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Thursday, December 24, 2009

EDITORIAL 16.12.09

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month december 16, edition 000377, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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













  1. WALK IN

















































The Congress and the UPA Government cannot indefinitely equivocate on the issue of Justice PD Dinakaran's impeachment. The Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, Justice Dinakaran has been facing charges of disproportionate assets and land swindles. So strong were the accusations — some them levelled by senior members of the bar in Bangalore — that Justice Dinakaran's elevation to the Supreme Court was stalled. The Union Government refused to accept the recommendation of the collegium of judges that appoints judges to the apex court and put a glass ceiling on Justice Dinakaran's career. Clearly, there is a prima facie case against him. As per the Constitution, only Parliament can impeach a member of the higher judiciary. There is no other way of removing him or her from the bench. The Opposition in the Rajya Sabha has come together to sign a petition for Justice Dinakaran's impeachment. The petition is now with the Chairman of the House and he is expected to clear the path for the appointment of a special committee — led by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court — to investigate the allegations against Justice Dinakaran and send its report to Parliament. It is only then that Parliament can take up the matter. In the meantime, it is expected that the Chief Justice of India will ask Justice Dinakaran to recuse himself from all cases while this process is on, as would only be proper. The gravity of the situation can be gauged from the fact that parties as far apart as the BJP, the Samajwadi Party and the CPI(M) have come together on this issue. The Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mr Arun Jaitley, has gone to the extent of suggesting this would be a good occasion to consider the entire business of judicial appointments. It is obvious that the collegium system, set up following a Supreme Court judgement and meant to sequester judicial appointments from political interference, has itself developed serious shortcomings. Inappropriate candidates are managing to slip through the cracks.

Understandably, this is a sensitive issue. Reforming the system of making judicial appointments and making an example of Justice Dinakaran by impeaching him — or at least discussing his impeachment — are actions that will have far-reaching consequences. India cannot afford to take this lightly. That is why the silence of the Congress and the UPA Government becomes not just confounding but untenable. The ruling party cannot refuse to take a view. Neither would it do to simply abstain, as Congress MPs did in the case of another judicial impeachment move in 1993. The party has to make its position clear, and offer logical reasoning in support of whatever decision it arrives at. The institutional paralysis on the part of the Congress is all the more surprising given individual members of the party are privately admitting they see merit in the petition and would in the normal course be happy to vote for Justice Dinakaran's impeachment. Others in the party are, however, coming up with a series of red herrings. They claim they are worried about the electoral fallout and the caste and community impact of a possible impeachment, given Justice Dinakaran is a Dalit Christian. This is nonsense. If all parties come together to remove a corrupt judge, they will share responsibility as well as any credit or perceived 'damage'. The Congress must go by its conscience.






It is fast becoming clear that little will emerge out of the climate summit in Copenhagen. The pace of negotiations has been far from satisfactory and the difference of opinion between the developed and the developing countries on how best to tackle climate change is too wide a gap to be bridged by the end of the summit on Friday. In fact, the summit has made the positions of the developed and developing camps more inflexible than what they were before the start of the conference. The present scenario is that India, China and the G77 group at the summit are convinced that the rich, developed countries do not have any intention of adopting deep emission reduction targets in the foreseeable future. They have come to believe this because work on the evolution of revised targets for a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol has been extremely slow and lacklustre. It is because of this reason that delegates from the developing countries forced a suspension of talks on Monday until they were given adequate assurances that everybody was working together. On the other hand, developed countries have made it clear that they are not comfortable with the idea of unilaterally taking on emission reduction targets while letting countries such as India and China undertake voluntary measures that will not be subject to any kind of international scrutiny.

The basic problem lies in the fact that developing countries want to stick to the Kyoto Protocol and its driving principle that it is the developed countries that have the maximum responsibility towards mitigating the effects of climate change. What they essentially want is an extension of the Kyoto Protocol while simultaneously negotiating a long-term global action plan. But the developed countries have indicated that they would prefer to junk the Kyoto protocol altogether and evolve a new treaty that would bring countries such as India and China within its ambit. It is this deadlock that seems to have killed the summit for good. At best, all that we can hope for is a 'grand' political statement when the heads of state arrive, affirming the need to do more to tackle the impending crisis at the next climate summit. If Copenhagen has revealed anything it is how non-serious Governments across the board are about finding practical solutions to global warming. The bottomline is nobody is willing to risk economic development to save the environment. Everybody agrees in principle that human activities at present are environmentally unsustainable. But when it comes down to actually going the extra mile and implementing concrete measures, nobody is keen to step up to the plate. Governments have reduced the serious issue of climate change to nothing more than a joke.



            THE PIONEER



The Copenhagen conclave has not, expectedly, led to an environmental revolution. The participating Governments have too many vested interests to allow that to happen. But even an agreement on a steeply declining cut in emission levels and a rapid switchover to green technologies would not have led to the revolutionary changes that alone can save the environment in the long run. For that to happen, one must understand the environment not merely in terms of physical phenomena like forests, rivers, hills and mountains, the atmosphere and human habitations and their waste material, but also of culture, values and beliefs. These profoundly influence the way people live, which in turn determines the physical environment.

Of critical importance is human- kind's attitude towards nature with its diverse resources and life forms — including bacteria, which play a vital role — that support life on Earth. As Fritzof Capra points out in his profound work, Hidden Connections, "the key challenge to this new (21st) century — for social scientists, natural scientists and everyone else — will be to build ecologically sustainable communities, designed in such a way that their technologies and social institutions — their material and social structures — do not interfere with nature's inherent ability to sustain life". He adds, "The design principles of our future social institutions must be consistent with the principles of organisation that nature has evolved to sustain the web of life. A unified conceptual framework for the understanding of material and social structures will be essential for this task."

This has not happened so far because humankind regards itself as a category superior to and above the rest of the universe. This in turn has resulted from the fact that while all other living beings survive by adapting themselves to nature, human beings no longer do so. Over the past five or six centuries, they have been increasingly dominating and modifying nature to suit their needs. This in turn has led to the confirmation of the view — implicit in the Genesis, explicit in the works of Aristotle, St Augustine and others — that nature exists to serve humans and the latter can do anything they like with it.


Human beings' domination over nature has been the result of a long process of historical and intellectual development made possible by their highly evolved faculty of reason, which is far superior to the incipient form found in apes like chimpanzees. Apart from the size and complexity of the brain, what made the difference was the development of language which became the medium not only of communication but of reflection and rational and critical thought. This led to a progressively deeper understanding of the world around them and an enhanced ability to deal with it through progress in science and technology.

In a parallel process, reflection led to progressive refinement of ideas regarding social and political institutions evolving from their original form of families, clans and tribes formed to cope more effectively with the vagaries of nature, threats from wild animals and human enemies, and to hunt more efficiently in search of food. Gradually, there arose the early city states of Greece, the kingdoms and empires of Asia, Africa and Europe. Along with these, there emerged ideas about social and political organisations and the prerogatives, rights and duties of the rulers and the ruled.

In the West, path-breaking work was done by classical Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle. In India, one finds in the Mahabharat a mortally wounded Bheeshma, lying on a bed of arrows, waiting for his chosen time of death, narrating the rights and duties of kings and their subjects, to Yudhishtir after the Pandavs had won the battle of Kurukshetra. It is breathtaking in its comprehensiveness, wisdom and contemporary relevance. At another level, Kautilya's Arthashastra is perhaps more than a match for Machiavelli's Prince as a treatise on cynical statecraft.

The philosophies and the great religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, Islam and Sikhism, dwelt on ethics, morality, and spirituality and promised salvation to the faithful and the virtuous. All of them believed in the supremacy of god, who created and presided over the universe and the lives of humans who had to worship Him and live the way He prescribed. Against this, there was, from the beginning, a school of thought — which has come to be known as Humanism — that believed in the sovereignty of reason, and of human beings who possessed it. Till date, the best encapsulation of its essential creed remains the Greek sophist Protagoras's famous aphorism, "Man is the measure of all things."

Medieval Christianity, however, proclaimed that reason was subordinate to faith. The clergy, with the Pope at their helm, suppressed the fruits of rational inquiry whenever it clashed with faith. The European Renaissance restored the pre-eminent position of reason. The process was greatly helped by the Reformation which undermined the Church, and the rise of powerful nation states whose kings challenged the authority of the Pope.

Rational processes of thought and investigation led to technologies that powered the industrial revolution; improvement in ship-building and navigation led to the great geographical discoveries of the 15th and 16th centuries, which in turn spawned a massive expansion in global trade and the age of colonies. The invention of gadgets and improved means of communications and cooling and heating made life easier and more comfortable than ever before. All this and the advertisement boom stemming from the emergence of market-driven capitalism, made for a culture attuned to comfort and consumption, while the new production processes led to progressively massive depletion of the Earth's resources, pollution and, of course, global warming.

As much as the depletion of the Earth's resources, the progressive extinction of species — 3,000 every year according to one estimate — may destroy the inter-dependent networks of living beings and food chains that sustain life. Many do not recognise this because of their vested interests in the present ways of production and living. They pin their faith on technology. But as Jacques Ellul shows in Technological Society, every liberating advance in technology creates a corresponding dependence. And even if the problem of emissions can be taken care of, that of extinction of species will remain unless humankind is able to switch from a consumption-oriented to a nature-oriented mode of living in a quantum revolutionary jump to save the environment.






It is inexplicable that the Chief Justice of India has chosen to remain silent on whether or not Justice PD Dinakaran should be impeached on grounds of corruption. The thinking in the higher echelons of the judiciary is that issues pertaining to the selection process of judges should not be discussed in open forum. But the question is: Why not? Citizens in any democracy should have access to information regarding the background of their judges. There should also be transparency in the process by which they are selected and promoted to high judicial offices.

Some people argue that everything about judges should remain behind closed doors for the sake of judicial independence. Needless to say this argument has no logic whatsoever. All federal judges in the US, including those in the American Supreme Court, go through a rigorous process of cross-examination by both houses of the Congress before they are appointed. The entire process is even shown live on television. This system maintains transparency in selection of judges and helps weed out corrupt and disingenuous candidates. Even candidates who have had the backing of the US President have been rejected after failing to get the approval of the Congress.

Justice Clarence Thomas, a sitting member of the US Supreme Court (American federal court judges have lifetime appoints), went through incredible public humiliation during the cross-examination process by members of the Congress as he was grilled about allegations of sexual harassment and his past relationship with Anita Hill, one of his subordinates earlier in his career.

But this intense public scrutiny of Justice Thomas did not in any way dilute the judiciary's independence in the US. What it did do was make sure that the right person was selected to the apex court.

There is no reason for the CJI to keep mum on the Justice Dinakaran issue. Our justice system must not shy away from bringing the truth to the people of this country. Perhaps it is time that Indian lawmakers think about making changes in the law for complete transparency in the process of selection of our judges. This will not only ensure the quality of judges in the higher judiciary but also do a world of good to the image of the judiciary as a whole by strengthening the faith of the people in the judicial system. We must strike while the iron is hot. The opportunity should not go begging.








On December 9 the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee of the US Senate held a hearing on the subject 'Five Years After the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act: Stopping Terrorist Travel'. Though the hearing was not specifically related to the frequent travels of David Coleman Headley of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba to India before the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai and his role in allegedly collecting operational information about the various targets which the LeT intended attacking, there was a reference in passing to his travels to India before 26/11 and his role.

In his prepared introductory remarks, Mr Joseph Lieberman, the co-chairman of the committee, said: "In the months leading up to 9/11, we know that the system was 'blinking red', as then CIA Director George Tenet famously put it. The system, however, was not set up to share that information among the different federal agencies involved in a timely manner. We now have the ability to leverage the terrorist watchlist and its integrated connections with other Government databases to block the accidental entry into the country of anybody suspected of participating in terrorism. We must also share information on terrorists and other criminals with our partners overseas. This is why I insisted that information-sharing agreements be mandatory for participation in the Visa Waiver Programme. I am told that 13 of the 35 visa waiver nations have entered into agreements to share biometric law enforcement and terrorist watch list data with us — and the United States will be sharing the same types of information on a reciprocal basis to these nations. As a stark reminder of the urgency of these international agreements, this week an American citizen, David Headley, was charged in federal court with six counts of conspiracy to bomb public places in India, to murder and maim persons in India and Denmark, to provide material support to foreign terrorist plots, and to provide material support to the LeT, and six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of US citizens in India. Headley is alleged to have made five trips to Mumbai from 2006 to 2008 to conduct pre-attack planning and surveillance for LeT of many of the targets that were struck in the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. Because Headley was an US citizen, his travel likely did not raise suspicions, and he was able to use the US as a base of operations while helping to plan one of the most significant terrorist attacks in Indian history. Although it is not clear at this point whether Headley's travel raised flags within the US Government, this case underscores the need to implement these international agreements as quickly as possible and make sure that all 35 visa waiver nations and other nations with a common interest in preventing acts of terrorism eventually participate in similar agreements."

Mr David Heyman, Assistant Secretary For Homeland Security, who testified before the committee on various measures taken by his department to monitor travels by terrorist suspects, said the circumstances surrounding the Headley investigation were changing the way authorities were looking at potential suspects. He added: "We can no longer assume that Americans are not involved in terrorism.As indicated by the recent indictments, we also see the nexus of travel in those who may get further indoctrinated abroad. This is a challenge.Those who are seeking to do harm are constantly hearing what we are doing, watching what we are doing, and adapting to that. So changing names may be one thing. Changing secure documents. Changing even biometrics."

Beyond these cursory remarks, there was no detailed discussion on the ease with which Headley was travelling to Pakistan and India and whether any of the US agencies had noticed this and raised an alarm over it. There was also no reference to reports carried by sections of the US media alleging that Headley was working as an informant of the US Drug Enforcement Administration since at least 1998.

There were also no questions during the hearing as to whether there were any arrangements between the Governments of India and the US for the exchange of information regarding travels of terrorist suspects between the two countries.

-- The writer is a former senior official of Research & Analysis Wing and an expert on counter-terrorism issues.

FBI won't allow access to Headley

Q: Will the FBI resist the demand of Indian investigators that they should be allowed independent access to David Coleman Headley?

A: Any professional intelligence or investigation agency will, if it is worth its salt. Deniability is an important operational principle followed by all intelligence agencies. Once an intelligence agency grants free access to another agency to one of its sensitive sources, deniability is gone. The IB will not grant R&AW free access to any of its sensitive sources and vice versa. It is unrealistic to expect that any US agency will allow their Indian counterparts free access to Headley, since it has clearly come out that he was a conscious agent of the US Drug Enforcement Administration at least since 1998.

Q: How about Tahawwur Hussain Rana, the other member of the LeT's Chicago cell?

A: His case seems to be qualitatively different. First, whereas Rana's lawyers have been fighting for his bail, Headley's lawyers have not sought bail. Headley and his lawyers seem to have reconciled themselves to his being in custody till January 12 when a decision on the 'status of his trial' is expected to be taken by the court.

Second, the latest report on the various charges against Headley filed by the FBI before the court on December 7 is called the Criminal Information Report. In that report, there is no reference to any pending or proposed trial against him. As against this, the latest report filed before the court by the FBI on December 14 opposing the grant of bail to Rana says "further support of the motion to detain defendant Rana pending trial". From this, it is evident that while a decision has been taken to have a formal trial against Rana, no such decision has yet been taken against Headley.

Q: What does this indicate?

A: While the FBI has been handling Headley's case cautiously since he was an agent of the DEA, it does not feel the need for such caution in the case of Rana. This is probably because Rana was not an agent of any US agency. It is also interesting to note that while the FBI had details of Headley's pre-26/11 visits to India, it has not so far given any indication in the documents produced before the court that it was aware of Rana's visits to India.







Copenhagen is turning into exactly the sort of shambles everybody feared it would be. The only official text still has many square brackets indicating points of disagreement. Meanwhile, all the rival, unofficial texts have begun to emerge.

The first to be leaked was a Danish proposal that was backed by a number of other industrialised countries. It would simply scrap the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding treaty in existence that makes countries reduce emissions, and ditch the measures it contains on financial assistance and technology transfer to poor countries. A new treaty would be constructed on a green-field site, with everything up for grabs.

The developing countries, needless to say, were furious — but in the next few days the BASIC group (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) will release its own proposed text. The least developed countries, the African bloc and the overall G77/China grouping are also expected to present their own texts, as are the small island states.

The last group, unsurprisingly, is threatening to veto any outcome that does not create a legally binding treaty, because it contains a number of small island countries that are likely to disappear entirely if the sea level rises even a metre. Yet it is very hard to believe that a binding treaty can be negotiated in the next seven or eight days — the conference ends on December 18 — and in the end the island states will probably be bribed and bullied into accepting something less.

One hundred and ten heads of state will show up for the final couple of days, so something will have to emerge that can be represented as a success. But it is likely to be merely a ringing statement of principles that steers around all the unresolved disputes, and then everyone will go home leaving the job half-done.

But cheer up. 'Last chances' are rarely what they seem. The job of removing all the square brackets from the text will probably be resumed early next year, with the goal of bringing something closer to a final draft back to another Conference of the Parties as soon as possible. (This is COP 15, and COP 16 is already scheduled for Mexico City next summer).

So what does this process remind you of? If it were all happening within one country, and the blocs of states manoeuvring at Copenhagen were just local interest groups defending their turf, then you would recognise it instantly. It is the normal political process we are all familiar with, transposed to the global scale. And that is new.

It is hard to celebrate a process as clumsy, and occasionally as ugly, as the horse-trading and arm-twisting going on at Copenhagen, but that is how human politics works. We may all recognise that there is a global emergency, but every Government still has its own interests to protect. Nevertheless, we have come a long way.

Seventy-five years ago there were only about 50 independent countries in the world, and more than half of the human race lived in somebody else's empire. The one existing international organisation with any pretensions to global authority, the League of Nations, had collapsed, and we were entering the worst war in the history of mankind.

Forty years ago, there was a new, more ambitious global organisation, the United Nations, created mainly to prevent more such wars, and in particular a nuclear war. There were 100 independent countries, many of them dictatorships, but they did represent the interests of their people better than the empires. The world was divided ideologically between East and West and economically between North and South, but the realisation was dawning that in some sense we were all in the same boat — and in the end we did avoid nuclear war.

Now there are 192 Governments at the Copenhagen conference, most of them democratic, and they know that we are all in the same boat. That's why they are there. So now, for the first time in history, we have real global politics. It is as messy and incoherent as politics at any other level, but it is better than what we had before.

There are those on the right who think that climate change is a Left-wing plot to impose a world Government on everybody, but nothing of the sort is remotely likely. Those who built the first atomic bombs were not plotting to create the United Nations, nor did the scientists who first detected global warming have the Copenhagen conference as their ultimate goal.

We are all just dealing as best we can with threats that require a global response. We bring our old political habits with us, because there is no better model available. And yes, if we succeed, the world will be more politically integrated than ever before. Not because it is desirable — on that there are many possible views — but because it is necessary.

-- The writer is a London-based independent journalist.








Thirty years ago, the Politburo of the Communist Party Central Committee made its decision to introduce Soviet troops into Afghanistan. The General Stuff immediately formed a task force headed by General of the Army Sergei Akhromeyev to prepare for the operation.

However, when Soviet forces entered Afghanistan 30 years ago, the two states at least shared a common border. Today, the Islamic republic borders on Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which creates an entirely different situation.

Thirty years ago was also the beginning of the last phase of the USSR's existence and the establishment of a completely different political model in Central Asia. This model is still being formed today, although some people may think that the American and Nato troops are the only important factor in this process.

Nevertheless, a high-ranking Indian official recently reported that Indian public and private investment in Afghanistan has reached $ 1.3 billion to date.

There is also China, which will invest up to $ 3 billion into the Ainaka copper mine alone. Iran also maintains contacts in Afghanistan, albeit tacitly.

The end of the war is nowhere near, but Afghanistan's neighbours behave as if shooting has already stopped.

Mr Ilkhomzhon Nematov, the Uzbek Ambassador to Russia, told the author of this article that the main threats to the security of Central Asia, including Uzbekistan, come from Afghanistan, which has been wrecked by full-scale war for more than 30 years and produces 90 per cent of the world's heroin. In this context Uzbekistan is very interested in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan and an early resolution to the Afghan crisis.

The Ambassador added that Uzbekistan is working extensively with Afghanistan for the country's economic recovery. Uzbekistan has built 11 bridges in Afghanistan and supplies the country's northern provinces with electricity. It also delivers fertiliser and construction materials, such as cement, fittings, bricks, etc, to Afghanistan.

In addition, the Asian Development Bank is actively involved in the construction of the Hairaton-Mazari Sharif-Herat railroad. The railroad will become a major infrastructure facility for the steady development of all of Central Asia.

It would be natural to ask the Uzbek Ambassador how the efforts of his country correlate with those of the United States. And what is worthy of welcome?

Mr Nematov said that a large amount of the humanitarian aid supplied by the United Nations and a number of countries reaches Afghanistan through Uzbek territory. Like Russia and other countries of the region, Uzbekistan is also cooperating with the US in the transit of non-military supplies to Afghanistan.

Mr Nematov stated that Uzbekistan has always told America that it is ready to continue to cooperate with the US on issues of mutual interest on the basis of equality, mutual respect and mutual benefit. This primarily involves combating international terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking, especially of heroin. Paradoxically, according to UN data, Afghanistan produced about 300 tonnes of heroin in 2001 and about 8,300 tonnes in 2008.

In this context, said the Ambassador, Uzbekistan welcomes the US Administration's decision to send more troops to Afghanistan.

He recalled the initiative of Uzbek President Islam Karimov to establish a '6 + 3' contact group in order to involve Uzbekistan's close neighbours in the problem.

This group deserves special mention. Mr Karimov proposed reviving the group, which was in place before the 2001 US war, at the Nato summit in Bucharest on April 3, 2008. The Uzbek President suggested that, as before, the group should consist of the six countries that border Afghanistan (Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), as well as "the three" — Russia, the United States and Nato.

 The writer is a political affairs columnist based in Moscow.







A 20-year-old philosophy undergraduate student at Tehran's Allameh Tabatabei University maintained a diary in which he recorded his thoughts and experiences before, during and after the massive anti-Government protests of December 7. He provided the diary to AP on condition of anonymity. The student has been suspended 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.

The students charge that Iranian 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.

Sunday, December 6:

(The diarist reads the latest bulletin put out by Mousavi ahead of the December 7 protests, expressing support for the students. It inspires him to join the nightly Opposition chants from rooftops around the city.)

At 10 pm I went to the balcony and shouted "god is great" and "death to the dictator."

There was pandemonium in the street below — it both scared me and made me happy. Happy because of all this hope, and scared of what the coming days have in store.

Monday, December 7:

(December 7 is National Students Day, a traditional occasion for rallies. The diarist decides it is too dangerous to take part. More than 200 protesters are arrested in the capital.)

Today was December 7, a date when every year I could ... stand among my friends and cry out, a day that always reminded me that I am young and my head is filled with youthful passion. But it was a little different this year for me and many others. I felt it wasn't sensible to pay a high price for one single day. The Internet was finally back on at night, so I read a lot and watched a lot of videoclips (of protests and clashes)... They all confirmed to me that the price has risen and this is a danger for the student movement and for the larger Green Movement (Mousavi's opposition front).

Despite the wave of clashes and arrests, I believe we will be paying the real sacrifices in the days ahead. The universities will become more militaristic, an atmosphere of fear and horror will descend. I am worried universities could even reach the verge of closure.

Although today's demonstrations were splendid, tomorrow will be the executioners' day of vengeance.

Tuesday, December 8:

(The Islamic month of Muharram begins in mid-December, a time for large mourning processions in the streets for a revered Shiite religious martyr. Many expect the opposition to hold their own processions against the Government and for protesters killed in the crackdown.)


The main point is that yesterday's demonstrations did not conclude with December 7.

The next step is successive protests until we reach... the month of Muharram and the mourning processions.

In my view, the first 10 days of Muharram will be an important turning point in Iran's civil movement. If the Government confronts the 'Green' mourning processions violently, this will provoke the anger of a nation that is bound by its religion, and clerics and leaders will also be forced to take a stand. If the Government does not confront the processions, the movement will take big steps forward.

The active members of the movement are not one single fabric...If we don't want to split up and want to remain united, we have to grab the strong rope of Mir Hossein Mousavi thoughts. This doesn't mean we have to accept everything he says, but to accept a single path.

We must remember that we are reformists, not revolutionaries and not overthrowers (of the regime). A movement that still fills the streets with large crowds cannot be dead. ... The atmosphere of every city and university is politicised. People don't talk about anything other than politics.

Wednesday, December 9:

Today, I finally went to the university. Eight students who took part in the protests Monday were not allowed entry. The head of herasat sat at the gate and personally confronted students. The atmosphere at the School of Humanities has become much more militaristic.

About 10 of us political students met at a coffee shop across the go over the events and what steps we need to take, despite the poisonous atmosphere at the university. We were so high-strung that every 15 minutes someone got into an argument with the others.

We postponed the session.

When I left the coffee shop, I ran into a friend who had just been freed from jail: Alireza Mousavi. It's been a long time since I've cried from happiness. It's a truly pleasant moment when a friend is freed.

We planned to meet at a relative of his to celebrate. At 8 pm went to see him with two other friends and gradually other friends joined us and we spent a good and happy evening together. It was good because we were able to continue the noon meeting and make important decisions about our movement. ... We decided to elect a central council that would consist of something like five members. The other decision was that for now it's not time to protest in universities. Instead, we will establish study groups to improve our and other students' political knowledge.

- Concluded







FOR long, the Delhi government and Tata Motors have taken commuters travelling by Delhi Transport Corporation buses for granted. In any other country where the safety of the commuter is considered most vital for a public transportation company, the entire fleet of vehicles would have been recalled in the case of even a single fire resulting from shoddy maintenance.


Yet, in the case of Delhi, where the interests of commerce have seemingly overridden the interests of commuter safety, six buses malfunctioning in less than a fortnight have had no overt effect on either the governing authority or Tata Motors, part of one of India's most respected corporate groups.


The government has admittedly stopped payment of up to Rs 150 crore for the remainder of the buses until Tata Motors gets its maintenance act right, but it might get eventually paid. It has also, as state transport minister Arvinder Singh Lovely claimed in the Delhi assembly on Monday, fined Tata Motors Rs 4 crore for the maintenance lapses so far.


When probed deeper, those fines were not for the dangerous fire or smoke incidents, but routine maintenance faults which resulted in fewer trips by the DTC buses. In effect, Tata Motors was paying back DTC not for the life- threatening episodes, but for revenue lost due to trips not made.


What the Delhi government needs is a complete change in mindset from revenue generation and profitability to placing passenger issues first.


That close to 2,400 more buses have to be delivered to Delhi by next year is a scary thought for a commuter who depends upon this humble mode of transport to get to work and back home.


As Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party leader V. K. Malhotra put it, these buses are " live bombs". The Delhi government also needs to haul up Tata Motors with greater severity than what it has displayed so far. Until the media and the Opposition took up the matter, the government was shockingly quiet on the fire and smoke incidents.


It is ironic that while Tata Motors is gaining worldwide mileage for its Nano car — the cheapest four- wheeler so far — it cannot get its basics right when it comes to routine safety issues in its buses.


Given the way the buses are packed, even a small fire can have disastrous consequences.


The DTC and its boss, the Delhi government, need to show much greater urgency in dealing with the issue.






WITH 75 Rajya Sabha Members of Parliament signing the petition, the impeachment of the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, P. D. Dinakaran has begun. We wonder why it has taken so much time and why the justice has not had the grace to quit of his own accord.


Considering the instances of judicial corruption coming up, it is a surprise as to how lethargic the legislature has been in using the instrument of impeachment to punish the errant judges. Even now, it is clear that the push to impeach Dinakaran comes from the Opposition and the ruling party has studiously avoided lending its name to the petition in the Rajya Sabha.


Though it should not be a problem to rustle up the mandatory 100 MPs in the Lok Sabha to initiate the impeachment process, the Congress party's support is necessary if the issue is to be clinched. It may be recalled that the impeachment motion against Justice V. Ramaswami failed in 1993 because the ruling Congress party had abstained. The charges against Dinakaran include amassing of wealth beyond his known sources of income, illegal grabbing of government land, entering into benami transactions and so on.


In retrospect it is surprising that Dinakaran's name actually made it into the list of judges recommended by the Supreme Court collegiums for elevation to the apex court. It is only after some lawyers and jurists appealed to the Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan that his name was put on hold and later dropped from the list.


Clearly, the current system of judges' appointment is flawed.


The government should immediately set up a National Judicial Commission to deal with the promotion and transfer of judges.







The best option for India is to have a strong, stable and neutral Afghanistan much like Finland during the Cold War SOME of the statements, remarks and conjectures of President Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, should beg the question as to whether our reliance on the United States to realise our main objective of eliminating terror organisations in Pakistan and Afghanistan is misplaced. Both of us have this objective but our ways of achieving them are different.


In an interview to Farid Zakaria on CNN earlier this month, Holbrooke said Pakistan had a pivotal role in the Af- Pak region. He said only Islamabad could destroy the terror sanctuaries in its territory, help stabilise the Karzai regime and thus stabilise Afghanistan. This was broadly the policy of George W Bush since 9/ 11 and Barack Obama is also following it, though he is holding Pakistan more accountable on the issue of war against terror than Bush did.


What's missing in the American strategy is any policy, however tentative of building the institutions of modern state of Afghanistan. Only a modern Afghanistan can defeat the Taliban and al- Qaeda. Even if Pakistan acts sincerely and determinedly to destroy these terrorist outfits, Afghanistan will still be a prey to terrorism, homegrown or foreign, so long as it remains a traditional society.


This point has been made in a recent article in M AIL T ODAY but the writer limited himself to discussing the ways of modernising the Afghan army. But you cannot have a modern army that functions within the confines of democracy unless you have a modern society and secular state.


It's a nearly impossible goal to achieve in Afghanistan but we and the west must work towards it, otherwise the scourge of terror cannot be eliminated.




Of course Pakistan does not want to assist, even minimally, in building the institutions of the modern state in Afghanistan. A tribalised Afghanistan suits its interests best.


But what's inexplicable is why the US does not prevail on Pakistan to give India a role in building Afghanistan into a modern nation. Even a small demarche made by India to supply wheat to Afghanistan after the removal of the Taliban regime in 2001 was rebuffed by Pakistan under General Pervez Mushraff and the US acquiesced in the Pakistani move.


There are a host of things we can do in Afghanistan that would help the Afghan people and ultimately us, build schools, technical and vocational institutions.


Holbrooke lamented in the interview to Zakaria that the recent elections in Afghanistan weren't fair.


But why didn't it occur to him to ask our Election Commission in assisting the Afghan government in the preparation of election there? Without doubt it is one of the best in the world. It's time we pressed the US to give a major role in building a modern Afghanistan to India.


We can help the Karzai government build better administrative, judiciary and police services than they have at present. We can build IIMs and IITs more cheaply than the Germans can, our businessmen and technicians are as good as any in the West and China to exploit the country's mineral wealth.


Pakistan won't let us.


That is understandable, given the warped mindset of its ruling elite. But why is the US not insisting on Pakistan to let India do this task? The answer: we have not pressed on Washington to get a major nation building role in Afghanistan.




Modernisation or Talibanisation is the choice before an Afghan regime of whatever political stripe.


Territorial disintegration a la Yugoslavia will follow Talibanisation. The Taliban was not just a creation of Pakistan, it was also a product of militant Islam peculiar to that tribal society.


The Taliban regime was the most barbarous of the post World War II regimes.


How perverse must have been the thinking of a regime that ordered the destruction of the Bamian Buddha in Central Afghanistan in 1999.


The Finlandization of Afghanistan can accompany its modernisation. Its modernisation cannot be secure unless it is shielded from external influences.


The Great Saur revolution was an indigenous design for reform and it was crushed by the Soviet intervention in 1979.


Brezhnev feared that the Afghan revolutionary, Hafizullah Amin, would become another Tito and he did not want a Tito south of the Oxus River.


He wanted another servile Bulgaria there.


The Taliban were a product of Jihadist ideology, Saudi petro – money and Pakistani arms, training and organisation.


Afghanistan must be shielded from external interventions and so it is best Finlandized. There is also the Austrian model of neutralisation, but whatever be the model, Afghanistan must be neutralised from the contending influences of great powers and regional powers.


We have not yet given any thought to what should be its external orientation.


Pakistan sees it as its preserve.


General Musharaff saw it as a country providing the strategic depth to Pakistan. General Pervez Ashfaq Kayani goes a step further. He wants, according to Najam Sethi, a big role in the great game. We must take a lead in raising the vital question of Afghanistan's future external posture with the US, Russia, Iran, and Central Asia republics.


The Americans do not back Pakistan's design on Afghanistan any more. In the interview to Zakaria, Holbrooke debunked the idea of Afghanistan as a strategic appendage of Pakistan. But the Obama administration, given the domestic compulsion to militarily withdraw from the country, may agree to giving the Afghan Taliban a role in Afghanistan.


Pakistan is trying to sell to Washington the idea that there is ' good' Taliban and it has the power to destroy al- Qaeda. A distant power like the US with no great strategic and economic stake in Afghanistan may fall for the Pakistan idea. But Talibanisation of Afghanistan will be disastrous for the country and for us.


The Af- Pak region as called by the Americans is the most dangerous cauldron of ethnic, religious and cultural strife in the world. Unfortunately, the region can't be ignored. A region of similar intensity of strife — the Congo, Rwanda, Zaire — was ignored by the world because no great power had vital stakes in it. But the Af Pak region is close to the oil- rich gulf and it borders on the southern borders of Russia. It is our misfortune that it is too close to us.




We do not know how to cool this cauldron. Somehow we think the great power would do it for us.


We endorsed the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1980. When it withdrew in 1987 it came as a shock to us. We endorsed the American intervention in Afghanistan in 2001.


That was a sensible decision.


What was naive on our part was to believe that the US would succeed in stamping out terrorism from this area.


The minute Obama thinks or deludes himself into thinking that Afghanistan is free of al- Qaeda terror cells, he would signal the American withdrawal from there. He has given himself a year and half to do the job.


It is time we engaged in serious diplomacy with Russia, Iran and other Central Asian countries on what to do in Afghanistan and how to deny Pakistan a dominant influence there.


The writer is an Honorary Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi








P EOPLE in Punjab witnessed an unseemly show inside state legislative assembly. The opposition Congress and ruling Akali Dal legislators came to blows in an incredulous exercise to " restore peace" on the streets of Punjab. The free- for- all on the floor of the House — which was fuelled by violence in Ludhiana — sent turbans flying amid generous Punjabi expletives and some bleeding noses.


For the people of the state, the winter sitting of the assembly turned out to be a complete washout. They felt cheated since unruly scenes took the business of assembly to ransom and topical issues of public interest were not discussed in the House. The high voltage drama also conveniently saved the ruling coalition — Shiromani Akali Dal and BJP — from


facing the Opposition on these issues including power crisis, financial crunch, health services and overall development. All this happened at the cost of public money.


It started when the Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal — who also holds the home portfolio — began reading a three page statement on law and order situation with reference to the Ludhiana violence claiming one life.


The Congress members led by the opposition leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal attempted to force their way through the stairs leading to the Speaker's table. The marshals foiled their bid. The opposition legislators then moved towards Sukhbir Badal. SAD legislators left their chairs and surrounded the deputy CM. This triggered physical fight near the Speaker's podium.


The trouble created by the Congress finally ended with the session coming to a close without any business being conducted in the house.


The unsavoury behaviour of the Congress Legislature Party saved the ruling coalition from embarrassment. The Congress leaders also prevented the issue of the indictment of the Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon from flaring up and putting the Akali Dal on defensive. The CBI has indicted Kahlon in a job scam.


The episode gave chief minister Parkash Singh Badal an opportunity to remark on the internal dynamics of Congress . Badal said the leader of the Opposition, Bhattal, devised a " floor show" to take the spotlight away from the " road show" of former CM Capt Amarinder Singh. He was alluding to a tour launched by the former chief minister in Gurdaspur district.


Presumably, the offensive launched by the Congress CLP in the House was timed when Bhattal's arch rival Amarinder Singh was drawing out scores of young people across the state in a bid to revive the party in Punjab.


Bhattal's move of disrupting the assembly was aimed at scoring over popularity of Amarinder Singh — who also accuses her of being soft on Punjab's ruling family.


No one now knows who gained from legislators' unruly behaviour.


But, untenable action of Congress and over- reaction of Akali legislators on the floor of assembly led to a great deal of bitterness and disillusionment of the people who elected them.



NEARLY 25 artists from the US and Europe will donate their art works to Rock Garden — one of the most sought after tourist destinations in Chandigarh. The initiative of the offshore artists is aimed at saluting the immaculate masterpiece of art.


The art works will be donated to the Rock Garden in a formal ceremony by the end of this month.


Tony Rajer, a trustee of the Nek Chand Foundation and its coordinator in the US believes that the gesture will bring together renowned artists of the world who love Rock Garden and its message of love and peace.


" Art has no form and it does not understand any boundary. Rock Garden symbolises communal harmony where so many art forms come together," he said.


A self- taught curator, Nek Chand is credited for developing the marvel of contemporary art on 40- acre from thrown- away household and industrial waste items.


The Rock Garden attracts a large number of visitors from all across the world.



THE ARMY and villagers will hold a function on Wednesday to pay tribute to Jat soldiers who sacrificed their lives while fighting Pakistan military near Gurmi Khera village in Punjab's Fazilka district in December 1971. The event — an annual event now — will be held at Aasafwala Shaheedon Ki Samadh, a memorial managed by War Memorial Committee at Asafwala, 7 km from Fazilka town.


The Pakistan Army attacked Beriwala Bridge in the first week of December in 1971 and began to advance towards Fazilka. The soldiers fought bravely and regained a large area earlier lost to the enemy.


The villagers used secret tunnels to help the soldiers. The soldiers succeeded in protecting Fazilka but many lost their lives. The skirmishes continued till December 16. A memorial was raised in the memory of the soldiers of 4 Jat Regiment where they were collectively cremated after the war. The ashes of some army jawans were also preserved at the monument. Later, pillars were raised in the memory of 15 Rajput and 3 Assam Regiment soldiers as well.



A HARYANA Congress party legislator Ram Niwas Ghorela has become popular among his party's members of the legislative assembly for his winning ways. Ghorela who represents the Barwala constituency owns a dairy business and he has made it a habit of gifting peda s ( a sweet made of milk) to party leaders as a friendly gesture. " But, I cannot eat your peda s since I am diabetic," complained one of the leaders. " No problem", came Ghorela's quick- silver reply, " I will get some sugarfree mithai made specially for you."



THE WEDDING of an influential DAV College managing committee office bearer's son in Chandigarh last Wednesday led to some tension and a debate.


The director ( schools) of the committee, H. R. Gandhar, chose to put one of the colleges managed by it at the disposal of the bride's family. The local college authorities decorated the campus and forced some students to vacate the hostel rooms for accommodating the guests. This happened at a time when the college students were taking their term examinations.


As some students protested and hostellers called up the media, the college principal B. C. Josan and some lecturers allegedly attacked the reporters who were speaking to the students. The matter was resolved after police came to pacify the agitating students.


A committee member claimed that the college management had the right to hold private functions on the campus since the DAV outfit was " a family". Families had to face discomfort at such times, he opined.


Chandigarh's home secretary Ram Niwas said it such use of the premises was inappropriate.


A lot of wisdom after the event.








Once upon a time it was feared that China and the US, which between them account for more than 40 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, would come to an understanding between themselves and coerce New Delhi to go along. But judging by proceedings so far at the Copenhagen climate change conference, the likely outcome is far worse. It's the rivalry between China and the US that's dominating the conference, scuttling the chances of arriving at a global agreement.

Given that China is blamed for job losses in Europe and the US (India is cast in the role of minor villain here), the Americans find it politically unpalatable to pay for carbon credits as envisaged by the Kyoto Protocol and as a result, put more money in Chinese coffers. They have managed to persuade the Europeans of this point of view as well. As a result the Danish-led proposal, enthusiastically backed by the US and other rich countries, calls for burying the Kyoto Protocol and starting from scratch. But developing countries have revolted against this approach, since they correctly perceived that the protocol's principle of common but differentiated responsibility between developed and developing countries is sought to be undermined in the new proposals. It doesn't make much sense to start from scratch when a workable and equitable template to combat climate change, put together after great thought, is already available.

To look at the brighter side, the so-called failure of Copenhagen to come up with a plan that would replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012 could turn out to be a breakthrough moment. For a change, the voices of 'weaker' countries are being heard above the din of the wealthy. Their concerns are real, having to deal with coastal erosion, loss of livelihoods and lives, disease spread, droughts and floods and water scarcity. These are fertile grounds for conflict, too, if left unresolved. Having won a Nobel for Peace, ought not President Obama lead the way to an agreement that would be Kyoto-plus, in line with the UN climate change body's criteria of equity and justice for all?

Carbon budgeting, cutting back on carbon intensity, energy, emissions - these are all different ways of reducing one's carbon footprint. A plan could be a mix of all of these, and it is clear that without funding and technology transfer, curbing greenhouse gas emissions would remain beyond the reach of developing countries. Over the next few days with emerging economies and African countries playing a significant role the US and other Annexe-I countries should use the opportunity to put together a workable solution that's consensual, as well as fair.







Three of our metros are on high security alert. Intelligence reports warn that Taliban-trained terrorists who may have sneaked in from across the border could target key security installations and high-profile civilian buildings in these cities. Interrogation of David Coleman Headley, a Lashkar-e-Taiba operative currently under US custody, has revealed that terrorists undertook a recce of the cities some months ago.

A year after the heinous terror strikes in Mumbai, India continues to be under threat. The situation is unlikely to get better soon. With the US asking Pakistan to step up action on terror groups, there is reason to fear that the war within Pakistan could spill over into India. Terrorist masterminds know that one way to deflect the attention on them within Pakistan is to expand the battlefield and drag in India. Another major terror operation in India is likely to change the dynamics of the war on terror and bring the Indo-Pak dimension to what is currently an Af-Pak conflict unfolding under the watchful eyes of the US. India needs to be on guard against the designs of terror groups.

The Mumbai attacks revealed that the local police were underprepared and under-equipped to tackle terrorism. It's said that infighting within the force and ego clashes prevented the force from responding in an effective manner to the challenge. Instead of dealing with the revelations in a transparent manner, the state government has sought to block exposures by threatening disciplinary action against officers challenging the government version of the events. The Maharashtra government refused to make the R D Pradhan committee report that inquired into the function of the Mumbai police public and, now, after much public pressure, has agreed to let a select few legislators read it. The report must be put up in the public domain for a wider debate.

Some efforts have indeed been taken to streamline policing and the intelligence gathering mechanism. The Union home ministry has revamped the multi-agency centre for better processing and sharing of intelligence material. Similarly, National Security Guard hubs have been created in four cities. Money, personnel and equipment have been promised for coastal security but the pace of implementation is slow. The much-needed police reforms are in limbo with many states refusing to implement a Supreme Court directive on them. Restructuring the internal security architecture may be a long haul and involve many agencies at many levels. But the threat is immediate, and security agencies as well as the political class must rise to the challenge.








The visit of a Canadian prime minister to a major Asian country would rarely stir wider interest. Yet if Stephen Harper's recent visit to China was watched closely in other capitals, there are reasons for it. Harper is the last G8 leader to come calling. The prime minister of the world's second largest country has missed no opportunity to harp on China's human rights record. He met the Dalai Lama, played up the case of Tibet, kept away from the Beijing Olympics' opening and spoke of "difference in values". He did all that a potential partner of a rising power should not do.

Harper could not have carried on needling China and expected to make a success of Canada hosting the G20 and G8 summits and the Winter Olympics in 2010. With Canadian business finding it hard to strike gains in China, Ottawa had to change its tune. This is another reminder that Beijing expects world capitals to be mindful of Chinese concerns, and demonstrably so.

In its 60th anniversary year, New China wants everyone at the party. At the same time, the People's Republic is firm about keeping out those who do not acknowledge its power and status manifest in the shashtipoorthi celebrations. In Indian culture, 60 years has particular meaning. It is not very different in China, where the attainment is as much an occasion for ceremony as for proclamations of power. In the Chinese lunar calendar, like in Indian ones, 60 years are a historical cycle. The years, which have names, are repeated every 60 years.

Though it may be a truism that history repeats itself, New China is determined to not repeat the turbulence and turmoil of those six decades. Sixty years after Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the Communist Republic, China would like to put behind all political and ideological debate, and go forward on the strength of its economic might to claim the world as its oyster.

China's Maoist revolution is perhaps the 20th century's only one with a 'capital' outcome literally. With over $2 trillion in reserves, China is the biggest holder of US treasury bonds, and Washington remains "deeply indebted" to Beijing. So much so that, while the US-led developed world has been in a funk, bled by the economic crisis, China marches on triumphantly. It leads as the first economy to recover from the recession and the only one confident of 8 per cent GDP growth in a year capitalism's powerhouses have battled contraction.

China's epochal transformation in such a short period is awesome. Twenty years of turbo-charged economic growth has changed for all time the semi-feudal, semi-colonial condition of a people who were dirt poor. Once condemned as irrelevant, isolated and backward, China has risen as a power at once courted and feared. Its emergence as the world's third largest economy, stable and prosperous enough to feed its 1.3 billion people and hold its own against any and all, has no precedent.

Mao demolished the foundations of the primitive, old China. Deng Xiaoping capitalised on this political legacy to unleash an economic miracle still unravelling 30 years after he declaimed, "It is glorious to be rich." Today, New China is glorying in the wealth and power economic, political, military and diplomatic flowing from it. While G8 may give way to G20, increasingly there is talk of G2 a global leadership where the US and China work hand in glove. The latter's economic clout as the world's factory and biggest energy user, and a main player in international financial institutions - needs no overemphasising.

While most countries are busy with economic fire-fighting, Beijing is pressing ahead with strategic, security and foreign policy goals. Its political, military and diplomatic power is at a never-before peak. It does not need to articulate its concerns; its concerns are anticipated. For example, US president Barack Obama not meeting the Dalai Lama before his visit to China last month lest Beijing take offence. The Obama administration has trod warily on issues be it human rights or minorities in the Tibet and Xinjiang regions that might offend the Chinese leadership.

Beijing has little to worry about beyond its borders. Nothing foreign can hinder China's global advance. The challenges are essentially internal. There have been hundreds of thousands of "mass incidents" minor riots, social upheavals, demonstrations and protests across China in recent years. These "mass incidents", not making headlines abroad like riots in Tibet or Xinjiang, signify the seething discontent of those uprooted or left behind by development, the deprived and the dispossessed. This is the flip side of rapid economic growth: appalling income disparities, rising unemployment, displacement of rural populations, pervasive corruption, criminality, massive environmental degradation, pockets of extreme poverty, social sickness, discontent of the have-nots and restive minorities in the Tibet and Xinjiang regions.

China's achievements are enormous. Equally striking are these black holes in which may be lurking unsuspected dangers to the sustainable and inclusive growth that is critical for realising President Hu Jintao's vision of a just and harmonious society.

The writer is a journalist.







The Vagina Monologues started as a play and went on to become a colossal V-Day movement that campaigns for better rights for women across the world. Eve Ensler , its playwright and original lead performer, was in India recently and spoke to S Shobhana :

How has The Vagina Monologues brought changes in your life and transformed you over the years?

I think when I started doing Vagina Monologues, the violence that had happened in my own life was like a shadow determining my own existence. But then, as I started performing and then leading a global movement, that shadow began to lift. I don't feel like a victim anymore...

How has The Vagina Monologues itself evolved over the years?

The play itself hasn't really changed, except that every culture adapts it to make it relevant to itself, whether by changing names or changing what the vagina is called, and this is different in different places, whether India or the Philippines.

What are the different forms that violence can take and how does V-Day address them?

V-Day is a movement to end violence against women and girls in all forms, ranging from acid burning to female genital mutilation to rape to domestic battery to incest to sex trafficking. One out of every three women will be beaten or raped in her lifetime and that's true of every single country. It is the hugest epidemic on the planet. You can't end violence against women and girls without looking at poverty, without looking at racism, without looking at the environment. All of this and everything else is connected. V-Day has grown very rapidly in the last 11 years and we are now in 130 countries. It's because of the urgency of the situation and because so many women are violated everywhere.

What is Insecure At Last, your most recent book, about?

It is about insecurity everywhere. I feel this even about being in India right now. We have been searched and our bags have been searched everywhere. I believe the whole world is like that now. Insecure At Last was an attempt to look at, first of all, the fact that total security is ridiculous, it's impossible. The book was my way of saying 'Come on into the world of insecurity'. That's where we all really live. What if we drive not so much towards security and, instead, turn our attention towards love, compassion, towards feeding everybody, and towards care?

Every year a new monologue is added. What was the most recent one?

Last year, we added a monologue called Baptised about Congo. The worst situation in the world for women today is in Congo. Between two and five hundred thousand women have been raped in the last 12 years in an economic war. Six million people have died in Congo in the last 12 years and no one seems to know about it. It's really shocking.

Women's Feature Service.








The cabinet ministry of Maldives recently met a few leagues under the sea. Nepal went several steps up, organising its cabinet meeting on Mount Everest. We do not know whether the Maldives meeting resulted in watered-down decisions, but surely the Nepali session would have included high tea. These moves by our neighbours have posed a fresh new challenge to India. Where should our own cabinet meet next? Dealing with food shortages, foreign hands and economic crises are par for the course, but selecting a fresh venue can be a trying effort. So I have volunteered to help. I've ruled out the most obvious choice, Agra and the Taj Mahal. You can't have a high-decibel meeting in a place where emperors are attempting eternal rest, and the city has already been home to Indo-Pak summits in the past, which makes it somewhat of a repeat. Could we instead do a cabinet meeting on a shikara boat at Srinagar's Dal Lake? That would be nice, the shikara would have to be very large.


No worries, we have other options. To promote the cause of Indian agriculture, the cabinet can meet at one of Nasik's famous wineries. Ministers can put their sour grapes aside, and since good wine enables meaningful conversation, many complex decisions can be immediately taken. But teetotallers may object, so we search for more universally acceptable locations. Goa is a good choice, with its stunning beaches and rave parties. We will have to check whether increasingly rigorous environmental regulations permit a noisy meeting near the fragile ecosystem of the seaside, though. It would make for a grand global gesture if the Indian cabinet met in the White House at Washington. But recent instances of gatecrashing should make us wary of this otherwise excellent choice, for who knows who may be eavesdropping even as ministers are discussing the next budget? My final recommendation is that the Indian cabinet meet on an aeroplane. This will make great news as the world's first cabinet session in an aircraft. It will help bring revenue to our beleaguered airline. The ministers should be seated in economy class to emphasise how cost-conscious the government is in these trying times. And, of course, the aircraft should remain on the ground throughout, because we can't risk infighting amongst crew or circuit-breakers being pulled out or similar mid-flight drama, which occurs virtually everyday.







In response to those few who have contested the claims of global warming at the Copenhagen meet, R K Pachauri said that there was "overwhelming proof" that man-made climate change was an established scientific fact. An earth scientist like him should know that in science, 'overwhelming proof' is not the same as 'irrefutable proof', whose proper place is not science but religion.


Religion - or rather, religious dogma - is the age-old adversary of the spirit of enquiry. According to religious dogma the universe is a closed book which can never be reopened. In the 17th century, Galileo was threatened with torture by the Christian church because he proposed the 'heresy' that the Earth was not the centre of the universe, and that it revolved around the Sun. Forced to recant, Galileo is said to have murmured as he left the court, "Nevertheless, it does move".


Today every schoolchild knows that Galileo was right and that the dogma of the day - that the Sun moves around a central, unmoving Earth - was wrong. This was not the first, or the last, time that the pseudo-knowledge of dogma - often posing as science - has led humankind on to entirely wrong, and often dangerous, paths.


In the early 19th century in Britain, the 'science' of eugenics became the unchallenged mantra. The bastard brainchild of Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection, eugenics was dreamt up by Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton, and was made into a political programme by Darwin's son, Leonard. Basically, eugenics sought to replace Darwinian natural selection (species which can adapt will survive at the expense of species that can't) with planned selection.


Eugenics asserted that the poor were poor not because of political and social inequities but because they had 'degenerate genes'. As such, they had to be made to stop breeding - on pain of forced sterilisation, if necessary (shades of Sanjay Gandhi during the Emergency) - or society would be destroyed by a sub-human flood of weak-minded, criminally inclined perverts and sociopaths.


Some of the leading intellectuals of the age became passionate evangelists of eugenics, including the socialists Sidney and Beatrice Webb, who claimed it to be the "most important question" of the age. George Bernard Shaw believed that what a fellow eugenicist, Labour MP Will Crooks, called "human vermin" had "no business to be alive" and advocated the use of a "lethal chamber" as a solution.


HG Wells warned that the social order would be "swamped" by "ill-bred, ill-trained swarms of inferior citizens". Eugenicists lobbied the then British government to organise 'flying squads' of scientists who would hunt out the 'unfit' and herd them into concentration camps, preferably after sterilisation. Though such state-sponsored vigilantism did not take place, in 1913, under a Mental Incapacity Act, about 40,000 people were imprisoned without trial, because they were 'feeble-minded' or 'morally defective'. According to Dennis Sewell writing in The Spectator, they included "petty criminals, unmarried mothers and those displaying homosexual inclinations".


The most ardent and energetic of eugenicists was Adolf Hitler who - in his efforts to create the 'pure Aryan race' by weeding out all 'Untermensch' like Jews, gypsies and Slavs - ended up killing over six million people. Despite this horrific legacy, in 1946 John Maynard Keynes described eugenics as "the most important and significant branch of sociology". It is much easier to kill human beings than it is to kill scientific dogma.


Today of course eugenics is totally discredited, both scientifically and morally. But dogma abhors a vacuum. So what has taken the place of eugenics as the new proselytising religion? Could it be, is it just possible, that it might be man-made climate change?


Blasphemy! Sacrilege! Call up the Inquisition. Bring on the thumbscrews.









Food prices have eaten their way into core inflation -- minus volatile energy and food -- in November. This is the tipping point for monetary policy, which can do little to absorb supply shocks like poor harvests but can tame a demand-induced price line in manufacturing. Although the big push to wholesale inflation last month came from a 16.7 per cent rise in the food index, the more significant statistic is the 4 per cent rise in the manufacturing index. For two reasons. One, industry has thrice the weight of food in India's most widely tracked inflation index. And two, prices are accelerating more on the shop floor than on the farm. At its June 2009 trough food inflation was sill a high 10.9 per cent from a year ago, but industrial prices were creeping up at 0.6 per cent. In percentage terms, the price of manufactures poses the bigger worry.


With factory output growing at 10.3 per cent in October on the back of a 9.6 per cent gain in September, companies are better placed to pass on rising input costs to consumers than they were a quarter ago. The most striking example of this trend is November's 24.7 per cent rise in prices of processed food where the cost pressure has broken through. The unabashed rise of food prices -- food inflation climbed to 19 per cent in the last week of November -- should ease with higher winter sowing of rice and pulses, principal sources of price pressure. But a clearer picture will emerge when the full rabi data comes in.


Wholesale inflation in November at 4.78 per cent is nearly bursting out of the Reserve Bank of India's comfort zone and the figure for March 2010 could settle at a fourth higher than its latest estimate of 6.5 per cent. A broad section of view sees the central bank beginning to raise interest rates by as early as January. This will in all probability be accompanied by drainage of liquidity from the financial system. The crisis-induced phase of easy money is over for India and the debate over the timing the exit of the government's stimulus rendered irrelevant. With fiscal policy still hugely expansive, the pressure on interest rates should magnify. The cost of borrowing is a potent argument for a return to fiscal rectitude.









As Defence Minister A.K. Antony promised the nation that women would "gradually join combat duty" in the army, the ladies in tinsel town don't care two hoots about gender-neutral pay when it comes to New YearEve dance shows. And why should they? With Bipasha Basu slated to earn a cool Rs 1.8-2 crore to shake a leg and some other parts of herself at a Mumbai hotel on the evening of December 31-January 1, it would seem that item girls are worth more than starrier male items.


One of the ways in which to drum up a misogynistic tune is to talk about `reverse gender equality'. If men have to `suffer' hearing complaints about their boys' club habit of making women feel unequal in the army, in sporting arenas and in restaurant and hotel kitchens, women regularly face the same jibes from masculinists about inequality in the world of modelling -- and `event shows' as well. Apart from giants in show-biz like Shah Rukh Khan and the unnaturally childish-for-his-age Amitabh Bachchan, audiences softened up by the year-end spirit(s) would prefer kinetic eye-candy to silly dance routines by men. Also, the likes of Ms Basu haven't earned their stage credentials (and performance fees) overnight. They have chosen the winding and narrow path of the `item number' to mark their USPs.


The New Year Eve shows are also treacherous for having the turnover rates of the performers higher than in any other performing arts -- gymnastics included. To add to the cut-throatedness of the game, these women have to perform on an evening that makes it very difficult for them to forget that they age. Their job requires a talent in being in shape as well as being able to provide a crowd that expects much more, much much more. Can male stars pull off such a routine by their sheer visual display? Even the ladies in the crowd will say no. So, Ms Basu, you'll be earning every paise of your Rs 1.8-2 crore December 31 kitty.

Our eyes have it.









The global negotiations on Climate Change at Copenhagen enters its final stage with the three-day Heads of States Summit starting today. Reports so far indicate the unfolding of the Shakespearean dilemma of Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark: "To be or not to be..."


The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that began in 1990 has by now established that the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is rapidly approaching levels beyond which irreversible and potentially catastrophic changes in global climate could occur.

While these changes will affect all of humanity, the worst affected will be the poor, especially in the developing world. India is likely to suffer severe damages with the melting of Himalayan glaciers, drastic changes in rainfall patterns leading to floods, droughts, rising sea levels and displacement of millions of people.


Undoubtedly, there is an urgent need to act in limiting such emissions to ensure that global temperatures do not rise beyond 2°C. There is, however, another view that global warming may be happening due to factors much beyond human activities. Despite all scientific advances, the one area where little is known is what is happening under our feet on our planet. Drilling for 19 years to probe the depths of Earth, whose radius is over 6,000 km, the Soviets reached a depth of nearly 13 km before the Soviet Union collapsed. No one has ventured beyond this.
Even this minuscule penetration revealed many surprises negating what scientists presumed on the basis of seismic waves and other indirect methods.

For instance, at a depth of 10 km, the temperature was found to be 180°C, nearly twice the forecast level.
These happenings may well be impacting on temperatures at the surface.


This nevertheless should not detract the efforts humanity must make to ensure that life breathes cleaner air and tangible changes that affect both livelihood and quality of life of billions are reversed. The last two decades of negotiations were aimed at achieving this. This was based on the inviolable principle of `common but differentiated responsibility'. This underlined the fact that the developed countries, having contributed the most to green house emissions, must undertake greater responsibility now in reducing them. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol set binding targets for the developed countries while exempting developing countries but calling upon the latter to take appropriate measures commensurate with their national capabilities. Developed countries, instead of reducing emissions by 5 per cent compared to 1990, increased their cumulative emissions by 10 per cent.
The US, which refused to ratify the protocol, increased its emissions by 17 per cent. It is now being called to commit to mandatory emission cuts of 40 per cent by 2020 and 90 per cent by 2050.


It's precisely this that they are resisting by calling upon all countries to announce voluntary internationally monitored cuts. They are jettisoning the sofar accepted concept of `differentiated responsibility' and imposing an unjust `common' order. The US has offered to cut 17 per cent from 2005 levels, which reduces to just 3 percent from the 1990 levels -- less than what was proposed at Kyoto. It's virtually mocking at the world.


It is this that needs to be resisted at Copenhagen.

The developed countries will have to accept internationally monitored mandatory cuts. The developing countries will announce voluntary reductions whose realisation is contingent upon the developed world fulfilling its commitments on transfer of finances and technology (without intellectual property rights royalty payments) as contained in Article 4 Paragraph 7 of the UNFCCC: "commitments under the convention will depend on the effective implementation by developed country parties of their commitments under the Convention relating to financial resources and transfer of technology and will take fully into account that economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country parties."


The two red lines drawn by the Indian Parliament -- a) no binding emission cuts will be acceptable, and b) there shall be no deadline for peaking of emissions by the developing countries -- will have to be adhered to. This remains non-negotiable. The developed countries cannot negate their `historical responsibility' and continue with their pillage of global climate at the expense of the vast majority of humanity. They need to be forced to continue to accept per capita emissions as the basis of energy equality as every human on Earth should have equal access to carbon space. Such inequality -- per capita emissions in the US are 20 times greater than those in India -- can't persist.


Thus, Hamlet's dilemma continues: "To be or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes, Or to take arms against the sea of troubles, And by opposing end them?" Unlike in the play, humanity can ill-afford the tragic end in the hope of an eternal reunion in an ethereal world. Mortals need a just, equitable deal. In its absence, no deal is better than a bad deal. Rajya Sabha MP and CPI(M) Politburo member Sitaram Yechury is attending the Copenhagen Summit as part of a five-member Indian parliamentary delegation The views expressed by the author are personal









Approximately 15 kilometres beyond Midnapore town, the landscape starts to resemble a war zone, from where the large and once moderately prosperous village of Pirakata is located. A little over a week ago, a mine explosion killed a securityman nearby. Lalgarh is a further 30odd kilometres away.


There is first the ubiquitous presence of the security forces -- patrolling or hunkered down in schools taken over for the past five months or so. Facing a court order, they have to vacate all schools by December. Camps are now being constructed for the forces in good numbers. But more than that behind the deceptive peace of sylvan -- and beautiful -- countryside the tension is palpable. My guides advise against straying off the main road that winds through the war zone.


The camps are a good place to start if you want to understand the perversity of the Bengal government's operation against the Maoists. Just over a week ago, the advocate-general of Bengal argued in court that in some contingencies education could take a back seat. The argument was not countenanced. The tribals of West Midnapore and elsewhere had been staunch supporters of the Left 1977 onwards -- in fact, the CPI(M) won a number of seats in this belt, including Jhargram, of which the Lalgarh area is a part.


This is a constituency that the CPI(M) has systematically deprived of the right to proper education, healthcare and decent employment opportunities. But that is history. Even after the Lalgarh insurgency happened on the back of police atrocities added to deprivation, the government and the party refused to draw the right conclusions -- its joint operations have deprived a large number of children an education. Some will now have to forfeit a year. And the government justifies this. Moreover, the operation has not succeeded in landing a single significant Maoist leader, other than Chhatradhar Mahato, if he can be called a Maoist at all. The ultra-Red squads continue to operate in the area with something approaching impunity.


All that the operation has succeeded in doing is alienate the tribal people further for exactly the same reason why the insurgency started in the first place -- police atrocities.

Security personnel are known to pick up villagers randomly and give them the treatment. Property is routinely vandalized. Villagers are caught in the crossfire. They can't offer assistance to locate Maoists for fear of reprisal -- it would be madness -- besides which many for explicable reasons sympathise with the insurgents. And when they don't help, they face the full force of the farcical operation.


The joint operation and the CPI(M)'s policies have also created a big divide in the Jangalmahal area. I was speaking to a CPI(M) member in Ramgarh, near Lalgarh. He was candid that there had been little development in the area and that the tribals were deprived. But he wasn't carrying a candle for them. He was intensely critical of both the Maoists and the tribals, berating the latter for not making the best of some of the extra opportunities provided to them by the government in the field of education, for not integrating with the Bengalis and for pushing the case for their own language.


The point is not whether the government has provided educational advantages, of which more later, it is the growing divide between the caste Hindu Bengali people and the tribals. Growing, not least because the joint operation and the intensification of the Maoist offensive has thrown life out of gear in the area. The CPI(M) man says that many people have fled the area -- it is obvious. Village after village is littered with shuttered shops, restaurants and other establishments. As for the educational opportunities, the hyperbole is equally obvious. As we make our way to Lalgarh and back we come across a number of 'primary' schools. They are a joke - illclad, famished children scattered around derelict cottages.

This is in the more prosperous areas along the road. In the interiors it is understandably worse. My guides confirm this as they confirm that the party and government have not bent their energies to deliver basic services in the area. And they admit cheerfully that the game is up, not afoot.


The Lalgarh story is part of the bigger story of the CPI(M) in Bengal and more specifically Midnapore. Take corruption.
A school teacher, a local committee member, says that substantial funds have been sanctioned for his school, though not released. But already plans are afoot among party leaders in local and zonal committees about how the funds are going to be misappropriated.


The problem, many party men say, is that Alimuddin Street has ceded control over party affairs to its all-powerful district secretary, the notorious Dipak Sarkar, who runs the party and the district like a minor kingdom. Suhit Sen is a Kolkata-based writer The views expressed by the author are personal








The Copenhagen climate summit is past its half-way mark, and the visible signs of disagreement dominate the narrative. The "temporary" walkout led by China and the Group of 77 — a grouping of low-income countries that includes India — helped clarify where the disagreements appeared to be, as well as where various parties hoped and feared the remaining week would take them. There was no real immediate provocation — other than, perhaps, the ticking of the many clocks in the ultra-modern convention centre. Too much scarce time, the G-77 plus China felt, was being spent on one of the two main tracks of negotiation in Copenhagen, and not enough time on the other. The track they felt was being ignored was the modalities for extending the old Kyoto protocol, in which several developed countries — excluding, prominently, the US — agreed on further, binding cuts on emissions. The track that was being pushed, they feared, was the one on "long-term cooperative action", or LCA, which comes up with the strategy for dealing with climate change on a multi-decadal horizon — focusing, on the overall temperature increase, for example.


The reason that some are more worried about the LCA, of course, is that a long-term agreement is impossible without probable future high emitters — China, as well as India and Africa — being on board. So, if one track involves only the rich world cutting emissions, and the other is about everybody, the non-rich world is always going to want to prioritise the first over the second. The fear is, however, that this particular divide, while caused by the structural features of the conference, doesn't properly reflect the real fissures, and the real ways in which an agreement could bridge those disagreements.


Consider the "rich world" first. The EU, even if considered as a single entity, a unity which is in this case particularly hard-won, has already cut a great deal since the '90s, and has already made a fairly decent commitment to further cuts. For them to make any additional cuts that really hurt, they should at least feel that warming will not escalate regardless of anything they do — and that will need progress on the LCA track. For the US, on the other hand, progress on LCA will be needed to sell climate legislation domestically. And for non-developing countries, the very formulation "G-77 plus China" makes it clear how many competing interests there are, and how little they have in common. Reducing Copenhagen to a petty nationalist Us-vs-Them narrative that cheers walkouts is convenient and crowd-pleasing, but won't help. What will? Breaking down the areas of disagreement without regard to previously formulated alliances. Only once real divergent interests are aired can an attempt to synthesise them begin.







As many as 75 Rajya Sabha members have submitted joint notice for the motion to impeach Karnataka high court Chief Justice P.D. Dinakaran. The move follows the Union law ministry's decision to return to the Supreme Court collegium for its reconsideration of the recommendation to elevate the judge. The Rajya Sabha notice is only the first step in a long-winded path to impeachment. If the Rajya Sabha chairperson admits the motion, a committee will investigate the alleged "misbehaviour" and, as a final step in the process, a majority of both Houses would have to support his impeachment. Regardless of the guilt or innocence of


Justice Dinakaran, the big question is, is this a workable process?


To give a sense of how difficult this procedure is: not a single judge has been impeached by Parliament. The closest, back in the '90s, has been Justice Ramaswamy's impeachment proceedings, which failed to get the requisite votes in Parliament. In the more recent case of Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta high court, despite Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan recommending it, his impeachment is stuck in the labyrinth of procedural requirements. The foremost problem with so high a bar is that it has become practically unfeasible to remove a judge. In fact, given the fragmented nature of our coalition-era polity, getting a parliamentary majority has become that much harder. The second, subtler problem is that the process creates an unnecessary division between the executive and the judiciary, instead of fostering ways of achieving consensus and joint action. It also does not give the judge in question a way of clearing his name.


The UPA government's attempt to change this, the Judges (Inquiry) Bill 2006, proposed to set up a National Judicial Council where the CJI, other Supreme Court judges and high court judges would investigate complaints against fellow judges. It provided a simpler process and a range of punishments, in addition to impeachment. The bill has now lapsed, but the parliamentary standing committee which had looked into the bill wanted other institutional representatives on the NJC, not just serving judges. Whichever way the cookie crumbles, the process to remove judges must be quicker, transparent and more institutionally representative, while preserving the independence of the judiciary. It is within this framework that the issue must be resolved.








The debate over smaller states has once again highlighted the farcical character of the debate over the shape of the Indian state. All political parties agreed to form Telangana in their manifestos; a few months later there is supposedly no consensus. The demands for separate statehood are made in the name of greater participation and representation. Yet the most potent instruments for achieving these objectives, the 73rd and 74th Amendments, are woefully underused, particularly in Andhra. Third, can the structure of the polity be genuinely federal, when the hierarchies within political parties are not? Whatever the truth in the conspiracy theories about the origins of the Telangana crisis, the fact is the Congress handled its own internal party processes pretty badly, with the party not taking ownership of its own policies. Farce has its uses; but it can also distract from the serious issues.


Two issues in particular need attention. The first is dealing with legitimate concerns over state size. Mayawati's proposal for further dividing UP merits serious consideration for a number of reasons that have been reiterated on several occasions. But more than creating states, the focus should be on building states. The success of a state depends not on size, but on state capacity. This varies widely across India. But we understand little about the conditions under which different states are likely to acquire the requisite state capacity.


The contemporary Indian state represents a paradox. On the one hand, we may be entering a golden era of state-building in India. If at the end of this government's term, we have universal ID well established, GST and tax reforms up and running, modest progress in administrative reforms underway and increasing capacity to administer larger welfare schemes, the Indian state will be very well positioned. It will, for the first time in its history, be able to identify its citizens and target benefits more precisely. And if tax reforms, without raising tax rates, increase the tax to GDP ratio, it will allow the state to operate at a scale where its marginal impact is more than negligible.


This will have two consequences. First, we underestimate the effect of scale on government efficiency. By most international comparisons, the Indian state is actually quite small: it has a shortage of everything from statisticians to health workers, to judges. And therefore it is perpetually caught in the Raag Darbari syndrome "itna kaam hai ki sab kaam thap pada hai." Second, the scale of government spending is beginning to alter politics as well. Ten years or so ago, governments had a dilemma. Even the best performing government could make a marginal impact in a state and therefore performance had no impact on electoral outcomes. Now the scale of government spending on roads or welfare programmes like NREGA are of a different order of magnitude, helped in part by growth in government revenue. This scale of spending makes the stakes in government performance higher. It is not an accident that at the state level, performance is beginning to be rewarded. There is still a long way to go. The scale of our challenges also makes it easy for us to be cynical. But for the first time we are going to be near having the technological and taxation preconditions for creating a better state.


On the other hand, the variation in state capacity at the level of states has probably grown, with some states teetering on the verge of state failure. Amongst other things,


bureaucratic capacity matters and is a critical difference between Gujarat and Tamil Nadu on the one hand and Orissa and Jharkhand on the other. And the lower down the level of government we go, the more capacity variations begin to matter. In our decentralisation debates, there was never any sensible roadmap of how to build local capacity. In the second phase of reorganisation of states, there was also no corresponding clarity over state capacity. If, for argument's sake, Mayawati's demand for carving out Poorvanchal is conceded, Poorvanchal's success will depend upon state capacity, perhaps even more than state size.


More than a States Reorganisation Commission, we need a State Capacity Commission that can assess, with some real analytical bite, exactly what each state might need to perform the functions it is being asked to perform. Even the official data on who exactly our government employs and for what purpose is completely disorganised; and there is virtually no strategic planning for appropriate human resources at the state and local level.


There are three structural reasons why we have not paid serious attention to state capacity. First, whenever we think of reform of the state, we focus largely on process. Second, bodies like the Planning Commission have virtually no skills to think about implementation capacity issues. These bodies may themselves be prime examples of how the state has not invested in thinking about its own capacity. Just take one fact. Compared to China, Indian policy-making is dominated by economists and civil servants with marginalisation of engineers and scientists.


Exceptions apart, dispositionally the former lot are not probing about design and implementation issues, which is what good engineers gravitate to. Although only anecdotal, it is not entirely an accident that our most celebrated contemporary


policy-makers may turn out to be Nandan Nilekani and Sam Pitroda. In their domains their comparative advantage is thinking about channels of transmission of effects, not just enunciating first principles as our policy-makers often do.


And the third is a puzzle. You would imagine that in a supposedly populist and patronage democracy politicians would be clamouring to expand the size of the state. There are tens of thousands of legitimate government jobs that need to be created, from data managers to safety inspectors. The real political economy puzzle is why the Indian state is not bigger. Part of the explanation may have to do with the fact that politicians love capital investment more than investment in human resources. Part of it may have to do with fiscal constraints. But part may simply have to do with the fact that there is no intelligible roadmap of state capacity. Most bills in Parliament tell you how much it is going to cost; almost none tell you what kind of augmentation of human resource capacity will be required for executing them.


Whatever the size of the state, and whatever the level, the core issue is capacity. We understand less about state capacity, and how to match state objectives and human resources much less than we think. Size matters, but not in the way we are debating.


The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi







Last Friday, when Parliament corridors were full of agitated Congress MPs from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema scampering from one room to another to meet the prime minister, the finance minister and the home minister to register their protest against the Centre's decision on Telangana, Sonia Gandhi was at a village market in Rae Bareli inquiring about the prices of tomatoes and potatoes. In his chamber in Parliament House, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was all smiles as Mamata Banerjee with her troupe of MPs sang "Happy Birthday to You". Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily, who is also AICC in-charge of Andhra Pradesh, looked on in amusement.


It was a relaxed atmosphere in New Delhi, even as tension was building up in Andhra Pradesh. These reactions from the state were apparently on expected lines. Why else was the Congress high command not intervening? Was the situation not considered serious enough to send an emissary to Hyderabad?


If 10 Janpath could ignore the groundswell of support for Jagan Mohan Reddy even in the emotionally charged aftermath of Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy's death, surely it had many ways to rein in the seemingly defiant legislators from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema? How could Chief Minister K. Rosaiah, who is still tentative about his tenure, muster the courage to declare that he was "shocked, anguished and astonished" by Home Minister P. Chidambaram's announcement? How could he defiantly announce that he had no instructions from the Centre about a Telangana resolution in the assembly?


Inherent in these questions is the key to the Congress strategy on Telangana. The anti-Telangana campaign, though not orchestrated, was not undesirable either. Did the high command not know how Jagan loyalists were in the forefront of this campaign to destabilise Rosaiah?


The Congress under Sonia Gandhi is democratic but only to the extent that it suits the party in a given situation. In a culture in which the line between dissent and rebellion is not delineated, differences of opinion have surfaced once too often in recent times. In fact, sometimes the party seemed to encourage dissent either to make painful decisions more palatable or to usurp the opposition viewpoint, or simply to get out of difficult situations like the one caused by K. Chandrasekhar Rao's fast.


Remember the nuclear deal? Some Congressmen were no less critical than the Left. Salman Khursheed and Mani Shankar Aiyar even went public. But once Sonia Gandhi came out in its support, everything and everybody fell in place.


The aftermath of the Batla House encounter witnessed similar equivocation on the part of the Congress. While the SP demanded a judicial probe into the incident, the Congress's official party line was that it was "inappropriate" for a political party to take a stand on a police encounter. Some like Digvijay Singh, however, wanted the government to address the "questions" being raised about the police encounter. Parvez Hashmi, who also raised questions then, was nominated to the Rajya Sabha a few months later.


Then, before the general elections, even as Congress-SP alliance talks were on, Digvijay Singh and Satyavrat Chaturvedi took pot-shots at SP general secretary Amar Singh. Chaturvedi went to the extent of calling Singh a "mental case". The party distanced itself — but, weeks later, they had the last laugh. At a function at the India Habitat Centre recently to felicitate Firozabad by-poll victor Raj Babbar, Chaturvedi was asked whether he had to face the wrath of the Congress president for those remarks. He took a long puff from his cigar before blurting out, "At no point did I get any instruction from the high command."

There were similar conflicting voices on the controversial Indo-Pak joint statement at Sharm el-Sheikh. Immediately after returning to India, the PM had called on the Congress president to explain the statement; she was said to be convinced. For the next several days though, party spokespersons refused to endorse the joint statement, in a clear attempt to give an impression of disagreement with the government. The objective was to insulate the party against any adverse public reaction.


The projected split among party MPs from Telangana and non-Telangana regions of Andhra Pradesh has also achieved the desired results. K. Chandrasekhar Rao, who had quit the UPA cabinet, has again developed a faith in the Congress, as he is in regular touch with the Congress leadership after breaking his fast. Publicly also, he today sings paeans to Sonia Gandhi.


Those who were privy to the deliberations in the Congress core group meetings claim that everything has happened "as per the script". But, had TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu waited a little longer before making yet another somersault on Telangana, the Congress would have found itself caught in its own trap. The party's crisis managers were counting on Naidu and he did not disappoint them. Of course, if Naidu had supported the resolution, it would still be one among many others gathering dust at the Centre.





While the Trinamool-CPI(M) tussle continues to play out in various forms in West Bengal, the political scene in Left-ruled Kerala is dominated by the arrest of a Lashkar-e-Taiba militant. The debate is centered on LeT operative Tadiyandavede Nasir, who had active links with the PDP, which had a tie-up with the CPI(M) in the last Lok Sabha elections. With reports surfacing that PDP chief Abdul Nassar Madhani's wife Sufiya was involved in a bus-burning case in 2005 which was masterminded by Nasir, who is now an accused in the 2008 Bangalore blasts, the CPI(M) is on a back foot for its poll-time association with the PDP and its Malayalam daily Deshabhimani is flush with articles and editorials defending the election strategy and attacking the Congress.


The crux of the Deshabhimani argument is that the CPI(M) had tied-up with Madhani after he turned "secular" following his acquittal in the Coimbatore blasts case, while the Congress had an electoral association with the "extremist" outfit NDF. The articles also point out that the Congress had entered into a poll tie-up with Madhani in 2001, when he was in jail while the trial was on in the Coimbatore blasts case.


The articles argue that Nasir was an accused in a plot hatched in 1999 to assassinate the then CPI(M) Chief Minister E.K. Nayanar. The Deshabhimani doesn't forget to attack the mainstream media also and has given them epithets like "pawns" in the hands of and supporters of the Congress.



The lead editorial in CPI(M) mouthpiece People's Democracy focuses attention on the debate held in Parliament on the Liberhan Commission report. It says the discussion witnessed the most shameless defence by the BJP and their tentacles of their destruction of the Babri Masjid. "Far from showing any remorse or expressing any regret, they continued to exude pride at the fact that the Babri Masjid has been demolished. Their laboured effort was to show the inconsistencies in the Liberhan report on matters completely extraneous to the evidence on the basis of which the Commission has reached its conclusions and the consequent recommendations," it says. There were digs at the Congress as well, over the weak Action Taken Report tabled by the Government. It says that one cannot expect the UPA government to take any action against the perpetrators , given its own track record of soft Hindutva and pale saffron that was in display in the past.


The article refers to the opening of the locks of the Babri Masjid, the shilanyas performed by Rajiv Gandhi launching his election campaign and the Shah Bano case, claiming that all these acts contributed in legitimising and providing greater credibility to Hindutva communalism.



Meanwhile, there is no end to Trinamool bashing. Articles and news reports in the People's Democracy argue for the umpteenth time that Mamata Banerjee and her party share links with the Maoists. Interestingly, one article quotes the statements of Maoist leaders themselves to back its charge. An article titled the "unholy mahajot"says "Instances of Trinamool-Maoist nexus are almost unlimited. But the most explicit of these was played out around the siege of the Bhubaneswar Rajdhani Express near Jhargram," it argues. "The insatiable thirst for power has landed the Trinamool Congress and its supremo in the company of all kinds of forces who are inimical to the interests of the people, democracy and development. This has happened in the past as well. Otherwise, how can one forget the ganging up with the BJP — from the very day the Trinamool was born," it alleges.


Compiled by Manoj C.G.







The Telangana announcement and the subsequent proliferation of additional statehood demands is a good time to consider some of the broader theoretical issues in determining the optimal size of states.  The work of Alberto Alesina (Harvard) and Enrico Spolaore (Tufts), on the optimal size of nations (The Size of Nations, MIT Press, 2005) provides some useful principles for thinking about the optimal size of states in the Indian context. 


The basic idea is that there are powerful economic trade-offs between the benefits and costs of size. There are five main benefits of size in the context of nations.  First, there are economies of scale in national defence. Second, there are economies of scale in the provision of public goods such as law and order, judicial systems, and administration of social programmes which can make the per capita cost of administration smaller in larger states. Third, the presence of barriers to trade across borders means that larger nations have bigger domestic markets which provide the minimum market size needed for capital-intensive investments to be viable. Fourth, larger jurisdictions can offer more spatial insurance against natural disasters (both through internal migration and through redistribution from the unaffected areas). Fifth and finally, larger jurisdictions can better coordinate on policies that have spillovers across geographic areas (such as water resources, crime, and public health).


Countering these benefits is one major cost of greater size, which is the difficulty of accommodating an increasing number of diverse preferences with one set of policies for the entire state. A related downside is the administrative challenge of aggregating information and preferences effectively in a larger state.  Thus, the extent of shared identity, history, and preferences are key determinants of the extent to which jurisdictions can grow without the costs of managing diversity overwhelming the benefits of size.   


The political institution of federalism is designed to get the best of both worlds by assigning to the higher level of government the roles that benefit the most from economies of scale, while assigning to lower levels of government the roles that require greater accommodation of diversity.  However, the same trade-offs laid out above (except for defence) apply to the discussion of optimal state size within a federal structure such as India.


Applying these principles to the question of state size, we see that an increase in regional consciousness at the sub-state level would be equivalent to an increase in the cost of managing intra-state diversity and may suggest that the optimal size of states is becoming smaller.  As states get more involved in large-scale social protection programmes like the NREGA and RSBY, it may be desirable to increase investment in state capacity to deliver services effectively and one way of doing this may be to create new state administrations with more manageable jurisdictions. Smaller states can also experiment more easily with innovations in governance and service delivery, which can be replicated across states if found to be successful.  


However, these advantages come with potentially serious costs.  While barriers to inter-state trade have come down over the past two decades, inter-state trade is still not completely frictionless and the creation of more states (especially land-locked ones) can have negative effects on economic activity if accompanied by restrictions (even minor) of movement of goods and people across state borders.  Problems of law-enforcement (such as Naxal violence) increasingly spill over across state boundaries, and creating additional states will increase the costs of coordinated action across states.  Similarly, the creation of more states would further complicate inter-state cooperation on already intractable issues such as sharing of water resources.  Finally, theory and evidence both suggest that underdevelopment of regions is mostly due to historical factors (local institutions, land tenure systems, etc) and geographical ones (distance to coasts, soil quality, etc.) and less due to systematic neglect (particularly in democratic systems).  The creation of additional states in underdeveloped areas may help to better target central transfers, but is unlikely to be a panacea for development as the example of Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, and Chattisgarh have shown.  The 73rd and 74th amendments provide enough of a mechanism for ensuring local participation and locally-driven development, and better implementation of the provisions of these amendments would perhaps improve state capacity in backward areas more than the act of creating a new state.  Of course, the threat of secession of backward areas into new states may be the trigger needed for further decentralisation at the state level, but the Constitutional provisions needed for this already exist through the 73rd and 74th amendments.


The framework of costs and benefits of size is useful for thinking about the trade-offs associated with smaller states, but does not address the question of how decisions about statehood demands should be made in practice.  While increased sub-state identity consciousness may suggest that there is strong demand for additional states, it is often likely that successful political entrepreneurs can mobilise support for causes (including statehood) for short periods of time that may not persist.  However, since the demand may also be truly broad-based and genuine, it is important to establish a process that can incorporate technical, administrative, and political inputs into the final decision.  


One possible approach would be to have a Constitutional body (such as the Finance Commission) assess the economic merits of individual statehood proposals on a case by case basis and make independent recommendations with respect to each case. The individual proposals could then be voted on in a referendum across voters from the region that would constitute the new state, with a super-majority (of say 60 per cent) required for the statehood proposal to pass. The super-majority requirement would ensure that a permanent decision is not taken on the basis of volatile and potentially fleeting sentiments. Implementing a version of this proposal would ensure the availability of technical inputs on the merits of individual statehood claims, followed by a democratic process that would be the basis for the final decision. Establishing such a process would also increase transparency and insulate decision-making from short-term political considerations.


The writer is assistant professor of economics at the University of California, San Diego








Tika Bista, a 22-year journalist was brutally attacked and left for dead in Nepal's remote western district Rukum on December 8. They first inflicted deep wounds in her hands saying "these are the hands she writes with". Her laptop was damaged and some of her pieces that appeared in the local papers thrown around, confirming that it was her write-ups that landed her in trouble. Besides, it was also a "be careful message" to other journalists in the future.


Tika had recently written a piece in a local newspaper Jantidhara "Why did Maoists need Tirtha's Sindoor (vermillion)?", basically holding Maoists accountable for the death of "many husbands" during the ten years of insurgency that the Maoists had spearheaded. At least 27 journalists were killed during the period, mostly by the Maoists and the state. As the culture of impunity continues to grow and flourish, even identified suspects have not been arrested or brought to justice. Maoists have recently promoted two of those "wanted" in connection with the murder of journalist Birendra Saha in Southern Nepal's Bara district two years ago, and assigned them the responsibility of the party's district secretariat.


Today's politics in Nepal is more based on hatred, intolerance and weapons. Political parties are getting more and more militant after the Maoists' entry into mainstream politics and their control of Nepal's political agenda. With the monarchy gone, Maoists could successfully arm-twist pro-democracy parties either to follow their agenda blindly without any public or political debate, or face the fate of Gyanendra. Major parties complied on crucial issues like federalism, secularism and republicanism without any debate. Now with Maoists and the government literally calling each other untrustworthy, they are inching towards confrontation more aggressively.


The Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) has raised Youth Force — like a paramilitary body — that works like the Maoist-affiliated Young Communist League (YCL). A senior leader of the Nepali Congress and three time Home Minister Khum Bahadur Khadka announced recently that even his party should be raising armed squads if that is what decides the country's politics. Khadka was sore over the Maoists' refusal to return the private property that they had confiscated, mostly from his party supporters during the years of conflict, despite the CPA making it mandatory for the Maoists to do so. Instead, Maoists have gone on a capturing spree afresh.


Apart from major parties, there are nearly 109 armed outfits of varied size, mostly operating from Terai, Nepal's plain areas adjoining India. And most of them demand autonomy to their areas, on the basis of ethnicity, caste, language or region with the right to self-determination. The Maoists, who are the biggest party in the Constituent Assembly, have given legitimacy to such demands by unilaterally announcing the two "autonomous provinces", stalling any possibility of a political consensus on the issue of federalism and state formation. Like in the past, Maoists are perhaps leaving other parties with a fait accompli. But it is not just a dispute over carving out provinces within a federal Nepal. Declaration of states on ethnic lines and without a consensus often become emotive issues. In fact, such an act in the past would have been taken as an act of rebellion against the nation and its integrity. But with parties divided over castes and ethnicity, and with dissenting voices including from the media being attacked, Maoists and the likes are getting encouraged to do what they have been doing, and are getting away with it.


In fact, political parties including the Maoists own and control the media in the country. The assault on Tika Bista sends across a message that journalism in Nepal should be more about servility and less about objectivity and professionalism. For the sake of short-term survival, even reputed media houses are aligning with the powerful side of politics, toeing their lines blindly.


Inside Nepal, people who supported the 2006 movement appear more frustrated with the latest round of debate: whether this country will remain one or fragmented into small caste and ethnicity based units? The collapse of central authority and inability of political institutions to fill up the vacuum that the monarchy's exit left, has only made the situation scarier. Declaration of Limbuwan and Kochila provinces unilaterally by the Maoists, many fear, could bring Nepal's disintegration, like what happened in Bosnia.








This first year of his presidency has been a window into Barack Obama's world view. Most presidents, once they get hold of the bully pulpit, cannot resist the temptation to become Winston Churchill. They gravitate to grand rhetoric about freedom and tyranny, and embrace the moral drama of their role as leaders of the free world. Even the elder Bush, a pragmatist if there ever was one, lapsed into dreamy language about "a new world order" once he stood in front of the United Nations. Not Obama. He has been cool and calculating, whether dealing with Russia, Iran, Iraq, or Afghanistan. A great orator, he has, in this arena, kept his eloquence in check. Obama is a realist, by temperament, learning, and instinct. More than any president since Richard Nixon, he has focused on defining American interests carefully, providing the resources to achieve them, and keeping his eyes on the prize.


It might seem hard to reconcile a more targeted and focused foreign policy with the expansion of a war and the introduction of 30,000 troops. But it is not unprecedented. When Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger entered the White House in 1969, they inherited a war in Vietnam that they might have believed in at some theoretical level, but that they recognised was bleeding the country. Over their years in office, they focused on shoring up America's power position through diplomacy with the Soviet Union, China, Egypt, and Israel. But they also recognised that they had to deal with the crisis in Vietnam and said explicitly that they were going to try to scale back America's involvement there. In this they succeeded. By April 1969, soon after Nixon took office, there were 543,000 American troops in Vietnam. At the end of his first term, there were fewer than 20,000 left. But in between, in order to keep the enemy on the defensive, to gain momentum, and to create space for American troops to leave, Nixon and Kissinger ordered a series of offensive military maneuvers that were designed to hit the North Vietnamese hard. Surge and then draw down, you might say.


Although the Viet Cong were beaten back temporarily, ultimately the North took over the South in 1975. But it is instructive to think about why. First, our local ally lacked legitimacy and competence. The government of South Vietnam was simply unable to gain the confidence of its people, and the Viet Cong and its Northern allies were able to persuade or intimidate tens of thousands of Vietnamese to shift to their side. Second, the enemy had safe havens outside South Vietnam — mainly in North Vietnam and Cambodia — which provided them escape routes and supply chains. More significant, the insurgents had the active support of the other superpower, the Soviet Union, as well as some aid from China. Finally, the United States cut off all assistance to South Vietnam, abandoning a country it had lost 59,000 troops defending.


The picture today is more promising on all three fronts. In Afghanistan, for all its problems, the Karzai government has been elected and does have the support of significant sections of the population. More important, the Taliban is deeply unpopular almost everywhere. As for safe havens, it's true that the problem of Pakistan is perhaps the central challenge in defeating the Taliban and al Qaeda, both of whose leaderships are now based there and not in Afghanistan. But the United States has been getting better at attacking these safe havens using drones, while Pakistan's military is beginning, slowly and reluctantly, to accept that some action will have to be taken against militant groups that it has long supported. Perhaps because this war is seen as one of necessity and not choice by most of the American public, there is much greater support for such policies than there was for the very similar efforts to attack the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Cambodia.


As for the broader problem of great-power support, the Taliban and al Qaeda are largely isolated, with a massive international coalition arrayed against them. That does not mean that they cannot prevail in a local struggle over some parts of Afghanistan, but they will be hard pressed to achieve their ultimate goal of ruling Afghanistan. It might be difficult for the United States to "win" in Afghanistan, but it will be impossible for the Taliban to do so.


Ultimately, however, one hopes that President Obama will keep another lesson of Vietnam firmly in mind. Withdrawing from a messy situation did not permanently damage America's national security. The United States suffered the most humiliating exit imaginable from South Vietnam in 1975, followed by reversals in Africa, Central America, and Iran. Yet within a decade, America had regained a commanding position internationally, and within 15 years its principal adversary, the Soviet Union, had collapsed. The key element in this resurgence was nothing that happened abroad — it was America's ability to revive its economic strength at home, the engine of its superpower status. The history of great powers suggests that maintaining their position requires, most crucially, tending to the sources of their power: economic growth and technological innovation. It also means concentrating on the centres of global power, not the periphery.


Obama will need to maintain his focus come July 2011. Let me make a bold prediction. Afghanistan will not be

transformed by that date. It will not look like France, with a strong and effective central government. The gains that will have been made will be fragile. The situation will still be somewhat unstable. But that should still be the moment to begin the transition to Afghan rule. By the end of 2011, the United States will have spent 10 years, thousands of lives, and $2 trillion trying to create stable, democratic governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, two of the most difficult, divided countries in the world. It will be time to move on.







Rising food prices have been a matter of concern for many weeks now. In the week ended November 28, food inflation rose to 19.05% and the wholesale price index-based inflation for November jumped to 4.78%, a sharp rise from 1.34% in October. But there is now some evidence that food inflation may have peaked and easing of prices may be round the corner. A lot of the dire forecasts on food inflation were based on supply side problems arising from deficient monsoon. Of course, low rain will pull down kharif output—rice production by almost 18% and pulses, oilseeds and sugarcane by 7%, 15% and 9%, respectively this year—but that is only partial picture of the year taken as a whole. Rabi sowing, which contributes a substantial chunk to overall farm output has been promising so far, barring a minor dip in oilseeds acreage. According to data from the agriculture ministry, wheat sowing for the week ended December 11 at 21.72 million hectares, is almost one lakh hectares more than last year. The difference may seem marginal, but sowing will pick up pace after sugarcane fields are cleared in Uttar Pradesh, one of the biggest wheat producing regions. More immediately, the government's decision to offload almost 4 million tonnes of wheat and rice in the open market should prevent any further rise in prices of cereals.


In what is further good sign for the rabi crop, rains in November were timely and if the weather remains benign for the next few months, rabi harvest will be satisfactory. In addition to timely rains, there is also a positive news on water reservoir levels—the current reservoir level of around 57% of live capacity at full reservoir levels (FRL), is more than the last 10 years' average for the same period. This should be adequate to fulfil irrigation needs,even if ground water levels drop at a later stage of the season. At the retail level, too, there have been some signs of moderation in food prices. Since the middle of November, potato prices have come down by almost Rs 8-9 per kg in most cities and the trend is expected to continue after kharif arrival starts in full swing. Onion prices have also come down from their early November peaks. Sugar prices have stabilised at around Rs 38-40 per kg and are expected to come down as most of 128 sugar mills in Uttar Pradesh have started crushing after almost a month's gap, adding on to the supplies. There are, therefore, enough early indicators that suggest a moderation in food inflation over the next few months.







Rising food prices have been a matter of concern for many weeks now. In the week ended November 28, food inflation rose to 19.05% and the wholesale price index-based inflation for November jumped to 4.78%, a sharp rise from 1.34% in October. But there is now some evidence that food inflation may have peaked and easing of prices may be round the corner. A lot of the dire forecasts on food inflation were based on supply side problems arising from deficient monsoon. Of course, low rain will pull down kharif output—rice production by almost 18% and pulses, oilseeds and sugarcane by 7%, 15% and 9%, respectively this year—but that is only partial picture of the year taken as a whole. Rabi sowing, which contributes a substantial chunk to overall farm output has been promising so far, barring a minor dip in oilseeds acreage. According to data from the agriculture ministry, wheat sowing for the week ended December 11 at 21.72 million hectares, is almost one lakh hectares more than last year. The difference may seem marginal, but sowing will pick up pace after sugarcane fields are cleared in Uttar Pradesh, one of the biggest wheat producing regions. More immediately, the government's decision to offload almost 4 million tonnes of wheat and rice in the open market should prevent any further rise in prices of cereals.


In what is further good sign for the rabi crop, rains in November were timely and if the weather remains benign for the next few months, rabi harvest will be satisfactory. In addition to timely rains, there is also a positive news on water reservoir levels—the current reservoir level of around 57% of live capacity at full reservoir levels (FRL), is more than the last 10 years' average for the same period. This should be adequate to fulfil irrigation needs,even if ground water levels drop at a later stage of the season. At the retail level, too, there have been some signs of moderation in food prices. Since the middle of November, potato prices have come down by almost Rs 8-9 per kg in most cities and the trend is expected to continue after kharif arrival starts in full swing. Onion prices have also come down from their early November peaks. Sugar prices have stabilised at around Rs 38-40 per kg and are expected to come down as most of 128 sugar mills in Uttar Pradesh have started crushing after almost a month's gap, adding on to the supplies. There are, therefore, enough early indicators that suggest a moderation in food inflation over the next few months.








K Chandrasekhara Rao's successful showdown on the issue of a separate state of Telangana has raised concerns over similar demands cropping up to create separate states of Harit Pradesh, Gorkhaland, Saurashtra, Vidarbha and many more. I think this concern is misplaced. What we need to worry about is the manner in which we settle differences. And, we must continue to debate the merits and demerits of alternate state boundaries and settle these democratically.


Many political problems are solved through a compromise of sorts. A compromise is a poor solution compared to a consensus derived from intense debate between different points of view. We do have a lot of debate in this country. But on many important issues, the solutions are not the outcome of debates, but a compromise after a showdown.


Success arising out of a showdown is necessarily dramatic and this has its own appeal. Politicians in a hurry, therefore, resort to showdowns without even engaging in much of a debate. The Shiv Sena and its offspring, MNS, don't waste too much time in debates. They merely issue a warning before disrupting Mumbai to drive home their point of view, often effectively. We need to be more concerned about this method of settling debates rather than the possibility of breaking up states into smaller units.


Rao's showdown was the result of a failure to adequately address the issue of state boundaries. But let's not waste a crisis just because a compromise has diffused it. We must address the issue of state boundaries. If a Harit Pradesh has to happen, let it not be the outcome of an Ajit Singh (or anybody else) doing a KCR-style drama.


In the past, language played the most important role in determining state boundaries. Languages were aggregated into broad categories that did not distinguish populations speaking distinctly different languages (dialects). For example, even today it is difficult for a person from Uttar Pradesh who essentially speaks Braj-bhasha, to converse with another person from Uttar Pradesh who speaks Bhojpuri. Language was an inadequate criterion for creating state boundaries. Nothing justifies a Maharashtra that includes regions as diverse as Konkan and Vidarbha. These two regions have nothing in common—not even language. Ditto for Saurashtra and (South) Gujarat. The problems of Konkan are different from those of Vidarbha.


The problem thus with most large states in India is that they are a mix of heterogeneous regions. Each of these regions have different problems that warrant different solutions. An aggressively industrialising Maharashtra does not pay sufficient attention to the basic developmental problems of Vidarbha. The vast size and heterogeneous mix that comprises Uttar Pradesh leaves the state incapable of exploiting its proximity to Delhi or its green belts sufficiently to at least throw up some regions of visible prosperity.


It may be a good idea to make homogeneity one criterion in the making of a state. A state should be homogeneous in terms of agro-climatic conditions and levels of economic and social development. If a state government has to deal with one big problem of development rather than several different problems, it will find a better and a more lasting solution. A government of Vidarbha is better equipped to handle the problems of Gadchiroli and Buldhana than a government of Maharashtra that also deals with the problems of a Marathwada and a Konkan.


It is very likely that if we create states based on agro-climatic, economic and social homogeneity, developmental and governance issues will be addressed more inclusively. The feeling of alienation from the overall growth process would be smaller. It may be a good idea to create a Rayalaseema before the demand arises. An Andhra Pradesh without Telangana would consist of two fairly disparate regions—a prosperous coastal AP and a relatively backward Rayalaseema.


A state should be only as large as can be governed effectively. The smaller the state, the better, for then it can be governed better. There is no justification for large states. The gentry of Seoni need not travel to Bhopal to address their developmental problems if they can find the state capital closer, in say, Jabalpur. The pressures on a local government will always be much larger than they will be for the federal government. A local government of a relatively small region will be able to respond to the problems of its regions better and faster than the government of a large and heterogeneous state. This is one of the reasons why we empowered the panchayats.


A large mix of heterogeneous states, each of which is internally homogeneous, will enhance the diversities of India and will let each of these several homogeneous regions prosper according to its own advantages in natural endowments and human resources.


It is quite pointless to try to talk people out of their desire to have a state that focuses on their local issues. Local issues are not necessarily anti-nation. It is better to create objective criteria to mark state boundaries. Such criteria cannot be relevant forever. We, therefore, need to continuously debate the subject and ensure that we always have a set of relevant rules that will determine the creation of administrative boundaries.


The author heads Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy







The big scare from the Satyam fraud, one year on, is how ill-prepared the Indian state is to take action against a corporate fraud committed on such a massive scale. One year into the 'anniversary', the prime accused in the case, Ramalinga Raju, has still not made any sworn statement before any level of the judiciary.


Of course, there is every possibility that Raju and his core team will still be successfully prosecuted on at least some of the sections of the Indian Penal Code and will spend some years behind the bars. But there is little chance any of the investigating agencies will crack the two key questions of where all the money went and who had their hands in the till, beyond the immediate top management team at the erstwhile Satyam.


What are the bases on which one can be reasonably sure that these puzzles are unlikely to go away? Without any light shed on these questions, the largest ever fraud in Indian corporate history will remain just as it is today, without any answer. Let us examine the money trail first.


The Raju brothers had apparently been inflating the receipts of the company for years, with the aid of all possible tricks. This included software forgery, which must have been the easiest bit for them to do to generate false receipts and expenditure bills.


The company was, therefore, presumably siphoning the money off somewhere. It could have been real estate or the share markets. In either case, the agencies have not tracked this trail. If they had done so there would have been arrests at those ends—we have heard none on that score. So either they are dead ends or the money never came in. The second case would be very surprising, as it would raise questions on why then should the promoters have resorted to the elaborate cover up. If the idea was to ramp up the price of the shares and then offload, surely there were easier means of doing. Till the time Raju was arrested, the shares he had offloaded were definitely nowhere near to justify the scale of the jugglery.


To recount the chain of events, on December 16, then Satyam CEO Ramalinga Raju made a startling announcement that the company will invest $1.6 billion in Maytas Infrastructure, run by his son. The plan was slammed by the institutional investors, because of which he was forced to retract before the night was out. Finally, he sent an explosive letter on January 7 to Sebi accepting responsibility for cooking the books for a long time, amounting to Rs 7,800 crore.


The company going by the records audited by the Hyderabad-based Price Waterhouse, had invested the sum principally in various fixed deposits of banks. This is the bigger surprise in the revelations. For years, the sum was reflected in the annual accounts of the company, along with, as it now turns out, fictitious deposit numbers. Why didn't the banks named in the reports blow the whistle on them? But neither the CBI nor the more culpable Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) has taken up this strand to its logical conclusion. Are we scared that some bank bosses could lose their jobs? That is unlikely, so the stakes must be higher here, too.


This is the second question. There were more hands in the till than the Raju brothers. The CBI charge sheet pins the blame on the brothers and the audit firm Price Waterhouse. The SFIO probe does even less. This is incredible. A fraud of such proportions just could not have been managed within such a small group, planning against an entire system of checks and balances. If, as it indeed turns out, these people had been able to plan it out without any outside help, then we ought to rewrite huge sections of our audit rules, Company laws and even the Sebi Act to prevent malfeasance of this scale. There is no evidence of that happening. The proposed amendment in the Company Act predates the Satyam case and very few sections are planned to be rewritten subsequently.


The implication therefore is plain. The rules were okay; instead the fraud took advantage of loopholes that only positions of power could provide. That would also provide the answers to the question of why Raju milked the system for so long. He had a fine company and a finer set of clients, as the recent success of Mahindra Satyam attests to. That was a good enough road to prosperity, unlike Ponzi schemes of guys like Bernie Madoff in the US. This is also possibly the reason why Raju has not had to make any suo motu statement so far. As we had said at the beginning of this year, the Satyam saga is turning out to be an example of a cover-up, rather than a full-blown investigation.








Though companies are lining up IPOs to mop up funds, retail investors are not showing much appetite for them. Despite the BSE Sensex showing a return of around 80%, recent public offerings of some blue-chip PSUs like Oil India and NHPC were oversubscribed by merely 1.7 and 3.1 times by retail investors. They were also cautious on IPOs of some private sector companies like Pipavav Shipyard and IndiaBulls. The latest, JSW Energy's reserved shares for retail and non-institutional investors, remained 60% undersubscribed.


On the other hand, during the bull run in 2007, retail investors actively participated in the primary market with the Reliance Power offering oversubscribed by nine times. Similarly, retail investors of Edelweiss and Mundra Port IPOs oversubscribed by 20 and 13 times, respectively.


In fact, of the Rs 18,407 crore collected through IPOs this year, the retail investor portion was subscribed by 1.86 times on an average. On the other hand, qualified institutional buyers' portion was subscribed by 11.42 times and high-net worth individuals' portion by 8.49 times.


Analysts say that though participation by institutional and high-net worth investor has been positive, retail interest has waned as most IPOs were overvalued. Moreover, the disappointing post-listing performance, especially of power and infrastructure, has made retail investors wary, as they often borrow from various sources to invest in the primary market.


Though the build-up after a bad cycle usually sees retail investors lacking confidence in IPOs, the risk appetite of the typical retail investor this time around is low and they are unsure of the direction the markets will take. Moreover, recent initial offerings have not given investors handsome returns. Shares of only six companies out of the 13 that have come out with their IPOs are trading above their issue prices.


Not just that. As many retail investors burnt their fingers in the market meltdown early this year, they now prefer to invest their money in secondary markets rather than in IPOs.


All these will not bode well, especially at a time when the government is planning to offload its stake in some PSUs and several other private sector companies alone have planned over Rs 15,000 crore IPOs for the next one year. So, unless valuations are attractive and credible companies come out with initial offerings, retail investors are likely to stay away from investing in the primary markets.







There has been no let-up in the rising trend of food prices. For the week that ended on November 28, the wholesale price index for food articles rose 19.05 per cent over the corresponding period last year. A week earlier, it was at 17.47 per cent. Indeed, arresting the price rise of essential commodities has been a challenge to the government for quite some time now. Some recent developments have aggravated the price situation. Over the last year, the rise in prices of foo d articles has been the highest in 11 years. These wholesale prices do not fully reflect the rise in prices at the retail level. Items of mass consumption such as potatoes, eggs, and dairy products have registered the highest increase. While the common man has been reeling under the impact of high food prices, the weekly WPI index did not quite gauge the severity of the burden. That was because food and other primary articles are assigned a relatively low weight of 22 per cent in the WPI index. As a result any rise in food prices got offset by the fall in the prices of manufactured goods, fuel, and power. Such a misleading picture has now been corrected: since mid-October, the government has started announcing the WPI inflation once a month; weekly announcements are confined to food and fuel inflation. The new system has not only infused a measure of transparency in the official economic data but it is also in line with what ordinary people experience every day. The WPI index for November shows inflation at 4.78 per cent on a year-on-year basis, the highest in 11 months.


The weekly inflation figures showing a sharp upward movement have naturally increased the concerns of the government, which has so far failed to articulate a coherent strategy to step up the supply of food articles and other essential items. Agricultural production is set to decline sharply in the third quarter of this year. The Kharif season has been affected badly by delayed monsoons, drought, and flooding in different parts of the country. The anticipated sharp decline in the production of major crops, coarse grains, pulses, and oil seeds is one of the principal factors fuelling inflationary expectations. Moreover, the shortfall is expected to be such that even a bumper wheat crop in the Rabi season is unlikely to make up for it. From a monetary perspective, sustained high prices of essential goods will harden inflationary expectations and also lead to a clamour for higher wages. Monetary intervention might then become necessary to counter the effects of supply side problems.







In a recent interview to a religious programme on the BBC1 TV channel, Tony Blair asserted that he would have ordered an invasion of Iraq even if he had known that Iraq no longer had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). The former British Prime Minister added that he would have used different arguments to "justify" the invasion but he "would still have thought it right to remove" Saddam Hussein. He also tried to locate the invasion in the context of what he calls a "major struggle going on all over the world" about what is happening within Islam. Quite apart from Mr. Blair's self-arrogated authority on Islam, the contradictions are breathtaking. From 2001 onwards, western intelligence services repeatedly informed Mr. Blair and George W. Bush that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations weapons inspectors publicly acknowledged that Iraq had been substantially disarmed by 1998. A decade of brutal sanctions had wrecked Iraq's economy, and even Iraq's neighbouring states no longer regarded Saddam Hussein as a threat. Moreover, Mr. Blair's senior civil servants advised him that an invasion without explicit U.N. approval would be illegal. Yet the big lie that Iraq had WMDs and could mount an attack on the U.K. within 45 minutes was fed to the western media. Without such manufacture of consent, Mr. Blair would have found it much harder to win the parliamentary vote on the invasion.


It now turns out, via the Iraq Inquiry (the Chilcot inquiry), that the 45-minute claim was probably obtained by western intelligence from an Iraqi taxi-driver who had overheard two Iraqi military officers talking in the back of his car, and that the British government ignored written warnings about the claim. Furthermore, Mr. Blair told Parliament in February 2003 that Saddam Hussein could save his own regime by complying with U.N. resolutions, despite the fact that no material breach had been proved. Nevertheless the British Prime Minister ordered Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith to alter significantly an interpretation of international law so as to protect invading British troops against criminal charges. Mr. Blair is clearly indifferent to the invasion's illegality and its consequences, among which are more than 100,000 Iraqi deaths and enormously intensified global instability. That Mr. Blair will be allowed to give part of his evidence to the Iraq Inquiry in secret only compounds his evasions. His contempt for the very idea of accountability is shown by the fact that he offered his explanation to a TV interviewer and not to those whom he should answer — the British Parliament, the electorate who put him in office, and the International Criminal Court.










After three consecutive good years, agricultural production has faltered in the last two years. There was a fall in production to the tune of 1.6 per cent in 2008-2009 compared to the previous year. This year, again, agricultural production is likely to be down by 2 per cent or more.


The deceleration in the growth of foodgrain production this year has particularly serious implications because it is mainly accounted for by a significant fall in rice production, and is occurring when world foodgrain output is likely to decline by 2.5 per cent.


India has sufficient stocks to tide over the current shortages, but unless the rabi production is substantially enhanced, there could be food shortages next year. This can be avoided by increasing production during the rabi season, which accounts for nearly half the cultivated area. The prospect for the rabi output has improved with the late onset of rain over large parts of India. There is, however, no certainty about the rabi output. In any event, in the current inflation-prone situation, immediate steps have to be taken to avoid any sharp rise in the prices of essential commodities such as foodgrains.


Although the prices of food items such as cereals, pulses, vegetables, fruits, eggs, and milk are all rising, the current rise is triggered by the rise in foodgrain prices that are already higher by 19 per cent compared to the same period last year. It is putting a serious strain on the food security of the poorer sections of society.


Macroeconomic policy measures — monetary or fiscal policy measures — alone will not prove adequate to contain this price rise. The fact that foodgrain prices had started rising significantly even when the rate of inflation was negative, indicates the need for sector-specific policies to influence the supply and demand of foodgrains in the short term.


A clearer picture on the supply side will emerge after a month or two when the final estimates of grain production are available. From all indications it seems there will be a major shortfall in the production of kharif rice and coarse cereals.


Even after taking into account likely gains in the production of 'boro' rice, the current year's rice production is likely to be lower than the previous year's, to the tune of 8 million to 10 million tonnes. With such a scenario, the psychology of shortages prevails in the market.


Measures have to be taken to augment supplies in the market. This could be done if the government inducts, through larger procurement, imports, or release from central stocks, an additional 7 million to 8 million tonnes of rice into the Public Distribution System (PDS) or into the open market.


In view of the current shortage in foodgrain production, too much reliance cannot be placed on additional procurement by public agencies. Even if they succeed in cornering larger quantities through procurement, that will result in crowding out the private sector from the foodgrain market. Imports could be the alternative, but that does not hold much hope as rice availability in the international market is not encouraging.


In this situation, the only viable alternative is for the government to release 7 million to 8 million tonnes of rice from Central stocks. This will discourage the private trade's attempts to hoard, and dispel the psychology of scarcity.

The release of additional quantities of grain should be through the PDS; resort to open market operations should be avoided. In the present circumstances, the latter proposition could be risky. Over the period, there has been a distinct improvement in the PDS, particularly in the rice-consuming southern States of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. Among them they accounted for nearly 45 per cent of the PDS rice offtake in 2008-09. Attention should be paid to stop leakages from the PDS in the eastern and central States.


Simultaneously, the PDS demand should be contained without compromising the food security of the most vulnerable sections. Rice at Rs 3 a kg — or at a still lower price if the Central or State governments have made commitments under any poverty alleviation programmes — may be made available to BPL (Below the Poverty Line) families. However, the quantity of the foodgrains and the price at which it is made available to APL (Above the Poverty Line) households needs to be reviewed.


The price of rice for the APL should be closer to the market price, as it used to be. In the present circumstances there is no justification to supply foodgrains to APL families at one-third to half the market price. A system of universal PDS could be considered once the supply position becomes comfortable. Till then there should be targeted PDS for BPL and attention should be given to minimising errors of inclusion in, and exclusion from, the BPL category.


It is an opportune time to actively involve the State governments in the management of the food economy. The Centre by itself cannot cope adequately and effectively. The States should be given the primary responsibility in foodgrain procurement, storage and distribution, with the Centre taking the role of 'lender of last resort'. In the past, whenever the proposal to shift the major responsibility for food management to the States was mooted, the States were found to be less than enthusiastic, for the simple reason that such a move was not backed by the resources required to manage the food economy. The States should be incentivised to perform the responsibilities entrusted to them, by extending financial support to carry out enlarged procurement operations, and for storage, warehousing and distribution of foodgrains.


The success of the measures to contain foodgrain prices will depend on coordinated steps being taken by the Centre and the States, on the one hand, and among the relevant State government departments (finance, planning, agriculture, civil supplies) on the other. The steering committee on agriculture in the Eleventh Plan has suggested that in order to ensure coordination among the States and the Centre to augment agricultural production, Zonal Production Commissioners may be appointed.


Similar arrangements should be made to monitor closely and concurrently food supplies in different States.It is equally important that effective arrangements be made at the State level to ensure coordinated action by the departments concerned with a high-level authority overseeing the food situation in the State and taking corrective action.


The steps already taken to maximise the production of rabi crops need to be accelerated. Emphasis should be placed on adequate and timely supply of seeds and fertilizers to the last man. This may be difficult in the case of seeds as adequate supply of quality seeds may not be available. Initially, attention should be paid to areas where there is larger potential. As a long-term solution, the defunct seed corporations in the States should be revived. The private sector should be given incentives to engage in quality seed production for cereals.In the case of fertilizers, incentives should be provided to the manufacturers of non-nitrogenous fertilizers and micronutrients.


Much will depend on timely and adequate supply of production credit. With the near collapse of the cooperative system, reliance has to be placed mainly on commercial banks. It has been found that though agricultural credit by commercial banks is increasing satisfactorily, the credit outgo to small farmers seeking loans of less than Rs. 25,000 is decreasing. This has serious implications for production also, as the borrowing capacity of the small and marginal farmers (who cultivate 40 per cent of the land) is not likely to be more than Rs. 25,000 each. The Reserve Bank of India should ensure that commercial banks adhere to the existing provision of 10 per cent loans to the weaker sections and that the marginal and small farmers are adequately represented within this limit. Also, these farmers should get their due share in the issue of Kisan Credit Cards.


Containing the rise in foodgrain prices is not a long-term agenda. Steps will have to be taken within the next few weeks, better still, within a few days.


(Dr. V.S. Vyas is Professor Emeritus, Institute of Development Studies, Jaipur. He is a member of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister. The views expressed are personal ones. He is at








Through the second half of October and for most of November this year, Rajasthan was engulfed in an unusual form of protest, spearheaded in the main by gram panchayat officials. Joined in some places by elected MLAs and MPs, and backed covertly by a section of District Collectors, the panchayat staff held meetings, sat in dharna, issued threats, and when these did not suffice, blocked highways, to get a single point across. They would not tolerate civil society participati on in social audit of works done under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS).


The protestors filed cases in two courts and obtained stay orders against the inclusion of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and social activists in future social audit exercises. It would have been easy enough for the Ashok Gehlot Government to convince the courts that civil society participation brought credibility to the audit exercise. Not only did the government not do that, it went a step further and called off the audits it had announced for one panchayat each in 32 of the State's 33 districts.


It was clear to those who incredulously watched the action-reaction sequence that the Government had succumbed to pressure from a small yet powerful group of people who had made it plain that they would not have their wrongdoings investigated. It was a classic case of an entrenched power bloc flexing its muscles — and getting reward points for it.



For Rajasthan, seen up until then as a model for transparency and accountability in NREGS implementation, the cancellation was an ironic turn of destiny. Only two months earlier, the Gehlot government had gone into overdrive, gathering NGOs and social activists for an unprecedented joint social audit conducted under blazing arc lights in the panchayats of Bhilwara. State Ministers conveyed their congratulations to the audit teams from decorated podiums, as did C.P. Joshi, Union Minister for Rural Development and Member of Parliament from Bhilwara, who was the guest of honour at an October 11 rally that marked the conclusion of the audit.


Enthusiasm ran high as thousands of NGO volunteers, who had banded together under the Aruna Roy-led Rozgar Evum Suchna Adhikar Abhiyan (right to employment and information campaign), or the RESAA, set out into rural Bhilwara for the audit. Of the district's 381 panchayats, 11 were chosen for focussed attention while the rest were covered over 10 days by teams of padayatris tasked with checking compliance with the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 — both by means of physical inspection of works, job cards, muster rolls and so on, and through feedback from villagers.


As the 11 audit teams got to work, they realised that they were on to something big. Damning evidence was emerging of diversion of NREGS funds by a defrauding mechanism that went all the way up from the sarpanch at the bottom to block and district-level staff. The padayatris reported missing job cards, fudged or absent muster rolls and improper maintenance of other NREGS documents. (Later reports from other districts would corroborate the corruption, and it would come to light that two District Collectors had been recommended for suspension for irregular use of NREGA funds.)



The corruption and the irregularities unearthed in Bhilwara were alarming, but the silver lining was that the social audit had zeroed in on them, as was in fact envisaged by the job guarantee Act. Indeed, the ecstatic public response to the audit, and the official stamp on it, made Bhilwara a by-word for hope and inspiration — as much for civil society advocates of the largest guaranteed job employment scheme in the world as for the many millions of poor people drawing sustenance from it, and already feeling its impact, despite the corruption involved in the scheme and its patchy and half-hearted implementation.


Perhaps it was too good to be true. The Bhilwara exercise was itself a product of struggle. The sarpanchs had tried hard to block the audit, and failing in that, they had openly raised their voices at the jan sunwais (public hearings) where the preliminary audit results were read out. In some places audit teams reporting irregularities were heckled and intimidated. But the audit sailed through because the Rajasthan government put its weight behind the project.


Post-Bhilwara, Ms. Roy and others in the RESAA had been flooded with requests for similar audits to be done in their districts. One such request came from Congress MP from Alwar Jitendra Singh. He was not to know then that this small act would unleash a storm that would take him in its sweep.


The Bhilwara social audit ended on October 11, and with that went out the message that the audit juggernaut was moving to Alwar. Within a week, sarpanchs of panchayats in Alwar had organised themselves into a sarpanch maha sangh. On October 25, Independent MP from Dausa Kirorilal Meena addressed a meeting of State panchayati raj staff, where he announced a formal boycott of civil society groups. "We will not let Aruna Roy and her team enter Alwar," he thundered, and promised to get the Chief Minister to intervene and stop the audit.


Ms. Roy and other RESAA activists also met Mr. Gehlot, following which both sides decided to drop the idea of saturation social audit in favour of a model social audit to be conducted in one chosen panchayat from each district in two batches through late- November and December. Each audit team was to consist of 10 Block Resource Persons (BRPs), 10 gram panchayat members chosen from neighbouring panchayats and two civil society representatives. Civil society participation was kept to the minimum to satisfy the protestors. And, since the purpose of the audit was to examine how NREGS funds were being utilised, the choice fell on the panchayat showing the maximum material expenditure.


The highest-spending panchayat in Alwar was Madhogarh. The audit here was to start with a two-day November 21-22 training programme for gram panchayat staff. But the sarpanchs had already made up their minds to block the audit. On November 18, the gram sevak of Madhopur locked up the panchayat office, reported sick, and disappeared with the NREGS records. The Block Development Officer (BDO) broke open the locks in the presence of the District Collector, and finding the records missing, filed an FIR against the gram sevak, the sarpanch and the rozgar sahayak (NREGS secretary). But with pressure mounting on the BDO, he himself would flee to Gwalior to escape being present when the audit team arrived.


Around this time came news that the NREGS Commissioner for Rajasthan, Rajendra Bhanawat, had twice recommended the suspension of the District Collectors of Chittorgarh and Dholpur for irregular employment of NREGS funds. This inflamed sections of the IAS fraternity, adding more muscle to the anti-social audit campaign. Mr. Bhanawat has since been transferred out.


By November 24, the mood had turned ugly in Madhopur. Congress MLA Tikaram squatted in dharna while a crowd of 300 people led by sarpanchs and other panchayat staff blocked the Alwar-Delhi State highway, relenting only after the Additional District Magistrate announced that no civil society representative will join the audit. Four Bharatiya Janata Party MLAs were among those named by the police in an FIR filed against those who indulged in obstruction.


Here was an incredible case of people's representatives joining hands with village-level government officials to block an audit of funds earmarked for India's — and the world's — biggest welfare programme. The NREGS was the United Progressive Alliance's flagship project. Mr. Gehlot was a Congress Chief Minister. Yet, as it happens with all such cases, the FIR was withdrawn and the case against the obstructors closed.


With Alwar showing the way, the agitation spread to Jailsamer, Barmer, Sirohi, Chittor, Rajsamand and other districts. In Barmer, the social audit team was intercepted by a 400-strong armed mob that included panchayat officials and politicians. In Rajsamand, Lal Singh, a civil society representative on the audit team, was surrounded by a violent mob that bundled him into a vehicle with the threat that he would be killed if he returned.



A powerful axis of panchayat staff-legislators-district officials had brought the government to it knees. It was evident that those who were meant to be in the vanguard of fighting corruption were fighting to protect corruption. It was evident too that the report of the Bhilwara audit (a copy of which is available with The Hindu) had unearthed something that threatened to shake the system.


Consider these by way of example. In gram panchayat Para, auditors examining bills for construction material supplied by "Devnarain Krishi Firm," found no supplier by that name. A phone call to the number listed in the bill was answered by the sarpanch's son. This single "firm" had billed the panchayat for material supplies worth Rs. 25 lakh. In the same panchayat, suppliers 'Nakowda Agency' disputed the statement that they had supplied material.


In gram panchayat Sangwa, auditors found hand-written, kaccha bills for material supplies amounting to over Rs. 40 lakh from a fake firm called "Dinesh Kumar Trivedi." Trivedi and Rajkumar Talior, another supplier, were also shown to have sold kerosene.


However, a visit to the location showed a ramshackle shop with a single tractor and no stock of materials claimed to have been supplied. In panchayat Devaria, the auditors found no supplier by the name "Tulsiram putr Ramaji Teli." In the same panchayat, suppliers "Gopi Putr Gokul Teli" gave it in writing that the bills generated in their names were fake.








It is impossible to quantify the level of fraud in public spending on wind energy

The European wind association does not have a code of conduct for developers

A big Danish firm revealed that it was the victim of a 12 million euro fraud


The northern trade winds of the Canary Islands have long tempted daredevil windsurfers, but now they are attracting giant wind turbines and the millions of euros behind them. With their blades whirling, the 55 turbines that stand beyond the gray pebble beach of Pozo Izquierdo are stark, white symbols of a growing industry and the potential for abundant clean energy — and for corruption.


In the town of Santa Lucia de Tirajana, host to the annual Grand Slam windsurfing championships, a year-long investigation by the Guardia Civil — the Spanish gendarmerie — turned up irregularities in a plan to build a wind park. Now the mayor, five town officials and two wind park developers are fighting criminal charges that include influence peddling, misuse of public office, misappropriation of land and bribery. The apparent motivation was as much as 40 million euros, or $58.4 million, in European Union subsidies.


This investigation and others in Europe and the United States shed light on the sometimes freewheeling approach of the fast-evolving wind energy industry. Stoking the frenzy in Europe is the vast revenue available through a variety of subsidies, including the European Union's farm subsidy system, which distributes more than 50 billion euros, or $73 billion, a year to farmers, corporate agribusiness and rural development projects.


In Europe, more than 6 billion euros in structural and agricultural subsidies have been allocated for renewable energy over 13 years ending in 2013. This is an attractive sum for a relatively new industry that specialists say gets the benefit of the doubt because of its image of environmental concern. And clean energy is at the forefront of the debate over climate change that is drawing global attention this week in Copenhagen.


The authorities say it is impossible to quantify the level of fraud in public spending on wind energy because investigations are scattered across countries among the regional and fiscal police. But critics say the available riches and patchy controls are luring a rogue's gallery of corrupt politicians and entrepreneurs trying to create money out of thin air.


"It's the same mentality as a Texas oil strike," said Jesus Bethencourt Rosillo, a lawyer in Santa Lucia who represents a Canary Islands whistle-blower. "This is a gold rush, and everyone wants a wind park at whatever price."


The European Wind Energy Association — which represents 600 manufacturers and members in 60 countries, including some outside Europe, and which attracted more than 10.9 billion euros last year in investments — argues that problems with corruption are rare and that industry regulation is not needed.


"We have fraud legislation in all countries, and this is a matter for the national police," said Christian Kjaer, chief executive of the trade group.



But critics like John Etherington, a former professor of ecology at the University of Wales and author of "The Wind Farm Scam," contends that, because the industry is so dependent on subsidies, it is highly vulnerable to fraud. Etherington says that he is "not sure that the industry is regulated at all — let alone well regulated."


Police investigators have been busy across the Continent in recent months. This year five Corsican nationalists were imprisoned and fined for skimming 1.54 million euros in European subsidies for wind farms. In Italy — where three investigations are unfolding — 15 people were arrested last month in a case the authorities code-named Gone With the Wind. They described it as a complicated Ponzi-style scheme to reap as much as 30 million euros in European Union aid.


In the United States, one of the top three wind energy producers with Germany and Spain, the Energy Department is doling out aid covering 30 percent of project costs and has already announced more than $1 billion in grants — with individual grants near $100 million.


Wind farm development follows a common pattern in Europe and the United States. Typically, small entrepreneurs strike deals for long-term land leases with farmers and seek local government approval for wind parks. Then the entrepreneurs sell development packages through intermediaries to large multinational companies or utilities that actually build the wind parks.


Even the big companies have been burned; Vestas Wind Systems, a Danish company that is the leading manufacturer of wind turbines in the world, revealed this year that it was the victim of a 12 million euro fraud. The company asserts that three top Spanish employees, who are under investigation by the authorities in Barcelona, issued payments for nonexistent services to companies under their control, shifting the money intended to invest in wind turbines.


In New York, wind developers were prodded over the summer to sign an ethics code barring gifts to public officials, a standard developed by the office of the state attorney general, Andrew Cuomo. At the time, the office said 16 companies, representing more than 90 per cent of wind energy activity in the state, had signed.


"It's a very new area of development with the promise of a lot of money that can be made, both for the developers of wind farms and landowners," said John Milgrim, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, who said that the industry had been largely unregulated. "Part of what government can do is create standards that both sides can follow," he said, adding that the code established a transparent system for public information about land leases and connections between wind developers and municipal officials and their families.


The European wind association does not have a code of conduct for developers, though Kjaer, the chief executive, said it would have no trouble operating with one.


The lure is basic: A standard two-megawatt turbine costs about 2.75 million euros to build and earns about 275,000 euros a year for the sale of electricity at the market rate. But that revenue can rise to about 500,000 euros with special state-mandated incentives paid by utilities as a premium for renewable energies. In many countries, wind producers are receiving feed-in tariffs — premiums above the market rate as a bonus for renewable energy.


Richard Robb of New York, an investor in wind parks in France and Germany through his firm Christofferson, Robb & Co., said these tariffs provide a cushion of revenue even amid lacklustre winds.


In Germany, he said, his wind farm qualified for a feed-in tariff of about 83.6 euros a megawatt hour while the free market price ranged from 30 to 70 euros — helping to deliver as much as a 15 per cent return.


"None of this," he said, "would have been possible without government subsidies." — © 2009 The New York Times News Service








He is virtually unknown to the present generation of Pakistanis, and a fading memory for those old enough to know. But in the aftermath of 1971, when Bangladesh came into existence, Raja Tridiv Roy was quite the toast of Pakistan.


Then the titular chief of the Chittagong Hill Tract Chakmas, Mr. Roy was just one of two East Pakistan parliamentarians — Noor-ul-Amin was the other — to reject the new country, and throw in their lot with West Pakistan.


On the eve of the December 16 anniversary of the "Fall of Dhaka", as the event is remembered in Pakistan, Mr. Roy told The Hindu in Islamabad that he has no regrets about that life-changing decision as his people continue to be discriminated against by Bangladesh.


"Chakma House", as the small unassuming plaque on the gate says, in the leafy E-7 sector, is Mr. Roy's home in the Pakistani capital. The coat of arms on it has dulled with time. Inside, the living room is furnished simply, and of the few paintings that adorn the walls, two are by a Bengali painter dated November 1971 portraying idyllic scenes of rural life in what was then East Pakistan.


"One of the chief reasons in my decision to support the Pakistani nation rather than the rebels in 1971 was that the people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts are not Bengalis, but unfortunately, the government of East Pakistan at that time was exploiting the area and the indigenous population," said Mr. Roy.


The peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts felt more secure with the Pakistan central government, he said, even though they held it responsible for the large scale suffering of tens of thousands in the area displaced in 1960 by the building of the Kaptai Dam.


Referring to a report earlier this year by the International CHT Commission, Mr. Roy said the 1997 peace treaty between the people of the region and the Bangladesh government had yet to be implemented in letter and spirit.


"The feeling of being exploited is even more acute now," he said, pointing to the changed demography of the region that had made the "son of the soil a minority in his own home."


But Mr. Roy has studiously kept away from the Chakma issue over the last 38 years, and though he did not say why, one reason could be that he wanted to avoid embarrassment for Pakistan as it negotiated relations with the new Bangladesh.


Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto rewarded his decision to plump for Pakistan with a place in his 12-member cabinet, as minister for minority affairs, also holding the tourism portfolio. However, he never joined the Pakistan People's Party, and even now, is not a member of any political party in this country. General Zia ul Haq sent him as envoy to Argentina, and after an unprecedented 15-year-stint in that country, Mr. Roy, who returned to Pakistan in 1996, remains a Federal Minister, but without portfolio.


In the early days, he had a reputation for his colourful personal life and the parties he threw at his home. But the 76-year-old is now a shadow of his former self. Seen at the occasional diplomatic reception, Mr. Roy cuts a lonely figure these days, though still a dapper one. He keeps a low profile, playing golf and bridge, travelling and working with Pakistan's tiny Buddhist association.

"I'm concerned about the Chakmas, but not involved in any of the Chakma politics. I am not in touch with any of the groups, they do not seek my advice, nor do I advise any group on how they should conduct themselves," he said.


"My overall advice is that that fight for your rights constitutionally, peacefully and do no go in for violence and killings amongst yourself and with others," the 76-year-old Buddhist said.

He was, however, quite emphatic that he could have done nothing for his people had he chosen Bangladesh over Pakistan.


"If I had been there and not toed the government line, which I would not have been able to do," he said, "I would have either been eliminated, put behind bars or silenced in one war or another. How would it have helped the Chakmas if I had been forced to become a stooge?"


Mr. Roy said he wanted to correct the popular impression that he ran away after the surrender of Pakistani forces on December 16. He left East Pakistan on November 11, much before the war began.


"The government of Pakistan [then led by General Yayha Khan] called me to represent the country as a special envoy, and my role was [to build international support] to prevent the impending war," he said.


The fighting began on December 3, while he was still on a tour of south-east Asian countries. He recalled that he was in Bangkok on December 16, and returned to Pakistan on December 22. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had taken over the reins of the country by then, and asked him to join his cabinet.


Mr. Roy had been elected to the National Assembly in 1970 as the only independent candidate from the whole of East Pakistan, and with Noor-ul-Amin, was only one of two non-Awami League members in the East wing. A Buddhist, he was also the only non-Muslim in the parliament.


"He was a revered and respected head of his people. With him and Noor-ul-Amin, we were able to say that we were not without constituencies in East Pakistan," recalled Mubashir Hassan, an associate of Bhutto and a senior cabinet colleague of Mr. Roy in that cabinet.


Bangladesh made early attempts to reclaim Mr. Roy. When the Chakma leader went to New York as leader of the Pakistani delegation in 1972, Sheikh Mujib sent his mother to persuade him to join Bangladesh, but he refused her entreaties. For this act of loyalty, he was feted by Bhutto on his return.


Most of Mr. Roy's family, including his wife, remained behind in the new Bangladesh. Three children joined him later, but his eldest son, Debashis Roy, who remained behind with his mother and a sister, was anointed the new Chakma chief. He is a barrister in Dhaka and served in the recent interim government.


Mr. Roy, however, has never gone back to his home, Rangamati, in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, all these years, nor has he ever visited Bangladesh.


"Of course, I miss my people, my home, my community," said the ageing raja, "but circumstances and history have played a great role in my life".








Mob violence appears to have emerged as the principal currency of protest in post-Independence India, overtaking the more considered avenues that were fairly much the norm in an earlier era. The trend is disturbing. More than anything else, it signifies the lumpenisation of political processes. So it has been no surprise to see attacks on public and private property, and vandalism in all its shaming manifestations, in Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, the Gorkhaland agitation in West Bengal, not to speak of the show of force by chauvinist elements in Mumbai from time to time, the protest-at-the-drop-of-a-hat culture which has come to grip Kolkata, and even congregations of farmers when they seek to lay siege to the nation's capital. The list just goes on. The unstated aim appears to be to overwhelm duly constituted authority. The pity is that so-called leaders thrown up by these agitations and movements come to be recognised as public figures in due course, enter representative forums at various levels — even state legislatures and Parliament — and give free rein in these forums to their non-democratic instincts. Recently, the expectation of serious trouble was so high that the Sikkim government urged the Supreme Court to try and ensure that movement of essential commodities to the landlocked state was not hampered by the blockade of the national highway that passes through the areas dominated by Gorkhaland agitators.


Violence or the threat of violence that nearly always looms large in a "movement" these days needs to be subjected to greater sociological examination, and appropriate lessons drawn for the greater good of the democratisation process. Mass mobilisations as a democratic tool, relying solely on voluntary participation of individuals and leading to grand public rallies and marches, is now more or less extinct as a protest form. We have instead the "bandh" culture, which frequently means the forced closure of a factory, office space, or indeed an entire town or city, accompanied by wanton destruction. Interestingly, this was not the case in British India when the rulers were not even elected representatives. To protest peacefully, to form unions, and to go on strike provided certain conditions are met, are democratic rights, sanctioned by our Constitution and our laws, just like they are sanctioned by the laws of other democratic societies. But it is rare these days to see that route being followed. Ironically, it is the large gatherings of the powerless and the genuine poor — such as those of agriculture workers or the Narmada dispossessed — that remain peaceful. Militant trade unionism of a certain type perhaps first introduced the idea of forcing the system to a standstill. But the feature came into its own when middle-class elements, such as students, often fuelled by fissiparous political interests, gave vent to their causes. They inevitably have the resources to allure the urban lumpens.


The transition to the present trend needs study, but a few points are in order. The tendency to overwhelm public authority appears to have taken hold as the latter, in many cases, are too willing to be overwhelmed. Under the mistaken notion of being alive to political sensitivity, they stand by and watch violence being unleashed instead of taking in troublemakers and protecting victims. The false notion of political sensitivity frequently arises from the fact that political masters these days have no grassroots links and confuse the apparent for the real. Two, it is not infrequently the case that the authorities have almost ceased to take note of peaceful protests. The culture of public discourse, democratic dissent, and democratic protest has been subverted as a result.








It was on New Year's Day of 1973 that the nation got to know that the architect of India's greatest military victory in centuries had been elevated to the rank of field marshal. This came as a surprise to most of us. Only a couple of months earlier, the then defence minister had told the press at Chennai that India would not have a field marshal or a five-star general. I remember a friend of mine telling me at that time that if Pakistan had won the 1971 war, Yahya would have been made a field marshal the very next day. I disagreed with him, saying he would not have been made field marshal, but would have made himself one, like Ayub Khan. My thoughts went back to 1946, when for the first time three Indian officers were posted to the Military Operations Directorate at Delhi, hitherto the exclusive preserve of British officers and British clerks. They were Lt. Col. Sam Hormusji Faramji Manekshaw, Major Yahya Khan and I in the rank of captain. Who could then have predicted the path the careers of Manekshaw and Yahya would take? Inscrutable are the ways of providence.


I had the privilege of serving under Sam Manekshaw in all the ranks that he held from Lt. Col. to Army Chief. He had a tremendous capacity for work and was a brilliant professional, contributing immensely in every appointment. He combined all this with a great sense of humour and ready wit. As a senior staff officer at Army Headquarters in 1971, I saw how meticulously he planned for the coming war during the nine months preparatory time he had managed to obtain. The resounding victory in that war was the crowning achievement of the foremost military leader of our Army.


I was functioning as adjutant-general, the Army's chief of personnel, in January 1973 and had to work out his entitlements in his new rank. I went to his office to congratulate him and found him examining the badges of rank in cloth that had been prepared by Bastani Brothers, the tailor in South Block. Apparently Sam had been informed of his promotion a day or two earlier. To maintain secrecy, his personal staff told the tailor that a Nepalese field marshal was to come and his badge of rank had to be stitched. Sam told me that an investiture was to be held two days later at Rashtrapati Bhavan and I had to work out all the details with the government. I replied that it would be both an honour and a pleasure. However, I told him that the cloth badges of rank would be of no use, he would have to be in his ceremonial uniform for which he would need metal badges of rank. Moreover, the badges of rank made by the tailor were not correct. The Ashoka Lion at the top of the wreath had to be in miniature and touching the top of the two loops in one badge of rank. He asked me how I knew this. I replied that when Field Marshal Auchinleck used to visit the Operations Room in 1946, I used to closely watch his badges of rank and ribbons. He said he saw more of Auchinleck than me but was not sure what I said was correct. He wanted something authentic. I went back to my office and tried to find some written authority, but nothing was available. I rang up our military attaché in London. He told me that the War Office was closed for the Christmas holidays and he would not be able to send me anything for a week. I then thought of looking up the Encyclopedia Britannica. I was happy to find a colour picture of a field marshal's badges of rank. That satisfied Sam. I said I would get them fabricated at the Army workshop in Delhi Cantonment. Working round the clock, our electrical engineers made a good job of it and completed the task within 24 hours.


We worked out a paper on the privileges Sam was now entitled to. A field marshal never retires. He would therefore be entitled to full pay for the rest of his life. He had to have a ceremonial baton which would now be part of his uniform. Besides, he would have to be given a small secretariat and personal staff. We also had to work out the procedure to be followed for the investiture at Rashtrapati Bhavan. A meeting was held, attended by home ministry officials, the additional secretary, ministry of defence, and me, with the home secretary in the chair. Having been an old hand in Army Headquarters, I was fully aware of the hostility of the civilian bureaucracy towards the Army. I saw that in full force at this meeting. I found the bureaucrats opposing all our suggestions. They wanted the Cabinet Secretary, who was higher in protocol status to Service Chiefs, to have a higher place than Sam in the seating plan. I maintained that a field marshal should rank with Bharat Ratna awardees. The latter enjoyed much higher protocol status than the Cabinet Secretary. In any case, irrespective of protocol status, Sam should have a special place sitting alone as an awardee. This was agreed to. There was heated debate regarding the field marshal's baton. The bureaucrats considered Rs 1 lakh as wasteful expenditure for the gold-mounted Ashoka Lions on the baton. They pointed out that five-star generals in the US Army do not have a baton. I replied that the Americans do not have field marshals.


Frederick the Great had introduced the rank of field marshal as part of reforms in the Prussian Army in the 18th century. A conquering general was from then not allowed to keep any part of war booty. This was now to go to the state. Generals who had done exceptionally well in war would be promoted field marshal, which would entitle them to full salary for the rest of their lives. That is how the tradition of a field marshal never retiring originated. The field marshal was also to be given a ceremonial baton, somewhat like a monarch's orb. His protocol status was to be next only to the monarch. Thus originated the tradition of regimental flags dipping in salute only for a monarch or head of state and field marshal. They do not do so even for Prime Ministers. Gradually, all armies in Europe introduced this rank. UK was the last to do so. The Duke of Wellington captured a French marshal's baton in Spain and sent it to his sovereign. He was made the first field marshal of the British Army. Since the government had decided to make Sam a field marshal, he must be given all the traditional privileges that go with that rank. I won my point on the baton, but not on other issues, like salary or protocol status. It was decided to defer the decision on them. In the interim, a meagrely sum of Rs 400 per month was approved as special pay in addition to pension for Sam. A fortnight later, when Sam was demitting office, we had a ceremonial farewell parade for him on Army Day. For the first time we brought regimental flags on parade for the Army Day. I had kept it as a surprise for Sam. When he arrived for the parade, I mentioned this to him. He asked me in his usual manner, "Tell me, sweety, how do I respond to the salute?" He took me by surprise. I did not know how a field marshal returns a salute. I later learnt that while doing so a British field marshal holds the baton in his left hand at an angle of 45 degrees to the middle of their left thigh. However, I had seen movies in which Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering used to raise his baton in his right hand. I promptly replied, "Sir, by raising the baton in your right hand." Sam accepted this. We started a new tradition of our own.


Thirty-two years later, I learnt from press reports that the government had at long last taken a decision on the salary of a field marshal, consequent to the visit of President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to Staff College Wellington when he met Sam, then terminally ill in hospital. The defence secretary flew to Wellington to personally hand over a cheque of Rs 1.3 crores to Sam as his arrears of pay for over 30 years. A couple of weeks later, I went to the Staff College for a lecture. I met Sam in hospital and congratulated him for the arrears he had received. He replied, "Sweety, a babu from Delhi came and gave me a cheque. I have sent it to the bank. I do not know if it will be honoured." That was the last time I met Sam. Soon after, Sam died. It was a national shame that we did not give him an appropriate funeral. As per our protocol, a field marshal ranks with the Service Chiefs and below the Cabinet Secretary. Bureaucracy had its way. The government was represented by a mere minister of state at the funeral. The funeral should have taken place in Delhi with the President, the Prime Minister and the high commissioner of Bangladesh, or a high dignitary from that country, attending. When the Duke of Wellington died, several monarchs, Presidents and Prime Ministers attended his funeral and he was buried in Westminster Abbey.


The author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir









Within a few days from today we will be crossing over to the second decade of the 21st century. Those of us born in the 20th century and lived through the first decade of the 21st, have indeed been fortunate to experience the impact of several giant steps of progress in human history. Mankind has indeed achieved much more in this period than it had in all the previous periods of recorded history.


The most remarkable of all achievements has been that human beings have had a much healthier and longer life in this period than in the earlier ones. World population in the year 1800, was just one billion. But it took only 130 years to add the second billion, 30 to add the third, 15 to add the fourth, 12 to add the fifth and just 11 years to add the sixth. One of the greatest achievements registered in human history during this period has not only been the increase in the number of people and the length of life, but also increase in the participation of people in their own governance or what is called democracy.


The progress of democracy has, of course, not been uniform, but there is general acceptance of the indispensability of certain institutions for the healthy functioning of democracy such as - elections based on universal adult franchise, independent judiciary, continuing accountability of the executive to the people, free press and non-political military and civil services. If we go by the experience of most newly independent countries, it will be seen that these institutions have undergone varying degrees of distortion and devaluation, and that the one which has suffered most has been the legislatures. The legislature, besides making laws in any democracy, is expected to function as the forum for debates and discussions on all matters affecting governance and equally importantly to function as the main instrument for holding the executive continuously accountable to the people. However, these important objectives are becoming increasingly sidelined in many newly-independent countries of the world today, including India, and this should cause serious concern about the future of democracy in these countries.


I do not propose to refer in this column to the distortions and deficiencies in the systems and practices of elections to the legislatures such as the unreliability of the electoral rolls, unfair use of money power and muscle power, lack of inner party democracy etc. They have been highlighted several times through speeches and writings of political leaders and constitutional experts, but certain new developments regarding the functioning of Parliament after elections have not received the attention they deserve in most developing countries. One such development as far as India is concerned is that Parliament has not been able to meet for even 100 days in a year. The average number of days when our Parliament meets in a year, which used to be 140 days in the early years of Independence had come down to 74 in 2004 and still the great harm it has caused to the quality of democracy does not appear to have been adequately understood by most people who participate in the laborious process of elections.


It is obvious that in any democratic country representatives of the people elected to Parliament should have adequate time and opportunity to remain in close contact with the people who elected them and keep themselves well-informed about their problems and expectations. Therefore, it is important that the members of Parliament (MPs) should be spending, at least, half of their tenure in their own constituencies, but reducing the period for the sittings of Parliament to as low a level as 74 days in a year is defeating the basic objectives of the institution of Parliament.


It is sometimes claimed that the committee system which had been recently introduced has given the MPs adequate opportunities outside the main meetings to express their views on important issues which come up before Parliament. But the claim of fair record of attendance in the committees of Parliament is not true. Very often thin attendance has become the normal practice in parliamentary committees as well.


Another development which is as disturbing as the small number of days when Parliament meets is the indifference of members towards their duties within the House during the meetings of Parliament. A few days ago, there was a report in the media that as many as 28 MPs whose questions had been admitted for answers had not turned up to ask their questions.


Sometimes members ask for even the suspension of the Question Hour in order to raise some issues which they consider important. A good deal of the one hour earmarked for the Question Hour is sometimes spent on the issue whether the Question Hour for the day should be suspended or not! The Question Hour - in a parliamentary democracy - is one of the most important instruments for enforcing accountability of the ministers to the legislature and if it is not taken seriously even by the members who had been permitted to raise questions, the very purpose of having a Question Hour everyday is defeated.


One of the reasons for loss of days for the sittings of Parliament is that the rules and procedures for orderly conduct of business of Parliament are not strictly followed. The presiding officers often find themselves helpless to enforce the rules because of lack of adequate support from the members. Even incidents of serious indisciplined behaviour within Parliament are treated as party issues and go without any punishment. If the trend of disorder inside Parliament has to be checked it will be necessary to consider questions of indiscipline or misbehaviour by members as issues concerning the entire House without any consideration for the party affiliations of the members concerned.


Parliament should consider stricter punishment for the members who are found guilty of indiscipline and gross misbehaviour inside the House. If MPs themselves are not alert and vigilant in observing the rules and procedures for the conduct of business prescribed by themselves, the institution of Parliament will lose the confidence and respect of the people and this will also seriously affect the efficiency and usefulness of all other institutions.


P.C. Alexander is a former governor of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra










If you study successful people, you will see a definite pattern emerging. They all visualise success even before it gets to them. Most of the time, we become what we think. That is why it is important to design and sculpt the way we think of ourselves. How we think ultimately determines how our actions end up—in either success or failure.

If you see yourselves as happy, that is also how others will look at you. If you respect yourself, others will respect you. If you see yourself as a doormat, you will have others standing on you.

You are judged by the way you carry yourself. Dress well. Look your best all the time. Impress yourself. Others will be impressed anyway. Dressing well also lifts your confidence on a dull day. Try it. When you are out shopping, do you pick up a product that has poor packaging? Think about it. 

Say positive things about yourself to others. Others will see you in that light. Better still, they will also start emulating you.  

Visualise everything the way you would like it to be. It will help you see your needs in a more focused manner so you reach it. Do not resign to whatever is happening and lose the battle.

Do not, for instance, look at your job as a necessary evil. Most of the people I know, both young and old, see it that way—as something that is unavoidable and to be endured. The moment you see something negatively, you will never be able to better it. There is nothing like a perfect job. There is also nothing like a bad job. There are only bad workers. It is our attitude that changes the way we look at work. Negative perceptions at work do not help us grow or evolve.  

Kiran Bedi who was super active as a police officer in Delhi was sent to the Tihar Jail as some of her superiors thought she was getting to be larger than life. They saw Tihar Jail as a punishment posting. After all, what can one do in a jail, they thought amusedly. But Bedi saw it as a great opportunity. She transformed the jail; brought in drastic and dramatic reforms and made it a model. She went on to win the Magsaysay award for her sterling work in the jail. So, tell yourself your job is important. Then, see how your attitude changes towards the job. You will see yourself getting more responsible and responsive. You will also be whipping around creative ideas to enjoy what you are doing.

Ramesh Menon is a journalist and corporate trainer








It is a fairly sound proposal. But because it came from the RSS, everyone outside the saffron spectrum is bound to view its suggestion for a new states reorganisation commission, with more than a fair dose of suspicion.

The RSS, all its opponents believe, would never do anything without a motive, an agenda, if you will. That may or may not be true. But it looks like the time has come to review formation of states on the basis of language close to 60 years ago. Not that all states were then formed on the basis of language. If that was the case UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, to start with, would have had to be a single Hindi-speaking state.

Back in 1956, it did not make sense to keep Gujarat as part of Bombay state nor Haryana and Himachal as part of Punjab, as the states reorganisation committee headed by Fazal Ali, was mandated to suggest reorganisation on the basis of language alone.

That yardstick appeared to apply largely to regions in south India which were part of the erstwhile Madras and Bombay presidencies. The trigger for reorganisation of states was the demand for unification of Telugu speaking areas into a single state. The SRC, set up in 1953, after Potti Sriramulu fasted to death, was responsible for the present states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. Bombay state, covering present Maharashtra and Gujarat, had to split later in 1960 and Punjab into three states in 1966. By then, it appears as if the state boundaries were reordered on the basis of language. Telangana, of course, has always proved that language as a basis for integration was hollow.

With the decision of the centre to let Andhra break up, the demand from other regions for separation is gathering some speed. Leaders in Vidharba, Bundelkhand or Western UP see a window of opportunity to break away from the larger entities of which they are now a part. Letting Telangana separate from Andhra has opened a pandora's box. There are many who believe the Congress handled Telangana issue in a very ham-handed manner this time.

That perception is pretty strong even though, as it turns out, the party does not seem to be in a tearing hurry to form a new state and is actually suggesting now that Telangana is a possibility only if there is consensus in the state. That, surely, is a sign of buying time to let passions cool. Even leaders from Telangana now realise that you cannot simply walk away from the existing arrangement and seem reconciled to some delay in the formation of the state.

Although the Congress leadership has more or less ruled out entertaining demand from other regions for formation of new states, it is perhaps a good time to revisit the very basis of formation of states 53 years ago. Language, as an emotional adhesive, has failed to hold people together and, worse still; the perception in many such regions of developmental deficit is actually closer to truth. Many such regions would be pretty low on economic and human development indicators.


Separation from a larger administrative body in itself is not going to solve the problem of backwardness in these regions. If the entities are small and compact, it is possible that they would receive better attention. If a case can be made out that state spending would be better utilised and the region would prosper, the argument in favour of allowing bigger states to be broken up would gain strength as it did in the case of Uttarakhand and UP, Chattisgarh and MP and Jharkhand and Bihar.

A states reorganisation commission, therefore, may give an opportunity for interested parties to make out a case. Such an SRC, not restrained by a singular factor such as language, may be able to redraw boundaries in such a way that imbalances in development between one region and another within states now may be corrected in two or three decades.

If, for instance, large national urban assets like metropolitan cities and other resources like river water are actually treated as national assets not belonging to a state or states or conferring a particular right on those states, it might be possible to redraw boundaries without having to factor in emotional pressure. That is easier said than done because much more than the states, it is the regimes that rule the states or hope to do so that develop a vested interest in establishing political rights over the state.

The deep interest political parties take in movements such as Telangana or Harit Pradesh has to be seen in that context. If you can try and have a kingdom for Kapus or Velamas in Telangana, denied the throne by the Reddys and Khammas in Andhra; if you can have a kingdom for the Jats, again denied the throne for god knows how long in UP, why not? Politics is all about that.









The Manmohan Singh government's assertion that there can be no forward movement on statehood for Telangana until the Andhra Assembly passes a resolution supporting the state's bifurcation should set at rest any fears that the issue would be bulldozed through. Clearly, so long as legislators from Telangana are not joined by a substantial number from the rest of the state to cobble up a majority in the assembly, the carving out of a new state is ruled out. With the winter session of the state assembly having been adjourned sine die on Monday, well ahead of its scheduled December 23 date, and resignations of 138 legislators lying with the Speaker in protest against the Centre's in-principle decision to work towards statehood for Telangana, the issue will doubtlessly remain in cold storage for now. Consequently, politicians who had raised the pitch in West Bengal for a separate Gorkhaland, in Maharashtra for Vidarbha, in U.P. for Harit Pradesh, Bundelkhand and Purvanchal, besides similar demands in other parts of the country, using Telangana as a convenient pretext, would now be deprived of that prop.


In Andhra, the supporters of Jaganmohan Reddy, son of the late chief minister Rajsekhar Reddy had been nursing a grouse against their leader not being allowed to succeed his illustrious father. Their acceptance of K. Rosaiah as chief minister was forced and half-hearted. The Telangana issue had given them an opportunity to settle scores with Mr Rosaiah and through him with the party high command. It would require deft handling to restore a modicum of unity in the party. Other political parties are equally divided along predictable regional lines.


While it is but fair that there be no further movement on the Telangana issue until an assembly resolution is passed, it is time that politicians stop fanning the embers of hatred. Andhra Pradesh has frittered away a full session of the assembly with no business transacted. Losses from work stoppages have also been on a massive scale. Neither Andhra nor West Bengal's Darjeeling region, nor Maharashtra or UP can afford disruption of economic activity in these difficult times. It is indeed vital that sanity prevails.








The lie that two Shopian women (a 17-year teenager and her 22-year-old sister-in-law) were raped and murdered and then thrown into a nullah in May has been finally nailed. A CBI enquiry into the incident, conducted with the consent of the aggrieved relatives and their supporters, has brought out that the women had, in fact, died of drowning. The Flood Control Department of Jammu and Kashmir has provided proof that the nullah had enough water in May when a person not knowing swimming could get drowned. This has falsified the claim of those who stated that drowning was not possible in the nullah in May. The CBI report, submitted to the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Monday, is based on a medical examination of the victims done by doctors of the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, and the findings of Central Forensic Science Laboratory experts after the bodies were exhumed.


The CBI report is enough to bring the matter to an end. But, at the same time, the guilty men and women who fabricated evidence to give a bad name to the security forces must be brought to book. The CBI has charge-sheeted 13 persons — six doctors, five Shopian lawyers and two others — who must be proceeded against without delay. Apparently, they invented the theory of rape and murder after the two women were reported missing in support of their political game-plan. The PDP and the outfit that came up with its support, the Majlis-e-Mushawarat, to "fight for justice" to the affected families, launched an agitation to mislead the gullible public, saying that the official claim of drowning could not be believed. As a result, violent protests have been continuing in Shopian with the security agencies and the state government being at the receiving end.


The politically motivated agitation following the unfortunate incident has been part of the pattern in the valley involving anti-national forces. They have always tried to exploit every development to promote their nefarious designs. These forces deserve to be fully exposed in the interest of peace and progress in the sensitive state.








To the victims of the 1984 riots, the words of regret and shame expressed by various functionaries of the government every now and then do not provide much solace because even 25 years after the genocide, the political perpetrators and the guilty policemen are yet to be punished. The government has admitted as much, and has now announced a deadline of December 31, 2009, for Lieutenant Governor Tejinder Khanna to decide on giving sanction to the CBI to prosecute Congress leaders Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar. Unfortunately, many such deadlines have come and gone but the wheels of justice have remained stuck. Cornered by all-round criticism, all that the Home Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, could say was that "I cannot undo what had happened 25 years ago and also cannot be held responsible for the inaction for the last 25 years". That is as good an admission as any that there has been inaction during this quarter century, whatever the reasons or excuses might have been.


Leave alone punishing the guilty, the issue of suitable relief to the victims has also been hanging fire. As many as 1,115 requests for jobs from the affected families are pending with the Delhi government. Mr Chidambaram has himself admitted that "usual bureaucratic excuses" are being given for the delay in processing these requests and he intended to deal with the matter directly to see that jobs were provided as early as possible. The nation would be watching intently how effective the Home Minister is against the bureaucratic stonewall.


Unfortunately, delays are the order rather than an exception in any action against those who spread communal fire. What has happened in the case of the perpetrators of the 1984 riots has been replicated in the case of the 2002 Gujarat guilty also. A systematic attempt has been made to either prove the guilty to be innocent or to let them go away lightly. When the government of the day itself decides to back the wrong-doers, the cries of the victims tend to go unanswered. It is thanks to the judiciary that some of the blatant instances of miscarriage of justice have been reversed. But then, as the old saying goes, justice delayed is in itself justice denied.










The Copenhagen summit has brought the issue of rapid environmental degradation and climate change onto the centre-stage. Sceptics abound but evidence is growing of mounting environmental distress and weather patterns becoming highly variable and uncertain, leading to droughts, floods, melting of polar ice-caps and glaciers, growing intensity of cyclones and so on.


Of course, fluctuations in weather are normal both in the long and the short run, but experts opine that the current changes go beyond the observed historical patterns and are directly linked to the unprecedented scale of human activity. This last fact and that it is having visible effects on the environment is undisputed. The climate sceptics only contest that this is leading to a tipping point, which may cause a global disaster. They have faith in technology providing solutions, as in the past.


Scientists are working hard on ways to deal with the green house gases (GHGs) through sequestering. However, the environmentalists argue that the weather system and the earth itself are complex systems, which we only partly understand so that the visible deterioration can suddenly accelerate, giving us little time to react.


The world is confronted with growing damage to the environment (there is unanimity on this) because human kind equates its well-being with growing consumption. So, every nation, rich or poor, is in a race to increase production. Even the rich nations with historically unprecedented levels of consumption remain unsatiated and desire to consume more. In Europe, in spite of the Green movements, consumption per capita has increased. It is not just that their poor aspire to consume more but even their rich want to consume more.


The developing world ruling elite, brought up on the notion of modernisation being Western modernity, has blindly copied this model, including its consumerism. The elite in the developing world wish to quickly join the global elite, so they have embarked on a path of rapid increase in their consumption. Thus, consumerism, both in the advanced and the developing countries, is resulting in growing pollution.


The advanced countries, to reduce their own pollution, have increasingly encouraged the poorer countries to undertake the production of dirty goods - metals, chemicals, etc. Thus, the developing countries are polluting on behalf of the richer nations. They are competing with each other to increase exports and under-cut each other by overlooking environmental concerns. If all the people of the world were to consume like the average US citizen, several earths would be needed to support this consumption.


Pollution is taking a heavy toll on the poorest since they are at the edge of survival and depend most directly on nature itself. Food stocks started dwindling after 1999 and for some time food prices have been climbing steeply. While droughts have played a role, development- related factors like crops used to produce fuel and land being used for urbanisation or for providing services are no less important.


While the accumulated GHGs are mostly due to the past consumption by the rich countries, the current additions are substantial not only by the rich but also by the poor countries. This has come in handy for the rich countries (trying to maintain their own life-styles) to shift blame on to the large poor countries. They are demanding cuts by India where the largest number of the poor in the world reside. The Indian ruling elite argues that cuts will mean a slowdown of development and check elimination of poverty. Actually, the Indian ruling elite wishes to preserve its consumption, just as the rich nations wish to. The poor are only a bargaining chip.


There was a time when India used to give the lead to the rest of the world by taking morally correct and just stands as it did on the nuclear or trade issues. This position has now been given up in favour of narrow stands to protect our short-term interests. So, on the issue of environment we want to retain the right to increase pollution and, therefore, appear to be no different from others and are unable to assert strongly enough that the rich must consume less and pollute less to save the planet and help the poor.


Our elite has hardly shown concern for the poor in its mad rush for `growth at any cost, and to catch up with the West, with all costs to be borne by the poor and the environment. If we cut our emissions, we can set an example, especially to the rich nations to also drastically reduce their own consumption. It is possible that the rich nations will only use that extra space to increase their consumption further. Given that the environment is global, the problem would not go away. What would be the consequence of our emissions cut? Would we lag behind?


Indeed not. Our rapid growth (if the figures can be believed) is based on the growth of services, which has major components that have low-energy intensity compared to industry and modern agriculture. Further, if we focus on human development in ways other than growing consumption, like on education, health and culture, the output of material goods need not rise fast. The preservation of the environment itself leads to improved health and welfare.


For instance, we are using energy very wastefully and if we check this, we can have a given level of output at much less energy consumption. For instance, transportation needs much energy. In the pattern of development we have chosen, this need is being increasingly fulfilled by private motorised vehicles - cars and motor cycles. However, efficient public transportation can handle this at a fraction of the cost and less pollution, but the auto lobby comes in the way. We could also plan differently so that people could live close to their places of work and either walk or use bicycles and minimise motorised transport, wide roads, flyovers, etc, and save energy.


Our buildings could be environment-friendly, requiring less of cooling and heating. A large amount of energy is wasted due to non-standardisation of gadgets with consequent leakage, sparking and heating of the equipment and eventual burnout. If this is minimsed energy intensity would fall. Corruption leads to the theft of power from the lines in inefficient ways. Modern agriculture is energy intensive and polluting so that there is need for alternatives. Goods can be optimally moved through the railways, leaving only the short haul to the roads. We can promote collective consumption rather than private individual consumption.


In brief, even without sacrificing consumption, we can improve welfare and yet consume less energy. All this and much more was suggested in the Alternative Budget in 1994 but the elite has no place for it since it desires to have the Western life-style. If we can make people believe in their environment we may also convince them to consume less with even greater gains. As a nation, let us do what we can for our poor and our environment and for that we do not even need money or technology from the rich nations. This would show the rich nations up for what they are. Unfortunately, our elite lacks the imagination, has become more and more greedy and wants the easy wayout.








School vacations for me meant undertaking an arduous and seemingly unending journey to our farm in a non-decrepit village, to join my grand-parents where they tended to it. Time, as a factor, was inconsequential and the days yawned themselves out. Yet, I enjoyed my stay there.


In winters, the lure was greater when the fields were lush-green, with sprinkling of a splendid yellow colour of the mustard flowers and the sugarcane fields adding ruggedness to the landscape.


Early mornings drew me to the fields, when I could see the dewdrops perilously placed on the tip of the grass in an almost suicidal position and lovely cobwebs shining in the soft morning sunlight depicting the work of its creator. Another thing that fascinated me was a pair of grey long-legged cranes with red beaks, which unfailingly were a part of the landscape, majestically striding around the farm.


I would watch their graceful movements smitten by the sight as they would stretch their necks at a jaunty angle to give out a loud cry. The whole day they would lord the territory and in the evening they would fly against the orange skyline into the red glow of the sun as if flying into oblivion, to disappear for the night. While doing so, they would straighten their legs parallel to the ground, to form an extremely graceful posture of a perfect flight.


They came every year. I never bothered to chek up on ornithologists' view to learn more about them, lest it add a clinical and zoological odour to my fanciful creature. However, I learnt they came from afar.


I continued my winter sojourns at the farm, and so did the cranes and one year, I found to my amazement, three cranes strutting around. There was a young one with them, who took short half flights when left behind by the elders to catch up with them and they took it around the farm frequented by them so often.


In the evening, all three flew into the sunset and disappeared for the night. I realised later that this was the last flight of the older pair, as the next year, only a pair, leaner and not as full as the older cranes had returned — presumably the young crane with its newly acquired partner.


The older ones had not returned. Probably the age had consumed them or it had taken its toll on their strength.


It was, perhaps, nature's way of showing that life is a relay race where the old make way for the young while they take their flight into the sunset never to return leaving the younger progeny to continue.


As if on cue, that year my grandfather gave up active farming and came to settle down with us in Chandigarh. A little later my father died abruptly and the baton passed on to me.


I still go to the farm and take my sons along to make them have a feel of the earthy rustic life and to acquaint them with their roots. I show them the cranes, who still come there and who are now fully grown.


In a peculiar way, I have started to feel akin to the older cranes who had brought their young offspring to the farm to acquaint it with the existence of life, and one day as I watched the cranes disappear in the evening sun, I realised, that as I wait, it shall soon be my turn also to take a flight into the sunset and oblivion.








One year after Mumbai and seven dossiers later, the Pakistan threat quotient is still on the high side, given the stunning David Headley trail. An attack on India has been constrained by several factors, vitally the US hand, which could not prevent suicide terrorism against the Indian Embassy in Kabul.


After 9/11, non-state actors have removed the conventional firewall between intention and capabilities; and being unamenable to negotiation, dealing with them requires not just excellent human and technical intelligence but a swift and decisive response mechanism too.


In both these areas, India is still deficient which encourages jihadi terrorism to expand and prosper. Pakistan's military and intelligence establishments combine the anonymity of their patronage of terrorist groups with their WMD capability for the denial of this strategic asset. Further, the government has begun blaming India for the internal mayhem to reduce its own culpability.


Yet, surprisingly Pakistan has not taken any credit at Track I or II levels for the unprecedented record in India of a year free from terrorist strikes. It has repeatedly called for the resumption of the composite dialogue, suspended since 26/11, saying terrorists should not be allowed to keep the peace process as hostage. This line does not wash in Delhi where the bottom line has been watered down to action against the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba's seven plus their Amir, Hafiz Saeed.


Last month against this background, the German Friedrich Ebert Stiftung held in Singapore, its seventh round of India- Pakistan peace process to locate how best to revive the stalled dialogue. Here are some snapshots relating to Afghanistan and Pakistan (Af Pak)


The Pakistan expert on Afghanistan who has met Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar more times than anyone else said that both US and Pakistan had underestimated the Taliban they were fighting, due to poor intelligence. This is surprising as Gen Pervez Musharraf had recently claimed that the ISI has penetrated all the terrorist organizations in Pakistan and is particularly strong inside Afghanistan.


There are some straws in the wind that the tide may be turning, this expert said. The internet images of a young girl being flogged in Swat caused indignation and elicited widespread criticism in Pakistan.


The point was made that the Pakistan Taliban is very different from the Afghan Taliban: for the latter the priority is to get forces of occupation out of their land, while for the former, it is a tactical struggle for power.


Moreover, for the people of Balochistan, Swat and South Waziristan, Punjabi domination and the identification of Punjab with Pakistan has put into place a distrust of non-natives: and as many of those who want to impose shariah law in these regions in the guise of the Taliban are Uzbeks and non-Pakistani nationalities, a distrust of the Taliban elements is discernible in these three provinces.


In military terms, reliance on air power and heavy weapons by both countries had caused civilian casualties, displacement of civilians, destruction of property and infrastructure and alienation of the people. Both had resorted to peace accords when it was either not possible or unwise to fight the Taliban and its associates. Comparing the US-led Nato troop strength with the Soviet force levels in 1979 is untenable as only 65 per cent of the troops of the western alliance was engaged in actual combat.

The new US strategy will be people-friendly, protecting them rather than killing Taliban. Winning hearts and minds is basic to any counter-insurgency operation which the US military is reinventing in Afghanistan. India has used minimum force – almost never, air power and heavy artillery – towards bringing insurgents to the negotiating table. The carrot has been favoured over the stick. Pakistan has relied mainly on military means to quell insurgencies rather than the strategy of reconciliation and reintegration.


Reconciliation with the Taliban was unlikely to work as they believe they are winning. While 98 per cent of the Taliban are loyal to Mullah Omar, the use of private militias by the state would be fruitless. Mullah Omar will not annoy Islamabad as he needs sanctuaries in Pakistan. After 26/11 he said that were India to attack Pakistan the Taliban would stop the war in Afghanistan and join the Pakistan Army to defend the country.


There was disagreement between Indians and Pakistanis on the credentials of good and bad Taliban. For India there is no good Taliban – all are terrorists. Pakistan owes its strategic depth in Afghanistan and Kashmir to good Taliban though many Pakistanis felt that Kashmir is not the core issue any longer.


This is the first time the Pakistan Army, civilian government and civil society are on the same page in the war against terrorism. Still only 51 per cent continue to support the war but its ownership is not doubted as in the past.


There were few Pakistani takers for India-Pakistan cooperation rather than confrontation in Afghanistan. They are convinced that India was up to no good with its new-found generosity amounting to $1.2 b in developmental aid in Afghanistan and asked: where was India when Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan? The only dialogue Pakistan now wants is allaying its concerns over Indian activities circumscribing its interests in Afghanistan.


Surprisingly, a Pakistani delegate said that Islamabad must recognise that India as a regional power has a role to play in Afghanistan. Their respective agendas must be discussed to allay each others' concerns. Ideally they should undertake joint projects in sectors like IT, communication, power, health, etc. Such was the mixed picture on cooperation in Afghanistan.


Compared to the broad consensus on such a dialogue last year, this is a negative development reflecting the erosion of CBMs post-Mumbai. Pakistan's stand on not providing trade corridor for India to Afghanistan has also hardened despite the US-Pakistan-Afghanistan tripartite talks earlier this year where such a facility appeared feasible.


Finding common ground and common enemy for India to help Pakistan in its war against terrorism proved elusive. The Indian offer that Pakistan could relocate its troops from east to  west to intensify the army offensive against Taliban without fear of Delhi taking advantage was rejected on the grounds that after what happened in 1971 in East Pakistan, India could not be trusted. This too is a retrograde step signifying the total breakdown of trust. 


The suggestion by a Pakistani that Kashmir be put aside while helping stabilise Afghanistan was shot down by a fellow countryman as it contradicted Pakistan's case that resolving Kashmir was key to its active cooperation on the Western front.


Given the suspicion and mistrust over Af-Pak and Pakistan's reluctance to act against Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba's seven plus Hafiz Saeed, early revival of composite dialogue was considered a remote possibility. But given the avalanche of suicide terrorism in Pakistan, India was asked to extend the hand of friendship and resume official dialogue.








As China rises, Japan's economy has stalled, and its population is dwindling. The island nation – feared during the last century first as a military power, then as an economic conqueror – barely registers in the American imagination.


But Japan still matters. And despite the "crisis" set in motion by the electoral defeat of the party that had ruled for half a century, the United States has more to fear from Japanese defeatism – from its own uncertainty about whether it still matters – than from the assertiveness of its new government.


At a seminar in Tokyo last week organized by the German Marshall Fund and the Tokyo Foundation, and in separate interviews, one Japanese after another delivered variations on gloom, doom and pessimism. Polls confirm that this is no anomaly; in one taken by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper last spring, the three words offered most often to describe the current era were "unrest," "stagnation" and "bleak," as the paper's editor in chief, Yoichi Funabashi, noted recently in Foreign Affairs.


"Japan's presence in the international community is rapidly weakening and waning," one prominent businessman said this week. "We have to bring Japan back to high growth, but that possibility now is nil. ... There are heaps of difficulties facing Japan ... insurmountable ... Japanese people are so anxious. ... We don't need to remain a major country. ... `Small-nation Japan' is my thinking."


Japan's fiscal challenges are daunting, as is its declining birthrate. Yet the negativity seems overblown. Japan retains the world's second-largest national economy and will be third or fourth biggest for decades to come. It is the world's second-largest aid donor, the fifth-biggest military spender (despite a constitution that bars the waging of war) and a technological powerhouse.


It is a crucial player, and frequently America's closest ally, in international organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. And as the longest-standing and most successful democracy in the non-Western world, it is a hugely important role model, and potentially a leader, in supporting freedom and the rule of law.


That potential was sharply enhanced by the landslide victory of the Democratic Party of Japan in August, ending what one speaker at the seminar called the Liberal Democratic "shogunate." The Democrats have promised to disrupt the cozy relationship among bureaucrats, the ruling party and industry, and to govern with more public input and accountability.


But they're also disrupting the U.S.-Japan relationship. An agreement to realign U.S. Marine bases in Okinawa has been put on hold, despite what U.S. officials took as a promise from Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama ("Trust me," he privately told President Obama, according to Japanese officials) to implement the deal. The Democrats' coalition partners, as well as voters in Okinawa, loathe the pact.


"So we are in a situation where the U.S.-Japan alliance is being tested," Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada acknowledged.


Democratic Party officials have said they want to put the U.S.-Japan relationship on a more equal footing, and Hatoyama and others have at times gone further, suggesting a desire to improve relations with China while downgrading those with the United States. But Okada dismissed suggestions that the suspension of the base agreement reflects a deeper-seated resentment of America or a fundamental questioning of the alliance.


Citing North Korea's nuclear weapons and China's growing military, Okada said, "I don't think anyone would think that Japan on its own can face up to such risks. That is why we need the U.S.-Japan alliance. I don't think any decent politician would doubt that as a fact."


Frustrated by Hatoyama's amateurish handling of the issue, Obama administration officials are scrambling to come up with the right mix of tolerance for the coalition's inexperience and firmness on implementing an agreed-upon deal. They're right to insist on the importance of the military alliance, long a force for stability throughout the region.


But they shouldn't lose sight of the larger picture. For years now the United States has been trying to engage China's government in strategic dialogues and high-level commissions. It should do no less with Japan, its most important democratic ally in Asia, and the advent of an untested government still feeling its way provides both reason and opportunity to do so.


So far, Japan's new government has not defined policies that could restore economic growth and lift the country out of its funk. But America should be hoping that it can. And if it wants Japan to regain some confidence, it makes sense to treat Japan as though it matters. Because it does.


— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post







The country of the moent is Brazil, that melting pot of almost 200 million people. A thriving democracy, it has a hugely popular president and rapidly falling poverty. It recently won contests to host soccer's World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.


It is opening diplomatic missions all over the world. Its economy was one of the last into the financial crisis and one of the first to escape. And yet Brazil's achievements are vulnerable. To keep its marvelous success on track, Brazil may have to do something that horrifies its diplomats: Confront China.


Brazil's vulnerability comes from its currency, the real, which has jumped by a third against the dollar in the past year. A further rise could undermine exporters and make it impossible for domestic producers to compete with cheap imports, puncturing the vitality on which the Brazilian miracle is predicated. And a further rise seems all too possible. The forces driving up the real are not about to reverse themselves.


The first driver is the fragility of the U.S. economy, which causes the Fed to hold down interest rates, inducing capital to seek higher returns elsewhere. Brazil is a favorite destination: Its interest rates are high and financial conditions inspire confidence. Most forecasters expect the U.S. recovery to remain sluggish for the foreseeable future. So the logic of low U.S. interest rates probably won't change, and the upward pressure on the real is likely to continue.


The second force driving up the real is China. If economic logic prevailed, the real would fall against the Chinese yuan: China has a vast current account surplus, while Brazil has a deficit. But last year China re-pegged its currency to the dollar, so the yuan has followed the dollar down, hammering Brazil's ability to compete against Chinese producers.


Meanwhile, the illogically weak yuan hurts producers in other countries, encouraging central banks to keep interest rates low and driving yet more capital into Brazil. This pressure from China is likely to grow along with China's economy.


What can Brazil do about its rearing currency? It could cut interest rates to deter money from coming in, but Brazil's economy is hot and lower rates would risk inflation. It could fight capital inflows with taxes — it has already experimented with this option — but such restrictions tend to leak like umbrellas made of icing.


It could intervene in the foreign-exchange market, selling reals and buying dollars, but then scarce Brazilian savings would get tied up in the depreciating greenback. Or Brazil could protect its industry with tariffs. But protectionism could spark a cycle of retaliation.


The grim truth is that Brazil's domestic tools aren't powerful enough to stop its currency from threatening its success. With U.S. unemployment around 10 percent and an additional 7 percent of the U.S. workforce obliged to get by on part-time jobs, there is no way the Fed can raise interest rates to rescue Brazil from its predicament.


— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post








The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has revealed a number of serious drawbacks in the implementation of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) in Assam. In its fifth year, the Mission's success has been hindered by the lack of decentralized planning and poor fund management, resulting in below-par achievement of targets. This is notwithstanding a few positives such as increase in institutional deliveries, a much-improved cure rate of TB, and primary immunization of children. But the avowed objective of community-owned, decentralized planning has remained elusive even after several years of the project's implementation since 2005. Some basic background works including survey at village, block and district levels and time-bound action plans were not made. Another area of concern has been poor and anomalous fund management. Not just that the State Government failed to release its share of funds at times but funds were released in excess of prescribed norms and even to non-existent health centres. All this points to widespread corruption – something corroborated by the shocking fact that even the basic accounting records were not maintained at both State and district levels. This, in fact, could be a major factor behind the uninspiring report card of the Mission on various counts. Maternal and reproductive healthcare which constitutes a critical component of the project, too, remained largely neglected.

The CAG findings certainly do not give a thumbs-up to the State Government's trumpeting on its perceived successes in the rural health sector. The project's implementation leaves lots of room for corrupt practices and it is for the Government, the Health Department in particular, to ensure anomaly-free implementation for the next couple of years. With liberal Central funding, the ground results vis-à-vis the rural health scenario should have been far more visible. It is regrettable that the State Government has fared poorly even in spreading awareness and dissemination of information regarding availability of and access to healthcare facilities among the rural populace. Health care being a traditionally neglected area in the State, the authorities will have to exhibit greater commitment in putting the ailing sector back on the rails. While the past few years have seen some improvement, a lot still remains to be done. More than anything else, it will be a test of the Government's willingness and sincerity. The Government would do well to treat the CAG's recommendations in the urgency they deserve for removing the lacunae in the project's implementation. Rural healthcare presents one of the biggest challenges before the Government. Standardized medical care for the entire populace will be critical to addressing the deep-rooted problems afflicting the sector.






Guwahati, the premier city of the North East is witnessing a rapid and unplanned growth. The population of the city is increasing by leaps and bounds. The direct fallout of the haphazard growth has taken its toll on the civic system of the city. Growth without basic civic amenities does not augur well for a city. And that's what is happening to Guwahati. For a significant section of the city's population the basic civic amenities simply do not exist. Supply of safe drinking water, garbage disposal, drains, street light, have almost become insurmountable problems for the authorities. Grandiose plans are often announced but they mostly remain on papers and are seldom translated into reality. Another problem which has become a bane for the city is the pathetic public transport system. The public transport system has failed miserably to cater to the needs of the ever growing commuters in the city. There are city buses, trekkers, autos and slow moving vehicles like rickshaws in the city. But most of them ply on their own whims and fancy leaving the commuters in the lurch.

Though most of the important roads of the city are covered by the city bus network they are not fully adequate. The city buses are mostly overcrowded creating inconvenience to the commuters. Moreover they seldom stick to any schedule. Unauthorized stoppages in the busy roads by the city buses end up in creating traffic snarls. As the city is growing rapidly, it is time city buses are introduced in new routes. The trekker service in the city too has failed miserably to ease the problems of the commuters. The trekkers are brazenly flouting all safety norms and regulations. Overcrowding trekkers with commuters clinging on precariously have become a common sight. The rash driving of trekkers has contributed in spurt of road mishaps in the city and the authorities are oblivious to it. The fares of the autos in the city are yet to be structured. In this context the rapid transport system for Guwahati has come in as a ray of hope. Under the scheme the Government plans to introduce new bus routes with scientific stoppages. The Government has initiated moves to add 200 new buses including 35 air-conditioned ones to meet the ever increasing rush of commuters. Apart from adding to the fleet of buses the Government should chalk out a comprehensive plan to ease the woes of the commuters of this premier city.






The government has proposed to set up six Spices Parks to establish common infrastructure facilities for cleaning, grading, processing, packing facilities etc, primarily to empower the spices farmers through value-addition and quality improvement of spices, along with backward linkage in various parts of the country, including Gujarat. They are at Guntur (Andhra Pradesh); Sivaganga (Tamil Nadu); Puttadi, Idukki (Kerala); Rajasthan, Gujarat and in Uttar Pradesh. Spice Park at Puttadi is near completion. The proposal for Spices Park in Gujarat has not made any headway because of difficulty in getting the required land. This information was given by Jyotiraditya M Scindia, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, in a written reply in the Lok Sabha







An ideology seldom matters when a situation arises for a compromise in order to ensure the collective interest of a nation. In politics and diplomacy there is no permanent friend or enemy. But very often than not, socialist China is accused of sacrificing its socialistic ideology in the era of economic globaliption. In the wake of /developing friendship between US and China, the Chinese ideology as well as the Chinese situation need to be objectively analysed in order to find out the veracity of this accusation.

Needless to mention that unlike India, Chinese entry in to economic globalization was preceded by a thorough study of the pre-globalization world political and economic scenario and the inevitability of acceptance of globalization at the behest of imperialist power. They too could foresee the effect of the new order on their own economy. Although the Chinese made a rapid stride in the path of economic development, it reached some sort of an economic saturation level. An open trade with any world nation stood as a priority for its economic growth. In the meantime, new set of agreements and rules in international trade governed by WTO regulations became a reality. The Chinese had little alternative than to accept it and accordingly geared up its own economic framework to match with the new challenge posed by the new economic world order. People's China chalked out a strategy to join the fray with a focussed Chinese interest. Accordingly, before acceptance of economic liberalization it made its own regulation in order to ensure the Chinese national interest in any open international trade dealings by making stringent laws and reforms but difficult to challenge in name of trade barrier. At the same time, they spr out ead red carpet to welcome any private investor desirous of setting up manufacturing plants in China with easy terms and conditions. Naturally, FDI flew to China in abundance. Yet, unlike India, they did not undermine the role of public sector at all and ensured the active role of the State in controlling the economy. If objectively analiged, China has benefited from the globalization process. It has sustained a high economic growth even in the recessive world economy.

It would be worth mentioning that unlike the Chinese, the Indian polity did not have any vision with an innate national interest before opting to join the fray for free world trade. If we analyze the pre-globalization picture of Indian economy, it was rather a compulsion for the then bankrupt Indian economy to succumb to the pressure of the unipolar world economic regime in lieu of foreign loan we badly starved for in order to save the economy. Worse of all even after being a part and parcel of world economic order, the Indian polity never thought of its implication on our economy in terms of our national interest and equitable growth. China preserved and strengthened the public sector as the mainstay of its economy and entrapped FDI in their country. Parallelly, finance capital market too, grew, yet there was a striking difference. Our policy makers are bent upon diluting the state share in the public sector and have been paving the way for foreign finance capital to take full control of our economy. Notwithstanding the fact, that private finance capital could not do the same but for the Indian public sector as a whole. The resilience shown by Indian economy during the sub-prime crisis induced economic recession is a glowing example to cite with in this context. Our policy is helping to make our economy more private finance capital controlled one in contrast to Chinese economy still dominated by state finance capital and FDI in the form of tangible productive plants. Such investments could not be flighted out of China at any time neither could it be closed down because such profitable ventures need to have a long life to ensure economic gain for the private investor.

In the course of time, multinational's stake in China grew to such an extent that they had little alternative than to extend their sincere friendship towards the People's China due to economic reasons. In the wake of Chinese exports dominating the world market backed by a Chinese strategy of devaluing its currency, Washington was badly shaken. Belatedly Obama administration as a part of its diplomatic strategy to cajole red China has not only acknowledged China as the South East Asian leader but has made an appeal to play its role in resolving the Kashmir issue too. Naturally, it drew sharp reaction from the Indian government, obviously for the reason that all its assiduousness to be a strategic partner with USA by formulating all sorts of pro American policies even by keeping aside the greater national interest could not convince the US administration!

US diplomacy in respect of China has made yet another breakthrough for the pertinent issue of climate change which has cornered us further. Till the other day the focus was on India-China consensus on a global policy on climate change with emphasis on financial and technology support from the advanced nations to the developing nations. US administration has been dodging the issue and was reluctant to sign any protocol on climate change since the Kyoto summit obviously for an economic reason. It was expected that in the ensuing weather summit in Copenhagen, a joint Sino-Indian strategy would bind the US administration in this matter for a collective cause of the mankind. Yet an abrupt and unilateral declaration of China (subsequent to President Oba a's China visit) to cut down its greenhouse gas emission level by 40-45 per cent by 2020 came as a jolt for India. The USA too has announced a target of reduction of 17-20 per cent by 2020. However the moot question of financial support of the rich nations to the poor nations with pressing energy demands and technology transfer seems to have been sidelined much to the succour of US administration having per capita carbon emission exceeding 20.1 ton in the meantime. Therefore, Indian endeavour to evolve a global strategy to resolve the issue seems to be belied. Worse of all India may be bound to reduce its carbon level at the cost of economic growth..

A closer Sindo-Indian relationship was a necessity of time in order to ensure the bilateral interest of the two prominent south-east nations. But somehow it has not clicked for various reasons. Undoubtedly, in a pluralistic society public opinion hardly crystallizes in the midst of sectarian political divide which has affected the masses. The parochial interest and likes and dislikes of our political leaders invariably become the driving force in politics apart from the crucial role of media. Whenever the question of closer ties between these two countries is raised or an endeavour is made for a dialogue for the sake of ensuring an Indian national interest there is always antithesis created in the media to foil it. It is the boundary dispute, Chinese incursion into Indian territory or the Tibet issue and Dalai Lama which became a media hype throwing cold water on the diplomatic endeavour for rapprochement. Interestingly, the USA has declared Tibet as an integral part of China in the midst of strong Indian media hype on human rights violation in Tibet by the Chinese regime. Therefore, capitalism or socialism should not be an issue for us in our foreign policy or in diplomacy. It is the overall interest of the nation and the people which should be the focus for any agreement or pact the country makes at any world forum. Both the American and the Chinese leaderships are well aware of this reality unlike us because our leaders are yet to discard their strong selfish interests. In the changing global scenario a new equation of China-USA co-operation has grown which would corner India further in South East Asian diplomacy. Our ruling polity should seriously cogitate on it by dispelling subservience to any dogma which might come in between.







Over the years India has been living on the principle Vasudaiva Kutumbakam and has forgotten the fundamental truth that a strong military and internal security can only preserve the principle of peaceful coexistence. In the Ramayana age the hermits were happily gobbled up by the demons in the forest until Ram and his brother entered and eliminated them. India is surrounded by politically turbulent nations like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Recently, Talibans have threatened to put India in their hit list. China has been building massive military infrastructures on the India-China border and in the Indian ocean with a clear objective of playing the big brother role. USA's dependence on Pakistan's intelligence inputs to fight Talibans has compelled USA to strengthen Pakistan's military muscles which has put pressure on India to increase its defence allocation. Recently, Chinese soldiers dared to stop India's road construction work at Leh. Over the decades, India has shown unnatural behavior in dealing with its border problems. Indian border states are highly infested with insurgency and cross border terrorism. Assam's former Governor Lt. Gen S K Sinha in his letter to the President of India gave a clear picture as to how Bangladeshi migrants emerged as a majority in bordering districts of Bangaladesh and would sooner or later demand merger of those districts with Bangladesh. In 45 Assembly constituencies and four Lok Sabha constituencies Bangladeshi voters clearly influence the results. India can very well do some interventions to address poverty in Bangaldesh but in no way it should allow Bangladeshi citizens to settle in India. The entry of huge quantity of Chinese arms in India shows all is not well on our border States. In 2006 and 2007, Indian security agencies seized nearly 4000 small arms and light weapons in North East, Jammu and Kashmir-nearly half of which were China made. Jane Intelligence Review(JIR) said China had replaced Cambodia and Thailand as the main suppliers of weapons to insurgent groups in India's North East and Myanmar. The US Department Report on terrorism says 70000 innocent civilians have been killed in Kashmir. More than five lakh Kashmiri natives have left their homes due to terrorism. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recognised Naxalism as No.1 internal security threat.

Many analysts have found corruption has impoverished the tribal region and helps Naoists to politicise poverty. India lost more senior army officers in fighting Maoists, insurgency and cross border terrorism than the number of senior officers killed in the three wars India fought. A group of terrorists entered Mumbai, mapped the area for a month and successfully achieved their mission. The loss of precious lives of senior security and Army personnel and hundreds of innocent people due to terrorist and Maoist attacks attributes to India's lack of will to evolve a practical strategy. Terrorism of any form drains out tax payers' money, threatens innocent lives, livelihood, reduce productivity hours, triggers demographic change and weakens the nation from within.

There is no other option but to build a strong cohesive India. Germany, Israel, France, Britain and US have a strong national will to counter terrorism and their recruitment of security personnel is purely on merit and there is no concept of regional recruitment which restricts the scope of nation wide search for quality people. When the safety of innocent people is questioned India must recruit security personnel and police purely on the basis of merit. Human intelligence input at grass roots level could have avoided Mumbai attack on 26/11 by the terrrorists. Any word stained with hatred for humanity if emanates from any place of worships must be stopped. As per US Home Land Security Law, the Attorney General has power to snatch citizenship if any body has been found to have contributed material support to organisations deemed by government to be terrorists. The Attorney General can deport a citizen if he finds him as a threat to the nation. Instead of pleading before passive international forums and making an effort to update developed nations about India's plight, India has to do its homework well. The nation must have to achieve political inclusion so that the influence of political family, money and muscles will wane duirng election. Lack of political inclusion is the reason why we don't have a true inspiring mass leader who can transcend the barrier of caste, language, religion and minoritism. Today, Indian political class has reversed Mahatma Gandhi's life long struggle to eradicate caste system. Today's leaders shamelessly cling to caste, language, majoritism and minoritism to win election. This has provided psychological advantage to terrorists.

A strong India is unimaginable when 5000 children below five year die every day due to minor diseases. One out of three women in India is underweight and India is home to half of the world's illeterate people. India's Human Development Index is as low as Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Botswana and Pakistan as per UNDP Report 2009. With 20 agro ecological regions and 60 sub regions India can easily become food sufficient if its rich biodiversity, the genetic quality of its plants and animals are preserved. Hundreds of edible herbs and shrubs have disappeared from Indian villages due to the genetically modified seeds and plants which is one of the reasons for food shortage. India must develop physical infrastructure for low cost, less time consuming outdoor games which will build the much needed stamina and physical courage among our youth. Though India is a treasure trove of moral science material, there are more preachers than actual practitioners.

Look at the endless production of cheap hindi films which have vulgarised sex with the objective of selling the products to a mass of illeterate people. Look how Hollywood has produced a large number of inspiring classic adventure movies which epitomise the nation's indomitable spirit. Only morally and physically strong people can build strong army, ensure internal security, protect the old and the helpless people, provide good governance and increase productivity.







The government will spend an extra Rs 6,500 crore this fiscal to pay bonus on grain procurement prices and augment supplies of domestic and imported fertilisers. A spurt in the subsidy bill over and above the budget estimate of Rs 1,02,469 crore could hamper fiscal consolidation and calls for comprehensive subsidy reform. And that cannot simply mean raising the price of foodgrains sold through fair-price shops, not when food price inflation is precariously close to 20%.


More open market sale of foodgrains and imports could ease the pressure on prices in the near term. Competition in the physical distribution of foodgrains and fertilisers and direct transfer of the subsidy to the target beneficiaries should be the final goal of reform. Consumers should be able to buy food/fertiliser from a source that offers the least cost, resulting from competition and efficiency gains in the supply chain of the respective commodity. For transfer of money directly to the beneficiary, bank accounts or smart cards supported by the unique identity under preparation would be ideal.


Such a system will be far more efficient than the current practice of reimbursing the Food Corporation of India (FCI) for the cost it incurs to procure, store and distribute foodgrains. FCI would still have a major role, of maintaining a buffer stock, to ensure that the government can intervene to prevent a spike in food prices. Of course, a part of the buffer stock could be virtual, maintained through regular sale and purchase of grain futures.

Studies have shown that the returns on an extra rupee spent of fertiliser subsidy are far lower than the returns on government spending on, say, irrigation, rural roads or R&D in agriculture. The government has signalled its intention to move to a regime of nutrient-based subsidy, transferred directly to farmers. However, it has not shown the courage to move from intent to action.

Ultimately, the farmer has to be integrated with the market, with some assurance on the price that he would get for his produce. Beyond that minimum, for the farmer to negotiate a good price with organised buyers who would manage efficient supply chains leading up to organised retail to the end consumer, the farmers would need to be organised themselves, whether as a cooperative, a la Amul, or into companies.







The sole clear, underlying fact in the mess of claims, counter-claims, reports and refutations that have marked investigations into the Shopian case that shook Kashmir a few months ago, is that a huge disconnect exists between ordinary Kashmiris and the state. The CBI, which had been called in to investigate the alleged rape and murder of two women in Shopian after the state government had swiftly dismissed the allegations at first, has, of course, largely upheld the Omar Abdullah administration's version of events.

The CBI's clean chit to the four policemen arrested in the case, and its actually filing a chargesheet against 13 people for misleading people and fabricating evidence — including the brother of one of the victims — in turn, could initiate another round of protests and turmoil similar to what was witnessed when the Omar regime first claimed the two women had simply drowned. Thus, Kashmir, after a brief hiatus, could resume its lurch from crisis to crisis.

And the only apparent remedy for the disconnect that repeatedly creates such a situation would be to sincerely follow up on measures such as the reduction of troops in the Valley, discussing the validity of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, and engaging wider sections of society — including the separatists — in a dialogue.

For, given that the web of inconsistencies, bungling and ubiquitous 'vested interests' might ensure that the truth of what happened in Shopian might for ever exist as it usually does in Kashmir — as conflicting local and official versions — it is clear that the very reason the people blame the security forces is that the circumstances for such incidents to occur exist, as well as the fact that such incidents have happened before.

Given the preponderant role of the security forces in the lives of ordinary Kashmiris, sites of violent conflict have been created. And instances such as Shopian only deepen that conflict and the Kashmiri sense of a denial of justice. It is likely that the Shopian fracas will play out for some time yet. But only political will to seek a resolution of the underlying tensions, perhaps mediated through incremental though steady measures, can restore some balance.







Drinking three cups of coffee a day cuts your diabetes risk by 25%, finds a study. Drinking four cups of tea, apparently, also has the same effect. The sensible thing, then, of course is to drink four cups of tea and three cups of coffee: you cut your diabetes risk by 50%.

Of course, to drink such quantities of these bitter beverages, you would need to add some milk and a little, just a teeny little, bit of sugar to each cup. If doubts over all those cumulative calories begin to niggle, there's another study to reassure you — a cup of coffee packs as many antioxidants as one orange.

But then, no harm in popping an orange as well, just in case. Now, one principal function of vitamin C, which just sloshes around inside an orange, is to help the body absorb iron. If you already have taken the trouble to ingest a lot of vitamin C, you might as well get hold of some dietary iron as well. That means red meat, or well, at least spinach or beetroot. As a compromise, you pack the lot into a sandwich, choosing brown bread, for the fibre.

If you're making such huge concessions to health already, you're probably justified in slathering on a blob of butter to that coarse bread and layering it with perhaps a thin slice of cheese — you know these things are good for you, after all, people have been eating them for ages. Now if you feel a pang of guilt over the fat in the meal, the logical thing to do is to consume something that will break the fat down. Red wine, a study has found, lowers your risk of getting a heart attack. So that's a safe choice.

Another study has found that whisky has a similar function. Set theory will tell you that if either study has got it wrong, but not both, the only way to ensure you have the right solution is to create an overlap between the two. A glass of this, a glass of that, a bough, a book and you — all in the cause of fighting diabetes. Raise a toast to those studies, never mind if some of them are sponsored by the manufacturers of the foods whose virtues they extol!






MUMBAI: Until recently, investment advisors were apprehensive of investing money in companies with low free-float (non-promoter holding). However, model investment portfolios of investors are changing structurally, as companies with high promoter holdings are yielding better than companies with low promoter holding and government undertakings.

In the past three years, A-group companies (with high promoter holding) like Sesa Goa, Shree Renuka Sugar, Jindal Steel, Bhushan Steel, Shriram Transport, Welspun Gujarat have returned 180-845%. Index stocks and sector frontliners, where promoters hold equity stake between 30% and 80%, like Tata Steel, TCS, M&M, Wipro, Bharti Airtel, Hindalco, Grasim Industries, Tata Motors and ACC have averaged a 20% compounded return over the past three years.

Some market watchers say three-year returns may not be a fair benchmark, as the market was passing through a recessionary phase and also witness to 'index selling pressure' during the considered period. But there are others who feel companies headed by entrepreneurs and family-owned businesses (FOBs) tend to do well over a longer time. Different ownership structures lead to different performances. Companies with higher promoter holding — with sound management experts at the top — outperform multinational companies and PSUs over a longer term, they opine.


"Family firms are the fastest-growing companies in India, with profits growing at almost 30% over an eight-year period. There is potential for several FOBs to double their growth over the next few years," said Bharat Shah, CEO, ASK Investment Managers. Highlighting this conviction, ASK Wealth has also launched a 'Indian Entrepreneurship Portfolio' (a PMS scheme starting at Rs 50 lakh) for its wealthy clients.

If one analyses market shareholding data, family firms comprise nearly 70% of India's market capitalisation. The belief, among experts favouring high promoter shareholding companies, is that FOBs have higher operating margins than their PSU or MNC peers. The returns on equity on all the three categories — PSUs, MNCs and FOBs — are converging to more or less to similar levels, with MNCs showing a downtrend.

FOB-backers also list sound capital efficiency and aggressive capex plans (initiated by high promoter-holding companies) to strengthen their claims. The logical conclusion (among backers of family businesses) is that promoters having large shareholding will be more concerned about their business than a trust-appointed CEO.

The flip-side, however, is that FOBs could be vulnerable to nepotism and biased approach, corporate governance issues, capital allocation problems and control retention concerns. "The quality of management team and corporate governance take precedence over the level of promoter holdings. While high promoter holdings may reflect their confidence in the business prospects, it also brings about liquidity issues due to relatively lower float," said Sivasubramanian KN, head-equity portfolio management, Franklin Templeton Investments.

According to Mr Sivasubramanian, performance would depend on the size of business and the specific dynamics of a sector. While MNCs have underperformed Indian companies in the pharma sector, FMCG companies like Nestle are putting up a relatively strong performance. BHEL is a good example of a PSU company doing relatively well, he added.







MUMBAI: It may be behind the National Stock Exchange (NSE) by a wide a margin in volumes, but on Tuesday, the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) tried to steal a march over its arch rival by advancing its trading hours by 10 minutes to 9:45 am. The new timing will be effective from December 18, 2009.

The move surprised the market, as BSE was perceived to be opposed to the extension of trading hours. Asia's oldest bourse too made it clear that the latest move was aimed at improving liquidity. "By opening 10 minutes early, we hope to increase the focus on the launch of mid-month derivatives contracts this Friday. This should be looked at in the context of various initiatives taken to bring liquidity back to BSE," said Madhu Kannan, chief operating officer, BSE.

The exchange has recently got the Sebi approval, to start a new expiry cycle for its stock F&O contracts different from that of NSE. Contrary to market expectations, NSE did not react to BSE's move immediately.

"We haven't yet taken a decision on changing (advancing or extending) trading hours. We will do it after consultation with broker-members," said NSE officials. But brokers feel it's a matter of time, before NSE, too, aligns its timings with that of BSE. NSE has a 75% market share in the cash segment, and is a near monopoly in the derivatives segment. On a normal day, it may not lose much volumes by opening 10 minutes behind its competitor.

But on days when the market is expected to react to major developments — local or global — straight away on opening, BSE prices will set the benchmark. For instance, if the circuit-breaker is activated on BSE within five minutes of opening, NSE traders may not get a chance to react. Despite longer trading hours, the block deal window on BSE will open at 9:55 am, till it gets approval from the regulator to activate it at 9:45 am.

The block deal window is used for negotiated trades by institutions, and the deals have to be done in a price range of (negative) 1% to 1% over the previous close. The Sebi rule states that the block deal window can be kept open "for a limited period of 35 minutes from the beginning of trading hours i.e. 9:55 am to 10:30 am". If prices move sharply during the first 10 minutes of trading, the 1% price band restriction may be rendered irrelevant, thus hampering block deals on BSE.

Further, this may result in hampering the early morning activity in BSE's block deal window, as after 10 minutes, stock prices may move over from the ruling market price/previous day closing price. As per rules, orders may be placed in this window under these parameters.

Sayee Srinivasan, head of products strategy at BSE, told ET that the exchange is talking to Sebi on operational issues and is hopeful that it will receive permission to open the block deal window at 9:45 a.m.

But not everybody is sure whether the move will help the bourse increasing turnover. "Unless there is enough liquidity, nothing much will change," says Vikram Bhatt, director, Ajmera Associates. "This is purely an academic exercise to satisfy those who want to extend market timings. Indian bourses want to ape global exchanges by increasing the trading time to boost their turnover. But they should look at Indian realities."








The market has recently seen the re-rating of small companies in the FMCG and pharma sectors. FMCG players Dabur India and Emami witnessed the stocks of their recently-acquired companies, Fem Care Pharma and Zandu Pharma getting re-rated. Similarly, pharma companies, Cadila Healthcare and Elder Pharma, have seen a lot of price action in the stocks of Zydus Wellness and Elder Health Care, respectively which were hived-off into independent companies respectively.

For a small pharma company with a handful of branded products, getting acquired by leading FMCG companies is obviously good news. The market has taken note of this in the case of Fem Care Pharma (acquired by Dabur India) and Zandu Pharma (bought by Emami). The FMCG parent is better placed to provide a good distribution platform to the products of the pharma company and also helps it to expand its reach.

In contrast, pharma companies hiving off their over-the-counter product business into separate units and listing them is also good news for the investors of the parent companies. Both Cadila Healthcare and Elder Pharma have done so and now each has a listed fledgling FMCG company – Zydus Wellness and Elder Health Care, respectively. For a pharma company, separating its branded-OTC business from its generic drugs business unlocks a lot of value hidden in the former business. And the stock market seems to have taken warmly to this value unlocking as is evident from the run-up seen in the stock prices of these fledgling FMCG companies.

Zydus Wellness' stock price has witnessed a sharp rise of 347% in the past one year. It has significantly outperformed the Sensex, whose 74% returns over the same period appear relatively modest. Elder Health Care has also outperformed the Sensex, rising 127%. Zandu Pharma has risen 37% while Fem Care Pharma has shown the least increase of 15% over the past year. Interestingly, most of the price appreciation in case of Fem Care Pharma was witnessed between August and December 2008, as the stock witnessed a surge of 172% during the period.

Once these stocks get re-rated, they will command valuations more fitting to a small-sized branded players in the FMCG space. The performance of their respective businesses will then decide the future valuations of these companies.








As son of the late-night talk show pioneer Larry Finley, Guy Finley grew up among Hollywood celebrities. At an early age, he became a song writerand rock artist, and several of his songs were recorded by popular artists such as Diana Ross and Debbie Boone. For all its razzmatazz, Finley was dissatisfied with showbiz. He felt something vital was missing from his personal life.

So he abandoned his music career and like a modern Siddhartha, went in search of spiritual teachings, to investigate the true nature of success through a heightened state of self-awareness with masters in India and the Far East.
His search continued in the US in the 1980s, and he ended up studying with Vernon Howard, the noted spiritual teacher who likened inner liberation to a ridding process. Howard also claimed that new life could only be found through awareness, and that the human ego was a barrier to this awareness.

It was this false self — a fictitious collection of self-images or pictures about who we think we are — that needed to be jettisoned for inner enlightenment to occur. In the 1990s, with Howard's encouragement, Finley finally discovered his true calling as a successful author of spiritual books.

Like Howard's teachings, Finley's philosophy combines Christian mysticism with eastern wisdom and Jungian psychology. In his recent bestseller, The Secret of Letting Go, for example, he explains that the spiritual work of letting go and growing into our 'native holiness' is unlike any other kind of effort we will ever have to make.

"It starts with embracing — and then daring to act upon — the understanding that nothing can be added to our True Self," he adds. "It entails freedom from the burden of false responsibilities; true reconciliation with lovers, friends and family; the grace to forgive old foes completely and a growing sense of a loving and compassionate intelligence unbound by passing time: these gifts and more come to those who learn to let go."

That is what I have learned, Guy Finley emphasises: the missing half of our lives is letting go. Blessed are those who make this spiritual discovery. Their lives are fulfilled effortlessly. "Breathing in would be worthless without exhaling," is his epiphany. "So, think of letting go as learning to take part in the very breath of life, something that's as natural to who you truly are as it is for the Sun to shine."







The ministry of corporate affairs, under the leadership of Salman Khurshid, has become proactive on corporate social responsibility (CSR), in addition to its charge on corporate governance. Obviously, the two are different from each other and must not be put in the same basket. Corporate governance involves regulating a corporate that has chosen to list on the stock market and, thus, has major responsibilities towards its shareholders. Therefore, mandatory laws, statutes and accounting norms are invoked to bring transparency and accountability.

On the other had, CSR is a voluntary activity by a company, listed or privately-owned, to serve bigger goals of society, beyond its routine market functions. In fact, India Inc is taking several initiatives in the space of CSR for the welfare of society. Ficci, for the last 10 years, has been recognising industry's CSR initiatives through an annual CSR award. The question here is whether the voluntary activity of CSR can be spurred through fiscal incentives.

Interestingly, many fiscal measures already exist in our Income-Tax Act. If a corporate donates funds to an approved NGO for social projects, it is eligible for 50% deduction of that amount, and 100% if it funds a not-for-profit organisation (registered under Section 25 of the Companies Act). A stellar example of this nature is the creation of the Ficci Aditya Birla Centre for Excellence in CSR, paid for by companies of the Aditya Birla group. Similarly, if a company contributes to an approved scientific research association, it can get up to 125% deduction.

The moot point is: should we have more of such exemptions to attract larger number of corporates into the CSR net? Certainly. We may have to provide weighted deduction of 150% or 125% to motivate enough for encouraging corporates to make such voluntary CSR contributions.

This could possibly be done by inserting a new clause in either section 35(2AA) or section 35(2AB), to provide for 150% deduction of the amount paid to the approved institution/NGOs involved in CSR. With such bold measures to promote CSR, the UPA government will truly live up to its pledge for inclusion of the underprivileged and usher in a new paradigm of private-public partnership (PPP).

A short-term fund is better than tax incentives

What started as philanthropy and grew into feel-good or risk-mitigation initiatives by companies is evolving into business models that co-create value for themselves and society. CSR may not be the best term for such a model, but these private sector initiatives are now becoming central to business strategy. As part of a group of development professionals supported by the government that is drafting CSR guidelines for public dissemination, I find that best practices in such linkage programmes are still evolving.

A business case should be made to establish financial benefits for all stakeholders and leverage strengths of all parties through meaningful partnerships. Experience shows that such initiatives are successful if they concentrate on areas where a company has a strong influence, either business-related or geographical, than initiatives that may be well-meaning but distant from its core business.

With its vast developmental needs combined with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, the country is fast emerging as one of the leaders in innovating such business models. However, sustainable models of scale are just a few. What can be done to support such initiatives where costs and risks are high and financial returns low while attempting to minimise misuse and for incentives not to become a detriment to developing genuine CSR?

Instead of a tax-based incentive mechanism, one thought is to set up a short-term fund to catalyse innovation, disseminate learning and encourage more companies to come forward. The fund could be set up with contributions from the government, private sector and donors to be managed by industry and/or their representative bodies with an independent investment committee. The funding could be based on outputs to be agreed, for example, income increased for a certain segment of society, or part-funded upfront while the rest is performance-based with strong monitoring and evaluation.


These fund-sponsored initiatives should dovetail into the other economic and social needs and programmes, for example, related to skills development or healthcare. In any case, I look forward to seeing the Indian business model evolve to tackle the country's developmental challenges and be recognised internationally.








Orchid Chemicals has sold its Injectable Business to Hospira. K Raghavendra Rao, MD, Orchid Chemicals talks to ET NOW about the deal. If you can tell us this deal valued at a premium towards market cap. So what really explains the valuation as far as this deal is concerned?


Valuation has to be seen in the context of what Hospira would like to do with this business as well as what value we have created by doing these products, which are very niche and which are very difficult to make products, so they should not be judged by the current year profitability alone. So they have a very good future for these products and we continue to develop our relationship with Hospira by doing this kind of an alliance. We have an alliance with them. We are extending it into different markets by doing this deal.

Also if you can tell us what does this transaction mean for your shareholders?

It means a few good things for the shareholders. First of all 400 million cash is coming into the company, 95% of that will be in our hands by March once the formalities are completed. Most of it will be used to repay the debt, so the balance sheet will improve significantly and still it will leave enough cash for the company to pursue new growth opportunities as we have been able to create Injectable opportunities in the last four years. With 400 million cash, we should be able to create a new niche opportunity in the next four years.

Also is the money going to the promoters or the company and will it attract capital gains tax?

Money is not going to the promoters. It is obviously going to the company and it is not changing the equity structure, so it is not going to any shareholders directly. It is coming into the company and in that sense, it is going to be beneficial for all the shareholders and this transaction is EPS accretive next year because we will have more products and more quantities and also catering to more markets with and outside of Hospira association and hence it augurs very well for the company going forward.

You also have certain FCCB obligations that are due by December 31st, so will you be using some of the money from this transaction for that payment?

We do not have due in FCCB by December 31st, they are due in 2012. Of course FCCB repurchase window is closing around 31st December. There is no payment due to be made to FCCB holders at the moment but this money is coming in only in March, so for this window, that money cannot be used.

Also Injectables currently contributes nearly half of your revenues. So selling that business, will it bring down your balance sheet? How will you explain it to your shareholders?

Well, the dosage form revenue is what we will be losing but the bulk active revenue will be getting added to this because so far bulk active sale was an inter-unit transaction. We were recognising only the dosage form sales, so the difference between the dosage form sale and the bulk sale at a run rate will be about 90 million dollars top line and about 35-37 million dollars of EBITDA immediate drop but that still be handsomely made up in the next year by doing a couple of things by expanding the relationship with Hospira itself. We will be adding more quantities and products and more markets. Also you have to look at a net profit level because about 40 million in interest costs alone we will be saving in the next one year. So the net profit is going to be extremely positive for the company.

Okay and also how do you expect to expand the scope of this Injectable business? What prospects does it have if you can just quantify it over the next year?

Injectable business will be pursued by Hospira, backend supported by us and Injectable business is continuing to go to grow in the next few years and they have certain proprietary product delivery mechanism for injectables in which we will participate by way of APA supplies for those projects as well. So in addition to doing Injectables, we also have other paragraph for non-antibiotic products where we are first to file. So in the matter of about one year or so, we should be able to make up the loss.

And what finally clinched the deal in favour of Hospira? We understand that they have been wooing you for nearly a year now, so give us some background on that?

Probably you are better off asking Hospira this question but Orchid provides a niche platform for Injectable piece of the business, especially in antibiotics and in Hospira's scheme of things, this is a piece that is missing from their portfolio and if there is a cost-effective compliant organisation, which can provide value. It is kind of a marriage, which is a win-win position for both the companies.








Set up in 1991 by financial institutions, commercial banks and financial services companies, Icra is a full-services credit rating agency listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange and National Stock Exchange and has three wholly-owned subsidiaries — Icra Management Consulting Services (IMaCS), Icra Techno Analytics (ICTEAS) and Icra Online (Icron). Currently, international credit rating agency, Moody's Investors Service is Icra's largest shareholder. ET caught up with Icra Group vice chairman & CEO PK Choudhury to discuss the group's future plans and its rating business. Excerpts:

Icra has recently floated a joint venture (JV) in Nepal to replicate its rating business there and has set up a representative office in Kathmandu. Is it looking to form more such JVs in the near future ?
We are open to the idea of expanding our base across the border. India's proximity to Nepal has encouraged us to set up a JV with Kathmandu-based Himalayan Infrastructure Fund. Our representative office will monitor business prospects there. In the past, we have provided technical collaboration in countries like Bulgaria, Kuwait and Bangladesh. But this is the first time we are seeking to invest overseas.

Since rating agencies all over the world are going through a bad phase, is this the right time to consider such expansions?

The credit rating industry has been in existence for nearly 100 years now. The utility and capabilities of major rating agencies have been tested and proven over decades and overall, the performance has been by and large exemplary. There have been minor hiccups, but the problems can be easily overcome. So far as the major Indian rating agencies are concerned, I think most of them are meeting the expectations of all the constituents. India is now being recognised globally.

What initiatives has Icra taken to maintain the quality of its ratings in this era of cut-throat competition?
Icra's strategy is very clear. We will never compromise our rating standards no matter what the pressure; competitive or economic. If necessary, we will sacrifice growth to uphold credibility. Though there are a number of agencies operating in India, there is business for all and rating standards are fairly consistent. Unless someone is obsessed with fast growth at 'any cost', rating agencies will not get tempted to dilute rating standards, compromise on the rigours of due diligence or the quality of analytical resources. In the rating business, compromise is lucrative in the short-term, dangerous in the medium-term and disastrous in the long-term.

Capital market regulators across the globe are worried about dilution of rating standards, flaws in due diligence and commercial considerations overtaking judgement capabilities. What are your views on the issue ?

The anxieties of the regulators are justified. They have all along been extremely supportive protecting the independence of rating agencies on the one hand and encouraging the use of rating by the lenders and investors on the other. The present crisis has definitely disturbed them. However, we are confident that the regulators will come out with a balanced view and continue to protect the independence of the rating agencies.


Does the 'issuers pay model' encourage rating agencies to compromise their independence?

This is a big issue and subject to global debate. Someone has to pay for the services. And, the person who pays likes to influence the decision. There is inherent conflict and potential pressure by whosoever pays for it — the issuers, investors or even the government. Those who are weak and vulnerable tend to given in to pressure. By changing the source of payment, we would be shifting the source of pressure.

While influence is possible, it is not a universal phenomenon. Ratings would have been otherwise always skewed towards the upper end of the scale at all times. No one would perhaps get a 'non-investment' grade rating and there would not have been such large number of downgrades either.


Do you think that India's rating agencies are over-regulated ?

The best thing about Indian regulations is that they are balanced, unambiguous and non-intrusive. Also, it is a single-point regulation and there is no multiplicity of regulators. So much so, I am aware of countries which are trying to adopt certain features of Indian regulations.

What initiatives are being taken to retain employees?

High attrition is a global problem. We recruit highly qualified professionals and take them through vigorous training which increases their market demand. The rating process tends to be somewhat repetitive and after five-to-six years in rating, intellectual fatigue does tend to set in. Finally, career progression for some may be slow because of the pyramid structure of the organisation.

At Icra, we design our systems and processes to help build a robust organisational memory with research back-up and rating trails so that the continuity of the analyst is not critical. Also, our HR policies are directed towards creating an environment which is conducive to intellectual creativity and recognition of talent.

Where do you see the industry going over the next five years?

There will be ups and downs but, overall, we will be able to demonstrate excellence of performance, provide credible services and command respect.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Mob violence appears to have emerged as the principal currency of protest in post-Independence India, overtaking the more considered avenues that were fairly much the norm in an earlier era. The trend is disturbing. More than anything else, it signifies the lumpenisation of political processes. So it has been no surprise to see attacks on public and private property, and vandalism in all its shaming manifestations, in Andhra Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, the Gorkhaland agitation in West Bengal, not to speak of the show of force by chauvinist elements in Mumbai from time to time, the protest-at-the-drop-of-a-hat culture which has come to grip Kolkata, and even congregations of farmers when they seek to lay siege to the nation's capital. The list just goes on. The unstated aim appears to be to overwhelm duly constituted authority. The pity is that so-called leaders thrown up by these agitations and movements come to be recognised as public figures in due course, enter representative forums at various levels — even state legislatures and Parliament — and give free rein in these forums to their non-democratic instincts. Recently, the expectation of serious trouble was so high that the Sikkim government urged the Supreme Court to try and ensure that movement of essential commodities to the landlocked state was not hampered by the blockade of the national highway that passes through the areas dominated by Gorkhaland agitators. Violence or the threat of violence that nearly always looms large in a "movement" these days needs to be subjected to greater sociological examination, and appropriate lessons drawn for the greater good of the democratisation process. Mass mobilisations as a democratic tool, relying solely on voluntary participation of individuals and leading to grand public rallies and marches, is now more or less extinct as a protest form. We have instead the "bandh" culture, which frequently means the forced closure of a factory, office space, or indeed an entire town or city, accompanied by wanton destruction. Interestingly, this was not the case in British India when the rulers were not even elected representatives. To protest peacefully, to form unions, and to go on strike provided certain conditions are met, are democratic rights, sanctioned by our Constitution and our laws, just like they are sanctioned by the laws of other democratic societies. But it is rare these days to see that route being followed. Ironically, it is the large gatherings of the powerless and the genuine poor — such as those of agriculture workers or the Narmada dispossessed — that remain peaceful. Militant trade unionism of a certain type perhaps first introduced the idea of forcing the system to a standstill. But the feature came into its own when middle-class elements, such as students, often fuelled by fissiparous political interests, gave vent to their causes. They inevitably have the resources to allure the urban lumpens. The transition to the present trend needs study, but a few points are in order. The tendency to overwhelm public authority appears to have taken hold as the latter, in many cases, are too willing to be overwhelmed. Under the mistaken notion of being alive to political sensitivity, they stand by and watch violence being unleashed instead of taking in troublemakers and protecting victims.








Within a few days from today we will be crossing over to the second decade of the 21st century. Those of us born in the 20th century and lived through the first decade of the 21st, have indeed been fortunate to experience the impact of several giant steps of progress in human history. Mankind has indeed achieved much more in this period than it had in all the previous periods of recorded history.


The most remarkable of all achievements has been that human beings have had a much healthier and longer life in this period than in the earlier ones. World population in the year 1800, was just one billion. But it took only 130 years to add the second billion, 30 to add the third, 15 to add the fourth, 12 to add the fifth and just 11 years to add the sixth. One of the greatest achievements registered in human history during this period has not only been the increase in the number of people and the length of life, but also increase in the participation of people in their own governance or what is called democracy.


The progress of democracy has, of course, not been uniform, but there is general acceptance of the indispensability of certain institutions for the healthy functioning of democracy such as — elections based on universal adult franchise, independent judiciary, continuing accountability of the executive to the people, free press and non-political military and civil services. If we go by the experience of most newly independent countries, it will be seen that these institutions have undergone varying degrees of distortion and devaluation, and that the one which has suffered most has been the legislatures. The legislature, besides making laws in any democracy, is expected to function as the forum for debates and discussions on all matters affecting governance and equally importantly to function as the main instrument for holding the executive continuously accountable to the people. However, these important objectives are becoming increasingly sidelined in many newly-independent countries of the world today, including India, and this should cause serious concern about the future of democracy in these countries.


I do not propose to refer in this column to the distortions and deficiencies in the systems and practices of elections to the legislatures such as the unreliability of the electoral rolls, unfair use of money power and muscle power, lack of inner party democracy etc. They have been highlighted several times through speeches and writings of political leaders and constitutional experts, but certain new developments regarding the functioning of Parliament after elections have not received the attention they deserve in most developing countries. One such development as far as India is concerned is that Parliament has not been able to meet for even 100 days in a year. The average number of days when our Parliament meets in a year, which used to be 140 days in the early years of Independence had come down to 74 in 2004 and still the great harm it has caused to the quality of democracy does not appear to have been adequately understood by most people who participate in the laborious process of elections.


It is obvious that in any democratic country representatives of the people elected to Parliament should have adequate time and opportunity to remain in close contact with the people who elected them and keep themselves well-informed about their problems and expectations. Therefore, it is important that the members of Parliament (MPs) should be spending, at least, half of their tenure in their own constituencies, but reducing the period for the sittings of Parliament to as low a level as 74 days in a year is defeating the basic objectives of the institution of Parliament.


It is sometimes claimed that the committee system which had been recently introduced has given the MPs adequate opportunities outside the main meetings to express their views on important issues which come up before Parliament. But the claim of fair record of attendance in the committees of Parliament is not true. Very often thin attendance has become the normal practice in parliamentary committees as well.


Another development which is as disturbing as the small number of days when Parliament meets is the indifference of members towards their duties within the House during the meetings of Parliament. A few days ago, there was a report in the media that as many as 28 MPs whose questions had been admitted for answers had not turned up to ask their questions.


Sometimes members ask for even the suspension of the Question Hour in order to raise some issues which they consider important. A good deal of the one hour earmarked for the Question Hour is sometimes spent on the issue whether the Question Hour for the day should be suspended or not! The Question Hour — in a parliamentary democracy — is one of the most important instruments for enforcing accountability of the ministers to the legislature and if it is not taken seriously even by the members who had been permitted to raise questions, the very purpose of having a Question Hour everyday is defeated.


One of the reasons for loss of days for the sittings of Parliament is that the rules and procedures for orderly conduct of business of Parliament are not strictly followed. The presiding officers often find themselves helpless to enforce the rules because of lack of adequate support from the members. Even incidents of serious indisciplined behaviour within Parliament are treated as party issues and go without any punishment. If the trend of disorder inside Parliament has to be checked it will be necessary to consider questions of indiscipline or misbehaviour by members as issues concerning the entire House without any consideration for the party affiliations of the members concerned.


Parliament should consider stricter punishment for the members who are found guilty of indiscipline and gross misbehaviour inside the House. If MPs themselves are not alert and vigilant in observing the rules and procedures for the conduct of business prescribed by themselves, the institution of Parliament will lose the confidence and respect of the people and this will also seriously affect the efficiency and usefulness of all other institutions.


P.C. Alexander is a former governor of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra







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 the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. As Harry Truman said: "We all have to recognise, 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 mid-century 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.


The US President, Mr 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.


Mr 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 Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr.


In 2002, Mr 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 Mr 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 fervour.
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.








Alas, Bengal has forgotten to smile. Frustration, fear, insecurity and mindless violence have overtaken a state which, at one point, touted its intellectual and cultural superiority over its counterparts across India. Decline and stagnation in virtually every imaginable segment of the society, have given rise to the grim forecast that even with the inevitable defeat of the present government, the situation is unlikely to improve either in the long or short term. If, many years ago, Nirad Chaudhuri predicted the gradual extinction of Bengalis with their "retrospective, senseless and unmanly bragging", Bengal's preeminent literary and cultural icon, Rabindranath Tagore, too, denounced the weaknesses of our national character in words of one syllable. This lesser known address was delivered in 1895 on the occasion of a Memorial service for Pandit Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar.


If Rabindranath's words describe the insularity, arrogance and lethargy of the Bengali bhadralok — they were certainly prophetic. One wonders how he would have reacted to the perpetuation of that (work) culture in the current political and socio-economic scenario — a culture of freebooting lawlessness in which the end justifies the means, the Bengali's inexplicable abhorrence to material gain, his glorification of poverty and, more importantly, a singularly uninformed younger generation who is ignorant of the basics of its heritage.


Today, Bengal is more defensive than arrogant. The conspicuous mediocrity of its people is palpable. A new breed, consisting of disinherited elite and lumpen elements, both in the middle and working classes, has secured a stranglehold on trade unions, jobs in the bureaucracy and academia. They are politically assertive, with little respect for ethics or the rule of law.


Meanwhile, the contradictions of the Bengali psyche have continued — supreme unconcern over individual harassment and suffering, and mob violence following a road accident or a failed football match. As for the younger generation, what better testimony to their appreciation and taste than the opinion of a group of students sitting in the heartland of Bengali chauvinism — Shantiniketan's Visva Bharati University. When asked who their ideals were, they unhesitatingly opted for Aishwarya Rai and Sachin Tendulkar without so much as a thought to the founder of the institution!


Enough has been written about the past glories of this state, not only during the period known as the Bengal Renaissance, but much before, for anybody to realise the enormity of the plunder committed by the then rulers to decimate the nation's wealth. However, even as late as 1835, Lord Macaulay in an address to the British Parliament praised Indian integrity and felt that the only real way to conquer this nation was to demolish its self-esteem.


Anarchy is a pejorative term to describe a state of disorder. Anarchists and Marxists both believe in a classless, self-organised and self-managed society. In addition, Anarchists say they stand for revolution but do not believe in political parties. The average person would need to choose between this and criminal "god-fatherism" or both, to continue living here.


At the turn of the last century, we were battling a foreign government. Today we are at war with ourselves. Materialistic influences from the West have created a generation that is unconnected with its roots while asserting its clumsy right to follow ideas unrelated to their immediate environment. For the moment the phenomenon is confined to urban Bengal but the octopus has long tentacles.


The second, and equally palpable scenario, is of course political. However, it is not a war of ideologies. It is a war of words, of thundering humbug. Both the government in power and the Opposition, continue to accuse each other of orchestrating campaigns to discredit the other by lies and murders involving their respective cadres.


The third and more serious threat is the spectre of rural alienation. Ironically, all that Bengal represents in terms of creativity, entrepreneurship and hard work, is in its villages. Yet, it is in these very villages that there has been a spate of unthinking repression. The reference is, of course, to the atrocities associated with Nandigram, Singur and now Lalgarh.


It is unrealistic to expect a nation of child adults to lead business enterprise in the state. Yet the conflict for and against investment by outsiders is ongoing. The involvement of locals is restricted to securing employment. This is in sharp contrast to other states where by and large, ownership of the means of production, including distribution and a workforce, are in the hands of the local populace. Besides business, Bengalis expect that their garbage will be cleaned, their corpses handled, and their taxis driven, by others.


Finally, and by no means the least, is the war against illegal infiltration from Bangladesh. It has been variously estimated that infiltrators hold the key to 53 out of 294 Assembly constituencies in West Bengal. Their concentration is marked in the border areas of North and South Dinajpur, Cooch Behar, Nadia, Murshidabad, Malda and North and South 24 Parganas. The messy alternatives of public and private lives have turned Bengal into a sea of discontent and pessimism. Crossed allegiances, confused programmes and mixed reactions to issues have further contributed to the surrender of reason and the will to assert. There is need for commitment and dynamism. Given several centuries of Bengal's subjugation to foreign rule, first by the Mughals and subsequently by the British, one wonders if radical changes in priorities and attitudes can help cross the frontiers of frenzy and acute frustration.


The author is chairman of Chetana Foundation, aRegistered Public haritable Trust








Alas, Bengal has forgotten to smile. Frustration, fear, insecurity and mindless violence have overtaken a state which, at one point, touted its intellectual and cultural superiority over its counterparts across India. Decline and stagnation in virtually every imaginable segment of the society, have given rise to the grim forecast that even with the inevitable defeat of the present government, the situation is unlikely to improve either in the long or short term. If, many years ago, Nirad Chaudhuri predicted the gradual extinction of Bengalis with their "retrospective, senseless and unmanly bragging", Bengal's preeminent literary and cultural icon, Rabindranath Tagore, too, denounced the weaknesses of our national character in words of one syllable. This lesser known address was delivered in 1895 on the occasion of a Memorial service for Pandit Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar.


If Rabindranath's words describe the insularity, arrogance and lethargy of the Bengali bhadralok — they were certainly prophetic. One wonders how he would have reacted to the perpetuation of that (work) culture in the current political and socio-economic scenario — a culture of freebooting lawlessness in which the end justifies the means, the Bengali's inexplicable abhorrence to material gain, his glorification of poverty and, more importantly, a singularly uninformed younger generation who is ignorant of the basics of its heritage.


Today, Bengal is more defensive than arrogant. The conspicuous mediocrity of its people is palpable. A new breed, consisting of disinherited elite and lumpen elements, both in the middle and working classes, has secured a stranglehold on trade unions, jobs in the bureaucracy and academia. They are politically assertive, with little respect for ethics or the rule of law.


Meanwhile, the contradictions of the Bengali psyche have continued — supreme unconcern over individual harassment and suffering, and mob violence following a road accident or a failed football match. As for the younger generation, what better testimony to their appreciation and taste than the opinion of a group of students sitting in the heartland of Bengali chauvinism — Shantiniketan's Visva Bharati University. When asked who their ideals were, they unhesitatingly opted for Aishwarya Rai and Sachin Tendulkar without so much as a thought to the founder of the institution!


Enough has been written about the past glories of this state, not only during the period known as the Bengal Renaissance, but much before, for anybody to realise the enormity of the plunder committed by the then rulers to decimate the nation's wealth. However, even as late as 1835, Lord Macaulay in an address to the British Parliament praised Indian integrity and felt that the only real way to conquer this nation was to demolish its self-esteem.


Anarchy is a pejorative term to describe a state of disorder. Anarchists and Marxists both believe in a classless, self-organised and self-managed society. In addition, Anarchists say they stand for revolution but do not believe in political parties. The average person would need to choose between this and criminal "god-fatherism" or both, to continue living here.


At the turn of the last century, we were battling a foreign government. Today we are at war with ourselves. Materialistic influences from the West have created a generation that is unconnected with its roots while asserting its clumsy right to follow ideas unrelated to their immediate environment. For the moment the phenomenon is confined to urban Bengal but the octopus has long tentacles.


The second, and equally palpable scenario, is of course political. However, it is not a war of ideologies. It is a war of words, of thundering humbug. Both the government in power and the Opposition, continue to accuse each other of orchestrating campaigns to discredit the other by lies and murders involving their respective cadres.


The third and more serious threat is the spectre of rural alienation. Ironically, all that Bengal represents in terms of creativity, entrepreneurship and hard work, is in its villages. Yet, it is in these very villages that there has been a spate of unthinking repression. The reference is, of course, to the atrocities associated with Nandigram, Singur and now Lalgarh.


It is unrealistic to expect a nation of child adults to lead business enterprise in the state. Yet the conflict for and against investment by outsiders is ongoing. The involvement of locals is restricted to securing employment. This is in sharp contrast to other states where by and large, ownership of the means of production, including distribution and a workforce, are in the hands of the local populace. Besides business, Bengalis expect that their garbage will be cleaned, their corpses handled, and their taxis driven, by others.


Finally, and by no means the least, is the war against illegal infiltration from Bangladesh. It has been variously estimated that infiltrators hold the key to 53 out of 294 Assembly constituencies in West Bengal. Their concentration is marked in the border areas of North and South Dinajpur, Cooch Behar, Nadia, Murshidabad, Malda and North and South 24 Parganas. The messy alternatives of public and private lives have turned Bengal into a sea of discontent and pessimism. Crossed allegiances, confused programmes and mixed reactions to issues have further contributed to the surrender of reason and the will to assert. There is need for commitment and dynamism. Given several centuries of Bengal's subjugation to foreign rule, first by the Mughals and subsequently by the British, one wonders if radical changes in priorities and attitudes can help cross the frontiers of frenzy and acute frustration.


The author is chairman of Chetana Foundation, a Registered Public haritable Trust








We recently contrasted the Greek soldier Xenophon's enthusiasm for encouraging more rich foreigners to settle in Athens (to help out the finances) with our own rather mealy-mouthed attitudes. But a work attributed (wrongly) to Aristotle illustrates that the Greeks were not generally short of scams to boost a state's coffers.


Most of these are (legally) played by our government already. Thus, if your house has a patio with a nice view, you can expect to pay more council tax. Hippias of Athens likewise boosted the coffers by demanding that upper stories of houses that projected over the street be offered for sale. The owners promptly bought them up, making him a tidy sum. If you play the National Lottery, government will grab some of that money for its own projects. So did Mausolus, who told the citizens that the Persians were about to attack and would they please help him build a defensive wall? When they did, he announced that, ah, the God did not permit a wall to be built at that particular time, but thanks anyway.


But three strike me as especially worth policy wonks' notice. One is the "blackmail". Philoxenus, the governor of Caria (southern Turkey), was in need of funds, so proclaimed that he was going to put on a drama festival in honour of the God Dionysus, and would the richest citizens kindly stump up. When many of them refused, Philoxenus privately asked how much they would be willing to pay to avoid the burden. Far more, they said, than the actual cost, to avoid all the hassle. Philoxenus duly pocketed the proceeds, and tried it again on the second tier of the wealthy. Same result. Soon he had all the funds he needed.


The second is the "gull", played by one Charidemus. He passed a law imposing a stiff fine on anyone keeping arms at home — and intentionally did nothing to impose it. So people, lured into a false sense of security, ignored it, and slowly the weapons piled up again. When he calculated that enough homes had weapons to make him a tidy sum, he pounced and exacted the penalty.


The last is the "debt transfer". In Chios, all debts had to be publicly registered. Being in need of funds, the people demanded the debts be paid not to the creditor but to the state; the creditor's interest would be met by the state until the economy recovered. Bingo!


You read them here first.








THE accident on the National Highway that led to 22 deaths earlier this week is a symptom of a larger problem, one that has its genesis as much in inadequate infrastructure as it does in pathetic, and unchecked, driving habits. The surprise is that there haven't been more such accidents on the major thoroughfares leading into and out of Kolkata. As this newspaper has reported, traffic management on the highway is poor. Further, the truck that collided with the bus was on the wrong side of the highway, having used an exit to get on the highway in order to take a short cut to a factory. These things happen, and they happen everyday because the West Bengal Police is horribly lax in dealing with transgressions on the highway where even minor driving errors could lead to catastrophe, as did indeed happen near Uluberia. 

But bad traffic management is only one aspect of this sordid story. The condition of major roads, including feeders, is often so distressing that driving on the wrong side is often the only way to keep the wheels moving. The Kona Expressway, for instance, is a joke. It is dotted with potholes and especially at points where there are natural bottlenecks because bridges aren't wide enough. There is no effort by any of the agencies involved to bring repair of this important feeder to a reasonable approximation of roadworthiness. 

The Belghoria Expressway, where a hefty toll is levied on users, is another case in point. Large stretches are used for parking and repairing trucks, effectively reducing the surface available for moving vehicles. And to avoid paying toll, it is fairly common to see trucks and buses using the wrong carriageway. While agencies involved with maintenance of roads are responsible for the poor infrastructure, it is the state police that must take the blame for ineffective supervision. But this is Bengal, and a policeman will tell you that having blood on his hands is as much a part of his job profile as the currency notes that his palm grips to thwart effective prosecution of bad drivers.







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.







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.


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.



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.

The writer is a Visiting Professor of International Relations at the University of São Paulo and a Fellow at the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin.







LONDON, 15 Dec: It seems pregnancy makes women better at reading facial expressions, for a study has revealed that most moms-to-be develop emotion-reading powers ~ perhaps because it makes them hyper-vigilant.

Previous studies suggested that a woman's ability to correctly identify fearful or disgusted facial expressions varies according to her stage of the menstrual cycle, with the perception heightened on days associated with high levels of the hormone progesterone.

Now, a team, led by Rebecca Pearson at the University of Bristol, has carried out the recent study and found a link between woman's pregnancy and her emotion-reading powers, the New Scientist reported.

Since levels of progesterone and other hormones rise dramatically in late pregnancy, researchers investigated whether the ability to read faces varies during pregnancy. For their study, the researchers asked 76 pregnant women to assign one of six emotions to 60 computer-generated faces before the 14th week of pregnancy, and again after the 34th week.

Faces expressing happiness and surprise tended to be correctly assigned at both stages of pregnancy, but for faces expressing fear, anger and disgust, the accuracy rates were higher in late pregnancy, the study found.
This may increase the chance that the woman will spot potential threats to her and her fetus, and prime her to be hyper-vigilant once she becomes a mother.

According to the researchers, pregnant women aren't clinically anxious but "they might interpret negative or emotional things around them in a slightly more sensitive way."









Imagine a flood, and a mix of rich and poor people standing neck deep in rising water with their homes gone. As they wait to be rescued, they bicker and squabble over who gets the helicopters and who the boats. The situation in Copenhagen has been teetering on the brink of something as absurd, unpleasant and dangerous as this. None of the bickerers and squabblers seems to get the big picture, and to be able to place themselves in it. To do that, the perfect point of view would be way up in heaven, from where the earth would look like a little ball in peril and the nations, great and small, indistinguishable from one another. From such a height, everybody would look equally in danger and equally foolish in not realizing this to rise above greed and politics. That was the point made by one demonstrator who rode on a horse through Copenhagen dressed as the grim reaper: global warming, like death, is the great leveller. But being apocalyptic is as unlikely to save the day (or the planet) as being political. What is required is nothing more or less than reasonableness.


This basic quality seems to be lacking, to an astonishing extent, in Copenhagen. Everybody there, rich or poor, is fighting some sort of a battle. But to a sensible Martian, they would all appear to be the wrong battles. Negotiations are back on some sort of track — or, as it appears, two tracks. But in spite of the various drafts, deadlines, protocols and conventions, commitments demanded or evaded, funds promised or denied, heads of state arriving or departing, deals struck openly or furtively, the essential spirit of the summit seems to have got on to a rather bizarre track. People have come to the summit to save themselves and one another from a future that is no less real for being too far away to imagine concretely. But is it really the future that one is looking at? What about the floods, droughts, food riots, migrations and other human or natural disasters that have already started happening to drive home the actuality of what is at stake here? Bargaining and intrigue — as if preparing for elections and working out seat-sharing deals and coalition strategies — are hardly what should be determining the ethos of such a summit. A spirit of urgent compromise, informed by sensibleness and foresight, must triumph over greed, cunning, victimhood or the will to power for Copenhagen to make any real difference at all for the earth.








The repetition of the promise that action will be taken against those who are accused of killing the Sikhs in 1984 is becoming as tedious as a tale told many times over. The latest in the series of promises comes from none other than the Union home minister, P. Chidambaram, who assured the Rajya Sabha that action against the 1984 riot accused would be speeded up. The home minister advised the lieutenant governor of Delhi, Tejinder Khanna, to sanction prosecution by the Central Bureau of Investigation in four riot cases before the end of 2009. Mr Chidambaram announced to the Upper House that the CBI's investigations were complete in seven cases against the Congress's three politicians, Dharam Das Shastri, Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar. (Shastri, it needs to be pointed out, is dead.) Messrs Tytler and Kumar are still active in politics, even though they were denied tickets in the Delhi assembly polls earlier this year. This kind of reassurance, even when it comes from the Union home minister, does precious little to assuage the grievances of the Sikhs. If anything, it aggravates the grievances since it bypasses certain crucial questions.


There is no satisfactory answer, for example, to the question why it has taken so long to arrive at a decision on the cases that go back to 1984. The other uncomfortable question relates to the presence of Mr Tytler and Mr Kumar in Congress politics. There is something to be said against the failure to suspend them or expel them from the Congress party. It would not be unfair to conclude that the only time Mr Chidambaram wakes up to take cognizance of Sikh grievances regarding the 1984 killings is when a Sikh hurls a shoe at him or when Sikh members of parliament raise the issue. It would be simplistic to only blame Mr Chidambaram about this state of affairs where justice is so delayed that it appears as if it has been deferred. There is something systemic in the delays that occur to unearth evidence and then to prosecute on incidents that are matters of national shame. One recent example is the report of the Liberhan Commission, which has taken 17 years to prepare. The pogrom against the Sikhs — the word, pogrom, is used advisedly since the epithet, riot, is an euphemism for what was a one-sided and organized killing — happened 25 years ago and nothing more than apologies has been offered.









Paul A. Samuelson (May 15, 1915 — December 13, 2009) has often been described as the foremost academic economist of the 20th century. Randall E. Parker, the economic historian, has called him the "Father of Modern Economics".


All this may be hotly disputed in Chicago, but in any case, Samuelson was the first American to receive the Nobel prize in economic sciences. The Swedish Royal Academy's citation stated that he "has done more than any other contemporary economist to raise the level of scientific analysis in economic theory".


Probably this was a correct summing up of his magnificent set of contributions to many parts of economics, fluently using the language of mathematics. I first came across the statement, "Mathematics is a language," in his Foundations of Economic Analysis, which had exhilarated me 60 years ago. I have to admit, though somewhat shamefacedly, I myself never learnt enough of that language to use it beyond a rudimentary level in my own papers.


Even more important perhaps than his use of mathematics was his use of logic that would place him, in my personal opinion, among the very best economists of all time. Samuelson began his conquest of the theoretical economist's mind, first, by stating the basic requirement of all economic theorems. It was the necessity of formulating, step by step, what he called "operationally meaningful" propositions, which had to satisfy the criterion of "refutability". A proposition in economics he would call "meaningless" if it was not patently refutable, if wrong. In fact, Samuelson's exposition of the logic of this requirement, even as early as in his doctoral dissertation (if I remember correctly), was the first extension to the social sciences (and probably independently visualized too) of Karl Popper's similar requirement of falsifiability of propositions in science as the prime criterion in his famous The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Thus came into being Samuelson's concept of "revealed preference" in consumer behaviour theory replacing the indifference curves of J.R. Hicks (also to be a Nobel laureate) and R.G.D. Allen.


Let me talk a little of Samuelson's astonishing ability in talent scouting and, of course, his ability to get along with widely different characters. When one hears of the resolve of some ministers, bureaucrats and educational experts in Delhi to turn out world-class universities in India by the dozen, I cannot but think of my own subject and of Samuelson turning the Massachusetts Institute of Technology into a world-class centre for economics. He had joined MIT as assistant professor after his PhD at Harvard because, I had once heard, he had not seen much prospect there since — wait a minute — he was Jewish. This, of course, was more than 60 years back. Harvard is obviously quite a different place now.


At MIT, Samuelson was instrumental in turning a mere economics department of an institute of technology into a world-renowned institution by itself. He was able to attract an unbelievably gifted set of economists and persuade them to join the faculty at MIT. The list included Robert Solow, Paul Krugman, Franco Modigliani, Robert Merton and Joseph Stiglitz. All of them had gone on to win their Nobel prizes. I have not heard of any other success story in talent scouting like this.


Samuelson wrote a weekly column for Newsweek magazine along with the famous Chicago school economist, Milton Friedman, who remained his friend and adversary, the two representing opposing sides of the tradition of modern economics: Samuelson took the liberal, Keynesian perspective, and Friedman represented the free-market libertarian view. They carried on with their lively debate in Newsweek. I thought that in these, Samuelson showed his gentle side and his friend the opposite one. I was lucky to watch on television a long debate between the two which was absolutely fascinating. I was, of course, on Samuelson's side as a listener. I must admit I was a little disappointed to hear Samuelson arguing that one has to respect social conscience even if it is outside the economist's world of discourse. Later I heard (or perhaps read), Amartya saying something like this. I thought both of them were giving ground unnecessarily because both, in their own ways, had actually expanded the horizon of the science of economics itself. Both had thereby legitimately widened the universe of discourse in economics. Modern economics need not be apologetic about this.


In this context, I wish to pay a small tribute to the memory of Paul Samuelson and try to speak of how once he had gone out of his way to help me organize my own thoughts as a young researcher in the 1950s. I never had the opportunity of knowing him in person. But one of my best friends, the late Ajit Biswas, was his student at MIT. Ajit was in the first batch of Smith Mundt and Fulbright scholars selected by the United States Educational Foundation in India and was admitted to MIT for his graduate studies. He had come close to Samuelson — in those days it was still possible for young graduate students to be close to great professors.


I was still only a young teacher at Presidency trying to find my way and had just written a short paper. But it looked to me as if it was outside the purview of economics, although I could not figure out what exactly it was. I had recently read Arrow's famous book on social choice and the idea of writing that paper had come out of this. Since I did not know whom to ask — Bhabatosh Datta had already gone to the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC — I sent the paper to Ajit to find out. He took it straight to his professor for his opinion. Samuelson wrote a longish letter to me on this paper and gave his advice in detail. I regret to have lost that letter. It said that he thought my exercise was in what he called "political arithmetic" and he had liked it and wanted me to send it to Econometrica for publication. It came out in early 1956, when I had just joined London School of Economics as a PhD student myself. I had, of course, acknowledged Samuelson's contribution in that paper. His advice helped change my career by telling me what I vaguely had known — that the horizon of modern economics itself was changing. After Samuelson, Arrow and then, of course, Amartya Sen, economists need not have been diffident about including social questions in formal economics and in a wider format.


Paul Samuelson died at the age of 94 — a ripe old age even by modern standards of life expectancy. But he would be missed by those who knew him well enough, and even by people whose lives he touched and influenced without ever knowing it.








The capture of Arabinda Rajkhowa, United Liberation Front of Asom's chief, was a major success achieved by the Indian intelligence agencies against insurgents in recent years. The success would not have come without the cooperation of the Bangladesh prime minister, and she deserves India's gratitude for sticking to her stand that her government will not allow her country to be used by Indian rebels. In taking this stand, she has moved away from Dhaka's earlier position that Bangladesh was not sheltering any Indians on the run. It is gratifying to note that Sheikh Hasina Wajed has now decided that the truth needs to be acknowledged and acted upon.

All this is good news. But what should be of concern is that New Delhi is preparing to hold talks with the captured Ulfa leader. In a democracy, discussion should be the only way of settling disputes, but that course of action can be adopted when both sides are wedded to democratic principles. The Ulfa, most certainly, does not believe in democracy. If it did, then for decades, it would not have gone about killing people as it waged war against the Indian State. Its aim to separate Assam from India makes it anti-national, and the Ulfa wants itself to be perceived in this manner. The organization is still alive, the arrests of Rajkhowa and his aides notwithstanding.


So where is the basis for any negotiation? If it is believed that a chat across the table will transform the rebel leader into a good citizen, then it can be argued that the same result may be achieved by keeping him in prison for all the crimes he has committed. Also, there is not much to negotiate with as far as Rajkhowa is concerned. Unless New Delhi believes that the demand for secession can be met half way or thereabouts.


What else is there to talk about? The economic problem of the state is certainly a relevant issue, but hardly one that can be taken up with somebody who had sought to undermine the sovereignty of this nation. It has been suggested by some members in the Assam assembly that the Ulfa is not only a law-and-order problem, but it also epitomizes a deeper social malaise. This is undeniably the case, but Rajkhowa and his men must answer the question whether the massacre of Assamese as well as the immigrant labourers from Bihar is the way to change society.



History should also make the protagonists wary of treating the rebels with kid gloves. In the 1980s, in Tripura, the then chief minister, Nripen Chakraborty, had thought it was a good idea to rehabilitate Bijoy Hrangkhawl — who had surrendered — overhauling the objections of his deputy, Dasarath Deb. This gave Hrangkhawl the breathing space he needed, and once he had settled his affairs in his Ambasa village, he again went underground with his wife, Linda. Right now, Rajkhowa may make the right kind of noises but where is the guarantee that all this is not the Ulfa's ploy to buy the time it needs to regroup? The government also cannot be unaware that there are other separatist forces in the Northeast which will be keenly watching how the Ulfa leader is dealt with. Any negotiation with Rajkhowa will only add to his stature and lend other separatists the credibility that they do not deserve.


When Rajkhowa was taken to a court in Guwahati, a group of people had shouted slogans in his favour. One reason for such a show of solidarity was the Ulfa's promise to succeed where the Asom Gana Parishad had failed. The Ulfa will do well to ponder the fact that even though it protested against illegal immigration from Bangladesh, it had turned to the same country for help when things got too hot in Assam. As for the Centre, having got Rajkhowa, it must now deliver the death-blow to Ulfa, even at the cost of displeasing drawing room democrats in Guwahati and elsewhere.









When the Copenhagen climate change negotiations have entered the last lap, the forebodings about a deadlock have deepened and there are signs of a setback to the most moderate expectations. Monday's proceedings saw a walkout from the conference, led by African countries and joined by India, China and other major developing countries, in protest against the developed countries trying to subvert even the accepted agenda of the summit. The summit is expected to work out an international agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol. But there was an attempt to sidetrack the protocol and start from a fresh slate. Denmark, the host of the summit, was in league with the developed countries in this. The insistence of the rich countries on focusing the discussions on a new long-term plan of action would have meant going back on Kyoto commitments.

The aim of the rich countries is to make all countries commit themselves to reduction of carbon emissions, though the Kyoto Protocol binds only rich countries to it. This is violative of the principle of common but differentiated responsibility. The statements of voluntary reduction in carbon intensity made by countries like India and China were only meant as a participatory and goodwill effort. When the rich countries refused to discuss the transfer of funds and technology to the poorer ones for mitigation and adaptation, they not only denied their historical responsibility but also went against the commitments they made in the last two decades. In the run-up to Copenhagen sights had been lowered from a binding deal on emission cuts to a general political agreement. Even that seems to be uncertain now.

The rich countries have also resorted to disruptive and divisive activities by trying to break the unity of the developing countries. The position taken by some small island countries that developing countries should also be brought into the loop of mandatory emission reductions has been inspired by the developed world. But fortunately the solidarity of the G-77 group is still intact as seen by their joint action on Monday. The fact that the rich countries had to concede that the Kyoto Protocol would not be de-emphasised shows the need for others to continue to stick together in the coming days. There is also an attempt to take to the table of heads of states issues and proposals that have not been deliberated on by the delegations. This too should be resisted.









Sri Lanka's former Chief of Staff, General Sarath Fonseka, has accused Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President Mahinda Rajapaksa's brother, of issuing orders to ground commanders involved in the final phase of the fighting against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to execute all Tiger leaders who surrendered to the military. If true, it confirms rumours that swirled in the aftermath of the discovery of the bodies of LTTE leaders that the latter were not killed in the fighting but were executed by the Sri Lankan armed forces. If the LTTE leaders had indeed surrendered, the government should have tried them in a court of law. Fonseka's allegations will deepen growing international demand for trial of the Sri Lankan government for war crimes.

Fonseka has since backtracked. He has claimed that he was misinterpreted. But the controversy his allegations kicked up is unlikely to die down soon. He is running for president and is pitted against President Rajapaksa. His revelations seem to have been aimed at maligning his rival. Given the horrific violation of human rights that took place not just in the final phase but right through the many years of war, there is a high likelihood the General has spoken the truth. But Fonseka is being parsimonious with the truth. While pointing an accusing finger at Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, he has sought to absolve himself of responsibility by claiming that he was not in the country in the days preceding the defeat of the LTTE and that he was told about the executions only later. While he was indeed not in the country during that crucial period, his argument that he was kept in the dark over the executions doesn't hold water. Fonseka headed the armed forces and there is no way that he would not have been informed with regard to an order as important as the one to execute the Tiger leaders. Fonseka has been claiming credit for the remarkable military victory over the LTTE; he cannot wash his hands off its less-savoury actions.

The campaign for the presidential poll has only just begun. Rajapaksa and Fonseka will engage in a no-holds-barred slanging match. As the war of words heats up, more ugly secrets on Sri Lanka's terrible war on the LTTE will come out. Expect more skeletons to tumble out.









The demand for a separate state of Telangana has been through many phases accompanied by violence and strong opposition from political leaders belonging to the Rayalseema and coastal region. This longstanding demand epitomises a problem facing the country — the existence of backward region(s) in all the big states formed at the time of Independence.

This is evident from the immediate demands for smaller states sparked off by the announcement of the Central government that it would move a resolution to form a separate state of Telangana — Vidharbha, Bodoland, Coorg, Bundelkhand and Gorkhaland among others.

Much of the discussion on states reorganisation has focused on issues of language, culture and more recently size and governance. Little attention has been paid to the political economy of formation of underdeveloped regions on the sub-continent during the colonial period and subsequently, which has played a significant role in the ongoing demands for creation of smaller states.

Colonial investment in commercial agriculture and industry on the sub-continent in keeping with imperial interests was in selected areas: deltas, river valleys, coastal and mineral-rich regions. With some exceptions the princely areas also remained backward.

This distorted pattern of regional development continued into the post-independence period despite the adoption of the goals of socialism and centralised allocation of resources. The result has been the development of capitalism in 'enclaves' in all the big states surrounded by poorer sub-regions that remain backward with undernourished and illiterate populations.

Telangana in Andhra Pradesh, Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh, Vidharbha in Maharashtra, the tribal regions of Orissa typically form the deprived underbelly in these states, despite the Congress party being in power until the 1990s.

At Independence it was envisaged that in these large states, capital would move from the developed to the underdeveloped sub-regions and labour vice-versa, creating all-round development. This rationale underlay the creation of Vishal Andhra but the outcome has been 'internal colonialism' or the better-off region grabbing the lion's share of resources/opportunities.

Consequently, the people of Telangana are today demanding statehood arguing that they have been badly neglected by successive governments. While earlier the upper castes and upwardly mobile Reddys and Kammas were in forefront of the demand for Vishal Andhra, today it is the backward castes and Dalits who are vociferous in demanding a separate Telangana where they feel their needs will be addressed.

However, some features of this pattern of unequal regional development could make formation of a separate state of Telangana difficult. Colonial investment in the Andhra deltas led to the creation of a rich landlord class, which after Independence moved inland into agro-industry, manufacturing and in recent years the IT sector in Hyderabad.

Supportive of the economic reforms introduced by Chandrababu Naidu, it has representatives in the legislature which explains the mass resignations by leaders from virtually all parties opposing the formation of Telangana. With the advent of a market-led economy it is questionable if the aspirations of the people of Telangana (and other such regions) can be easily fulfiled.

Regional inequalities have markedly increased since the early 1990s with retreat of the state and a growing private sector controlling investment decisions of scarce resources. It will be difficult for the poorly educated and disadvantaged groups in the underdeveloped regions to obtain employment particularly in the better paid, more dynamic sectors of the economy.

Well-educated and better-off 'outsiders' might benefit leaving the people of the new state behind, heightening feelings of regionalism witnessed in Maharashtra. Signs of this are already evident in Hyderabad with private businesses moving out afraid that 'Brand Hyderabad' may no longer attract private capital and they would have to cater to demands for local employment.

Considering the plethora of demands for separate statehood from backward regions, the problem is not limited to the creation of Telangana. The Congress party passed a resolution in 2001 proposing establishment of a Second States Reorganisation Commission to consider redrawing the map of India and carving out smaller states, but the Congress-led UPA following its victory in 2004 conveniently chose to forget such promises.

In 2008 prior to the Lok Sabha and assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh it supported the proposal, but it was a short-term tactic to form a partnership with the TRS to obtain votes in Telangana and was abandoned after emerging victorious fearing antagonism from coastal leaders.

Chandrasekara Rao's 11-day fast has pushed UPA-II to agree to the formation of Telangana but backlash from political leaders — including Congressmen — in Andhra and Rayalseema and demands from other states, has put the Congress leadership in a bind. Given the violence unleashed, the creation of Telangana can no longer be ostponed.

The challenge before the Congress leadership is twofold: establish a commission to create smaller, conomically viable states; more immediately, create a political consensus to make a separate Telangana possible.

(The writer is professor at centre for political studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)









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.







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 aheadIndian 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!


 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)








Gov. David Paterson of New York announced this week that the state will have to delay $750 million in scheduled payments to schools and local governments. It is a drastic step, but the governor, rightly, argues that he had no alternative. It was either that or watch the state slip $1 billion into the red.


Even to borrow that money, the governor and legislative leaders would have to declare a fiscal emergency before they could seek an expensive short-term loan. The Legislature, in denial, is refusing to do the hard work that's needed.


Mr. Paterson has gone for a delay in the hopes that tax revenues next month will be a little higher than projected. There is no guarantee that Wall Street bonuses or first signs of recovery will bring in enough cash to make it through to the end of the fiscal year in March.


Unless there are serious changes in the way New York spends and raises money, the state could be facing a $10 billion deficit next year.


New York is not alone in facing tough times. But for years, New York's Legislature has been spending beyond its means. The recession has made matters far worse. Mr. Paterson, who took office just as Bear Stearns collapsed in 2008, has been warning of calamity ever since. The Legislature has stubbornly refused to listen.


Last month, the governor called lawmakers back to Albany to fill a $3.2 billion gap in this year's budget of $132 billion. The governor proposed painful cuts: including $113 million from the New York City-area public transit budget; $686 million in school funds, or about 3 percent per district with even larger cuts for wealthier districts; $470 million from health care spending.


The Democratic-majority Legislature balked. Lawmakers decreed there would be no midyear cuts in school budgets, not even for wealthy districts. Although they did improve the pension structure, legislators protected other programs like health care and shielded state workers from furloughs or layoffs.


They finally made some cuts, including a larger swipe at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, but mostly they drained other savings accounts and used some of the federal stimulus dollars that were supposed to be saved for next year.


Even then, they only came up with $2.7 billion — and were $500 million short. That left Governor Paterson no choice but to delay payments to schools cities and towns. Some of these schools have rainy-day funds, but Mr. Paterson should try to limit cuts for the poorer areas. Communities will have no choice but to pare down spending.


Legislative leaders — from both parties — need to wake up to the harsh reality. When the stimulus money is gone there will be no cushion, and there is no hidden cache of funds about to be discovered.


There is no chance of balancing next year's budget as required by law unless they are finally willing to make deep cuts, even in favorite programs, personal items to districts and especially those items backed by the state's most powerful education unions, and health care and business lobbyists. At this point, there is no other choice.


There may be some dire situation in which state senators from Long Island will stop insisting that their disproportionate share of state school aid must not be cut, delayed or in any way changed. Don't count on it.


Despite the serious disaster that has hit the state's budget, the Long Island delegation has been behaving as it always has. They have opposed Gov. David Paterson's repeated efforts to get New York's finances in order, including his latest tactic of delaying $750 million in December payments, including aid to schools, to avoid insolvency this year. The naysayers include the usual Republican bloc, along with two newcomer Democrats with dicey re-election hopes, Craig Johnson and Brian Foley.


Greedy parochialism is old news in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Turn back to any year — say, 1988, when this page was deploring how "a pork-minded bloc of Republican senators" known as "the Long Island Eight," led by Ralph J. Marino of Muttontown, was holding a budget hostage over aid to local school districts.


The state's convoluted school-aid formulas have long favored rich Long Island schools at the expense of those in New York City and other districts where people are poor and needs are great. Long Island has some of the highest-spending districts and best-paid superintendents in the country. It's home to a district — Roslyn — where administrators, employees and their families stole millions of dollars for years, and nobody noticed.


This is not to say that Long Islanders are not feeling financial pain. They pay some of the highest property taxes in the country, and Mr. Johnson and Mr. Foley have good reason to be afraid of wrathful voters, who just fired the able Nassau County executive, Thomas Suozzi, because they were sick of paying high taxes.


But Long Islanders have proudly embraced their ever-more-expensive schools for years, approving ever-higher budgets and ever-soaring official salaries. For years they have benefited from the powerful bloc voting of their Senate delegation. It's ridiculous to think their schools can't possibly tap rainy-day funds or find savings on an island where superintendents routinely make six figures, where some rich villages give students two identical textbooks — one for home and one for school — and where the sports and arts and video and language programs are the envy of the nation.


New York is in dire straits, the governor is trying to cope and Long Island's schools are touchable.







President Hamid Karzai's inaugural speech last month resonated with high-minded purpose. He vowed to end the "culture of impunity" and "bring to justice" those who threaten Afghanistan's future with predatory ways. Ministers in his government, he insisted, "must possess integrity and be professionals serving the nation."


Whom Mr. Karzai chooses for his new cabinet will be the first indicator, after his fraud-marred election, of whether he is truly determined to rein in epidemic levels of corruption and incompetence. His speech on Tuesday to an anti-corruption conference in Kabul suggested, ominously, that he still does not get it.


Mr. Karzai defended the mayor of Kabul, Abdul Ahad Sahibi, who was convicted earlier this month of misusing public funds and is facing other charges, including embezzlement, corruption and misuse of power. The president called Mr. Sahibi a "clean person" and demanded that his chief justice and attorney general look into the conviction, which is now on appeal.


Some members of the current cabinet, including the defense minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, and interior minister, Hanif Atmar, deserve to stay. Mr. Karzai needs to bring in competent outsiders, such as Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank official and presidential candidate.


Some top officials must go, starting with the minister of mines, Muhammad Ibrahim Adel, who is under investigation of taking a $30 million bribe. Mr. Karzai should also cut his ties with Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, a warlord and former Karzai military adviser whose forces have been accused of killing thousands of Taliban prisoners of war in 2001. General Dostum needs to stand trial.


Mr. Karzai should also distance himself from his brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, a powerful provincial council member in Kandahar who is accused of protecting narcotics traffickers and also of being on the C.I.A. payroll.


There is some good news. An anti-graft unit is starting up and some ministers are under investigation for embezzlement. But a lot more needs to be done, including streamlining government procedures so there are fewer chances for bribes.


President Obama and his advisers dropped the ball badly when they failed to stop Mr. Karzai's supporters from trying to steal the election. Before the Afghan president chooses his new government, Washington must demand that he finally cut his ties with corrupt officials and choose men and women of integrity.






First, Senator Joseph Lieberman — the former Democrat, current independent from Connecticut — rejected the so-called public health care option. Then he threatened to torpedo the entire health care reform bill if it allowed people over 55 to buy Medicare plans.


The aim of that idea, like the public option, is to provide more choice for consumers and more competition for the private insurance industry. And that industry, you will not be surprised to hear, has been very, very good to Mr. Lieberman.


What makes it all the more hypocritical is that Mr. Lieberman claims to want health care reform. And way back in September, the senator was publicly championing a Medicare buy-in.


In an interview with The Connecticut Post, he said he had been refining his views on health care for many years and was "very focused on a group post-50, or maybe more like post-55" whose members should be able to buy Medicare if they lacked insurance.


This week, when there actually seemed to be a compromise on health care that did not focus on Mr. Lieberman, he announced that he would block the package if the Democrats included a terrible idea — allowing people between 55 and 65 to buy Medicare.


He presented this as a principled effort to keep down federal debt, but when a Times reporter asked about his 180-degree turn, he said he had forgotten taking his earlier position until the Democratic leadership reminded him about it over the weekend.


Mr. Lieberman has taken more than $1 million from the industry over his Senate career. In his 2006 re-election campaign, he ranked second in the Senate in contributions from the industry. He doesn't seem to have forgotten that.


The Senate bill was better with the public option, as weak as it was. The Medicare buy-in was an intriguing alternative. Still, even without either one, the Senate must pass this vital measure.


Now that Mr. Lieberman has gotten his way and everyone's attention, he has a responsibility to move things forward. He can help persuade a wavering Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and a hesitant Republican, Olympia Snowe of Maine, to vote for the bill. Or has he also forgotten his commitment to health care reform?








It is the greatest example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.


In a bit of unpoetic justice, Bob Gates helped create the mess in Afghanistan decades ago and now has to try to clean it up.


At the C.I.A. in the '80s, Gates conspired with Charlie Wilson and the Saudis to help the insurgents in Afghanistan turn back the occupation of a superpower. Now he's guiding the attempt of the occupying superpower to turn back the insurgents, some of whom are the same ones he armed to defeat the Soviet Union.


Trying to do a good thing that also seemed like a strategically brilliant thing — help the Afghan Davids repel the raw aggression of the Soviet Goliaths — we created the monsters that have come back to haunt us, and we learned how little control we have over history.


We trained a whole generation of jihadists and armed them. We paved the way for the Taliban takeover and the rise of Osama bin Laden. We created the Islamist power in the northwest frontier of Pakistan, swelled by millions of Afghan refugees. We enabled the conditions for bin Laden's safe haven. We contributed to the instability of Pakistan.


On a rainy day in Kabul last week, I watched Gates climb into the cockpit of a Soviet-era helicopter that Americans use to teach Afghans how to fly. The defense secretary was in one of the same style Mi-17s that he once provided Stinger missiles to shoot down. The absurdity was not lost on Gates, an avid history reader who feels our foreign policy has too often been "an exercise in misread history."


Gates promised that America would not repeat its disappearing act of 1989. Flying from Kabul to Iraq, I asked him if, like Paul Wolfowitz with the Iraqi Shiites, he was driven to war because of guilt at abandoning people we had promised to stand by.


"I don't feel guilt about it, but we made a strategic mistake," he said. "And it wasn't just the Afghans. At almost the same time, we basically cut off our relationship with the Pakistanis. And the mistrust that exists today is a reflection of that action on our part."


I asked what he learned in the exhaustive White House review. He said Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top American commander in Afghanistan, convinced him that "it was less the size of the force footprint than what the forces did on the ground." The Soviets, he added, "invaded a country." Well, so did we. But the Soviets, he said, killed a million Afghans and tried to impose "an alien culture."


But Gates knows messy conflicts get messier. When we were in Kabul, a senior NATO commander conceded that civilians may have been killed during a joint military operation with Afghan forces.


There is a brief window of opportunity when a benign occupying power can accomplish some good before it is regarded with resentment and resistance.


I showed Gates an article in the newspaper Stars and Stripes reporting that U.S. trainers considered Afghan soldiers and police a long way from ready, and that some Afghans in a new unit in Baghlan Province cower in ditches, steal U.S. fuel and weapons and are suspected of collaborating with the Taliban.


Capt. Jason Douthwaite, a logistics officer in Baghlan, told the military paper that he felt more like an investigating officer than a mentor: "It's not, 'Let me teach you your job.' It's more like, 'How much did you steal from the American government today?' "


Given the warping effect of ego in Washington, I asked the defense secretary how he ensures that he doesn't turn into Robert McNamara?


"I've never believed that I was the smartest guy in the room," he said. "I want people around me to tell me if they think I'm headed in the wrong direction. And I read a lot."


Gates laughs at being called an Eeyore, but he believes "too often there is a desire for certitude where it's not possible." Harking back to Cold Warriors who thought there could be a limited nuclear war, he demurred, "once things start, how you get control of it or keep control of it struck me as just inherently a problem."


W. said invading Iraq could help break the cycle of supporting corrupt dictators. But watching the Karzais acting like a mob family going to the mattresses, how do we know we're not simply creating and propping up another corrupt dictator?


"You have to be realistic about the fact that developments of the kind we want to see take time," Gates replied. "If we can re-empower the traditional local centers of authority, the tribal shuras and elders and things like that and put an overlay of human rights on that, isn't that a step in the right direction?


"I'm leery of trying to change history in dramatic, short strokes. I think it's very risky."








Let's not fool ourselves. Whatever threat the real Afghanistan poses to U.S. national security, the "Virtual Afghanistan" now poses just as big a threat. The Virtual Afghanistan is the network of hundreds of jihadist Web sites that inspire, train, educate and recruit young Muslims to engage in jihad against America and the West. Whatever surge we do in the real Afghanistan has no chance of being a self-sustaining success, unless there is a parallel surge — by Arab and Muslim political and religious leaders — against those who promote violent jihadism on the ground in Muslim lands and online in the Virtual Afghanistan.


Last week, five men from northern Virginia were arrested in Pakistan, where they went, they told Pakistani police, to join the jihad against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. They first made contact with two extremist organizations in Pakistan by e-mail in August. As The Washington Post reported on Sunday: " 'Online recruiting has exponentially increased, with Facebook, YouTube and the increasing sophistication of people online,' a high-ranking Department of Homeland Security official said. ... 'Increasingly, recruiters are taking less prominent roles in mosques and community centers because places like that are under scrutiny. So what these guys are doing is turning to the Internet,' said Evan Kohlmann, a senior analyst with the U.S.-based NEFA Foundation, a private group that monitors extremist Web sites."


The Obama team is fond of citing how many "allies" we have in the Afghan coalition. Sorry, but we don't need more NATO allies to kill more Taliban and Al Qaeda. We need more Arab and Muslim allies to kill their extremist ideas, which, thanks to the Virtual Afghanistan, are now being spread farther than ever before.


Only Arabs and Muslims can fight the war of ideas within Islam. We had a civil war in America in the mid-19th century because we had a lot of people who believed bad things — namely that you could enslave people because of the color of their skin. We defeated those ideas and the individuals, leaders and institutions that propagated them, and we did it with such ferocity that five generations later some of their offspring still have not forgiven the North.


Islam needs the same civil war. It has a violent minority that believes bad things: that it is O.K. to not only murder non-Muslims — "infidels," who do not submit to Muslim authority — but to murder Muslims as well who will not accept the most rigid Muslim lifestyle and submit to rule by a Muslim caliphate.


What is really scary is that this violent, jihadist minority seems to enjoy the most "legitimacy" in the Muslim world today. Few political and religious leaders dare to speak out against them in public. Secular Arab leaders wink at these groups, telling them: "We'll arrest if you do it to us, but if you leave us alone and do it elsewhere, no problem."


How many fatwas — religious edicts — have been issued by the leading bodies of Islam against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda? Very few. Where was the outrage last week when, on the very day that Iraq's Parliament agreed on a formula to hold free and fair multiparty elections — unprecedented in Iraq's modern history — five explosions set off by suicide bombers hit ministries, a university and Baghdad's Institute of Fine Arts, killing at least 127 people and wounding more than 400, many of them kids?


Not only was there no meaningful condemnation emerging from the Muslim world — which was primarily focused on resisting Switzerland's ban on new mosque minarets — there was barely a peep coming out of Washington. President Obama expressed no public outrage. It is time he did.

"What Muslims were talking about last week were the minarets of Switzerland, not the killings of people in Iraq or Pakistan," noted Mamoun Fandy, a Middle East expert at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London. "People look for red herrings when they don't want to look inward, when they don't want to summon the moral courage to produce the counter-fatwa that would say: stabilizing Iraq is an Islamic duty and bringing peace to Afghanistan is part of the survival of the Islamic umma," or community.


So please tell me, how are we supposed to help build something decent and self-sustaining in Afghanistan and Pakistan when jihadists murder other Muslims by the dozens and no one really calls them out?


A corrosive mind-set has taken hold since 9/11. It says that Arabs and Muslims are only objects, never responsible for anything in their world, and we are the only subjects, responsible for everything that happens in their world. We infantilize them.


Arab and Muslims are not just objects. They are subjects. They aspire to, are able to and must be challenged to take responsibility for their world. If we want a peaceful, tolerant region more than they do, they will hold our coats while we fight, and they will hold their tongues against their worst extremists. They will lose, and we will lose — here and there, in the real Afghanistan and in the Virtual Afghanistan.








"WHAT'S the deal with fish oil?"


If you are someone who catches and eats a lot of fish, as I am, you get adept at answering questions about which fish are safe, which are sustainable and which should be avoided altogether. But when this fish oil question arrived in my inbox recently, I was stumped. I knew that concerns about overfishing had prompted many consumers to choose supplements as a guilt-free way of getting their omega-3 fatty acids, which studies show lower triglycerides and the risk of heart attack. But I had never looked into the fish behind the oil and whether it was fit, morally or environmentally speaking, to be consumed.


The deal with fish oil, I found out, is that a considerable portion of it comes from a creature upon which the entire Atlantic coastal ecosystem relies, a big-headed, smelly, foot-long member of the herring family called menhaden, which a recent book identifies in its title as "The Most Important Fish in the Sea."


The book's author, H. Bruce Franklin, compares menhaden to the passenger pigeon and related to me recently how his research uncovered that populations were once so large that "the vanguard of the fish's annual migration would reach Cape Cod while the rearguard was still in Maine." Menhaden filter-feed nearly exclusively on algae, the most abundant forage in the world, and are prolifically good at converting that algae into omega-3 fatty acids and other important proteins and oils. They also form the basis of the Atlantic Coast's marine food chain.


Nearly every fish a fish eater likes to eat eats menhaden. Bluefin tuna, striped bass, redfish and bluefish are just a few of the diners at the menhaden buffet. All of these fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids but are unable themselves to synthesize them. The omega-3s they have come from menhaden.


But menhaden are entering the final losing phases of a century-and-a-half fight for survival that began when humans started turning huge schools into fertilizer and lamp oil. Once petroleum-based oils replaced menhaden oil in lamps, trillions of menhaden were ground into feed for hogs, chickens and pets. Today, hundreds of millions of pounds of them are converted into lipstick, salmon feed, paint, "buttery spread," salad dressing and, yes, some of those omega-3 supplements you have been forcing on your children. All of these products can be made with more environmentally benign substitutes, but menhaden are still used in great (though declining) numbers because they can be caught and processed cheaply.


For the last decade, one company, Omega Protein of Houston, has been catching 90 percent of the nation's menhaden. The perniciousness of menhaden removals has been widely enough recognized that 13 of the 15 Atlantic states have banned Omega Protein's boats from their waters. But the company's toehold in North Carolina and Virginia (where it has its largest processing plant), and its continued right to fish in federal waters, means a half-billion menhaden are still taken from the ecosystem every year.


For fish guys like me, this egregious privatization of what is essentially a public resource is shocking. But even if you are not interested in fish, there is an important reason for concern about menhaden's decline.


Quite simply, menhaden keep the water clean. The muddy brown color of the Long Island Sound and the growing dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay are the direct result of inadequate water filtration — a job that was once carried out by menhaden. An adult menhaden can rid four to six gallons of water of algae in a minute. Imagine then the water-cleaning capacity of the half-billion menhaden we "reduce" into oil every year.


So what is the seeker of omega-3 supplements to do? Bruce Franklin points out that there are 75 commercial products — including fish-oil pills made from fish discards — that don't contribute directly to the depletion of a fishery. Flax oil also fits the bill and uses no fish at all.


But I've come to realize that, as with many issues surrounding fish, more powerful fulcrums than consumer choice need to be put in motion to fix things. President Obama and the Congressional leadership have repeatedly stressed their commitment to wresting the wealth of the nation from the hands of a few. A demonstration of this commitment would be to ban the fishing of menhaden in federal waters. The Virginia Legislature could enact a similar moratorium in the Chesapeake Bay (the largest menhaden nursery in the world).


The menhaden is a small fish that in its multitudes plays such a big role in our economy and environment that its fate shouldn't be effectively controlled by a single company and its bottles of fish oil supplements. If our government is serious about standing up for the little guy, it should start by giving a little, but crucial, fish a fair deal.


Paul Greenberg is the author of the forthcoming "Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food."


This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:


Correction: December 18, 2009 An Op-Ed article on Wednesday, about fish oil supplements, misstated the amount of menhaden converted into capsules and other products. It is hundreds of millions of pounds a year, not hundreds of billions.








Rarely have rebuttals come in as quickly as they have in the case of Barrister Kamal Azfar's surprising statement before the 17-member full bench of the Supreme Court hearing identical petitions challenging the NRO. Following Mr Azfar's contention that the military and the CIA are attempting to destabilise the system, the prime minister's office has swiftly sought to distance itself from the comments, while the visiting head of the US Centcom has also said he sees no threat from General Kayani. But the remarks -- which the lawyer, rather oddly, says were based on his personal opinion -- have raised an inevitable stir which will not easily die down. They seem to echo feelings in the presidency, where conspiracy theories of various kinds have been doing the rounds for weeks. The president and his aides are eager to save themselves by alleging that there are attempts at destabilisation. The Sindh card too has been dealt out. Mr Azfar's remarks simply play into this mood. It is hard to believe he made them in complete isolation, and without some kind of subtle backing. The voicing of suspicion that an attempt is on to force change adds to the crisis we have been facing for some time. It also places the government in an extremely awkward spot. It is to be seen what it says in the written statement the court has sought from it on the issue.

The situation that has now emerged is unfortunate. Once more an attempt seems to be on to pit institutions against each other and to divert attention from real issues by creating discord. The problem is that the comments of the kind made in the court add turbulence and damage the political equilibrium. They are inherently destabilising, and quite regardless of the intentions of any institution or group of individuals, will act to reduce confidence in Pakistan. The impact of this lack of confidence is already visible on the economy and indeed also on other sectors of life. Somehow we need to persuade our leaders, and those who act on their behalf, that what we need most of all is stability. The comments from Mr Azfar serve no good purpose and have simply added to the chaos that surrounds the government. This makes it even less likely that the order that this country so badly needs will take hold or good governance will be offered to people by a government which now faces further turmoil.







The possibility of drone strikes over Quetta may be becoming more real. President Obama has now been quoted as saying that drone strikes over Quetta could be considered. However, at meetings in Washington he is reported to have expressed concern over the possible reaction to such strikes. We know Pakistan will react with anger. The prospect of drone strikes over an urban centre is indeed horrifying. The bombings in the northern areas have already created much angst and, in some ways at least, fuelled militancy. Any action elsewhere would meet with still angrier reaction. It is obvious that loss of innocent lives, or 'collateral damage' as the US terms such deaths of women, men and children, will be unavoidable in that situation.

We must hope and pray that this never becomes a reality. But we must also ask what our own government is doing to ensure this. For years we have refused to take any heed of reports that the Taliban are active in Quetta. Some of these reports have come from Baloch leaders. In an astounding about-face, authorities have now acknowledged that a Quetta Shura had existed after all. They also claim that this body has indeed been 'damaged', but do not say why they had for years denied any such set-up. Such denials followed by such acknowledgments make no sense at all and increase the lack of credibility on the part of the government. This has already caused immense damage and threatens to cause more. In the wake of the growing demands that the Quetta issue be addressed, the government needs to act quickly – and, for once, wisely. For our sakes, more than for anyone else, the Taliban need to be acted against wherever they are based.







There has been a string of incidents involving foreign diplomats in recent months, most recently in Lahore (again). Several of the incidents involve foreign nationals carrying unregistered firearms in their vehicles. In one incident in Golra Sharif, Islamabad, three Americans were found sporting beards, wearing shalwar-kameez and in possession of four M-4 machine guns and four 9mm pistols. They were coming from NWFP and we can only speculate what their purpose was. Dutch diplomats have been stopped and found to have pistols, bullet-proof jackets and hand grenades. An American security guard is said to have pulled his pistol and threatened an inspector of the Islamabad police. There are a number of reports of vehicles carrying diplomats bearing fake number-plates. There have been other incidents where usually Americans have been involved in altercations and threatening behaviour with our citizens. There does not appear to be any record of any foreign national being prosecuted for unlawful behaviour.

The government has stated emphatically on more than one occasion that no foreign diplomat of any nationality is permitted to carry weapons within our territorial limits – yet there is ample evidence that quite a few of them are carrying weapons. Diplomats everywhere in the world are accorded special rights and privileges, and these often include immunity from prosecution under the laws of the country they serve in. However, 'diplomatic niceties' are usually observed where laws are broken – fines for traffic offences are quietly paid, troublesome diplomats find themselves posted somewhere less comfortable – and a slightly tense equilibrium is maintained. We rarely hear about most of these diplomatic hiccups and it is only when they assume the magnitude and gravity of the transgressions currently being perpetrated here that they reach the eyes and ears of the public. It is no unsubstantiated rumour that diplomats are toting weaponry and acting aggressively; they have been caught red-handed. We need a little more clarity and a lot less fog around the issue of what diplomats here are and are not allowed to do. Because in a country where accidents happen with monotonous frequency, this is beginning to look like a large accident waiting to happen.






T S Eliot was not joking when he said "the Nobel is a ticket to one's own funeral. No one has ever done anything after he got it." President Obama got this ticket too soon in his presidency. Within less than a year after his election as the first-ever non-white US president in more than two hundred years of American history, Obama got this year's Nobel Peace Prize for doing nothing.

He is indeed a miracle man. Getting elected as America's first-ever black president was in itself a miracle, but becoming a Nobel peace laureate as head of state of a superpower that is tirelessly fighting wars since after the Second World War is even a bigger miracle. His choice as the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was an unexpected honor and a big "surprise" for Obama himself. But he did go to Oslo last week to collect his prize.

There he drew laughter from his hosts when he acknowledged the "considerable controversy" that their generous decision had generated. The son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas, Barack Hussein Obama has been on a success path shattering barriers. He entered the White House in what was seen as a barrier cross, and became the first black ever to make this high office in America's history. Now he becomes the third serving US president to have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The other two sitting American presidents to have received this honour were Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, for negotiating an end to a war between Russia and Japan, and Woodrow Wilson in 1919, for the Treaty of Versailles. In Obama's case, the Nobel Committee cited him "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples" and said that he had "created a new climate in international politics."

In his acceptance speech at Oslo, President Obama sought to address some of the criticism over his nomination for this year's Nobel Peace Prize. He is good at making eloquent speeches. He made one in January this year known as his inaugural address at the Capitol Hill in which he spoke of his "terrible legacy" in the form of multiple challenges including costly wars, global image erosion, and shattered economy. He vowed then that these challenges will be met."


n Oslo's City Hall, he had a different script of eloquence altogether for his ceremonial acceptance speech. He was repeating the Bush language. He forgot what he had said in his inaugural address while running down the Texas Cowboy. As the newly sworn president, Obama had belittled the Bush era as a "bleak chapter" in America's history, and vowed to restore what he called "our lost sense of common purpose" by acclaiming "America, we are better than these last eight years." .

Across the globe, there was great relief on the prospect of change in America's global policies and outlook. There was a feeling that for the first time since John F Kennedy, America had a different kind of leader. Obama's presence at the White House not only brought a new "facelift" to the US but also embodied hope for change. He promised a new America for the Americans and for the world, an America which would be at peace with itself and with the rest of the world. But there is no sign of the promised change yet.

In Oslo, Obama was a different person altogether. As Nobel Laureate, he was sounding fury and smelling gunpowder. From being a global peace-maker, he turned his Nobel moment into what observers found an "unapologetic defense of war." He was at his Hegelian best when he proclaimed war as an ethical aspect "which ennobles human activity." He justified wars to make peace.

"For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world" he declared while making his case that "evil must be fought with evil." Eleven months into his presidency, this was a new Obama doctrine which amounted to revival of medieval concept that noble ends justified ignoble means. His "belligerence" also smacked of Bush's deific neocon outlook which must have shamed even Alfred Nobel's ghost who in his lifetime had invented dynamite but in his dying will, he recognised that weapons bring no peace.

Obama's new 'hawkish' doctrine must have embarrassed the Nobel Committee for having made a mockery of this year's prize. Even American analysts were filled with self-reproach on seeing their president being given an honour that he didn't deserve. They found it difficult to digest Obama's new belligerent message which was clearly at odds with the spirit bequeathed by Alfred Nobel. He was receiving an honour for peace that is nowhere. As a warrior president, perhaps George W Bush would have made a more deserving Nobel Laureate.

Since he became president, Obama has only escalated CIA-operated drone attacks into Pakistan. Even though they are aimed at suspected Al Qaeda or Taliban havens, they constitute blatant violation of Pakistan's territorial integrity. Only days before receiving his Nobel, Obama had ordered fresh military surge of additional 30,000 troops for Afghanistan. No wonder, he was booed by thousands of anti-war protesters outside the Oslo City Hall where he was receiving the prize.

Inside the Hall, it must have been a jarring moment for the selected audience when Obama, in the midst of the ceremony, spoke rather nonchalantly of his troops in Afghanistan: "Some will kill. Some will be killed." He also claimed that "force is sometimes necessary" and that "we will not eradicate conflict in our lifetimes." Earlier this year, he said the US will maintain a nuclear arsenal "as long as these weapons exist." Obama's overbearing candidness must have challenged the Nobel Committee's wisdom. .

By reaching back to the concept of "just war," Obama tried unabashedly to impress his audience by saying that his Nobel credentials were not undeserved. He also signaled to them that after nearly a year in office, his views about the need to resort to force had begun to harden. It was almost certainly not the speech that the Nobel Committee would have expected to hear, nor the one that Obama himself would have imagined delivering six years ago when as a state senator, he had vocally opposed the Iraq war.

In Oslo, Obama justified the "use of force" in "self-defense" or to come to the aid of an invaded nation, on humanitarian grounds. What he did not mention in this context is that the UN Charter (Article 2) obliges all states "to settle disputes by peaceful means, to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations."

He should have at least known that under the UN Charter, no country, however powerful or dominant, can resort to pre-emptive or preventive use of force or to any punitive action unless it is authorised by the UN Security Council within the scope of Articles 42 and 51 of the UN Charter. In many ways, even the American media now openly says that the post-9/11 US led wars have been a big mistake. In particular, the Iraq war waged without UN authorization was an illegal war. From being a righteous war when it started, the US war on terror is also now considered a wrong war.

Obama's Nobel moment seems to have come too soon. He has yet to fathom the depth of non-violence preached by Mahatma Gandhi (who never won the Nobel but deserves one even posthumously) and Martin Luther King Jr. (who did, in 1964). But he could not be more derisive of their philosophy when he said "I cannot be guided by their example alone." This is not the language of a Nobel Laureate. He seems to have been possessed by his predecessor's "might is right" vision. He needs visionary correction.

To prove himself worthy of the prize, Obama must establish his "peaceful" credentials. He could do so only by ensuring US withdrawal from Iraq on schedule, ceasing drone strikes across the Durand Line, preparing the ground for withdrawal from Afghanistan in eighteen months as announced, and getting the Palestinians a state by the end of 2011 even through unilateral recognition.

Another Nobel Laureate and a fellow democrat president, Woodrow Wilson's ghost doesn't have to come to remind Obama that to make "the world safe for every peace-loving nation, it must be assured of justice and fair dealing, and that unless justice is done to others it will not be done to us." President Obama's 'Nobel' path line is clearly drawn. He must go ahead and follow it lest history rewards him, like his predecessor, with flying Size 10 Shoes.

The writer is a former foreign secretary. Email: shamshad1941@







The pace at which the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) case progressed before the full bench of the Supreme Court made the beneficiaries of the infamous and despotic proclamation extremely uncomfortable. Nearing the end, their nerves could not hold any longer and they decided to interject by moving a plea that the court should limit itself only to the contours of the original submissions by the lawyers of Dr. Mubashar Hasan and other petitioners and that it should not 'overstep the limits' by adjudicating on the fate of multifarious benefits accrued by various respondents including, but not limited to, the one who sits on the hill.

The plea is seriously indicative of the cracking up of nerves of the beneficiaries under incessantly mounting pressure. Whether it comes in response to the present submission that is before the Supreme Court, or it would unfurl in response to any fresh application that may be moved in the future, the matter is not going to end just with the NRO being declared void ab anitio. It would go beyond that. It would touch the realm of what would be the fate of the benefits passed to over eight thousand people under the NRO and where would the cases relating to loot, plunder, even murder stand that have since been written off. Having displayed a total absence of morality so far, the beneficiaries continue in their elevated public offices and appear determined to try every trick in the bag to put off the dreaded adjudication.

The struggle for the advent of the rule of law is as old as Pakistan itself. It is only now that we finally have a whiff of what should always have been there. Instead, what we had was the 'doctrine of necessity' – an abominable instrument that was used, ever so often, to proclaim the acceptance of dictatorship hands down whenever some charlatan came riding the barrel of a gun. That is precisely why the beneficiaries of this black law are finding it so difficult to adjust to the emerging ground realities and they are fighting desperately to stave off the inevitable. It would have been just that much more graceful if the writing on the wall had been read and the illegal beneficiaries of a black legislation had thrown in their ill-gotten gears, submitting before the supremacy of the decision of the superior judiciary. That, unfortunately, was not to be and it is now left to the court to pass the stripping orders together with the judgement on the fate of the NRO.

True to dictatorial parlance, there are orchestrated murmurings emanating from the vested quarters with regard to the danger to the democratic system in the event an adverse adjudication is announced by the Supreme Court. Of specific interest to this group of cronies of Mr Zardari would be to force the court to limit its judgement to the fate of the NRO alone. This is going back to the days of dictator Zia who equated his continuation as head of the state with people voting for their faith in Islam, or despot Musharraf who sent the whole judiciary packing when confronted with the prospect a danger emerging to the legitimacy of his candidature to be president of Pakistan . Seeds of uncivilized and undemocratic behaviour were planted on each of these occasions and we are still reaping the bitter harvest. Must the charade continue, or should there be an effort to accept for ourselves what we keep preaching for others?

There was no danger to the system. There would be no danger to the system if the Supreme Court throws the NRO out and re-institutes the cases that were earlier waived off under the draconian law. On the contrary, abolition of this infamous enactment would only lead to the cleansing of the system and the strengthening of the institutions. If there is any danger, it is to the survival and the continuing machinations of a select bunch of people who have amassed unbelievable personal wealth by looting the national resources. They feel threatened and, in their desperation, are trying to nurture the spectre of a non-existent danger to the system, or to the democratic institutions. As a matter of fact, a fair and transparent judgement at this stage would provide the long-delayed adrenalin to the starved veins of a nation that is now looking up to the apex court in hope.

The system is not at stake. What is at stake is the monumental illegal empires that a coterie of depraved individuals has erected by depriving millions of others of their right to live, to breathe, to have a roof over their heads, to have two meagre meals a day, to be able to send their children to schools and their sick ones to hospitals. What is at stake is the opportunities available to a select few to continue indulging in large scale loot and plunder so that a predominant cross-section of society should remain underprivileged and deprived of the basic needs and amenities of life. What is at stake is the despicable concept of inequity and inequality that pervades the spectrum. What hurts is the deep-rooted discrimination that separates those who have abundant and those who have nothing. This vast gulf, unfortunately, has continued to increase through all the years that Pakistan has been around as an independent and sovereign country. It cannot continue any longer, and it should not. Look at the un-abating violence and the militant syndrome that have taken deep roots. Look at what human beings are doing to human beings on a daily basis. It is time it was brought to an end. Judiciary is the way out for this to happen because, if it does not come to an end in an organised manner, the only alternative is a bloodbath. Pakistan cannot afford it. Pakistan will not last it.

While a few may be balking at the prospect of the judiciary throwing out an immoral, illegal and unconstitutional enactment, it is the bulk of the Pakistani population that awaits eagerly for this to happen and for the advent of genuine rule of law in the country. In the process, no recourse to unjustified immunities should be considered a hindrance to revive the cases written off under the NRO because, if such discrimination persists, it would only perpetuate a feeling of deprivation and injustice. That would not be the right indicator for a society to start addressing its numerous inherent aberrations including the gospel of militant philosophy that it

is caught up in.


The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad. Email: raoof







In his letter to Mr Zahid Malik, Mr Ghulam Ishaq Khan also wrote: "Some foreign countries, with a resolute agenda for establishing a non-proliferation regime globally, took serious note of this development and their 'Imam' decided to penalise the country for its 'sin' of acquiring nuclear explosive technology and audacious defiance of their avowed strategic policy objectives. Accordingly, in 1990, economic sanctions were imposed on Pakistan and the military aid and financial assistance…was totally suspended…

"At the same time, the policy for lack of 'solid proof' was creating doubts and suspicions in the minds of those who even otherwise were not well disposed towards the nuclear programme under the patronage of Dr A Q Khan. These groups had persuaded themselves to believe that it was all a 'hoax' and 'publicity stunt' and such a device was never developed and did not exist, even though they knew from experience that Dr A Q Khan had seldom made a promise on which he could not deliver – maybe after some time lapse. The cloud finally lifted on 28th May, 1998, when not one, but several devices were successfully tested at Chaghi Hills in Balochistan, putting the 'Doubting Thomases' to shame… [T]here burst forth a virtual avalanche of recognitions of the feat; of conferment of honours and award, of medals and prizes, both official and non-official, of laudatory references and tributes, the naming and foundation laying ceremonies of technical institutions after Dr A Q Khan, etc. The result is that Dr A Q Khan stands today as the most decorated citizen of the country and his is the best and most widely known name internationally, particularly in the scientific community.

"Unfortunately, the tests also gave rise to a futile and totally unbecoming controversy regarding apportionment of credit for the acquisition of the 'bomb technology' between PAEC (Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission) and KRL and the relative primacy of their scientists and engineers in the matter. The claims made and the arguments advanced by the new aspirants to credit made distressing reading, particularly to those of us who were associated with the working of both the institutions…

"…[I was those] whose single-minded pursuit and unremitting efforts surmounted all blocks and hurdles, both internal and external, [and whose efforts] culminated in the May 28th detonations. It was none other than Dr A Q Khan and his team at KRL!

"A project of this magnitude and complexity could admittedly not be the job of a single individual or organisation; others must have contributed to it and PAEC certainly did in quite a significant and noteworthy manner, in a spirit of patriotic cooperation in a project of national importance and by fulfilling their part of the obligation in faithfully carrying out the task assigned to them in the context of the overall division of labour. This does not mean, however, that when mention is made of the victory at Al Alamein in the 2nd World War, instead of attributing full and outright credit to Field Marshal Montgomery for his astute strategic guidance of the war, an attempt must be made to apportion it among all those who acted as field commanders, battalion leaders or sectional heads looking after supplies, logistics or auxiliary services or who, in some other capacity, participated in the venture, all with the aim of enabling the Field Marshal to accomplish at the earliest the coveted mission of ultimate victory. It is a pity that this point is not generally understood and appreciated.

"Dr A Q Khan is an active participant in life and a man of many 'virtues.' Amenable to advice but standing firm on basic principles, he is endowed with an uncommon degree of dynamism and drive; is intolerant of indecision and procrastination and does not hesitate to accept a challenge, no matter now daunting the task is. However, defence research and production is not his only forte. Together with an abiding interest in the spread of education, with emphasis on science and technology, he has diverse other interests, ranging from love of Urdu poetry to human resource development and welfare. As a founding member of the Society of the Promotion of Engineering Science and Technology (SOPREST), he actively believes in the society's philosophy that promotion of science and technology is a sine qua non for economic growth, human welfare and national security and that in order to alleviate poverty, eradicate unemployment and increase productivity and production, it is imperative to invent and introduce new technologies and improve upon [or] replace older ones. He is also on the board of governors of the Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Science and Technology (GIKI), the first institution set up by the Society for the realisation of its aim and objects and as its project director, Dr A Q Khan has made invaluable contributions to its development into a Centre of Excellence and to making it, as adjudged by neutral observers, the topmost institution among Pakistan's institutions of science and technology and one of the distinguished technical seats of learning (university) in Asia.

"Lately, …he has founded a new welfare organisation by the name of SACHET. With a commitment to contribute to the various aspects of human development, its aim is 'to promote human development for the under-privileged in Pakistan.' Initially, it will be working in three areas: (i) literacy promotion, (ii) geriatric care and (iii) reproductive health, which it considers 'contemporary realities and issues relevant to present-day Pakistan.'

"I have said on some previous occasion that the measure of goodness and greatness that a person achieves in life depends on the causes and the nobility and innate truth of these causes that he espouses in life. By this definition Dr A Q Khan is truly a 'good' and 'great' person as there cannot be a more noble cause than working for the development of one's own country and the welfare of its people. What he has achieved in life so far and the deeds that he has accomplished speak for themselves, and they speak louder today than the words in which they can be described, affirming the truth of the aphorism that:

Mushk aanst ke khud beboyad

Na ke attar begoyad

Yours sincerely,

Ghulam Ishaq Khan"

For those who are now willing to accept the truth, Almighty Allah has said in Surah Baqar (2:18), Surah Araf (7:179) and Surah Anfal (8:22) "They are deaf, dumb and blind, they will not see the right course. Deaf, dumb and blind they are and they cannot understand, see or hear."

I sincerely hope that, many of the controversies will be permanently laid to rest."







On the first anniversary of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai last month, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) released a controversial document titled "Task Force Report on National Security and Terrorism." It advised New Delhi to launch a limited but intense attack on Pakistani territory to prevent similar acts of terrorism.

This has taken the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry and chambers of commerce in Pakistani cities by surprise, and dismayed Pakistan's business leaders. The FICCI is one of India's oldest business organisations. But, unlike the chambers and business networks in Pakistan, the FICCI works closely with the government of the country.

The report calls for immediate prohibition of trade with Pakistan and closure of travel routes, as well as denial of permission for overflights to Pakistani airliners.

The report is a rejection of the FICCI's own policies. For instance, in a recent Business Leaders Conclave in Colombo last month, the FICCI signed an economic cooperation declaration on development of regional collaboration. To the leading business houses in Pakistan, the FICCI was a platform where they could initiate new business partnerships in India.

The report is likely to have a negative impact and change perceptions in the business sector, and thus dramatically harm bilateral economic relations. It could deepen the political mistrust between the two countries. It will diminish the potential of bilateral trade and enable the penetration of the Indian establishment into the business sector. The report is a matter of serious concern for businesses on both sides, because its contents ould create an alarming situation in both business and political fields.

The timing of the report is also significant. It coincides with the Indian army chief's policy statement, which calls for a limited war with Pakistan. It can be argued that the FICCI is playing into the hands of the Indian establishment.

The negative implications of the document are already evident from the response of the business sector in Pakistan. The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry has responded by suspending the sending of business delegations to India and advised its members to immediately halt trade and business engagement with that country until the resumption of the Composite Dialogue between Pakistan and India. Business leaders in Karachi, Islamabad, Faisalabad, Multan and Peshawar have similarly shown resentment against the report.

There is a dire need for immediate confidence-building measures. The FICCI should engage in damage control to regain its image. In future, the FICCI should refuse to engage in such controversial activities and restrict its involvement to the advocacy and promotion of regional trade.

It is unfortunate that the leadership of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) has no time to address this matter of great concern and take a firm policy stand. The FPCCI for once needs to think beyond and above its petty domestic business politics and proactively engage in dialogue with the FICCI to make it aware of the negative implications of its report's on bilateral trade and economic relations.

Chamber networks in Pakistan, especially the FPCCI, must seek an official clarification from the FICCI, and this should be done without any further delay. In case there is a lukewarm response from across the border, the FPCCI must plan its future strategy in relation to the FICCI and other chamber networks in India. There is no doubt that national economic interests and diplomacy must drive our future engagement in global politics, but it should not compromise on national sovereignty over profits at any time.

Moderate elements at the FICCI must advocate restraint, taking into account the fact that businesses in Pakistan are losing millions of dollars and hundreds of lives every day because of the war against terrorism. Incident similar to 26/11 are replicated every other day in Pakistan.

It is time that the two countries' businesses and chamber networks stood together and provided support to bilateral business interests, rather than advising their governments to adopt the option of war against neighbours. The FICCI is a responsible international institution and has always stood for business and economic cooperation in the region.

There should not be confusion in any mind that surgical strikes and limited war by India will not only be responded to with equal force but will eventually end up in a full-scale war, with devastating results for the two countries' inhabitants. Conflicts and wars produce no winners, only losers.

The writer is a Chevening fellow and presently based at Columbia University, New York. Email:







The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting
The causes of events are even more interesting than the events themselves - Cicero In a room forcibly browned by black paper on the windowpanes we huddled together waiting for the sirens to go off. The flickering candles cast a sinister light. Each night, death visited as we smothered our racing hearts expecting a direct hit from the Indian war planes furiously emptying out their bellies of bombs meant to annihilate. We had grown accustomed to darkness at night; had memorized the sound and fury of the enemy planes; learnt the crackle of anti-aircraft guns and accepted death should it suddenly strike.

Out of the blue one bright afternoon, an enemy aircraft suddenly appeared. It had dodged our radars. The sirens had no time to warn us. A five-year old clad in bright red sweater played outside in the garden while we sat sunning ourselves in the deep verandah. Like a vulture the plane encircled the little boy. It flew so low that one could almost see the pilot. He too must have spotted the kid. We froze with fear as the grandfather lunged outside to drag the boy in. The next second we heard loud strafing. The plywood factory next door had been hit and labourers sitting out eating lunch lay dead on the ground.

Three decades and eight years ago today we lost half of our country. Enough has been written about the role of generals Yahya, Tikka Khan and 'Tiger' Niazi. Enough has been said about the role of Z A Bhutto. The Hamoodur Rehman Report traces the darkest days in our history. It mentions widespread atrocities including abuse of power by our civilians and army. It speaks of the killing fields set up by West Pakistanis; of rape and loot. The inebriation of some army officers, an instance of a brigadier "entertaining" women while his troops got shelled by Indian troops is exposed. The Report was so explosive that it had to be kept secret from the public for years.

I lived in Jhelum. It had a sizeable number of army families living in the cantonment along River Jhelum. Some of the civilian wives would get together with the army wives whose husbands were fighting on the war fronts. We made comfort packages for the soldiers defending us. After the war ended, we heard of many casualties of people one knew. Going for condolences to their homes became a ritual that bleak December when cries of despair greeted us everywhere.

Seventeen years later, I went to Dhaka. It was December 16 and the Bangladeshis were celebrating their 'Day of Liberation.' Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was the leader of the opposition then. She was just 39 years old. I interviewed her in her office at the grand Parliament House. Sitting under a huge portrait of her father Sheikh Mujib, the sari-clad Hasina with hazel eyes, the colour of her late father's, looked small and vulnerable then. But the anti-Pakistan venom was clearly visible that mild December morning. It stemmed more from the shabby treatment we gave to her father than the 1971 war. Later she arranged for me to visit her father's home in Dhanmandi, converted into a museum. Sitting on a mantelpiece was a photo of Mujib addressing a huge gathering with the words: "This time our struggle is for emancipation (from Pakistan); it's for independence."

This summer in Islamabad I met a retired officer who had a secret to share. When the PPP swept the polls in 1970 and the battle for power between Sheikh Mujib and Bhutto raged, a team of senior officers was sent from Rawalpindi to Dhaka on a secret mission. They were to fly the incarcerated Mujib back to Pindi with clear instructions: eliminate Mujib should India intercept their flight. "Under no condition should Indians get Mujib alive," were the strict orders given by the GHQ.

The officer met Mujib in jail at Dhaka. "Do me a favour" Mujib told him one day, "arrange a 30 minute meeting between Bhutto, Yahya and myself. Let the three of us debate as to who is breaking up Pakistan. You be the judge." Mujib and the officer had bonded and trusted each other. "So who would you have pronounced guilty?" I asked the officer. Without batting an eyelid, he said it was not Mujib but Bhutto and Yahya who inflamed the fires of 1971 war that led to the breakup of Pakistan!

Till today Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has neither forgotten nor forgiven Pakistan for the ill treatment towards her father nor the alleged war crimes committed by our army. Bangladesh has demanded an apology. Our Foreign Office has rejected the demand saying that it has already regretted the incidents. But Bangladesh has approached the UN for trial of what it calls the '1971 war criminals.'

How is our present enemy, the Taliban, different from the Mukti Bahini (freedomfighters) who struck terror by kidnapping West Pakistani officers and torturing them to death. It was gruesome. I know of a deputy commissioner kidnapped from his home near Dhaka, taken to the jungle and made to dig his grave. He was about to be killed when the hand of God saved him. But the trauma cost him his life. Six years later he died of a massive heart attack in Lahore.


Captain K who is fighting the Taliban in the tribal area sends me an email. He reads the newspapers, but he says "I don't know much about politics, still I'm ashamed to know what all is happening in our country," he writes. "Pakistan is facing a crisis but our leadership's failure to address the issues is sad. Being a Pakistani and a soldier I'm ready to give my life for my country but our leaders are not even ready to give up their power. It's indeed really embarrassing to see them divided on the issues of national security. Pakistan in unlucky to have today's leadership. I have received many injuries in this operation but even then I'm committed to do my duty till the last blood in my body. We should learn lessons from our past and try to improve upon issues for the greatest interest of our nation. But please tell me what our future is?"

He well knows the future is not bright. Pakistan has been badly let down by its military and civilian rulers in the past. The hunger for power is the real killer.

"You can give up women; you can give up alcohol; you can give up smoking; you can give up gambling, but the one addiction you can never give up is power. It's a devi that sits on your lap!" the officer who accompanied the imprisoned Mujib back to Pindi said of Z A Bhutto. "The Mughal emperors imprisoned/killed their fathers/brothers and all other male relatives competing for the throne."

Two wars, one dismemberment and now the military operation. Where is the end?

Email: &







My association with Sri Lanka started with my diplomatic assignment to Colombo in the days when the movement for independent Bangladesh was gaining momentum, with open military and political support from India. The air links between East and West Pakistan were broken. The only alternative was Colombo. This was also the period when Bengali diplomats working in Pakistani missions abroad were deserting their posts, leaving most missions totally dysfunctional.

It was the most critical period in Pakistan's history. The sensational news of genocide and military crackdown on Mukti Bahini had raised a storm in world capitals. Pakistan was bereft of sympathy and support and totally isolated. The military government of Yahya Khan, instead of pacifying the Bengalis and engaging them in dialogue, decided to send cultural troupes to different capitals, including Colombo, to project Pakistan's soft image.

Colombo served PIA as a refuelling stop as its aircraft could not fly non-stop between Dhaka and Karachi. While a stop-over for fuelling was unavoidable, the crew decided to make a quick buck. The flight to Dhaka was primarily to augment our military presence. The return flights invariably carried bodies of army jawan who laid down their lives in defence of their motherland. Instead of having a sobering effect the crew used the stop-over to buy semi-precious stones, even paan. At that time a single leaf of paan was being sold in Karachi for Rs 5 each. Confronted with dead bodies, "the great people to fly with" were using the opportunity to enrich themselves.

Among Pakistan's neighbours, Sri Lanka was the only country that extended its full support to Pakistan's integrity. The prime minister came under intense pressure from India and the Hindu Tamils in Sir Lanka. Mrs B, as she was affectionately called, was indeed an Iron lady. She refused to cave in.

It was a cold morning on December 17, 1972, when I as per routine entered the embassy. I saw hundreds of Sri Lankans sitting on the sprawling lawns. I went upstairs to inform the high commissioner of the presence of hundreds of Sri Lankans. In a brusque official tone he asked me to meet them. The 500 or so Muslims led by Sir Abubakar Fareed, who later served in Islamabad as Sri Lanka high commissioner, were sobbing and crying over the Dhaka surrender -- loss they could not bear.

I sat for a while consoling them. When I came back to the high commissioner, he was entertaining another Pakistani diplomat en route to his posting in Kuala Lumpur. The high commissioner asked me to bring the gradation list of the Foreign Office to ascertain his seniority after the exodus of the Bengali officers. No expression of grief or loss. The tragedy was seen as holding promise of his quick upward mobility in the service with the departure of Bengali diplomats.

This was not a solitary instance. Contrary to what the media reported, I saw little evidence of genuine grief at the humiliation and the ignoble surrender. Most would regard it as a millstone in the federation's neck. Some would consider it good riddance.


No wonder we are in such a mess today. Our elite does not live and feel in consonance with the man on the street who is a genuine Pakistani and ready and willing to sacrifice the last drop of his blood for the integrity and independence of the country. The establishment and the upper crust of our society basically remain occupied with their own agenda of seeking power and privileges.

The writer is a former ambassador. Email: m.tayyab.siddiqui








THE wild allegations levelled by Kamal Azfar, counsel for the Federation, that the democratic system was under threat from the CIA and the GHQ, analysts fear, would add to the prevailing confusion and give a clear impression that the Government was absolutely directionless. The motive of the statement became vivid when the elderly counsel qualified it by adding that the court's decision may put democracy under threat as well

It is understood that there would be damage control efforts by the Government and the statement might be given a new twist and colour but it is quite obvious that this was not a slip of the tongue or off-the-cuff remark by the counsel in his personal capacity, as he tried to portray immediately after churning out the stormy opinion. There is consensus among political commentators and analysts that the allegations were part of the well thought out strategy conceived at the Presidency to counter the judicial process and pre-empt judgement of the apex court in the NRO case. The statement of the counsel of the Federation that the verdict of the court may also jeopardize the democratic process also means that the Presidency and the Government too were fully aware of what could be the logical outcome of the case. One feels really sorry that the Presidency thought it appropriate to raise the ante at a time when the armed forces were wholeheartedly engaged in the war against terror, which has been described by many circles as the determining factor for future of Pakistan. There are numerous comments by knowledgeable circles and analysts that there was not a remote possibility of the Army taking over the reins of the Government at a time when its hands are tied in security related issues and countering domestic and foreign threats to national defence. Similarly, it is a very myopic and foolish thinking to talk about connivance between the GHQ and the CIA. There is no commonality of thinking between the Pakistani establishment and the CIA over a number of regional issues and the strategy to tackle them. In this backdrop, the remarks of Kamal Azfar have created deeper suspicions about their motives and intentions of the Government. The Chief Justice has rightly asked the counsel to submit this in black and white for proper analysis and consideration. But in any case, the allegations have plunged the country into another phase of uncertainty pregnant with serious implications of all sorts.






APART from the grave implications of what Kamal Azfar stated before the full bench of the Supreme Court, there were two more statements on behalf of the ruling party that suggest that the Government is going for the policy of confrontation. At the launching ceremony of a book on the Bhutto family, President Asif Ali Zardari cautioned against more 'judicial murders' while unbridled Governor Punjab Salman Taseer has once again behaved like a bull in the China shop by launching unnecessary frontal attacks against Mian Nawaz Sharif and his otherwise docile Opposition Party.

In our view, all the three statements were not casual remarks and are deeply inter-linked. They reflect the thinking of the Presidency and that despite claims about reconciliation and dialogue the hilltop has decided to go for confrontation. These remarks also show that the PPP is in a hurry to axe its own feet by trying to accelerate the process of political degeneration. The reference to more 'judicial murders' is undoubtedly directed at the ongoing NRO case in the Supreme Court which, we believe, the court will decide on constitutional and legal basis and not on individual considerations. Similarly, Mian Nawaz Sharif himself has stated on a number of occasions that he would not become part of any effort to destabilise the Government and that the PML (N) is a responsible Opposition. But Salman Taseer has tried to spoil the atmosphere by claiming that the entire game is about the ban on the third term of the Prime Minister. In our view, it is the duty of the Government to act more responsibly than the Opposition and not to issue statements that could undermine its own strength. Unfortunately, our history is replete with instances when after every two/three years, politicians start creating scenes that cause concerns among people about the fate of the democracy. We would, therefore, urge the President that as Head of the State he should give second thought to his policy of confrontation and pursue politics of reconciliation in letter and in spirit in the interest of his own Party and that of the system.







APART from the grave implications of what Kamal Azfar stated before the full bench of the Supreme Court, there were two more statements on behalf of the ruling party that suggest that the Government is going for the policy of confrontation. At the launching ceremony of a book on the Bhutto family, President Asif Ali Zardari cautioned against more 'judicial murders' while unbridled Governor Punjab Salman Taseer has once again behaved like a bull in the China shop by launching unnecessary frontal attacks against Mian Nawaz Sharif and his otherwise docile Opposition Party.

In our view, all the three statements were not casual remarks and are deeply inter-linked. They reflect the thinking of the Presidency and that despite claims about reconciliation and dialogue the hilltop has decided to go for confrontation. These remarks also show that the PPP is in a hurry to axe its own feet by trying to accelerate the process of political degeneration. The reference to more 'judicial murders' is undoubtedly directed at the ongoing NRO case in the Supreme Court which, we believe, the court will decide on constitutional and legal basis and not on individual considerations. Similarly, Mian Nawaz Sharif himself has stated on a number of occasions that he would not become part of any effort to destabilise the Government and that the PML (N) is a responsible Opposition. But Salman Taseer has tried to spoil the atmosphere by claiming that the entire game is about the ban on the third term of the Prime Minister. In our view, it is the duty of the Government to act more responsibly than the Opposition and not to issue statements that could undermine its own strength. Unfortunately, our history is replete with instances when after every two/three years, politicians start creating scenes that cause concerns among people about the fate of the democracy. We would, therefore, urge the President that as Head of the State he should give second thought to his policy of confrontation and pursue politics of reconciliation in letter and in spirit in the interest of his own Party and that of the system.







It may be recalled that when the US and its allies decided to invade Afghanistan in October 2001 on a flimsy excuse of getting hold of Osama bin Laden and dismantling Al-Qaeda to avenge terrorist attacks allegedly masterminded by Osama, in that timeframe Al-Qaeda was an unknown entity. If nabbing or killing blue-eyed boy of CIA Osama and his few hundred ill-organised and ill-equipped followers from different countries was the real purpose, there was absolutely no reason for carrying out grand mobilisation and invading Afghanistan. Either proof of his involvement should have been furnished to Mullah Omar as asked by him to justify handing over his guest, or his rational suggestion of putting Osama on trial in a neutral country heeded to.

However, the US tried to kill a fly with a huge hammer, which still managed to fly away. The real purpose of invasion was to topple Taliban regime that had disagreed with unjust terms and conditions of US oil and gas tycoons wanting to pipe down energy resources from Central Asia to European and US markets via Afghanistan and Pakistan. Eager to give practical shape to its New World Order, the US wanted to convert Afghanistan into a permanent military base wherefrom it could monitor regional countries of its interest.

Having learnt that the entire Al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership including Osama had taken shelter in caves and tunnels of Tora Bora mountain range, the US military should have encircled the plausible sites to prevent their escape and then a combing operation launched. Afghan-Pakistan border should have been effectively sealed. No such thing was done since US higher ups showed disinterest when they were informed about Osama's presence in Tora Bora. The US military took the easy route of ceaseless pounding from air hoping that the inmates would be smoked out. Taking advantage of smoke screen created as a result of reckless bombing and inhibition of allied forces, the whole lot including Osama and Mulla Omar slipped out. Not a single Al-Qaeda or Taliban leader could be arrested. It was a huge intelligence and military failure but the matter was hushed up. It is widely believed the US military deliberately allowed Osama and others to escape to Pakistan to justify continued occupation of Afghanistan and to subsequently put the bridle around Pakistan. Once he escaped, he was made into a Frankenstein monster that vanished into thin air. Ever since Osama escaped from Afghanistan on 16 December 2001, the US officials are indulging in meaningless conjectures. At no stage they admitted their failure to nab him. The US Senate has come out with an unconvincing explanation that former Defence Secretary Rumsfeld rejected calls for reinforcements when Osama was within grasping reach. It is a childish excuse to cover up an oversight for which the US and Pakistan are paying dearly.

It wants to put across that the US military had the capability but was denied. Having miserably failed to perform its primary task, the US was left with no choice but to cover up its embarrassment by pressurising Pakistan to do what it could not do. Had Pakistan not helped in arresting over 600 Al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives including some high profile leaders, US scorecard would have been blank. Instead of appreciating its efforts and sacrifices it rendered, the US started mistrusting Pakistan Army and the ISI and indulged in immoral blame game alleging that it was soft towards Afghan Taliban. These cheap tactics were employed to hide their failures and conceal launching of covert operations against Pakistan for the fulfilment of its multiple objectives. Endless sensational stories about whereabouts of Osama and his exploits were fed to the media to keep him alive and to keep American public distracted and placated. It was also reported that Osama was suffering from diabetes and acute kidneys problem and required frequent dialysis. Reports of his death were also circulated. The more he was demonised in the western world more he got popular in the Muslim world and attained the status of a hero. A worldwide massive manhunt backed by high-tech electronic and satellite means was launched and the earth combed from one end to the other. All mobile and line phones, internet, foot and vehicular movements were monitored and houses pierced through geo-stationery satellites but he remained untraced. Having scanned all nooks and corners of the world, the US came to the conclusion in 2008 that Osama and other top leaders of Al-Qaeda were hiding somewhere along Pak-Afghan border belt. Services of reputed Scotland Yard were hired, head money raised to $50 million and network of informers engaged to track down most wanted man.

When all efforts failed and feelings of impotent rage intensified, they found some solace in making Pakistan a convenient scapegoat and alleging that Osama was hiding somewhere in FATA. Under this plea, the US military became aggressive and repeatedly expressed its desire to move into FATA to stalk the most prized prey. The US then modified its stance and stated that FATA was the most dangerous place on earth which was a breeding ground for terrorists and suicide bombers and a launching pad for cross border terrorism into Afghanistan. A little later the story was made juicier by declaring FATA as the main base of Al-Qaeda and from where possible attack on US homeland could emanate. In search for Osama and other top leaders of Al-Qaeda, CIA accelerated drone attacks in 2009 against suspected targets. Hillary Clinton on her last visit to Pakistan blurted out that Osama and other senior Al-Qaeda leaders were present in FATA since 2002 and it was incomprehensible that Pakistan leadership didn't know about it. Gordon Brown substantiated this claim and now Obama has stated that Al-Qaeda is present in Pakistan from where planning for another attack on US homeland is in the offing. What it amounts to is that the US and Britain suspect that Pakistan is sheltering Osama and is linked with Al-Qaeda as well as with Afghan Taliban.

Knowing his fragile medical condition, it is humanly not possible for Osama to remain in hiding for eight years in treacherous terrain of FATA that had come under the strong influence of CIA and FBI from 2002 onwards. ISI was virtually pushed into the background so that covert operations could proceed unhindered and unobserved. Tons of armaments with Indian markings hidden in tunnels and caves unearthed from Swat and South Waziristan speak volumes of involvement of foreign agencies. Under such circumstances, to expect Osama to leave the companionship of time-tested Afghan Taliban and marry up with unknown and untested Pakistani Taliban with whom former have not established any association is far-fetched. Moreover, the ISI had helped in tracing and arresting hundreds of Al-Qaeda leaders including Khalid Sheikh and Abu Faraj. There was no reason for Pakistan under Musharraf that had ditched Afghan Taliban and had put all eggs in the basket of USA to shelter Osama. One can at best laugh at the silly fabrication that has no head or tail.

The theory of Al-Qaeda safe havens in FATA has been invented to deflect attention from US failures. Osama has been kept alive to justify continued occupation of Afghanistan. Now that Gen McChrystal's wish of additional 30,000 troops has been fulfilled, rather than feeling relieved and more confident, he has come out with another lame excuse that unless Osama is captured or killed, Al-Qaeda cannot be defeated. Knowing his nature of disease he contracted many years ago, medically his survival under adverse conditions is next to impossible.Osama is dead, so the US should stop flogging the dead horse and let his soul rest in peace.








Pakistani leaders are serious about wiping out militancy in the northwest, especially in the Waziristan; the Taliban took over in the past two years. Washington backs the operation, seeing it as a test of Pakistan's resolve to beat Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants implicated in attacks on Western forces in neighboring Afghanistan. The recent spate of attacks in Peshawar and Islamabad was the challenge for Taliban which they availed the opportunity to kill law enforcement agencies officials, in Islamabad. I would enlighten those days when a suicide bomber in Swat killed at least 30 people and wounded 40 attending Friday prayers at a mosque in Pakistan's northwest on June 5, 2009, violence that came as the country's leaders urged a visiting US envoy for more aid to stave off Taliban-led militancy.

The recent spate of deadly suicide attacks including mosque attack in Islamabad were not so different killing hundreds of people and copious injured when US pushed Pakistan to "Do-More" to eliminate Taliban-led militancy. South Waziristan is a tribal region bordering Afghanistan that some suspect will be the next site of military action against the Taliban. The analysts say the Taliban are attacking troops there to distract the army from Operation Rah-e-Nijat. Security forces were still hunting top Taliban commanders and that isolated incidents of violence would likely continue. On the other hand there have been probably completing several months for a subject whether to send more troops to Afghanistan or not amid tension is itinerating on the cranium of Obama Administration and seems like US democrats are not understanding what to do and how to tackle these Taliban, like they will get botched in achieving the goals in Asia as troops have already lost their morale in Afghanistan, yet US has sorted the plan to endow Afghan Military and Afghan Intelligence with sophisticated weaponry and Train Afghan Military through conducting special trainings before quitting Asia, but the Afghan Taliban are muddled up with the local people as they could not be identified easily, this has also made the point to analyze that Afghan Intelligence has failed to recognize Taliban's network being citizen of Afghanistan. Arming the afghan forces will never work against these intelligent warriors because Taliban are comprised by several wings which are working in various directions against US and NATO forces.

On the other hand Hamid Karzai has proved himself as one of the best cherub for the sake of presidency and CIA has assured him to support his government along with his brother Ahmed Wali Karzai in every aspect of life including drugs mafia, and their links are totally combined to CIA and US interests, the same hard work which Noor Muhammad Tarakai played during Soviet involvement in Afghanistan before Soviet was broken by Taliban. This will never bring democracy in entire region as the existing circumstances in Afghanistan are revealing it with the passage of time; US analysts are supposing that Taliban leadership is in Quetta, Which is called Quetta Shura Taliban under ISI protection. If ISI was protecting them then what for US was funding and supporting Pakistan. If Taliban were present in Balochistan then ISI would be the first to hand over them to the US. Balochistan is already suffering from Indian involvement which United States have ignored listening about India. Once drone attacks were started on this belt, one missile fire will create 10 more anti American suicide bombers; this will create more insurgency which Pakistan cannot allow it. Because it is not FATA or tribal belt, all people belong to this belt are well educated and pro Pakistani.

Taliban have made it clear in Afghanistan that under the umbrella of CIA Hamid Karzai would never be accepted by Taliban even if Karzai or CIA offered Taliban for additional talks. Inviting Taliban to the talks illustrates that Taliban could be included in Afghan government, which analysts say that if Taliban were included in the government, then what for US launch eight years prolonged offensive and precious blood of armed forces spewed in such war to perceive this day that Taliban would be included in Afghan Government. This is also truth that Taliban would never calm down and join the Afghan government until US and NATO forces were present in Afghanistan, Nevertheless Mr. President Barrack Obama and Angela Markel has decided to amplify the number of NATO troops in the region to continue invading central Asia, Markel despite facing local consequences has decided to continue support. Even resignation of the high profile Army officers in Germany she stands as top US ally, but this option would once again lay the troops into chasm if the basic links between Afghans and Taliban remained tied. After increasing of the troops Taliban would continue attacks in the form of Afghan police as already such techniques were used on GHQ attack by Taliban-led mission from FATA.

At the intervening time, the best option remains exit, which US will never frankly apply, for the reason that according to the US defense analyst "The U.S. has staked its international reputation on an acceptable result. To lose in Afghanistan, is to lose everywhere. Lose international credibility and perceptions of capacity and, although it may not be widely recognized, defeat will damage domestic morale. Even losing an unpopular war affects domestic morale. It questions competence of government, irrespective of which government committed the nation to the war. Having deployed in the manner it did, it is in U.S. interest not to lose (which is a little different from must win.) To not lose, translates to mean an acceptable status quo — an acceptable level of domestic Afghan violence that can seen to be contained by Afghan government. This will be a delicate balance and determined by the nature of the local dynamics. If U.S. adopts a strategy more suited to the location, they stand to gain more than pressing on with expansion of a failing strategy — which demands more fudging and goal post shifting".

The main tip is very simple that there are forming lobbies in Afghan government who are supporting Taliban and providing them intelligence information; this has proved that United States is no more welcomed by Afghan government, and they wish to live their self made life style in order to understand each other, despite making pacts with Russia or Taliban, it will never bring change in the Afghan's life. Its time to equip Pakistan with latest weaponry to protect it from Afghan Taliban otherwise these Taliban would over flow Pakistan and India. This is time to let them decide their own fate, rather than micro manages in Afghanistan or growing there troops. It will never sink the international status of United States and the troops would be saved so.







Some times the hunter becomes the hunt and the gunner himself becomes a target. A few weeks back an international conference on terrorism was organized at Vigyan Bhavan, India. Most of the speakers were well known scholars and lawyers from all over the world. Everything was going smooth but suddenly it all became very bitter and tense when the former Union Law Minister and senior lawyer, Ram Jethmalani, alleged that 'Wahabism' was responsible for terrorism throughout the world.

In his address, Mr. Jethmalani, who is president of the All-India Senior Advocates Association, said: "Unfortunately in the 17th century, they produced an evil man in Saudi Arabia by the name of Wahab, who was concerned about the decline of the Muslim world, but he hit upon a wrong remedy." He alleged that the Wahabi terrorism instilled rubbish in the minds of young people to carry out terrorist attacks. He further said "India had friendly relations with a country that supported Wahabi terrorism," Saudi Arabia's Ambassador to India Faisal-al-Trad was also among the guests. He protested the statement of Jethmalani and expressed his strong resentment simply by going out of the conference hall. According to the daily Hindu, Adish C. Aggarwala, chairman, All-India Bar Association and joint organiser of the conference, tried his utmost to clarify the situation by saying that Jethmalani's views were not those of the government but of the speaker himself. The statement of Jethmalani must be an eye-opener not only to the Muslims but to all the forces which claim to struggle for the world peace and social harmony. This type of statement must not be taken as a slip of tongue or an innocent misunderstanding; it is all very carefully planned. According to the media reports different intelligence agencies of the world have constituted various think tanks of scholars and philosophers whose responsibility is to spread hatred against the Muslims all over the world.

Mr. Jethmalani has a very disgusting background regarding his hatred for the Muslims. At present he is representing the Anil Ambani group RNRL in the Ambani brothers' gas dispute in the Supreme Court of India. In one of his arguments in the court, once he said referring to the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project.

"The government of India intends to bring gas from the countries which supported terrorism." Describing the Non-Aligned Movement as evil, he said "India should align with the forces of good to combat evil forces. India and its Foreign Ministers must learn to re-assess the doctrines of the past. India's foreign policy establishment should be courageous to shun the country's relationships with its enemies." All these statements and arguments of Mr. Jethmalani reflect a very narrow minded and prejudice type of approach but it does not mean that we start blaming Hinduism for his stupid remarks. Linking terrorism to a particular religious community in itself is a kind of terrorism. The fact is that terrorism has now become a universal problem. The terrorists have no identity. They own nothing, neither a religion nor a region. Be it an old man or an innocent child, a fairy-like little girl or a helpless woman, it makes them no difference. Their only aim and object is to promote harassment and fear. It is nothing but an evil intention to link terrorism with Islam. One can find a long list of terrorists who are the Hindus, the Jews, the Christians and no doubt the Muslims by creed. Terrorism cannot be attributed to any particular religion, as no religion teaches terrorism. Be it Islam or Hinduism, terrorism is nowhere encouraged or appreciated. We have the best example of Pakistan where almost all segments of society are condemning the terrorist activities carried out in the name of Islam. Recently a video message from the Al-Qaida leaders also came to the surface in which every type of terrorism was condemned.

No sect of the Muslims supports terrorism. The Brailvis, Deobandis, Shias or as referred by Mr. Jethmalani, the Wahabis, none believes in terrorism. Islam is a message of peace and calm and no one believing in the philosophy of Islam can ever favour terrorism. Following the philosophy and teachings of Islam, Pakistan is doing its best to crush the menace of terrorism. Countless soldiers and officers of the Pakistan army have laid their lives in their attempt to crush terrorism. If anti-terrorism efforts were not an inseparable part of the philosophy of Islam, they would have never sacrificed their precious lives. Labeling the Muslims as the Terrorists is a part of the Western strategy. For the last twenty years, the western media, under the guidance of CIA and Mussad, has been trying its best to defame the Muslims and Islam. In the South-Asian region the Indian intelligence agency Raw is safeguarding the interests of these agencies. Look at the Mumbai Blasts and the horrible attacks on the Samjhota Express and the Maligaon Attacks; all these incidents were nothing but futile attempt to defame the Muslims. A very interesting thing is that after every act of terrorism, some of the RAW spokesmen start blaming Pakistan or the Muslim activist groups of India without any proof and without any investigation.

In an article "Bomb Blasts do not Prove Muslims Terrorists," published in the Rashtriya Sahara, July 18, 2008, a senior Indian journalist Zafar Agha criticized Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh for choking the voice raised by Union Ministers Arjun Singh and A.R. Antulay regarding bomb attacks on RSS headquarters. These Ministers held the Hindu extremists responsible for these blasts. The sole purpose behind was to defame Muslims. The HRD Minister Arjun Singh based his argument on a report on the so-called attack on RSS headquarters submitted by a retired judge of Mumbai High Court who had come to the conclusion that the Sangh Parivar itself was behind the 'attack'.

While A.R. Antulay cited another report which showed Hindu extremists making bombs in Nanded disguised as Muslims to defame them. In spite of all these facts and figures, people like Jethmalani are blaming Wahabism for the spreading terrorism; really a very strange paradox. He must cast a look at the intentionally forgotten story of Colonel Prohat and the Gujarat fame 'honourable' Narender Moodi; world recalls them as a dark blob on the face of humanity. And certainly neither they are Pakistanis nor the Muslims.







The West's ennui against Pakistan's nuclear programme (as also Iran's) stems from misbelief that these programmes are a threat to 'certain' countries. It is eerie to note that it was the US itself, which used A-bombs against Japan. Besides, it had planned to use biological weapons to destroy its crops, including rice, the Japanese staple food, if Japan did not admit defeat. Not only the USA, but also other major power never had any scruples in using biological weapons. Pamela Weintraub points out, in her Bio-terrorism (page 80), that the British forces used small pox as a biological weapon during the French and Indian Wars (1754-67). The British forces in North America distributed blankets used by small pox patients to American Indians. The resulting epidemic killed more than 50% of many affected tribes'.


Let us have a bird's-eye view of American threats in historical perspective. In 1946, Truman threatened Soviets regarding Northern Iran. The same year, he sent SAC bombers to intimidate Yugoslavia following the downing of U.S. aircraft over Yugoslavia. In 1948, he threatened the Soviets in response to Berlin blockade. In 1950, he threatened the Chinese when U.S. Marines were surrounded at Chosin Reservoir in Korea. In 1051, he ordered to attack Manchuria with nuclear weapons if a significant number of new Chinese forces joined the war.

Eisenhower followed his footsteps. In 1953, he threatened China to force an end to Korean War on terms acceptable to the United States. In 1954 , his Secretary of State Dulles offered French three tactical nuclear weapons to break the siege at Dienbienphu (Vietnam). In 1954, he used nuclear armed SAC bombers to reinforce CIA-backed coup in Guatemala. Following their invasion of Egypt, Bulganin (1956) threatened London and Paris with nuclear attacks if the invading forces did not withdraw. Eisenhower quickly retaliated by threatening the then USSR while advising the invaders to withdraw from Egypt. In 1958, he ordered Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare to use nuclear weapons against Iraq, if necessary, to prevent Iraqi revolution to spill over into Kuwait. The same year, he ordered Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare to use nuclear weapons against China if they invade the island of Quemoy. In 1961, John Fitzgerald Kennedy threatened Soviets during the Berlin Crisis and then in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1967 , Johnson threatened Soviets during Middle East War. The same year, he publicly threatened to use nuclear weapons to break siege at Khe Shan. Nixon was no less a bully. Look at his "November Ultimatum" against Vietnam, 1970 announcement to fight nuclear war during Black September War in Jordan. In 1973, Kissinger threatened Soviet Union during the last hours of the "October War" in the Middle East. The same year, Nixon pledged to South Vietnamese president Thieu that he will respond with nuclear attacks or the bombing of North Vietnam's dikes if the latter violated the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords.

In 1980, Carter Doctrine was announced which was reaffirmed by Reagan in 1981. During 1990-91, Bush threatened Iraq during the "Gulf War." In 1993, Clinton threatened North Korea. In 1996, during the Taiwan crisis, Clinton sent two nuclear-capable aircraft carrier fleets through the Taiwan Strait. The same year, Clinton threatened Libya with nuclear attack to prevent completion of underground chemical weapons production complex. In 1998, he threatened Iraq with nuclear attack. In 2002, Bush threatened to counter any Iraqi use of chemical weapons to defend Iraqi troops with chemical or biological weapons with a U.S. nuclear attack. In 2006 and 2007, President Bush and presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton threatened to destroy Iran's nuclear infrastructure.

These bombs were designed to destroy enemy command bunkers and WMD (weapons of mass destruction) installations buried hundreds of feet beneath the surface. During his election campaign, Barack Obama, had stated that if elected, he will negotiate complete elimination of the world's nuclear weapons. Let us see if he does anything more than hurling threat.








Someone was knocking at my door. It was late in the morning and I pretended not to hear. The knocking persisted, I walked to the main door, opened it to find a pleasant roly-poly lady standing with a notice in her hand, "It's an eviction notice!" she said as she thrust it into my face.

"Whoa! Whoa!" I shouted, "And who are you?" "Mother Earth!" "Mother Earth, like in earth, earth we live in, stand on?""Yep," said the round lady turning to go. "Wait!" I shouted looking at the notice, "You can't just push this on me!" "Have you ever gone through your tenancy rights?" "Sort of!" I said. "What happens when a tenant breaks the agreement?" "He's thrown out!" I said lamely. I stared at her as she picked up an old computer I'd placed outside for the garbage man to pick up, "So you don't want this?"

"No," I said. "And it'll be tossed into a garbage dump, where it won't rot, or decay but just remain as it is! Not biodegradable, you know! Couldn't you have made it with material, which would have dissolved, disappeared once its use was over? Does your tenancy give you the right of making me your dumping ground?" I continued pleading with her as she walked out, "Please!" I said and then cursed as my driver seeing me, started the car and pressed the accelerator; its fumes made me yell at the stupid man. "Don't curse him, its you who invented this machine which poisons my air and waters! You aren't satisfied with letting them spit fumes on the ground, but have filled my skies with carbon vomiting flying creatures!"

"I'm sorry!" I pleaded. "How long is your lease?""My lifetime!" "D'you know how many tenants I had before you? The same ground you stand on this moment was given to hundreds and thousands before you! I didn't mind too much though I cried a little when they started chopping my forests, but they said it was in the name of progress, and I kept quiet. Then you started with my rivers and seas and skies, filling them with chemicals and gases worse than Hitler's holocaust!"

"I'm sorry," I whispered. "Listen Mother Earth the government is going to announce a major cut in emission intensity in Parliament today!" I asked looking at the eviction notice. "To the gas chambers!" said Landlady Earth with tears in her eyes, "We'll die together; the Tenant and Landlady. You know what you've been?" "A bad tenant..!" I sobbed as I took the notice from my weeping landlady.








Thirtyeight years ago today the Bengali nation wrested independence from the marauding Pakistani occupation forces and Bangladesh emerged as a sovereign country. It was on this day that the defeated Pakistan army surrendered to the Indo-Bangla joint command at the Dhaka's race course ground in full public view, heralding the dawn of a free Bangladesh.

 This year the 39th Victory Day is being observed at a time when the country is poised to establish its first war crime tribunals. The constitution of these tribunals is in keeping with the election pledge of the Awami League which was swept to power in a grand alliance of other parties through a landslide victory in the general election of 2008.

The military crackdown on 25th March, 1971 on a peaceful citizenry caught most people by surprise but from the very outset resistance was built. Those who could not fight fled the scene. Over 10 million people escaped to neighbouring India and almost the entire nation was internally displaced, repeatedly, as the genocide continued. December 16 evokes painful memory even as the nation celebrates the Victory Day with great joy and enthusiasm.

The almost one year old government under the leadership of Bangabandhu's daughter Sheikh Hasina has faced many difficult problems and conspiracies since its inauguration. The BDR carnage in which nearly sixty army officers were done to death in the most cruel way, was a bolt from the blue and a big challenge for the new government. It met the situation with fortitude and courage and brought the situation under control. During the short period the government has overcome many a challenge and crisis and steered the country on to democratic path.

On this Victory Day, a grateful nation pays homage to our fallen heroes and all those who did not hesitate to make great sacrifice so that we could live an honourable life as a free people. It is the duty of all Bengalis to work together with determination to materialise the dreams of the great heroes of the liberation war. The best way the nation can pay tribute to them is for the people to unite and work together to establish democracy on firm ground and work relentlessly for the economic wellbeing of the people.  








One of the laudable decisions the education ministry has taken is the limiting of admission fees for secondary schools to Taka 5,000. Reputed schools in the capital city and the port city have long been realising an atrociously high amount of money from guardians for admission on such heads as school development, session charge and admission fees. It is for the first time that the ministry has stepped in to stop this unreasonable profit-making practice by schools. This has been well appreciated by parents of the students because the move is expected to lessen their burden as well as rein in the overcommercialisation of educational institutions, albeit in a small way.

Education by and large has been turned into a commodity that money can buy, thanks to the chaos that has been allowed over the years to reign supreme. This government has set itself the difficult task of bringing things to order. We understand, the mess accumulated over the decades cannot be cleared overnight. In some areas problems have to be addressed gradually but in certain vital areas action has to be prompt and decisive. The outlandish admission fees, whether these concern private schools, medical colleges or private universities, are one such area on which no compromise is acceptable.

So enforcement of the ministry's order is what poses a great challenge and the ministry seems to be quite aware of this. It has formed a seven-member committee to monitor whether the schools are complying with the government order. One thing is indisputable: the school authorities are not going to welcome this decision and will certainly try to dodge the restriction imposed. If necessary, they will resort to dubious means to fleece guardians. In that case, guardians' cooperation and inside intelligence will be of help.







"…Former Mumbai police commissioner Hasan Gafoor will face disciplinary action for telling the media that four senior Mumbai police officers had evaded their duty during the 26/11 terror attacks.." TOI 15th Dec.
Disciplinary action?

For what? For telling his employers, you and me, we who pay his salary that the men we employed to guard us hadn't done their duty and had left many of us slaughtered and killed?

"These men you have employed to guard you, for whom you have given grand big houses to live in, fancy cars with beacons and free khaki uniforms…"

"Okay, okay what about them?"

"They did not guard you while the terrorists came to Mumbai!"

"Then we should take away their big cars, their uniforms and make them leave their fancy quarters!"

"That is up to you sir! It was up to me to tell you my employer how your money is being spent!"

"Thank you!"

But what do we do? We punish the man!

I can understand if the attacks had been thwarted! If lives hadn't been lost, if the people in the Taj hadn't been massacred, if those innocents at the VT station hadn't died mercilessly, but when ten men enter a city like Mumbai and kill nearly two hundred citizenry with the police watching helplessly, then we the employers need to know why right?

"I am being punished for speaking to you!"

"Punished by whom?"

"By your other employees, those you pay to sit in the House and make laws to look after you!"

"Why should they punish you?"

"Because they are also equally to blame. When you start questioning the policemen who let you down, you will then start questioning these others who you've given authority to control the police!"

"Yes we will!"

"So their idea is to shut me up firmly, in the name of discipline for talking to you!"

"But we are your employers dammit! It is our money that pay your salaries!"



"Sir! You shout at the wrong person. I am paying dearly for reporting to you my employers. Shout at those others you have employed, those you have voted to look after you! Ask them why I can't speak through the press to you my employer? Ask them why they did not guard you that 26/11 night a year ago..!"









Dhaka University made preparations for a grand reception of Mujib to be held on August 15. I went to see the preparations out of curiosity on August 12 and found the Vice-Chancellor supervising the preparations, and made a casual observation that Sheikh Mujib who loved simplicity might not like the grandeur of the reception. The VC said that Sheikh Mujib would explain the objective purposes of BAKSAL scheme to invitees, teachers, students and others.

In the morning of 15 August, 1975, the assassination of Sheikh Mujib was announced by an army officer from Bangladesh radio. It could be learnt later that his wife, three sons (one being a child of 10 only), wives of his two sons Kamal and Jamal, Sheikh Naser (brother), Abdur Rab Serniabat (brother-in-law), Sheikh Moni (nephew) and his wife and a few others were also assassinated. Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana escaped death because they were outside Bangladesh.

I wondered why President's security guards did not offer determined resistance and thought that they might be persons loyal to the assassins. It also struck me why the army chief did not rush with troops to encounter the assassins. The troops and the tanks were reportedly brought out of the cantonment in the name of nocturnal exercise in the city.

The C-in-C did not know of such an exercise to be held on the night of August 13, it was reported by him.
We heard that on the night of August 13 some bombs were burst near the reception venue. It was surprising that no authority made any enquiry into the bomb bursting. It was learnt that when the attack was on, Sheikh Mujib desperately rang up army authorities for help but none turned up except Col. Zamil who made effort to stop the attack but was killed.

Khandakar Mustaque Ahmed took over the BAKSAL Presidency after the assassinations. Khandakar Mustaque Ahmed had been a political associate of Sheikh Mujib, Foreign Minister of Mujibnagar Government and commerce minister of Sheikh Mujib's Cabinet in independent Bangladesh. Khandakar Mustaque told people that he was forced at gunpoint by some army officers to take over the presidency. Many political people recollected that Mustaque was the number-1 founder joint secretary of Awami Muslim League in 1949 when Sheikh Mujib was the number-2 joint secretary and that in the 1954 elections, Mustaque did not get AL party nomination but nursed a belief that Sheikh Mujib was instrumental in not nominating him as AL candidate. After winning the election as an independent candidate Mustaque joined K.S.P. of united front. He re-joined Awami League in the mid-1960's under Sheikh Mujib when Mujib took up responsibility to organise the party. We could not believe that Sheikh Mujib acted against Mustaque as a party candidate in the election of 1954.
The assassins did not make any secret of their identity; some of them boldly disclosed to national and international press what they did. Sitting in the Government House they dictated Mustaque Ahmed to do all that they wanted. The defence officers of the army, by and large, did not tolerate this role of the assassins.
To establish his power over BAKSAL as president, Khandakar Mustaque at once appointed former President Mohammadullah as VP, and first President of Bangladesh Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury as foreign minister, and the commander-in-chief of the liberation forces, General M.A.G. Osmany as Military Adviser. Mustaque formed a Council of Ministers with influential ministers of Sheikh Mujib's BAKSAL cabinet, such as Abdul Mannan, Abdul Momin, Sohrab Husain, Monoranjan Dhar, Phani Bhusan Majumdar, Prof. Muzaffar Ahmed Chowdhury, former vice-chancellor Azizur Rahman Mallik and a powerful council of deputy ministers. Dr. Kamal Husain was abroad and not available for Mustaque's cabinet. Mustaque Ahmed obtained a solemn public declaration of loyalty from the three Defence Chiefs' and the Inspector General of Police. He did not suspend/abrogate the constitution, nor did he dissolve the BAKSAL Parliament and the Polit Bureau. The Speaker of the National Assembly remained in tact in his official glory. To maintain continuity as a political successor of Sheikh Mujib, Mustaque is known to have held meeting of Members of the Parliament in the govt. House. He promulgated Martial Law on August 20 with retrospective effect to give legitimacy to his rule from August 15, and promulgated Indemnity Ordinance under which the assassins were protected from any criminal charge. He made arrangement for the departure of the assassins from Bangladesh before he left office later. Mustaque is believed to have ordered the killing of the Awami League leaders of Mujibnagar government whom he put into jail custody. The subsequent coup by Major General Khaled Musharraf was not properly planned and organized. Mustaque surrendered power to the sitting Chief Justice Sayem who was appointed as President by Major General Khaled Musharraf. The Chief Justice acted as the Chief Martial Law Administrator.
Khaled Musharraf reportedly kept Major General Ziaur Rahman in house arrest during the coup. There was utter indiscipline in Dhaka cantonment. Khaled Musharraf was killed during the indiscipline. Major General Ziaur Rahman who had been put under house arrest by Khaled Musharraf was reportedly extricated from house arrest at the instance of Colonel Taher who was later put to trial and hanged by Ziaur Rahman.

The four political leaders - Syed Nazrul Islam, Tajuddin Ahmed, Captain Mansur Ali and A. H. M. Kamruzzaman - who led the Liberation War of 1971 from Kolkata were immediately arrested after the killing of Sheikh Mujib and later brutally killed while in jail custody on the eve of Mustaque's fall after a role of 87 days. General Zia took over as M.L. Administrator after the Chief Justice left office on grounds of illness.
We must mention that Sheikh Mujib was always gay and never dull in politics. He had an appeal to children into whose imaginary world he could easily enter by entertaining mimics and imitations, and showing considerable humour. He took legal step in the form of Children's Law in 1974 to protect children and promote their full development through education and other cares.

Mujib's economic humanism and love for the people of Bangladesh and partiality for the little men, political courage and populism, emotional response to the poor, to music and poetry were all impaired when he was lying assassinated on the stairs of his humble house for long hours, in his lungi and punjabi which were besmeared with blood and torn with marks of bullets. Sheikh Mujib as the creator of Bangladesh did not lie in state, nor was he buried in state. For fear of military reprisals people did not turn up under martial law announced from radio, to see the mark of pain from his face or the trace of a sweet smile or to weep. People do not know what were his last words and invocations before he breathed his last in the hands of military officers who carried out most cruelly the killing operations. His daughter Hasina, after long years as Prime Minister, brought those assassins to the open court. The cases have not yet been finally decided against the assassins by the Supreme Court.

Soldiers carried Mujib's dead body by helicopter to Tungipara (his village home) where he was buried in the manner the soldiers chose. Eye witnesses lamented silently the lack of minimum possible decorum in the burial. His wife, three sons, brother, close relatives including wives of his two sons, nephew, niece, brother-in-law and a few others assassinated on the night of August 15, 1975 were buried in Banani government graveyard just near the main entrance. Visitors to the graveyard look at the signboard and read patiently the names of all those buried after the cruel assassinations of August 15, 1975 and get shocked to the extreme.
In spite of all that Sheikh Mujib did for the creation of Bangladesh and also the development of devastated independent Bangladesh, there was no dearth of critics. Almost everybody expected immediate actions to satisfy the long accumulated and the post-liberation miscellaneous demands. Sheikh Mujib tried to meet such demands with the meagre resource, but the critics were not satisfied. The transformation of the democratic cabinet form of government into a presidential form by the 4th Amendment of the Constitution and by the one-party BAKSAL administrative scheme were his last efforts to solve the problems of the people effectively. His effort was to combine socialism and popular welfare in a democracy as a temporary trial measure, but the efforts created silent resentment in some quarters. To Moulana Bhasani, a revered politician, Mujib's changed administrative scheme was better than bayonet.

Sheikh Mujib remains unforgettable as the legendary son of Bangladesh for all he did boldly at the risk of life, for the creation of an independent state in Eastern India and to meet the economic interests of the little men in a system of economic democracy through one-party rule as temporary trial measure. Sheikh Mujib did not care for personal safety nor did he believe that it was not enough in Bangladesh to be a populist. He believed in the inscrutable ways of Allah.

The monuments built in memory of the millions of martyrs of the Liberation War and the killing of intellectuals, professionals and dedicated public officials, etc. along with the Shahid Minar in Dhaka have become our sacred rallying places. Visitors pray for the salvation of the souls of all those including the Indian armed forces who lost lives for our independence, and respectfully recollect the role of Mujibnagar government and its workforces and all freedom fighters including guerillas and other fighting forces at home and abroad and their commanders and inspirers. On the 14th December, we observe the Intellectual Martyr Day, on the 16th December the Victory Day and on the 26th March the Independence Day. Amongst other things, on these Days, we pray for the salvation of the souls of all whom we lost for the independence of Bangladesh and look for a better Bangladesh in fulfillment of their dreams.

Special national monument in honour of the founding father of the state of Bangladesh and a special monument of the Indian soldiers who sacrificed lives for our cause, and a demoniac architectural structure to represent war criminals have still remained undone. Still pending remain the demands for the trial of the war criminals. The grand graveyards at Savar as well as the mass-graves across the country are reminders of our national sacrifice for independence. We pay tribute to the departed souls and crave for the realisation of their dreams for their motherland.


(The writer is Retired IG Police & Secretary)








Bangladesh is celebrating the 38th anniversary of its glorious Victory Day today. As usual, there would be a lot of things including celebration programmes on December 16. The day is a public holiday. The national flag would be hoisted atop all government, semi-government and other important establishments. The day is heralded by 31 gun salutes at the dawn. But at the 38th celebrations while remembering the soul-lifting sacrifices and gallantry of the country's bravest and enlightened sons, particularly in this month of December, the people of Bangladesh will also face the most daunting challenges. The nine-month-long struggle that ended with the killing of teachers, writers, journalists, professionals, and social thinkers on December 14, 1971, just on the eve of triumphant emergence of Bangladesh as an independent nation, was an event that Bangladeshis would never forget.

The Victory Day means little to the scavenging children walking past the National Memorial at Savar, Central Shaheed Minar in front of Dhaka Medical College, or Intellectual Martyr's Memorial at Mirpur, whose emancipation was one of the prime goals of the Independence War. Still now, Bangladesh could not achieve victory over poverty and hunger. Hundreds of children fall asleep after futile craving for some food from their poor mothers.


According to Time magazine on Monday, December 20, 1971, the UN did its best to stop the war by passing a resolution calling "cease-fire" and urged Indian and Pakistan forces to return to their own borders. But with victory in view, freedom fighters fought gallantly against the enemies to free the motherland and to establish democracy, secularism, and Bengali nationalism.

When millions of Bangladeshis pay their heartiest gratitude to those freedom fighters expecting that each and everyone, who fought in the complex and challenging situation and sacrificed their lives, would be given high respect and care, one can see sufferings, humiliation and deprivation of freedom fighters. Some of them are rickshaw-pullers, slum dwellers, or even beggars. Most of the countries in the world respect their freedom fighters and senior citizens for their great contribution towards the country. The government need to have special priorities for those great heroes.

To us victory means democracy. Functioning of government is an important factor for democracy. If the decisions adopted democratically are not implemented then the concept of democracy becomes an empty shell. Though parliamentary elections were hotly contested, parliament never functioned as an effective accountability mechanism. Regardless of which party was in power, the main opposition party boycotted most of the parliamentary sessions, alleging government repression to voice its views.

Civil liberties which refer to 'liberal democracy' are the principle of the protection of basic human rights such as freedom of speech, expression and the press, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and association, and the right to due judicial process. Democracy presupposes equality before the law, due process and political pluralism.
The values of the liberation war were secularism, democracy, liberal outlook and modernism. But after independence, governments of every hue have been in power and failed to uphold the values of the liberation war. They also reinstated people who were indicted as collaborators of Pakistani forces. The biggest mistake of the peace-loving nation was to forgive those traitors. This is why Bangladesh always goes back to 1971 to remember its heroic deeds so that Bangladesh can fight for keeping themselves in the path laid by the values.
Bangladesh can't be lenient towards war criminals as crimes like genocide negate the concept of secular Bengali nationhood, which was the basis of the liberation war. People in Bangladesh, who are demanding for a war crimes tribunal, have no intentions to seek revenge and undeserved retribution. Rather, they are advocating for the establishment of realistic and credible examples that will deter future criminals from feeding death and destruction to human civilisation. This is because they believe bringing war criminals to justice can have a positive effect in unifying a nation, legitimizing its government, and keeping it on the right path.
As the world's 139th independent nation, Bangladesh is facing the daunting challenges regarding country's socio-economic and cultural development.

There is no denying that things in Bangladesh today are not as they ought to be, let alone what they promised to be. Thirty eight years is perhaps a short time in the life of a nation to resolve its identity issues, but it cannot be denied that Bangladesh is today at a crossroads and it must act before it is too late. For Bangladesh, the victory is to bring about the much-needed change that is conducive to its growth and stability.

(The writer is a freelancer based in New York)









Later this week, when President Obama participates in the Copenhagen negotiations to draft a new agreement on global climate change, he will become the first American president to personally attend key climate negotiations.

The president's announcement that he will come to the Copenhagen meeting has already had a positive impact. World leaders who were previously reluctant to go, such as the prime ministers of China and Canada, have announced that they too will participate.

Obama recently announced that the United States will set a goal of reducing its greenhouse gas-emissions by 17 per cent from their 2005 level by the year 2020. This number is consistent with a bill already passed by the US House of Representatives, and is in the ballpark of legislation being considered by the Senate. Unlike many other countries, a declaration of intent by the head of government does not guarantee passage of the legislation, so the president cannot get too far ahead of Congress if there is to be a realistic chance of a treaty being ratified.
This proposed 17 percent reduction should not be very difficult to achieve. Most of it could come simply from a transition to the more fuel-efficient automobiles that Detroit and others are beginning to produce, and from more efficient energy use in industry, households and commercial buildings. These are measures that we need to take anyway, to enhance national security by reducing the demand for imported oil, and to save money in economically tough times. We do not need to adopt a particular scheme such as "cap and trade" to achieve this goal.

While the US as a whole will benefit from using energy more efficiently, a few industries may see a decline in the demand for their products. Among these would be coal producers, oil refiners and gas station owners. Some of them have lobbied hard against any climate agreement, and will continue to put pressure on the Senate not to ratify any treaty.

Options to address these concerns include creating new "green" jobs in coal-producing states, providing incentives for refiners to initially export more of their products to developing countries, and facilitating the transition of "gas" stations to "gas and recharging" stations for the new generation of electric vehicles that are likely to become increasingly popular as a way of reducing emissions.

Major developing countries such as China and India have for many years made setting any emission goals contingent on the United States setting its own targets to substantially lower emissions. Many of them are likely to be disappointed at the president's announcement of a modest 17 percent reduction by 2020. This target implies that each American would still emit about twice as much carbon dioxide as each Frenchman, German, or Japanese, who have roughly the same quality of life as we do. The president did announce a larger reduction target of 83 percent by 2050, but this would require a more dramatic change to solar, wind and possibly more nuclear energy.

Each American emits about four times as much carbon dioxide as each person in China, and about 15 times as much as each Indian. In spite of the high-rises and traffic jams of Beijing, Shanghai, Delhi and Mumbai, hundreds of millions of people in those countries still live in poverty. Although both countries have gone a long way in reducing the gap between the haves and the have-nots, it would be unrealistic to expect them to start reducing their absolute emissions until a much larger share of the population breaks the poverty barrier.
Shortly after Obama's announcement of the US emissions target for 2020, China announced that by the same year it would reduce its carbon intensity (the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of economic output) by 40-45 percent compared to 2005. India has also offered to substantially reduce its emission intensity. It would be reasonable to expect China's emissions to level off around 2025, and to start declining in tandem with those of the major industrialised countries thereafter. Starting from a lower base, India may need a few years more for this transition to take place.

President Obama's participation in the Copenhagen climate summit is being welcomed around the world as an indication that the US is finally willing to take action against this common threat and to revitalize a conference that many had until recently written off as unlikely to produce a breakthrough. Protests during the ongoing conference are one indication that a great deal of work still lies ahead, and that it was wise to postpone a new post-Kyoto agreement until 2010. However, the active participation of Obama and other heads of government in Copenhagen considerably increases the likelihood for consensus on identifying a way forward that might be acceptable to most of the countries.


(Toufiq Siddiqi is President of Global Environment and Energy in the 21st Century and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the East-West Center. He initiated the East-West Center's policy research on climate change in 1989, and was a Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. He can be reached