media watch with peoples input an organization of rastriya abhyudaya
month december 26, edition 000386, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by manish manjul
Editorial is syndication of all daily- published newspaper's Editorial at one place.
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- 'AUTONOMY' REPORT
- IN MONTAZERI'S WAKE
- JHARKHAND'S RESOURCE CURSE - ASHOK MALIK
- A WINDOW TO YOUR SOUL - SRI SRI RAVI SH
- GANGSTERISM IN FLOPENHAGEN - CK VARSHNEY
- CHECKLIST OF THINGS UNDONE - SUNJOY JOSHI
- UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS CLOUD PERCEPTIONS - JAYSHREE SENGUPTA
- MPS' RECORD IN HOUSE A MATTER OF CONCERN
- TAKE ACTION AT ONCE
- VICTORS ONCE MORE
- RUCHIKA CASE EXPOSES OUR SYSTEM AGAIN - BY AMRITA IBRAHIM
- THIRD UMPIRE - AISER MOHAMMAD ALI
- POLICE FIGHT CRIME WITH PEPPER SPRAY - BY M. C. RAJAN IN CHENNAI
- YOUTH MAKES SHOWROOM PAY FOR FAULTY SHOES - BY KUMAR VIKRAM IN NEW DELHI
- RAISINA TATTLE
TIMES OF INDIA
- DON'T KISS AND TELL
- ANOTHER TRYST WITH DESTINY - ARVIND PANAGARIYA
- ALL THE PRESIDENT'S WOMEN
- DON'T SEEK HANDOUTS - SINDHU MANJESH
- WE ARE GAMBLING AWAY OUR TOMORROW - NAYAN CHANDA
- BACK TO THE OLD, BAD WAYS
- THE SMILE HAS TO GO - BARKHA DUTT
- RUNNING AT DIFFERENT SPEEDS - PRATIK KANJILAL
- PHONE BANKING
- WHO'S COMPLICIT?
- RIGHTING COPYRIGHT
- STILL THE LORDS OF FINANCE - DHIRAJ NAYYAR
- THAT GIRL IN SWAT - EJAZ HAIDER
- A TEMPORARY TRUCE - RUCHIKA TALWAR
- WHEN TIME IS ON THE STATE'S SIDE - PRATIKSHA BAXI
- HOLDING HIM TO HIS WORD - SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
- THE SOCIETAL SCOURGE OF E-CARDS - MEGHAN DAUM
- BANK ON THE PHONE
- RIGHTFULLY THEIRS
- DOES DUBAI REALLY END WITH DUBAI? - TARUN RAMADORAI
- IT HAS MADE A STRONG COMEBACK - DARLINGTON JOSE HECTOR
- CHRISTMAS MARKET - AKASH JOSHI
- HOW TO FACE SECURITY CHALLENGES
- FACTOR IN CLIMATE REFUGEES
- COPENHAGEN, TSUNAMI AND HUNGER - M.S. SWAMINATHAN
- TEN REASONS WHY CRIMINALS IN KHAKI GET AWAY - SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN
- CLUE TO CLEOPATRA'S LAST HOURS - HELENA SMITH
- FIGHT FOR JUSTICE
- THE TSUNAMI EFFECT
- IT HAS TO BE CHRISTMAS IN GOA - JOANNA LOBO
- TRY THE WINE SNOB TEST - MAGANDEEP SINGH
- HEALTH REFORM: TIDINGS OF COMFORT - PAUL KRUGMAN
- EDUCATING SPECIAL CHILDREN
- SEARCHING FOR A CM
- INTELLIGENCE ALERTS
- THE RUCHIKA TRAGEDY - BY K.N. BHAT
- THE SUREST DIET - BY RAJ CHATTERJEE
- NEED TO GRAB INITIATIVE ON J&K - BY SATISH MISRA
- HIGH BIDS FOR DOOMED LOVE AFFAIR STORY - BY ARIFA AKBAR
- INSIDE PAKISTAN - BY SYED NOORUZZAMAN
THE ASSAM TRIBUNE
- ONGC CRISIS
- SERIES WIN
- SEPARATIST MOVEMENT, INSURGENCY AND YOUTH - DR KAMALA KANTA SAHARIA
- EFFECTIVE BUSINESS MANAGEMENT A CRYING NEED - KK SEN
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
- REFORMING INTERNAL SECURITY
- CORPORATE GOVERNANCE
- LOVE STORY IN AIR INDIA
- PRIVATE NOT THE SAME AS FOR-PROFIT - PANKAJ JALOTE
- WHY SALMAN MUST SPEAK TO PRANAB - V RAGHUNATHAN
- I'M NOT SLAVE TO ANY IDEOLOGY: GADKARI - DEVESH KUMAR
- 'CAR IT WILL BE ADAPTED SOON IN INDIA' - GOURI AGTEY ATHALE
- 'NEW DATA UNIT IN INDIA TO BE GLOBAL PILOT PROJECT' - PP THIMMAYA
- 'GOVT MUST OFFER GOOD INCENTIVES TO DRIVE MANUFACTURING SECTOR' - WRITANKAR MUKHERJEE
- INDIA AMONG FOUR GROWTH DRIVERS FOR CITRIX: WASSON - SHELLEY SINGH
- 'INDIA CAN BE GLOBAL HUB FOR LOW-COST MEDICAL DEVICES' - WRITANKAR MUKHERJEE
- 'WILLINGNESS TO VALUE THE PERSONAL DIMENSION, THAT'S WHAT WE'RE AFTER'
- SOMEBODY STOP THE ROT IN THE ARMY
- FREE HIGHER EDUCATION - BY ASHOK MALIK2
- SURESHOT SPOILSPORTS OF 2010 - BY CYRUS BROACHA
- AN 1800S STAGE FRIGHT
- TIDINGS OF COMFORT
- MERRY CHRISTMAS!
- SHAME AT EDEN
- MINISTER IN BATTLE
- THE DINAKARAN CASE - BY KG KANNABIRAN
- A DISSOLVING BANDAGE THAT PREVENTS INFECTION
- JUST TOO LITTLE
- THE MEANS TO AN END - SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY
- RIGHT THINKING
- HIDING HEADLEY
- BJP MELTDOWN? - BY GAYATHRI NIVAS
- MORNING BLUES - - BY KHUSHWANT SINGH
- FREEBIE FUSILLADE - BY MEERA SESHADRI
THE NEW YORK TIMES
- PRESIDENT KARZAI'S INAUSPICIOUS START
- CELLPHONE SEARCHES
- THE OBAMA WAY - BY ROSS DOUTHAT
- MORE DEATH, MORE MAYHEM
- STRANGLED AT BIRTH
- KIDNEYS FOR SALE
- A DECADE OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY - ARIF NIZAMI
- FRIGHTENED BY JOURNALISTS? - DR MASOODA BANO
- THE NRO FALLOUT - TALAT MASOOD
- AN EXTRA LIFE FOR THE PRESIDENT - ZAFAR HILALY
- UNWARRANTED ACTIVISM? - BABAR SATTAR
- AUSTERITY DRIVE - TAYYAB SIDDIQUI
- CLASH WITH JUDICIARY WILL DERAIL SYSTEM
- ENHANCE SECURITY OF IMAMBARGAHS
- SHAUKAT AZIZ TALKS OF SOME PROUD MOMENTS
- AND WE LOOK ON HOPELESSLY... - NOSHEEN SAEED
- NURSULTAN NAZARBAYEV: A DYNAMIC LEADER - MUHAMMAD MUNIR
- NATION DESIRES CHANGE OF SYSTEM - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
- WHY INDIA CAN'T BE SUCCESSFUL AGAINST MAOISTS - AFSHAIN AFZAL
- A BROKEN VOICE FOR CHRISTMAS..! - ROBERT CLEMENTS
- SCHOOL ADMISSIONS
- DISTRIBUTION OF BOOKS
- LEARNING TO BE A FRAUD..! - ROBERT CLEMENTS
- THE HISTORY OF ARAKAN, ITS RELIGIONS - U KHIN MAUNG SAW
- ENTRY OF MOHAMMED MOHSIN-II - M. SERAJUL ISLAM
- HAPPINESS: GOOD HEALTH AND A BAD MEMORY - AVIK SENGUPTA
- IN PRAISE OF CHRISTMAS PRESENTS
- THE GREAT JOY OF DOING NOT MUCH ON BOXING DAY
- GIFTS THAT WILL KEEP ON GIVING
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
- AFTER OBAMA'S FIRST YEAR, THINGS CAN ONLY GET BETTER
- SCIENCE IS KEEPING US ALL IN THE DARK
- HEROES RISE, HEROES FALL. THE CONTEST GOES ON
THE KOREA HERALD
- STUDENTS' RIGHTS
- LOOSE CHANGE
- SADNESS IS NATURAL HUMAN EMOTION, NOT A DISEASE - ALLAN V. HORWITZ/JEROME C. WAKEFIELD
- AFGHANISTAN'S CUSTOMARY ANGUISH - CAROL MANN
- MR. OZAWA IS OUT OF LINE
- NOT A BENCHMARK TO CELEBRATE
- THE DAY THAT ROMANIA'S 'BEARS' FOUGHT BACK - BY MICHAEL MEYER
- WILL RUSSIA SAVE THE WEST? - BY SERGEI KARAGANOV
THE JAKARTA POST
- WHO WILL POLICE CRIMINAL COPS?
- WHAT HAS THE 2004 TSUNAMI REALLY TAUGHT US? - BEKELE GELETA
- CLIMATE CHANGE SUMMIT 2009 RESULTS AND OUR FAILURE AS A HUMAN RACE - DAMI BUCHORI
- TOO MANY REGULATORY SURPRISES - MARK A. NELSON
VALLEY'S OLD WHINE IN NEW BOTTLE
It is astonishing that a working group set up by the Prime Minister to study Centre-State relations in the context of Jammu & Kashmir should have come up with a report that has neither been endorsed by all the members of the panel nor addresses the real issues. The group, headed by a former judge, Justice S Saghir Ahmad, was set up after the Round Table Conference of May 2006 which was an initiative of the Prime Minister to resolve political issues related to Jammu & Kashmir and its remit was to recommend measures to strengthen relations between the State and the Centre. Although not stated specifically, the group was supposed to deal with the demand for 'autonomy' which is voiced by Srinagar-based political parties though it is defined differently by each one of them for instance, the PDP calls it 'self-rule' and which transmogrifies into the demand for 'azadi' when it comes to the so-called aspirations of the separatists, exemplified by the charter of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference. But the aspirations of Jammu & Kashmir are not represented by the politicians of the Kashmir Valley alone: Jammu province seeks greater autonomy within the State to ensure its development and progress, so does Ladakh; both feel neglected, and justifiably so, by Srinagar. Justice Ahmad and his team were supposed to come up with fresh ideas to reconcile conflicting demands within the State and address the core issue of the State's relationship with the Centre. Twenty-seven months later, he has come up with a report which deals with neither. If the executive summary of the report, released by the State Government's Information Department, is an accurate guide to what the document says, then the working group has done precious little other than meet the representatives of only certain political parties and regurgitate outdated ideas and old demands. Worse, the report's draft was not circulated among other members of the group before being finalised, nor were their views sought to evolve a consensus. In fact, Justice Ahmad now stands accused of not holding formal meetings over the past two years. Curiously, though the group was set up by the Prime Minister, it has chosen to submit a copy of its report to the National Conference Government headed by Mr Omar Abdullah.
On the face of it, the report is a compilation of the recommendations of previous committees and commissions that were set up to deal with intra-State demands as well as the clamour for 'autonomy'. Most of those recommendations are well past their use-by-date and the situation which obtained when they were submitted bears no resemblance to the situation that obtains today. For example, it is absurd to talk about the 'Kashmir Accord' today or going back to the pre-1953 status. Nor does 'self-rule' mean anything Jammu & Kashmir, in case the PDP has missed the point, is ruled by elected representatives of the people of the State and not 'outsiders'. The recommendations for Jammu and Ladakh are neither here nor there and fall far short of the expectations of the people of this region by way of addressing their genuine grievances which are related to development. Nor does the report do justice to the Kashmiri Pandits who were forced to flee the Valley by Islamic terrorists and are living as refugees in their own country. In a sense, an opportunity to deal with the real issues of Jammu & Kashmir has been squandered.
IN MONTAZERI'S WAKE
OPPOSITION SHARPENS ITS ATTACK
In what could be described as more evidence of popular resentment against the Iranian regime, Opposition supporters have gravitated around the death of senior dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri who passed away last Sunday. Montazeri was one of the leaders of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and a close aide of the Islamic Republic's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. At one point he was even appointed as Khomeini's successor, but fell out with the supreme leader over Iran's human rights record months before the latter's death in 1989. Since then, Montazeri had been a sharp critic of the Iranian regime. He was also critical of the disputed June presidential election that saw Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad come back to power for a second term. Thus, it is hardly surprising that Montazeri's funeral was attended by Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mr Ahmadinejad's main challenger in the June election, who had accused the President of fraud and vote-rigging. In fact, over the last few days, Opposition supporters participating in memorial services organised in remembrance of Montazeri have clashed with Iranian security personnel on several occasions. So vociferous have been the Opposition protests that Iran's Government has been forced to ban further memorial services.
It goes without saying that all of this is a manifestation of the deep-rooted anger that the Iranian people have against those in power in Tehran. Since the disputed presidential election, the Iranian authorities have cracked down hard on Opposition supporters and sympathisers, throwing them in jail and even sentencing some to death. The notorious Basij militia thugs loyal to the present supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have been on the prowl, brutally suppressing any form of expression that could be construed as anti-Government. But the protesters seem to be undeterred by the Government clampdown and have been expressing their disgust for the regime through whatever means possible. The protests have been both vocal as well as silent. Case in point, on Thursday, the Central Bank of Iran urged businesses, traders and the general public not to accept bank notes smeared with anti-Government graffiti. Such currency notes have surfaced in large volumes since June. It is clear from these symbols of protest that the popular antipathy towards the Iranian Government that has been on display throughout the past several months is much more than sporadic anger. What we are witnessing in Iran today has the potential of turning into a second revolution in the history of that country. Religion plays an important part in Iranian society. The death of a revered dissent cleric on the heels of one of the most important periods in the Shiite religious calendar Moharram could well prove to be the vital catalyst needed for a sweeping political change in Iran.
JHARKHAND'S RESOURCE CURSE
Jharkhand, a State that accounts for 40 per cent of India's mineral wealth, has just voted in a hung Assembly. With a three-way split between BJP-led, Congress-led and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha blocs, a variety of permutations and combinations is being speculated upon.
However, not one formulation points to a sustainable Government that will provide responsive administration. Rather, the two national parties have become reluctant suitors of a discredited local chieftain, Mr Shibu Soren, and are being virtually blackmailed by the JMM. On his part, Mr Soren is available to the highest bidder.
Of the three States that were created in 2000 Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh being the others Jharkhand is easily the worst performing. It has replaced Bihar as India's basket-case. Its mineral wealth, its iron ore and its mica, are parcelled out by its politicians and civil servants to such a degree that even President's rule was not free of controversy and scandal.
India's natural resources powerhouse is also home to its most wretched poverty. The aboriginal people in whose name the State was formed as a 'tribal homeland' remain as desperately poor and ill-served as they have been for ages.
How does one explain this paradox? In 1993, the British economist Richard M Auty published a study called Sustaining Development in Mineral Economies: The Resource Curse Thesis. Much of what he wrote finds meaning in the context of Jharkhand.
Coining the expression 'resource curse', Auty argued countries and societies with plentiful natural resources tended to be, ironically, underdeveloped, with stunted economic growth and laggard social indices. "A growing body of evidence suggests," Auty wrote, "that a favourable natural resource endowment may be less beneficial to countries at low and mid-income levels of development than the conventional wisdom might suppose."
Auty's essential thesis was that the presence of natural resources was enough for the elite in such a society to live off the exploitation and export of this wealth, to create a rentier state that had no interest in promoting a broader economic base. Mining of such natural resources, Auty said, was decidedly capital intensive, and more dependent on external money than the mass employment of local people. There was little value addition or, as he put it, only "modest local production linkages". In simpler language, the minerals of the resource-rich country created jobs and were used in factories elsewhere.
Strictly speaking, this was not colonialism. No external power was simply taking away a country's natural resources for free. It was paying good money for them, but the money was being cornered by a small ruling elite. It did not translate to benefits for the larger population and did not leave the elite with any incentive to invest in other forms of economic activity or incubate other businesses in trade and services.
Auty gave several illustrations of the 'resource curse'. Oil-rich sheikhdoms were the most salient, but so were countries as far apart as Chile, Jamaica and Zambia. Even while comparing two developed countries, the contrast seemed to be striking: "Australia has a lower per capita income than Japan despite the fact that its per capita resources (based upon land area as a proxy for resource endowment) are 150 times those of Japan and hat it also secured a head start in economic development."
An example of a country that has avoided the resource curse would be Singapore. Absence of mineral resources forced it to become an early advocate of globalisation and position itself as a trade and financial services hub.
Israel, the one major country in West Asia without any petroleum deposits, used innovation and a knowledge-based economy to distinguish itself from its neighbours. Even Dubai, despite its current troubles, was impelled to reinvent itself as the leisure and financial capital of the Arab world because it had very little oil, as against some of the other emirates.
How is all this relevant to Jharkhand? When Auty undertook his research, he focussed on resource-rich countries and compared their trajectory with other, resource-scarce countries. Perhaps it would be prudent to look at not just whole countries but regions within countries through the prism of the 'resource curse'. In India, Auty's parameters could easily be applied to some of the States of the North-East abundant in water, forest and, occasionally, mineral wealth or provinces like Jharkhand.
What is so profoundly disquieting is that, unlike Arab or African or Latin American samples of this phenomenon countries that are monarchies, dictatorships or only notional democracies in Jharkhand kleptocrats and plain thugs are actually elected. The resource curse is sort of legitimised by a popular mandate.
Having said this, it would not do to blame the people of the State and claim that they are unaffected by issues of corruption, that they are gullible tribals who worship their leaders and think of them as god, or that they are naïve folk who don't know what Madhu Koda's Rs 40 billion scandal is all about because they have no notion of money beyond a few hundred rupees. Such condescending piffle was offered by a series of party spokespersons and so-called political pundits in the aftermath of the Jharkhand verdict. It was all over television and it was rubbish.
The truth is not one of the three traditional power competitors in the State the JMM of course, but also the BJP and the Congress have endeavoured to break the resource curse. Rather, they have all pampered representatives who have chosen to see Jharkhand's natural wealth as a short-term money-making opportunity.
Left to themselves, Jharkhand's politicians will have no reason to change the rapacious nature of its political economy. It will take a decisive message from the electorate to do so. Whatever the outcome of the Government-formation deal-making in the coming week, another election in a year or even less is very likely. Could new regional forces that have made their mark in this election consolidate by then and give Jharkhand a route out of its resource curse?
In 2005, Bihar saw two Assembly elections in nine months. The first resulted in a deadlock. In the second, the combination of a clean and credible State leader and a supportive national party won a famous victory. Is there an augury for Jharkhand?
A WINDOW TO YOUR SOUL
SRI SRI RAVI SH
We only want to look at something that is a source of joy, not at something that is likely to sadden us. If any one of the senses is missing, the entire dimension of that sense is lost. One who can't hear is bereft of the whole arena of sound. Similarly, he who can't see is deprived of all the beautiful sights and colours. So the sense is more important and much bigger than the object of the sense.
Each sense has a limited capacity to enjoy after all, how much can one see, hear or touch? However beautiful a sight, one cannot keep looking at it. The senses get tired after a short period of time. The eyes close and we want to go back into ourself because every experience is an expense of energy.
Rated higher than the sense is the 'mind'. The mind is infinite; its desires are many. But the capacity of the senses to enjoy is small. This imbalance in the system will remain. Greed is wanting more and more sensory objects even though a person can eat only so much, he wants all the chocolates in the world; though the amount (of money) that can be spent by an individual during a lifetime is limited, he wants all the wealth in the world. This is greed.
Giving too much importance to sensory objects leads to greed and lust. Giving too much importance to the mind and its desires leads to delusion. We hold on to the concepts of the mind and want things to happen in a certain way. Thus, the concepts in our mind impede us from perceiving the infinite consciousness that is a part of us.
I am not saying that the senses or the mind are bad. But we must learn to discriminate between things and be aware of what is happening at all times. That is when clarity dawns on us. This is the first step towards the higher state of consciousness.
The fourth (or the higher) state of consciousness is somewhere in between the waking, sleeping and dreaming states; wherein we know 'we are' but we don't know 'where' we are. This knowledge that I 'am' but I don't know 'where' I am or 'what I am is called 'Shiva'. This state gives the deepest possible rest that one can experience.
In the waking state, one is constantly engaged in looking, smelling, eating and other activities. The other extreme is the sleeping state where one is completely cut off and dull. The dullness and heaviness linger even after waking up. The more one sleeps, the duller one feels since a lot of energy is expended in sleep. Hence, the fourth state, where we are awake and yet at complete rest, is worth knowing. We enter this state only during meditation.
GANGSTERISM IN FLOPENHAGEN
BIG TIME ARM-TWISTING WAS RESORTED TO BY THE WORLD'S LEAD POLLUTER NATION IN THE SLOG OVERS OF THE JUST-CONCLUDED COPENHAGEN SUMMIT, AND THE STAGE IS SET FOR MURKIER BEHIND-THE-SCENES ACTION AHEAD OF MEXICO 2010
The global community had great expectations from Copenhagen, but after two weeks of hectic talks, all hopes were belied. The outcome of the summit (COP 15) concluded a day behind schedule. It delivered a non-binding deal dubbed as the "Copenhagen Accord" primarily brokered by US President Barack Obama, the leader of the world's lead polluter nation.
The Copenhagen Accord acknowledged the need to limit global temperature rise to a minimum of two degrees Celsius. Yet it failed to specify legally binding commitments by developed countries for emissions reduction under the Kyoto Protocol to levels advised by science and dictated by social equity. Moreover, the 2C limit is a less ambitious target than the 1.5C limit that small island nations wanted, fearing that they may otherwise be submerged by the rising sea that surround them.
Recent studies have come out with iterations that 80 per cent global carbon reduction would be needed from 1990 levels by 2020, factoring in the latest unforeseen rise in global greenhouse gas emissions to avert the catastrophic effects of global warming.
Historically, the US has accounted for about 30 per cent of global carbon emissions. While now it is close to China in terms of emissions volumes, the US is still the lead polluter in the world by population. It is the number one producer as well as consumer of fossil fuels. President Obama said that the US can only commit to 4 per cent emission reduction by 2020, the lowest among the rich capitalist countries.
However, the US is not alone. Its allies, Japan, Australia and EU have also pressed for individually set emission targets, with commitments falling to a reduction of a piffling 5, 8 and 20 per cent respectively by 2020. The main reason for the failure to have a legally-binding agreement for carbon emission reduction is the continued refusal of rich countries to cut their carbon emission according to global requirements. In a fossil fuel driven and profit-oriented global production system, the US and other leading capitalist countries fear that cutting their carbon emissions would lead to economic devastation and loss of leverage over the world economy.
More recent studies declare that by 2020, there should be about 80 per cent reduction in global carbon emissions from 1990 levels, by 2020, factoring in the latest unforeseen rise in global greenhouse gas emissions, to avert catastrophic effect of global warming.
Developing countries have, for the first time, been asked to "take action" to cut emissions. The accord would allow countries to measure their own actions but publish full results globally. Satellites may be used to keep a watch on emissions from above.
There will be $10 billion a year "fast start" funding for the poorest and most vulnerable countries to protect themselves from the impact of drought and floods caused by global warming over the next three years. By 2020 the world is to "mobilise" $100 bn a year through a "Copenhagen Green Climate Fund", which will also help poorer countries halt deforestation and switch to greener technology. This amount is far too short of requirement. Moreover, it is not clear how this money will be raised, how it is to be administered and what will be the disbursement criteria? One is not sure that a commitment made ten years in advance would be adhered to and implemented. Past experience does not inspire much confidence especially when President Obama is yet to introduce the proposal to the Senate for approval.
A scheme to end deforestation by paying poor countries preserve their trees has been welcomed by many as a more concrete achievement, but it will not take effect for another year. In view of the wide divergence of views of the member states and in the rush of the exhausted leaders to return home, the Copenhagen Accord was merely noted by The Conference of Parties (COP) and it is not a binding agreement.
The Copenhagen summit has also witnessed an incipient reorientation in political interests. This is likely to magnify in future and it could lead to significant shifts in geopolitical alignments. It is unambiguously clear that the US and the BASIC countries are going to be of prime importance in global carbon politics. Further, serious differences within the G-77 was apparent as the small island nations were stressing on deep mandatory emission cuts by both developed and BASIC countries a position similar to the interests of developed countries.
The fact that all UN members now accept that climate change is "one of the greatest challenges of our time", and that temperature rise must be kept below 2 degrees Celsius. But the overall deal is so weak that public expectations for tough global deals have vanished. The accord does not mention further negotiations and there is no mandatory commitment which amount to almost business as usual for the developed block. The US has failed to demonstrate responsible leadership to save the world from disastrous climate change.
The $30 billion "fast start" fund would help poor countries meet their immediate needs. But it is still not clear where most of the money will come from. To provide $100 billion a year by 2020 requires new finance mechanisms like a global carbon market or taxes on aviation. All this is still a long way off.
Having witnessed the diplomatic maneuvering, it is evident that climate negotiations in COP is not one involving equals; it can never be an international treaty for the common good. Copenhagen was a political arena where superpowers imposed their interests in total disregard of the interests of the majority and of civil society.
According to UN rules, all decisions have to be by consensus among the countries present at a meeting. But the draft accord was steam-rolled by President Obama by holding a press conference. He had the nerve to announce an 'agreement' between the US and BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) and claimed there was a 'consensus' on the draft Copenhagen agreement even before the draft was presented to the plenary. This amounted to gross violation of the principles of transparency and participation by all countries that have governed all actions within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). For the remaining 183 countries it was a fait accompli. It is not surprising that the reaction of the member state the accord varied from acquiescence to anger.
Over the next 12 months there are to be meetings to flesh out the Accord. Meanwhile there would be pressure on the developed nations to increase their emission cut targets. Let us hope that at the Maxico meeting in 2010 bold decisions would be in order for the sake of the future of mankind.
-- The writer is a former Dean, School of Environmental Sciences, JNU
CHECKLIST OF THINGS UNDONE
NOBODY EXPECTED COPENHAGEN TO LEAD TO HISTORIC CLINCHERS; SO THE FACT THAT SOME HEADWAY WAS MADE IS IN HINDSIGHT A BIG DEAL. A SATURDAY SPECIAL REVIEW
The smokescreen around Copenhagen had started going up well before the event concluded in a dust storm of confusion on December 19. As we count the winners and losers, there is no doubt that US President Obama deserves the gold medal. The silver would of course go to China as just recognition of its rightful place as the clear number 2 in the new pecking order. The bronze would in all probability go to the new kids on the block the least-developed countries and small island states which, from now on, have no need to stand up and be counted among the G-77.
Incidentally, for all its outward peeve and public face of disappointment, even Europe would not be too displeased with the outcome. Hopefully as climate negotiations move beyond Copenhagen, both the US and the EU have skillfully managed to loosen the stranglehold of Kyoto. India, of course, for its part has surprised no one, least of all itself, for not being anywhere in the medals tally. Actually, if pre-Copenhagen announcements and post-Copenhagen pronouncements are deconstructed we appear to have been quite comfortable to be the cheerleaders for the US right from the beginning.
Let's analyse what had been happening between 1990, the D-Year as far as emission action under the Kyoto protocol was concerned, and 2006. In this period, the US, being non-signatory to that agreement, increased its total carbon dioxide emission by 18 per cent. The problem, however, was Europe where in spite of all the brave and very public posturing, emissions rose (rather than fell) by 1.5 billion tonnes post 1990. The Annex-1 countries, viz. Germany, Sweden and the UK, were the only ones which managed to reduce emissions. Of these, the largest reductions, a high 14.7 per cent, came about in Germany, one of the few countries to meet the UNFCCC 2000 stabilisation targets. However, this superhero of the EU derived its much vaunted reductions primarily through what was for it the inescapable restructuring of the former East German economy and its ("fortuitously") high levels of inefficiency in both generation and manufacturing with the West.
Now let us look at China and India to analyse their comparative positions. China's fossil fuel-based emissions, which were a mere 2.3 billon tonnes in 1990, had increased to 6 billion tonnes by 2006, an increase of a whopping 162 per cent. Not only this, the increase from 3.1 to 6 billion tonnes happened after 2001 as China industrialised on an unprecedented scale and built its massive infrastructure and manufacturing capacities.
In the five years from 2002 to 2007, China's coal consumption grew 84 per cent from 713 to 1311 million tonnes. According to EIA data, coal in China accounted for 82 per cent of its entire fossil fuel emissions in 2005. By contrast, only 68 per cent resulted from coal. IEA statistics show that 71 per cent of China's energy demand is derived from industry as against 49 per cent in the case of India. This is so because so far it was services which accounted for 54 per cent of India's GDP whereas 48 per cent of China's GDP comes from industry alone. Even within industry it is China's heavy industry that consumes 54 per cent of the country's energy.
The spurt in China's demand for energy in the last five years has derived from the virtual explosion in the country's heavy manufacturing capacity. In 2003, China was a net steel importer (35.4 million tonnes) but by 2006 it became the world's largest exporter. Between 2002 and 2007, steel production grew by over two-and-a-half times from 182 to 489 million tonnes, which was 36.4 per cent of the world's total steel production. Even as some of this was export-led growth, a significant part of it fed the rising local demand. According to USGS data, China in 2007 produced 1,300 million tonnes of cement, which accounted for half of all the cement produced in the world.
In all, it is evident that China appears to have utilised the slack period of uninhibited growth with no carbon constraints to its maximum advantage. Having expanded its carbon space, China, in the run up to Copenhagen 2009, had no problems declaring that it would reduce its carbon intensity by 40 per cent by 2020. In its scramble to grab as much carbon space as it could, China had accumulated a huge inventory of some of the most inefficient and carbon intensive manufacturing and generating capacities. As the experience of Germany in Europe has shown China's efforts to reduce its carbon intensity can now almost happen on auto pilot.
Readers would do well to remember that along with this runaway growth in manufacturing, China's intensity of emissions (per $ 1,000 GDP on purchasing power parity basis) rose from 0.94 in 2001 to as high as 1.13 in 2005 an increase of 20 per cent. During the same period, India's carbon intensity fell from 0.64 to 0.55 a decrease of 14 per cent. At current levels, India's carbon intensity compares extremely well with the US, which was itself at the same figure (0.55) in 2005. Justifiably, India neither claimed nor received any recognition for this decrease in its carbon intensity as the decline had more to do with the nature of its services-led growth trajectory rather than any conscious policy action by the mandarins in Yojana Bhavan.
The phenomenal growth of heavy industry such as steel, cement, aluminum etc fuelled the surge of infrastructure projects and the construction boom across China which grabbed headlines across the world till 2008. India's demand for energy, on the other hand, with a high services-led economic growth saw a steadier rate of increase of 3 to 3.5 per cent over the same period compared to China, which grew at anywhere between 7 per cent and 16 per cent in any given year. In spite of this major difference in where we stood on the growth path, in our eagerness to fall in line we followed China and unilaterally declared cuts in carbon intensity of 20-25 per cent. What we may have failed to recognise is that our past pattern of growth may not be sustained indefinitely. Hopefully, (and I am still keeping my fingers crossed on this one) India should also see major growth coming from its manufacturing and infrastructure sectors in the years to follow. These changes in the patterns of growth and consumption could fuel a further steep rise in energy demand as not just infrastructure-led growth takes place, but the need for transportation, heating, cooling and lighting of the huge population base itself expands with growth in earning capacities and a demographic shift to more and more urbanised growth centres.
In short, what has been jettisoned at Copenhagen with the unfortunate but willing acquiescence of India is the simple fact, well recognised by the Kyoto Protocol, which the development trajectories of not just India and China but other parts of the yet undeveloped world need to be factored in. This is essential if climate change goals are aligned with the aspirations of the significant "other", which actually represents two thirds of the world.
-- The writer is with Observer Research Foundation
UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS CLOUD PERCEPTIONS
IT IS NOT TRUE THAT COPENHAGEN WAS A FLOP SHOW. LET'S NOT FORGET WE WENT TO THE TABLE EXPECTING ONLY HALF A MEAL SO WHY ARE WE GRUMBLING THAT WE ARE LEAVING WITH OUR HUNGER ONLY 50 PER CENT SATISFIED?
Everyone knows that India changed its stand and agreed to verification of its emission control at the Copenhagen summit. But it did so only after it was invited to the 'high table' with the US and other BASIC countries Brazil, South Africa and China.
China refused to accept international controls or monitoring and thus there was a long section on monitoring in the 'Accord'. It says: "Emerging economies must monitor their efforts and report the results to the UN every two years, with some international checks to meet western transparency concerns to ensure that national sovereignty is respected."
India and the world, however, would need to ensure that China does not fudge figures about emission control.
The meeting ended on a discordant note. The small island countries perceive greater threat to themselves from global warming. A postage stamp-sized country like Tuvalu is much vulnerable than Iceland or the Nordic countries.
But the summit was a partial success because there was a gathering of more than 100 world leaders. It is also remarkable that Tuvalu's voice was heard and the US was represented by President Barack Obama, a sharp contrast to President George W Bush's attitude towards the Kyoto Protocol.
However, there is no denying the fact that India, China, Brazil, South Africa and the US have come up with a document which fails to address the key issue of emission cuts by the industrial countries. The alarmists wanted a 50 per cent cut in carbon emissions by 2050. It was an ambitious target and there was no way in which the industrial nations would have agreed to it at one go. But the Accord does require emission commitments from them for 2020 that would need to be listed before January 31, 2010.
Also, on a positive move, the developed countries have set a goal of mobilising jointly $100 billion a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing nations and the funds would come from a wide variety of sources public and private, bilateral and multilateral. The main theme of reducing emissions not to let temperatures rise above 2 degrees Celsius is, however, not entirely new and had been discussed before.
For India the main compromise lies in its agreeing to be accountable for its domestic actions regarding emission control through verification and scrutiny without any support of international finance and technology help.
The text says: "Developed countries shall provide adequate predictable and sustainable financial resources, technology and capacity building to support the implementation of adaptation action in developing countries."
Nationally appropriate mitigation actions seeking international support are to be recorded in a registry along with relevant technology, finance and capacity-building support from industrial nations. But then, what about the industrial countries undertaking similar large emission cuts that could be verified?
Copenhagen failed insofar as it was deprived of support by all nations, and the UN structure needs all countries to support a statement for it to be adopted by the framework convention. It was supposed to be based on the Bali Roadmap and was expected to review the Kyoto Protocol and reach an agreement establishing targets for greenhouse gas emission reduction for 2012 and beyond.
It failed to reach an acceptable compromise and the meeting had to close by deciding to "take note" of the Accord. It is, however, not a legally binding climate agreement which upset many, including the EU and Tuvalu.
India has had to balance its domestic duty of committing to industrialisation with its
external responsibility of emission controls of an emerging giant. It would have to undertake obligations that rich countries took only when they became industrialised and wealthy.
Many would argue that India would have to compromise its manufacturing growth and concentrate on industries with low carbon emission, which clearly is not a viable option today. Increasing employment is of prime importance for India as millions in the countryside are seeking employment in the urban areas and only manufacturing sector can absorb them.
The Environment Minister, however, said that India's pledging to cut its emission intensity of its GDP by 20 to 25 per cent by 2020 on 2005 level is not only 'eminently feasible'. He added that it could be improved upon "for the benefit of our own people."
"We must soon unveil a detailed roadmap for a low carbon growth strategy," Ramesh said. This compliance with general climate change goals could be hard to achieve without a huge quantum of technical and financial support from developed countries. Besides, others should also follow if the global concern is genuine. Most developing countries would find it difficult to accept curtailing their development to ensure global responsibility by agreeing to absolute emission reduction targets. They would desist from accepting absolute emission reduction targets because it would make their economies stagnate and threaten their stability.
The burden sharing has to be differential according to the Kyoto Protocol and that is why several of the G77 developing countries wanted to stick to Kyoto. Why was it abandoned as unworkable? Even in the future, conflict is inevitable between the interests of the developing and developed countries. What Copenhagen summit did achieve was to start the process of negotiations which will continue in Mexico in 2010. But it did not set a specific date by which a new agreement must be reached, leaving the future of this process quite uncertain.
MPS' RECORD IN HOUSE A MATTER OF CONCERN
AN analysis of the proceedings of the 15th Lok Sabha has revealed how seriously our parliamentarians take the responsibilities vested in them by the people. Of course, the most startling indicator of this was the adjournment of the question hour on November 30 after most of the MPs who had questions listed against their names were found missing from the House.
The PRS Legislative Research study has found that nearly 48 per cent of the MPs failed to attend a single debate in the just concluded winter session. As many as 206 MPs let the government have an easy ride in the House, with 113 of them not asking a single question in the budget and winter sessions of Parliament. Also, only 60 MPs had more than 95 per cent attendance in the two sessions.
How the parliament has been functioning was clear when before being adjourned sine die over the Telengana ruckus on Friday, five bills relating to crucial subjects like the judiciary, trademarks and salaries and perks of ministers were passed without any discussion taking place.
Considering that it costs the exchequer Rs 15 lakh for every hour that the Lok Sabha meets and our parliamentarians enjoy perks and privileges of every kind by virtue of their position, there can be absolutely no justification for such conduct.
As it is Parliament does not meet for long enough these days. From about 140 sittings till the eighties, it was down to just 46 days in 2008. And when the House does meet adjournments and disruptions take a heavy toll the 14the Lok Sabha saw 20 per cent of the parliamentary time lost this way. This state of affairs can't persist for long.
TAKE ACTION AT ONCE
ARMY Chief General Deepak Kapoor is sending all the wrong signals by his seemingly prevaricating approach to the recommendation of the Eastern Army commander Lt Gen V. K. Singh that a top officer involved in the Darjeeling land scam be dismissed and court martial and disciplinary proceedings be initiated against several other officers.
In recent years, the Army has been rocked by a number of scandals involving formation commanders and generals. A major scam involving rations and supplies hit the Northern Command; indeed, one major scam relating to tents took place in the Command when Kapoor was the General Officer Commanding- in- Chief there. In the present instance, impropriety, and probably something worse, has been attributed to one of the topmost officers of the Army headquarters, Military Secretary Avadesh Prakash.
Even democratic societies recognise that Army justice must be swift and draconian, and often seemingly arbitrary. But this is crucial if the Army is to maintain its command system which is based on iron discipline.
The Indian Army Act has codified this system which may appear harsh to outsiders, but it has its own set of checks and balances.
By dithering on the recommendations of the Army command that inquired into the scam, General Kapoor risks seriously undermining discipline. If there is one thing that the Union Defence Minister A. K. Antony is known for, it is probity in public life. If the Army Chief is found wanting in maintaining order in his force, the minister must step in and do the needful.
VICTORS ONCE MORE
INDIA have inched closer to the official world No. 1 position in ODI rankings by winning the five- match series against Sri Lanka. Already No. 1 in Test rankings, India are now just seven points behind topranked Australia in the one- dayers. With the win in Kolkata on Thursday night, India have proved once again that on home turf they are a tough side to get better of.
Their batsmen have been in sublime form.
Gautam Gambhir's purple patch continues and his Delhi teammate Virat Kohli joined him in the run- glut in Kolkata to provide another solid option for the already formidable middle order. This meant no one felt the absence of an injured Yuvraj Singh while Mahendra Singh Dhoni's void was ably filled by Virender Sehwag as captain. If India wins the fifth ODI in Delhi on Sunday, it will be the perfect icing on the cake as Dhoni is also to receive the ICC Test Championship mace after the match.
RUCHIKA CASE EXPOSES OUR SYSTEM AGAIN
BY AMRITA IBRAHIM
THE judgment in the Ruchika Girhotra case has left a number of us with the bitter taste of déjà vu in our mouths. It has reminded us of previous occasions, not unlike this one, where well- connected police and/ or politicians or their children subverted the system of investigation and due process, resulting in long delays, loss of evidence and silencing of witnesses. Jessica Lall, Priyadarshni Mattoo, and now Ruchika Girhotra have all been victims of a corrupt and self- entitled police- politician nexus, which has been able to bend the laws of our society to its will.
These cases haven't been the only ones, either, just the most high profile, about " people like us" as one editorial put it. However, after long years of fighting those corrupt higher powers and being subjected to intimidation and coercion, at least the families of Jessica and Priyadarshini were able to get their killers behind bars. After all
that, the courts of the land did come through with sentences that matched the crimes. In the case of Ruchika, however, not only has the minimum sentence not been given to ex- DGP Rathore, the court has undermined the force of its own laws by reducing it to merely 6 months and then immediately granting bail.
The final insult to Ruchika's family and friend, Aradhana, who has been fighting this case for 19 years, is the fine of a paltry Rs. 1000 that Rathore has been asked to pay.
I would think that the bile in my stomach couldn't possibly rise more, but then I heard the ' esteemed' Ram Jethmalani on NDTV's The Buck Stops Here with Barkha Dutt. Jethmalani's list of clients has been the source of much discussion, especially when he took up Manu Sharma's defence, where he held that all he was doing was defending a man against " an undeserved, vicious onslaught by the media, which is subverting criminal justice and the whole criminal justice process." So perhaps, when inviting him on the show on Tuesday night, Dutt might have been aware that he would try to be contrary, as he often is. True to form, he accused the media of " unnecessarily creating media prejudice against a person who is fighting for his liberty." Even so, nothing prepared me, and by the looks of it, the panel discussants, for his vehemence against Ruchika herself.
When asked if the laws themselves were part of the problem when deciding in a matter of sexual assault of a minor, Jethmalani said that it was " not such a serious incident that laws should be changed for the sake of this girl. This girl must have died of something else and you are trying to put it on this poor man." Given that Jethmalani has no legal role to play in the defence of ex- DCP Rathore, the anger with which he accused the media of prejudice seems out of place. What of his prejudice against the young girl, the child who was molested in this case? In fact, the court has even found the accused guilty, although the mild sentence is hardly punishment of any kind and that is a travesty of justice.
But at least he was found guilty.
Every man deserves a fair trial, but in cases like Jessica's, Priyadarshini's and Ruchika's that have involved violence
violence against women and where powerfully connected suspects have subverted the due process of investigation and law in their favour, the notion of a fair trial is nothing but a farce. The media has every right to highlight cases where due process is being subverted and where corruption and intimidation by the well connected buy off or terrify witnesses and victims into silence. The courts have even upheld exposes done by NDTV in the BMW case in the interests of the public. Hence, publicity given by the media to criminal acts of manipulation is a necessary aspect of the media's job. It is also part of their social importance today that people see it as a forum for the mobilisation of activism. In the case of Jessica and then Priyadarshini, the media was able to gather public support for the victims, which is what Ruchika's and Aradhana's families are also hoping for.
When critics like Ram Jethmalani claim that the media is subverting the judicial process, or preventing the courts from doing their jobs by pronouncing a sentence of guilt where none has yet been proven, he is in fact giving the media more power than it actually has. The courts are not obliged to take anything the media says into account when deciding a case; in fact, they are expressly enjoined not to. The case can only be decided on its merits, which is a separate matter from what the media might choose to highlight, or what families and friends of victims might choose to say to the media. As far as the latter is concerned, none of the cases Jessica's, Priyadarshini's or Ruchika's saw a media frenzy while the cases were sub- judice; instead, the outrage around each of them was the result of a verdict where justice was not done. Perhaps Jethmalani and others like him need to be reminded of the statement that the sessions court judge himself made when acquitting Santosh Kumar that he suspected his guilt but had little choice to let him go since the prosecution could not make its case.
In none of these cases was the media a witness for the prosecution, but was reporting and analysing the verdicts as is its job once they were decided.
There were appeals in the cases of Jessica and Priyadarshini, and higher courts overturned the verdicts of lower ones, following correct procedure as laid down in our judicial system.
More attention needs to be given to the processes by which killers, rapists, and molesters manipulate the police and the courts, rather than suggest that the media is prejudicing the courts. If our courts are that easily influenced, then reform must begin there, not on the television screen.
There is no doubt that the media particularly television news exercises a great power these days. The publicity that the televised image or sound byte carries is an unprecedented force, which perhaps newspapers and radio have only sometimes managed to approximate. If condemning the judgment in the Ruchika case amounts to prejudice, then remarks like Jethamalani's that it was " not such a serious incident" are even more harmful and dangerous. Along with the images of the ex- DGP smiling from ear to ear and his wife's smug expression after the verdict, these remarks only make it more imperative that there be a zero- tolerance attitude towards those who trivialise and dismiss crimes against women.
Ruchika's was not just a crime of molestation, it was a case of molestation and mental harassment that ultimately resulted in her taking her own life because she thought she was responsible for putting her own family in the line of Rathore's power. For every case like this one, which makes the headlines, there are thousands of others that do not see the start of an investigation or the dignity of being heard because they are condemned by circumstance, fear, or humiliation to be buried and forgotten. Ruchika deserves more and those who have so valiantly fought for her risking their own safety and peace of mind do, too.
The writer is a PhD candidate at Johns Hopkins University, on fieldwork in Delhi
AISER MOHAMMAD ALI
THE GRAND OLD MAN OF CRICKET IN DELHI
WHENEVER Anil Kumble's 10- wicketin- aninnings haul of 1999 is mentioned, player- turned- coachturned- clothing- manufacturer- turned- curator Radhey Shyam Sharma's name will always come up alongside the master legspinner's.
That is one of the highlights of the curator's glorious 50- plus- year association with cricket.
Few know that 74- year- old Sharma continues to play cricket, despite health problems.
" I play at least one local league match every season, so I am the oldest active player in Delhi. My association with cricket as a player, coach and curator has stretched over 52 years," Sharma says with a smile.
Almost coinciding with his half- century long ties with the game, his club Subhania turned 50 last year. These days Sharma is planning celebrations to mark its golden jubilee. " I will be assembling all those players who have represented Subhania at various stages of its existence, including Test players Kapil Dev, Vijay Yadav, Surinder Amarnath, Yograj Singh, Yashpal Sharma, Ashok Malhotra and Chetan Sharma," Sharma told M AIL T ODAY . " The club has also produced numerous Ranji players for Delhi and other states, like Gautam Vadhera, Ravi Sehgal, Rajinder Singh Hans, Hyder Ali, and Ved Raj. The function has been delayed only because of the tight cricket calendar. Soon we will organise something memorable," he says.
Among the highlights of Sharma's ' long innings' have been a call from the PMO before the 2005 ODI against Pakistan, repairing the Kotla pitch dug up by Shiv Sainiks before a Test against Pakistan in 1999, and
then when Kumble took all- 10 when that match was eventually played in February that year.
It had looked impossible to hold the ODI in 2005 as Kotla was under massive renovation, but since then Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as well as Manmohan Singh was keen on ' cricket diplomacy', DDCA had to budge. " I was called to the PMO ( to be asked about pitch preparation), but someone else went to meet the officials.
The home secretary sat at the Kotla to ensure that the pitch, which was being re- laid, and the ground were ready for that match. " And I made the pitch ready in time," he recalled. " I also felt very honoured when DDCA president Arun Jaitley put an arm around my shoulders and said that ' you have to make the pitch and ground ready for the ODI at all costs'." Another huge challenge for Sharma was repairing the pitch for the first Test in 1999. " Of course, Kumble's haul was good, but the most memorable aspect for me was that no Pakistani player complained about the pitch," he says proudly.
But the last few months have been unhappy for Sharma, despite his Kotla pitch being adjudged the second best in the 2008 Indian Premier League and getting entitled to receive Rs. 5.7 lakh " as per the points system devised for the IPL". " One point was equivalent to Rs. 10,000 and we got 57 points from the six matches that we hosted. But we haven't got a single paisa," he said.
Sharma sees the non- payment as a conspiracy as " I wanted to make Kotla the best pitch of the country". Sharma, however, considers himself a coach foremost. " I started playing for Subhania, founded by Maulana Fazlur Rahman Dalvi, and later I started managing it after he passed away. But I am a coach first and anything else later," he said.
DALMIYA'S NAME REFUSES TO GO AWAY
JAGMOHAN Dalmiya may no more be the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, but he continues to generate interest. In the BCCI annual report 2008- 09, his name appears many times regarding the " amount recoverable" from him as per the PILCOM ( Pakistan, India, Lanka Committee) as the panel that organised the 1996 World Cup in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka was called.
Dalmiya was the convenor of the PILCOM. " In view of the various developments on the matter, the board had determined that the amount of Rs. 473,787,921 is recoverable from Mr. Jagmohan Dalmiya and had accounted the same in the books of account of the board during the year ended 31st March, 2008. During the current year ( 2009), the board has filed a civil suit before the High Court Judicature at Bombay for recovering the aforesaid amount from Mr.
Dalmiya, which is still pending," writes BCCI treasurer MP Pandove in the annual report.
" During the current year, the board has received $ 2,160,720.96 ( Rs. 91,182,425) from the PILCOM account maintained with Citi Bank NA, London. Pending receipt of the complete information regarding the nature of this receipt, the amount has been separately included under current liabilities," he goes on to add.
BOARD'S LARGESSE FOR IPL FRANCHISEES
The BCCI may have presented cheques to security personnel after the Mumbai attacks but the attacks also cost the board a great deal otherwise after the Champions League Twenty20 ( CLT20) tournament, involving teams from India, South Africa and Australia, was cancelled.
It was not revealed that the board paid huge money to the two boards as well as Indian Premier League franchisees Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings which were to play in CLT20. It paid Rs 20.8 crore to the two Indian teams towards " potential revenue loss" as a " special case". Interestingly, the Chennai team is owned by BCCI treasurer N Srinivasan as Indian Cements head while IPL chairman Lalit Modi is thought close to Rajasthan Royals. " It's all happening in the family.
Can anyone question them?" asked an official.
THE BCCI'S COFFERS ARE OVERFLOWING
THE Board of Control for Cricket in India is not called the world's richest cricket board without a valid reason.
The board's current worth is Rs 1,824 crore ( as on March 31, 2009). This includes Rs 21 crore as net block assets, and Rs 1065 crore in investments. In the 2008- 09 financial year, the board earned Rs 87.7 crore from interest accrual alone.
But the highest income came from media rights, which fetched the board a whopping Rs 465.5 core while the 2008 Indian Premier League paid Rs 14.8 crore.
Under the expenditure head, Rs 518.9 crore is shown to have been spent on cricketing activities, Rs 35.3 crore was distributed among players, and Rs 26.5 crore was spent as TV production costs.
Confusion shrouds Hockey India elections
JUST a little over a month is left for the Hockey India ( HI) elections under the new rules, but there seem a lot of grey areas regarding the affiliation of united ( men and women) state associations, and particularly the four institutions that were members of the erstwhile Indian Hockey Federation ( IHF).
Although HI has sent letters to the four institutions Air- India, Indian Railways, All- India Universities ( AIU), and Services inviting them to apply for affiliation with it, there is quite a lot of confusion over whether they will continue to hold voting rights in the new body that is to be elected next month.
The Railways have already got the affiliation but the HI letter, approving the same, is silent on their voting rights. Sources close to the Railways Sports Promotion Board said, " We assume that we will get voting rights too. But if we don't, what is the point in getting the affiliation?" Another big concern is that with the HI rule to have only one association in a state, the player base would shrink drastically. For instance, players who used to represent the three associations each in Maharashtra and central India under the IHF regime would now be vying for only one team and thus many players will also lose employment opportunities, a coach pointed out. " By playing just one National Championships, a player becomes eligible for Class IV employment. Now, that opportunity will be lost," he stressed.
POLICE FIGHT CRIME WITH PEPPER SPRAY
BY M. C. RAJAN IN CHENNAI
THE CHENNAI police are well aware of their limitations they know it's next to impossible to be there for every single citizen, prevent every single act of crime.
So this New Year, they have decided to resort to the next best option ' arm' the most vulnerable sections of society, in this case, IT professionals and senior citizens.
With the crime graph in the city shooting up, the IT professionals and the elderly will soon be given pepper spray, a ' weapon' most popular among women till now.
The police are so serious about their mission that they are also marketing the spray, manufactured by a Bangalore- based company.
The spray, priced at Rs 300 per bottle, is not available in the local market. One bottle could be used 25 times.
" It is a self- defence mechanism. Usually, pepper spray is used by women who carry it in their handbags. Easy to handle, it helps raise their confidence level. Most importantly, it doesn't violate any law," says K. N. Murali, assistant commissioner of police ( ACP), who is implementing the ' project pepper spray'. The initiative has elicited a very good response from senior citizens and techies living in the suburbs, especially on the East Coast Road that is infested with petty criminal gangs.
The spray is so popular that at least 300 women and senior citizens have already placed orders with the police.
" The spray is very effective.
It makes the assailant immobile for two hours he won't be able to see or move. This time is more than enough for the victim to escape and alert firms with a 40,000- strong workforce, most of them women who have odd working hours.
Also, there are many seaside houses and working women's hostels in the area that's already notorious for
wayside robbery and other petty crimes.
" The slum dwellers relocated from the city are housed at Semmancheri and the area has thousands of construction workers. Most of the petty crimes are committed by them," the ACP says.
Eventually, the spray will also be distributed among the policemen on patrolling duty in remote areas especially those patrolling on foot or on bikes. The manufacturer has offered a buyone- get- one free scheme to the city police.
The spray will be sold only through the police, and one has to submit an application to possess it.
" It should not fall into wrong hands. That's why this restriction," the ACP says. the police," explains the ACP. He has seen this spray being used in the US and other foreign countries by the security personnel.
" The response is very encouraging.
A women's hostel has placed a bulk order for 50 bottles," he says.
YOUTH MAKES SHOWROOM PAY FOR FAULTY SHOES
BY KUMAR VIKRAM IN NEW DELHI
A YOUTH made a showroom pay for selling him a defective pair of shoes.
Nitin Garg, 25, moved a consumer court and won a compensation for the showroom's brazen conduct.
Nitin had bought a pair of Woodland shoes for Rs 4,235 from their showroom in Connaught Place in mid- July.
Within 10 days of purchase, the heel of one shoe came out. " It was a used or defective pair," Nitin said.
He went to the showroom and requested them to replace the shoes.
He was told that he wouldn't get a new pair in exchange, but the shoes would be repaired. " I had no option but to leave the shoes there for repair," Nitin said.
But 15 days after he got back the repaired shoe, its sole again gave way.
" It was shocking as I had purchased a brand new pair of shoes and it got damaged for the second time within a month. I again went to the showroom but the executives declined to help and instead got furious," he said.
Nitin did not give in and visited the showroom again and again till he was assured that the shoes would be repaired again and returned to him before October 4.
But when he did not get his shoes back, he approached the consumer court.
Advocates Jatin Sapra and Vikas Yadav filed an application on his behalf.
After the hearings, the court ruled in favour of Nitin. It directed the showroom to not only refund the price of the shoes but also pay Rs 10,000 on account of deficiency in service, mental agony and harassment caused to the complainant and Rs 5,000 towards the cost of litigation within 30 days.
IN KCR'S FOOTSTEPS
TRS CHIEF K. Chandrasekhara Rao's fast- untodeath that forced the Centre to promise the gradual formation of the state of Telangana is being copied, not just in Andhra Pradesh, but also elsewhere.
Congress's Lagadapati Rajagopal, Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy's brother Vivekananda and some Telugu Desam Party MLAs have emulated KCR with some success.
Now, it's the turn of Karnataka lawyers to follow suit. They want to protest against a case filed by an advocate in Tamil Nadu, contesting the classical language status given to Kannada. The men in black have decided to go for the best option available nowadays, a fast- untodeath, from January 5.
BLAME IT ON STARS
THE POSITION of stars matters a lot in Indian politics.
Jharkhand seems to be no exception.
This perhaps explains why mainstream politicians are in no hurry to form a new government in the state.
For, this is the inauspicious month or kharmas , when no new work is undertaken.
The bad period gets over only on January 14.
A new assembly in Jharkhand has to be constituted by January 18, when the term of the President's Rule in the state comes to an end.
Will the country gets to know the name of the new chief minister only during those five days in mid- January?
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
SOME may despise railway minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee for her political eccentricities and headstrong attitude. But she has certain qualities that make her unique in the Indian political circus.
Mamata has been practising austerity even before the Manmohan Singh government kickstarted the drive.
She has now set another example.
When she went to watch the fourth one- dayer between India and Sri Lanka at Kolkata's Eden Gardens, she insisted security guards frisk her and her bag.
Though the guards were unwilling to search a Union minister, she insisted. If only her cabinet colleagues, who earlier raised a hue and cry over being frisked at airports, would follow suit.
CALLING THE BLUFF
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A few days ago, the military secretary to army chief General Deepak Kapoor visited some senior bureaucrats who had served in the ministry with distinction.
Prakash told them how he had family obligations, especially after his daughter was divorced.
However, the daughter seems selfsufficient and does not need to depend on the father. She is a dentist trained in the United Kingdom and has a roaring practice in New Delhi.
So what other obligations did Prakash dream up?
TIMES OF INDIA
DON'T KISS AND TELL
The fun season is upon us. And after what's been a fairly gloomy year, there's finally hope in the air. And what better way to celebrate the return of some joy to the world than partying? Bring out the bows and whistles, and put on your dancing shoes. 'Tis the season to be jolly. Want some tips to jazz up your festivities? Fret not. Your friendly newspaper has packed supplements full of ideas; the internet is loaded with more of the same. Embracers par excellence of cultures and customs from far and wide that we Indians are, we celebrate Christmas and New Year with as much mauj-masti as we do Diwali or Eid.
But hang on, along with Santa, there's someone else doing the rounds this winter holiday. And while poor Santa is all but one, struggling to meet everyone's demands on time with only seven red-nosed reindeer to assist him the H1N1 virus is no solitary soul. While cheer is a welcome guest, the flu is not. But ironically, it's the festive bonhomie that encourages the virulent virus. The more we hang out in parties and get-togethers, the more likely we are to get infected by H1N1 and other assorted viruses.
Indians are generally not a very physically expressive bunch when it comes to greeting people unless you are from parts of the robust north where jhappis and pappis are traded in abundance, even with perfect strangers. Elsewhere, the polite namaste is the preferred social greeting and one-arm-distance is the standard measurement used. And the further east one travels in the world, people get even more formal, something that the Americans didn't take a shine to when President Barack Obama bent over forward to greet the Japanese king. But times they are a-changin'. Hugging and kissing are standard rituals at parties and get-togethers in India.
Once upon a time, two flowers tilted towards each other to suggest a kiss between lovers in Bollywood films. No such coyness is in vogue anymore with one hero having acquired fame only because of his kissing prowess. Lots of us desis, it seems, want to perfect the art of kissing, both the air kiss and the French variety. "How to Kiss?" topped the list of the most searched questions by Indians this year on Google.
That's even as the French, apparently worried about the health hazard their tradition of greeting each other with a kiss on both cheeks presents, are considering the unthinkable borrowing a British custom and shaking hands instead. So as you make your way through the never-ending parties and dos at the year-end spare a thought for your health. It might be best to go back to our time-honoured traditions of folding our hands in greeting if we want to avoid catching the bug.
TIMES OF INDIA
ANOTHER TRYST WITH DESTINY
The freedom movement of India is without a parallel in the history of mankind. Lasting for almost a century, the movement produced an unending stream of heroes ready to give their lives to the country. Its reach expanded as it progressed until it had drawn virtually all Indians into its fold. Once freedom had been won, the surviving heroes went on to unify peoples of diverse cultures, languages, religions and castes under a common democratic Constitution. Even excluding the area belonging to Pakistan, this was the first time since Emperor Ashok in the 3rd century BC that such a vast territory in the subcontinent had come to form a single nation with all princely states melting into it.
Sadly, however, this remarkable period in modern India's history is in danger of being forgotten. Beyond Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the young today know relatively little about the numerous heroes of the freedom movement. Vallabhbhai Patel may be celebrated in Gujarat, Subhash Chandra Bose in Bengal and C Rajagopalachari in Tamil Nadu but they lack wider national recognition. Some like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who fought for freedom shoulder to shoulder with Nehru, Patel and Rajagopalachari and spent years in British jails, lack recognition even within their home states.
It is tempting to attribute the apathy of the youth to its preoccupation with cricket, Bollywood and the cellphone. But the post-Nehru leadership, which has utterly failed to give due recognition to the heroes of the independence movement, cannot escape the responsibility. The most visible manifestation of this failure is the absence of a single museum dedicated to the freedom movement and its many heroes. Unlike the United States where children from around the nation can come to Washington DC to visit the museum of American history and grand monuments dedicated to the memory of such leaders as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson, no such museums and monuments exist in New Delhi.
It is difficult to imagine better source material for an inspirational museum than the Indian freedom movement. Begin with the first war of independence in 1857 that brought together the soldiers in the employ of the East India Company and the native rulers to nearly defeat the mighty army of the East India Company. A museum dedicated to the freedom movement could build an extensive pavilion around the story of the revolt by native soldiers in Meerut cantonment, their march on Delhi and the eventual proclamation of Bahadur Shah II as the Emperor of India. Adding to the valour of these soldiers are the tales of Rani Lakshmi Bai, Nana Sahib, Tantya Tope and many others who bravely fought to liberate India from the Company rule.
A separate pavilion can be built around the intellectual, religious, social and political awakening that followed the suppression of the 1857 rebellion. It can introduce the visitor to the birth of the Indian National Congress and such reformers and intellectuals as Rammohun Roy, Dayanand Saraswati, Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Aurobindo, Syed Ahmed Khan, Rabindranath Tagore and Dadabhai Naoroji. The pavilion could tell the story of social reforms and the spirit of nationalism these leaders helped instill among the masses.
Lal, Bal and Pal Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal who hailed from Punjab, Maharashtra and Bengal, respectively, and adopted Swaraj as the destiny of the nation, could form the subject of yet another pavilion. Tilak's memorable phrase, "Swaraj is my birthright and i shall have it", his differences with the more moderate Gopal Krishna Gokhale and the split in the Congress into an 'aggressive nationalist' wing under him and a moderate wing under the latter may provide some of the themes for this pavilion. The Partition of Bengal and its reversal forced by the swadeshi movement, the visit of King George V and the Delhi-Lahore conspiracy are some additional events the pavilion could exhibit.
The highlight of the museum will, of course, have to be the long non-cooperation movement led by Gandhi with a star-cast of junior (and often younger) leaders such as Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Patel, Maulana Azad, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Rajagopalachari, Bose, B R Ambedkar and Baldev Singh. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Chauri-Chaura, the Salt March, the Round Table Conferences, the Lahore Resolution, the Quit India Movement and the Royal Indian Navy Mutiny are some of the events whose imaginative re-enactment could enthral visitors no end.
Not to be forgotten, of course, are the underground revolutionary movements that sprang up all over India alongside the mainstream movement. Madanlal Dhingra, Chandrasekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Batukeshwar Dutt, Sukhdev, Rajguru and Udham Singh are among the unsung heroes at least officially whose presence would splendidly add to the attractions of the museum.
If built, a museum such as this will require imaginative choreography. Upon completion of the tour, visitors will have to come out feeling that they have actually witnessed the 1857 rebellion and Jallianwala Bagh tragedy, that they have participated in the Salt March and Quit India Movement and that they have listened to Nehru deliver the 'tryst with destiny' speech.
The writer is a professor of economics at Columbia University, US .
TIMES OF INDIA
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S WOMEN
Pratibha Patil, India's first woman president, is reportedly championing yet another cause that'll cheer women. She argues for appointing a woman Supreme Court judge, and there are four women high court judges with the seniority and qualifications to merit elevation. Patil's stand is unexceptionable. The apex court has so far had only three women judges. This highlights the higher judiciary's utterly skewed gender profile. Again, the last woman SC judge retired in 2006. That means women have had no representation in the top judicial ranks for over three years. Even in the high courts, women's presence as judges is inadequate, the recent increase in their numbers notwithstanding.
Powerful women, it's often argued, display the same indifference to gender issues and even the biases of the patriarchal society and elite circles of which they are products. This contention fuels opposition to pro-women policymaking. Patil is among many Indian women who expose the hollowness of such views. She has been consistent in pushing for women's empowerment. Only recently, she said women had what it takes to be fighter pilots, being capable of excelling in all fields. Clearly, she's signalling that women professionals need to breach male preserves, be it the armed forces or the judiciary. That such a progressive message is coming right from Rashtrapati Bhavan gives it the attention it deserves.
If anything, more and more people, irrespective of gender, must take up issues concerning women, who have been historically discriminated against. Those arguing that men and women must compete on merit are right, but they conveniently don't see the whole picture. Surely we must first create a level playing field so that the rules of the game are fair. Softening social conservatism of the kind that keeps countless women housebound is a long haul. As is sensitising a male-dominated society about women's justified claim to gender equality and justice. This is why women's causes need active promotion. For, we need more than just women judges and policymakers. We need a greater feminisation of society so that the values of empathy and harmony largely characterising feminine perspectives are inculcated in the younger generations.
TIMES OF INDIA
DON'T SEEK HANDOUTS
President Pratibha Patil's call for appointing a woman judge to the Supreme Court might have been well intentioned. She was clearly batting for gender parity at the highest level of the judiciary. Some time ago, she made a similar pitch for women's empowerment when she advocated the commissioning of women pilots into the combat forces of the Indian Air Force. But is the call for appointing someone as judge of the Supreme Court because she is a woman the right way to ensure adequate representation of women?
There is an inconsistency in the feminist logic doing the rounds today. On the one hand, women's rights groups claim that women are no less meritorious or capable than men and, therefore, should be allowed to enter career bastions that are dominated by males. This is an undeniably sound argument. Women have proved themselves none the less capable, or successful, than men when given the opportunity to prove their mettle. From business to government, media to entertainment, science to medicine or any other career for that matter women have excelled.
But at the same time, women's rights advocates also call for a slice of the pie to be earmarked for women. This is where the inconsistency lies. If merit is the yardstick, then there can be no concessions made on grounds of gender, just like there can be none made on the basis of religion or caste. Positions and jobs cannot be reserved for women in the name of women's empowerment. If they were, then they would amount to handouts. True, Indian women who are impoverished and shackled by an oppressive patriarchal set-up, those who do not have access to education, vocational opportunities and political empowerment need a helping hand. Which is why reserving seats for women candidates at the panchayat level is welcome.
But women from advanced socio-economic classes, who have access to education and careers, should not seek special privileges based on their gender. Women professionals, be they lawyers, journalists or bankers, would in fact undermine the women's rights movement by seeking a protective umbrella or patronage at the workplace.
TIMES OF INDIA
WE ARE GAMBLING AWAY OUR TOMORROW
As predicted by many, the Copenhagen climate talks have ended with a whimper and a bitter global blame game has begun. The conference's failure has made clear that there are no climate-sceptics among the leaders of the 195 countries, but few with the courage to call upon their citizens to sacrifice today for a safer tomorrow. For all their warnings about irreversible change if temperatures rise over two degrees Centigrade, leaders almost unanimously settled for the most politically expedient course rather than a bold and potentially unpopular one.
Instead of leadership we now have a public slanging match to shift responsibility. British climate change minister Ed Miliband wrote an op-ed accusing China of "hijacking" the conference. Not only did China refuse to make any commitment to reduce emissions or accept international monitoring, he said, it blocked developed countries from setting an 80 per cent emissions cut target for 2050 of their own. China hit back with a lecture to the UK official to "correct their mistakes", and fulfil their obligations to developing countries "in an earnest way".
Other European countries blamed Washington and Beijing as their efforts to shape the Copenhagen accord failed miserably. The EU had hoped to lead the climate talks by example through an early announcement of sharp emissions cuts and pledges of funds to help mitigation efforts by developing countries. But in the end they were left out of the final negotiations. A text message informed the EU president of the political deal done by President Barack Obama and leaders of China, Brazil, India and South Africa. Groups of African and island countries denounced the deal as a betrayal of their interests, with one of their spokespersons even comparing the Copenhagen accord to Nazi action, of condemning poorer countries to be burnt.
Environmental groups who gathered in Copenhagen in thousands were crestfallen. "You are wrecking our future," a youth group chanted outside the hall. Kumi Naidoo, the head of Greenpeace International, called Copenhagen a "crime scene".
The only exceptions to the near universal condemnation of Copenhagen have been the self-congratulatory notes emanating from Washington, Beijing and New Delhi. But the satisfaction has nothing to do with avoiding climate change and everything to do with political and economic ambition. Obama badly needed to take home an agreement, almost any agreement, in order to bolster his legislative agenda at home, and to give the Democratic Party a shot in the arm ahead of congressional elections next November. Meanwhile, Chinese leaders are focused on creating the most powerful economy and keeping prying eyes away from their inefficient energy sector by rejecting calls for transparency. India too wants to avoid any carbon constraints on its economic growth, and deflect opposition criticism about erosion of its sovereignty by agreeing to international monitoring of emission reduction plans.
Truth is that with the exception of island countries like Maldives or Tuvalu, which are facing extinction from rising sea levels, or African nations imperilled by droughts and an advancing desert, climate policy is not yet an existential concern for the rest of the world. As Copenhagen so amply demonstrates, it is politics as usual, based on business as usual with only minor tinkering on the fringes.
Copenhagen proved that despite knowing the dire consequences of not acting now, leaders can still return home empty-handed and not pay any political price. A citizenry preoccupied with the current economic crisis and unaware of the climate threat that could end life as it has existed for 10,000 years (54 per cent Americans are not worried by global warming) allows politicians to get away with abject failure. The slowly maturing nature of the danger and its enormity imagine retreating Himalayan and Tibetan glaciers drying up Asia's major rivers that sustain over a billion people encourage postponing action or, at worst, denial.
If proof was needed, Copenhagen has provided it. Politicians will lead only after their citizens demand it. It is only an aware and engaged citizenry that can compel politicians to think beyond short-term gain. The thousands of embittered NGO workers who have returned from Copenhagen now have their work cut out for them. They must convince their fellow citizens that removing the Damocles sword hanging over life is more important than growth and sovereignty.
BACK TO THE OLD, BAD WAYS
The India bogey has been raised so often by Nepal's fractious politicians, when they can't get their act together, that it has become boring. After having frittered away what could have been a remarkable transition from an armed struggle to a genuine democracy, Nepal's Maoists have gone back to their old ploy of taking potshots at India. In a childish outburst, unseemly for a former prime minister, Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) leader Prachanda recently stated that instead of talking to the remote-controlled government in Kathmandu, he would talk directly to the Indian masters on restoring civil supremacy in Nepal. Only to find his partymen rebuffing him. Then there's also his desire to come and set right the 'unequal' Indo-Nepal treaty of 1950, something we have been hearing ad nauseam.
All the Maoists have contributed to this desperately poor mountain nation is their obstructionist and agitational politics. With the violence that has characterised their recent strikes, the country seems headed for civil strife. The Nepali Congress-CPN (UML) government of Madhav Kumar Nepal does not seem to know how to contain this constant unrest, barring asking the Maoists to engage in dialogue. The China card is being played again, ostensibly to keep India off balance. The Nepalese can legitimately ask their politicians what they've done in the cause of development after the end of long years of armed struggle and the departure of an unpopular monarch. No effort has been made to strengthen the tourism infrastructure, once a major draw. Schools and colleges are regularly shut during mass agitations, denying students an education.
The Maoists have been unable to reconcile with a democratic system of consensus and concessions. Their leader still believes he is the supreme commander leading an insurgency. That he's no politician is clear from his belief that he can do without India's good offices, despite Nepal's crucial dependence on India for basics like fuel. Trying to scrap the 1950 treaty will only plunge the country into further hardship. The only answer to Nepal's problems is for the various political factions to agree to a constructive and time-bound plan for getting the country back on its feet. But with the Maoists now threatening further agitations, that does not seem even remotely possible. All India will get out of this is larger numbers of Nepalis crossing over the open border in the hope of a better future.
THE SMILE HAS TO GO
You probably wouldn't notice Subhash Chander Girhotra in a crowded room. Not until you look at his face. His deep-set eyes have become a place where tragedy and outrage met to become fellow travellers on a 19-year journey of courage. Loneliness, fear and hope have ravaged the part of his face that once knew how to smile. When he talks, his voice alternates between a soft-spoken helplessness and a sudden aggression, as if he is reminding himself that no matter what, he has to keep going, has to keep fighting.
Subhash is Ruchika's father. When I met him this week, he kept returning to a single thought. "That man's smile; it has to go," he said, "Why is he smiling?" And then, he said, his voice dropping, "When I saw that smile, I wept, and wept."
We should all be weeping. If a police officer can molest a 14-year-old child, rise up the ranks to become Director-General of Police (DGP), harass her family with criminal intimidation, drive her to suicide, and then walk out of court with a creepy swagger and a creepier smile plastered across his smug face, we should all weep. S.P.S. Rathore has no business being out on bail. And the fact that he smiles, while Ruchika's father collapses in tears of helplessness, is our collective failure as a country.
Ruchika and her friend Aradhana were tennis buffs. The teenage girls had just seen a Steffi Graf-Monica Seles face-off on TV and were itching to ape the serves and volleys. Rathore, then an Inspector-General of police (IG), and also the head of the Haryana Lawn Tennis Federation, summoned Ruchika into his office, and then began groping and pawing her. Aradhana walked into the room just in time for Ruchika to disentangle herself.
Ruchika, 14 at the time, turned to Aradhana's mother for support her own mother was no longer alive. Aradhana's family helped Ruchika and her father take on the might of the IG. An internal police inquiry found Rathore guilty within two weeks of the incident. But no FIR was ever registered against Rathore. Haryana's former Home secretary J.K. Duggal now says that though the inquiry was specific in its conclusion of guilt, "political pressure" prevented an FIR from being lodged. In other words, he never got the permission from the then Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala to proceed against Rathore.
In a pathetic game of political finger-pointing, Chautala now says it was Bhajan Lal's government that promoted Rathore to the post of DGP. But he doesn't explain why the FIR was not allowed to be filed. Nor does he give a cogent explanation for how a child-molester was recommended for a President's Medal by his government.
Ruchika's father has a bone-chilling question. If the FIR had been registered on time, would Ruchika still have been alive today? Instead a child we forget, don't we, that she was just a child watched her world crumble. Rathore's daughter was in the same school as her; so soon she was thrown out of swish Sacred Heart Convent. Her brother Ashu was slapped with half a dozen fabricated cases of car thefts. Goons were deployed to trail Ruchika and Aradhana's families. Men would stand outside their homes and pelt stones at them.
All this while, Rathore kept rising up the ranks of the police force. Finally, when her brother was arrested, Ruchika could not take it any longer. She drank poison and killed herself. Her father explains that she thought she had placed her family in all this trouble. In other words, the victim embraced the guilt the perpetrator should have.
The verdict that has come 19 years too late is a joke. The judge talks about factoring in the "length of the trial and the age of the convict" while explaining his six-month sentence. Did he forget Ruchika's age? It's bewildering why the judge did not even deliver the two-year sentence that is the maximum punishment for molestation.
But the fact is that Rathore's crime goes way beyond molestation. He drove a child to death and harassed a family with criminal intimidation. Why were these charges not part of the case built against him? What stops the present Congress government in Haryana from filing an appeal against the case? If they can't do that, let them start with stripping Rathore of his pensions and medals and government benefits. Why can't the high court make a suo-moto intervention and hand over the case to an amicus curae? And while the probe is on, they need to go beyond Rathore and must include everyone bureaucrats and politicians who facilitated the horrendous cover-up. Rathore smiles today because they made it possible.
Otherwise in this country where women getting pawed and mauled is almost treated as a rites of passage, our bizarre level of tolerance for sexual abuse will continue as is. Bottom-pinchers get to be great cops, without anyone blinking an eye. Instead, I would argue, when custodians of the law subvert the legal system, they should get double the punishment.
When I saw Rathore strutting out of court smiling last week, I felt sick in my stomach. More so, when I saw his wife by his side, wearing the same expression of smugness. Their daughter must be Ruchika's age. Would they be smiling, if she had been molested by a sick, old, powerful man?
Subhash Girhotra is right. That smile has to go. And we have to make it happen.
Barkha Dutt is Group Editor, English News, NDTV
The views expressed by the author are personal.
RUNNING AT DIFFERENT SPEEDS
In 2009, India went into a core upgrade. It looked the same but was fundamentally changed. The year brought good cheer for people who are convinced of India's manifest destiny. In the climate talks in Copenhagen, we quickly jettisoned the G77 and aligned with the interests of the big powers. It was crassly done, like marrying above your station and then pretending that your natal family does not exist. But, on the other hand, there's no stopping progress. One of the two nations of India has actually become First World. When your weekly grocery bill is bigger than your monthly internet bill, that's progress. When poky flats cost what bungalows used to, that's very First World. Enjoy, as the microwave said when it was done.
But hang on. The picture of two Indias divided by the poverty line has served us well, but it looks distorted now. Middle India used to rise in revolt and topple governments on the issue of inflation. It's eerily quiet now, though the price of potatoes has risen by 150 per cent. But even the poor are silent about food prices, though they are hit hardest because food is about all they buy. The election in Jharkhand, where the poor predominate, was expected to be a referendum on inflation, but it turned out to be an irrelevant issue.
So what's going on? Has the urban middle class prospered so much that it can absorb a sharp blow to the pocket? It seems unlikely. Has the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme improved rural fortunes so much that a 17 per cent inflation rate is small change? Maybe in some areas, but I hear of places in the Chhotanagpur region where people don't get to eat dal for weeks at a time. So, is this reluctance to take to the streets a symptom of Orientalist fatalism? Have we lost our voice?
Not at all. Some of us have become quite voluble on other issues like impunity, which we once accepted with fatalistic Oriental grace. When S.P.S. Rathore walked triumphantly out of court this week with the minimum sentence for multiple serious offences and instant bail to boot the smirk on his face set off an explosion like a bomb in a pressure cooker. Within hours, 'Justice for Jessica' had been adapted to 'Justice for Ruchika'. The candle-light march, once disparaged as a namby-pamby hobby, was back on the street and powerful people who had helped Rathore were on the run.
In the Jessica Lall case, civil society had demonstrated the power of public opinion without political backing, and it is now a serious force in the polity. In recent months, it has forced the home ministry to stop asking for gunship support for Operation Green Hunt and start pretending that the operation was never conceived. Earlier, the Sri Ram Sene's assault on women who drink was similarly checkmated by the pink chaddi campaign.
Insistence on justice and respect for the individual these are First World traits too. It's a small beginning restricted to the middle class. To some extent, it offsets the collateral damage our grocers are inflicting on us. But I'm still wondering why no one is protesting about prices. Maybe we'll find out why in 2010. Meanwhile, have a great New Year.
Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine.
The views expressed by the author are personal.
India has been extremely slow to embrace mobile banking. Mobile banking refers to a financial transaction through a mobile device, primarily the mobile phone, often through a text message. In a country with an estimated half a billion mobile phone connections, the benefits would be obvious. And to that extent, reports this week that the Reserve Bank of India is relaxing norms for mobile banking are welcome. Banks can now offer the service to customers subject to a daily cap of Rs 50,000 per customer for funds transfer and for transactions involving purchase of goods and services.
All this makes for more convenience, but it does nothing to address the use of the mobile phone as an instrument for financial inclusion. At present, that is, the RBI only permits the use of mobile banking through licensed banks, that is only users with existing bank accounts can opt for mobile banking. But the percentage of Indians with bank accounts is extremely low not in the least because the poor find it very difficult to open and maintain bank accounts. What they could do with is mobile money, to be able to conduct transactions without necessarily operating through bank accounts. Governments are understandably wary of this, as it could be used for money laundering and be a security threat. But with certain caveats instituting norms to make transactions traceable (with the Unique ID, for example) and to limit the quantum of transaction (this need be very little to benefit the poor) it can be doable.
Financial inclusion is a big challenge for this country. The government and the central bank should consider ways of realise mobile money's potential.
Here is what we know. Senior police officer S.P.S. Rathore molested 14-year-old Ruchika Girhotra in 1990. The CBI special court confirmed as much on Monday. But what about the complicity of others, those who let Ruchika down? Who will judge their deeds?
First, the politicians. Rathore rose to become Haryana's director general of police, the senior-most police officer in the state. The Haryana chief minister at the time of the incident, Hukam Singh (who is considered close to Om Prakash Chautala), presided over the long delay in even filing an FIR. Chautala denies any responsibility, blaming former Chief Ministers Bhajan Lal and Bansi Lal for promoting Rathore to "the post of ADGP and DGP". These promotions took place despite Rathore being indicted by a government-appointed inquiry headed by the then DGP, despite the Haryana chief secretary recommending action, despite the CBI India's premier investigation agency filing charges against him. Besides, the political cover that Rathore enjoyed wasn't just with regard to promotions. Ruchika's family faced sustained harassment after the molestation. The CBI special court noted one such instance the staging of a public protest against Ruchika and her family. Then there were the cases filed against Ruchika's teenaged brother and his arrest on charges that the court later threw out. These charges formed the backdrop for Ruchika's suicide in 1993. Such harassment could not have taken place without political complicity, or at the very least, a political blind eye. Even more tragic was how her support group failed Ruchika. As this newspaper reported, Sacred Heart Convent School, Ruchika's school in Chandigarh, forced her to leave, ostensibly for not paying fees. Today, her former teachers are reluctant to talk about the case, dismissing it as an "old issue".
Despite Rathore's conviction, there remain questions on the meagre sentence (six months, out of a maximum two years), inadequate charges (what about his abetment to Ruchika's suicide?) and the inordinate delay in obtaining a verdict (19 years). As the CBI mulls an appeal and activists argue for a new law that comes down strongly on molestation of minors, the dubious role that the political class and her support structures played must be mentioned. They strengthened the culture of immunity that let things come to such a pass.
The Cabinet has approved a set of amendments to the Copyright Act of 1957, bringing it in line with international copyright legislation as well striking a blow for the dues of creative authorship. In the music and film industries, performers' rights have been considerably enhanced, providing a much needed balance to the producer's tight clutch over content. Establishing moral rights for performers not only establishes paternity, but also limits the perversion of an artiste's intent. (For instance, many musical remixes end up being entirely at odds with the intent of its creators, who have no recourse. And as Manisha Koirala's battle with the producer of 'Ek Choti Si Love Story' starkly showed, actors have no real control over content.) The copyright period of a film has been set at 70 years (with a possible extension of another 10), with directors and producers being acknowledged as joint authors. Whatever the afterlife of the artistic work, these amendments also promise that everyone who participated in its creation will be compensated. So far, producers ran the whole show in the case of movie soundtracks, all the links in the chain from composers to lyric-writers and performers usually cede their rights to the producer, or in some cases negotiate for a part of the revenue from CD sales, etc. However, they don't get a slice of income generated from future broadcasts so a songwriter gets no tangible benefit from his or her song being a major money-spinner on FM.
In times when physical music sales are giving way to incorporeal digital versions, the question of monetary recompense is especially contentious. Now, a system of statutory licensing will ensure both public access to music over FM and TV, while also looking out for the interests of copyright owners. However, while copyright is philosophically intended to protect creators, it has often been hyper-extended in ways that hurt public access. These amendments, for instance, also include words about protecting rights holders from "circumvention of effective technological measures". The implications of such measures must be carefully considered.
Most laudably, the Copyright Act amendments promise special exemptions for the differently-abled so copyright dues will be waived for e-reading formats, in the interest of accessibility. India has around 70 to 100 million people with physical, sensory or cognitive impairments that prevent them from access to printed materials. So far, copyright law didn't allow books to be converted into accessible formats and shared. These amendments will ensure that the disabled can finally be on the same page as everyone else.
STILL THE LORDS OF FINANCE
Who'd have thought central bankers would be persons of the year? It is perhaps a sign of the difficult economic times that the world has lived through that central banks and their chiefs have attracted so much mind space in 2009. For persons who are unelected, usually dour technocrats, who spend much of their time pondering over facts, figures and econometrics that most of us don't even understand to become figures of folklore is quite remarkable. In 2009, they were the lead actors in a bestselling book of the year (Liaquat Ahamed's Lords of Finance), and one of them, Ben Bernanke, is Time magazine's Man of the Year.
Of course, the US has always taken its central bankers seriously, at least since Paul Volcker famously snubbed out persistent inflation in the early 1980s. His successor, Alan Greenspan, who served as the head of the Federal Reserve for almost two decades until 2006, was often described as "God" for having shepherded the country through an unbroken two-decade period of remarkable prosperity with no inflation and no crisis, using just that one tool at his disposal interest rates. By making minor adjustments in the price of money, Greenspan was seemingly able to contain both unemployment and inflation to levels that he desired. In his two decades in office, if not God, he was certainly a round-the-year Santa Claus delivering the goodies without break until of course some of his subprime benefactors (his generosity may have been excessive) began to default on their home loans in 2007, after he had left office. What happened next is well known and we are still feeling the effects, even though this Christmas season, in economic terms, has been a lot merrier than last year's.
The fall of Greenspan from the high pedestal of public acclaim considerably lowered the stock of the central banker Bernanke was met with doubt from the start. Until in a moment of rare irony certain Y.V. Reddy arrived in the US on an academic tour of universities and think tanks in the spring of 2009, many months after he had left office as governor of the RBI. He was singled out by many prominent mainstream US newspapers as the man who had saved India from the worst of the financial crisis because of his insistence on strong regulatory oversight on banking and finance. Central bankers it seemed could after all be trusted.
Of course, as things began to stabilise and slowly recover in the US, Greenspan's successor, Bernanke, began acquiring a saintly reputation. Judged by Greenspan's once high standards, Bernanke's credentials to be feted seem rather limited unemployment in the US is very high at 10 per cent, growth is barely positive, and confidence remains low. But conjuncture matters and the average American may quite rightly feel that Bernanke's near zero interest rate policy, combined with massive rescues of failing financial institutions, has helped contain the crisis to a bearable level imagine, as Time points out, if unemployment was 25 per cent.
There are obviously many risks with the strategy Bernanke has followed. He is already being criticised for creating massive asset price bubbles fuelled by cheap dollar finance. At some point these may burst and cause another dive. But for now, the US has got back that most precious and intangible of commodities confidence. And he has wide public support in what he doing.
Indian central bankers (before and after Reddy) have never attracted the kind of star value that US central bankers have, never mind Reddy's brief moment of stardom in another country that later translated into some limited acclaim even at home. And that is largely because they have remained largely disconnected from the daily life of the average Indian. Reddy, in a brief moment of connectivity hiked interest rates sharply in the summer of 2008 in response to an international commodity price inflation, and ended up choking the economy before the crisis came. But that's not the only reason he never became a star in India.
The excessive conservatism of the Indian central banking establishment the RBI has a huge bureaucracy has meant that India is still grossly under banked. Far too many people struggled to access a bank account. Because the financial system is so under-developed there is a massive disconnect between the interest rates the RBI sets and the interest rates we get charged as borrowers. We went through a large period of the crisis witnessing the peculiar spectacle of D. Subbarao cutting rates repeatedly (even if not sufficiently) with hardly any corresponding reduction in the rates charged to business and consumers. Consider how difficult it is to get a substantial home loan at a reasonable mortgage rate for a middle class household, even in the midst of an exceptional stimulus period. In short, unlike in the US, our central bankers haven't delivered financial inclusion and cheaper finance to the aam aadmi, stimulus or not. Safety of the system means little if hundreds of millions have no access to it.
Instead of focusing on the objective of financing the masses, RBI governors tend to get caught up in trying to manage too many conflicting objectives at one time. Most problematic than this is the way monetary policy is managed. The one law of economics which works like a law of nature is the law of the impossible trinity it simply isn't possible to have free inflow of foreign capital, an independent monetary policy and a managed exchange rate all at the same time. Reddy tried to do all three and failed, to the great cost of the economy. Subbarao has professed that he too will try to manage all three together, and he too will fail.
Instead of constantly defending their own turf, and trying to manage the impossible, we need our central bank chiefs to don the Santa Claus gear more often focus on the interests of the aam aadmi. Of course, we know RBI will hike rates soon, but by pushing more financial sector reform in 2010, Governor Subbarao can still deliver cheaper finance to all of us, and leave us feeling a lot better off next Christmas.
The writer is a senior editor at 'The Financial Express'
THAT GIRL IN SWAT
Faiza Khan is my metaphor for Swat's future. And if I am right, turning Swat around post-military operation should not be difficult.
I was standing in the open quad of the Government High School for Girls in Mingora, my crew setting up cameras for the shoot there, and I could see girls peering through the windows of the classrooms all around. Getting there was not easy. I had to earlier meet with the district's education officer to get his permission. There were two problems: schools have armed police guards throughout the area and, in this particular case, cultural sensitivities were involved.
"You cannot move freely," the principal told my producer, a young woman who was my only hope to get through the cultural shackles. With the weight of the education officer's permission behind me and a lot of persuasion, I was told I would get limited access to a group but only after the girls had themselves covered properly. They were told to stay inside the classrooms while we set up the cameras, and yes, to keep their heads down.
Curiosity and their vigour to challenge the principal's order came to my rescue. I could see them looking out, faces uncovered and exhibiting the artless freedom that comes natural to young women. And then one of the doors opened; I heard giggles; some girls were trying to push another out of the classroom.
But then the sluice gates went up. Another door opened and out walked this girl, uncovered head and face, confidence bordering on cheekiness. She walked up to me, extended her hand to shake mine and said in accented Urdu: "I hope I am not disturbing you, sir. But would you tell me when your programme is aired and on what TV channel?" I shook hands with her and asked her name: "My name is Faiza Khan."
I wrote down the details of my programme for her in a notebook and while I was doing that, doors opened one after another and girls came rushing out, surrounding me, shaking hands and chattering animatedly. As I watched the footage later I was convinced, more than before, that Swati women are not just beautiful, they have it in them to turn Swat around. If only the government could understand this.
Ironically, Fazlullah, the Radio Mullah, did. When he began his FM broadcasts, his first target were women. He used them for funding as well as to motivate their men-folk. That was 2002. Six years and much bloodshed later, the people of Swat are waking up from that nightmare. This is the time for the government to use Fazlullah's strategy to reverse that process.
The army realises this, to some extent, if not fully. It has done two things. It suggested that Radio Pakistan set up FM96, known as Radio Swat, to start broadcasting just before the operation began. Radio Swat was beamed from Islamabad through satellite and began its transmissions on March 1. Within weeks Fazlullah felt the pinch. Not only would he and his cohorts appear on the channel to present their viewpoint, Fazlullah himself allowed his men, restrictedly, to play Pashto music to counter the RJ on Radio Swat whose programme was becoming a hit. Radio Swat is now immensely popular with its multiple programmes that target women and the youth.
The army's second post-operation contribution is the setting up of Sabaoon, Pashto for "a new dawn". Sabaoon is a rehab centre for captured youth who were either being trained as fighters and suicide bombers or spies for Tehreek-e-Taliban Swat.
I met the doctor and her staff, all female, who are working with these boys and the results are promising. The exercise is also very useful because it is the first attempt to seriously study the phenomenon and get data on the background of these boys and the techniques used to indoctrinate them.
The checkpoints are still there, manned by the army, Frontier Corps jawans and local police. As I drove to Kanju, crossing Swat River east to west and then drove up north along the western bank of the river to various other towns and villages, it was overcast. But from the east, where the clouds were thin, a ray of sunlight had penetrated and was falling on the eastern bank. It was a perfect setting, nature depicting Swat, the murkiness of fear combined with hope.
The people are back, life is picking up, the markets have come alive, roads are too often blocked because of rising traffic. But the pickets are there, soldiers ready with guns and suspecting everyone. The suicide bomber is the lurking fear and he can penetrate through all cordons and security measures.
That is exactly what happened at the hujra of Shamsher Ali Khan, the Awami National Party member of the provincial assembly. Just as the gate opened and he was getting into his car, the lone bomber entered the compound and blew himself up.
It is very difficult to counter the suicide bomber, an army officer told me. That's where investing in the people, in the Faiza Khans, becomes so important. The only way to stop the suicide bomber is to ensure a society where he can't be found, bred and trained.
The writer is a consulting editor at 'The Friday Times', Lahore firstname.lastname@example.org
A TEMPORARY TRUCE
For a place where there's rarely a dull moment, the big news in Pakistan was the brazen, tragic attack on the Peshawar Press Club. Apart from that, the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) dominated the headlines. This time, there was a genuine attempt at reconciliation between the ruling Pakistan's People's Party and its chief opponent Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N). As Dawn reported on December 21: "PPP and PML-N have reached an accord under which the former has assured the latter of doing away with the 17th Amendment and in return, PML-N has promised to support President Asif Ali Zardari in the current political crisis. 'We have never demanded resignation of President Zardari and we don't want any confrontation at this stage,' PML-N secretary general Ahsan Iqbal said. 'We believe that in the present circumstances the president is the best judge to
decide whether or not he should resign,' he said." PM Yousaf Gilani, however, gave it right back, as a separate report added: "I've always accommodated you despite criticism from my own party, but you're letting me down by taking a hard line and directly attacking PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Zardari.' PML-N was quick to comply but threw in a rider, as The News reported on December 23: "PML-N said it would not demand resignation from President Asif Ali Zardari if the government implemented the order of the Supreme Court against the NRO in letter and spirit." As Pakistan's polity searches for a firm foothold, someone's watching quietly from afar. Daily Times reported on December 24: "US special representative Richard Holbrooke said in an interview with a foreign news channel: 'Even as we talk, there's a major political drama unfolding in Islamabad right now.'
In a first, Pakistan's media received a direct blow from the extremists active in the country's troubled north, as terror walked into Peshawar's press club earlier this week. The News reported on December 23: "In the first ever suicide attack on the media after several threats, a suicide bomber exploded himself at the entrance to the Peshawar Press Club, killing three persons and injuring 18 others. The deceased included a cop, the accountant of the club and a passerby woman while a young photographer of The News, Khurram Pervez, three employees of the Club and three security officials are among the injured." Dawn added to the discussion with a reactionary report from the International Press Institute (IPI): "Pakistan is already one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists out in the field,' IPI director David Dadge said in a statement. The fact that journalists are now being attacked in the traditional haven of a press club is another tragic blow for freedom of the media in Pakistan."
The US seems to be showering praise on Pakistan's armed forces. After last week's approval to army chief Ashfaq Kayani by the Centcom chief, General David Petraeus, it is the US military boss, Admiral Mike Mullen who is now waxing eloquent about their contribution to nipping the extremists in the bud.
On December 22, Dawn reported from a press release sent by the US army: " 'Too many people eagerly and easily criticise Pakistan for what they haven't done, and when I go to Swat and look at what they did there on the military side I think it's pretty extraordinary,' said the US military chief while talking to journalists. Swat was in danger, and the Taliban began moving even closer to the Pakistani capital. Admiral Mullen's visit there showed that the Pakistani military has done a good job of counter-insurgency. The army cleared the valley and is holding it,' the report noted. It quoted Admiral Mullen as saying that Pakistan's job in Swat was not complete yet."
WHEN TIME IS ON THE STATE'S SIDE
Ruchika Girhotra was 15, a young tennis player who was hoping to go to Canada, with aspirations to train for the country. It was SPS Rathore, President, Haryana Lawn Tennis and later DGP, who advised her father that he would arrange special coaching for her, instead of her being sent to Canada for training. On August 12 1990, Ruchika was molested by Rathore in the office of the Lawn Tennis Association under the pretext of conversing with her about the special coaching. Her friend, Aradhana, found Ruchika trying to free herself from the accused.
It was Aradhana's testimony 19 years later that was critical to the conviction and sentence in this case. Justice Sandhu sentenced the accused "with rigorous imprisonment for six months and fine of Rs. 1000 for the offence u/s 354 of IPC." Rathore, now 68, was not given the maximum punishment in light of his age and the time taken for the trial though Justice Sandhu finding him guilty says, "a person can be competent and efficient, but...merely on the ground of meritorious service, it can not be presumed that anybody will not commit the act molestation".
In other words, a young aspiring sportswoman was seen as "available" by the police officer who subsequently forced her to abandon her fight for her dignity, through a process of institutionalised victimisation which poisoned her everyday life. Ruchika was suspended from the tennis court, thrown out of her school and subjected to everyday threats to her security. False cases, including a case of car theft, were levied against her brother, then a minor, as a technique of criminal intimidation. Ruchika subsequently put an end to her suffering by consuming poison on December 28, 1993 and died the next day.
The case history is Kafkaesque. The unforgivable delay in this case took the victim's life, destroyed her family, and wounded her friends. The defence not only mounted a vicious attack on the fact of friendship
between two girls, constructed a story of enmity which does not withstand even a casual scrutiny, but it also blamed the victim for "provoking" the violence she encountered. The defence argued that "Ruchika was a convent-educated girl, very rich and had influential background. She was modern and friendly with male trainees in HLTA training court. It is too unnatural and improbable that a girl with such a profile and background could entertain any apprehension from the accused." It is unbelievable that the defence was permitted to remark on the deceased girl's character.
The law itself remains rooted in colonial formulations about women's "modesty" which is seen as an attribute of the female sex. Many judgments have also held that all women do not possess of modesty and therefore do not deserve the protection of law. When a police officer pinches his colleague's bottom or when he molests a young girl in a tennis association, such individual infraction is framed as flirtation, teasing, a minor public relations embarrassment or even defamation against the police officer.
The recommendation to amend the set of colonial laws has not yet been considered by the Parliament. Nor has our language to describe what happened to Ruchika altered.
Ruchika was a victim of sexualised power, compounded by the fact that this power was abused by a police officer. Even the Supreme Court has held that each incident of sexual harassment 'results in the violation of fundamental rights of 'gender equality' and the 'right to life and liberty'. Although we have a debate on sexual harassment at the workplace, it is eerie that we do not recognise that we do not have any laws which meaningfully redress sexual harassment of women and children in public or private spaces. Ruchika's constitutional right to life and liberty was violated with impunity. We must shift our focus from "modesty" to "rights" in the first place to begin a meaningful discussion on the ramifications of this case.
Equally, the fact that systemic stalking, intimidation and harassment of the victim, complainant and her family which leads to her suicide does not occur as a ground for abetment of suicide, in the context of custodial sexual harassment, is a commentary on how the law refuses to recognises structural violence against minors.
There are no laws which protect minors against many forms of sexual violence. There is utter apathy when it comes to norms of how child witnesses in sexual harassment and rape cases should be examined. The child witness is always a suspected of being tutored by a parent. She is subjected to the same kinds of questions you would ask an adult woman in court. Lengthy cross-examinations of children are routine with no provisions for even providing water to the witness or a chair to sit on. Let alone any moves to protect child witnesses from backlash violence.
Sixteen years later, our law and society has refused to recognise that Ruchika Girhotra's death is political, which symbolises the institutionalised processes by which her life was made utterly abject. The Indian state has refused to mourn Ruchika Girhotra. Instead, the Indian state rewarded the then inspector-general in the Haryana police as if to compensate him for Ruchika's "impudence" for moving the law in the first place.
In Ruchika's struggle between victimisation and survival, time was used against the victim. It is to the credit of the victim's friend, Aradhana, who refused to allow the state's use of time to extinguish a lifetime of resistance. It is this solidarity and friendship that demands that we, as a society, recognise that Ruchika was forced to die.
It is this courageous woman who speaks to the judiciary today to ensure that the sexualised immunity enjoyed by policemen should meet the violence of the law. Perhaps, the political class will remember now to invite public discussion on the sexual assault bill to provide some measure of protection to minors from sexual violence?
Alas, the parliamentarians who claim to lament Ruchika are like mourners without tears, performers without prayers and speakers without meaning.
The writer is assistant professor, Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University.
HOLDING HIM TO HIS WORD
SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
Barack Obama had been in office just two days when he established himself as the Deadline President. On that day, January 22, Obama affixed his curlicue signature to an executive order requiring him to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within one year a hard and fast date, set down in black and white for every American to see. In the 11 months since, the president has employed deadlines and timetables on issues ranging from health care to Iran and watched many of them slip away.
Now, as his first year in office draws to a close, the man who campaigned on the "fierce urgency of now" is confronting a painful reality: the not-so-fierce urgency of next year.
On Capitol Hill, Obama set what his senior adviser, David Axelrod, calls "a very aggressive calendar," only to discover that Congress does not necessarily respond to a presidential kick in the pants. He prodded lawmakers to pass energy legislation and a financial regulatory overhaul by the end of 2009. (The House has; the Senate hasn't.) He demanded Congressional committees finish work on their health bills by August. (Four out of five did; that's 80 per cent - a solid B.) He said he would sign a bill by year's end. (Unlikely.) Now, he is pressing for the Senate to pass its measure by Christmas. (The clock is ticking.)
In foreign affairs, Obama vowed to sign a new arms control treaty with Russia by December 5. (The deadline expired, but after meeting President Dmitri Medvedev in Copenhagen on Friday, Obama said a deal was "quite close.") He warned Iran to respond to diplomatic overtures on its nuclear program by year's end. (Iran thumbed its nose; the administration is threatening sanctions.) On Afghanistan, Obama
imposed a kind of squishy deadline, saying he would withdraw troops beginning in July 2011, without providing an end date.
Historians say they cannot remember a modern president who has used deadlines and timetables as aggressively as Obama. Presidents tend to urge, cajole and exhort. But unless they are issuing threats to foreign adversaries, they try generally to avoid
boxing themselves into corners.
Some scholars wonder about the
wisdom of it, and whether Obama will pay a price. Charles O. Jones, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Wisconsin, put it this way: "Dick Neustadt, the greatest of presidential scholars, had a principal rule:
always be attentive, in making a decision, to the effects of that decision on your prospects for future power. The point being that if you are going to set a deadline then you'd better meet it. Otherwise, the judgment will be that you made a mistake."
But as everyone knows, there are deadlines and then there are deadlines. Ronald Reagan gave striking air traffic controllers a deadline to return to work; they called his bluff and he fired 11,000 of them in an episode that contributed to his aura of toughness. Obama, of course, cannot fire lawmakers for failing to meet his deadlines for passing bills. So on Capitol Hill at least, his deadlines carry less weight.
The risk is that if Congress continues to ignore Obama's timetables, lawmakers will not believe he is serious when he sets new ones. Meanwhile, Republicans who negotiated with the administration on health care until their talks went sour over the summer, are complaining.
"I think these arbitrary deadlines were not appreciative of the fact that it's a very complicated issue," Grassley said, adding that by sticking to them, Obama had done "a lot of damage to the cause of bipartisanship."
In foreign affairs, deadlines are that much trickier. Peter Feaver, who
advised Bush on national security, talks of the "multiple audience problem," the deadline that sounds different to different ears. Some deadlines, he said, are useful in prodding the bureaucracy to get moving but can hurt a president if they are made public. (He puts Guantánamo in this category.) Others might please Americans but anger allies.
Bush was confronted with the question of deadlines in Iraq, and refused to set any for withdrawal, even though many Americans were clamouring for one. Feaver said the administration did have a "strategic horizon," but found it difficult to explain to the public and
allies. "It was hard to figure out how to say it without it sounding like a deadline," Feaver said, "which is what we didn't want to convey."
For Obama, perhaps no deadline has been as problematic as the first, the one to shut Guantánamo. The White House conceded months ago that the president would not be able to meet his own timetable. So by last week, when the administration announced it would relocate the detainees to a maximum security prison in Illinois, the question was obvious: When would Guantánamo close? The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, made clear that on one issue at least, the Obama administration was out of the deadline business: "I don't have a date certain."
THE SOCIETAL SCOURGE OF E-CARDS
OK, people, what is it with the electronic greeting cards this holiday? Why are you sending me jpegs of the Himalayas accompanied by phrases I recognise from yoga class ("Peace to you and all living things")? Why am I being asked to download elaborate animation videos featuring singing snowmen or a Nativity scene with a manger that looks alarmingly like a tiki cabana? Why have my otherwise intelligent and dignified friends Photoshopped their faces onto the bodies of dancing Santas? Why, if I don't open these cards right away, do I have to endure auto-generated reminders that I am a thoughtless and terrible person who does not care about my friend enough to sit through 60 seconds of flash animation sugarplum fairies?
Is it that you're all environmentalists? Have you gone green and therefore paperless? Do you refuse to send a regular, old-fashioned card because you don't want to waste the resources (the jet fuel to transport airmail, the gas used by the delivery truck, the calories expended by handwriting and addressing and licking an envelope) that are savagely pilfered whenever someone cares enough to send what is apparently no longer the very best?
Or is it that you're trying to show what an early adopter you are? How willing you are to try new things? How seamlessly you're able to combine traditional holiday cheer with error messages that say "You must install Adobe"?
Maybe. But I think there's something else going on. An insidious societal scourge is at work. I think you're sending e-cards instead of paper cards for the same reason that college students now bring laptops instead of spiral notebooks to class and some people have taken to writing shopping lists on their BlackBerrys and iPhones rather than the back of an old envelope.
It's not that you're lazy. It's not even that, like those "note-taking" college students, you enjoy being able to look at Facebook or play online poker while you're supposedly attending to the task at hand. No, it's so much simpler and sadder than that.
You're sending e-cards because, thanks to the keyboard-driven communication of the last 15 years or so, your penmanship has deteriorated to the point where even you can no longer read it. You're sending e-cards because, left to your own devices, "Merry Christmas" looks like "Hurry Chipmunk."
Take it from me. Each year, in my quaint efforts to send out paper holiday cards with personal messages, I probably discard one for every three I actually manage to put in the mail. The reason is that my handwriting is now less legible than it was when I was in the second grade. Since it's rare that I pick up a pen for any purpose other than writing cheques (which more than occasionally I have to void because the recipient's name looks like a Paleolithic cave painting), the hand-eye coordination and motor skills necessary for decent penmanship have all but completely atrophied.
Given all that, you'd think I'd be an enthusiastic sender of e-cards. But you'd be wrong.
Handwriting challenges aside, I love paper cards. I love the endless stewing involved in picking them out at the store. I love buying holiday stamps at the post office, and I love that "whoosh" sound the cards make when I drop them into the mail slot. Sure, Hallmark reports that nearly 300 million e-cards are sent out every year in the US(and they now have a division for mobile-device greetings). And sure, some e-cards (like those featuring illustrator Jacquie Lawson's animated animals) are pretty great. But the Hallmark data also say that more than 20 paper cards are still sent out for every e-card (and who knows how many more were discarded before being sent because of handwriting malfunctions?).
I don't know about you, but I was glad to hear that. Because not only is it impossible to stick a dollar bill in an e-card, it's hard to find a template that includes the sentiment "Hurry Chipmunk." When you get that greeting from me, you know it's for real.
BANK ON THE PHONE
RBI needs to harness mobiles to further financial inclusionWhile Reserve Bank of India's decision to increase the daily ceiling for banking transactions through mobile phones from Rs 15,000 to Rs 50,000 must be welcomed, there is a need to now look at expanding the scope of mobile banking to further financial inclusion and inclusive growth. For the moment, mobile banking enables only existing bank customers to access their existing accounts using an application on their mobile phoneit doesn't hold much scope for the unbanked. The best example of using mobile phone technology to reach out to an under-banked population is the M-PESA model adopted by Safaricom in Kenya, which has become the most widely adopted mobile-money scheme in the world. Here, seven million phone subscribers use it to pay anything from school fees to taxi bills and transfer money to their family members. They are also using the model as a form of savings bank account, even though Safaricom does not pay any interest to the subscribers. Taking a cue from the success of such a model, countries like Uganda and South Africa have also introduced elementary banking through mobile phones. Such a non-bank model can also be adopted here with appropriate regulatory mechanism. It will not only enable greater penetration into under-banked and non-banked areas but also contribute to the financial inclusion process. Some 500 million people in India have mobile phones, many more than those with bank accounts. Also, inter-state transfer of money using the mobile phones will save a lot of cost burden for internal migrants, estimated around 42 million, who have to now resort to India Post to remit money by paying 5% of the total money as transaction charges. Given that internal migration will only grow, it is yet another important reason to set up a mobile banking infrastructure at the earliest.
The implementation of successful mobile banking would require a strong partnership between banks and mobile service providers. It will also require seamless flow of payment instructions across mobile operators. Of course, one of the most important points of concern in any money transfer transaction is establishing the identity of the customer. This will, of course, be a challenge. But linking up mobile banking to the Unique Identity Number expected to roll out very soon may be a good way to beginit can provide biometric authentication, which would help to reduce frauds and ensure identity of the customers. The opportunity in mobile banking is huge. RBI, banks and mobile service providers need to tap it ambitiously, at the earliest.
Among the bunch of reform goodies unveiled on Christmas Eve, one was that the Union Cabinet cleared the human resource development ministry's proposal to amend the Copyright Act 1957. The underlying logic of the proposed amendments is to align Indian laws with international best practices on protecting intellectual property. An oft-quoted estimate is that some three-quarters of the world's corporate market value currently reside in intellectual resources. If the value that copyright protections engender is global in nature, it follows that international cooperation is key to the harnessing of such value. In this spirit of productive cooperation, the proposed amendments pave the way for India to climb aboard various World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) treaties. For example, following from the fact that over 95% of printed works are in formats inaccessible to people with visual impairments, WIPO has been seeking an agreement to remove copyright restrictions on translation into accessible formats and on sharing such translations across national boundaries. The HRD ministry has accordingly proposed a fair deal clause to encourage the production of copyright material in Braille, talking text and similar formats.
On a more popular front, it's proposed that authors and creative artistslyricists, playback singers, music directors, film directors, dialogue writers et alshould retain the right to royalties and benefits enjoyed 'through the copyright societies'. This would mean, for example, that every time a film in which they participated was aired on television, some payback would come their way. The measure is explicitly intended to mitigate against exploitation by producers and music companies. Plus, copyright for cinematograph films is to be extended to 70 years for principal directors, and producers provided they agree on terms for sharing joint authorship. Another progressive suggestion is that of providing moral rights to performers, which would probably include the right to prevent mutilation of a work and the right to be acknowledged as the author of a work. Given how the values attached to actors, for example, have gone through the roof, such an amendment would both serve the principle of equity and keep apace of today's commercial reality. Another noteworthy detail is that the proposed amendments seek to address issues that have emerged in the newer contexts of digital technology and the Internet. Taken together with other developments such as the Lok Sabha's recent passage of the Trade Marks (Amendment) Bill 2009, which seeks to simplify the process of registering trademarks in India, this is a welcome development indeed.
DOES DUBAI REALLY END WITH DUBAI?
As everyone now knows, Dubai World sought to delay payment on its enormous debt last month. Markets throughout the world dipped on the news, with Asian stock markets most affected. Once the central bank of UAE stepped in to provide an emergency liquidity facility, however, many of these markets bounced back. Commentators attributed the dip in world markets to fears that Dubai's default could kick off a second round of investor panic with potentially disastrous consequences, and the subsequent recovery in world markets to the assuaging of those fears by prompt action by the central bank of UAE. Movements in global risk aversion, according to this interpretation, are the proximate cause of the spread of crises across markets. In other words, in this rendition of events (which seems popular, perusing several accounts from different sources), the Dubai fiasco was like an unexpected and loud scream in the ear of a patient recovering from a recent nervous breakdown.
The interpretation of global market movements following Dubai is important for a number of reasons. If we believe the version of events outlined above, for example, then there isn't much scope for regulators to do anything about it. Investors all over the world take fright at events like Dubai, regardless of whether they were directly or indirectly exposed to the event, and valuations are automatically affected. When investors recover from their fear, so will markets, according to this view. But is it really the right way to think about what happened? With a potential Greek default looming after Standard & Poor's and Fitch cut ratings and a widely expected similar move by Moody's, this is an important question to answer.
Let's consider another view about why markets moved and recovered following Dubai's news. The important question when thinking about whether and how Dubai would be transmitted to other markets, according to this second view, is the identity of the investors that were exposed to Dubai (let's call them 'Dubai investors'). If Dubai investors are not well-capitalised, they cut positions in the other markets that they hold, to rebalance their portfolios and to meet margin calls. The selling pressure from these cuts in positions causes declines in stock prices in seemingly unrelated markets and spreads the shock of Dubai further than the emirates' shores. This also means that by looking at the other markets in which Dubai investors are most invested, we may be able to get a sense of where the trouble is headed next. According to this view, it's the exposures that count, not just movements in risk aversion caused by jitters in any given market.
Think about the investors that were exposed to Dubai. Some of the creditors were well-known financial institutions such as RBS, Lloyds Banking Group, Standard Chartered and HSBC. Many of these institutions were relatively well-capitalised despite the credit crunch, courtesy the bailout by the UK taxpayer. What about equity investors in Dubai's stock market, who suffered most from declines in Dubai's stock index following the announcement? It's hard to say, but by looking at the severe declines in stock markets in the region (Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar), it's not a bad assumption to make that they were predominately investment funds with Middle-East mandates. Not that much to worry about, then, perhaps? Maybe Dubai does end with Dubai. Certainly, the quick recovery in other, unconnected stock markets seems to suggest that even if there was a jolt to risk aversion occasioned by the troubles of Dubai, it was short-lived once it was clear that the exposure channel wasn't really a factor in this case.
If you accept this view of what happened, there isn't much cause for concern about Dubai any longer. But we're not out of the woods yet. What's more worrying, by far, is the spectre of Greece. The Athens stock market has a capitalisation of around $100 billion, and European creditors hold around euro 200 billion worth of Greek debt. Many of these European creditors are still overstretched from the credit crunch. Perhaps of most concern, plenty of funds that invest in Greece have pan-European and broader emerging market mandates, meaning that the shock will be spread far and wide. And once emerging Europe starts to go, what next?
India's participation in the crisis has, thus far, been relatively limited, with initial troubles followed by an astronomical recovery. There seems to be a renewed understanding that real decoupling does exist (that India isn't totally dependent on the developed world as the engine of growth). This realisation has been followed by increased allocations from foreign institutional investors and the consequent bidding up of Indian stock market valuations. The election outcome provided a reduction in uncertainty and a boost at just the right time. But if the exposure channel does kick in, and other emerging country dominoes begin to fall, it's worth thinking hard about what's likely to happen to Indian markets. We could be in for a bumpy ride.
The author is a financial economist at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford
IT HAS MADE A STRONG COMEBACK
DARLINGTON JOSE HECTOR
When NR Narayana Murthy, chief mentor of Infosys Technologies (India's second largest IT exporter) decided to name his new venture fund as Catamaran, Bangalore's tech community instantly surmised that there could not have been a better name for the IT pioneer's new business idea. In a year in which IT companies faced the wrong end of the stick, ravaged by the global meltdown, tech firms would be the first to admit that all they needed was a catamaran to sail across choppy waters.
Murthy's new venture, however, could not overshadow the more cataclysmic events of the year. The Satyam
scam was arguably the darkest episode in
Indian corporate history, the deepening of the global economic crisis slowed the $60 billion
Indian software industry considerably. Obama was categorical about his preference for Buffalo over Bangalore and to make matters worse, other countries like China, Philippines and Brazil continued to write their codes well, challenging India's superiority on the tech terrain.
Indian IT services industry had grown by 30% annually for nearly a decade, by offering more economical outsourced services to clients abroad by writing software code and handling mortgage process operations. But the story suddenly started to look less fascinating after the industry grew by only 10% last year.
All through the year the media had only one question to ask the IT fraternity: "When will recovery start to kick in?"
None could predict it for a long time, with any degree of certainty. For the first two quarters of the fiscal, IT chieftains said they were not sure of the extent of time it would take for the business to turn around. There was severe pressure on pricing, tenure of the contracts shrunk, customers took a long time to finalise their budgets and client walk-ins had become a rarity.
It was only in the third quarter that companies like Infosys, Wipro and TCS started talking about 'early signs of recovery'. Concerns were giving way to confidence. Blue chip Indian IT firms like Infosys, Wipro, TCS and MindTree started getting better visibility into annual budgets of top clients and greater number of deals (sweet ones at that) started to flow in, despite the anti-outsourcing mood in the US. Many big IT spenders like Telstra, ABN-Amro, British Telecom, AT&T, Dell, McGraw Hill and Northern Trust Bank had deferred the budget allocations, but during the third quarter those worries had begun to wear out.
Out came a plastic grin on the face of many of the IT executives. Infosys CFO V Balakrishnan was the first to proclaim that there is a marked improvement in the business environment. He pointed out that there has been a change in fortunes with the US economy starting to show some positive signs.
Much to everyone's surprise, it was the banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) segment that bounced back the fastest. BFSI was the hardest hit during the downturn and no one really expected it to spring back to life within a year. About 40% of the revenues of top Indian IT firms come from this segment.
Outsourcing analyst S Sabyasachi came up with the statement that the spate of good earnings numbers from US companies (specially in the financial sector) has helped improved market sentiments. And it was not just the top-tier firms that started walking gingerly to the bank. The mid-sized IT firms also started to put up smileys outside cabin doors as the order pipeline filled up. Companies like MindTree, Patni, Sonata Software and Subex, among others, announced results of positive significance. As MindTree's CFO, Rostow Ravanan, explained, smaller firms have been able to cut costs more easily and take innovative approaches. It's easy to re-orient people to newer activities in smaller firms.
Emerging markets have also become a pool of big opportunities in the meanwhile. Latin America, Europe, Japan, West Asia and Australia have become bigger IT destinations during times of recession. For most IT firms, revenues from these emerging markets have doubled in the past one year.
In a chat with FE on Wednesday while reflecting on the year, Wipro's joint CEO Suresh Vaswani admitted that 2009 was an unusual and eventful year. "Fluctuating currencies and volatile oil prices were two big challenges," he said. "But overall, the IT industry has proven to be resilient." According to him, it is during such times of crisis that clients look for innovative solutions. In uncertain times, clients are open to game changing solutions as they continue to look at transformation of their businesses, both in terms of demand generation and cost transformation. The economic crisis has taught the industry means to improvise on productivity and utilisation, and also alter hiring patterns to suit business demands, he said.
Maybe, just maybe, the industry has found his catamaran.
The yuletide spirit manifested itself bang on time for Indian equity markets. Overseas investors, who were supposed to stay away, celebrating the festive season, actually started picking up scrips and the market rallied 3.8% for the X'mas weekend. The government, like the veritable Santa, dropped verbal gifts into the stocking suggesting that the GDP growth momentum would be maintained.
The equity markets responded with the Sensex crossing the highest close made on May 16, 2008, and returning 80% over the year, its best-ever performance. However, there is ample reason to remain cautious. Analysts reckon that several players, including overseas investors had gone short on the market and that they had to scurry to cover their positions, and this caused the markets to rise. Overall, the concern is about volumes the NSE cash segment clocked, a turnover of Rs 6,460 crore on X'mas eve, a drop of 55% over its previous day and not just that the numbers are low when compared to average daily turnover of Rs 17,112 crore recorded during the last six months on the NSE cash segment. This means that only a few players, especially the overseas investors, have dominated the market move and therefore the rally is not strong. Much of the money has been routed through the dollar carry trade, thanks to low interest rates and a weakening dollar as can be seen in the correlation of the Indian indices and the Dollar Index.
The third quarter results will also be awaited with bated breath and there are not many surprises expected here. However, the third quarter GDP numbers are expected to reflect the impact of low rainfall and could be a tad lower. The real concern, however, is on the liquidity front with an eye on the global banks, especially the US Federal Reserve increasing rates and the dollar strengthening. The other is on the domestic central bank bringing in a tighter monetary policy.
So, while it is time to celebrate the season, especially after a horrifying period that went by, investors could do well by staying calm and as the cliché goescautiously optimistic.
HOW TO FACE SECURITY CHALLENGES
"By a quirk of fate," Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in a December 23 lecture to the Intelligence Bureau, "India in the twenty-first century has turned out to be the confluence of every kind of violence: insurrection or insurgency in order to carve out sovereign states; armed liberation struggle motivated by a rejected ideology; and terrorism driven by religious fanaticism. Never before has the Indian state faced such a formidable challenge." Drawing on the lessons of the November 2008 carnage in Mumbai, he proposed a new architecture for India's internal security administration. There would be a single-point source of authority for all counter-terrorism-related issues. Key counter-terrorism elements of organisations as diverse as the Intelligence Bureau, the Research and Analysis Wing, the National Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Guard would be brought under the supervisory authority of a National Counter-Terrorism Centre. The NCTC, in turn, would be accountable to a Ministry dedicated to internal security and a Minister with internal security as her or his primary task.
The case for a new administrative architecture for security is compelling. It starts with the identification of a longstanding malaise in India's security bureaucracy the use of administrative deux ex machina to evade the kinds of sustained work and attention to detail that are needed to fix deep-rooted problems. The great November 2008 tragedy in Mumbai provides a useful prism to reflect on the problem. India possessed a copious mass of intelligence leads suggesting the Lashkar-e-Taiba was planning an attack on Mumbai. But it failed to capitalise on these leads not because there was no single-point authority but because the intelligence services lacked the necessary technological and human resource capabilities. The Mumbai Police made strenuous efforts to deal with the attacks but clearly lacked the resources and the training. The NSG's less-than-brilliant response to the fighting stemmed from poor training and leadership issues. None of these failures, and others too numerous to enumerate here, have been properly audited by an independent, public enquiry. Even had there been an NCTC in place during the Mumbai terror attacks, it would have lacked the capabilities to handle events with any greater efficiency than what was on display. Setting up an NCTC and an Internal Security Ministry may facilitate the development of capabilities to face the challenges the Home Minister has described. But without a highly professional and dispassionate assessment of precisely what India's security weaknesses are, and how they must be addressed, the creation of new administrative machinery will achieve little.
FACTOR IN CLIMATE REFUGEES
The world is familiar with refugee movements caused by war, famine, and natural disasters. It is overwhelmingly the poorer third world states that do not close their borders and accept millions of refugees, some of whom remain for years. Today, among developed countries, the United States, Sweden, and Finland offer temporary shelter to victims of natural disasters, and Denmark accepted some Afghan drought victims from 2001 to 2006. Global warming, however, is already on th e point of creating a new category the climate refugee. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), current mitigation efforts could result in a global average temperature rise of 3 degrees Celsius rather than 2 degrees. In that event, the Economic Review of Climate Change (the Stern Review) suggests, 550 million more people would be at risk of hunger, and 170 million more would suffer severe coastal floods. Crop yields would fall sharply, and there would be more droughts interspersed with more severe flooding. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that climate change may displace 150 million people by 2050; the Stern Review puts the figure at 200 million.
Larger climate changes pose potentially gigantic refugee problems. To start with, it is harder to identify the victims of slower processes than those of sudden natural disasters. Secondly, the victims of wider climate change fall through the net of definitions in international law. The current U.N. treaty, the Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, dates from 1951, and applies only to those who fear or flee persecution. As for internal displacement, the current U.N. document, Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, dates from 1998 and is not legally binding, though it seems to cover most of those who flee natural disasters but do not cross national borders. The problem with more severe climate change is that those who cross national borders will not be covered by any U.N. instrument, as they will not satisfy the 1951 definition of refugees. A senior U.N. official says that reopening the 1951 convention would be legally risky because the original negotiations that brought it into being were very difficult, and it may be no easier to reach an agreement now. The difficulty of reaching, let alone enforcing, any agreement will be compounded by the fact that it is the poorest in the poorest countries who will suffer most and in the greatest numbers.
LEADER PAGE ARTICLES
COPENHAGEN, TSUNAMI AND HUNGER
INDIA'S FOOD AND WATER SECURITY SYSTEMS WILL BE THE WORST VICTIMS OF A RISE IN MEAN TEMPERATURE. BUILDING OUR DEFENCES AGAINST POTENTIAL CLIMATE CHANGE ACTIVATED CALAMITIES THROUGH MAINSTREAMING CLIMATE RESILIENCE IN ALL DEVELOPMENTAL PROGRAMMES SHOULD BE THE PRIORITY TASK IN THE NEW YEAR.
The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities is the core of the many climate agreements arrived at so far, including the Kyoto Protocol (1997) and the Bali Plan of Action (2007). The differentiated responsibilities aim to meet the special needs of developing countries for accelerated and equitable economic development. Both at L'Aquilla and Copenhagen, the industrialised countries proposed limiting the rise in mean temperature to 2 degrees C above norm al. Even this seems to be unattainable in the context of the present rate of emission of greenhouse gases (GHG). Hence, the principle of common but differentiated impact of 2 degrees change in mean temperature is essential for prioritising climate victims. For example, small islands like Tuvalu in the Pacific Ocean, the Maldives, Lakshadweep and the Andaman and Nicobar, as well as Sunderbans in West Bengal, Kuttanad in Kerala and many locations along the coast will face the prospect of submergence. Floods will become more serious and frequent in the Indo-Gangetic plains. Drought induced food and water scarcity will become more acute. South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and the small islands will be the worst victims. In contrast, countries in the northern latitudes will benefit due to longer growing seasons and higher yields.
Addressing the World Climate Conference in Geneva in 1989 on the theme, "Climate Change and Agriculture," I pointed out the serious implications of a rise of 1 to 2 degree C in mean temperature on crop productivity in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. An Expert Team constituted by FAO, in its report submitted in September 2009, also concluded that for each 1 degree C rise in mean temperature, wheat yield losses in India are likely to be around 6 million tonnes per year, or around $1.5 billion at current prices. There will be similar losses in other crops and our impoverished farmers could lose the equivalent of over $20 billion in income each year. Rural women will suffer more since they look after animals, fodder, feed and water.
We are now in the midst of a steep rise in the prices of essential food items like pulses. 2009 has been characterised by both extensive drought and severe floods. The gap between demand and supply is high in pulses, oilseeds, sugar and several vegetable crops including onion and potato. The absence of a farmer-centric market system aggravates both food inflation and rural poverty. FAO estimates that a primary cause for the increase in the number of hungry persons, now exceeding over a billion, is the high cost of basic staples. India unfortunately has the unenviable reputation of being the home to the largest number of undernourished children, women and men in the world. The task of ensuring food security will be quite formidable in an era of increasing climate risks and diminishing farm productivity.
China, which was reluctant in Copenhagen to join other developing countries in efforts to restrict the rise in mean temperature to 1 to 1.5 degrees C, has already built strong defences against the adverse impact of climate change. During this year, China produced over 500 million tonnes of foodgrains in a cultivated area similar to that of India. Chinese farmland is, however, mostly irrigated unlike in India where 60 per cent of the area still remains rain-fed. Food and drinking water are the first among our hierarchical needs. Hence while assessing the common and differentiated impact of a 2 degree rise in temperature, priority should go to agriculture and rural livelihoods. What are the steps we should take in the fields of both mitigation and adaptation?
The largest opportunity in mitigation lies in increasing soil carbon sequestration and for building up soil carbon banks. Increase in the soil carbon pool in the root zone by 1 ton C/ha/yr will help to increase food production substantially, since one of the major deficiencies in soil health is low soil organic matter content. There should be a movement for planting a billion "fertilizer trees" which can simultaneously sequester carbon and enhance soil nutrient status. We can also contribute to the reduction in methane emission in the atmosphere from animal husbandry by spreading biogas plants. A biogas plant and a pond on every farm will make a substantial contribution to both reducing GHG emission and ensuring energy and water security. Similarly neem-coated urea will help to reduce ammonia volatilisation and thereby the release of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere.
2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity. We can classify our crops into those which are climate resilient and those which are climate sensitive. For example, wheat is a climate sensitive crop, while rice shows a wide range of adaptation in terms of growing conditions. We will have problems with reference to crops like potato since a higher temperature will render raising disease-free seed potatoes in the plains of northwest India difficult. We will have to shift to cultivating potato from true sexual seed. The relative importance of different diseases and pests will get altered. The wheat crop may suffer more from stem rust which normally remains important only in Peninsular India. A search for new genes conferring climate resilience is therefore urgent.
Anticipatory analysis and action hold the key to climate risk management. The major components of an Action Plan for achieving a Climate Resilient National Food Security System will be the following:
Establish in each of the 127 agro-climatic sub-zones, identified by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research based on cropping systems and weather patterns of the country, a Climate Risk Management Research and Extension Centre.
Organise a Content Consortium for each centre consisting of experts in different fields to provide guidance on alternative cropping patterns, contingency plans and compensatory production programmes, when the area witnesses natural calamities like drought, flood, higher temperature and in case of coastal areas, a rise in sea level.
Establish with the help of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) a Village Resource Centre (VRC) with satellite connection at each of the 127 locations.
Establish with the help of the Ministry of Earth Sciences and the India Meteorological Department an Agro-Meteorological Station at each Research and Extension Centre to initiate a "Weather Information for All" programme.
Organise Seed and Grain Banks based on Computer Simulation Models of different weather probabilities and their impact on the normal crops and crop seasons of the area.
Develop Drought and Flood Codes indicating the anticipatory steps necessary to adapt to the impact of global warming.
Strengthen coastal defences against a rise in the sea level as well as the more frequent occurrence of storms and tsunamis through the establishment of bio-shields of mangroves and non-mangrove species. Also, develop seawater farming and below sea-level farming techniques. Establish major research centres for sea-water farming and below sea-level farming. Kuttanad will be a suitable place for the Below Sea-Level Farming Research and Extension Centre. A major centre should also be established in the Sunderbans area.
Train one woman and one man of every panchayat to become Climate Risk Managers. They should become well-versed in the art and science of Climate Risk Management and help to blend traditional wisdom with modern science. The Climate Risk Managers should be supported with an Internet-connected Village Knowledge Centre.
Today (December 26, 2009) marks the fifth anniversary of tsunami. The tsunami of 2004 was a wake-up call alerting us to the consequences of a sudden rise in the sea level. The "Copenhagen Inaction" will lead to more severe coastal storms, tsunamis and sea level rises. A Climate Literacy Movement as well as anticipatory action to safeguard the lives and livelihoods of all those living in coastal areas and islands will have to be initiated. Integrated coastal zone management procedures involving concurrent attention to both the landward and seaward site of the ocean and to coastal forestry and agro-forestry as well as capture and culture fisheries are urgently needed.
With the help of Tata Trusts, the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation is dedicating today to fisher and coastal communities a "Fish for All Research and Training Centre" at Kaverpoomipattinam (Poompuhar) for imparting training from fish capture to consumption. A college for coastal communities is also being established with the help of the Indira Gandhi National Open University. Artesenal fishermen going to the sea in small boats are being provided with cellphones which can give them information on wave heights and the location of shoals. This helps not only to save time but also allay fears concerning a sudden rise in the sea level. In 2010, India will complete 60 years of planned development. Hereafter, climate resilience must be mainstreamed in all development programmes. Let not the Copenhagen Inaction add to the number affected by deprivation and malnutrition.
(The writer is Chairman, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation and Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha))
TEN REASONS WHY CRIMINALS IN KHAKI GET AWAY
BEHIND EVERY MAN LIKE S.P.S. RATHORE WHO ABUSES HIS AUTHORITY STAND THE GENERALS AND FOOTSOLDIERS WHO HELP AND SUPPORT HIM. WE NEED TO TAKE THEM ALL DOWN.
S.P.S. Rathore, the criminal former top cop of Haryana, may appear alone today but we must never forget that he was able to get away with the sexual molestation of a young child and the illegal harassment of her family for 19 years because he had hundreds of men who supported him in his effort to evade justice.
The fact that these men fellow police officers, bureaucrats, politicians, lawyers, judges, school administrators were willing to bend the system to accommodate a man accused of molesting a minor speaks volumes for the moral impoverishment of our establishment and country. Decent societies shun those involved in sexual offences against children. Even criminals jailed for 'ordinary' crimes like murder treat those serving time for molesting children as beyond the pale. But in India, men like Rathore have their uses for their masters, so the system circles its wagons and protects them.
The CBI's appeal may lead to the enhancement of Rathore's sentence and perhaps even the slapping of abetment to suicide charges, since his young victim killed herself to put an end to the criminal intimidation her family was being subjected to by Rathore and his men. But the systemic rot which the case has exposed will not be remedied unless sustained public pressure is put on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, two men who have it in their power to push for simple remedies in the way the Indian law enforcement and justice delivery system works.
First, abolish the need for official, i.e. political sanction to prosecute bureaucrats, policemen and security forces personnel when they are accused of committing crimes. The original intent behind this built-in stay-out-of-jail card was to protect state functionaries from acts done in the course of discharging their duties in good faith. Somewhere along the line, this has come to mean protecting our custodians of law and order when they murder innocent civilians (eg. the infamous Panchalthan case in Kashmir where the trial of army men indicted by the CBI for murdering five villagers in 2000 still cannot take place because the Central government will not grant permission), or assault or molest women and children. No civilised, democratic society grants such impunity. It is disgusting to see former officials and bureaucrats from Haryana saying how they had wanted Rathore prosecuted but were prevented from doing so because of pressure. Such officials should either be made formally to testify in a criminal case against the politicians who so pressured them or they should themselves be hauled up for perverting the course of justice.
Second, stop talking about how making the police and army answerable to the law will somehow demoralise their morale. Does anybody care about the morale of ordinary citizens any more? Or the morale of upright police and army officers, who do not think it is right for their colleagues to be able to get away with criminal acts?
Third, bring an end to the cosy relationship between the police and politicians. Rathore was protected by four chief ministers of Haryana. He served them and they served him by ensuring his unfettered rise. It is absurd that the Indian Police is still governed by a colonial-era Act dating back to 1861. A number of commissions have made recommendations for reforming the police over the years; but no government or political party wants to give up its ability to use and misuse the police for their own benefit.
Fourth, ensure that police officers who abuse their authority and engage in mala fide prosecutions are dismissed from service and sentenced to jail for a long period of time. Mr. Chidambaram should use the considerable resources at his command to find out who were the policemen involved in filing 11 bogus cases against the teenaged brother of the young girl Rathore molested. He should then make sure criminal proceedings are initiated against all of them. The message must go out to every policeman in the country: If you abuse the law at the behest of a superior, you will suffer legal consequences.
Fifth, ensure that criminal charges against law enforcement personnel are fast-tracked as a matter of routine so that a powerful defendant is not able to use his position to delay proceedings the way Rathore did for years on end. The destruction or disappearance of material evidence in such cases must be treated as a grave offence with strict criminal liability imposed on the individual responsible for breaking the chain of custody.
Sixth, empower the National Human Rights Commission with teeth so that police departments and state governments cannot brush aside their orders as happened in the Rathore case. This would also require appointing to the NHRC women and men who have a proven record of defending human rights in their professional life, something that is done today only in the breach. The attitude of the Manmohan Singh government to this commission and others like the National Commission for Women (NCW) and National Commission for Minorities is shocking. Vacancies are not filled for months on end.
Seventh, ensure the early enactment of pending legislation broadening the ambit of sexual crimes, including sexual crimes against children. Between rape, defined as forced penetrative sex, and the vague, Victorian-era crime of 'outraging the modesty of a woman', the Indian Penal Code recognises no other form of sexual violence. As a result, all forms of sexual molestation and assault short of rape attract fairly lenient punishment, of the kind Rathore got. In his case, the judge did not even hand down the maximum sentence, citing concerns for the criminal's age. Sadly, he did not take into account the age of the victim and neither does the IPC, which fails to distinguish between 'outraging the modesty' of an adult woman and a young child.
A draft law changing these provisions and bringing India into line with the rest of the modern world has been pending with the NCW and Law Ministry for years. Perhaps the government may now be shamed into pushing it through Parliament at the earliest.
Eighth, take steps to introduce a system of protection of witnesses and complainants. The fate that the family of Rathore's young victim had to endure is testament to the fact that people who seek justice in India do so at their own peril.
Ninth, ensure that robust interrogation techniques like narco-analysis, which are routinely used against other alleged criminals, are also employed against police officers accused of crimes.
Tenth, the media and the higher judiciary must also turn the light inward and ask themselves whether they were also derelict in their duty. The Rathore case did not attract the kind of constant media attention it deserved, nor do other cases involving serving police officers accused of crimes against women, workers, peasants and minorities. As for the upper courts, their record is too patchy to inspire confidence. It was, after all, the high court which chose to disregard the CBI's request for including abetment to suicide charges.
CLUE TO CLEOPATRA'S LAST HOURS
They were one of the world's most famous couples, who lived lives of power and glory but who spent their last hours in despair and confusion. Now, more than 2,000 years since Antony and Cleopatra walked the earth, historians believe they may finally have solved the riddle of their last hours together.
A team of Greek marine archaeologists who have spent years conducting underwater excavations off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt have unearthed a giant granite threshold of a door they believe was once the entrance to a magnificent mausoleum that Cleopatra VII, queen of the Egyptians, had built for herself shortly before her death. They believe the 15-tonne antiquity would have held a seven metre-high door so heavy that it would have prevented the queen from consoling her Roman lover before he died, reputedly in 30 BC.
"As soon as I saw it, I thought we are in the presence of a very special piece of a very special door," Harry Tzalas, the historian who leads the Greek team, said. "There was no way that such a heavy piece, with fittings for double hinges and double doors, could have moved with the waves so there was no doubt in my mind that it belonged to the mausoleum. Like Macedonian tomb doors, when it closed, it closed for good."
Tzalas believes the discovery of the threshold sheds new light on an element of the couple's dying hours which has long eluded historians.
Cleopatra, the most powerful woman of her day and Egypt's most fabled ruler, is believed to have taken her own life with the aid of an asp (viper). © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009
FIGHT FOR JUSTICE
For the most part, people have faith in the Indian judiciary for being fair, even if the process is interminably slow. But cases like this one which grips national attention and severely shake that faith. Many will have forgotten the original incident which took place in 1990 a 14-year-old girl, Ruchika Girhotra, a rising tennis player accuses a senior Haryana police officer of molesting her in his office. The girl and her family are harassed to the point that she kills herself in 1993. The officer, Shambhu Pratap Singh Rathore, rises to become a director general of police. Now, 19 years later, Rathore is sentenced to six months by a CBI court.
The case has every element to disgust civil society a young girl, a hapless family, a powerful policeman backed by powerful politicians and a corrupt system. The rage which we see now is similar to that which grew around the Jessica Lal case why is justice so difficult for the common man when the perpetrator is close to power centres? What happened to equality before the law and justice for all? Do we lose faith in the system completely or is there an answer?
In Ruchika's case, the matter reached as far as it did because the girl's best friend never gave up. All the threats of the police force, the attempts to scuttle and hush up the case, the fears felt by the family were channelled into getting a result. The six-month sentence is a slap in the face for all that effort, but a movement is now on to re-open the case.
The extent of the corruption of the system ought not to be a shock any more but in some sense it is heartening that we are still outraged. We know that people are innocent until proven guilty, but when a person accused of a crime attempts to harass his accusers and subvert the system then he commits greater sins that what he was originally accused of. It is obviously naïve to expect a police officer to uphold the law but the manner in which the law was ignored in this case shows the Haryana police and government in extremely poor light.
Like the Jessica Lal case, Ruchika's untimely death and her family's trauma have become one more lodestone by which the average Indian citizen the aam aadmi can judge the system. The onus is now on the police force, the government and the judiciary to prove that justice can and will be done in India, that the victim is not always punished twice and that the powerful cannot get away with murder by using their connections. The picture of Rathore laughing as he left the courtroom has cut deep into the public consciousness. The powerful have to accept that this is no laughing matter.
THE TSUNAMI EFFECT
Today, December 26 2009, marks the fifth anniversary of the Indian Ocean tsunami, one of the biggest and deadliest disasters in history. It left a trail of destruction across South and Southeast Asia, killing over 225,000 and shattering the lives of millions more.
Not just geographically, but thematically too, the tsunami's impact was felt across sectors, issues and concerns. That provided both ample scope and many challenges for journalists, aid workers and others. But because the tsunami's scale was so vast and its effects so widespread, no single individual or organisation could comprehend the full picture for months. Five years on, we can 'zoom out' more easily to see the bigger picture. And one overarching factor stands out as the most important and lasting lesson of the tsunami: the need for better governance.
The absence of good governance was at the root of most major stories about the tsunami. It cut across every level in our societies politics, public institutions, corporate sector, humanitarian agencies, academia and civil society.
Early warning: It took a while for the tsunami waves, traversing the Indian Ocean at the speed of a jetliner, to reach India, the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Yet, in this age of instantaneous telecom and media messaging, coastal residents and holiday makers were caught completely unawares there was no public warning in most locations.
Institutional, technological and systemic bottlenecks combined to produce this monumental failure in communication.
In Sri Lanka, where I live, there was also an internal failure in sharing the breaking news.
The tsunami progressively pounded the tear-drop shaped island for nearly four hours, starting on the southeastern coast at around 8.30 am local time, and then gradually spreading north, south and finally west. If only the rest of the island had been alerted soon after the first waves hit, rapid coastal evacuation could have saved many lives elsewhere.
But that simply didn't happen, and over 40,000 lives were lost that is nearly half the death toll of 30 years of our (recently ended) civil war packed into one miserable morning. It included some 2,000 killed in the worst railway accident in world history when tsunami waves rammed into a packed train in Peraliya, 95 km south of Colombo. We didn't hear of any responsible official resigning or being sacked.
Aid deluge: Accountability, a cornerstone of good governance, has also been lacking during the prolonged recovery. Saturation coverage in the global media inspired a massive outpouring of public and private donations to help Asian survivors: between governments and private individuals, a total of US$ 12 billion was pledged (though not all of it was actually paid up). As months passed, we heard many survivor complaints and media reports about neglect, discrimination, mismanagement, waste, excessive bureaucracy and corruption.
On the first anniversary, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies issued a report that documented how, flush with unprecedented funds, many aid agencies wasted tsunami money by failing to consult survivors, the United Nations or other relief groups. Three years on, Transparency International said its investigations revealed a gap between the amounts disbursed by foreign aid agencies and what has been spent: over US$500 million in tsunami aid had gone "missing".
Green lessons: In a widely published essay after the tsunami, author, diver and long time resident of Sri Lanka Sir Arthur C Clarke declared: "Nature has spoken loud and clear, and we ignore her at our peril." He referred to wide-spread coral mining, shrimp farming and unplanned tourism development which made Sri Lanka's coasts more vulnerable to erosion and tsunamis.
Governance as lubricant: Laws, regulations and institutions are necessary, but not sufficient, for good governance. Other ingredients include the right to information, adequate public consultation and transparency in decisions and spending. These apply equally to governments and aid agencies.
Foresight is uncommon, but what is the excuse for not being wise in hindsight? For example, Sri Lanka's new disaster law, adopted within months of the tsunami, has been criticised for its many deficiencies.
As we bow our heads in memory of all who perished and suffered in the tsunami, the words of Spanish philosopher and poet George Santayana reverberate: "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
The writer is a journalist based in Sri Lanka
IT HAS TO BE CHRISTMAS IN GOA
It's jingle bells time, the merriest time of the year. It's also time for me, like most non-resident Goans, to make my annual trip to Goa to celebrate the birth of Jesus with my family.
Christmas is a family festival, which if you have the wrong kind of relatives can be quite trying. However, blessed with the craziest bunch of folks, my Christmas is generally very entertaining. We prepare for it the only way possible at the last minute. It's more fun that way. Living in an old and big house (16 rooms) has some disadvantages the most obvious being the cleaning. This is done on Christmas Eve, followed by putting up the decorations, the tree and the crib. The tree takes quite some time. Being over 25 years old, it requires a fair bit of covering up of flaws to make it look good. We have a tradition where every year after mass, my 101-year-old grandmother gets up and places baby Jesus in the crib. Our Christmas begins from there.
How can I forget the sweets? The coconut neuris, the crunchy kulkuls, the melt-in-the-mouth dodol and the soft doce are all made in bulk. I remember spending hours stirring the dodol in a big copper cauldron so that it doesn't get lumpy, rolling out kulkuls on forks and combs till late at night, shaping out nankhatais, filling in neuris and cutting the dough for crispies. Homemade sweets cannot compare to those found in shops.
Most families begin their preparations about a month in advance. As soon as the priest announces that Advent has begun, the procession begins. And, no it's not the procession to the church but to the nearest seamstresses shop. Stitching the perfect Christmas dress is vital to any Goan girl and my numerous gowns can vouch for that. One of the main attractions of midnight mass is checking out who is wearing what, done very discreetly.
This information we generally dissect in detail, at home. The length of the discussion depends on how outrageous the dress was.
I love going for mass at midnight. Walking to church at night, straining to hear the choir singing carols, crickets chirping, dogs howling, checking out the cribs the walk is memorable. After mass, the wishing happens the entire village has to be wished else someone will take offence.
I open my eyes every Christmas morning to the sound of Christmas carols playing loudly.
Why loudly? Because like most Goans, we have to outshine the neighbours and 'out sound' them too. Breakfast is generally omelette pav (made by my godmother), meatloaf (made by mum) and chunks of cheese. My village Camurlim has a range problem so the humble landline is much in demand, to send out wishes. The family does not require such formality we eat straight from the tins!
Christmas dance plans are made on the day itself. I love going for a dance only for the drive to the venue. Goa at night, decked up in her finery lights, trees and decorations at every corner, the fine mist, the blaring music, the boats at sea is a sight to behold. One particular year, a gang of us decided to go for a beach party. After Mass we headed for Calangute beach three people in every bike. I know that's against the law but we managed to get through by discreetly checking out where the cops were stationed. On sighting them, one person got off the bike, walked to a safe distance and then hopped on again. Our 'party' turned out to be a bunch of already high tourists and foreigners.
Disappointed, we went walking along the beach, shoes in hand, dipping our feet in the water and generally behaving like children. The crowning glory of our night out was watching the sun rise the following morning. The dance did not happen, but it was a Christmas like no other.
There is no other festival that gives me more joy than Christmas. It's the reason I look forward to every year end.
TRY THE WINE SNOB TEST
So the New Year's around the corner and you have been invited to a couple of parties. Great! It means people are finally allowing you back into social circles. But the problem is that they are all graduating to wine and you have been worshipping the whisky for longer than ever.
Fear not, that is why I am here, ruining my New Year's Eve just so to make sure that someone else on the planet isn't as miserable as I am. Okay, I am lying. I am having a great time, far away from your ire or concern. But never mind that, here is what you can do to make yourself the toast of the wine circles.
Conduct my wine snob test. Tell people that if they don't pass then they need to loosen up, or perhaps open up, like wine. The earlier they chicken out on this test, the more they need to open up to enjoy wine.
1. Wine Cocktails: If people find the very idea revolting remind them that the world in the West is waking up to whisky-wine mixes never imagined before or tried anywhere.
They work and they rock. So, if you can't do them then you need a refresher course in wine appreciation. Wine spritzers are in everywhere and even the Old World is waking up to them. Why, then, are us Indians sleeping? Just because a wine is supposed to be drunk by itself traditionally doesn't mean that we can't make cocktails out of it. Sure enough leave the good wines alone but the average bottle is more than happy to be made into a cocktail.
2. Wine with Ice: So you think that wine is meant to be had at an ideal temperature, cool for whites and room temperature for reds. What happens then when you live in India, where the average temperature is no less than 20 degrees even on a wintry day? You need to cool down the wine. How about then a hot, hot summery noon picnic where the wine is chilled?
3. Wine in a tumbler: So wine is meant to be had in a glass. A glass that has a stem and has a certain width. A glass that has a bowl. What if one day you run out of wine glasses and serve wine in a regular tumbler? What about shot glasses? Too much for the connoisseur in you. Well, let me reassure you that a recent study at MIT proved that outside of a placebo effect, wine glasses do nothing for wine. Sure placebo has a value in itself but it implies that you can enjoy wine equally in a wine tumbler as in a wine glass. Picasso's Guernica wouldn't be any less appealing were it to be showcased in a red frame, right?
4. Decanting sparkling wine: Most people would shun the idea right at the beginning. Well, digest this then: champagne houses themselves are making decanters to pour their wines out. The new logic argues that champagne or any other bubbly is inadvertently wine and hence must be drunk so. Hence, all that applies to regular wine should also apply to sparkly stuff too. Don't shun it even if it stuns you. Catch up, instead.
5. Wine Blends: How would people react if you suggested mixing a little white into the super strong red that you happened to open prematurely, that is when it was too young to be opened. They will scoff at you but don't let that harm your imagination. The best of wines in the world are often blends of reds and whites and that is how it works. Shiraz-Viognier and Rhone reds are the best example. So please explain why it is fine if a winery does it but not me?
HEALTH REFORM: TIDINGS OF COMFORT
Indulge me while I tell you a story a near-future version of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. It begins with sad news: young Tiny Tim is sick. And his treatment will cost far more than his parents can pay out of pocket.
Fortunately, our story is set in 2014, and the family has health insurance. Not from their employer: Ebenezer Scrooge doesn't do employee benefits. And just a few years earlier they wouldn't have been able to buy insurance on their own because Tiny Tim has a pre-existing condition, and, anyway, the premiums would have been out of their reach. But reform legislation enacted in 2010 banned insurance discrimination on the basis of medical history and also created a system of subsidies to help families pay for coverage.
OK, that was fiction, but there will be millions of real stories like that in the years to come. Imperfect as it is, the legislation that passed the Senate on Thursday and will probably, in a slightly modified version, soon become law will make America a much better country.
So why are so many people complaining? There are three main groups of critics. First, there's the crazy right, the tea party and death panel people a lunatic fringe that is no longer a fringe but has moved into the heart of the Republican Party. In the past, there was a general understanding, a sort of implicit clause in the rules of American politics, that major parties would at least pretend to distance themselves from irrational extremists. But those rules are no longer operative.
A second strand of opposition comes from what I think of as the Bah Humbug caucus: fiscal scolds who routinely issue sententious warnings about rising debt. By rights, this caucus should find much to like in the Senate health bill, which the Congressional Budget Office says would reduce the deficit, and which in the judgment of leading health economists does far more to control costs than anyone has attempted in the past. But, with few exceptions, the fiscal scolds have had nothing good to say about the bill, revealing that their alleged concern about deficits is, well, humbug.
As Slate's Daniel Gross says, what really motivates them is "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, is receiving social insurance." Finally, there has been opposition from some progressives who are unhappy with the bill's limitations. Some had their hearts set on the creation of a public option to compete with private insurers. There are complaints that the subsidies are inadequate, that many families will still have trouble paying for medical care.
Unlike the tea partiers and the humbuggers, disappointed progressives have valid complaints. But those complaints don't add up to a reason to reject the bill. Yes, it's a hackneyed phrase, but politics is the art of the possible. If progressives want more, they'll have to make changing those rules a priority. But, meanwhile, the bill the Senate has just passed, with a few tweaks I'd especially like to move the start date up from 2014 is more or less what the Democratic leadership can get.
And for all its flaws and limitations, it's a great achievement. It will provide real, concrete help to tens of millions of Americans and greater security to everyone. And it establishes the principle even if it falls somewhat short in practice that all Americans are entitled to essential health care. Many people deserve credit for this moment.
What really made it possible was the remarkable emergence of universal health care as a core principle an emergence that, in turn, owed a lot to progressive activism. This made health reform a must-win for the next president. And it's actually happening.
So progressives shouldn't stop complaining, but they should congratulate themselves on what is, in the end, a big win for them and for America.
The writer is a winner of the Nobel prize in economics
EDUCATING SPECIAL CHILDREN
CONFERRING NEW RIGHTS A WELCOME MOVE
In a welcome move, the Union Cabinet has widened the definition of disabled children in the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, by amending it to include those afflicted with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and multiple disabilities. These children will now be entitled to special rights to free and compulsory elementary education till they are 14. For long, disability benefits were confined to the blind, people with low vision, hearing impairment, locomotor disability, and some mental illness that fall under the provisions of the Person with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection and Full Participation) Act, 1996. The inclusion of special children has come about after a sustained campaign by various organisations espousing their cause.
The legal provisions are, indeed, welcome but this is just a beginning. Overall, the society at large, and the government, have been oblivious, if not indifferent to the requirements of the differently-abled citizens, even though India's first school for the deaf was established in Bombay in 1883, and for the blind in Amritsar in 1887. According to the 2001 census, 2.19 crore (2.13 per cent) of the population comprises persons living with disability. There are only around 3,200 special schools in India. The number is woefully short, and in any case, the stress today is on integrated and inclusive education for such children. Given proper facilities, they shine like a Ved Mehta, or a Satish Gujral.
The amended law will open the door for access to better education for the differently-abled. Schools and the society at large must move together to provide an environment where such children are provided the help they need to work on their strengths and become citizens who will lead productive and happy lives. The census placed the number of disabled persons in the age-group 0-19 years at 46,38,26,702. They have not got the attention that they deserve, which has hindered their personal development, and their ability to contribute to the nation and to enrich their lives. Sensitivity, patience and creating the right infrastructure are a must if these children are to contribute meaningfully to society.
SEARCHING FOR A CM
SOREN BRACES UP TO OUTWIT RIVALS
He wanted to be the King, not the kingmaker; and Friday took Shibu Soren a step closer to the Chief Minister's chair when he was elected leader of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha legislature party. Having asserted his desire to go with any combination that helped him fulfil his ambition of becoming the CM, Soren, who is a member of Parliament, has now cleared the decks for staking formal claim to form the government. But the exercise is unlikely to be fast, clean or simple. Indeed, it threatens to be painfully slow. With President's Rule in the state lapsing only on January 18, political parties are unlikely to rush the process. What queers the pitch for Soren is the reluctance of both Congress and the BJP to back him. A demoralised Bharatiya Janata Party and the JMM together will still fall short of the halfway mark, forcing them to seek the support of smaller parties like All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) or independents. Such a government may suit Soren and the smaller parties but could well be a political liability for the BJP in the long-run. Likewise, the Congress too appears to be wary, having earlier burnt its fingers by propping up the Madhu Koda government in the state.
The challenge of providing a strong and stable government to the state is an acid test for all the political parties. But only three possibilities seem to have emerged so far. If Congress and the JVM were to form the government 'without Shibu Soren', as suggested by JVM chief Babulal Marandi, then they would have to entice away a large chunk of the JMM, smaller parties and the independent MLAs. The second option is for the Congress-JVM combine to join hands with Soren and form the government. The third option is for the BJP, Soren and AJSU to come together. There are other possibilities too like Soren supporting a Congress-JVM government or a NDA-AJSU government from outside, but they are clearly improbable.
The nine-year-old state has had six chief ministers during its short and turbulent existence. The state with one of the richest mineral reserves is ranked among the poorest states as successive governments let it down. Shibu Soren, therefore, has the historic responsibility to play a constructive role in giving the state a new direction. The next few days should show whether the state will get a new incumbent or Soren, the old warhorse.
26/11 COULD HAVE BEEN AVERTED
The Ram Pradhan Committee, appointed to enquire into the circumstances leading to the commando-style terrorist attack in Mumbai in November, 2008, has exposed not only the ill-preparedness of the police to effectively handle a major terrorist attack but also its lacklustre way of acting on the intelligence inputs provided to it. Sadly, there has been poor coordination among top police officials relating to intelligence sharing. They took the information made available to them in a casual manner, resulting in what happened on 26/11. Numerous alerts about a terrorist plan to attack the Taj and Oberoi hotels by using the sea route were not assessed properly. The truth is that the police force "lacked in the appreciation of intelligence and maintaining a high degree of efficiency in instruments specifically set up to deal with such a terrorist attack", as the report specifically points out.
This makes it clear that if the police had done its duty showing a high-level of appreciation of the threat posed by Pakistan-based terrorists, the situation would have been different on 26/11. Going by the revelations made in the Ram Pradhan Report, the massacre by the terrorists on that fateful day could have been averted. The matter needs to be looked into again so that meaningful intelligence inputs are never taken lightly.
Of course, every bit of information that is received from intelligence agencies is not of actionable quality. The quality of intelligence has to be assessed before taking steps on its basis. It is true that Central intelligence agencies many times come out with inputs claiming that "a terrorist attack is imminent", as a Mumbai police official has stated. But there have been reports clearly mentioning that the intelligence inputs available about 26/11 were not as vague as the Mumbai police has been trying to prove. The Ram Pradhan report also shows that the police is more to blame than the intelligence agencies for last November's audacious attack by terrorists. The lesson that must be learnt is that both the police and the intelligence-gathering network have to play their roles responsibly to prevent terrorist strikes in future.
THE RUCHIKA TRAGEDY
RESTORE PEOPLE'S FAITH IN JUSTICE SYSTEM
BY K.N. BHAT
Strange is the state of our laws. If a woman is molested in most parts of India the maximum punishment prescribed is two years; in Andhra Pradesh since 1991 for the same offence the punishment will be a minimum sentence of five years RI, extendable up to seven years. In Madhya Pradesh since 2004 this offence is punishable with an imprisonment up to 10 years. In Orissa after the year 1995 the offence is non-bailable only a court and not a police officer can grant bail to an arrested accused. In the rest of India, molesting a woman is a bailable offence. That, however, was not the reason for the Chandigarh magistrate to readily grant bail to Rathore after pronouncing him guilty in cases where sentence is short, bail is granted as a rule.
The long life of 19 years of this case had two phases the first one started on August 15, 1990, when a written complaint was addressed to the Home Secretary of Haryana. The Chief Minister promptly ordered the Director-General of Police to investigate. The DGP on September 3 found that the allegations were true and recommended registration of the case. The successor DGP, who assumed office in March '91, recommended departmental proceedings in addition. And then in July '91 Mr Bhajan Lal became the Chief Minister. Rathore apparently had a gala time thereafter Ruchika's teen-aged brother was brazenly hounded, arrested and tortured in connection with many false theft cases. On December 28 Ruchika succumbed to the poison she consumed may be the wolf was still hounding her. In January 1994 the Bhajan Lal government withdrew all charges against Rathore and he got promoted; may be some Presidential medals followed.
Phase II started in 1997 when, after a long wait, Ruchika's friend Aradhana's parents could get a copy of the August 1990 report of the DG. They moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court who directed the CBI to investigate the case. After the Supreme Court upheld that order in 1999 the CBI stepped in and filed a charge sheet in January 2000. That charge sheet did accuse Rathore of abetting suicide also. Rathore succeeded in getting that charge deleted by the High Court and also in delaying the trial till 2007. In the meanwhile Rathore retired in 2002.
Abetting suicide is a difficult charge to prove, but the CBI seems to have not noticed Section 511 of the Penal Code which makes an attempt to commit an offence also an offence with serious consequences of harsh punishment. Was not Rathore attempting to rape a minor girl? Surely, he was not probing her person to assess her fitness to play tennis. If only Aradhana was late by another minute or two in returning, he would have had his kill. The inference that Rathore is guilty of attempting to commit rape flows from the established facts. The punishment could be "one half of the imprisonment for life"
The case calls for effective remedies immediate as well as ultimate. As an immediate remedy, the High Court in Chandigarh may be moved with a prayer for ordering enhancement of the sentence and retrial in exercise of its power of revision or even under the writ jurisdiction - also on the additional charge of attempting to commit rape. Separate proceedings may be initiated for starting false prosecution, including wrongful detention of Ruchika's brother. And the possibility of proceeding against his pension benefits should be examined simultaneously. The public will surely help to set up a fund to meet the expenses.
Cases like Ruchika, BMW or Jessica Lall repeatedly remind us about the inadequacies of our criminal law administration. But the reaction is like the feeling of dejection one gets at a crematorium it lasts until one comes out.
The glaring shortcoming of our system is that at the end of the trial, truth is a certain casualty the trial does not, nor is it intended to, bring out the truth. It is concerned only with the evidence to prove that the accused is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt. In case of doubt, the accused gets acquitted even where the general public lives with a different opinion.
In an ideal criminal justice delivery system, the investigation must lead to firmly establishing the truth and consequently punish the guilty. In our system, the narrow purpose of investigation by the police is to identify the culprit and ensure his conviction. The Justice Malimath Committee, appointed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, on reforms of the criminal justice system, submitted its report in March 2003. Among the suggestions made by the committee was to emphasise that "quest for truth shall be the foundation of the criminal justice system", and, therefore, "it shall be the duty of every functionary of the criminal justice system and everyone associated with it in the administration of justice, to actively pursue the quest for truth." This may be the approach for a long term solution to the ills of our criminal justice system.
The idea is borrowed from the inquisitorial system prevailing in the continent, in contrast to the adversarial system of the common law countries, including India. Under the European system, broadly-speaking, certain classes of cases are entrusted to an investigating judge and the police personnel attached to the judiciary work under him. The judge, in the course of investigation, assumes a pro-active but impartial role and collects evidence for and against the prosecution. He builds up a dossier of all the material collected, which is aimed at finding out how exactly the crime had taken place and who committed it. The matter thereafter goes for trial before another judge. The accused has an opportunity of making submissions, but questioning of witnesses is done generally by the judge. Strict rules of evidence are not applicable in the continental system even here say evidence can be looked into. The "inner conscience" of the judge guides the course.
One thing is clear: no country has a perfect system in place. The Malimath Committee suggested some amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code within the disciplines of the guaranteed rights under the Constitution against testimonial compulsion. Indian criminal law practitioners opposed any change in the law to dilute the burden of proof being entirely on the prosecution. In today's practice, all that is needed of a defence lawyer is to create a doubt about the prosecution story, which is not difficult if the police cooperates.
If the Ruchika tragedy were to take place in Europe, the entire course of the case, from the inception leading to the suicide of the victim and further harassment to the members of her family, would have all formed part of the investigation and trial unhampered by technicalities and permitting just one appeal on limited grounds.
Ruchika case has at once exposed the failures of our police, the executive, the press and the judiciary. The police failed to register a right case and prosecuted false cases; the executive protected and rewarded criminals; the media, which excels in "breaking news", was mum throughout the decade; and the judiciary dilly dallied and awarded just a token sentence where the maximum permissible did not match the gravity of the guilt. Only Aradhana and her parents stand out.
In our country, the Rathores, the Nandas and the Sharmas repeatedly assert their "faith in the judiciary" they have good reasons for that. It is high time to make efforts to win the faith of our people in our justice system.n
The writer is Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India.
THE SUREST DIET
BY RAJ CHATTERJEE
I don't care what Julius Caesar said about Cassius and his "lean and hungry look" but I have always had a horror of getting fat.
In my twenties there was a time when I turned the scales at 172 pounds. I have never been a big eater and my excess weight was entirely due to my fondness for beer. I could put away a couple of bottles before lunch with the greatest of ease. As likely as not, the same liberal dose was repeated in the evening.
No amount of dieting was of the slightest use. I lived on boiled food and salads for a while but it was only when I switched from beer to nimbu pani that I was able to make an appreciable reduction in my weight.
Then came middle age and the "spread" that accompanies it. I tried various reducing diets culled from women's magazines that my wife read. None of them worked, obviously because they were meant for young women, not ageing males.
I consulted the family physician. We are the same age but he is slim as a girl in her teens.
"How do you manage it?" I asked.
"Willpower," he said. "I eat only one big meal a day and never take any exercise. Walk a couple of miles and you work up an appetite which makes you eat more than you should."
I took his advice about the eating but not about the exercise. For as long as I can remember, I have been a regular walker. Unless I put in a couple of miles in the evening I can't work up an appetite at all for dinner which is my one good meal in the day.
And now that my middle age is a thing of the past, I have lost my bulge. It doesn't matter in the least how much I eat my weight stays at 70 kg, which, in avoirdupois, is 18 lbs, less than what I weighed at the age of 26.
My weight-reducing recipe is very simple worry.
If the power fails, I pace up and down till it is restored. If the telephone is out of order, I am not content with ringing up the exchange. I rush round to the zonal office and wait there till a linesman is dispatched to my house. If my daughters are late coming home from a party I can't sleep.
My friends say it is all due to lack of occupation. Maybe they are right. But the only thing I don't have to worry about is the number of Bengali sweets I consume.
NEED TO GRAB INITIATIVE ON J&K
GROUPS' RECOMMENDATIONS REQUIRE A PUSH
BY SATISH MISRA
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had taken a bold step in 2006 when he had constituted five working groups on Jammu and Kashmir to grab the initiative for ushering in a phase of development by creating conditions of permanent peace in the troubled state.
Reports of the four out of the five Working Groups on Jammu and Kashmir were submitted in 2007. The Third Round Table Conference was held in April 2007 during which there was almost a consensus on the need to implement the recommendations of the Working Groups.
Now that the fifth report on the issue of Centre-State relations by Justice S Saghir Ahmad has also been submitted, it is high time that the Prime Minister, in consultation with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, turned these recommendations into reality.
Already enough time has been lost as, barring a few, hardly any substantive recommendations have seen the light of the day. After the submission of reports, both Assembly as well as General elections have taken place. The ruling National Conference is the part of the UPA government. In Srinagar, a NC-Congress coalition government has been in place for almost a year but people's sufferings are continuing in absence of peace and rapid development.
While the Centre has been conducting "quiet" talks with the separatists (read All Party Hurriyat Conference) for some weeks, progress on the implementation of the recommendations has been rather slow, if not tardy. Recommendations, which are significant, would a long way to win the confidence and trust of the people within the state.
Some of the crucial recommendations of the Working Group on Confidence Building Measures like providing an investigating wing to the State Human Rights Commission have still not been implemented. Similarly, the Group had recommended setting up of a special cell for getting complete data on the conditions of widows and orphans of those killed in militancy related violence. It was also suggested that orphans of killed militants with no other source of income should be included as a goodwill gesture.
Steps recommended by the Group, if implemented speedily, would go a long way to create an atmosphere of goodwill and amity so urgently required in the state.
The Group on Strengthening Relations across the Line of Control (LoC), headed by former Foreign Secretary M K Rasgotra, had suggested that eligibility for travel and visit across LoC should not remain restricted to members of divided families only but should be expanded to groups of persons who want to visit places of religious interest and tourism. The facility should be extended to persons who are in need of medical aid provided they carry requisite documents to show that they genuinely require treatment, the group had suggested.
The Group has also suggested measures including setting up of a Joint Consultative Machinery of officials and representatives of trade and commerce (including Chambers of Commerce) from both sides for increasing goods traffic across LoC. The ultimate aim would be to encourage, in stages, the creation of Free Trade Areas comprising of J&K and PoK, the Group has suggested. For promoting people to people contacts, visits of University students and faculty members, exchanges of group of journalists, academicians, lawyers and other groups has been suggested. Besides, the Group has also recommended opening up of seven additional routes and some additional contact and meeting points.
The working Group was of the unanimous view that the initiative to open new routes should be taken by India unilaterally regardless of the nature of response of the PoK/ Pakistan authorities, and that the announcement of the decision should be followed up with the establishment of integrated check posts at the crossing points, in particular at the points which are designated for movement of trade.
The traditional Leh-Xinjiang route should be considered for opening the LAC (or the border) with China,leh being promoted as an alternative for the Kailash-Mansarovar uatra, the Group has suggested and has recommended that this may be considered when conditions are appropriate.
Though non-implementation of the recommendation of the Working Group led by the former Foreign Secretary can possibly be explained in the background of the heightened tensions between India and Pakistan particularly after the Mumbai terror attack on November 26 last year, it is difficult to understand the reasons for not acting upon the suggestions made by the Group on Economic Development which was headed by former RBI Governor C Rangarajan.
The Group had recommended apart from transfer of Dulhasti hydel power project and Bursar scheme from NHPC to J&K strengthening of infrastructure and power sector reforms. It had asked the Centre to enhance the State's share of free power in central projects. Simplification of procedures for various clearances, acquiring stake in thermal projects and exploiting Geo-Thermal and Micro-Hydel projects with a view to redue dependency on hydel power have also been recommended.
Recommendations towards developing Communications, Rural Roads, Tourism and Telecom have been made but unfortunately pre-paid cellphone were also banned. The Group has made far reaching suggestions in areas of social infrastructure and education with stress on vocational and training institutions.
The Group, chaired by former Member-Secretary Planning Commission N C Saxena, submitted its recommendation on ensuring good governance in the State in March 2007 but noting much has been done. Only three months back, the State Government decided to have a Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) and appointed the first CIC of the country Wajahat Habibullah to the post. Other steps like setting up of a minority commission and providing an investigating arm to Human Rights Commission are yet to find favour of the State administration.
Now that Justice S Saghir Ahmad report on the Centre's relationship with J&K has also come, the Prime Minister should chalk out the path for giving concrete shape to workable recommendations.
The writer is a Senior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation.
HIGH BIDS FOR DOOMED LOVE AFFAIR STORY
BY ARIFA AKBAR
It traces the anatomy of a doomed romance, its highs and lows reflected in the shared possessions of a couple who have since parted and whose valuables are now up for sale in an auction catalogue.
And despite the absence of a literary publicity campaign, Leanne Shapton's innovative first novel, Important Artifacts and Personal Property from the Collection of Lenore Doolan and Harold Morris, is fast becoming the biggest word-of-mouth sensation of 2009.
The illustrated book is in such demand approaching Christmas that it has been re-printed twice by Bloomsbury in just over six weeks a highly unusual occurrence for a first-time novelist.
The story, a partially autobiographical account by Shapton, a 36-year-old Canadian-born art director at the New York Times, charts the doomed arc of a love affair between the central characters, Doolan, a food writer, and Morris, a British photographer.
Their romance is revealed through a series of 1,332 lots offered for sale at a fictitious auction house on Valentine's Day, 2009. Each lot, including photographs (Shapton's friends posed as Doolan and Morris), emails, letters, clothes, a cookery book and a set of aprons, reveals key moments of their passion for each other.
The reader gets to know Doolan and Morris through these shared personal effects, which are being sold off now their relationship has run its course.
The book's rights have been bought in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway, Greece, Korea and Brazil. It has also been optioned for a film adaptation starring Brad Pitt and Natalie Portman. Julia Roberts had bid for the rights but lost out.
Despite Important Artifacts' initial success in America, where it was launched in February, it did not attract a British publisher for several months, until Bloombury's editor-in-chief, Alexandra Pringle, realised its potential.
Ms Pringle, who also brought Elizabeth Gilbert's highly successful, Eat, Pray, Love, to Britain, said that once Bloomsbury realised how quickly the first print run was selling, it rushed out reprints.
"What's happened is that it's become a world of mouth book and it's taken off more quickly than we had anticipated," she said.
"I first read it on a plane and I was smitten. It doesn't take long to read but it is just so touching that I was already thinking of buying it for this person or that person. I read every since word, including the estimated prices of the items on sale. It is visual as well as Leanne Shapton has taken the photographs."
She added that she had received e-mails from novelists praising the novel, including Raffaella Barker, and William Boyd's wife, Susan Boyd, who had bought 10 copies as Christmas gifts, as well as the columnist India Knight.
Independent booksellers including Foyles in central London and the new Notting Hill bookshop Lutyens & Rubinstein have had to re-stock the book after it sold out and several notable writers have bought multiple copies, according to Ms Pringle.
Shapton, who is engaged to James Truman, the British former editorial director of Condé Nast, said in an interview that she wrote the book "in a way to clear the way for the relationship I am now in". She has previously written a graphic book called Was She Pretty? about a woman's obsession with her boyfriend's former girlfriends. She is currently writing her next "concept novel".
MUSCLE FLEXING AFTER NRO VERDICT
BY SYED NOORUZZAMAN
There is little possibility of President Asif Ali Zardari submitting his resignation, at least in the near future, in the wake of the Pakistan Supreme Court judgement scrapping the infamous National Reconciliation Order, promulgated by former President Gen Pervez Musharraf. This impression can be gathered from the statements made by the indicted ruling politicians, including Mr Zardari, and the opinion being expressed by certain well-known non-political personalities. The rulers are not only staying put, but also threatening the media and others exposing their misdeeds.
As The News says, "Those personally affected by the judgement of the Supreme Court setting aside the ignominious NRO and re-opening cases that were hushed up under it have reacted with yet more ignominy that consists of doing everything that the country has been harmed by in the sixty-three years of its existence. They have defied the court. They have tried to pit institution against institution. They have sought to fan the flames of ethnicity. They have threatened to amputate the limbs of those in the media who expose their corruption."
Here the reference is to the reluctance of Interior Minister Rehman Malik to submit to law and certain politicians talking of judicial bias against the people of Sindh. But this is not surprising in a country where institution building has never been a priority of the rulers.
"Which part of the SC judgement discriminates between Sindhi and non-Sindhi NRO beneficiaries, between those belonging to the PPP and those who do not? The NRO list, it should be remembered, was issued by the Law Ministry under the PPP. Perceptions, particularly those created with criminal intent, are not sacred. They must be fought against and not fallen for", asserts the daily through an editorial.
But there are people who want the status quo to continue. Among them is Pakistan Muslim League (N) leader Nawaz Sharif, though his idea of not putting pressure on the PPP-led government to respect the court verdict may be a political tactic. That is why Dawn says that there is no point in reading "too much" into the PML (N)'s "generosity" and "good will" "with the PPP floundering and under immense pressure from the courts, there is little to be gained for the PML (N) by piling on further pressure".
NOT MUCH PRESSURE TO GO
Instead of asking for the resignation of all the tainted ruling politicians, Dawn admonishes Mr Zardari to make some major moves to save his government and improve his reputation. In the words of the paper, "What's needed, though, for survival is a seismic shift in the PPP's attitude towards governance and politics. A business-as-usual approach will simply not do. On the political front, the PPP co-chairman, President Zardari, needs to realise the inevitability of the repeal of the 17th Amendment and use that occasion to begin to rescue his tattered reputation."
Going through an article in The Nation (Dec 25) by Ijaz Ahsan, one sees that even the well-known human rights activist Asma Jahangir is not supporting court verdict without an reservations. As Ahsan says, "Ms Jehangir was not just saying that the focus on a number of clauses in the judgement was uncalled for; she said more than once (during a TV interview) that the judgement was wrong. It is true that she added the government should realise fully well that as this is a judgement of the Supreme Court, they have to implement it.
"However, the impression was created that the government should act on it because it is the verdict of the country's apex court, not because it is also basically right. At a time when many ministers in the government are hitting out at anything and everything that comes in their way, the populace can get confused on a very clear issue, although the court has only struck down a black and bizarre law ."
ARMY CHANGES TUNE
The Nation also carried a report quoting Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani asserting that the Pakistan Army was firmly behind the government and that there were no differences on any issue between him and President Zardari. There was also a hint that the Army was not in favour of a change in the prevailing political dispensation.
Is this so because any development that can destabilise the government may help the extremist forces and harm the cause of democracy? Or is there the feeling that the judicial verdict should be seen against the backdrop of Mr Zardari's initial reluctance to go ahead with the restoration of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry as the Chief Justice of Pakistan? Whatever are the factors behind this kind of reaction, the developments after the NRO judgement are not encouraging for those who value justice and fair play more than anything else.
THE ASSAM TRIBUNE
All is not well in the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) which has apparently been hit by mismanagement, and lack of political will to stem the rot setting in the public sector oil major. Its oil production has dwindled alarmingly from 3 million metric tonnes in 1991 to 1.2 MMT last year. This is in stark contrast to another oil giant, Oil India Limited's performance marked by increasing production over the years. Matters have taken a turn for the worse with frequent bandhs and blockades against the ONGC. The ongoing 96-hour bandh called by the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) in protest against the reported but unconfirmed move of the Centre to convert the oil PSU's Assam asset to a subsidiary unit is causing a loss of well over Rs 2 crore a day. This at a time when the company is reeling under a serious crisis. Unfortunately, the AASU has been adamant with its stand despite assurances from the company that no such decision had been taken either by the ONGC management or the Petroleum Ministry. Whatever may be the constraints stifling the growth of the ONGC, such marathon blockades will only push the beleaguered company further down the hole. Bandhs, in fact, are having a huge debilitating impact on the State's economy. There is an urgent need for reviving the ONGC, which can be done by making enhanced investments in its Assam asset and streamlining its functioning. The Petroleum Ministry must intervene at the earliest to check the plummeting fortunes of the ONGC. Given its below-par functioning in recent years, the ministry ought to have taken a serious view of the situation. Organizations like the AASU should also desist from using bandhs to voice their protest, however genuine the cause might be.
While Assam's exploits vis-a-vis oil exploration date back to a couple of centuries, the industry will be facing a stern test in the coming days. Depleting energy sources and the ongoing global recession warrant greater responsibility on the ONGC's part in the years ahead. How the oil major handles the mounting challenges will have a bearing on not just the country's growing energy needs but its economy as a whole. For increasing domestic oil production, the ONGC needs to intensify its exploration activities in search of new hydrocarbon reserves in Assam and other parts of the North-East. The four refineries of Assam are yet to be fed with crude oil produced in the North-East, and this should be taken up as a challenge. While OIL is doing a reasonably good job, it is time the ONGC rectified its drawbacks and functioned in the manner expected of an entity of its stature.
THE ASSAM TRIBUNE
Team India has capped a successful year with an emphatic win over Sri Lanka at the Eden Gardens on Thursday, taking an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match One Day International series. Set a daunting target of 316 under the floodlights, India showed steely resolve after the early loss of its famed opening pair of Sehwag and Tendulkar, and achieved the target with élan, losing just another wicket in the process. Gautam Gambhir, who is having a tremendous year with the bat, showed his mettle once again by scoring a chanceless unbeaten 150. The young Virat Kohli, too, showed little signs of nerves while scoring his maiden hundred. The win is all the more credible because two of India's biggest stars in the ODI format skipper MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh were missing from the action. The regularity in which huge scores are being chased down these days, it is apparent that even a 300-plus score is no longer safe. The triumph, coming after a clinical show in the preceding Test series win over the strong Lankans, has reaffirmed India's growing stature in both versions of the game. India is already the number one team in Test rankings and notwithstanding its below-par performance at the Champions Trophy and the Twenty20 World Cup, it has had its moments of success in the limited-over versions in recent times.
If one were to analyse India's performance more particularly in Tests in the recent past, a few things stand out. Its batting though traditionally an area of strength is blossoming like never before. When you have batsmen of the calibre of Sehwag, Gambhir, Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Yuvraj and Dhoni delivering consistently, it is always a nightmare for opposition bowlers. The performance by youngsters like Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja is heartening and goes to reaffirm its bench strength. Batting apart, India now boasts of a bowling attack that can bowl the opposition out twice, and is doing precisely that more consistently than ever before. The successful return of S Srisanth after a hiatus has added more teeth to the attack comprising the likes of Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra. Statistics corroborate India's enviable Test performance. It has not lost a single Test in the last 14 months, and has won series against Australia, England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Keep it up, Team India!
THE ASSAM TRIBUNE
SEPARATIST MOVEMENT, INSURGENCY AND YOUTH
DR KAMALA KANTA SAHARIA
Separatism is an essential part of basic human character. Without that the world would not have come to this level of civilization. But that has inflated manifold in civilized societies today without realizing the fact that even if all resources available to us were distributed equally to all of us, no one would be happy. Separatism might be an outcome of high aspiration on one hand and continuous deprivation, long-term exploitation or perennial injustice meted out to people on the other. But that taking a generous mode or group activity definitely leads to a disaster. So before such motive starts getting sympathy of other people that has to be curbed by the society. Initially treated as lightweight or ignorable, when the gravity is realized, the matters get blown out of proportion. In due course of time the groups turn violent. As a result we find many insurgent groups including ULFA.
History has never been a witness to the success of separatist movement. Neither such movements have been able to satisfy the hopes and aspirations of people. That leads to a provoking question - as to why then such movements survive ? The answer is simple. Once such movement starts, there are plenty of supporters for their own set of interests and privileges. Many parties like them because, it is easier for them to manage many localized issues, ensure things on gunpoint and keep the mediocrity and inefficiency in hibernation. The anti-social elements automatically become a part of it. Immediately a nexus develops among all such groups, the enemy countries render helping hands including conditional supply of firearms. The youths who do not have proper food to eat, proper dress to wear, proper engagement to spend time and proper head of balanced thinking get dragged to such activities easily. Finally the separatist movement gets the required momentum, gathers strength and becomes famous after committing any heinous crimes.
The outcome of such movements, most often than not is a one way traffic. It might lead to create some local leaders and power brokers, but the general people hardly get any benefit out of it. Because peace and prosperity are dependent on basic characters of the community and separatism does not improve such inputs, rather worsens them. If the duration of the movement is considered in terms of sufferings and sacrifices of the common men, then it is an absolute loss. We have lost two Prime Ministers in our country after independence because of such movements - Late Indira Gandhi and Late Rajiv Gandhi. The fate of different States created after long separatist movements is also not very encouraging. Take the example of Jharkhand, the sufferings of the common men have not ended. There is also no reduction in insurgency and violence by the extremist groups. Think about our own Bodoland, Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Autonomous Council areas. Violence has remained a permanent feature there. Even in global communities the erstwhile USSR is in doldrums today and no separate country has marked progress.
After the arrest of a few top ULFA leaders in a comparatively short span of time, there is a wave in the media of the State in particular and the country in general to put forward the opinions regarding the arrest and the aftermath. The clouds regarding the circumstances under which the leaders have been arrested are not clear. Neither the Government nor the ULFA leadership has come out in open - how and why it has happened. Fictions relating to the leaders' life, hardships and the missions of the leaders have been in highlight including the issue of talks. But, to add fuel to the fire, suddenly a Pandora's box was opened when the Government declared creating a separate Telengana State. Creation of a new State was always on the cards. Because, the "Gentlemen's Agreement of Andhra Pradesh 1956" was in hibernation since the day it was drafted like the "Assam Accord" remaining in the cold storage. In case of creation of Andhra Pradesh even the recommendations, of Firoz Ali Commission of 1953 were ignored and separate Telengana movement was on top gear since 1969.
There are a few hard facts to digest. Politics, whether we like it or not, has percolated down to every aspect of our life, mostly creating confusions and pains to the 'right men'. Today, the situation is such that in all 'out of the way' transfers, promotions, recruitments and other forms of favouratism political blessings are a must. Not that all politicians are equally responsible for that. But the nexus, to which they enter after getting elected to the legislative Assembly or to Parliament, is unbreakable. If politicians are considered instrumental for the development of the State, then we must say that they have collectively failed to deliver. At the time of independence the State of Assam was at the few top developed States in the country and today, it is one of the most backward States largely because of inefficiency and separatism.
In spite of knowing the fate of some of the much known separatist movements in different parts of the world in general and the country in particular, people, particularly the youths jump easily into such acts under the influence of either religion, language, creed, caste, language, exploitation, culture and other factors including such which are the causes of constant tension and frustration like unemployment and economic backwardness. However, the reality remains that a separate homeland does not ensure answers the basic problems of people. For example solution to hunger, restoration of peace, harmony and development in terms of economy cannot be brought by creating a separate homeland. A separate homeland actually helps only the selected few who are alienated from the interests of common men. When money starts flowing to a person in lakhs at gun point, why the hell he or she would grip the agricultural implements or sweat in industrial acts ?
A gun in hand, soft targets, enough money in sight and anarchy in the society what else one needs to jump into separatism? Youths easily get dragged into the trap, which is again designed meticulously by the experts of separatist movements. It is hard to believe that such things develop without the knowledge of the intelligence of the country/state. The situation gets more deteriorated when the media openly come out and support such movement in one or the other form. Some of the publications go to such an extent that they even try to create a public opinion in favour of such movements. Today, the world is advancing towards unification rather than separatism. It took more than four centuries for the Europeans to come together even after continuous investments and constant efforts from the leaders of different countries. When Germany can become one even after so many differences, when Koreans can come together why not we ?
The government should be serious enough to resolve any prolonged issue likely to grow as a separatist movement. We have countless numbers of them around us today and sufferings are prolonging. To remain in power for seemingly good and doing something really good are two different things. Talks or no talks, preconditions or without condition, here or there all are simply vague parameters as far as the interests of the people are concerned. Any one with little intelligence can trace out the fact that there has been an understanding between the government and the top leadership of insurgent groups. Because, the leaders who have not been seen for decades, who could not be identified even by their close family members were so easily and all of a sudden discovered and trapped by the security forces. It indicates that all the leaders were already under scanner. If such is the case why the present development took so long a time? Why so many lives have been sacrificed in bomb blasts? What happened to the leaders of both sides all of a sudden to change their gear? Sooner that comes to the fore, better would be the situation in the State. Keeping the issues alive and problems pending helps no one. If we want our future generations live in peace, breathe free air free from atrocities, insurgency and violence; then we are surely to create an order in the society founded on the values of unity, peace, progress and social justice.
THE ASSAM TRIBUNE
EFFECTIVE BUSINESS MANAGEMENT A CRYING NEED
Business plays the role of a catalyst in the growth of economy. Success and opportunity of an entrepreneur is not an orientation of luck but turning point of life resulting from sincere effort and innovative ideas. Life symbolises a domain of trial and error, a game place inhabited by both win and defeat or success and failure. Failure in entrepreneurship mostly attributes to lack of knowledge or failure in opening the windows of thought in availing guidance. Despite availing ample scopes, success cannot be ensured occasionally due to insincerity or inadaptability. Efficiency is rarely ensured without an untiring effort. Contribution in business is not only one's profit generating phenomenon but also a factor of sectorial development directed towards effective promotion or acceleration of national income.
Motivating the young generation, guiding them in proper perspective as well as assisting them with hassle free credit facilities can pave the way for development in various sectors. Organisation of seminar, symposium or workshop from time to time can also help in stimulating knowledge. Deliberation in seminars can imbibe a creative practical thinking among the participants which will finially lead them to develop an entrepreneurial attitude. A true sense of competitive attitude coupled with will-force among the various groups is a prime concern of successful business operation. Adversities though stand in the way as barrier on the contrary it helps in breaking the chain of failures too. The ships which sail out in the open water and face the storms may succeed in reaching their destination sooner or later but those which remain anchored in the harbour will never dare to face the challenge. Sailing with the wind as well as against the wind is undoubtedly a challenging conquest. Dreaming a success without encountering the harsh adversities is a far cry. Lot's of channels and scopes of entrepreneurship are there but to locate the component which suitably suits an individual is a pertinent question. Infrastructural availability as well as consideration of sustainability is no doubt, a prime concern in promoting support. Successive planning is a core segment of developing, a corporate strategy. Formulation of a suitable plan without leaving a little gap between two managements is a very crucial issue to avoid any chaos.
Planning which is a prerequisite for successful business activity as well as for proper utilisation of resources facilitates in achieving the targeted goal efficiently. In the context of mounting talent shortage successive planning is considered to be absolute by necessary for keeping provision of additional executives for each senior positions with the consideration that no vacuum is created while one or two leaves their assignment. Family-owned companies usually encountered by a challenge between family versus professional in selecting an individual. Normally successors are appointed based on blood relations in lieu of capabilities which possibly lead to poor management. Stalling function is very much concerned with the aspect of management. According to Harol Koontz "The management function of staffing involves managing the organisational structure through proper and effective selection, appraisal and development". Efficiency of an enterprise mostly rests on the review done at the managerial level, redrawing the plan and keeping it on proper track. To organize a business is to provide it with everything useful to its functional-raw materials, tools, capital and personnel. Thus organising involves bringing together the manpower and material resouces for the achievement of objectives laid down by the enterprise. With a view to make the control more effective it must be based on a suitable plan having measurement of actual performance to ascertain deviation and to take corrective action. In order to prevent anticipated problem feed forward control is to be initiated which is to be followed by concurrent control and feed back control subsequently. Feed forward control is to be taken before the commencement of an activity so that anticipated problems are prevented. Concurrent control is done when an activity is in progress. Feed back control is implemented after completion of the work. But these are found to remain unattended on many an occasion. So special care needs to be taken in this direction by each and every business enterprise.
In the midst of such hurdles, a number of opportunities have not been created to explore the possibility of developing international trade. As for example, Vietnam is keen to import tea technology from Assam. People engaged in tea industry of Assam can share processing a growing technology with tea traders of Vietnam. Just like Vietnam which is concentrating more on producing organic tea to tap the western market, the traders of Assam should also produce more organic tea to explore the foreign market. Looking at the asepct of globalisation and underlined opportunities, the definition of management education has assumed much significance and all the educational institutions have now shown notable progress across the spectrum of management education in India. It is now time to wake up and focus on imparting qualitative value of management education among the students more effectively so as to generate successful entrepreneurship with an aim of attaining satisfactory level of progress in the country.
(The writer is former Director, Economics and Statistics)
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
REFORMING INTERNAL SECURITY
Home minister P Chidambaram's bold plan of restructuring the security apparatus of the country, by hiving off non-security functions from the home ministry or creating a separate department within to handle them, and creating a National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), is perhaps the culmination of the debate on India's security post the Mumbai terror attacks.
The primary aim of the NCTC, that of streamlining and co-ordinating intelligence and the response to terror plots across the various military and civil agencies, would, if properly implemented, be a big step in India's battle against terrorism. Indeed, the failings of a system where various agencies either fail to co-ordinate or even engage in de facto turf wars have been felt in other nations too. And the NCTC, as the intelligence and operational apex, would help in mitigating that. As the debate on a new federal investigative agency showed, there have been doubts on the role and scope of such a central agency given state's rights over law and order issues. But given the apparent political consensus on the issue, and the reality of terrorism as a multi-faceted, pan-national, global phenomena, successfully preventing and investigating terror attacks needs an agency unencumbered by state boundaries and political interference.
Coordination of intelligence, operative action based on intelligence and investigations is of the essence. However, such coordination should not pre-empt the autonomy of investigations that would encompass not just security violations but also possible violations by the security establishment of citizen rights.
The counter-terrorism discourse in India has not always been unbiased or measured. Thus, the frequent calls for harsher terror laws et al. There is no substitute for more effective intelligence gathering and implementation of extant laws dealing with terror crimes.
In that context, an important aspect of the former is better local policing. To his credit, the home minister seems aware of that. Indeed, his intelligence bureau (IB) centenary endowment lecture actually began with a focus on state police forces. Better community policing, as an aspect of carrying out much-needed police reforms, then, must also be given high priority as a critical aspect of the fight against terror.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
There is much to commend in the voluntary guidelines for corporate governance released by the government on Monday. Save one! That compliance with the guidelines is voluntary, not compulsory. Yes, it is true good corporate governance is a bit like honesty. It cannot be mandated and even if it is, will serve little purpose. Nonetheless to the extent that you need to have systems in place to facilitate good corporate governance, there must be an element of compulsion about setting up those systems. This is where proposals like separating the role of CEO and chairman, setting a cap of seven on the number of directorships an individual can accept, rotation of audit firms every five years and an annual review of the effectiveness of the company's internal controls can go a long way.
Ideally, all companies should adhere to these guidelines. But given the higher compliance costs inherent in any such a system, there is a case for some differentiating between companies. Listed companies must be held up to a higher standard than unlisted companies and more must be expected from bigger listed companies than from smaller ones. Such segregation of roles should be irrespective of the size of the promoter's holding in the company; the logic being that the moment a company accesses funds from the public, it becomes more answerable than otherwise and hence a higher degree of both probity and accountability must follow. Ideally again, the chairman should be a non-executive independent director; but in view of the practical difficulties involved in transiting to such an arrangement it should suffice for now if the chairman remains a non-executive director.
As far as the ceiling on directorships is concerned, the current limit for independent directors is 15 in public companies (including deemed companies).
This is far too many. No individual, however competent, can do justice to the job juggling so many directorships. It is thus appropriate that the guidelines should suggest a maximum of seven directorships. The number can go down to, say, five over a three-year period. Some argue that it is hard to find people of calibre to be appointed as independent directors. The problem is more that companies are happier with pliable ones!
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
LOVE STORY IN AIR INDIA
Love means not ever having to say you're sorry," state the protagonists of Erich Segal's 1970 bestseller Love Story, released appropriately on February 14, Valentine's Day. Air India's management has apparently taken that message to heart. The airline, says a report on Times Now, has simply refused to apologise to the passengers of its Monday-evening Mumbai-Chennai flight for having to undergo an agonising seven-hour wait at the airport before take-off because the air-conditioning system in the aircraft was not working.
However, Air India's desire to hold on to its passengers did not evoke a matching response. The passengers, who reached Chennai in the early hours of Tuesday, were not amused, going by their reactions. Some complained of breathlessness after being cooped up for hours in a stationary aircraft without air-conditioning and swore they would never fly Air India again. Other airlines subscribe to the maxim that "the customer is king". Air India, whose planes carried the 'Maharajah' symbol, apparently believes that customer-complaints amount to lese majeste!
And so what if the complaints keep piling up, with a recent report of the directorate-general of civil aviation (DGCA) stating that Air India's Jaipur-Mumbai flight overshot its destination on June 4, 2008, and kept flying at a cruising altitude of 30,000 ft for several kilometres because the pilots fell asleep, apparently due to fatigue! Air India also has another dubious first to its credit of the pilots engaging in a midnight, mid-air scuffle with the cabin crew on its flight from Sharjah to Delhi on October 3, this year. And July saw reports of overseating on another Air India flight. With so much to constantly apologise for, Air India has been consistent in its refusal to say sorry. The airline's theme could even be one of 'Air India means not ever having to say you're sorry'!
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
PRIVATE NOT THE SAME AS FOR-PROFIT
There has been considerable debate in India regarding privatisation of higher education. In this debate, there is generally an implicit assumption that privatisation is essentially the same as corporatisation i.e., private investment comes due to the potential of returns.
In the higher education field, privatisation and corporatisation are actually quite different. Privatisation is regarding who controls the educational institute and the role of government in the management and funding of the institute, while corporatisation is about making profits. To make this distinction clear, universities may be classified as: public (i.e., those that are supported by government and are assumed to be not-for-profit), private not-for-profit, and private for-profit. The two types of private roles can have different purposes in higher education.
Let us see the role of private universities in other countries. In UK all but one universities are public the only exception is the University of Buckingham, which started only in 1970s and is in the category of private not-for-profit (is registered as a non-profit company for education charity). In Australia private university is also a recent phenomenon and there are only two private universities Bond University and the University of Notre Dame Australia. The former may be for-profit, but has not made any profit.
The US is the leader in the diversity of models it allows. There are about 650 public institutes that offer four-year degrees, 1,500 private not-for-profit institutes, and about 500 private for-profit institutes. It should be pointed out that all the marquee names that are quoted in support of privatisation of higher education MIT, Stanford, CalTech, other Ivy League Universities are all private not-for-profit.
The private for-profit universities are a relatively recent phenomenon even in the US University of Phoenix is the best example of this type. However, it is the fastest growing segment, as government investment in higher education is on the decline. It should also be pointed out that in the US, all institutions give the degrees under their own name, as there is no concept of affiliating universities and affiliated-colleges.
In India, there is no doubt that private not-for-profit universities need to be encouraged to increase the education opportunities, and the fact that there is no other alternative the government simply cannot create enough public universities to satisfy the demand. However, guidelines for private not-for-profit universities should be made clear, simple, and transparent to ensure that they are truly not-for-profit, and offer a level playing field to all those who might want to set a private university.
For example, rules can allow private universities to be set up if the entity setting it up donates Rs 50 crore up-front and commits to at least another Rs 50 crore for the next 10 years. And this fund cannot be recovered it is a grant/donation to the university.
There could be some other constraints on the governance structures that there must be a board which must have certain number of ex-officio members and certain number of independent members, and that the board follows democratic processes. Essentially those rules that are needed to ensure that the university is not treated like a business, and not like a family asset that is handed over from father to son. If these criteria are satisfied, then there should be minimum controls regarding what courses they want to offer, what fee they charge, what salary they offer, etc, these issues should be left entirely up to the institute administration. And the government should facilitate their creation by enacting a suitable Act empowering them, giving cheap land, etc.
For private for-profit universities, caution in moving forward is highly desired. However, as some thinkers have suggested, the right approach is to not take a definite view on it or its feasibility, but allow this model on an experimental basis. Then study the impact in due course of this model and then make suitable policy based on this experience.
One area where for-profit enterprise can work well is in affiliated colleges where the syllabus is defined by the parent university and the college has a limited task of teaching the syllabus. As colleges are regulated by the affiliating university, the risk of abuse will be minimised, while expanding the education opportunities at the bachelor level where the demand is the most. Another area where for-profit could be useful is skill-based training and education like ITIs and other such diploma programmes. Again, this is an area where the for-profit model may actually improve education as the government-owned ones seem to be lacking in facilities and equipment.
In cases of all private colleges, it is best that they are required to convert as not-for-profit (section 25) or for-profit companies. Then the company laws will ensure that audited accounts are filed every year and there is greater transparency and proper governance, than what exists today it will also make the status of the college fully clear to the students and parents. Today, in the garb of a Trust, many colleges are being run effectively as for-profit business.
In summary, private not-for-profit universities should be facilitated but with clearly defined norms and high entry bar which ensures only sincere players. Private for-profit universities may be experimented with in a limited manner to gain experience. Both private not-for-profit and private for-profit models can be allowed to thrive in colleges and diploma institutes, and those operating as businesses should be encouraged to come out in open clearly and become education companies.
This mixed model will allow creation of private universities that can become Stanfords, MITs in times to come. And it can bring in private investment for expanding education opportunities. It will allow a diversity of models to exist, which, in years to come, will give us valuable information and will help us decide, as a society, which one should be pursued more vigorously.
(The author is director, IIIT-Delhi and professor, IIT Delhi. Views are personal.)
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
WHY SALMAN MUST SPEAK TO PRANAB
The proactive proposals mooted by minister of corporate affairs Salman Khursheed to incentivise corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts, including the one on CSR Trading aka Carbon Trading, are enlightened ones. Given that increasingly many corporates are engaged in exemplary social work, adding significant value to the social development of the nation, the good minister's ideas are not only praiseworthy, but could well spur more of such activity. This must be lauded for the simple reason that even after accounting for perceived and real vested interests of the private sector in undertaking such social works, the leakages in the private sector as compared to the government sector are much less and its efficiency much higher, so that in aggregate, such measures can only augur well for the social sector. In any case, the crying need of the underprivileged society is so vast and humungous that it is no longer feasible for the government alone to cope with the overall requirements.
But all that is what the right hand, or the ministry of corporate affairs (MCA) is suggesting. What the left hand, namely the ministry of finance (MoF), is doing is contained in the draft direct tax code (DTC) Bill, 2009 now open to public for reactions, which if enacted will be law effective April 1, 2011.
Reactions to this bill have been coming in quick and fast (including one by this author: ET, Oct 31), with almost every one pointing out the serious flaws, inconsistencies and dampeners inherent in the bill. One hopes that not only will the MoF take note of these reactions when the bill finally takes shape, but that the MCA too will initiate a dialogue with the former, so that both ministries are aligned in the same direction rather than one unwittingly undoing the good intentions of the other.
Consider some of the contents of the draft DTC Bill. Change in the term 'charitable purpose' to 'permitted welfare activities' in section 88 (1) of chapter IV; introduction of taxes on not-for-profit organisations (NPOs), considering a lot of corporate either have their own not-for-profit CSR arms or make contributions to non-government organisations to carry out their CSR activities; the cash system of accounting in the proposed code; the requirement for spending 100% of donation receipts in the same year; the unequal treatment of advance payments vis-à-vis advance receipts; flawed computation of exempted income for taxation; issues pertaining to capital gains tax and so on. Each and every one of these provisions will provide serious disincentive to CSR bodies and NGOs alike.
The need for Mr Salman Khursheed to speak to Mr Pranab Mukherjee is obvious. The fact is MoF has gone and tried to fix something that wasn't broke in the first place, and if it was, it has merely gone and broken it some more. And this needs seri-ous fixing. Or else Mr Khursheed's good ideas will remain just that ideas.
At another level, addressing a Ficci event on CSR in the Capital on December 17, former capital market regulator M Damodaran remarked that some well-known corporates have used CSR as a cover for their non-compliance of laws. The company he might have had in mind is obvious. His caution against mixing up good governance with philanthropy is sage advice, no doubt and has lessons for both corporate and the government alike.
It is true that some wayward social organisations or corporates do misuse the benevolent tax provisions intended at charitable purposes. But even so, the answer perhaps lies in meeting out exemplary punishment to such rogues rather than bring changes in the tax code that implicitly paint all players good and bad with a single brush stroke. The right view is, "on the whole, the private sector and NGOs perform well, while there might indeed be a few bad apples" and not "most private sector or non-government players are crooks, with some exceptions". While the FM in this case seems to be following the first hypotheses, the minister of corporate affairs seems to be using the latter one!
However, Mr Khursheed and Mr Damodaran agree on one thing. That ideally corporates should focus on making a difference to their immediate communities amidst which they live and work. Not that good work done elsewhere is not as useful and deserves less credit. But if each corporate works with the communities closest to them the linkage between corporates and communities is more directly and better established. This is intuitively understandable. Had it been a way of life with the corporate sector to do so, perhaps Singur would never have happened, because the communities would have readily seen the benefits of corporate presence in their midst. True, Tatas are perhaps among the best-known names in CSR and for nearly a hundred years at that, but as long as the corporate sector as a whole does not work in close proximity with their communities, the linkages will not be so obvious to far flung societies.
Mr Khursheed has the right ideas. We hope all arms of the government have the same vision of CSR in the country.
(The author is CEO, GMR Varalakshmi Foundation. Views are personal.)
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
I'M NOT SLAVE TO ANY IDEOLOGY: GADKARI
At 52, Mr Nitin Gadkari is the youngest ever president of BJP. He found himself pitchforked into the hot seat at a time when the party's standing among the people had taken a severe knock because of a string of electoral defeats, a debilitating infighting at all levels in almost all states, and cadre morale had hit rock-bottom. Undeterred, he has plunged himself headlong into setting things right. In an exclusive interview with ET, he outlined his challenges, goals, priority areas and blueprint for organisational revival. In the interview, he said that he did not want to be trapped in any -isms and was willing to absorb all that is good from various ideologies.
There is a feeling that in the war of perception, BJP has lost out. It's has failed to keep up with the people's aspirations?
I tell my people, don't go by any particular book of ideology. I am not talking of ideology. Don't stamp me anywhere. I am telling our people in the 21st century, we should keep the poor before us, and think of generating employment and raising our GDP. We should try to reduce disparities between the urban and rural areas, create a desire so that people want to return to villages. Otherwise, we will keep creating more slums and criminal mindset.
The last 12 months have been particularly bad for BJP. It lost all the elections held during the period. How do you intend to revive the moribund organization?
When we lose elections, it is clear that we have to raise our strength. We have gone through this phase in the past, and came out with flying colours. In 1984, when our strength in the Lok Sabha was reduced to a mere two seats, people used to say we're finished. Yet we bounced back.
Victories and losses are a part and parcel of politics. As I have said repeatedly, power should not be the end of politics.
Again, while Congress inherited a rich historical legacy, we had to start from the scratch after Independence. There is a difference of at least 10% between the basic strength of BJP and that of Congress. We've to enhance our strength. In states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and even Assam, we're either non-existent or have limited presence. We've to expand our base in such areas. We can bridge this gap by organizational and political planning.
Unlike many other parties, BJP had to confront adverse circumstances at separate times assassination of Gandhiji and the subsequent ban on RSS, the growth of casteism and communalism. We came out stronger every time.
There is a perception that BJP has simply failed to capitalize on issues such as spiralling prices, internal security lapses.
Cash-caste-criminals have come to influence Indian politics. It's not that we haven't tried to bring these issues towards the centre of popular discourse. But did they become a part of electoral agenda, Did they become areas of concern for the masses ? No! There is an urgent need to educate the masses. And if there are genuine shortcomings in our working, we'll try to remove them.
My foremost task would be to identify these issues, expand our organizational base reach out to SCs, STs, minorities and unorganized sector labour.
At the same time, I also admit that no one is perfect. We'll take earnest steps to improve our functioning. There is a system to go about it, and that system includes awakening, training, research and development. We have to continue to strive to improve our working even in state where we are in power. We can execute even those programmes which are being run successfully by the Congress-ruled states.
Factionalism and infighting have taken a heavy toll...
I have no hesitation in saying that I am an outsider to Delhi. It's a fact. My political career is not my agenda. But I am aggressive in my approach. Everyone is helping. Soon after taking over, we sat for some six hours to sort out the mess in Rajasthan. I told everyone that I want to put a full stop to the crisis in the state. And we succeeded.
I want to work on the basis of merit. I am transparent, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani are my role-models. Everyone is senior to me, everyone is more capable than me. Respect is something that can only be commanded. I don't want any liasioning and image projection. I am a small worker.
There is a strong perception that you're a representative of the RSS.
I am a RSS swayamsewak. Sangh ideology is a part of my conviction. But I am more influenced by ABVP. It'd be wrong to say that RSS interferes in our working. We take our own decisions. Their only expectation is that we should do good work.
What are the organizational innovations that you plan to undertake?
I will connect the party headquarters at the national level with all state capitals. I plan to reorganize the office. Distribution and division of work will be the central credo. I also intend to ask all MPs, MLAs to set aside time for welfare projects. I want indulge in politics of service, and not politics of power.
I have always maintained that there is a crisis of credibility in Indian politics. It is there in every party. Politicians are, after all, a microcosm of the wider society. It's very huge responsibility that has been thrust upon me. A strong political will, constructive approach, commitment towards the country, fast-track approach all these put together can help us attain our goals.
There is a feeling that the youth and the middle classes, which were the BJP's core constituency, have become disillusioned with the party and deserted it. How do intend to re-embrace them?
I said earlier that unlike Congress, we had to start from the scratch. We have to take steps to expand our thinking and organization to every corner of the country.
It is my firm belief that eradication of poverty can be attained only by raising the GDP and the per capita income. These, in turn, can be increased by bringing in more capital investment. This will automatically solve many of our problems, including unemployment and poverty removal. We can solve bigger problems only be resolving smaller issues. I want to undertake planning in advance and planning for the future for the poor people. I also plan to prepare a Vision 2025 for agriculture and industry, for infrastructure. I'll put these before the workers. I am confident we'd be able to change the situation.
What about your team-formation exercise ?
I want to tap talent from various fields, and put them to proper use. I'll finalize the list of office bearers after consulting everyone. We'll hold the national council meeting either in second or the third week of February. By then, organizational elections in at least 50% of the states would have been completed. I'll unveil the list of office bearers in the third week.
What will be the recovery roadmap?
It's a proven fact that BJP is the only real alternative to Congress. It's the only credible opposition. There are two crucial issues first, organizational, including the identification of issues, future leadership, programmes, and, second, political. Security is a very important political issue. How to confront naxalism and terrorism? At the international level, we've the experience of the US where, after 9/11, there has not been another terror attack. In India, on the other hand, there have been a series of attacks. There are, obviously, important lessons to be learnt. Political will is clearly lacking.
Price-rise is another important issue. Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had the other day put the onus on the states to shield his people. But our charge is that prices are rising because of the faulty economic policies of the UPA government. How has the situation come to rise? What are the reasons? There is a control mechanism. It is the responsibility of the Centre to control prices. Food-prices can be controlled by releasing foodgrains from its stock when prices are going up.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
'CAR IT WILL BE ADAPTED SOON IN INDIA'
GOURI AGTEY ATHALE
Microsoft's ubiquitous Windows platform has an automotive version, MS Auto, an operating system for cars which includes info-and-entertainment systems. The software developer sees a role for itself in the auto industry's green movement focusing on sustainability, controlling emissions and the move towards electric vehicles. Within the nearly $60-billion Microsoft Corporation universe, the automotive business is still small but the worldwide managing director of its automotive and industrial equipment business, Norbert Braendli, believes it will grow.
His confidence rises from the changing habits of a younger generation of car owners who will want to take their world with them wherever they go via the mobile phone and the change this will bring to the concept of mobility. So which trends in the automotive industry are of interest to the software major?
First off, car makers are investing in technology for sustainability and emissions control. You see 'green' cars at all the motor shows. The key for OEMs is time to market, with some like Toyota already there so there's no time to lose for the others. In this area, MS can provide service to electric vehicles where energy management is critical. The range of an electric battery cannot compare with the standard battery. So, they need smart energy management. "We are also involved in services around the car, like making it easier to navigate and in location-based services," he said.
An electric vehicle needs improved navigation systems, systems which are intelligent and dynamic. For instance, roads are now in 2-D but in an electric vehicle, if we provide 3-D road maps, these would show the gradient. This has a direct impact on consumption a gradient means higher consumption. So the user might want to use a road that is flat even if it is a bit longer. We will be doing more in this space, he said.
Will this country be the first to deploy some of Microsoft's solutions in the volume segment cars? Microsoft's Car IT, which refers to mobile devices usable in a car, will be customary in next generation cars cars that will be launched in the next 5-10 years. Dr Braendli expects that in India, with the penetration of the mobile phone, Car IT will be adapted more quickly than in the mature economies. As more Indian OEMs look at exports, they will have to include systems such as these in their products and Microsoft aims to provide basic services like security, user management and other basic services from the computer to work in and on-road environment. But infrastructure is a critical necessity.
So far, Microsoft has Ford Sync, which synchronises the mobile device with the car. It is built into the steering wheel, based on voice commands and has a standard interface with a USB, bluetooth, music, etc. For Fiat, it is Blue&Me, similar to the Ford Sync with some additional features built around it. The USB stick can read data and once the driver gets home, gets a free download on the home computer. Infrastructure, in the form of internet connectivity, safety and security could be problems. On the service side, the company expects to a difference between the volume segment and the premium. "We are in talks with car makers to provide MS Office services in premium cars for which we have done the proof of concept," Dr Braendli remarked.
The OEMs however want high quality speech recognition and human machine interface, not standard Windows, to manage services inside the car. That ensures driver does not take his hands off the steering wheel.
So if MS Auto increases productivity, why not deployed it on commercial vehicles? Microsoft has begun talks with CV manufacturers, and it is more urgent for them. For a driver of a commercial vehicle, the truck is his home so he needs the PC, television, DVD, and so on, to be used during night halts. This is a huge opportunity there. Also, uptime is critical in fleet management so there are opportunities around remote diagnostics, monitoring the quality of the truck. If the price comes down, CV manufacturers will want such telematics-based service.
What can we expect in future from Microsoft in the automotive space? Much of the advancement would be around more entertainment, including digital radio. Also, an improved navigation system, making it more intelligent. Over the next three years, we will have two releases of MS Auto, extensions of the current versions. These will be standardised and richer and closer to OE requirements.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
'NEW DATA UNIT IN INDIA TO BE GLOBAL PILOT PROJECT'
Dell, the $52-billion technology major, is upping the ante in the IT services segment by closely aligning it with its hardware business. One of the key elements in this strategy is its global infrastructure consulting services (GICS), which is going to see significant contribution from India. Pierre Bruno, director (APJ) GICS, Dell, spoke about the future plans of the company in an interview to ET. Excerpts.
When did Dell start the GICS practice?
Dell started this service about two-and-a-half years ago. We wanted to have our own IP and delivery capability. We have five core ICS practices - Microsoft technologies, storage, virtualisation, data centre optimisation and application packaging. We are very much aligned with our hardware business.
How is this business growing?
This business is growing very fast. We don't tend to do everything. We go about a project-led approach, which is fixed-price and scope and a short-duration engagement. ICS is part of Dell's global IT services, and there is a greater focus on a solution-led approach.
What are Dell's plans in India from this segment?
We are working on setting up a data centre design unit in India and this will be a global pilot project. We are expecting to be much more engaged from India and have 95 people who are doing the solution design, implementation and project management.
How is the India market shaping up for Dell?
In the past two quarters, we have been adding a new customer every second day. The marketplace is looking at transformational projects and data centre is a great space to build our capabilities. We want to do in IT services what we did in products. I want to grow twice faster than the hardware business - that is the mandate we have.
What is the role of Perot in this space?
Perot is the right acquisition and fits very well in this space. There is not too much of an overlap and they are strong in application and enterprise managed services. There are some projects in India and we are asking Perot to execute them.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
'GOVT MUST OFFER GOOD INCENTIVES TO DRIVE MANUFACTURING SECTOR'
FOUNDER of the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at the University of Warwick, Lord SK Bhattacharyya is a leading global authority on the manufacturing sector. One of Europe's leading manufacturing groups WMG operates internationally with teaching and research centres located in Hong Kong, India, China, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, providing education to over 700 students every year. It also collaborates with many business partners, including the likes of Jaguar & Land Rover, Tata, RBS, Network Rail and AstraZeneca. In India, besides Tata Motors, WMG has worked for the TVS Group, Bombay Dyeing and Baja Auto. ET's Writankar Mukherjee and Sreeradha D Basu caught up with Lord SK Bhattacharyya for his views on the Indian manufacturing sector. Excerpts:
Post the slowdown, do you think Indian manufacturing can grab global attention?
The Indian manufacturing sector has every ingredient for global success, but it needs passion to drive that. That, unfortunately, is something most of the Indian companies lack, as they are more interested in short-term gains. We need to get some big companies here and the government needs to have good fiscal incentives for the manufacturing sector. The policies needs to be two-pronged: on one hand they need to excite people about the possibilities and advantages of Indian manufacturing, and on the other, give investors incentives like low-taxation. Otherwise, why would one choose to invest in India and not say, Vietnam or China?
By when do you expect Indian manufacturing to truly make a mark on the world map?
It takes a long time for a country to evolve on the global manufacturing map. But, if there are proper policies and regulatory framework in place, it may not take that much time. After all, India has the best scientific and technical brains and is second to none.
Have you seen an increase in R&D spends by Indian manufacturing companies over the past few year?
Yes, some companies have increased R&D spends, but there is a lot left to be done. The Koreans are far ahead in this game. For instance, LG employs some 50,000 people in their R&D facility alone. It all depends on the ambition of Indian companies. India still lags much behind the global average in terms of R&D spends. But then most of the Indian companies are not up to global levels. However, they can always partner with other companies.
Another option to scale up R&D by Indian companies is to collaborate with leading institutes like the IITs and IIMs. There are several such examples of successful partnerships. It's possible here. But one needs to be hungry to achieve it. It's all about the mental state.
There have been recent examples of Indian companies like the Tata Group buying global powerhouses like JLR or Corus. Do you think such acquisitions are good ideas? Also, can integrating such global biggies become a challenge for Indian companies? Absolutely. Indian companies should go for such fantastic large-ticket acquisitions. Such deals can change the business outlook overnight. Several Chinese companies have already shown the world how to acquire large companies and integrate them successfully. Integration will never be a problem, if the intention for the acquisition is right. If someone wants to buy a company for globalisation, such integration can be quite easy. But, if someone wants to buy it for money or financial gains, then you have to plan accordingly.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
INDIA AMONG FOUR GROWTH DRIVERS FOR CITRIX: WASSON
Today's digital workforce demands the flexibility to work from anywhere, any time. Virtualisation technology enables this and has significant advantages for users. Overall hardware expenses may be reduced as resources are shared. Data can be maintained and backed up in the data center. Other advantages include reduced downtime, easier scaling up, lower cost of new application deployment and so on. Citrix Systems, the over $1.3 billion company is a pioneer in virtualisation software and services. In an interview with ET, Citrix Systems SVP & chief marketing officer Wes Wasson talks about virtualisation of desktops, which he sees as a big trend for 2010, and other technology trends. He was in India recently along with the Mayor of San Francisco, as Bangalore and San Francisco established a sister-city relationship. Excerpts from the interview:
What would be the key elements of desktop virtualisation?
The first is the idea of centralisation and simplification. In a typical desktop environment, your IT department will use Windows, certain applications, user data profiles, the hard code on device, security and try to manage all that together. What desktop virtualisation does is, separates those layers and allows IT departments to manage one instance of Windows, one instance of each application, plus one instance of the user data for each individual user and then deliver that unique personalised desktop at one time. So, the system is centralised.
The second key element is delivery of service and choices it offers. It allows you to hook up different type of desktop technology and deliver it to any type of device. So, you do not have to make a religious decision on a certain type of technology or certain approach the desktop can run (it could be for eg, open source, proprietary, customised software etc).
The third key component is about getting high definition and optimisation across the network. This ensures that your experience of opening application, watching a video, doing an IP phone call or whatever else is exactly the same regardless of where you are.
In the fourth and final piece of a virtual desktop, is what we call a receiver. Think of it as a software client that runs on each device and what it effectively allows you to do is deliver that virtual desktop to any device without the user, without the IT guy. You can think of it like satellite TV. The satellite TV provider gives you 300 to 400 different channels and the only thing they ask is that you take a receiver and device.
You can use any TV set, any equipment and put it anywhere. The secure delivery and the high definition quality of that delivery is to the receiver device; so the same thing here, what you see as the last piece of the virtual desktop, the ability for an end user to download that and put on the machine.
How many customers do you have for virtual desktop?
Initially companies go in for 50 to 100 user deployments and than expand. This year we saw more and more of our customers going to thousands of users. This summer we had our first customer in production on over 20,000 virtual desktops, and we are probably in the range of 4,000 to 5,000 customers in meaningful production deployments. Though in 2010 we see desktop virtualisation as an even bigger trend. Areas we are seeing the early adoptions in are financial services and healthcare. In India, HDFC Bank is a marquee customer.
Globally and in India how have IT spends been? Do you see higher IT spending in 2010?
We have not seen an uptake in IT spend in the last 12 months. Customers are now looking at 2010 budget. One half of the customers I talked to tell me their budgets are going to be largely flat in 2010 at least for the first couple of quarters, until they get more confidence. The other half of them are expecting increases in the range of 3% to 7% (of their revenue).
In India specifically, as my colleagues say, budgets have been flat in the last 12 months. Most customers remain cautious about spending. Going in 2010, we are seeing that some segments are thinking of investing a little more than what it was in 2009. I don't think there will be any major shift in IT spends as compared to 2009, barring segments like banking where the Indian companies are definitely seeing expansion. Companies expect RBI giving more licenses to the banks in the rural and B- and C-category cities. We are seeing growth of micro credit and micro finance as a new sector coming up. So, we will see some high investment from the banking finance sector.
How does Citrix view the India market?
Worldwide our revenue from each market mirrors IT spend in that market. So Americas and Europe are big markets. But as we look at the growth engines over the next kind five-year horizon we see four or five sectors as the business growth engines. Number one is China. Right behind that are the public sector, and this is worldwide so you know federal governments worldwide. Then we have the market in India, and then are markets in Eastern Europe and Russia. So, India is one of our top four growth engines over the next five years.
Aside from the market, Bangalore is our flagship R&D center. It's the only development center across Citrix that is developing every one of our products and we are planning to double the size of the team here over the next 18 to 24 months. We have around 400 people now.
Apart from virtualisation and Cloud computing, which are the other technology trends you are see for 2010?
I think Software as a Service will continue to grow at a pretty strong clip next year. Security is going to be one of the top five or six IT trends as well. Windows 7 adoption will also be big. I think we are going to see just about every small, medium, large size company over the next 24 months moving to Window 7 environment.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
'INDIA CAN BE GLOBAL HUB FOR LOW-COST MEDICAL DEVICES'
Medical equipment and services giant GE Healthcare has lately been on a consolidation drive in India. Early October, it announced plans to transform its business in India by integrating three of its standalone business units and manufacturing plants under its 51:49 JV with Wipro Wipro GE Healthcare. Post-merger, GE is now drawing up plans to grow its India business and develop the country as a global hub for manufacturing low-cost medical devices in line with its 'reverse innovation' strategy. GE Healthcare South Asia president & CEO V Raja, who also happens to be the Wipro GE Healthcare MD, shared his plans in a freewheeling interview with ET. Excerpts:
When do you expect the integration process to be over?
We've set a target to complete the merger and integration process by March 2010. We are merging three separate GE Healthcare entities into the joint venture. This apart, there is another entity in India, GE-BEL a joint venture with Bharat Electronics which will continue to remain as it is since this is focused on the exports market. The merger will provide a single face of GE Healthcare to Indian customers, which will help increase our footage and grow manufacturing in India.
So, what kind of revenue growth do you expect, post-merger in India?
The merged entity will have a revenue of about $250 million and make us the largest player in the Indian healthcare equipment market. We are now targeting revenue growth upwards of 20-25% and are confident of achieving that. After all, the merged entity will now have huge strengths, which will help us grow the business.
What sort of competitive advantage you expect will come from the integrated Wipro GE?
Post-merger, we would be an end-to-end solutions provider in the medical equipment space. What this means is that Wipro GE Healthcare can now provide up to 45-50% of all equipment, which are required in a hospital. Moreover, we are also the only company, which provides in-house financing to customers directly through GE Capital. We are also investing much on local manufacturing. The plan is to ensure that almost 40-50% of the products sold in India are locally manufactured in the next three years. This is currently at some 10%. There is an equal thrust on developing products, which are suited for the Indian market, with prices that an Indian client will be comfortable to pay.
What about your investment plans?
GE Healthcare typically invests some $15-20 million every year in India on research and capacity expansion. This investment will continue. In fact, this might even go up, as we move towards a greater play in manufacturing and product development in India. There are also plans to assemble some of the hi-end products like MRI machines and Cathlab in India, undertake quality check and roll them out in the market. We will also locally source components for these products. In fact, our sourcing from India for the healthcare business is already worth $150 million.
How will GE's famous 'reverse innovation' strategy play out in the healthcare business in India?
India has the potential to emerge as a global hub for low-cost yet quality product development, which can then be exported to other markets, including the West. In line with the reverse innovation strategy, we see great potential in segments like cardiology, maternal and infant care, and infectious diseases. Work is already on in this regard and this may soon be a reality.
THE ECONOMIC TIMES
'WILLINGNESS TO VALUE THE PERSONAL DIMENSION, THAT'S WHAT WE'RE AFTER'
An interview with Jeffrey Swartz, the president and CEO of Timberland, a US-based firm that makes premium footwear, apparel and accessories. It is present throughout the North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America, South Africa and the Middle East. Recently, it tied up with Reliance Brands, a part of Reliance Retail, to distribute footwear and apparel in India. As part of the arrangement, products from Timberland's portfolio will be available through various premium department stores across the country, besides its own outlets. Excerpts:
Talk about the first time you were somebody's boss.
The first time I was actually assigned a leadership outcome? I was out of business school and I was working at a high-tech manufacturing consulting firm. My first assignment was to be the factory manager for a plant making chips for the defense industry. I'm now in charge of a factory. I'm not an employee I'm the suit from the consulting firm. I'm supervising techs and engineers. I'm a smart guy and I did a lot of science, but I have no idea what they're talking about.
I sat by myself in the cafeteria for three months. It was worse than high school. I literally couldn't talk the language. I had to supervise people who had a language and a worldview different than mine and they were accountable to me in the sense that their firm is paying a lot of money for our firm's services, but I didn't write their reviews. How the hell am I going to get people to talk to me at lunch?
It was clear I wasn't going to compel them with my technical knowledge, and I wasn't going to compel them with my authority. So the question was, how could you be powerful and in charge but not the boss?
In the end, it was a really huge experience that colored a lot of the way things have been different for me at Timberland than I think they otherwise would have been. I knew how to deal with craftsmen at Timberland I grew up with them in the family business. But guys with lab coats? It was very different.
So what did you do?
I had to sell them an idea. The engineers were so smart, but they could not understand why the processes on the factory floor were not more efficient.
I scheduled a meeting for 3 in the afternoon. I got the conference room all set up. I pulled the table over next to the windows so there were no chairs on that side. I left as if to get something. And I waited 30 seconds, came in, and they're all staring out the window at 128, the beltway around Boston. And I said, "That is your manufacturing floor." And they're looking out the window and I said, "Can somebody describe for me the algorithm that describes why the traffic is stalling? Why aren't they going 55 miles an hour?" And so these guys gave me the math, which I listened to carefully but I didn't understand a word of.
So they had the answer?
Of course they did. And I said, "You guys are paying our firm way too much money, given that you know that." That's what we talked about. I said, "Can we just open our minds to the idea that that's a physical model for what's going on in the factory."
And one of the guys says, "We've been mathed by the kid." I said, "What does that mean?" He said, "You used our own language against us." I said: "I'm not using it against you. I am trying to make the model visible." And they said, "Now we got it."
It was so easy after that. I made them see something that was not obvious to them, and that was like: "Ah-ha. I get it. I get it." People resist the unseen. They fear what they don't know, what they can't put their hands on. So I learned from that experience that I've got to help people see what they can't see. I learned that people learn their way, and when they learn it, when they assemble it, then the idea can become interesting, because people think, "Oh, wow, I've seen something."
You grew up in the family business. What leadership lessons did you learn from your father?
There were many, but here's a quick one. I remember him saying: "Pick a face. If you want to be serious, then you have to be serious all the time. Because if you're serious one day and happy the next, people will be confused. They won't be able to figure out where you're coming from and that'll be threatening."
How do you hire?
If we're hiring a creative person from the outside, I like to call the headhunter a few days before and have them tell the person I'm interviewing, if it's an apparel person, to please wear their favorite pair of shoes to the interview. And if it's a footwear person, I ask them to wear their favorite outfit.
And so the recruiters say, "What do you mean by favorite outfit?" I say: "I mean something that they can defend, as in, 'This is the most important piece of clothing that I own and here's why.' Or, 'These are my favorite pair of shoes and here's why.' "
One guy came in wearing a navy blue Armani suit, a footwear guy, and I said: "Wow. Is this the right outdoor thing?" And he said: "I got married in this suit. This is my favorite piece of clothing on earth because it's like a wedding dress but I get to wear it again and again. I don't wear it all the time because I'm not a suit guy, but you said to wear your favorite thing and explain it. It's because I got married in this suit."
I thought, "I love this guy." It's a way of asking what matters to you, and what doesn't.
That's the other thing I like to ask people, and it depends who the person is, but usually I say: "What makes you want to howl at the moon? What makes you really mad, so that you feel your pulse in your throat and you want to puke?"
And the third thing that I like to say, especially to the creative crowd, because they travel a lot, is: "When you're alone by yourself in a city, what do you do at night? And if I was going to hang out with you, what would we do together? What would you show me? What would you want me to see?"
I don't undervalue the skills that people bring, but I don't need to vet that and I'm not even sure how good I would be at that. But Timberland is a place that demands my body and soul in some form or fashion, and so I've got to have some basic understanding of whether somebody is interested in that, or interested in that kind of a conversation.
Any other unusual things you do in the hiring process?
I go to every new-employee thing, and I do a warm-up exercise. I say to folks: "We'll start with a hard question, which is, what is your name? There's an H.R. person in the room. If you're not sure and you get nervous, just look over there and they'll remind you of your name. And having said your name, say your favorite place in the outdoors."
And instantly you'll see people's memories, visual memory, whatever. And I say, "Hey, just to remind you, the H.R. person doesn't have that one written down so you can say Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon or anything else you want to say, and no one's going to call you on it, so please, there's low pressure on this."
And so you go around the room and people say things. It's very cute. There was one woman, and you'd think her head's going to explode, and she goes: "All right. Now I'll admit it. I don't belong here. My favorite place is not a hiking trail. It's not a mountain. I love Manhattan. I love the smell of it." And I said, "O.K., good." And she was like, "All right, I'm a failure."
And I said, "No, listen." And then I have this little standard speech that I say to people. "I asked you your name because it wasn't your résumé we hired, it was you. It wasn't your brother. It wasn't your sister. It wasn't the person who sits next to you at the company that you came from. It was you. The individual matters.
"Two, I asked you your favorite place in the outdoors. And so I reinforced the fact that it's all about you. But then if you noticed, everybody had someplace to say because we're trying to serve this notion of outdoor spirit."
It's kind of cool, because while the individual experience matters, look how universally held it is. Even when people say the same beach, which every once in a while they do, they have a very different experience of the beach, of that same beach.
So, in hiring, I'm desperately probing for the human inside the shell because the people who succeed at Timberland show a little leg, meaning they expose themselves. You have to. To go to a company town-hall meeting and call out to question a strategy you don't understand or a deeply felt thing, you've got to show up.
You know the line in "The Godfather" "Nothing personal. It's just business." At Timberland, I want to make it clear from the beginning it is personal. Not invasion-personal, like I need to know what's going on in your life. But if you aren't going to play at the level of personal, it's probably not going to be nourishing for either of us.
A willingness to be exposed, a willingness to acknowledge the personal dimension, a willingness to value the personal dimension from the beginning, that's what we're after. I'm saying that there's no chance that our company, in a cruddy industry in a world that's in an L-shaped recession, not a V- or a W-shaped recession, is going to be able to reinvent itself with the speed and ease that it needs to unless we bring more than our intellects to the table.
I've got to find people who are comfortable with fuzzy logic, who are comfortable being exposed, who are comfortable being wrong, who don't value as the first notion, "I got the answer, Boss."
Sum it up for me.
Comfort with ambiguity is one thing and faith in a solution is another and a commitment to fight for a worthy outcome is the third. That's a three-part dance that's different than saying, "How'd you like to build your marketing career at Timberland?"
SOMEBODY STOP THE ROT IN THE ARMY
In the public mind, our armed forces are not associated with corruption although instances have come to light where senior Army officers have been found mixed up with arms dealers. It is widely believed in the services that those in the Army responsible for provisioning it often enter into cosy deals with civilian suppliers. In counter-insurgency areas, officers are found to have approved the staging of fake encounters and the killing of innocent civilians in the hope of picking up gallantry awards which might boost their cause when promotions are considered. All of these practices can be brought under the comprehensive description of corruption, but of an order that the system can survive, although every effort must be made to firmly tackle such illegal activities. However, what has recently come to pass in the case of the shady land deal at Sukna, near Siliguri in West Bengal, home to 33 Corps, bespeaks significant corruption at levels just short of the Army Chief. A court of inquiry ordered by the head of the Kolkata-based Eastern Command has apparently recommended the termination of the services of the military secretary and stringent action against the former head of 33 Corps, who was under consideration for deputy chief, besides strong punishment to a handful of top officers. A few of these are officers of the rank of lieutenant-general, from among whom the government selects the Chief. The military secretary is one of the seven principal staff officers of the Army Chief and deals with the management of the officer cadre in the Army, including transfers and postings. If this is the extent of the rot that has set in at such high levels, it is clear enough that the matter has gone well beyond being one of individual aberration. Illegality and irregularity at the highest level has the potential to destroy the morale of the service. It has been the tradition in the Army, especially among jawans, NCOs and JCOs, to look up to their superiors from whom they take orders to the extent of throwing themselves in harm's way in battle. If junior personnel come to believe that their officers and the top men who order them are not trustworthy, not worthy of their respect, or downright crooked, there is little to stop them from taking the next logical step defiance of orders, a thought too disturbing to imagine in the context of the military, one whose consequence will be to degrade or destabilise the system of chain of command which is critical to the functioning of the armed forces. In the final analysis, it must be remembered, an officer leads by virtue of example alone. From the circumstances of the case, it does appear that adequate institutional supervision has not been exercised, encouraging senior levels to take risks that would have been unthinkable. There is no knowing at this stage if there is a wider culture of corruption or promiscuity at work that has made this possible. Since there appears to be a regular chain of irregularity in the present case existing for a length of time, setting matters right cannot remain the exclusive province of the Army. The defence minister needs to step in here, and informally even the Prime Minister's Office, without distorting the civil-military interface as it stands.
A country that lives in a difficult neighbourhood, and looks up to its armed forces, must get an Army that is worthy of that admiration. If the citizen's trust in its Army is broken, we will get a nervous nation.
FREE HIGHER EDUCATION
BY ASHOK MALIK2
If stakeholders in Indian education look to 2010 with hope and optimism, it is because the year could trigger a decade-long process of genuine expansion of opportunities. Ideally, these will run the gamut from access to schools for all children of a certain age to greater availability of seats in higher education, especially technical fields such as engineering and medicine. A modern, transparent regulatory process and quicker clearances for honest investment in private universities as opposed to fly-by-night racketeers and their degree shops are also realisable.
Not all of this will happen in 2010. To be fair, some of it will probably still be an aspiration even in 2020. Yet, the coming year could see the first serious steps in the direction of making the country's education system compatible with the needs of a 21st century economy. India has wasted years not upgrading its education protocols. It was only in the summer of 2009, with the appointment of Mr Kapil Sibal as human resource development minister, that decided urgency came into education policy, as opposed to education politicking.
In the past six months, Mr Sibal has been a very busy man and has thrown up a flurry of ideas. In the end, not all the minister's ideas and suggestions may fructify. Yet, grant him this, he has got a debate or even several debates going. Most reassuringly, he has not shown the kind of congenital hostility to private and non-Indian service providers in higher education that marked his predecessor's term.
Education reform is a complex business and means different things to different sections. It could simply imply entry into schooling for some people, availability of quality neighbourhood schools to other people, a greater number of colleges and higher educational institutions with contemporary curricula to a third set of people.
Reform in one component is not necessarily linked to that in another. The priorities and concerns of the urban parent who wants his daughter to graduate in computer engineering, and doesn't want to spend a fortune on a university in America or Australia, are never going to be the same as those of a humble semi-rural parent who only wants to find a good primary school, close enough to home, where he can send his son and have him learn basic, functional English.
Yet, if there is one catalyst for the coming decade, for 2010 and beyond, it is likely to be the freeing of higher education. This will do two things. First, it will take care of at least some of the pressure cooker atmosphere in high school. A system that has a Class 12 candidate getting 95 per cent and still not being sure of admission to a college of his choice is ridiculous. Yet, the fault lies less with the school examination and more with the fact that there are just not enough top-grade college seats to go around. Higher education is the last bastion of India's shortage economy.
Second, the arrival of private and foreign education providers and often a mix of the two will ease the burden on public education to that extent. The government will not only earn more revenue, it will also be able to transfer potential capital investment in higher education to enhanced outlays for primary and secondary education.
In turn, this could happen in a variety of ways building government schools in hard-to-reach areas or, and this is perhaps more efficient, providing subsidy for a voucher system that would allow children from poorer families to seek admission even in expensive private schools with the promise that the government will "honour the voucher" and reimburse the requisite fee. Indeed, Mr Sibal has mentioned the voucher model as one India could consider.
The key lies in revamping and rapid enlarging of higher education. It can be reasonably expected that Parliament will pass the necessary legislation and that by the end of 2010 the first foreign institutions will begin to set up facilities in India. Even so, these are unlikely to be full-fledged universities, at least initially.
There is no compelling logic for a Stanford or an Oxford to establish a second university in India. This will only deprive its original campus of an Indian or south Asian market. More important, it will dilute the brand, as there is no guarantee of finding gifted faculty and adequate human and institutional resources to replicate the excellence of the original.
Given this, foreign educational institutions are likely to come to India in one of two forms. Individual schools or departments in the best universities abroad will seek appropriate partners in this country. For example and this is completely hypothetical it is conceivable that an environmental sciences school in an Ivy League university could tie up with The Energy and Resources Institute in Delhi for a degree programme in, say, climate change mitigation technology.
Cornell University has a fine hotel management school. It could partner with the Oberoi School of Hotel Management or any one of the Indian Institutes of Management. The Singapore-based Cornell-Nanyang Institute of Hospitality Management offers a precedent. A California Institute of Technology or a Massachusetts Institute of Technology may seek synergies with one of the Indian Institutes of Technology for a specific programme.
These notional scenarios constitute the upper layer. On the other hand, the bulk of foreign education service providers may focus on the demand for vocational courses, often offering diplomas rather than degrees. For instance, thousands of Indian students who go to Australia don't necessarily study mechanical engineering or history. They seek admission in small colleges, some of them downright dodgy, offering courses in hairdressing or cookery or automobile repair.
There is a domestic boom waiting to happen here. One or two year courses in nursing or cookery, in paramedical expertise, even in driving or tailoring, benchmarked against international standards and leading to a diploma that is recognised in overseas markets: the scope is immense. This is where the first foreign institutions will come. By the end of 2010, they should be changing India's skill-building landscape.
Ashok Malik can be contacted at email@example.com 
SURESHOT SPOILSPORTS OF 2010
BY CYRUS BROACHA
The Commonwealth Games are around the corner. In fact, if you live in Vasant Vihar or Defence Colony, they are actually just around the corner.
Sadly we are not yet a sporting conscious country.
I myself know very little of sport, since as you all know, my area of expertise is oil paintings from the Harappan period. Yet I find myself besieged by queries from 30 readers, most of them respond by the same name of Deepak. The questions most asked are: What is Commonwealth Games? Is Commonwealth Games male or female? And the rather difficult I dare you to translate Commonwealth Games into Hindi.
Quite frankly these questions, I can't answer. However, after a highly conscientious exploration of all sporting faculties and potential available in the country, a task that consumed a total of 23 minutes last night, I found a few disciplines in which we Indians can excel ourselves and bring glory to the nation at the Delhi Commonwealth Games 2010.
Long distance running
The 1,500 metres, the 300 metres, and the 500 metres are where we are sure shot to win gold and glory. These events are dominated by ectomorphic stick-figure athletes who are lean in body, but muscular in mind. Athletes groomed from the Telangana region, weaned as they are on hunger sticks, are perfectly poised to sweep the Opposition aside. An added incentive would be, if the Telangana athlete was pushed in training by an athlete who believes in an undivided Andhra, the two lightweights would thus push each other to hitherto unseen levels of athletic performance. This is a sure shot. But the Central government must make sure not to resolve the issue either way until the games are over, lest athletes start eating normally again.
Regional party members from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and the like will be able to throw the shot putt over world record breaking distances with the right motivation. And what better motivation than a north Indian standing at a world record distance from the shot putter.
During the Javelin competition, the roles can be reversed with the regional hoodlum easing into the position of target practice.
Here we see India's secret weapon coming to the party. Prominent members of the Samajwadi Party will be able to see this event. This, however, comes with a rider. The Marathon must start from Noida and continue in the direction away from Uttar Pradesh. Oh and one more thing, to ensure increased acceleration, Mayawatiji must be present at the starting line.
50 metres air rifle & 10 metres air pistol shooting
Here we have more winners than we actually need. Prominent politicians' sons from across the country are sure to corner the gold in this one. Though they may feel a little demotivated shooting clay pigeons, since they are far more comfortable and having been trained on a diet of defenceless live humans.
Snatch and jerk... Mamata Banerjee and Uma Bharti will vie for top honours here. Both have spent a lifetime training for the event. Mamata for example having lifted the house of Tatas out of West Bengal using the incompleted snatch and jerk technique should have little trouble against far less spirited competition when she gets under the bar.
Swimming: 100 metres backstroke
Only one name stands tall Madhu Koda. A sure as night follows day, Madhu Koda will win this premier swimming encounter. No backstroker worth his salt can beat his preparation which includes lying on his back for the last 46 consecutive days. Even trips to and from jail do not interrupt his training. A man so true to his craft owns the backstroke. One more gold to India's cause.
Few people know that India invented the cycle, 14,003 years ago. Of course at that time the "cycle" didn't have a seat, and this led to a flourishing proctor logon practice across all 10 giant rivers of India. However, seat or no seat, we Indians always have a great chance at this event. Our two foremost experiments are a certain M. Karunanidhi and J. Jayalalithaa. They practise throughout the year by consistently cycling and recycling governments between themselves.
The 4 by 100 metres
This sport may just about be the most surefire winner for Hindustan. China is good, Japan is great, but India have the edge thanks to a unique training procedure. Here, instead of the baton money's passed between the runners. Our crack foursome of Ramalinga Raju, his brother what's his name Raju, Abdul Karim Telgi and Suresh Kalmadi (making his debut), will be impossible to beat.
The obstacle race
Of course, it is owned by the athlete with No. 10 jersey. Dr Manmohan Singh, surrounded on every side by obstacles, has mastered the course after having rid himself of his weakness, (while always rearing it's head from the left flank), he has no pretenders to his throne.
I have made this list of 10 definite champions in a great hurry, more are sure to cover themselves with Commonwealth glory in the months to come.
Tiger Woods may have raised the bar, for all athletes and forever. But we Indians are undeterred. Whatever Tiger Woods can do we can do better.
This is in spite of not being a sport-conscious country. After all we have always lived with the maxim, (borrowed from C.L.R. James) "What do they of sport know, who only sport know?" Jai Hind!!!!
AN 1800S STAGE FRIGHT
Forget Lord Leighton and his fleshy goddesses forced to bare all in the interests of classical scholarship. Forget Wilkie Collins and Mary E. Braddon, and those sensational stories of exciting young women with a past. Foremost among 19th-century efforts to cloak titillation in the garb of respectability is the invention of the principal boy of pantomime.
You know the scenario. The stage is set. Young boy is looking for love. Bad guys an overdressed middle-aged transvestite plus accomplices, most of whom appear and disappear in puffs of smoke to the accompaniment of hissing and booing on the part of the audience do their best to stop him. Despite this, young boy finds love and all ends happily ever after. A nice Christmas story for the children and eight weeks of light work for the old lushes in the green room. Turn the young boy into a lissom young woman in skimpy disguise, and faster than you can say "silk stockings" every father in the front row is a happy man.
Pantomime is an esoteric art form. Girls become boys and the barmaid type in the big frock has a hairy chest and five o'clock shadow. It's a region of subversion and carefully orchestrated misrule. It ends with love triumphant and much like life reaches this happy climax after a hefty dose of raucous singing, ungainly dancing and endless jokes about politicians, mothers-in-law and last night's television. Despite tracing its origins to medieval mystery plays and the traditions of the commedia dell'arte, it is a quintessentially British entertainment. It did not evolve overnight. It owes its current form to 19th-century showmen and producers. Chief among them is Augustus Harris, for 18 years the manager of London's Drury Lane Theatre.
Harris was 27, virtually penniless but driven by ambition when, in 1879, he badgered friends into stumping up the minimum payment of £2,750 required to acquire the theatre's lease. Mission accomplished, he set about repaying his debts. His success kept the cavernous theatre afloat. It also brought pantomime as an art form out of the shadows and into the spotlight, where year after year, like the star of Bethlehem, it has continued to add sparkle to family celebrations nationwide.
Harris's success was based on enduring foundations: sex, celebrity and excess. While he may not have invented the convention of the pretty girl with good legs taking the part of the principal boy, he certainly ran with it. Harris's favourite principal boy was Ada Blanche, a descendant of a 17th-century lord mayor of London, Sir Thomas Adams, and aunt of the redoubtable comedienne Dame Cicely Courtneidge, but he also employed the diminutive, dimple-kneed Rita Presano and, on one occasion, the male impersonator Vesta Tilley. Tilley, of course, was a star in her own right, in some accounts the highest-earning woman in Britain during the 1890s. Yet such was the status and glamour of Harris's Drury Lane pantomime that the role of principal boy acquired the power not only to annex celebrity but to confer it.
The effect was contagious. the Australian actress Carrie Moore embarked on a lucrative career of romantic entanglements which resulted in her owning diamonds worth the colossal sum of £23,000. Moore was no more or less attractive than the average actress, but she had earned her spurs with successful stints in tights, notably as Aladdin at the Liverpool Empire in 1904. However acute his commercial instinct, Harris was sufficiently a man of his time, and sufficiently conventional in his ambitions, to recognise the impossibility of trumpeting sex as an enticement to sell theatre tickets. Instead, for the first time in pantomime history, he scalp-hunted celebrities of music hall and vaudeville. Harris's crowd-pullers would become the forerunners of today's recycled soap and sitcom stars. Vesta Tilley was followed by Marie Lloyd, who stayed at Drury Lane for three years. Harris engaged the 12-fingered dwarf comic Little Tich, an "eccentric dancer" who had already won panto plaudits in Manchester. The jewel in his crown, however, was the comedian and world-champion clog dancer Dan Leno. Leno made his Drury Lane debut in 1888, playing the Baroness in Babes in the Wood for the weekly rate of £28. Fifteen years later, with Harris long dead and himself a legend described in the popular press as "the King's jester", Leno played his final Drury Lane dame before succumbing to syphilis and insanity.
It was in 1890 that Harris pulled off his masterstroke of early media manipulation. He decided to capitalise on a society scandal. The new Viscountess Dunlo was a music-hall star called Belle Bilton. Belle's husband had married her in secret. Her father-in-law, the Earl of Clancarty, reacted to news of the mésalliance with fury, dispatching his son to Australia and insisting he sue for divorce.
Her future uncertain, Belle decided to continue working and accepted Harris's offer of the title role in Beauty and the Beast. She donned her splendid costumes for the Bond Street photographer Alexander Bassano, making liberal use of her new title.
With typically Victorian gusto, Harris worked on a broad canvas. Although the public called him "Druriolanus" for his work at Drury Lane, he also took over the Royal Opera House and bought the Sunday Times. He founded the Drury Lane Masonic lodge, became a member of the London county council and, in 1890, served as Sheriff of London, earning himself a knighthood in the process. When he died at the age of 43 six years later, unsurprisingly exhaustion was listed among the causes of death. For his contemporaries, he had created magical memories of supremely lavish productions, several involving more than 500 people on stage. To today's panto-goer, he bequeathed the now-familiar device of "invisible" flying, the omnipresence of the television "celebrity" and the timeless titivation of those unconvincing boys in tights.
TIDINGS OF COMFORT
Indulge me while I tell you a story a near-future version of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. It begins with sad news: young Timothy Cratchit, aka Tiny Tim, is sick. And his treatment will cost far more than his parents can pay out of pocket. Fortunately, our story is set in 2014, and the Cratchits have health insurance. Not from their employer: Ebenezer Scrooge doesn't do employee benefits. And just a few years earlier they wouldn't have been able to buy insurance on their own because Tiny Tim has a pre-existing condition, and, anyway, the premiums would have been out of their reach.
But reform legislation enacted in 2010 banned insurance discrimination on the basis of medical history and also created a system of subsidies to help families pay for coverage. Even so, insurance doesn't come cheap but the Cratchits do have it, and they're grateful. God bless us, everyone.
OK, that was fiction, but there will be millions of real stories like that in the years to come. Imperfect as it is, the legislation that passed the Senate on Thursday and will probably, in a slightly modified version, soon become law will make America a much better country.
So why are so many people complaining? There are three main groups of critics.
First, there's the crazy right, the tea party and death panel people a lunatic fringe that is no longer a fringe but has moved into the heart of the Republican Party. In the past, there was a general understanding, a sort of implicit clause in the rules of American politics, that major parties would at least pretend to distance themselves from irrational extremists. But those rules are no longer operative. No, Virginia, at this point there is no sanity clause.
A second strand of opposition comes from what I think of as the Bah Humbug caucus: fiscal scolds who routinely issue sententious warnings about rising debt. By rights, this caucus should find much to like in the Senate health bill, which the Congressional Budget Office says would reduce the deficit, and which in the judgment of leading health economists does far more to control costs than anyone has attempted in the past.
Finally, there has been opposition from some progressives who are unhappy with the bill's limitations. Some would settle for nothing less than a full, Medicare-type, single-payer system. Others had their hearts set on the creation of a public option to compete with private insurers. And there are complaints that the subsidies are inadequate, that many families will still have trouble paying for medical care.
Unlike the tea partiers and the humbuggers, disappointed progressives have valid complaints. But those complaints don't add up to a reason to reject the bill. Yes, it's a hackneyed phrase, but politics is the art of the possible. The truth is that there isn't a Congressional majority in favour of anything like single-payer. There is a narrow majority in favour of a plan with a moderately strong public option. The House has passed such a plan. But given the way the Senate rules work, it takes 60 votes to do almost anything. And that fact, combined with total Republican opposition, has placed sharp limits on what can be enacted.
If progressives want more, they'll have to make changing those Senate rules a priority. They'll also have to work long term on electing a more progressive Congress. But, meanwhile, the bill the Senate has just passed, with a few tweaks I'd especially like to move the start date up from 2014, if that's at all possible is more or less what the Democratic leadership can get. And for all its flaws and limitations, it's a great achievement. It will provide real, concrete help to tens of millions of Americans and greater security to everyone.
Many people deserve credit for this moment. What really made it possible was the remarkable emergence of universal healthcare as a core principle during the Democratic primaries of 2007-2008 an emergence that, in turn, owed a lot to progressive activism. (For what it's worth, the reform that's being passed is closer to Hillary Clinton's plan than to President Obama's). This made health reform a must-win for the next President. And it's actually happening.
So progressives shouldn't stop complaining, but they should congratulate themselves on what is, in the end, a big win for them and for America.
AMERICA'S WATERSHED LEGISLATION
THE plummeting ratings of Barack Obama will doubtless register an upward curve with the Christmas Eve passage by the Senate Democrats of the watershed healthcare bill. It remains for historians to reckon whether the measure, hobbled for as long as it was, will define the US President's legacy. Theoretically, it ought to ensure near-universal medical coverage for the first time in US history. In the season of goodwill towards men, it might be tempting to trumpet the legislation. However, any outpouring of euphoria should be tempered by the reality that out of 300 million Americans, 250 are already covered by the health insurance schemes without which medicare in the country can be almost prohibitively expensive. The latest proposal will cover another 30 million. Which leaves at least 20 million uncovered, about half of whom are said to be illegal migrants. The cost per person will be the highest in the world, and it is too early to predict if the result will be dramatic.
For now, the 60-39 vote has ended the string of failures of past Congresses. And it has been climactic for a President who had little to show after the climate conference. It is almost certain to influence the congressional elections in 2010; stretched further it could be a potent campaign plank in the 2012 presidential elections. It has been a bumpy ride for President Obama in the year between his electoral victory and the healthcare bill. He has been strong on rhetoric and equally weak in substance as he has had to cope with the challenge in Afghanistan, environmental issues, mounting unemployment and an extremely divisive discourse on healthcare. The tally may have surpassed the simple majority required for passage, but it was sharp enough to underscore the fundamental differences between the Democrats and Republicans. That acrimony is expected to deepen as the Senate's bill gets merged with the one passed by the House of Representatives before the President signs the new legislation. Nonetheless, the Democrats can well claim that they are on firmer ground. Chiefly, the legislation bans the insurance industry from denying benefits or charging higher premiums on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions. With that red herring now hopefully out of the way, the Administration, in the words of Obama, is on paper "finally poised to deliver on the promise of overhauling a troubled system". His reaction immediately after the passage suggests that he is on course towards achieving what US Presidents since Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 have attempted, but without success. As he packs his bags for a vacation in Hawaii, Christmas Eve has gifted a shot in the arm to a President whose popular approval ratings are now around 50 per cent. And that precisely is the immediate import of the giftwrap.
SHAME AT EDEN
AN ASSOCIATION ROTTEN TO THE CORE
IT is truly sad that a city that takes so much pride in the little it has in terms of physical infrastructure ought to face repeated embarrassment ~ and jibes ~ because of the failure of the Cricket Association of Bengal to keep the lights on during cricket matches at the Eden. One of four light towers went off at a critical stage in the India-Sri Lanka match and while the heroics of two Delhi batsmen scripted an all's-well-that-ends-well conclusion to the day, the embarrassment will not be so easily forgotten. There was a time when the Kolkatan took pride in possessing one of the finest cricket grounds in the world. At this rate, that won't be the case for much longer.
Other, less impressive grounds have added so handsomely to the comforts they provide to players and spectators that the Eden faces the risk of becoming yet another once-glorious Bengal tradition. It isn't only a cricket association's reputation that is stake; the sentiments of several million Kolkatans are involved.
There are several reasons for the problem, and at least some of them can be traced to the day the state government began interfering in the affairs of the CAB. Today, there are camps within the cricket administration, and vested interests. There are freeloaders and venal officials. And above all there are people who won't, just won't learn from the past. Last year, the lights failed during an IPL game; an inquiry said it was because of a damaged fuse. But there was no suggestion that action had been taken against those responsible for checking these things. A month later, the lights failed again; that was blamed on a squall. We don't know what conclusion the latest inquiry committee will reach; the odds, though, are that it will record another failure at getting the basics right. When the IPL mishap occurred, there were those who called for the reigning CAB president's head; possibly some such demand will be raised again. The problem, though, isn't with a single official; it is with a system that is utterly rotten. Bengal's cricket association has reduced all of Bengal to shame.
MINISTER IN BATTLE
MOLLAH COMES FULLY ARMED AND DETERMINED
SOME people in the CPI-M appear now to have decided they have nothing to lose by throwing a challenge to the organization that they feel is rapidly sinking. One of them is Abdur Rezzak Mollah who was summoned not long ago to Alimuddin Street to be told that all his grievances had to be addressed to the party leadership, not to the media. That West Bengal's land and land reforms minister has done exactly what he been warned against by stressing publicly the "impurities'' which have taken a stranglehold on the party is a measure of the defiance that he is ready to show regardless of the consequences. It is a pathetic comment on the state of the CPI-M that it can do nothing even against minor rebels like fisheries minister Kiranmoy Nanda who had asked the chief minister to resign after the drubbing in the assembly by-elections. In Mollah's case, assertive leaders like Biman Bose and Mohammed Salim are reduced to a face-saving response ("we are studying reports'') that confirms that the party is clueless on the action to be taken. The fragile state of the CPI-M on the whole is made worse by the possible impact on particular sections should it proceed to take disciplinary action against the minister.
During all the 32 years it has been in power, the Left has never been required to pull up a minister on disciplinary grounds. That Mollah challenges the party to do just that reflects the level of frustration at not being able to perform even in the department that he controls. Land deals have been struck evidently behind his back. The party machinery has no room for those who are in a position, much like Benoy Chowdhury in the heyday of the Left Front, to protest against deviations from the claim that this government's predominant concern is for the poor. Jyoti Basu's land and land reforms minister had to quit after he felt deeply hurt. In a different scenario, Mollah is not willing to give up without a fight. He is just being charitable in distinguishing the "impure'' from the "corrupt''. The confessions that came after the drubbing in recent elections suggested that the line between the two is non-existent. Rather than indulge in pointless distinctions, Mollah suggests sweeping changes "from the top'' if there is to be any recovery of the kind he claims to have organised in the panchayat by-elections in South 24 Parganas. The hints are more than clear that he has now come fully armed ~ and determined.
THE DINAKARAN CASE
JUDICIARY AS THE SENTINEL ON THE HIGHWAY
BY KG KANNABIRAN
THE Dinakaran case is a logical outcome of the understanding reached by the court and the lawyers to ensure the independence of the judiciary. It is unfortunate that the institutions the people of India created for fulfilling the objectives laid down in the Preamble to the Constitution have been systematically turned against them. We wanted an independent judiciary because we wanted to check the arbitrariness of the executive. To guard against interference, we made the judges irremovable except by impeachment.
This demonstrates the good intentions of the people and the enormous trust in the judges nominated to the higher judiciary. They were neither elected nor selected, but could be removed only by Parliament. On paper, the system of removal was democratic, but their appointment was left to the devices of the politicians in office in consultation with the Chief Justice, and later to a Collegium of their colleagues in the Supreme Court.
The trust reposed in the nominee by the appointing authority was quite often betrayed by the incumbent. There have been cases where suits were filed by aspirants for correction of their dates of birth only to extend their tenure on the Bench. A judicial appointment is quite often the subject of litigation. A Chief Justice of a High Court once had to be persuaded by the CJI to resign without fuss. Corruption was and is prevalent in the lower judiciary but there is scope for investigation and prosecution at the lower level. The higher judiciary is on a different pedestal altogether.
Citizens & the State
THE "lis" (lawsuit) between citizens and the State must be decided with fairness and justice. Neither should be viewed as an adversary to the court. In a hierarchical and pluralistic society, the institution will strive to work towards a system of equality that doesn't displease either of the contending parties. The reasons should be acceptable to both sides and the principle adopted should be a guide to the resolution of any problem that might arise in future.
The judge's task is to hear and decide, and this leads to an understanding of socially relevant and sometimes contentious issues. This position should normally lead to a social vision and a perspective to realize that vision.
Karl Llewellyn's prescription for an efficient judiciary is instructive in the context of Dinakaran. In his manner of functioning, a judge should reveal a modicum of judgment and the functioning must be transparent. Judges accept their position conscious of their responsibilities. In the 60 years since the Constitution was adopted, one judge was actually impeached. But the proceedings failed because Parliament did not understand its role while impeaching the Constitutional appointees. If the charge is treason, no ruling party can issue a whip directing its MPs to abstain from voting. So also on a charge corruption. It is a Constitutional infraction and a threat to the security of Constitutional values.
During impeachment, Parliament acts as the highest court where the party whip becomes irrelevant. There is a qualitative difference between impeachment and other matters that are decided by the whip in Parliament. Yet another corruption charge against a CJ could not be proved. An additional judge was once not confirmed because of a corruption charge.
Dinakaran is the fourth judge charged with corruption and abuse of his position. In terms of history, 60 years is too short a period and the accusations a little too frequent. This is not just a case of another but yet another so soon. This disorder within the judiciary has been examined by Granville Austin in his book, Working a democratic Constitution.
We are in the habit of dithering at a crucial juncture when a decision is called for. The Supreme Court dispensed with the system of annual declaration of assets after the present CJI entered office. He thereby sent out the signal that judges are not accountable. The PUCL's writ petition on accountability was dismissed at the admission stage by Justice Passayat and at a time when the debate was in progress. The argument that they are not covered by the Right to Information Act can never be justified.
YET on the strength of this argument, the Collegium was planning to promote Dinakaran to the Supreme Court, with the CJI still in doubt about the move to stop the elevation. Allowing Dinakaran to function as CJ of Karnataka High Court is an example of the dithering that plagues the system.
Jefferson's letter to a friend on 18 August 1821 is relevant to the context. "It has long been my opinion and I have never shrunk from its expression . that the germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the Constitution of the federal judiciary, an irresponsible body (for impeachment is scarcely a scarecrow) working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow advancing noiseless like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped from the state and the government of all shall be consolidated into one."
This phenomenon is being enacted in slow motion and the people are helpless. The Dinakaran issue doesn't deserve to be treated as speedily as that of the Ambanis was. An independent judiciary is not a liberated entity or an autonomous unit not accountable to the people of the country and its political institutions. Its independence is defined by a fearless and free adjudicative process. It is intended to strengthen the governance of the people and its institutions. Its independence is geared to harnessing the resources and wealth for a better world, for the benefit of the poor and not for self-aggrandizement.
The appointments made under the new dispensation are no different from the ones that were not approved. It is imperative to restructure the institution so that it can act in the manner in which it was envisaged. The Supreme Court in one of its earliest judgments had described its role as the "sentinel on the Qui Vive" (highway).
The writer is the national president of People's Union for Civil Liberties
A DISSOLVING BANDAGE THAT PREVENTS INFECTION
LONDON, 25 DEC: Israeli scientists have developed a special bandage that releases infection-fighting drugs and then dissolves once the wound is healed, minimising the chances of getting an infection during dressing. The bandage developed at the Tel Aviv University is expected to cut-down the high rate of infections especially among people having serious burn injuries. Such patients are at a greater risk of infection in the wounds if they are exposed to moisture regularly. About 70 per cent of such patients die from infections that penetrate the body through damaged skin and wounds during regular cleaning and changing of bandages, The Daily Mail reported. ~ PTI
JUST TOO LITTLE
Why did it take 19 years for a molestation case to reach sentencing? Of all the questions raised by the shameful outcome of Ruchika Girhotra's case, this has to be answered first. Ruchika killed herself three years after the former director-general of the Haryana police, S.P.S. Rathore, molested her and was caught out by Ruchika's friend, Aradhana Parkash. She did not die because of disgust or shame, but, in a painful irony, because of the courage she and her friend showed by complaining against the policeman who was then an inspector-general. Although a first information report was not registered then, a departmental inquiry found him guilty. But power has often been shown to have a longer reach than the law in India. Rathore evidently had powerful political protectors, who are now feebly claiming innocence. He reportedly threatened the superior officer who conducted the inquiry, the report of which was quietly shelved by the government. Rathore continued to rise in the police force, and continued to threaten Ruchika's family her brother was charged with car thefts, the two girls were threatened by goons wherever they went, Aradhana's father, who had taken up the fight for justice for Ruchika, suddenly found complaints piling up against him in his workplace. Expelled from school on a trumped-up charge three years later, and unable to bear what was happening to her loved ones, Ruchika poisoned herself at 17.
Three years is a long enough time for the case of molestation of a minor by an adult in charge Rathore was president of the Haryana Lawn Tennis Association and Ruchika and Aradhana were young players to have been judged. Perhaps the most unbearable feature of this case is that Ruchika might have lived had the law its own rightful space to function in. For a long time now, activists have been asking that cases of sexual abuse, molestation and rape be disposed off fast. Ruchika's case shows why delay is so treasured by the establishment. Although the Central Bureau of Investigation took on the investigation in 2003, nothing would have moved without the determination of Aradhana and her parents.
Yet, what has at last arrived in the form of justice is bitterly inadequate. The link between Rathore's actions, especially after Ruchika's complaint, and Ruchika's suicide, has not been made. So the ex-policeman has escaped gleefully the charge of abetment to suicide. In India, it may be impossible to imagine how far the establishment will go to protect a political favourite; for that, it is necessary to refer to reality. The first judgment in the case of Jessica Lal's murder, too, had the same quality of the surreal. Even without the abetment charge, a six-month jail term and a fine of Rs 1,000, with immediate bail, begins to look like a bad joke. The fight for justice cannot be over yet.
THE MEANS TO AN END
HOW INDIA'S LOOK EAST POLICY COULD BE MADE MORE EFFECTIVE
SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY
The word, "effective", in Rajeev Paralikar's e-mail intrigued me. Admissions of fallibility are rare in this country, yet here was a bunch of scholarly institutions (including the Calcutta chapter of the Society for Indian Ocean Studies which Paralikar, a retired admiral, chairs) hosting an "International Seminar on India's Effective Look East Policy". The implication that the policy might also be ineffective was reason enough to cut short my stay in London by a few days to join the debate.
I was not disappointed. Delivering the valedictory address, Baladas Ghoshal, with academic experience of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan, denied that India had a Look East policy at all. There is no strategic vision, he said, no depth to bilateral agreements, and no contact at the civil-society level. Though India also exported Islam to South-east Asia, people there are unaware of India's large Muslim population. This sweeping (and perhaps overstated) repudiation recalled a senior external affairs ministry official claiming off the record that looking East was only a gambit to upstage Pakistan.
Ghoshal corroborated to some extent my own belief that P.V. Narasimha Rao looked East as the means to an end. It was one of several coordinated initiatives that didn't cause an uproar only because of his deft handling. Feelers were sent to Taiwan. India's Washington embassy was instructed to establish contact with Israeli diplomats. Sporting ties were negotiated with still-apartheid-ridden South Africa. A high-ranking general was sent to the American-organized Pacific Armies Management Seminar and overtures were made to the Asia and Pacific council that Washington had hailed as a bulwark against Communism and India spurned as decisively as it had rejected the PAMS. Narasimha Rao was setting the stage for the Malabar exercises, the New Framework for India-US Defence Relationship and even the 123 Agreement by ending India's estrangement of more than four decades from the United States of America.
Hence the title of my new book, Looking East to Look West, which probably accounted for the seminar invitation. I have little contact otherwise with the academic and semi-official institutions like Calcutta University's Centre for South and Southeast Asian Studies, the Indian Council of World Affairs, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies and, indeed, Paralikar's SIOS that hosted it. Looking East became an end only when Manmohan Singh, as finance minister, discovered an economic rationale in Southeast Asia. That was further confirmed when Atal Bihari Vajpayee subscribed to the strategic logic that had prompted Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew to urge, as The Straits Times reported, "a role for India as guardian of Southeast Asia" ever since Britain's withdrawal in the Sixties.
It may not have been necessary for speakers to acknowledge this inadvertent beginning. But no understanding of the nature of India's membership of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Asean Regional Forum and Asean plus Six grouping, or of the shortcomings Ghoshal dwelt on, is possible if today's effusions are taken at face value. Sadly, our culture of deference ordains that authority has only to state something for it to be assumed to exist. Indian officials, civil or military, never really retire. They continue after superannuation to mouth the same mantras they were obliged to while in service; the experience they should have gained generates no new ideas to fertilize debate. That is left to more adventurous souls. Lipi Ghosh, the CSSEAS director, was responsible, for instance, for introducing the novel concept of effectiveness with its concomitant of ineffectiveness.Though parts of Southeast Asia (not newer Asean entrants like Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, as Jadavpur University's Tridib Chakraborti pointed out in one of the most incisive presentations) have become valid destinations, it is still necessary to stress that no grand strategic, economic, cultural or genetic (as one speaker suggested) motivation regarding Southeast Asia impelled Narasimha Rao. Traditional indifference, national temperament, appallingly poor infrastructure and the influence of vested interests account for the neglect of meaningful economic measures that Amita Batra of the Jawaharlal Nehru University deplored.
Some other participants were equally candid. The keynote speaker, C. Chinwanno of Bangkok's Thammasat University, underlined the need for human linkages between India and Southeast Asia, suggesting redress through economic cooperation, exchange programmes and scholarships. We owe to G.V.C. Naidu, also of the JNU, the nugget that Asean was all set to offer India sectoral dialogue partnership at the 1980 Kuala Lumpur meeting which Narasimha Rao (then external affairs minister) boycotted at the last moment for reasons that were never made public. But while India's media often sounds alarmist about China, some speakers were surprisingly confident about India's long-term prospects. Perhaps I am comparing apples and oranges for while the media focusses on militarism, academic interest centred on political, social and cultural influence. Even so, China has stolen many marches over India in projecting soft power, and if India is still a player, it's largely because the region is determined not to let go of what it sees as a lifeline against being overwhelmed by a country that, as another JNU professor, Srikanth Kondapalli, reminded listeners, was the historical suzerain. Yet, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand looked askance at India's sudden interest in the region in the Nineties. Singapore alone saw it as the fruition of its years of painstaking advocacy. Hence my second-deck title, Lee Kuan Yew's Mission India.It took an impromptu summing up by a foreigner, K.S. Nathan of the National University of Malaysia, to affirm all the more effectively for his gently diffident delivery that India was not taken seriously until the 1998 nuclear tests. "They won't say it openly of course," Nathan murmured. It bore out what Prem Singh, India's high commissioner in Singapore, told me at the time about a foreign ministry mandarin delivering "only a pro forma protest" before they sat down to an agreeable tea. Lee saw India's bomb as essential for the "balance of forces" that Southeast Asia needs to survive. But a balancing role entails going beyond patrolling the Straits of Malacca (which speakers discussed in detail) to taking an active interest in other Asian controversies like Taiwan, the Spratly Islands or North Korea's nuclear plans. Asia without India might be like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark, in Pranab Mukherjee's colourful words, but only a less somnolent prince can justify the title role.
Manmohan Singh speaks of an "Asian economic community". Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore's prime minister, expects a free-trade agreement to embrace Asean and the Six. Meanwhile, the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement whose "pre-establishment" clause entitling Singapore-registered third-country companies to be treated at par with Indian undertakings encourages the world to invest in India through Singapore on advantageous terms for all parties. Another curious omission, with a galaxy of naval personnel, retired and serving, present, was the budding defence relationship: three landmark agreements provide for joint military training, exercises and other professional exchanges, with Singapore upgrading the Kalaikunda air force base "on a cost-recovery basis".
Singapore needs India more than India needs Singapore, as Indira Gandhi might have said, for we have suffered deprivation too long to share the compelling drive of a tiny city-state that must forever be on the look-out for bigger economies to which it can link itself to maintain one of the world's highest living standards. If India's Look East policy remains effective, unlike the Mekong-Ganga project or Bay of Bengal community, it is largely because this self-interest is the core of a connection from which all else flows. Other military sales, free-trade agreements, strategic alliances and reciprocal "Look West" policies provide the superstructure.
That linkage should be examined more closely at future sessions in the new year. Saturday's seminar was a useful beginning. The discourse might be more effective with fewer papers, more participants from abroad and greater scope for pointed discussion. Any deterioration in Paralikar's superb cuisine would make it ineffective.
'MULTIPLICITY OF INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES IS A BANE.'
Union Home Minister P Chidambaram's suggestion to bifurcate the Union home ministry in order to streamline security and intelligence functions is a welcome move. He has mooted a proposal to hive off those departments in the ministry related to intelligence and security functions from the non-security related ones like Centre-state relations, freedom fighters, etc. Chidambaram's thinking is that today with security threats emanating from Left wing extremism, besides externally-fostered internal security problems, the home minister needs to devote his entire attention to national security related issues. A major problem that plagues the country's security bureaucracy is the multiplicity of intelligence agencies without effective inter-agency channels to ensure intelligence sharing.
In the existing security architecture, the Joint Intelligence Committee, which is now part of the National Security Council secretariat, and the Multi Agency Centre are both designed to serve as platforms to collate intelligence from different agencies. Yet systemic flaws in the security architecture did not prevent the dastardly 26/11 disaster. Apart from the two principal intelligence agencies tasked with internal and external security, the Intelligence Bureau and the Research & Analysis Wing, there are several lesser known intelligence outfits. These include the 'G' branches of the central para-military forces like the BSF and CRPF besides the 800-strong intelligence arm of the Railway Protection Force. The problem is that the diversity of intelligence agencies leads to turf wars and eventually results in compromising national security interests.
Appropriate use of these intelligence organisations with a suitable mechanism such as a proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre, modelled along the lines of the US Department of Home Land Security can make a significant difference in the on-going war against terrorism.
Chidambaram is the first home minister who can take credit for starting a public debate about coping with terrorism. The challenge of creating a National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) arises considering the various intelligence organisations tackling terrorism are scattered among the PMO, the Cabinet secretariat, the defence and finance ministries. Bringing together these diverse units under one roof, given the realities of bureaucratic inertia and resistance to change will not be easy. Also the status of the NCTC chief vis a vis the National Security Adviser and Director IB and Secretary R&AW will be tricky issues that need to be figured out clearly to ensure its harmonious functioning.
'THE COOPERA-TION ON TERROR SHOULDN'T BE SELECTIVE.'
Despite the growing warmth in India-US relations, co-operation between the two with regard to Pakistani-American Mumbai terror suspect David Coleman Headley has been less than satisfactory. India has been requesting the US for access to Headley to probe his links with the terror attacks in Mumbai on Nov 26 last year. It is keen to know what role he played in the attacks and his connections with the masterminds in Pakistan and elsewhere.
But the US seems reluctant to allow India access to him. This has triggered speculation in India that this reluctance might have to do with US intelligence agencies not wanting their counterterrorism-linked skeletons to fall out of the cupboard. Do they know more about the Mumbai plot than they are willing to let on? Or are they trying to hide the full extent of ISI's links with terror? It is over two months now since Headley was taken into custody by the Americans. But very little information on what they got out of questioning him has been passed on to Indian intelligence agencies.
Co-operation between India and the US has grown remarkably in recent years in an array of areas, including counter-terrorism and intelligence sharing. A Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative was launched amidst much fanfare during the recent visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the US. Such initiatives are meaningless if co-operation is selective. India allowed the US access to Mohammed Ajmal Kasab for several hours. Washington must understand that co-operation is not a one-way street.
India has legitimate reasons for wanting access to Headley. He is not just linked to the Mumbai plot but could throw light on other attacks too. He is no low-level operative. The US must realise that allowing India access to him is not only the right thing to do if Washington is indeed sincere about combating terrorism but also, it is in the US' interest to do so. Headley could be the tip of a Lashkar-e-Toiba iceberg in the US. India and the US must work together to unearth the LeT network and sleeper cells in the US and elsewhere.
THE BUBBLE OF UNITY WITHIN THE BJP GOVERNMENT IN KARNATAKA WILL LAST AS LONG AS A BUBBLE DOES.
BY GAYATHRI NIVAS
What might be Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa's New Year resolution? A few things have moved into focus even in the unclear air of Bangalore. One: whatever the resolution, it will not matter much. Two: behind the false show of unity, the rebels are plotting to ease Yeddyurappa out. Three: even so, Yeddyurappa's greatest strength is the division among his enemies.
The chief minister still has great strengths. One of them is almost superhuman sticking power. He may look and sound defeated, but given the vast pressure he is under after the latest bout of dissidence, it is quite remarkable that he not only still discharges his official duties, he does it with at least an appearance of zest.
His even bigger strength is the division and uncertainty among those who want him out. A cabinet member, generally on Yeddyurappa's side, puts this well. There are, he says, two logical positions. The first is that Yeddyurappa, for all his faults, is still the best leader. The second is that Yeddyurappa is not up to it, and must go. What's not logical is to call for a public revolt right now, when the state is in turmoil after the worst floods and drought. That would give any future leader a government in crisis. It would be messy.
So what's the answer then? In essence, that Yeddyurappa should be allowed the next budget season, his third since becoming the chief minister, to calm the economic storm and show if he has changed. That's also what Yeddyurappa asked for when the BJP's central leadership stepped in and brokered a tenuous truce.
Coming back to the new year resolutions that might be essential for the chief minister to not only make but also keep, let's analyse how the BJP's first government in the south has fared so far. With just the last quarter of its second financial year remaining, it also marks the near end of the government's second year in office. In effect, nearly half of its five-year elective term is over. And all this time has been frittered away with very little development to show or write home about.
The BJP started off on a distasteful note by launching Operation Lotus to poach opposition MLAs on the pretext of improving its own strength to provide a stable government. But, when it went overboard, BJP men themselves felt threatened and cried a halt to it. Yeddyurappa had no choice but to acquiesce.
Then came the sporadic bouts of rebellion, first by cabinet minister K S Eshwarappa and then by the Bellary Reddy brothers cum ministers, with the chief minister each time buying peace by bartering the state's interest. If he posted officers of Reddys' choice one time, he transferred out the officials disliked by them the next time. Even when the Centre and the Andhra Pradesh governments backed a CBI inquiry into Reddys' illegal mining business to rein in the brothers, Yeddyurappa backed out. What is more, he even abdicated his right to have the officer of his choice at the helm of his secretariat.
Then came various elections, which took up some more time of the government. When the worst floods coupled with a crippling drought hit the state, the government wasted even that one big opportunity to serve its mandate by mixing crass politics with critical relief work. The rural development minister was jettisoned at this crucial juncture to humour the dissenting lot. And the chief minister shed tears to show how defenceless he was.
Capping this sordid drama was the recent induction of sex scandal-tainted Honnali MLA M P Renukacharya, who had led a group of dissidents against the CM until recently, into the ministry and entrusting him the important excise portfolio. At least 17 BJP city MLAs stayed away from the swearing-in ceremony in protest.
The other bad news for the BJP was the Congress-JD(S) tie up winning 15 of the 25 legislative Council seats in the recent election. Though the BJP tally went up by six seats, the combined opposition success is not a happy signal with many BJP rebels rearing to join the opposite ranks.
So, how does one stem the rot? Instead of calculating who will replace Yeddyurappa, and when, or elbowing one another, ministers should be asking themselves why they are not defending the government as a whole. There has been little plain speaking and a lot of shadow boxing. The curse of pseudo-politics is that everything, good and bad is loaded on to one person, while the rest of the government act like commentators, not the players they really are. Whether or not BJP comes to power in the next election, there's a good three years and more still to go, and a lot of governing to do.
In any event, the sensible thing for BJP is to stop this public feuding. The dignified thing for Yeddyurappa to do is to refocus on the issues that matter to people, confront the problems wrought by floods and drought. He has been indecisive, but a display of grit and stoicism would remind people why they backed this complex, struggling man.
SINCE EVERY PAGE AD IN ANY OF OUR NATIONAL DAILIES COSTS RS ONE LAKH OR MORE, THE TOTAL AMOUNT SPENT ON GOVERNMENT SELF-PUBLICITY RUNS INTO CRORES OF RUPEES EVERY DAY ENOUGH TO SET UP DOZENS OF SCHOOLS AND CLINICS.
BY KHUSHWANT SINGH
I get six papers every morning. I go through their contents, absorb a few items which I think are important and dump their supplements in the waste-paper basket without opening them. Nothing in papers riles me more than the number of government ads, all of which, if they are from Congress-ruled states carry pictures of chief ministers, ministers along with those of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh with claims of achievements in agriculture, industry, education, etc. We know that these claims are vastly exaggerated.
States ruled by opposition parties do not lag behind in self-aggrandisement and pictures of their chief ministers, ministers, deputy ministers, etc. Only Sonia and Manmohan are missing. Their claims of having made advances in every field are no more credit-worthy than those ruled by the Congress. Since every page ad in any of our national dailies costs Rs one lakh or more, the total amount spent on government self-publicity runs into crores of rupees every day enough to set up dozens of schools and clinics. Who pays for this extravagant waste of money? The taxpayer ie you and I, because all governmental public relations departments are integral parts of our bureaucracy maintained by tax-payers' money.
Newspapers are not in any position to object to this practice as their sustenance comes from advertising and the government is the single-largest advertiser in the country. But surely something has to be done by somebody to rectify this sorry state of affairs. The only thing that occurs to me is setting up a regulatory body, which will define limits beyond which government departments cannot go to advertise themselves and check their claims of achievements before they are published. The Indian Standards Institute (ISI) does this in the case of products put in the market and verifies their claims before it issues them a permit. A body like the ISI could be instituted with similar powers regarding government advertisements.
Come to think of it, talking about oneself is regarded as bad manners; praising oneself as an extreme form of vulgarity. Mayawati erecting her own statues at public expenses has been castigated by everyone and been made into a laughing stock. Why spare 'netas' who impose their pictures on us everyday and make us pay for them?
Pranab Mukherjee's advice to Foreign Minister S M Krishna and his deputy Shashi Tharoor to get out of five-star hotels and occupy bungalows allotted to them shows all concerned to be a bunch of humbugs. The two were paying for their board and lodging out of their own pockets and not out of the public exchequer.
If taken to its logical conclusion, no minister of government should be eating at a five-star hotel or restaurant because that also appears to be a vulgar display of opulence. Neither Pranab 'da' nor any of his ministerial colleagues are known to refuse being lavishly entertained. A gourmet meal with drinks costs upwards of Rs 5,000 per head. No one cares if somebody else is paying for it. However, both the ministers looked very shame-faced when they quit their hotels.
They have a few awkward questions to answer. Why did they not move into the bungalows allotted to them? All the tale of their being renovated to their needs is humbug. They are well maintained by the PWD and habitable. If they wanted some changes, they could have been made while they were in residence. Unless of course their vaastu experts advised them to change entrances, doors and directions of their toilet seats. We can assume that neither minister is a believer in vaastu.
And who has the right to tell another how he or she should be spending their money? Most certainly not media persons. Journalists are the biggest free-loaders in our society today. Have you ever seen the editor of a national daily pay for his meal in a five-star hotel? Not even the self-righteous editor of 'The Indian Express' which carried the 'news' of Krishna staying at the Maurya Sheraton and Tharoor at the Taj Man Singh as if the two had been caught red-handed committing a crime. Baby-faced Tharoor looked suitably guilty as if his mom had nabbed him stealing a carton of ice-cream from the family fridge.
Will meet in Haridwar
Few years ago my sister's son Tanuj Leekha married to Abhilasha at New Delhi. I saw her only once during marriage festivity, but was charmed by her looks and looked forward to seeing her again.
Few days ago, she died in New York and her parents, husband and father-in-law brought her ashes to be immersed in the holy Ganga. While we were taking her ashes to Haridwar, I read a couplet on the rear of a truck:
"Zindgi rahi to baar baar milengeyNahin to Haridwar milengey".
(Contributed by Jagjit Pur, Panchkula)
IT AMAZES ONE TO BEHOLD THE TORRENT OF TANTALISING OFFERS AT EVERY PLACE
BY MEERA SESHADRI
Call it a business gimmick or a sales strategy. The marketing 'dadas' keep bombarding us with a barrage of freebie offers everyday. And most of us the 'bakras' just fall for the bait, hook, line n' sinker. And, I'm no exception!
Just sometime back, I received a telephone call saying, I'm among those 'selected' few, chosen to collect a 'special' gift, at a 'specific' place. With heart hammering with high thrill, when I reached the specified place, imagine my shock, when I was subjected to a severe spiel by a smartly-attired, silver-tongued sales-executive, who was busy selling holiday packages to credulous customers! This fella didn't even allow me to have a word in edgeways.
When a garrulous person like me was reeling under his verbal assault, one can well visualise the predicament of other 'bakras', who were buttonholed by many such sales-executives, scattered all around. Truly, it had been a mammoth task to have ourselves extricated from the clutches of their business chicaneries. Finally, the gift that we bagged was some low-end fruit bowl this for having spent a long time and energy by going there.
And then there was a 'special gift' offer once, at a newly-opened beauty salon, for all those who got their tresses styled, during that particular week. One of my friends wanted to have a shot at it, and I strung along to watch the fun. Well, after the hair was styled, when my friend peered into the mirror, she let out a loud shriek. For, she had acquired the look of a badly-plucked chicken! Only then had she realised the beautician was a greenhorn at hairstyling. The gift that my friend obtained, for the irrevocable damage, was some chintzy hair-band!
Yet another friend of mine, who's madly after exotic-looking coffee mugs, once had bought off six bottles of some food drink as with each bottle, a mug was given gratis. By the time she could use two bottles, the other four bottles had overshot the shelf life. This ain't all. She used to develop a queasy feeling, just by casting her eyes on that drink. Twice she had thrown up too, after having guzzled that beverage. "Should people pay to puke", I had wondered.
Really, it amazes one to behold the torrent of tantalising offers at every place. Buy a snazzy-jazzy car, get a refrigerator free. Buy a refrigerator, get a mixer-grinder free. Buy a mixer, get a frying-pan free. Buy a frying-pan, and get a teacup free! Seeing this freebie fusillade, I silently hope that all these tricksters get blown over by a tornado some day!
THE NEW YORK TIMES
PRESIDENT KARZAI'S INAUSPICIOUS START
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has squandered a chance to shake up his government and chart a new course after eight years of mismanagement and corruption.
In the cabinet he announced last week, Mr. Karzai conceded just enough to minimally satisfy competing constituencies: on the one hand, Washington and its NATO allies, which aim to have 140,000 troops in the country by mid-2010; on the other, the political cronies who made sure he won a fraud-marred election. That is not the standard the times require.
Mr. Karzai still does not seem to understand that substantial and urgent change is needed in policies and personnel to fix a government that has lost credibility and is barely hanging on in the face of an increasingly powerful Taliban insurgency.
In announcing earlier this month that he is committing 30,000 more troops to the fight, President Obama made clear that a credible partner is essential to any effort to stabilize Afghanistan to the point where the Americans and their NATO allies can eventually go home.
Of the 24 cabinet nominees, slightly more than half are ministers who would stay in their current positions or who have served previously in Mr. Karzai's government. Ismail Khan, a notorious warlord from Herat who has been accused of human rights abuses, will stay on as water and energy minister. Mr. Karzai has at least two other warlords in his team: Vice Presidents Muhammad Qasim Fahim and Karim Khalili, who are reported to have looted Afghanistan for years. It might make a difference if they showed a conversion to the rule of law and to a government that puts the needs of all citizens ahead of personal interests. There is little sign of that.
We were also disappointed that Mr. Karzai excluded Abdullah Abdullah, his main challenger in the August election, and his supporters. The Afghan people might be more convinced that their government is working on their behalf if Mr. Karzai reached out to his critics as well as his cronies. Mr. Abdullah and his allies can make a real contribution if they take this opportunity to build a responsible opposition party that holds the government to account, including on stamping out corruption.The United States leaned on Mr. Karzai to reappoint the ministers of defense (Abdul Rahim Wardak) and interior (Hanif Atmar), who administer the army and the police, and he did. Washington has been working with both men to strengthen these forces so they can help fight the Taliban and take over security when American troops leave. The ministers are considered competent, but Mr. Atmar's ministry played an unsavory role in the disputed presidential election and Mr. Wardak's son has secured lucrative defense contracts.
One encouraging move was the replacement of two cabinet members overseeing mines and the hajj whose ministries are targets of corruption inquiries.
Mr. Obama has no choice but to work with Mr. Karzai, but that does not absolve his team of the duty to keep pressing for a relatively corruption-free, competent government so the Afghan people are no longer pushed into the hands of the Taliban. For Washington, that means ensuring that its aid flows through ministries like health and finance that have proved they can spend the money competently. And it means reminding Mr. Karzai that he will be held accountable for this cabinet's success or failure.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
The Ohio Supreme Court has struck an important blow for privacy rights, ruling that the police need a warrant to search a cellphone. The court rightly recognized that cellphones today are a lot more than just telephones, that they hold a wealth of personal information and that the privacy interest in them is considerable. This was the first such ruling from a state supreme court. It is a model for other courts to follow.
Searches generally require warrants, but courts have carved out limited categories in which they are not needed. One of these is that police officers are allowed, when they arrest people, to search them and the area immediately surrounding them, as well as some kinds of containers in their possession.
When the police arrested Antwaun Smith on drug charges they seized his cellphone and searched it, examining his call records. The police did not have a warrant or the consent of Mr. Smith.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled this month, by a 4-to-3 vote, that the search violated the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Rather than seeing a cellphone as a simple closed container, the majority noted that modern cellphones especially ones that permit Internet access are "capable of storing a wealth of digitized information."
This is information, the court said, for which people reasonably have a high expectation of privacy, and under established Fourth Amendment principles, police officers must get a search warrant before they can look through call logs or examine other data. The court wisely decided that it made no sense to try to distinguish among various kinds of cellphones based on what specific functions they have. All cellphones, the court said, fall under the search warrant requirement.
Few federal courts have considered the issue of cellphone searches, and they have disagreed about whether a warrant should be required. The Ohio ruling eloquently makes the case for why the very personal information that new forms of technology aggregate must be accorded a significant degree of privacy.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
THE OBAMA WAY
BY ROSS DOUTHAT
Every presidency is the subject of competing caricatures. But almost a year into his first term, there's something particularly elusive about Barack Obama's political identity. He's a bipartisan bridge-builder unless he's a polarizing ideologue. He's a crypto-Marxist radical except when he's a pawn of corporate interests. He's a post-American utopian or else he's a willing tool of the national security state.
The press has churned out a new theory every week, comparing Obama to John F. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt, to George H. W. Bush and Jimmy Carter to every 20th-century chief executive, it often seems, save poor, dull Gerald Ford. But none of the analogies have stuck. We're well into the Obama era, but neither his allies nor his enemies can quite get a fix on exactly what our 44th president really represents.
Obama baffles observers, I suspect, because he's an ideologue and a pragmatist all at once. He's a doctrinaire liberal who's always willing to cut a deal and grab for half the loaf. He has the policy preferences of a progressive blogger, but the governing style of a seasoned Beltway wheeler-dealer.
This is a puzzling combination, for many, because we expect our politicians' principles to align more neatly with their approach to governing. Our deal-making Machiavels are supposed to be self-conscious "centrists" (think Ben Nelson or Arlen Specter). Our ideological liberals and conservatives are supposed to be more concerned with being right than with being ruthlessly effective.
It's also puzzling because Obama promised exactly the opposite approach while running for the presidency. He campaigned as a postpartisan healer who would change the cynical ways of Washington as a foe of both back-room deals and ideology-as-usual. But he's governed as a conventional liberal who believes in the existing system, knows how to work it and accepts the limitations it imposes on him.
In hindsight, the most prescient sentence penned during the presidential campaign belongs to Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker. "Perhaps the greatest misconception about Barack Obama," he wrote in July 2008, "is that he is some sort of anti-establishment revolutionary. Rather, every stage of his political career has been marked by an eagerness to accommodate himself to existing institutions rather than tear them down or replace them."
Both right and left have had trouble processing Obama's institutionalism. Conservatives have exaggerated his liberal instincts into radicalism, ignoring the fact that a president who takes advice from Lawrence Summers and Robert Gates probably isn't a closet Marxist-Leninist. The left has been frustrated, again and again, by the gulf between Obama's professed principles and the compromises that he's willing to accept, and some liberals have become convinced that he isn't one of them at all.
They're wrong. Absent political constraints, Obama would probably side with the liberal line on almost every issue. It's just that he's more acutely conscious of the limits of his powers and less willing to start fights that he might lose than many supporters would prefer. In this regard, he most resembles Ronald Reagan and Edward Kennedy. Both were highly ideological politicians who trained themselves to work within the system. Both preferred cutting deals to walking away from the negotiating table.
The upside of this approach is obvious: It gets things done. Between the stimulus package, the pending health care bill and a new raft of financial regulations, Obama will soon be able to claim more major legislative accomplishments than any Democrat since Lyndon Johnson.
The downside, though, is that sometimes what gets done isn't worth doing. The assumption that a compromised victory is better than no victory at all can produce phony achievements like last week's "global agreement" on climate change and bloated, ugly legislation. And using cynical means to progressive ends (think of the pork-laden stimulus bill or the frantic vote-buying that preceded this week's Senate health care votes) tends to confirm independent voters' worst fears about liberal government: that it's a racket rigged to benefit privileged insiders and a corrupt marketplace floated by our tax dollars.
At the same time, Obama doesn't enjoy the kind of deep credibility with his base that both Reagan and Kennedy spent decades building. When Kennedy told liberals that a given compromise was the best they could get, they believed him. Whether the issue is health care or Afghanistan, Obama's word doesn't carry the same weight.
This leaves him walking a fine line. If Obama's presidency succeeds, it will be a testament to what ideology tempered by institutionalism can accomplish. But his political approach leaves him in constant danger of losing center and left alike of being dismissed by independents as another tax-and-spender, and disdained by liberals as a sellout.
I. THE NEWS
MORE DEATH, MORE MAYHEM
The spate of terrorism we have been facing now for months has continued over the past few days. As many had predicted, an attempt has been made to target Shia Muslims, with a suicide bomber detonating his jacket near an Imambargah in Rawalpindi. Mercifully, the explosives apparently malfunctioned and did not go off with full force. In Peshawar, another suicide bombing at a police check-post ensured the city breathed no easier than it has since the military operation in South Waziristan got underway. The death toll of six could easily have been much higher. We cannot continue to hope we will go on being favoured by luck; that lives will be saved because a suicide vest did not work properly or a bomber was stopped before he reached a heavily populated area. We need far more certainty that we are safe. The targeting of non-Muslims and Muslim minority sects has also continued too long. The impact it has had on society is nothing short of disastrous. The question is how we move away from the precipice on which we stand. There is some uncertainty if the government has any kind of viable strategy in mind or whether it has even pondered the question of devising one. There is no evidence that much thought has been given to this.
It is time that thoughtlessness changed. There is little point in ignoring the situation that exists or hoping that it will go over. Rhetoric that insists that maximum efforts are being made against terrorists also serves little useful purpose. A more solid policy is needed. The hard fact is that, in the short-term, there is not too much that can be done. Better training for security personnel could help stop some attacks. So could greater public vigilance and the setting up of neighbourhood committees to keep a watch on strangers. But these measures will not be foolproof. They will not succeed in stopping all attacks or halting terrorists who are willing to give up their own lives for the sake of claiming that of others. We have learnt over the past years how difficult it is to stop such bombers. We need a longer-term plan of action to try and move once more towards safety. This must include an undoing of the mindset that creates militancy and attention to its root causes. Only then will change come over the coming years. Otherwise, we can expect only more reports each day of terrorist attacks in our towns and cities and of the suffering inflicted on men, women and children in no way responsible for the situation that has been created.
I. THE NEWS
STRANGLED AT BIRTH
There are few crimes more repugnant than infanticide, yet this is what the government has allowed to happen with the killing of the recently-born Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill. The bill was passed in August in a rare show of unanimity within parliament; and under Article 70 of the Constitution the government was required to send the bill to the upper house which then had 90 days to pass it into law. It went on to the Senate agenda on October 5, but when the bill was moved Senator Mohammad Khan Sheerani, of the JUI-F, raised a variety of objections which led to a deferment of the hearing, and the bill has now lapsed, doubtless much to the satisfaction of the JUI-F and its misogynist supporters. Did the government rush to rescue the infant legislation? It did not. It stood by and twiddled its thumbs as the life slowly ebbed from it, and for it to be reborn the whole process will have to begin again.
'Shameful' does not even begin to describe the actions of the government in this matter. That it took 62 years to get to the point where the government enacted a law to protect women and children and described the infrastructure that would do just that is shameful enough; but to then let it die of neglect is downright despicable. It is going to be no simple matter of re-submitting the bill as it will have to go through the mediation committee made up of members of both houses and who knows what they will do to the corpse of a once-fine piece of legislation. No lesser person but the prime minister had spoken in support of the bill, saying that it was moved in pursuance of the goals of the late chairperson of the PPP, Benazir Bhutto; and that the bill was a 'big achievement' for the government. Far from being a 'big achievement' it stands as a mute monument to their ineptitude and lack of backbone. Women's groups and civil society organisations concerned with the welfare of women and children are aghast at this turn of events and rightly so. The killing of the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill is as clear an indicator as any that the dominant mindset within government cares little for the fate of half the population; preferring to protect its own perverted view of how women and children should be seen and treated.
I. THE NEWS
KIDNEYS FOR SALE
According to a news report, Christians based in the Youhanabad residential area just outside Lahore continue to sell kidneys to try and ensure survival for themselves and their families. For those who have done so, there is little to cheer about as Christmas is celebrated. Many now suffer poor health, were not given the full amounts promised to them and have spent much of what they earned for selling a kidney as they are now unable to work. Impoverished Muslims too of course are forced by poverty to take similarly desperate steps.
According to doctors who have pioneered a bill against kidney donation from unrelated donors, 2,000 such donations take place each year. Only around 500 are legal. The multi-million dollar trade means Pakistan has become known as a major international marketplace for kidneys with rich 'buyers' flying in from around the world to purchase an organ. Middle-men and unscrupulous medical centres are all involved in the practice. It is uncertain how effective the law has been in blocking these. The sale of kidneys is further evidence of the desperation faced by millions in our society. They have no means to survive other than by selling a part of their bodies. The state has failed to protect them from the worst kind of exploitation. Our government needs to wake up to this tragedy, find ways to better enforce the laws that exist and thus save people from situations that only worsen their misery.
I. THE NEWS
A DECADE OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY
The first ten years of this century are very likely to go down as the most traumatic in the history of the nation. The decade that started on a sour note with Pakistan under the dictatorship of General Musharraf is coming to an end with the country being run by a democratically elected civilian government. Despite this, there is an air of doom and gloom in the air.
The scourge of terrorism, squabbling amongst the politicians and state institutions, poor governance, endemic state-sponsored corruption and a shattered economy with little light at the end of the tunnel are eating into the entrails of our body politic. By all indicators the feel-good factor in the Pakistani nation at is at an all-time low.
But has it been all that bad through the decade? An era of democracy has been ushered in after the February 2008 general elections and the military strongman who ruined every institution in the country is licking his wounds in exile in London. Ironically, those he sent in forced exile are the rulers of today. The military is no longer running the country and we have a fiercely independent and free media.
As a result of the concerted struggle of the civil society, the media and political parties we have an independent proactive and assertive judiciary. Perhaps for the first time in Pakistan's judicial history the courts have put a sitting government in the dock. By striking down the NRO the apex court has created history, forcing sitting ministers and government functionaries running helter-skelter to get bail before arrest .The highest office in the country has no option but to find shelter behind presidential immunity to avoid persecution.
The country, used to a pliant judiciary which in the past validated every dictator worth the name and endorsed executive excesses as a rule, is now witnessing the pendulum of judicial activism swinging too far against the ruling PPP. Some independent observers are alleging that the higher judiciary is on a collision course with the parliament and the executive by usurping functions that primarily are their domain.
To count the blessings, political polarisation that was the hallmark of the previous decade, has been replaced with a sense of accommodation and dialogue amongst politicians. Major political parties at least pay lip service to "saving the system." Virtually all political parties represented in the parliament want to strengthen political institutions and keep the military out of politics. Mian Nawaz Sharif, in spite of the hawkish statements of some of his stalwarts including the leader of the opposition in the parliament, is accused of being too pliant and accommodating towards the ruling party, to the extent of being labelled as "the loyal opposition."
Historic consensus on the NFC Award was made possible by concerted efforts of the federal government and its finance minister Shaukat Tarin and by the spirit of sacrifice shown by the chief minister of Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif. The Balochistan package is another first, which would not have been possible if there had not been an underlying and pervasive feeling amongst the stakeholders that the wrong done to the province for decades needs to be corrected post haste.
Although Mr Asif Ali Zardari in his negotiations with the opposition has earned the dubious distinction of not keeping promises, the stage seems to be set for repeal of the 17th Amendment. In the present circumstances, unless he wants to commit political hara-kiri it will be impossible for the president not honour his prime minister's commitment made to Mian Shahbaz Sharif the other day to restore the sovereignty of the parliament by repealing the controversial amendment.
After becoming a nuclear state in 1998 Pakistan had became the most sanctioned country. Musharraf's abortive misadventure in Kargil, followed by his coup against Nawaz Sharif in October 1999, made us a pariah state in the eyes of the world. However, 9/11 changed all that. Suddenly Musharraf, who was being shunned by all and sundry, became the darling of the West. In order to perpetuate himself he happily made Islamabad a lynchpin in George W Bush's war against terror. The former protector of the Taliban was now playing both sides with all its appended negative consequences for the country.
As a cumulative result of the two military dictators Zia and Musharraf, the incidence of terrorist attacks in Pakistan is perhaps the highest in the world today, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Hardly a day goes by without a suicide attack taking place in some part of the country. So much so that even the GHQ is not safe from the terrorists' long reach. It is no wonder that there is a pervasive sense of insecurity and uncertainty amongst the populace. Not only is the morale of the ordinary citizen at an all time low but confidence in state institutions has been badly shaken.
The Pakistani military has managed to clear Swat and to a large extent South Waziristan. The oft-repeated US oft mantra of "do more" mantra wants the army to expand its operations into South Wazirisatn. In this backdrop there are perceptions that the military and the civilian government are not exactly on the same page with the Zardari government seen as more pliant and pro-US than the liking of the military.
Coupled with worldwide recession that coincided with the Musrgwharraff's from power terrorism and mishandling of the economy during the previous regime has taken its toll on the economy. Admittedly overall inflation although still in double digits has come down, but our economic managers have still to grapple with the more than 20 per cent food inflation. According to independent economists this adds a staggering 15 million of the populace below the poverty line that after touching 24 percent is back to 33 per cent.
Pakistan had always justifiably prided itself on its relatively higher growth rates as compared to India. Our economists mockingly dubbed it as the Hindu growth rate as almost for a quarter of a century its economy grew at an average rate of 3.5 per cent. Now the shoe is on the other foot as Pakistan under an IMF program is merely being able to keep pace with the growth in population with a projected growth rate of 2.5 percent. India's buoyant economy notwithstanding worldwide recessionary trends is projected to grow at 7.5 per cent.
The economy under Musharraf considerably expanded in size. For example, tax revenues increased four times in a decade from Rs306 billion in 1999 to Rs1,200 billion in 2008-09. He boasted of manifold increase in the demand for motorcycles, automobiles, air conditioners, washing machines and a boom in the rural economy of the Punjab.
But with little or no change in the basic structure of the economy and with virtually zero addition of infrastructure projects, he left an economy plagued with perennial shortages and hardships. Strict IMF conditionalities have made fuel electricity and energy beyond the reach of the common man.
At the end of the decade Pakistan is a civilian democracy of sorts, but it is not certain whether the transition from a garrison state controlled by the military to a civilian setup has been successfully completed. Fissiparous tendencies in Balochistan are a major concern. Thankfully the present political dispensation is aware of the dangers and as a result serious efforts are afoot to bring the separatists back into the mainstream by allowing more provincial autonomy than the present 1973 Constitution allows. Hopefully it is not a case of too late and too little to save the federation.
The writer is a former newspaper editor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I. THE NEWS
FRIGHTENED BY JOURNALISTS?
DR MASOODA BANO
The PPP's senior leadership has made a wise move by agreeing to abide by the decision of the Supreme Court on the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and deciding to fight the cases reopened against some of the senior party members in the court of law rather than entering into a confrontation with the judiciary. President Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani have made the right statements. However, some of the party leaders have been less clear on how to deal with increasing levels of critiques that the PPP is now facing. Some of the PPP leaders are accusing certain journalists, critical of the PPP's policies or actions, of acting as foreign agents to destabilise the country. The senior PPP leadership needs to recognise that this is a failing strategy by all counts.
There are a number of reasons that such behaviour does not suit representatives of a major political party. At the most basic level, it shows a very high level of sensitivity and nervousness on the part of the PPP leadership, which undermines its own image. Politicians who enjoy widespread popularity or political parties which are confident of their popular appeal do not have to resort to the level of picking on a few journalists and holding them responsible for defaming a party or destabilising a government. A party leadership, which is in touch with the public and is responding to public needs, enjoys much confidence in its ability to withstand a media trial. he reasons for that are obvious.
If the party is delivering on the ground, there is much less of a chance that the public will be interested in following the anti-government discourse generated by a few people. Thus, there will be less of a need for the party senior ranks to feel irritated and go after individual journalists. Second, the party which is delivering will indeed have some senior journalists on its side to counterbalance the views of those who are critiquing it. Thus again, rather than entering in a mudslinging match with the journalists, the leadership of a national level political party has many other ways of dealing with any critique it is being subjected to in the media.
The media might be an exploitative industry and whole news outlets or individual journalists might be selling their skills to gain personal benefits. The idea is not to defend the media or the journalists or to argue that they are above questioning, but to highlight that media campaigns while highly influential do not completely replace the personal experiences of the public. An anti-government media campaign cannot on its own erode the popularity of the government if it is actually delivering on the ground. The problem with PPP's government is that is has failed to convince the public that it is committed to reform. The foot-dragging on major institutional reform issues, such as reinstatements of the judges, was one thing. Even more worrying from the public point of view has been the government's failure to show that it is committed to improving the day-to-day living conditions of the people.
The state of education and health sectors remains deplorable. The government has not even announced major reforms plans for these sectors, forget about the actual implementation process. The employment problems, inflation, inaccessibility of basic food items, etc., are making the people critical of the government whether or not the media spins anti-government stories. The recent high-profile cases of negligence in leading hospitals in Pakistan also show the continuingly deteriorating standards of state monitoring of such facilities. Of course, these problems have not been specific to the period of the PPP government. The issue is that the sitting government is also not taking any measures to fix them. At the same time, the government has failed to settle the issue of militancy or come up with more clear terms of engagement with the US. The public is as suspicious of the concessions given by the present government to the US as it was of the Musharraf government.
Given all this, the PPP senior leadership would do well for itself if, rather than lashing out at individual journalists for attempting to destabilise the government, it tried to analyse why the public is willing to believe the critiques of the PPP made by these journalists. Pakistan for sure does not need another military intervention. In order to avert any chances of such an intervention, it is very important that the political leadership acts responsibly. Prime Minister Gilani is responding well to the crisis faced by the PPP leadership. The other members need to follow the same course. If PPP's leadership responded to criticisim by implementing a real programme of development, it would have to worry much less about what journalists are saying about it.
The writer is a research fellow at the Oxford University. Email: mb294@hotmail. Com
I. THE NEWS
THE NRO FALLOUT
The Supreme Court's judgment declaring the maligned NRO as invalid has been welcomed for good reasons. It is considered a great triumph of the forces that have been struggling to establish the rule of law and the sanctity of the Constitution. The court's judgment to strike down a law that gave protection to the corrupt will enhance Pakistan's credibility both within and outside the country.
Nonetheless, there are some serious issues that cannot be overlooked. Firstly, the fate of President Zardari hangs in the balance. The immunity that the president enjoys is also in question. Even if the court does not take it away, because of the pressure building up against him he will find it difficult to continue.
But the stakes for him and his inner circle are so high that he is not going to yield easily. Already we a have a resolution from the Sindh Assembly in the form of a unanimous resolution reposing full confidence in his leadership. The "Sindh Card" could also be played if he and his colleagues feel that it might work.
Are the top leaders of other parties, the PML-N and the PML-Q any better, and have the military leaderships when in political power been corruption-free? The PML-N is playing the waiting game. It is not interested in rocking the system, knowing that it will be equally detrimental to its political future. Besides it would not like that old court cases of bank loans and others reopened.
It is indeed ironical that architects of the NRO were the military leadership and Americans and the British diplomats. This piece of legislation was supposed to act as a facilitator in transiting to democracy smoothly. The United States was of the view that this arrangement would bring stability. Instead it has given rise to serious complications. Gen Musharraf was on the defensive and highly compromised and needed a safe exit. The military hierarchy backed him on this issue. Cases against President Zardari and all the 8,000 or more beneficiaries were withdrawn deliberately to ensure mutual immunity. The NRO was a clear manifestation of the decay of all our institutions, and not just the PPP. There are also many cases of corruption that fall outside the scope of the NRO. Political parties, military, bureaucracy and the judiciary have to share the blame for where we stand today.
Nonetheless, we as a nation have to start somewhere and now that the judiciary is rightfully asserting itself full support should be provided by the government to comply with its judgment. As a large cross-section of sitting ministers, politicians, bureaucrats and diplomats are involved it is bound to adversely affect the functioning of the government as they will remain distracted in defending their cases.
At this time when the country is facing grave challenges and the government is already overwhelmed with the frequency of terrorist attacks, any further drop in performance will be only to the advantage of the militants. It will also have a serious impact on the economy as uncertainty will give rise to further flight of capital, drop in remittances and overall productivity. The projection for the annual wheat crop is also pessimistic, around 20 million tons, due to the poor rains. Industry and services are badly hit by power shortages and high fuel costs. Businessmen are finding it difficult to travel abroad due to visa restrictions and foreigners are hesitant to come due to the deteriorating security situation. A clear vision and an operational plan are needed to steer the country from this quagmire.
Prime Minister Gilani should seriously consider seeking the resignation of the ministers that are involved in corruption cases and replacing them with politicians with better reputation and capabilities to mitigate the damage. Surely, they could return to power if cleared by the courts. In any case, the prime minister has wanted to reshuffle the cabinet and bring new faces and this provides him with an opportunity of having a leaner cabinet and competent ministers.
The president can partially diffuse the pressure that is building on him by agreeing to repeal the 17th Amendment and transfer his powers to the prime minister. By taking these actions the slide to chaos could be arrested and the situation will stabilise. Otherwise, the good that was suppose to come out by declaring the NRO void would be lost. The power vacuum would be filled by the military asserting more influence over foreign, defence and domestic policies and militancy will get a new life and democracy will once again receive a serious setback.
Meanwhile, international concerns and pressures will intensify. Washington, taking advantage of the prevailing uncertainty, will ratchet up its pressure on the Pakistan military to expand the area of operations to North Waziristan despite the fact that it may not be in Pakistan's best interest. India could also intensify its diplomatic and political offensive that Pakistan reign in it its militants, realising well that it would not be possible to open up several fronts. The domestic and international challenges indeed are very grave and demand a concerted national effort and prudent leadership at many levels.
The writer is a retired lieutenant-general. Email: email@example.com
I. THE NEWS
AN EXTRA LIFE FOR THE PRESIDENT
Mr Zardari has proved a veritable political Houdini. From being written off politically he has emerged unassailable. He has played the Sindh Card and thrust Sindh into the lobe of his opponents on the point of a political lance. His message, actually a challenge, is clear. Put up with me or risk losing Pakistan.
He has dared the Supreme Court to remove him and in the process warned off the army and Nawaz Sharif. Neither, it seems, feels it politic to take him on, at least for now; of course, it helps that neither of the other two contenders for power get on. But even if they did the outcome would be no different. Pakistan craves political stability not uncertainty and turmoil, as any fool knows.
How, then, did Mr Zardari an ethnic Baloch, a lacklustre speaker with as much charisma as a pregnant llama and who, but for the fact that he was Benazir Bhutto's husband would not have stood out more than the proverbial pimple on the hindquarters of an elephant prevail in Sindhi affections? Well, it seems that Sindh has had it up to its gills with the establishment. Incensed that Mr Zardari was being singled out as the target while others were being let off, Sindh defiantly claimed him as their own.
Mr Zardari would be prudent not to let his newfound popularity among Sindhis carry him away. His mores, no less than that of his rivals, appals them. Those with whom one spoke in Hyderabad had little regard for him; it is just that they dislike his rivals more. Interestingly, most said that if Mr Zardari were to be replaced by another Sindhi from within his party the hurt would be less.
Apart from forcing a great many of his critics to eat crow about his bleak future prospects, what else does Mr Zardari's newfound stature convey?
To begin with, it shows that Pakistan's febrile democracy is strengthening; respect for mandates is gaining traction; a dysfunctional government is being allowed time to become less so and that contrived or forced ousters of elected governments are not a remedy for what ails Pakistan.
At the same time it reveals how uncomfortable the populace is with the proposition that an individual should have blanket immunity for all wrongs committed by him merely because he is the top gun. They find it difficult to understand why allegations nay, virtual proof of theft are dismissed before, rather than after, due process. And many worry that Mr Zardari may not smart enough from the narrow escape that he seems to have had, and instead becomes wise in his own conceit, because that would be disastrous for him as much as Pakistan.
A stable government with a good working relationship with the opposition and the army should encourage investors to return; the economy pick up and the frenetic pace of corruption may ease (because it will never cease) if officeholders are assured that they will have more than one fleeting bite at the cherry. Even if that were to happen, a tall ask in this kleptocracy, the global recession and the security situation virtually ensures that the government, any government, would have to carry the can for the lack of any real economic progress and the consequent misery faced by the people. In the circumstances there is little purchase for Mr Zardari in the economic sphere. And the little that there is has been lost to IMF regulators. The fact is that the economy is on autopilot and the controls with the IMF, as the latest power increases make painfully obvious.
But where Mr Zardari does have room for manoeuvre and an opportunity to earn kudos is the manner in which he steers the country as the American surge gets underway in Afghanistan.
What Obama faces in Afghanistan is not a military defeat but a political debacle. The Americans can win every battle and still lose the war. All the Taliban need to do is to survive; or, if that becomes difficult in Afghanistan, to move to Pakistan; and, if Pakistan's badlands are not secure enough, then to move, as they are doing, into our cities. Fetching them from our cities is impossible for the Americans as much as for our armed forces. Of course, if the Americans are crass enough to try, a revolt will ensue, which nothing the Americans can muster will enable them to cope with. Weeding out terrorists is a process that will occupy Pakistan for decades. Of course, it must be done, and it will be done, not for the sake of America but for our own sake.
Mr Zardari should make this clear to the Americans, notwithstanding the advice to the contrary that he may receive from our ambassador in Washington. Mindless support of American objectives and caving in to American demands for intensification/expansion of the war is not on. Mr Zardari should not mince his words. Pakistani-US cooperation is not a pact to sink or swim together.
For all his strategising, Obama seems to have ignored one simple proposition: namely, that Pakistan will not fall to the Taliban. This prospect that has driven Obama's advisers into apoplectic fits when faced by Pakistani reluctance to do their bidding is unrealistic. So much so that insisting that Islamabad do more now savours of a pretext for an indefinite and enlarged US presence in Afghanistan.
It also flies in the face of the belief held by the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis that unless America withdraws from Afghanistan and lets the dust settle where it will, peace is impossible. It beggars public imagination that America is willing to spend $100 billion annually fighting and killing the Taliban and chasing a hundred or so Al Qaeda operatives up and down the Hindukush when less than half that amount devoted to helping Pakistan and whatever Afghan regime is in power would transform lives.
It must have occurred to Obama why no other country really buys what he is trying to sell to justify his continued occupation of Afghanistan. How can they, when the majority of his own public does not? NATO may appear to do so, but not really. The handful of troops individual members have offered along with orders not to engage in battle makes this embarrassingly obvious.
It is small wonder that accusations are afloat that Obama is trying to make up for his withdrawal from Iraq by escalating the war in Afghanistan. Even Democrats in Congress now fear that Obama's raft is headed for the rocks. American overtures to the Taliban have only added to the gulf between policy and intention. They reveal Obama to be not someone known to live by what he believes is true but, rather, one who believes what he knows to be a lie. And all because he wants a second term in office.
Mr Zardari has an opportunity to lend his voice to the overwhelming majority of his own countrymen, and a majority of Americans calling for an American withdrawal from Afghanistan. Mr Zardari should not squander the extra life that he has received from his flock in Sindh merely to importune Obama for more largesse. His countrymen will forgive Mr Zardari a dozen times a week and reconcile eagerly with his past if he summons up the courage to look Obama in the eye and speak his mind. This is his chance to emerge from his wife's shadow and become his own man.
The writer is a former ambassador. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I. THE NEWS
LEGAL EYE(PART I)
The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.
Notwithstanding the widespread jubilation marking the dawn of a new Pakistan where courts will not shy away from holding the mighty accountable, the short order of the Supreme Court in the NRO case has also attracted some fierce criticism. The arguments against the ruling can be divided into four categories. One, the implementation mechanism established by the apex court in the form of judicial monitoring committees is flawed as the apex court has traveled beyond its constitutional domain and ventured into the province of the executive.
Two, the finding that the NRO has been struck down for also being in conflict with Articles 62(f) and 227 of the Constitution is a deviation from our existing jurisprudence and will erase any sensible distinction between considerations of law and those of morality and religion. Three, the Supreme Court has strayed beyond the prayers in the petitions challenging the NRO and delivered a judgment that is of a political nature as it targets PPP and Asif Zardari. And four, the Supreme Court is guilty of selective enforcement of law by holding the feet of politicians to fire, but leaving the generals out of the accountability net.
These arguments need to be addressed one by one. Monitoring committees have been established to oversee the performance of lower courts with regard to progress of NRO-related cases and not that of the executive. This mechanism is essential and laudable for two reasons. One, the loudest argument in support of the NRO was that corruption cases had been pending for over a decade without reaching a conclusion. Now that the Supreme Court has revived these cases there is need to ensure that they are heard and judgments rendered expeditiously. Two, given that many of the NRO cases are against individuals presently serving in top positions within the government, unless the apex court keeps its gaze on their progress judges of the lower courts might feel intimidated or inspired to bend the law in favor of the powerful.
Instead of following a suo moto style do-it-yourself approach, the apex court has elected to strengthen the institutional structure by lending its support to the subordinate courts while putting them on notice that they are being watched. It is the Supreme Court and the High Courts that are responsible for the conduct of subordinate courts. We already have inspection committees in the High Courts that scrutinize lower courts. The National Judicial Policy announced earlier this year was also about expediting the conclusion of pending cases in subordinate courts. In creating an NRO-specific judicial oversight mechanism, the Supreme Court has thus not strayed beyond its constitutional domain. The argument that such oversight will result into a witch-hunt of the NRO-ed politicians is largely based on cynicism and conjecture and not facts or logic.
Asma Jehangir and others have argued that the short order is flawed for in striking down the NRO it also relies on Article 62(f) and 227 of the Constitution, which was unnecessary and against the existing jurisprudence of the Supreme Court. Article 62(f), forced into the Constitution by Ziaul Haq, states that being "sagacious, righteous and non-profligate and honest and ameen" is an essential qualification for members of parliament (and also the president). The fear being expressed is that now anyone can stand up and challenge the qualification of the president or parliamentarian for not being "honest and ameen".
Further, Article 227 holds that no law can be enacted in Pakistan that is repugnant to Islamic injunctions. But the Supreme Court has previously held in the Hakim Khan case (PLD 1992 SC 595) and the Kaneez Fatima case (PLD 1993 SC 901) that provisions requiring conformity with Islamic injunctions were not self-executing, were addressed to parliament and not the courts and consequently neither a provision of the constitution nor a statute could be struck down by courts on the basis of such provisions, including Articles 2A and 227. The fear here is that the Supreme Court is going against established case law and bringing back to life certain dead provisions of the Constitution that will unnecessarily infuse the Ziaul Haq brand of religion and morality in the interpretation and application of law.
We will need to wait for the detailed judgment to determine whether the court has given a new interpretation to the manner in which Articles 62 and 227 are to be applied, but a few comments are in order. The court might only have ruled that honesty is a pre-requisite for election as member of parliament and president under Article 62. And thus the NRO, which overrode this requirement in relation to certain public officeholders facing charges of dishonesty without declaring that the alleged acts that attracted such charges did not amount to crime, was in conflict with Article 62. In other words, the NRO did not say that corruption was no longer a crime in Pakistan. It merely said that certain people charged with corruption were not to be tried thus taking away the possibility of establishing their innocence or guilt affirmatively. As it amounted to suspending the legal and factual inquiry that would determine whether or not a person was qualified for purposes of Article 62, such law was in conflict with the Constitution.
There is no reason to believe that the court has transformed Article 62 into a self-executing provision. A five-member bench of the Supreme Court, including three members who have also ruled on the NRO case, while hearing the Nawaz Sharif case (PLD 2009 SC 644) accepted the argument that "any declaration in terms of Article 62(f) that a person is not qualified because he is not honest and ameen has to be preceded by a factual inquiry" in accordance with legal due process. Given that the court gave a unanimous verdict in the NRO case, it is unlikely that the three judges who ruled on the Nawaz Sharif case and concurred in the NRO case might have changed their minds with regard to the application of Article 62(f) within a few months.
Further, with regard to Article 227, while the Kaneez Fatima case held that courts shall not strike down statutes for being in violation of Islamic injunctions alone, it left open the question whether laws can be struck down conjunctively on the basis of Articles 8 and 227, because they are inconsistent with Islamic injunctions and also in violation of fundamental rights. The Supreme Court might simply have answered this question in the affirmative in the NRO case, for it has also held that the NRO was in violation of Articles 4, 8 and 25. In short, the NRO case might not override anything that the court has said previously. Even if it did, the apex court is the only court in the country not bound by its own precedents and has the option to change its mind.
"We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final," is how Justice Jackson of the US Supreme Court explained the conundrum faced by the final court of a country. As a court giving life and meaning to the Constitution and keeping it relevant in view of changing needs of the society, the Supreme Court must continue to reevaluate its past rulings to prevent our law from becoming archaic. And the academy and the bar must continue to critique the merit of the court's pronouncements on the yardstick of logic, consistency and intellectual rigor. This dialogue between the bench, the bar and the academy is crucial to ensure that infallibility of the apex court produces legal certainty but not bad law. Criticism of court rulings based on the merit of legal arguments must therefore be welcomed not denounced. Our shared interest lies not in appointing ourselves defenders of personal pride of judges or the illusion of their infallibility, but in helping our courts produce progressive and sound jurisprudence.
(To be concluded)
I. THE NEWS
Every government that takes the rein of power pledges itself to live within the means, ensure good governance by eliminating wasteful expenditure and adopt effective measures to raise revenue and reduce non-developmental expenditure. The Gilani government is no exception. The cabinet on the weekend met in a special session and approved a number of measures recommended by a parliamentary committee to end profligacy. The major steps, inter alia, relate to administrative structure, presidency and prime minister's establishments.
The Gilani government has the largest cabinet in the history of Pakistan with 44 ministries and 46 divisions. The bloated bureaucracy came into existence during the Gilani regime itself. It, therefore, is disingenuous to cut down a couple of ministries or down-grade them and claim credit for moving in the direction of austerity.
Cabinet members have been given perks and privileges not known in other democratic countries. Practically all ministers have been provided armoured Mercedes costing Rs10 million each, in addition to fleet a helicopter at their disposal. This extravagance is exceeded by lavish expenditure on foreign tours. The National Assembly was recently informed that prime minister's foreign visits cost Rs80 million in the last four months. The visits were largely ceremonial and not justified in terms of national interests. The decision to cut expenditure on foreign tours by 30 per cent is primarily an exercise in public relations. The decision that cars of 1,600cc and 1,800cc will be used by ministers is reminiscent of a similar decision by Prime Minister Junejo. We all know what happened later. Other measures such as withdrawal of Hajj facilities at government expense and one dish to be served at official dinners are pure gimmicks and their impact negligible.
These decisions, laudable as they may be in terms of concept, are not practical. Who would tell the president or the prime minister that he could not visit abroad as the funds under the head had been utilised fully? How would the transgression be monitored and what mechanism is available to ensure adherence to these austerity measures? Unless such violations are made culpable, these measures would amount to a cruel joke. The undamental question is: who will bell the cat?
Former prime minister Shaukat Aziz spent over Rs1 billion on 47 foreign visits. President Musharraf, not to be outdone, spent Rs1.4 billion on foreign visits in the same period.
If the prime minister is really serious, the far more meaningful step would be to limit the entourage accompanying these foreign visits. On average up to 200 cronies accompany the president/prime minister on each visit. Shaukat Aziz, according to official statistics, took 2,120 persons mostly hangers-on, on these visits. He also took a 45-member delegation to Umrah costing the national exchequer Rs8.7 million. He lied to the nation that he had personally met the expenditure. Zardari also followed the same practice, taking 200 people in two chartered flights for Umrah early this year claiming that he had personally paid all the expenses.
Unless there are specific goals and an effective mechanism to oversee wasteful expenditure such decisions will only provoke sneer. I suggest that the Public Accounts Committee should be the authority to monitor and approve expenditure in terms of the new policy across the board. Only a constitutional status to the authority will enforce compliance.
Discretionary funds at the disposal of the president and the prime minister also need to be drastically cut, if not withdrawn. To dole out millions of rupees to the cricket team for its performance in a match is both frivolous and irresponsible.
The government for its own credibility should also do away with payment of Rs20 million every fiscal year to each MNA ostensibly for development schemes in their area.
The writer is a former ambassador. Email: m.tayyab.siddiqui @gmail.com
CLASH WITH JUDICIARY WILL DERAIL SYSTEM
THERE are clear signs that better sense is prevailing in the governmental circles about the need to avoid clash of institutions, rejecting the extremist views held by some elements in the ruling party. On Thursday, both President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani gave indications that the Government was fully alive to the danger of pursuing the path of confrontation.
President Zardari, who chaired Party's consultative meeting in Karachi, categorically stated that the Government would take all the decisions while remaining within the ambit of the Constitution and these included those related to the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Similarly, the Prime Minister, during an interaction with television anchorpersons, declared in an unambiguous manner that the Government respects verdicts of the court and ruled out any clash with the judiciary. And in an apparent bid to clear the impression that the PPP Government was bent upon using the so-called 'Sindh' card, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira has stated that the PPP does not believe in any 'card'. In a related development, an honourable judge of the Supreme Court remarked on Thursday that the judges know their limitations and have no intention of interfering in the affairs of the executive. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court verdict in the NRO case, which could not have been different than what was given by the court in the absence of any defence of the case in the apex court and decision of Parliament not to give the controversial ordinance legitimacy of the law, the situation was taking a volatile turn due to self-centered thinking of some people. This was despite the fact that the saner elements were urging the Government to accept the verdict without pinch of salt and set higher standards of governance by implementing the judgement without ifs and buts to ensure supremacy of rule of law and Constitution. Clash of institutions is always unfortunate but in the given circumstances when the country was passing through a delicate period due to domestic challenges and geo-strategic threats the country could ill-afford the path of confrontation. We believe that all pillars of the State are equally important and they should play their role while remaining strictly within the parameters given in the Constitution. We hope that efforts would be made to rein in unbridled elements that are bent upon embittering the overall environment in the country.
ENHANCE SECURITY OF IMAMBARGAHS
POLICE really deserves credit for averting a major tragedy at an Imambargah in Rawalpindi Thursday night. According to the DIG Police, the bomber blew himself up when intercepted by a head constable on duty. Though a five-year girl was killed and two others injured in the incident yet alertness of the police prevented a major mishap.
It is regrettable that the terrorists and their sponsors and promoters are noaw frequently targeting religious places resulting in killing of worshippers. Dozens of people have so far been killed during suicide attack on mosques in different parts of the country including the one in the Cantonment area of Rawalpindi causing loss of precious lives. It is worth mentioning that Taliban and Al-Qaeda spokesmen have repeatedly stated that their organizations were not behind terrorist attacks on places of worships and that these were the handiwork of foreign agencies. Though the situation is so fluid and complex that nothing can be said with certainty, the possibility of involvement of foreign agencies cannot be ruled out because of their wholesale presence and questionable and suspicious activities. It has been denied at the highest level but still there are authentic reports suggesting that Blackwater is also involved in acts of terrorism and target killings. It is understood that some forces are trying to make Pakistan a soft State, entangle its armed forces and security agencies in an unending vicious cycle of violence and deepen the sense of insecurity among the people. The situation is no doubt very challenging but given the unity, faith and courage of the nation, these forces are bound to fail in their nefarious designs. We will, therefore, have to make individual and collective efforts to foil designs of our internal and external enemies. This we have already demonstrated by rejecting attempts of those who have been trying to sow sectarian seeds in different parts of the country. Ulema and followers of different schools of thought are now fully convinced that those fanning sectarian prejudices are not friends of the country and that is why instances of sectarian tensions have reduced to negligible levels. However, in view of the ongoing Moharramul Haram, the enemy could conspire to take advantage of the situation and that is why it is all the more important to increase vigilance at Imambargahs. For this purpose, besides police, volunteers should also come forward to play their role in beefing up security at the times of religious gatherings.
SHAUKAT AZIZ TALKS OF SOME PROUD MOMENTS
FORMER Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, who would surely be remembered for initiating sound economic policies, shared some of his memories during a reception hosted by one of his Cabinet colleagues in Jeddah. With a proud glitter in his eyes he told his audience that it was the happiest day of his life when he made announcement about taking the country out of the IMF shackles and break of the ignominious begging bowl.
It is a fact, the announcement of Shaukat Aziz way back in 2004 that Pakistan had broken the begging bowl forever had infused a new spirit among the people who were weary of the mounting burden of foreign loans, which the country was finding hard to repay without compromising its key economic and developmental interests. Pakistan did not go back to the IMF during his tenure and instead relied on some other dignified methods to help meet the foreign exchange requirements. There are no two opinions that the foreign exchange reserves of the country continued to surge during his era despite saying goodbye to IMF programme. It was after a long time that people of Pakistan took a sigh of relief and thought that the country was heading for the right direction. As against this, our current foreign exchange reserves consist of almost all the money we borrowed from IMF against humiliating conditions that impinge upon our national sovereignty and are adding to the miseries of the people. In our view, the statement of the former Prime Minister carries a significant and meaningful message for the present Government and its economic managers, who have become totally dependent on foreign loans to run the country. They should analyse the situation dispassionately to find out how Shaukat Aziz became a success story and what went wrong after his departure.
AND WE LOOK ON HOPELESSLY...
Expectations are exceedingly high worldwide especially in the Muslim countries that American President Barack Obama, who campaigned with promises of "change and hope", will turn out to be the national and international charismatic messianic figure, able to overthrow oppression, internationally. Many feel that President Obama, would reign righteously, finding political solutions to all of mankind's problems by offering changes in the U.S. policies and perspective, after eight years of the fanatical Bush administration, which did more damage to America than the September 11 attacks did. This is wishful thinking on the part of most! Washington's passively mute stand on the Gaza genocide and reckless disregard of the continuous drone attacks on Pakistan suggest that Washington will continue with its war of aggression with blindfolded eyes, divorced from reality, pursing its agenda of world geopolitical dominance and gaining control of the world's largest untapped oil and natural gas reserves, worth trillions of dollars in the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea Basin.
The world's leading oil producing countries are in the Middle East, South East Asia, the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea basin. The Caspian Sea basin is rapidly becoming the centre stage of the world's oil and gas supplies and regarded as the Persian Gulf of the 21st century. Launching the Iraq war was more about control over Middle East oil reserves at the behest of the US ruling wealthy elite. The U.S. geopolitical strategy now revolves around controlling the world's energy resources and hunting for alternate sources of oil from outside the politically volatile Middle East. US military presence in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Central Asia, and Pakistan is widely perceived as U.S. expanding its existing infrastructure for future contingencies in Asia. When the Soviets controlled Central Asian oil and natural gas deposits, war against Communism and human rights violations was waged today the Central Asian reserves are being secured in the name of threat from Terrorism. Access to Central Asia is crucial for Washington's geopolitical strategy. Most of the Central Asian states especially Georgia, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are strategically situated along crucial energy, trade, and logistics corridors. The new Great Game reminiscent of the great-power contest of the 19th century between the British and Russian empires pits Western powers against Russia in the scramble for energy along the Caspian Sea Basin. Iran, China and India have also staked their claim in the unfolding tug-of-war over Caspian energy. India has established its air base in Tajikistan. This is first Indian air base out side India. This base gives the idea of Indian interest in Central Asia. Though this war of interests is between Russia and China at one side and the US and it allies on the other side, the battle ground is unfortunately Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In search of regional allies the U.S has extended a missile defense umbrella to India and has been steadily strengthening military ties with Japan, Southeast Asian states and Australia. A secure and stable Afghanistan offers the U.S. a new opportunity to fulfill its expanding energy needs. The U.S Energy Information Agency confirmed several years ago that Afghanistan's significance, from an energy standpoint stems, from its geographical position as potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports, from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. The most feasible access from the Central Asian markets is through Pakistan and Afghanistan. For the U.S. to have come this far in the name of democracy and war on terror makes no sense to safeguard the vital interests of the United States does! Washington has learnt to push the guilt under the rug and move on to secure its geopolitical interests even if it means turning on its allies, destabilizing governments, plotting regime change, imposing weak compliant governments and slaying the innocent to make way for a grander scheme they merely consider it collateral damage now. While President Obama might keep his campaign promise to shut down the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib he conveniently forgets to mention closing down the granddaddy of US terror camps at Bagram, in Afghanistan. Bagram is twice the size of the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, worse than Guantanamo Bay and notorious for interrogation techniques pioneered there and subsequent torture and death of men in custody. In fact all the torture techniques pioneered at Bagram have been exported to Abu Ghraib in Iraq, to detention facilities in Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. A report by the International Committee of the Red Cross leaked, maintained that conditions were still "harsh", that prisoners were held in "a previously undisclosed warren of isolation cells" and "sometimes subjected to cruel treatment in violation of the Geneva Conventions". Most important is the fact that while President Obama enthusiastically announced to close Guantanamo Bay within a year Bagram's capacity is being expanded and almost doubled to hold 1,100 illegal enemy combatants. The US has also built and funded the new Afghan National Detention Facility, known by its detainees as 'Guantanamo'.
Mullah Abdul Zaeef, Afghanistan's ambassador to Pakistan from 2000 to 2001, spent a month in Bagram before being sent to detention facilities in Kandahar and Guantanamo Bay. He recalled his experience in Bagram as the worst, "On the first day they beat me with sticks and guns and their feet and they broke my head and my shoulder," Zaeef claimed that the guards stripped him naked and threw him into the snow until he lost consciousness. He was never offered Medical attention at any point. Zaeef stays unmoved by President Obama's order to close Guantanamo. "If Obama really wants justice, closing Guantanamo is not enough. Obama must investigate and ask why did the Americans break the law for seven years? Why did they torture people? Why did they deprive them of their human rights?" he said. According to a leaked army report two detainees died in confinement in 2002 after being hung by their arms from the ceiling and beaten so severely that their legs would have needed amputating had they survived, The death certificate for one of the men put cause of death as homicide. At least seven other prisoners have been murdered in US detention facilities in Afghanistan.
While remotely piloted Predator drones operated by the Central Intelligence Agency have carried out dozens of missile attacks on the Pakistani side of the border it clearly indicates the Bush Administrations' war on terror will continue in letter and spirit and intensify in the near future. Pakistan must keep in mind that as Commander-in-chief President Obama has pledged to wind down Operation Iraqi Freedom within months while intensifying Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Other measures put in place by the Bush Administration include orders secretly approved in July, last year allowing American Special Operations forces to carry out ground raids in Pakistan without the approval of the Pakistani Government. President Obama delivered an aggressive speech on August 1st 2007 much before his election at a Washington think tank, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Speaking on the occasion he called for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan, threatened unilateral attacks against Pakistan and pledged to strengthen the US military and intelligence apparatus.
Delaware Democratic senator Joseph Biden, now the Vice President of America observed, "The way to deal with it (i.e. to carry out a military strike) is not to announce it, but to do it. The last thing you want to do is telegraph to the folks in Pakistan that we are about to violate their sovereignty"Vice President Joseph Biden should know that Sovereignty is a precious entitlement to all countries big or small. Respecting the sovereignty of a country is a universally recognized norm of international law.
NURSULTAN NAZARBAYEV: A DYNAMIC LEADER
The visionary leaders have the capability to change the destiny of their country. They are gifted with the power not only to see invisible but also to make them visible for others. Their credibility lies in the confidence, the masses have in them that what so ever their leaders do is for their betterment. In return, the visionary leaders remained alive to the emotions of their public. They believe in an interactive conversation with their people that pulls them toward becoming responsible citizens of their country. H.E Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazkhstan is a wonderful example of a leader fulfilling the above standard of visionary leaders. Luckily what a man this country has found, totally committed to his country and people.
Nursultan Nazarbayev's supporters credit him for promoting inter-ethnic harmony and stability in the country. His direct dialogue with his people from time to time in discussing various issues of national, regional and global importance were aimed to take them into confidence on state policies. It is a unique kind of quality he has. Recently, on November 13, 2009 at a lineup of live television he answered questions from his countrymen and citizens of foreign states in certain broadcast live by state television and radio direct dialogue channels. The direct dialogue is becoming traditional. This year, live broadcast is probably unprecedented in terms of public awareness and the initial interview. Public Opinion Research took three weeks and was done by an ad-hoc call-center "that have accumulated, classify and analyze the demands of citizens and addresses that have been received by the government website Portal, phone calls and SMS messages. The result is more than 40 000 questions recorded by the hotline eight times more than 2007 Internet-conference statistics. This record reflects the maturity of citizens of Kazakhstan in democratic self awareness, their interest in the burning issues of national development, the popularity of Kazakhstan leader with his nation, confidence in the correctness of his political rehabilitation. It should be noted that the President of Kazakhstan never tried to sidetrack an issue or round off rough corners. There was a thematic dialogue, honest and informal. Giving answers Kazakhstan leader showed his level of general knowledge of the current situation in the country, a wide perspective and vision solutions to many problems. He shared his thoughts on withstand modern threats and challenges such as regional and global security, the fight against the "turbulence" in the global economy.
Kazakhstan managed to successfully break through the stage of the post-crisis development. Due to timely action of the government, which can be regarded as a counterattack against the first displays of global financial turmoil, the country has managed to reduce tangibely annual rate of inflation, increase the flow of assets and improve many macroeconomic indices. In the fall of 2007, the Government of Kazakhstan allocated $ 4 billion to the decree of the President to fight against the crisis. Later, in 2008, a mission to conduct a large-scale control program has was set up: another 10 billion dollars granted by the National Fund prevented the collapse of national banks and provide credit to small and medium enterprises . Consequently the productivity of these sectors' substantially raised and surpassed the indexes last year. On the whole Kazakhstan's counter-crisis measures, which are conspicuous by their social purpose, are classified as effective by experts of international renown. The President has the same position: "I am sure we will transform current adversities into invaluable experience for further successful development. The current situation has taught many financial institutes a lesson, and I believe that strongest and most competitive will show their worth here"- he raised during the live broadcast.
Showing achievements of Kazakhstan, the President paid tribute to his people, ethnic peace and understanding that has been maintained for the past 18 years. Experience unprecedented in the harmonization of interethnic relations in Kazakhstan - home to 140 cultures and 46 confessions - has been recognized worldwide. As an important constituent of the idea of national unity of the Republic, this experience will be the focus of Kazakhstan's upcoming OSCE chairmanship in 2010. It will play a crucial role in building new security architecture in the Eurasian space. Kazakhstan's chairmanship in the OSCE was one of active theme.According N. Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan , collectively designated by the CIS chairing this respectful international organization , is conscious of its responsibility in this regard.He further added that his country is working hard to find a common ground for interaction between East and West between Europe and the CIS and Central Asian States. "We know how to make all the OSCE three" baskets "of working effectively" - N. Nazarbayev said. From the earliest days of its independence, Kazakhstan has been a champion of regional and global security, disarmament, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the effective assistance settlement to normalizing the situation around the Afghanistan.
Here analysts can say the very fact of the country's election as the organization's chairperson is a first step towards renaissance of its potential, a step towards establishing mutual understanding among the structure's members. In this context Nazarbayev's initiative on convening an OSCE summit (the last one was held ten years ago in Istanbul) during Kazakhstan's chairmanship is worth respecting. Given the current controversies within the structure it will be hard and troublesome. But the very fact of lobbying such a powerful and ambitious impulse for rapprochement proves Nazarbayev to be a global politician with political insight and soundness. Implementation of the idea will unquestionably open a new page in the history of the organization and along with the "spirit of Helsinki" of 1975 will create the "spirit of Astana" the spirit of new architecture of global security in the post-industrialization development period.
The writer works at Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI).
NATION DESIRES CHANGE OF SYSTEM
People of Pakistan desire a change in the system of elections and governance and not mere faces, as they have no choice but to vote for corruption-tainted politicians who in league with corrupt bureaucracy plunder the country's wealth. The situation is that there is so much is to be done by every pillar of the state. So far as judiciary is concerned, it has tremendous backlog of cases in higher and lower courts. Of course, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has the will to revamp the judicial system. Parliament has to legislate to effectively deal with the threats to Pakistan's internal and external security, and also to rein in those elements that are fighting proxy wars of foreign countries' intelligence agencies. Parliamentarians - members of assemblies - have hardly done any legislative business because they are presently taken up wholly with their power games, and secondly poor citizens and hapless millions do not figure in their power permutations and scheme of things.
In view of the extreme indigence and extreme opulence, our society is an extremist society. Hunger, starvation, disease, crimes, extremism and terrorism are results of the unjust socio-economic order. Though feudalism does not exist in its classical form in Pakistan, yet jagidars, vaderas-cum-pirs and sardars hold the majority of the people as hostage. There is a messy showdown between the ruling and the opposition parties and also tiff between the executive and the judiciary, which is reflective of the feudal mindset that has fueled the crisis. Every patriotic Pakistani is pained to view the prevailing national scene, as he had expected that after 2008 elections, the PPP and the PML-N would learn from the past mistakes and work in unison to meet the challenges facing the nation. But that was not to be. The problem is that these two major political parties and plus PML-Q are being run as 'dynasties' or private limited family companies, and their chiefs never allow any outsider to head the party even if he is more erudite, more competent and better cerebral faculties.
They are not inclined to establish democracy in their parties, therefore it is not likely that democratic traditions would flourish and new leadership will emerge. They consider themselves as kings and do not give importance to even capable bureaucrats and officers of the army as their personal servants, these remarks we often listened on the TV channels. It is true that government servants and army personnel have to obey the orders of the government, but it does not mean that they are idiots and they do not have the right to suggest. In democracy, the system of civil service had been tailored because more often than not rich feudal or industrial robber barons make to the assemblies who run their affairs using visceral instincts as they are often below average creatures. Under the present system of elections, only the rich can afford the luxury of contesting elections, as it is a costly affair. After they reach corridors of power, many of them not only recover what they spend but also make additions to their wealth - often ill-gotten. Anyhow, Pakistan has seen democracy, controlled democracy, basic democracy, Islamic socialism and during Zia era only Islamic punishments in the name of Hadood Ordinance, because Islamic system of socio-economic justice was never given a chance. During Cold War era, there were two systems of governance democracy and communism, and in Scandanavian countries social-democratic system was in vogue with combined features of capitalism (democracy) and socialism. In Pakistan, the ruling elite tried various systems without realizing that for every system there has to be an infrastructure to build up a superstructure on it. On semi-feudal semi-colonial base, it is not possible to build superstructure of democracy.
Here we must discuss the rising power of the media, which in popular parlance is said to be the fourth pillar of the state. Except some honourable examples, media persons, basking in the glow of the newfound independence, have crossed all the limits of decency. They consider themselves as voice of nation's conscience though they look inexperience, sound shallow and have either little or no knowledge. They do not highlight the real issues and problems faced by the people of Pakistan, and are no more than jesters in the political circus. Instead of adding to the information and knowledge of the people they create sensationalism. They play leader of one party against another, one organ of the state against another and do not realize the extent of damage they are causing in the process.
Anchorpersons and professionals are not supposed to be swayed by the sentiments because by doing so their credibility is lost. At this crucial juncture when Pakistan has challenges to its internal and external security; when people are suffering from price-hike and inflation; when dubious Americans are roaming around in Pakistan's cities as if Pakistan is their colony, these anchorpersons and analysts instead of putting in efforts to forge unity in the nation try to polarize the society. The question arises what should be done when almost all systems of governance have been tried, tested and failed in Pakistan? It is true that democracy is the best system so far known because we do not see any Islamic, socialistic or other model in the contemporary world. In fact, there should be a national debate if the present system of elections, which again and again sends those politicians into power who are involved in corruption, frauds, loot and plunder of national exchequer, and those self-anointed champions of democracy who have aided and abetted the dictators and amassed wealth much beyond their source of income and assets. We will not defend the president for his failure to meet his commitments, but the fact remains that many leaders of other parties are no less 'sinful' than him. It is not being suggested that he should go scot-free but to bring all other culprits to justice irrespective of their past and current status.
Intellectuals, political analysts, philosophers and media wizards should put their heads together to find out the ideal way whereby people can vote for good, honest and intelligent people instead of godfathers of land mafia, jagirdars pirs and corrupt politicians who have kept their haris and voters in servility for decades. For this purpose, top leaders of the PPP, the PML-N and PML-Q should be barred from taking part in politics, otherwise whenever elections will be held, we would see the elements rotten to the core, reaching assemblies and corridors of power with the result that the status quo and stalemate would never end. Media can stop it with its enormous power provided the owners of media groups stop acting as media advisors and propaganda wings of the political parties. Should they decide to rise to the occasion to cleanse the society, they should also keep an eye on their anchorpersons and so-called analysts so that they do not sell themselves out to local or foreign vested interest.
WHY INDIA CAN'T BE SUCCESSFUL AGAINST MAOISTS
Indian policy makers have tried various combinations in the past to tackle Maoists problem but failed miserably. A couple of more combinations are under consideration to handle the problem amicably. In a new strategy 'A New Game,' the Indian government in 'Stage-I' has again rolled the dice on the table in the shape of proposal for a separate state of Telangana. The Indian policy makers believe that once the dice would gain momentum it is likely to attract more state to demand for state status under Indian union. Indian leaders like Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad opposed the movement to initiate a separate state of Telangana due to fear that it could lead to many other divisions. Despite opposition it seen that for the time being the Centre is going ahead with to tackle with insurgency stricken states.
As a 'Stage-II' of this strategy, offensive has been launched against the Maoists in Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra by Para Military Forces (PMF). If successful, similar operations are likely to be carried out in Jharkhand and Orissa. This would be followed by the replication of this strategy in the other insurgency stricken states. After the failure of talks and Maoists refusal to give up arms, the Indian government decided to simultaneously start the operations in four worst-affected states: Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa but it was altered the plan in 'Stage-II' due to fears of tuff resistance from Maoists and heavy causalities on the side of Indian security forces. At present small scale operation has been started in parts of Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, and Manpur in Rajnandgaon, Chhattisgarh by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Border Security Force (BSF) personnel.
It is pertinent to mention here that India's claim that it deployed around 27000 CRPF personnel in Gadchiroli in the month of October and November 2009 appears bogy as so far they have not participated in any operation. As per the official claims around 45,000 personnel from CRPF, BSF and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) posted to Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra while another 25000 personnel are to be deployed in Jharkhand and Orissa in 'Stage III,' sometime after the elections are over at Jharkhand. However, as per BSF sources at Chhattisgarh, the official figures of PMF quoted by Union Home Ministry is an eye wash and highly exaggerated as the deployment suppose to reach their location from Jammu & Kashmir state have not yet started its move. The Indian propaganda regarding reduction of 30000 troops in held Jammu & Kashmir state and their deployment in Maoist affected areas is aimed to impress upon international community that it has no nefarious designs against Pakistan. However, it is an open secret that the move aims at getting rid of PMF from Jammu & Kashmir and substituting them with regular Army troops.
In fact, if we analyze from a critical angle, most of the demands Maoists seems to be genuine but the each time talks are to be held, they are asked to put down their arms in a humiliating manner. Those groups who are engaged in talks are projected as if they have surrendered before the Indian security forces. In certain cases Naxals who agreed to hold talks were either arrested by Indian intelligence agencies or killed in fake encounters.
Above all, the behaviour of Indian Army and PMF with Maoists is humiliating and torturous. As regard, to ongoing operations, the PMF commanders, who are participating in the operations or have been earmarked for the same, feel handicapped because of seven reasons: 1) Majority of PMF Battalions have been pulled out from areas like Jammu & Kashmir state where operations take place in residential and public areas, whereas Maoists are confined in Jungle areas, 2) The PMF personnel do not possess experience in jungle warfare, 3) The PMF personnel lack knowledge of terrain and the forest routes, 4) Maoists have backing of local population while PMF personnel experiences lack of cooperation from locals and 5) The intelligence agencies and Field Intelligence Units do not have sources among Maoists, 6) The area is full of landmines and explosives which cannot be cleared overnight and 7) The morale of PMF personnel is not very high as military units deployed in the area are avoiding operations. India cannot be successful in any move against Maoists unless New Delhi changes its policies of Imperialists and Capitalists, which they inherited from the out going British. India must accept that unlike Pakistan which was created on Islamic ideology, India is a subcontinent comprising of many nationalities. The basic aim of the operation should be to clear the landmines and compel the Naxal-groups to come to the negotiating table rather than eliminate them. Any operation to compel the Maoist to hold talks with centre would not be successful unless there is a joint working and ground coordination between PMF, Police and Indian Army takes place.
There is also a requirement for Indian forces to be considerate towards Maoist as they too are Indian nationals who have right to be heard. Human right excess, torture, man slaughters and bans are not going to work even all the Corps of Indian Army with most modern weaponry are deployed in Naxal affected states. Talks and development in the area through local representation is the only answer to the Naxals problem.
A BROKEN VOICE FOR CHRISTMAS..!
Now that you've retired ma what do you plan to do? asked her children as she came back from work the last day at the office. "Join the church choir!" exclaimed the mother. "But you don't know how to sing ma!" they all said in dismay.
"Ah my children but I have much to sing about! When your father passed on the Lord took over and I have a song to sing for the comfort He gave. When I was jobless and penniless He gave me the will to succeed and I want to praise Him! Oh children now that I have the time I want to sing for Him and what better time than Christmas!" The choir conductor looked at her doubtfully, "I like your enthusiasm," he said, "but here we need voices!"
"Ah that I have my son, that I have! A voice that will glorify the Lord's name; that will shout and bring the rafters down! That will rise above all others! And " "And what?" asked the choir conductor worriedly.
"And its Christmas time! What better time than now to sing praises to the little babe in the manger about that first Christmas after my Ben died, no money for sweets, I cried to Him above, the bell rang and the neighbours walked in with the most delicious cakes. I remember " "Yes, yes," said the choir conductor irritably, "But do you have a voice?"
"A voice that will bring the roof down with praise and thanksgiving!" The choir conductor looked fearfully at the roof of the old church. "We will have to do a voice test!" he said and walked to the piano. "Now sing the scales with me will you!"
"I failed the voice test!" Her children, no more little, all settled in good professions because of her looked at each other and smiled, "Ma," they said and strangely in unison, "Ma we'll arrange a concert for you! Just family! You write your carols of praise to the God who stood by you, we'll come with our families and hear you sing!"
That Christmas as the choir conducted by their conductor sang in the old church, the people felt there was something missing, and at night as the conductor prayed his prayers, he asked, "What was missing today Heavenly Father?"
"Ah!" said the Heavenly Father, "We were all down the road listening to the woman with the broken voice, I and all my angels!" "But she has no voice!"
"A voice rising from a faithful heart my son is worth a million that come from the throats of professional singers! Words rushing out in praise my son are like pearls to those composed by poets and lyricists!"
Her children were surprised to see the conductor at their home the next morning, "Join the choir," he whispered to her, "It's voices like yours, that gladdens God's heart at Christmas..!"
Before each academic year around this time, reputed schools face a tough time in enrolling fresh batches of students as the competition thereof is fierce, to say the least. This year 57,816 children are vying for a total of 8,400 seats in the city's 24 government schools alone. Calculation shows that seven applicants are competing for one seat. Notably, barring a handful of the schools, the rest are not on the top of the list of preference by the guardians. In a few much sought-after private educational institutions, the competition is even more intense. Clearly not all the children are fortunate enough to get places at schools of their parents' choice.
Now the draft education policy to be finalised soon has focussed on several key issues including curricula but one vital thing is conspicuously missing. All schools, to borrow Orwellian phrases, are created equal but some are more equal than others. The gaps between and among educational institutions in this country are so unsurpassable that it beats imagination. If the intention is to impart quality education, the yawning gap between schools has to be reduced to a tolerable level by addressing first the multifarious problems facing the schools. In a city like Paris, there is no provision for a child to seek admission to any school lying in a parish other than his or her own. The authorities can dictate terms when schools all across the city are of similar standard.
We need to concentrate exactly on this matter if we really want to get over this vexing problem of admission. This has to be done step by step. First, efforts should be given to bring the bottom half of the city schools to mid-level and then the concentration ought to be on raising their standard at the level of the best performing ones. Subsequently this method should be applied to narrow the gap between and among the educational institutions in cities and villages. Thus can we address both problems of keen competition for admission and poor standard of education.
DISTRIBUTION OF BOOKS
Since Liberation attempts to provide free compulsory education have been constantly frustrated. Things are no different today as dishonest book dealers dupe guardians by changing the covers of last year's text books to make them look new. Thankfully the government is aware of the subterfuge because the education minister has been urging guardians and students not to be deceived by the dishonest dealers and refrain from buying outdated text books. Already one such book dealer has been arrested in Pabna for blackmarketing text books. The national curriculum and text book board has also issued a public notification urging the concerned section not to keep note books or guide books for primary and secondary classes for the purpose of printing, publishing or marketing. The notification mentions the Supreme Court ruling that note books and guide books for primary and secondary classes up to Class 8 are banned. But bans do not seem to bother the dishonest.
Distributing 19 crore text books among students of primary, secondary, Ibtedai, and Dakhil classes is not easy; therefore, putting soft copies online for downloading may be laudable. But as only a few have access to the internet, those who do could easily take advantage of this by selling downloaded copies at a premium. However, by confirming the commitment to distribute books on time despite all barriers, the education minister says he is hopeful he can keep his promise to distribute books before the start of the new academic year. Hopefully, he can come through on this commitment. However anyone attempting to take advantage of the weaknesses in the system must be treated for what they really are - as enemies of the state. If in addition to this the initiative to modernise Madrasah education is successful, 30 Madrasahs will soon be the "Model Madrasahs". And as the Madrasah Training Institute at Gazipur is included in the scheme, this too, is a step in the right direction.
LEARNING TO BE A FRAUD..!
"Clue to a pooch's love for you lies in its wagging tail!" Current Biology.I stared at my sleeping dog, who woke with a jerk and glared at me, "I felt somebody staring at me," he growled.
"I was," I said.
"You out of work or something?"
"Me out of work?"
"Yeah that's the only time you stare vacantly at me with that helpless pleading look!"
"I think that's a very unkind thing to say," I said.
"So why were you staring at me?"
"This article here says a lot about dogs and why they wag their tales!" I said.
"Oh horror! Horror!"
"Horror?" I asked puzzled.
"I've got to go out and inform the other dogs," said my dog rushing to the door, which was locked, "Open the door massa!"
"No," I said.
"But I've got work to do! I've got to tell my friends that finally humans are learning our language, that soon all our actions, our woofs and bow wows will be analyzed and understood!"
"When dogs feel positive," I said reading from the book, "they wag their tail to the right side of their rumps!"
"This is terrible!" howled my dog, "we've hidden this for thousands of years!"
"And when you have negative feelings "
"We wag to the left," continued my dog, his tail wagging vigorously to the left. "This is the end of our world!"
I stared at my weeping dog, "Why?" I asked are you so upset?"
"For thousands of years," growled my dog, "we could read you humans like a book! We knew your happy moods, your depressions, sulks and melancholic swings, times you wanted to be alone, and times when you needed us to nuzzle you. We learnt about you massa and kept you happy "
"So now we are willing to learn about you," I said.
"When one human studies another, " said my dog sadly, "its to make more use of the other! You look for weaknesses, so you can bully! Inadequacies to feel more powerful!" cried my dog and tried desperately to stop his tail wagging to the left.
"What are you planning to tell your friends?"
"To stop wagging left when unhappy, right when we're glad, tail straight when we are tense and ears perked up when we love somebody!"
"And?' I asked.
"To change," said my dog sorrowfully, "to learn to hide our feelings; not to be spontaneous! To learn to be a fraud! Otherwise it will be a dogs life for us!"
I watched as my dog went into a corner and tried to wag its tail to the right and not to the left, so that it could learn to fool people like his human masters had been doing for thousands years.
THE HISTORY OF ARAKAN, ITS RELIGIONS
U KHIN MAUNG SAW
Among the 7 Union States of Burma the Rakhine State or the Arakan is the immediate neighbour of the Subcontinent. There might have been some contacts between Arakan and the Subcontinent since the first dynasty of the Arakanese. Buddhism and the Pali language used in Buddhist Canons came very early to the Mons, Arakan and Pyus, much earlier than the emigration of the Burmese in the country which is now Burma. Pyu, Mon and Burmese/Arakanese scripts were based on the South Indian scripts.
The Rakhaings (Arakanese) traditionally believe that they are the descendants of the "Sakya Sakis" the race from which Lord Gautama Buddha came. Most historians and anthropologists, however, say that they belong to the Tibeto-Burmese groups.
The Arakanese (Rakhaing/Rakhine) believe that their ancestors had to chase out the demon-like beings (most probably Negrito tribes) before they established their first kingdom. After that the people had to be very united to repel the invasions of the tribes they chased out. That's why they named themselves Rakkhita People. The Pali word Rakkhita means the one who protects his own race. And therefore their country was called Rakkhita Mandala' and later deviated to 'Rakkhita Mandaing' and then to 'Rakkha Mandaing'. The word "Arakan" is therefore a derivation of "Rakkha Mandaing - Rakhaing" - "Arakhaing" - "Arakan".
There is another hypothesis: The Sanskrit word rakshasa, Pali rakkhaso can be translated as "the demon of water" or "an ogre-like being living in water". That's why the etymology of Arakan can be traced as a Sanskrit or Pali words A-Rakkha Desa (The Land which is now free from the Demons). The word "Arakan" is therefore a derivation of "A-Rakkha Desa - A-Rakkhan" - "Arakan". Sir Arthur Phayre as well as Col. Henry Yule and A. C. Burnell's "Hobson-Jobson" A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo Indian Words and Phrases, and of Kindred Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical and Discursive (First Published in 1886) supported this version too.
There is no doubt that the early kingdoms of Arakan were Hindu states. Some Hindu deities were found in ancient cities. However, Hinduism might have been replaced by Buddhism when the kings and people became Buddhists.
According to the legend of the Maha Muni Image, Arakan was already a Buddhist Kingdom during the time of Lord Buddha because Lord Buddha visited Arakan at the invitation of King Sanda Thuriya (Chandra Suriya).
U San Shwe Bu, on the other hand, wrote that King Sanda Thuriya ascended the throne of Arakan in 146 A.D, six hundred years after the Pari Nibanna of Lord Buddha. In contrast to the legend he stated that the statue was casted in the 2nd century AD.
In any case, it is safe to say that Arakan became a Buddhist Land at the beginning of Anno Domini, if not earlier. Since that time Arakan remains a Buddhist land till now and all Arakanese or Rakhaings are devout Buddhists. Nowadays, population ratio between Arakanese and Burmese may be 1:10, however if one compares the number of Buddhist temples, monasteries, monks and nuns the ratio is only 1:4. It is proven how religious Arakanese or Rakhaings were and are.
Arakan was well known to be "the Land of Pagodas and Temples". There is a famous Arakanese verse: Thazun pan Khaing ta mraing mraing Rakhaing Phara paung", which was nicely translated into English verse by U Tha Hla as: "The Thazun (a type of orchid) sprigs in sheer clusters, Sum the total of the pharas grandeur". According to this verse, there were 6352755 Pharas (Buddha Statues) in Arakan.
Maurice Collis described the situation of Buddhism in the year 1630 during the reign of Min Hayi (Man Hari) alias Thiri Thudhamma (Sri Sudhamma). In his book The Land of the Great Image, in page 168 where it was written: "The Buddha had died in 543 B.C. Altogether 2173 years had elapsed since then, and for that immense period the image of the Founder of the Religion had remained on Sirigutta, the oldest, most mysterious, the most holy object in the world. The relics detailed to the disciples on Selagiri had all been found and enshrined. Arakan was a sacred country; it was the heart of Buddhism; and he (King Thiri Thudhamma) as its king, was the most notable Buddhist ruler in existence. Grave indeed was his responsibility. He had not only to maintain the state as the homeland of the Arakanese race, but as the one place on earth where an authentic shape of the Tathagata was preserved, a possession of greater potency than the most precious relics".
All kings of the Mrauk U dynasty, the last dynasty in Arakan, were Buddhists. Some kings had assumed Muslim Titles because, Min Saw Mun (Man Saw Muan), the founder of the Mrauk U City wanted to show his gratitude to the Sultan of Gaur who helped him regain the Arakanese throne in 1430. Hence, he promised the Sultan that the Arakanese kings would bear Pseudonym Muslim Titles. But in fact, all of the Arakanese kings were donors of many temples in Mrauk U as well as in the other parts of Arakan. They did make coins, one side with Burmese/Arakanese scripts and the other side with Persian (NOT Bengali).
For example: Min Saw Mun (Man Saw Muan), the founder of the Mrauk U City with the assumed Muslim Title 'Suleiman Shah' built seven Buddhists temples in Mrauk U. One of them was Laymyetna Phaya (Leemyatna Phara) in Mrauk U (now Mrohaung). His successor and younger brother Min Khayi (Man Khari), who had an assumed Muslim Title 'Ali Khan', erected the Nyidaw Zedi (Satee), which can be roughly translated as 'The Pagoda built by the Younger Brother'. His son and successor King Ba Saw Phru alias Kaliman Shah constructed four Buddhists temples including the Maha Bodi Shwegu Pagoda. His son Dan Ugga alias Daluya, who bore the Muslim Title Moguh Shah, was the donor of Thongyaik Tasu Temple (meaning the temple of Thirty One Buddhas). His successor Min Yan Aung (Man Ran Aung) alias Narui Shah founded the Htupayon Pagoda. Min Bin (Man Ban) had an assumed Muslim Title of Zabauk Shah; was the donor of seven temples including Shit Thaung Phaya (Shite Thaung Phara) or the Temple of Eighty Thousand Buddha Statues. Min Phalaung (Man Phalaung) alias Secudah Shah was the donor of six temples including Htukkan Thein, his son Min Yaza Gyi (Man Raza Gri) with the Muslim Title Salem Shah donated Phaya Paw (Phara Paw) Pagoda and Pakhan Thein in Mrauk U and also Shwe Kyaung Pyin Monastery in Thandwe. Min Khamaung, who subjoined the Muslim Title Hussein Shah constructed Yatanapon (Ratanabon) and Yatana Pyethet (Ratana Prethat) Pagodas and his son Thri Thudhamma (meaning the Protector of Buddhist Religion) alias Salem Shah the Second, erected the Sekkya Manaung (Sakkya Manaung) Pagoda.
The Burmese invasion in 1784, led by the Burmese Crown Prince then, was to snatch the Holy Maha Muni Image, the national Symbol of Arakan. Nowadays this colossal image can be seen near Mandalay and the statue is called in colloquial Burmese Phayagyi (Paragri), which is the direct translation of Pali Word Maha Muni. During the British Era this temple was translated as 'Arakan Pagoda'.
Many Portuguese mercenaries served under Arakanese kings since 16th Century A.D. Later, the Dutch mercenaries did the same job. So, there is no doubt that there must have been some Christians in Arakan, but almost all of them were foreigners with very few Arakanese who converted into Christianity through marriage.
According to Maurice Collis and U San Shwe Bu, in 1610 Arakanese King Razagri had appointed his younger son, Min Mangri, Viceroy of Chittagong. This prince was not in good terms with his elder brother and the crown prince then Min Khamaung, the Viceroy of Thandwe. Min Khamaung was a rebellious Prince towards his father, hence the king wanted to replace the position of the crown prince from his elder son to the younger son. However, Min Mangri made friendship with the Portuguese pirate-king Gonsalves Tibau of Sandwip Island. The marriage of Min Mangri's daughter with Tibau's son was agreed and she had to convert into Catholicism. Min Mangri had three children, two daughters and a son. In the year 1610 his son was four years old.
When King Razagri heard of this marriage and realized that this younger son was now allied with the ruffian who had treacherously seized his fleet, in 1612 Razagri sent an army under the Crown Prince Min Khamaung. Min Khamaung took this duty willingly, because his own right to become the future king was threatened. In the battle Min Mangri was shot dead and finally Gonsalves Tibau surrendered. The King of Arakan, decided to pardon Gonsalves Tibau and invited him to contrive some way of saving the young prince and his sister, who were his own grand children.
Meanwhile Min Khamaung had entered Chittagong without opposition and after attending his brother's funeral immediately called for his nephew and niece. When they were not forthcoming, he suspected Tibau, but it was not until afterwards that he learnt they had escaped to the Moghul Empire. Foiled in this, he finished his business and returned to Mrauk-U, where later in the year he succeeded his father when his father died.
Later these two children of Min Mangri were baptized by the Catholic priests. This son of Min Mangri afterwards became known as Dom Martin, a Catholic and the first Arakanese who went to Europe.
(To be Continued)
ENTRY OF MOHAMMED MOHSIN-II
M. SERAJUL ISLAM
The day he went to the Ministry to become the Adviser, he received a warm welcome from the entire Ministry that belatedly showed the respect for him that they failed to show when he was humiliated and later left the Ministry on retirement after a year as an OSD.
As irony would have it, Nazrul Islam who kept silent while Fakhruddin Ahmed waited for those nearly one year to go to retirement, unsung, faced the same fate at the hands of the President. In fact he was changed under circumstances more humiliating than what was meted out to Fakhruddin Ahmed. By the middle of 1988 when Nazrul Islam had completed a year as Foreign Secretary, it was inevitable that he would not last much longer. In the first week of July, 1988, our Ambassador in Brussels Mohammed Mohsin arrived in Dhaka. He was recalled but he did not know what was in the Government's mind about his future because he had at that time, a couple of years more to serve. On a fine morning, a few days after he had arrived in Dhaka, he came to meet the Foreign Ministry. He came to my room and as I stood up to receive him, he asked me if the Foreign Secretary was in his office. I told him that he had gone to a meeting in the ERD and would be back soon. Mohammed Mohsin that day was dressed in a white safari that went very well with his grey hairs. I knew him from before when I served as a Section officer in the late 1970s when he was a Director General. At that time my Director-General was Farooq Sobhan, who later became Foreign Secretary and currently the President of Bangladesh Enterprise Institute (BEI). Whenever he used to be away on official trips, Mohamed Mohsin used to hold additional Change of his office. After a few words of pleasantries, Mohammed Mohsin gave me a hand written note scribed on a page torn from a note pad. He handed it to me casually but what I read in that note was anything but casual. There were a few names there related to postings of Ambassadors that was not a news for me as they were expected. However after the short list, there was a small paragraph that said that Mohammed Mohsin would be the next Foreign Secretary and that Nazrul Islam would be posted to an un-named Mission soon singed by the President in green ink that he loved to use! I looked at Mohamed Mohsin and in my surprise; I even forgot to offer the new Foreign Secretary my congratulations! After I recovered from my daze, I told Mohammed Mohsin that Nazrul Islam was not aware that he was being changed and that someone would need to tell him as soon as he came back to the office. Soon afterwards, Mohammed Mohsin left my office and a while afterwards, Nazrul Islam returned with Mustafa Mohammed Farooq who had accompanied him to the meeting in ERD. When I entered the Foreign Secretary's room, I found the two in the inner chamber playing chess! I came to my room and waited. When MMF came to my room on way out, I told him the news and asked him if Nazrul Islam was at all aware that a coup had taken place.MMF told me that Nazrul Islam was not only unaware of his fate; he in fact had discussed with him some of his future plans as Foreign Secretary while returning from ERD in the car.
Soon Mohammed Mohsin returned to my room. Immediately I ushered him to Nazrul Islam. Then a few sparks flew between the two and I saw Mohammed Mohsin and Nazrul Islam go together to the Foreign Minister. Later I learnt that Nazrul Islam wanted to be assured the post to which he would be going before the news that Mohammed Mohsin would the new Foreign Secretary was released to the press. The office order naming Mohammed Mohsin as Foreign Secretary was released two days later when the assurance that Nazrul Islam would be Ambassador to Soviet Union came from the President. A second order came out that day; that I would become Director in the Foreign Minister's Office. That did not happen though but that is another story for another day.
(The writer is a former Ambassador to Egypt and Japan)
HAPPINESS: GOOD HEALTH AND A BAD MEMORY
The recent announcement by the World Health Organisation that no serious and unexpected adverse effects have been seen in the nearly 65 million people who have been vaccinated for the 2009 influenza A(H1N1) in 16 countries is encouraging. Apprehensions about the vaccine's safety were raised by the medical fraternity in a few countries and parents were unwilling to get their children vaccinated. The vaccine was seen as a new and experimental drug hurried along in fast-track mode, tested on a small number of volunteers, and followed up for an inadequate duration. Though fast-tracking flu vaccines is routine as the basic ingredients remain the same, a frontal objection was raised by the New England Journal of Medicine in an editorial: "any association of uncommon adverse events with this vaccine cannot be ascertained in studies of this size." Reports from following up millions of people after vaccination have now put at rest the safety concerns.
The side effects - swelling, redness, pain at the site of injection, fever, and headache - were the common and anticipated ones; they resolved themselves spontaneously soon after vaccination. Although a small number of deaths occurred in people who had been vaccinated, investigations have shown that no direct link could be established between vaccination and the deaths; underlying medical conditions were found to have caused these deaths. The risk of Guillain-Barre syndrome - a rare autoimmune disorder that damages the peripheral nervous system, and in rare cases can cause permanent paralysis or even death - following vaccination was one of the most feared serious adverse effects. According to the WHO, fewer than ten suspected cases of this rare syndrome were encountered and all the patients recovered eventually.
Canada's chief public health officer says few Canadians have suffered serious side effects from the swine-flu shot. Dr. David Butler-Jones says that of the 6.5 million people who have received the H1N1 vaccine, only 36 have had serious adverse reactions. He says one person is believed to have died from a serious reaction to the vaccine, but the death hasn't yet been conclusively linked to the flu shot. Butler-Jones says the serious side effects fall into two categories: allergic reactions or fevers and convulsions. Mild effects, such as nausea, soreness, headaches and fever, are far more common reactions to the swine-flu shot - just as they are for all vaccines.
According to the world body, the safety profiles were no different in inactivated and live attenuated vaccines. Likewise, there was little difference between adjuvant (a substance added to a vaccine to improve its effectiveness) and non-adjuvant vaccines. The safety profile of adjuvant vaccines, which the WHO recommends, is particularly important. The use of adjuvant reduces the amount of vaccine used in a dose, which means a greater number of people to be vaccinated under constrained circumstances. While A(H1N1) adjuvant vaccine is used in many countries in Europe, and adjuvant has been routinely used in seasonal influenza vaccine for over a decade, the U.S. has not approved it. Despite the safety profile of A(H1N1) vaccine matching the seasonal influenza vaccine, the need for continuous monitoring of those vaccinated cannot be over-emphasised.
(Avik Sengupta, a freelance writer based in Montreal, Canada, can be reached at email@example.com)
IN PRAISE OF CHRISTMAS PRESENTS
CAPITALISM DELIVERS DIGITAL DELIGHTS THAT IMPROVE OUR LIVES
COMPLAINTS about consumerism roll around as regularly as Christmas. The festival is hijacked by advertisers who encourage us to buy gifts nobody really wants or needs, cynics say. And iconoclastic economists come up with formulas to prove presents are a waste of resources, generally costing more in cash than the value recipients place on them. It is all nonsense. Apart from the obvious - gifts are an expression of affection - Christmas presents make the most of the benefits capitalism can provide. And as this season shows, there is no better economic system to meet our needs and fulfil our wants in ways which were unimaginable just a decade past.
The days of men receiving socks and ties they do not want, of women being given fragrances they will not wear, of children being polite to aunts who bought them last year's must-have toy are gone in families where people participate in the digital revolution. Capitalism has transformed Christmas giving from a hit and miss affair to the liberation of our imaginations. This year people all over the developed and developing world will receive new digital music players, giving them an ability to listen to what they like, where they like, which was unimaginable a little more than a decade ago. The same sort of availability is beginning to apply to films and television and the people who received eBook readers will be followed by millions more as access to books improves in ways unequalled since the printing press. Similarly, the revolution in interactive computer games, with players participating in the narrative process makes users creators, not consumers, of online entertainment. Obviously not everybody spent last night learning how to make the most of a new system. Many spent Christmas night practising traditional rituals, updating their social networking pages, emailing photos to distant friends, watching seasonal videos. But there are few whose Christmas was not the richer for the way the digital technologies have changed our lives in the past decade.
The way capitalism helped us make merry this Christmas deeply disturbs those who say the mass media controls information and entertainment. For while they were once snobbish staples of left-wing politics such polemics became irrelevant once the internet began to change everything. Retail sales spike at Christmas, not because we are conned but because we want to give gifts that improve the lives of people we care about. And when it come to entertainment that means the wired world. What was on offer was better this year than last and Christmas 2010 will mark another improvement. It's the gift of capitalism.
THE GREAT JOY OF DOING NOT MUCH ON BOXING DAY
TODAY DEMONSTRATES WHY AUSTRALIA IS A LUCKY COUNTRY
AND now for the best bit. When the openers walk to the crease at the MCG this morning we will recognise all is well on our patch of the planet. When Hobart-bound yachts race for Sydney Harbour's heads we will know the summer holidays are here for sure. As the most determined of shoppers return from the sales with tales of bargains won we will understand that shopping is a participation sport. And as families gather at the beach or by the river we will regret the year's losses but delight in the way that life in this happy land goes on, much as it has done down the decades. To say that this Boxing Day is much like the last does not reduce it to a routine ritual, it simply celebrates the good fortune of a society where a great seasonal festival revolves around simple and shared pleasures.
The great joy of Boxing Day is what it says about Australia. This most relaxed of our national holidays celebrates nothing much. It has no special significance in the Christian calendar, it memorialises no national achievement. It is simply a day where most of us can relax. After the bother of the pre-Christmas rush it is an opportunity to do as little as possible. Following the nervousness of the day itself- will the turkey be moist and the prawns fresh?, will the cousins stay civil? - it is a day to suit yourself. A day for cooks to point to leftovers and suggest everybody assemble their own meals. A day for parents to tell children to do what they like, but quietly. A day for people who do not usually care about cricket to wonder when the new ball will be taken, for people who do not know a boom from a buoy to speculate about what a wind change will mean for the Hobart bound fleet. And Australians, whether their ancestors have lived here for millennia or are recent arrivals, will spend it in much the same way, revelling in the freedom to do what they like. The great joy of Boxing Day in Australia is the way it accommodates people from cultures across the planet, of all religious faiths, and none at all. From Muslim women wearing headscarves on the beach to Pakistani families applauding at the cricket there is room for all who understand the obligation to respect those around them.
Not all Australians feel blessed this morning. Many mourn the death of a loved one, others are burdened by illness or disability, many are struggling with the impact of unemployment and an unacceptable number are unsure what they will eat or where they will sleep tonight. But in the main we are blessed this Boxing Day. At the end of a year where peace prevailed, where we escaped the worse of the global financial crisis, and where we can now enjoy this great day off, much as we enjoyed last year's, Australia is indeed a lucky country.
GIFTS THAT WILL KEEP ON GIVING
THE PRIME MINISTER NEEDS POLICIES TO FIX THE FEDERATION
WE hope the Prime Minister got what he wanted for Christmas, especially if it included some shiny new policies. Certainly Mr Rudd can point to the way he helped Australia escape the global financial crisis this year as well as the way his proposed emissions trading scheme is admired by policy wonks worldwide but he is still short on solutions for pressing problems, including ones he promised to fix at the last election. And with the next election due in 2010 he cannot wait to see what is in Santa's policy sack next year.
Perhaps the most obvious, undoubtedly one of the most important problems Mr Rudd must address is how to improve the health system. As it stands, the commonwealth could spend its entire budget on health and the various medical lobbies would still say it was not enough. And our ageing population ensures that demand for hospital beds and new drugs will increase annually until the middle of the decade. There is nothing the Prime Minister can do about our demographic destiny, but he must act to contain costs and increase efficiency, especially in the hospitals, which cost ever more money without reducing waiting times for elective operations. This would not be Mr Rudd's problem -- the states administer public hospitals -- but for his pre-election promise to intervene if things did not improve. They haven't and he hasn't, despite receiving a reform blueprint for health system five months ago. Mr Rudd has a similar problem with water. Despite spending buckets of money to buy water in the over-allocated Murray-Darling, the states have not adopted a national approach to river management across state borders. And then there is infrastructure. Mr Rudd recently announced Canberra wants the states to sign on to national rules for urban development. But NSW, the state with the worst public transport and urban road system, was incapable of putting up feasible development projects at the beginning of the year.
There is a pattern to these problems -- the failure of the states to co-operate, or in the case of NSW, even look after its own areas of responsibility. And while Mr Rudd is not the architect of these imbroglios he has inherited the misfortune they have made. New Opposition Leader Tony Abbott understands this, signalling in his recent book Battlelines that fixing the federation, a polite way of proposing increased control from Canberra in areas such as health, is a major policy challenge. What is easy in opposition is difficult in government but Mr Rudd needs to come up with a new approach to commonwealth-state relations to avoid making the issue a gift for the conservatives at next year's election.
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
AFTER OBAMA'S FIRST YEAR, THINGS CAN ONLY GET BETTER
ON ALMOST every front, President Barack Obama's first year in office has presented challenges and frustrations far greater than he might have expected on election day. Obama told Oprah Winfrey he rated his own performance a B plus, and "if I get health care passed, we tip into A minus''. He has got his health care measures through Congress - just - but voters would not agree with even his more modest self-assessment. Obama now has the lowest approval rating - 49 per cent - of any US president after one year in office. Obama will surely be hoping that 2010 holds better news for him than the current year has.
To those examining Obama's performance from outside the United States, it is understandably the foreign policy-related decisions which loom largest in his first-year record. The decision to close the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay - though drawn out and delayed - has ended a stain on the US human rights record. Washington's re-engagement with the rest of the world and its renewed acceptance of the multilateral architecture of diplomacy, ending George W. Bush's unilateralism, has been welcomed in Western countries with almost childlike eagerness. The premature award of the Nobel Peace Prize is a measure of that. In his acceptance speech Obama conceded as much, and acknowledged the irony of being a recipient who had just ordered more troops to war in Afghanistan. Equally significant, though, was his reassertion of the United States' renewed desire to lead not only by authority and power, but by example.
Obama's renewed efforts to limit nuclear proliferation have been another mark to outsiders of genuine regime change in Washington. They are, alas, probably too late to achieve much: the lesson of decades of temporising on arms reduction by the original nuclear powers has been learned well in Pyongyang and Tehran as well as in Delhi, Islamabad and Tel Aviv.
Yet while all those decisions have certainly made Obama popular overseas among the United States' traditional allies, they have done little to make him popular at home - possibly quite the opposite. There, deft management of foreign affairs and diplomacy is only grudgingly accepted by the broader electorate as the proper role of a superpower. George Bush understood that instinctively, and set his priorities accordingly. It was not the appalled reaction of some allies which undermined him, but the poor management of the war in Iraq. Obama's decision to send 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan thus carries substantial risks. Afghanistan is now his war, as Iraq was Bush's, and it is being managed in the same way - with most attention paid to its effect on domestic US politics.
The same can be said of the Administration's other great multilateral campaign, on climate change. There the risk of failure has been fully realised, and Obama has been publicly humiliated in a brutal diplomatic passage of arms with Beijing. Even so, China has not had everything its own way: its attempt to blame the US in particular and developed countries in general for the failure of the Copenhagen summit has been shown up, and the arrogance it displayed will turn its win into a Pyrrhic victory.
Copenhagen certainly has not helped Obama, but it is the length and depth of the recession in the United States that most explains why he is struggling in the polls. Fifteen million Americans - 10 per cent of the labour force - are now classified as unemployed by the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, and there is reason to think the official figures may understate unemployment's true extent. The impression is confirmed by comparing Obama's poll standing with that of the two other presidents close to him. Ronald Reagan (who also recorded a 9 per cent approval rating after a year) and Bill Clinton (52 per cent) both presided over economic downturns during their first year in the White House. The parties of both men suffered at the mid-term congressional elections at the end of the following year - but both also recovered and were re-elected three years later.
Obama has presided over part, at least, of a worse downturn than either, but he may yet do the same. Thanks to a large stimulus package, unemployment appears to be falling slowly. And his Administration has used the financial crisis to push his domestic agenda, including multi-billion-dollar initiatives which foster green industries and help the economy adapt to a low-carbon environment. America's 44th president has much ground to make up, but he is still running hard, and the task is not impossible.
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
SCIENCE IS KEEPING US ALL IN THE DARK
SCIENTISTS may have found dark matter at the bottom of a Minnesota iron ore mine. Readers may wonder why they had to go all that way. Surely there is plenty to be had closer to home. Teenagers' bedroom floors, the furthest recesses of the glovebox, and that little drawer under the toaster where all the crumbs go would all seem to offer rich deposits of dark matter if scientists would only care to look. It turns out though that this dark matter is different. Physicists have calculated most of the universe must be made of it, but no one has found any - until now. Dark matter may explain not only why stars stick together in galaxies but more abstruse questions, such as why time only moves in one direction. This can only be good news. But we want more. Scientists should ransack more of Minnesota for answers to other long-standing riddles of nature: What happened to Harold Holt? Is Elvis dead? And why is the bus always leaving just as the bus stop comes into view?
THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
HEROES RISE, HEROES FALL. THE CONTEST GOES ON
LAST Boxing Day, Australia held the Ashes and the mantle of the world's best cricket team. Tiger Woods was both peerless and flawless, and so was Michael Phelps. Karmichael Hunt was a rugby league player. Mark Webber had not won a grand prix and it was beginning to look as if he never would, and Gary Ablett had not won the Brownlow Medal and it was beginning to look as if he never would.
Last Boxing Day, Tiger Woods hadn't been to Australia for 10 years and didn't look like coming any time soon. Last Boxing Day, the Socceroos were far from certain to qualify for next year's soccer World Cup, and their country a self-deluded dreamer in its campaign to host a future World Cup.
Last Boxing Day, government funding for the Olympics was still a divine right. Last Boxing Day, it was about the swimmers, not the swimsuits. Last Boxing Day, Kim Clijsters was, as far as most knew, absorbed by motherhood and happily retired.
Last Boxing Day, none of the A League, NRL or trans-Tasman netball league premierships belonged in Victoria, but jumps racing was a time-honoured fixture in the turf calendar here. Last Boxing Day, Victoria was the dominant state in Sheffield Shield, but Victorians were outnumbered five to one by New South Welshmen in the (faltering) Test team. Some things don't change.
Boxing Day is a natural day of reflection in the Australian sporting calendar. Christmas Day has given pause to all, and now as life's rhythms resume, it is against the contemplative backdrop of two staples, Test cricket at the MCG and the Sydney-to-Hobart yachts on Sydney Harbour. It is how the sporting year ends and begins.
This Boxing Day, Tiger Woods is indefinitely retired, but definitely humbled. Australia is no longer the best cricket team in the world, nor even the best team in Ashes cricket. Karmichael Hunt and Gold Coast are both AFL identities. Webber and Ablett have their long-pursued prizes. Cadel Evans is a world cycling champion, Steve Hooker a world athletics champion, and so is previously unknown Dani Samuels, and suddenly we all care about the discus.
Victoria's trophy cabinet is overflowing (but there is still only one Vic in the Test cricket side). The Socceroos, the last team to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, were the first team to qualify for the 2010 World Cup and Australia is by some reckonings favourite to host the 2022 World Cup (but 13 years is a long time to hold our breath).
Matthew Lloyd and Matthew Richardson are no longer AFL footballers, but a Sudanese is, and a Japanese, and an American, and yet more Irishmen, all now on AFL lists. New frontiers open, even as old divides widen. Where there was once merely friction between the football codes, war has been declared as they vie for attention, players, markets and funds. But the NRL continues to trip over its perennially unsteady feet.
The topography has changed. This is what happens in the sporting landscape: its features appear so fixed and immutable, yet are quickly swept away. Yesterday's permanence is today's threatened species, is tomorrow's cherished memory. More than any other of life's pursuits, sport is a dynamic and mercurial affair. This year, only the Liberal Party has matched it.
By next Boxing Day, all will have changed again, that much is certain. 2010 will be characterised by three big sporting jamborees: the Vancouver Winter Olympics, the Delhi Commonwealth Games and, between them, the soccer World Cup in South Africa. As Australia rearranges its sporting priorities in line with its changed demographic, this has become the new grail. But at year's end, it will rejoin battle for its oldest, the Ashes.
From this year's many twists and turns, two lessons might be learned. One is about impossible expectations. Some of sport's constructions are apparitions, made tall and solid only by the yearning in our minds. Tiger Woods is revealed to be made of venal flesh after all, and perhaps it was only in our age-old need for superheroes that we imagined he was not. Because of this dichotomy, he is both the year's biggest winner and biggest loser.
The other lesson is that the magic lives on. Sport was much besmirched this year, but was even more ennobled. Tennis illustrates this. At the start, there was a memorable Australian Open final between two greats, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Later, there was the unedifying spectacle of Serena Williams' crude threats to a lineswoman at the US Open. But all was transcended by the sight of Clijsters with her infant daughter in the moment of her improbable US Open triumph. It was the image of the year.
Perhaps there was one other lesson, in selectivity. Last Boxing Day, Manchester was the sporting capital of the world, and the British sports business magazine that designated it so was unheard of in this country. This year it nominated Melbourne, which judgment the State Government seized upon as vindication of our greatest-city-on-earth status, brandishing its suddenly best-favoured magazine as incontrovertible proof.
Last Boxing Day, the same magazine had awarded its prize for outstanding contribution to sports event management to Bernie Ecclestone, supremo of formula one racing, which has since fallen into embarrassing disarray. But that was last Boxing Day, a long time ago.
Source: The Age
THE KOREA HERALD
The Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education's attempt to legislate an ordinance for students' rights is being met with stiff resistance, particularly from conservatives.
Last week, the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education unveiled a draft text of students' rights, the first-ever attempt to declare rights of students by an education office anywhere in the country. The draft of the ordinance states that its goal is to "guarantee dignity, value and rights of students as humans."
It would be difficult to argue with the goal of the ordinance. After all, we regard human rights to be universal, and surely, students are entitled to human rights. It is a bit of a surprise, therefore, that several parents' organizations and teachers' organizations are condemning the proposed ordinance.
The draft ordinance calls for guaranteeing students the right to choose whether they participate in classes outside the regular school hours. It also limits excessive learning. Bullying and corporal punishment would be banned. Students will be given the right to express their individuality in what they wear and the restrictions on hairstyles will be removed. Students will be allowed to bring cell phones to school, but its use may be restricted.
The draft ordinance also guarantees the students the right to peaceful assembly outside class hours and guarantees religious freedom by banning mandatory religious classes without offering alternative classes. Students will be allowed to participate in formulating school policies and appropriate procedures will be guaranteed when students are disciplined. The proposal also calls for students' rights advocates to be appointed by the education superintendent.
What the draft ordinance proposes are not extraordinary or outrageous. There may be some difficulties in finding ways to implement these rights at the practical level, but the rights of students as human beings cannot be denied for the convenience of the adults. Indeed, the rights outlined in the proposal are rights that adults take for granted.
Parents opposed to the ordinance are worried that students will study less - what if the students decide to exercise their rights to refuse extra-hours classes? They find the possibility of students dressing in ways that express their personalities abhorrent - students must dress like students, they argue.
The general argument made by the opponents of the students' human rights ordinance proposal is that guaranteeing students' human rights would limit teachers' ability to educate and discipline their students.
More to the point, those who oppose the ordinance are afraid that students will become uncontrollable, rejecting parental and school authorities. These people may find the notions that children are not parents' property to be controlled and that they are individuals with rights difficult to accept.
Critics point out that the proposal is too idealistic and that it does not reflect the realities of schools today. However, progress is made when we set an ideal and strive toward it. The ordinance should not be shot down wholesale. There is time to smooth out the kinks until the final text is presented in February.
Those who are aware of their own rights are more likely to respect the rights of others. One way to create a
vibrant democracy is to educate the members of the society about their rights and their responsibilities. That education should not be held off until the children are adults.
THE KOREA HERALD
The payment of 99 yen (1,300 won) by the Japanese government to seven Korean women who were mobilized for forced labor in Japan during the Japanese colonial period is outrageous.
The seven women filed suit against the Japanese government in 1998 to claim payment from the welfare pension fund they paid into while working at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries from 1944 to 1945. It took 11 years for the women to receive the money they should have been paid when they returned to Korea in August 1945 after the end of World War II.
It is understandable that the elderly women are refusing to accept the payment.
According to Japan's Social Insurance Agency, those who take out a welfare pension fund are entitled to receive the amount of money they put into it when they end an insurance policy before its stipulated date of expiration.
The payment of 99 yen was calculated by the local government of Aichi prefecture, where a Mitsubishi Heavy
Industry factory is located. The payment was delayed because records for wages paid to workers at the factor during that period have disappeared, a Japanese newspaper reported.
After 11 years in court, the women are getting loose change because the rules regarding social insurance do not take into account the inflation when making payment. This is preposterous.
The women claim that they were never paid while they worked at the factory. The company told them that their wages were being put into a pension fund and savings account, the women say.
Sixty-four years later, the women are being given what they were entitled to back in 1945. It is simply irresponsible of the Japanese government to say that this is all it can do because there are no rules regarding late pension payments. Surely there must be a way to give these women equitable settlement if the Japanese government really looked for one. In fact, there is a precedent involving Taiwanese who worked for the Japanese military who received wages outstanding from 1944 with inflation taken into account. The payment amounted to 120 times the face value of the money owed.
The Hatoyama administration said that it would look squarely at history. The new government in Tokyo raised hopes that it would acknowledge its past. This is why the 99 yen payments to the seven women are all the more insulting.
The Japanese government must realize that there can be no "East Asian community" envisioned by Prime Minister Hatoyama without proper settlement of that country's history in the region.
THE KOREA HERALD
SADNESS IS NATURAL HUMAN EMOTION, NOT A DISEASE
ALLAN V. HORWITZ/JEROME C. WAKEFIELD
NEW YORK - Sadness is one of the small number of human emotions that have been recognized in all societies and in all time periods. Some of the earliest known epics, such as The Iliad and Gilgamesh, feature protagonists' intense sadness after the loss of close comrades. Likewise, anthropological work across a great range of societies clearly describes emotions of sadness that develop in response to frustration in love, humiliation by rivals, or the inability to achieve valued cultural goals.
Even primates display physiological and behavioral signs after losses that are unmistakably similar to sadness among humans. There is little doubt that evolution designed people to have a propensity to become sad after such situations.
Depressive mental disorders also have been known for as long as written records have been kept. Writing in the 5th century B.C., Hippocrates provided the first known definition of melancholia (what we now call "depression") as a distinct disorder: "If fear or sadness last for a long time it is melancholia." The symptoms that Hippocrates associated with melancholic disorder - "aversion to food, despondency, sleeplessness, irritability, restlessness" - are remarkably similar to those contained in modern definitions of depressive disorder.
Like Hippocrates, physicians throughout history have recognized that the symptoms of normal sadness and depressive disorder were similar. Depressive disorders differed from normal reactions because they either arose in the absence of situations that would normally produce sadness or were of disproportionate magnitude or duration relative to whatever cause provoked them.
Such conditions indicated that something was wrong with the individual, not with his environment. Traditional psychiatry thus adopted a contextual approach to diagnosing a depressive disorder. Whether a condition was diagnosed as disordered depended not just on the symptoms, which might be similar in normal sadness, and not just on the condition's severity, for normal sadness can be severe and disordered sadness moderate, but on the degree to which the symptoms were an understandable response to circumstances.
The distinction between contextually appropriate sadness and depressive disorders remained largely unchanged for two and a half millennia. But the psychiatric profession abandoned this distinction in 1980, when it published the third edition of its official diagnostic manual, the DSM-III.
The definition of Major Depressive Disorder became purely symptom-based. All conditions that display five or more of nine symptoms - including low mood, lack of pleasure, sleep and appetite difficulties, inability to concentrate, and fatigue - over a two-week period are now considered depressive disorders.
The sole exception is "uncomplicated" grief-related depression. Symptoms otherwise meeting the DSM criteria are not considered disorders if they arise after the death of an intimate, do not last more than two months, and do not include certain particularly severe symptoms. Yet, comparable symptoms that arise after, say, dissolution of a romantic relationship, loss of a job, or diagnosis of a life-threatening illness are not excluded from diagnosis of disorders.
The DSM-III's confusion of normal intense sadness and depressive mental disorder, which persists to the present, emerged inadvertently from psychiatry's response to challenges to the profession during the 1970's. A powerful group of research psychiatrists was dissatisfied with the definitions of depression and other common mental disorders in the earlier, psychoanalytically-influenced diagnostic manuals.
These earlier definitions separated feelings of sadness proportionate to contextual loss from those excessive to their contexts, and defined only the latter as disordered. But they also assumed that unconscious, unresolved psychological conflicts caused depression. In order to abolish this unwarranted psychoanalytic assumption, the researchers abandoned the attempt to distinguish natural from disordered conditions by context or etiology and assumed that all conditions that met the symptom-based criteria were disordered.
The new definition of depression has resulted in extensive medicalization of sadness. Parents whose child is seriously ill, spouses who discover their partners' extramarital affairs, or workers unexpectedly fired from valued jobs are defined as suffering mental disorders if they develop enough symptoms to meet the DSM criteria. This is so even if the symptoms disappear as soon as the child recovers, the spouses reconcile, or a new job is found.
The medicalization of sadness has proven to be of tremendous benefit to the mental health and medical professions. Millions of people now seek professional help for conditions that fall under the medicalized, overly inclusive definition of depression. Indeed, depression is now the most commonly diagnosed condition in outpatient psychiatric treatment.
The medicalization of depression has proven to be even more profitable for pharmaceutical companies, whose sales of anti-depressant medications have soared. While it is impossible to know what proportion of these people are experiencing normal sadness that would go away with the passage of time or a change in social context, it is almost certainly very high.
It would not be hard for psychiatry to develop a more adequate definition of depressive disorder that de-medicalizes natural emotions of sadness. The diagnostic criteria could simply extend the current bereavement exclusion to cover conditions that develop after other losses and that are not especially severe or enduring.
Such a change would acknowledge what humans have always recognized: intense sadness after loss is a painful and perhaps inevitable aspect of the human condition, but it is not necessarily a mental disorder.