the case of Maurice Clemmons may cast a long shadow over conservative politics, frightening politicians away from even the most sensible reforms — lest they wake up to a tragedy, and find themselves assigned the blame.








While it will be endeavour of every Marxist to suggest that the tenure of Gopalakrishna Gandhi in Kolkata's Raj Bhawan was marked by controversy, the fact is that in allowing his conscience to tell him what his oath of office required him to do, the man who stepped down as Governor over the weekend set standards his successors ~ in Bengal and elsewhere ~ would do well to emulate. Governors, traditionally, have been of inconsistent quality and have vacillated between two extremes. Some have viewed the office as a post-retirement sinecure and cocooned themselves in a benign, largely ceremonial role. Others were political creatures and made no secret of their loyalty to the parties that appointed them. The verdict in the Bommai case checked misuse of Article 356 of the Constitution ~ a staple of the politically committed Governor. But that judgment notwithstanding, a politically aligned Governor can shrug off his Constitutional duties in many other ways. It must be said to the credit of Mr Gandhi that he was among a handful of Governors who understood, instinctively and intellectually, that the Constitution had defined a specific and active role for his office. Indeed, it was active governance that led the Marxists to accuse him of partisan conduct for while Indian Communists preach morals elsewhere, in West Bengal they have always been happy with Governors who cut ribbons, speak when asked to and keep their mouths shut the rest of the time.

In encapsulating Mr Gandhi's tenure in Raj Bhawan, it must be said he packed more into his schedule than many of his predecessors including his own illustrious grandfather. He kept in touch with every aspect of his ceremonial role and delivered even mundane, ribbon-cutting speeches with élan. He had a finger on the pulse of the state's muddled and violent brand of politics, and was crisp and forthright in speaking his mind. To those hit by tragedy, as when Aila struck, he was compassionate and humane. And somewhere in the midst of all this, he found the time to be a scholar of note putting together a meticulous chronology of his other illustrious grandfather's sojourns in Bengal. Like the Mahatma, his grandson, too, had a frank friendship with the people of Bengal.

West Bengal, Kolkata and the Raj Bhawan are poorer with Mr Gandhi's departure. And as we say goodbye to a remarkable Governor, it is with a hope that his involvement in public life hasn't ended with the laying down of this office.







THE positive outcome of recent elections may have helped Rahul Gandhi to grow in confidence and even go beyond the standard styles of politicians. Direct and informal contacts have now been followed up by interactions with clearly defined sections of the population like students of Aligarh Muslim University. The Congress General Secretary's focus on enlightened young had been evident in the last parliamentary election. The results may have provided a signal to move further. But more than the desire to create a new awareness, what made a difference at AMU was that he managed to emerge from a sensitive area after making the right noises. In the light of repeated concerns about the university's minority status, it was not surprising that it was extended to the question of a leader from the Muslim community occupying the Prime Minister's chair. Gandhi's capacity to please his audience was fortunately not coloured by a tendency to hold out false promises. He made it a point to clear misconceptions and managed to do this despite the compulsions of protecting the party's substantial minority vote-bank in Uttar Pradesh and challenging Miss Mayawati on her own turf.
More significantly, he addressed the larger question of eliminating caste and community from the electoral system. By declaring that merit and capability should be the only criteria for choosing prime ministers, he may have been making a sly comment on the past while rightly emphasising that, in general, custodians of people's trust need to go beyond the narrow considerations of region and religion. He had a ready example in Dr Manmohan Singh while perhaps lamenting the number of politicians cutting across party lines who have thrived on caste and communal support and even wangled their way into positions of authority. By talking of competence, he may have chosen to target a new generation ~ in which case he chose the right forum.







ADMINISTRATORS would aver that by enacting its' own excise legislation Delhi has liberated itself from the antiquated Punjab Excise Act. While the merits of the new law have been generally welcomed it is also evident that its framers and legislature-processors have backed off from relaxing a rule that is as obnoxious as it is obsolete ~ the age at which one may drink at bars, or indeed buy a bottle at a retail vend remains unchanged at a ridiculous 25 years. Never mind if you can vote, drive, marry, even fight and die for the country much earlier ~ the "spirit" that contributes so highly to the public exchequer must not pass through lips that have not weathered a quarter-century of life's vicissitudes. Such is the collective hypocrisy of the political class that the issue, which has been hotly debated in other fora, did not figure in the Assembly discussion. As is customary, any liberalisation of rules and regulations on the subject is deemed politically untouchable. It is of course another story that the rule is often observed only in the breach, and the up-market pubs are witness to unabashed tippling by youngsters who would attract attention at an 'A' movie. Not for the Delhi bureaucrats and netas is the message from the Supreme Court about legalising the sex-trade since it cannot be prevented by punitive methods. And everybody would agree that prostitution has implications more adverse than folk between their late-teens and early-twenties being pressured into "illicit" drinking.

Would Sheila Dikshit care to explain how this age-limit matches up with her promise to convert the Capital into a "world class city" before the Commonwealth Games? Most visitors would deem this strait-laced approach reminiscent of the dark ages when "little things were to be seen not heard". It is the young men and women of the IT/corporate sector that have projected India on to the global stage, yet they are deemed incapable of what their counterparts elsewhere do without anyone raising an eyebrow. To view things from a different perspective: the Games with which the chief minister is obsessed is a festival of youth, but if word spread that a beer would be denied to those under 25 it would cause more people to give the CWG a slip than fears of a Delhi-belly!








A STORY goes that when Nagaland's first chief minister, Shilu Ao, visited a New Delhi shop in 1963, a salesman asked him whether it was true Nagas were cannibals. He politely invited the man to join his team that night for dinner, commenting, "We might make a good meal of you." This general misconception about people from the North-east continues and during a recent meeting with the Prime Minister, a students' delegation from the region rightly pointed out that the "perception" among local people (Delhi'ites) about them was the "root cause of the trouble" ~ attacks and assaults on them over the past three years. If Delhi'ites think smart North-east boys and girls with a command over English and the required accent are depriving locals of job opportunities, they must realise this is an era of globalisation and fierce competition, and that the Constitution guarantees to every citizen equal opportunity and the freedom to live and settle anywhere in the country. If even after 62 years of freedom people from the North-east are treated as aliens in the national capital, much needs to be done beyond them displaying their culture and folklore on Republic Day.

As if North-east students do not have it bad enough, in July 2007 a Delhi supercop added insult to injury by issuing a booklet containing dos and don'ts pertaining to a dress code and their cooking local specialities that could "offend" neighbours' sensibilities. The Prime Minister's assertion that the "North-east people, like anyone else, have an equal claim on Delhi" sounds reassuring.

The Delhi administration has also been asked to be more sensitive to their problems. But North-east students are yet to be convinced of chief minister Sheila Dikshit's determination to tackle the problem more seriously. Attacks continue and cases filed with the police lead to more frustration as FIRs in Hindi are not intelligible to complainants from the North-east. There is a lot that merits attention, and it is time the central and Delhi governments acted.





COPENHAGEN, 14 DEC: Climate change threatens the survival of dozens of animals from the emperor penguin to Australian koala bears, according to a report released today at the UN climate summit.
Rising sea levels, ocean acidification and shrinking polar ice are taking a heavy toll on species already struggling to cope with pollution and shrinking habitats, said the study from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an intergovernmental group.

"Humans are not the only ones whose fate is at stake here in Copenhagen, some of our favourite species are also taking the fall for our CO2 emissions," said Wendy Foden, an IUCN researcher and co-author of the study. The report details how climate change undermines the viability of 10 species, including the leatherback turtle, the beluga whale, clownfish, the emperor penguin and salmon. Australia's iconic koala faces malnutrition and ultimate starvation as the nutritional quality of eucalyptus leaves declines as CO2 levels increase, the report added. Polar species are especially hard hit.;AFP









A time comes in the history of nations when a big change becomes inevitable. Change is wrought in two ways. It can come through revolution or through reform. Revolution denotes change from outside the prevalent political system. It results in upheaval and disruption. Reform allows change from within the system. It makes for orderly transition to better times. India is poised for change. Change is opposed by powerful voices that benefit from the status quo. But it is doubtful if even these powerful voices can now prevent change. Paradoxically, while sectors of the economy prosper, governance has declined to breaking point. Governance has declined because of the political class.

The political class has deteriorated because its permissive approach over the past decades has made it a helpless prisoner of a flawed and subverted political system. Consequently, after sixty years of independence India, despite its thriving middle class, has enormous economic disparity, unbearable poverty for large sections of the people, one of the world's most corrupt political societies, a lawless state, and a nation that has had the world's largest number of terrorist and insurgent attacks. While the Indian elite prosper, the Indian nation crumbles.
Political relevanceSomething was waiting to happen. It happened. The customary myopic and arbitrary mode of functioning by politicians has created a crisis that may well become the catalyst for big change. To regain political relevance Chandrashekhara Rao started a fast unto death to revive a forty-year-old demand for Telangana state. Several earlier agitations had erupted to fade away as Telangana leaders betrayed their followers after achieving narrow personal gain. For ten days Rao's fast continued. Suddenly doctors claimed that the fasting leader was in critical state. Had he died the violence that had already commenced could have become a raging fire.

The central government belatedly bestirred itself and in panic conceded Telangana state to end the fast. Thereby it opened a Pandora's Box. The rest of Andhra erupted in violent protest. Andhra legislators resigned in mass, and long pending demands for statehood across the nation threatened agitations. The government amended its decision to avoid a bigger crisis. It is trying to buy time for tempers to abate and the crisis to end. Time has always been a great healer. But will it act as healer this time?

It is possible that the arbitrary and undemocratic approach that Congress leaders traditionally adopt may prove this time to be the last straw to break the camel's back. It is just possible that Telangana will feel betrayed, Andhra will not be assuaged and the nationwide new statehood agitations having smelt blood will intensify. India thereby could plunge into chaos so deep that nothing short of an overall reappraisal and reform of the entire system would suffice. Such overall reform is not a prophecy. It is a hope. Unless such reform occurs India cannot play its rightful role as a global power.

The rot that subverted and virtually destroyed our political system began decades ago when political leaders including Pandit Nehru placed expediency above principle. Nehru had the authority to assert his will. Unfortunately he lacked clarity. He blundered from one wrong decision to another because of political expediency. Because of flawed judgment he opposed linguistic states but he had to succumb when a fasting leader died in protest. He appointed a States Reorganization Commission (SRC). But he ignored its recommendations for narrow political advantage. Against the SRC he bequeathed Bombay to Maharashtra because of an electoral setback. He did not create Vidharba state as recommended by SRC. He did not create a Hyderabad state comprising all of Telangana as recommended by the SRC. This ad hoc arbitrary approach continued. Subsequently Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh states were formed by Indira Gandhi under duress of agitations. She announced that Chandigarh would be the capital of Punjab and Haryana would build a new capital. The next day she somersaulted to make Chandigarh a Union Territory and capital of both states. Currently, Pranab Mukherjee has announced that no new states will be formed. Why not? Because acceding to the demand for Gorkhaland will harm his political fortunes? There is no national vision that informs any political party. It is because there is no national leader.

There is no national leader to have emerged from outside India's independence struggle. That is why we are governed by parochial minions masquerading as national leaders. That is why a dynasty continues to rule India like a grotesque version of royalty.


THE destruction of Indian democracy began from day one. India's political system does not reflect its written Constitution. Nowhere does the world's longest written Constitution state that India should follow Britain's Westminster form of parliamentary system or that India's elected President act as titular head like the British Sovereign. Pandit Nehru besotted with British democracy after being educated in England enforced his personal view in violation of the explicitly written Constitution. India's elite besotted with Pandit Nehru allowed him to do so. The Constitutional provision for setting up an Inter State Council has never been utilized despite numerous occasions when inter-state disputes warranted its establishment. Crucial directives of state policy such as creating self-sufficient village units through Panchayati Raj, or of creating conditions for industrial workers to participate in management, have never been followed. With such arrogant and arbitrary political conduct that wilfully ignored Constitution and law the subversion of the political system became inevitable.
Today we are paying the price. India sits atop a volcano as its middle class is glued to watching Bollywood, cricket, fashion and other trivia on television. Therefore the stupidity of the Union government in its handling of the Telangana crisis is welcome. It just might ignite catalytic events that create the opportunity to introduce a fundamental systemic reappraisal and reform. India does not have to reject the Constitution. It has to reclaim it. Will it?


The writer is a veteran columnist and cartoonist







IT is nothing short of pathetic that a state regarded as the tourism capital of India is now described by the minister in charge of the department as the "rape capital''. This follows the spurt in crimes, targeting foreign tourists in many cases, which had prompted the state government to crack down with stricter norms for visitors. What, obviously, has not followed is a concomitant response from the law enforcement machinery which should have stepped up alert and introduced protective measures where necessary . What makes matters worse is evidence of connivance by the police administration when culprits happen to belong to the influential bracket. As has been painfully evident in several cases, the poison is deeply rooted in the political culture in Goa as elsewhere in the country whereby the victims cannot expect effective action by the police when their tormentors benefit from manipulation of evidence or plain non-performance at the behest of those who are in a position to call the shots.

The case of alleged rape of a Russian girl is an eye-opener on the extent of corruption and provides cruel evidence of the evil. If notorious elements in the Goa police did everything to scuttle the case by trying to tone down the offence, failing to act on essential details like confiscating the car in which the crime was allegedly committed and finally allowing the accused to roam around freely, the answer does not lie in merely handing over the case to the Crime Branch. Someone in the Goa police must be held accountable for serious lapses like the failure to conduct a medical test till a week after the incident. A formal exchange of letters between ministers and a ritual debate in the assembly can hardly help restore Goa's prominence on the tourist map if no steps are taken urgently to bring the culprits and their protectors to book.

So far the police have only been looking for escape routes for the victim and themselves. If they succeed, it will only confirm that excesses of wayward siblings of the high and mighty are not confined to Delhi.








When India's Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his Brazilian counterpart Guido Mantega announced, during the IMF's annual meeting in Istanbul in October, that India and Brazil would both lend $ 10 billion to the International Monetary Fund, it symbolised, more than anything, both countries' transition from developing country to global player. Brazilian and Indian policymakers now face the difficult task of leading their respective societies through a conflict of identities that pits traditions, loyalties and long held beliefs against a new and unfamiliar set of challenges their new status brings with it.

Over the past decades, the IMF's involvement has left more scars on Brazil and India's identity than many Western analysts like to believe, and a dependency and perceived victimisation by the IMF has played an important role in shaping the way Brazil and India perceive themselves. The fund has also helped sustain an anti-Western, third worldish discourse among policy makers in both countries.

Power houses

NOW, the tables have turned: both countries have repaid their debt and become economic power houses, and their new status as lenders to the IMF puts them in a bind: Governments can no longer blame the evil imperialist institutions for domestic ills. But worse still, as their voting share in the fund increases, Brazil and India have to assume responsibility, and they suddenly find themselves in the shoes of the troublesome meddlers they so despised in the past. How do Brazil and India, having only recently emerged from IMF tutelage, deal with their past as developing countries, now that they themselves intervene, through the IMF, in poor countries?
Given the trauma both countries have suffered during IMF tutelage (Joseph Stiglitz once remarked that India's agreement with the IMF in the early nineties was comparable to the surrender of the Maharajas to the British), it seems quite surprising that the Singh and Lula governments were so keen to embrace these very institutions in the first place. After years of what even moderate politicians have called "humiliating" interaction with the fund, engaging with it as a lender is a sign of mature and rational policy making. Brazil and India have both realised that the world needs a credible lender of last resort, and that rather than shunning the fund, it is Brazil and India's responsibility to make the IMF more legitimate and effective. They thus prove to be much more serious and sophisticated actors than the rabble rousers in Venezuela and Iran, who give little thought to the system-wide implications of their policies.

This change of heart is particularly remarkable considering that Lula's entire ideology is based on the confrontation between rich and poor, both domestically and on the international level. Only ten years ago, lending money to the IMF would have been considered treason among members of Lula's Workers' Party (PT).
This is not to say, however, that Brazil and India will uncritically assume a Western, pro-IMF mindset, nor does it mean that old identities are given up easily. Policies may change quickly, but traditions, deeply held convictions and loyalties linger. Brazil and India are, therefore, in the delicate position of lending money to the IMF, while holding on to memories of their struggle against the fund's legendary arrogance.

Arrogant advice

President Lula embodies this dilemma better than anyone. Only days after announcing the historic move of lending money to the IMF, Lula talked himself into a rage during a rally, bawling that "those institutions (…) knew everything when we had a crisis, but they don't know anything when the crisis is happening over there (in the rich world)". Or at least, he speculated, "it is not permitted to give their advice in such an arrogant manner". In India, this almost schizophrenic mindset manifests itself in an increasingly realist, big power strategy (which includes considerable meddling in Afghanistan), sprinkled with an archaic, Nehruvian- idealist rhetoric (according to which promoting democracy abroad is out of the question).

As both countries continue to grow, their identity will most likely be neither that of a developing country, nor that of today's developed countries. Yet, it would be too easy to simply predict that Brazil and India will create their own, unique category. They will be, like all others, subject to the same rules of nature. If Brazil and India want to play in the league of big powers, they will have to, at times, step on the smaller countries' toes. "If you're in a bathtub with an elephant", Harvard's Graham Allison once said, "it may be uncomfortable, no matter how nice the elephant tries to be". Taking a position in Afghanistan, the Middle East, or simply in the IMF's Board of Directors about a controversial loan will cause some smaller players to criticise Brazil and India in the same way Brazil and India once denounced the United States. This transformation process will require vision, the willingness to move out of the comfort zone, and, above all, courage to be disloyal to long-held convictions.







Even an obvious statement can acquire a salience if it is uttered on a special occasion. That political parties in West Bengal, as well as other organizations, should abjure violence and vendetta is not a new point to make. But it acquired a special significance when Gopalkrishna Gandhi made it part of his departing message on Sunday afternoon. Other eminent persons, including Amartya Sen, have made the point with as much force and poignance as Mr Gandhi. The Telegraph too, in these columns, has repeatedly condemned the propensity to take to violence and to the politics of disruption that has become almost the signature of the state. What West Bengal desperately needs is an agreement on an agenda for economic development. Such an agreement will never be possible so long as political parties remain wedded to scoring points by spreading mayhem on the streets and in the countryside. By definition, a democracy calls forth differences of views and opinions, but democracy also provides fora where views can be debated and discussed. In a democracy, protests should not transgress the norms of parliamentary behaviour and the rule of law. In West Bengal, this principle has been honoured more in its breach.


The conjuncture at which this message is being given to all who care about the state gives to it an urgency. West Bengal is poised to fall into a descending spiral of lawlessness and violence. Large tracts in western Midnapore seem to be in the control of a political formation that does not believe in democracy and the rule of law. They are committed to bringing about socio-economic change through violence. In the hills of West Bengal, there is a strong separatist movement that can be neglected only at the peril of the entire state. In the rest of West Bengal, two powerful political parties, one in power and another waiting to come to power, are locked in a fight whose only code is the ancient one of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Add to this the occasional bandh and rally that disrupt work and daily routine, and what emerges is a dismal picture from which there does not seem to be any immediate escape. A cri de cœur is the only recourse of sensible people who want to see light at the end of a long and dark tunnel. The cry might go unheard — and it probably will — but not to articulate it would be an act of irresponsibility. West Bengal expects.








It need not be a bad policy to take one step forward and two steps back. The political crisis in Andhra Pradesh should be a warning to New Delhi to step back and ponder the issue of statehood demands. The stir for a separate state in the Darjeeling hills will test the negotiating skills of both New Delhi and Calcutta much more than demands for separate states elsewhere in India. Darjeeling's geopolitical importance demands that both the Centre and the West Bengal government deal with the stir with caution and prudence. The statehood demand has been the prime mover of Darjeeling's politics for several decades. The current agitation by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, though, is refreshingly different in form from the violent ways of the Gorkha National Liberation Front in the 1980s. But the two movements also have much in common. Both reflected the people's aspiration for a separate state. And both led to a complete collapse of administration in the hills. Also, as during the GNLF's movement, normal life is disrupted again in the hills. If the people of Darjeeling feel that their political and economic aspirations have been neglected, no government can afford to dismiss such sentiments.


But the demand for a separate state, in Darjeeling as in other places, is not entirely about development issues. Identity politics has much to do with it. This makes New Delhi's task a very complicated one. Smaller states may be a better idea in terms of administrative advantages. But social and economic indicators from the new states such as Jharkhand, Uttaranchal and Chhattisgarh do not indicate major success stories. Most statehood demands now are based on the premise of differences in identity and culture. Compared to the complexities that this involves, the linguistic division of states was a much simpler matter. Politicians in Bengal who rarely agree on anything are unanimous in their opposition to a 'partition' of West Bengal. But this is no substitute for a workable strategy to resolve the issues in Darjeeling. The Centre's interlocutor for the talks with the GJM cannot act like the state's politicians. New Delhi and Calcutta have to seriously examine why the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council failed to meet the people's aspiration. In taking a call on Darjeeling, they cannot afford to ignore the historical context of Himalayan politics.









Ashok V. Desai


We Indians implicitly believe in India's great past. Recently, that past has been given a statistical underpinning by Angus Maddison. To celebrate the beginning of the 21st century, Maddison wrote a book called The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective. There he says that India was the world's largest economy in the first millennium AD. It produced one-third of the world's income in the first century, and 29 per cent in the 11th century. Under the Mughals in the 17th century, India's share of world income was 24 per cent. Although China had overtaken us by that time, India's share was greater than that of the whole of Europe. By 1951, India's share had fallen to 4 per cent. Why it fell so far is a question we can leave to historians.


What is striking is our poor performance since Independence. India had an extremely high brand value in 1947, despite Partition and the communal riots. Its new rulers got much publicity and goodwill because of the way they had won independence without violence; the world assumed that now that India was independent, it was bound to emerge as a major power. But the expectations were belied, and the opportunities went to waste. The government tried State-led industrialization, and wasted the one major national asset it had, namely private enterprise.


It introduced comprehensive import substitution, and built up inefficient industries. As a result, they could not use international markets to expand. The global market is 25 times as big as India's; an industry that can access it can grow much more than an industry confined to the home market before it faces a market constraint. A number of countries, which were initially poorer than India, did just that; they built up internationally competitive industries. As a result, they grew much faster and became richer than India. And by establishing their presence in the world market, they built up their brands. By the 1980s, little countries like Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia had better brands than India.


Luckily for us, the import substitution strategy finally broke down in 1991, and India went bankrupt. Liberalization was forced on India. When I was taken into the government in 1991, changing the world's image of India was one of our most serious problems. After forty years of socialism, instability and failure, people across the world were sceptical that India had changed stripes.


But the reforms of 1991 worked. India opened up to foreign trade and investment. As trade and investment flows increased, so did the interest of the outside world in India. Today, the circumstances have completely changed. Indian government officials do not have to go round the world trying to interest investors today; instead, they spend their time making complicated rules about which foreign industrialists can invest in India and which cannot and on what terms. India's image has also changed over the years. Before Independence, India was known as a country of elephants and snake-charmers. Maharajas were its brand ambassadors. Their pomp made for good spectacle; their foibles were lapped up by the Western press. But the rulers who took over India in 1947 were not fond of the Maharajas, whom they regarded as remnants of a feudal age and friends of the British. They were ashamed of elephants and snake-charmers; they dreamed of a metallic, modern, industrial India signified by dams and steel mills. So they wasted the images they had inherited.


But the image they wanted to project was different from India's reality, and it continued to be different from the image abroad of India. The disjunction between the two images — the image that people had abroad and the image that the rulers of India wanted them to have — has persisted. The rulers wanted the world to see India as a modernizing, industrializing, dynamic nation. But industrialization was slow to come, so it added nothing to India's brand. Instead, India became a large-scale importer of foodgrains in the 1950s, and became known as a country of the starving poor.


The last famine we had was in 1966; we have been producing enough foodgrains since the 1970s. Nuclear bombs were exploded, first by Indira Gandhi in 1974 and then by Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1998. They made no difference to the balance of power; both explosions were purely public relations exercises, designed to create an image of a strong India. But strength does not come from an atom bomb. The explosions only created the image of strutting rulers who thought a lot of themselves.


What changed the image of India was something that the rulers had nothing to do with. In fact, they did not know when it began to happen, and did not get a chance to stop it. It was the coming of the information technology industry, and the creation of the market abroad for programmers. India just happened to have a large number of engineers who could turn to programming; American IT companies began to come to India in the 1980s and hire them away. And it is these code writers that changed India's image. During a visit to Germany some 15 years ago, a German came up to me and said, "You Indians are so intelligent!" I thought he had gone mad. It was the Germans who were most intelligent; theirs was a most difficult language, and even their children could speak it. But the German was referring to our software engineers.


The IT boom, which transformed India's image, had nothing to do with our rulers. But they did recently do one thing right, namely the Incredible India campaign. It was a short, simple, snappy slogan; no Indianisms in it. It was not descriptive; instead of telling, it mystified. And the visual images that accompanied it were not of steel mills and dams; they were just images of beauty. So Indians — even official Indians — are capable of doing things right; that gives me hope for the future.


Now, the IT boom has done its work for India's image. Net exports of software earned $44.2 billion — a quarter of our invisible receipts and 15 per cent of our total current account receipts. Industry leaders continue to make optimistic projections of its growth, but it is likely to slow down for two reasons: first, because India has already conquered the easier markets and second, because Indian wages have gone up. The Incredible India campaign created enormous interest in India, but it has gone to waste: transport within India has become crowded and chaotic, and Indian hotels have become absurdly expensive. Even for Indians, a holiday in Malaysia or Thailand costs less than a comparable holiday in India. Today, Indians spend nearly as much abroad as foreign tourists spend in India, and our net earnings are negligible. In 2008-09, Indians spent $9.4 billion abroad; foreign tourists spent $10.9 billion in India.


So we need new drivers for Brand India in the next ten years. What might they be? It depends on where we want India to go. Our plans should be ambitious but realistic; they should be located in our international environment, and use our strengths. My ideas must wait for the next column.










With the government at the Centre having buckled to the 'fast-unto-death' pressure or blackmail, call it what you may, the United Progressive Alliance government has paved the way for many groups to make their demands and fast unto death till their personal little kingdoms are delivered. Vidarbha should take a quick lead and bring its demands to a boil. So should Gorkhaland, Bodoland, Maoland and Ulfaland, among others. Fifty-eight-plus states would be easy pie. Rumours abound about who forced the pace and brought about this negative decision. The great oral tradition tells no lies and the very small, key group of 'players' who orchestrated the timing from Delhi with their 'partners in crime' in the state, have defied the real political position in Andhra Pradesh as well as the late Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, who was dead against the breaking up of this Congress bastion in south India.


A snippet of recent history — when the high command in Delhi was consciously misinformed by a vested interest faction about the possible election result in 2009, he, as the incumbent chief minister, asserted the correct political position, pulled the rug from under the feet of the 'manipulators', stalled the deal for the time being, and won an incredible victory, killing all talk of 'anti-incumbency'. He understood the reality of his state. N. Chandrababu Naidu, who at the same time had tried to become the saviour of Telangana in a desperate effort to assert himself politically, lost badly. K. Chandrasekhar Rao and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti were wiped out at the hustings. To resurrect them for no reason at all, and to consciously dilute the presence of the Congress in the South, can only be described as a 'kneejerk reaction'.


Scarred nation


The other explanation for this 'announcement' was that the core group believed, wrongly, that there was a 'people's uprising', and that stopping the bifurcation would lead to violence. To jog our recent memories, this was the same 'reason' given by those who triggered the killing of the Sikhs in Delhi, the destruction of the Babri Masjid and more — passing the buck to innocent citizens who want none of this.


If the Congress was keen on the creation of Telangana, it should have started the process some years ago, when the TRS was a part of the coalition. Clearly, no thought has gone into that. Political 'business' in the Congress is, as usual, meticulously planned behind the scenes in Delhi, with regional players making parochial demands. False statements about the reality on the ground are deliberately made to those few who finally take the decision in good faith. The leadership in Delhi should have its hand on the pulse. What prompted the Congress to destroy itself, just when it had begun to recover?


Has the Congress-led UPA worked out a meticulous plan to divide Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashta into sub-regions? Will it give in to the demands of Rayalaseema, Braj, Bhojpur, Oudh, Bundelkhand, Magadh, Darjeeling, Duars, Marwar, Mewar, Bhilistan and more? Is it serious about redefining state boundaries? Doing this sensibly requires a profound understanding of our civilization and a keen knowledge of the mechanisms and processes of decentralized governance. Alas, those who manipulate such moves are just political 'operators', not political stalwarts. That is the tragedy of present-day India. It is bereft of great leaders.


It would be fascinating to know how this 'deal' happened. A little booklet written by a fly on the wall would make riveting reading and would expose the manner of politicking in India. Instead of calming tempers, faulty political judgement has stoked the fire that will engulf ordinary, decent citizens and leave the next generation scarred. Can this be reversed?








It will be no longer necessary to pass in the second language in the ICSE and ISC examinations. But what would humour, sexuality or ritual be without multiple languages?


One's thoughts must necessarily have a language that is tangible, organic and perhaps a combination of the languages of the thinker. Since the act of thinking precedes expression, how does one reconcile the languages that form the medium for these two processes? Is one conscious, while thinking, of the language in which one would eventually have to express one's thought? In that case, what about the thoughts one never articulates in any known language. Do they remain inside the psyche in a language that is a curious mix of different known tongues?


I have wondered if Arabic forms a part of my mental world, and if so, to what extent. My familiarity with Arabic extends as far as the pictures the script makes on paper and the sounds that those pictures correspond to. This is a result of a fairly rigorous training in learning how to read the Quran, say the namaz by heart, and so on. Being a language with which I am associated only by its sights and sounds, as it were, is it possible that I sometimes even think in the language I don't understand a word of?


Perhaps it was never important for me to understand Arabic. It is after all the language in which I would be communicating with god, and it was he who needed to understand what was being told to him — the belief that what one is uttering by looking at the words on a page are necessarily in praise and thanks to the lord for showering his bounty upon the world is unquestioned by devotees. Several years ago, on refusing to read the Quran daily like the rest of my family because I did not follow what I was reading (none of them did either), my mother bought me an English translation of the Quran to revive my interest. It had a parallel Arabic text in the English script. Since I read English faster than it takes me to decipher the Arabic letters, I announced that if I must read the Quran (not reading it wasn't an option) I would do so from this book in English. I think my mother was appalled and a bit offended. That god didn't know English is something I had taken for granted from a very early age, but the fact that god would know if I read to him via the Roman script (something that, my mother's reaction told me, he did not approve of) convinced me of his omniscience.


If Gujarati, my mother tongue, is a language of my primal emotions — there are terms such as those for items of food, parts of the body, to urinate, to go to bed, house… that I think of primarily in Gujarati — Arabic could very well be a language of my fears. While walking down a deserted road or while feeling there is a ghost in my bathroom, I find myself chanting snatches from the several passages I know in Arabic. I don't know what they mean, but in moments of extreme anxiety, I am assured they are protecting me from evil.


Hindi, my second language in school, is one that keeps reminding me of Bollywood, and of the mindless filmy and melodramatic sessions — khush to bohot hoge tum aj, says a friend tilting slightly to one side like Amitabh Bachchan, to which one is expected to come up with an appropriate retort, Shashi Kapoor style.


Bengali, however, happens to be a language of necessity — a tongue picked up to understand, and make myself understood to, bus conductors, people at the post office, my college librarian, and so on. It shapes my interaction with the various people I meet, often with hilarious results — from the instance when I scandalized a fruit-seller with my confused usage of the words ami and amake (I had said amake khabo instead of ami khabo), to the times when my landlady frantically gesticulates to me in dumb-charade when she needs to ask me to, say, lock the door, because she is convinced I would not understand what she said. Someone once told me that Bengali is perhaps my first language because of my ability to use Bengali expletives without inhibition. Perhaps Bengali is also the language of my humour.








Languages are persons. Or at least, they have personalities, even characters, that may be pleasing, rough, transparent, tricky, furtive, sunny, bleak, manipulative, pliant, bawdy, deep, frivolous — you name it, and there they are, sometimes with these characteristics combined intricately enough to drive the user mad. Which brings us to the most puzzling question of all: do we use language or do languages use us? I may suffer from the delusion that I am using language, but am perpetually haunted by the feeling of being stalked and driven by an infinitely superior entity, unsurpassed in exercising its invisible control over millions of similarly deluded souls throughout history. Surely I am not the same person when I speak or write English as when I do Bengali? Or when I shamelessly use both together? It is necessary to keep a sharp watch on oneself to pounce upon the change, but then, one cannot even yell Got you! without language. It's language that has got us by the throat.

In my more optimistic moments I am willing to concede that, at best, it is a ceaseless tussle between speaker and spoken, between the user and the used, with each seizing control at different times. I have come to some understanding of the agonies of the tussle through hard experience. In school and in life, I have always failed in Hindi. This is a shameful lack; everyone knows and speaks it around me; it is, the Constitution says, the official language, and failing in it miserably, year after year, is not something to be bruited abroad.


But I did try. I can read it too; Devanagari holds no terrors for me. But except for hai and, perhaps, a few words like ladka or ladki, the language is an insoluble mystery to me. They tell me that watching Hindi films is a great way to pick up the language, everyone knows Hindi because of Bollywood. I have done so, faithfully, and the language has remained as aloof as ever. Hindi songs I love have not helped. I have learnt up the meanings of words, I have tried to read paragraphs of stories — and have ended up by being put in my place, puny and powerless.


Perhaps it is genetic. I had one terrifying glimpse of my father's knowledge of Hindi when he was living in Delhi for a while, and he asked someone who had rung up to hold the line. He said, "Dhariye." My mother was less canny about concealing her lack of the language, and would freely rain instructions on her employees in a strangely accented Bengali with a -ko here and there and an invariable hai at the end of every non-sentence.


Their legacy has seriously handicapped me in a very different world. Official callers on the phone often insist on talking in Hindi, making my shamefaced English seem disgracefully out of tune with a resurgent India, and giving me no chance to display the frantic goodwill and desperate apology on my face. Worse, I don't get it. I don't follow a word once the conversation crosses the mark of three words. Hindi trounces me every time, apart from the fact that there is a deafening buzz in my ears when I find myself trapped in it. If a language refuses you, there is nothing you can do about it.


Pity I'll never know who I would have been in Hindi.









Is bilingualism a kind of bisexuality as well? Are our English-speaking erotic personalities different from our vernacular ones? To what extent are sexual identities linguistically inflected? Is sex in English different from sex in Bengali? Do these linguistically different personalities attract or repel different kinds of people, in different ways? How consciously do we make use of linguistic range in our erotic play? Are you the same person, the same sexual-emotional-romantic creature, when you are thinking of someone while listening to Tagore's Shudhu tomar bani noy go, when you write out a Shakespeare sonnet for somebody, email someone the YouTube link to Tanuja singing Raat akeli hai, and are dancing with a stranger to Madonna after a couple of martinis? And what are the larger cultural and historical meanings of being all these different people in a single body? How do you communicate the richness and fun of being thus to somebody who does not have access to this range of registers, not necessarily because this person is less privileged or more boring than you are, but simply because he or she knows only one language?


These questions kept niggling at me — sometimes pleasurably, sometimes uncomfortably — during a series of workshops on sexuality some friends and I had been conducting recently. Each workshop was with a different set of people and at a different venue: undergraduates in a suburban college, graduate students in a new suburban university, rural women who are social workers, male and female schoolteachers from a cluster of villages in the Sundarbans. We consciously tried to conduct these workshops in Bengali, for one of the reasons behind organizing them was to help create a vernacular discourse around contemporary issues or spheres of experience that have become the preserve of Anglophone societies or sections of society. This meant having to discuss, as freely as possible, the biology of sex as well as attitudes, assumptions and mentalities. We had to find Bengali equivalents of English words for parts of the male and female sexual anatomies and for different, very specific, kinds of sexual practice.


We did not want to sound either clinical or coy, and hoped to work out a way of talking that would be informal and natural. But, as the sessions progressed, what I began to feel — and I speak entirely for myself here — was not the usual embarrassment or nervousness of having to break the taboos of silence, but something else. As I was carefully translating into Bengali words and phrases that I would automatically use in English, the very nature of these things, their 'feel', started changing for me. I found myself becoming a different kind of speaking personality — a voice whose sexuality felt discomfitingly alien, and over which I seemed to have less and less control. Paradoxically, what this extended mother-tongue made me feel was not a greater facility of communication, but its opposite — a peculiarly tongue-tied distance from other human beings that was at once social and more intrinsic than social.


What had changed for me was not only language, but also an entire register of experience. It was as if I was not speaking but being spoken by another tongue that felt strange to the point of falsifying the lived experience of my own identity and personhood. Even more paradoxically, it was easier to discuss in this new language the violent and oppressive aspects of sexuality, rape and abuse, than pleasure, desire and happiness. Brutality and injustice were easier to talk about than tenderness and freedom. I started sounding deadly earnest or ridiculously precise, neither of which was quite me.


In a society riven with inequalities, sexuality has a conflicted relationship with both language and silence. Most forms of repression and oppression feed on silence. The breaking of these silences often involves importing words and concepts into the vernaculars from another linguistic register or language (usually English). Such 'consciousness-raising' then becomes informed with the awkward gradients that separate the worlds of these languages or registers.


Sexuality's necessary darkness needs to be protected as much from the divisive and clarifying glare of language as from the ills of benightedness.










The move for impeachment of Karnataka high court chief justice P D Dinakaran has gained momentum with 75 members of the Rajya Sabha submitting a signed memorandum to the vice-president and Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Anzari on Monday. The controversy over charges that he has encroached into government land, acquired wealth beyond his means and has not observed the best standards of judicial conduct has reached a stage where strong remedial action is called for to uphold the prestige and protect the credibility of the judiciary. The government has rejected the supreme court collegium's recommendation to elevate Justice Dinakaran to the apex court and told it to reconsider its proposal. The government has also said that it does not need any more enquiries into the matter, clearly implying that there is substance in the allegations. It is inconceivable that the collegium would insist on Dinakaran's elevation in the face of opposition from the government, the bar, many eminent jurists and retired judges, the public and the media.

If Justice Dinakaran is not fit for the supreme court he cannot continue as the chief justice of the Karnataka high court either. He has not attended the court for some days but there is no indication that it is out of respect for the position he holds. The best course for the judge is to resign. If he refuses to quit on his own, the collegium can advise him to do so. If he does not heed the counsel, the impeachment procedure, which has been initiated, should be expedited. There is already an impeachment process against Justice Saumitra Sen of the Calcutta high court under way in parliament. This is cumbersome and time-consuming and, as seen in the case of Justice Ramaswami in 1992, does not always produce results.

Even if Justice Dinakaran resigns or is impeached and forced out, the charges against him should be pursued under the relevant penal provisions of the law. He should be punished for land grabbing, amassment of wealth by wrong means, doing benami deals and other charges that he may be found guilty of. The judge has not shown any contrition after the charges came out into the open but has stuck to a position of complete denial, and even threatened officials who investigated the charges against him. His position should not shield him from paying the due price for his misconduct and violations of the law.









There are several troubling questions that the trial, conviction and sentencing of Vikram Buddhi, a doctoral student in the United States, raises.

A US court has sentenced Buddhi, an Indian Institute of Technology alumnus, to almost five years in prison and an additional three years of supervised release for allegedly posting hate messages on internet in 2005 against US President George Bush and calling on Iraqis to avenge the deaths of their citizens. The messages were traced to Buddhi's computer but in 2006, investigators released Buddhi after interrogating him. Strangely four months later, he was picked up again and put on trial. His trial was far from fair. Crucial evidence was hidden from the jury. The judge who presided over the case was hostile to Buddhi from the start. Even if he had authored the internet postings, the sentence is rather excessive. There is a difference between hate speech and violent acts and the postings fall under the former category. The postings were made at the height of global anger against Bush's war on Iraq. Millions across the world, including Americans, were enraged with the invasion of Iraq and the terrible occupation that followed. People marched in protest, made films and wrote books that reflected this rage. Several movies made by Americans even showed Bush being assassinated. Why was Buddhi's postings singled out? Was Buddhi a victim of the small mindedness of xenophobic Americans?

It is not our argument that Buddhi should be set free because he is Indian or because his bright future as a researcher has been put on hold. If he did commit a crime, he deserves the sentence as per the law of the land. But this punishment should have come after a fair trial. Buddhi was denied that.


The Indian government is reported to have done little to secure Buddhi's right. Its lack of involvement in his case is shocking. India's ambassador to the US, Meera Shanker, told a pan-IIT conference in Chicago recently that she did not know about the case. The Indian consulate in Chicago, under whose jurisdiction Buddhi's case falls, was simply not engaged in the trial. Such apathy is unacceptable. Buddhi is expected to appeal the sentence. Hopefully, the Indian government will ensure that he gets a fair trial at least this time.









The shoddy and unconscionably delayed Liberhan report — still unavailable to ordinary mortals in print — does not bring closure to the disgraceful demolition of the Babri masjid. The debate in parliament was polemical, with the BJP steadfastly obfuscating the issue and crudely attempting to drown the home minister's response in the Lok Sabha with a raucous chorus of 'Jai, Jai Atalji' on the ground that Vajpayee had been insulted by a Congress member.

The many flaws in the Liberhan report were exposed at length without detracting from his primary conclusions. Much emphasis was placed by the BJP on the then prime minister, Narasimha Rao's responsibility. He was inactive and helpless on the fateful day because he was taken in by the solemn promises of the BJP leadership including the UP chief minister, Kalyan Singh to parliament, the supreme court, the National Integration Council and the country, until it was too late to intervene.

The Taliban had made no promises to anybody when they vandalised the Bamiyan Buddhas. The BJP and parivar ideologues used deceit. Neither act changed history or altered civilisational facts. Liberhan described the destruction as a deliberate, and premeditated conspiracy by the parivar and not something done spontaneously by a frenzied mob.

Chidambaram lamented the lack of even a semblance of remorse or shame. Indeed Kalyan Singh and members of the parivar asserted that there was nothing to regret. Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief, went further. Releasing a book on partition in Delhi on Dec 4, he said the "division of the sub-continent would have to be undone for everybody's good".

This is a highly inflammatory statement by one who appears intent on assuming direct control over the BJP behind the purdah of 'cultural nationalism' or Hindutva, based on the enunciation of the two-nation theory by Savarkar, a father figure for the parivar, as far back as 1927. What we are witnessing is a struggle for the soul of the BJP, to determine whether it should morph into a conservative, secular party or assume a more fascist and chauvinistic role. The demolition of the Babri masjid was part of this on-going struggle.

The Centre must expedite hearings on all the Ayodhya/Babri suits in various courts and work out an appropriate solution for what is essentially a political issue that is being used, like the Ram Setu matter, to invoke religious passions for political gain. The pandering to rank communalism in the in pursuit of vote bank politics — in which the Congress is equally adept — has resulted in hollowing out Indian secularism.

Emotional blackmail

Even as the Liberhan saga was unfolding, Telengana came on the boil with Chandrashekara Rao's fast unto death. Such emotional blackmail must be severely discouraged as it bears no relation to Gandhi's fasts at a time when the country was under alien rule and recourse to democratic consensus building was not possible.

If Rao can fast for his cause, so can others for the opposite cause or yet other 'causes'. What then becomes of the democratic process? Though electoral support for Telengana has waned recently, the cause can certainly be canvassed. In this case, the means were wrong. The Centre was regrettably stampeded and has landed itself and the country in a pretty pickle.

The answer to vociferous demands for new states unleashed by the Telengana  contretemps is to appoint a new States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) with fiscal, administrative and economic experts (not judges or politicians) to report within six months on what might be done and how.

A case can be made out for Telengana on the ground that this could stimulate investment and employment in this relatively backward region. An autonomous development board for Telengana within Andhra, could be envisaged as provided for Maharashtra and Gujarat under Article 371. But statehood has a wider ambit and could be far more effective.


There is an optimal numerical and a real span for good governance and many states exceed these parameters. Small is not necessarily ideal, nor big bad. India will attain a population of 1,700 m in 50 years from now and could reasonably have 50-60 states, 1000-1500 districts and maybe 15,000 blocks for better and more inclusive participative government.


Simultaneously, zonal councils and other aggregative bodies of a functional nature (like railway zones, regional electricity grids, river basin authorities) could pull together different units for coordination and close cooperation.

Some argue that Hyderabad should be made a Union Territory. Why? The fact that it is an industrial hub and generates income is an insufficient reason. Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema could find or build new capitals, green field cities in a rapidly urbanising India. Having state capitals in metros is a nuisance.

New York and LA or San Francisco are not the capitals of New York state or California respectively. In an expanding urban environment, building a new city entails no additional cost. So we need to get real and not get into a tizzy over departures from the norm without forgetting the larger good or ends and means.







India and China are currently focusing on Africa. But their long-term strategy, approach and modus operandi differ. Our historical and geographical links with Africa and admiration for Indian leaders like Gandhi and Nehru are favourable factors.


Perhaps the most successful and popular Indian initiative, the brain child of the former President Dr A P J Kalam, has been the PAN Africa e-Network. The TCIL signed a MoU with around 40 African countries to connect their capitals with India through internet offering a range of services including tele-education and tele- medicine.

India has been offering ITECH Scholarships to developing countries Africa takes roughly 40 per cent of the pie.

Since the early 60s India has participated in many UN Peace Keeping Missions in Africa. Most recently, Indian women Peace Keepers in Liberia have won praise internationally.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had announced concessional lines of credit to African countries to the tune of $5.4 billion over a period of five years at the end of India-Africa Forum Summit last year. He had also announced an amount of $500 million for capacity building and doubling of scholarships. India has also set aside funds for assisting a number of African countries in addressing the menace of HIV and AIDs.

China, far ahead

Indian efforts, though laudable, are rather modest compared to the Chinese handouts. The road from Nairobi to the Kenyan port city of Mombasa is in extremely dilapidated condition. But it has a stretch of roughly 70 km four-lane highway of international standard called the China Road.

India-Africa Forum Summit last year attracted only half a dozen Heads of State from Africa. When China organised the China-Africa Summit, it was attended by 41 Heads of State. At the end, the Chinese government pledged to train 15,000 professionals from Africa in three years, set up 100 rural schools, offer 4,000 scholarships and set up a China-Africa Development Fund with a corpus of over $5 billion!

Some observers recommend "an active foreign service lobbying." This would require a fundamental change in mindsets of the officers and administrative priorities set by the MEA. Many blue-eyed boys and girls avoid Africa like a leper and retire without  spending even a fortnight in Africa!

A common but valid grievance African country has been that we remember them when we need their vote/support for some UN related election/selection. Generally, we show reluctance in sending our VVIP/VIPs to African countries and invite African leaders sparingly. The last presidential visit was exchanged between India and Kenya in 1981! And  Indira Gandhi was the last Indian PM to visit Kenya in 1981!
In many small African countries India has no resident missions; our relations are looked after by one of the high commissioners on concurrent basis.

We don't have to copy China blindly in Africa. Following measures, if taken with a sense of purpose and priority, can produce positive results:

All IFS officers must serve in Africa; eight countries should be shortlisted annually for a visit by Indian dignitaries; African leaders should be invited to visit India every year; bilateral business council meetings should be organised periodically.

We must work hard to remove the image of being a fair-weather friend. When calamity hits, we must rush aid, assistance generously and in time.

Sam Pitroda is right: India should try IT diplomacy in Africa. If in each African country, India sets up one IT centre which will attract and benefit the youth, we would be reaching out to the generation which has the potential of playing a significant role in bringing India and Africa closer.

Lastly, we have a Prime Minister's Special Envoy for West Asia and Pakistan .Why not for Africa? This continent has the maximum members of the UN, NAM, G-77 and the Commonwealth. We have growing interest in the hydrocarbon sectors in Angola, Libya, Nigeria and Sudan. We are scouting for countries with Uranium deposits, Congo has possibly every conceivable mineral resource including gold, silver, zinc. A Special Envoy to Africa can not only mobilise support for our candidatures for international organisations and facilitate energy security arrangements; he/she can also promote and facilitate economic relations between India

and Africa.


(The author is a retired secretary, ministry of external affairs)









A US General of the WWII vintage was known for his cool temper. Once when a journalist asked him why he never raised his voice, he replied laconically, "Never needed to." After joining police, one always kept his example in mind. How far I was able to achieve this ideal, only my juniors can tell. But my family thinks I am an abject failure.

I blame it on my nativity. The region, encompassing parts of Haryana and Rajasthan, in which my native village is situated, is known as 'Raath.' People of this area are known for their loud and rough manner of speaking. My father and uncles, who were in the army, have all had problems with their seniors on account of this ingrained trait. Even now when they sit down to a friendly discussion, a bystander could be forgiven for believing that they are fighting.

After I got married, initially my wife had a hard time coping with my loud voice. But soon she learnt to take advantage of it. Whenever, I am on the brink of winning an argument, which is rare of course, she escapes saying, "I can't match you in shouting". Not only that, whenever I catch her speaking loudly, she is quick to blame it on me saying, "This is what happens when one lives with a person like you".

When, my daughter decided to become a lawyer I was happy that at least one trait that she has inherited from me would come handy. And sure enough, thanks to her powerful voice, she fared well in her fist moot court competition. What I didn't know was how quickly she has learnt to take advantage of the weakness of her adversary, just like her mom.

For some days, my daughter had been asking for an i-Pod. But it costs a small fortune and she already has a walkman. So, when she was at home, recently, I got down to discuss the issue with her. Using all my powers of persuasion and logic, I tried to convince her that the gadget would be a distraction from her studies. She nodded in agreement to what I said but just as I thought I had succeeded in my endeavour, she gestured me to stop and said coolly, "You know you are shouting, papa" and left with the airs of a clear winner.







Asserting that it "is among the strongest banks in the industry," Citigroup announced on Monday that it would soon repay $20 billion of federal bailout money. This from a bank that has been in the red for most of the past two years, that is expected to limp through 2010 amid a torrent of loan losses, that saw its stock price close after the announcement at a measly $3.70 a share — and that, like other big banks, is still reluctant to lend.


Meanwhile, the Treasury Department, which seems to have no qualms about Citigroup's self-proclaimed strength, plans to sell its $25 billion stake over the next six to 12 months.


Citigroup's planned exit from the bailout — like Bank of America's earlier this month — would be welcome if the banks were the picture of health. But their main motive is to get out from under the bailout's pay caps and other restraints. The Treasury Department's approval is a grim reminder of the political power of the banks, even as the economy they did so much to damage continues to struggle.


Over the weekend, President Obama summoned the nation's biggest bankers to Washington, but some of the biggest recipients of taxpayers' money, including Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, didn't bother making the extra effort to get there ahead of time to avoid the predictable winter weather that grounded their flights.


Mr. Obama was right when he said the banks owe "an extraordinary commitment" to taxpayers, and he got some promises to lend more. But that would have been more convincing if the administration had held the banks' feet to the fire in the first place and had not agreed so quickly to freeing them from the bailout restraints. The truth is that the taxpayers are still very much on the hook for a banking system that is shaping up to be much riskier than the one that led to disaster.


Big bank profits, for instance, still come mostly courtesy of taxpayers. Their trading earnings are financed by more than a trillion dollars' worth of cheap loans from the Federal Reserve, for which some of their most noxious assets are collateral. They benefit from immense federal loan guarantees, but they are not lending much. Lending to business, notably, is very tight.


What profits the banks make come mostly from trading. Many big banks are happy to depend on the lifeline from the Fed and hang onto their toxic assets hoping for a rebound in prices. And the whole system has grown more concentrated. Bank of America was considered too big to fail before the meltdown. Since then, it has acquired Merrill Lynch. Wells Fargo took over Wachovia. And JPMorgan Chase gobbled up Bear Stearns.


If the goal is to reduce the number of huge banks that taxpayers must rescue at any cost, the nation is moving in the wrong direction. The growth of the biggest banks ensures that the next bailout will have to be even bigger. These banks will be more likely to take on excessive risk because they have the implicit assurance of rescue.


The White House's proposal to overhaul financial regulation has ideas for banks that are too big to fail. The House passed a bill last week that would require big banks to have bigger capital cushions to absorb losses. It gives the government authority to seize and dismantle big financial firms at imminent risk of failure and mandates banks to pay for a $150 billion fund to cover the costs of any future mess. It grants regulators authority to limit the operations or even break up big banks deemed too risky, even if they appear healthy.


These provisions still seem vulnerable to being gamed. The Senate, which is unlikely to pass its version of the deal until next year, should explore more direct measures, like banning banks beyond a certain size, measured by their liabilities.


If we have learned anything over the last couple of years, it is that banks that are too big to fail pose too much of a risk to the economy. Any serious effort to reform the financial system must ensure that no such banks exist.







Eleven members of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit based in San Francisco are scheduled to hear legal arguments on Tuesday in a lawsuit involving serious allegations of torture. The Bush administration tried to block the suit as part of its campaign to close off all avenues of accountability for its lawless detention policies. This time, President Obama's lawyers will be making the same extravagant claims of secrecy and executive power.


The immediate question is whether people who were harmed by Mr. Bush's policies — in this case five victims of "extraordinary rendition" and torture — will be allowed their day in court or silenced before any evidence is taken. The court must resist the Obama team's invitation to sacrifice democratic principles to avoid a politically embarrassing airing of policies and decisions that Mr. Obama himself has repeatedly condemned.


The administration sought the en banc proceeding before the expanded bench after a ruling by a three-judge panel last April rejected the argument that the executive branch is entitled to have lawsuits shut down whenever it makes a blanket claim of national security. The government's theory, the ruling noted, would "effectively cordon off all secret actions from judicial scrutiny, immunizing the C.I.A. and its partners from the demands and limits of the law."


The court can do a major public service by firmly seconding the April ruling and letting the case go forward. Unless courts declare the conduct in question illegal, nothing will prevent another administration from arguing, just as the last one did, that kidnapping, secret detention, abuse and even torture were a perfectly acceptable response to national security concerns.


In case after case, the Obama administration has echoed — and in some instances exceeded — Bush-era claims designed to cover up despicable acts committed in the name of fighting terrorism and avoiding accountability for the responsible officials. Last month, for example, the Justice Department filed a brief in the Supreme Court opposing review of another lawsuit by torture victims. The brief argued that there was no basis for claims by former detainees at Guantánamo Bay, since at the time of their detention, between 2002 and 2004, it was not firmly established that their treatment was illegal.


That would be an outrageous argument coming from any administration. But it is even more disappointing coming from one that has said torture is clearly illegal. "The Bush administration constructed a legal framework for torture," observes Jameel Jaffer, who leads the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project, "but the Obama administration is constructing a legal framework for impunity."


It is up to the courts to fulfill their constitutional role by checking executive power and providing accountability. The precedent set by the federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will be critical.






For the last 13 years, the case of Cobell v. Salazar has wound its way through the United States District Court for the District of Columbia like a latter-day version of Dickens's Jarndyce v. Jarndyce. The defendants — the secretaries of interior, Treasury, and the Interior Department's chief of Indian affairs — have changed over the years, and so has the judge. Now, at last, a settlement has been reached. The federal government has agreed to pay $3.4 billion to settle claims that it had shortchanged accounts it has held in trust since the 19th century for hundreds of thousands of American Indians.


The agreement would pay $1.4 billion directly to individual holders of the trusts. It would also set up a $2 billion fund to buy fractional shares in the trusts from willing sellers in an effort to consolidate fragments of tribal land into more profitable holdings.


Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff and most visible symbol in the case, said she thought the Indians were owed more. But, she acknowledged, the number of elderly claimants had dwindled and further litigation would only mean the deaths of more of the very people who were meant to benefit from the trusts.


The trusts are a legacy of an 1887 law that divided some tribal lands among individuals and placed the lands in federally administered trusts. The federal government then leased the land for mining, grazing and other purposes, returning the proceeds to the trusts. Over time, records were lost, mishandled and destroyed, and the trusts were divided into tinier and tinier pieces as they were passed down to descendants.


The $3.4 billion is a mere fraction of the trusts' estimated value, but given the pressure of time, fiscal realities and the tendency of Congress to try to legislate away the problem, this is the best solution likely and at least partial atonement for a major historical default by the federal government. The agreement still needs approval by Congress and the federal courts. After more than a century of delay and obstruction, both should move quickly, followed by swift and efficient administration of the settlement by the Interior Department.







Animal shelters across California are juggling chihuahuas. A rising tide of abandonment has led the little dogs to now rival pit bulls for the unhappy title of most popular, most unwanted breed.


In Oakland, half the dogs at one shelter are chihuahuas. In San Francisco's municipal shelter, the proportion of full- or part-chihuahuas is one-third and rising. Officials in Los Angeles have taken to airlifting them to the Northeast, which has many more chihuahua lovers than shelters here can supply.


Shelter officials say breeders and puppy mills have been saturating a market that has been artificially stoked by pop culture. Add a deep recession, and it's easy to understand the flood of plaintive stories and photos of unwanted dogs on shelter Web sites and on Craigslist, so far from the sunny worlds of "Legally Blonde" and "Beverly Hills Chihuahua."


But let's leave Elle Wood out of this. Too many people learn too late that their little handbag companions can be nervous, yappy, fragile — they are prone to chronic problems with their teeth, skulls and bones — and expensive to maintain.


As shelters try to solve what is essentially a distribution problem, states need to discourage reckless breeders and pass laws requiring spaying and neutering. People also need to realize the responsibility they are taking on before they buy or adopt any dog. The dogs deserve a safe, caring and permanent home. (And, if it's a shorthaired chihuahua going to the Northeast in winter, a sweater.)








If you were graduating from Princeton in the first part of the 20th century, you probably heard the university president, John Hibben, deliver one of his commencement addresses. Hibben's running theme, which was common at that time, was that each person is part angel, part devil. Life is a struggle to push back against the evils of the world without succumbing to the passions of the beast lurking inside.


You might not have been paying attention during the speech, but as you got older a similar moral framework was floating around the culture, and it probably got lodged in your mind.


You, and others of your era, would have been aware that there is evil in the world, and if you weren't aware, the presence of Hitler and Stalin would have confirmed it. You would have known it is necessary to fight that evil.


At the same time, you would have had a lingering awareness of the sinfulness within yourself. As the cold war strategist George F. Kennan would put it: "The fact of the matter is that there is a little bit of the totalitarian buried somewhere, way down deep, in each and every one of us."


So as you act to combat evil, you wouldn't want to get carried away by your own righteousness or be seduced by the belief that you are innocent. Even fighting evil can be corrupting.


As a matter of policy, you would have thought it wise to constrain your own power within institutions. America should fight the Soviet Union, but it should girdle its might within NATO. As Harry Truman said: "We all have to recognize, no matter how great our strength, that we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please."


And you would have championed the spread of democracy, knowing that democracy is the only system that fits humanity's noble yet sinful nature. As the midcentury theologian Reinhold Niebuhr declared: "Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary."


You would, in short, have been a cold war liberal.


Cold war liberalism had a fine run in the middle third of the 20th century, and it has lingered here and there since. Scoop Jackson kept the flame alive in the 1970s. Peter Beinart wrote a book called "The Good Fight," giving the tendency modern content.


But after Vietnam, most liberals moved on. It became unfashionable to talk about evil. Some liberals came to believe in the inherent goodness of man and the limitless possibilities of negotiation. Some blamed conflicts on weapons systems and pursued arms control. Some based their foreign-policy thinking on being against whatever George W. Bush was for. If Bush was an idealistic nation-builder, they became Nixonian realists.


Barack Obama never bought into these shifts. In the past few weeks, he has revived the Christian realism that undergirded cold war liberal thinking and tried to apply it to a different world.


Obama's race probably played a role here. As a young thoughtful black man, he would have become familiar with prophetic Christianity and the human tendency toward corruption; familiar with the tragic sensibility of Lincoln's second inaugural; familiar with the guarded pessimism of Niebuhr, who had such a profound influence on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


In 2002, Obama spoke against the Iraq war, but from the vantage point of a cold war liberal. He said he was not against war per se, just this one, and he was booed by the crowd. In 2007, he spoke about the way Niebuhr formed his thinking: "I take away the compelling idea that there's serious evil in the world and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn't use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction."


His speeches at West Point and Oslo this year are pitch-perfect explications of the liberal internationalist approach. Other Democrats talk tough in a secular way, but Obama's speeches were thoroughly theological. He talked about the "core struggle of human nature" between love and evil.


More than usual, he talked about the high ideals of the human rights activists and America's history as a vehicle for democracy, prosperity and human rights. He talked about America's "strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct." Most of all, he talked about the paradox at the core of cold war liberalism, of the need to balance "two seemingly irreconcilable truths" — that war is both folly and necessary.


He talked about the need to balance the moral obligation to champion freedom while not getting swept up in self-destructive fervor.


Obama has not always gotten this balance right. He misjudged the emotional moment when Iranians were marching in Tehran. But his doctrine is becoming clear. The Oslo speech was the most profound of his presidency, and maybe his life.


Bob Herbert is off today.








San Francisco

CLIMATE talks have been going on in Copenhagen for a week now, and it appears to be a two-sided debate between alarmists and skeptics. But there are actually four different views of global warming. A taxonomy of the four:


DENIALISTS They are loud, sure and political. Their view is that climatologists and their fellow travelers are engaged in a vast conspiracy to panic the public into following an agenda that is political and pernicious. Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma and the columnist George Will wave the banner for the hoax-callers.


"The claim that global warming is caused by manmade emissions is simply untrue and not based on sound science," Mr. Inhofe declared in a 2003 speech to the Senate about the Kyoto accord that remains emblematic of his position. "CO2 does not cause catastrophic disasters — actually it would be beneficial to our environment and our economy .... The motives for Kyoto are economic, not environmental — that is, proponents favor handicapping the American economy through carbon taxes and more regulations."


SKEPTICS This group is most interested in the limitations of climate science so far: they like to examine in detail the contradictions and shortcomings in climate data and models, and they are wary about any "consensus" in science. To the skeptics' discomfort, their arguments are frequently quoted by the denialists.


In this mode, Roger Pielke, a climate scientist at the University of Colorado, argues that the scenarios presented by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are overstated and underpredictive. Another prominent skeptic is the physicist Freeman Dyson, who wrote in 2007: "I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models .... I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests."


WARNERS These are the climatologists who see the trends in climate headed toward planetary disaster, and they blame human production of greenhouse gases as the primary culprit. Leaders in this category are the scientists James Hansen, Stephen Schneider and James Lovelock. (This is the group that most persuades me and whose views I promote.)


"If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted," Mr. Hansen wrote as the lead author of an influential 2008 paper, then the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would have to be reduced from 395 parts per million to "at most 350 p.p.m."


CALAMATISTS There are many environmentalists who believe that industrial civilization has committed crimes against nature, and retribution is coming. They quote the warners in apocalyptic terms, and they view denialists as deeply evil. The technology critic Jeremy Rifkin speaks in this manner, and the writer-turned-activist Bill McKibben is a (fairly gentle) leader in this category.


In his 2006 introduction for "The End of Nature," his famed 1989 book, Mr. McKibben wrote of climate change in religious terms: "We are no longer able to think of ourselves as a species tossed about by larger forces — now we are those larger forces. Hurricanes and thunderstorms and tornadoes become not acts of God but acts of man. That was what I meant by the 'end of nature.'"


The calamatists and denialists are primarily political figures, with firm ideological loyalties, whereas the warners and skeptics are primarily scientists, guided by ever-changing evidence. That distinction between ideology and science not only helps clarify the strengths and weaknesses of the four stances, it can also be used to predict how they might respond to future climate developments.


If climate change were to suddenly reverse itself (because of some yet undiscovered mechanism of balance in our climate system), my guess is that the denialists would be triumphant, the skeptics would be skeptical this time of the apparent good news, the warners would be relieved, and the calamatists would seek out some other doom to proclaim.


If climate change keeps getting worse then I would expect denialists to grasp at stranger straws, many skeptics to become warners, the warners to start pushing geoengineering schemes like sulfur dust in the stratosphere, and the calamatists to push liberal political agendas — just as the denialists said they would.


Stewart Brand is the author of "Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto."








A NEW report issued by a state panel formed to investigate New York's juvenile detention centers has found that they "fail to keep their young people safe and secure, let alone meet their myriad service and treatment needs," and that "youth are subjected to shocking violence and abuse." This news, which comes on the heels of a federal study that also documented squalid conditions, makes plain to the world what many of us inside the state's justice system have been saying for years: we need a fundamental rethinking of how we respond to troubled young people.


A consensus is emerging among juvenile justice policymakers, including prosecutors, that New York must limit the number of young people sent to expensive prison-like residential facilities. The goal should be to create more community-based intervention programs, which have proved less expensive and more effective at reducing crime.


There will be no progress, however, until sentencing judges have confidence that the probation departments charged with supervising young people have adequate financing and can connect youths to the services they need. This requires a relatively simple but bold step: making the juvenile probation system an arm of the courts, rather than of the executive branch, as it is now.


It costs an estimated $210,000 per year to confine a juvenile in a state residential facility. The return on this investment — which is roughly 10 times the cost of the most expensive community-based intervention — is shockingly poor. The most recent estimates are that 89 percent of boys placed in these facilities go on to commit further crimes.


While many of the 1,600 young people sent to New York residential facilities each year are there for committing serious felony-level offenses, the majority are not. The sad truth is that a judge's decision to confine a young person often has much to do with the severity of the offense and more to do with whether the county is able to provide the services needed to deal with chaotic home situations, addictions and mental health problems.


New York's judges, however, have already shown that they can play an important role in connecting troubled individuals with needed services. Over the last decade, we have made it a priority to link nonviolent adult offenders — mostly those involved in drug cases — to community-based drug and mental health treatment instead of jailing them. By engaging judges in monitoring defendants in treatment, we have become a national model for reducing both substance abuse and recidivism.


Why not apply this model to juvenile probation? Each year, family court judges in New York sentence about 4,500 young people to probation. These sentences are administered by local juvenile probation departments, which are overburdened and underfinanced, in large part because the probation system has no strong advocate in Albany. Two decades ago, state dollars made up about 47 percent of county probation budgets; today that figure is below 20 percent.


If our goal is to reduce the number of young people behind bars, we will inevitably increase the number of them on juvenile probation. This will make it ever harder for financially ailing county probation departments to carry out a judge's sentence. But having the state judiciary assume oversight would not only ensure that judges could do a better job of holding young defendants accountable, but also give the juvenile probation system a champion in state government.

We have reached a crisis: the state agency overseeing juvenile facilities has asked New York's family court judges not to institutionalize young offenders unless they are a significant risk to public safety. But this is just a Band-Aid. A real solution requires a strategy for reducing incarceration and crime.


The experience of New York's adult drug courts indicates that it is possible to do both — if judges feel confident that alternative sanctions are meaningful and rigorous. Having the judicial branch itself oversee juvenile probation would be an important step in limiting the number of youths incarcerated, protecting public safety, closing unneeded residential facilities and saving money.


Jonathan Lippman is the chief judge of the State of New York.








In a distinct departure from the policy of the previous government, the finance minister has said his administration's plan is to bring CNG prices on a par with petrol, discourage the use of CNG in vehicles and instead divert it to an industrial sector which is desperate for energy. The Rs8 per kilogram rise in the price of CNG from next year is intended to serve this purpose. The proposed price rise and the low gas pressure available in the north of the country have triggered protests from CNG station owners. The pros and cons of the government strategy are open to debate. Critics say gas may be used to fuel the rental power projects which the PPP says are necessary to end the power crisis. Advocates maintain rescuing industry is essential. But the steady rise in CNG costs has other ramifications. Over a period of years vehicle owners were encouraged to switch to CNG as a fuel. Environmental factors were cited as one reason for this. Rickshaw-owners were pressurised to make the change. As a result thousands of vehicles are now fitted with CNG kits. Their owners now find that this means no significant gain in terms of the price of fuel while stations too could soon begin shutting down.

As in other sectors, the lack of consistency in policy has created enormous difficulties for ordinary people. This same failure to ensure continuity has led to half-finished roads fanning out from villages and to periodic changes in the start of term at educational institutions. Already, citizens are facing all kinds of hardships due to the CNG decision. These seem to matter little to the government. A new controversy has been generated. Questions are being asked as to why we face such an acute energy crisis despite promises of US aid. It is unclear how industrialists view the strategy, but certainly we can expect to hear much more on this over the coming days as the storm stirs up and gains momentum.







The Rs311 million robbery at a bank in Karachi is really not surprising at all. It was only a matter of time before the private security guards now visible outside almost every bank, office building and apartment block, struck in this fashion. Thousands of these guards, belonging to different companies, have been recruited in a short period of time. The latest spate of terrorist attacks has led to greater haste still. With schools, multinationals, restaurants and other businesses all demanding protection, security firms have struggled to meet the demand and people have, quite literally, been pulled off the street, given uniforms, handed guns and assigned duties at sensitive locations. In some cases, as the robbery shows, their identity has been fabricated. The situation is an inherently dangerous one. In the past too security guards have been found involved in robberies at private homes and other places where they were assigned. But the current climate means there is a still bigger risk. Terrorist groups could easily infiltrate the network of private guards and use this as a means to target schools, shopping malls or other locations. The task is not a very arduous one and these groups possess the ability and the acumen to carry it out.

The robbery, which appeared to have been well-planned, should serve as a lesson. We need to tighten up the mechanisms for the hiring of guards. Far greater scrutiny is required. This can happen only if there is a mechanism in place to regulate security firms themselves. As advertisements appearing in newspapers show, more and more of these companies are cropping up by the day. There must be some means to determine who is running these companies and how they are recruiting their guards. The new challenges we face are a fallout of the state's inability to perform its most basic duties. As a result, people have had to turn to their own devices. But it is becoming clear that these uniformed individuals pose a new kind of danger, reminding us just how difficult it is to keep order amidst a wave of chaos.







There are recent reports that the Indian government has recently blocked as many as 25 million Chinese-made phones which were without valid International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers. The Indian department of telecommunications instructed all operators to block cellphones without the all-important IMEI. Why is the IMEI important to the Indians as well as to us and every other country in the world? Because without them it is impossible to prove who made or received specific phone calls as they cannot be traced to a specific handset. There are obvious benefits to this for criminals and terrorists, both of which groups have exploited this loophole in the recent past. The Chinese handsets without IMEI tend to be low-end and from smaller manufacturers who cut costs by skipping the IMEI programming stage before wholesaling.

The same phones that are on sale in India are on sale in Pakistan, and come with the same problems with a few local additions. Aggressive marketing by the cellular companies to meet subscription targets has opened a Pandora's Box of unregistered SIMs, multiple fake SIM registrations against a legitimately registered card and the sale of IMEI-less handsets. The cellular industry here (according to an industry website) is of the opinion that our systems of registration and ownership of mobile phones and their associated software are as yet immature, and there needs to be a 'streamlining' of issues relating to mobile ownership. The PTA has so far blocked over 10 million numbers and PTA officials are quoted as saying that all unregistered mobile phone connections will be blocked before the introduction of a new SIM verification system. The rapid growth of the mobile phone networks has been truly transformative of the way we live our lives and do our business. As ever, the regulatory systems lag behind the technology, and few could have anticipated the phenomenal growth in the telecom sector over the last decade. Our precarious security situation makes the plugging of holes in the regulatory process essential – and if that means knocking out of the system phones without an IMEI then so be it.





There was an element of disbelief everywhere when Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said on December 12 that the military offensive in South Waziristan was almost over and now the government was considering a similar operation in Orakzai Agency. His statement was given importance in Western capitals and media and soon analysts were contacted to explain its implications. Many found it unbelievable that the action was going to shift soon from the Waziristan battlefield where the 'mother of all battles' was supposed to take place.

It later dawned on Prime Minister Gilani that his statement had caused confusion and needed to be clarified. He had gone beyond his brief and said something that was premature and gave wrong description of the situation in both South Waziristan and Orakzai tribal regions. The statement was promptly retracted and a new one issued in which he said the military operation in South Waziristan was continuing successfully but no timeline could be given about its conclusion. He added that military action in Orakzai and other tribal areas where militants had fled from South Waziristan would be undertaken if there was a need.

The incident showed the inability of our ruling politicians to grasp the importance the world, in particular the west, is attaching to the situation in our tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and the keenness with which Pakistan armed forces' operations in South Waziristan and elsewhere are being followed. Apparently Mr Gilani wanted to portray the advance of the security forces in South Waziristan as a success of his government's policy to tackle militancy. The urge to convey this message prompted the prime minister to make the statement while talking to journalists in Lahore. By the way, the temptation to talk to waiting reporters after an event and pass casual remarks about serious issues sometimes lands rulers and celebrities in trouble. And like Mr Gilani, they are subsequently found complaining about being quoted out of context.

The prime minister has been reminded that the military action in South Waziristan is by no means over. The Pakistan Army is saying that the first phase is over, but then there are supposed to be three phases of this operation. The military would need to keep most of its troops in South Waziristan until the threat from the militants is adequately overcome, the displaced people are repatriated to their villages and the civil administration is revived. This is a classic counter-insurgency mission requiring a long time to accomplish. Offering a timeline for achieving such difficult goals is risky. If the Swat and Malakand mission is any guide where the post-conflict stage hasn't been fully reached and the revival of the civil administration has been slow, the task in the harsh and hostile terrain of South Waziristan would be even more challenging.

Before Mr Gilani, President Asif Ali Zardari also spoke before time when he announced last summer that military action in South Waziristan was on the cards. His statement triggered an exodus from parts of South Waziristan as tribal people started abandoning their homes to shift to Tank, Dera Ismail Khan and other places before the army offensive. Prior to the president, the NWFP governor Owais Ahmad Ghani declared in June that military operation against the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) head Baitullah Mehsud had been ordered after his men kidnapped students of Cadet College Razmak. There was no offensive in South Waziristan for months as the military was busy fighting in Swat and rest of Malakand region and it didn't want to open a new and more dangerous front. Baitullah Mehsud was meanwhile killed in a US drone attack on August 5. Despite President Zardari's announcement and Governor Owais Ghani's orders, the ground offensive by the army in South Waziristan didn't begin until October 16. It was obvious that the military took the decision about timing of the offensive and it would decide when to conclude.

Prime Minister Gilani also appears to be poorly informed about the situation in Orakzai, the only tribal agency that doesn't have a border with Afghanistan. He is unaware that a limited military action in already underway in Orakzai and it involves air raids by jet-fighters and gunship helicopters against suspected militants' hideouts and the use of ground forces in the Ferozkhel area on the boundary of Khyber and Orakzai agencies. Bombardment of the TTP positions in Orakzai Agency had taken place even before the military action in South Waziristan and on at least one occasion a US drone fired missiles at a target in the area after flying unchallenged deep into Pakistani territory far away from the Pak-Afghan border.

The prime minister also needs to know that the military has started action against the militants in the Kurram Agency, which adjoins Orakzai Agency and also Afghanistan's Paktia, Khost and Nangarhar provinces. Tora Bora, where the US last heard of Osama bin Laden in December 2001 and bombed every cave, mountain pass and forest there in a failed bid to kill him and his Al Qaeda colleagues, is located in Nangarhar province in the foothills of the Spinghar, the majestic snow-covered mountain range that also overlooks the Kurram valley. Most of the Al Qaeda fighters and Afghan Taliban had walked over from Tora Bora to Kurram Agency and then vanished while the US aircraft kept bombing the place for days on end.

The military action now underway in central and lower parts of Kurram Agency is directed both against the already entrenched Taliban militants and those seeking refuge there after escaping from South Waziristan. A ground offensive has also been launched to hunt down the militants and reopen and secure the Thall-Sadda-Parachinar road that has remain closed to traffic for more than two years and has added to the sufferings of the people, mostly Shias, inhabiting upper Kurram valley. In case of Kurram and Orakzai agencies, there is this widespread belief that the military action is being undertaken against the militants who fled the army operation in South Waziristan. This is partly true because the militants since the last few years were well-entrenched in Kurram and Orakzai and were using the two centrally and strategically sited tribal agencies to serve as their nerve-centre, supply route and regional command headquarters. The TTP head Hakimullah Mehsud was for quite sometime based in Orakzai as the commander of three tribal agencies – Khyber, Orakzai and Kurram, before he was chosen to replace his slain leader Baitullah Mehsud.

It is wrong to say that all militants or their top commanders Hakimullah Mehsud, Waliur Rahman and Qari Hussain who fled South Waziristan are now hiding in Orakzai and Kurram agencies. Other places where the TTP fighters could find refuge are the neighbouring North Waziristan, parts of Wana area and even the districts adjoining the tribal areas and in major cities. Many could still be in the remote valleys, villages and forests in the Mehsud tribal territory in South Waziristan where the security forces haven't reached. As the military outposts in the captured territory are now being attacked with rockets and light arms, it is evidence that some militants are present in the area and able to launch guerilla attacks.

Hakimullah Mehsud has threatened to strike back in January when the mountainous South Waziristan starts receiving heavy snowfall and his fighters have regrouped. The snowfall in parts of South Waziristan began on December 9, but it seems the TTP leader and his men aren't ready yet to stage bigger and more frequent attacks. It will not be easy for him to come back into battle after having lost his strongholds and left behind arms and ammunition.

His TTP will never give up and will retaliate with bombings in urban centres but it is clear that its strength has been significantly degraded after having lost their strongholds in Swat, Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber and South Waziristan. Public opinion has turned against the TTP and the people living in areas controlled by the militants are waiting for the government to offer them protection, compensation and basic needs of life. Carrying out military action in every tribal area and bombing all those places where the militants once had their hideouts shouldn't be the standard government policy. Each place has its own dynamics and much of the 'collateral damage' including civilian casualties, destruction of properties and large-scale displacement of the population could be avoided by improving intelligence, undertaking political work and isolating the militants.

The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar. Email: rahim







Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent state visit to Washington represented another milestone in India's growing cooperation with the sole super power. However, in the absence of a major breakthrough in their multi-dimensional relationship, attention quickly shifted to Indo-US divergences on various facets of their cooperation. The visit also became Pakistan-centric because of Indian pressure on US hosts to lean on Pakistan for curbing militancy targeting India. President Obama and his aides, politely listened to Indian lament but counseled recognition of Pakistan's on-going operations to defeat the terrorists. As if feeling somewhat irritated by India's one-point agenda, the American side did not hesitate to publicly acknowledge Pakistan's vital role in regional peace and stability.

We, in Pakistan know full well that the India of the 21st century has come a long way from the Nehruvian era of nationalism, state enterprise and non-alignment. The United States now occupies the premier place in India's calculus of economic and strategic partnerships. Conversely, the US, which was closely linked to Pakistan, feels free to enhance her cooperation with India to a level where it would count as a factor in the power structure. It was, therefore, disconcerting to see a big country like India indulging in propaganda against her smaller neighbour during a bilateral visit.

Pakistan had to accept the growing Indo-US partnership as a fact of life in the post-cold war period. But two parallel developments after 9/11 came to have a profound impact on the triangular character of the relations linking the US with India and Pakistan. America's pressing need to get Pakistan's maximum cooperation in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban had visibly upset India, and her friends in the administration supported by the Indian-American lobby and the US industry. It succeeded in promoting an extraordinary package of strategic cooperation for India that included the ambitious plan for civil nuclear cooperation. Criticism by the non-proliferation lobby and Pakistan's protest were cast aside as the Bush administration proceeded to develop "a unique relationship with a unique country."

The Bush team further justified the India package as a way of helping India to become a great power in the 21st century as a counter-weight to China. However, this imaginary plank of the strategic partnership with India has crumbled with President Obama embarking on building a close partnership with China as a major determinant of global power play. To put it candidly, the unique relationship carved for India is now passing through turbulent waters and nobody seems to be sure about its future.

Pakistan meanwhile has to cope with the multiplier effect of Indo-US calls for removing terrorist safe havens from its soil. It is hard to imagine that the world's two major democracies are unaware of the genesis of Islamist militancy. Or that they are unmindful of the difficulties in achieving that objective. Soon after 9/11, Argentina's veteran statesman and one-time foreign minister, Guido di Tella had compared terrorism to organised crime, concluding that the goal of its eradication would be as daunting as that of eliminating drug trafficking. Expecting Pakistan to eradicate quickly and effectively the militant groups who are determined to create chaos and warfare borders somewhere between wishful thinking and naivete.

In the months that followed 9/11, it was not unusual to hear politicians and scholars linking the rise of jihadist organisations to the oppression of people in Palestine and Kashmir. Today, any such argument would be dismissed in the name of zero tolerance to terrorism as if it was a ghastly phenomenon occurring on its own. We are facing a situation where India takes offence to Barack Obama's suggestion to resolve the Kashmir dispute. More recently, India showed knee-jerk annoyance over the US seeking China's cooperation in helping peace and security in South Asia.

There is no direct link between the situation in Palestine and Kashmir but it so happens that Israel too is unhappy over Obama's initiatives to kick-start the Middle East peace process. Yet, the Nobel Peace Committee had the vision to recognise the merit of a leader who brings hope to the dispossessed that have become second-rate citizens in their own homelands. Pakistan can only regret the Indian riposte to a perfectly reasonable US-China interest in helping India and Pakistan resolve their outstanding disputes in the interest of regional and global peace. New Delhi went on the offensive first by ruling out any third-party role in contentious issues with Pakistan, and secondly by making relations with Pakistan contingent upon prosecution of Mumbai suspects.

The hard-line stance adopted by Mr Singh was followed by threats of limited war if another attack like Mumbai takes place. India's self-professed coercive diplomacy has now metamorphosed into warrior diplomacy used as a hand-maiden of militarist designs. As a result, diplomacy is conducted like war, using propaganda as its main weapon. The adversary is pursued relentlessly and efforts made to cut off its supplies. Threats of war are used as manoeuvres to convince the other side of its vulnerability. The offer of peace is made at the cost of capitulation. No effort is spared to corner enemy. In warrior diplomacy, the preparations for a visit to the US are undertaken along the lines of planning for another war operation.

The warrior brand of diplomacy has become a convenient vehicle for India to rule out resumption of the composite dialogue process, which India feels has run its course. It is inclined to use the option of a limited dialogue as it suits her domestic considerations. Alongside, New Delhi has unleashed a propaganda campaign through public diplomacy at the highest levels. This desire to become both the prosecutor and the judge should not be lost on the outside world.

Pakistan has reasons to be frustrated with India's demands for tough action against the militants while putting off the dialogue. Surprisingly, the Pakistani media which gives generous coverage to Indian accusations, seems to have forgotten that action against the perpetrators of the Samjhota carnage is pending in India. The leadership here thinks that by suspending the dialogue, India is not countering the militants' design of heightening mistrust between the two neighbours.

The prevailing Indian stance mirrors views in certain circles, contending that the security establishment has not abandoned its optic of good and bad Taliban. They argue that by exerting pressure on Pakistan through the US, Islamabad may take some decisive action against the movements targeting India. Washington is not in a position to persuade India to revive the dialogue because it has no carrot to offer in return.

While India's propaganda receives coverage in the international media, including our own, Pakistan's calls for resuming the talks does not receive proper coverage in India and elsewhere. Even if Pakistan goes an extra mile to placate Indian concerns, the most likely outcome would be: do more. Time has come for a major review of ways of countering the warrior diplomacy being pursued by India. This does not mean that we should not consider taking steps that may be conducive to blunt the charge that India could be targeted by some jihadi attack, which in turn could be used as a pretext for retaliation. India too should recognise that she can gain Pakistan's confidence and cooperation by returning to a framework of negotiations rather than continuing public diplomacy with all guns blazing.


The writer is Pakistan's former ambassador to the European Union.







The federal and provincial governments have developed a landmark consensus on the Seventh National Finance Commission (NFC) Award after 13 long years. The historic consensus could not have been achieved without the rare display of mutual understanding, accommodation and magnanimity of all stakeholders. The federal government sacrificed its share of resources in favour of the provinces. Three provinces in general and Punjab in particular, accepted a reduction in their shares to provide more resources to Balochistan. Finance minister Shaukat Tarin and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif must be commended on this historic achievement.

The highlights of the consensus on the NFC award include major adjustments in vertical as well as horizontal distributions. In vertical distribution, the federal government has sacrificed its 8.5 per cent share in the divisible pool in favour of the provinces. In other words, the latter would receive 56 per cent of the net divisible pool in the first year (2010-11) and 57.5 per cent during the remaining period of the award. Accordingly, the share of federal government would decline to 44 per cent and then to 42.5 per cent, respectively.

In horizontal distribution, the shares of Punjab, Sindh and NWFP are reduced by 1.27 per cent, 0.39 per cent and 0.26 per cent, respectively. The reduction in total share of three provinces (1.92 per cent) is passed on to Balochistan by increasing its share by 1.92 per cent. Thus, Balochistan appears to be the major beneficiary as its share in net divisible pool would increase to 9.09 per cent from 7.17 per cent. The share of Punjab will decline to 51.74 per cent from the current level of 53.01 per cent. Thus, Punjab will render major sacrifice to provide more resources to Balochistan.

The consensus on multiple criteria as opposed to population being the sole basis for revenue sharing is perhaps the greatest achievement of the award. Pakistan was the only country that used population as the sole basis for revenue sharing. International experience suggests that countries have used multiple indicators for revenue sharing. The most commonly used criteria includes population, tax collection, fiscal efforts of the provinces/states, area and backwardness. These countries have assigned different weights to each indicator. The historic consensus on the award owes heavily to the magnanimity of the chief minister of Punjab for accepting multiple criteria for revenue sharing.

The award is based on multiple indicators which include population with 82 per cent weight, poverty/backwardness (10.3per cent), revenue collection/generation (five per cent) and area or inverse population density (2.7 per cent). Other highlights of the award include reduction in federal tax collection charges from five per cent to one per cent, thus enhancing the divisible pool by four percentage points; and Sindh would receive additional Rs6 billion from federal government, which is equivalent to 0.66 per cent of the provincial pool. Recognising the role of NWFP as a front-line province in the war against terrorism, it has been agreed by all to provide an additional one per cent of the divisible pool to NWFP in addition to the commitment by the federal government to bear all expenses of the war on terror; and accepting sales tax on services as provincial subject which will hopefully be collected by provinces.

Why did the last two attempts to generate consensus on the NFC award (2000-2006) fail? Why did it succeed this time? In my view, two things have made the difference this time as compared to the past. The first attempt was made to arrive at the consensus during 2000-2002 but the provinces could not agree on recommendations owing to their divergent views on resource distribution formula. The second attempt was made during 2005-2006 but it also failed for the following reasons. Firstly, the provinces sent their representatives to the NFC meeting, with resolution passed by respective provincial assemblies on their stand. The representatives would not budge from their stated stand and would show complete inflexibility. This time, the representatives went to the meeting without passing a resolution on their stand from respective provincial assemblies, thus showing greater flexibility.

Secondly, Punjab had taken firm stand on population being the sole basis for revenue distribution and was unwilling to "deviate from its stand even by 0.001 per cent." All the remaining three provinces were equally firm in their stand that multiple indicators should be the basis for revenue sharing among provinces. This time, Punjab and its chief minister showed immense flexibility by deviating from their earlier stance, thus paving the way for historic consensus on the award.

The experts who provided technical support to their respective provinces also played key roles in achieving consensus. In the past two attempts, some experts did not play their fair roles in building consensus for the award.

The Seventh NFC Award will provide substantial resources to the provinces during the next five years. It is now up to them to efficiently use the resources to improve the living standards of their people. Large resources go with greater responsibilities and financial discipline.

The success of the IMF programme will now depend on the financial discipline of the provinces. With rising debt servicing and defence and security-related expenditures of the federal government, a reduction in its share in divisible pool may result in large budget deficit for the federal government. In order to achieve budget deficit target in the range of 2.5 to 3 per cent of the GDP, the provincial governments would have to generate large surplus cash balances. Provincial governments will have to develop the capacity to spend efficiently and effectively. If current spending patterns are maintained by the provinces, then I am afraid that even the large resources will not be enough, thus putting Pakistan's public finance in disarray. I pray that this supposition is proven wrong by the provinces in the years to follow.


The writer is dean and professor at NUST Business School, Islamabad. Email: ahkhan







While the surge in American troops in Afghanistan has yet to happen, the expected rise in terrorism within Pakistan is already happening. The ferocity, ingenuity and the geographical spread of the onslaught does not match the known organisational capabilities of the Waziristan insurgents.

So who is doing this? For starters, the targeting of children in the Park Lane massacre (Rawalpindi) makes it look like the work of affectees of the collateral damage of air force and artillery bombardment. This is despite the fact that press reports suggest that the collateral human damage in the Waziristan operation is minimal, as the people there got an opportunity to move to safer places. The targeting of ordinary people, with special intent to kill women and children, in Moon Market (Lahore) and Meena Bazaar (Peshawar), seems to indicate a tit-for-tat situation.

Law-enforcement agencies appear helpless, despite great diligence and sacrifices being made by them. The two main reasons for this helplessness are their inability to investigate each case to its logical conclusion in order to get the bigger picture and the massive intelligence failure. There seem to be no reports of intelligence penetration into the groups involved. This failure continues despite the best efforts of the intelligence agencies probably because there is no real-time information sharing forum. The access of civil law-enforcement agencies to sophisticated intelligence hardware continues to be limited, despite the reality that this is a war for our survival, where the element of mistrust among state organisations should take a back seat.

Now who could be doing this? The Afghan Taliban have never said a word against Pakistan. They may not have condemned the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), but have never openly supported them either; although given the scenario there should be no love lost between them and Pakistan. If the Afghan Taliban were supporting TTP, what is stopping them from going public about it? Rumours regarding Blackwater mercenaries refuse to die down, despite unequivocal denials by the US embassy and the interior minister. One has seen press reports of Americans loitering around in Peshawar freely, though one finds it difficult to believe them. Reports like the recent disclosure by General (r) Shahid Siddiqui that even the corp commanders were not taken into confidence with regard to giving bases to the US, make it that much difficult to believe that reports of Americans getting a wave through at immigration counters are incorrect.

The Indian hand is repeatedly mentioned in the responses of our VIPs. Sadly, so far no concrete proof has been released for public consumption. Why are we so helpless? Why is it that months after this terrorist onslaught, we have still not been able to link the crime to the masterminds ? Why is it that we have not been able to bring to fore substantial evidence against India?

President Obama has deliberated on his Afghan policy long and hard and finally decided that he want to leave Afghanistan. Now the 30,000 extra troops will raise the temperature in the war theatre and there is no way the heat will not affect Pakistan. As a matter of fact, I shudder to think of the impact the American surge will have on us, considering that just its announcement has resulted in mayhem all over the country.

The Americans have been asking us to do more against the Taliban, who are shielding Al Qaeda. But now Mr Karzai wants to talk to the Taliban; the Americans want their allies like the Saudis to open dialogue with the Taliban. So where does that leave Pakistan?.

In all this geopolitical gimmickry, the brave officers of our army, the police and the common man are all being mowed down. We need to acknowledge the sacrifices of the armed forces and police. We need to do whatever is necessary to boost their morale. The media can help, but it is the role of the leadership to keep their spirits up. Unfortunately, our leaders are nowhere to be seen. We are in for the long haul and better conserve our morale and our nerves if we don't want to be overwhelmed.


The writer is a former federal secretary. Email: tasneem.noorani@tnassociates. netssss







The writer is a former envoy to the US and the UK, and a former editor of The News.

The announcement by President Barack Obama of his new strategy for Afghanistan has been followed by frenetic efforts of the Obama Administration to explain what this really means and defend it against domestic and international criticism. Because of the tension in a policy designed to convey varied messages to different audiences in order to placate both supporters and critics of an escalating war, the need for clarification became especially necessary.

It was also necessitated by the contradictions inherent in a course correction. Obama inherited a desperate situation in Afghanistan, not of his making, but the consequence of a series of strategic blunders in a punitive war. Trying to rectify this dire state of affairs and reconcile contradictory aims has entailed compromises between different points of view. Confusion has also ensued from a number of fault lines in the new approach. All of this has produced strategic incoherence.

The breathless pronouncements by top American military and political leaders in the media and in testimonies before key congressional committees have, so far, tended to deeper rather than demystify the fog of war. The more officials have clarified, the more questions have been raised and conflicting signals sent.

The key points that have now emerged about the strategy are as follows:

* The timetable for withdrawal in July 2011 is neither a deadline nor a "firm exit plan".

* It is "flexible" and is envisaged as a transition point, when security responsibilities will begin to be transferred to Afghan forces.

* This will in any case be "reviewed" by the end of 2010.

* The mission in Afghanistan has been downsized from defeating the Taliban to "reversing the Taliban momentum" and diminishing the movement.

* Doing this requires dismantling the Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan.

* Degrading the Taliban is aimed at creating time and space for the Afghan state and security forces to be built to enable them to manage a weakened Taliban threat once Western forces start leaving Afghanistan.

* The principal US goal remains to defeat, dismantle and disrupt Al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden's capture or elimination is deemed essential to the organization's rout according to General Stanley McChrystal.

* Officials have said little publicly about the Pakistan part of the strategy but inspired leaks in the American media indicate that the Administration is readying to ratchet up Drone-launched missile strikes in Pakistan, and mulling over expanding these to Balochistan.

* Leaks also suggest that Obama "signed off" on a plan by the CIA to expand its activities in Pakistan "that calls for more strikes against militants by Drone aircraft (and)….sending additional spies to Pakistan."

It is instructive to review how the Obama plan and the various efforts to explain this have been received in the West. Within hours of its announcement the war strategy came under fire from both liberals and conservatives in America, for obviously different reasons. Democrats saw echoes of Vietnam in the surge, questioned the need for an economically and politically costly military escalation in pursuit of a few hundred Al-Qaeda fighters, and voiced doubts whether the uplift would remedy or worsen the situation.

Republicans expressed deep apprehensions about the deadline for withdrawal, portraying this as the sign of a fatal lack of resolve on the part of a wavering president. They also criticized what they depicted as his diffident and equivocal tone in articulating a new strategy framed more by politics than operational imperatives. Hawkish Republicans led by Senator John McCain flayed the 18 month drawdown date for "sending the wrong message to both friends and enemies".

Others praised Obama for taking a politically courageous decision given the unpopularity of the war in his own party and giving his military commanders substantially what they wanted. This divided response to his strategy reflected the existing polarization in public, political and expert opinion in the US.

The liberal critique was reflected in comment by Thomas Friedman, an avid Obama supporter, who opposed the surge because it was unlikely to succeed, and would be at the expense of more pressing 'nation building' at home. As the strategy depended on what other countries would do Obama had staked his presidency on factors beyond his control, said Freidman. In similar vein Nicholas D Kristof warned that the troop build up "may become the albatross of his Presidency".

Another example of liberal opinion was an article entitled "Down the Wrong Path in Afghanistan" by Eugene Robinson who wrote that "Obama should have taken a different course" than President George Bush because it "never made sense to think of the fight against terrorism as a 'war' because it is not possible to defeat a technique or an idea by the force of arms."

Of greater importance for Pakistan was opinion freely expressed about what the US should do vis-à-vis Islamabad. A provocative view was that expressed in an opinion piece by Seth G Jones, who urged the Administration to take the war into Pakistan and target Taliban leaders in Balochistan by hitting them with drone strikes.

This echoed suggestions in a series of officially-inspired leaks in the American media that Washington had conveyed blunt messages to Islamabad that unless Pakistan acted against the Afghan Taliban, "the US was prepared on its own to expand Predator drone attacks beyond the tribal areas, and if needed to resume raids by US Special Operation forces against leaders of Al Qaeda and the Taliban."

Although the writers of these stories did not explain how such unilateral action was realistically possible the leaks seemed designed to ratchet up the pressure on Islamabad to "do more".

In a pointed rebuke to the "do more" mantra, Micheal F Scheuer, (former CIA officer and author of "Imperial Hubris") wrote in the National Journal's security blog: "The constant frenzy for Pakistan to do more derives from …. our politicians, generals and individuals who want to pay foreigners to do our dirty work and bleeding for us."

Several news reports described the covert drone programme as effective if controversial, and claimed that these "warheads on foreheads" had not just removed leaders and fighters but also slowed movement and communication while avoiding any significant civilian casualties -- this latter point being at sharp odds with accounts in Pakistan's press and the wide spread view in the country.

The claims about the Drones did not go unchallenged in the American media with several experts questioning if they did not create more enemies than they eliminate and whether these would hurt America's cause more in the end. Military strikes, wrote one commentator, are simply "a continuation of the Bush doctrine of preemptive action within a country we are not at war with."

Another columnist described this as nothing but a policy of "assassinating people and doing so outside any legal framework." Ralph Nader posed the question: "If Congress did not authorize a war in Pakistan, does Obama, like Bush, just decree what the Constitution requires to be authorized by the Legislature?"

However hotly contested the arguments in a debate taking place far from a region in turmoil what concerns Pakistan and Pakistanis, who bear the brunt of these policies, is what the leaks about a threatened escalation portend for the country. If implemented such a course of action will have serious ramifications for national stability and security.

Leaks are not policy. But the pattern of the leaks is much too familiar for Islamabad not to take urgent notice and undertake a careful evaluation of the risks ahead. The immediate danger – even before any planned escalation materializes – is that this coercive diplomacy-by-leaks can reinforce official and popular Pakistani suspicions about US intentions, intensify public alienation from the West, and promote more anti-American rage.

By contributing to such a toxic environment this strategy of leaks can badly backfire making it infinitely harder for the government to cooperate "fully" with the US, as President Obama is asking Islamabad to do. This should give the sources of these leaks much pause for thought.







After a lapse of 17 years, the centre and the provinces have signed a consensual agreement, the NFC Award, on how to divide resources without hurting one another. The consensus was reached not by using strong-arm tactics, but by the force of reason. General Musharraf, and before him General Ziaul Haq, had no inkling how to tackle this thorny issue. They only knew how to coerce the provinces into submission, a dictatorial prerogative, which the provinces hated. Thus, for the last 17 years, the resources were divided on an ad hoc basis, which bred resentment between the provinces on the one hand and between the centre and the provinces on the other.


It was a breach of the constitution.

Of course, a military dictator doesn't have to worry about constitutional infringement – all he has to do is invoke Article 6, which proposes a treason trial for the culprits. Not surprisingly, the masses forgave them all, even those responsible for breaking up the country.

The mistrust of provinces against one another and the centre and the latter's 'big brother' attitude towards the provinces was the product of the military rules. The provinces equated the military rule with Punjabi rule because of the preponderance of Punjabis in the armed forces. The province was blamed for any undemocratic move in the country disregarding the fact that because of its large population, Punjab was the only province that could provide massive manpower to the military. East Pakistan had more people than the West Pakistan but still Bengalis were not trusted.

The people of East Pakistan wanted a little more than provincial autonomy because of its geographic location, more than 1,000km by land through India and about 1,500km by sea, nearly all along the Indian coast. The 1965 war had revealed to East Pakistan that in the next Indo-Pakistan war, it will be a sitting duck despite the claim of our leaders that East Pakistan would be defended by West Pakistan. It was a silly claim for it entailed conquering India to reach East Pakistan. In the 1965 war for nearly a month, Bengalis lived in terror of the Indian attack. Pakistan, at that point in time, had neither the resources nor the means to send military troops and equipment to its eastern wing. India acted wisely by not attacking East Pakistan in 1965, thus winning the confidence of Bengalis. From then on, East Pakistan wanted to be a separate state. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman told his supporters in a restricted meeting that Pakistan and India would continue to have sporadic wars over Kashmir, which East Pakistan could not afford. He said that East Pakistan must get out of this tangle for its safety and progress. The government in Islamabad, headed by military dictator General Yahya Khan, did not pay heed to their pleas which eventually led to the independence of East Pakistan in 1971.

The political leadership, encouraged by the PPP, has played an important role in creating harmony in the country and among the people. Having achieved a miraculous success in reaching the consensus of NFC award, the PPP government should now try to implement other provisions of the constitution that provide greater autonomy to the provinces. This matter should not be left unattended anymore. The agreement on the NFC award is also an eye-opener to the perpetually dissenting attitude of those politicians who find nothing worthwhile in government decisions and actions.

Email: mirjrahman@hotmail .com








IT is a known fact that Pakistan lags behind many countries in the field of education and especially the vocational and technical education, which is considered to play a critical role in the overall national development. But in its reports "Pakistan Skills Development", the World Bank has highlighted the issue warning that skills shortage was hurting Pakistan's growth. According to the report, clients, consultants and contractors unanimously identified the lack of suitably qualified people as an impediment to implementation and quality of delivered products and services.

There is a growing concern that lack of required focus on vocational and technical education is not only hampering the efforts aimed at accelerating the pace of economic and social development yet also rendering the country uncompetitive in the global job market. Though there are an estimated 3,000 institutions providing skill development opportunities or around 240,000 students in school-based education for trades and medium-skilled professions, as well as short-term skills development programmes but the World Bank has pointed out that the main challenge is low relevance and impact of training. We have miserably failed to improve contents, set standards and introduce technology in the learning process. Then there are also complaints that majority of institutions have entered into the field just to mint money, as they lack competent faculty and have no quality labs and workshops to impart training to the students. Similarly, there is no attempt at initiating programmes that fulfil the requirements of local and foreign markets. Though there is a slump in the Gulf where most of the Pakistani manpower goes but it is a temporary phenomenon and the situation is bound to improve soon. However, it is worth mentioning that the manpower requirements have undergone a tremendous change from mere illiterate labour skilled and hi-tech work force and we will have to train our youth in newer and emerging technologies and trades to grab such opportunities that also means higher remuneration and increased remittances. We feel sorry that despite tall claims by the successive Governments about launching of various programmes including crash ones, their impact is still not visible. Therefore, apart from initiating short and medium term plans for the purpose, there is a need to incorporate vocational education at elementary, middle and secondary levels. At primary or elementary level, there should be focus on creating technological awareness with classroom activities, at middle level there should be emphasis on exploring the applications of technology to solve problems and exploring the various technological careers while the secondary technology education programmes should be designed to give students experience related to scientific principles, engineering concepts, and technological systems.








AS the existing Local Bodies institutions complete their extended life on December 31, issues relating to the Local Bodies are once again drawing attention of all stakeholders. Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, while talking to newsmen at Multan Airport, declared on Sunday that upcoming Local Government polls would be held on party basis.

The announcement of the Prime Minister is welcome in that it conveys the impression that ultimately the Government has acknowledged the role and importance of the Local Government system. There were reports and concerns that some lobbies in the Federal and Provincial Governments wanted the system to be wound up on petty personal or political considerations. However, the statement of the PM about holding of the elections means continuation of the system that has delivered significantly to improve the lot of the common man. However, one would differ from his contention that the elections should be held on party basis. There has been tradition both in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world to prefer holding of Local Government elections on non-party basis so that these could serve as an effective tool for grass-roots development. The proposal to hold LG elections on party basis was floated by PML (N) Quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif and now it has apparently been adopted by the ruling party as well. As both PPP and PML (N) are in power at the Centre and in Provinces, they have vested interest in organizing party-based elections, hoping to win and form Governments with apparent ease. However, to us this is myopic and short-term view of things, devoid of future vision or larger interests of the system and the country. The role of the Local Government institutions is to identify and resolve local problems and they can do that effectively only if they are not politicized. In view of the clear advantages of the non-party elections, we hope that the Prime Minister would give second thought to his stated position.







KASHMIRIS during a torch procession in Srinagar on Saturday again reminded the Indian leadership to fulfil the promises made by late Pandit Jawhar Lal Nehru for right to self-determination to Kashmiri people. Addressing thousands of participants of the march at Ganta Ghar in Srinagar, JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik said it was at this historic place that first Indian Prime Minister made a pledge to let Kashmiris decide their future through a plebiscite.

It was India which took the Kashmir dispute to the United Nations in 1947 and the right of self-determination for Kashmiris was agreed upon by all parties to the dispute. However, the UN-mandated plebiscite for the people in Kashmir never took place. Whenever Kashmiris, yearning for their rights to self-determination, raised their voice against Indian occupation, they were dubbed traitors, separatists and fundamentalists. Through relentless struggle, Kashmiris sacrificed their lives to prove to India and the rest of the world that they cannot be deprived of their basic rights. The Indian Government has tried to suppress the movement through atrocities which resulted in deaths of hundreds of Kashmiris. Besides this, thousands are being held behind bars. But resort to these repressive measures has resulted in further strengthening the determination and spirit of the Kashmiris to continue their struggle. For peace and stability in the South Asian region, it is of utmost importance that Kashmir issue be amicably resolved through negotiations but regrettably Indian leadership is using different tactics to avoid dialogue with Pakistan. Pakistan cannot forsake its principled stand on Kashmir and would never compromise on the basic rights of Kashmiris, particularly their right to self-determination nor it will accept pressure or threats coming from any quarter. Now that there is a growing realization in the United States and the West that resolution of Kashmir issue is necessary for peace and to counter the acts of terrorism, we would urge the UN and the international community to play a more active role and persuade India to honour its pledges for the resolution of this dispute as in the 21st century basic human right of self-determination cannot be usurped for an indefinite period.









It is a matter of grave concern that corruption has deeply permeated in every strata of our society. Scandals regarding corruption, misappropriation, plundering of billions from banks and other federal, provincial and semi-government departments abound. Lack of courage and lack of interest on the part of general public had left the culprits and the NAB alone to bargain, and as a result the culprits either escaped or were honorably acquitted by the courts due to lacuna in prosecution and investigation, lack of evidence or witnesses. Such elements have become part and parcel of our society; they enjoy respect, honour and go scot-free after committing heinous crimes. It all started from Zia era when as a result of Afghan war, American dollars flooded the market and all and sundry started making money. From 1988 to 1999, the PPP and the PML-N twice formed the governments and that period was termed by some analysts as a lost decade, as they instituted cases of corruption against each other.

After overthrowing Nawaz government on 12th October 1999, the then chief executive Pervez Musharraf had unfolded his seven-point agenda which inter alia included across the board accountability of the corrupt elements. People had expected that ill-gotten wealth would be recovered from all those who had looted and plundered the country and exemplary punishments would be awarded to them so that nobody would dare use his position to rob the wealth of the country in future. But that was not to be.

National Accountability Bureau did recover a portion of the looted money but because of its lackadaisicalness in providing the evidence to the courts or expediency of the government the cases remained pending for over a decade. Pakistan's history is replete with instances of corruption, mismanagement and bad governance of the ruling elite. There is no denying that corruption, lawlessness and other social evils exist all over the world, but in Pakistan this malaise has assumed appalling proportions. Various governments in the past had tried to reduce the incidence of corruption. During Ayubian era, a number of, what was said, corruption-tainted politicians were barred from participating in the elections under EBDO but they were never tried and convicted. During Yahya Khan's martial law, 303 civil servants and government functionaries were summarily dismissed but were not prosecuted. During the Bhutto era, services of around 1200 government employees were terminated without holding any trial against them with the result those involved in serious cases of corruption were let off the hook. There was another package for the corrupt under Pervez Musharraf's watch on 30th April 2000, when Central Board of Revenue had announced Tax Amnesty Scheme to legalize all the hidden assets and black money by charging 10 per cent of the undisclosed income earned on or before 30th June 1999.

In other words, no government tried to set an example to deter others from pursuing corrupt practices. In 1996, Transparency International had declared Pakistan as the second-most corrupt country in the world where corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, black marketers, smugglers, tax evaders and drug mafia were 'rewarded' through general amnesty schemes or through opportunities to whiten their black money. In this connection, bureaucracy had played an ignominious role by misguiding the government not to act tough because otherwise there would be flight of capital and economy will collapse. The problem is that in sham democracies of developing countries, people can only cast their votes, as even person from upper middle class cannot afford to take part in elections. Mostly those who have amassed wealth through illegal means can afford the luxury of elections.

Such elements first invest to reach the corridors of power with a view to increasing their wealth, and then they want to be re-elected to protect that ill-gotten wealth. But there is need to take measures to stop unethical and corrupt practices, and to block the corrupt elements' entry to the corridors of power. But who can bell the cat, when a great majority of the robber barons are sitting in the assemblies? Anyhow, after the list of National Reconciliation Ordinance's beneficiaries has been made public, late ZA Bhutto, founder of the PPP, must be turning in his grave on the ignominious record of the corrupt leaders including his family members. The NRO was promulgated by former president Pervez Musharraf when late Benazir Bhutto insisted on 'sterling guarantees' to participate in elections, as she did not like to be prosecuted and unseated later. However, the events took such a turn that the PPP could not get the NRO passed in the assembly because its allies who, seeing the public and opposition's mood, refused to support it. With stories of President Zardari's corruption making headlines in the national and international media, our heads hang in shame for having elected and installed a corrupt person as head of the state. The spirit behind the NRO was indeed national reconciliation and the pretext was that the PPP and the PML-N had instituted cases against each other as a tool of political victimization and vendetta, and the cases were not decided by the courts for more than a decade.

Unfortunately, the corruption has not only deprived the national exchequer of its revenues and eroded the profitability of the state sector enterprises but also destroyed the very fabric of society. It is also responsible for having brought the country to the brink of economic disaster. In 1998, late Dr Mehboob-ul-Haq had estimated tax-evasion to the extent of rupees 100 billion through manipulation of accounts, in addition to the tax evasion of around Rs.100 billion by the parallel of informal economy. The tiny elite, comprising jagirdars, industrial robber barons, civil and military bureaucracy and rapacious politicians have kept the complete control over the state, its resources and all levers of power. They neither had the vision nor the will to build a modern and egalitarian society, though Pakistan had all the resources and ingredients to achieve the objectives set by the founding fathers. For them Pakistan remained a laboratory for experimenting with various forms and systems of government. Parliamentary democracy, basic democracy, presidential form of government, Islamic socialism and Islamic shariah to the extent of Hadood Ordinance, were given a chance to fail only.

The corruption has indeed permeated in every strata of society. The semi-feudal semi-colonial system can neither endure nor can it be salvaged by cosmetic measures. The honest and patriotic elements in the government should bear in mind that cosmetic measures cannot produce desired results and only a radical reconstruction programme can change the situation for the better. According to the recent list of those who benefited from the NRO, majority of the beneficiaries on the political side belong to the PPP and its coalition partners, and as a result, the PPP's halo is disappearing. However there are questions that who are more than 7600 persons who got relief under the NRO, as the details provided in the list include 34 politicians and around 220 government servants only. Finally, one should not lose sight of the fact that leaders of other parties are reported to be involved in shady deals and corruption. Of course, after 28th November, the judiciary would decide about the fate of NRO's beneficiaries. But people in general are demanding that there should be across the board accountability, and members of other parties who have amassed wealth through illegal means should also be brought to book.







So far Osama bin Laden has continuously been used by the US and some western countries as a scapegoat to malign Pakistan which is their target for 'de-nuclearisation.' Sometimes, bogey of Bin Laden is raised by their rulers to achieve their goals of external policy, and sometimes to pacify their public including the opposition. In this regard, in its latest report, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee admitted that in December 2001 Osama bin Laden was within the reach of US troops in Tora Bora when American military leaders did not pursue him, and opened the door for his escape to Pakistan. In fact, the main aim of the report, after eight years was to get favour for President Obama's decision who has recently announced an increase of additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in wake of severe domestic pressure.

As regards Osama, on November 13, 2009 a Reuters report quoting Labeviere's book "Corridors of Terror" points to negotiations between Osama bin Laden and the CIA, which took place two months prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks-at the American Hospital in Dubai, UAE, while Bin Laden was under a kidney dialysis treatment. The Christian Science Monitor in its February 06, 2002 edition, while describing the battle at Tora Bora, concluded that Bin Laden escaped to Iran. It had coincided with the US concerns that Iran is harboring Al Qaeda refugees. Most of the political experts agree that the US had deliberately provided Osama a chance to flee.

Bin Laden's last genuine video appeared in the late 2001 when the CNN in February1, 2009 indicated that he was aged 97-he got diabetes and kidney problems. On December 26, 20001, Egyptian newspaper, Al-Wafd disclosed that a prominent official of the Afghan Taliban movement announced that Osama bin Laden died a natural death. He was buried in Tora Bora. Meanwhile, while making Osama as a scapegoat, a number of fake video messages were telecast on various TV channels and websites by some elements in order to achieve their political aims. For example, during the November 2004 elections in the United States, a fake video tape helped the ex-president Bush to get lead over John Kerry.

It is well-known that in a tape released on December 27, 2001, the authenticity of which is not in question, Osama denied any involvement in the September 11 tragedy. However, later, two video tapes appeared to validate his guilt in relation to 9/11 because the main aims of the Bush administration were to provoke American public against the Muslims and Arabs to justify the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in order to possess energy resources of Central Asia and Iraq—and to get their support for a propaganda campaign against a 'nuclearised' Pakistan, and a prospective atomic power, Iran. Besides other actions of Bush era such as persecution of Muslims through torture, detentions and arrests, CIA and FBI-operated facilities, radicalising the Americans against Muslims protected the real architects of the 911 attacks, while still there is no evidence that Al Qaeda was behind that catastrophe, though this organisation is responsible for a number of terror-attacks.

To what extent Osama could be used to gain political purposes can be judged from the statement of British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown who revealed on November 29, 2009, "We believe, he is in Pakistan." As a matter of fact, in line of Obama's new Afghan strategy, Brown wanted to justify 500 additional troops for Afghanistan in face of demestic pressure. Meanwhile, the US National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones has also expressed similar view. In the past, some foreign sources had pointed out that Osama bin Laden is in Chitral area of Pakistan. Recently, American and British high officials have been blaming that Osama and top leadership of Al Qaeda have taken shelter in Pakistan's tribal areas and Balochistan.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit while refuting these allegations, remarked that the US and UK should share evidence with Islamabad regarding bin Laden's presence in Pakistan, but they did not provide any proof in this respect. Now, again Osama has become a scapegoat of the foreign elements to implicate Islamabad. But Bin Laden cannot take shelter in Pakistan where CIA-operated drone strikes have killed many top commanders of the Taliban, especially Naik Muhammad and Baitullah Mehsood. Moreover, since 9/11, Pakistan's security agencies also captured many masterminds of Al-Qaeda, namely Khalid Sheikh, Abu Faraj and a computer engineer Naeem Noor Khan including other militants. Owing to these ground realities, Taliban leaders had already fled to Afghanistan where they have control over more than 70 percent of the territory. Especially, during the successful Swat-Malakand military operations, the Taliban commander, Maulana Fazalullah escaped to Afghanistan who was recently seen in a video-tape, telecasted by some TV channels. Since the recent military action started in South Waziristan, remaining leaders of the insurgents have also gone to Afghanistan. In this respect, question arises as to how Osama could be hiding in Pakistan, while Al Qaeda or Taliban commanders prefer to live in Afghanistan where they are more safe, and where they have been fighting against the US-led NATO forces, and where level of militancy has increased in 2009 as admitted by western high officials and military commanders. On July 12, 2009, Pakistan's Interior Minister, Rehman Malik clarified that Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and its other top operatives were hiding in Afghanistan, probably in Kunar area. Even if Osama is alive, and is in Afghanistan, he cannot hide himself from Indian secret agency, RAW which has expanded its clandestine networks everywhere in connivance with the Indian army and additional consulates which are also working covertly. India has spent millions of dollars in Afghanistan to strengthen its grip. New Delhi which wants to get strategic depth against Pakistan, and has also been acting upon anti-China policy—is determined to keep its security agencies there permanently under the cover of the US-led allied forces.

Under the pretext of Talibinisation of Afghanistan and Pakistan, India has already been fulfilling its secret stragic goals by supporting insurgency in Pakistan's Frontier Province and Balochistan. RAW has been sending militants along with arms to Pakistan so as to attack the security personnel including western nationals. During the Swat-Malakand and South Waziristan operations, ISPR spokesman, Maj-General Athar Abbas has shown to the media, huge cache of arms and ammuniton, entering Pakistan from Afghanistan. Recently, Pakistan's prime minister and foreign minister have disclosed that India is backing the militancy in our country.

In this connection, India is determined to obtain its inter-related aims to dominate other regional countries. Particularly, it considers Pakistan an obstacle in its way. So New Delhi might have decided to use Bin Laden a scapegoat to fulfill its all designs. If Osama is alive, he could definitely be under the custody of Indian RAW because New Delhi knows that western countries can never suspect it regarding his whereabouts.







The Noble peace prize has long ago lost its determination; you just have a look at the names of noble peace prize winners and think what those people have contributed to the restoration or prolongation of peace in the world. Among the names which make me think very deeply is the name of the Israeli politicians Simon Perez and Yitzhak Rabin who negotiated the Oslo accord with Yasir Arafat. What peace in the Near East? Latest since 1994 the peace prize has lost whatsoever creditability it may have had before.

Now the Norwegian committee has committed the next faux pas by awarding this prize to the US president Barak Obama, president of a country which has been waging war at Iraq since 2003 under the false pretension that Iraq was harbouring weapons of mass destruction and also engaged in war since 2001 after a self inflicted casualty of 9 / 11 in which more then 3000 innocent people died just to blame Islamic fundamentalists involvement to launch attack on Afghanistan and Iraq for the reason that they think that Osama bin laden must be hiding there though they admit that they had lost track of him many years ago. Nevertheless, only nine days after Obama has ordered another troop surge in Afghanistan he flew to Oslo to be decorated with this ignobly noble peace prize. What does that tell us?

The Institution of the Nobel peace committee as much as the other international institutions like UN, World Bank, IMF are agents of Western and especially American domination, instruments to promote and pamper those who tow the US Line and defend their design for a complete domination of the world and its energy reserves, which now has become a mission impossible. How can any American president defend the ruthless use of military fire power on unarmed civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan and qualify for any peace award worth the name. But the award of the peace price to US president Obama was such a glaring example of bias that even Western media such as the German journal "Der Spiegel" have realized that this award may do more harm than good to the cause of Obama and the US-led war in Afghanistan because it draws the international attention to the glaring discrepancy between the idea of peace to be promoted through this prize and the war mongering of the Obama administration in Afghanistan who has backtracked from his public commitment and announced sending of more troops to Afghanistan.

Obama in his speech was describing the American and Western perceptions about what was right and what was wrong in their eyes - a stand which he is thinking to be universally acceptable to all the others regardless of their different cultures and value systems and which he was going to force upon them if they did not comply voluntarily. While acknowledging that if a war wants to be called a 'just war' it has to be fought under the restriction of proportionality - meaning that there should be a balance of military might and technology between the two war-going sides- it becomes quite clear that the US-led war in Afghanistan is everything else but not a just war. Apart from the fact that not a single Afghan was involved in 9/11 and that the whereabouts of Osama and al Qaida is as precise as anybody's guess for the last 9 years a relentless war of technologically superior weapons including sophisticated bombers, drones and other gadgets has been waged upon a tribal and peasant population who live without electricity and water pipelines.

The plight of the Afghan people is unspeakable. Years of war and destruction have not only destroyed whatsoever infrastructure or economy had been there before, but it has damaged their psyche and that of the young generation. Children born into a world of war who have never experienced the feeling of peace, law and order are imparted for the rest of their lives. We know this phenomenon from the Palestinian refugee camps and the Indian-held Kashmir where new generations are growing to go to war the moment they are mature enough and that is how the youth in West and even America has started thinking otherwise the proof of which can be seen in their participation in demonstration against war on terror and global warming if sanity does not takes its place and dialogue is given fair chance to win peace.

Otherwise looking at it from this angle there will be no peace for the next generation or two to come in either of those territories. This should be showing clearly enough that the US-led war in Afghanistan is an unjust war; its atrocities are not to be justified by any security demand of the West. Obama's speech has made clear the fact that was coming into light right after his election: whatsoever change he wants to bring at home, it will not change the war mongering of the US in Asia. By retaining the same defense secretary in Robert Gates Obama differs from his predecessor Bush only in his superior education and eloquence. The bottom line of his foreign policy is the same as of the previous government: he is towing the line of the multinationals for whom war is their best business and who are aspiring to get hold of the energy resources of the world and their transportation lines secure.

The Noble peace committee has further destroyed its image when thinking minds fail to understand the reasons behind choosing such a figure. The West and the US mostly try to blame third world countries particularly Pakistan also. Looking at it little closely you will find this is another case of American double standard and convenient lies. Or the world has been divided into first class and second class people?

It seems so. Among them are the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan who come into the way of the terrorism-obsessed West who keep their eyes closed on torture camps in Syria, Bagram and Guantanamo bay. It is no violation of human rights when it is done two doors from here. The case of Dr. Aafia Sidiqui's abduction. Illegal detention and torture and subsequent murder of her two children. Dr. Aafia has been reportedly detained on attempt to murder and assault on US Officers and employees in Afghanistan, apparently a fabricated case against a Pakistani lady whose government is not moved as swiftly as the American are demanding the return of custody of five Americans arrested in Sargodah few days back. Will some one in government care to look into these atrocities also to provide relief to its citizen.







Let us have an overview on Pakistan's present situation. The Supreme Court of Pakistan is engaged in deliberating petitions against the National Reconciliation Ordinance and the fate of 248 persons which includes the President of Pakistan Mr. Asif Ali Zardari. Representatives of the Pakistan People's Party are busy and going hysterical over defending their Co-Chairman in all forms of the media. Mr. Farhatullah Babar has openly stated that the President of Pakistan is being put through a "media trial".

A segment of PPP workers consider the ongoing activities in the Supreme Court as yet another conspiracy to topple a PPP government. President Mr. Asif Ali Zardari is receiving serious support from abroad; recently General David Patreas defended Zardai's government and saw no reason for civilian rule to be overtaken. The true details of the assets of the Pakistani President and others like he mentioned in the list before the Supreme Court is yet to be determined and proved. Until the Supreme Court of Pakistan does not give a verdict on this very serious and sensitive issue, no one has the right to be Jude, Jury and Executioner on anyone whose case is being discussed in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The Chief Justice is repeatedly advising the media not to discuss the NRO yet the headstrong Pakistani media is praising the Chief Justice and disobeying him at the same time. What is seriously disheartening as well is the way representatives of PPP are behaving in this very turbulent situation. They are not giving the case the recognition and respectability it deserves.

They are discarding openly sensitive documents presented before the Supreme Court as pieces of paper that belong in the rubbish when they should fully realize that if even a portion of the assets mentioned in the petition is proved, their party Co-Chairman's future will be seriously endangered. There is a risk to his Presidential immunity and even if he remains unchallenged due to his immunity he will be facing the charges if he leaves office. This is a very serious and sensitive situation for the PPP Co-Chairman, the President of Pakistan, and for the government. While it is a fact that not everyone in the PPP is happy with the current regime, they should fully realize that if Zardari's Titanic sinks, then they will all sink along with the President.

The PPP has a culture of being very vocal and outspoken but since the inception of the present government till now, the PPP has behaved most irresponsibly. They are doing the exact opposite of what they should be doing in principle and practice to defend the Pakistani President. It comes as a serious shock that the President is listening and following the advice of people like Babar Awan who on this occasion is giving advice which is seriously misleading. The overall policy followed by the PPP government is all wrong and as the NRO petitions will be discussed in the Supreme Court, the situation will worsen for the government on a daily basis. So the PPP better change gears and start defending their President in a sane and principled manner, rather than going into denial about what is going on in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of Pakistan and its full bench and the National Accountability Bureau have not lost their senses and are discussing very serious allegations, which if proven, can change destinies.

What does Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif want? To be the next Prime Minister of Pakistan of course and he will not settle for anything less. His stance during this whole ordeal is that democratic values and the democratic set up the country is presently following should not be jeopardized because two major parties are busy accusing each other over allegations that are yet to be proven. Some would say that he made this statement to save a very vulnerable and sensitive coalition government while perhaps he sits in Raiwand and curses Zardari for being a corrupt and dishonest man who does not keep his word. Nevertheless Mian Sahab has given a very balanced statement in this present situation. If Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has aims to be the next Pakistani Head of State, one should never hold that against him as it is the right of every Pakistani citizen. Yes, his methods towards achieving that could be challenged. What can be said generally that for a man who was overthrown by a military coup, and faced imprisonment and exile; Nawaz Sharif has taken a very defensive role as a politician where it is hard to distinguish between the opposition and the PPP government. This has now become a general sentiment against the PML-N and it is very possible that the PML-N will lose its popular support that it once enjoyed. The other elected opposition parties are busy defending their own agendas and are busy saving their skin. The ANP, BNP-A, MMAP, MQM, PML-Q and others are just different faces, different statements, different words, different ideas but one common aim and goal is transparent; to hold on to power no matter what. Pakistan is completely sidelined; power politics is at its full force. Not to mention that government also has an unelected opposition, which includes parties that do not hold a single seat in the National Assembly. An example is Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf whose leader is Imran Khan.

The best way to describe the PTI leader is that he is a wayward leader who is a television politician and is at the mercy of the television remote controls of the Pakistani people. The sad reality is that everyone in the political scene whether he is the President, the Prime Minister or somebody like Imran Khan has become a television politician. They are all at the mercy of the television remote controls of the Pakistani people; now you see them, now you don't –it is up to you, it is your choice. What people like Imran Khan don't realize that when they are busy being self righteous and bashing everybody on television you can make them vanish by pressing a button on your remote control. Last but not least, the death toll of Pakistanis who have died since October in terrorist attacks is now over 800 and in the last two and a half years the death toll has reached 2,670. Pakistan's ordeal is following Joseph Stalin's quotation, "The death of one person is an event, the death of millions is a statistic."








We won! We won! We're the world's number one! We won what dad? "The cricket match!" "What?" "Yes, yes, yes!" "But dad, I didn't know there was a cricket match on, didn't see anyone standing outside TV shop windows, didn't see anybody taking an off at college, or even teachers not coming to work, what time was the match yesterday?"

"What time?" "Yes dad, was it a day match, a day-night match or a night match?" "It was a five-day match!"


A what match?" "A five-day match!"

"They have matches like that?" "Yes!" "And they play for five full days?" "Yes, yes! They have two innings and each team bats twice, but in this case India batted only once, we built a fantastic total and made the other team to follow.." "Dad!" "What?" "Do other countries also play this kind of cricket?" "Yes!" "And do people watch this err kind of cricket?" "I did, every single day!" "Other people dad? You know stadiums jam packed, people glued to TV's?" "In my days.." "Now dad now!" "In my days.."

"Dad do people watch this five day, two innings stuff anymore? Is there a nail biting finish? Do the tail-enders smash the last overs and win matches?" "The tail enders hang on to get a draw!" "What's a draw?" "Oh never mind!" "Dad?" "Yes?" "Are you sure it's cricket you're talking about?" "Yes, it is! We are the best, the best in tests!" "Right, but are the others we beat still interested in playing this kind of cricket dad, or have they become the best in one dayers, the best in T 20's and finally when all have forgotten to play this game, we've become the best in Tests?" "I don't know son..!"








The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, has announced her government's decision to introduce a uniform curriculum at the primary level throughout the country. This is a welcome move and will no doubt go a long way in developing a homogenous and prosperous nation in future. Currently there are three strands of education prevailing in the country - one, run by the government, another by the religious establishment and a third - outsourced education. This is creating three distinct types of citizens who cater to different market categories. Of them only the state-run institutions follow the national curriculum, while the others, their own.

Those who follow the religious curriculum have a potential problem with finding jobs later in life. Most remain unemployed or depend on charity for their survival. And their numbers are great, although one does not know precisely how many of them are there. Some of these institutions, normally known as madrasas, even do not use much stationery to impart ilm (knowledge) to their wards. This is a pitiable situation and only imparts an education which does not have any relevance to the needs of the job market. Consequently, they form a large constituency of dissatisfaction which is often considered retarding progress of the country.

Over the last few decades a new generation of schools has sprouted that follow the British system of education. They largely meet the needs of foreign companies operating here and the international job market. Some developing countries like Singapore have fully outsourced their education to the British and the results are quite encouraging. But for understandable reason this issue has not been fully explored in this country. As a result, outsourced education remains an expensive option, open only to those who can afford it.

It is important that the country's future work force be properly educated to meet the demands of the labour market. If that does not happen, Bangladesh will remain condemned to the lower rungs of the global pecking order with its vast multitude of unemployed and poverty-stricken masses. And to break away from it, work must start now, as the prime minister has aptly realized. If we are to survive we will need to build centers of academic excellence that will produce graduates who can compete with the best in the world. 








Despite the directive by the High Court to protect the four rivers surrounding the capital from encroachment, river grabbing continues unabated. Either the directive fell on deaf ears or the authorities were not able to enforce the order because influential quarters were defiantly in control.  But flouting the High Court these influential people still encroach on the rivers Turag, Balu, Shitlakkhya and Buriganga and other water bodies with obvious impunity. Even the prime minister's directive to take stern action against the river grabbers in order to save the capital from pollution and environmental degradation is equally ignored. In other words we find influential people continuing to encroach on the rivers. But rivers are the life blood of the nation and from time immemorial they have been the means of transportation for both people and goods.

Take for example the river Shitalakkhya. Once a pristine flow of waters the river now bears the brunt of pollution and illegal occupation. But if all the rivers have to give way to people's greed and avarice the city will lose not only what remains of its water thoroughfares, but its beauty too. Now that both sides of the rivers Turag, Balu, Buriganga, as well as the Shitalakyha are occupied at several points, and with no one daring to prevent them, what remains of the rivers will have to give way. There is also an allegation that some officials of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) have been helping the grabbers in exchange of bribes that need immediate attention because, if true, the offenders should be brought to book.  Even the eviction drives by the government have failed to achieve their purpose because vested quarters are there to foil the attempt with their money and muscle power.









With so many political leaders all over the country wanting to form their own states and even going on fasts to achieve their end, I wasn't surprised when the chairman of my colony called me for a meeting and I was told in no uncertain terms that our housing colony would soon get statehood:

 "Will you agree to be an ordinary citizen or would you insist on becoming a minister like all the others are demanding?" he asked me and I saw all the other members of the committee who had gathered in the room looking anxiously at me.

 "I'll have to ask the wife," I said.

 "She's already said she wants to be a minister!" said the chairman.

 "And we know she will be an excellent one!" said another member as all the others in the room nodded in agreement. "Our only problem is you!"

 "Me?" I asked weakly.

 "Yes we are not sure what role the press will play in our new government!"

 "Or if we want it to play any role at all!" said the wife as she walked into the room and all the members got up to greet her.

 "But don't you believe in the freedom of the press? This should be an integral part of the laws your new state adopts!" I said angrily.

 "I told you he'd give problems," said the wife as the others nodded in agreement.

 "Whoa! Whoa!" I shouted, "I think this is getting out of hand!"

 "I think you are getting out of hand!" said the chairman as the wife nodded.

 "Lets gag him!" she said.

 "Gag me?" I asked incredulously.

 "Here put this on him!" said the wife as she took out a large handkerchief of mine she'd brought along.

 "Now that we have gagged him, let's get on with the meeting!" said the chairman of the housing society where I

live. "First we have to choose a president!"

I watched as they all turned to the wife who nodded and took the chairman's place, "My first declaration," she said, "Is to declare this state a dictatorship!"

 "A dictatorship?" I whispered weakly through the hanky.

 "Get the watchmen ready!" shouted the wife who was now the President. "Pick up your sticks!" said the wife to the watchmen, "Lock these people in that dark room!"

 "You can't do that!" I tried to say through the cloth round my mouth.

 "Quiet!" said the wife, "There's nothing you can do; we've gagged the press!"

The chairman and the other members looked at me appealingly as they were led away, but I pointed to my gag and closed my eyes.

 "You shouted in your sleep," said the wife the next morning, "You said you were not for smaller states!"

 "I must have been dreaming!" I said sheepishly and then stared horrified at the hanky in her hand.







Arsenic toxicity in groundwater is recognized as an acute national problem in Bangladesh for past two decades. The number of arsenocosis patients presently stands at 10,500 in Dhaka, 12,600 in Chittagong, 5,800 Rajshahi, 1,100 in Sylhet, 7,100 in Khulna and 950 in Barisal divisions. The victims of arsenocosis develop black cyst like spots on palm of hands and feet that spread on entire body gradually.  Bangladesh did not succeed in making much technical and physical progress to resolve this problem satisfactorily though arsenic issue is discussed as a major public health problem. Despite the tireless efforts of newsmen, social workers and NGOs over the decades the policy makers and planners in Bangladesh showed little interest in doing the needful to address the problem. Funds allocated from GoB source and international agencies have been used in painting 17,82,000 tube wells red and 13,38,000 tube wells green in Dhaka division; 8,78,000 tube wells red and 3,30,000 tube wells green in Chittagong division; 1028,000 tube wells red and 9,22,5000 tube wells green in Rajshahi division; 15,95,000 tube wells red and 1,40,000 tube wells green in Sylhet division; 10,20,000 tube wells red and 7,28,500 tube wells green in Khulna division and 81,400 tube wells red and 44,200 tube well green in Barisal division.

The soluble mineral arsenic is a toxicant hazardous to public health occurring in soil as soluble compounds that enter human physiological system with drinking water collected from arsenic contaminated shallow tube wells particularly in floodplain areas. Arsenic contamination in groundwater may be due to geogenic, biogenic and/or anthropogenic reasons. Whatever is the reason of arsenic contamination, its affect is when arsenic consumed beyond a certain limit, it develops specific symptom of arsenocosis in human limbs.

Recent investigations at home and abroad revealed that arsenic in mineral forms occurs in soils developed in sediments of alluvial or metamorphic origins as insoluble minerals or compounds. The contaminants of arsenic are pyrite, arseno-pyrite, and monazite or organic compounds. Arsenic may enter the soil system as agrochemicals, herbicides, mining contaminants and/or biological origins. Arsenic compounds enter the shallow groundwater in soluble forms through oxidation/reduction process taking place in soil system due to change of Redox potentials under alternate drainage changes either naturally or due to human intervention.

Arsenic in shallow groundwater was first located at Chapai Nawabganj area in the mid-nineties. Available data from GO, NGO and international agency sources revealed variable arsenic toxicity level in shallow groundwater covering 61 districts in Bangladesh. The higher arsenic level has been observed at north-west, north-central and south-west regions than at south-east, south-central and riverine-east regions. The Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) data revealed that 80.0 percent shallow tube wells in floodplains are arsenic contaminated and there are nearly 40,000 arsenocosis patients in Bangladesh. This number increases annually at an alarming rate.

It is an established fact that soils developed in alluvial or metamorphic rocks contain arsenic toxicants and millions in Bangladesh, West Bengal, Myanmar, Nepal, Taiwan, Thailand, Chile, Argentina and Mexico use arsenic contaminated groundwater. Arsenic contamination of groundwater has also been reported in New Hampshire, Nevada, Florida, New England, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Oklahoma.
Few recent workers abroad (Charles Harvey, Boston, 2008) using Munshiganj soils tried to establish a linkage between the soil organic matter and release of soluble mineral arsenic that subsequently contaminates the groundwater table. They used 3-D computer models for tracking the arsenic coming from the paddy fields and from pond bottoms. They tested capacity of organic carbon in setting free the arsenic present in soil and sediments under anaerobic condition to reach the conclusion that soluble arsenic released from pond bottoms was higher than the arsenic released from paddy fields.

The geo-chemical study on arsenic contamination of groundwater indicated that arsenic in groundwater occurs as inorganic oxy anions of arsenites and arsenates. Thermodynamics of arsenic compounds in soil system indicated that the dominant compounds are H2 As04 in aerobic environment and HAs04 ions in anaerobic environment while in both the environment the dominant ion being H3 As O3.

Arsenic compounds of two broad species change their chemical behaviours under the oxidizing and reducing soil environments. Kinetic of transformation of arsenic compounds from oxidizing to reducing states is quite slow. Hence, arsenic mobility in shallow groundwater and arsenic toxicity in human physiology is related with the chemical properties of the arsenic compounds in groundwater due to the changes caused by seasonal oxidation and reduction in the floodplains. Arsenic mobility therefore increases during the monsoon due to increased dissolution of arsenic compounds but the effect becomes diluted due to recharge of groundwater.


Arsenic content of groundwater is therefore higher during the dry season than in wet season.

Arsenic present in surface water occurs as mono and dimethyl arsenic acids formed due to activities of microbes. Phyto-planktons in water absorb ionic arsenic and convert the inter-cellular arsenic ions into methylated arsenic compounds. The biologically mediated intercellular-conversion of arsenic represents detoxification mechanism in the hydro-biological system to permit progressive entry of noxious ions in the food chain of zoo-planktons, mollusks and other organisms. Change of arsenic compounds through the food chains is treated as natural detoxification of inorganic arsenic into organic forms. Arsenic that enters into human body via food chains organisms is less harmful to human than inorganic forms present in drinking water.

Recent work has succeeded to establish a relationship between drinking of arsenic contaminated water and skin cancer in human body through epidemiological screening. Other human organs vulnerable to cancer due to arsenic toxicity are lung, urinary tract, bladder and kidney.

Bangladesh government since the beginning underscored the issue, but failed to locate the agencies responsible for careless handling and management of shallow groundwater that virtually pushed Bangladesh to a precarious situation. The GoB also failed to initiate legal actions against the responsible agencies making them liable to compensate the arsenocosis victims. The Leigh Day & Co, a British firm in 2002, moved against the National Environmental Research Council (NERC) that conducted groundwater study claiming compensation for 400 Bangladeshi arsenocosis victims.
The action by Leigh Day & Co deserves appreciation from all right thinking people throughout the world though it failed bearing fruits. Bangladesh government on the contrary does not even care for protecting rights of its citizens.

However, the appreciable efforts from DANIDA, SDC, JICA, DFID, WB and ADB on arsenic issue drew attention of world community regarding risks of drinking arsenic contaminated water by millions of rural Bangladeshis. As the result of their efforts a project with joint collaboration of WB and GoB is being implemented with the objectives (a) to develop strategies to improve drinking water quality, (b) to develop skill for treatment of arsenocosis patients and (c) to locate the arsenic free aquifers. Little success so far been achieved except painting the tube wells red and green spending US$ 4.0 in past fifteen years. Many local and expatriate firms on the contrary are out to exploiting the severe human issue in business interest.
The GoB is needed to emphasize  (a) finding an alternate source for safe water supply in affected areas, (b) understanding geo-chemistry of arsenic mobility in groundwater and (c) identifying feasible mechanism for induced precipitation of arsenic in tube well water. If nothing can be done to resolve the arsenic issue then it should stop propagating news to frighten people regarding arsenic toxicity. People are tired of hearing such propaganda that die down with time like the zinc, sulphur, and other trace elements deficiency in agricultural soils, bird flue, swine flue, and etcetera.

All public sector agencies should understand the reality that there are places in Chile with higher arsenic contamination in water than in Bangladesh but patients of arsenocosis are fewer there because people with severe to moderate malnutrition levels are more vulnerable to arsenocosis symptoms. Hence, the GoB instead of misleading people through lofty slogans should take up large inter-sector projects to eradicate malnutrition of nearly 50 percent rural people and for improvement of drinking water quality without delay. Otherwise arsenic contamination problem in drinking water is likely to aggravate in the near future to the distress of whole nation.

(The writer is Former Director, BFRI)








This strategy worked better in Iraq as the Sunnis were taken into confidence and sectarian violence could be brought down to an acceptable level due to a certain level of cooperation. Confidence grew between the allied troops and other factional parties so that joint operations could be planned and intelligence gathered in real time. In case of Afghanistan, with who ISAF will be synchronizing or so long synchronized? By now other than making some token gestures of meeting with tribal heads (and there are so many of them) no credible progress could be made on ground to earmark and restore confidence on some party which will act as a partner. Afghan government and its so-called security apparatus is being built from scratch and capacity building for many institutions like these will take years not even months. In Iraq, there were two sides exercising reconciliatory approaches with each other but look in here, only a single monologue, no dialogue is in progress. This is why the US strategy in Afghanistan would fall victim in the first go.

Secondly, troops surge eventually will cause more collateral damage and mass exodus due to increased military operations. Pakistan was very right to declare that they were indeed skeptical about the visible success of the increasing US presence. It is the direct victim of the rise and fall of the security situation of its neighbour and it has all the good reasons to be apprehensive. Already it is fighting its homegrown terrorism and never in Pakistan's history such a rampant violence manifested right into their heart of security apparatus - Army and Naval headquarters. The whole of Pakistan seems to be unstable and it has wider connotation in the long run also. Instead of India centric war fighting it is combating its own people now thus upsetting the basic fibre of Pakistani national life which is interwoven by so many tribes and traditions. As the US's Afghan-Pak policy will eventually take a backseat, it is just matter of time to witness another grand strategy falling flat.
There seems to be interesting groups propping up in US mainland opposing the views of Capitol's decision of conducting war. One such that drew my attention last week was, 'Veterans of rethinking Afghanistan (it consists of a growing number of veterans committed to showing Congress and the public the realities of the war. These vets have been traveling to Washington, D.C., testifying before Congress and meeting with Senators and Representatives. Their message: Rethink US foreign policy to include non-military solutions for the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan). One of their members juxtaposed two contradictory but relevant aspects aimed to achieve the endgame, which seems to me very realistic. In their view, the amount of money being spent to sustain the military operation is six times more than the investment made to build infrastructure, boost economy, enhance capacity building, curb poppy cultivation and educate the rural people of Afghanistan. This construct should put us confronting a basic question: is ego driving us more than reason? It is obvious that Gen Stanley McChrystal is content and Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry is not (though he later made a public statement saying that the strategy adopted would pay dividend).

Did Mr. Obama want to show (once again) that he was an Anti-Bush? Instead of off-the-cuff, impulsive "gut" that calls in the style of the 'decider', he deliberated, discussed, and debated for months to deliver the same thing that his predecessor did in one hour? Then what about the whole issue of "planning"? George Bush started the Iraq war without much of a plan other than to smash the regular Iraqi army and Republican Guard and chase Saddam Hussein out of power. The real war that developed afterwards was not part of anyone's plan. To me, the amount does not matter whether it is 5000 or 50000, the turning point is US's decision to stick on to this relentlessly. After eight long years of fighting and where no visible success is in sight still, how it is possible to close the campaign within next 18 months, is a matter to be decided in heaven only. We need to remember, the decrease of violence in Iraq is directly proportional to the lessening of occupying forces' presence, not the effect of great troops surge directly.

Look at the setting of Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech aboard an aircraft carrier? Like 'All quiet in the western front' declaration. He told US troops and the US public, the Iraq war was basically over and no-one really had to worry about getting killed in Iraq anymore.

Cynics would say that it is another futile exercise of drawing a lot of young men and women in uniform into the valley of deaths. It is also an interesting contrast that such speeches are not telecast nowadays from the Oval Office, the way earlier TV-era presidents did. Is it because a patriotic backdrop and cheering cadets make the job of marketing a war easier? It's the same old story, and somehow, we the people of earth wanted a better delivery from a commander in chief of such a mighty military machine, who was just awarded with Nobel peace prize. Are the Americans convinced that they can get out of Afghanistan riding on this strategy within next 18 months? Are they sure that the scenes like 'escape from rooftops of Saigon' or 'long pensive trail of winding columns of Russians armoured vehicles' would not be replayed? Sadly again, the collateral damage would increase in terms of human beings; maybe they are concentrated together from different geographical locations but still they are humans. Maybe some of our thoughtful strategies could have allowed them a little more life time and joyful moments with their toddlers. Both the parties in this conflict will sacrifice needlessly in the altar of something (a superego?) which they are not sure of. Only time will say. 


(The writer is an Mphil researcher in department of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.)








When the euro was introduced in 1999, European countries agreed that fiscal discipline was essential for its stability. While the common currency has benefited all countries that have adopted it not least as an anchor in the current economic crisis the failure of euro-zone members to abide by their agreement risk could yet turn the euro into a disaster.

Indeed, too many members simply behave as if there were no Stability and Growth Pact. The state of Greek public finances, for example, is a concern for the whole euro zone, according to European Commissioner for Monetary Affairs Joaquin Almunia. Greece's fiscal deficit is expected to reach 12.7% of GDP this year, far exceeding the SGP's 3%-of-GDP cap.

Of course, every euro-zone country is breaching the SGP's deficit ceiling as a result of the current crisis. But consider the Netherlands, which will do so this year for only the second time since 1999. When the Netherlands first exceeded the SGP limit by only 0.1% of GDP the government immediately took tough measures to rein in the deficit. Germany and Austria behaved the same way. Those countries are already working to reduce their crisis-inflated deficits as soon as possible.

Down in southern Europe, things look very different. Exceeding the SGP's deficit cap is the rule rather than the exception.

Indeed, throughout the euro's first decade, Greece managed to keep within the SGP limits only once, in 2006 (and by a very narrow margin).

Moreover, the Greek government turned out to be untrustworthy. In 2004, Greece admitted that it had lied about the size of its deficit ever since 2000 precisely the years used to assess Greece's application to join the euro zone. In other words, Greece qualified only by cheating. In November 2009, it appeared that the Greek government lied once again, this time about the deficit in 2008 and the projected deficit for 2009.

Italy also has a long history of neglecting European fiscal rules (as do Portugal and France).

Like Greece, Italy was admitted to the euro zone despite being light-years away from meeting all the criteria.


Public debt in both countries was well above 100% of GDP, compared to the SGP's threshold of 60% of GDP.


Italy did not fulfill another criterion as well, as its national currency, the lira, did not spend the mandatory two years inside the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.

Ten years later, it seems as if time has stood still down south.

Both the Greek and Italian public debt remain almost unchanged, despite the fact that both countries have benefited the most from the euro, as their long-term interest rates declined to German levels following its adoption. That alone yielded a windfall of tens of billions of euros per year.

But it barely made a dent in their national debts, which can mean only one thing: massive squandering.
That is evident from their credit ratings. Greece boasts by far the lowest credit rating in the euro zone. Standard & Poor has put the already low A- rating under review for a possible downgrade. Fitch Ratings has cut the Greek rating to BBB+, the third-lowest investment grade. Indeed, those scores mean that Greece is much less creditworthy than for example Botswana and Malaysia, which are rated A+.

What if Greece gets into so much trouble that it cannot service its debt? That is not impossible. According to calculations by Morgan Stanley, with relatively low long-term interest rates, Greece needs a primary surplus of at least 2.4% of GDP each year just to stabilize its national debt at 118% of GDP.

Current European rules prohibit other European countries or the EU itself from helping Greece. But recent history teaches us that European rules are made to be broken.

Already, many (former) politicians and economists (no prizes for guessing whence they mostly hail) are proposing that the EU issue its own sovereign debt, which would alleviate the problems of countries such as Greece and Italy.

But such schemes would come at a high cost. They would punish fiscally prudent governments, as interest rates would inevitably increase in countries like the Netherlands or Germany. Just a 0.1% increase in borrowing costs would mean hundreds of millions of euros in extra debt-service payments a year.

Moreover, even if the plan for EU sovereign debt never takes off, fiscally prudent euro-zone countries will face higher borrowing costs. As financial integration in Europe deepens, the lack of fiscal discipline in one or more euro-zone countries will push up interest rates throughout the currency area. A member of the euro zone cannot be expelled under current rules, allowing countries like Greece to lie, manipulate, blackmail, and collect more and more EU funds. In the long term, this will be disastrous for greater European cooperation, because public support will whither.

Europe should therefore consider bearing the high short-term costs of changing the rules of the game. If expelling even one member could establish a more credible mechanism for guaranteeing fiscal discipline in the euro zone than the SGP and financial fines have proven to be, the price would be more than worth it.


(The writer is a monetary economist at Tilburg University and advisor on European monetary affairs to ECR Research Ltd.)


Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2009