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Thursday, December 24, 2009

EDITORIAL 17.12.09

 

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Editorial

month december 17, edition 000378, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

http://editorialsamarth.blogspot.com

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

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

 

THE PIONEER

  1. CONFUSION CONFOUNDED
  2. ONE TOO MANY PERSONAS
  3. THE POSTER BOY OF PEACE - SHOBORI GANGULI
  4. NO ONE CARES FOR PANDITS - MAHESH KAUL
  5. COMMON SCRIPT CAN UNITE - SHANKAR SHARAN
  6. MAINTAIN STATUS QUO - RUDRONEEL GHOSH
  7. HINDI DIVIDES OUR LAND OF DIVERSITIES - KAJAL CHATTERJEE

MAIL TODAY

  1. GOA POLITICIAN HAS LOST MORAL COMPASS
  2. MHA SHIRKS BLAME
  3. STUCK ON 2G
  4. ANDHRA DOES NOT DESERVE A MESSY DIVORCE - BY PULLARAO PENTAPATI
  5. QUANTUM LEAP - DINESH C. SHARMA

TIMES OF INDIA

  1. CUT RED TAPE
  2. DOLE DRUMS
  3. BETWEEN OLD FRIENDS - KANWAL SIBAL
  4. PARTIES MUST ACCOMMODATE DEBATE
  5. THEY CAN IMPOSE DISCIPLINE - TARA GUPTA
  6. THIS AMOEBA NATION - BACHI KARKARIA
  7. MORNING WALK
  8. THE SUPERANNUATED MAN

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. HOW TO BELIEVE IN THE TRUTH
  2. FIRMLY ON THE GROUND
  3. THE INDIAN DREAM
  4. A SUSTAINABLE BARGAIN - SUHEL SETH

INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. HE ASKED FOR IT
  2. CENSUS & DATA
  3. CONTAIN THE DRAMA
  4. NREGA AND CLIMATE CHANGE - RITASHARMA
  5. GOOD AND SENSIBLE TAX - MK VENU
  6. TIGER TIGER BURNING DIM - KUNAL PRADHAN
  7. FIVE STAR GREENERY - SARITHA RAI
  8. VIEW FROM THE RIGHT - SUMAN K JHA
  9. 'AT LEAST ONE TERROR ATTACK IN INDIA HAS BEEN PREVENTED WITH GERMAN INPUTS' - SHUBHAJIT ROY

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. SEA CHANGE
  2. PICK THE RIPE FRUIT
  3. ARTISTS VERSUS BUSINESS - RAHUL CHAUDHRY
  4. HOW UPA-2 WASTED TWO HOUSE MEETS - MR MADHAVAN
  5. THE NEWEST TWIST TO SINGUR LAND - RAJESH CHAKRABARTI

THE HINDU

  1. CURBS ON FINANCIAL EXCESS
  2. MORATORIUM ON EXECUTIONS
  3. JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS: AGENDA FOR REFORM - ANIL DIVAN
  4. THE SYSTEM STRIKES BACK - VIDYA SUBRAHMANIAM
  5. OBAMA IS NOT SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD. HE'S STILL A U.S. PRESIDENT - JONATHAN FREEDLAND
  6. CLOSING GUANTANAMO: AN ASSESSMENT
  7. BALAKRISHNAN RAJAGOPAL

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. INTERNAL RIFTS CAN HURT INDIA'S RISE
  2. DIVIDED OVER BIFURCATION
  3. SHARING HYDERABAD - NITISH SENGUPTA
  4. US LEADS, UK FOLLOWS - S. NIHAL SINGH

DNA

  1. HEADLEY TWIST
  2. MERCY KILLING
  3. HOPES DASHED
  4. DARRYL D'MONTE 
  5. THE TERROR WITHIN - N RAGHURAMAN 
  6. IN A DIGITAL WORLD, THE OYSTER IS NO LONGER A DELICACY - S SHIV KUMAR 

THE TRIBUNE

  1. UNFAIR US ATTITUDE
  2. CONCERNS OVER CURRENCY
  3. WHY TARGET ONE MAN?
  4. ENDS AND MEANS - BY B.G. VERGHESE
  5. "LIPSTICK" ON MY CLUB - BY RAJNISH WATTAS
  6. VICTIM OF DELAYS - BY SARBJIT DHALIWAL
  7. WHY IRAN CAN'T BE CONTAINED - BY DANIELLE PLETKA
  8. HEALTH - BY THOMAS H. MAUGH II

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

  1. DIALOGUE WITH ULFA
  2. ROAD ACCIDENTS
  3. THE PEACE PROCESS IN ASSAM - DR RAJIB HANDIQUE
  4. ECONOMIC PROMINENCE – THE CHINESE APPROACH - RABINDRA NATH SARMA

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. DIVIDE AND RULE
  2. SKY'S THE LIMIT FOR INDIAN INDUSTRY
  3. THE TASK FORCE ON GST
  4. REINVENTING EDUCATION
  5. LIFE IS BEYOND YOUR LOGIC - PARAMAHAMSA NITHYANANDA
  6. CENTRE & STATES SHOULD JOIN HANDS TO DEVELOP BACKWARD AREAS - NIRAJA G JAYAL
  7. REDRAW STATES ON BROADER PARAMETERS, CITIES AS UTS - V KISHORE CHANDRA DEO
  8. TELANGANA & PRE-MODERN PROMISES - T K ARUN
  9. TELANGANA DOESN'T HOLD WATER - JAIDEEP MISHRA
  10. MORE SATYAM-LIKE CASES SIMMERING: ROHIT MAHAJAN, KPMG EXECUTIVE - PEERZADA ABRAR
  11. INVESTORS LIKELY TO CHOOSE US OVER EMERGING MKTS: FABER - NISHANTH VASUDEVAN
  12. 'A WIN-WIN DEAL FOR BOTH FIRMS'
  13. PROFITS FROM DEVELOPING MARKETS WILL GROW' - GEORGE CHERIAN

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. INTERNAL RIFTS CAN HURT INDIA'S RISE
  2. US LEADS, UK FOLLOWS - BY S. NIHAL SINGH
  3. JIHADISTS GO ONLINE, CREATE VIRTUAL AFGHANISTAN - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  4. DOUBTS ABOUT CERTITUDE - BY MAUREEN DOWD
  5. DIVIDED OVER BIFURCATION
  6. SHARING HYDERABAD  - BY NITISH SENGUPTA

THE STATESMAN

  1. UP, UP AND RISING
  2. SPURIOUS ANGER
  3. IT'S A SIX!
  4. PM IN MOSCOW - SALMAN HAIDAR
  5. ONLY 50% BRITONS CONSIDER THEMSELVES CHRISTIANS: STUDY

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. POOR ACT
  2. MURKY TRAIL
  3. NEW STARS IN THE EAST  - KRISHNAN SRINIVASAN
  4. FROM TERROR TO TRIUMPH - ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA
  5. TAKE A WALK ON THE DARK SIDE
  6. FAMILY AFFAIR - UDDALAK MUKHERJEE
  7. LUST IN THE WIND - INSIYA POONAWALA

DECCAN HERALD

  1. SOUND SUGGESTION
  2. GET REAL
  3. CHINA HOLDS THE KEY - BY ALOK RAY
  4. WWW.JIHAD.COM - BY THOMAS FRIEDMAN, NYT
  5. A PASSION FOR BANGALORE VEGGIES - BY J S RAGHAVAN

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. TWO DAYS AND COUNTING
  2. FIRED FOR SPEAKING OUT
  3. DE-CRIMINALIZING CHILDREN
  4. CHALLENGING INTEL
  5. HIS GIFT CHANGES LIVES - BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
  6. SORRY, SENATOR KERRY - BY GAIL COLLINS
  7. PILOTS ON AUTOPILOT - BY ARNOLD REINER
  8. SORRY, SENATOR KERRY - BY GAIL COLLINS

I.THE NEWS

  1. JUDGMENT DAY
  2. TERROR IN D G KHAN
  3. HEAVEN AND HELL
  4. ONLY IN PAKISTAN - BY ASIF EZDI
  5. PATH TO SALVATION - BY ZAFAR HILALY
  6. AN UNEQUAL PARTNERSHIP? - BY IKRAM SEHGAL
  7. YESTERDAY'S MEN - BY ZAFAR KHALID FAROOQ
  8. A PIE IN THE SKY WHEN YOU DIE - BY KAMILA HYAT
  9. IGNOBLE PRIZE - BY FAROOQ SULEHRIA

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. JUDICIAL ACTIVISM
  2. DUBAI BAILOUT
  3. FOR A TALKING INDIA..!
  4. NEW PHASE IN US-INDIA RELATIONS - MOHAMMAD AMJAD HOSSAIN
  5. GHETTOES IN THE MAKING - RAM PUNIYANI
  6. FROM DAVID TO DAOUD - DR. TERRY LACEY

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. TURNING THE MUCK FILTER ON
  2. WHO SAYS WHALES ARE SPIRITUAL?
  3. THE PARALLEL UNIVERSE WITH A LIFE OF ITS OWN

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. THE MOTI RULING LEAVES THE AFP WITH A CASE TO ANSWER
  2. FILTERING THREATENS FREEDOM, BUT WON'T STOP NET NASTIES

THE GURDIAN

  1. IN PRAISE OF… ROY MAYALL
  2. ARREST WARRANTS: SHORT ARM OF INTERNATIONAL LAW
  3. FOOD WASTE: FOOD FOR THOUGHT

THE KOREA HERALD

  1. HAN MUST CLEAR NAME
  2. HUMANITARIAN AID
  3. SHIFTING THE AFGHAN 'GREAT GAME'  - SHLOMO BEN-AMI

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. SINGLE-PARENT ALLOWANCE REVIVED
  2. FUTENMA'S FATE BACK TO THE FUTURE
  3. DO HUMANOID ROBOTS DESERVE TO HAVE RIGHTS? - BY PETER SINGER AND AGATA SAGAN

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. BOILING CLIMATE NEGOTIATION
  2. ANTICORRUPTION AND PREJUDICE TRAP
  3. GATOT GOEI AND CHRISTINE SUSANNA TJHIN
  4. REORGANIZING LOCAL DIRECT ELECTIONS FOR REGIONAL HEADS - CECEP EFENDI
  5. LESSONS OF LEADERSHIP: WHY DO OUR POLITICIANS FAIL? - ANAND KHRISNA
  6. THE ESSENCE OF COPENHAGEN SUMMIT: THE 'GREEN OLD DEAL' - ALAN OXLEY
  7. COPENHAGEN MEETING AND SOUTHEAST ASIA - IVAN LEWIS MP

 

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

CONFUSION CONFOUNDED

CONGRESS MUST MAKE ITS STAND CLEAR


Having declared its endorsement of the demand for the creation of Telangana by bifurcating Andhra Pradesh, the UPA Government is now seen to be back-tracking on its midnight commitment. Confronted with a huge backlash that continues to snowball in the non-Telangana regions of Andhra Pradesh, the Union Government, especially the Congress, finds itself fighting multiple fires. There is open rebellion in the State unit of the party with MLAs and MPs opposed to the creation of Telangana offering to resign from the Assembly and Parliament. In a major embarrassment to the Congress high command, some party leaders have gone on fast while others like Mr Y Jaganmohan Reddy have made common cause with Mr Chandrababu Naidu's TDP. In the Lok Sabha, members of the Treasury Benches have been holding up proceedings while in Andhra Pradesh, counter-violence is being resorted to as an antidote to the 'virus' of Telangana. As if this were not enough, latent demands for new States have resurfaced with life being most noticeably disrupted in West Bengal's Darjeeling hill sub-divisions where the GJM has once again taken to the streets to push its case for Gorkhaland. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati has seized the opportunity to steal a march over her political rivals by declaring support for the State's trifurcation with an intent to create Bundelkhand and Harit Pradesh. This, in turn, has triggered competitive politics which could, at any moment, turn violent. In a sense, the Congress's knee-jerk reaction to douse the fire lit by Mr Chandrasekhara Rao and his Telangana Rashtra Samiti has resulted in conflagration beyond Andhra Pradesh.


As the Congress leadership dithers, unable to make up its mind on the next step it should take, the situation threatens to slip out of control. Needless to say, this is hardly desirable, not least because the Government cannot afford to be distracted from pressing problems like runaway inflation which are of far greater concern to the masses. The best course for the Congress — and the Union Government — would be to make clear its stand in unequivocal terms. Has a decision been taken to create Telangana? If yes, the nation must be told about the process which the Congress and the Government it heads plan to follow. Will the NDA model of securing an Assembly resolution before moving a Bill in Parliament be adopted? If that is what is being planned, the Congress must say so and then take on the task of putting its own house in order. There is, however, a second course open to the Union Government: It can introduce a Bill in Parliament and seek the views of the State Assembly, which would not be binding on the former. After all, the Constitution does not make it mandatory for the Union Government to secure the approval of the State Assembly, either before or after introducing a Bill in Parliament for the creation of a new State. The BJP-led NDA Government chose to tread the path of consensus and consultation; both virtues are alien to the Congress and the UPA. It would, therefore, be unfair to expect either the Congress or its allies to adopt an approach that shuns conflict, which only makes the task of reconciling differences over the issue of dividing Andhra Pradesh for the purpose of creating Telangana that much more difficult. This is a problem entirely of the Congress's making; it must not depend on others to bail it out. But the country expects the Congress to solve the problem before it becomes a festering wound.

 

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THE PIONEER

ONE TOO MANY PERSONAS

IS HEADLEY THIS CENTURY'S MATA HARI?


Who is David Coleman Headley? This is the million dollar question on everyone's lips. The mystery has been compounded by the fact that the American authorities holding Headley have not been forthcoming in sharing information about him. It now appears that the Pakistani-origin terror suspect had served as an informant for the US Drug Enforcement Agency after being arrested for heroine smuggling back in 1998. And as an informant he was able to infiltrate international drug cartels and travel across the world without any problem. Even post-9/11 when American authorities tightened security measures and put in place a system that enabled stringent scrutiny of people travelling back and forth between the US and 'hotspot' countries, Headley faced no hindrance in making several trips to Pakistan. It is now being assumed that it was on one of these visits that Headley either turned coat and became an active Lashkar-e-Tayyeba member or was encouraged by US intelligence agencies to become an LeT mole who later went rogue. For, it would be naïve to believe that given the high degree of inter-agency cooperation that was established within the American intelligence fraternity in the aftermath of 9/11, agencies like the CIA or the FBI did not have any knowledge about Headley.


There are two key questions that need to be answered. First, how did someone who was supposed to be an informant for an American law-enforcement agency become an LeT operative right under the nose of the US intelligence establishment? One would presume that such a person would be under constant surveillance. But from the way things have panned out it is clear that there was a fair degree of casualness in the manner in which Headley was managed by his American handlers. It is also clear that the latter became suspicious of Headley's activities more than a year ago. At the time of the 26/11 terror strikes on Mumbai, Headley was already under the FBI's scanner. In fact, it is only through monitoring Headley's correspondence with his Lashkar contacts that American intelligence authorities were able to put out the security alert that sea-facing hotels in Mumbai could be attacked by terrorists. Therefore the question is: Why did the American authorities conceal Headley's identity from India for so long? That Headley was in India before the 26/11 attack and four months after in March this year has been confirmed. So why wasn't this information shared with our Government? Was it in an effort to hide the fact that Headley was their own man who had switched sides? If so, it proves that all the American talk about how terrorism needs to be fought through international cooperation is nothing more than bunkum. The US will always put its interests first, no matter scores of people are slaughtered in a country that it calls a 'strategic partner'. This is US chicanery at its best.

 

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            THE PIONEER

THE POSTER BOY OF PEACE

SHOBORI GANGULI


If there ever was a prize awarded in anticipation of a performance, deed, or achievement, the Nobel Peace Prize to US President Barack Obama must qualify as the most eminent one. When a war-time President is honoured with the world's most prestigious peace award, it legitimately begs questions. Albeit a legacy from his predecessor, the truth is Mr Obama is waging two wars in Asia, neither of which is showing any signs of abating anytime soon. By his own admission, in fact, one will take longer than the other. What then is the method in this seeming insanity of honouring the President of a country that has been sending troops to Asia for close to a decade now? The contradiction was pointed out by none other than Mr Obama himself in his Nobel acceptance speech: "The most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars."


Surely, the decision to fete Mr Obama as the messenger of peace was taken after some considered deliberation. It could well be an award in anticipation of the US President finally converting the Asian war zones into regions of lasting peace. That the prize may have been awarded in the hope that Mr Obama would be able to reconcile America's complex search of peace through war and deliver on his own commitment "to replace one with the other", could explain the Nobel jury opting for Mr Obama. Indeed, if this is the hope invested in the prize — the hope of arresting America's military aggression — it may be a worthy effort.


As far as Mr Obama is concerned he significantly balances his position in his acceptance speech between talking peace with the international audience and assuring the domestic one of his right to use force if, when, and wherever required. While pointing out that there is "nothing naïve in the creed and lives" of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Mr Obama says he cannot be "guided by their examples alone". This, because "I face the world as it is and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people". This must reassure the American people that like his predecessor, Mr Obama too reserves "the right to act unilaterally if necessary" in America's defence. He is also very categorical in maintaining that "the instruments of war do have a role in preserving the peace".


For the benefit of the international community, Mr Obama quite evidently seeks to draw a distinction between Mr George Bush Jr's war and his own. While mentioning the two wars the US is engaged in right now he says one is "winding down". This one refers to Iraq where Mr Bush's misplaced sense of threat plunged that nation into irreversible chaos and compromised America's image globally. Mr Obama cleverly draws a wedge between this war in Iraq and the one in Afghanistan in which "we are joined by 43 other countries". Clearly, the US President is referring to the goodwill that attended America's attack on Afghanistan and the way it was subsequently eroded in Iraq. He says, "The world rallied around America after the 9/11 attacks … because of the horror of those senseless attacks and the recognised principle of self-defence." True, 9/11 was too horrifying a terror act for anybody to grudge Mr Bush his military offensive on Al Qaeda.


However, the war that followed in Iraq found few takers. Aware of this distinction, Mr Obama draws a parallel between the world's post-9/11 support of America and that for Mr George Bush Sr's war on Iraq. "Likewise, the world recognised the need to confront Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait — a consensus that sent a clear message to all about the cost of aggression." In omitting Mr George Bush Jr's war on Iraq, Mr Obama virtually disowns responsibility for that country's current state. While he is cautious not to mention the ongoing war in Iraq, he sends out oblique signals to the global community that he is not supremely proud of the way the Americans have gone about things in Iraq. Referring to his own decision to ban torture and close down the Guantanamo Bay prison, he says, "We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend." He even goes to the extent of admitting that "we must develop alternatives to violence that are tough enough to change behaviour." In bringing intransigent behaviour to book Mr Obama says, "Pressure exists only when the world stands as one." He also makes it clear that "America cannot insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves." Admittedly, while no one had an argument with America's war on terror, the world did not stand with the US in hounding Saddam Hussein to his death.


Beyond smart one-liners, however, Mr Obama's speech clearly indicates that the Americans do not have a roadmap for the future in Afghanistan, the war on terror indeed seeming endless. The US President admits that negotiations cannot bring the likes of Al Qaeda to the table; they have to be dealt with militarily. He even says, "In a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone." Having recently committed an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, Mr Obama is acutely aware that it is near impossible to pull out of that country. While withdrawing from Iraq may be easier — given that the invasion did not carry international support — it is extremely difficult for the US to extricate itself from this war on terror. This is not a conventional case of war leading to peace. That may yet be the hope for Iraq. But Al Qaeda is no despotic regime to be pulled own with military force; there is no standing Army to be decimated; and, there are no boundaries, or even oil fields, to be secured. Iraq can be merrily abandoned but Afghanistan must be cleansed. Else, the Americans will come out looking poorly on the world stage. In fact, aware that the US has been pushed against the wall in this war, Mr Obama recently sought China's help to bring peace to the region. In such a scenario the Nobel panel must wait awhile for its poster boy to make good on his commitment to bring "just peace" to the world.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

NO ONE CARES FOR PANDITS

MAHESH KAUL


A lot has been promised by the Jammu & Kashmir Government with the creation of the so-called Apex Committee to oversee the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits to the Kashmir Valley. However, the authorities have failed to realise that the Kashmir which the Pandits had left to highlight the incompetence and impotence of the Indian political class and the Indian state is today in the grip of forces representing a Talibanised culture. Above all, politics of exclusion is the cardinal principle of the political establishment of the State.

Two decades have passed as far as the forced exodus and ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits is concerned. This genocide has been trivialised by not correctly interpreting the fallout of this national shame. Without analysing the real mindset and the contours of the ethnic cleansing inflicted on the community, the Union Government is treating Kashmiri Pandits as victims of natural calamities like floods or earthquakes. Whereas it is a problem that has vast religious,political and social dimensions. It is sad that secularism and democracy have been compromised in Jammu & Kashmir in order to bail out the majority community who have never been able to protect the social structure of the Kashmir Valley as a whole. The 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom and the post-Godhra violence in 2002 have been accepted by political parties across the board as shameful chapters in the history of secular India. But the ethnic cleansing and genocide of Kashmiri Pandits has not been accepted by the Indian state as a failure of Indian secularism.


Commissions have been constituted to look into the factors and forces that led to the 1984 and 2002 violence. But none of the kind has ever been constituted in Jammu & Kashmir to look into the events and factors that forced the minority community of Kashmiri Pandits to live as refugees in their own State and in their own country. Indian policymakers — and hence the Indian state — are still in a state of denial and refuse to accept the expulsion of Kashmiri Pandits from the Kashmir Valley as a national shame. Moreover, it is blind to the religious, social and political faultlines in Jammu & Kashmir that have reduced the minorities to the status of perpetual hostages to the majority community in the name of pseudo-secularism and so-called 'Kashmiriyat'.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

COMMON SCRIPT CAN UNITE

HINDI HAS A LOT IN COMMON WITH BENGALI, MARATHI, GUJARATI AND OTHER INDIAN LANGUAGES. WHAT MAKES EACH ALIEN TO THE OTHER IS THE SCRIPT THAT IS USED. IF WE WERE TO SWITCH OVER TO DEVANAGARI THEN THE APPARENT DIFFERENCES WOULD DISAPPEAR AND HINDI WOULD BE MORE ACCEPTABLE TO ALL

SHANKAR SHARAN


Thinking of Hindi, we invariably start with a wrong definition. There is no Hindi region in this country. Hindi is not exclusively or even mainly linked to any particular area as Tamil, Bengali or Gujarati are. The so-called Hindi region has several languages in use, such as Bhojpuri, Maithili, Magadhi, Angika, Braj, Awadhi, Chhattisgarhi, Marwadi, etc. These are truly regional languages, more or less on par with Gujarati, Punjabi, etc, insofar as they are regional languages.


The mistake occurs because of the script being the same for Bhojpuri and Hindi. However, if you write Punjabi, Bengali or Gujarati in Devanagari script, these languages would look as near or far from Hindi as Maithili or Awadhi are.


If all Indian languages adopt Devanagari script, the situation of Hindi would be obvious. Then Bhojpuri-speaking and Gujarati-speaking regions would be on equal distance vis-à-vis Hindi-speaking regions. We tend to forget that common people in Patna district do not speak Hindi, but Magadhi. Similar is the reality in Bhagalpur and Allahabad regions. They speak distinctly different languages, but have no problem with Hindi because it contains a common vocabulary to a large extent.


The same is true for Bengali or Punjabi. Written in Devanagari, every person who can read and speak Hindi will understand these languages to a fair extent. Because, again, the vocabulary is quite similar and common. Marathi is a case in point. It is written in Devanagari, so no Hindi-reading person will be bewildered with a Marathi text. He will understand the subject and message without much effort. May be in a week, he/she would find no difficulty in reading and understanding Marathi.


This is true from the other end as well. A Maharashtrian or a Bengali has no difficulty in understanding or reading Hindi. We have two good examples prove this point: Sri Aurobindo and Yashwant Rao Chavan. They said they never learned Hindi, but could read and understand it almost fully. How? Because Hindi shares the maximum common vocabulary with most other Indian languages. It has no exclusive region, nor an exclusive vocabulary.

This points to the easiest solution to the problem of national language. Having a common script for Indian languages will solve the trouble instantly. Then in a short time, Gujarati, Telugu, Bengali regions will feel being part of the 'Hindi region'. It would happen so because of the script, not because a particular language would cease to be the language of the region. Just as Bhojpuri and Maithili do not cease to be the language of their respective regions.


We should remember that Devanagari is not the script of Hindi to begin with. Basically it is the script of Sanskrit, unquestionably the language of whole India, not of any region. So, asking for a common script is not for the sake of Hindi. It is for the whole country. In order to easily follow many languages all at once, without any extra effort. It will make all us Indians recognise each other having more in common than in difference.

Now, we can begin to understand the nature of Hindi. It has no region and it is understood and used more or less in every part of the country. This is due to its genesis. Its whole creation over a period of time by the people has been as a lingua franca for the entire country. People of every part have contributed to make it what it is. Before the advent of the British, how did the people of this country interact for all purposes? Not only the learned ones (they might be doing so in Sanskrit also), but the traders, pilgrims, wanderers, warriors, sages, etc, all had a means of communication.


What we call Hindi today was simply the 'bhasha', the language. It has been changing, ever renewing itself under the need and effect of time. If today it carries a number of English words, so it did a number of Persian words two centuries ago. All because it was used everywhere for practical purposes. Every quarter contributed to keep it ever-usable. It is a continuous development over centuries, sustained by interaction among people of every walk of life in every region. Hindi also worked as a clearing house of new ideas and discoveries. Whatever new appeared in a region, it reached every part of the country through Hindi. Not through any other means. For these cultural and historical reasons Hindi is easily found everywhere in the county for common purposes.

Thus, Hindi has the whole country as its region or it has none. Just like Sanskrit.


What about the opposition to 'imposition of Hindi'? We would do well by recalling that the demands for Hindi as the national language arose during the freedom movement. Behind it was the nationalist urge, not a regional wish. This is why the call was made not from Patna, Lucknow or Bhopal (now mistakenly called the Hindi region), but from Calcutta, Bombay and Ahmedabad — the centres of national awakening and movement. Because of their nationalist sentiment, people there felt the urge for the national language. It was to oppose foreign rule and a foreign language.

The situation remains the same today. The opposition to Hindi is not great in the country. It is there in quarters corresponding to the degree of low nationalist feelings. If you are not concerned with the fate of the country as a whole, you will not feel any need or respect for Hindi. What is the point? Those having regard for the country will not demean the role and place of Hindi, which connects the largest number of people.


As for English, arguments for its continued use in education, administration, etc, have not changed a bit for a whole century. All have been rebutted by scores of great, learned men and visionaries — Sri Aurobindo, Rabindranath Tagore, Lokmanya Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Mahatma Gandhi, for instance. But quoting them at length or arguing afresh would be futile. Because English in India represents, above all, a deeply entrenched vested interest, despite being sought for in education even in remote villages. It is not perceived as the language of knowledge and culture in any real sense of the words, but as of power and fortune. So, arguments will convince nobody.


As for those who are nationalists and still support, English in India as the language of education, research, science and as the country's 'link language', they are pursuing a chimera. They don't realise the relation of human beings to language. They seem to use English as a tool. Language is not a tool, it has a living power — power to mould a person's attitude.


A foreign language will shape a person's nationalist urge into something else without his or her knowing it. All great people of language and culture all over the world always knew this. If our nationalists fail to perceive this, the fault lies with our education, a chief component of which is its total disconnect with the great Indian classics of knowledge and wisdom. And, not incidentally, a total disconnect with the real lives of real people of this country.

The writer is an author, educationist and a well-known columnist in various Hindi publications.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

MAINTAIN STATUS QUO

NO LANGUAGE IS INFERIOR OR SUPERIOR TO ANOTHER

RUDRONEEL GHOSH


Over the last couple of weeks a fair amount of debate and discussion has taken place through the columns of this paper on the use of Hindi vis-à-vis other regional languages spoken in our country. Some have expressed the view that Hindi should be declared the national language given the fact it is spoken by the majority of the people and that if there were to be a language that was to serve as the common link for a country so diverse it would be Hindi. The argument is logical and not without merit. On the other hand, the opposing point of view that India is a unique nation with several ethno-linguistic identities that cannot be ignored makes equal sense. After all, who is to say that Odiya, Bengali or Tamil for example is any less rich a language than Hindi or spoken with less pride or passion.


This is precisely the reason why the status quo is perhaps the best way to go as far as the language debate is concerned: There is no particular national language with the Union Government recognising 22 official languages including Hindi and the State Governments choosing their own official languages. For, the language debate is nothing new and has been around since the time of independence. It is because a significant section of the population viewed the imposition of a single national language as a threat to their ethno-linguistic identities that the present formula was worked out.


That said, there is another factor that is often overlooked in the language debate — economics. Irrespective of whether there is a national language or not, the language that will gain common currency is the one that is profitable. This is the main reason behind the success of English as the universal language of commerce. On my first trip to France in 1998, me and my family were apprehensive about the language problems that we were told we would encounter during our trip. After all, the French people's pride for their mother tongue was legendary. Hence, thinking it prudent we made the effort to learn a couple of French sentences to help us get around, taking comfort in the knowledge that our rudimentary French vocabulary combined with sufficient sign language would see us through.


But every time we confidently marched up to a Frenchman and said, "Où est le Tour Eiffel?" (Where is the Eiffel Tower?), we were given a sympathetic smile and asked, "What exactly do you want?" So much for French contempt for the English language. We soon realised that economics had won and everyone in France was trying to learn English to enhance their career prospects in the EU common market. Nobody can claim that the French don't take pride in their mother tongue. Nonetheless, they have quietly embraced the realisation that in an increasingly globalised world they must know how to speak English. Yet there are no conspicuous debates in France regarding the speaking of a foreign language, although, upholding the French way of life does become

a political issue from time to time.


Similarly, the Chinese, people who take great pride in their language and cultural heritage, are determined to learn English as fast as they can to trump India in the outsourcing and ITES sector. The Chinese Government has decided to add 20 million English speakers to the country's population each year, a feat that would see China surpass the number of English speakers in India by 2015.


The bottomline is it is economic necessity that determines the language of popular currency. However, this does not mean that we ignore our mother tongue and cultural heritage. But in a country as diverse as ours, it is probably best that we adopt a flexible stand on the language issue. If unity in diversity is our mantra then it makes little sense to give a single language a position of eminence. Recognising our diverse linguistic heritage would be a more sensible approach. This is what the present system seeks to achieve and, therefore, should be left alone. Instead of bickering over which language should be the national language it would be more prudent to shift the focus of the debate to the threat that our vernacular languages and literature face from the popular language of commerce, and seek to strike a balance between the two.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

HINDI DIVIDES OUR LAND OF DIVERSITIES

THE PRO-HINDI LOBBY POSES A SERIOUS THREAT TO THE UNITY OF MULTI-LINGUAL INDIA, ARGUES KAJAL CHATTERJEE


Had Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Asim Azmi not been attacked by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena legislators in the Maharashtra Assembly, perhaps we would not have witnessed the language debate that has dominated the columns of The Pioneer over the last few weeks.


So let's start with the issue that set the ball rolling. The attack on Mr Azmi by the MNS legislators deserves serious condemnation. But is the Hindi lobby at the Centre any better? The MNS is at least trying to impose Marathi solely in Maharashtra. But the Hindi lobby is working overtime to impose Hindi on non-Hindi speaking States, that too by displacing the regional languages. Recently, the metro railway authorities in Kolkata put up a number of important instructions at the metro stations. But the instructions were solely in Hindi. Thus, the authorities are not only imposing Hindi, they are also killing Bengali right in the capital of West Bengal. Even at the computerised reservation centre at Sealdah station, all boards displaying relevant information are bereft of Bengali. In fact, in all major railway stations across West Bengal, the use of Bengali is slowly but steadily being done away with. If the Hindi-speaking people feel insulted when their language comes under attack, the non-Hindi speaking people too feel the same way when their mother tongue is accorded step-motherly treatment in their own home. Surely, attachment towards one's mother tongue is not the sole prerogative of the Hindi-speaking people.


If, according to language zealots, Hindi is the only possible 'national' language, then would they care to explain the status of languages like Assamese or Marathi? By referring to Hindi as the 'rajbhasa', they are directly insulting the non-Hindi speaking people — as if Tamil, Punjabi and other regional languages are languages of the prajas or subjects. The Hindi brigade has even gone to the extent of exhorting people through banners and posters to learn Hindi so as to know India better! The implication is that those who don't know Hindi have no knowledge of the country and its culture either. If this is not linguistic fanaticism, I don't know what is. And the less said about language chauvinism practised in Central Government offices the better, for, employees there are often forced to work in Hindi. The fanatics have also intruded upon as personal a domain as one's signature whereby the workers are often compelled to sign in Hindi.


If the MNS legislators are parochial, the Hindi lobby is imperialist to the core. Its sole mission is to Hindi-ise the multi-lingual nation we presently live in by eradicating all regional languages. Needless to say this goes against the very spirit of democracy. Hindi imperialism has exceeded all limits of decency and is simply testing the patience of the non-Hindi speaking people. What the MNS is doing today is merely a reaction to the Hindi zealots at the Centre. Otherwise, how do you explain the fact that Rs 36 crore was sanctioned in this financial year to promote Hindi — the amount being much more than the amount allocated for promotion of all other Indian languages put together. This is despite the fact that non-Hindi speaking people pay the same taxes to the Government as their Hindi-speaking brethren.


It may be recalled that our freedom fighters were not against the British or the English language. Their fight was against British imperialism. Similarly, I have no antipathy towards Hindi-speaking people or the Hindi language and culture. As a person born and brought up in Bihar, my verbal command over Hindi is in no way inferior to Hindi-speaking people (unlike the likes of Mr Azmi who are ignorant of the local language of the State they reside in). Munshi Premchand (through English and Bengali translations) is as close to my heart as Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. And just like Hemanta Mukherjee's Rabindrasangeet, Anup Jalota's bhajans also act as balm to my injured soul. As far as films are concerned, Uttam Kumar of Tollywood is as close to my heart as Bollywood's Amol Palekar. I respectfully recollect the warmth exhibited by the local people during my visits to Nainital, Agra and Gwalior whose mother tongue was necessarily Hindi.


My only protest is against the powerful Hindi imperialist lobby that, in order to display its 'love' for Hindi, has no qualms about annihilating and insulting the rest of Indian languages. These Hindi 'lovers' are tragically unaware of the fact that by trying to impose Hindi upon the rest, they are not only doing a great disservice to their own mother tongue but also posing a serious threat to the integrity of this multi-lingual land.

- Kajal Chatterjee is Kolkata-based writer

 

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MAIL TODAY

EDITORIAL

GOA POLITICIAN HAS LOST MORAL COMPASS

 

SHANTARAM Naik, the Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament from Goa, wants rape cases in which women move around with strangers after midnight to be treated differently. In other words, the parliamentarian is suggesting that victims are themselves responsible for being raped.

 

He has also blamed the electronic media for highlighting rape cases in Goa in which foreign women are the victims. Perhaps he could also tell us why rape is not a crime that does not need to be highlighted.

 

Or for that matter, why should not the state government take responsibility of maintaining law and order and thereby ensuring that swift justice is meted out to rapists that have been arrested and tried? The problems with Naik's statement are two- fold: One, he is a lawmaker and his duty is to not only uphold the law of the land but also ensure that Parliament is a just watchdog that builds the framework for a civilised society to function. Two, he comes from a state where India possibly gets the highest number of foreign tourists and its people are dependent as much on tourism revenue as any natural resource. Rapes and murders only help in alienating tourists which would ultimately affect the state's bottom line.

 

By calling upon Parliament to ignore rape cases and treating some victims " differently", the minister is killing the very basis upon which civilised society is built, and telling us about a great deal about his own lost moral compass.

 

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MAIL TODAY

MHA SHIRKS BLAME

 

JUST what is the ministry of home affairs up to? Having failed to find any trace of David Coleman Headley's footprints in India, despite a year- long investigation, they are now letting it be known that the US Central Intelligence Agency is somehow responsible for this.

 

To us this appears to be a transparent attempt by the MHA to avoid accepting blame for yet another monumental failure on its part. However, in this case, by shifting the blame on the country that provided them the details of Headley's activities on a platter, they seriously run the risk of antagonizing a friendly country's intelligence services insofar as cooperation on terrorism is concerned.

 

Such cooperation is not mandatory or based on any bilateral agreement, but a perception of mutual interest. Intelligence agencies work on the principle that national interests trump all other concerns, including international law. It is entirely possible that the CIA had information on Headley's activities. But such agencies often do not share information with their own country's law and order authorities, leave alone with those of another.

 

The legal job of preventing a terrorist crime belongs to the host country's police and investigative services. Cooperation is only the icing on the cake. The failure to detect Headley and Rana's activities rests squarely with the Indian intelligence, police and central investigating authorities.

 

The MHA needs to grow up and take it on the chin, instead of bleating about their victimhood through anonymous briefings.

 

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MAIL TODAY

STUCK ON 2G

 

AT a time when India is debating 3G auctions to free up bandwidth for faster Internet connectivity, the Scandinavians are moving on to 4G, which is 10 times faster than 3G, and more than 100 times faster than 2G. On Tuesday, Norway and Sweden went live with their respective 4G networks.

 

In November, Finland passed a law making broadband access a fundamental right.

 

It is strange that India, which has leapfrogged entire technology generations when it comes to mobile phones and any technology related to that gadget, has not been able to solve the 3G conundrum.

 

Admittedly it is also a matter of commercials— how much to bribe the right people, will an auction have a positive cost- benefit ratio for the investor, and indeed, will people be able to afford the new technology given that current prices are prohibitively expensive for a large majority of the population? Yet, if India has to have any chance of becoming a knowledge economy, it will necessarily have to jump exponentially with bandwidth. Unfortunately, it will also require the kind of political and bureaucratic leadership which seems lacking at the moment.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

ANDHRA DOES NOT DESERVE A MESSY DIVORCE

BY PULLARAO PENTAPATI

 

THE MEDIA focus on the political crisis in Andhra Pradesh is all about "developed" coastal Andhra and backward Telangana. But as one who still votes in West Godavari district of coastal Andhra and with little material interest in Hyderabad, it is shocking to hear of "backward Telangana" and "developed coastal Andhra" rhetoric.

 

There is no problem in carving out two or three states out of Andhra Pradesh. The haste with which decisions were taken and announced leaves much to be desired.

 

The separation between Telangana and Andhra will be the most unique separation in India. Earlier, when new states were formed, there was a certain pattern. A smaller area, more backward and with a smaller population left and founded a new capital. Thus, Jharkhand, a much smaller state was created from Bihar, Uttarakhand from Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh from Madhya Pradesh. Even 50 years ago, when Gujarat separated from Maharashtra , Mumbai remained with the larger state and Gujarat founded a new capital.

 

Andhra Pradesh is unique in that the major portion of the state and population is being sent away and lesser population will have the most developed metropolis and the fourth biggest city in India. This is a reversal of old-style division. Andhra will lose the best part of the state, even though it is larger in area and population.

 

Telangana might be backward. But is Andhra forward? What does coastal Andhra have that Telangana does not? Let's take some yardsticks.

 

Comparison

 

Coastal Andhra is the colony and Hyderabad, the metropolis. Naturally, the metropolis enjoys all the patronage

of the government and the colony gets a short shrift. Telangana has more universities than Andhra and all the central universities in the state. Telangana has an IIT and a National Institute of Technology.

 

Andhra has neither.

 

What do we have in coastal Andhra? Andhra University which was split up into three universities.

 

The entire software industry is based in Hyderabad. Though 80 per cent of the manpower and intellectual capital in software is from coastal Andhra, the entire infrastructure is in Hyderabad.

 

There is an international airport in Hyderabad, which has to be used by the entire Andhra population. The railway hub is Hyderabad. In the last 15 railway budgets, no new express train has been sanctioned for coastal Andhra. If you need a heart operation or cancer treatment, you need to go to Hyderabad. There is not a single hospital in Andhra of the level of Hyderabad- located NIMs or Apollo. Is this a state of being backward? The Telugu film industry is worldfamous and based in Hyderabad. It employs lakhs of people and entertains millions. There is no film industry in Andhra.

 

All dams must have a Telangana component. A dam is being built in West Godavari district on the river Godavari. It will displace four lakh people, so that the water is available for Telangana. This is the biggest displacement of people outside Three Gorges Dam of China and coastal Andhra will have to suffer so that Hyderabad prospers.

 

There are many other reasons why Andhra should not be separated from Telangana at this time. First, no one from Andhra was present when the government took the decision to divide the state. Those present were Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Pranab Mukherjee, A. K. Antony, P. Chidambaram, Ahmed Patel and Veerappa Moily.

 

Second, for most people living in coastal Andhra, separation would mean that they have lived in a state, which has had four state capitals in the past 50 years. We began with Chennai. Then it was Kurnool, then Hyderabad and now it will be some other place. No other people in India have suffered such an indignity.

 

Third, most Andhras know that division would mean not one state but perhaps three or even four. Right now, the people of Andhra are focused on unity. But if division takes place, it will be drastic and not stop at just two units.

 

Fourth, coastal Andhra depends on the rivers Godavari and Krishna.

 

Unless the riparian rights are settled Andhra should not be separated from Telangana. Just as we get upset at the very thought that the Chinese are building a dam across Brahmaputra in China, Andhras are traumatised by the thought that rivers will be blocked. This issue require a Solomon- like judgment to untangle.

 

Fifth, Andhra is no Uttarakhand or Jharkhand. Coastal Andhra has produced millions of software specialists.

 

Twenty per cent of IITs entrants are from Andhra Pradesh. Intellectual infrastructure has been built and this cannot be disrupted suddenly. No other state in the country has so much intellectual capital.

 

Sixth, Khammas and other entrepreneurs of Andhra are now the rising business communities in India.

 

Khammas are the engine of growth in Andhra. They are responsible for the economic boom in Andhra. They initiated the software sector, film sector, construction, power sector, medical and education sector and everything else. Khammas are bold, innovative and successful. A division of the state will maroon them. The entrepreneur class of Andhra is now based in Hyderabad. Andhra will be harmed fundamentally.

 

Seventh, t he midnight announcement has created a notion that various political powers want to reduce Andhra's profile in national politics. Andhra has 42 MPs. A. B. Vajpayee's government was sustained by Andhra MPs. Manmohan Singh's two governments are sustained by Andhra MPs.

 

If the state is divided into two or three segments, then it will lose its clout.

 

Eighth, for the last 60 years, Andhras have built three different capitals.

 

There is absolutely no infrastructure in Andhra. Hence, a sudden decision has created mind- boggling uncertainties and also raises questions on the kind of homework done by the home ministry of the viability of a new state.

 

Ninth, next to Hindi, Telugu is the most widely spoken language in India. Over the last 50 years, Hyderabad has become the centre of Telugu films, Telugu music, centre of Telugu media and everything associated with the language. The sudden division would create emotional problems and trauma. People cannot be asked to wish away 50 years of association.

Stamina

 

If the government of India divides Andhra Pradesh so easily, it means the establishment is suffering from political fatigue. It means we do not have the energy needed to face severe internal and external problems that we confront. Earlier, we had the stamina to meet the challenges of Punjab, Assam, Kashmir and North- East. This is an ominous sign for the country. Fast- food solutions and photo- ops are the preferred political style. The daily media conference takes precedence over everything.

 

The issue is not Andhra but what kind of establishment we have in the country.

 

In that context, a divorce should be dignified and measured if needed at all. The question is right now do we have a person in Delhi to admit that this has been a Himalayan Blunder? Will someone admit a mistake was made? Acknowledging that will be the real test of the Indian political establishment's mettle.

 

The writer is an independent analyst and economist

 

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MAIL TODAY

QUANTUM LEAP

DINESH C. SHARMA

 

COPING WITH HEAT OF CLIMATE MEETING

THE sub- zero temperature in Copenhagen has not helped to keep tempers cool inside the Bella Center— venue of the UN conference which has been billed as the most significant conference of the 21st century. The heat intensity of negotiations is going up as the final moments of the conference draw closer.

 

Why is this climate treaty so important? Is everybody so much concerned about climate change? Are impacts of climate change so apparent that our political leadership wants to act right away? In the past few days that I have spent in Copenhagen have made it clear to me that this treaty is not about climate change.

 

It is about development, economic growth, international trade, flow of technology, global finance, social justice and about protecting rights of the underprivileged. In sum, this treaty is going to decide how the world will look like in 50 years from now and lock all of us into a defined development path for the rest of the century. That's why every word, every comma, full stop and a square bracket in draft text is becoming contentious.

 

Both the rich and the poor are out to protect their self interest.

 

The most vulnerable — countries with low lying regions and islands are worried that they will get submerged. Oil producing Gulf countries want to ensure that the world does not move into an era of decarbonisation.

 

Developed countries want to protect their industrial interests and consumption lifestyles of their people. The emerging Protesters with a slew of causes abound at Cop- 15 in Copenhagen.

 

economies and developing countries want to attain their goals of higher and higher economic growth . All these are conflicting interests and the challenge is to hammer out a deal that addresses all these concerns.

 

In a way, climate change negotiations are much more critical than trade negotiations. We must remember that Kyoto Protocol is the only legal instrument that recognises historical emissions by the industrialised world and mandates reduction of emissions by it. It is the only international treaty based on the principle of ' common but differentiated responsibilities'. It also talks of long term goals for reduction of emissions by developing countries.

 

The Copenhagen meet is supposed to further sharpen reduction targets for industrialised world and come up with some figures for long term reduction by developing countries.

 

Negotiations on these two issues have been going on for the past two years, but no progress has been made. The rich have realised that continuation of Kyoto would harm their economic interests while the poor and the emerging economies don't want to commit to any goals as this would lock them out of future economic growth.

 

They also want responsibilities to be shared equally by all.

 

If we agree to a two degree rise and a cap on global carbon emissions, we are going to lock ourselves into a tight pathway of economic growth. And there is a real danger of this happening in Copenhagen.

 

CLIMATEGATE SHADOW OVER THE COP- 15 MEETING

 

CLIMATEGATE seems to follow wherever climate negotiations take place. On the very first day, chief of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Rajendra Pachauri clarified that the hacking of emails shows that how far skeptics can go to deny global warming. Then Al Gore came under attack about the statement he made on melting of polar caps. An Irish film maker Phelim McAleer made his way to Copenhagen, asking people if they have seen Phil Jones – climate scientist who figures in hacked emails. McAleer says he wants to make a film and wants to interview Jones but can't find him.

 

RECOGNISING DROUGHTS OF MANY KINDS

WITH climate change, the frequency and magnitude of droughts are very likely to increase, according to the World Meteorological Organisation. Unlike other natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes, which can not be fully predicted, technology exists to predict droughts. But different countries follow different parameters to measure it.

 

The WMO has announced in Copenhagen that it has developed a universal meteorological drought index for more effective drought monitoring and climate risk management.

 

Drought is a protracted period of deficient precipitation with a high impact on agriculture and water resources. WMO experts considered the different types of droughts: meteorological, agricultural and hydrological. Effective monitoring and early warning systems for these three types of droughts require standardised indices.

 

ENVIRONMENT NOT A PRIORITY FOR US

A NEW breed of youth activists is growing in India.

They are not members of the usual green brigades interested in planting trees and protecting animals. For them, climate change is a ' do or die' proposition and they want to influence negotiations that will decide the future of Indians and humanity as a whole.

 

For the first time, the UN has recognised youth NGOs as a formal constituent in the climate change negotiations.

 

This means they can attend plenary sessions and other official meetings as observers and follow the negotiations closely.

 

Taking advantage of this, some 2,000 youths from different countries — including 23 from Indian Youth Climate Network— are attending the Copenhagen conference.

" The idea is to influence negotiations and get the message back home," said Ruchi Jain, a 23- year old volunteer from Mumbai. " Each one of us is tracking a particular subject as so many things — from forests to finance — are being negotiated and it is all so complex."

 

THE focus of the climate conference is on moves that the rich and the poor are making or going to make. The rich are represented by the US, the EU and countries such as Australia, while the other camp is represented by the BASIC — Brazil, India, China and South Africa. All these players— except India— have unleashed high level lobbying and PR at Copenhagen.

 

Brazil has hired a US public relations agency and is holding daily briefings for global media. Chief negotiators of China and the US have held couple of press conferences each.

Contrast this with India. Forget a press conference for global media, even Indian media is not being briefed on what is happening.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

CUT RED TAPE

 

A formal move to consider the removal of a sitting judge is extremely rare. In 1991, impeachment proceedings began against Justice V Ramaswami, but were later dropped due to lack of support in Parliament. More recently, a judge of the Calcutta high court is facing impeachment. Now, 76 Rajya Sabha MPs - all from the opposition ranks - have put their signature to a petition seeking the removal of Karnataka chief justice P D Dinakaran. He has been accused of land-grabbing, illegal constructions and abuse of judicial office.

While formal proceedings have begun against Dinakaran, they may not amount to anything. The reason for being sceptical is the cumbersome process of impeaching a judge. According to current laws, impeachment can be initiated after a motion is signed by at least 100 members of the Lok Sabha or 50 Rajya Sabha MPs. A committee will then investigate the allegations and eventually a majority of both Houses of Parliament would have to support the motion for the impeachment to go through. This complicated process has meant that impeachment motions against judges are usually non-starters. And even when they are initiated, as in the case of Ramaswami, they fall through.


There is thus a compelling case to make the investigation and impeachment process more transparent. The Judges (Inquiry) Bill, 2006, which has since lapsed, proposed establishing a National Judicial Council (NJC) to conduct inquiries into allegations of incapacity or misbehaviour by high court and Supreme Court judges. If the allegations are proven, the NJC could impose minor measures or recommend the removal of the judge. However, the NJC was to consist only of judges. The parliamentary standing committee that looked into the Bill suggested that investigation into impropriety by judges should be investigated not by the judiciary alone but by a more "broadbased committee" with representatives from the executive, Parliament and the Bar. Noted jurist Fali Nariman has also mooted the idea of a judicial ombudsman. These are good suggestions since there is no reason why judges should be investigated only by their colleagues, which could very well lead to allegations of cronyism. Moreover, there are instances of such oversight mechanisms in other countries.


A new legislation, the Judicial Accountability and Standard Bill, is scheduled to be placed before Parliament. It is meant to fine-tune the process of appointment of judges and investigations into allegations of impropriety. We hope that it will touch on the issue of penalising corrupt judges and making their removal less complicated.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

DOLE DRUMS

 

Every third Indian is poor, estimates the Suresh Tendulkar committee report on poverty. Clearly, populism, India's political stock-in-trade, has done more for netas' electoral charts than to alleviate economic distress. Recall Garibi Hatao's high point in Indira Gandhi's career graph. Then cut to 2009's Lok Sabha poll. A numbers analysis shows the Congress prospered wherever farmers gained most from loan waivers. Faith in state paternalism is yet another hallmark of our politicians. Take their reaction to the poverty report. Some 'poorest' states, Orissa particularly, want special status with an eye on fattened central allocations. But there's little sign of a soul-search on poor funds utilisation till now.


Widespread poverty shames an emerging economic powerhouse like India. However, measuring poverty in terms of a broad-based consumption basket rather than calorie intake reflects socio-economic realities in a rapidly developing nation. For creative pro-poor policymaking, the rural and urban poor's changing face and spending patterns need to be viewed as reflective of post-reforms India's aspirational society. For instance, many studies show health and education don't represent zero costs for the poor. Given the serial failures on public delivery of such social goods, direct funding of the poor's private choices - say, through a cash voucher system - can be tried.


We must focus as much on result-oriented project implementation - be it for roads or power - as on quantum of expenditure. And reforms, however unpopular, must accompany social sector nurturing. For instance, wariness on labour reform helps perpetuate workers' insecurity in an informal sector that's grown even as organised sector industry jobs have shrunk. We lack success in shifting low-paid agricultural labour to better-paying non-agricultural jobs. Compared to east Asian economies, India's record on creating factory employment is abysmal. China, the world's shop floor, is streets ahead on poverty reduction.


In agriculture, we should think of, among other things, eased contract farming rules or retail reform giving farmers direct access to markets by eliminating middlemen. Industries like agro-processing need greater official encouragement, given their potential for profits and job creation. It's no one's case that debt-ridden farmers shouldn't be bailed out or villagers shouldn't be protected by schemes like NREGS. Nor is it that poverty indices don't mandate hiked social spending and fair devolution of resources to states. But loan waivers, low wage job guarantee and the like are temporary crutches, not a permanent surrogate for genuine socio-economic uplift. Growth is the ultimate antidote to poverty. For it to be inclusive, the poor need state doles less than access to health, education, infrastructure and economic opportunities.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

BETWEEN OLD FRIENDS

KANWAL SIBAL

 

The recent India-Russia annual summit makes an overall assessment of our time-tested relations with Russia opportune. Russia has stood by us in times of need and helped build our defence capability. However, with the broadening of India's external relationships, Russia has now to compete much more for political and economic space in India. The market and technology needs of the most advanced and dynamic sectors of the Indian economy, coupled with the diminishing role of the government sector, have also reduced the salience of our Russian connection.


Already between 50 per cent and 70 per cent of equipment with India's armed forces is of Russian origin, underlining the deeply strategic nature of the defence relationship. For India, this dependence is overwhelming; for Russia, India remains a client, albeit privileged. The delay in delivering the aircraft carrier Gorshkov and the demand for more than double the originally agreed price have seriously dented Russia's credibility in honouring contractual obligations. The final cost has been settled at $2.3 billion, but delivery will still be almost four years behind schedule.


This setback has to be balanced against valuable Russian technical assistance in the construction of Arihant and the projected delivery on lease of the Russian nuclear submarine. During the prime minister's visit, India's participation in the joint development of the multi-role transport aircraft and the T-50 fifth generation fighter aircraft was reconfirmed. India will derive real value from this collaboration only if the promise of access to Russian design institutes and laboratories is fulfilled. Formalisation of the decision to extend the programme for military-technological cooperation for another 10 years - from 2011 to 2020 - signals India's intention to continue its long-term defence cooperation with Russia for larger strategic reasons.

Russia has ambitions to supply 12 to 14 nuclear plants to India. During the prime minister's visit, a new framework agreement was finalised for intensifying nuclear cooperation including in such areas as joint scientific research, implementation of projects and fuel supply arrangements, though for this "specific instruments" will be signed. The Indian side says this agreement is superior to the 123 Agreement, in that it ensures lifetime support for Russian reactors notwithstanding the termination of the supply agreement for any reason, incorporates no right to return, allows reprocessing under safeguards without insisting on a specially built facility for the purpose, and does not rule out transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies (ENR), superseding the G8 L'Aquila declaration. These claims, not echoed by the Russian press, seem well-founded, though Russian willingness to transfer ENR should be viewed cautiously.


In the strategic energy sector, the Russians, despite stated political willingness, have practically held back. After Sakhalin 1 in 2001 India's strenuous efforts at political and commercial levels to obtain a foothold in Russia's hydrocarbon sector have not yielded fruit. Russia's push for a large share of the nuclear power pie in India should be linked to opportunities for India in Russia's energy sector. The formulation in the joint declaration reflected Russia's global priorities but gave cursory treatment to India's expectations.


Bilateral trade at only $7.5 billion is a glaring weakness in our strategic ties. Areas of growth potential - pharmaceuticals, diamonds, IT etc - are routinely identified but without significant progress. The joint declaration omitted any mention of the need to enhance trade exchanges. The target of raising the two-way trade turnover to $20 billion by 2015 seems unachievable with Russia, whose GDP is expected to fall by 8 per cent this year, reeling under the current recession, and more importantly, given the structural problems in India-Russia trade, including in banking ties.

In the latest enunciation of his Af-Pak policy, US president Barack Obama has signalled a drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan from July 2011 onwards and a potential deal with the Taliban. As the fallout on India and Russia of this US strategy can be highly damaging, they need to work closely on policy. The joint declaration rejected a key element of the western strategy of drawing "false distinctions" between the "good" and "bad" Taliban, but India and Russia lack practical options to counter the US.


The paragraphs in the declaration on terrorism carefully omitted any mention of Pakistan, underlining the limits of Russian support on our Pakistan problem. Russia is clearly unwilling to get drawn into India-Pakistan differences to the point that could generate misunderstandings with the US as well as Pakistan.


For India, relations with the US and with Russia are not a zero-sum game. Improvement of our ties with the US has coincided with the deterioration of Russia's ties with it. India should not lose sense of its strategic direction with the compass now pointing steadily towards the US. In turn, Russia should be ready to woo India more than it is habituated to. Its decision-makers need to evaluate better the phenomenon of India's rise as an economic power and the wider options it now has. In the new scenario, expanding the relationship would require dedicated effort, but even maintaining it at the current level would not be a lesser challenge.


The writer is a former foreign secretary.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

PARTIES MUST ACCOMMODATE DEBATE

 

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) expelled senior leader Shahid Siddiqui this week for complaining about the absence of a democratic culture within the party. He said regional parties like the Shiv Sena, the TDP and the AIADMK, like the BSP, were controlled by a leader or a family and claimed that legislators of these outfits were mere pawns of the party supremo. The lament, irrespective of its motive, is valid and deserves a close look.


Our political parties swear by democracy, but few of them have cared to nurture a culture of democracy within their organisations. A single leader may hold a party as his fief. Decisions are taken at the top without the involvement of the cadres and implemented by fiat. Yes, these parties may have tasted periodic success in elections. That, however, is no reason to argue that they offer a legitimate or successful model that deserves to be replicated.


The above-mentioned parties have succeeded primarily for two reasons. One, lack of political alternatives. Two, they were the products of mass movements that originated in specific social and political contexts. Many leaders and cadres would have contributed to the build-up. Movements throw up charismatic leaders who reap the benefits of the hard work of numerous workers and organisers. The BSP did address a genuine political vacuum: the non-representation of Dalits and their interests in established parties. But once such representation has been achieved, it can no longer be channelised through a single leader. It's the time to institutionalise and delegate, otherwise parties sow the seeds of their own future decline. Something like this may have already overtaken the Congress, although hopes now centre around Rahul Gandhi to trigger a broad rejuvenation of the party rank and file.


Political parties must recognise the need to nurture a climate of debate and discussion because the lack of inner-party democracy will hurt them at some point. Moreover, democracy at large will suffer if politicians stifle all debate, and the electorate is asked to choose from among a spectrum of lookalike political chieftains.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTER VIEW

THEY CAN IMPOSE DISCIPLINE

TARA GUPTA

 

The expulsion of an MP for speaking out against the party leadership in recent days has led to yet another debate over inner-party democracy and who should be allowed to say what. Voices have spoken up in support of the MP, who criticised the party, while questioning the lack of transparency in the decision-making process in regional parties, one of which he is part of. But those in support of greater inner-party democracy fail to recognise that the party leadership can choose to allow as much - or as little - debate and dissent as they see fit. Those not in agreement with this are free to leave and join other political parties, whose political culture might be more suited to their sensibilities.


For who is under the illusion that the BSP under Mayawati or the AIADMK under Jayalalithaa is anything other than a party centred on its leadership? If there is no debate on policy issues, and the word of the party leader is final, well, it's no secret that the party functions in that manner. If we take democracy seriously, then a party should be allowed to choose what works for it. The biggest test for a political party is facing elections, where such parties do strike a chord with voters. It may be precisely because of their internal structure that they are able to articulate policies with a minimum of disagreement from others within the party, which gives voters assurance that they get things done.


There is no dearth of political parties in the country. Anyone who has serious problems with, say, the BSP or AIADMK's style of functioning can quit and join another party, or even float his own. People can't join a party, take advantage of its machinery and funds to win elections, and then complain about how unfair it all is. After all, no one put a gun to their head and made them join the party. There's always a choice, and those yearning for inner-party democracy or similar chicken soup for the soul can always choose to quit.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

THIS AMOEBA NATION

BACHI KARKARIA

 

First amoeba, then states and political parties - if this trend to multiply by dividing continues, the aftermath will be worse than any math. Telengana is only the latest in a notorious lineage, and certainly not the last. India started off with nine provinces and some 500 princely states. These have multiplied via division to 28 states, seven union territories, and still counting. Is a country born in a partitioning destined to die of it? 

 

Radcliffe's box of crayons has fallen into even more mischievous hands. Ever since the first reorganisation of states in 1956, everybody has wanted a stab at redrawing the boundaries. At this rate, the map of India may end up looking like a jigsaw puzzle with bad social skills, no part able to fit into the whole. 

 

It was comparatively simpler in the case of parties. When the communists first split in 1964, it really inconvenienced  only KR Gouri Amma  and her husband TV Thomas since they found themselves on opposite sides. But they continued to share their breakfast appams if not their ideology. In later decades, when every sidelined leader sulked off to form a whole new political entity, it created no problem for the aam janata other than having to remember what all the initials stood for in an entire alphabet soup of party names. But when states are carved up like a Christmas turkey, it leads to more complications than an outbreak of bird flu. 

 

The ramifications are as widespread as agitations. Even textbooks have to go back to school. Civics primers were clich'ed with 'unity in diversity', but now the former has become as elusive as affordable tur dal , while the latter is as ubiquitous as  Chinese substitutes. Grammar used to caution us against the split infinitive, but political syntax has turned this into the infinite split. And physics textbooks must now redefine 'artificial disintegration' and 'particle acceleration' which were once used only in the nuclear context.

 

In fact, particles have been parting from their original states at  increasingly accelerated speed. Barely had the agitation for a separate Telengana gone into 'fast forward' when Darjeeling once again reverberated with slogans for  Gorkhaland. Despite the fact that Bodoland, Delhi, Pondicherry, Tulu Nadu, Purvanchal, Vidarbha, Kodagu and at least 13 others were already waiting in the restless line for statehood, Mayawati, as is her wont  (and will) jumped the queue, and dashed off her own demand to New Delhi. 

 

With typical perversity, the lady did not want to unify UP under her, but to trifurcate it - also under her. If this will put her in the awkward predicament of being in three state capitals at the same time, it's no problem for Superbehenji. Why do you think she's keeping all those statues handy? 

 

What does this endemic urge to keep splitting tell us about ourselves as a nation?  That's if this entity can still exist in such a fissiparous cauldron? Are we an amoeba, an atom, an AC, an Adnan-Sabah?  A banana? A c string in a programming code?  All of which have by now established their right to be split or 'a split'. 

 

Or does this surge suggest that we are more akin to the MTV India reality show? As in Splitsvilla so in the  movement for Telengana (and all its predecessors and successors)   the quest to attain the objective is  replete  with 'stress, exhaustion, fear, bitchiness, politics and bad TV'. But there is  also a major difference. Unlike in each episode of the show, when a state separates, there is no clear loser. And even the winner may find, but never admit, that his is a spurious victory.  

 

Alec Smart said: "Why is the climate change summit in jeopardy?  Because the rich countries don't want to Kyotoe the line."

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TIMES OF INDIA

MORNING WALK

THE SUPERANNUATED MAN

 

"So, how are you keeping busy after retirement?" someone at a marriage function asked me. I want to reply, tongue in cheek, "Why, attending marriage functions of course!" I suddenly seem to be flooded with marriage invitations. It might just be that one only notices them now, when one is no longer otherwise busy and looking for such engagements to meet people. I could tell him that my daily occupation consists of my morning walk, which serves to balance my calorific intake.


When my physical walk ends, my cerebral 'walk' begins. I mull over my morning's observations in the park, retrieving them one by one, bit by bit, as a cow chews its stowed cud, leisurely and contentedly. The first bold image is that of this stocky fellow built like a sumo wrestler who wears a T-shirt with the slogan 'By the time I'm thin, fat will be IN!' I ponder as to why he at all started to shed weight, if it's such a sin. But his agility leaves me staggering as he runs past me in two bounds.


Then there is a romantic interlude, though it may be difficult to associate romance with a morning walk. I see a couple of girls all decked up as if going on a date, complete with lipstick, eyeliner, the works! The sight of a pair of girls together with elaborate make-up at that time of the day intrigues me, until i notice them in the company of two boys, all of them walking briskly in tandem. The senior citizens like me who frequent the park are generally a quiet lot, but a couple of them are voluble. I overheard them talking excitedly like children about the upcoming festival when a wide variety of dishes would be prepared at home.


Poor souls! They must be on a rigorous diet regimen to be so carried away by the prospect of good food. Does the same fate await me a few years hence? Perish such a famishing thought! The idea of food, along with the aroma that is wafting in the food court at the marriage function snaps me out of my contemplative mood. My inquisitive enquirer is still staring at me, waiting for my answer. I tell him, "Ornithology. You know, birdwatching. I always had a great interest for it but never had the time till now." It is obvious as he smiles and moves away that he looks upon my post-retirement road map as a dead end.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

OUR TAKE - HOW TO BELIEVE IN THE TRUTH

 ONLY A PROBE WITH MEMBERS FROM BOTH SIDES OF THE SHOPIAN DIVIDE WILL SOLVE THIS CRISIS

 

There is more than a little reticence on the part of Kashmirwatchers to analyse the storm that has the Shopian deaths at its epicentre. This has to do more with the fact that rational discussions on the tragedy have been overwhelmed by knee-jerk reactions and politics than about being in denial. Conclusions were drawn by those who saw Asiya and Neelofar Jan's deaths on May 29 as a case of rape and murder by security forces much before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) report was made public last week. No matter that footnotes in the report that has booked six doctors and seven others for falsifying and destroying forensic and post-mortem evidence will change the positions of the nay-sayers. Essentially, what is happening in Srinagar is a full-blown battle of credibility. A sizeable section of Kashmiris, naturally inclined towards distrusting anything that has a whiff of New Delhi, smells a cover-up.

 

But there is no reason why the CBI report cannot be believed. Going by the point-by-point case made by the CBI, biases and blatant irregularities were made by the initial investigators. The fact that evidence was destroyed may or may not prove that a plot was made to nail security forces.


Such cases of mishandling or destroying forensic evidence are tragically all too common in the rest of India. But a suspected rape and murder in Kashmir has very different connotations from the same crime being committed elsewhere in the country. Like moths to a flame, politicians have milled around the issue to disregard the CBI report and cry `coverup!'. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah himself had to back down after initially making comments about the deaths being `drownings' when he was pounced on by the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP).

 

So how does one settle matters and present the truth behind the Shopian deaths? For one, the truth has to be accepted. For another, if the findings of the CBI report does point to the truth, those opposing its `validity' should be made to change their mind as quietly as possible. This can be done if, and only if, the points of reference of an inquiry are agreed upon by both an all-inclusive commission. Such a commission should include members from the government, the opposition, the Hurriyat and independent bodies -- in other words, people from both sides of the Shopian divide. The Shopian deaths can, if left at this, latch on to something bigger, unconnected and dangerous. For the sake of building trust -- both within civil society and the political class -- let the truth be discovered from scratch and for all parties to agree upon.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE PUNDIT - FIRMLY ON THE GROUND

 WE ARE NOT GIVEN TO FLIGHTS OF FANCY WHEN IT COMES TO IMPORTANT WEAPONRY LIKE COMBAT AIRCRAFT

 

India seems to be the global leader in stealth weaponry and, leader in stealth weaponry and, no, we are not kidding. Now, if you don't believe us, answer this: has anyone seen the complete, fit-for-induction versions of the main battle tank, Arjun, or the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier; or even the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA)? The Russians might be dragging their feet on the Gorshkov, but we seem to be in no hurry to catch up with deadlines either. Over a quarter century has lapsed since Arjun and, later, Tejas were sanctioned, but the Defence Research and Development Organisation's diligent labours have ensured that these wonders of Indian science remain the world's best kept secret.

 

Tired of revised deadlines and endless extensions, the Centre seems to think that an infusion of Rs 8,000 crore might help the LCA project take wing. Now, the government's Christmas cheer apart, don't start gazing up at that horizon just yet. Going by the organisations' past record, this latest flush of funds might produce nothing more than another false blip on the radar.

 

Well, the Cold War years might have given the world the nuclear deterrence theory, but when it comes to conventional weapons, we Indians have put a whole new spin on it.


Turning it on its head, we've decided to make it work with what we don't have. So while we wait for the endless paper trail to end before we sign any new defence contracts, and till you hear the rumble of our indigenous munitions, tempt us at your peril. We might someday have what we're not sure we really might have yet.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE INDIAN DREAM

 THERE'S A NEW BRAIN DRAIN UNDERWAY, AND THE DIRECTION OF THIS FLOW IS FROM AMERICA TO INDIA, SAYS VIVEK WADHWA THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR DRIVING PROFESSIONALS AND ENTREPRENEURS TO RETURN TO INDIA IS NOT US POLICIES OR THE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN.THEY ARE RETURNING BECAUSE THEY THINK THEY HAVE A BRIGHTER FUTURE HERE

 

In 1950, the first Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) was founded in a former detention camp at Kharagpur, West Bengal. A pet project of Jawaharlal Nehru, the oal was to replicate the institutions of higher educational excellence in the West, with focus on engineering, mathematics and the physical sciences. The idea was to develop scientific minds required to drive India's economic development as the young democracy matured.

 

The government invested in the IIT concept, opening several more in a short time. But the initial outcome was not to its liking when graduates started leaving India for the West. This, critics claimed, illustrated that the system did not work.

 

Five decades later, Nehru is having the last laugh as IIT grads, techies and scientists are returning home in droves. They started returning in small numbers in the '80s and '90s and fuelled the early growth of India's information technology industry. In due course of time, the IT industry moved into sophisticated areas such as aerospace components and semiconductor design. The result: today there are better career opportunities for young Indians here than in the West. In China, too, the attraction for the West has waned. Beijing is pouring billions into building sophisticated research labs to attract not only proven applied technologists but also theoretical and basic scientists skilled in disparate areas like materials sciences and artificial intelligence.

 

As the tide has turned, the spectre of a hegemonic power shift from West to East in human capital resources has gone from something that might happen in a decade or more to something that might happen years.

 

in the next few Meanwhile, politicians in Washington DC, led by US Senator Charles Grassley from Iowa, is trying to make it difficult for US companies to hire workers on H-1B visas, the most popular and prevalent form of employment visas for science and technology companies. Under the guise of reducing H-1B visa fraud, on November 19, Grassley and Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill to bar companies that lay off US workers from hiring foreign labour through H-1B and other programmes.

 

If the only cause of the exodus from the US were the economic downturn and political pressure, then stopping it would be less difficult. But as research by our team at Duke, Harvard and University of CaliforniaBerkeley has shown, Indians and Chinese are now leaving the US for professional and cultural reasons. The comfortable lifestyle they once could only find in the US is now available in their home countries. Other strong drivers: ageing parents and desire to be closer to friends and family. But the most important factor is a strong belief that they will have brighter professional and economic futures at home. In fact, many foreign students say they would prefer to return to their home country to start a business or build a career.

 

As that flow of brains continues to slow down -- and possibly reverse -- a significant percentage of US innovation would be lost to the rising East. That foreigners residing in the US contribute enormously to innovation is beyond dispute. We calculated that foreign nationals residing in the US were named as inventors or co-inventors in one quarter of WIPO patent applications filed from the US in 2006. Additionally, 16.8 per cent of international patents applications had an inventor or coinventor with a Chinese-heritage name and 13.7 percentage had an inventor or co-inventor with an Indian-heritage names. Ethnic Chinese and Indians represent less than 3 per cent of the total US population.

 

In 2006, immigrants contributed to 72 per cent of the total patents filed at Qualcomm, 65 per cent at Merck, and 60 per cent at Cisco Systems. And contrary to claims that immigrant patent-filers crowd out US-born researchers, emerging research is showing that immigrants tend to boost patent output by their US-born colleagues. These immigrant patent-filers emerged from the US university system, where foreigners now dominate the advance degree seeking ranks in science, technology, engineering and mathematical disciplines. For example, during the 2004-05 academic year, roughly 60 per cent of engineering PhD students and 40 per cent of Master's students were foreign nationals.

 

Beyond intellectual contributions, immigrants have been key entrepreneurial drivers in the US. According to another survey we conducted, a quarter of all technology companies in the US have at least one founder who is an immigrant. Indians dominated this group: they established more start-ups than the next four groups from Britain, China, Japan and Taiwan combined.

 

However, there is no government data on how many of these entrepreneurs and knowledge workers have already left the US. Future departures seem set to increase. In a similar study of over 1,200 foreign national students matriculating in the US, we found that only 6 per cent of Indian, 10 per cent of Chinese, and 15 per cent of European students said they want to stay permanently.

 

What's more, those that have left the US did so at a critical time in their careers -- just before they would be likely to start their own companies. On average, these company founders had lived in the US for 14 years. The average returnee in our survey was in their mid-30s.


The implication is clear. Those who had left will start companies in their home countries, where most of the benefits of this entrepreneurship will accrue.

 

It is clear that a big shift is underway. The US is no longer the only magnet for the world's best and brightest. Senators Grassley and Sanders may not have to wonder about H-1B visa fraud in the not-so distant future if the American Dream for Indians and Chinese techies is better fulfilled in Shanghai or Bangalore.

 

Vivek Wadhwa is Senior Research Associate at Harvard University and Director of Research, Duke University, US The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

A SUSTAINABLE BARGAIN

BRANDS MUST FIND CONSUMER-FRIENDLY WAYS TO MARKET THEIR `GREEN' PLANS THERE'S NO POINT IN TREATING CONSUMERS AS GUINEA PIGS MERELY FOR A DESIRE TO BE SEEN AS SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE

SUHEL SETH

 

The air is fresh with thoughts of a cleaner world as heads of State assemble in Copenhagen. In a world being buffeted by the price of oil, where the Al Gore form of intellectual activism has been recognised as a potent tool to influence and catalyse, the next blue mountain that corporations will have to climb will be to make `green' a marketable phenomenon.

 

The world has witnessed enough debate on carbon emissions and carbon credit. While trading has begun, there is a fundamental disconnect between the consumer and the environment. The consumer is made to feel guilty, with no mechanism to transform that guilt into an incentive for a purposeful engagement between him/her and the environment.

 

Being a traveller for years, I've noticed a desire in certain hotels to be seen as responsible eco-players, which often means exhorting guests to re-use towels and bed-sheets to save the environment. This creates two fundamental disconnects: one, that the consumer likes to use fresh towels and bed-sheets, which is why he/she likes hotels compared to their own homes; and second, the consumer always believes this is the hotel's way of saving money, through the transference of guilt.

 

But there's no point in treating consumers as guinea pigs merely for a desire to be seen as socially responsible. The engagement that brands follow with consumers today is more instructive in nature, telling them what to do in order to be more eco-conscious; they don't create a partnership that offers greater benefits than mere guilt-alleviation. So, as a strategic approach for all companies that want serious engagement and tangible results from their consumers/stakeholders, here are few suggestions: Companies need to translate carbon credits into tangible consumer benefits. The drivers of this transformation are: emotional (alleviation of guilt), and what a hotel can actually do, like offering `green' rooms, in which everything is geared towards the environment, be it larger windows that allow in natural light to minimise energy use, to the kind of fabric used for bed-sheets or towels, or the manner in which water is conserved, to everything in the room being recyclable. Once a guest asks for a `green' room, his incentives are also defined differently, like getting more loyalty points. There could be a tie-up between other green projects and brands, creating a green alliance of brands, apart from creating a cluster of `Greenies', those who believe and practise the concept. We should create a global carbon/eco passport. This will allow a collection of ecoconscious brands, across categories, to offer a level of stature to its holder -- perhaps even paving the way for a green credit card that will offer greater savings on eco-friendly brands. This fundamental principle of incentives and rewards can be applied across businesses and geographies. This way, the consumer doesn't just buy into the emotional benefits of going green but also gets tangible, rational benefits.

The problem with most corporations today is that their entire corporate social responsibility is targeted at getting better scores in reputation studies. There's a need to alter the mindset from guilt to engagement; from something emotional to something that is also rational, for an engagement that is profitable for the brand, consumer and all humanity.

 

Suhel Seth is Managing Partner of Counselage The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

HE ASKED FOR IT

 

In the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, Shantaram Naik, a Congress MP from Goa, created his own jurisprudence. A rape victim "who moves with strangers for days together even beyond the middle of the night is to be treated on a different footing," he argued. These remarks were made as part of Naik's tirade against the media for highlighting the rape of a Russian woman in Goa, allegedly by a state politician after having dinner with him. Naik's comments provoked outrage across party lines, with allegations that he appeared to "justify" rape.

 

The horror of rapists being let off because of the "character" of the victim in the 1979 Mathura rape case led to landmark changes in our anti-rape laws. Amongst these were amendments making questioning the victim's character and past sexual history irrelevant. But legislation is one thing, social attitudes quite another. The callousness with which rape victims continue to be treated, the aspersions defence counsels routinely cast on them, is a crime twice over. Naik's comments, despicable in themselves, are only representative of the persistent biases that rape victims have to deal with in securing justice.

 

It was therefore heartening to see Naik's comments condemned across the political spectrum. In the House, Naik's words drew outrage real-time, and his Zero Hour remarks were expunged from the official records of the Rajya Sabha proceedings. It is this sort of on-the-spot protest that is necessary to combat bigotry. Politicians who blame the victim for somehow asking for it have the potential to dissuade women from going to the authorities to file complaints. Equally, politicians who proactively counter these prejudices make justice delivery that much more likely. Shantaram Naik's outrageous comments deserved to be expunged from the Rajya Sabha records. If only expunging such chauvinism from society was as easy.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

CENSUS & DATA

 

The process for finalising the parameters for the 2011 Census is on, and a key question is yet to be answered. In response to a question in Parliament, Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Maken said that the census exercise would be conducted between February 9 and 28, 2011. But there was no word on whether information on caste would be elicited. India's decennial census is the largest data collection exercise in the world, and there is a strong demand that in addition to parameters like gender, age, languages known, economic activity status, there be information on caste. With reservations for Other Backward Classes in government jobs and now in higher education, the argument is that informed estimates about the castes and groups covered in this category would facilitate better development planning.

 

Ever since the Mandal Commission's recommendations on job reservations were accepted by the Centre, great argument has raged on the accuracy of the numbers informing the quotas. Besides assessing the numerical spread of different groups, the exercise would also update their relative backwardness — and thereby make viable the process of adding and deleting groups to the OBC list. But caste is a complicated issue, and some sociologists challenge the idea that a question in the Census would yield accurate data. In a recent article in this newspaper, A.M. Shah challenged the idea that caste is a discrete unit easily quantifiable through the Census. Far from being defined by endogamy — that is, marriage within a caste group — migration, inter-marriage and economic activity have changed caste identity from its textbook representation. So, he asked, who would answer questions about caste, the household or each individual? Given that caste boundaries can be blurred, he asked: "Should the government become an agency in imposing rigidity?"

 

The counter-argument is that nobody would be coerced to answer questions on caste identity. And that instead of being asked the simple question, what is your caste, respondents would be given a list of groups covered in the OBC categories, and asked whether they belong to any. Given how persuasive each side is, whether to include the caste category in the Census will clearly be a tough call for the Central government

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

CONTAIN THE DRAMA

 

The Telangana statehood issue has been thrown into suspended animation, as the government mulls its hasty announcement and works out a way to fit it into a cogent framework for addressing regional demands. But in the interim, it has ripped Andhra Pradesh politics down the seams. The Congress was stunned as its own man from Kadapa, Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy walked over to the other side and registered his own demand for a united Andhra, hollering along with the TDP.

 

Jagan claims his move was motivated by the fact that he did not want the TDP walking away with the united Andhra cause, a clever way of making sure his party had it both ways in the coastal Andhra-Rayalaseema area. Or maybe it was payback for the scotching of his chief-ministerial bid, or a way of fashioning himself in his father's image, as a force not to be discounted. Andhra Pradesh's relatively settled politics has been recently upended — first by Chiranjeevi's emergence and then by YSR's death and the succession drama that followed. It is clear that the Congress pulling the Telangana rabbit out of the hat, its suscept-ibility to KCR's theatrics, also stemmed from this disarray. But now that it has been seen to cave, the Congress's vulnerability could be exploited by every actor on the make, and not just in Andhra.

 

Having gone this far, the Congress must not spin this drama for its own politic ends, speaking in several voices to squelch opposition and waiting to see which side wins out. This is the moment to articulate principles, outline the logic by which the Telangana rationale was accepted and the lens through which new statehood demands will be considered. A new states reorganisation commission, should it be formed, must be backed up with clear and impeccable logic — entirely unlike the Telangana drama, which was random and politically motivated. It might suit the ruling dispensation to arrogate to itself the power to create and break up states, but such arbitrary actions only create further political churn and fragmentation. It is time to take statehood demands with the seriousness they deserve, and rescue Indian politics by keeping immediate politics out of the matter.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

NREGA AND CLIMATE CHANGE

RITASHARMA

 

As the Copenhagen Climate Conference continues, it may be of interest to see how the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, our most ambitious poverty reduction programme to date, fares with respect to climate change.

 

NREGA links two of the most critical problems of our times: namely, extreme poverty and climate change. The linkage is forged through environmental services which are provided by rural households when they engage in works under NREGA. Defined and prioritised under the act, works can significantly change the environment through rejuvenation of the natural resource base. Water conservation, land development and afforestation through NREGA can provide local services such as ground-water recharge, enhanced soil fertility and increased biomass. These, in turn, can generate global benefits such as adaptation to and mitigation of climate change and biodiversity conservation.

 

While the primary objective of the act is poverty alleviation, a further objective is stated "...as creation of durable assets and strengthening the livelihoods base of the rural poor..."

 

The livelihoods of the rural poor are directly dependent on environmental resources — land, water, forests — and are vulnerable to weather and climate variability — as water stress increases, groundwater levels recede, soil fertility declines and forest habitats disappear. Climate change will only exacerbate the vulnerabilities of the rural poor. As climate-sensitive, natural ecosystems deteriorate, subsistence will slip further out of reach. India's rural poor, who have least contributed to it, will pay some of the problem's heaviest tolls.

 

So what can NREGA do? First, it is designed to provide employment and income to the rural household, contributing directly to livelihoods security, adversely affected by climate change.

 

Second, NREGA lays down the priority of works that may be taken up under the scheme. The focus is on water conservation, drought-proofing, afforestation, tree plantation, minor irrigation works, renovation of traditional water bodies, desilting of tanks, land development, flood control and protection, drainage in water-logged areas and rural connectivity, in that order. Of the 2.7 million works being undertaken in over 600 districts, nearly 80 per cent are water, land and forestry-related. These not only provide local environmental services, they have the potential to yield co-benefits of adaptation and mitigation to global climate change; the former through rejuvenation of the livelihood base and thereby strengthening resilience of rural communities, the latter through enhanced carbon sequestration in agricultural soils, pasturelands and woody perennials.

 

Third, the recent thrust on creating durable and productive assets through convergence of NREGA works with programmes of agriculture and allied sectors are leading to enhanced yields. With the scope of works under NREGA expanded to include lands of small and marginal farmers, it is possible to significantly enhance the irrigation potential in rainfed areas and drought-proof small-holder agriculture, leading to sustainable, higher yields. Conservation technologies — stress-tolerant, climate-resilient varieties of seeds, drip irrigation, zero-tillage, raised-bed planting, laser-levelling, Systems of Rice Intensification (SRI), can build adaptive capacities to cope with increasing water stress, providing "more crop per drop".

 

Similarly, strengthening land development practices such as land levelling, conservation bench terracing, contour and graded bunding, and pasture development prevent soil erosion and loss of organic matter. Reclamation of wastelands and degraded lands together with afforestation, horticulture plantation and agro-forestry have the potential to sequester carbon both above and below ground, thereby contributing to carbon mitigation.

 

A surfeit of anecdotal evidence points to the beneficial impact of NREGA in reducing vulnerabilities and building resilience. Scientifically backing up much anecdotal evidence is a field study conducted by a research team led by the Indian Institute of Science's Professor Ravindranath in the semi-arid region of Chitradurga district of Karnataka, the environmental services provided under NREGA have been quantified and measured, and a Livelihood Vulnerability Index constructed. The study shows a significant decline in vulnerability as a result of NREGA intervention.

 

The climate genie cannot be pushed back into the bottle. In a world that will continue warming, NREGA has the potential to create sustainable rural livelihoods. Further, linking land-use changes brought about by NREGA to the rapidly growing external carbon financial markets may further incentivise poverty reduction and greenhouse gas mitigation, while making environmental conservation a profitable undertaking for rural communities, thereby introducing a new type of sustainability.

 

In either case there is need to develop robust methodologies for measurement and accounting of environmental services provided under NREGA. As a first step, this will help in identifying, recognising and rewarding those rural communities which have effectively harnessed NREGA for "green employment" generation.

 

Whether the mood of the current crisis will foster any meaningful agreements and roadmaps at Copenhagen remains to be seen. Meanwhile, this one pathway holds much promise for India to overcome the local impacts of global climate change.

 

The writer is Secretary to Government of India, Ministry of Rural Development. The views expressed are personal.

 

express@expressindia.com

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INDIAN EXPRESS

GOOD AND SENSIBLE TAX

MK VENU

 

Conceptually, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) model proposed by the 13th Finance Commission has the potential to catapult India to the ranks of developed nations that have the most modern and transparent taxation systems. Politically, however, the new GST recommendations will be vehemently opposed by powerful political and business interests that have a stake in persisting with India's opaque tax system which feeds the growing black economy which many suspect could be over 40 per cent of India's official GDP.

 

In fact, the new tax system seeks to strike at the very root of the nexus between India's politics and business by bringing many holy cows into the indirect tax net. This will enable the government to capture large parts of business activities which are currently left out of the indirect tax net. And a substantially higher volume of business activity being brought under the value added tax net will enable the Centre and states to charge a relatively much lower combined GST of 12 per cent. Mind you, the current total incidence of indirect tax levy by the Centre and states is about 24 per cent.

 

So the new landmark proposals seek to virtually halve the incidence of indirect tax imposed by the Centre and states. There can't be a bigger fiscal stimulus than this. Even for the consumers, this will come as a big relief as the cost of many goods and services, which go up because of the multiple and cascading state taxes that exist today, will go down.

 

Remember, as per the present model, even petroleum products will be part of the GST. The Left parties and others across the political spectrum have argued that consumers have to bear an extra 40 per cent cost on diesel, petrol, etc purely because of indirect taxes. The proposed GST of 12 per cent would cut that by more than half! There are upsides for consumers and farmers, for the GST does not exempt any sector except unprocessed food, school and college education and health services.

 

On a net basis, the economy as a whole will be a big gainer. Remember Australia introduced the GST in 2000 and succeeded in knocking off over $16 billion of extra costs incurred by domestic output and exports. Everyone benefited, though there were initial fears raised by a minority among businesses who felt they would be hurt.

 

The politics of the GST is very interesting. It seeks to benefit the larger masses but sharply targets strong vested interests in politics and business that feed on the black economy. The biggest opposition will come from the informal real estate developers, many of whom front for politicians. The other sectors where politicians have an interest in maintaining the status quo are tobacco and liquor. Much of the liquor industry thrives outside the state excise framework. The country liquor and beedi industries, largely dominated by politicos, will be captured under the proposed GST.

 

Over the last 15 years India has seen the emergence of a wealthy real estate bourgeoisie as land prices in hundreds of smaller cities have gone up by leaps and bounds. Much of that black economy feeds the political parties during elections. The proposed GST seeks to tax at 12 per cent every stage of the real estate development, starting from buying of land by the developer and ending with the developer selling the property to the final buyer. Taxing just the value added portion at 12 per cent at every stage of real estate development will reduce the overall cascading taxes that currently fall as a burden on the end buyer. It will also create greater transparency as those taking input credit will be forced to invoice correctly.

 

The current practice of under-invoicing property will be discouraged under the proposed GST system. The GST will subsume the stamp duty levied by states in a phased manner. The states earn close to Rs 40,000 crore from stamp duty annually. Clearly this is the most lucrative source of revenue for the states. The Centre will have to do a grand bargain with the states and reassure them that revenue losses in the medium term will be made up through special transfers.

 

The states should also realise if they earn Rs 40,000 crore annually from stamp duty at present, it is not inconceivable that they will earn more than double that amount if a transparent GST brings all real estate transactions into the official economy. Of course, the vested interests who would get hurt in the short run will not buy into this larger vision. It will be interesting to see how the collective leadership of the United Progressive Alliance will respond to the proposed GST.

 

It is likely that some of the coalition partners who control the real estate activity in states may oppose the idea in

the name of states losing revenues or the spirit of federalism being undermined by the Centre. These tactics will be used by those who may not want transparency in the tax system.

 

Politically, the tragedy is that the larger masses who benefit from a transparent tax system are scattered and do not make a noise. The noise level of vested interests often drowns out the silent majority. This has been the experience even with the proposed Direct Tax Code which is being vehemently opposed by sections of businesses who feel they will be hurt by provisions such as Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) on gross assets or the 15 per cent tax on Trusts run by corporate houses.

 

Even here, the fact that the vast majority — over 96 per cent — of individual tax payers, who will come under the 10 per cent tax bracket (the lowest in the world), is pretty much going unnoticed and unsung. However, the politician must remember that this silent majority does vote every five years. There is an urgent need to separate facts from all the noise that a minority can generate in our fractious democracy.

 

The writer is Managing Editor, 'The Financial Express'

mk.venu@expressindia.com

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

TIGER TIGER BURNING DIM

KUNAL PRADHAN

 

"Hockey is a sport for white men. Basketball is a sport for black men. Golf is a sport for white men dressed like black pimps."

— Tiger Woods

There was a time (it seems like long ago) when he still had a sense of humour. It wasn't particularly goofy or unpredictable, but it did show up every once in a while, at moments when Tiger Woods disconnected from his public image of a golfer making history, and just made a few jokes. As Ron Sirak once wrote, Woods would be walking down the fairway after a perfect tee shot, his stoic gaze seeming impossible to penetrate, when a little kid would scream from the sidelines, "Hey Tiger!" The steely expression would suddenly melt, and his face would break into a spontaneous smile.

 

The Tiger Woods story, over the last two weeks, is no longer the tale of a legend who rose up against the odds, grabbed the world by the scruff of its neck, and charmed his way into its heart, breaking barriers as he went along. Now he isn't only a mortal but even "morally inferior" to the majority of his followers — someone who couldn't practice the values he preached; a fallen role-model whose lead we wouldn't want our children to follow; and, most importantly, a target for the salacious gossip that keeps us going in this era of celebrity bashing. But Tiger Woods, make no mistake, is not Brad Pitt. He is more about his art than his image. What troubles me as a follower of his golf for more than a decade, is that his off-the-course behaviour has somehow gotten linked with what he stands for when he is starting off, in his trademark red T-shirt, on the fourth morning of a Major. The hush that descends on the first tee at that time has to be seen to be believed. The swing is flawless, the direction perfect, the distance unmatched, and the line often uncharted.

 

Tiger Woods is hockey's Wayne Gretzky and motor-racing's Aryton Senna rolled into one; weightlifting's Vasily Alexeev and swimming's Michael Spitz; long-distance running's Emil Zatopek and cycling's Lance Armstrong; cricket's Don Bradman; basketball's Michael Jordan; and boxing's Mohammad Ali. As a man of mixed race, he became an unlikely icon long before Barack Obama. In fact, when the senator from Illinois had just started winning the Democratic primaries, commentators wanted to know if he could be the "Tiger Woods of politics". And when we wanted our children to be like Tiger, it wasn't like how he lives his personal life, but how he plays the game.

 

The world was once mesmerised by the human element he brought to a polite sport that bordered on boring because of its lack of personalities. We loved him for celebrating a perfect approach shot by pumping his fists, for screaming after sinking an unbelievable birdie putt, for making the masses connect with an emotion that was stark and unfettered. Why, then, are we astonished that he is capable of flaws, and of human frailty?

 

Surrounded by a wave of righteous indignation at a time when the only people concerned about his private affairs should be his wife and children, Woods has decided to take an indefinite break from golf. He is perhaps not in the frame of mind to play anyway, but it's important that he eventually gets back on course, for golf alone can save him from the abyss he's fallen into.

 

Tiger Woods, with 14 Majors in 13 years, had made a date with history long ago. Now, with his inexorable march to Jack Nicklaus's 18 titles stopped midway, we don't know if he will eventually keep it. Neither do we know if he will be remembered only as a man who went astray, or as the greatest sportsman of our era. Recklessness has its consequences, and the evil that men do lives after them.

I'm less concerned about how the "story" reflects on him, more about how it reflects on us. Is it only he who needs to sort out his life, or is it we who need to get one?

 

kunal.pradhan@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

FIVE STAR GREENERY

SARITHA RAI

 

There are no self-cleaning weeds in the pool. There are no whirring windmills or glistening solar panels on the rooftop. There is no organic garden in the backyard. Yet, Bangalore's ITC Royal Gardenia may well be the greenest luxury hotel of its kind in India. The hotel is eco-conscientious starting at its entrance. As it prepared for its gala opening a few months ago, ITC executives were asked, "So when are you throwing open the doors of your new hotel in Bangalore?" The Royal Gardenia has no doors! The entrance is a vast, high-ceiling-ed expanse.

 

Around the globe, hotels are going all out to lower their energy and water usage and bring down wastages. Energy efficient lighting, small-flow showers and toilets, and water and kitchen waste re-cycling are becoming universal green options. In India recently, while small boutique hotels have climbed aboard the eco-friendly bandwagon, newer hotels such as Royal Gardenia are being designed to be environmentally friendly from the brick up. The best part of the ITC Royal Gardenia is its four-acre outdoors, though it is no shade on the vaster, lusher West End of the Taj Group in another neighbourhood in Bangalore. Both the Royal Gardenia and the old worldly West End's location — Bangalore , where "al fresco" is a 365-day possibility — give the hotels a head start in the eco-friendly department.

 

Can anybody imagine sitting in an outdoor restaurant during the day in the searing heat of Chennai, Mumbai or Delhi? Bangalore is a city increasingly speckled with monstrous buildings, all shiny chrome and glass. Many of these buildings house much evolved, world-class companies but their architecture has no eco-sensibility whatsoever. Contrastingly, the Royal Gardenia abuts a spectacular city lung space, the thickly wooded Cubbon Park, with its shady, flowering trees and lush grass. The hotel's architecture has been conceived as a building set in a garden.

 

In a city where hundred-year old trees are being felled to make way for the metro or wide roads and where old buildings are making way for shiny apartment complexes and malls, the hotel is revivalist. Nakul Anand, an old ITC Bangalore hand and now the head of ITC's Hotel Division, says the hotel's challenge was to bring Bangalore back to Bangalore.

 

There are many green elements inside Royal Gardenia, too. The wind-cooled atrium lobby is suffused with natural light. Vertical hanging gardens span its sides. The walled gardens are novel and serve to be both maintenance-friendly and water conserving. A special glazing helps keep the natural light in while keeping the heat out. The multi-column Lotus Pavilion stands amidst lush gardens and water bodies, all fed with re-cycled water. "Grey" as well as "black" water from the rooms is treated and used for toilet flushing, air-conditioning, gardening and the fountains. The hotel even generates surplus re-cycled water.

 

In the garden outside, full grown trees were saved by replanting in soil stabilised with grouted nails. When it comes to maintaining and running the hotel, Royal Gardenia's green score edges up further. The hotel's water and solid waste discharges are close to zero. CO2 sensors are extensively used to manage the air-conditioning and ventilation. Green crockery produced with low-energy consuming technology is used at the restaurants. No electro-plated or coated ware is used in the kitchens. The wood and the carpeting used in the hotel are made of eco-friendly fibres. Room cleaning products are 100 per cent bio-degradable. The guest stationery in the rooms is made from 100 per cent recycled waste paper. Toiletries contain organic ingredients and natural spring water. Guests are provided with an organic "green robe".

 

The Royal Gardenia's green-ness has its share of shortcomings. For instance, the water in the swimming pool is chlorinated. Not many re-cycled materials have gone into building the hotel. The bed linen and sheets are not organic. But, the hotel claims, guests staying in its 292 rooms will leave lesser carbon footprints compared to any other hotel this size.

 

Granted, "luxury" hotels and eco-friendliness don't really go hand-in-hand. Who can stay in a swank hotel, eat exotic food and imported spirits, and lie in cozy bed in a climate-controlled room and get a night's sleep with a clear conscience? Yet, a beginning has to be made and Royal Gardenia is indeed a good beginning.

 

saritha.rai@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

VIEW FROM THE RIGHT

SUMAN K JHA

 

LOVE JIHAD

The editorial in the latest issue of the RSS mouthpiece Organisertitled "Love Jihad: Kerala High Court shows the way", says: "The Kerala High Court's direction on December 9, to the state government, to take action against forced religious conversion of girls after trapping them in love and marriage, has confirmed the existence of Love Jihad. For decades, several Hindu organisations have been fighting this organised conversion racket but the political leadership was unwilling to act. They even shield and justify such acts. However, it is only now that the issue has gained judicial attention".

 

The RSS mouthpiece further claims: "The statistics of 'Love Jihad' marriages in Kerala are staggering. According to the High Court, the police records showed 4000 conversions having taken place through love affairs in the last four years and 2,800 girls converted from other religions into Islam for love. In the four northern districts, 1600 such conversions have taken place. The issue came to the attention of the High Court through an alleged case of coercive conversion, filed by an aggrieved parent. The Court, in its order, said the campuses should not be turned into venues for forced conversions though false love affairs".

 

The RSS journal concludes its editorial: "Anti-conversion law is in place in some states. They need to be fortified. Local administrations should be sensitised about the issue. One of the best ways of dealing with the issue of religious conversions could be to fix a quarantine period of at least 10 years. A person wishing to change the religion should wait for that period from the date of first expressing the desire before being legally declared the converted... The social cost of religious conversions is very high, within the community and between communities. And the ultimate goal of the people who are prompting conversions is not spirituality but money, better living conditions, social status and political power. That's when the number becomes crucial, not the man or his soul".

 

RECESSION HISTORY

In a column titled "Will the global crisis deepen?" in the latest issue of the RSS mouthpiece, Bharat Jhunjhunwala writes: "The global economy is passing through a period of uncertainty. Agencies such as the World Bank and the IMF believe that the American economy will soon revive and pull forward the global economy with it. The experience of the Asian crisis gives hope to the optimists. The American economy was moving fast forward in the few years preceding 1997. American companies were making huge investments in manufacturing facilities in Thailand and other East Asian countries. The goods produced were being exported to America. Thailand was receiving huge amounts of foreign investments and also got access to the markets of the developed countries. This model of development of Thailand was dependent wholly on the American economy. The American economy started facing a downturn in 1998. There was a decline in demand for cars imported from Thailand. Correspondingly, American companies like General Motors slowed down their foreign investments. This reduction in inflow of dollars led to a steep devaluation in the Thai currency. This was the beginning of the Asian crisis".

 

He adds: "But the crisis did not become deep. At nearly the same time, Internet revolution started in America. Companies like Microsoft and Cisco Systems started making huge profits. The share market of technology companies started booming. Once again global investors started putting their money in the American companies. This inflow of foreign money led to regeneration of domestic demand. American companies once again embarked on importing foreign goods and making foreign investments. The technological development of the Internet helped America come out of the recession. America had similarly come out of previous bouts of recession with the help of technological developments of nuclear reactors, jet airplanes and the like. This happy circumstance did not happen again, however.

 

The revival of the US economy due to the IT sector petered out in 2002. American economy again started to slip into recession".

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

'AT LEAST ONE TERROR ATTACK IN INDIA HAS BEEN PREVENTED WITH GERMAN INPUTS'

SHUBHAJIT ROY

 

Thomas Matussek, the new German ambassador to India, is an old India hand who was stationed in New Delhi between 1983 and 1986. The 62-year-old career diplomat, who joined the Federal foreign office in 1975 after teaching law at the University of Bonn, was the German envoy to the UN for the last three years, before he came to New Delhi. An accomplished diplomat, he spoke to Shubhajit Roy in an exclusive interview on a wide range of issues. Here are the excerpts:

 

You were posted in New Delhi in the early '80s, and you are back here as the ambassador. What has changed since, and how do you look at Indo-German relations in the present context?

Lot of things have changed. Globalisation is a reality — from climate change to terrorism to food security to the financial crisis, nothing can be solved by countries alone. If we want to keep the climate livable, we can only do it together. India was a sleeping giant then, now the giant is wide awake and it is a global power which can make a difference. India lives in a very rough neighbourhood and as a democracy with a vibrant civil society, free press, functioning judiciary and rule of law, India is an ideal strategic partner for us. We have seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere that not even the most powerful country can solve problems on its own. For us, India is not only a client or an interlocutor, we see India as long-term strategic partner. In short, the world has changed and India is one of the movers of the change.

 

As we talk now, the climate change summit at Copenhagen is underway. Germany has been one of the early proponents of the battle against global warming. What's your sense of the climate change talks; where is it headed?

India, Germany and most countries know that if we don't limit global warming by 2 degrees by 2050, this world will be unlivable. The clock starts today, we can't lose more time. From Copenhagen, we expect at least a political consensus. If we miss the boat, there won't be winners and losers, there will only be losers. If we wait until other partners move, we are losing more time. We, at the G-8 summit at Heilingendamm, pushed through a consensus in the EU on limiting CO2 output by 20 per cent by 2020 and 30 per cent if other big emitters also join. Unilaterally, Germany can go upto 40 per cent. We hope that partners live up to their responsibilities. It is not my job to tell other countries what they should do, I only hope that reason should prevail. My personal interest is that the voice of the least developed countries and small island states are not drowned by big players, since they are the ones who are most vulnerable.

 

Given the fact that Germany is a leader in climate-friendly technologies, is it prepared to give such technology to India at cheaper price?

Yes, we are the world leaders in modern alternative energy technology and we are ready to share all our technology with India to make it available at affordable prices. In fact, we just agreed on a 350 million Euro programme which has alternative energy as one of the components. Also, German corporations are cooperating with the Indian government at various levels, and are working on formulas to develop further possibilities and make it available to consumers — be it small-scale projects in Orissa or bigger projects on Rajasthan and Gujarat. The good news is that our two economies are compatible. What you need most, we can offer, and what we need is what you can offer, for example IT technology and what you have in abundance is the boundless energy of the young generation.

 

After the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, there was a huge momentum between the two countries on counter-terrorism cooperation. What's the state of play and are there any concrete outcomes?

One of the first visitors from Germany, after the Mumbai terror attacks, was our Interior Minister who showed his solidarity and offered practical help. As an outcome, there is a very intensive cooperation between GSG-9, federal police agencies and intelligence agencies with their Indian counterparts. There is an improvement in real-time intelligence sharing, and thank God for that. At least one terror attack in India has been prevented with inputs from German agencies.

 

When was this; what was the terror plot all about?

It happened through the last year. I cannot share specific details, since the intelligence agencies from both sides have great trust between them and have the highest respect for the professionalism of the Indian agencies. I can only add that, India will always find Germany by their side. Terrorism needs a global response. In the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, India showed great restraint. This was reflected in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's response by not breaking off communication links (with Pakistan), stretching out his hand and being ready to meet them half-way. And it speaks of the maturity of the Indian people to vote back Singh with an improved tally in the Parliament.

 

On Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, which has been recently unveiled by US President Obama: How do you see the strategy and what's your view of India's role in Afghanistan?

We are grateful to US President Obama for bringing clarity on the strategy. This war in Afghanistan can't be won militarily; it needs support on the civilian side — let Afghans see the dividends of peace and put ownership back on Afghans. Germany's commitment is of 4,500 soldiers. On Pakistan, this is a country whose stability is critical. If Pakistan implodes, India would be one of those suffering most, but others in the world will also face consequences. So, we have to strengthen education, development and have to stay by the side of democratic forces (in Pakistan). As for India's role, it plays a very important role in Afghanistan, in building infrastructure, development, and consular presence. It is not militarily involved and that is important because given the fragile relations with Pakistan, it will only exacerbate the situation. So India is rightly focussing on infrastructure, and the humanitarian and developmental needs (of Afghanistan).

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SEA CHANGE


The Indian shipbuilding industry seems to finally be on the way to achieving global competitiveness and replicating the success of other manufacturing sectors like automobiles in particular and engineering goods in general. The most recent figures for the middle of 2009 show that the industry had orders for 248 vessels of 4.9 million deadweight tonnage (DWT), which is within touching distance of the target set for 2012. Global consultants have put the Indian shipbuilding industry in the seventh place in the order book ranking. These trends are expected to pick up further as the industry plans to invest $5.5 billion in modernisation and capacity expansion by 2012. The bulk of the investments is expected to be from the private sector, which will invest $4.3 billion. And export orders are projected to go up four-fold from 1 million DWT in the Tenth Plan to 4 million DWT in the Eleventh Plan. The best indicator of the competitiveness of the Indian shipbuilding industry is that of the total 1.28 million DWT of orders placed in the Tenth Plan period, 1 million DWT were for exports. However, the bulk of the orders was for small ships like offshore supply vessels and anchor handling tugs. Only a few shipbuilders, like the Cochin Shipyard, have been able to build large and medium size vessels for exports.

Of course, the Indian shipbuilding industry still has a long way to go if it is to catch up with global majors like China, South Korea and Japan. While India still has just 28 shipbuilding & repair yards employing around 12,000 workers, the Chinese have close to 500 units employing 3,00,000 workers. Their current order book is more than 40 million DWT while India targets to achieve an order book position of 18 million DWT by 2017. And while the Chinese have captured more than a quarter of the global market, India's market share still hovers around 1%. Catching up will be challenging given the global slump and projections, which suggest that the scenario will stabilise only after 2012. Indian shipbuilders have to find innovative ways to overcome current constraints like high costs of inputs and taxes and reduce dependence on low costs of skilled labour as the major factor facilitating competitiveness. The subsidy route to neutralise the negatives—currently the government's favoured option—cannot be continued indefinitely and offers no long-term answer to the challenges. A better alternative would be to provide incentives to upgrade research & development in the sector.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

PICK THE RIPE FRUIT


The report of the 13th Finance Commission's GST task force is now online. While remaining faithful to the goal of integrating India into a single common market, the report is also respectful to the cause of cooperative federalism. As FE reported yesterday, the commission proposes a 'flawless' model, wherein a combined rate of 12% will comprise 5% for Central GST and 7% for state GST. It also incentivises states to join in by proposing a compensation fund to which the Centre will transfer a minimum of Rs 6,000 crore a year for the next five years if, and only if, the states introduce the recommended, 'flawless' GST model. By optimising efficiencies, encouraging compliance and widening the tax base, the report suggests that the GST will not only make for GDP gains but also create a host of beneficiaries ranging from the industry to the poor. For the latter, benefits will flow from 1) increase in income levels and 2) reduction in prices of goods consumed by them—overall prices of all manufacturing sectors would decline between 1.22% and 2.53%. Farmers would earn more for their produce and house construction would become less expensive. Again, all these gains have to be understood in terms of a broadening of the tax base—for example, by bringing real estate within the GST ambit. And the other key development is the restriction of exemptions, which were a little too abundant even in the GST discussion paper released by the empowered committee of state finance ministers on November 10. The 13th Finance Commission recognises that tax exemptions are economically inefficient, inequitable, lead to revenue loss, breed rent-seeking behaviour, increase compliance cost and enhance administrative burden. In this spirit, its report advises against area-based exemptions (including SEZs), and instead recommends that all goods & services exports be zero-rated.

 

In his budget speech this year, Pranab Mukherjee quoted Kautilya to say his government would not be collecting unripe fruits. By our reckoning, an 'Indian common market' should be more than ready for ripening by now. But much remains to be done before such integration comes about. For example, the 13th Finance Commission notes that without addressing fundamental concerns of IT infrastructure and information support systems, the adoption of GST cannot move beyond the conceptual stage. Then, there is the question of constitutional amendment—as of now, states cannot levy taxes on the supply of services and the Centre cannot tax the sale of goods. With the law ministry having conveyed that the required amendment would need 10-15 changes in various Articles, can the relevant Bill be tabled in the budget session in February? If it isn't, the April 10 deadline for GST to come online will join a long list of others that remain unmet. That would be unfortunate indeed.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

ARTISTS VERSUS BUSINESS

RAHUL CHAUDHRY


The Copyright Act, 1957, is again up for amendment. The Act has already been amended five times—in 1983, 1984, 1992, 1994 and 1999. Copyright is the easiest right to acquire but one of the most difficult to enforce. Maybe it is to make this enforcement somewhat easier that the lawmakers have had to amend it ever so often. The amendments are also necessary to bring the law in line with the needs of ever-evolving human society.

 

The recent amendment Bill proposed by the HRD ministry seeks to provide a more balanced regime in terms of rights distribution in the entertainment industry—comprising the broadcast industry (including television and radio)—and the film industry. But, in an attempt to frame laws to restore the dignity of creative artists, the Centre has brought about some highly debatable proposals by attempting to mandate that all broadcasters obtain 'compulsory licence' for any version of recordings of original songs, even if used for a minute.

 

Of course, the law must protect the creative works of artists like lyricists, playback singers, music directors and film directors. But the law must not, in its attempt to protect the works, grant so much protection as to stifle creativity instead of promoting it. Should the proposed amendments become the Law, talent hunt shows like Sa Re Ga Ma Pa and Indian Idol will not be able to go on air without taking prior compulsory licences from the copyright owners.

 

In India, where the small-scale music industry has always created a good business avenue by way of version recordings, the proposal of the new fair-use clause will cause a setback, as smaller music companies will have to pay a minimum royalty for 50,000 copies of the versioned song for each calendar year, regardless of how much they will sell. To add to this, the criteria of the first version recording of the original work to be permitted only after the expiry of five calendar years from the year in which the first sound recording was made are the two restraints proposed by the Bill.

 

Has the proposed Bill, while vesting unbridled power in the hands of copyright societies, kept tabs on the power thus vested upon the societies? Operation of this proposed Section 33A would entitle the copyright societies to charge broadcasters with arbitrary tariff schemes, with a mere requisite of publication.

The author is partner at IP law firm, Lall Lahiri & Salhotra

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

HOW UPA-2 WASTED TWO HOUSE MEETS

MR MADHAVAN


With the UPA-2 completing six months in office and two full sessions of Parliament, the government's resolve to further economic reforms comes into question. In the early years of UPA-1, of course, many of the reformist Bills faced opposition from the Left parties and were not passed in that five-year period.

 

The need for significant reforms across sectors is well understood. Committees have been formed and recommendations received across sectors; for example, Rajan and Mistry committees on financial reforms, Irani on company law, Kelkar and Shome on taxation law, Yash Pal and Knowledge Commission on higher education. The President's address in June listed a number of areas important to the corporate sector where the government planned to prioritise action. These included recapitalisation of public sector banks, establishing a pension regulator, and reforms in higher education and judiciary.

 

Despite these statements, the status of legislative action is disappointing. There were five broad areas of financial sector reform: banking, pension, commodities markets, insurance and micro-finance. The Banking Regulation Amendment Bill, introduced in 2005, included changes in the conditions for acquiring banks and for related-party lending. This Bill lapsed in 2009 and has not been re-introduced. Ditto for the Pension Bill. This sector provides a classic study in regulatory adventurism. In brief, in the absence of legislation, the regulator has been appointed through government notification. The regulator has, in turn, appointed various intermediaries, including fund managers by signing contracts with them. The regulator has no statutory power and if it needs to take action against an intermediary, presumably it would have to file a case in a civil court for breach of contract.

 

The Bill to strengthen the forward markets regulator has also gone through several tortuous paths. Introduced in 2006, it had three broad features. It elevated the role of the Forward Markets Commission to an independent regulator for commodities markets, similar to Sebi. It required commodities exchanges to be corporatised and demutualised. And it permitted commodities derivatives, including option contracts, to be traded. The Bill faced opposition from the Left parties, so it was brought in as an ordinance in January 2008, which lapsed as the government was unable to get it ratified. This Bill was originally listed to be reintroduced and passed in the current session; the plan has been jettisoned.

 

There were two Bills related to insurance. The Insurance Amendment Bill increases the maximum foreign holding to 49%, raises capital requirements and permits nationalised general insurance companies to raise funds in the capital markets. The LIC Amendment Bill raises the capital of LIC and permits the government to set the level of sovereign guarantee on policies written by LIC. Both these Bills are still pending with the Parliament.

The Micro-Finance Bill introduced in 2007 specified that Nabard would regulate the sector. It permitted micro-finance organisations to accept savings deposits and required them to file annual returns. The Bill lapsed in 2009 and has not been re-introduced.

 

For the corporate sector as a whole, four important Bills are on the anvil. The Companies Bill was introduced last year and has been re-introduced in the new Lok Sabha. It will replace Companies Act, 1956. On a number of issues, it substitutes government oversight on management by shareholder oversight. It gives greater say to creditors in cases of financial distress. It has new provisions for independent directors and auditors. The Satyam case highlights the urgent need for better governance of corporate entities.

 

Much has been written about the two Bills related to land acquisition and rehabilitation of displaced persons. For sustained industrial growth, it is necessary to enact a fair and balanced law that provides adequate compensation in case land is acquired and helps them resettle. The cardinal principle, also one that any person supportive of property rights would endorse, is that the seller must be satisfied by the price and benefits offered. These Bills lapsed in 2009 and figured on the 100-day agenda of the UPA-2 government but have not been re-introduced.

 

The draft version of the Direct Taxes Code has received much criticism. In particular, the issue of MAT based on assets implies that even loss-making entities need to pay tax. The finance minister has promised to revisit several contentious clauses, and this Bill could be introduced early next year. At a broader level, both education reform and judicial reforms are critical to smooth functioning and growth of the economy. The education minister has indicated his intent to introduce Bills to allow foreign universities and to reform higher education. The Law minister has talked about the need to provide speedy justice and clear pending cases and to improve accountability of judges. There has not yet been any legislative action on these fronts.

 

The BJP has openly expressed support for many of the economic reform measures. The ball is squarely in the Congress court. If the Congress-led government wants to be seen as liberalising the economic landscape, it needs to back up its words with action.

 

The author works for PRS Legislative Research, New Delhi

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE NEWEST TWIST TO SINGUR LAND

RAJESH CHAKRABARTI

 

If you thought the Singur land-for-industry saga has ended with the exit of the Tatas, well, think again. The issue has taken an ironical twist in recent weeks and continues to raise important public policy questions. Of late, the West Bengal government had invited BHEL to build a factory there, which did not work out.

 

But, having been instrumental in getting the Tatas out of Singur and keen to avoid the 'anti-industry' label, Mamata has proposed a railway coach factory at the site using only the 600 acres "willingly given" by farmers and returning the 400 acres of unwilling farmers. The state government naturally is in a bind and has reportedly agreed to the proposal. There is just one small issue. The land is still leased to the Tatas and they must return it before any other project can take place. Ratan Tata has gone on record saying that he is willing to return the land, provided Tata Motors is compensated for the investments made there.

 

This seemingly logical demand opens a Pandora's box from a public policy standpoint. First, all of the nearly 1,000 acres there were acquired by the government from farmers using the 1894 Land Acquisition Act. The compensation paid to the farmers was based on an estimated market price of their holding plus a premium. If one of the farmers there had claimed that he had actually sunk in a Rs 10,000 investment on fertilisers and pesticides in his plot to upgrade its productivity, the government would most certainly not have compensated him for that investment. Now that the state needs the currently unused land for another industrial purpose, should it compensate the current holder, that is the Tatas, for their investment, even though (or particularly because) its investment ran into thousands of crores? Would that not violate the equitable treatment principle? Besides, nobody, certainly not the government, really compelled the Tatas to leave. So, this was a political risk they had taken and they should be prepared to live with the outcome.

 

A counter to this would be that the investment has changed the nature of the land—from agricultural to industrial—and therefore Tata Motors can ask for at least partial compensation based on the higher market price. The catch here is that there is no 'market price' here since there is no free market for this, very special, property. The only way to ascertain market price would be to auction the 600 acres. It is always risky to predict auction outcomes, but it is highly doubtful that anybody would want to pay the lease price plus the full investment. The political factor would discourage buyers and the lack of free market would induce them to bid lower. Tata's demand for compensation for its investment is on shaky grounds.

 

Can and would the government unilaterally push the Tatas out of the property? Legally speaking, it depends on the lease agreement. For instance, can the Tatas sit on the land indefinitely without putting in place an industrial project? If the lease does not expire on non-fulfilment of a specified use clause, then the government will have little power to evict the Tatas as it may be difficult to use the land acquisition law for a single holder. Of course, Tata Motors itself will find it costly to leave the land fallow and continue to pay rent (which increases substantially with time). So all this is a bargaining ploy for Tata Motors as well. There is certainly the option of an alternative Tata project on the site, but Ratan Tata has made it clear that no such plan is currently afoot. He has also expressed his desire to vacate the plot, provided Tata Motors is compensated.

 

The cost itself is sunk and incurred, it is now only a question of apportioning it. For the Tatas, holding on to the land means paying rent and remaining embroiled in a much-publicised political dispute while letting it go without compensation is a large write-off. For the government, charging the new holders a land development fee and passing it on to the Tatas is the only option; they certainly cannot pay it out of the state budget. As for Railways, paying a reasonable land development charge should not be an outrageous notion but Mamata, like any good negotiator and given the relationship between the three players, is likely to refuse and ask for the same rental terms as the Tatas, and do everything to add to the government's discomfiture.

 

Whether the next round of this saga gets played out in the courts, or in the streets, state governments all across India should draw their lessons about the pitfalls in such land-for-industry deals.

The author teaches finance at ISB, Hyderabad

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

CURBS ON FINANCIAL EXCESS

 

After dedicating most of 2009 to jump-starting financial markets through stimulus packages, developed countries are now turning their attention to reforming the basic architecture of those markets, especially the incentives for risk-taking. In a major step towards regulating systemic risks, the United Kingdom last week announced a one-off 50 per cent "super-tax" on bankers' discretionary bonuses exceeding £25,000. The move could raise £550 milli on, which would be used to help reduce unemployment, according to Chancellor Alistair Darling. However it has generated, as expected, a torrent of resistance from financial services firms, including threats that they would mass-migrate to other countries. By way of response, an aide to the Chancellor has asserted that the solution was for the banks to "pay less in bonuses" and to realise that this tax was "about changing their behaviour, not raising revenue." Other members of the European Union such as France and Germany have come out in support of the policy, with France imposing a similar super-tax on bonuses exceeding €27,000. Executive pay has come under fire in the United States too. Kenneth Feinberg, President Obama's pay czar, has sharply cut cash compensation, requiring instead that 175 most-paid executives in bailed-out companies hold stock compensation for two to four years.

 

Yet pay is only one dimension of a culture of excessive risk-taking, which precipitated the credit crisis on the back of lax regulatory standards and the availability of cheap credit. Only a comprehensive overhaul of regulatory oversight, of the kind passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week, stands a reasonable chance of changing deeply entrenched attitudes towards risk. The reform proposals, which mirror some of the policies enacted in the EU, include tighter regulation of derivative instruments, procedures for managing collapse at large banks without resorting to taxpayer money, and the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency to monitor lending practices. The bill also seeks to empower lawmakers to oversee the functioning of the U.S. Treasury — not a bad thing considering it was the Treasury, under Alan Greenspan, that stubbornly held interest rates at artificially low levels, setting off credit-driven asset bubbles. Finally, the reforms seek to extend the powers of the Securities and Exchange Commission to aggressively patrol the fringes of the financial universe, including hedge funds, with the aim of foiling would-be Madoffs and Rajaratnams. Even as the U.S. and Europe struggle to get unemployment under control over the coming years, they would do well to persist in their mission to curb financial excess through serious institutional reforms.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

MORATORIUM ON EXECUTIONS

 

The Russian Constitutional Court decision to extend a decade-old moratorium on carrying out death sentences reflects a global trend among states to halt executions forthwith, pending commensurate reform of the criminal law. If the global trend has evolved in the face of mounting evidence undermining the presumed efficacy of capital punishment, the Russian judicial initiative is consistent with that country's strong backing for a 2007 United Nations General Assembly R esolution that called upon states still having the death penalty on their statute books to suspend the execution of sentences. This should facilitate the country's early ratification of Protocol 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, stipulating the abolition of capital punishment. The elimination of this most barbarous punishment is a requirement for membership of the Council of Europe. However, going by the precedent of Chechnya adopting a procedure of trial by jury under which death sentences may be awarded, there is a chance that other Russian provinces may follow suit. This has put the legal status of this issue in the spotlight. Notwithstanding the introduction of jury trials, the Constitutional Court has now extended the moratorium on executions until the ratification of Protocol 6. The ratification however is subject to the deletion of the death penalty from the country's criminal code.

 

The Russian leadership's attempts to dispense with the death sentence progressively have met with a strong public opinion that places a high premium on its perceived deterrent effect, especially in the context of rising challenges to rigorous law enforcement and the perception of an increase in terrorism-related crimes in recent years. While the popular appeal of such ruthless solutions may be understandable, removing the death penalty from the statute book should be the eventual aim. Abolitionists, more than anybody else, should remain alive to the need for ensuring maximum transparency and accountability in the entire debate over the death penalty. The last execution in the Russian Federation took place way back in 1996 and recent developments augur well for the future of democracy in Russia, notwithstanding the upheavals the people have encountered in the post-Soviet Union era. Russia has shown a greater sensitivity than many other democracies that retain the death penalty. It is time all civilised societies ensured that their criminal jurisprudence was in tune with liberal values and respect for human rights.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS: AGENDA FOR REFORM

THE INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY AND THE RULE OF LAW WILL BE SEVERELY COMPROMISED IF THE INTEGRITY OF THE HIGHER JUDICIARY IS NOT PROTECTED BY AN INDEPENDENT, INFORMED, TRANSPARENT, FAIR AND ROBUST PROCESS.

ANIL DIVAN

 

The former Chief Justice of India, P.B. Gajendragadkar, said: "Wise judges never forget that the best way to sustain the dignity and status of their office is to deserve respect from the public at large by the quality of their judgments, the fearlessness, fairness and objectivity of their approach and by the restraint, dignity and decorum which they observe in their judicial conduct."

 

The bottom line is "deserve respect from the public at large." The prestige of the Supreme Court has never been lower except during the Emergency of 1975-77 and in the aftermath of the Habeas Corpus judgment. The higher judiciary is suffering from self-inflicted wounds. The Dinakaran appointment controversy has been dragging on from September 9, 2009. To appoint or not to appoint? — the question remains unanswered.

 

It is ironical that over 70 members of the Rajya Sabha have donned the mantle of leadership and decided to present an impeachment motion against the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court in record time. One hopes Parliament will deliberate and decide impartially — judicial integrity is too crucial to be tested through the prism of partisan politics.

 

The entry point at which High Court judges are appointed has to be guarded meticulously. Indifferent and unsuitable appointments create many difficulties because most of the Supreme Court judges are drawn from among senior judges of the High Courts.

 

SUPREME COURT COLLEGIUM

The system of appointments and transfers was the subject matter of many judgments until a nine-judge Bench gave "primacy" to the opinion of the CJI after wide consultations with senior colleagues in the Supreme Court collegium.

 

The collegium experiment is not working satisfactorily. Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer's views encapsulate the public perception (The Hindu, Dec. 2, 2009): "What is wrong with our courts that they have lost their credibility and prestige? Corruption has crept in … Another great deficiency is that a collegium that is untrained in the task selects judges in secret and bizarre fashion. There could be room for nepotism, communalism and favouritism in the absence of guidelines… The collegium is a disaster: the P.D. Dinakaran episode is an example. A new code by a constitutional chapter has become an imperative."

 

We must introduce radical reforms for a better tomorrow and discard systems which have outlived their utility. The need of the hour is to remove the lack of transparency and secrecy and replace the existing system with an independent, permanent, well-informed Judicial Appointments Commission functioning openly and transparently. This will require a constitutional amendment. The time is ripe for the same.

U.K.: the old system

 

Till 2006, judicial appointments were made by the Lord Chancellor and steeped in secrecy. Over a period of time, this system came under grave criticism. Colin Turpin writes: "Lord Scarman has described the appointment process as "all too haphazard" and an "old boy network" which has resulted in some terrible mistakes."

John Alder comments, "Traditionally the Lord Chancellor privately consults judges and other senior lawyers and the senior judges … This process creates the risk that the judiciary is regarded as a self perpetuating body of cronies."

 

CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM ACT 2005

Radical reforms have been brought about in the U.K. by the Constitutional Reforms Act 2005. A new Constitutional Court was established and it has started functioning. A Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) is now in place with Baroness Usha Prashar as Chairperson — a distinguished civil servant of East African Indian origin. It has 14 other Commissioners including five judicial members, one barrister, one solicitor, five lay members, one tribunal chairman and one lay judge. The Chairperson and 12 Commissioners are appointed through open competition, while the other three are selected by the Judge's Council. The selection of judges is to be solely on merit and the Act provides, "A person must not be selected unless the selecting body is satisfied that he has a good character" (Clause 63).

 

Applications are invited through advertisements for appointments to the High Court. The Act also provides for a Judicial Appointments and Conduct Ombudsman but that is not the theme of this article.

 

There are separate selection processes for posts of judges of the Supreme Court, Lord Chief Justice and Heads of Divisions, and puisne judges of High Courts. The process of selection to the High Court is done by the JAC, a body with a majority of non-judicial members representing a cross-section of society and the profession. Thus, inputs on a potential candidate and his integrity would be available from a wide spectrum of society. After inviting applications, interviews are taken and a rigorous and intrusive method of inquiry is in place. In Lord Falconer's words, the methodology is "robust and transparent."

 

SOUTH AFRICA

The Constitution, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) Act and the JSC Amendment Act, 2008 deal with appointments and complaints against the higher judiciary. The amendment to the JSC Act has not been brought into force but it deals exhaustively with complaints against judges, a topic not relevant to this article.

 

The Constitutional Court is headed by the Chief Justice and has a Deputy Chief Justice. The Supreme Court of Appeal is headed by a President with a deputy. The head of the Executive is the President of South Africa. The President makes appointments to these four positions after consulting the JSC and leaders of the parties in the National Assembly.

 

The JSC consists of the Chief Justice, who presides over it as Chairperson, the President of the Supreme Court of Appeal, one Judge President designated by the Judge's President and the rest non-judicial members. State High Court appointments are made by including in the JSC the Judge President of that Court and the State Premier. The total strength of the JSC is the Chief Justice plus 22 or 24 members. Judicial members do not have a preponderant voice.

 

The procedure of the JSC for other appointments to the Constitutional Court is gazetted. A vacancy or potential vacancy is publicly announced, nominations are called for and these must contain inter alia detailed curriculum vitae and answers to a questionnaire. The Commission interviews the shortlisted candidates and such sessions are open to the public and the media. After the interviews, the Commission holds deliberations in public and selects the candidates for recommendation. The Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson shall "distil and record the Commission's reasons" for recommending the candidate selected. The Commission advises the President on the names of the candidates and the reasons for their recommendation. The names are publicly announced. A similar procedure is followed for appointments to the State High Courts.

If a young republic like South Africa can function in such an open, transparent and professional manner — predominantly involving laypersons — why can't India adopt a similar procedure?

We are at a defining moment — the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law will be severely compromised if the integrity of the higher judiciary is not protected by an independent, informed, transparent, fair and robust process. "The collegium" experiment needs to be jettisoned. Every adversity creates an opportunity. When there is a "duty to speak," it is for responsible lawyers, citizens, former judges, and sitting judges to speak out — publicly or privately — and create public opinion and internal "peer pressure".

 

Parliament, a proactive Law Minister, retired judges, and responsible members of the Bar must campaign to safeguard the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

(Anil Divan is a Senior Advocate. abdsad@airtelmail.in)

 

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THE HINDU

THE SYSTEM STRIKES BACK

MISSING JOB CARDS, FUDGED MUSTER ROLLS AND DIVERSION OF NREGS FUNDS THROUGH FAKE BILLS. WHAT THE RAJASTHAN SOCIAL AUDIT HAS REVEALED IS THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG.

VIDYA SUBRAHMANIAM

 

  • Bhilwara-2009 invited a swift and strong backlash — the government backed off realising it had stepped into a quagmire of corruption

 

  • The battle being fought in the panchayats, streets, offices, and courts of Rajasthan is not just about social audit

 

To understand why civil society participation in the social audit of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) in Rajasthan raised the hackles of a swath of people, among them gram panchayat staff, politicians and bureaucrats, it is necessary to rewind to the October 2009 Bhilwara social audit which was conducted jointly by civil society and the Rajasthan government.

 

The induction of civil society members into the official NREGS social audit brought experience to the audit teams but, more importantly, it made the oversight process transparent and accountable.

 

The effect of this was dramatically visible post-Bhilwara. When the audit teams compiled the results of the 10-day-long exercise, they were stunned by the extent of corruption that came to the fore, especially in the purchase of material for civil works under NREGS. Bhilwara had been audited before along with other Rajasthan districts. But these were paper exercises that revealed few lapses, and did not in anyway threaten the tranquil world of the sarpanchs, engineers and Block Development Officers. Bhilwara-2009, on the other hand, invited a swift and strong backlash, and the government backed off realising it had stepped into a quagmire of stealth and corruption.

 

The Bhilwara audit teams, which examined bills and vouchers relating to material purchases in 11 of Rajasthan's over 9,000 gram panchayats, conservatively estimated diversion of NREGS funds in the inspected village panchayats at Rs. 1.5 crore (about Rs. 12 lakh per gram panchayat). The sample size may have been too small to allow extrapolation for the more than 9,000 gram panchayats, but it nonetheless gave a fair picture of the overall volume of potential corruption under NREGS — anything between Rs. 800 crore and Rs. 1,000 crore a year. The allocation of NREGS funds for Rajasthan for the year 2009-2010 was Rs. 9,525 crore, up from Rs. 6,175 crore the previous year. This was to be split in the ratio 60-40 between labour wages and material costs.

 

The plain meaning of this was that roughly a third of the funds allocated for material purchases was being used to line the pockets of a long chain of people — from the sarpanchs, gram sevaks and sachivs (secretaries) at the lowest rung through civil engineers, accountants, contractors, dealers and suppliers to BDOs, going right up to the District Collector in a few cases.

 

Naturally, a fuller audit held out the threat of bringing down this cosy nexus. The Bhilwara exercise unearthed two sets of irregularities. The padayatris reported back fudged muster rolls, missing job cards, delayed and partial payment of wages as well as the use of machines to displace labour. The auditors in the 11 gram panchayats found a recurring pattern of fake and hand-written bills, exaggerated claims, use of substandard material, and payment by cash or bearer cheque.

 

The fund diversion was intriguing in the context of a series of Government Orders issued to panchayats and District Collectors advising strict compliance of norms for the purchase of material for projects under Rural Development and NREGS — among them sourcing of supplies only through registered firms, inviting open tender for purchases, ensuring that the dealer possessed a tax compliance certificate from the commercial tax department, and ensuring further that only bills bearing sales tax registration details were accepted for payment.

 

A GO dated February 16, 2007 reiterated the norms and regretted the heavy loss to the exchequer due to the flouting of norms by the gram panchayats and panchayat samitis. A second GO, dated June 18, 2007, brought the discomfiting results of previous social audits (done again by Aruna Roy and her team) to the attention of District Collectors, noting that these had revealed continued submission of kaccha (unofficial) bills by gram panchayats. The GO instructed the Collectors to keep a strict watch on the quantity and quality of material supplies going into NREGS works. It also asked them to ensure that payments were made only to registered, bonafide firms.

 

GOS UNHEEDED

A whole two years later, the Bhilwara social audit would discover that the GOs went unheeded. In the event, Bhilwara-2009 threw up a curious situation. The coming into record of phony bills brought the commercial tax authorities into the picture. Queries went out to suppliers who had received payment for material sold to the gram panchayats. One the one hand, the fake bill trail led to sarpanchs, engineers, BDOs and politicians. On the other, firms were asked to produce Value Added Tax-paid bills, which opened a can of worms. VAT evasion being easy to detect, the entire supply chain stood to be exposed, setting off panic among sarpanchs, politicians, bureaucrats and manufacturers, who collectively decided to challenge the government on its move to extend the Bhilwara model of civil society-government social audit to the whole of Rajasthan.

 

With protests mounting, the State government altered the norms it had itself held sacred in letter after letter. It instructed District Collectors to sanction payments even on kaccha bills provided the material supplied was fully utilised and was of assured quality. More startlingly, the GO dated November 10, 2009 announced VAT deduction at source for sanctioned payments. This was an incredible case of a government accepting the legal validity of kaccha bills.

 

The government had no justification for letting the offenders off the hook given the extent of fraud uncovered in Bhilwara. Moreover, feedback from the now abandoned November-December, 2009 audit programmes, and an inspection done by the government itself would strongly corroborate the Bhilwara findings.

 

The Rajasthan government undertook to carry out an inspection of NREGS works in the Soniana gram panchyat in Chittorgarh district essentially to appease the social activists who were upset by the suspension of the November-December audits. Filed as recently as December 6, 2009, the inspection report established pervasive irregularities in inviting tenders as well as the absence of technical sanction for most civil works. But this was nothing compared to the fact that over the years the gram panchayat had gradually edged out the labour component from NREGS, seriously undermining the very premise of the job guarantee programme.

 

The Soniana panchayat's fund utilisation for 2009-2010 showed that a mere 10 per cent of the allocated Rs. 3.81 crore had gone towards labour wages as against the mandated 60 per cent. The funds drawn by the panchayat increased every year, from Rs. 22.70 lakh in 2007-2008 to Rs. 3.81 crore in 2009-2010. And progressively the proportion spent on labour wages decreased, from 67 per cent in 2007-2008 to a shocking 10 per cent in the current year. This led to one of two obvious conclusions: Either poor people needing employment were being defrauded or money was flowing to a panchayat that did not seem to need employment.

 

The government also had feedback from a few gram panchayats where the audit work had made some progress despite the protest. In the Sapotra gram panchayat in Karauli district, auditors established work measurement irregularities amounting to a total of Rs. 17.52 lakh.

 

These revelations coupled with the Bhilwara findings made a persuasive case for civil society participation in NREGS social audit. However, instead of standing firm, the government bought into the argument of the protestors that Aruna Roy and others were busybodies who had appropriated the rights and duties of the gram sabha. In support of their claim, the protestors cited a set of amendments introduced to NREGA in December 2008. Clause 13(B) (iii) of the amendments states that social audit will be done by the gram sabha which will elect from itself a Social Audit Committee of workers experienced in NREGA work. On the basis of this they also obtained two court stays against the inclusion of social activists in social audit.

 

And yet the same amendments also establish the public's rights in NREGS social audit in the following respects: to inspect all relevant documents, including complete files; to submit any information; and to attend, observe and participate in the audit without intervening in its proceedings. Ms Roy is at pains to point that the activists at no point took the audit into their own hands, but that they were officially inducted by the government and went into the panchayats as part of a government team.

 

BASIC PRINCIPLE

There is also the basic principle of audit which is that it must be done by a people external to the works being audited. To invest this right exclusively in the gram sabhas is to make them at once jury, judge and executioner. Forget the NGOs, the Rajasthan government said as much in a note it addressed to District Collectors. Dated April 2, 2009, the note points out that in a large number of cases social audit forums are constituted, not by the gram sabha but by the sarpanch, who packs it with his/her spouse and other relatives. The note goes on to say, "it is a fact that wherever NGOs have conducted audit in open hearings, a large number of irregularities were found. As compared to that, the irregularities detected in social audit by forums are negligible and put a question mark on their credibility."

 

The government had enough and more evidence to make a strong case before the courts for civil society participation in social audit. Instead it suspended the audits — without being asked to do so.

 

It is now widely accepted that in many parts of the country, NREGS has emerged as a lifeline for the rural poor. It has had a cascading effect, raising wage levels even in the private sector. The biggest threat to the job guarantee programme was always control of the funds by a corrupt elite. Statutory social audit was a radical and innovative feature of the Act; it introduced the concept of vigilance to opaque and non-accountable systems.

 

The battle being fought in the panchayats, streets, offices, and courts of Rajasthan is therefore not just about social audit. It is about who will have control over the funds and priorities of the world's largest guaranteed programme to fight poverty and generate employment — one that has the power to change the complexion of rural India.

 

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THE HINDU

OBAMA IS NOT SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD. HE'S STILL A U.S. PRESIDENT

HE MUST REPRESENT THE CONTRADICTORY INTERESTS OF A COUNTRY STILL WAY BEHIND ON CLIMATE CHANGE.

JONATHAN FREEDLAND


For the second time in just over a week, Barack Obama is on his way to Scandinavia, his mission once again to confront impossible expectations with a cold bucket of reality. Last week he was in Oslo to pick up a Nobel peace prize, apologetically explaining that in the real world away from Norwegian dreams he was a war president who had just escalated the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. On Friday, he will touch down in Copenhagen, this time required to offer his regrets that, despite the hopes he stirred round the world a year ago, he will not be able to pull out his pen and, at a stroke, sign the deal that saves the planet.

 

This is fast becoming Mr. Obama's role on the world stage: managing disappointment. The gap between what international opinion demands of him and what he can deliver widens with each passing month, and it falls to him to explain why. If he could be completely frank, he might well tell the climate activists in the Danish capital that, were it purely up to him, he would give them everything they desire. After all, he is the same man whose stump speech two years ago used to open with a declaration that "the planet is in peril." But it is not purely up to him. He has to represent the multiple, complex and contradictory interests of the country he now leads. His job is not saviour of the world. As the climate adviser to a 19-strong group of African nations puts it ruefully: "He's still an American president."

 

And America did not become a different country simply by electing Mr. Obama. It is still the nation that is at the heart of the climate problem — having contributed an estimated 30 per cent of all the CO{-2} already in the earth's atmosphere — and therefore of any viable solution. But it is also the country that, for a variety of stubborn political, economic and cultural reasons, might well be the hardest to shift. The world desperately needs America to be a leader on climate change, but the glum reality is that it is all but hard-wired to be a laggard.

 

Mr. Obama will do his best to put a shine on that truth, and he has some decent polish. Some of it does not even need saying. He will be in Copenhagen: what were the chances George Bush would have turned up? He is there with a strong team, including a string of cabinet secretaries, with a serious operation in the conference hall — a contrast, says USA Today, with the Bush era when the U.S. presence at environmental meetings consisted of "a lone US official handing out pamphlets." Official U.S. policy now accepts that global warming is real and that man is the key cause.

 

Mr. Obama can point to more than a change in attitude. His administration moved fast to extract a 30 per cent increase in fuel efficiency from the car-makers, while a tenth of the stimulus — some $80bn — has been set aside for investment in clean energy. He has recently struck bilateral deals with both China and India, undertaking joint research projects on clean coal and electric cars. Perhaps most substantial is this month's ruling by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that carbon dioxide and five other gases endanger human health — thereby allowing the agency to regulate emissions without waiting for the nod from Congress. That could see the U.S. executive cracking down next year on car emissions, as well as those generated by coal and chemical plants.

 

So Obama at least has a story to tell. But he arrives in Denmark limping from the multiple ball-and-chains around his ankle. They are the impediments that would hold back any U.S. president, no matter how noble his intentions.

 

Start with the political system. The U.S. team in Copenhagen is haunted by a spectre that many of today's U.S. negotiating team saw first hand: call it Gore in Kyoto. As Vice-President in 1997, Al Gore made fine promises about future U.S. emissions, only to find that the U.S. Senate would swallow none of them, rejecting Kyoto 95 votes to zero. The Obama team have vowed not to repeat that mistake. They will agree to nothing they cannot sell to the Senate.

 

That places enormous limits on what they can offer. The Senate is fast becoming a dysfunctional body, insisting on a near impossible supermajority of 60 votes for any measure of substance. If that has turned relatively modest healthcare reform into a year-long battle, imagine the obstacles in the way of a bill, packed with sacrifice and cost, to reduce carbon emissions.

 

Sitting in Britain, or any other western democracy for that matter, this can be hard to fathom. The British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has an automatic majority in the House of Commons and can almost always get his way. In a Guardian newspaper interview on Wednesday, Mr. Brown's opponent, David Cameron, promises that if Copenhagen yields a real deal, he'll give it his full support.

 

Mr. Obama has nothing like that room for manoeuvre. Not only are the Republicans lockstepped in ideological opposition, with at least one senator describing global warming as a "hoax," but the Senate Democrats are just as unreliable, with at least 10 wobbly on the issue. The original Obama plan was to come to Copenhagen with a Senate bill under his belt. But the chamber has not been able to pass even the fairly weak measure that cleared the house in June. The result, according to the Earth Institute's Jeffrey Sachs, is that "the last great holdout" preventing agreement in Copenhagen may well turn out to be neither Beijing or Delhi, as once forecast, but Capitol Hill.

 

We could blame Mr. Obama for this, believing that the die was cast once he made healthcare reform — rather than global warming — his key legislative priority. The reality of the U.S. system seems to be that there is only enough capacity for one large change at a time.

 

But the problem goes deeper than that. The men and women of the U.S. Senate are, after all, only reflecting the people who vote for them. The latest BBC World Service global poll showed U.S. concern about climate change among the lowest in the world, with just 45 per cent of Americans regarding it as "very serious," nearly 20 points below the 23-country average. A Gallup survey found 41 per cent of Americans believed projections of global warming were "exaggerated." It is hardly surprising that those who live in the 25 American states that produce coal are wary of controls, which they believe will kill jobs and raise their energy bills.

 

What's more, there is a deep strain in American thinking to which everything about Copenhagen looks wrong. It fears all international arrangements smack of "global government," designed to rob Americans of their sovereignty. It believes such plans are hatched by secret conspiracies, into which the climategate emails scandal — which has run very big in the U.S. — feeds perfectly. We speak often of European anti-Americanism, but less often of American anti-Europeanism. Nevertheless, such a thing exists: remember how John Kerry was rubbished for the crime of speaking French. To this vein of U.S. political culture, a global deal on carbon emissions signed in Denmark is something to fear, not pursue.

 

This is the reality that Barack Obama has to deal with. He is not the president of the world, even if millions dreamed that that was the job he was elected to 13 months ago. He is the president of the United States — and his problem is that the two are very, very different. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

 

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THE HINDU

CLOSING GUANTANAMO: AN ASSESSMENT

BALAKRISHNAN RAJAGOPAL

 

By now, it is clear that the Obama administration will miss its self-imposed deadline of January 22, 2010 to close down the Guantanamo prison, as President Obama himself has admitted. With this, the United States could begin to look like it is sliding back to its bad old days of lawlessness when seen as part of a troubling trend of worsening human rights commitments.

 

ITS OWN FAULT

The Obama administration's failure to close down Guantanamo is entirely due to its own fault as it was caught in an impossible maze of contradictions from the start. First, while the Obama administration promised to close down Guantanamo, it continued to assert its right to hold some detainees indefinitely without trial or charge. That looked like it was taking away with the left hand what it was handing out with its right hand. This policy undermined the goal of shutting down Guantanamo, as opponents of the closure argued in favour of keeping it open to hold these detainees, while supporters of the closure felt morally abandoned. From a human rights perspective, it seemed that the Obama administration did not seek to address the root problem about Guantanamo, which was that it enabled indefinite detention without trial or charge, of anyone sent to that legal black hole. In other words, closing down Guantanamo was not just a symbolic act that would eliminate the most visible stain on America's human rights record. It was also supposed to begin the process of ending America's practice of unlawful indefinite detention policy. That didn't happen.

 

Second, the Obama administration never agreed to change the policy that the US had arrogated to itself, which could be described as a 'global right to arrest'. Under this policy, justified under the Global War on Terror (GWOT), now soothingly renamed 'Overseas Contingency Operation' (OCO), the United States could seize any individual from any country on earth, as long as it suspected him/her of engaging in terrorism or support thereof. Under international law, there is no basis for any country to exercise this wide extra-territorial authority to engage in arrest, especially in areas where it is not even engaged in an armed conflict, whether international or non-international, as defined in the Geneva laws of war. The most controversial actions of the US stemmed precisely from this policy, and it would have been entirely appropriate for the Obama administration to confront it squarely, if it wanted a 'new beginning' as President Obama put in his famous Cairo speech in June 2009. The rest of the world suspects that as long as the U.S. has not renounced this right to arrest, it will never close down Guantanamo — at least in the sense of give up the policies that make Guantanamos necessary — or give up the right to hold people indefinitely without charge.

 

Third, the Obama administration has retained the policy of rendition, including by the CIA, whereby it can hand over individuals to other countries, which then torture and commit other abuses. Despite the blow received to this policy when an Italian Court convicted 23 agents of the CIA for kidnapping in November 2009, the policy of rendition itself has not been subjected even a serious public debate in the U.S. From a legal perspective, there are two problems with rendition. First, rendition rests on an unlimited 'global right to arrest' as mentioned above. There is no basis for this in international law and certainly in the domestic laws of most countries, as the Italian Court's verdict shows. Second, rendition leads to torture, which is absolutely prohibited under international law. While President Obama prohibited torture in absolute terms in his directive in early 2009, and reiterated that prohibition in his Cairo speech in June 2009, and before the U.N. General Assembly in September 2009, he has undermined his own commitment by allowing rendition to continue. Why does this matter for Guantanamo? So long as the U.S. asserts a right to grab anyone from anywhere as part of its global OCO, it will continue to need a processing centre while it extracts intelligence and decides on the need for rendition. What that means is that there will always be a need for Guantanamo.

Finally, the Obama administration's Guantanamo policy is tied up with its policy towards the use of military commissions since it needs to decide where the detainees will be brought to trial. While the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the standard of review under the Detainee Treatment Act did not meet full habeas review standards, and therefore the foreign detainees in Guantanamo did have access to federal court review, it did not rule the Military Commissions Act itself unconstitutional. The Obama administration has therefore revised the Military Commissions Act by a bill passed in October 2009 and sought to make it better. But the policy of the administration continues to be legally schizophrenic. It creates a two-track justice process, involving prosecution before federal courts as in the case of the five Al-Qaeda plotters of 9/11 who will be brought before a federal court in Manhattan, as well as prosecution before military commissions for 'unprivileged enemy belligerents' who used to be called 'unlawful enemy combatants' by the Bush administration. Instead, the Obama administration could have simply decided to bring all civilians before federal courts if it had evidence against them of crimes, while prosecuting armed combatants under the regular system of military justice. The fact that only non-U.S. citizens will be brought to trial before military commissions will offend public opinion worldwide and lead to charges of unfairness and double standards. The Obama administration's decision to close Guantanamo is politically undermined by the legally dubious means of retaining military commissions. Instead of showing intolerance of criticism of its Guantanamo policy as when it recently fired the former chief prosecutor of military commission from his current job at the Congressional Research Service for writing an op-ed that criticised the two-track justice policy of federal courts and military commissions, the Obama administration needs to revisit and revise this policy.

 

WORRIES GROWING

The human rights community and U.S. and world public opinion welcomed the announcement by President Obama to close down Guantanamo, repeated many times during the year by him. But as other regressive policies connected to Guantanamo have continued as before, as the Guantanamo deadline passes us in January, and as the President defends the right to wage 'just war', as he did in his Nobel acceptance speech recently, worries are growing that he may not be a transformational President in human rights terms after all, even despite his best intentions.

 

(Balakrishnan Rajagopal is Associate Professor of Law and Development, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.)

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

INTERNAL RIFTS CAN HURT INDIA'S RISE

 

Two negative results have flowed from last week's sudden announcement by the Union home minister on the Telangana question. One concerns the government (and therefore India in a wider sense), and the other the Congress Party. Suddenly, the country has had to reorient its focus to looking inward and introspect. The news is not good. To pressing issues of internal security and the alarming price situation has now been added the mushrooming of demands for new states in all parts of the country. Before this, India was happily looking outward. Because of the high growth rates it has been notching up of late, a host of countries wanted to engage with it at a deeper level. India had also acquired a higher salience in multilateral forums dealing with world finance, economy and trade, climate change and the nuclear conundrum. Requiring urgent attention were also bilateral dealings with Pakistan, China and the United States. But suddenly all the news is about protest fasts and outbreaks of violence to press for regional and ethnic demands. A whirlpool of this sort saps national energy and an enervated nation cannot adequately cope with the fast-paced dynamics of the external environment.

 

At a party-political level, the Congress appears to have scored an own goal. It has disturbed its own equanimity in Andhra Pradesh, one of only two states in the country (the other is Rajasthan) where it is in power without the assistance of allies and where in the normal course it could aspire to return to power. Regardless of when Telangana will be formed — if it comes into being at all — the Congress Party appears to have placed its goodwill and leadership position on the bargaining counter. In the process, it may also have ceded to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi the top spot in districts that are meant to make up the new state. This can hardly be a satisfactory position to be in for a party which is seeking to make a long-term comeback across the country. In some ways, P. Chidambaram's unexpected Telangana announcement is not unlike the fateful decision to permit "shilanyas" in Ayodhya, which — for different reasons — had made both Hindus and Muslims unhappy, making the Congress fall between two stools.

 

The situation is not irretrievable, but helplessly watching the law and order situation deteriorate in different parts of Andhra Pradesh, and elsewhere in the country, in the name of pressing for regional aspirations will hardly do. Sending the Andhra Pradesh Assembly into hibernation is also not a solution. If meaningful political steps are not taken, the House will degenerate into chaos, no matter when it meets again. The Congress will do well to pay attention to what those actions might be in the context of Andhra Pradesh politics and its own party dynamics in that state. The Centre has done well to let finance minister Pranab Mukherjee declare that no more demands for new states can be brought under consideration. The Prime Minister has also done now what he should have done earlier, that is, bring its government allies into consultation on the matter of small states. These steps need to be followed up by strict administrative methods to ensure that the law and order situation does not come under strain even in Andhra Pradesh. It is better to appear to be a government that can be tough when it needs to, rather than one that will be ridiculed sooner or later for being a passive onlooker. The Congress leadership should also ponder what led it into the alley of the sudden announcement on Telangana, and adequately deal with the personnel and the processes that pointed that way.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

INTERNAL RIFTS CAN HURT INDIA'S RISE

 

Two negative results have flowed from last week's sudden announcement by the Union home minister on the Telangana question. One concerns the government (and therefore India in a wider sense), and the other the Congress Party. Suddenly, the country has had to reorient its focus to looking inward and introspect. The news is not good. To pressing issues of internal security and the alarming price situation has now been added the mushrooming of demands for new states in all parts of the country. Before this, India was happily looking outward. Because of the high growth rates it has been notching up of late, a host of countries wanted to engage with it at a deeper level. India had also acquired a higher salience in multilateral forums dealing with world finance, economy and trade, climate change and the nuclear conundrum. Requiring urgent attention were also bilateral dealings with Pakistan, China and the United States. But suddenly all the news is about protest fasts and outbreaks of violence to press for regional and ethnic demands. A whirlpool of this sort saps national energy and an enervated nation cannot adequately cope with the fast-paced dynamics of the external environment.

 

At a party-political level, the Congress appears to have scored an own goal. It has disturbed its own equanimity in Andhra Pradesh, one of only two states in the country (the other is Rajasthan) where it is in power without the assistance of allies and where in the normal course it could aspire to return to power. Regardless of when Telangana will be formed — if it comes into being at all — the Congress Party appears to have placed its goodwill and leadership position on the bargaining counter. In the process, it may also have ceded to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi the top spot in districts that are meant to make up the new state. This can hardly be a satisfactory position to be in for a party which is seeking to make a long-term comeback across the country. In some ways, P. Chidambaram's unexpected Telangana announcement is not unlike the fateful decision to permit "shilanyas" in Ayodhya, which — for different reasons — had made both Hindus and Muslims unhappy, making the Congress fall between two stools.

 

The situation is not irretrievable, but helplessly watching the law and order situation deteriorate in different parts of Andhra Pradesh, and elsewhere in the country, in the name of pressing for regional aspirations will hardly do. Sending the Andhra Pradesh Assembly into hibernation is also not a solution. If meaningful political steps are not taken, the House will degenerate into chaos, no matter when it meets again. The Congress will do well to pay attention to what those actions might be in the context of Andhra Pradesh politics and its own party dynamics in that state. The Centre has done well to let finance minister Pranab Mukherjee declare that no more demands for new states can be brought under consideration. The Prime Minister has also done now what he should have done earlier, that is, bring its government allies into consultation on the matter of small states. These steps need to be followed up by strict administrative methods to ensure that the law and order situation does not come under strain even in Andhra Pradesh. It is better to appear to be a government that can be tough when it needs to, rather than one that will be ridiculed sooner or later for being a passive onlooker. The Congress leadership should also ponder what led it into the alley of the sudden announcement on Telangana, and adequately deal with the personnel and the processes that pointed that way.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

DIVIDED OVER BIFURCATION

GRANT IT UT STATUS TO PROTECT NATIVES

 

 I am an integrationist to the core. Disturbing the current status of Andhra Pradesh is not desirable. But the way things are, Hyderabad should be a Union Territory. This is my principal demand. If it is inevitable that the state government and the Centre should bifurcate Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad should have a separate entity. This has become a necessity.

 

There is a strong reason for the demand. People of Hyderabad city are now feeling insecure after the venomous campaign against the people of Andhra/Rayalaseema region. Out of the city population of 60 to 70 lakh, 40 lakh are from these regions. Not only that, the contribution of people from these two areas is immense compared to that of the local people and those from other states. While the contribution toward the development of Hyderabad from the people of Andhra/Rayalaseema is about 60 per cent, it is only about half that in the case of the natives of the Telangana region.

 

Also, about 10 lakh people from other places live in Hyderabad. They were born and brought up in the city and have made it their home. Many are married locally and have set up businesses or found employment. I am sure many of them have no urban property or lands in the areas of their origin. This category too is under threat from Telangana agitationists.

 

Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) asserts it would not ask people from the Andhra or Rayalaseema region to leave Hyderabad or other parts of Telangana. But can any assurance be taken at face value? The atmosphere is volatile, and TRS leaders use foul language. The derogatory and threatening language that has been employed has greatly hurt the people who are originally not from Telangana, and has made them afraid. Telangana activists have attacked hotels, small restaurants, and educational institutions set up by Andhra/Rayalaseema people in Karimnagar. People from these regions are scared to live in Telangana. They had settled in the Telangana area two to three decades earlier.

 

Even teachers who had come here in search of livelihood have not been spared. The incidents at Laxminagar and Papannapet are an eye-opener. Many who are in Hyderabad came to the city as far back as 1945. Where will they go if they are asked to leave now? Unlike other metropolitan centres, Hyderabad looks unsafe for those who settled here even 50 or 60 years ago. If the city is made a Union Territory, the move will reassure those who live and work in it, besides those who own property and business.

 

(As told to C.R. Gowri Shanker)

 

J.C . Diwakar Reddy, Congress MLA from Ananthapur district, and former minister

***

 

Selfish motives are seeking the divide

 

Hyderabad is the soul of the Telangana region. If someone raises the bogey of Union Territory status for Hyderabad, he is either ignorant or trying to put an obstacle to the smooth bifurcation of Telangana state from Andhra Pradesh. It is like saying Jammu and Kashmir should be independent of India.

 

It is our avowed stand not to discriminate against people from other regions living in Hyderabad and other parts of Telangana. People of every religion, race and region have always lived in peace in Hyderabad. We have people from Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, West Bengal, Punjab and other states. Vested interests are trying to sow the seeds of hatred and create a fear psychosis among the people of Andhra and Rayalaseema who have settled here. We have no ill will towards these peace-loving people.

 

Our grouse has been against the looters and exploiters. We have said openly that we will not tolerate those trying to suppress the people of the Telangana region. We have suffered a lot in every aspect, whether we speak of water, education, resource distribution, employment, or political power. Regarding the argument that people of Andhra and Rayalaseema have invested in and around Hyderabad city and developed it, I am sorry to say this exhibits the narrow, selfish outlook of the anti-Telangana people. People from other regions and states have also settled in Hyderabad. In fact, Hyderabad was developed during Nizam's rule. We had an airport, railway network and other infrastructure, and also hospitals and educational institutions.

 

Telangana has to be carved out. There is no crisis. The present turmoil and agitation in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema is artificial. The current occurrences in these regions are prompted by vested interests. There is absolutely no threat to people of Andhra, Rayalaseema and other areas living in Hyderabad. The city in fact attracted people from all parts of the world. People of Andhra and Rayalaseema need not leave Hyderabad since Hyderabad has welcomed everyone. Our battle has been against those grabbing political power and exploiting the river waters, employment opportunities, and education facilities, leaving us in distress.

 

Hyderabad city was the fifth largest city in India in the past. This position remains unchanged. The demographic expansion of any city cannot be presumed to be a mark of growth. It has to be underlined that Telangana is the life line of Hyderabad and vice versa. One cannot be conceived without the other.

 

(As told to C.R. Gowri Shanker)

 

T. Harish Rao, MLA and Telangana Rashtra Samithi Politburomember

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

SHARING HYDERABAD

NITISH SENGUPTA

 

During the last five decades the subject of a separate Telangana, like King Charles' head, has been appearing, disappearing and reappearing. One recalls the States Reorganisation Commission recommendation (1956) for a separate Hyderabad state, consisting of the Telugu-speaking areas of old Hyderabad, after the Marathi-speaking areas and the Kannada-speaking areas had been transferred to Maharashtra and Karnataka, respectively. At that time there was a surge of Telugu nationalism which was taken note of by the government by merging the Telugu-speaking districts of Hyderabad with Andhra Pradesh, a departure from the commission's recommendation. After the euphoria over a vishal Andhra Pradesh had subsided, the movement for a separate Telangana started in the 1960s. Its raison d'etre was that the Telugu-speaking districts of old Hyderabad state were being exploited by the aggressive people from coastal Andhra Pradesh. The latter also dominated politics and had the lion's share of positions. The agitation reached its climax in the Seventies. Leaders like M. Chenna Reddy and K. Laxman Bapuji hit the headlines for years. Things became critical in the '70s and Central rule was imposed. Meanwhile, the city of Hyderabad grew at a galloping pace and attained the status of a metro. It was the centre of IT and pharmaceutical industries. Much of Hyderabad's prosperity was no doubt due to the steady flow of remittances from the rich coastal districts like Vijayawada, Guntur and Rajamundry. This is not realised by the supporters of Telangana. During the supremacy of N.T. Rama Rao (NTR) and Chandrababu Naidu, the Telangana movement remained moribund. It was revived around 2001 after K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) quit the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and floated the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). KCR turned to the Congress under Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy and both espoused Telangana for the elections in 2004. They trounced the TDP in 2004. But clearly, in his heart, YSR was anti-Telangana, and convinced the Congress high command. KCR, along with his ministers, resigned from the government and resumed his agitation for Telangana. Then TRS and TDP jointly went to the parliamentary elections in early 2009 with Telangana as their election slogan. Significantly, in the parliamentary elections, the people of Telangana region had almost given a verdict in favour of a separate Telangana when they decisively voted for the United Progressive Alliance against a combine of several parties which promised Telangana. KCR and his TRS had been reduced to political insignificance. If chief minister, Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy had not died in a tragic helicopter crash, there would have been no chance of a resurgence of the Telangana agitation. It was to avoid political sanyas that KCR resorted to a fast unto death as a last resort. The authorities took the right step in arresting him. But, thereafter, sympathy snowballed and the Centre lost its nerve. One suspects there must have been intelligence reports about the impending death of KCR and the uncontrollable public fury it would cause — almost a replay of the frenzy after Potti Sreeramulu died fasting in 1952. This, perhaps, explains the midnight statement from the Centre conceding Telangana. Inevitably, there have been violent reactions from both coastal Andhra and backward Rayalaseema regions. MLAs from both these regions have resigned en masse, making it impossible to move the bill for a separate Telangana in the state Assembly for the time being. The Centre has to be ready to take charge of the state and fight a massive law and order problem before stable conditions return. Much will depend on the future of Hyderabad. This city has grown phenomenally in the last four decades. In that process, entrepreneurs and enterprising people from outside Telangana region have played a leading role. They have invested massively in real estate and infrastructure in Hyderabad city. There is a fear that if Hyderabad is delinked from their state, many of them might prefer to close their operation in this city and migrate to, say, Visakhapatnam, Rajamundry, Vijayawada and Kurnool. This will hit Hyderabad hard. Also, the regular remittance of funds from the cash-rich people of coastal Andhra region, which largely maintains the flourishing services and real estate sectors of Hyderabad, will come to a halt. That will also be unfortunate for Hyderabad. The storm troopers of the Telangana movement should appreciate this. They should give up their objection to Hyderabad being the joint capital of both the new states for their own long-term interest. After all, we have Chandigarh as a successful example in that direction.

 

Needless to mention, if the principle of Hyderabad being a joint capital for both states is accepted, part of the opposition in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema to the creation of Telangana should disappear. Dislocation will be minimal. The fear amongst industrialists and businessmen based in Hyderabad about the newly-formed state giving preference to local workers or harassing outsiders will lose much ground. Incidentally, IT exports from Andhra Pradesh (principally Hyderabad) were worth Rs 32,000 crores in the last financial year, and Andhra Pradesh's drug factories manufactured Rs 15,000 crores worth of bulk drugs out of Rs 20,000 crores worth of domestic production. Both these industries are seriously concerned. Real estate developers are also worried about the en masse departure of skilled building workers and artisans from Hyderabad and an expected lull in the flow of investment into Hyderabad. Above all, the image of the new entrepreneurship that Hyderabad has acquired in recent decades — the so-called Andhrapreneurship — may take a beating. Meanwhile, the political problems become murkier and murkier with parties like the TDP shifting stands.

 

An altogether new factor is the rough stand taken by Rayalaseema asking for a third state for itself if Andhra Pradesh is to be split into two. On a long-term basis, there is no doubt that making Hyderabad the common capital of both Andhra Pradesh and the new state of Telangana would assuage hurt feelings and apprehensions and, thus, help the return to normalcy.

 

Nitish Sengupta, an academic and author, is a former Member of Parliament and a former secretary to the Government of India

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

US LEADS, UK FOLLOWS

S. NIHAL SINGH

 

Britain's new inquiry into the justification for the invasion of Iraq has opened up broader questions of politicians' respect, or lack of it, for truth and, more importantly, the country's place in the post-Cold War world. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair's new assertion that he would have gone to war anyway even if he knew that Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction has added a new twist to an inquiry which is assuming shades of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission and an inward look at how far the United Kingdom should go in endorsing American foreign policy goals.

 

Few, in either Labour or Tory ranks, are contesting the basis of Britain's post-World War policy of riding piggyback on US power in the post-World War II era in which the country lay exhausted and America had emerged as the uncontested power in the Western world. But the sub-text of the Iraq enquiry is that apart from Mr Blair's own penchant for grandstanding, does the alliance with the US mean that Britain must follow wherever America leads it.

 

Mr Blair has still to appear before the inquiry, and his legacy as Prime Minister has already been tainted by British diplomats and intelligence officials suggesting that he was less than honest in how he projected the decision-making process leading to the Iraq invasion. The decision, it has been more than hinted, was made in a one-on-one meeting with President George W. Bush before the nation was told and arguments trotted out on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction.

 

Mr Blair is not unique in politicians' ranks in tailoring his arguments to changing events relating to the war and the stark truth that there were no weapons of mass destruction by endorsing the US aim of regime change. But the vehemence with which he came to assert that Saddam Hussein was evil and it was a worthwhile objective to topple him, whether he was threatening the world with weapons of mass destruction or not, became a startling benchmark of the former Prime Minister's histrionic chameleon-like abilities.

 

The attempt at catharsis to unravel the justification for the Iraq war is occurring at a climactic moment in Britain's recent political history. The New Labour Blair repeatedly took to victory at the polls is prostrate and exhausted and all polls suggest that the Conservatives are already half way to achieving power in the next election. It is, therefore, ironical that the Tories, who have traditionally been more pro-Atlantic than Labour, will in all likelihood be in the driving seat in charting a less subservient foreign policy.

 

By and large, the British establishment had negotiated the transition from a glorious empire to becoming an adjunct of US foreign policy goals with seeming nonchalance. The compulsions of the Cold War certainly helped as well as the considerable influence London initially exercised over Washington as the latter learned the ropes. But the American apprenticeship did not last long as the pupil picked up the threads of a complicated world, and the various snubs British leaders and diplomats received at American hands over the decades were largely in the private realm.

 

A complicating factor was Britain's obsession with maintaining its uniqueness in its neighbourhood. Despite begging to join the then European Economic Community after General Charles de Gaulle's rejection, Britain sought to maintain its "special relationship" with the US in an effort to keep itself apart. It sought and received opt-outs on justice and labour laws and refused to join the Schengen common visa space for the European Union or the common currency, the euro.

 

It was an open secret that if a referendum had been held on the Lisbon Treaty streamlining EU procedures and highlighting the group's salience, it would have been rejected. It was Tony Blair's clever footwork that capped British consent with a parliamentary approval and left the Tories with a largely symbolic declaration that they would hold a referendum when they came to power, a stance they have now modified.

 

The Iraq inquiry, therefore, comes as a national reckoning of what Britain is and where it should go from here. The spotlight on Tony Blair is inevitable because he "sold" the Iraq war to his Parliament and people. An amazing aspect of his stint as Prime Minister was how he switched from the chummy relationship with Bill Clinton while he was in the White House with the rapport he developed with President George W. Bush with his pronounced Texan appetites. Mr Blair was demonstrating that British interests lay in sticking close to Washington's ruling establishment.

 

Today's world is a far more complicated place without the certainties of Cold War politics. The European Union is still struggling to find its place in the sun, divided by competing national interests and balancing the overarching North Atlantic alliance with the compulsion of seeking a modus vivendi with Russia.

 

Britain's Baroness Catherine Ashton as the new enhanced foreign policy chief of the EU could provide one answer in steering her country as part of the group to a more consensual European, rather than slavishly pro-American, foreign policy.

 

But Britain's inclination is still to emphasise its uniqueness, the mindset that made one English newspaper declare that the Continent, rather than Britain, was cut off due to a geographical phenomenon. And the Tories are the repositories of essential attributes of being British, the Queen on the pound note and all the joys of the blessed British Isles. How are they then to make the necessary switch from the imagined superior British way of doing things to a Continental commonality?

 

The Iraq inquiry thus goes to the heart of the British dilemma. What are the alternatives to a less American-oriented policy? If a British leader can switch from seeking to end the supposed threat posed by weapons of mass destruction to ending the reign of one man at the whim of an American President, what self-respect can he or his country command? The question then boils down to: Was Mr Blair an aberration or was he the logical outcome of a policy that submerges Britain's national interests to the demands of American policy?

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

US LEADS, UK FOLLOWS

S. NIHAL SINGH

 

Britain's new inquiry into the justification for the invasion of Iraq has opened up broader questions of politicians' respect, or lack of it, for truth and, more importantly, the country's place in the post-Cold War world. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair's new assertion that he would have gone to war anyway even if he knew that Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction has added a new twist to an inquiry which is assuming shades of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission and an inward look at how far the United Kingdom should go in endorsing American foreign policy goals.

 

Few, in either Labour or Tory ranks, are contesting the basis of Britain's post-World War policy of riding piggyback on US power in the post-World War II era in which the country lay exhausted and America had emerged as the uncontested power in the Western world. But the sub-text of the Iraq enquiry is that apart from Mr Blair's own penchant for grandstanding, does the alliance with the US mean that Britain must follow wherever America leads it.

 

Mr Blair has still to appear before the inquiry, and his legacy as Prime Minister has already been tainted by British diplomats and intelligence officials suggesting that he was less than honest in how he projected the decision-making process leading to the Iraq invasion. The decision, it has been more than hinted, was made in a one-on-one meeting with President George W. Bush before the nation was told and arguments trotted out on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction.

 

Mr Blair is not unique in politicians' ranks in tailoring his arguments to changing events relating to the war and the stark truth that there were no weapons of mass destruction by endorsing the US aim of regime change. But the vehemence with which he came to assert that Saddam Hussein was evil and it was a worthwhile objective to topple him, whether he was threatening the world with weapons of mass destruction or not, became a startling benchmark of the former Prime Minister's histrionic chameleon-like abilities.

 

The attempt at catharsis to unravel the justification for the Iraq war is occurring at a climactic moment in Britain's recent political history. The New Labour Blair repeatedly took to victory at the polls is prostrate and exhausted and all polls suggest that the Conservatives are already half way to achieving power in the next election. It is, therefore, ironical that the Tories, who have traditionally been more pro-Atlantic than Labour, will in all likelihood be in the driving seat in charting a less subservient foreign policy.

 

By and large, the British establishment had negotiated the transition from a glorious empire to becoming an adjunct of US foreign policy goals with seeming nonchalance. The compulsions of the Cold War certainly helped as well as the considerable influence London initially exercised over Washington as the latter learned the ropes. But the American apprenticeship did not last long as the pupil picked up the threads of a complicated world, and the various snubs British leaders and diplomats received at American hands over the decades were largely in the private realm.

 

A complicating factor was Britain's obsession with maintaining its uniqueness in its neighbourhood. Despite begging to join the then European Economic Community after General Charles de Gaulle's rejection, Britain sought to maintain its "special relationship" with the US in an effort to keep itself apart. It sought and received opt-outs on justice and labour laws and refused to join the Schengen common visa space for the European Union or the common currency, the euro.

 

It was an open secret that if a referendum had been held on the Lisbon Treaty streamlining EU procedures and highlighting the group's salience, it would have been rejected. It was Tony Blair's clever footwork that capped British consent with a parliamentary approval and left the Tories with a largely symbolic declaration that they would hold a referendum when they came to power, a stance they have now modified.

 

The Iraq inquiry, therefore, comes as a national reckoning of what Britain is and where it should go from here. The spotlight on Tony Blair is inevitable because he "sold" the Iraq war to his Parliament and people. An amazing aspect of his stint as Prime Minister was how he switched from the chummy relationship with Bill Clinton while he was in the White House with the rapport he developed with President George W. Bush with his pronounced Texan appetites. Mr Blair was demonstrating that British interests lay in sticking close to Washington's ruling establishment.

 

Today's world is a far more complicated place without the certainties of Cold War politics. The European Union is still struggling to find its place in the sun, divided by competing national interests and balancing the overarching North Atlantic alliance with the compulsion of seeking a modus vivendi with Russia.

 

Britain's Baroness Catherine Ashton as the new enhanced foreign policy chief of the EU could provide one answer in steering her country as part of the group to a more consensual European, rather than slavishly pro-American, foreign policy.

 

But Britain's inclination is still to emphasise its uniqueness, the mindset that made one English newspaper declare that the Continent, rather than Britain, was cut off due to a geographical phenomenon. And the Tories are the repositories of essential attributes of being British, the Queen on the pound note and all the joys of the blessed British Isles. How are they then to make the necessary switch from the imagined superior British way of doing things to a Continental commonality?

 

The Iraq inquiry thus goes to the heart of the British dilemma. What are the alternatives to a less American-oriented policy? If a British leader can switch from seeking to end the supposed threat posed by weapons of mass destruction to ending the reign of one man at the whim of an American President, what self-respect can he or his country command? The question then boils down to: Was Mr Blair an aberration or was he the logical outcome of a policy that submerges Britain's national interests to the demands of American policy?

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

HEADLEY TWIST

 

The David Coleman Headley — suspected to have made several trips to India in the run up to the November 26, 2008 Mumbai terror attack — saga is getting both more curious and more intriguing, with ever more darker hints about what is yet to be revealed.

 

It is not surprising that New Delhi is discomfited by the fact that it has not been able to interrogate the man who could prove crucial for the Ajmal Kasab trial as well as the unraveling of the attack, and that his visa papers are 'missing' from the Indian consulate office in Chicago.

 

The Indian ineptitude at the consulate and at the intelligence agencies at home is shocking even if not extraordinary. Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao put a brave face on it when quizzed about the visa records but that convinced no one.

 

India still hopes to get help from the American side to get to Headley as well as all the information that FBI interrogation has yielded so far. Clearly, the Americans are not sharing most of the information that they have about the man. It is this aspect that should be a matter of worry.

 

It is not so because India-US relations are not as close or as smooth that they are made out to be by the Manmohan Singh government, but because of the possibility that Headley could have been working for American intelligence agencies before he turned rogue. He could have turned rogue for his own fundamentalist reasons. The implications however are dire. Americans may want to argue that Headley and others like him were used to infiltrate the jihadi groups, but it may not be the whole story.

 

The possible involvement of American 'operatives' with some of the jihadis to serve the US geo-political strategies should be of great concern to Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and other central Asian states like Uzbekistan and others. Even independent strategy experts in the US would not be willing to follow up on this clue. It is a known fact that in the complex American political and defence edifice, many people and organisations are working at cross-purposes.

 

As a consequence, the US would have neither credibility nor moral authority to exhort Pakistan's army and ISI not to flirt with fundamentalists if some of its own agencies are doing the same. There is reason to suspect that Headley may have much to reveal that could clearly embarrass his American handlers. It is necessary for both Americans and Indians to get to the bottom of the Headley tale.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

MERCY KILLING

 

The case of Aruna Shanbaug goes beyond legal details and arguments of mercy killing or the general debate over euthanasia, the voluntary option to die. It is messier and complicated because there are really no logical solutions to it. It is a painful and heart-breaking story.

 

The assault and rape she suffered in 1973 from Mumbai's KEM hospital staffer and the debilitated condition to which she has been reduced to ever since baffles the sense of outrage we can muster. The redeeming aspect of this continuously bleak episode is the care that the nurses in the hospital gave to Aruna over the last 36 years.

 

The humaneness of the nurses — so many of them had changed over the years but there was an admirable consistency in their loyalty — serves as a foil to the inhumanity of the man who attacked her and left her in the hapless state she is in. If a decision is to be made about Aruna, then the judges, the lawyers and the media will have to keep in mind this stark contrast between the heartless crime on the one hand and the heartening care on the other.

 

What the Supreme Court will have to decide whether the condition of Aruna has deteriorated over the years and offering care to keep her alive is no more a merciful deed. The doctors will have to take a close look at her medical status before they declare their view. It is not that exhaustive medical assessment will make it any easier to take the decision, but it will be of great help in deciding.

 

If the view is that there in greater suffering than she has endured till now, perhaps there is scope for arguing that there is no need to let her die. She is incapacitated but she is not in the critical condition where her life depends on a life-support system. Allowing her to die would require that she be denied nutrition and literally be starved to death.

 

What the doctors will have to say is whether there is any possibility because of medical breakthroughs of the intervening decades of alleviating her condition. More important, the law does not allow euthanasia; any attempt to let her die would therefore be tantamount to a crime.

 

The nurses of the hospital have not given up on her, and the hospital administration has not objected to her presence in the ward. The plea thus once again opens up a long standing debate which has moral, ethical and other dimensions. It is by no means an easy decision for anyone to make, but by admitting the plea, the courts have indicated that the issue is not closed.

 

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DNA

HOPES DASHED

DARRYL D'MONTE 

 

Everyone at Copenhagen is surprised that despite two years from the so-called road map charted in Bali for a treaty on climate change, virtually nothing is on the anvil on the penultimate day of the UN summit. Many of the interminable meetings are about procedures, though some relate to substance, at this very late hour.

 

As the host, the Danish prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen appears to have staked his personal reputation and that of his country in ensuring that there is a deal of some kind in his capital. The main stumbling block is none other than the US. It was party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, but refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, the "rules" which lay down emission targets for industrial countries and penalties for defaulters.

 

The Danes and the EU want to leave no stone unturned in bringing the US on board. Otherwise, it could well be a case of "Hamlet, without the Prince of Denmark" — with Obama playing this role. He will be physically present, but has committed very little by 2020, even though US long-term targets of 50 per cent reductions in emissions by 2050 converge with the EU's. 

 

What is worrying is that the US and EU have been targeting China for being a "deal-breaker" by refusing to take on cuts itself as the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide; it replaced the US some months ago. The US Special Envoy on Climate, Todd Stern has made it clear that China would not be eligible for funding to cope with climate change.

 

China's vice-foreign minister He Yafei clarified that financing should flow to poorer countries and that China wasn't in the queue for doles. This is a substantial concession, considering that China is far from being a rich county, however strong its economy is. Its per capita income is $3,000 and 150 million Chinese live below the poverty line.

 

China earlier diverted the pressure being exerted on it by the West by volunteering to take on carbon intensity cuts of 40-45 per cent by 2020 — reducing the amount of carbon emitted per unit of output, which forces it to be more energy-efficient. Not to be left behind, India followed with cuts of about half as much. These concessions, however, have not assuaged industrial countries which maintain that China, and to a lesser extent India, are stalling the talks. India, incidentally, has been conspicuous by its absence at the talks, despite the arrival of Jairam Ramesh last week-end.

 

Rasmussen circulated two highly controversial unofficial texts. The first set different emission limits for developed and developing countries, turning the UN's painstakingly negotiated earlier position of countries having "common but differentiated responsibilities" on its head. By 2050, when everybody agrees, all countries must have reduced their emissions to prevent a climate catastrophe, the Danish document posited that developing countries could only emit 1.44 tonnes per capita, while industrial countries could emit 2.67 tonnes.  

 

It died an unnatural death after G77 and China raised a furore. But this has not deterred the PM from issuing another draft, also trying to get major emerging economies to take on some commitments. Industrial countries concede that these can be voluntary at this stage, as the Kyoto protocol lays down, but are insisting that these be subjected to international verification, which India and others have objected to. In particular, India has to resist the "top-down" process after every sentence has been painstakingly negotiated over the past two years.

 

What we are likely to get in Copenhagen on Friday — in the unlikely event that it is extended by a day — is a political statement signed by everybody, recognising the imperative to tackle climate change and to take steps to do so in 2010. There is another meet scheduled in Bonn in June, where the figures will be worked out, but the more likely dénouement will be in Mexico, a year from now.

 

All one can expect by way of funding at this stage is some "kick-start" money of $10 billion a year from 2010 till 2013. The EU and Gordon Brown have been offering $100 billion a year by 2020. And even with the initial funding from next year, and the road ahead from Copenhagen, there are two caveats. 

 

There is every likelihood that these funds will be diverted from aid. Jeffery Sachs of Columbia University has cited how when the Group of 20 met in September, rich nations reiterated their 2005 promise to raise aid to Africa by $30 billion a year between 2005 and 2010. Nothing of the kind happened, and some countries have reduced their aid budgets. Secondly, there is no clarity on whether this constitutes public funding by governments, or private investments and carbon trading, which are another matter altogether.

 

All said and done, it is obvious that Copenhagen, which was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deal not only with environmental problems, but those of development and equity, has been squandered.

 

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DNA

THE TERROR WITHIN

N RAGHURAMAN 

 

A façade of skyscrapers facing a lake, and behind it, every type of dubiousness, said English novelist EM Forster. Going beyond the façade is an attribute few of us possess. Reams have been written about how one ought to look for the real face behind the veneer.


There may be an eerie chaos behind the curtain. So, take a peek. The curtain itself, endowed with all vibrancy, may just be a mask. Undo the mask and a brutal reality may confront you.


Take this scenario: if cats roaming in the vicinity of your housing colony are suddenly found to be turning unusually rotund, what would your first reaction be? That there is plenty of food for the cats to feed on? That there are many animal lovers in your locality to feed them to obesity?  Think again. Isn't it possible that the drainage system in your area is hopelessly infested with nasty rodents, feasting upon whom the cats have become a bit too healthy? If that's the case, it calls for immediate remedial measures.


A rodent-infested drainage would spell two-pronged trouble: one, it might be the precursor of diseases, even epidemics; and two, rats are burrowing the foundation of your housing structures hollow. The malaise, if not dealt with at an incipient stage, could lead to disastrous consequences.


A few days ago, we read about the newly set-up National Security Agency (NSA) having  zeroed in on many people who have allegedly been involved in money transfers to terror suspects. Now, we often have the tendency to dismiss terrorism as being the illegitimate child of extraneous factors like jihad, illiteracy and religion. But the malady crouches itself elsewhere. Money is actually the root cause and motivator of all terrorist misdeeds.


The huge amounts of laundered money that seeps into the country to fund terrorism is the real cause. Even Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist captured during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, has admitted how LeT promised to solve all the problems of his impoverished family if he did the dastardly job. Isn't it avarice that triggers most crimes? The mantra should be to wring the neck of money-laundering — and terrorism would be crushed.

Somewhere down the line, our complacency is to be blamed for our myopia. Or perhaps, it is as much a part of human nature to be swept off the feet by outward appearances and jump to easily derived conclusions. In this generally messy and devious world, it would also help you recognise the wolves in sheep's clothing. Try it and gain a new perspective on how the world operates.


N Raghuraman is an editor with DNA

 

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DNA

IN A DIGITAL WORLD, THE OYSTER IS NO LONGER A DELICACY

S SHIV KUMAR 

 

It's a strange feeling when you bump into long-lost friends while on assignment and they ask you what you do for a living. My stock reply is that I'm a photographer working at a newspaper. The word 'photographer' in itself has morphed over the past decade into the ever-so-slightly presumptuous 'photojournalist'. Now, as we approach the end of the first decade of the third millennium, the latter term is changing.


The tweens will be dominated by the 'visual journalist' or the 'visual reporter', and these sound a tad more apt with imagery taking the Indian newspaper industry in its stranglehold.


A visual journalist will be far more knowledgeable about photography as an art form, than any of his predecessors. He will be equipped with tools that will enable him to carry out his duties with speed, accuracy and digital elan; he will move beyond the static and into a dynamic world where images break into molecules, each telling a story.


Digital technology has levelled the professional photography playing field. Photographers are no longer bound by newsroom hierarchies. The internet and sites like Flickr and Facebook mean that they can get their pictures to the public without battling an interpersonal minefield.


The future photography department will have professionals in specific areas in the field, like sports, conceptual, entertainment, and portraiture, to name a few.


While the numbers of photographers increase exponentially with advancements in technology, the rush to fill slots in newspapers will become a crush. And for photo editors, the so-called gatekeepers of a newspaper's visual element, the job will take on an intensity heretofore only bragged about.


As with any field, a quantitative rise does not necessarily translate into a qualitative one. Photo editors will have to sift through the imagery looking out for those diamonds in the rough, and believe me the rough will be overwhelming, but the gems will shine so much brighter for it.


Journalism, however, will remain at the roots of photography, but the imagery will be broken down into pixels. The primary colours will serve to highlight the graphic lure of each composition, just as writers use each letter to manifest a phrase that conjures thought.


The visual journalist of the future will also be equipped with additional knowledge of the computerised pagination processes, web design, and digital workflow systems thus ensuring that the newsy, stylistic and aesthetic perspective will have never looked better.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

UNFAIR US ATTITUDE

NEW DELHI WAS KEPT IN THE DARK ON HEADLEY

 

The way the US has been behaving with India on matters relating to arrested Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operative David Coleman Headley exposes once again Washington's self-centred style of functioning. Had it kept India properly informed about the activities of Headley perhaps the November 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai could have been averted. The US shared some information with the Indian authorities in September and October 2008, but the LeT masterminds proved to be too smart and aborted their dirty missions on both occasions. As it appears, the US kept India in the dark about Headley as he had been helpful to Washington in gathering details about the LeT's operations. But all that has come to the surface about the way the US authorities have been handling Headley reinforces the belief that he worked as a double agent — for the US and the ISI-floated LeT. The entire matter is a cause for grave concern for India.

 

Headley, the Pakistan-born US national, earlier known as Dawood Gilani, was not new to the US authorities when he was arrested by the FBI in March this year for his role in 26/11. He made several visits to India and had been under constant US surveillance. He has a history of having worked for the US Drug Enforcement Agency. Headley began to cooperate with the US authorities after he was first arrested in 1997 on a charge of drug smuggling. He is a past-master in turning adverse situations in his favour. Reports of his cooperative behaviour after the FBI took him in custody should be seen against this backdrop.

 

The US is reluctant to allow Indian officials associated with the 26/11 investigations to question Headley obviously because he may reveal facts embarrassing for Washington. This is being unfair to India. This country has every right to interrogate Headley. Propriety demands that India must be given access to Headley. Moreover, as India has allowed US officials to question arrested terrorist Ajmal Kasab, the US should also be forthcoming in the case of Headley.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

CONCERNS OVER CURRENCY

IT IS NOT A FAKE THREAT

 

The government has once again recognised that the problem of fake currency is "alarming and dangerous". Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has admitted in the Rajya Sabha that currency note security breaches have not been updated since 2005. One effective way of dealing with the menace of counterfeit notes in circulation is to periodically update the security configurations of currency notes to stay ahead of forgers. It is not enough to take a serious view of the situation, corrective action should be followed without delay. It will take at least two more years for the government to introduce new features in notes.

 

Although Mr Mukherjee says it is difficult to quantify the counterfeit currency in circulation, Minister of State for Finance Namo Narain Meena had estimated it in August this year at Rs 1,69,000 crore. The RBI believes that the number of fake notes in the country is three to six per million, which is not an alarming figure going by global standards. The threat of counterfeit currency has become particularly ominous in recent years as it is used to fund terrorists. Investigations in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks have revealed the links between terrorist operations and fake currency operators. Apart from fuelling terror, the aim of the saboteurs is to destablise the economy by flooding it with fake notes.

 

The government security agencies have traced the source of counterfeit currency to Pakistan. But it will not be enough to blame the neighbouring country if our own borders can be penetrated so easily. Evidence suggests that fake notes arrive in bulk from Dubai and Pakistan through Nepal Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The entry points on the borders with these countries need to be effectively guarded. Secondly, the RBI has suggested the installation of note sorting machines in all bank branches throughout the country. This work should be taken up on priority. Besides, an awareness campaign should be launched to help the public distinguish between fake and real currency notes. Finally, deterrent punishment to counterfeit currency racketeers is a must.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

WHY TARGET ONE MAN?

FINDING SCAPEGOATS FOR 26/11 FAILURES UNFAIR

 

The manner in which the Maharashtra government has been targeting the then Mumbai Police Commissioner Hassan Gafoor for the police lapses during the audacious terrorist attack in Mumbai on November 26, 2008 is most unfortunate. Home Minister R.R. Patil has announced that the government will take action against Mr Gafoor for his reported remarks against the alleged laxity of four officers on 26/11 that resulted in the death of three brave officers — Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte and Vijay Salaskar — who fell to the terrorists' bullets. When it was a collective failure involving various agencies like the Anti-Terrorist Squad, the Intelligence, the Coast Guard and the National Security Guard, singling out one person for the whole mess is unfair. These agencies were clueless about the terrorist strikes. Worse, the NSG could not reach Mumbai promptly due to the delay in getting an aircraft.

 

Clearly, accountability should be fixed on every agency of the government for the collective failure to enforce the standard operation procedures at various levels. The government has decided to table the R.D. Pradhan Committee report, which has pointed out serious police lapses on 26/11, with a rider that only 30 legislators of both Houses will have access to it. With the report having prematurely found its way to the media a few weeks ago, one wonders what purpose would be served by selective access.

 

Senior IPS officers of the Mumbai Police need to work in unison to improve security. If they continue to trade charges it will send a wrong message to the nation and demoralise the police personnel down the line. Sadly, the government has failed to fix accountability on those responsible for providing a faulty bulletproof vest (which itself is surprisingly missing) to the late ATS chief Hemant Karkare. It would do well to concentrate on improving policing in the megapolis rather than looking for scapegoats for lapses.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

ENDS AND MEANS

FROM AYODHYA TO TELANGANA 

BY B.G. VERGHESE

 

The shoddy and unconscionably delayed Liberhan Report — still unavailable to ordinary mortals in print — does not bring closure to the disgraceful demolition of the Babri Masjid. The debate in Parliament was polemical, with the BJP steadfastly obfuscating the issue and crudely attempting to drown the Home Minister's response in the Lok Sabha with a raucous chorus of "Jai. Jai Atalji" on the ground that Atal Bihari Vajpayee had been insulted by a Congress member even after the offending remark was expunged and the member and the Home Minister both apologised.

 

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

 

The Taliban had made no promises to anybody when they vandalised the Bamiyan Buddhas. The BJP and Paivar ideologues used deceit. Neither act changed history or altered civilisational facts. Liberhan described the destruction as a deliberate, well-prepared and premeditated conspiracy by the Pairvar and not something done spontaneously by a frenzied mob. Vajpayee was not specifically indicted but named, as a leading party icon who knew what was happening but did nothing to discourage the event. What is expected of leaders is leadership, which was again found lacking in 2002 in Gujarat.

 

Chidambaram lamented the lack of even a semblance of remorse or shame. Indeed Kalyan Singh and members of the Parivar asserted that there was nothing to regret. Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief, went further. Releasing a book on Partition in Delhi on December 4, he said the "division of the subcontinent would have to be undone for everybody's good". This is a highly inflammatory statement by one who appears intent on assuming direct control over the BJP behind the purdah of "cultural nationalism" or Hindutva, based on the enunciation of the two-nation theory by Savarkar, a father figure for the Parivar, as far back as 1927. What we are witnessing is a struggle for the soul of the BJP, to determine whether it should morph into a conservative, secular party or assume a more fascist and chauvinistic role. The demolition of the Babri Masjid was part of this on-going struggle.

 

The Centre must expedite hearings on all the Ayodhya/Babri suits in various courts and work out an appropriate solution for what is essentially a political issue that is being used, like the Ram Setu matter, to invoke religious passions for political gain. The pandering to rank communalism in pursuit of vote bank politics — in which the Congress is equally adept — has resulted in hollowing out Indian secularism. One useful measure would be to revive a less political and bureaucratised National Integration Council with standing committees to discuss and advise on issues affecting communal and community relations.

 

Even as the Liberhan saga was unfolding, Telangana came on the boil with Chandrashekhar Rao's fast unto death. Such emotional blackmail must be severely discouraged as it bears no relation to Gandhiji's fasts at a time when the country was under alien rule and recourse to democratic consensus building was not possible. If Rao can fast for his cause, so can others for the opposite cause or yet other "causes". What then becomes of the democratic process? Though electoral support for Telangana has waned recently, the cause can certainly be canvassed. In this case, the means were wrong. The Centre was regrettably stampeded and has landed itself and the country in a pretty pickle.

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

 

A case can be made out for Telangana on the ground that this could stimulate investment and employment in this relatively backward region. An autonomous development board for Telangana within Andhra could be envisaged as provided for Maharashtra and Gujarat under Article 371. But statehood has a wider ambit and could be far more effective. There is an optimal numerical and areal span for good governance and many states exceed these parameters.

 

Small is not necessarily ideal, nor is big bad. India will attain a population of 1700 m in 50 years from now and could reasonably have 50-60 states, 1000-1500 districts and maybe 15,000 blocks for better and more inclusive participative government. Simultaneously, zonal councils and other aggregative bodies of a functional nature (railway zones, regional electricity grids and river basin authorities) could pull together different units for coordination and close cooperation.

 

Some argue that Hyderabad should be made a UT. Why? The fact that it is an industrial hub and generates income is an insufficient reason. Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema could find or build new capitals, green field cities in a rapidly urbanising India. Having state capitals in metros is a nuisance. New York and LA or San Francisco are not the capitals of New York State or California respectively. In an expanding urban environment, building a new city entails no additional cost.

 

So, we need to get real and not get into a tizzy over departures from the norm without forgetting the larger good or ends and means.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

"LIPSTICK" ON MY CLUB

BY RAJNISH WATTAS

 

As I breezed in home with a swagger, a swinging club and a cheery whistle on the lips after scoring "ten birdies" and a "hole-in-one" at the morning golf — the good ol' girl strangely growled. She came charging in like a single-digit handicap Pro about to Tee-off with the Big Burner. Had I strayed off course?

 

"So you have been at it again?"

 

"What …no, no, yes …uh a little"

 

"What's that lipstick on the club?"

 

"Lipstick? What lipstick … just some ketchup that dropped on 7 iron"

 

"Acha, ketchup … tomato sauce? Were you golfing with a samosa in hand or a gulab jamun? Or perhaps some other seductive sweet!"

 

"Oh no, nothing, it's just that one gets very, very hungry … rapacious, after vigorous nine holes on the course. So a little bite is not really such a sin."

 

The club came crashing down towards my leg like the lathi charge of a latterday Dyer! I ran out into the driveway to save my life, got into the car but it crashed into the gate. The rest is history.

 

SMS messages on my cell phone fixing 'four-balls' to be followed by some all boys fun on the "nineteenth hole" have been discovered! Credit card bills paid for indulgences, indiscretions and acts of betrayal left carelessly in the pant pockets, have been found out as clinching evidence.

 

More mess has followed. Loyal playing partners have phoned in revealing juicy details of binges after the game. Good old golfing buddies have turned from gentlemen into cads. The children too have chipped in with their mother as the suffering woman.

 

Perhaps she is right. My annual medical reports had revealed that all the high caloried temptations and titillations imbibed as part of the game had shown up as bulging triglycerides. And as a caring partner through thick and thin, she had obtained a vow from me of food celibacy. As a dietician of and author of a weekly column on fitness — her professional reputation had been truly compromised.

 

After much soul searching I have now decided to take an indefinite break from golf. I have even posted this on my website: "I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my overeating has caused to my wife and children. I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask for forgiveness. I am of course far from being perfect. It may not be possible to stop snacking fully while golfing, but I want to try. So help me God get out of this bunker."

 

Dear Tiger, you're not the only one caught by the tail or tales.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

VICTIM OF DELAYS

PUNJAB NEEDS QUICK, HARD DECISIONS

BY SARBJIT DHALIWAL

 

Delivering a forceful speech in the House of Commons to warn against the prevailing atmosphere of indecisiveness in the British Government in 1936, Winston Churchill said: The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.

 

It is the appropriate time to remind these words of Churchill to the Punjab Government, which has become notorious for its indecisiveness. Had the SAD-BJP government not dithered, the recent incidents of arson and violence at Ludhiana and earlier at Jalandhar would never have happened.

 

Half-measures, soothing and baffling expedients and procrastination on the part of the state government have made Punjab and its people face far-reaching consequences. The state is in fiscal dire straits. Social harmony has become so fragile that even small incidents lead to the burning of vehicles and violence.

 

"Fire culture" has become a new mode of protest in the state. Whereas innocents bear the brunt of violence, planners and executioners of such crimes go scot-free. The state apparatus has become wobbly obviously because of the soothing and baffling expediencies of vote banks of political masters.

 

At present there are practically two governments in Punjab – one led by the BJP is for the urbanites and the other led by the SAD is for the ruralites.

 

Because of this urban-rural tussle all proposals with regard to the mobilisation of more financial resources have been rendered to a useless exercise.

 

Conceding that there is a division on urban-rural lines, the government had to set up the Sukhbir Badal- Manoranjan Kalia committee to find the way forward to generate more revenue to meet at least the minimum bare fiscal needs of the state.

 

The BJP has made it clear that till the facility of free power to the farm sector is withdrawn, no tax could be levied in the urban areas.

 

For want of money, the implementation of central schemes has been held up. The development process has been

paralysed. Punjab has money enough only to meet its committed liabilities such as salary and pension of employees and interest payments etc.

 

Its projected revenue deficit for the current fiscal year is of Rs 4,233 crore and a total outstanding debt of Rs 63,217 crore. Besides, there is a debt of Rs 28,764 crore against the public sector undertakings for which guarantees have been given by the state government.

 

Owing to the precarious fiscal situation, Punjab is suffering. Its education and health sectors have been hit hard. Schools and colleges are without adequate teachers. Imparting of below-average education has made Punjab youth unemployable in the national market leading to frustration and despondency among them. People, who have to depend on private public schools, have to pay through their nose.

 

Medical colleges are in poor shape. Civil hospitals lack doctors, medicines and even bare minimum infrastructure required for emergency services. Diseases such as cancer, dengue and even swine flu are claiming lives.

 

There is virtually chaos in the urban areas. There is no quality drinking water available in most parts of the state. People had a miserable summer as power supply eluded them for hours each day. Take any social sector, the performance report will be dismal except agriculture.

 

These are the consequences of procrastination and delays made in taking decisions on vital issues such as mobilising financial resources. For the past two years, the SAD-BJP government has failed to decide whether it should continue the free power to the farm sector or not.

 

There are about 10.30 lakh tubewells for which the government gives free power worth Rs 2,800 crore which means about Rs 26,700 per tubewell, per annum. The maximum part of free power is used to grow paddy that has been playing havoc not only with the health of the state's soil but also has a devastating effect on its environment and subsoil water.

 

Was it wise to give free power to grow a crop, the consumption of which in the state is not even 1 per cent of the total production and that is proving harmful for the overall health of the state? The question is worth pondering.

 

In fact, farmers should be given subsidy to grow cash crops such as vegetables, fruits and set up ventures such as dairy farms instead of growing paddy. Punjab's farm sector needs a new direction.

 

There are about 2 lakh farmers, who don't have tubewells and power connections to operate them. What has the government given to them? Was not it discriminating against them? And these are the farmers having small holdings, ranging from 2 to 4 acres. They really deserve subsidy or fiscal help.

 

Do big farmers, who own four or more tubewells and grow commercial crops such as kinnows deserve free power? The number of farmers who own 10 acres or more is about 36 per cent in the state. Free power should be there but only for small and marginal farmers who do not grow paddy.

 

What the state government has failed to realise is that in modern economies more important even than agriculture and industrial economy is the human capital. Punjab has a vast pool of young human resources. To convert them into human capital, the best course for the Punjab Government is to give free education to all from the first standard to the university level in medical, engineering and other fields. The government should pay the fee of every domicile student who takes admission on his own in any school, college or university.

 

Punjab has about 30 per cent Dalit population but its percentage in higher education is just 6-8 per cent. Dalit families cannot afford to pay hefty fee to provide higher and professional education to their wards. One has to pay Rs 1 lakh as fee and other charges per annum for doing an engineering course in a private colleges. Even small and marginal farmers cannot pay such a hefty fee for their wards.

 

After analysing figures one realises the gravity of the situation on the education front. At the primary school level, the number of dalit students in government and aided schools was more than 50 per cent last year. At the middle level the number came down to 40 per cent and it further came down to less than 30 per cent at high and secondary school levels. In courses such as B.Com and B.Sc, M.A and M.Sc classes the number of dalit students was less than 10 per cent.

 

The figure of total students enrolled in M.Phil last year was 409 and the number of dalit students was 30 only – about 8 per cent. The number of students enrolled for Ph.D was 666 and only 18 (less than 3 per cent) of them were dalits. The number of students belonging to dalit and poor farmer families in public school is negligible.

 

Investment by the state government in human resources will be more paying than in agriculture in the long run. Making wards of dalits and small and marginal farmers capable of earning their livelihood is a bigger cause to be handled by the state government than agriculture.

 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

WHY IRAN CAN'T BE CONTAINED

BY DANIELLE PLETKA

 

Iran is proceeding with an aggressive nuclear weapons program, and a few dogged holdouts notwithstanding, much of the Obama administration has come to terms with that reality. Official Washington has resigned itself to pursuing a containment policy that some argue will limit Iran's ability to proliferate, terrorize and otherwise exploit being a nuclear power. But it is wrong to think a nuclear Iran can be contained.

 

The containment argument runs along Cold War lines: The price of breakout is too high; the regime cares only about power, not about using weapons; containment will be simple because the Arabs are so scared of Iran they'll do anything to help us; President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad doesn't have his finger on the button. In fact, these arguments are either false or misleading.

 

The Shiite regime in Tehran is far more skilled than its Sunni counterparts in the world of nuclear aspirations and sponsoring terrorists. A careful student of history, it surely realizes that the international community has meted out little punishment to nuclear transgressors. Tehran probably sees itself more in the mold of India, a great power whose nuclear weapons are acknowledged and now accepted, than of North Korea, a lunocracy without serious global aspirations or influence.

 

Those Iranian officials who advocate withdrawal from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty do so not because they see Iran becoming the Shiite hermit kingdom but because they think Persia no longer needs to be constrained by status-quo powers and their status-quo treaties.

 

Advocates of containment and deterrence suggest that Iran will be encircled by a "like-minded group" of nations bent on raising the costs of adventurism. This absurd notion rests on weak reeds in Europe and Arabs deeply hesitant to act. And who can blame the neighboring Arabs? Egged on by distant powers to cut Iranian access to banking and shipping, they suspect they will be hung out to dry by the next world leader eyeing a Nobel Peace Prize.

 

Worse, the common notion of deterrence is ill-designed for the regime in Tehran. Perhaps it is unfair to suggest that today's Iranian leadership is fashioned from different cloth than the Soviets; after all, we are often reminded that the doctrine of mutually assured destruction worked with the Soviet Union for half a century.

 

But even the most ardent hawks have serious doubts about U.S. resolve to "totally obliterate" Iran in the event of a nuclear attack on, say, Israel – despite Hillary Clinton's threat, as a presidential candidate, to do just that. Rather, most see the usual hemming and hawing about "certainty," "provocations" and "escalation" as the far more likely rhetoric should such an event occur. And if we in Washington see it that way, why would the Iranians think differently?

 

Many also scoff at the notion that a responsible Iranian leader would risk using or transferring nuclear weapons or technology. We are told that Ahmadinejad (who most acknowledge is crazy enough to use such a weapon) won't make the final decision.

 

But the regime is remarkably opaque, and shifting power centers ensure that even capable intelligence agencies have low levels of certainty about decision-making in Iran's nuclear program. If our intelligence community's prognostications about Iran's reaction to the Obama engagement policy are any indication (apparently they predicted that Iran was desperate to talk), then it seems safe to conclude that no one knows whose finger will be on Iran's nuclear trigger.

 

It is possible that Iran will amass enough fissile material to make a bomb and then choose not to fashion a weapon or test. But that is not the history of states that have clandestine nuclear programs, particularly those with advanced delivery systems and warheads.

 

Advocates of a containment policy suggest that in the absence of effective diplomacy or sanctions that deliver results, the stark U.S. options are acquiescence or military action. Privately, Obama administration officials confess that they believe Israeli action will preempt our policy debate, as Israel's tolerance for an Iranian nuke is significantly lower than our own.

 

There are few good options available to roll back Iran's nuclear weapons program. Nonetheless, after a year of false starts and failed initiatives, the Obama administration should be pressed to find a new way forward. At the very least, we must hope the president's new policy will not find footing in the false notion that a nuclear Iran can be contained.n

 

 By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

HEALTH
CT SCANS CONTRIBUTE TO SURGE IN CANCERS

BY THOMAS H. MAUGH II

 

Widespread overuse of CT scans and variations in radiation doses caused by different machines and different operators are subjecting patients to high radiation doses that will lead to tens of thousands of new cancer cases and as many as 15,000 deaths for each year that the scanners are used, researchers reported Tuesday.

 

Several recent studies have suggested that patients have been unnecessarily exposed to radiation from CTs or have received excessive amounts, but two studies reported Tuesday in the Archives of Internal Medicine are the first to quantify the extent of exposure and the related risks.

 

In one study, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco found that the same imaging procedure performed at different institutions – or even on different machines at the same hospital – can yield a 13-fold difference in radiation dose, potentially exposing some patients to inordinately high risk.

 

While a normal CT scan of the chest is the equivalent of about 100 chest X-rays, the team found that some scanners were giving the equivalent of 440 conventional X-rays. The absolute risk may be small for any single patient, but the sheer number of CT scans – more than 70 million per year, 23 times the number in 1980 – will produce a sharp increase in cancers and deaths, experts said.

 

"The articles in this issue make clear that there is far more radiation from medical CT scans than has been recognized previously," wrote Dr. Rita F. Redberg of UC San Francisco, editor of the journal, in an editorial accompanying the reports.

 

Even many otherwise healthy patients are being subjected to the radiation, she said, because emergency rooms are often sending patients to the CT scanner before they see a doctor.

 

Whole-body scans of healthy patients looking for hidden tumors or other illnesses are also becoming more common, even though they rarely find anything wrong. The irony is that, by exposing healthy people to radiation, they may be creating more problems than they solve.

 

CT scans, short for "computed tomography," provide exceptionally clear views of internal organs by combining data from multiple X-ray images. But the price for that clarity is increasing exposure to X-rays, which cause mutations in DNA that can lead to cancer.

 

Scanner manufacturers are designing new instruments that use lower doses of radiation, but many older machines rely on higher doses. Machine settings for particular procedures, furthermore, are not standardized, and individual radiologists use the technology differently in different patients, leading to variance in doses delivered to the subjects.

 

The highest doses of radiation are routinely used for coronary angiography, in which cardiologists image the heart and its major blood vessels to look for blockages or other abnormalities. Using normal dosages of radiation for the procedure, about 1 in 270 women who receive it at age 40 and 1 in 600 men of the same age will develop cancer down the line as a result, reported Dr. Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a professor of radiology and epidemiology at UC San Francisco, and her colleagues.

For a routine head scan, 1 in 8,100 women and 1 in 11,080 men will develop a tumor.

Patients should keep their own records of the number of scans they have received, question why repeat studies are necessary and even argue for other types of imaging, such as magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, to minimize exposure to radiation.n

 

 By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

DIALOGUE WITH ULFA

 

With the Central and State Governments preferring to adopt a wait-and-watch policy regarding talks with the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) for political solution of the problem of insurgency, it seems that the people of Assam will have to live with the problem at least for some more years. The rigid stand adopted by the commander-in-chief of the ULFA, Paresh Baruah on the demand for talks only on the issue of sovereignty will also be a major hurdle on the way of talks as the Central and State Governments already made it clear that sovereignty cannot be an issue of talks. It is a fact that in recent times, the ULFA suffered severe setbacks with the arrests of senior leaders including the chairman of the outfit, Arabinda Rajkhowa leaving only two of the central committee members of the outfit outside the security net. At present, the ULFA is not in a position to operate from Bangladesh and the outfit already lost its bases in Bhutan following the Operation All Clear in 2003. But the fact remains that Paresh Baruah, reportedly the most powerful man in the outfit, is still at large and a good number of military wing members of the outfit are still active and the possibility of the members of the outfit indulging in acts of violence cannot be ruled out. The police and security forces should never lower their guards in the event of arrests of the senior leaders of the outfit and the intensity of the counter-insurgency operations should not be lowered at any cost.


The pressure put by the Government of India on Bangladesh to take action against the militant leaders staying in that country paid rich dividends as the security forces of Bangladesh picked up the senior ULFA leaders and handed them over to India. But the general secretary of the ULFA, Anup Chetia is still in jail in Bangladesh and he is yet to be handed over to India, while, a number of cadres including hardcore militant Drishti Rajkhowa are believed to be in the neighbouring country. Moreover, the chairman of the anti-talk faction of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) is also in Bangladesh and India should keep the pressure on the neighbouring country for taking action against them. At the same time, the bases of the ULFA in Myanmar are still posing a threat as the militants can sneak into India by taking advantage of the terrain along the border to indulge in acts of violence in Assam and so far the Government of Myanmar has not been able to take strong action to evict the camps of the militants. The Government of Myanmar, way back in 2007, agreed to launch coordinated operations with the Indian security forces , but that has not materialized so far, thus giving the ultras a free run in the jungles bordering India.


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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

ROAD ACCIDENTS

 

The alarming frequency in fatal road accidents, especially on the highways, should be recognized as a grave law-and-order problem. Road accidents are occurring almost every day, claiming well over a thousand lives annually besides incapacitating many more. Road mishaps are now the biggest killer, surpassing tolls extracted by any disease in the State. But the sheer callousness of the Government in according urgency to a matter of such vital public interest is simply baffling. Precious human lives are being lost as a matter of routine with the government authorities refusing to wake up from their slumber. The huge social cost of road accidents, too, is often overlooked by the authorities. If a family loses its bread earner in an accident, the family is invariably doomed to a miserable existence. If road mishaps are largely attributable to factors ranging from rash and drunken driving to violation and ignorance of road safety norms, the fact stands that poor enforcement of every road- and traffic-related law is having a serious bearing on the unprecedented spurt in accidents. The absence of any intervention from the authorities is certainly worsening the situation. Rash driving or driving in an inebriated condition, is commonplace in the State but the government authorities -- especially the police and transport departments that are supposed to ensure strict enforcement of the law against such driving – have been reduced to silent spectators. It is the absence of any semblance of enforcement that emboldens the violators to perpetrate their violations. All civilized nations are extremely strict when it comes to dealing with road safety and traffic management norms, with rash or negligent driving inviting severe penalties including cancellation of licence. Regrettably, this is far from the case here.


Along with enforcement of relevant laws, issues such as poor road condition, defective design, lack of amenities for pedestrians, low level of road safety awareness, etc., need to be addressed as a matter of priority. The absence of roadside emergency or trauma service is also contributing to the high incidence of accident-induced fatalities. A multi-pronged strategy taking into account the diverse factors behind the mishaps is a dire need. Any intervention, however, will not be complete without creating greater awareness among the masses on the need to observe road safety norms. Hard crackdowns on unqualified and negligent drivers apart, issuance of driving licence should be made more stringent. There should be roadside checking of vehicles for crossing prescribed speed limits. All this can materialize only when the Government exhibits the goodwill and commitment towards addressing a life-and-death matter involving its citizens.


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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

THE PEACE PROCESS IN ASSAM

DR RAJIB HANDIQUE

 

The recent developments in Assam concerning the conflict between the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and the Indian State have led to wild speculations regarding the continuation or derailment of the peace process that seems to have been staggering forward earlier and had ended in a stalemate. Most people of Assam are weary of the protracted violent conflict and hope to see the end of the thirty years old ULFA India imbroglio.

The ULFA received a major set-back after most of its leaders have been apprehended, barring the C-in-C Paresh Baruah and a few others. Already the major section of the dreaded 28th Battalion of the ULFA has surrendered and is talking of peace. For the peace-lovers, this appears to be an opportunity at peace-building that should not go waste.


It needs to be understood that ULFA as a protracted social conflict represents some core issues, the existence of which will continue to breed conflict and extremism in Assam. The conflict not only points to structural deficiencies in the Indian State but to problems of governance as well, the manifestations of which are also Maoist violence, insurgency, separatism, secessionism and ethno-national chauvinism. This is the fall out of continuation of the same colonial state that unified but economically exploited India to the hilt. This is also the fall out of not re-structuring the institutions and systems (including most importantly the education system) according to the needs of an independent country. All these have bred mismatches and conflicts, which the centralized Indian State has mostly responded with a 'fire fighting approach'. The irony is that because of the largeness of the country coupled with a centralized State that is inherently unresponsive to local needs, conflicts in the system are not identified before they have matured into full-blown upheavals, which are often violent. Such structural deficiencies partly explain the poverty of the masses and why India is so much behind countries like China in human development parameters.


Therefore, peace processes in India should not be viewed only as means to resolve conflicts, but also as opportunities to transform relationships, institutions and systems so that the colonial shackles are destroyed and the country becomes free from the festering wounds of conflicts.


Insurgencies like that of ULFA are asymmetric conflicts and require careful handling as it is more a battle of minds. The ULFA cannot defeat India militarily on its own. But ULFA will continue to find recruits to fight their cause so long the core issues remain unresolved. Fighting alienation and addressing the needs of identity should form part of the insurgency-tackling strategy.


Considering all these, there is no gainsaying the need of a peace process in Assam. However, for the peace process to be viable and successful there is the primary need to get rid of spoilers who are mostly responsible for derailing a peace process. Both the government and the ULFA, or any third party that might be involved in the peace process in Assam must make appropriate analyses of the spoilers and the spoiling process.


In fact, there is a particular need for a better understanding of the phenomena of 'spoilers' and 'spoiling' - groups and tactics that actively seek to hinder, delay, or undermine conflict settlement through a variety of means and for a variety of motives. The spoiling actors are either within or (usually) outside the 'peace process', and use violence or other means (like propaganda) to disrupt the peace process in pursuit of their aims. Spoilers also include actors and agencies which support spoilers and spoiling tactics - ethnic or national diasporas, State, political allies, media houses, business interests or any others who might benefit from violent conflict.

So-called civil or domestic conflicts are, in reality, often influenced or characterized by international processes, causes and consequences and are therefore subject to external spoiling factors. Similarly, there are groups that are a part of the peace process but which are not seriously interested in making compromises or committing to a peaceful endgame. They may be using the peace process as a means to gain recognition and legitimacy, time or material benefits, or simply to avoid international sanctions.


What then is the relationship between the nature of the conflict and the spoiler phenomenon? According to Oliver Richmond and Edward Newman of the United Nations University, Tokyo, it is increasingly apparent that the nature of a conflict such as over territorial secession or recognition or over natural resources - influences the nature and dynamics of spoiling. Some actors like civil and military bureaucracies, warlords, criminals, etc., can develop a vested economic interest in the continuation of violent conflict. Protracted conflicts like that of the ULFA generally lead to hardened positionings making reconciliation difficult among the conflicting parties. This by itself acts as spoiler of the peace process.


Spoiling activities often succeed in a number ways. Spoilers might raise new questions within a peace process, divert attention, provide marginalized actors with a voice, delay or postpone progress in a process or future rounds of talks, prevent implementation of agreements, or illustrate the need to include other actors in discussions. Groups which seek to 'spoil' efforts to resolve conflict often do so because they see the peace process as undermining their rights, privileges, or access to resources, whether physical, strategic, or political. That is why the Government of Assam and India, the ULFA and the third parties that might be involved in a peace process need to have a very clear idea about the interlinkages between moderates, hardliners and radicals, and between disputants and their constituencies. It is in such inter-linkages that the dynamics of spoiling lie, and which are used both to disguise and to propagate spoiling behaviour.


The nature of the peace process and the nature of the peace to be implemented are critically important to its chances of success. It is important that the terms of reference of the peace process itself do not sow the seeds of spoiling. It should be consensual, locally-owned, and supported by both national and regional organizations. The peace process must accommodate the legitimate concerns of all parties to the greatest extent possible and it must seek not only to secure immediate goals such as peace and stability but also justice, human rights and the rule of law.


The media has been identified as a potent spoiler by peace and conflict analysts. Already the spoiling behaviour is finding manifestation in section of media in Assam. It needs to be remembered that one of the fundamental needs, for the peace process to move forward is to soften the entrenched positions that the parties find themselves in. The need is also to do away with the deep-rooted animosities that the process of 'demonisation' of the 'other' entails. The media may be a spoiler under the circumstances by re-articulating the excesses committed by the parties in a conflict. Harping on the same events that whetted the 'demonisation' process is a method applied by that section of the media intent on spoiling the peace process.


Spoiler violence must not be allowed to derail the peace process, and the public and the media must be encouraged to put this into perspective in order to maintain public confidence. There will often be factions which feel marginalized, which seek objectives outside the peace process, and which have the capacity to incite or inflict violence in an attempt to undermine a process they do not support. This should not necessarily be taken as a sign that the peace process is under fundamental threat or in crisis.

(The writer is a Reader in History, Dibrugarh University)

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

ECONOMIC PROMINENCE – THE CHINESE APPROACH

RABINDRA NATH SARMA

 

If media focus is of any significance in reflecting a country's, effort for curving out an un-assailable predominance in the international forum, then China should receive the prime position. Leaving aside her current aggressive diplomatic and allied political move, which deserves close consideration we may, without prejudice, discuss her efforts in the matter of national integration, economic rejuvenation and pragmatism displayed in the pursuit of her objectives, compared to India. It is not that China suddenly emerged as a pioneering nation in this regard, but she had to overcome many constraints on her way to the present height. Once a faction ridden country, subjected to multiple exploitation by different imperial powers, she had to demonstrate un-paralles courage and character in rebuilding, restructuring the country. Way back in early twenties, when Chen Tu-hsiu and Li Tachao said that "Confucianism was dead and all its vistages should be uprooted", it might have raised many eyebrows among those who believe that Confucias was the upholder of Chinese moral values and culture. But the ultra-left radicals said, "It was China, not her culture, that must be saved."

To get a clear view of Chinese resurgence, her quest for a nation hood free from factional strife, and foreign exploitation, one will have to go back to the years of early twenties when the ultra left group asserted that "... Revolutionary reconstruction on the line of Marxian Socialism ...." would alone lead China to a united and prosperous nation. At this juncture, Sun Yat-sen successfully united the tradition of western liberalism with his philosophy of 'People's livelihood'. Sun's strategy was reflected in his manifesto that China would be a people's nationalism, that people's power or democracy must be restored, that people's livelihood must be ensured. It must be said that significant break in the continuous exploitation of China's resources came as a result of Washington conference of 1922 where-in the U5 displayed renewed interest in China's integrity, and policy of equality of economic opportunities were restated and the same was legally defined. Till seventies, no perceptible initiave was taken by China in the sphere of international trade. But, 1978 onwards China opened up her economy, primarily in respect of international trade relation.


China had taken a very judicious and gradual approach towards liberalisation of her market. Following this, her trade activities with foreign countries began to pickup vigouriously. Inspite of having a regulated economy, she allowed the private sector to develop. Domestic market was brought under a liberalized price system, centrally planned economy had been changed to a market oriented economy. Many of the legal hurdles in the economic administration had been removed. The regional authorities were allowed to negotiate foreign exchange directly with the foreign countries. Special economic zones were created. Coastal cities together with export-processing or hi-tech zones, were opened.These regions were given preferential treatment and are allowed to negotiate foreign capital. In the country side, joint ventures were allowed direct access to foreign market. China's globalization of her economy can best be explained by refering to the words of Fan-Gong, an economist,who said "The rapid pace of China's economic growth was not achieved by opening her aconomy, but by its careful and judicious planning towards market liberalisation". Some of the key elements of Chinese reform had bean the reform in the financial market where many restriction on the operation of foreign financial institutions were relaxed.

Compared to India, her close neighbour, China is far ahead in reaping the benefits of globalization of her economy. This is because of difference in approach in matters of policy reorientation and structural reform between the two neighbouring countries. It is appreciated by all concerned that Chinese workers are highly disciplined and committed. In India there is ample scope for improvement in this regard. In China a worker is paid on the basis of his individual turnover. If the production of a worker continued to be below expectation he may be discharged from work without any restriction. But in India, irrespective of his individual turnover, a worker must be paid statutory minimum wage. In India even if a factory is closed workers cannot be discharged outright. These differences, together with losses due to labour strikes and agitation account for substantial increase in the labour cost in manufacturing establishments. Frequent strikes and agitations are not allowed in China. Since, wage is related to individual production there is no question of agitation for higher wage by a worker. But, what is being followed in China in relation to labour, cannot be followed in India; primarily because of multiparty democratic set up in Indian political domain against a more or less regimented political order, prevalent in China. In India, strikes and agitations for better existence is constitutionally sanctioned. Another area where India cannot emulate China is operating of the production units. In China production units are at liberty to operate, if they so desire, whole 24 hours of the day. As against this, in India general rule is to stop operation by a producing unit at 7 pm. This enables, China to account for more production per unit of plant and machinery. In many other areas China provides more advantage to manufacturing industries compared to India. Custom clearance in China is much faster; because ports and customs work the entire 365 days of the year, where as in India they work for about 250 days a year. In China government provides 19-27 per cent subsidy for export, besides import of inputs for export purposes is duty free.


India can bring some improvement in the manufacturing environment through settlement of strikes and agitation in the manufacturing industries outside the industrial periphery so that dislocation in production process can be avoided. Ports and Customs clearance should be made to put up more hours of work. Whereever possible single window clearance should be adopted. The State should patronise production of components and raw-materials internally. Levies may be rescheduled in a way so that the manufacturers may avoid tax induced part of the cost, where the finished product is exclusively meant for export. Because, since there will be no internal sale of such products, possibly, it would not attract WTO provision of dumping or discrimination.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

DIVIDE AND RULE


The unrest in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and other places, triggered by the Telangana agitation coming to a head, could mean serious change. Students will now certainly groan at what used to be an easy stock question in civics examination, "How many states and Union territories are there in India?" They may have to resort to the usual journalistic caveat "at the time of going to press" to put their answers in context and would have a hard time plotting the boundaries of states on a blank political map of India, considering they may change every year or so. Printers, on the other hand, would be laughing all the way to the bank, for each change would mean atlases and textbooks will have to be modified thanks to the entry of a new state or two.


The tussle over who gets Hyderabad may leave various segments hot under the collar, but the prospect of a provincial town turning into a capital city — a la Dehradun, Ranchi and Raipur — would make a lot of citizens rather happy about rising property values as new governments go space-hunting for their offices and staff quarters.

Indeed, now every self-respecting city of modest proportions anywhere in India can aspire to capital status, provided its political players get their agitations and hunger strikes right. New capitals would naturally mean new buildings, upgradation of civic amenities and the like, all of which would be music to the ears of the construction and allied sectors.


Such vivisections would also be to the liking of the bureaucracy as the number of posts would get doubled and, with them, the chances of promotions.


More sarkari offices and posts would mean more government spending on kitting out their new power structure with proper accoutrements, sending cash registers ringing across sectors from automobiles to electronics. Even the Election Commission would have reason to smile, considering it set the ball rolling with multi-phase polling underlining the optimum size of political units!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SKY'S THE LIMIT FOR INDIAN INDUSTRY

 

The acquisition of Aerostaff Australia and Gippsland Aeronautics by Mahindra Aerospace marks a small step for the company and a bold leap for India Inc into qualitatively new territory. This transaction is not very large ($37.5 million), but it symbolises Indian industry's ability to make strategic shift to new levels.


Liberalisation of the Indian economy has brought to the common man many goods and services that could only be aspired for in the past. For instance, flying is not any more a privilege of the rich. At the same time, this economic expansion has ensured that Indian companies gained size and sophistication.


And, more importantly, the confidence to move forward to acquire foreign businesses and replace incumbent managements with managers of Indian origin and experience. Aerospace is a fledgling industry in India, and the government's efforts to develop the country as a hub for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) may not materialise in the near term.


But the long-term potential for the aviation and aerospace sector in India is immense. Particularly as defence production is now open to private sector, including foreign, participation, with riders. Civil aviation too is bound to grow with further expansion of the economy. Taneja Aerospace and Aviation is perhaps the only company in the country manufacturing light transport and trainer aircraft.


Mahindra Aerospace is an emerging player in this space, and it makes eminent sense for the company to grow by acquiring existing businesses, their technology — that can be transferred to develop the domestic industry — as well as customers.


Aerostaff is a maker of precision components and assemblies for aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus while Gippsland Aeronauticals manufactures small passenger planes. Each of these acquisitions, thus, makes perfect fit with Mahindra's plans in aviation.


Economic transformation calls for blue sky thinking on the part of entrepreneurs. Some calls could go wrong, including a right move made at the wrong time. But as any successful businessman would vouch, there can be no returns without taking risks.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

THE TASK FORCE ON GST

 

We commend the report of the task force on goods and services tax (GST), set up by the Thirteenth Finance Commission (TFC), which proconcurrent dual levy of 5% by the Centre and 7% by the states on a common, shared and comprehensive base. poses a We strongly urge the empowered committee of state finance ministers and the central government to seriously study the recommendations of the task force.


What is most striking about the report is the absolutely low level of tax that it proposes: a cumulative indirect tax rate of 12%, a far cry from the current cascading levels of 30% or more for the Centre and the states combined. If all exemptions are removed and the tax is levied with logical and systemic integrity, the tax rate can be brought down to this level.


Exemptions create all kinds of distortions and privilege certain economic activities over others. Multiplicity of rates, concessions and exemptions distort the tax system as they favour some goods and services at the expense of others. If there is good reason to promote some kinds of economic activity over others, the report says, it should be done by providing explicit subsidies from the exchequer, rather than through the cross-subsidy implicit in differential taxation. This is wholly sound.


The task force's recommendation to scrap exemptions to special economic zones makes sense, given that exports will be zero-rated. The suggestion to create a compensation fund to make good any shortfall in the states' revenues is welcome. The GST design is simple and in sync with successful GST models of, for example, New Zealand and Singapore.


Over the years, the Centre and the states have recognised the need to move to a simpler indirect tax regime, one that would unify the domestic market currently split along state boundaries.


The task force has scripted a possible road-map for ushering in a seamless common market through a flawless consumption-based GST. Its recommendations are not binding on anyone, not even the TFC. But they merit wide public debate and discussion. The transition to GST would entail the political class giving up its power to chop and change taxes and distribute patronage. They must be prepared to, in the larger interest of the economy.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

REINVENTING EDUCATION

 

India's size and variety are an ideal platform to try new models of education that would help us take the lead in the 21st century. Let's dare to move ahead as the future of our children and country is at stake, says Sudhakar Ram.

It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry. Albert Einstein Nobody can argue that the world has changed dramatically in recent years, and continues to change with amazing speed. Yet, we have not changed the basic approach to educating our children for the past 200 years.

Think about the changes our children will face before they retire from the working world in 60 years. Will our current approach to education be adequate to equip these children to face the emerging world?

Can we continue with our assembly-line approach to teaching our children, rather than acknowledging and nurturing the unique gifts and talents that each one of them represents? Should education be restricted, primarily, to the first 20 years of our lives? Or should the focus shift to life-long learning?


Alvin Toffler, in 'The Third Wave', describes mass education as being built on the Industrial Age factory model to teach basic reading, writing and arithmetic, a bit of history and other subjects — the overt curriculum. Beneath it was the covert curriculum that was far more basic. It consisted of three courses — punctuality, obedience and repetitive work — the basic training requirements to produce reliable, productive factory workers. Will the 21st century world require just these capabilities?


Howard Gardner's Project Zero at Harvard discovered that up to age four, almost all children are at genius level, in terms of the multiple frames of intelligence — spatial, kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, mathematical, intrapersonal, and linguistic.


But by age 20, the genius level proportion of the tested population dropped to 2%. We are educating the intelligence out of our children. Instead, we need to nurture and develop the multiple frames of intelligence within our schools and colleges. We need to fuel imagination, which Einstein said is more important than knowledge.

The current system of education — both at the school and university level — assumes that a finite amount of 'knowledge' is available. The emphasis is on cramming as much of this knowledge as possible into the available years of education.


But this paradigm does not work for the 21st century; the quantum of knowledge has become so vast that it would take several lifetimes even to master a single discipline. What we need is children learning how to learn and provide facilities for life-long, just-in-time learning.


In our era of super-specialiSation, we're developing groups of people who understand their own fields extremely well, but tend to be challenged when it comes to communicating and integrating with groups in other disciplines.

Everyday people tend to think we don't have the ability — or even the right — to understand, let alone challenge, the specialists. In this quest for 'know-how' we are losing the 'know-what' — the meaning and purpose of life, the context for applying all this knowledge.

Our rapid depletion of Earth's resources may well be due to an emphasis on technology or know-how, rather than wisdom — deciding whether it is the right thing for us as humanity.


The challenges in India are even more acute. Of the 200+ million children of school going age, 35% drop out after primary school and another 50% after upper primary. Of the 20 million youth of graduating age, only around three million actually make it through college, and less than 500,000 are deemed employable. We have an urgent need to rethink education on many fronts.


First, we need to nurture love for learning in primary schools. There are well-researched systems — like the Montessori Method — that are completely child-centred and make the learning process joyful and effective. Newer methods of teaching can combine video-based learning with teacher-facilitated games that develop the child's natural talents.


Primary schools should equip children with basic life skills — reading, writing, arithmetic, environmental science, health and hygiene and social/inter-personal skills.


Second, the focus of upper primary schools should be (a) to teach kids how to learn and (b) to support them discover their natural aptitude. It is critical to offer a good grounding in the scientific approach to learning. Learning should go beyond knowing facts and figures. Children need to be shown how to be self-aware, and to examine their own lives: their life stages, life purpose.


Third, high school curricula should focus more on building concrete skills and capabilities in multiple disciplines, rather than stressing exam results. For example, a team could take on the design, construction and installation of solar-based power systems in their own schools — addressing the technical, financial and social aspects of the project — under expert guidance. Another team could focus on reducing child abuse in their local area.


In the process, teams would understand the theoretical constructs and develop the critical thinking skills needed.


Fourth, universities of the future should offer life-long learning modules that allow people to acquire knowledge just when they need it.


Given the need for organisations to continually learn and evolve, we need to change work patterns to combine learning and working — for instance, by having a four-day work week with another day or two a week devoted to learning and experimenting with new ideas.


University professors should be encouraged to pursue research in multiple disciplines and to act as facilitators in their students' learning process. Practitioners from industry should be encouraged to act as guides and mentors to students taking on specific courses. Education is a pressing problem across the globe. However, the challenges in India are so great that it presents us with the greatest opportunity to innovate. Our size and variety are an ideal platform to try many new models of education that would help us take the lead in the 21st century.


It is up to us as parents and educators to make this shift happen. Let's have the courage to move ahead — the future of our children and our country is at stake.

Long live the earth.

(The author is CMD of Mastek)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

LIFE IS BEYOND YOUR LOGIC

PARAMAHAMSA NITHYANANDA

 

Most of us unconsciously believe that life is filled with incidents that are under the control of our logic. But life

the truth that life is beyond your logic. You are reminded of this fact, especially when some near and dear friend dies or when something unexpected happens.


If you lose your job, suddenly you see that life is not under your control. You wake up to the reality that life is beyond your logic. Then you start seeking the Truth.


Especially if you live in the city, your routine is almost fixed. From morning until night, you know exactly how your day will unfold. You know where you will go, what you will do or not do, and what and when you will eat. Practically, your ego gives an idea, your logic gives you the feeling that your life is under the control of your logic.

That is why whenever some incident happens that is beyond your logic that is not under your control, you are totally shaken. You are not able to handle it. You don't know what to do. Either you fall into depression or you just suffer.


There is an important truth, an ultimate secret that you must understand. Never think things are going smoothly because of you. In spite of you, things are going smoothly! This is one of the important secrets. As long as you believe it is because of you that things are going smoothly, you will be constantly suffering with ego.


Death clearly shows that whatever mind you lived with has no real existence. The moment you experience that there is nothing to be achieved, that the diamonds you are protecting are not diamonds but stones, and that all your valuable possessions in life are mere toys, you will understand the purposelessness of life and a new consciousness starts blossoming in you.


The genuine purpose of life cannot be understood without dropping our ego. Understand the divine purpose of life, the leelas or the Divine play; you will enjoy the drama. If you keep thinking that life has a purpose and wait to achieve something, you will miss life itself.


Life itself is the path and the goal. When you have a goal, you will run; your feet will not touch the ground and you will miss the beauty of Existence or nature. When you drop the goal, the emphasis will be on the path.
The meaning of living is the meaning of life or Existence. Drop the goal and enjoy life.


Meditate on this teaching again and again. The Truth will dawn on you and the nithyananda (bliss) state will flower in you, the state that is the very meaning of life. Be Blissful!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CENTRE & STATES SHOULD JOIN HANDS TO DEVELOP BACKWARD AREAS

NIRAJA G JAYAL

 

It comes as no surprise that the announcement of the intent to create the state of Telangana should generate a rash of demands for new ones all the way from Uttar Pradesh in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south.


The small-is-beautiful rationale does not, however, work for governance in the same way it does for ecology. The pedigree of the argument that small states make for better governance lies in the experience of Himachal Pradesh where, as recent research shows, it was a range of different factors that resulted in superior developmental outcomes.


If size was a determinant of governance, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand — both states created in 2000 — should not have had such disappointing records. Those who fought for their statehood, and for local non-exploitative control over their natural resources, have been completely marginalised, as the idealism of the new experiment has been overtaken by the jaded practices of politics-as-usual.


Conversely, with the hiving off of these states from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, respectively, we could have expected the latter states to become less flabby and, therefore, more administratively-efficient and developmentally-effective. It is clear that neither conclusion is warranted.


When Paul Appleby reportedly certified these as two best-administered states in the 1950s, both were larger than they are today. So, while it appears logical that smaller states would be more manageable, empirical evidence is unambiguous: size is irrelevant to the quality of governance and development.


The first exercise of delineating the boundaries of Indian states was based largely on linguistic criteria, in conformity with the organisational principle of the Indian National Congress since the 1920s. Other than the carving out of Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, and, of course, the organisation of the north-eastern states, the next major exercise was the grant of statehood to Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh in 2000.


The chief criterion here was developmental neglect, though hill and tribal identity also figured in these claims.


The new claims being heard today have much less substance. They are propelled by the same impulse to splinter that characterises our political parties. Sections of the political class that are unable to make a convincing play to capture power in an entire state will seek such forms of minor secession that provide them with smaller, more easily controllable pocket-boroughs.


Just as large political parties tend to spawn smaller parties — unsurprisingly organised as family firms — so also large states are seen as fair game for building smaller fiefdoms.


In a political context where cynical brinkmanship and cheap populism seem to determine consequential decisions, a Second States' Reorganisation Commission would appear to be a plausible solution. Of course, such commissions have their own perils: they take years to determine criteria that may never actually be deployed by governments.


There is already a new commission on Centre-state relations, whose ambit could arguably be expanded to include the question of the acceptable criteria for the creation of new states. The most lasting solution, of course, would be to create a political consensus — to which the Centre and the states are equally-seriously committed — to concertedly address issues of regional backwardness and uneven development. This would hopefully reduce the incentives to make frivolous proposals for splitting states.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

REDRAW STATES ON BROADER PARAMETERS, CITIES AS UTS

V KISHORE CHANDRA DEO

 

India is a nation of sub-nationals, composed of a pluralistic society with vast diversities: religious, linguistic, ethnic and anthropological. India is a political entity and, hence, what we have been striving for is unity amidst diversity — not 'uniformity'.


Following Independence, states were divided on a linguistic basis without looking at the cultural, economic, social and ethnic factors that have existed for centuries. At that time, we had to ensure that further fragmentation does not occur in a society that was already fragmented.


After half a century, groups of people from different parts of the country have given vent to their feelings in different forms. The purely linguistic criteria that served its purpose at that point of time requires to be reviewed in the light of our experiences. Disparities between the size of different states have created situations where smaller states have felt neglected and are psychologically withdrawn from the mainstream due to a feeling of insecurity, both in political, administrative and economic terms.


Larger states have failed to ensure a uniform growth in regions within them. This, in turn, has led to economic disparities and an uneven distribution of resources. These lacunae have also resulted in deteriorating law-and-order situation.


The process for restructuring states will, therefore, have to be done on a socio-economic, cultural, linguistic, ethnic and geographical basis. A proper ratio, for instance, will have to be worked out between the hill regions and the plains and between the desert areas and the plains.


The general idea of having second States Reorganisation Commission should be to form states that will become compact administrative units, making the situation more conducive for growth and development. This process should also eliminate economic and political disadvantages, if any, including psychological barriers or complexes which confront them.

In this context, it is pertinent to mention that the metropolitan cities should be converted into Union territories and granted partial statehood, as in the case of Delhi. These cities — Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad-Secunderabad — are primarily cosmopolitan in nature and fall under a different category from that of the regions surrounding them. These are essentially urban conglomerations, whose needs and demands in terms of financial resources have been growing rapidly.


A major part of the states' revenues are being sucked by these giants at the cost of stagnating the underdeveloped and backward regions of the states. Several premium institutions under the central government — educational and scientific research institutions, defence establishments, etc — are located in these cities. It is, therefore, imperative for the Centre to exert control over these areas.


Article 3 was incorporated by the founding fathers of our Constitution to meet the emerging demands arising out of experience to fulfil the aspirations of our people. This, however, is an exercise that has to be conducted with the concurrence of legislative assemblies in the states, and are areas where a national consensus is necessary. It is time for us to revisit these areas, however sensitive they may be.


But abundant precaution and caution should be taken to ensure that the culmination of such an exercise will bond our republic rather than creating fissures, and should be scrupulously managed beyond petty political gains and vested interests.


(Views are personal)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TELANGANA & PRE-MODERN PROMISES

T K ARUN

 

Every child who's read Alice In Wonderland knows that saying what you mean and meaning what you say are two different things. So do the political parties that supported a separate Telangana till the Centre said it was willing to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh, but then turned against the move when they saw the reaction on the ground.

The Telugu Desam Party is the lead proponent of this art of instant change of heart. How do these parties still hope to be taken seriously by the people?


Hypocrisy is common in politics. But total hypocrisy would be exposed and rejected. So, if some forms of hypocrisy are consistently tolerated by the public at large, there has to be some reason why this happens.


Probably because it's part of the wider Indian culture to not really expect people to mean what they say. The hostess who piles food on the plate of the guest who protests that he cannot possibly eat any more but proceeds to polish off what has been served with relish is a good example of this diffuseness of commitment in India that borders on hypocrisy.


The hostess knows the guest doesn't really mean what he says any more than it's her mission in life to nurture the guest to her own financial ruin. But they implicitly owe it to each other to strike that pose that fetches that appropriate reciprocal reaction. Neither means what he/she says, but together, they have made the right impression on each other.


Take the case of the IIT alumnus in the US who's been sent to jail for threatening dire violence against the Bush administration. He probably didn't mean what he said. Indians implicitly understand this, that he was just trying to create an impression. But you can't expect the Americans to believe that you don't mean what you say as a matter of routine.


When you use a word like doublespeak to describe this attitude that comes naturally to the typical Indian political party, which stands for perfectly contradictory things with perfect natural ease, it sounds very harsh. It actually is too harsh. A more appropriate term might be pre-industrial.


The industrial age heralded precision. If you want a metal something to be machined to a thickness of seven microns, you say it has to be machined to a thickness of seven microns, and what you say pretty much means that it has to be machined to a thickness of seven microns.


When such precise actions preponderantly fill your life, you acquire the habit of saying what you mean and meaning what you say. In pre-industrial cultures, there is great latitude in locating the precise meaning of what you say.


Since about 70% of Indians still live in rural areas and 61% of the workforce lives off agriculture and allied activities, their attitude to precision is pre-industrial. Obfuscation is not just a contingent hazard, but often a welcome way to avoid conflict.


Precision leads to binary choices, and binary choices potentially lead to conflict. Fuzzy boundaries of what you mean and don't mean avoids explicit choice and, therefore, conflict, and allows life to continue without change. Fuzziness of language has allowed caste inequality and inequity to continue for ages in India.


Advaita means non-duality. The philosophy asserts unity between physical nature and the spirit or atman, between the individual spirit and the cosmic spirit. Where is the scope for caste discrimination in a society uided by the principle of advaita?


Yet, Hindu traditions, supposedly anchored in advaita, also involve vicious caste discrimination, completely negating all notions of the unity of everything animate and inanimate. Only pre-modern fuzziness of words and their meaning would have permitted this contradiction to sustain as long as they have.

It is perhaps not accidental that Kerala's pre-eminent social reformer, Sree Narayana Guru, who questioned the caste system based on intellectual resources drawn from within the philosophy of advaita, towards the close of the 19th century, also exhorted his followers to promote modern industry.


The only political party that has been completely consistent on forming small states has been the Communists. The communist ethos is that of industry, of binary logic (notwithstanding that some individual communists have, of course, evolved to the higher stage of fuzzy logic).


The Indian economy is growing, essentially on the strength of industry and services. These modern economic activities call for precision in thought and action and correlation between the two. The language and culture of modern India will not tolerate the pre-industrial fuzziness bordering on hypocrisy that still dominates the discourse of most political parties.


Scientists in India who build rockets for moon missions still seek to avoid the inauspicious time when the mythical serpent Rahu swallows the moon, for scheduling the rocket launch. Such pre-industrial dichotomy is also under assault, when buses today go up in flames in Andhra Pradesh, against the hypocrisy of parties that say one thing and mean something else altogether.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TELANGANA DOESN'T HOLD WATER

JAIDEEP MISHRA

 

The interstices of history can reveal volumes about present-day lacuna and shortcomings in the realm of policy. The demand for Telangana state, for instance, has much to do with proactive water policy or the lack of it, going back over a century and more.

 

The fact of the matter is that the Godavari Barrage, built circa 1850, veritably transformed the famine-prone districts of coastal Andhra Pradesh into a large granary. The anicut may have been designed as a political statement of imperial mission, and other attendant ulterior motives.


Yet, Sir Arthur Cotton, who designed the barrage and oversaw its construction, was a technocrat in today's parlance, and a visionary.


The records show that he engineered the 'magnificent project' making the best use of available local materials like lime, quarry and excellent teak. The dam across the river Krishna followed next. And after completing the Krishna and Godavari anicuts, Sir Arthur envisaged purposeful storage of river water and did suggest connecting major rivers of India for irrigation, bargeways and domestic usage.


It is plain that the Nizam lacked the foresight to build canals and waterways, as in adjoining Andhra during the days of the Raj, and never mind that both the Godavari and Krishna also flow through Telangana. The lack of water infrastructure in Telangana has, of course, been considerably righted in the decades since.


But in a relative sense, the figures suggest a clear infrastructure deficit vis-à-vis the coastal region. Worse, there are rigidities when it comes to water availability in Telangana. It may have deeply affected its agrarian economy.

Note that because of the historical lack of modern irrigation systems in Telangana, there has traditionally been much reliance on tank and well irrigation. But in recent decades, there's been a general neglect of policy focus and funding for tank irrigation pan-India.


The result has been much silting and drying up of water tanks. Reports say that the area under tank irrigation in Telangana has shrunk to less than a fourth in a matter of years. And for well irrigation to be a credible option, quality power supply is needed, which may not be the case. In any case, the capital cost of sinking deeper tubewells can be prohibitive, given falling water tables and steep going rates of available credit.


In this decade, data suggests that while almost 60 lakh hectares of land have been brought under irrigation in the whole of Andhra Pradesh, the bulk of the land is in the coastal areas.


There may be valid technical reasons for the lopsided development of irrigation potential, but it just so happens that a disproportionate part of irrigation investments in Telangana have been of the 'drip' variety, requiring added sunk-costs in the last mile in the form of sprinkler systems, etc.


Meanwhile, a recent national study estimates that 15% of underground acquifers are not just depleted but in a "critical condition" Also, the figure is likely to rise to as high as a "frightening 60%" in a couple of decades, say the mavens.

Actually, there has been thorough neglect of water policy generally. The sector faces a huge financing gap. While budgetary resources for irrigation and water supply have been falling and declining, user charges remain much too negligible to cover even routine maintenance.


The fact remains that a large proportion of recurrent budgets is devoted to salaries and wages of personnel, rather than being spent on capital expenditure and repairs.


Back in 1999, the National Commission on Water did arrive at the conclusion that overall water balances are "precarious." Yet we have chosen to simply "muddle through" without overhaul of policy. However, given that acquifer depletion seems to be concentrated in the most populous and economically-productive areas, the lack of policy action would have massive repurcussions.


Also, competitive politics can lead to avoidable conflicts of interest between upstream and downstream riparians in intra-state and inter-state rivers. And notwithstanding the positive contribution of irrigation to overall productivity and economic welfare, there's much scope for misallocation and mismanagement of allocated resources. It can all drive down the efficiency of water systems.


The bottom line is the need to replace the present command-and-control administration of water with more transparent and flexible arrangements.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

MORE SATYAM-LIKE CASES SIMMERING: ROHIT MAHAJAN, KPMG EXECUTIVE

PEERZADA ABRAR

 

BANGALORE: Corporate frauds rarely get noticed by the public, except when it takes on alarming proportions as seen in the recent Satyam fiasco. But experts like Rohit Mahajan , the executive director, forensic services advisory, at audit and consulting firm KPMG, says there are several such cases of fraud simmering in the sidelights. As India becomes more globalised, Indian corporates are adopting newer models to commit frauds. He told ET that over 60% of the respondents in a recent survey said they faced frauds in their organisations. Many estimate their financial loss to be Rs 10-100 million per organisation.


Has there been any kind of shift in the way frauds are committed?

We are seeing more frauds now compared to 3-4 years ago and the nature of frauds is no more limited to scrap sales or cash being stolen. We are seeing a dynamic shift with respect to intellectual property, e-commerce and other IT-related frauds. It is not just the junior employees who are involved. The senior management seems to be encouraging it and there is more focus on bribery and corruption.


What are some of the new models of frauds in the Indian corporate world?

In the IT industry, most frauds are being detected in the human resources division because hiring volumes have increased. Some HR people have floated their own recruitment consultancy firms and they root in CVs through their own consultancy firms. This results in a conflict of interest issue. The second most prevalent cases of fraud are being noticed in the procurement division. A single company may bid for the same tender under different names. We have observed that after a vendor bags a contract, the bills keep coming in and payments get processed, without the goods physically coming in. Another prominent sector is among PEs. Although they invest in many entrepreneurial ventures, it is hard to track where the money is going.


What is the main reason for this increase?

The risk of fraud at corporate levels is becoming higher. There is more pressure on Indian corporates. This forces some of them to resort to fraudulent practices as they don't want their stocks to be slammed at the exchanges.

How can the red flags be identified?

A majority of organisations are aware of these unethical practices. It can be identified through more stringent laws and awareness. Companies need to show zero tolerance on these matters and be proactive in analysing frauds. Experts say that there are more Satyam-like scandals in the country. Financial services sector is relatively more susceptible to fraud followed by real estate, infrastructure and IT and ITES. Considering that the procurement values are very high in sectors such as telecom, power, the utility industry, the amount of fraud can also be very high.


What impact will it have on the outsourcing industry?

We have to ensure that we don't make the same mistakes developed economies have made. Otherwise, this will impact the reputation we have created outside the country especially in the area of outsourcing.

 

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

INVESTORS LIKELY TO CHOOSE US OVER EMERGING MKTS: FABER

NISHANTH VASUDEVAN

 

MUMBAI: Smart investors who made money in 2009 may sell emerging market stocks and start buying the S&P in the US as it may outperform because of a rally in the US dollar, says investment guru Marc Faber, the publisher of the Gloom Boom & Doom report, who predicted a stocks rally in early 2009 when it was gloom all around.

"There are people who made a lot of money in 2009 and this category is concerned that the markets have overshot," Faber said in an interview with ET. "So, some of them have taken profits and some of them are inclined to do so. In theory, it is possible that there is a dollar rally and an outperformance in the S&P vis-à-vis emerging markets."


Global stocks, commodities and precious metals have rallied sharply this year following an unprecedented easing of monetary policy by central banks across the globe to avert a 1930s-like depression. The rally has pushed mainly emerging market stocks to high valuations which may not be backed by a corresponding earnings growth. Hence, western investors who were borrowing cheap and investing in emerging markets may get back to buying assets in developed markets which are recovering and partly in anticipation of higher interest rates too.


He ruled out yet another year of stellar performance for stocks. "I don't think the S&P or any market would go up significantly after rising 50-100% in the last 8 months and I don't see the markets rising the same way over the next 8 months," Faber said. "Now, can they correct or go up 20-30%? The answer is yes."


The 'risk-reward' to invest in equities now is not as favourable as it was in March 2009, says Marc Faber, global investor and publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom report . In a chat with ET , he speaks about the US dollar and gold rather than equities. Excerpts:


Stock markets have been indifferent to all the events, positive or negative, happening around of late. What is your take on this situation?

There are two types of investors. There are investors, who read that markets were incredibly oversold at the end of 2008 and early 2009. Given the oversold nature of the markets, they invested in equities, commodities and went short on the dollar.


These are the people who made a lot of money in 2009 and this category is concerned that the markets have overshot. So, some of them have taken profits and some of them are inclined to do so. Some people, who got it right in 2009, will now reduce their positions in emerging markets and go long on the S&P because, in theory, it is possible that there is a dollar rally and an outperformance in the S&P vis-a-vis emerging markets.


The other type of investors got in totally wrong. They bought US government bonds at the end of 2008 and early 2009; they were in dollars and they could not get into equities at the right time because they thought it was a bear market rally. So, we still have a lot of cash on the sidelines.


Now, I think these people will be forced to buy equities, especially that cash at zero interest rate and government bonds are not attractive investment options because if the economy recovers there could be pressure on interest rates sooner or later and inflation expectations will go up, government bonds will go down.

So, where is the balance between equities and the dollar tilted in the coming months?

In the long run, the dollar has to weaken. I started to talk about the equation of weak dollar-strong asset markets and vice-versa several years ago. Now this has become such an accepted rule that everybody knows it's a strong dollar-weak asset market.


The rules of the game might have changed somewhat and what you could get is six months of a strong dollar and strong US stock markets, relatively speaking. I don't think the S&P or any market will go up significantly after rising 50-100% in the past eight months. I don't see the markets rising the same way over the next eight months. The risk-reward is not as favourable as it was in March 2009.


What can go wrong for equities in 2010?

The geopolitical situation around has deteriorated very badly. When you think of it, nobody is interested in solving the problems, but a lot of money is being channelled into these issues. These issues may not have an immediate impact on equities, but if the situation escalates, it can have a serious impact.


Secondly, without the intervention of the Fed, US mortgage rates will be much higher and also the interest rates on treasury bonds. So, we will have to see how far the quantitative easing will proceed to support the market. If it stops, the bond market, will seem quite vulnerable.


So, if the 10-year treasury goes above 5.0-5.5% and the BBB, say 7%, then it will be quite a competition to equities.

A section of the market believes that gold is overpriced and a lot of speculative money has entered it. Being an ardent supporter of gold as an asset class, how do you counter these arguments?

In general, there is very little money in gold compared to bonds, forex and equities. Now, there has been some speculation, but please tell me any market where there hasn't been any speculation. That's the problem with zero-interest rates, people just value anything, even a stock paying 1% dividend is very valuable.


Now, if I look at the growth in quantity of money worldwide, then gold around this level is not overpriced. Well, it's not as much as a bargain as it was in 1999 to 2001, but I would believe that it's not very expensive still now. When gold broke above $1,030, I said we have to wait to see a few days, whether it's a genuine or false breakout. And it rose to the $1,200.


Now, I suppose the $1,000-level, the level between $950 and $1,030, which was a resistance level, is the support. And central banks in the world will continue to print more money and there will be more quantitative easing and stimulus packages in the US. The fiscal deficit there will not come down much, so on that basis, gold has a place in every portfolio.

 

What is your investment theme for 2010?

In 2010, I would be just happy to preserve what I have made in 2009. You can make money here and there, but risks have increased and valuations are not as compelling as they were a year ago. In India, one has to focus on individual sectors. John Thorn, who runs the India Capital Fund where I am the chairman, is very optimistic about banks. So, that will be a sector to look at.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'A WIN-WIN DEAL FOR BOTH FIRMS'

 

Though the market gave a big thumbs-down to the blockbuster deal between Orchid Chemicals and Hospira, Orchid founder and MD K Raghavendra Rao seemed confident that the deal was positive for shareholders in the long-run. ET NOW caught up with Mr Rao in Chennai on Wednesday. Excerpts:


This deal values Orchid at a premium to its market cap. What explains valuation?

This valuation should be seen in the context of what Hospira would like to do with this business as well as the value we have created by creating these products which are niche, which are difficult to make. So, it should not be judged by current year profitability alone. So, they have a good future for these products and we continue to develop our alliance with Hospira by entering into this kind of strategic partnership.


What does this transaction mean to your shareholders?

I think, it means a few good things for the shareholders. Firstly, $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 that will be used to repay the debt. The balance sheet will improve significantly and still it will leave enough cash for the company to pursue other growth opportunities.


Is the money going to the promoters or company? Will it attract capital gains tax?

Money is not going to the promoters. It is obviously going to the company. It is not changing the equity structure and not going to any shareholder. It is coming into the company and so in that sense, it is beneficial. This transaction is EPS accretive next year because we will be doing more products, more quantities and more markets. Hence, on a futuristic note, it augurs well for the company.


What finally clinched the deal? Because we understand that they have been wooing you at least for a
year now.

I think, Orchid provides a niche platform in injectable piece, especially in the antibiotic space. For Hospira, this was missing from their product portfolio. Therefore, it's a marriage that's a win-win proposition for both companies.


Injectables contributes nearly half of your revenues and you sold it. How are you going to explain this to your shareholders?

The dosage form of revenue is what we will be losing, but the bulk active revenue will be getting added to this. Bulk active sale was inter unit transaction. On an annualised basis, $90 million drop in the topline and $35-$40 million drop taken on the EBDITA level. That's going to be immediate drop. But this will be made up handsomely next year by doing a couple of things — by expanding the relationship with Hospira itself, we will be adding more quantities and more markets. Also, the impact will be on the net profit level. We will be saving about $40 million on interest costs alone in the next one year. The net profit impact is going to be extremely positive for the company.


How do you expect to expand the scope of this injectables business? Can you quantify it?

Injectables business will be pursued by Hospira, with Orchid lending back-end support. Injectables business will continue to grow for the next few years. They have certain proprietary delivery mechanism for injectables in which we will participate as an API supplier for those projects as well. In addition to injectables, we will make up the revenue loss through non-antibiotic products.


What finally clinched the deal? Because we understand that they have been wooing you at least for a year now.
I think, Orchid provides a niche platform in injectable piece, especially in the antibiotic space. For Hospira, this was missing from their product portfolio. Therefore, it's a marriage that's a win-win proposition for both companies.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

PROFITS FROM DEVELOPING MARKETS WILL GROW'

GEORGE CHERIAN

 

In the go-go years of 2006 and 2007, he was pilloried by shareholders for holding too much cash on the bank's books but as last year's global financial crisis brought even the biggest of banks down on their knees, he's been hailed as one of the finest bean counters the banking industry has ever had.


HSBC Holdings' group finance director Douglas Flint 's decision to take huge write-downs on the bank's exposure to sub-prime mortgages was not only revealing of a willingness to tackle the problem head on, it also helped it come out of the crisis much sooner than its peers.


In an interview with ET NOW , Flint addresses the challenges of banking in the new normal, the benefits of operating under the holding company structure and the growing importance of Asia. Excerpts:


As group finance director of HSBC Holdings, what takes up most of your time these days?


Most of my time is spent thinking about the future of our industry and thinking how HSBC positions itself within the change that is inevitable as the regulatory framework evolves in response to the economic and financial period that we've just come through.


There's no question at all that the industry in which we are a very major part is going to or needs to change and thinking of what might happen and how we can take advantage of it and protect the significant position we have in many of the markets that we operate in, is what is really taking up my time these days.


You've also taken on greater responsibility for risk and regulation - would you say that by the time regulators are done with putting out new guidelines for banks, the industry will look very different from now?

I think for some people it will. I think there's a great deal of reflection taking place all over the world as to what the proper role of the industry is in terms of the intermediation of credit and the protection of savings.

How the industry should be structured, in terms of whether it should be a subsidiarised structure for cross-border operations, at what sort of scale banks should be allowed to be and indeed, what kind of activities they should be allowed to undertake alongside their traditional intermediation activities.


Do you think that the holding company structure for banks, is a model that investors would be more comfortable with?


We certainly believe that a holding company structure works well and it is essentially the way we've been set up since 1865. That compartmentalisation of capital pools and liquidity pools, we believe has been a great strength to the way we manage risk and has been a great stability in dealing with individual problem situations as they have risen around the world.


So for those that say it can't be done, we disagree. It can be done, we do it. Is it more expensive? Yes. But is it systemically more stable and does it give institutions a better ability to respond to individual challenges? I believe that it does and that's why we're organised the way we are.

You've been one of the few big banks to decline state assistance. Do you expect that this will help you to be on the top position?

The important point is that we didn't need to take state assistance and I think its worth reflecting on why we didn't need to because I think that is part of our differentiation and strength, We didn't need to because we had a very diversified business model and scale and the two together are very important particularly when allied with what has always been against our peers, a strong capital position.


For many years I used to spend a great deal of time at investor meetings rationalising why we would carry much more capital than other banks were doing at that time and you'll remember the clamour through 2006 and 2007 for share buybacks and the like.


We've also had a very strong liquidity position from the earliest days of HSBC when we believed in raising deposits in countries before we would lend money.

 

HSBC is the only truly global bank in the word, deriving a third of its revenues each from the US, Europe and Asia. But with the huge hits you have taken in the US and your growing presence in Asia, should we expect that this mix in geographical contribution to revenues will change?

Yes, I think it is inevitable that the proportion of profits and revenues that we generate from developing markets such as Asia, the Middle East and Latin America will grow as a proportion. Our US business at the moment is not profitable but even when it returns to profitability, it will not be the same size as it was when it was growing.


In fact, much of that business is winding down. So yes, by design, our developing markets business will be a higher proportion of HSBC going forward.


HSBC has said in the past that it is open to the idea of listing in Shanghai. What about India?

HSBC is today listed on five exchanges and the opportunity to list in Shanghai is something that many companies including HSBC has to look at seriously as there is a very large pool of capital potentially available for global companies.


Candidly, we will look at any market where a listing would give us access to greater liquidity for our stock or access to a pool of investors who today are unable to invest in HSBC or invest to a degree they would wish to for whatever set of national restrictions may apply so if there is a pool of capital anywhere in the world that we think we can access, that is relevant to our long-term value creation, then we will access it. So, yes.

We will look at markets where such pools exist. Today, individuals and corporations in India can own HSBC through a variety of ways but if we determine that a listing in India could give us access to a broader pool of capital, we would certainly look at it.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

INTERNAL RIFTS CAN HURT INDIA'S RISE

 

Two negative results have flowed from last week's sudden announcement by the Union home minister on the Telangana question. One concerns the government (and therefore India in a wider sense), and the other the Congress Party. Suddenly, the country has had to reorient its focus to looking inward and introspect. The news is not good. To pressing issues of internal security and the alarming price situation has now been added the mushrooming of demands for new states in all parts of the country. Before this, India was happily looking outward. Because of the high growth rates it has been notching up of late, a host of countries wanted to engage with it at a deeper level. India had also acquired a higher salience in multilateral forums dealing with world finance, economy and trade, climate change and the nuclear conundrum. Requiring urgent attention were also bilateral dealings with Pakistan, China and the United States. But suddenly all the news is about protest fasts and outbreaks of violence to press for regional and ethnic demands. A whirlpool of this sort saps national energy and an enervated nation cannot adequately cope with the fast-paced dynamics of the external environment. At a party-political level, the Congress appears to have scored an own goal. It has disturbed its own equanimity in Andhra Pradesh, one of only two states in the country (the other is Rajasthan) where it is in power without the assistance of allies and where in the normal course it could aspire to return to power. Regardless of when Telangana will be formed — if it comes into being at all — the Congress Party appears to have placed its goodwill and leadership position on the bargaining counter. In the process, it may also have ceded to the Telangana Rashtra Samiti the top spot in districts that are meant to make up the new state. This can hardly be a satisfactory position to be in for a party which is seeking to make a long-term comeback across the country. In some ways, Mr P. Chidambaram's unexpected Telangana announcement is not unlike the fateful decision to permit "shilanyas" in Ayodhya, which — for different reasons — had made both Hindus and Muslims unhappy, making the Congress fall between two stools. The situation is not irretrievable, but helplessly watching the law and order situation deteriorate in different parts of Andhra Pradesh, and elsewhere in the country, in the name of pressing for regional aspirations will hardly do. Sending the Andhra Pradesh Assembly into hibernation is also not a solution. If meaningful political steps are not taken, the House will degenerate into chaos, no matter when it meets again. The Congress will do well to pay attention to what those actions might be in the context of Andhra Pradesh politics and its own party dynamics in that state. The Centre has done well to let the finance minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, declare that no more demands for new states can be brought under consideration. The Prime Minister has also done now what he should have done earlier, that is, bring its government allies into consultation on the matter of small states. These steps need to be followed up by strict administrative methods to ensure that the law and order situation does not come under strain in Andhra Pradesh.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

US LEADS, UK FOLLOWS

BY S. NIHAL SINGH

 

Britain's new inquiry into the justification for the invasion of Iraq has opened up broader questions of politicians' respect, or lack of it, for truth and, more importantly, the country's place in the post-Cold War world. The former Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair's new assertion that he would have gone to war anyway even if he knew that Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction has added a new twist to an inquiry which is assuming shades of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission and an inward look at how far the United Kingdom should go in endorsing American foreign policy goals.

 

Few, in either Labour or Tory ranks, are contesting the basis of Britain's post-World War policy of riding piggyback on US power in the post-World War II era in which the country lay exhausted and America had emerged as the uncontested power in the Western world. But the sub-text of the Iraq enquiry is that apart from Mr Blair's own penchant for grandstanding, does the alliance with the US mean that Britain must follow wherever America leads it.

 

Mr Blair has still to appear before the inquiry, and his legacy as Prime Minister has already been tainted by British diplomats and intelligence officials suggesting that he was less than honest in how he projected the decision-making process leading to the Iraq invasion. The decision, it has been more than hinted, was made in a one-on-one meeting with President George W. Bush before the nation was told and arguments trotted out on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction.

 

Mr Blair is not unique in politicians' ranks in tailoring his arguments to changing events relating to the war and the stark truth that there were no weapons of mass destruction by endorsing the US aim of regime change. But the vehemence with which he came to assert that Saddam Hussein was evil and it was a worthwhile objective to topple him, whether he was threatening the world with weapons of mass destruction or not, became a startling benchmark of the former Prime Minister's histrionic chameleon-like abilities.

 

The attempt at catharsis to unravel the justification for the Iraq war is occurring at a climactic moment in Britain's recent political history. The New Labour Blair repeatedly took to victory at the polls is prostrate and exhausted and all polls suggest that the Conservatives are already half way to achieving power in the next election. It is, therefore, ironical that the Tories, who have traditionally been more pro-Atlantic than Labour, will in all likelihood be in the driving seat in charting a less subservient foreign policy.

 

By and large, the British establishment had negotiated the transition from a glorious empire to becoming an adjunct of US foreign policy goals with seeming nonchalance. The compulsions of the Cold War certainly helped as well as the considerable influence London initially exercised over Washington as the latter learned the ropes. But the American apprenticeship did not last long as the pupil picked up the threads of a complicated world, and the various snubs British leaders and diplomats received at American hands over the decades were largely in the private realm.

 

A complicating factor was Britain's obsession with maintaining its uniqueness in its neighbourhood. Despite begging to join the then European Economic Community after General Charles de Gaulle's rejection, Britain sought to maintain its "special relationship" with the US in an effort to keep itself apart. It sought and received opt-outs on justice and labour laws and refused to join the Schengen common visa space for the European Union or the common currency, the euro.

 

It was an open secret that if a referendum had been held on the Lisbon Treaty streamlining EU procedures and highlighting the group's salience, it would have been rejected. It was Tony Blair's clever footwork that capped British consent with a parliamentary approval and left the Tories with a largely symbolic declaration that they would hold a referendum when they came to power, a stance they have now modified.

 

The Iraq inquiry, therefore, comes as a national reckoning of what Britain is and where it should go from here. The spotlight on Tony Blair is inevitable because he "sold" the Iraq war to his Parliament and people. An amazing aspect of his stint as Prime Minister was how he switched from the chummy relationship with Bill Clinton while he was in the White House with the rapport he developed with President George W. Bush with his pronounced Texan appetites. Mr Blair was demonstrating that British interests lay in sticking close to Washington's ruling establishment.

 

Today's world is a far more complicated place without the certainties of Cold War politics. The European Union is still struggling to find its place in the sun, divided by competing national interests and balancing the overarching North Atlantic alliance with the compulsion of seeking a modus vivendi with Russia.

 

Britain's Baroness Catherine Ashton as the new enhanced foreign policy chief of the EU could provide one answer in steering her country as part of the group to a more consensual European, rather than slavishly pro-American, foreign policy.

 

But Britain's inclination is still to emphasise its uniqueness, the mindset that made one English newspaper declare that the Continent, rather than Britain, was cut off due to a geographical phenomenon. And the Tories are the repositories of essential attributes of being British, the Queen on the pound note and all the joys of the blessed British Isles. How are they then to make the necessary switch from the imagined superior British way of doing things to a Continental commonality?

 

The Iraq inquiry thus goes to the heart of the British dilemma. What are the alternatives to a less American-oriented policy? If a British leader can switch from seeking to end the supposed threat posed by weapons of mass destruction to ending the reign of one man at the whim of an American President, what self-respect can he or his country command? The question then boils down to: Was Mr Blair an aberration or was he the logical outcome of a policy that submerges Britain's national interests to the demands of American policy?

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

JIHADISTS GO ONLINE, CREATE VIRTUAL AFGHANISTAN

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

Let's not fool ourselves. Whatever threat the real Afghanistan poses to US national security, the "Virtual Afghanistan" now poses just as big a threat. The Virtual Afghanistan is the network of hundreds of jihadist websites that inspire, train, educate and recruit young Muslims to engage in jihad against America and the West. Whatever surge America does 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 US troops in Afghanistan. They first made contact with two extremist organisations in Pakistan by email 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 US department of homeland security official said... 'Increasingly, recruiters are taking less prominent roles in mosques and community centres 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 US-based NEFA Foundation, a private group that monitors extremist websites".

 

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 colour 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 OK 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. US 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 West Asia 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: stabilising 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 infantilise 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.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

DOUBTS ABOUT CERTITUDE

BY MAUREEN DOWD

 

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 CIA 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 North-West Frontier of Pakistan, swelled by millions of Afghan refugees.

 

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 defence secretary was in one of the same style Mi-17s that he once provided Stinger missiles to shoot down.

 

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 Shias, 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 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation commander conceded that civilians may have been killed during a joint military operation with Afghan forces.

 

I showed Gates an article in the newspaper Stars and Stripes reporting that US 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 US 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. Given the warping effect of ego in Washington, I asked the defence 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.

 

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 centres 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".

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

DIVIDED OVER BIFURCATION

 

Grant it UT status to protect natives

J.C. Diwakar Reddy

 

I am an integrationist to the core. Disturbing the current status of Andhra Pradesh is not desirable. But the way things are, Hyderabad should be a Union Territory. This is my principal demand. If it is inevitable that the state government and the Centre should bifurcate Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad should have a separate entity. This has become a necessity.

 

There is a strong reason for the demand. People of Hyderabad city are now feeling insecure after the venomous campaign against the people of Andhra/Rayalaseema region. Out of the city population of 60 to 70 lakh, 40 lakh are from these regions. Not only that, the contribution of people from these two areas is immense compared to that of the local people and those from other states. While the contribution toward the development of Hyderabad from the people of Andhra/Rayalaseema is about 60 per cent, it is only about half that in the case of the natives of the Telangana region.

 

Also, about 10 lakh people from other places live in Hyderabad. They were born and brought up in the city and have made it their home. Many are married locally and have set up businesses or found employment. I am sure many of them have no urban property or lands in the areas of their origin. This category too is under threat from Telangana agitationists.

 

Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) asserts it would not ask people from the Andhra or Rayalaseema region to leave Hyderabad or other parts of Telangana. But can any assurance be taken at face value? The atmosphere is volatile, and TRS leaders use foul language. The derogatory and threatening language that has been employed has greatly hurt the people who are originally not from Telangana, and has made them afraid. Telangana activists have attacked hotels, small restaurants, and educational institutions set up by Andhra/Rayalaseema people in Karimnagar. People from these regions are scared to live in Telangana. They had settled in the Telangana area two to three decades earlier.

 

Even teachers who had come here in search of livelihood have not been spared. The incidents at Laxminagar and Papannapet are an eye-opener. Many who are in Hyderabad came to the city as far back as 1945. Where will they go if they are asked to leave now? Unlike other metropolitan centres, Hyderabad looks unsafe for those who settled here even 50 or 60 years ago. If the city is made a Union Territory, the move will reassure those who live and work in it, besides those who own property and business.

 

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Selfish motives are seeking the divide

 

T. Harish Rao

 

Hyderabad is the soul of the Telangana region. If someone raises the bogey of Union Territory status for Hyderabad, he is either ignorant or trying to put an obstacle to the smooth bifurcation of Telangana state from Andhra Pradesh. It is like saying Jammu and Kashmir should be independent of India.

 

It is our avowed stand not to discriminate against people from other regions living in Hyderabad and other parts of Telangana. People of every religion, race and region have always lived in peace in Hyderabad. We have people from Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, West Bengal, Punjab and other states. Vested interests are trying to sow the seeds of hatred and create a fear psychosis among the people of Andhra and Rayalaseema who have settled here. We have no ill will towards these peace-loving people.

 

Our grouse has been against the looters and exploiters. We have said openly that we will not tolerate those trying to suppress the people of the Telangana region. We have suffered a lot in every aspect, whether we speak of water, education, resource distribution, employment, or political power. Regarding the argument that people of Andhra and Rayalaseema have invested in and around Hyderabad city and developed it, I am sorry to say this exhibits the narrow, selfish outlook of the anti-Telangana people. People from other regions and states have also settled in Hyderabad. In fact, Hyderabad was developed during Nizam's rule. We had an airport, railway network and other infrastructure, and also hospitals and educational institutions.

 

Telangana has to be carved out. There is no crisis. The present turmoil and agitation in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema is artificial. The current occurrences in these regions are prompted by vested interests. There is absolutely no threat to people of Andhra, Rayalaseema and other areas living in Hyderabad. The city in fact attracted people from all parts of the world. People of Andhra and Rayalaseema need not leave Hyderabad since Hyderabad has welcomed everyone. Our battle has been against those grabbing political power and exploiting the river waters, employment opportunities, and education facilities, leaving us in distress.

 

Hyderabad city was the fifth largest city in India in the past. This position remains unchanged. The demographic expansion of any city cannot be presumed to be a mark of growth. It has to be underlined that Telangana is the life line of Hyderabad and vice versa. One cannot be conceived without the other.

 

T. Harish Rao, MLA and Telangana Rashtra Samithi PolitburomemberJ.C . Diwakar Reddy, Congress MLA from Ananthapur district, and former minister

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

SHARING HYDERABAD

BY NITISH SENGUPTA

 

During the last five decades the subject of a separate Telangana, like King Charles' head, has been appearing, disappearing and reappearing. One recalls the States Reorganisation Commission recommendation (1956) for a separate Hyderabad state, consisting of the Telugu-speaking areas of old Hyderabad, after the Marathi-speaking areas and the Kannada-speaking areas had been transferred to Maharashtra and Karnataka, respectively. At that time there was a surge of Telugu nationalism which was taken note of by the government by merging the Telugu-speaking districts of Hyderabad with Andhra Pradesh, a departure from the commission's recommendation. After the euphoria over a vishal Andhra Pradesh had subsided, the movement for a separate Telangana started in the 1960s.

 

Leaders like M. Chenna Reddy and K. Laxman Bapuji hit the headlines for years. Things became critical in the '70s and Central rule was imposed. Meanwhile, the city of Hyderabad grew at a galloping pace and attained the status of a metro. It was the centre of IT and pharmaceutical industries.

 

Much of Hyderabad's prosperity was no doubt due to the steady flow of remittances from the rich coastal districts like Vijayawada, Guntur and Rajamundry. This is not realised by the supporters of Telangana. During the supremacy of N.T. Rama Rao (NTR) and Chandrababu Naidu, the Telangana movement remained moribund. It was revived around 2001 after K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) quit the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and floated the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). KCR turned to the Congress under Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy and both espoused Telangana for the elections in 2004. They trounced the TDP in 2004. But clearly, in his heart, YSR was anti-Telangana, and convinced the Congress high command. KCR, along with his ministers, resigned from the government and resumed his agitation for Telangana.

 

Then TRS and TDP jointly went to the parliamentary elections in early 2009 with Telangana as their election slogan. Significantly, in the parliamentary elections, the people of Telangana region had almost given a verdict in favour of a separate Telangana when they decisively voted for the United Progressive Alliance against a combine of several parties which promised Telangana. KCR and his TRS had been reduced to political insignificance. The authorities took the right step in arresting KCR. But, thereafter, sympathy snowballed and the Centre lost its nerve. This, perhaps, explains the midnight statement from the Centre conceding Telangana. Inevitably, there have been violent reactions from both coastal Andhra and backward Rayalaseema regions.

 

The Centre has to be ready to take charge of the state and fight a massive law and order problem before stable conditions return. Much will depend on the future of Hyderabad.

 

There is a fear that if Hyderabad is delinked from their state, many of them might prefer to close their operation in this city and migrate to, say, Visakhapatnam, Rajamundry, Vijayawada and Kurnool. This will hit Hyderabad hard.

 

Needless to mention, if the principle of Hyderabad being a joint capital for both states is accepted, part of the opposition in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema to the creation of Telangana should disappear. Dislocation will be minimal. The fear amongst industrialists and businessmen based in Hyderabad about the newly-formed state giving preference to local workers or harassing outsiders will lose much ground.

 

An altogether new factor is the rough stand taken by Rayalaseema asking for a third state for itself if Andhra Pradesh is to be split into two.

On a long-term basis, there is no doubt that making Hyderabad the common capital of both Andhra Pradesh and the new state of Telangana would assuage hurt feelings and apprehensions and, thus, help the return to normalcy.

 

Nitish Sengupta, an academic and author, is aformer Member of Parliament and a former secretary to the Government of India

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

UP, UP AND RISING

WHY GOVERNMENT MUST CONTROL FOOD PRICES


While economists grapple with the causes of the steep rise in food prices, and possible prescriptions for dealing with consequent inflation, there is an aspect of the price rise that ought to detain the social scientist. But first let us look at the facts. We are agreed that never before in the past dozen or so years have food prices gone up so sharply. We are agreed that on the basis of known data on earnings and savings, a near doubling in price of essential commodities such as rice, sugar, potato and onion ought to be unaffordable to most people. And yet we need to ask ourselves how it is that urban India (rural India is a slightly different story and we will come to it shortly) appears to have taken the price rise in its stride. It features prominently, but not provocatively, on the consciousness of the urban Indian. It offers a talking point, but appears to have curtailed consumption only marginally if sales of cars, two-wheelers and white goods are an indication. Instead of engendering widespread protest, the price rise has at best provoked muffled dismay. This must lead to several questions. Is available data on earnings and savings reliable? Or have the tentacles of the parallel economy penetrated so deep into the middle-class that while ballooning prices may lead to dismay, they do not lead to despair? Does almost everyone have a second income, an unreported stream that helps him or her cope? Alternately, have welfare measures ~ such as fair price shops and the rationing system ~ been so effective as to deal with the price rise? Or, are we so immune to the mismanagement of our economy that we have accepted the price rise with the fatalism that we accept so many other things? Or, finally, is urban India ~ away from the glare of television studios ~ on the brink of expressing its outrage? These are critical questions, and we need to answer them if only because they will help us recognize ourselves, what we have become and what may be in store for us.
Turning to rural India, the social scientist would do well to study the correlation between unaffordable prices and the lure of extreme political ideologies. Added to the general failure of delivery mechanisms, exploitation of rural land and labour and the increase in income disparities, high prices of essential foodstuffs would make a compelling argument to snatch what cannot be bought. As has often been argued, police and para-military forces cannot wage a battle that economic and political administrators have conceded. Sadly, the government, it seems to us, appears to have misplaced priorities. The Prime Minister must, without delay, take a holistic view of the food price rise and crack the whip on each of the departments that has contributed to the crisis. Expecting the Reserve Bank to bail government out of a mess created by Mr Sharad Pawar's omnibus ministry of agriculture, food, civil supplies and consumer affairs is unrealistic. At best, the solution will be a fragmented one and hence short-lived.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

SPURIOUS ANGER

WHEN FB DOESN'T HAVE ROOM FOR MANOEUVRE


THE more the Forward Bloc raves and rants against the chief minister, the more it confirms it doesn't have any room for manoeuvre. This doesn't prevent the party from going through the ritual of trying to protect its pro-farmer constituencies by singling out Buddhadeb Bhattcharjee for the disaster of Singur and the police firing on villagers in Nandigram. Ashok Ghosh tried desperately to bail his party out at the just concluded state conference by naming the chief minister on the Singur fiasco in much the same way that he blamed Mr Bhattacharjee for the firing at Nandigram. He has questions to answer on both counts. First, did he have to modify (read retract) his statement on the firing under orders from Alimuddin Street without so much as a hint of protest? Secondly, where has the chief minister said in so many words that he regrets having selected Singur as the site for the Tata car project? A half-dejected, half-determined declaration by Alimuddin Street after the election drubbing that the CPI-M must increase contacts with the masses for better results is not the same thing as acknowledging the misadventure of the industrialisation programme. The Forward Bloc leader still deceives himself with the fantasy that though the CPI-M is solely responsible for the mess, there is the "beauty'' of comradeship that the Forward Bloc cannot surrender under any circumstances.


Not surprisingly, there were delegates at the state conference who began to question their leader's compulsions. The party has been betrayed by the events in Singur, Nandigram, Lalgarh, Hooghly and other areas. At a more specific level, the Forward Bloc has reason to be upset by the firing on Forward Bloc workers at Dinhata that cost many lives. Biman Bose's assurances after the police firing in March 2007 that no major decisions would be taken without a threadbare discussion by the Left Front as a whole now sound like a joke when the leased out land at Singur is being offered to the Railways with the Forward Bloc and, predictably, other partners in the dark. What the leaders cannot reveal are the compulsions under which they must be part of an uneasy bonding. But, then, it is no longer a secret that the "beauties'' of comradeship are less important than the bounties of office ~ with lucrative departments to boot. Hence, without making too much of the long story of betrayal, Mr Ghosh can only produce the anger that he hopes will sustain the party's credentials at the grassroots. The anger sounds quite spurious.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

IT'S A SIX!

CRICKET HITS BOWLERS OUT OF THE GAME


When two sides score 825 runs between them in about seven hours of play, one element of cricket is purged from the equation ~ and that is the role of the bowler. The India-Sri Lanka game at Rajkot saw an average of 118 runs being scored every hour, which would be like two batsmen scoring hundreds before lunch on the same day. It saw runs being scored at an average of 8.25 runs every over, it saw bowlers of the ability of Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra concede more than 80 runs from their spells and it saw a host of batting records being set. This is cricket, but only partly. The one-day series between the two countries follows a set of Test matches that saw records being set for the most runs scored in a day and an absolute orgy of run-making indulged in by batsmen of the two sides. It bears repetition that pitches will have to be more sporting, and offer opportunities to batsmen and bowlers.


Already, the emphasis placed on batting in the modern game has brought us to a situation where when we cast our eye around, there isn't a single great bowler playing international cricket, except the couple who are on their last laps. Oh, there are some good bowlers and many capable of greatness on a day, but not one who would be called consistently great. Cricket administrators must reflect on this state of affairs and take steps to restore the balance. Or else, and with the death of the bowler, cricket will become a very boring game.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

PM IN MOSCOW

SIGN OF A MATURE RELATIONSHIP

SALMAN HAIDAR

 

Recently, the Prime Minister made two notable foreign journeys, to Washington and Moscow. These were very different sorts of occasions: in Washington a full dress affair, in Moscow a more matter-of-fact event. The White House pulled out all the stops, conjuring up a glittering social occasion for the Prime Minister; the Kremlin was more down-to-earth. In Moscow, Dr Manmohan Singh met everyone, conducted business, and returned ~ it was his second visit this year, and there were few bright lights, nothing like the US visit. It is tempting to draw conclusions from the contrast, and certainly the relationship with the USA, having advanced by leaps and bounds, is set to climb further. But this should not be taken to imply a reduction in the well established association between India and Russia. These two countries know each other well, share a great deal of mutual confidence, and can meet and work as friends. The substance of their exchanges continues to expand, even as the ceremonies have become subdued. Indeed, such reduced formalities have now become the pattern with the Prime Minister's foreign visits.


There is no doubt that the India-Russia relationship is very important for both the parties and it has to be kept warm through frequent high level contact. There are now quite a few bilateral mechanisms for this purpose, at different levels of elevation. At the same time, the processes of past years when each side made special allowances for the other are now well behind us, and notwithstanding the real cordiality they share, they have a more hard-headed way of conducting business. Russia has re-emerged as a major international factor and India has an ever-expanding set of diplomatic options and challenges.


Personal stamp

Currently, for all the work of foreign offices, the personal stamp of the Heads is more than ever the most telling feature of diplomatic practice. Look at the way European Heads are constantly moving in and out of each other's capital cities. Journeys between New Delhi and Moscow are not that simple, the distances being vast, but the Heads have established a pattern of meeting often, without unnecessary fanfare. It is a sign of a mature relationship.


What has, rightly, drawn most attention from the outcome of the PM's visit is the civil nuclear agreement between the two countries. It has been particularly welcomed for not placing any restrictions on India now or in future, thus offering better terms than the comparable agreement with the USA, though that is yet to be brought to a final conclusion. At a press conference, President Medvedev shrugged off any suggestion that India-Russia cooperation would be constrained by the recent G-8 resolution restricting the sale of nuclear technologies to non-signatories of the NPT. The decks having been cleared, India can look forward to the supply of four reactors at Kudankulam, to add to the two already installed. Beyond that, there could be a further four to six at a new site in West Bengal, and the head of Russia's nuclear energy company Rosatom envisaged a supply of up to 20 reactors in the future. Such a major expansion justifies the enthusiastic rhetoric of the leaders.
Civilian nuclear cooperation between the two countries goes back a long way. Kudankulam was first agreed in the waning days of the Soviet Union, and though nothing much could be done for some years, the project was kept alive through Moscow's post-Soviet period of difficulty. Both India and Russia tried, successfully, to retain a strategic dimension to their relationship, in which civilian nuclear cooperation is a key component. Moscow remained firm and did not renege on its commitment even when IAEA safeguards were tightened and pressures grew to revise earlier agreements. Both countries have an important stake in the matter: this is one very significant item where Russia has proven capacity and can compete successfully with other suppliers who are lining up to sell to India ~ France, also USA, and maybe Japan. Politically, too, Russia has an edge, and the agreement signed in Moscow can be seen as a payoff for so many years of consistent close engagement between the two sides, and that too at a time when the door to India's further advance in civilian nuclear development was being pushed shut by others.


The other major area of Russian advantage is in arms supplies. Here, too, Russia is the long established supplier with a valuable past association, but India represents a big market and others are pushing hard to enter. The USA is prominent among new suppliers, and Israel has established itself over the last several years.


BIG ASSET

A number of strategic as well as commercial considerations come into play in dealing with arms supplies, and in this the established ties between India and Russia can be a big asset. One major problem that has failed to be resolved over a number of years is that of the Gorshkov, the Russian-built aircraft carrier that is no longer wanted by Russia and has failed until not so long ago to find a buyer abroad. China flirted with the possibility of acquiring it before India decided in its favour, and thereafter it has been a complicated process to refit it for Indian requirements, at reasonable cost. Now it would seem that the project has acquired further momentum. During the Moscow visit it was made known that matters were moving and the transfer of the vessel could take place by 2014. This would add a significant dimension to bilateral links.


Energy is another major item for the two countries. As it is, Russia is a prime supplier of oil and gas to Western Europe and has developed new sources of supply in its Far East. India has to be on the lookout for fresh sources of supply to meet its fast growing needs. The two countries obviously complement each other. Earlier attempts to make mutually beneficial oil supply arrangements have been only partly successful, as was seen in the problems with India's investment in an earlier phase of the Sakhalin oilfield, though there are better expectations of their collaboration in the future. Ambitious far-reaching plans involving both public and private sector Indian companies were unveiled during the visit.


There is much else besides their bilateral cooperation in economic and other fields. It is a time of rapid change in Asia and fresh ideas and concepts relating to multilateral cooperation between Asian countries have been advanced. Common challenges like that of security have spurred the emergence of new forums like the SCO, which was initiated by China but has drawn in a number of participants. As Asia changes and regional cooperation between Asian states advances, there is more reason than ever for India and Russia to strengthen their own mutual understanding and jointly underpin the emerging new regional structures of Asia.


The writer is India's former Foreign Secretary

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

ONLY 50% BRITONS CONSIDER THEMSELVES CHRISTIANS: STUDY


LONDON, 16 DEC: Only half of Britons now consider themselves Christian after a "sharp decline" in religious belief over the past quarter of a century, according to a new academic study.


Researchers describe a large proportion of the country as the "fuzzy faithful" who have a vague belief in God but do not necessarily belong to a particular denomination or attend services.


However, most British people still say religion helps bring happiness and comfort, and regret its declining influence on modern society, the Daily Telegraph reported today.


Professor David Voas, who analysed the latest data, said: "More and more people are ceasing to identify with a religion at all. Indeed, the key distinction in Britain now is between religious involvement and indifference.
"We are thus concerned about differences in religiosity ~ the degree of religious commitment ~ at least as much as diversity of religious identity." ;PTI 

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

POOR ACT

 

The proposal to make Presidency College into a unitary university has embedded in it the idea of creating an institution of excellence in the field of higher education. In the context of the history of Presidency College, it is also an attempt to retrieve for the college, and to restore it to, its former glory. The idea of making a college into a university is both novel and radical. But the Presidency University bill, 2009, presented at the legislative assembly on Tuesday, is neither novel nor radical. The act embodies in it hackneyed clauses that have gone into the making of other universities in West Bengal. There is nothing in the act to suggest that some fresh thinking has gone into its making. It bears the giveaway stamp of a minor bureaucrat in the education department, the iron in whose soul is rusty beyond repair. From this act it would not be unfair to infer that there is no realization among the powers that run education in the state that the ruin of West Bengal's higher education is rooted in precisely the kind of provisions that are there in this act.

 

The act mutatis mutandis is no different from the one that governs the universities of Calcutta or Jadavpur. It allows for a whole range of people, who are not remotely connected with education and academics — bureaucrats, legislators, non-teaching staff and so on, to be critically involved in the running of the university. The point is important since the transformation of Presidency College into a university offers an opportunity to the government led by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to create a landmark and an exemplary institution that will have no other commitment save to excellence in learning and teaching. This demands that during the preparatory stage a study be prepared of the best practices in some of the leading universities across the world. Further, the chief minister, whose dream it is to restore to his alma mater its former status, should ensure that the new university's first vice chancellor be a person of unquestionable academic standing, untainted by political patronage. The act opens up fears of political and bureaucratic interference, and such fears cannot be wished away given the track record of the Left Front government for over 30 years. The Left Front government systematically destroyed what was once the country's best undergraduate college. It can redeem itself by making it a first-rate university, not by making it an also-ran.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

MURKY TRAIL

 

Two women died unnatural deaths on the night of May 29-30. It is amazing that the cause of the deaths of 17-year-old Asiya Jan, and her pregnant sister-in-law, 22-year-old Neelofar, keeps changing — the charges ranging from rape and murder in the reports of the Muzaffar Jan inquiry commission appointed by the state government and the High Court Bar Association inquiry to drowning without rape and murder in the latest report submitted by the Central Bureau of Investigation. The Shopian case, as it has come to be known, is a painful exposure of the erosion in civil society institutions in Jammu and Kashmir, the tragic result of years of mistrust, violence, tension between communities and the tussle between unionism and separatism. The discovery of the bodies, together with the ready suspicion that the police or military were to blame, had ignited in the valley a storm of protest, aggressive police reactions, curfews and house arrests of separatist leaders from May 30 to around July 13. Things cooled a little after five policemen associated with the inquiry were suspended for mishandling the investigation, but no solution emerged. From the beginning, the trail of forensic evidence was murky: two post-mortem examinations by different teams of doctors with the fury of the populace barely held at bay, and procedures allegedly violated at every step, by the police, doctors and officials of all kinds. An exhumation, that alleged the younger girl to be a virgin, was followed by the CBI's most recent claim that 13 people, including doctors and lawyers, had fabricated evidence, while the policemen had done nothing wrong. Predictably, the people are furious.

 

Together with the CBI, there have been four separate inquiries. Each was conducted under pressure, and revealed wildly conflicting statements from doctors and witnesses, and, often, retractions with charges of coercion directed towards one or the other body. The CBI's credibility is pitiful, but the contaminated evidence has allowed it to come to the conclusions it has presented. With separatists breathing down the government's neck and the obvious resentment of the people towards uniform, no woman's death, close to a security personnel camp as these were, can be treated with the hamhanded stupidity that has been displayed. In an atmosphere of pervasive mistrust and fear, institutions have to go the extra mile to convince the people that they are on the track of the truth.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

NEW STARS IN THE EAST

WHY THE CHINESE ARE ASSERTIVE ON THE TRANQUIL BORDER

KRISHNAN SRINIVASAN

 

Referring to China in 1947, Nehru declared, "A new star has risen in the eastern horizon," and some years later predicted, "If you peer into the future, the obvious fourth country in the world is India." One of the countries he had in mind has disappeared, and he did not imagine that the emergence of India and China on the global stage would lead to mutual friction. The Chinese are not so dim-witted that they are unaware that Indians unite only in the face of an external threat. So why would the official People's Daily carry an article on the balkanization of India, and why the intrusions across the vaguely defined line of actual control and the largely undelimited Indo-China border — on which both countries in 1993 pledged to observe peace and tranquillity?

 

India has given China various causes for concern. The Chinese keep a vigilant eye on the Indian media, and were incensed by a false report of Chinese firing and injuring two members of the Indo-Tibetan Border Patrol troops in a story now known to be based on Indian government sources. Pranab Mukherjee was quoted as describing China as a "security challenge", and our media have been speculating that China would attack India. Beijing has regarded such comments as reflecting aggressive Indian intentions. India raising anxieties about run-of-river dams on the Tsang Po are resented, the 'quadrilateral' promoted by George W. Bush comprising India, Australia, Japan and America to 'contain' China, though its nature and agenda have never been specified, creates disquiet, the continuing political crisis in Nepal reveals conflicting interests with India, and there is competition for global energy and other resources.

 

Beijing is opposed to the Indo-US nuclear agreement giving India special status as a country possessing nuclear weapons outside the non-proliferation treaty, and of utmost anxiety to China is the Tibetan government in exile, despite the fact that the government of India does not recognize it and acknowledges Tibet as part of China. Beijing's supreme bête noir is the Dalai Lama, the 'wolf in monk's robes', who represents a living symbol of the threat, as Beijing sees it, to China's unity, stability and access to the status of a great power. Chinese sources for territorial claims in India are based on Tibetan sources, and Tawang has a special significance for Tibetans. It is an area in which the Chinese have a credible claim dating from the 17th century, so the visit of the Dalai Lama was considered a serious provocation.

 

Two countries in Asia can act as a brake on China's dominance — Japan and India. No other 'ally' of the United States of America apart from Japan and India is apprehensive about the 'peaceful rise' of China. Beijing feels it has less to worry about Japan after the Hatoyama government came into office. That leaves India.

 

A geopolitical reality is being played out; China's interests on its periphery inevitably clash with India's, and its attempts for influence and control will at times be incompatible with Indian efforts to do likewise, such as, but not only, in Myanmar. Any action taken by one country in such spaces can be construed as threatening by the other, or at least as being against its interests.

 

China as a one-party State is never given any credit by Indians for having, like us, a domestic constituency to placate. Most of China's actions seen as intimidating by India are actually for the Chinese audience and other countries in Asia. What the Chinese fear most is social unrest; most dynasties were brought down not by invasions but by internal uprisings. Chinese admit to as many as 75,000 large and small social 'disturbances' each year, some of which require serious military interventions on the part of central and provincial authority. Tibet and Xinjiang are simmering with discontent and Xinjiang has seen the most violent riots in China in decades put down brutally. Some young Uighurs have indicated to the media that they will seek a better future by escaping to India, like the Tibetans.

There is a 'Tibet card' that could still be played by India. This issue is destabilizing and profoundly threatening to China, and includes the hostility of the Tibetan diaspora despite all the diplomatic, economic, security, military and political levers used by Beijing. The new generation of Tibetans, both in Tibet and among the refugees, may no longer heed the Dalai Lama's appeals for moderation, especially now that he has indicated that the new incarnation may be identified outside China. In short, increased militancy in western China is predictable.

 

According to the Legatum Institute's prosperity index, India is worsted by China in all economic fundamentals, but scores higher than China in social capital and community support, institutional maturity, governance, and personal freedom. In short, China gives better opportunity to business, India a better life to people. It is said that "the business of Asia is business". China is attracted by the Hatoyama government's idea of an East Asian community — the Asean 10 plus Japan, China, Taiwan and Korea — that would not only enhance trade, already at higher levels than the North American Free Trade Agreement and the European Union, but has security implications. But Hatoyama also mooted an idea of Asean plus Six with China, Japan, Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand, and China worries about such prospective groupings where democracies and multicultural entities like India would be in a majority, and where the Indian model might create an alternative pole of attraction for East Asia. China will not readily countenance a simultaneously rising India as potential competitor in Asia.

 

The People's Liberation Army is an integral part of the Chinese establishment, and military thinking a natural component of State policy. Army deployment against dissident Tibetans and Uighurs has strengthened the hand of nationalist forces in the communist party, and China has been more assertive of late not only with India but with Pakistan and Myanmar as well. We should not assume that the PLA has any less traction on the party than our army on New Delhi.

 

China can provoke India at little diplomatic or military cost, and its low-level intrusions are to keep India off-balance; thus the stapled visas and objection to the village road at Demchok. Beijing's aim is to shrink India's strategic frontiers, to stop India breaking out as a potential Asian power, as a warning to others that India cannot be used as a 'balancer' against China, to caution the Tibetans not to look to India for succour, and to posit a 'balkanization' threat. Its all-weather friend, Pakistan, was first used as a blocking agent, but as that country descends into chaos, more direct methods are needed. China has unsuccessfully opposed the nuclear deal at the Nuclear Suppliers Group and a $60 million loan for Arunachal alias 'Southern Tibet' at the Asian Development Bank. It has suggested to the US that it could be the main custodian of Indian Ocean sea-lanes, and opposes expansion of the security council to thwart Japan and India.

 

But China, like India, has no intention of letting tensions get out of control; both know that stray incidents, such as on the high seas off Somalia, could turn serious. Both know that unlike 1962, the invasion of India will be no cakewalk. The two countries cooperate on the World Trade Organisation, climate change and for increased influence in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. China is India's biggest trade partner, and has recently offered India a consulate at Lhasa. India is not likely to respond to this offer. It lost bargaining leverage from the very start by giving up its diplomatic mission, three trade marts and managing the communications system in Tibet as "imperialist sequels", accepting that there were "unequal treaties" in the past and agreeing to the five principles of peaceful coexistence in 1954 without linking any of these to a settlement of the border. Yet Nehru had been informed as early as 1951 about Chinese surveys for the road in Aksai Chin by our trade agent in Gartok.

 

India has learned some lessons from the past. It has taken a pragmatic and unemotional view of the relationship, kept calm while asserting its claim line in Ladakh and Arunachal, and does not conceal the dispute behind diplomatic courtesies. It has muffled any war hysteria and the converse — a 1950s-like complacency when it was thought "inconceivable" that China would attack us. It proved helpful to India that Obama postponed his meeting with the Dalai Lama till after Manmohan Singh's visit. India is making preparations to enhance defence preparedness and to achieve greater strategic balance by more strenuous efforts at cooperation with nations bordering China. Following Oliver Cromwell's dictum, we should trust in god, but keep our powder dry.

 

The author is former foreign secretary of India

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

FROM TERROR TO TRIUMPH

FIFTH COLUMN -ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA

 

The fresh induction of 33,000 US soldiers and 7,000 Nato troops indicates that the Afghan war is still unwinnable. In order to get out by mid-2011, the US-led allied forces of 42 nations must be prepared to get farther in — that seems to be the new strategy. Nevertheless, as the saying goes, "Wars are like household DIY, easy to start but hard to finish". And an unfinished enterprise is a sure recipe for future mess.

 

War also drains out a nation's wealth. The present one by Barack Obama is no exception. It transpires that the latest surge would result in an additional expenditure of $1 million per soldier per year, $30 billion annual expenditure as the cost of surge in the first year, 240,900,000 extra gallons of fuel per year at 22 gallons per soldier per day and finally, $614,610,000 in salaries. And yet success cannot be guaranteed. Why? Because Obama's utterances are pregnant with the possibility of an escalation of the present AfPak policy to an all-out Pak-Pak programme.

 

Alongside Afghanistan, the frontiers of Pakistan have also come into focus. The fresh deployment of troops to five eastern and south-eastern Afghan provinces bordering Pakistan is bound to put pressure on the Pakistan army for deeper action on cross-border terrorism. Obama's words constitute an ominous warning to Pakistan — "The days of providing a blank check are over." Pakistan being a nuclear power, Obama's avoidance of a clear declaration of war on Islamabad's "inactivity and recalcitrance" is understandable. Yet, it is familiar knowledge that Pakistan will prove to be a far more intractable problem in the long term than Afghanistan.

 

Whereas in Afghanistan there are several thousands of heads to fight on the ground, the more difficult issue of Pakistan is largely outside of General Stanley McChrystal's control. It requires no reiteration that thus far no substantive action has been taken against the Taliban leadership in Baluchistan, south of the Pashtun-dominated areas of Afghanistan. Experts are unanimous that this is the same mistake the Soviets made in the Eighties, when they failed to take action against major mujahideen groups based in Pakistan.

 

Tricky situation

Pakistan emerges as the control room of the Afghan war. No one understands the situation better than the US. The Taliban in Pakistan has an organizational structure divided into media, military and finance committees. The Taliban's inner shura, or government council, exerts authority over its fighters, with Mullah Omar as the supreme leader. Many Taliban leaders have moved their families to Baluchistan and their children attend Pakistani schools.

 

Thus the strategic imbalance is proving too costly for the US-led troops in Afghanistan. Whereas the Pakistani army and frontier corps are on half-baked action in the northern belt of Pakistan's tribal areas, a gaping hole exists in the southern sector, around Baluchistan, with regions surrounding Quetta being the hub of al Qaida and Taliban action. Since the US is not in a position yet to make an open entry into Pakistani territory, the obvious choice is drone attack. It is a Catch-22 situation for the Pakistani army. It has to respond to, and match, the US surge in the neighbourhood. Or else....

 

The writing on the wall is too transparent to be ignored. Certain things will have to change in Pakistan to ensure Afghanistan's security. If Pakistan cannot deliver the goods, the US may have to use other means to curb insurgency along the AfPak border.

 

The US war efforts are racing against time. The Afghan war, with Pakistan being the epicentre of terrorism, poses a potential threat to the world's existence. It is time for Islamabad to clean up its act.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

TAKE A WALK ON THE DARK SIDE

 

In India, what in other cultures are relegated to the realm of the pornographic become part of the warp and woof of everyday life

 

Winterthur is on my mind for two reasons. The name of this Swiss city kept coming up in all the reports I'd been reading on the internet about the ban on minarets in Switzerland. Winterthur has only one mosque with a small minaret, from which the call for prayers is forbidden by law. But it is situated in one of the 22 (out of 26) cantons that had voted by referendum against the building of new minarets. Feminist groups in Winterthur and a few other cities have declared that minarets were too aggressively phallic to be part of the skyline of a modern nation that had embraced direct democracy so successfully, the results of the referendum being the latest affirmation of this modernity.

 

The phallus brings me to the second reason for this city being on my mind. Winterthur also has a state-of-the-art museum of photography that had an exhibition last year called Darkside: Photographic Desire and Sexuality Photographed, the catalogue of which, co-published by Steidl, is among the books I'm reading now. This show, together with the accompanying book, confronts the political and aesthetic difficulties of looking at pornography as art, and art as pornography, and of photography's relationship with this two-way traffic. It reproduces — with the antiseptic neutrality and exquisite precision that the world has come to expect from the Swiss — a huge arc of mostly Western, and some Japanese, photography of a sort of relentless, but deadpan, explicitness: from sepia images of early-20th-century, pseudo-Greek minors with their togas undone to Jeff Koons's send-up of conjugal sex in tutti-frutti colours in the Made in Heaven series of 1991. It includes Gary Gross's infamous photograph of the pre-pubertal Brooke Shields in a steaming bath, The Woman in the Child, recently banned from being shown at the Tate Modern. The texts invoke Sade, Foucault, Barthes and Bataille, with chapters like The Hysterical Hystery of Photography and No One Knows What the Body Can Do.

 

I've always found pedantic discussions of sex vaguely funny (apart from being a bit sad), and was delighted when my favourite English don, the late Tony Nuttall, wrote a brilliantly robust book on the pathos of sterile pedantry called Dead From the Waist Down. If you've ever tried desperately not to nod off during post-lunch sessions at conferences on The Body, then you'd know what I mean. Tenured academics holding forth on Transgression usually inspire me to fierce bouts of doodling. Yet, the bizarre montage of banned minarets and arty sex that the image of an unknown Swiss city became inside my head lent to my reading of the Darkside catalogue in Calcutta (most blessedly un-Swiss of all cities) a kinky and contrary edge.

 

While looking at photographs so beautifully composed to shock, I remembered how, during a trip to Switzerland organized by the Swiss government for Indian journalists, we were taken from one to the next of an endless series of identical model villages where model citizens in model costume milked model cows in model fields against model peaks, and were told little other than which Bollywood film was shot where, and then taken to the restaurants where the actors had eaten, and how we were expected to be thrilled, as Indians, with all this. I also remember how I had to suppress, in the midst of such wholesomeness, hygiene and order, the urge to do something terribly wrong — in the way respectable little children sometimes scream out Bad Words (usually vernacular synonyms for shit and related organs) in their rage against the elders. In that world of moo-cows and museums, the hills alive with comfy-looking chalets (now with Polanski locked up in one, ruing his brush with the Woman in the Child), I suddenly understood what arouses the Will to Transgression in all its infantile thrill better than I could ever have done by reading the most lascivious of French theorists. I began to sense why Calvin and Giacometti were both Swiss.

 

In India, where there are few museums in which it can be stylized into art, or other spaces where it can be ritualized into play, transgression becomes part of the warp and woof, chaos and cosmos, of everyday life. The wildness of its gods and goddesses, or its perverse epic heroes and heroines, instead of merely inhabiting the realm of religion, art or myth, are part of the crackle of normalcy. The opening and closing of the Pandora's box of convention blends into the rhythms of the mundane.

 

I shut Darkside and set out for work in the winter afternoon. I hear the snip-snip of the barber's scissors, and see the chhatu-seller squatting close between the barber's legs, their legs almost intertwined. The sensation of his hair being deftly handled has given to the young man's face a look of bliss that, together with the barber's impersonal tenderness, makes me think of Bhupen Khakhar. He would have painted them into a quotidian moment of caritas between strangers — public, yet private too. Drivers sprawled in their cars half-emerge from their siesta to gaze at the girls flocking out of school. The song from a car radio turns these schoolchildren, for a while, into the Lolitas of Ballygunge Place. A madwoman unashamed of her withered dugs steals this quiet hour to wash herself at the tube-well. The istiriwalla lies on his cart and looks at her from across the street. Around them all are homes, some with large red swastikas on their façades. I emerge from one without a swastika and look at all this. What am I doing on my way to work?

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

FAMILY AFFAIR

 

I have often wondered why the shot freezes before Charu and Bhupati's hands touch in the final sequence of Charulata. Is she reluctant to touch him because she is in love with another man — Amal, the much younger, and more handsome, brother of her husband who shares Charu's interests in the arts? Or is this a sign of her own apprehensiveness that Bhupati, despite his conciliatory gesture, will not be able to forgive her for her transgression?

 

Charu belongs to an affluent family, is intelligent and beautiful, but, nonetheless, a woman of the late 19th century. The doors to the world outside, a world that fascinates and frightens her at the same time, have remained cruelly latched. In the end, she suffers banishment from the inner worlds of her husband and her beloved.

 

Like most other great films, Charulata works at many levels. But Ray's masterpiece, which is an adaptation of Tagore's Nashtanir, is immensely successful as an exploration of the complex dynamics between an older woman and a younger man who are bound not just by love but also by a network of kinship. Both Tagore and Ray had been intimately involved with older women. This perhaps enabled them to examine such an erotic and intricate relationship sensitively.

 

What is it that draws young men to older female relatives? In a society where the interaction between the sexes is far from free, and is enacted on the basis of rigorous codes, the boudi or the bhabi is a delightfully accessible creature, and hence often the object of fantasy for younger men. Charu and Amal may have had common interests, but such ties are not only about minds, they are also about bodies. For most men on the threshold of their adult lives, these women in the family bring with them the first stirrings of a craving that is uncomplicatedly sexual. Unlike the Oedipal fantasy, it is possible for this one to be played out more openly, perhaps because the strict norms that act as a template for social behaviour appear to be somewhat less constrained on this count. Cultural spaces across societies have proven to be accommodating in this respect and have yielded songs, literature and cinema that can be both playful and serious depictions of these relationships.

 

But the allure of such women is also informed by its very illicitness. Incest is taboo in most societies, as it has the potential to disrupt their foundations. But forbiddenness can be powerfully compelling. In a seemingly liberal world, one that has moved on from Charu's, cyberspace has become the primary source of enjoyment of such illicit fantasies. Be it sex-chat with luscious sisters-in-law in the anonymity of the virtual world or dedicated pornography sites packed with explicit images and videos of older women, such online resources are specifically designed to let men enter their most repressed, yet most tempting, fantasies.

 

But there is a continuity here, one that connects Amal to the men of a different time. Amal, driven by guilt, had forsaken Charu and escaped to another life. The men in front of the flickering screen also have their own little secret to keep.

 

UDDALAK MUKHERJEE

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

LUST IN THE WIND

 

A legend was doing the rounds at the weddings of some of my friends who got married recently. It is in the form of a song that the grandmother of one of the grooms used to sing. From what I made of the hushed voices that spoke about it, it was a very lewd song. No one seemed to recall the exact lyrics — except that it was a song about the penis of a very "lusty" guy. And certainly, nobody seemed keen to repeat what they had heard, even if there was something they remembered. This is perhaps typical of marriages that take place in cities — they tend to be a little too prudish and sophisticated for those used to having mindless and somewhat bawdy fun at weddings.

 

When a close friend got married in a small town in Gujarat, the atmosphere was abuzz with sexually explicit jokes. The aunts' and the greataunts' references to foreplay and sex in normal conversation seemed a bit crude for the sensibility of some of us who had accompanied the bride to Gujarat from Calcutta, where the environment is much more subdued and mild flirtation between the groom's friends and those of the bride is perhaps the only liberty they allow themselves.

 

A window is what people are always on the lookout for — a gap that will enable them to relax all those strictly observed norms imposed by habit or tradition. Sex education may not be permitted in our schools for the fear that children may get to know more than they should. Neither are people encouraged to talk of sex openly, although that does not stop the proliferation of pornography. But at weddings and in the related rituals, an erotic body of songs, jokes and games emerge from the mainstream of culture itself, for it is tradition itself that produces these texts, giving people a chance to drop their guard, even if for a short while.

 

Much of society's anxieties stem from its belief that certain kinds of knowledge are harmful if unleashed upon people prematurely or indiscriminately. Innocence, embodied in the virgin bride, must make a smooth transition into Experience, which a wife is expected to have, founded on sexual, more specifically reproductive, knowledge.

 

In some communities, an older married woman, usually a sister or an aunt, is allotted to the bride to answer her queries and soothe her anxieties, if any, regarding the sexual act that she would soon have to perform. The role of this companion, as it was traditionally conceptualized, is hardly ever played any more since the bride obviously does not wait until the marriage ceremonies to learn about sex. The bride pretending to be sexually ignorant during the wedding rituals is important to sustain the complicated drama that reaches, to use an unfortunate metaphor, its climax in the consummation of the marriage without any glitches.

 

INSIYA POONAWALA

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

SOUND SUGGESTION

''SETTING UP REGIONAL COURTS IS AN EXCELLENT IDEA.''

 

The Law Commission's suggestion for division of the supreme court into four courts to be set up in four regions and designation of the court in Delhi as a constitutional court deserves serious consideration. The commission, headed by Justice A R Lakshmanan, has pointed out that the system of dividing the highest court into a constitutional court and dispute settlement courts is working well in many countries.


According to the proposal, the four regional courts will be 'cassation courts' which will work as courts of last resort in the regions where they are situated. No appeal will lie on their decisions. For example, appeals on cases in the high courts of all southern states will only go to the cassation court in the region and will end there.

But constitutional issues, PILs and the like which have national importance will be handled by the constitutional court in Delhi. This arrangement will reduce the burden on the present supreme court. The important features of a good system of delivery of justice are speed, cheapness of the process and accessibility. The present system is deficient on these as the supreme court is located far away from most states and is weighed down by cases. Demands for setting up benches in the south and in the North-East have been made but they have not progressed much. A restructuring of the court will take it closer to the people. The parliamentary standing committee of the law ministry had made a similar suggestion in the past. There is no need for a constitutional amendment to implement the new system. Only a facilitating legislation by parliament is enough.


The commission has also recommended an increase in the retirement age of judges from 65 to 70. The Constitution review commission had also suggested an increase in the retirement age. Judges have a higher retirement age in many countries and in some others there is no retirement age at all. The proposal has been made in view of the difficulty in finding suitable persons for judicial positions. The problem of mounting arrears in courts is often commented upon. Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan last week called for an increase in the strength of the judiciary to cut down delays. But the many suggestions, coming from different sources, to deal with the problem are hardly acted upon. A debate on the law commission's recommendations can be a starting point for action.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

GET REAL

''BRINGING THE SEX TRADE ABOVE GROUND IS IMPORTANT.''


The supreme court recommendation that the government consider legalising prostitution if it is unable to curb it has kicked up a storm. Some are opposing it as it amounts to providing legal sanction to violence against and exploitation of women. It is feared that legalising prostitution will also provide a fillip to trafficking of women, especially minors. Indeed prostitution is exploitation. Ideally, it should be done away with. Women shouldn't have to sell their bodies to earn a living. But ending prostitution has not been possible. Brothels and pimping are illegal. Yet they exist. In the circumstances, legalising it might be a better idea, as it could reduce the plight of sex workers.


Bringing the sex trade above ground will remove it from the darkness and secrecy that currently shrouds the trade, enabling pimps and brothel owners to subject sex workers to terrible violence and exploitation. It is important that while legalising prostitution, the government must delink sex work from trafficking and provide for strong action against the latter. At present they are at the mercy of police, pimps and clients. Legalising prostitution will enable them to negotiate from a position of strength rather than be subject to exploitation as has been the case so far. It will help curb the spread of HIV-AIDS as health workers will be able to access and treat sex workers and their clients more easily. The experience of Brazil and South Africa is instructive. Brazil legalised prostitution and today its HIV-AIDS programme, which uses sex workers to hand out condoms, is among the most successful in the world. This is not the case with South Africa, where prostitution is illegal. South Africa today is the world's HIV capital.


The government must take the apex court suggestion seriously and act to initiate legislation in parliament. There are 2.5 million sex workers in the country, 30 per cent of whom are children. This is not a small number. Most of them would not have chosen to enter the profession but were forced to do so. Vested interests, including the police, ensure that they cannot get out. The least we can do is to improve their lives. The government however must be careful while crafting the law. Loopholes in legislation could worsen the plight of the sex workers.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

CHINA HOLDS THE KEY

HAVING STACKED UP DOLLARS AND ARTIFICIALLY KEEPING THE VALUE OF YUAN LOW, CHINA IS ABLE TO SELL ITS GOODS CHEAP IN THE GLOBAL MARKET.

BY ALOK RAY

 

The US dollar was becoming stronger against the Indian rupee throughout the worst period of the global financial crisis. During this time, the US economy's growth rate was negative while the Indian economy was still growing at around 6 per cent. But after the worst is over in US, the US greenback has started losing its value relative to the Indian rupee. In other words, the US dollar was strongest against the rupee when the US economy was at its weakest!


China continues to remain the fastest growing big economy in the world, despite the global recession. The Chinese currency, yuan, on the other hand, has now been depreciating against the Indian rupee.


Finally, the price of gold — contrary to all past trends and expert predictions — is going through the roof as the world economy is slowly recovering from the uncertainties of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.


How to explain these apparently paradoxical developments?

 

Basically, during the worst phase of the recent world financial crisis, global investors were taking refuge in US government securities, the safest financial asset in times of global uncertainty. They knew that the US government would not default on its debt obligations simply because only it has the power to print dollars, the world's reserve currency. As a result, a massive switch to dollar from other currency assets was taking place, causing the dollar to appreciate against currencies like the rupee.


Now that the global economy is stabilising, investors are again looking for higher returns. What better places to invest than in the emerging economies in Asia which are returning to high growth at a much faster pace than the mature industrial economies of the West?


This process has been further helped by the Fed keeping the benchmark interest rate near zero in US. Anyone borrowing at 0.25 per cent interest in US and then investing in India at a much higher interest rate is making sure profits. Naturally, the rupee is going up against the dollar and the Sensex is booming.


China, the fastest growing economy in the world with a massive trade surplus against the US, has virtually kept the yuan pegged to the US dollar by purchasing the dollars flowing into China as a result of the trade surplus and private capital inflows. The objective is to give Chinese goods an artificial price advantage in global markets. As the dollar is now steadily falling against the rupee but the yuan-dollar exchange rate is being kept constant, the rupee is rising against the yuan.


The huge US trade deficit is basically caused by the US government and households spending much beyond their means. The overspending is financed by borrowing from the rest of the world (specially China, Japan and Gulf countries). American families have recently been forced to cut back their overspending habits to some extent due to the recession.


US may take time to recover


But the prospects of reining in the budget deficits by the federal and state governments are not bright for the near future, given the continuing war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the proposed extension of medical insurance to all Americans and the reluctance to raise taxes on the 'middle class' comprising nearly 95 per cent of  tax payers.

So, the only other solution for the US is to make people switch towards American goods. A falling US dollar is required for that purpose. Since the Chinese are not allowing the dollar to fall relative to the yuan, the dollar has to fall even more against other non-Chinese currencies. China is, in effect, stealing jobs from others by its policy of currency manipulation.


Indian exporters are finding life doubly difficult. Indian goods are becoming increasingly expensive in US dollar and even more so when compared to Chinese goods selling in the same markets. On the other hand, imports are being cheaper in Indian rupees as the rupee appreciates. This benefits Indian firms using imported inputs (specially from USA and China) and generally helps to keep inflation in check.
For reasons already explained, the rest of the world is losing faith in the value of the US dollar. Though as yet there is no clear alternative to dollar, central banks of different countries are trying to diversify their international reserves towards non-dollar assets.


The euro is one option. But some of the euro-zone countries are in serious economic troubles. Many feel that the euro is currently overvalued and may fall in future. Therefore, a large movement towards the euro is not advisable. Despite the growing economic strength of China, the yuan cannot be an international reserve currency yet since it is not fully convertible. So, in the absence of any credible international paper money alternative to US dollar at this point, a shift towards gold makes sense.


The recent purchase by RBI of 200 tonnes of gold from IMF is a pointer. Speculators believe that a few other central banks may follow India which would further push up the price. Hence, speculators are buying gold right now in order to sell it later at a profit. Volatile stock markets and low interest rates are adding further to the attractiveness of gold as an investment option. So, all combined, it is not surprising that the price of gold is steadily heading north.


(The writer is a former professor of economics at IIM, Calcutta)

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

WWW.JIHAD.COM

IT'S SCARY THAT THE JIHADIST MINORITY SEEMS TO ENJOY THE MOST 'LEGITIMACY' IN THE MUSLIM WORLD.

BY THOMAS FRIEDMAN, NYT

 

Let's not fool ourselves. Whatever threat the real Afghanistan poses to US national security, the 'Virtual Afghanistan' now poses just as big a threat. The Virtual Afghanistan is the network of hundreds of jihadist websites 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 US troops in Afghanistan. They first made contact with two extremist organisations 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 centres 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 US-based NEFA Foundation, a private group that monitors extremist websites."


Real allies

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 colour 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 'OK' to not only murder non-Muslims 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 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 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.


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 infantilise 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.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

A PASSION FOR BANGALORE VEGGIES

HE HAD THE TIME TO LEG IT TO THE MARKET TO PICK AND CHO-OSE VEGETABLES OF HIS CHOICE.

BY J S RAGHAVAN

 

Few tasks seemed to give greater pleasure to my Sundhu uncle than hand-picking and buying fresh vegetables from the market. A gentleman of  leisure, he had all the time to leg it to the market, bag in hand, every morning to pick and choose vegetables of his choice that will feature in the day's menu.


In those days there were no supermarkets showcasing vegetables in packed cellophane bags and so he squatted expectantly like Mahendra Singh Dhoni at the stumps, before the street vendor selling brinjals, lady's fingers, cluster beans and so forth. His wife, possibly Nala in a previous birth, owed her culinary laurels in parts to Sundhu uncle who not only bought the best but helped in cutting them in symmetrical pieces thus proving he was a cut above many chauvinistic males in our family circle.


Though his staple food consisted of brinjal sambar and  lady's finger curry that would interchange on the next day as lady's finger sambar and brinjal curry, his heart pined for what was in those days known as 'English' or 'Bangalore' vegetables, a moniker for beet-root, turnip, radish, cauliflower and cabbage rarely available in Madras.

During my first official trip to  Bangalore by the newly introduced Brindavan Express he indented for a slew of English (rather Bangalore) vegetables and lest I should forget gave a bilingual list to avoid any confusion, along with some cash as upfront  payment.


When trains pull into Madras Central station, the first person to grab your baggage is a porter but on that day when I alighted, he beat that red-shirted rugby brigade and grabbed the bulging yellow bag, provided by him for his green cargo. The thanksgiving 'Bangalore-vegetable' lunch his wife served next day for me was fit for greater gods.


I called on him, an upright octogenarian now, after a gap of several years. The fetching aroma of stuffed baby brinjals being sauteed came from the kitchen proving that Lady Nala's skill had sharpened. His passion for procuring fresh vegetables from Bangalore must have been doused for they are available in Chennai. "Like you get Calcutta rosogollas  here", he said. "But I still walk daily to the market to buy vegetables. That way my skeletal joints remain operative without consigning me to the bed as a semi-vegetable," he said with a chuckle.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

TWO DAYS AND COUNTING

 

Most of the news from Copenhagen is grim. With only two days left to go, negotiations for a new climate treaty were stumbling toward stalemate. We hope President Obama and other leaders will realize how much is at stake and pull off a last-minute breakthrough.

 

The talks appear to have produced at least one positive development: a tentative agreement under which rich countries would pay poorer countries to save the world's rain forests. If rich countries agree to mandatory caps on emissions — still a big if — they would be able to use these payments to offset their own emissions while they make the transition to cleaner energy sources.

 

That would be a good deal for both rich and poor countries and an even better deal for the planet. Deforestation accounts for nearly one-fifth of the world's carbon-dioxide emissions — about the same as China's and America's and more than the emissions generated by all the world's cars, trucks, buses and airplanes.

 

Negotiators need to build on this progress to produce, at the very least, an interim political consensus setting the stage for a more detailed, comprehensive and legally binding agreement next year.

 

As of Wednesday, the talks were deeply divided over broad emissions targets and how much rich countries should pay poor countries to help them meet these targets. There are also differences over how to verify whether nations are living up to their obligations.

 

The idea of having rich nations pay poorer nations not to destroy their forests was floated in the Kyoto talks in 1996 and shot down by environmental groups who argued that it would allow rich countries to buy their way out of their obligations. This was a colossal blunder for which the world has been paying ever since.

 

Roughly 30 million acres of rain forest disappear every year, releasing huge quantities of carbon dioxide stored in the trees and exacting collateral damage in decreased water quality and impoverished biodiversity.

 

A deforestation agreement in Copenhagen would dovetail neatly with climate legislation passed by the House and by the Senate's environment committee.

 

Under both bills, companies that cannot meet their pollution limits could win credit for investing in carbon-reduction programs abroad — including efforts to stop deforestation. That could generate as much as $12 billion in private investment. The House bill would also set aside an estimated $3 billion in direct payments to be funneled to poor countries; the Obama administration announced Wednesday that it would provide a minimum of $1 billion for that purpose over three years.

 

Contributions just from America would go a long way toward meeting the $40 billion a year that some experts think will be necessary to help poor countries monitor and police their forests — and to compensate their citizens for the lost income from logging, ranching and farming if they agree to leave their forests intact.

 

A climate bill from Congress is no more a sure thing than a new global agreement. The fact that leaders everywhere are at last facing up to the destructiveness of deforestation is reassuring. But it's hardly enough.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

FIRED FOR SPEAKING OUT

 

Morris Davis, a retired Air Force colonel who was chief military prosecutor at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, showed courage and respect for democratic principles when he resigned rather than follow orders to use evidence obtained through torture. We wish the Congressional Research Service would live up to Mr. Davis's example.

 

The service fired Mr. Davis after he wrote about how detainees should be tried. On Nov. 11, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion article in which he argued against the Obama administration's decision to try some detainees before military commissions and others in federal court. The same day, The Washington Post ran a letter to the editor about the ability of federal courts to try detainees. He wrote as a private citizen and did not mention his employer.

 

Later in the month, Mr. Davis was fired from his position as assistant director of the foreign affairs, defense and trade division, of the research service. He was told that his writing violated its policies, showed poor judgment and interfered with the service's duty to remain objective and nonpartisan.

 

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Mr. Davis, has called his firing a First Amendment violation and says it will sue if he is not reinstated.

 

Government employees do not forfeit their right to comment on matters of public interest. The Supreme Court ruled in a landmark 1968 case that a public-school teacher had a First Amendment right to write a letter to the editor, as a private citizen, criticizing how his board of education spent money. The employer has interests in the orderly operation of its workplace, the court noted, but they were outweighed by freedom of speech.

 

The matters Mr. Davis wrote about, which involve critical questions of constitutional law and due process, are of considerable public concern. His work as a military prosecutor gave him information and perspective that few Americans have. The Congressional Research Service, on the other hand, has not made a persuasive case that Mr. Davis's writing interfered with its work, nor did it point out any actual damage.

 

The balance in cases of this sort will not always tilt against the employer. There are times when the value of a public employee's speech is relatively insubstantial, while the disruption to the employer's work is considerable. In Mr. Davis's case, the balance tips toward letting him speak — and keep his job.

 

***************************************

THE NEW YORK TIMES

DE-CRIMINALIZING CHILDREN

 

As many as 150,000 children are sent to adult jails in this country every year — often in connection with nonviolent offenses or arrests that do not lead to conviction. That places them at risk of being raped or battered and increases the chance they will end up as career criminals.

 

To fix this problem, Congress needs to properly reauthorize the Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act of 1974, under which states agreed to humanize juvenile justice policies in exchange for more federal aid. This act was largely bypassed in the 1990s when unfounded fears of an adolescent crime wave reached hysterical levels.

 

When it reauthorizes the law — it is already three years late — Congress should make it illegal for states to place children in adult prisons, perhaps with the exception of truly heinous criminals.

 

The House has yet to introduce a new bill; in the Senate, an updated version has yet to be voted out of the Judiciary Committee. The Senate bill is less than ideal, but it does encourage the states to de-emphasize the practice of detaining children in adult jails before trial and requires them to better protect young people who end up there. Several states have begun to reform their systems: housing young people in juvenile facilities — where they are better protected and can get mental health treatment — even if they have been convicted in adult courts. The current version of the law threatens states with loss of federal aid if they make that decision. The Senate bill would do away with that language.

 

The bill also would require states to phase out policies under which children are detained in either juvenile or adult facilities for offenses like violating curfew or smoking. These children should be dealt with through community-based counseling or family intervention programs, which are better for the child and for taxpayers.

 

In addition, the bill increases financing for mentoring, drug treatment, mental health care and other programs that have been shown to keep children out of custody in the first place. And it would require states to closely monitor — and address — racial inequities in their system. Studies show that black and Hispanic children get harsher treatment at all levels of the juvenile justice system than white children.

 

The Senate bill is not perfect. But it represents a welcome step away from the cruel and self-defeating policies that subject children to irreparable harm at the hands of the state and puts them on a path that too often leads to a lifetime spent behind bars.

 

***************************************


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

CHALLENGING INTEL

 

The Federal Trade Commission has, at long last, brought an antitrust suit against Intel. The leviathan of the microchip industry has used its enormous market power — it controls 80 percent of the global microprocessor market and more than half the market for graphics chips — to shut rivals out, suppressing competition and reducing consumers' choices.

 

If successful, the F.T.C.'s case could open the door to increased innovation from rival firms in one of the most vital sectors of the American economy.

 

Intel has suffered a string of legal challenges and defeats around the world. In May, the European Commission fined it $1.5 billion for abusing its power by offering illegal rebates to computer makers that purchased all or most of their chips from Intel and threatening to punish those who bought too much from rivals. Japan and South Korea have also acted against Intel.

 

In November, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo of New York filed an antitrust suit against Intel. That month, the company paid $1.25 billion to settle a suit brought by its main rival, Advanced Micro Devices, for allegedly using illegal tactics to defend its near-monopoly.

 

The F.T.C.'s case is broader. It charges that Intel redesigned software to slow the performance of A.M.D.'s chips. And it argues that Intel is applying the same bullying strategy to the growing market for graphics chips used to run video on computers. It alleges Intel has engineered its processors to ensure that graphics chips made by A.M.D. and another rival, Nvidia, won't run smoothly on a computer that uses an Intel central processor.

 

The F.T.C. wants Intel to stop using threats, bundled prices or other offers to encourage exclusive deals, hamper competition or distort prices. It said it may seek an order stopping Intel from making or distributing products that impair the performance of rival chips. Intel says the F.T.C. case is misguided and argues that the remedies would hinder product improvements, limit its ability to protect its intellectual property and make it impossible for the company to compete on price.

 

We believe it is long overdue. Monopolies have been given too easy a ride over the last decade — and American businesses and consumers have paid the price.

 

***************************************


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

HIS GIFT CHANGES LIVES

BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

 

Here's a story for the holiday season. A 30-year-old former refugee is putting together a most extraordinary Christmas present — the first high school his community has ever had.

 

Valentino Deng, 30, is the central figure in the masterful 2006 best seller, "What Is the What," by Dave Eggers. The book records Valentino's life after the Sudanese civil war strikes his remote town in South Sudan. His friends were shot around him. He lost contact with his family, and he became one of the "lost boys" of Sudan. Fleeing government soldiers, dodging land mines, eating leaves and animal carcasses, Valentino saw boys around him carried off and devoured by lions.

 

At one point, Valentino and other refugees were attacked by soldiers beside a crocodile-infested river. He swam to safety through water bloodied as some swimmers were shot and others were snatched by crocodiles.

 

Valentino learned to read and write at makeshift schools in refugee camps by writing letters in the dust with his finger. Improbably, he turned out to be a brilliant student with a cheerful, upbeat personality. And in 2001, the United States accepted him as a refugee.

 

Valentino had earned the right to take it easy for the next 600 years; instead, he sets an astonishing example of resilience, compassion and charity. He and Eggers channel every penny made from "What Is the What" to a new foundation dedicated to building a high school in his hometown in Sudan.

 

That's what I find so inspiring about Valentino. For a quarter-century, world leaders have averted their eyes from horrors in Sudan — first the north-south civil war that killed two million people (more than died in all the wars in America's history), then the genocide in Darfur and now the growing risk of another civil war. In that vacuum, moral leadership has come instead from university students and refugees like Valentino.

 

Now Valentino's school is beginning to operate in the town of Marial Bai — a modern high school serving students from thousands of square miles. It had a soft opening earlier this year with 100 students, and he is hoping to increase to 450 students in the coming months — but that means dizzying challenges.

 

"I want to enroll more than 50 percent girls," Valentino said. "But to do that, I have to house them, because families will not allow a girl to go far away to school without a place to stay.

 

"For now, I've enrolled 14 girls," he added. "But they go home, and then they have to take care of siblings, collect firewood, fetch water. So I'm worried about how much they can learn." In addition, a high school girl can fetch a huge bride price — about 100 cows — and Valentino thinks the best way to avoid early marriage and give the girls a chance to study is for them to live in a dormitory on the school grounds.

 

Decades of civil war have left South Sudan one of the poorest places on Earth, where a woman is more likely to die in childbirth than to be literate. In recent years, only about 500 girls have graduated annually from elementary school in South Sudan — out of a total population of eight million.

 

Valentino's every step has been Herculean. Building supplies had to be trucked in from Uganda through a jungle where a brutal militia called the Lord's Resistance Army murders, rapes and loots. There is no electricity or running water in Marial Bai, so the high school's computers will have to run on solar power. When a microscope arrived the other day, a science teacher was overcome. He had never actually touched one.

 

The school has a certain American ethos. Valentino is requiring students to engage in service activities, such as building huts for displaced people. "We focus on leadership," he explained.

 

Eight high school teachers from the United States, Canada and New Zealand traveled at their own expense to Valentino's school last summer to train teachers and work with students. They raved to me about how eager the students are to learn; some students burst into tears when the volunteers had to leave.

 

"What he's accomplished in his hometown is astounding," Eggers said. "A 14-structure educational complex built from scratch in one year. It boggles the mind.

 

"He's succeeded where countless NGOs stumble, mainly because he knows the local business climate and can negotiate reasonable local prices for materials," he added, referring to nongovernmental organizations.

 

Valentino is still fund-raising and looking for volunteer teachers. He needs $15,000 to finish a dormitory for girls, and much more to dig wells and operate the school for the first three years. (More information about the school is at www.valentinoachakdeng.org.) But he's relentless.

 

"I'm the lucky one," Valentino told me. "I must be the one who will make a difference."

 

What a perfect sentiment for these holidays.

 

***************************************

THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

SORRY, SENATOR KERRY

BY GAIL COLLINS

 

Let us contemplate the badness of Joe Lieberman.

 

Who would have thought that this holiday season we'd be obsessed with the senator from Connecticut? Really, I was hoping it would be more about shopping for mittens on the Internet.

 

Lieberman's apparently successful attempt to hijack health care reform and hold it hostage until it had been amended into something that liberals couldn't stomach has mesmerized the nation's political class. This was, after all, a guy who has been a liberal on domestic issues since he was a college student campaigning for John F. Kennedy. A guy who was in favor of the public option, of expanding Medicare eligibility, until — last week.

 

The theories about Why Joe Is Doing It abound. We cannot get enough of them! I have decided to start a rumor that it all goes back to the 2004 presidential race, when Lieberman not only failed to win any primaries, but was also bitten by either a rabid muskrat or a vampire disguised as a moose.

 

Other than that, my favorite explanation comes from Jonathan Chait of The New Republic, who theorized that Lieberman was able to go from Guy Who Wants to Expand Medicare to Guy Who Would Rather Kill Health Care Than Expand Medicare because he "isn't actually all that smart."

 

It's certainly easier to leap from one position to its total opposite if you never understood your original stance in the first place, and I am thinking Chait's theory could get some traction. "When I sat next to him in the State Senate, he always surprised me by how little he'd learned about the bill at the time of the vote," said Bill Curry, a former Connecticut comptroller and Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

 

I really like the not-that-bright theory, in part because it's as good an explanation as any, and in part because it will definitely drive Lieberman nuts. But I have a different mission today, and that is to apologize to John Kerry.

 

I frequently made fun of Kerry for being a terrible presidential candidate. Which he was. But there comes a point when we the people have to move on. And Kerry has been a really good former failed presidential candidate. He's been working hard in the Senate on climate control and trying to help the White House on foreign relations, despite the fact that Barack Obama stiffed him out of the secretary of state job in favor of a person who had been somewhat less supportive than Kerry of Obama's early presidential aspirations. He actually seems more interested in doing stuff than being admired.

 

Lieberman was a terrible vice presidential candidate. (Like John Edwards, he not only lost his vice presidential debate, he managed to make Dick Cheney seem likable.) But instead of going back to something he could actually do well, he ran for president. He failed to gain any traction with the voters whatsoever, and like John McCain, he came out of the process bitterly denying that he was bitter.

 

Let's look at our two failed-national-candidate models. You can move on, and try to make yourself useful (Kerry, Al Gore). Or you can work out barely suppressed rage by attacking things that you used to be for, like trying to control Medicare costs (McCain) or expanding Medicare eligibility (Lieberman).

 

Maybe the difference comes from self-image. Lieberman and McCain both thought of themselves as "character" candidates whose success was due to the love and trust of the public, and whose ultimate failure was the work of evil forces beyond their control. Kerry and Gore never believed their success was due to their innate likability. When they lost the presidency, a part of them probably shrugged and remembered that they weren't all that popular in prep school, either.

 

Politicians switch direction all the time, but the Lieberman experience has been weird because he doesn't seem to feel as though he's changed. He bounds around happily, doing the talk shows, confident that he's the same independent-minded independent who believes in independence as always. Observers who have known him for a long time feel as though they're living out a scene in a science-fiction movie when the guy who's just been bitten by the vampire-moose comes home and sits down to dinner, unaware that he's sprouting antlers.

 

I used to cover Lieberman when he was the majority leader of the State Senate in Connecticut. We got along very well, except for one interview, during which he talked about working for J.F.K., and how he kept a Mass card from Robert Kennedy's funeral to remind him of the principles to which he had dedicated his career. Showing me the card, he remarked casually that he hadn't looked at it for some time.

 

I wrote an article using the neglected Kennedy card as a metaphor for Lieberman's fall from his old ideals into the pragmatic politics of a party leader. He was outraged and wounded, and I believe I apologized.

 

Taking back the apology now.

 

***************************************

THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

PILOTS ON AUTOPILOT

BY ARNOLD REINER

 

Pensacola, Fla.

THE Northwest Airlines pilots who became so absorbed in their laptop PCs that they flew 150 miles past their destination have added to the concerns of the public, during this busy holiday travel season. This incident should also be a wake-up call to the aviation industry.

 

Decades of technological enhancements and automation have made flying undeniably much safer but also fostered a subtle disconnect between pilots and the planes they fly. Designed to reduce crew workload and enhance safety, today's highly automated aircraft can leave pilots so detached from flying that they become almost like passengers on their own flights. That's apparently what happened on Northwest Flight 188.

 

Once the busy takeoff and departure was behind them and their aircraft was at cruising level, with the autopilot and the flight management system doing all the flying and navigating, the pilots felt comfortable enough to get to work on a new crew scheduling program. In cruise flight, all they were required to do was monitor the plane's flightpath, have an awareness of other traffic, monitor systems and respond to radioed air traffic control instructions. Pilots call it being "situationally aware."

 

But these pilots' preoccupation was so deep that situational awareness went out the window and even radio calls were tuned out. The plane was on its own and this crew was along for the ride just like the folks in the back. What got the crew into this pickle was thousands of hours in highly reliable, automated planes that over time made them ever more confident and blunted their need to be involved in the tasks of flying.

 

In contrast, the early years of jet travel required far more crew involvement and there was always something to do or watch over. When I was a Pan Am Boeing 707 co-pilot in the late '60s, few cockpit controls and systems were fully automated. Most required periodic attention and resetting to operate properly.

 

After a series of computations for temperature, altitude and other considerations, engine thrust had to be carefully set for takeoff and reset during climb and cruise. Controlling pressurization and adjusting cabin cooling was a respected art performed by the flight engineer, who also made sure that the wings stayed in balance and fuel from the plane's seven tanks fed the engines. Flying over land, pilots continually retuned and identified navigation radios, reset courses and adjusted heading for wind drift.

 

Flying over the ocean still required a knowledge of celestial navigation. Our 707's had a periscopic sextant on board that could be popped through a small round hatch in the cockpit ceiling for star shots. On Atlantic crossings, pilots used a World War II-era long-range radio navigation system known as Loran to manually plot position. On some long Pacific flights where Loran coverage was too sparse, navigators were the hardest workers, taking star shots, measuring drift and passing heading correction slips to the pilots.

 

These disciplines required extreme accuracy and skill. And with all the numbers and variables of this demanding work, errors were expected and occurred. That's why Pan Am required additional verification steps from another pilot to confirm each course change or future position. In short, even when things were going smoothly during level cruise flight, cockpit crews had to be more actively involved to get where they were going.

 

By the early 1980s, aircraft systems and automation had evolved significantly. Most of the manual chores of

staying on the airways or oceanic tracks were eliminated. In many planes, there was no longer a flight engineer sitting sideways behind the pilots, facing a bank of gauges, status lights, toggle switches and levers to operate the plane's systems. Those functions had been automated, their controls condensed and placed in the pilot's overhead panel.

 

By the late '80s, I was a captain on the A310, a highly automated Airbus jet. I had evolved from the hands-on flier of my earlier years to a systems manager, controlling the plane with a flight management keyboard. During qualification training, pilots quipped that to pass their F.A.A. simulator checkride they had to be able to type 50 words a minute. It was a joke, but not far from the truth. Today it's the way we fly new airliners, with G.P.S. accurate to within a few feet and computers, known as fly-by-wire systems, sending commands to the engines and all flight control surfaces.

 

The challenge now is to keep airline crews connected and aware when all this automation relieves them of the details and tasks that kept pilots on their toes in years past. Manufacturers must develop an effective alerting system to complement — or rather mitigate — the effects of advanced automation.

 

Designing an alert intrusive enough to yank crews back to reality in moments when they're not responding to conditions won't be easy and it will have to be right. Today's cockpits are already filled with annunciator lights, caution lights, and all sorts of indicators and displays, most with their own distinct sounds and decibel levels. Aviation accidents often involve inappropriate or misunderstood alerts, which in some cases were even disconnected before a crash.

 

But the best safety device is the pilot, who, deep down, regardless of the aircraft, retains a sense of fallibility and vulnerability. No system can ever substitute for that.

 

Arnold Reiner is a retired airline captain and a former director of flight safety at Pan Am.

 

***************************************


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

SORRY, SENATOR KERRY

BY GAIL COLLINS

 

Let us contemplate the badness of Joe Lieberman.

 

Who would have thought that this holiday season we'd be obsessed with the senator from Connecticut? Really, I was hoping it would be more about shopping for mittens on the Internet.

 

Lieberman's apparently successful attempt to hijack health care reform and hold it hostage until it had been amended into something that liberals couldn't stomach has mesmerized the nation's political class. This was, after all, a guy who has been a liberal on domestic issues since he was a college student campaigning for John F. Kennedy. A guy who was in favor of the public option, of expanding Medicare eligibility, until — last week.

 

The theories about Why Joe Is Doing It abound. We cannot get enough of them! I have decided to start a rumor that it all goes back to the 2004 presidential race, when Lieberman not only failed to win any primaries, but was also bitten by either a rabid muskrat or a vampire disguised as a moose.

 

Other than that, my favorite explanation comes from Jonathan Chait of The New Republic, who theorized that Lieberman was able to go from Guy Who Wants to Expand Medicare to Guy Who Would Rather Kill Health Care Than Expand Medicare because he "isn't actually all that smart."

 

It's certainly easier to leap from one position to its total opposite if you never understood your original stance in the first place, and I am thinking Chait's theory could get some traction. "When I sat next to him in the State Senate, he always surprised me by how little he'd learned about the bill at the time of the vote," said Bill Curry, a former Connecticut comptroller and Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

 

I really like the not-that-bright theory, in part because it's as good an explanation as any, and in part because it will definitely drive Lieberman nuts. But I have a different mission today, and that is to apologize to John Kerry.

 

I frequently made fun of Kerry for being a terrible presidential candidate. Which he was. But there comes a point when we the people have to move on. And Kerry has been a really good former failed presidential candidate. He's been working hard in the Senate on climate control and trying to help the White House on foreign relations, despite the fact that Barack Obama stiffed him out of the secretary of state job in favor of a person who had been somewhat less supportive than Kerry of Obama's early presidential aspirations. He actually seems more interested in doing stuff than being admired.

 

Lieberman was a terrible vice presidential candidate. (Like John Edwards, he not only lost his vice presidential debate, he managed to make Dick Cheney seem likable.) But instead of going back to something he could actually do well, he ran for president. He failed to gain any traction with the voters whatsoever, and like John McCain, he came out of the process bitterly denying that he was bitter.

 

Let's look at our two failed-national-candidate models. You can move on, and try to make yourself useful (Kerry, Al Gore). Or you can work out barely suppressed rage by attacking things that you used to be for, like trying to control Medicare costs (McCain) or expanding Medicare eligibility (Lieberman).

 

Maybe the difference comes from self-image. Lieberman and McCain both thought of themselves as "character" candidates whose success was due to the love and trust of the public, and whose ultimate failure was the work of evil forces beyond their control. Kerry and Gore never believed their success was due to their innate likability. When they lost the presidency, a part of them probably shrugged and remembered that they weren't all that popular in prep school, either.

 

Politicians switch direction all the time, but the Lieberman experience has been weird because he doesn't seem to feel as though he's changed. He bounds around happily, doing the talk shows, confident that he's the same independent-minded independent who believes in independence as always. Observers who have known him for a long time feel as though they're living out a scene in a science-fiction movie when the guy who's just been bitten by the vampire-moose comes home and sits down to dinner, unaware that he's sprouting antlers.

 

I used to cover Lieberman when he was the majority leader of the State Senate in Connecticut. We got along very well, except for one interview, during which he talked about working for J.F.K., and how he kept a Mass card from Robert Kennedy's funeral to remind him of the principles to which he had dedicated his career. Showing me the card, he remarked casually that he hadn't looked at it for some time.

 

I wrote an article using the neglected Kennedy card as a metaphor for Lieberman's fall from his old ideals into the pragmatic politics of a party leader. He was outraged and wounded, and I believe I apologized.

 

Taking back the apology now.

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

JUDGMENT DAY

 

The judgment of the Supreme Court predictably provoked a veritable blizzard of media activity. The highest court in the land has declared the NRO null and void and decreed that all cases which were active at the time of the promulgation of the NRO may be reopened at the point at which they were closed. The government has been ordered to inform the Swiss courts that the request to drop the cases against the now-president was unconstitutional and that the cases may stand reopened. The court has also announced that it is setting up a process to monitor criminal cases affected by their judgment. The judgment may have been late but it is a worthy one. Constitutionally, some lawyers had argued, no criminal case could be instituted against the president, but today he must be looking over his shoulder and eyeing his foreign investment portfolio – not to mention future options as a place of domicile.


The judgment is truly a landmark. The SC has rid the nation of an ignominy that had tried its soul for long. The ordinance that it has set aside was never a law; for it to be a law, this country would have to be without any sense of decency, morality and character. We can proudly proclaim today that this is not the case, that for all the rampant corruption that has wreaked havoc on almost all aspects of social and political life in this country, we are morally alive. The judgment will open the gates of opportunity – a chance for accountability to finally strike at the very heart of the political and bureaucratic establishment. There is a chance that we may finally be beginning to repair the battered fabric of the body politic, to cleanse the corridors of power. It will not be quick or pretty and there will be casualties along the way. The Supreme Court has done much to restore the dignity of the judiciary and we expect the reaction by the general public to this landmark decision to be nothing other than positive. There will of course be those who are less than delighted with the decision, as well as those for whom the decision is a shot across the bows, a warning that the future is going to be a little different for those who traduce the offices of state. We the people hold our heads a little higher today – and anticipate a rolling of a few of those heads for whom it is long overdue.

 

***************************************

I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

 TERROR IN D G KHAN

 

The wave of terror we have seen now for many weeks continues unabated. The target this time round appears to have been the house of PML-N leader Zulfiqar Khosa in D G Khan. Over 30 people have been killed and many more injured. The toll taken by terror grows. The stories of the victims are only occasionally heard. They figure only as bodies that sprawl on streets or as people who scream out in fear and pain amidst the screeching sirens of the ambulances. Perhaps we need to do more to make these people real and make sure their stories are heard. After all terrorism is not a matter of statistics or head counts. It reaches far deeper. It is assumed the terrorists this time aimed to target a prominent political family as a symbol of state. They ended up killing innocent people shopping at a busy market. The killers have shown they remain capable of striking with great force and deadly intent. It is worth considering what this means. We hear the operation in Waziristan is almost over, but this has not translated into any check on the havoc wreaked by the militants.


The rising sense of the government being helpless in the face of terrorism does not augur well for us as citizens. Heightened security, a full-fledged military operation and, most recently, statements from prominent ulema condemning terrorism seem to have made little difference. What can be done next? Will we ever feel safe in our country again? Will we feel confident that we can visit gardens, markets and train stations? There are no immediate answers. But it seems the time has come for a wide discussion on what is happening and how to stop it. Consensus needs to be built and ideas tabled so that we can save a nation that veers ever closer to disaster.

 

*************************************** 

I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

 HEAVEN AND HELL

 

The 'heaven' security forces have encountered in South Waziristan has nothing to do with the physical beauty that can be found across the northern areas. Instead, it is a four-room building in a village apparently intended to, quite literally, show a glimpse of paradise to would-be suicide-bombers. Paintings of streams flowing with milk and honey with beautiful women standing nearby adorn the walls. Bombers were told this was the world they would inhabit after they had blown themselves – and others – to pieces. For these young men who, in their short lives, knew only squalor and misery, the promise might have been irresistible.


At least one would-be bomber, held in Afghanistan but trained in Waziristan, has spoken of the way they were lured into a trap that led to death and destruction. The discovery of the bizarre building in South Waziristan gives us a rare insight into the lives led by those recruited to carry out bombing missions. Fooled by the hope of a life of pleasure in the hereafter and with all the comforts denied to them now, these young boys, some aged only 14 or 15, felt they had nothing to lose while carrying out deadly deeds. It is possible that drugs helped to further cloud their vision and siphon away from their hearts the conscience that prevents most of us from harming others by intent. The discovery adds to the knowledge of how the bombers were persuaded to do what they did. The key to understanding what has been happening lies in the kind of lives countless people are condemned to live. Desperate parents hand over sons to militant groups; sometimes in exchange for money. The boys themselves are willing to give up all in the hope of entering the magical land conjured up for them by their captors. The long-term answer to this scourge lies in tackling the crippling poverty which holds people in a trap. Illiteracy and despair walk alongside poverty. Policies to alter this reality must be put in place now. But we also need short-term action, which should include creating awareness about how recruiters act and what means they use to persuade their victims to give up their lives. This could prevent others walking along the path that promises heaven but takes many straight to hell.

 

***************************************

I. THE NEWS

ONLY IN PAKISTAN

BY ASIF EZDI


Corruption is a world-wide phenomenon. What makes Pakistan unique is that in the last few years the state itself has been following policies that facilitate corruption by the high and mighty. It has done so by passing legislation placing the guilty outside the reach of the law and enabling them to keep their ill-gotten gains and by government actions that impede proper investigation of the crime and the efficient prosecution of those charged.

Only in Pakistan did the ruler promulgate a law giving a blanket amnesty, in the name of national reconciliation, to hundreds accused of corruption in return for their support to his staying in power. Only in Pakistan is the highest office of state held by someone who stands accused of having pocketed the highest amount of public money in the history of the country and who is now taking cover behind his official position to evade a trial. Only in Pakistan did a democratic government propose legislation that would have decriminalised graft generally only in order to enable the head of state and a few of his cronies to escape justice. Only in Pakistan is the ministry responsible for fighting crime headed by someone who is himself charged with crimes involving large-scale corruption. Only in Pakistan did a parliamentary committee approve a bill – later withdrawn – giving all parliamentarians protection from corruption proceedings without the consent of their peers. The list of government actions to condone and facilitate corruption goes on and on.


The proposed new accountability law continues the same honourable tradition. It is a huge fraud upon the nation because it seeks to weaken the existing anti-corruption legislation for the benefit the corrupt. The new law will reduce the scope of the offence; curtail the investigative powers of the state; improve the chances of the corrupt decamping with their loot while investigations are taking place; lessen the chances of their conviction; reduce penalties, if convicted; and enable those who are convicted to return to public office – and continue plundering national wealth – at an early date. In short, the country is to be made even safer for the corrupt.


Some of the above issues were raised by the opposition parties in the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Law and Justice. But the revised bill prepared by the Law Ministry introduces only a few minor changes while retaining the most objectionable parts of the bill. The opposition has only focused on one of them: the limitation period of three years after a holder of public office leaves office. After this period, he cannot be prosecuted. What this means is that while there is no time limit for the trial of a common thief, an elected representative or civil servant who steals public money goes scot-free in three years.


The opposition parties, PML-N included, have kept an eloquent silence on the other provisions of the government bill meant to benefit the corrupt.


First, the offence of corruption has been redefined to exclude the misuse of authority to seek a benefit and the possession of unexplained wealth (one of the charges against Zardari).


Second, the accountability commission will be stripped of the power to arrest the accused and to freeze his assets. Besides, corruption is to be a bailable offence and the accused will not be liable to arrest "notwithstanding anything contained in any law." This would facilitate their absconding.


Third, the investigative powers of the accountability commission will be severely restricted. The power to seek the assistance of foreign governments has also been curtailed.


Fourth, an accused will be automatically acquitted if he returns his ill-gotten gains. Even if convicted, the maximum punishment is only seven years (in place of the present 14 years) and after five years (instead of 21 years under the present law), he will be again free to hold elective office, including that of President.


Fifth, another dirty trick is that when the trials of those accused of corruption under the NAB Ordinance are resumed, they will take place under the far more lax provisions of the new law. This means, for example, that those like Zardari who are accused of owning property in excess of their lawful means will go scot-free because it will no longer be a crime.


Clearly, the new accountability law has been tailor-made for the corrupt politician. And if he happens to be the President, the law will not even apply to him because the definition of "holder of public office" does not cover a serving president. This means that Zardari will not be liable for any acts done by him while he occupies the Presidency.

As for past deeds, Zardari claims immunity under Article 248 of the Constitution. This has been endorsed by Nawaz Sharif and Aitzaz Ahsan. Both of them have called upon Ministers who were NRO beneficiaries to resign. Consistency and logic would require that they should also make the same demand to Zardari. But these are not virtues for which our politicians are famous.


By vowing last month to resign if his wife was found to have been an NRO beneficiary, Gilani suggested that ministers and others holding official positions who claim to have been acquitted under the now defunct law should resign. But they are still clinging to their posts, because they have Zardari's blessings; and there is no sign yet that their prosecution is about to be resumed. One of them, our high commissioner in London, was caught on camera in a surreptitious operation to spirit away documents allegedly linking Zardari with corruption. Besides, no investigation has been initiated into cases of graft recently reported by the media, such s the Agosta submarines case and the Islamabad land scandal involving Zardari.


There are now unmistakable signals that even Zardari's backers in Washington, on whom he depends so much, are beginning to seriously doubt his political longevity and do not buy the myth nurtured by his camp that civilian rule in Pakistan is under threat. Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 9 December that the Obama administration was focussing on developing relationships with "institutions" rather than individuals. Petraeus similarly expressed the view that civilian rule was not threatened though Zardari himself faced "challenges."


Zardari is mistaken if he thinks he can avoid criminal cases by claiming immunity under Article 248 and hang on to the presidency. The presumption of innocence can only be claimed by those who are willing to prove it in court. The options before Zaradri are not many. The most honourable, short of resignation, would be for him to agree to an immediate repeal of the constitutional immunity given by the constitution and face trial. If he is found not guilty, he would be vindicated. But the trouble is that he himself probably does not believe in his innocence.

The transition to a post-Zardari political configuration has begun. The only question is whether it will be quick or slow, smooth or bumpy. If Gilani plays his part, it can be short and relatively trouble-free, which is what Pakistan badly needs. He is the only one who has the requisite constitutional authority to take the country out of the present muddle. If he does not rise to the occasion, the crisis will only deepen further.

In his essay "On Duties," the Roman statesman Cicero wrote 2,000 years ago: "The administration of the government, like the office of a trustee, must be conducted for the benefit of those entrusted to one's care, not of those to whom it is entrusted." Our political class knows better. For them, the first duty of those in authority is to benefit themselves. No government in Pakistan has followed this precept more assiduously than the present one and no individual more brazenly than Zardari. As long as he remains in the Presidency, the corrupt will continue to have a powerful patron.


The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service. Email: asifezdi@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

PATH TO SALVATION

BY ZAFAR HILALY


There is one redeeming feature about violence: it takes your mind off your troubles -- it makes you forget the cost of living. And, because violence rules to a great extent in the poor man's domicile, the well heeled are by and large unaffected. Of course, if it gets too close, they can up and leave. History is full of ignominious getaways by the rich and famous. Our summer soldiers and sunshine patriots, whose identities are well known, shrink from taking risks. They not only live in bunkers but take it along when they move; but what of the others? How, then, is society reacting to the terror unleashed by homegrown terrorists?


The millions who live and eek out a living in the rural areas and their brethren, the great Unwashed, the urban poor, have no fear of the terrorist. Why should they? What do they have to lose? Their annals have remained unchanged -- from poverty to poverty for millennia. The last three generations have altered nothing. Death stalks them all their lives. And whether it comes upon them violently, or in the lingering form of disease ("Death is a poor man's best physician") and starvation, it scarcely matters. A sigh or two and a shrug of the shoulders is about as much that escapes them when told of the death toll in the latest blast. The good thing about being poor is that it takes up all your time, it leaves little for fear.


However, for the upper and middle classes and the not-so-impoverished city-dwellers the fear factor is important. They have fewer things to desire, many things to fear and more time to worry. Hence, fear is constant, gnawing and pervasive. And as it happens, it is they, a mite in the 170 million, that are the driving force in our present democracy.


How, then, do they wish their leaders to deal with this phenomenon? Essentially, they have no idea; although suggestions abound, stretching from the mad to the mundane--from nuking the terrorist badlands to better policing. However, when it comes to apportioning blame they are united. They place it squarely on the incumbent regime, rarely its predecessor and almost never beyond that; because the past in Pakistan is considered another country where things are done differently. It has little to do with the present and nothing at all with the future. Thus, Mr Zardari must carry the can for all the ills of contemporary society. And on the rare occasions that he escapes the blame it is placed squarely on the Americans and the Indians.


Mahathir Mohammed once said of his middle classes: "They never choose people who are qualified and capable in terms of calibre and character. They choose, instead, those who offer them money gifts or other things." He may as well have been speaking about Pakistan's chattering classes. "Corruption is not an issue. Everybody is corrupt. Forget the NRO. What we want is jobs, electricity and a liveable wage," said a luminary of the salaried middle class. He was not prepared to accept that corruption and job creation are mutually exclusive. Or that water, electricity or heath facilities are in a deplorable condition because a regime that is consumed by corruption cannot deliver. In fact, what modern societies are taught to accept as self-evident truths is viewed here as humdrum nonsense.


A senior politician handling education in Pakistan recited reams of statistics about the number of ghost schools and nonexistent teachers and the billions wasted without the faintest clue how this pernicious practice could be eliminated. Irked at being continuously pressed to offer a remedy, he finally gave up, saying, "Don't you understand, corruption is innate to us, it is in our blood." In other words, "get real." The idea that corruption is second nature to man, and that anyone who questions the essential rightness of this proposition is foolish, is surely unacceptable. If only for this reason, the Supreme Court must decide that a law granting thieves exemption from punishment is intolerable.

One predecessor of the politician in question, who was also present on the occasion, related why he had given up a similar appointment in disgust. Staying on and fighting to change what he claimed to abhor never crossed his mind. He preferred a transfer to another ministry, where he found corruption no less endemic. It occurred to onlookers then, as they glanced at some notorious types present in the room, that most of this ilk avidly discuss the corrupt exploits of others all night and in the morning get up and indulge in it themselves.


To combat terrorism and the other ills that confront society we need to reform, but it is not only the police and the intelligence apparatus that need reform but also our attitudes, and even that may not be enough. Because all reform, without a moral one, will prove unavailing.


Some may argue that reform which is basically a correction of abuses is not enough; nor can it be undertaken by those who are in the first place responsible for the abuses, and hence what we need is not reform but a revolution. And, indeed, if that is what is required and what the people want, why not? No reform, moral or intellectual, ever came from the upper class of society. But lest some are wary of calls for reform, what to say of a revolution, they should know that the absence of one will beget the other.


Near the United Nations headquarters in New York there was a plaque which had these words etched in stone:

"Never let success hide its emptiness from you, achievement its nothingness, toil its desolation. And so keep alive the incentive to push on further, that it is pain in our soul that drives us beyond ourselves… Do not look back. And do not dream about the future, either. It will neither give you back the past, nor satisfy your other daydreams. Your duty, your reward -- your destiny are HERE and NOW."


The author was a former Secretary General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold. It should perhaps be required reading for our politicians, for it is here and now that they need to perform. It might just prove to be their salvation.

 

The writer is a former ambassador. Email: charles123it@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

AN UNEQUAL PARTNERSHIP?

BY IKRAM SEHGAL


While the US is right in supporting the democratic process in Pakistan, most anti-US sentiment prevailing among Pakistanis stem from the Americans' support for pliable rulers who put their own survival and motives ahead of everything else. The broad mass of the intelligentsia and the masses in Pakistan take this as cynical manipulation to gain leverage, at the cost of Pakistan's national interest. The US must distinguish between supporting the system as opposed to an individual. Regrettably, support for the "singer rather than the song" has been a vital flaw in US policy the world over for more than half a century.


Corruption and fraud, symbolised by the presence of Hamid Karzai in office, seems synonymous with the type of rulers the US supports. One does concede that at times cold pragmatism has to take preference over ideals. Unfortunately US policy is often dictated by the inordinate influence lobbyists exercise over the US administration and the US Congress. This fatal "manufacturing" flaw is paid for and driven by the colour of money rather than any ideology.


Its landlocked location makes Afghanistan dependant upon Pakistan for almost everything, even though Iran is developing as a viable alternative route. Logistically, the US cannot wage either war or peace in Afghanistan without Pakistan. Does a land route or even an aerial route through Russia and the Central Asian Republics (CARs) make economic sense? Whether it is food, oil, or manufactured goods, most originate from or transit through Pakistan. In an indirect way our 170-million population is directly affected by the export of our foodgrains and commodities to Afghanistan. Their price would be 35-40 per cent cheaper within Pakistan if the "exports" are stopped or even curbed. Compare the price of roti (bread). it would come down to Rs3 from the average of Rs5 presently. The average of three rotis per individual per day amounts to an additional Rs510 million (or $6 million per day). Pakistan thus spends almost $2 billion additional annually on bread alone!

At least 1.6 million refugees remain in refugee camps since the 80s, another 1.5 million live in Pakistan cities and towns. Add another $5-6 billion to Pakistan's budgetary requirements annually. Pakistani Pakhtuns do have connections in Afghanistan, but these are minuscule compared to the Afghan population's dependence on Pakistan. Stoppage of Afghan transit trade would create a famine in Afghanistan, besides destroying the country economically. In contrast, Pakistan gets almost nothing from Afghanistan except a basketful of sorrows. These include drugs and a weapons culture, a breakdown of our society that has allowed the Al Qaeda cancer under the guise of the Taliban to enter our daily lives. Their currency is to deal out death to innocent citizens of all ages indiscriminately.


For Afghanistan's economy to be energised an industrial potential must be created to add to the services sector, at present the only means of its economic existence. Whether in support of agriculture or building an industrial potential, all men and raw material and technical resources must mainly come from or through Pakistan, backed by the skill and assertive potential of Pakistani expertise.


All of Afghanistan's neighbours put together cannot match Pakistan's interaction. Pakistan's legitimate concerns are far more cogent than India's. The long-term US policy to build up India (Ambassador Galbraith's famous Memo of May 25, 1965) in the region to contain China runs counter to Pakistan's national security imperatives which see China as a credible guarantor of our existence. While traditional friendship with Afghanistan goes back many decades, it is understandable that India would be interested in a friendly government in Kabul but their interest is driven more by anti-Pakistan policy rather than friendship for Afghanistan. To give India a dominant say in Afghanistan is counterproductive, and at the cost of Pakistan's cooperation. RAW took over the Afghan intelligence agencies and started to create trouble for Pakistan on our western borders after 9/11. Paradoxically, India got a "sphere of influence" after the Pakistani army entered South Waziristan in 2004. On persistence from the Bush administration, Condoleezza Rice and company seemed to be comfortable with this, and to even encourage it. Why did the US drones keep a "hands off" policy towards Baitullah Mahsud? Was this naivety on the part of the US? There are lingering suspicions in Pakistan that since US and Indian interests (along with those of Israel) coincide about de-fanging our nuclear potential, the US was consciously helping the Indians cut us down to size.


The US must not fritter the $1.5 billion Kerry-Lugar Bill (KLB) through schemes that will disappear into the public memory not long after most of the money has disappeared into the pockets of consultants and go-between NGOs. The US must target major projects in Pakistan, such as dams, power stations, hospitals, roads and ports like Gwadar and Pasni, as well as north-south road and rail communications. The US must upgrade the quality of the Pakistani Armed Forces, particularly the Frontier Corps, for prolonged counterinsurgency operations, concentrating mainly on providing training, helicopters, night-vision devices and armoured vehicles. Moreover, a counterterrorism force must be funded and trained from scratch. Instead of doling out aid, the US must give us: (1) our legitimate transit dues and (2) market access for our cotton textile and manufactures thereof. Steps must be taken to bring us out of the "nuclear cold," giving us the same parity as the US nuclear accord with India. We cannot be a responsible nuclear nation if we have to depend upon clandestine sources to sustain our nuclear potential!


The US seems endlessly to find fault with Pakistan despite our many more sacrifices, suffering military and civilian casualties at more than a 10:1 ratio. Does it serve US interests to threaten Pakistan time and again unless it "does more"? We can never be equals and Pakistan has more to lose because it cannot walk away from the region as the US has done before. Pakistan's greater stake evens the imbalance of this relationship. For the new Obama Doctrine to succeed the US must understand that the roads to peace literally give through Peshawar and Quetta.


Far more effort is being put into Afghanistan (at the present moment a ratio of more than 30 to 1 in $ cost) than in Pakistan. For the Obama Doctrine to succeed the "on-off" temporary relationship must have more permanence. An effective partnership can only be formed if the US can gain the confidence of the people of Pakistan that the relationship has long-term benefits, and that the US will sustain it. Any partnership that is unequal has the element of failure inherent and no amount of rhetoric can paper over the imbalances in such a relationship.

The initiatives enunciated in the Obama Doctrine incorrectly put in order of priority the most important, "an effective partnership with Pakistan," after the "military surge" and the "civilian surge." The US recognises that Pakistan is central to any lasting solution in Afghanistan, yet there remains a yawning gap (and reluctance) to translate rhetoric into reality. Failure to rectify this major anomaly will render gains made in Afghanistan reversible, as has happened in the past in this unfortunate country.


The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: isehgal@pathfinder9.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

YESTERDAY'S MEN

BY ZAFAR KHALID FAROOQ

 

So, according to the National Accountability Bureau last week, President Asif Ali Zardari has assets of $1.5 billion – making him far richer that the Queen of England (worth only a paltry $450 million, for all those wondering). Makes you proud to be Pakistani, doesn't it? We can now tell our former colonial rulers "our head of state is richer than yours!" Although, perhaps, before we do, we should wait for the Supreme Court's ruling on whether the NRO is unconstitutional, and therefore whether the said head of state is to be tried on corruption cases.

Some foreign newspapers breathlessly ran with the story. "President Asif Zardari of Pakistan 'is a billionaire,' " screamed one particularly excitable headline in Britain's Daily Telegraph. Meanwhile, most of us upon hearing the report yawned. Old news. Quelle surprise. Nothing to see, ladies and gentleman, please move along.


In fact, the overwhelming reaction was a sense of déjà vu. Pakistani politics is stuck in a groundhog day – an endless repetition of the same characters, facing the same accusations, following the same pattern. Cases will come. Charges will be made. Sentences handed down. Cases will be appealed. Charges will be dropped. But nothing changes in Pakistan.


In two weeks' time we'll be entering the second decade of the 21st century. Yet this story – Zardari's alleged corruption – could have been drawn from the 1980s and 1990s, as well as the 2000s. The president's chief spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, himself admitted when responding to the latest allegations that these are "no more than a regurgitation of decades-old unproven, politically motivated allegations." Decades old? God, it seems longer!


Pakistani politics has become a stagnant cesspool – a repetitive regurgitation of the same people. Let's take a look at the facts pertaining to the political leaders of the three largest parties in Pakistan.


The Pakistan People's Party has been in the hands of the same family since its inception in 1967 – 42 years. While he is a relative newcomer to leading the party following the assassination of his wife in 2007, we mustn't forget that Zardari has been at the epicentre of PPP politics since his marriage to Benazir in 1987.


Nawaz Sharif came to prominence on the political scene in 1985 as the chief minister of Punjab, the very same job his brother holds today. Nawaz has been leading the PML-N since 1993.


Altaf Hussain formed the MQM in 1984 out of the remnants of the APMSO, a group he launched in 1979. As we all know, there has been no other leader of the MQM.


In the time that these three people and their families have monopolised the leadership of their respective parties, we have seen the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union, the growth of the personal computer and the internet, 9/11, and the election of America's first black president. How many cricket captains and coaches have we sacked in this time due to poor performance? Yet, these three are still here. Every time our three main political leaders appear, one is automatically transported back to the 1980s -- the decade in which these three emerged onto the political scene. The 1980s also gave us the perm, Nazia Hassan, and VCRs. Yet, while these three are no longer with us, Asif, Nawaz and Altaf Bhai remain very much in place.


It's also worth noting that in a country where three-quarters of the population is under 30 years old, and half the population is under 20, the three main political leaders are 54, 60 and 56, respectively. Are they capable of tackling the most pressing problems facing Pakistan and its young?


The world's attention is on the Copenhagen climate conference at the moment. Pakistan is one of the countries that will be affected most by climate change. According to the UN, in the coming decades we will see reduction in our crop yields – up to 30 per cent in South Asia, spread of climate-sensitive diseases such as malaria, an increased risk of extinction of plant and animal species, water stress, and an increased risk of floods as glaciers retreat, followed by drought and water scarcity. Climate change will also have an impact for peace and security and migration. With a population estimated to rise by 85 million in the next 20 years – the equivalent of five Karachis – this is truly terrifying. So where do these leaders stand on this issue? What leadership have they hown on the subject? None.

 

The fact that these three emerged during the 1980s is not coincidental. The decade of Zia spawned a new political class frustrated with the stranglehold of a military dictatorship. However, we need to admit that these three are yesterday's men. They need to step aside, not just for the sake of their parties, but also their country. Pakistani politics needs a massive infusion of new blood -- new leaders with new ideas. Leaders who can provide solutions to some of Pakistan's most pressing problems, be it terrorism, population explosion or climate change. It's time for the next generation.


Email: zkfarooq@gmail.com and www.zafarkhalidfarooq.blogspot.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

A PIE IN THE SKY WHEN YOU DIE

BY KAMILA HYAT


The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor


The bizarre four-roomed 'heaven' discovered by security forces in the Nawaz Kot area of South Waziristan is a reminder of how young boys are lured into becoming suicide bombers.


The garish paintings hung in the rooms were intended to persuade recruits aged between 12 and 18 years that they could expect to live a life of extraordinary luxury amid streams of milk and honey where beautiful women roamed after they became 'martyrs'. They were also told they would enjoy the same rank as the companions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). For those who have known only the perpetual misery of poverty and deprivation in this life, and who have suffered the consequences of occupying a place on the bottom tier of society, the promise of a different kind of existence in the hereafter obviously offers plenty of temptation. A teenage would-be suicide bomber from Waziristan, held some months ago in Afghanistan, had also spoken of similar means used by sweet-talking 'teachers' to convince their victims of how they could benefit by blowing themselves – and others -- into smithereens. Drugs and the haze of addiction make it easier for them to act irrationally and cloud conscience. According to security experts, huge quantities of drugs run through the veins of most of those sent out on suicide missionsSimilar tactics have been used for centuries. In the American south, preachers promised slaves they would be rewarded in heaven for the hardships they withstood at the present time. The glib message was parodied in a popular song written in 1911 by the labour-rights activist, Joe Hill, who urged workers to seek rights in this world rather than wait for a 'pie in the sky' after they died. This is as relevant today as it was nearly 100 years ago. Religion has become in our country a means to exploit people and persuade them not to agitate for rights or to expect any change in their fortunes. To escape squalor, hunger and deprivation they must wait for death. In other places, at other times, religious belief has of course been used to create momentum for change and for a more just world.


This message needs to be countered. In its most extreme form it has become one that has been used to persuade parents to hand over sons to militant outfits. The promise of a place in heaven for the whole family and the money handed over to 'buy' the boys both play a role in providing the human flesh militants use to carry out the most horrendous acts of violence. The fact that people now sip their tea as they watch images such as those from Moon Market in Lahore a short while ago reflects just how accustomed we have become to the sight of bodies scattered on streets or ambulances racing in to yet another scene of disaster.


In what we are told is an attempt to tackle extremism, the government seems to have launched some kind of initiative. Several prominent members of the clergy have come forward to condemn suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism. The interior minister has presided over one such seminar and lavishly praised the 'ulema' for their message. Other key religious leaders, including the head of the JUI-F, are meanwhile conspicuous by their silence. Astonishingly there are still some, even after the carnage we have seen, who speak of negotiations with the Taliban.


The question is where these tactics are leading us. The words of eminent scholars may have some small influence as far as shaping public opinion is concerned but they are unlikely to have any impact at all on the militants. The philosophy they espouse has been developed over many years and tried out in nations such as Afghanistan. In the world of hatred they have moulded, moderation has no place.


The only way to challenge the militants is to make it possible for people to believe in something available to them now, in this life rather than the next. Some sense of hope has to be injected back into a society from which it has been gradually drained away. If not a pie, people need to be offered at least the means to obtain 'roti' and 'daal'. The question is whether our government has the vision and the capacity to set about this. If it does, it has certainly done nothing so far to demonstrate this ability. Even now, there seems to be some difficulty in grasping the enormity of the task before us and accepting that military action alone cannot defeat militancy. Much, much more needs to be done.


Change cannot come instantly, but the structures on which it is to be based need to be set in place now. The fact that today Brazil is a country where the gap between the rich and the poor is closing more rapidly than anywhere else is rooted in policies that in the 1990s focused on removing children from the labour force and putting them in schools. The pay-off has come in the access of more people to better-paid jobs – as electricians or mechanics or clerks – and the creation of mobility in a previously moribund society. Better health care has helped dispel despondency and give people some belief in the possibility of living a meaningful life now or of their children living one that is more fruitful than their own. Income support in various forms has helped too.


There are many examples around the world that we can learn from. The question is whether we will do so before it is too late. Terrorism threatens to devour our country. We already live in a place that has, for many, become a kind of hell. Poverty condemns people to unimaginable hardship. Escape lies for them only in the hope of reaching heaven once they cross that divide between life and death. This is the promise used by the ruthless to trap those who live without any opti